Curiosities


a cartoon of the 3D donut laser, looking a bit like a volcano, is shown pointed toward the disc-like laser sail. In three panels, the sail is shown moving outside the exact center of the beam, or tilting so as to not be perfectly perpendicular to the beam.
Shine a laser pointer at a cat, and the cat may see and try to catch the light, but it certainly won’t feel it. What if that light were not a milliwatt laser, but one hundred trillion times stronger — and the cat were essentially weightless, floating in space? “Normally, […]

Laser focused on Alpha Centauri





The wind-whipped surface of Lake Mendota in early winter provides precisely the kind of visual resting point that helps your concentration while studying, reading or writing. The moving surface catches your eye, giving your mind time to wander in that way that’s productive rather than distracting. It sure beats checking your […]

Reflecting on Lake Mendota


Open up any social media app today and you will be bombarded with hashtags and Snapchat filters reminding you that today, September 29th, is National Coffee Day. And such an occasion would not be complete without a thorough investigation of the namesake’s key ingredient: caffeine. So, grab your favorite cold […]

So what is caffeine, anyway?


A tree shines yellow near the UW–Madison Arboretum
Each year, as August fades into September here in southern Wisconsin, it always seems to take me by surprise to see the bright greens of spring and summer subtly transition to the goldens and burgundys of autumn. The trees and prairies slowly changing their attire. “But isn’t it too soon?” […]

Why do leaves change color in the fall?