Tag: Technology

MARVELous Solar Cells

Author: Kristina Lenn

Editors: Christina Vallianatos, Andrew McAllister, and Sarah Kearns

Spoiler: For a better reading experience, make sure to see the amazing Doctor Strange!


I love Marvel movies, and they’re even more fun to watch as a scientist. In many of them, some energy source is at risk of falling into the wrong hands. Lest the source destroy not only the planet but also the entire galaxy, a bunch of unlikely misfits band together to ensure the energy source’s safety and security. The power source in question is something that has the paradoxical capability of both sustaining and destroying life, like the sun. Extraterrestrial battles take place with the brutish Hulk and the witty turbo-powered Iron Man. (Or, if you prefer Guardians of the Galaxy, you can fight with the smart-aleck Rocket and the cute-yet-somewhat-airheaded Groot.) The bad guys want to use this energy to have unlimited power; the good guys want to harness the energy in a more controlled manner.

Science behind the scenes: The costs and payoffs of science

By: Bryan Moyers

Edited by:  David Mertz, Shweta Ramdas, Scott Barolo, Kevin Boehnke

Why haven’t we cured cancer?  Physicians have known about cancer for over 5000 years, and the United States spends nearly $5 billion per year on cancer research.  But there’s still no cure.  Also, where is our clean, renewable energy?  We can’t even catch half the energy in sunlight, and solar panels don’t come cheap!  Why don’t we have a moon colony yet or a male birth control pill?

In the U.S., science funding comes from many sources, including the taxpayers.  As an example, half a percent of the federal budget goes to fund NASA, before considering all of the money that goes to the National Science Foundation (NSF) or the National Institutes of Health and other federal science organizations.  It is reasonable that publicly-funded science should provide some benefit for the public, but it seems like there’s a lot of scientific research out there that’s not giving us the technologies and discoveries we want and need.   So why do we throw money at projects that don’t seem to deliver?