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    Desert Air Will Give Us Water

    A partial solution to the problem of punishing droughts may be to snatch water from the air, Dune-style.Photograph by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center / Flickr Last year, after a punishing four-year drought, California lifted emergency water-scarcity measures in all but four counties. Residents could sigh in relief but not without resignation. “This drought emergency […]

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    Why Water Is Weird

    One day, frustrated after many hours of meditation and practice, Bruce Lee, still a teenager, went sailing. His martial arts teacher, Yip Man, had been instructing Lee in the art of detachment, a key facet of gung fu. Lee couldn’t let go. “On the sea I thought of all my past training and got mad […]

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    The Exotic Matter States Behind PCs, Visual Displays, and the Future of Water

    You might have learned in school that there are three phases of matter: solid, liquid, and gas. That is a useful simplification for young students, but there are in fact many, many more. In the past century or so, we’ve discovered that there are hundreds of distinct solid phases—some of which are used to build […]

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    Humanity’s Most Problematic Attempts to Get All the Water

    Survival shows are running amok. The contestants are naked; they’re two out-of-shape guys in the woods; they’re stuck on an island. Despite differences in attire or setting, one thing remains constant: For every survivor, finding potable water is the first order of business. But the challenge doesn’t end there: First they find water; then they […]

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    Five Things We Still Don’t Know About Water

    From steam to ice, water continues to mystify.

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    One Key to Wisdom: Never Let a Good Crisis Go to Waste

    Folsom Lake, near Sacramento, provides a clear illustration of the extent of California’s drought. On July 20, 2011, the reservoir was at 97 percent of capacity. On January 16, 2014, it was at 17 percent, and there was no water flowing through the Folsom Dam.California Department of Water Resources via NASA   California is the […]

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    Iran’s Great, Dying Salt Lake

    As Urmia dries up, it leaves huge salt beaches behind.Giulio M via Flickr The last time my cousin Houman traveled to Lake Urmia was 10 years ago. He and four of his friends piled into his car and drove for roughly 12 hours, snaking west from the capital of Tehran. Iran is shaped like a […]

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    Where Could You Find the Best Surfing in the Universe?

    As recently as the late 80s, finding a planet orbiting another star seemed like the stuff of sci-fi fantasy, about as realistic as a diminutive alien riding a flying bicycle, or a sports car that worked as a time machine. Thanks to many smart astronomers using a new generation of powerful telescopes, we now know […]

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    Reading the Tea Leaves: How Particles Can Travel Upstream

    It’s been said that the true harbinger of scientific discovery is not “Eureka!” but “Huh… that’s funny….” That certainly proved to be the case for Sebastian Bianchi: a simple cup of tea led him to some intriguing, counter-intuitive insights into the surface tension of water. Back when he was an undergraduate physics major at the […]