New digital sky survey uncovers rare celestial objects

A large new digital sky survey has been used by astronomers at the California Institute of Technology to discover distant quasars and other rare types of cosmic objects, including mysterious new objects of an unknown nature.

Mars Global Surveyor's triumphs follow recovery from ill-fated earlier mission

Arden Albee is often asked how it felt to lose the Mars Observer.

Aeronautics researchers generate cracks that move as fast as the speed of sound, and resemble certain earthquake shear ruptures

New work from California Institute of Technology researchers shows that a certain type of crack can exceed the shear wave speed through the material, creating a sort of "sonic boom," and can almost reach sound speed.

A unique class of neurons in humans and apes that may participate in cognition, volition, and self-awareness discovered by researchers

Clusters of large neurons found exclusively in the brains of humans and other primates closely related to humans may provide these species with enhanced capacities for solving hard problems, as well as for self-control and self-awareness.

Caltech biologists reveal structure of protein responsible for weight loss in cancer and AIDS patients

Caltech biologists have determined the three-dimensional structure of a protein that causes wasting in cancer and AIDS patients. The discovery could lead to new strategies for controlling weight loss in patients with devastating illnesses-and conversely, perhaps new strategies for fighting obesity.

Caltech Question of the Month: What causes the auroral lights?

Submitted by Catherine E. Wendt, Pasadena, California.

Answered by Paul Wennberg, associate professor of atmospheric chemistry and environmental engineering science, Caltech.

Caltech observes brightest gamma-ray burst so far

An extraordinarily bright cosmic gamma-ray flash turns out to be the most energetic one measured so far, according to a team of astronomers from the California Institute of Technology.

Earth's water probably didn't come from comets, Caltech researchers say

A new Caltech study of comet Hale-Bopp suggests that comets did not give Earth its water, buttressing other recent studies but contrary to the longstanding belief of many planetary scientists.

Caltech discovers genetic process for controlling plant characteristics

Caltech biologists have harnessed a gene communication network that controls the size and shape of a flowering land plant. The discovery is a fundamental advancement in understanding the processes that make plants what they are. The knowledge could also lead to greater control over certain characteristics of plants such as fruit size and stem durability.

Caltech Question of the Month: What do the laws of physics, and the Heisenberg uncertainty principle in particular, say about whether free will exists?

Submitted by Robert R. Belliveau.

Answered by John Preskill, professor of theoretical physics, Caltech.

This is a deep question and there is no simple answer. I am not a philosopher; nor can I speak for all physicists. I can only state my personal views.

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