Why is October 9 Nano Day? (And what does it have to do with scientific notation?)

Happy Nano Day, Everyone! Though you might be looking at me weird if you use the dd/mm dating system, tomorrow (10/9 in the U.S.) is the day to celebrate the scale that’s minuter than micro and more prodigious than pico. So what is Nano Day? Nano Day, or National Nanotechnology Day, is a celebration started …

What’s in a Unit Anyway? Part 2: When is a Kilogram Not a Kilogram?

Weights & Measures Office

In my last post, I told you about how scientists measure amazingly cool things that can be vastly different in size, like elementary particles or very distant dwarf planets and their moons. Thinking about all the units to describe length got me thinking again (uh oh)... How do scientists know that the nanometer they measure …

What’s in a Unit Anyway? Part 1: From Protons to Galaxies

question

If you’re like me, you often find yourself thinking about random things. For example, just the other day I was thinking to myself, “what’s the diameter of a gold nanoparticle* in light years**?” Unit conversions have been a thorn in my side for as long as I can remember, so I was pleased to discover …

How to search for a needle in a haystack: Spotting really tiny signals from the edge of the universe

As a chemistry graduate student I don’t normally take classes outside of the chemistry building, but this semester I happened to have an optics course in the physics department. So a few months ago when scientists at the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO for short) found gravitational waves,1 I got an inside look at just …