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HolidayBuyer's Guide

Far out and down to earth

Expect several intriguing space research findings at the ongoing American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting in San Francisco.

My favorite's a birth happening right now in deep space, over in the Eagle Nebula, you know, a little to the left of that bright star. NASA and University of Colorado astronomers say it's a new little star being born. It might someday be like our own sun. What have they named this little baby? E42, and there's even a picture.

Then there's one report that has me throwing out my ancient physics textbook. All those physical constants, are, ah-hem, sorta slightly fickle. Studies done by Los Alamos Lab and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) using atomic clocks have now measured the variation. That's the variation of those physical constants you once memorized for the final.

If that's immeasurably too obscure, here's another wonder for you. A tiny cryocooler. Small, efficient, cold. They can be used in space and other engineering applications where you need to keep miniature electrical devices cool, and operating.

Coming down to earth, there's a report on new software to help you track indoor contaminants. Is that new rug fouling your nest? Cleaning solvents got you down? Start up your own EPA. Get your household pollution software here. Did you already guess the folks at NIST developed this one, too?