Mike Albrow

We might be able to predict the path of a baseball based on the motion of the bat, but even the tiniest adjustment in the swing could make a large difference in the ball's flight. Photo: Zach Putnam

In the 19th century some scientists thought that if we could know, at any given time, the position and velocity of every atom, we could in principle calculate the future. They believed the past determines the present, and the present determines the future.

On Aug. 12 a spacecraft left Earth on a mission that will take it as close as four million miles, streaking through the sun’s corona (the vapor-like “crown”) at the record speed of 120 miles per second.

What fuels the sun? Image: NASA

As you roast – or grill – on a beach this summer, you may be thinking the sun is hotter than usual. But of course, the sun is just as hot on a chilly winter evening; it doesn’t change.

Did the title make you think of powerful people and wonder who the second and third families are? This is a science corner, and these families are elementary particles.

A rough estimate of the number of grains of sand on this stretch of beach will lead you to an astronomical number, one that also gives you a sense of how many stars are in, say, 10 galaxies. Photo: Suneel Raghavendra

What’s the difference between a million and a billion? If you answer, “Just one letter,” you are literally correct, and for most of us they are just very big numbers that we cannot grasp.

A timeline of the universe.

Did you count down the seconds to midnight on New Year’s Eve? Take stock of the events of the past year? Wonder what will happen in the next?