-- Researchers at the National Institute of Standards & Technology have at last solved the problem of "shark skin." It's not a dermatological condition, but a problem that plastics makers face when molten plastic is extruded too quickly (photo). The resulting rough texture can make the plastic unusable. By filming the process with a high-speed, microscope-mounted camera, researchers found that the extrusion process ruptures the plastic's outer coating, creating the hated topography. The solution? Add a fluoropolymer lubricant to make things slide through a little easier.

-- The fastest gun in the West? It's at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M., and it uses magnetic fields to accelerate tiny projectiles to a velocity of 13 miles per second--21 times the speed of a rifle bullet. Sandia's huge "Z" accelerator has long been used for energy and nuclear research. But scientists are now using the accelerator's pellets to test the effect of space junk smashing into the metal skin of an orbiting satellite. The results are expected to help scientists find the right balance between lightness and strength when building a new generation of satellite shields.

By Petty Fong

Edited by Adam Aston

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