Sunday, November 30, 2008

COMMENT: Obama considering canceling Aries & scaling back Orion?

According to a recent gizmodo article: President elect Obama has sent a very detailed questionnaire focusing on the feasibility of the Aries / Orion space craft. The questionnaire goes as far as asking if NASA could redesign the Orion spacecraft so it could be launched by the European Ariane 5 or the Japanese H2A:
  • Estimate the feasibility of designing a resized Orion capsule that could be launched by international launch vehicles such as the [European] Ariane 5 or the [Japanese] H2A.
Now I know some of my comments in the past have been critical of what seem to me to be grave errors in design and engineering. That's because some of the craft design papers show little innovation and an over reliance on what would appear to be 40 year old Apollo tech while throwing out probably the greatest achievements in heavy lift rockets while patching flaws in the present designs with for all intents springs and rubber bands.

I know the president elect is asking the same questions we all are, however I really have to stop at having our space efforts handled by the third party is ludicrous and extremely short sighted. Redesign if we must but keep the US space effort, like any ther countries efforts, in our own hands.

<- Space News ->

Saturday, November 29, 2008

How I Became the Bomb's Salvage Mission

Friday, November 28, 2008

Jupiter has a rocky core and much larger than suspected



Jupiter has a rocky core that is more than twice as large as previously thought, according to computer calculations by a University of California, Berkeley, geophysicist who simulated conditions inside the planet. The simulation predict the properties of hydrogen-helium mixtures at the extreme pressures and temperatures that occur in Jupiter's interior. A comparison of this model with the planet's known mass, radius, surface temperature, gravity and equatorial bulge implies that Jupiter's core is an Earth-like rock 14 to 18 times the mass of Earth, or about one-twentieth of Jupiter's total mass -Previous models predicted a much smaller core of only 7 Earth masses, or no core at all.

UC Berkeley's Burkhard Militzer said about their research: "Our simulations show there is a big rocky object in the center surrounded by an ice layer and hardly any ice elsewhere in the planet," "This is a very different result for the interior structure of Jupiter than other recent models, which predict a relatively small or hardly any core and a mixture of ices throughout the atmosphere."

<- more at ScienceDaily ->

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Physicist Stephen Hawking Going to Canada?!


Yep, it's true according to TheStar.com: Stephen Hawking accepted a research post at Waterloo Institute in Waterloo Ontario.

According to the report: Hawking will hold the title of distinguished research chair at the prestigious Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. The role will see him make regular visits to the southwestern Ontario city, beginning next summer.

Hawking will retire from his prestigious post at Cambridge University next year, where at the age of 66 he is currently Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the famed British university, a title once held by the great 18th-century physicist Isaac Newton.

<- more ->

Cassini find high speed jets of water on Enceladus


This photo shows jets of water vapor shooting from Saturn's moon Enceladus, taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. These jets extend hundreds of kilometers from the moon's south pole. They were observed during a flyby on 24 October 2007, when the probe's Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph (UVIS) observed a star as it passed behind the plumes. By measuring how much starlight was absorbed during the passage, scientists discerned four distinct jets in the plume. The jets were still tightly focused at an altitude of 15 km above the surface, suggesting they were moving faster than 2100 km per hour. There is some speculation that these jets might indicate subsurface oceans of liquid water.

<- read more ->

Thanks to Shaun Saunders for the post

Research: Plate Tectonics Started Over 4 Billion Years Ago

Science Daily posts an article that pretty much bases the commonly held time line of when plate tectonics started on Earth: New research suggests that plate tectonics may have started more than 4 billion years ago — much earlier than scientists had believed, according to new research by UCLA geochemists. That puts the first plate activity within the first 500 million years of Earth's history. Many scientists believe that plate activity started 3.5 billion years ago, others that it began even more recently than that. Instead of a hellish, dry, desolate early Earth with no continents, it looks like as soon as the Earth formed, it fell into the same dynamic regime that continues today. This means that early Earth had oceans which may very well have contained life.

<- read complete article at sciencedaily.com ->

NBC shakes up it's SF schedule

As the warped IO9 put it: NBC says 'Happy Thanksgiving but we are taking away your TV'. As tongue in cheek as it sounds, IO9 is being straight. NBC's science fiction offerings are going to take a major hit come 09. Heroes and Chuck will be given a month's hiatus while the wonderfully twisted "My Own Worst Enemy" may be given the boot altogether. The new January slot will be filled with guess what....yep - a reality show....who woulda guessed! The new show is called Superstars Of Dance (I kid you not! what is it with dance shows this year! I could tirade about how silly these shows are or worse, but I will save it for now) For some brain dead reason, Knight Rider will keep it's Wednesday slot (they keep that one but pull Enemy? Sci-fi execs are not the only crack smokers it would appear!) I really have to say that My Own Worst Enemy surprises me a bit. Kind of a smart mans Chuck (I know a bit of a stretch) but no where near as one dimensional as Chuck. It is a show that I have really enjoyed from the start. It is a wonderful veicle for all involved, pulling each and every one out of type casted stereotyping. The way most of the characters had two distinct personalities was very inventive. I will be disapointed to see this one pass. But it would seem people dancing must be cheaper to produce. I won't be watching though.

<- NBC schedule changes -> via IO9

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Comment: Light Speed or How I Lost My Mind Thanks to the History Channel

Did anyone catch the program Light-speed on the History channel recently? Fascinating program, managed to burn more than a few of my synapses.

One of the most mind bending concepts in the program was that the speed of light was a limit to how far we can literally see in the universe. Since the big bang, light has traveled outwards for some 13.5 billion years. So we can not see any further because light hasn't had time to get there yet. That's disturbing enough, but consider.

In my world view or universe view there shouldn't BE anything past that point, but this is where it got strange. From our Milky Way we can see another galaxy at the limit of the 13 billion year limit. So, consider this a spoke in a wheel.

We are at the center of this wheel and the rim is 13 billion LYs away. Remember the light limit is 13 billion LY. So we can see the galaxies and they can see us. If we spin 180 degrees we can see 13 billion LY in that direction as well, but no further, and that's the rub. If we can see a galaxy 13 billion LY away at the edge of the visible universe, it's fair to say that they could see the Milky Way at the edge of their observable universe.

The twist comes when we realize that 180 degrees from observing them we KNOW that there is 13 Billion light years of space behind us that they CAN'T see. Which leads me to conclude that there must be at least 13 billion light years of space beyond what we can see because we have already demonstrated that there is an equal amount behind us that the other galaxy can not see. And if the universe is 13 Billion LYs old how is it we can see better than 26 billion LYs in space (if you can see 13 in one direction and 13 in the opposite that twice as much as the history of the universe even though light only traveled 13 billion ly to cover the distance) And how far does this reach.

Does that mean light speed does not apply to space/time? Did the big bang happen everywhere at the same time? If so, what does that mean to the mono-bloc before the big bang? Now do you see why I might be ready for the rubber room?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Meteor Reveals YouTubers' Ignorance of Astronomy




This is just one of many copies of a cool, but not too unusual, meteor fireball filmed in Edmonton. What is annoying is the amount of extreme scientific ignorance demonstrated by YouTube comments.

In most of the comment sections, the non-exclamatory comments ("Cool!" "Wow!", etc.) break down into three categories.

3. Denial "Fake. Those are Space Shuttles returning to Earth. This happens all the time." Countless comments like this one and the guy who claims to see hands and wires in the video. Apparently Shuttles land all the time in Edmonton.

2. Religious and conspiracy theories. "its not a meteor. god just took a huge **** on earth. j/k. i wonder if this has anything to do with the year 2012. if u dont know wats so special about 2012 look it up on google." I'll spare you the religious ones; they're worse.

and the number 1 response - Blame NASA. Many were the mild - "It's the lost NASA Tool bag." others accused NASA of not doing their job. Apparently it's NASA's job to track the countless pebbles in space.

For the record the CBC interviewd University of Calgary planetary scientist Alan Hildebrand who said "You are talking about something, say, the size of a chair or a desk that entered the atmosphere." not the twenty ton to dinosaur killer sized asteroids many seemed to think.

So if you want to feel sad about the state of science education in the world (YouTube is popular everywhere) just search for Meteor over Edmonton at YouTube and read the comments on a random video. In most cases "wow!" will be the most intelligent, and only accurate, comment.



Microscopic bio-robot slaves

Shaun Saunders sends in an article from New Scientist concerning research into biological based microscopic robots that researchers envision performing a myriad of tasks. Even the smallest robots built today are far to large to do work at the micro scale let alone the nano scale. However a physicist at the University of California, Berkeley, and colleagues, say it may be possible to create new species of slave bacteria to do the job instead. What they envision an artificial bio construct a stripped down versions of bacteria, with only enough of a genome to perform certain tasks - for example, swimming along a chemical trail using their flagella, secreting another chemical as they go. The team proposes that thousands of these constructs could be used to carve out the kind of microscopic features needed on microprocessors and other likely tasks.

The article of course has some "lighter side" tasks that they could perform as well. Click the article title for more.

Jeff Bridges does great B&W Iron Man photos

IO9 has a link of interest: It seems Jeff Bridges found time to take a ton of gorgeous black-and-white pics of the filming of the armored-avenger movie. Including a peek inside Stan Winston studios, and Bridges having his head shaved to play Obadiah Stane. No question that his part in the movie was an example of top notch scene stealing, however the photography is equally as good. Click the article title for a series of great behind the scenes photos.

Monday, November 24, 2008

NASA preparing Juno probe to study Jupiter


From Cnet: NASA has announced that it is planning to launch a mission, entitled Juno, to conduct a large-scale survey of our solar system's biggest planet. The spacecraft is planned for an August 2011 launch on board an Atlas rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla. It is expected to reach its destination, orbit around Jupiter, in 2016. The plan is for the spacecraft to orbit Jupiter 32 times over the course of a year at a distance of around 3,000 miles above the planet's cloud tops. What makes this mission truly unique is that this would be the first solar-powered spacecraft expected to be able to perform its duties so far from the sun. Jupiter is more than four times farther away from the sun as Earth, a total of around 400 million miles. NASA hopes the mission will discover or explore the existence of an ice-rock core. Plus Juno will also study the planet's strong magnetic field, and its aurora borealis.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Implant may allow Paralyzed man to speak


I have to preface this article with a pet peeve of mine - article titles that promise WAY more than they give. The title of this article was paralyzed man speaks again using brain implant. In fact this article was the first baby steps in technology that in five years or so may allow paralyzed victims to speak. Now don't get me wrong, the patient in question had been paralyzed completely for some time - only able to communicate by movements of his eye lids. Researchers strongly suspected that the mans speech center was still functioning. They put their patient in an fMRI brain scanner and asked him to attempt to make vowel sounds. His brain showed the exact same patterns as an uninjured person making those sounds aloud. Researchers implanted a special kind of electrode in his brain, one that's "impregnated with neurotrophic factors" that encourage brain neurons to grow into and around the electrode. Essentially this electrode forms a very strong connection with brain neurons, which results in a strong signal that reliably comes from the same part of the patient's brain over time. Over a period of weeks, researchers worked to decode the signals coming from the man's brain. Eventually, he was able to produce three vowel sounds with good accuracy. The man produces these sounds as quickly as he would normal speech, and the long-term goal within five years is to have him use the speech brain–computer interface to produce words directly.

But as you can see, the man is NO where near speaking as of yet and may NEVER speak. The research is startling and cutting edge. That on its own merit makes it interesting. The title does no more than treat the science aficionado the same way head line news force feeds the brain dead.

Its a great article with links to Nature that are well worth reading. Just wish they would stop treating me like I am drooling into my scrambled eggs. oh and if you click the link you will see Nature does the same thing. Why do I bother....

Thursday, November 20, 2008

An asteroid twofer.....

Ever notice that every now and then all you see is one type of science article? Seems every time I look there is something about asteroids. One I found interesting in Discovery News talks about a possible asteroid impact some 2300 years ago off New York City. Studies of the Hudson river silt suggest an asteroid 330 feet in diameter slammed into the Atlantic Ocean nearby. The evidence of the impact takes the form of carbon spherules -- perfectly round particles that form in the extreme pressures of an impact. These particles were discovered by a team of researchers from Harvard.
Read more in Discovery News There is also a really neat animation showing how the proposed wave would have washed inland carrying with it proof if the impact.

The other article, sent in by Shaun Saunders, deals with Mars' lack of a magnetic field. Up until 5 billion years ago, Mars closely resembled Earth. Roughly 4.2 billion years ago Mars was suddenly pummeled with at least 20 asteroids between 124 and 311 miles in diameter, each leaving a crater. By contrast, the object thought to have killed of the dinosaurs on Earth is estimated to have been five to six miles wide. One of the last giant meteors blew a hole 1,864 miles wide in the planet, creating Utopia basin in the planet's northern hemisphere. At about 4.1 billion years old, Utopia is the oldest crust on the planet that doesn't show signs of magnetism, meaning the rocks must have cooled at a time when there was no magnetic field.
Read the MSNBC article that describes the dynamics taking place that would shut down Mars' magnetic field, which ultimately destroyed the planet's ability to maintain an atmosphere.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Physicists Find Dark Matter?

In a recent Wired article I read about a new experiment may have found the first direct evidence of dark matter particles. Theorists believe that dark matter, made up of of weakly-interacting massive particles, composes 23 percent of the universe, but no one has ever directly detected one of these WIMPs. Now, physicists have announced they've spotted electrons with just about the amount of energy they would have expected to be made by a particular kind of WIMP. John Wefel of Louisiana State University and colleagues report in Nature Wednesday that they could have detected "Kaluza-Klein" electron-positron pairs resulting from the annihilation of these WIMPS.

<-read complete article in Wired->


Tobias Buckell in The Hospital


SF Signal blog reports:

Tobias Buckell was admitted into the hospital after he experienced "shallow breathing and a high heart rate". He remains in good spirits and is is live-blogging the experience to a small degree.

Everyone of us at BMU wish you a speedy recovery Tobias.

Now you go do the same.

Scientists cloning endangered Amami rabbit


It's no secret that cloning has been in the news and public imagination for years and in Science Fiction even longer. All manner of animals have been attempted, from frogs to sheep with varying degrees of success. Of late, talk about reviving extinct animals has gained some interest with the success in extracting DNA material from extinct mammoths in the hope that this material will someday be enough to clone the entire animal. Lost in the fray has been the animals that are not extinct but certainly are teetering on the edge. Now comes news of plans to clone the Amami rabbit.

According to Pink Tentacle: The Amami rabbit (Pentalagus furnessi) is a nocturnal, forest-dwelling “primitive” rabbit with dark fur, short legs, large curved claws and small ears. Found only on the islands of Amami-ƌshima and Toku-no-Shima, it is sometimes called a “living fossil” for its resemblance to ancient rabbits that once inhabited the Asian mainland. The Amami rabbit’s dwindling population — now estimated at between 2,000 and 5,000 — has earned it a spot on Japan’s endangered species list.

Scientists at Osaka’s Kinki University have cloned an embryo of the endangered rabbit and are awaiting its birth. If successful, the Amami will join a small but growing group of endangered animals that have been cloned with varying degrees of success.

Of course cloning bring with it the concerns of environmental impact. One concern that I have is that even succeeding there is still great danger of loss of the animal group. One item that must be addressed is genetic diversity. Without a healthy gene pool, no matter how large the population, there is still risk of loss when the animal can no longer adapt or fight off disease.

[Source: Asahi] via pink tentacle

Monday, November 17, 2008

Video short: The Black Hole

This little film is called The Black Hole. Its not what you think and the end will make you caugh milk out of your nose. I think I broke a rib.



[via Look At This]

Thanks to SF Signals for the heads up

Sci-Fi renews Sanctuary


According to Tv Guide via IO9: Sanctuary, has been renewed for another season on the Sci Fi Channel.

Sanctuary is noted for its ground breaking sets or lack there of. The program, which began as an experimental series on the internet, is the first to have green screen as the backgrounds and sets which are added in by computers.

Starring Amanda Tapping as a 150 year old doctor who collects and protects unusual lifeforms. Though of late it has taken an odd turn of monster fighting, it still manages to have some compelling twists and turns. Though the fake accents are a bit hard to take.

NASA delivers new water treatment system to ISS


There are some things you just take for granted that people know and therefor are not of any real interest. However I was discussing a recent IO9 article about the new waste water recovery plant that NASA just delivered to the ISS and was really bemused as to how many people did not know that recycled water is a common thing on long duration space flights. Now having to consider that astronauts will be drinking reclamated urine put folks completely off their feed. Now for me, I was under the impression this was already taking place! But it seems here to fore, NASA has only been reclaiming water vapor available in the air. "Waste" water was held for disposal and new supplies were brought up on a regular basis. However with the addition of extra crew memebers, this mode was becoming economically infeasible. So, Last week, Space Shuttle Endeavor carried aloft a Michigan Technological University designed Water Recovery System. This system, consisting of various filtration beds, ionization and various other reactives, makes the water purer than just about anything on Earth. But just the thought of the origin puts many people off, even considering that most of the drinking water available today had fish peeing in it not so long ago itself. But leave it to IO9 to spin everything with a bit of humor. The author when considering childhood dreams of space flight wrote: Those childhood dreams of traveling to space probably didn't include drinking your own sweat and pee.
Oh well, another childhood dream bites the big one...lol and of course even their title took jabs....
The Official NASA Guide To Drinking Your Own Urine

Hubble Directly Observes a Planet Orbiting Another Star


Dave Tackett of Quasar Dragon blog sends in a note of a truly startling first from the venerable Hubble space telescope. For the first time ever, we now have a picture of an extra-solar planet orbiting is parent sun! Nasa estimates the planet to be no more than three times Jupiter's mass, the planet, called Fomalhaut b. The planet orbits the bright southern star Fomalhaut, located 25 light-years away in the constellation Piscis Australis, or the "Southern Fish." The star first attracted interest in 2004 when Hubble first photographed the star noting an unusual dust ring around the star. This large debris disk is similar to the Kuiper Belt, which encircles the solar system and contains a range of icy bodies from dust grains to objects the size of dwarf planets, such as Pluto. Astronomers at the University of California at Berkeley, proposed in 2005 that the ring was being gravitationally modified by a planet lying between the star and the ring's inner edge. Now, Hubble has actually photographed a point source of light lying 1.8 billion miles inside the ring's inner edge. The results are being reported in the November 14 issue of Science magazine.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Antipodean Magazine #126 available



The editor of AntipodeanSF just sent out a note to let us know that issue 126 is
available on the net.

Here is the url for the newest issue

www.antisf.com

Here is the TOC for issue 126

"The Two Of Us Are Dying" by Mark Farrugia

"Manipulations" by Kurt Kurchmeier

"Escape" by Jillian Moffatt

"The Hanged Man" by Richard Ridyard

"Living, Simply" by Shaun A. Saunders

"The Home Team" by Greg Wickenhofer

"The Dunny" by John Craig

"The Lion, The Owl & The Cardinal" by PS Cottier

"Burn Me" by Adrian Gibb

"The Tale of Hakuin & The Mirror" by James C. Clar

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Eating the sun: spray-on organic solar cells!

Talk about a coat of many colors...Xiaomei Jiang at the University of South Florida and her team of researchers have successfully tested the tiniest solar cells ever built, as a power source for even tinier microscopic machines. The organic cells someday could be added to clothing.

This according to an article in the first issue of the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy , which describes an inch-long array of 20 of these cells -- each cell about one quarter the size of a lowercase "o" in a standard 12-point font.

Traditional solar cells use a brittle silicon backing, like computer chips. Jiang's organic solar cells rely upon a polymer that can be dissolved and printed onto flexible material.

"These materials have a lot more potential than traditional silicon," says Jiang. "They could be sprayed on any surface that is exposed to sunlight -- a uniform, a car, a house."

Evolution may not be Random?!

Princeton researchers may have stumbled onto a discovery that has the potential for showing that Darwin"s theory of evolution may have been fundamentally flawed. In a recent IO9 article, scientists have found evidence that evolutionary changes that were thought to take place gradually and randomly, under pressure from natural selection - may in fact be influenced by here to fore unrecognized elements. Princeton scientists investigating a group of proteins that help cells burn energy have uncovered evidence that organisms actually have the ability to control their own evolution. The very idea that evolution may not be completely random flies in the face of commonly held theory. Researchers were experimenting with proteins that regulates energy use in cells. They discovered that the proteins were correcting any imbalance imposed on them through artificial mutations, constantly restoring the chain to working order. Analysis revealed that these proteins seem to make minute corrections all the time, steering organisms toward evolutionary changes that make the creature able to compete better.
<- read more ->

What if Matrix ran on XP

Geek End blog listed this short funny video that was on Tech Republic. The video asked the question, what would the Matrix be like if it had to run on Windows. I know you have probably seen depicting this or that on windows. (one of the funny jokes I had heard was the one on how to change a tire using the Windows methodicity, you know....roll all the windows closed and then restart the car...)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Review: Chase on SciFi

Imagine a game that combines elements from "the Running Man, The Matrix, Terminator, and elements of "Survivor" or the "Great Race" and you get an inkling of the SciFi channel's Tuesday night offering Chase. Players spend a frenetic hour completing harder and harder tasks all the while avoiding suited, dark glasses, cameras and radio wearing (all very Matrix like). It is clear that the producers put some thoughts into Chase. Plus the frantic rushing about of the players will certainly appeal to fans of this type of program. The editing is certainly good enough to keep the action flowing. (add to that some truely odd cuts like one very self serving and confident player commenting on how brilliant he is playing the game only to be disqualified in the waning moments due to an inability to read the provided map- or the female player brought virtually to tears and begging the stone faced chaser to please shake her hand, when faced with immeninent capture.Very very odd moments ) So all the running about, the high tech maps, the noise and tension, you would think that this would be a sure fire reciept for success. However at the end of the hour, watching the preview for next week, I was far from impressed. I remember thinking, maybe "Who Wants to be a SuperHero" wasn't really so bad afterall. It might be me. I am not that taken with "reality TV" most of what I have seen calling itself "reality" isn't, so maybe I am missing something, but I don't see myself watching next week.

Philips develops "smart" pill

The hospital equipment division of Philips has devoloped an "intelligent pill" that contains a microprocessor, battery, wireless radio, pump and a drug reservoir that will enable the "pill" to deliver drugs to a patient in specfic locations in the body. One of the pill's sensors will be an acidity detector, so it can tell where it is in the gut. The pill will also be able to check the local body temp and report it wirelessly.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Middlman - Canceled?!!

IO9 blog is claiming an exclusive in a recent article reporting that ABC-Family has, very likely, chopped the quirky sf comedy at the knees. Speculation started when IO9 asked Kevin Sorbo if he had any plans to reprises his cameo appearance on the show. Sorbo responded "I have too many things on my plate that I want to do. I have no idea what is going to happen to that show, but I am hearing rumors it will be canceled". Attempting to confirm Sorbo's statement, IO9 asked Javier Grillo-Marxuach to comment. "I don't think ABC Family is ready to throw in the towel just yet. They love, and — more importantly — own The Middleman. But I think it's fair to say that they aren't going to order any new episodes in the immediate future. Right now, we are all focused on closing a deal for a DVD set that will please the fans with a lot of bonus material".

Click the article title for more info

Space Traffic Control?


Any long time reader will know that I have, on many occasions, mentioned the growing problem of N.E.O. space junk. The near space around Earth is quite literally swamped with all manner of space junk, from dead or dying satellites to deadly nuts, bolts and paint chips. The problem is truly enormous. There are 4000 large bodies being tracked now. Add to that 6000 large tractable debris and upwards of 200,000 non tracked objects larger than 1 centimeter thought to be in orbit. All traveling in excess of 17 thousand mph. One of the worst happened in 2007 when China tested an anti-sat system that created a cloud of junk that is thought to be the worst every in the history of space flight. Now experts in the field are saying "it's time for a space traffic management system". In fact, that very system is now being explored. A recent meeting brought together hundreds of aerospace safety experts from America, Europe, Russia, and China. The object is to get the ball rolling on a Space Situational Awareness or SSA. Click the link below to read more about the problems that the group faces and the ultimate goals they hope to achieve.

<- SAA meeting ->

Thanks to Shaun Saunders for the post

Friday, November 07, 2008

Theoretical Force Field Could Make Space Travel Safer.

One of the more daunting challenges to long term space travel and colonization are "cosmic rays" which are extremely dangerous and difficult to block. Now scientists at the Science and Technology Facilities Council's Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, the Universities of York, Strathclyde, and IST Lisbon have shown that it is possible to create portable, artificial magnetospheres. These would direct the solar wind away from spacecraft or other threatened area.

Science Daily notes that earlier computer simulations have been confirmed "in the laboratory in the UK using apparatus originally built to work on fusion. By recreating in miniature a tiny piece of the Solar Wind, scientists working in the laboratory were able to confirm that a small "hole" in the Solar Wind is all that would be needed to keep the astronauts safe on their journey to our nearest neighbors."

Now the next challenge is to make, and affordably power, a full scale model and make certain that it isn't itself a danger to astronauts.

<Science Daily via SF Signal>

Scientists simulate a ?Black Hole"


A recent article in the Daily Galaxy blog describes a team of scientists in Scotland who have done what science fiction writers have only dreamed of - visiting the event horizon of a singularity, better known as a black hole. But unlike the predictable science fiction movie where something goes terribly wrong and manage to have the Earth sucked into the run-away black hole ( Disney anyone?) This group is using high powered lasers to simulate how a singularity behaves at the point where light can not escape the pull of gravity from the ultra massive core. The simulation takes place when two lasers are fired down an optical fiber cable. The second is much faster and should rapidly overtake the first - but it can't - but the first pulse starts a quantum effect that changes how fast light can travel in the optical material. and so the closer the second pulse gets, the stronger the effect becomes, creating an impassable barrier - a barrier like the event horizon of a black hole. So much so that scientists have begun to study the interaction due to the fact that is so closely resembles the areas around a black hole. Ultimately the effect that can now be brought to the laboratory is the quantum catastrophe singularity - which up to this point was considered impossible. To read more of the research click the link below.

<- UK Telegraph article ->

NASA thinks finding Earth2 likely soon

The Daily Galaxy writes that NASA along with Harvard and the University of Colorado think that the discovery of a Earth class, habitable planet is likely to happen very soon. To date, Planet hunters have spotted more than 200 planets beyond our solar system, but the vast majority are hot, Jupiter-sized planets that would dwarf the Earth and are almost certainly lifeless. NASA along with Harvard and the University of Colorado, hav outlined how advances in technology suggest scientists are on the verge of being able to detect the presence of small, rocky planets, much like our own, around distant stars for the first time. The planets are considered the most likely habitats for extraterrestrial life.

<- Read more about new devices and techniques being used to discover new planets
->

Chandra reveals new twists in Crap Nebula


IO9 posts an article from the Chandra Observatory photo site. Chandra has been taking x-ray photographs of the Crab Nebula and has in my mind taken one of the most startling x-ray views of a pulsar ever taken. In this photo you can see the nebula's inner X-ray ring, which is a shock wave that marks the boundary between the surrounding nebula, and the jets of matter and anti-matter shooting out of the pulsar. Click the link below to go to the chandra photo site for some really interesting news and images.

<- Chandra images ->

Cassini to be re-purposed to search for life?

NASA is considering re-purposing its successful Cassini probe to do something that it wasn't designed for, searching for signs of life on Saturn's moon Enceladus. The probe's last look at the moon showed the presence of water vapor, in plumes, leading some scientists to speculate that the moon may have vast reserves of a water ocean below it's frozen surface. Others are calling for the probe to be sent through the plume and over the moon in detail to look for complex carbon molecules that may indicate the presence of life in the water ocean.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

RIP: Michael Crichton


From About.com - Author Michael Crichton has passed at the age of 66. Author of The Andromeda Strain (1969) and Jurassic Park (1990). Crichton's other forays into science-fiction and fantasy include Sphere (1987) and Timeline (1999). He died Tuesday at the age of 66 Reports are that the cause was cancer.




Mice cloned after 16-yr freeze

Pink tentacle runs an article that at the very least shows hope for suspended animation. Though this discovery doesn't deal directly with animals resuscitated after freezing but equally exciting. A RIKEN research team successfully demonstrated a promising new cloning technique by replicating frozen laboratory mice whose cells were severely damaged after 16 years in permafrost-like conditions (-20 degrees Celsius). The technique might one day be used to resurrect mammoths and other extinct species, according to the researchers. The cloned mice grew to maturity and bred healthy offspring.




Phoenix's final days to be spent as a blogger

The guys over at Dvice have posted an article from Gizmodo on how the dying Martian lander will be using its last remaining functional days. Now that its batteries have run out and it'll soon stop operating all together. It's still got some time left, though, and before it goes for good, the Lander will be working a new job as a blogger.

Of course some of the material is written by humans, but iner-mixed will be data from instruments that require no heating and less power. However Phoenix's life is now measured in days. It won't be long before its final days when the cold darkness of the Martian winter destroys its circuit boards and solar arrays.

<- Phoenix blog ->

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Strange Portal Connects Earth to Sun

You gota love it when science sounds like the best SF story you ever read. Here is an example that Shaun Saunders sent inf from Live Science . The article talks about magnetic portals open up every eight minutes or so to connect our planet with Sol. Once open, loads of high-energy particles can travel the 93 million miles through the conduit. Called a flux transfer event, or FTE, not only exist but are possibly twice as common as anyone ever imagined. Ten years ago, many scientist would have told you that such events did not take place, but recent evidence have made the FTE events irrefutable. There is little doubt that the atmospheres of Earth and Sol interacted. Particles from the solar corona are constantly bouncing off the magnetic bubble of Earth. The main difference is that the connections were thought to be constant and unchanging which is far from the case. During the formation of an FTE - on the side of Earth facing the sun, our magnetic field presses against the sun's magnetic field. It would appear that about every eight minutes, the two fields briefly reconnect, forming a portal through which particles can flow. The portal takes the form of a magnetic cylinder about as wide as Earth. The most important thing to consider about FTEs is that when in effect they add massive amounts of energy to Earth's magnetosphere.

<- for more read the Live Science article ->