Happy Thursday folks! With Christmas only a week away, and holiday festivities in full swing, take a moment to science in your holiday fervor. If you’re baking, you’re doing chemistry. If you’re cutting down a christmas tree, you’re doing physics. Science!
We start this Thursday’s weekly science wrap up with…Rosetta! Some new images have arrived from the lander, which is on a comet, that show just how magnificent the comet is. Comets used to be the bad omens, associated with death. They used to be these things that flew throug the night sky, different from the other stars. And now, today, there is a spacecraft that is sitting on one, next to a cliff. With all the ambiguity that came with the landing, and the lifespan of the spacecraft, and the harpoons, the fact is, that in the year 2014, human beings landed a thing on a comet, shedding light on what used to forshadow darkness. One day, maybe, this will not be such a celebrated event. One day, this will be common, and we will be a spacefaring people by practice, not just in our heads.
Another interesting thing that has happened recently, as documented on Engadget and Wired, is that Audi has a self driving car, that can go 150 mph. In this article found in Wired, the differences between the GPS maps that we use today for turn by turn directions, and the GPS maps that self-driving cars will need. Something intersting to think about as we propell into an age where things are increasingly computerized things.
So for those who watched the Orbital Sciences rocket explode in late October, there is an intersting bit of news regarding that launch system. The engines used in the October launch were Aerojet AJ-26 engines, which were refurbished Russian RD-180 engines. Essentially, these were an Americanized version of a Soviet-era technology. It is suspected that these engines were instrumental to the catestrophic failure of that October launch, which was supposed to be visible over a large portion of the eastern seaboard. In a bit of news so sadistically poetic it must be true, Orbital Sciences announced this week that it will be purchasing Russian RD-181 engines to power future rockets. The story can be found here on SpaceNews. I suppose the thing to do in this situation is just hope that the Russians have worked out the bugs.
In other news, there is a new virtual reality game which allows you to experience weightlessness. To be clear, the game does not make you weightless, it just lets you play with stuff as if there were no gravity, like on the space station. (There actually IS gravity on the space station, but the force is so small it might as well be zero.) This article found on Universe Today includes a youtube link to a trailer for the game, which uses Oculus Rift to simluate the wieghtlessness.
We’re only two weeks from the end of the year, and as humans do, many people are spending a lot of time on recaps of 2014 in all sorts of areas. Music, movies, television, biggest news issues, video games…you name it, there’s a 2014 recap somewhere on the internet. Science News is no exception to this rule. Science News is doing a top 25 of 2014, and there are many things on that list. One of these is particularly interesting for a few reasons, and that is the second item on their list. According to this article written by Science News’ Christopher Crockett, humans were close to finding gravity waves that rippled out from the Big Bang. In a Rosetta-esque saga the gravity waves were discovered, then not discovered, then maybe discovered. It was also possible that dust had caused the readings that were originally thought to be gravity waves. There’s always hope for next year.
Finally, a cool science thing. This is the homepage to Chrome Experiment which visualizes all of Wikipedia as a galaxy. You can navigate through articles like you’re a cyber spaceship, traveling at warp speed. Pretty cool.
Enjoy the remianing week of Christmas maddness, if that’s what you celebrate. If that’s not what you celebrate, then may your holiday, whenever it is, be everything you want it to be. Thanks for reading, and remember to science.