Monthly Archives: April 2015

Science Thursday, April 30th 2015

It is another Thursday, and another day for science. Early in the week we had a very special space event, and later in the week there was a very unusual space event. So, without further ado, let’s get started.

The Hubble Space Telescope turned 25 years old on Friday. Which means that the Hubble is about as old as the Internet. Weird, but true. The telescope was launched on April 24, 1990, by NASA’s Space Shuttle Discovery. It was launched with a flawed mirror, unbeknown to the folks at NASA, which led to a bit of a snafu when the brand new space telescope returned blurry images that I could have taken with my point and shoot. This was fixed with the first of five Hubble service missions in 1993. The Hubble has given humanity brilliant images that have helped to solidify our tiny, tiny place in the universe. The next space telescope for NASA, the James Webb Space Telescope, is set to launch in 2018. New estimates have the Hubble continuing operation into 2020.

In Washington, the senate has advanced a bill that would require the EPA to use research that is publicly available to outside experts. The EPA has been criticized for using too much data that is not easily available to outsiders, and as such, can not be verified by them. This really boils down to republicans in congress attacking Obama’s environmental agenda, but any real science that the EPA hopes to do, or not to do, is getting caught up in the crossfire.

The second bit of spacey news this week, launched from Russia. And then, well, didn’t really do much. The Progress 59 freighter experienced a glitch shortly after launch causing it to tumble out of control. The freighter was not near the ISS when the glitch occurred. The spacecraft will not reach the space station, although the astronauts and cosmonauts have enough supplies to last until the next scheduled resupply mission by SpaceX in June. This is the second resupply mission not to reach the ISS in the past 6 months, after the Orbital Sciences mission exploded in October.

On to more things that (probably) exploded, at least a little. NASA’s Messenger spacecraft has officially ended its mission, as of around 3:30 p.m. yesterday. The spacecraft was intentionally crashed into Mercury after more than 10 years of scientific data gathering. The spacecraft, which was only supposed to last a year, ended up lasting much longer.

Finally, we end this week with another bit of exciting space news. A company called Blue Origin, which is a super secret space rocket company, has launched a sub orbital rocket to space. Blue Origin is billionaire Jeff Bezos’ space rocket company, which everyone seems to have forgotten about in light of the press buzz SpaceX has been getting over the past few months. (SpaceX had another successful launch this week, only 13 days after a resupply mission to the ISS.) Blue Origin could be more competition for companies like SpaceX an Virgin Galactic. We’ll hopefully see more of them in the coming months.

That’s it for this weeks edition of Science Thurdsay. Thanks for reading, see you next time.

Science Thursday (Friday): April 23, 2015

Well after a week off to work on some schoolwork, we’re back at it again. Yep that’s right folks, Science Thursday is back. This is a special Science Thursday because it marks the last day of undergraduate classes for yours truly. It has been an interesting four years, in which I have learned a whole lot, most of which had nothing to do with my actual degree. As I enter into this gaping abyss that lies ahead that we like to call life, I’ll keep you loyal readers updated with my goings on and whatnot. But for now, it is science time.

We have much to cover, because we’ve missed two weeks of material. So let’s get started

Nearly two weeks ago now, we had the 200th anniversary of the largest volcanic eruption in history. The blast in Indonesia was responsible for 70,000 deaths, migrations, and altering the global climate for years afterwards, according to the article from Wired. It also output enough ash to cover the entire state of Rhode Island 55 meters(183 feet) deep. And you Northerners thought the snow was bad this year. There is also about a 10% chance another eruption of similar size will occur in the next 50 years, probably somewhere in the Indonesian peninsula.

The following is an article from a publication I just recently discovered. The article tells of the long and epic tail of NASA’s plan to land Soyuz spacecraft in Australia. The reason had to do with the space station that never was, Space Station Freedom. Space Station Freedom was an American space station that would orbit the Earth at an inclination of 28.5 degrees, which, in human terms, means that a fully loaded space shuttle could launch from Cape Canaveral and reach the station. Because of this orbit, an escape capsule could not land in the majority of the United States. So, they went looking for other possible landing locations. A new lifeboat for space station astronauts turned out to be prohibitively expensive for politicians, so they went looking for new lifeboats, too. It is an interesting read.

This mountain on Mars needs a plumber. Seriously though, it’s leaking. On a particularly warm day on the red planet, streaks are seen running down the mountain, which is thought to be some of the best evidence that there is water on the planet that humans have scene.

The sarcasm center in the brain has been“totally found”. The nerve center that controls sarcasm, well, isn’t really a center, but we know where it is, which is, like, totally the greatest thing ever.

March 2015 was another warmest month on record for planet Earth. 2015 has also harbored some impressive heat records, including a whopping 63 F in Antarctica, and 109.9 F in Ghana. This also leads into our next story quite well, as unfortunate as that is.

A satellite has detected that this year, the smallest volume of sea ice now on record has been recorded. You can click the link in the previous sentence to see some pictures of sea ice, which you should probably do, you know, before it all melts.

A little happier news before we wrap up, scientists want to use space lasers to shoot down space junk. What is cooler than an International Space Station? Well, obviously, an International Space Station with space lasers attached. Scientists are proposing adding a laser to the outside of the ISS to shoot down large space junk, and declutter the atmosphere.

Also from the BBC yesterday, humans have finally mapped the mammoth genome. Which is…well, really cool. Ok, that’s that for this weeks (and last week’s) Science Thursday (Friday). Thanks for reading, goodnight.

Science Thursday, April 9, 2015

Welcome back my little scientists! Or big scientists. Or just regular people. This is the judgement free zone of science. Right. So, on with it then. This week we have some terribly exciting science news, starting with the Higgs Boson.

Everybody’s favorite theoretical particle! Scientists working at Fermilab in Illinois, in the United States, have announced that they have new details about the Higgs Boson that stem from work done at their own little (7 km long) supercollider. Which shut down 3.5 years ago. The lab has discovered properties about the particle with essentially validate the findings of CERN back in 2012, but with a little bit more accuracy due to the technical nature of the experiments that were used to collect the data. A much better explanation is found in the linked article.

Speaking of the intersection of theoretical and experimental particle physics, something happened with that other supercollider this week which is worth mention. The Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland has been turned back on. It didn’t even create a black hole. The LHC was down for roughly two years after it’s first round of data collection, which ended with the announcement of a particle that is likely the Higgs Boson in 2013. This new round of data collection will make additional contributions to physics, and our understanding of life, the universe, and everything, but us ordinary folks will probably not learn of it for a year or two.

Our understanding of our local little satellite has been expanded recently, with a study in the journal Nature. The study explained how the moon was formed from a smaller Earth-like planet impacting the Earth. This would seem to explain why the two bodies are so similar in composition. This finding was uncovered after many computer simulations of the early solar system were ran. While this does give us some more advanced insight into the formation of our tide-causing friend, it is still just the best look we have into the history of the solar system.

This article on The Space Review reports on and analysis a meeting that was recently had in Washington about getting humans to Mars. The piece describes some of the methods by which people could end up on Mars, and how that could be accomplished without blowing past budget limits set by the government, the taxpayers, and, well, the people with the money. The article also poses the idea that NASA has to do the best job it can with the budget that it has. Whether or not that budget is one that everyone agrees with is a separate issue. The important thing is that, regardless of how we feel about it, NASA only has exactly as much money as it has, and it has to work around that.

Whew. All of that sounded like serious stuff. Let us be whacky. The BBC Never fails to be whacky with their ancient animal news. This week is no exception. Going all the way back to the dinosaurs, the BBC’s science desk tell us that the Tyrannosaurus Rex has a cousin. And that cousin is a cannibal. Researchers have discovered markings on the fossilized remains of the animal, called the Daspletosaurus, which show scars from vicious fights while the animal was alive, and bite marks which they presume occurred after death. They have also deduced from these markings that the most likely source for them is another Daspletosaur. So, a bit of a bad PR hit if you are one of those things, but just pretty darn cool for the rest of us.

Cats….exist. Whether they are alive or dead is really anyone’s guess, but relaxed? We know that they are relaxed. How do we know this? Well, science, duh. But why are cats relaxed? Well, because they are listening to music. Discover Magazine reports that cats are less stressed during surgery when they are listening to classical music. (Specifically Barber’s Adagio for Strings.) So there you have it, folks. Classical music. Scientifically shown to…well make cats more relaxed. Do with that what you will.

This is something my older readers will appreciate (mom hii!!!) …evidently there is some gallery in New York that has a bunch of old computers that they have displayed in some artsy manner. The linked article has many pictures and a cool video that shows you about the place. The exhibit houses everything from the iPad and XboX 360 to a Commodore 64 and an Apple Macintosh Plus. It is amazing to see how far that technology has come in a lifetime.

Finally, Apollo 13. Launched 45 years ago tomorrow, this mission showed the professionalism, skill, and teamwork that NASA — and humans — are capable of. In one of what I’m sure will be many anniversary stories that will be popping up as the 45 anniversary of the flight comes and goes, Universe Today has posted an article about 13 things that saved Apollo 13. It’s actually a pretty interesting read that goes into some technical specifications of the oxygen tank that only people like me would care about. If you are not a space nut, then just google Jim Lovell, Gene Kranz, Sy Liebergot, and Ken Mattingly. That’ll be a good start.

Well, that’s all for this week. Thanks for reading. Ex luna scientia. Good night.

Science Thursday, April 2nd 2015

Here we are folks, with yet another edition of Science Thursday. Yesterday was April Fool’s day, which left the internet reeling from ridiculous April Fool’s pranks, such as Slashdot’s many awesome things, and so on, and so forth. But here, now, on April 2nd, there is no tom foolery, nothing to fear, and awesome science!

Ok, so we must begin with something that happened back in March, on Friday the 27th. The International Space Station’s One Year Crew blasted off to begin their one year mission. This mission will consist of many tests and evaluations to track just how the astronaut’s and cosmonaut’s health and wellbeing changes throughout the mission. This will pave the way for long duration manned spaceflight missions in the future. An interesting aspect is that the American member of the crew, Scott Kelly, has an identical twin, Mark Kelley, who is also an astronaut. The two will be monitored in tandem, with one in space and one on Earth, to see…well if there are any differences. This will be something that I’m sure we will hear more about throughout the coming year.

Let’s all give a little round of applause to the Mars rover Opportunity. The little guy has traveled 42.195 kilometers since landing on Mars. For the American’s in the audience, that’s a marathon. The rover landed on Mars on January 25, 2004, so that would give it a marathon time of only like, 11 years. Which is better than I could do — on Mars anyway.

Sticking with space, this is an article on universe today about the final Hubble servicing mission in 2009. There are several cool photographs in there worth seeing.

This isn’t really news, but it’s cool. Lightning volcano!

This is kind of a short science Thursday, but that’s what there is. No crazy animals from the BBC’s science desk. Sad, I know. But hopefully next week will be better. (And then I’ll have more time to pull out some more stories.) Thanks for reading. Goodnight.