'No signal' from targeted ET hunt
|2:28:56 AM, Sunday, June 03, 2012|
"(BBC 1 June 2012) - The hunt for other intelligent civilisations has a new technique in its arsenal, but its first use has turned up no signs of alien broadcasts.
Australian astronomers used "very long baseline interferometry" to examine Gliese 581, a star known to host planets in its "habitable zone".
The hunt for aliens is fundamentally a vast numbers game, so the team's result should come as no surprise.
Their report, posted online, will be published in the Astronomical Journal.
In recent years, interest in such targeted searches has begun to surge as the hunt for planets outside the Solar System continues to find them at every turn.
Astronomers currently estimate that every star in the night sky hosts, on average, 1.6 planets - implying that there are billions of planets out there yet to be confirmed..."
Northern Lights Process Like Untangling Twisted Strands of Spaghetti?
|2:03:06 AM, Sunday, June 03, 2012|
"(ScienceDaily June 1, 2012) - A University of Iowa researcher wants you to visualize a plate of spaghetti when you think of the northern lights.
That's because Jack Scudder, UI professor of physics and astronomy, and his colleagues have reached a milestone in describing how the northern lights work by way of a process called "magnetic reconnection."
The details are contained in a paper published in the June 5 issue of the journal Physical Review Letters; however, the process is best imagined as untangling twisted strands of spaghetti.
Diffuse gas -- called plasma -- flows outward from the sun as the "solar wind" and carries with it magnetic field lines ("spaghetti") from the sun.
The entanglement between magnetic field lines (spaghetti) from the sun and other field lines (spaghetti) anchored in Earth's core occurs when these field lines are brought together by gusts of solar wind..."
-- Praise the FSM!
SpaceX Dragon Capsule Splashes Down in Pacific, Ending Historic Test Flight
|6:47:28 PM, Thursday, May 31, 2012|
"(www.space.com 5/31/2012) The world's first commercial space cargo ship dove through Earth's atmosphere and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean early Thursday (May 31), ending an historic test flight to the International Space Station.
The SpaceX Dragon capsule made a water landing off the coast of Baja California, Mexico at 11:42 a.m. EDT (1542 GMT). Recovery ships have spotted the capsule and are en route to collect the vehicle to tow to Los Angeles.
Mission Control in Houston informed the space station crew that the capsule's red-and-white striped parachutes were visible.
"That's good news," NASA astronaut Don Pettit radioed back.
Dragon departed the space station earlier today, when it was released from the outpost's robotic arm after being plucked from a docking port on station's Earth-facing Harmony module. The unmanned capsule began its return to Earth in earnest at 10:51 a.m. EDT (1451 GMT) with a nine minute, 50 second de-orbit engine burn..."
Meteorite Ring: Reddit User Laporkenstein, Marcus LaPorte, Forges Own Wedding Ring
|1:36:21 AM, Thursday, May 31, 2012|
"Reddit user Marcus LaPorte made headlines earlier this month when he forged a wedding band from a piece of a meteorite and posted photos of the ring online. LaPorte, a 34-year-old art director and custom fabricator, has been married for three years and has a 16-month-old daughter. Below, he explains how he designed and created the ring. For more info on LaPorte's work check out his website, and to get your own custom ring, email email@example.com
I was introduced to the concept [of the meteorite ring] by a really talented friend, coworker, and jeweler named Kit Casati who had been making meteorite jewelry items for a number of years. He was nice enough to mentor me through the process, as it was extremely intensive and not for the amateur fabricator. But, thanks to Kit's expertise along the way, the ring came out perfectly..."
-- Follow the link for photos!
NASA Suggests Guidelines to Protect Moon Landmarks
|1:22:25 AM, Thursday, May 31, 2012|
"(www.geeksaresexy.net May 30, 2012) Despite the National Aeronautics and Space Administration no longer doing any space stuff, they sure got territorial when private companies started making strides for space travel. The inevitable exploration of the moon’s surface is a hot topic among the private space travel initiatives, and NASA is calling “dibs” on certain areas of the moon.
NASA is suggesting some guidelines be put into place to protect these areas: “NASA recognizes that many spacefaring nations and commercial entities are on the verge of landing spacecraft on the moon.”
Russia has already made it known that they plan on building a permanent base on the surface and are exploring just how to do that. NASA just wants to protect the areas they consider to be historical landmarks..."
Mars missions may learn from meteor Down Under
|1:07:28 AM, Thursday, May 31, 2012|
"(phys.org May 30, 2012) A discovery about the make-up of the atmosphere of Mars could help inform future missions searching for life there.
Scientists have tried to find out how the planet's environment came to contain methane gas, which contains carbon – a substance found in all living things.
They found that meteorites, which continually bombard the surface of Mars, contain enough carbon compounds to generate methane when they are exposed to sunlight.
Researchers say their findings give valuable insights into the planet's atmosphere. Scientists planning future missions to Mars could use the findings to fine-tune their experiments, potentially making their trips more valuable..."
Cloak of Invisibility: Engineers Use Plasmonics to Create an Invisible Photodetector
|12:08:44 AM, Wednesday, May 23, 2012|
"(ScienceDaily May 21, 2012) - It may not be intuitive, but a coating of reflective metal can actually make something less visible, engineers at Stanford and UPenn have shown. They have created an invisible, light-detecting device that can "see without being seen."
At the heart of the device are silicon nanowires covered by a thin cap of gold. By adjusting the ratio of metal to silicon -- a technique the engineers refer to as tuning the geometries -- they capitalize on favorable nanoscale physics in which the reflected light from the two materials cancel each other to make the device invisible.
Pengyu Fan is the lead author of a paper demonstrating the new device published online May 20th in the journal Nature Photonics. He is a doctoral candidate in materials science and engineering at Stanford University working in Professor Mark Brongersma's group. Brongersma is senior author of the study.
Cloak of invisiblity
Light detection is well known and relatively simple. Silicon generates electrical current when illuminated and is common in solar panels and light sensors today. The Stanford device, however, is a departure in that for the first time it uses a relatively new concept known as plasmonic cloaking to render the device invisible. . ."
How The Worm Knows Where Its Nose Is
|10:10:27 PM, Tuesday, May 22, 2012|
"(phys.org May 16, 2012) For decades, scientists have studied Caenorhabditis elegans – tiny, transparent worms – to glean clues about how neurons develop and function. A new Harvard study suggests that the worms' nervous system is much more capable and complex than previously thought, and has a way to monitor its own motion, a model one day could serve to develop treatments for disorders like schizophrenia.
While most research into the worms' neurons has shown that each performs as a single functional unit, Yun Zhang, Associate Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and Center for Brain Science, together with her colleagues Michael Hendricks, Heonick Ha and Nicolas Maffey, has uncovered evidence that, in some neurons, different compartments of a single neuron exhibit activities independently of each other. These local activities within the individual neurites represent self-motion signals and control movement. The work is described in a paper published on May 13 in Nature.
Such "compartmentalized" neural activity is typically only found in higher organisms; however, Zhang and her colleagues have now demonstrated that the simple unbranched axons of nematode neurons can also generate such compartmentalized local activity. In the interneurons that the researchers study, named RIA, the worms use these local activities to encode "corollary discharge" – a phenomenon in which motor neurons send a "copy" of a motor instruction back to the central nervous system – to monitor their body position and guide their movement about their environment. . ."
Geoengineering Experiment Cancelled Amid Patent Row
|9:36:40 PM, Tuesday, May 22, 2012|
"(nature.com May 15 2012) A field trial for a novel UK geoengineering experiment has been cancelled amid questions about a pre-existing patent application for some of the technology involved.
The Stratospheric Particle Injection for Climate Engineering (SPICE) project is a collaboration among several UK universities and Cambridge-based Marshall Aerospace to investigate the possibility of spraying particles into the stratosphere to mitigate global warming. Such particles could mimic the cooling produced by large volcanic eruptions, by reflecting sunlight before it reaches Earth’s surface.
But the field-trial arm of SPICE — which would have seen around 150 litres of water pumped into the atmosphere through a 1-kilometre hosepipe attached to a balloon — has now been abandoned. . ."
Big Picture: The Centaur
|9:24:19 PM, Tuesday, May 22, 2012|
"(BBC 16 May 2012) Centaurus A, a bright galaxy in southern skies, once bemused scientists with its shape, now known to result from elliptical and spiral galaxies merging. The European Southern Observatory's 2.2m telescope has now given the deepest image yet. Young stars and hydrogen-rich star-forming areas lie at the ends of the central "dust lane"."
Google Patents Augmented Reality Project Glass Design
|8:38:29 PM, Tuesday, May 22, 2012|
"(BBC 16 May 2012) Search giant Google has patented the design of its augmented-reality glasses, known as Project Glass.
Three patents for a "wearable display device" with characteristics of the much-talked about futuristic glasses were submitted last autumn.
The patents reference such functions as displaying data in front of the wearer's eyes and playing audio.
In April, Google revealed details of its research into the glasses and showed a demo video of a prototype.
The patents show images of different versions of augmented reality glasses, some with lenses and some without.
Google is working on the project in its research lab, Google X.
The prototypes are currently being tested by the firm's executives, including Sergey Brin and Vic Gundotra.
The demo video showed science fiction-like glasses equipped with a microphone and partly transparent tiny screen right above the user's right eye. . ."
Squid Ink from Jurassic Period Identical to Modern Cuttlefish Ink
|6:44:22 PM, Tuesday, May 22, 2012|
"(ScienceDaily May 21, 2012) — two ink sacs from 160-million-year-old giant cephalopod fossils discovered two years ago in England contain the pigment melanin, and that it is essentially identical to the melanin found in the ink sac of a modern-day cuttlefish.
The study is published online in the May 21 edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The finding -- in an extremely rare case of being able to study organic material that is hundreds of millions of years old -- suggests that the ink-screen escape mechanism of cephalopods -- cuttlefish, squid and octopuses -- has not evolved since the Jurassic period, and that melanin could be preserved intact in the fossils of a range of organisms.
"Though the other organic components of the cephalopod we studied are long gone, we've discovered through a variety of research methods that the melanin has remained in a condition that could be studied in exquisite detail," said John Simon, one of the study authors, a chemistry professor and the executive vice president and provost at U.Va.
One of the ink sacs studied is the only intact ink sac ever discovered. . ."
'Picture Perfect Launch' For Private Rocket Headed To Space Station
|6:19:12 PM, Tuesday, May 22, 2012|
"Looking like a bright star streaking up into a black sky, a rocket took off before dawn today from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida carrying an unmanned capsule filled with food, clothes and other supplies for astronauts on the International Space Station.
But this robotic cargo ship doesn't belong to NASA. Instead, it's owned by a company called SpaceX, which made history by launching the first ever private spacecraft on a mission to the station.
SpaceX has a $1.6 billion cargo-delivery contract with NASA, which is turning routine flights to the station over to industry so that the veteran space agency can start to focus on more ambitious exploration efforts.
After the company's capsule, called Dragon, reached orbit and its solar arrays deployed without a hitch, engineers at SpaceX's launch control room in Florida clapped and hugged each other.
Elon Musk, who founded SpaceX in 2002 after making a fortune with the Internet company PayPal, wrote on his Twitter feed: "Feels like a giant weight just came off my back :)"
Musk watched the rocket blast off from his company's mission control in Hawthorne, Calif. "Every bit of adrenalin in my body released at that point," he said later during a post-launch press briefing. "It's obviously an extremely intense moment."
This is the third successful flight in a row for the company's Falcon 9 rocket, and the second test flight of a Dragon capsule. In December 2010, a Dragon capsule orbited Earth twice, then splashed down in the Pacific. . ."
Buried Since the Jurassic Era, Ocean Microbes Are Still 'Barely Alive'
|11:04:38 PM, Saturday, May 19, 2012|
“(www.popsci.com, Rebecca Boyle, 05.17.2012) With no meal for 86 million years, and barely enough oxygen to sustain metabolism, can a single-celled organism really be considered alive? Yes, but only just, according to a new study. A microbial community buried under the ocean floor since the mid-Jurassic era is still hanging on. Their tenacity could pose some interesting questions for the hunt for alien life.
Plenty of microbes live beneath ocean sediments — about 90 percent of the planet’s unicellular organisms are found there, and they’ve long been subjects of study among biologists interested in extreme environments. Hans Røy and colleagues wanted to dig even deeper to examine the most barren places, where food supplies are scarce or nonexistent and where oxygen barely reaches.
Røy and colleagues from Denmark and Germany surveyed red clays buried deep in the Pacific Ocean, along the equator and into the North Pacific Gyre current system. From the research R/V Knorr, they drilled core samples 92 feet into the ocean floor, dating to the time of the dinosaurs, and tested the cores with oxygen sensors. They found that organisms live in the deepest parts of these sediments and that they’re using oxygen for respiration — only incredibly slowly. The deeper the sediments, the less food and oxygen is present, and the less oxygen is used up, too. These organisms have not had access to a fresh food supply since their burial, 70 to 86 million years ago.
It takes the microbes about 1,000 years to double their biomass, which could also mean it takes them 1,000 years to divide, Røy and his colleagues found. E. coli, by contrast, takes 17 to 30 minutes. Put another way, to be sure these things were actually living — meaning undergoing metabolic processes and growing biomass — you would have to wait 1,000 years.
Røy and colleagues believe these microbial communities are living at the absolute limit — they have the bare minimum energy required to keep their DNA intact and their proteins functioning. This is interesting for a couple reasons. First, these life forms are definitely odd, and they suggest that scientists’ knowledge of prokaryotes is incomplete at best. The way unicellular organisms live in the lab is nothing like the way they live beneath the ocean. Second, they once again prove that live persists where it would seem physically impossible — and that is an interesting finding if you’re interested in astrobiology. Even in the harshest environments on this planet, where access to any form of energy is limited at best, microbes can live. Could they live somewhere off this planet, too?
The study appears in the journal Science.”
Carnivorous Plants Employ Bodyguard Ants
|1:05:45 AM, Saturday, May 19, 2012|
“(LiveScience.com – Wed, May 9, 2012) Carnivorous plants can have valuable allies in ants, benefiting from their poop and janitor, bodyguard and cutthroat services, researchers say.
The carnivorous pitcher plant Nepenthes bicalcarata dwells in the nutrient-poor peat swamp forests of Borneo. It is not a very effective carnivore by itself — its pitcher-shaped leaves lack the slippery walls and viscous, elastic and strongly corrosive fluid that make those of its relatives such effective deathtraps.
However, N. bicalcarata does apparently have unusual support on its side — the ant Camponotus schmitzi. The carnivorous plant has swollen tendrils at the base of each pitcher that serve as homes for the insects, and a food source in the form of nectar secreted on the pitcher rims.
In return, the ants apparently provide a host of services for the pitcher plants. They clean the pitcher mouth to keep it slippery enough to help catch prey. They attack weevils that would otherwise munch on the plant. They cart off the remains of large prey from the pitchers that would otherwise rot. They lie in ambush under pitcher rims and systematically attack any of the plant's prey that attempt to escape the traps. And their droppings fertilize the plants. . .”
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