The Daily Bongo
Saturday, March 19, 2011 -- Late Evening
Super MoonTonight the moon was in its closest approach to the Earth. And it was a full moon. This is a picture of the moon from my house. As you can imagine, it really didn't look much larger than usual. I think that most people assumed that they would see a huge moon hanging in the sky. It's pretty much the normal size that we see anytime we look at the moon. Because the moon wasn't as close to the horizon, it might have ruined the optical illusion. However, the moon rise wasn't visible from my house.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011 -- Evening
Big MoonKeep your eyes to the skies on Saturday, March 19. We should have a full moon that night, and on that night, the Moon will be in its closest approach to the Earth in two decades. Of course, the Moon won't really be larger in the sky, but it will appear to be larger because of optical illusions. Some folks are claiming that event will cause problems on Earth because of the Moon's gravitational effect. However, that will really be minimal. It does play into the whole end of the Earth crowd since this is happening near the spring equinox, and the Earth is supposed to end in 2012, according to the Mayan calendar. I just suggest that you go outside and drink in the beauty of the Moon.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009 -- Early Evening
Perseid Meteor ShowersIf it's August, it's Perseid Meteor Shower time. The meteor shower is an annual event that happens every year from the end of July through the end of August with the peak around the middle of August. The shower can be observed in the direction of the Perseus constellation and is a result of the Earth goes through the orbit of the Swift-Tuttle comet. The Perseid meteor show has been recorded for around 2000 years. I was hoping to go out last night, but the skies were cloudy here in the Pittsburgh area. Tonight is supposed to be the peak night, but again, the skies are cloudy. I'm hoping that the weather forecast for clear skies holds true for tomorrow so I can hopefully see something of the shower.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009 -- Evening
Feynman Video Lectures OnlineWell, I guess I have to thank Bill Gates. Yes, it does make my skin crawl, but after obtaining the rights to the Richard Feynman 1964 Messenger Lecture videos from the Feynman estate, the BBC, and Cornell University, Gates made the videos public. The videos were produced from a seven lecture series given at Cornell in 1964 and broadcast on the BBC. Gates is making the video series available on Project Tuva. I started to watch the first lecture on gravitational motion, and I have to admit that I was impressed. The videos are accompanied by a transcript of the lecture and extras that give more information on the topic as it is discussed. For example, when Feynman brings up Galileo, the extra has a biography of Galileo Galilei. If you click on the extra, the video pauses while you look over the material. All in all, a wonderful treat. And we get to see Dr. Feynman lecture, in addition to hearing him. Now we can watch him write on the chalkboard and pace the stage with nervous energy. If you have the time, check out the seven lectures.
Thursday, July 16, 2009 -- Late Afternoon
Apollo 11 streamWe Choose the Moon turned out to be rather lame. Yeah, it was a nice Flash animation of the lift-off, but other than that, it gets a big thumbs down. The NASA Apollo 11 radio transmissions are very cool. Yes, it can be incredibly boring to hear every second of back and forth discussion, but I think it's really cool to hear every second. We get to hear about the astronauts heartbeats, trajectory, what they see, which stations are picking up the signal, and other minutiae.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009 -- Evening
Apollo 11 AnniversaryThis coming Thursday, July 16, will mark the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon launch. There are several events planned around the event. NASA is doing its part with its Apollo 11 40th Anniversary page and by putting out the radio transmissions between command and the astronauts. The radio transmissions will run in real time starting on Thursday. Also, they have been releasing tweets about the mission. Finally, NASA will be releasing a remastered version of the moon landing on Monday, July 20, to coincide with the actual moon landing. Another option to experience Apollo 11 in real time is We Choose the Moon, which is sponsored by the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. I know that I will be glued to the computer/television from Thursday through Monday. On Monday, I'm planning a small party to celebrate the moon landing by watching The Dish and watching Apollo 11 documentaries.
Friday, April 3, 2009 -- EveningToday marks the start of 100 hours of astronomy in honor of the International Year of Astronomy. This year marks the 400th anniversary of Galileo's use of a telescope to observe the wonder in the skies. It is also the 400th anniversary of Johann Kepler's Astronomia Nova. To celebrate the 100 hours of astronomy, people are encouraged to go out and look at the skies through a telescope. If you can't make do that, either because you don't have access to a telescope or have cloudy skies, you can view the webcasts at www.100hoursofastronomy.org.
Thursday, January 15, 2009 -- EveningThe folks at NASA have found definite signs of an active biological or geological presence on Mars. Scientists have detected methane on the plant. This isn't something that is a maybe, but a definite detection. Over the past several years, scientists using facilities in Hawaii, Keck and the Infrared Telescope Facility, have detected methane. The thing that makes this so interesting is that methane is quickly destroyed in the Martian atmosphere. Substantial plumes of methane were found in the northern hemisphere where there are also thought to be ancient flowing waters or ice. Scientists aren't sure if it is of geological or biological origin, but it does make you start to wonder what is going on under the Martian surface. The results were announced in Science today. The methane is probably the result of underground volcanos, but scientists hate to give up the biological element.
Saturday, September 20, 2008 -- Late EveningThe Large Hadron Collider has been experiencing some problems over the past week. The latest is a problem with the magnets that will put the LHC out of commission for two months. It was really disappointing because they were going to do some collisions starting next week. Scientists suspect that the problem is due to an electrical problem that caused 100 of the LHC's super cooled magnets to heat to around 100 degrees Celcius. This caused a couple to melt and the other magnets malfunctioned. A ton of liquid helium leaked into the tunnel, and the fire brigade was called out to help with the situation.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008 -- EveningLater this evening (actually earlier in AM), CERN will turn on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). The goal is to see if they can gather information about the time right after the Big Bang. They will also be looking for antimatter and the Higgs Boson (the God Particle that gives matter its mass). There has been consternation on the part of some people because they are worried that by turning on the LHC, black holes will be created that will destroy the Earth. Granted, according to scientists, there will be small black holes created, but they believe that everything so go safely. Unfortunately, there have been some crazies out there who have sent death threats to the scientists involved to stop the experiment. The biggest reason is fear that the Earth will be destroyed, and also because we are doing something that only "god" should do. Hmm, then why did god give us the intelligence and abilities to create the LHC? The scientists are looking forward to collecting tons of information, and we should have more information about what happened and a first explanation of how things went tomorrow. Of course, there won't be a full analysis for some time because scientists will need some time to go over the amount of data that will be generated through the experiment. There should be more than half a gigabyte of data generated every second. Yes, you read that right, every second! Just think how thrilling it would be to actually be there and be part of it all.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008 -- EveningThe scientists at NASA finally had a press conference to stop the rumors and misinformation. The rumors went from the President being briefed about organic materials on Mars to the supposed discover of organically inhospitable soil. Well, scientists spoke up to say that they really don't have anything to announce at this point, and that they are still investigating the results (which appears to be varying depending on the testing oven on Phoenix. It seems that the scientists admit that they did find perchlorate in the soil samples. However, they haven't determined yet if perchlorate makes the soil inhospitable because scientists have found perchlorate on Earth, especially in Chile's Atacama Desert which has been used as a stand-in for the Martian surface for Earth bound scientists.
Sunday, August 3, 2008 -- EveningI have been reading some science blogs that claim that the folks from NASA have been briefing the President about the Phoenis Mars Polar Lander findings. On Thursday, tests confirmed the presence of water on the Martian surface. Because of this, Phoenix's mission has been extended. However, it doesn't end there. The story is that the President has been briefed because of something else that has been found. (Shades of Dan Brown's Deception Point.) Supposedly it isn't a lifeform, but organic fingerprints. This might mean that life existed at one time on the planet. The only problem with the blog stories is that the briefings with the President have been "secret." Yep, that means that there haven't been any official record or announcement about them. So that makes me wonder about the validity of the stories. With that said, it does make for an interesting discussion. Was there life on Mars at one point? Could it possibly still exist? What would this mean for those whose religious beliefs tell them that life only exists on this planet? Of course, we will see if there are any further annoucements, or if this is one of those Area 51 type rumors.
Thursday, July 17, 2008 -- MorningScientists have been analyzing data from the various Mars orbiters (from the US and Europe) and have decided that Mars once used to have "widespread" water. They believe that they see evidence for lakes, rivers, and deltas all over the planet, which means not only that water was all over the planet, but that it was probably there for a lengthy time period. It might also mean that there is a change that some early life forms may have developed on the planet. The question to ask is what happened to Mars? What made things take such a horrible turn that all the water either evaporated or moved into the polar caps? I know that some say that all the water is now in the polar caps, and that if they can be thawed, Mars would once again have water. So why did all the water gather at the poles? Some scientists think something must have happened at one point when Mars was hit by an asteroid or comet. It will be interesting to learn what new theories the scientists come up with as they gather more data from the Mars Polar Lander.
Friday, June 27, 2008 -- EveningIt seems that the Mars Polar Lander has given scientists something to think about. It seems that tests have shown that the Martian soil may be more alkaline than scientists expected. So far, it seems that the nutrients in the soil are conducive to supporting and sustaining life. This has interesting implications for terriforming the planet. Of course, the question to ask is if we should terriform the planet.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008 -- EveningScientists think that they have an explanation for the differences between the north and south hemispheres on Mars. They believe that an asteroid the size of the Earth's moon may have hit into the northern regions of Mars. From an analysis of the surface and crust of Mars, scientists say that Mars has the largest impact scar in the Solar System. In fact, the scientists theorize that the northern hemisphere may have had a huge ocean. It just goes to show how nature can be distructive. We worry so much about what humans can do, but a huge asteroid can just come down and wipe you out. Look at the dinosaurs and now Mars.
Sunday, June 1, 2008 -- Late AfternoonThe Phoenix Mars Lander may have already found ice. It seems that scientists noticed that the Lander actually appears to be have landed on patches of ice. When the scientists took photos of the ground under the Lander, they noticed the patches. Right now, scientists have been testing the Lander's robotic arm for a few days. They discovered a short circuit in the device that will analyze the scooped up samples. So far, scientists are saying that they don't believe that the intermittent problem will affect the mission.
Monday, May 26, 2008 -- Late MorningNASA had another success yesterday when the Phoenix Mars Lander made a successful touchdown on Mars. Phoenix landed in the northern polar region of Mars and will be looking for evidence of frozen water. NASA TV had the live telecast of Phoenix entering the Martian atmosphere and the countdown to the landing. Everything seems to be fine with Phoenix, and the pictures of its feet and solar panels all seem to show that things are 100%. Phoenix has been sending back pictures from Mars, and the scientists will be analyzing them for digging locations. Phoenix is a stationary device, and it will be reaching out with a scoop to pick up and analyze ground. The landing location was selected because it was thought to be a good location for Phoenix to find some underground water or ice.
Thursday, August 23, 2007 -- EveningGoogle has a new offering. This time it is Google Sky. Anyone who downloads and installs Google Earth, can now scan the heavens. Google Sky can take you on tours of distant galaxies and stellar objects. Of course, the thing to keep in mind while viewing the images is that some of them are representations of what astronomers believe are out there. Still, it's fascinating to know that I can visit Alpha Centuri, even if it is just an animated journey.
Monday, August 20, 2007 -- AfternoonAstronomers have found a rare isolated neutron star between 250 to 1,000 light years from Earth. A neutron star is one that was much larger than our Sun which used up all its nuclear fuel and blew itself apart in a supernova. The interesting thing about the new neutron start, Calvera, is that it doesn't have a supernova remnant, isn't part of a binary pair, and doesn't give off any radio pulses. There are only seven other neutron stars that fit this scenario, and they are known as the Magnificent Seven. The name Calvera, is a villain in the Magnificent Seven movie, so the name is appropriate.
Saturday, August 4, 2007 -- Early AfternoonThe Phoenix Mars Lander launched from Cape Canaveral this morning, starting a nine month voyage to Mars. NASA is to land the Phoenix in Mars' Artic Circle area. This area has always been of high interest to scientists because it continues the search for organic compounds in the Martian surface. The landing is scheduled for May 25, 2008, and is not without risk. So only one landing was attemped at one of the Martian poles (the South one in 1999). That attempt was a failure. The Phoenix carries some written works in its database. The works of Carl Sagan, Voltaire, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, and Percival Lowell will be onboard. Now we just have nine months of nail-biting as we wonder if the landing will be successful.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007 -- EveningSad news for Mr. Wizard fans. Don Herbert, Mr. Wizard himself, died today at the age of 89 from bone cancer. The Science Channel has had Mr. Wizard marathons in recent years, and watching the shows has made me a fan of Mr. Wizard. My sympanthies go out to his family.
Tuesday, May 8, 2007 -- AfternoonAstronomers found one of the largest supernovas. It was first observed by a student at the end of last year. The star, SN 2006gy, was 150 times more massive than the Sun. What I loved about the story is that, of course, the media had to have a close to Earth destruction scenario. Eta Carinae is a star of similar portions, and it's only 7,500 light years from Earth. Supposedly, when the star has a supernova explosion, it will be possible to read from the light of it at night time. It will be viewable from the southern hemisphere. My favorite quote is from Mario Livio, of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. He says, "We don't know for sure if Eta Carinae will explode soon, but we had better keep a close eye on it just in case." Now according to the scientists, it can happen now or 50,000 years from now. I love the time frames! Of course, in the Universe's lifespan, there's not alot of difference between now and 50,000 years.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007 -- EveningBig news in astronomy today was the discovery of an Earth-like planet in orbit around a red drawf star, Gliese 581, which is 20.5 light years from Earth. So what does Earth-like mean? It basically means a planet that is not a gaseous giant. The planet is a smaller planet that could in theory be rocky. How do the two planets measure up? The planet that orbits Gliese 581 is five times more massive than Earth with a diamater of 12,000 miles. Earth's diameter is 8,000 miles. The planet is also very close to Gliese 581 and has an orbit of 13 Earth days. What has excited the astronomers the most is that the temperature is assumed to be between 0 and 40 degrees Celcius. That means that there is a possibility of liquid water on the planet. Behind biased towards the type of environment that we have here, the astronomers think that makes for conditions conducive to life. Whether liviing beings are on the planet is just a matter of complete conjecture.
Friday, March 16, 2007 -- AfternoonScientists have found that the polar caps on Mars actually do appear to contain water. For the first time since the polar caps were discovered in the 1970s, scientists were able to a radar technique to probe 2.5 miles beneath the surface of the caps, and they confirmed that it is mostly pure water with a dust coating. There is supposedly enough water in the caps to cover the planet with water if the caps totally melted. This was always a topic of discussion for terraforming of the planet. The thought is that we could do something to make the ice caps melt (after all, aren't we supposed to be good at global warming? :-) ) With water on the plant, we could try to make it more habitable. It's an interesting concept although I think that it would be hard to put in action.
Thursday, March 15, 2007 -- EveningI have just finished reading a very interesting book. It is Bad Astronomy: Misconceptions and Misuses Revealed, from Astrology to the Moon Landing "Hoax" by Philip Plait. The book covers various topics that people think they understand but usually get wrong. In the book we find out why the sky is blue, why we have seasons, what the role of the moon is, the Moon landing hoax (there are people who think that the Moon landing was faked and filmed in the US deserts), and examples of "bad astronomy" in movies. The last are things that are misrepresented in movies. Our society really doesn't appreciate or understand science, and think that it is hard just because they haven't taken the time to actually do some reading. The book is quite interesting and a quick and easy read. This book would be very good for someone who believes he or she is scientifically illiterate.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007 -- MorningCMU is a local university with big aspirations. The researchers in the Robotics Institute have written a program for the Mars Rover which allows the Rovers to autonomously determine how to get around obstacles. The engineers simulated a test situation by putting an "obstacle" in Opportunity's path. Opportunity was able to successfully get around the obstacle. The software test was performed last week on Feb. 7. The goal of the software is to enable the Rovers to get around obstacles and to get out of dead-end situations. The Rovers are really something to admire. We didn't think that the Rovers would last so long, and yet, there they are--still performing and providing valuable data.
Thursday, December 7, 2006 -- AfternoonThe latest news on Mars is that water may indeed be flowing on the Red Planet. It seems that scientists have looked at pictures that were taken by the Mars Global Surveyor show signs of recent water activity in gullies. The scientists believe that the gullies were formed by flowing water and see signs of deposits in them that could be mud, salt, or frost. Some scientists don't think that what they are seeing was formed by water, but by liquid carbon dioxide. It appears that liquid carbon dioxide has a lower freezing point than water and could still be in liquid form at the -107 degree C that exists on the Martian surface. This is sounding eeriely like Percy Lowell's canals.
Saturday, November 25, 2006 -- Morning I received an early Hannuka gift yesterday. My boyfriend gave me the Nintendo DS and a Brain Age. He knows that I am into keeping my brain young and active and following natural ways of doing things. He bought the game yesterday afternoon. I wasn't displeased with my initial testing results, and have begun the daily training program. The thing that I have found is that I have forgotten alot of common math. It's difficult to churn it out in a fast pace too. The daily training that I know have is reading aloud, calculations x 20, calculations x 100, low to high, and syllable count. Supposedly reading aloud passages of books is good for the prefrontal cortex, so that makes up the "reading aloud". Syllable count is also just what is says it is. The calculations are the simple addition, subtraction, and multiplication problems that are timed. It's amazing how you get things wrong when you know you have a clock ticking away the seconds. The two exercises I get are of 20 and 100 problems. The low to high is difficult although I have been doing well. Numbers are flashed on the screen in boxes, and you have to memorize them and then touch the empty boxes on the screen to mark the boxes that had the lowest number to the highest. The game also has suduko puzzles. I have to admit that I'm not a game person, but I do like puzzles. Brain Age is really alot of fun, and whether it actually improves my brain age in real terms, I am enjoying playing along.
Tuesday, October 31, 2006 -- Late AfternoonThe Hubble Telescope is going to get some much needed upgrades and repairs during the Discover space shuttle mission. The batteries and gyroscopes will be replaced and two new instruments will be installed--the Wide Field Camera (WFC3) and the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS). The work should be in 2008. That seems like a long time to wait, but it's better than no repair at all. Originally the discussion was that Hubble would just be left as it and that its usefulness would come to an end. One of my former professors told me a couple of weeks ago that she thought nothing would be done for Hubble and that we would all have to watch the skies and wait for it to come crashing to Earth. That sounds like a great plot for a sci-fi story.
Monday, October 16, 2006 -- EveningI have a new favorite web site. My boyfriend told me about the Center for Consumer Freedom It's an organization that tries to get some of the truth out there about how smoking laws and claims that eating cheesecake will kill you are ways to control consumer freedoms. If I want to kill myself by eating cheesecake then that's my perogative. I really dislike the claims that being abit fat is going to kill you. Guess what? Life is going to kill you! None of us is going to get out of this world alive, and even if we have the best eating habits, don't smoke, and exercise all the time, we can still be run over by a bus. Will having a slice of cheesecake every now and again hurt you. NO! Will having nothing but a diet of cheeseecake hurt you? Probably. I just hate those folks who think that they know better than I what is good for me. Take care of your own life and get out of mine. So I definitely love the Center for Consumer Freedom. I signed up for their newsletter and have found the information very enlightening.
Along the same line, scientists are saying that overweight people have a lower IQ. This is a European study and the claim is that people with a BMI (Body Mass Index) over 30 could only recall 44% of the words from a vocabulary list while those under 20% could recall 56%. After five years, the 30 BMI group's recall dropped to 37.5% while the 20% group stayed the same. So my question is if the 30 BMI group lost weight, did their memory get better? And if the 20% group ate a good meal every now and again, would they recall less? My BMI is 23%. In the past, I was under 20%. I don't think that I have become more stupid just because I lost the anorexic look. It really makes me wonder if they just picked stupid fat people in the first place and brainy skinny people. You can never tell how these studies get biased either intentionally or unintentionally.
Friday, October 6, 2006 -- EveningThe Mars Rovers are going to get a smart upgrade which will enable them to better study the clouds and dust storms on Mars. The upgrade will allow the rovers to search through their databanks for pictures that match the feature of these phenomena and then just send the most important items back to Earth. NASA has really gotten bang for its buck with the rovers. Spirit and Opportunity are like the Energizer Bunny who keeps going and going. In fact, I think they outdo the Energizer Bunny!
Thursday, September 14, 2006 -- EveningUB313 finally has a name. The astronomers in the International Astronomical Union (IAU) have decided to call the object Eris. Eris comes from Greek mythology, and caused a quarrel among the goddesses that caused the Trojan War. That's a fitting name for an object that caused the debate about what is a planet that lead to poor Pluto being demoted.
Friday, August 25, 2006 -- EveningThe controversy over Pluto still hasn't abated. It appears that there are quite a few who are up in arms because the vote was held on the last day of the International Astronomical Unit's General Assembly, and only 424 astronomers participated in the vote. Of course, this doesn't overturn the decision, and if the atronomers were so concerned about the situation, they should have stuck around. They knew that the vote for planetary status was going to be on the schedule. The only thing that I take issue with is the criteria that a planet "clear its orbit" of other objects. Pluto didn't because it crosses the orbit of Neptune. I would say that also take Neptune out of the running but hey! Whatta I know! Pluto's orbit is also not on the same plane as the other planets which was an additional reason to remove its planet status. This is all so arbitrary though. A planet is a word that we use to define something and has nothing to do with actual reality.
Thursday, August 24, 2006 -- Late MorningPoor Pluto! It has been demoted from a planet to an object that orbits the Sun. Astronomers met today at the International Astronomical Unit's General Assembly. Most of the astronomers applauded the decision, while others were saddened at the loss. Starting today, there will only be eight planets in our solar system, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Pluto and other objects like it will be referred to as "dwarf" planets.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006 -- AfternoonAstronomers have come up with a proposal for planet classification in our solar system. The proposal by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) will allow Pluto to keep its planetary status as a "pluton". The plutons are bodies which are round, but too small to be considered a classical planetary type. With the new definition, the number of planets will move up from nine to 12. New planets will include: Ceres, the largest asteroid in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, Pluto's moon, Charon, and the newly discovered UB313. The new definition proposes two criteria for an object to be considered a planet.
- The object must orbit a star, but not be a star.
- The object has to have enough mass so that the object's own gravitational force will cause the object to form in a spherical shape. All oddly shaped object, such as the potato shaped Martian moon, Phobos.
Saturday, August 12, 2006 -- Late AfternoonI won't be able to see this because of lack of mobility with my broken foot, but if you have the chance, make sure to go outside and look for the Perseid meteor shower. The Perseids can usually be seen at this time of year. It usually starts in mid July and peaks around now. Tonight should be the night when you will see the highest amount of showers. The meteors that make up the event come from the tail of the Comet Swift-Tuttle.
Saturday, August 5, 2006 -- EveningAstronomers have found two planets that orbit each other rather than a star. Astronomers are not sure how the dynamics works and are confused by the existence of the planets. Duh! That's not news to me because I think that astronomers and scientists really understand very little of how the Universe works. I think that most of it is guess work and only some of it is right. The objects are called planemos are have 1% of the mass of the Sun, are more than six times more distant from each other than the Sun and Pluto, and were formed around 2 million years ago. More confusion to follow, I'm sure.
Sunday, July 30, 2006 -- Early AfternoonAstronomers have found the largest object in the Universe. It is a huge blob of galaxies and gas bubbles called Lyman alpha blobs. Three of these objects are tied to each other with filaments and are theorized to have come into existence two billion years after the Big Bang. I think that there are alot more things out there than the scientists can even imagine--and I think that the matter will add up to show that we have a closed universe which will collapse in a continual Big Bang/Big Crunch scenario.
Saturday, July 22, 2006 -- EveningAstronomers have observed a star in this galaxy that is in its death throes. It seems that the star should be exploding in a type 1a supernova. This type of explosion is extremely bright, and should be five billion times bright than the Sun. The last time a type 1a supernova was observed was in 1572 by Tycho Brahe who was the person who provided Johannes Kepler by providing data on his astronomical observations. Astronomers don't know when the supernova will happen, but they believe that the star is reaching critical mass. As they say, it could happen tomorrow, or it could happen a 1,000 years from now.
Tuesday, July 4, 2006 -- EveningThe space shuttle Discovery was launched this morning, and it successfully got into orbit. The launch was delayed from last week because of bad weather, and there was concern that it might need to be delayed further by a crack that was found in the insulation on the fuel tanks. However, NASA deemed it safe. This is the first time that NASA launched a space shuttle on the Fourth of July. Again there was more debris that fell from the fuel tanks, but NASA is saying that it was too high to do any damage to the shuttle. The shuttle should return to Earth on July 16 after testing new safety equipment and procedures. Also on the schedule is a delivery of 13 tons of equipment and supplies to the International Space Station.
Wednesday, June 28, 2006 -- EveningAn asteroid is going to make a close pass by the Earth on July 3. The asteroid is around 1/2 mile wide, and should pass by just a bit farther than the moon's average distance from Earth. Some were worried that the asteroid would hit the Earth later on, but now it's not believed that will happen.
Sunday, June 4, 2006 -- EveningScientists have found a crater that may have caused the worst mass extinction ever. The crater is 300 miles wide and is hidden under a half mile of ice in Antartica. It seems that scientists believe that this crater is the result of an asteroid hitting the Earth and wiped out the majority of living things. The mass extinction resulted in conditions that allowed the dinosaurs to become the dominant life form on the planet.
Sunday, May 28, 2006 -- AfternoonThe Mars Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, are going to get a software upgrade that will allow them to make intelligent decisions about the data they collect. So when the robots collect images, for example, they can look for panaromas and send them back. The goal of all of this is to make the robots (and future missions) more autonomous. If the robots on the missions can make some decisions on their own, then they can don't have to wait to send something back to NASA and then get instruction from NASA on what to do. In a way, this reminds me of the premise behind the Terminator movies. I can just see the plot for the movie now--the robots on Mars mutate from their intelligence upgrade and declare war on Earth.
Friday, May 5, 2006 -- Late AfternoonFinally someone has come up with a theory that I have had for years! Some scientists are theorizing that the current Universe that we are in may be the child of an earlier one. Think about it for a second. The Big Bang happened. Why? What came before the Big Bang? The thing that makes the most sense to me is that the Big Bang was the end of a previous Universe's collapse of Big Death. This is not something that will be easy to prove, if indeed it can be proved at all. Right now, we can only imagine what happened at the Big Bang because all that we see around us is evidence of the Bang, or after-effects, if you will. It may just be that we are in a system that fluctuates between collapse and expanse, and right now we are just in expansion state. To me, this theory makes perfect sense. Isn't it more difficult to believe that out of nowhere and for no reason that we can discern, the Big Bang happened? Expansion and collapse is the way to go. The new theory was just released in Science.
Friday, April 21, 2006 -- EveningA recent study of Mars suggests that the planet had three distinct geological periods in its history. Each stage saw less water than the previous stage which has scientists theorizing that the earliest stage was the window of opportunity for life.
Thursday, April 13, 2006 -- EveningVenus Express has sent back the first pictures that it has taken of the hellish planet. The most interesting thing that scientists have seen is a vortex that shows up quite clearly in the southern pole. At this point, there hasn't been much analysis, but the vortex is similar to one that has been observed at Venus' north pole.
Tuesday, April 11, 2006 -- Late AfternoonVenus Express has successfully gotten into orbit around Venus. This should be an interesting mission, and I will be keeping my eyes open for an new developments.
Monday, April 10, 2006 -- AfternoonVenus Express has almost reached its target. Tomorrow morning, the spacecraft will begin a 50 minute burn tomorrow morning to slow its speed so it can safely enter Venus' orbit. The Venus Express will then orbit the planet for 500 Earth days. The goal is to gather more information about a planet that is thought to have been more Earth-like before undergoing some sort of cataclysmic event that sent the greenhouse effect out of control. Venus Express is a European Space Agency mission.
Friday, March 31, 2006 -- EveningPhysicists have determined that the neutrino has mass. This is big news in the world of physics because little is known of neutrinos, and yet they are everywhere. Originally neutrinos were not thought to have mass, and the model of how particles interact in the Universe will need to be revised based on this new information. The reason neutrinos are so difficult to study is because they can pass through space and the Earth without interacting with matter.
Scientists are wondering how reliable current climate models are because they have failed to simulate the current conditions in Antartica that have the temperature raising 2 degrees Centigrade over the past 30 years. Is the warming due to supposed "global warming" or is it the result of natural climatary changes in the Antartic region. I think that it is quite obvious that we really don't understand how the climate works. We don't know what is causing the things that are happening, and we are unable to even begin to suggest how to "fix" them. When I hear folks talking about how global warming is an accepted concept and that x, y, or z will fix it, I know that they are talking out of their butts. Read Michael Crichton's State of Fear. Of course it does add fictional suspense, but Crichton brings up some good, skeptical scientific questions.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006 -- AfternoonThere's going to be a total eclipse of the Sun tomorrow. Southern Asia and Africa will be prime locations for the viewing.
Sunday, March 19, 2006 -- AfternoonPoor Spirit! It's right front wheel isn't working anymore. There were problems with it earlier. Then it was determined that the problem was a lubrication issue. This time it seems that the motor that runs the wheel has konked out. Right now, Spirit is dragging its wheel, as it makes it way to a good location for the Martian winter.
Thursday, March 16, 2006 -- Early EveningAstrophysicists believe that they have found proof of the theory of inflation. The driving force behind inflation was that astrophysicists had to come up with a theory to explain how the Universe is the same regardless of where you look at it. This is the horizon problem because in whichever direction you look, things are the same. How have areas that are so distant so similar? The other question is with the age and size of the Universe, why are we now in a "flat" universe? That means that as far as we can tell, we aren't really sure if we are going to have eternal explansion or collapse. Well, now astrophysicists are claiming that clumps of radiation that are found in the cosmic background is proof of inflation. Basically the space around us is filled with radiation. This is the remnant of the heat that was around after the Big Bang. The most interesting aspect of the CMB (Cosmic Microwave Background) is that for all intents and proposes it is uniform and evenly spread. It is only with the most sensitive instruments that any fluctuations can be found. Now this group of Scientists is claiming that it is finding fluctuations and that the fluctuations are the result of inflation. I think that the actual fact of the matter is that we really don't understand the Big Bang. Because the Big Bang happened around 14 billion years ago, and we don't have any real evidence of what happened, scientists can come up with any sort of theory and find evidence to support it. The things that we think now will be scoffed at in 100 years time. Who made me the expert? I'm not, but after getting a bachelors in physics and astronomy, I know that alot of it is guesswork. Some of the guess work can be proved but some of it is just accepted until it can be proved or disproved.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006 -- AfternoonThe big find in the Valley of the Kings last month turned out not to be a tomb. It appears that it was a room that was used to prepare the Pharoahs for mummification. That diminishes the find in some eyes, but I think that it's still a very valuable resource for learning about the ancient Egyptians.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006 -- Early EveningGoogle has launched a site that maps Mars. My boyfriend was the first to alert me to the site, and it is nicely done. Maps are given in both visible and infrared light. Also, sites of interest are highlighted on the map.
Friday, March 10, 2006 -- Late AfternoonEvidence has come back from Cassini that one of Saturn's moon's, Enceladus, could have liquid water beneath its crust. This has scientists excited because where there is water, there could be life. Enceladus also has the attention of scientists because it is geologically active. That means that jets of what is believed to be water have been observed spouting from locations on the moon.
Saturday, March 4, 2006 -- EveningJupiter has developed a new red spot called Red Jr. The new red spot was formed back in 2000 and was the result of a couple of storms colliding. Basically, the theory is that the Great Red Spot and Red Jr. are storms that are so powerful that they are dragging materials from deeper in the surface of Jupiter to the surface. These materials are turned red because of the Sun's ultraviolet rays. Scientists are going to be keeping a close eye on Red Jr. (officially Oval BA) to see how things develop.
Thursday, March 2, 2006 -- EveningAstronomers have a beautiful portrait of a spiral galaxy courtesy of the Hubble Telescope. The picture is a face on view of the Pinwheel Galaxy, and it is the most detailed photo of a spiral galaxy from Hubble. It took 51 exposures to create the image.
Tuesday, February 28, 2006 -- MorningIf you missed the opportunity to see Mars this past fall, here's an animation of the planet that was taken by an amateur astronomer. It's a nice job.
Friday, February 24, 2006 -- Late AfternoonYou probably didn't realize that you were getting a physics lesson as you watched the Olympics, or maybe you did. Originally folks thought that the reason people glide on ice is because the friction of the blade causes the ice to melt and put a layer of water on top of the ice making the glide possible. However, that really isn't the case. Regardless of friction, there is 20 layers of water on the surface because that's just how it is. Another thing you might not know that the ice is different for figure skating and ice hockey. Figure skating ice is softer so the skater can dig into the ice and do the jumps and spins. Meanwhile the hockey ice is harder so the skaters can be quicker.
Scientists have noticed a strange explosion near our galaxy that might be the precursor of a supernova explosion. Astronomers are training their telescopes on the spot and are waiting for a surge in brightness over the next week.
Sunday, February 19, 2006 -- Early AfternoonAn astronomer has come up with a list of stars that are most likely to have life. Margaret Turnbull from the Carnegie Institution in Washington DC picked the five possibilities based on the age and iron content of the star. Good candidates would have at least 50% of the iron content of the Sun. The five stars are: Beta CVn, HD 10307, HD 211 415, 18 Sco, and 51 Pegasus.
Wednesday, January 25, 2006 -- Late AfternoonScientists have found the smallest Earth like planet outside of our solar system. The planet has five times the Earth's mass and is orbiting a red dwarf about 25,000 light years away. The scientists found the planet by using microlensing. The way it works is that when a planet passes between us and the star in question, the light from the star is bent by the gravity of the planet. This causes the light to appear brighter. The brightness lasts for the amount of time that it takes the planet to orbit so scientists have to keep a close eye on the star to notice the effect.
Thursday, January 19, 2006 -- Early EveningNew Horizons launched this afternoon. That means that the spacecraft will be able to use Jupiter's gravity to hasten the trip to Pluto.
Wednesday, January 18, 2006 -- AfternoonNew Horizons has been delayed until Thursday after a storm in Maryland caused a power outage at the spacecraft's operations center which is located in the area.
Tuesday, January 17, 2006 -- Late AfternoonNew Horizons launch was cancelled for today due to gusty winds. The launch is scheduled again for tomorrow afternoon between 1:16 and 3:15.
More data on exercise and Alzheimer's. It seems that researchers at the University of Washington have found that regular exercise reduced the risk of Alzheimer's by 40%. As they said even gentle exercise was helpful for the participants. In fact, the more frail a person was, the more the person benefitted from regular exercise. I think that the key words here are regular exercise. Sometimes people think that if they don't run five miles a day, it isn't exercise. Because they don't have time or can't run that far, they just give up on the idea of exercise altogether. That thinking is wrong. Just get out there and do something. Park your car farther away from the door in the parking lot. Walk up two of the seventeen flight of stairs to the office before getting on the elevator. All the bits and bobs over the day add up to better health in the long run.
Tuesday, January 17, 2006 -- AfternoonThe Pluto mission, New Horizons, is scheduled for liftoff today at 2:30 pm. That's less then 20 minutes away as I write this. The mission is to send a spacecraft to Pluto that will pass by the planet and its moon, Charon, at a fairly close distance. It should be pass within 6000 miles of the planet at its closest pass, and that is closer to the planet than our moon is to us (the moon is 238,857 miles away). We are hoping to gather data about Pluto and the evolution of our Solar System with this mission. After the craft passes Pluto, it will continue on to the Kuiper Belt. If all goes as planned and the spacecraft gets off before February 3, it can pass by Jupiter and use its gravitational force to push the craft on to Pluto. We would then reach Pluto by July of 2015. Otherwise the craft won't get there until 2018. So the couple of weeks difference in time at launch will result in three years difference in arrival. The amount of time that it should take the signal to reach Earth from the craft as it nears Pluto should be around 4.5 hours.
I have always been interested in puzzles and mysteries and it seems that be the ticket for keeping my brain functions continuing at present level for as many years as possible. Research has been saying that one of the ways to keep the aging brain healthy and to possibly ward off Alzheimer's Disease is through brain calisthenics. There were several interesting articles about brain function in last week's issue of Time. The geist of the articles is that if you want to maintain mental functions well into your golden years, the things to do are to eat well, get plenty of exercise, and challenge your brain with a variety of activities like reading, word and math puzzles, and Sudoku.
Monday, January 16, 2006 -- AfternoonThe Stardust probe has landed safely on Earth after its seven year mission to collect space dust and comet particles. Now scientists will have the opportunity to study these particles to learn more about our Solar System and its evolution.
Saturday, January 7, 2006 -- AfternoonOne of my interests is Egyptology. It is something that has fascinated me since I was a child, and I would love to be able to go on an expedition to do some digging in Egypt. Unfortunately, I don't have the qualifications for such a task, but I can participate virtually with Johns Hopkins University expedition to the Temple Precinct of Mut at Karnak. The expedition started on January 3, but we all can follow along with the progress with daily calendar of pictures and text.
There was some talk that Pluto's moon, Charon, might be a twin planet, and that the two planets were twins that were orbiting each other while orbiting the sun. However, in July of this past year, scientists were able to do some observations of the atmosphere of Charon. This was done by watching Charon eclipse a distant star. While the moon appeared to pass in front of the star from our perspective, we could judge the atmosphere because if the star appeared to suddenly disappear from view, that would mean there was no atmosphere. A more gradual disappearance would have been the result of an atmosphere. Well, the star disappeared suddenly which means that Charon does not have an atmosphere. Any atmosphere that the moon would have would be thinner than the Earth's moon. That means that even though Charon is half the size of Pluto, it is not a planetary object.
Friday, December 23, 2005 -- AfternoonScientists have observed an explosion on the Moon that occurred on November 7 of this year. The explosion was caused by a 12 centimeter-wide meteorite traveling at 27 km/s that crashed into the Moon. It seems that the meteorite might have been part of the Taurid meteor shower that occurs in late October/early November. The explosion from the impact was equal to 70 kg of TNT.
Thursday, December 22, 2005 -- AfternoonTwo reports are challenging the assumption that there may have once been water on Mars. According to the two reports, the layered sandstone like terrain might be the result of volcanic activity or collisions from space. Obviously, much more data and research will be needed before a definitive answer can be given. If you are interested in what might happen if an object collided with a planet in our Solar System, check out the Solar Systems Collisions page. If you go to the page, try out Target--Earth, Projectile Composition--Iron, Projectile Diameter 50 km, Projectile Velocity 80.0 km/sec.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005 -- MorningScientists think that they have found the location where Beagle 2 crashed late in 2003. The scientists have looked at the crater where Beagle 2 was supposed to land, and have found disturbances in the area that are indicitive of an impact. No sign of debris at this point.
Monday, December 19, 2005 -- AfternoonI have been listening to the The Very Best of the Feynman Lectures today. It is a quiet time at work, and alot of people aren't around, so there is no one to disturb by listening to physics lectures. The cds cover The Theory of Gravitation, Curved Space, Electromagnetism, Probablity, The Relation of Wave and Particle Viewpoints and The Schrodinger equation. The lectures are interesting, and would be even more fun if you could see the slides that he shows. Feynman was an interesting character and was acknowledged as one of the best physics lecturers around. His New York accent is very noticeable, and the lectures are entertaining in that he find a common way to explain things and he uses humor. If you are interested in physics, you should check out the cd set.
Wednesday, December 14, 2005 -- EveningHubble Telescope has been used to find the mass of a near-by white dwarf. The white dwarf is a companion star to Sirius and is called Sirius B. It has been incredibly difficult to get size estimates because of the brightness of Sirius. However, they were able to use Hubble's imaging spectrograph to gather the data. Sirius B is around the size of Earth, 7,500 miles in diameter, but it's mass is around 98% that of the Sun. White dwarfs are very dense stars that are the product of a sun run that has run out of fuel to keep on burning via nuclear fusion. The star winds up collapsing in on its self.
Saturday, December 10, 2005 -- MorningThere have been some problems with the robotic arm on the Mars Rover, Opportunity. It seems that one of the coils in the motor that works the arm might have snapped, and the arm has been locked in the stowed position since November 25. The scientists were able to get the arm to move a little bit yesterday, but the question is how do they want to proceed. If the arm should lock in an extended position, it could cause problems. The other rover, Spirit, is so far doing fine.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005 -- MorningLeave it to scientists. They have found that there is a part of the brain that can cause someone to perceive themselves as fat even when they aren't. The area is the posterior parietal cortex and sits right above the ear. The way the scientists were able to identify this spot as the culprit was by strapping a vibrating wrist band to some volunteers. When the volunteers touched their waists, they felt that their waists were smaller. The scientists were looking at brain scans of the volunteers and found that there was activity in this particular part of the brain. Those who thought that their waists shrunk the most had the most activity in this part of the brain.
Friday, November 25, 2005 -- EveningBritain's Royal Society doesn't want scientific papers released on the Internet. Why? Because they claim that have scientific information on the Internet will harm scientific debate. What a bunch of hooey! Having the information readily available to the general public should increase the scientific knowledge and lead to a better informed debate. Then the real story comes out. It's not scientific debate that the Royal Society is concerned about. It's the almighty dollar, or pound. If the information is released on the Internet for free, why would you subscribe to a journal to get the same information? They believe that it would cause non-profit organizations to go under. The only concern that I would have is if non peer reviewed research was published. As a reader of such information, I would hope that the science follows certain standards, and that I am just not being sold a line on the moon being made out of green cheese. I've never understood the elitist attitude that some in science have that science should not be made accessible to people. I think that those who spout that line just want to validate themselves as being superior.
Monday, November 7, 2005 -- MorningThis week the European Space Agency will be launching the Venus Express that will be going to Venus to gather information on how a planet that seems so much like our own could be so different. I think that some scientists are looking for a way to blame it all on greenhouse gases and make the implication that something similar could happen here on our planet. The first thing that I would like to see if such a hypothesis is made are the remnants of cars on the planet and other industrial evidence.
Thursday, November 3, 2005 -- AfternoonTwo rather interesting stories stories are appearing in this week's Nature. First up is that scientists think that they have identified some of the first light that would have appeared from the earliest stars in the Cosmos. If they are correct, scientists could gather more information on what caused the universe to exist. Now, whether they have actually found the first stars is the question because basically what they did is observations of the skies and tried to subtract the light from known stars, galaxies, etc. I think that it is like fishing for a needle in a haystack, but they believe that they have found it. The second story is about the measurement of the black hole in the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. Two scientists from China say that their measurements of the black hole put it at half the size of earlier estimates. According to them, the black hole will fit in the space between the Sun and the Earth.
Tuesday, November 1, 2005 -- MorningTwo new moons have been found orbiting around Pluto. Scientists are hoping that this new find can give us some more information about how the Kuiper Belt was formed.
Monday, October 31, 2005 -- MorningLeave it to CMU to be on the cutting edge of technology and research. Scientists at CMU have developed a language translation device that is connected to someone's head. By detecting the movements of the jaw and face muscles, the device is able to make translations from one language into another. A demonstration was given at CMU by a native Mandarin Chinese speaker whose words were translated into English for the audience. Of course, at this point, the speaker has to have the device wired to his face, so it's not as sci-fi as it sounds. The possibilities are intriquing.
Friday, October 28, 2005 -- EveningMars is going to make its closest approach to Earth this coming Sunday morning. The next time the planet will be as close will be 13 years from now. If you are into star gazing, this weekend will be the best time to do some gazing Mars' way.
Wednesday, October 19, 2005 -- EveningScientists have found that Mars used to be alot more like Earth than originally thought. It seems that they have found that the plates of the planet were once moving. That's what has happened with the Earth and is the explanation of the movement of the continents and earthquakes. The evidence is found in the striping that is found in the magnetic field of the planet. That means that the direction of the magnetic field changed at some point in the past, and this is usually a sign of shifting plates.
Saturday, October 8, 2005 -- Late EveningIt seems that Stanford's Stanley won the Grand Challenge. It is abit confusing because the times on the Grand Challenge web page show the CMU robots before Stanford. It must be some sort of glitch in the system. It does seem that DARPA is looking at the results and that CMU's Sandstorm might be in the competition. At this point though, the money ($2 million) is going to Stanford. This is a big improvement over last year when none of the vehicles could complete the course, and in fact just went a few miles.
Saturday, October 8, 2005 -- Later AfternoonNewer update for the Grand Challenge. It seems that Red team one from CMU, Sandstorm, might be in the lead. The two CMU and Stanford robotic vehicles did complete the race, but for some reason, the times that are appearing on the DARPA status board keep changing. As of this minute (5:25 pm), Sandstorm is ahead. I should know for sure when I come back from the hockey game.
Saturday, October 8, 2005 -- AfternoonThe Grand Challenge started today. So far I have been able to find out that the two CMU vehicles are still in the race and have completed 2/3rds of the course. At the beginning of the race, the entrants were given the GPS coordinates for the entire race on a CD. There has been a definite improvement in the quality of the vehicles over the past year with all of the entrants but one covering more of the course than was completed last year. The start times for the vehicles were staggered with the point being that the vehicle that finishes in the fastest time wins. So far, the Stanford team is doing well. They have covered 127 miles in 7 hours and 12 minutes. CMU's H1ghlander is second, covering 124 miles in 7 hours and 19 minutes. Sandstorm, the second CMU entrant, is third at 123 miles in 7 hours and 12 minutes. Unless something happens to Stanford, they will win the race. Stanley, the Stanford entry, started the race in second position. The race should be over shortly because the total distance is 132 miles. In fact at 4:53 pm, I think Stanford finished at 7 hours and 30 minutes. Their time is less than both of the CMU entrants and the CMU entrants are still racing, so it looks like Stanford might have won.
Thursday, October 6, 2005 -- AfternoonThe CMU robotic team has managed to get two of the top three starting slots in the Grand Challenge which will start this coming Saturday. Fingers are crossed for one of the two teams to win the $2 million prize.
Saturday, October 1, 2005 -- Late EveningScientist have found a moon that is orbiting the tenth planet that was found not too long ago. It seemed that the scientists noticed something following the planet and think that it is a moon. It's useful to find a moon because that means that they might be able to determine the size of the planet based on the moon's distance and orbit around the planet. If a moon travels quickly around a planet it means that the planet is likely to be massive.
Saturday, October 1, 2005 -- AfternoonGoogle and NASA teaming up to come up with new technology that will help the space program. It appears that Google will be building a facility on NASA's research facility in California. It seems that Google will be helping with a variety of computing and data issues. I would imagine that Microsoft must be green with envy over this move.
Thursday, September 29, 2005 -- Late EveningMars Rover, Opportunity, is being sent to investigate its largest crater yet. The crater is Erebus, and scientists are hoping to get a plethora of data from the crater.
Wednesday, September 28, 2005 -- AfternoonThis was on last night, and I recorded it. However, keep your eyes open for repeats! Cosmos the series that Carl Sagan did in 1980 has returned to TV. It's on the Science Channel, and will be shown on Tuesday evenings. It seems that some of the graphics and animatations have been recently enhanced. I haven't had a chance to see the shows yet, but I am looking forward to it. I loved the shows and I think I saw them several times when they were repeated on PBS. I became a life long fan of Sagan's, and I would have to credit him with my fascination with astronomy (I did get a degree in physics and astronomy). The show is wonderful. Watch if you can. If not, look for Sagan's books.
Tuesday, September 27, 2005 -- AfternoonI originally mentioned this around May 25, but it appears that more scientists are getting on board with the idea that Voyager 1 is on in the heliosheath. This is the area of solar system that marks the location where the solar winds slow. Voyager already experienced the terminal shock that occurs when something hits the heliosheath area in December of 2004. The Sun is surrounded by a bubble that marks the extent of our solar system. This bubble is called the heliosphere and extends well beyond where the farthest planet is. It is expected that Voyager will reach the heliopause which marks the outer boundary of the heliosphere in eight to ten years. Voyager will then no longer be affected by solar winds of any kind. At least from our Sun.
Monday, September 26, 2005 -- EveningMore news on the Grand Challenge. Red Whittaker of the CMU Robotics Institute says that he thinks his team has a good chance to win the challenge this year. It seems that both Red Team vehicles, H1ghlander and Sandstorm, have both completed 175 mile courses in preparing for the event. As Red says, what it comes down to is the durability and smartness of the vehicles and the luck of the contestants. H1ghlander was the vehicle that was damaged when it turned over last week, and it was back with limited functionality within 48 hours.
Monday, September 26, 2005 -- AfternoonTeams will be competing for a spot in the Grand Challenge robot race on Oct. 8. Qualifications will begin this Wednesday with 40 teams competing in a 2 mile semi-final race that will determine the 20 entrants for the great race. This is the robotic vehicle race that takes place in the Nevada desert and could be as long as 175 miles. The robotic vehicles are supposed to navigate the course without human interaction. They are supposed to respond to whatever comes into their path based on algorithms that have been preprogrammed into their systems. The winner of the race will get $2 million dollars. CMU has two challengers on the Red Team, but one of them flipped last week while preparing for the Challenge. The vehicle is being repaired and should be ready for the qualifying round.
Wednesday, September 21, 2005 -- AfternoonScientists are find that Mars is alot more active than originally thought. It seems that the Mars Global Surveyor has found evidence of gullies and craters. The gullies showed up in photos from April of 2005. They checked back on previous photos of the area, and the gullies were not in evidence in July of 2002. To have such changes in just a few years time means that more is going on with Mars than we thought.
Scientists have found out that the ingredient in green tea that might fight cancer, might also play a role in protecting the brain from Alzheimer's Disease. Actually what the scientists found out is that when the injected lab mice with the antioxident in green tea that the beta-amyloid protein was not produced as much. It is suspected that these proteins are the cause of the plaques in the brain that clog the arteries and wind up causing Alzheimer's. Of course that doesn't mean that it will work in humans or that the prevention of Alzheimer's is as simple as drinking a glass of green tea every day. For one thing, there are other things in the green tea that appear to block the protein from doing its job. The other thing is that scientists tend to give lab mice so much of the ingredient that they are testing that it isn't feasible for a human to get that much into their bodies without supplements. So the thing now is to find out if and how to make the supplement, determine the amount that would be needed to prevent Alzheimer's, and wonder if it will cause any side effects in humans that werern't noted in mice.
Monday, September 19, 2005 -- AfternoonNASA has released detailed plans for its upcoming moon flights. They hope to get four men on the moon in 2018 for a week. The spacecraft that should carry the astronauts to their destination should be ready for 2012. That should give them enough time to test the technology and hopefully get the astronauts there and back safely. The cost for this endeavor should cost around $100 billion. Yep, you heard that right. Some folks think that this is a waste of tax payer money, but there are so many benefits to be gained by returning men to space, not just orbit of the Earth.
Saturday, September 17, 2005 -- Early AfternoonNASA is planning to have men back on the Moon by 2018. The plan at this point is to make the vehicle a combination of space shuttle and Apollo rocket parts. It seems that the engineers for the new vehicle will be relying on older, more tried and true technology as opposed to something newer, flasher, and more impressive. That makes sense because basically they want to get the folks there and back safely, and sometimes an old war horse is more reliable than a frisky filly. From the Moon, it will be a hop, skip, and a jump to Mars. At least that is my hope. I have to admit that I am not the brave, adventurous type who will want to make the mission, but I think that it would be great for our future.
Friday, September 16, 2005 -- MorningLeave it to the global warming fanatics to blame hurricane Katrina on global warming. It seems that some scientists are saying that the warming of the planet has lead to warmer ocean waters that are spawning more powerful hurricanes. Yes, there are some facts here that can't be refuted. Warmer waters make for stronger hurricanes. The only thing that I question in this science is ascribing the problem to global warming that is caused by human endeavors. The researchers studied hurricanes over the past 35 years and found that the number of category 4 and 5 hurricanes increased with 169 in the period from 1975-1989 and 269 from 1990 to 2004. I don't know what that would actually mean, because you can choose any period of time and find a fluctuation. I would like to know what the strengths of hurricanes were throughout the recorded history which I would imagine would be longer than 35 years. I would think that the reason we are seeing these particular years is because the goal of the scientists is to present data that supports their opinion and theory. I'm sure that if you look at the full record of hurricanes you might find a different story. That's the problem that I have with the media reporting science stories. Everything you get is spoonfed to you with an agenda in mind. Unfortunately the majority of viewers lap it up like it is manna from heaven. Question what you read and hear. You might learn that things are exactly as you are being told.
Wednesday, September 14, 2005 -- Late MorningThe Japanese launched a spacecraft abit over two years ago that has finally reached its target. The spacecraft is the Hayabusa and is investigating an asteroid named Itokawa. The spacecraft is now observing the asteroid and will at some point land on the asteroid, grab a sample and then return the sample to Earth. The sample should return to Earth in the summer of 2007. We are hoping to get a better understanding of the formation of the solar system by doing more research on asteroids.
Monday, September 12, 2005 -- Late MorningWe turned Hubble on our own solar system, and have a new color map of Pluto. The interesting parts are the areas that are assumed to be methane frost and frozen carbon monoxide. The information was gathered over 12 orbits, and it took two years of computer processing to get the final map. Meanwhile another team worked on getting precise measurements of Pluto's moon, Charon, during lunar eclipses. Scientists are now using the information gathered from Hubble with information data from the 1980s. The question on astronomers minds is whether Pluto deserves the classification of planet.
Friday, September 9, 2005 -- EveningScientists see alot of similarities between the Earth and Titan, Saturn's moon, and the reason for that may be that the objects are in locations that could be considered sweet spots. That means that the Earth and Titan have managed to be the right size/mass and distance from the Sun. This means that there is a posssibility that there might be some life forms on Titan. At least, that is what scientists have been hoping for the longest time.
Scientists have also found an object in the Kuiper Belt that has the fastest rotation rate of any object in the solar system. This object rotates every 3.9 hours. The object looks like a squashed rugby ball probably because of its rotation rate.
Thursday, September 8, 2005 -- MorningInformation that is coming back from the Deep Impact mission is that the comet Tempel 1 was more flimsy than originally thought. Carbonates and clay were found in the ejected materials from the impact, and scientists say that these are signs of the presence of liquid water. It may be that liquid water is more prevalent than previously thought. Some things that were found were expected, but the bond of the materials was more fragile than originally thought. It seems that some of the material is held together, but loose like snow lying on the ground. Of course, Tempel 1 may be an anomaly.
It seems that the Mars Express has found that an ice belt once used to encircle the Martian equator. This is based on evident that the orbital has found that suggests that ice was one in the region. Now, the ice is centered on the polar caps. Also, it has been observed that the Mars' planetary tilt can vary from as much as 15 to 40 degrees. The reason for the tilt variation is because Mars lacks a moon big enough to stablize the planet.
Apple released its iPod type phone yesterday. The phone doesn't look very snazzy, and it's made by Motorola. Some folks don't think that the phone will do well in the market because it has a high cost, and there are already phones out there that can do similar things for a lower cost. Also, I think that I would rather just get an iPod instead of getting a phone that does the job. I know that the mantra is that you don't want all of these devices in your pocket, that you want one device that does it all. Why? If one component goes bad, then you have to replace all the devices or get the same phone/device again. I think that it's like the video/DVD players. If the video tape portion breaks, you either have to get the whole device again, or buy a separate video player.
Wednesday, September 7, 2005 -- MorningScientists now believe that the volcanos at the north pole of Mars may still be active. The reason that they think this is because there aren't any signs of impact craters on the volcanos. The implication is that the volcanos recently must have erupted and that this wiped out the signs of craters. The scientists gathered the information from Europe's Mars Express.
Tuesday, September 6, 2005 -- MorningScientists from the Royal Veterinary College and Cambridge University are trying to get a DNA sample from the bones of Eclipse, who is considered the greatest racehorse ever. There has been a project to get DNA from a variety of the biggest names in the history of horseracing with the goal being a better understanding of equine physiology. It seems that with Eclipse, it is going to be difficult to get the DNA from his bone sample because the DNA will have degraded over time. Eclipse's whole skeleton was saved when he died because of his standing as a race horse. He was unbeated in his racing career which spanned the years 1769 to 1770. The horseracing awards in this country are known as the Eclipse awards in his honor. Another horse that the team would like to get a DNA sample from is the Godolphin Arabian. This horse is one of the founding fathers of the Thoroughbred breed. The scientists are trying to get the okay to exhume the horse from his resting place in near Cambridge.
Monday, September 5, 2005 -- EveningScientists have decided that the ice balls that form the rings of Saturn aren't hard. The particles move more slowly than originally thought. How did they come to this decision? It's from data that has been gleaned from the Cassini mission. What the scientists would like to do is actually somehow capture some of the material and analyze it, but that won't be possible unless another mission is sent to the planet.
Sunday, September 4, 2005 -- AfternoonThe Mars Global Surveyor has shut off its science instruments due to a glitch. The folks at NASA are rushing to figure out what the problem is because they want to take some pictures from the area where the Mars Polar Lander crashed. They want to figure out what went wrong to cause the crash so they can avoid the issue next time around.
Saturday, September 3, 2005 -- MorningSpirit, the Mars Rover, has made it to the top of the hill and has sent back some spectacular pictures. The scientists are studying the pictures that are being sent back to determine where they will go next.
Friday, September 2, 2005 -- AfternoonResearchers at Cornell and Tel Aviv University have come up with a computer algorithm that will allow a computer to form grammatically correct sentences in any language. The way it works is that a piece of text is scanned into the computer in a language such as English or Chinese. The text is analyzed with the algorithm, and the program can then construct new sentences that are grammatically correct. This new algorithm is called Automatic Distillation of Structure (ADIOS) and it basically does its job by realigning the sentences over and over while it looks for overlapping parts. Using a statistical method, the algorithm looks for patterns and structural setup.
Tuesday, August 30, 2005 -- Late MorningLeave it to the Japanese! Sometime in mid September, a personal robot is going to go on sale in Japan. The robot will alert you if someone breaks into your house and can act like a personal secretary by taking down notes and appointments and reminding you of your appointments. Not bad. However, I would rather that the robot alerted the police to a burglar OR pulled some sort of Home Alone move and took on the burglar.
Scientists have gotten pictures of two galaxies colliding. Basically what happens when galaxies collide the shape of the galaxies is distorted, and new stars can be formed from the effects of the collision. The scientists said that it would give them a good picture of what will happen to the Milky Way galaxy in 5 billions years when we merge with the Andromeda galaxy. I wonder which will come first--the death of our Sun which supposedly has another 5 billion years left or this event. The one scientist said that he is just glad that he won't be around for the big event. I think that is the one thing that annoys me. I wish that I could be around for it. Not that I would want to die that way, but geeze, wouldn't it be interesting to see what happens and to know what the fate of the universe will be? I am one of those who would like to believe that we live in a closed universe. I think that might make the most sense if you really give it thought. A closed is one where the universe expands only so far and then collapses in again. The collapse would lead to a Big Bang. In my mind, we believe that our universe started from a Big Bang. To me, that means that there was something before--a closed universe that came back together in a bang. Why not continue that pattern? Of course, we could believe that there might have been multiple Big Bangs before, and this time things (matter and other unknown conditions) were just right to change the universe to a flat or open universe. Both would mean a universe that continued to expand. I don't think we know enough about the whole matter to make any determination (although you know that doesn't stop scientists!) Physics tells us that absent of any external force things like to continue doing what they are doing. So the reason a ball stops rolling is the friction of the ground acting on the ball and slowing it down till it stops. So if things like to change state, then why not a continuing volley of Big Bangs?
Monday, August 29, 2005 -- MorningThe global warming folks are blaring their horns again. This time the story is that global warming is the cause behind the mass extinction that happened 250 million years ago. Of course, it wasn't a huge meteor from space that caused a cloud of dirt to rise up into the atmosphere that lead to this extinction. It was global warming. How do they know this now? Well, they "Claim" to have developed software models that are better able to duplicate "lethal super-greenhouse climates". I always take this stuff with a grain of salt, but unfortunately most don't. They always assume that scientists are telling the truth. It's not that they are lying, but they will let bias distort their vision and allow it to unconsciously influence the results of their tests. The other thing that they don't let the general non-scientific population know is that this is an interpretation by one group of individuals and there are others who may dispute the findings or the way the research was done. We as readers of scientific material that is released to the public should realize that we should still question the findings and educate ourselves by reading more about it. Also, the media will sometimes give you only a portion of the whole report because the media sometimes has a bias. Always be aware of the fact that there is bias in the way that information is presented and released.
Friday, August 26, 2005 -- Late MorningA study to be released in Science today states that the core of the Earth is spinning faster than the crust. This was first proposed in 1996 by two of the authors of the study out today. After analyzing earthquake data, the scientists have decided that the core spins one quarter to one half degree faster than the crust. The analysis was done by taking readings from stations in Alaska for earthquakes that happened in the south Atlantic and comparing the time and wave shape. Doing the analysis from those locations would mean that the wave had to pass through the Earth's core. The theory is that the core spinning at a different speed is what produces the Earth's magnetic field. The scientists involved in the study think that the speed of the core could fluctuate and at times be slower than the crust. The results that they currently have are only indicitive of current conditions.
Thursday, August 25, 2005 -- MorningThe European Space Agency is planning another Mars mission. The ESA are the folks responsible for the Beagle mission. This time, they have been formulating a plan to send up a single rover and a stationary unit that would burrow deeper into the ground. It's possible that we may need to get deeper into the soil to find some evidence of life either present or past. Right now, only discussions are taking place because some in the program feel that the ESA should send up a twin rover mission as opposed to the single and stationary. Hopefully the ESA will have more luck than they did with Beagle which was lost on landing almost two years ago.
Monday, August 22, 2005 -- Early AfternoonThe Mars Rover Spirit is approaching the peak of Husband Hill and should reach it sometime this week. The total distance yet to be covered is 70 meters. Spirit has been climbing the hill since late last year and we should get a wonderful view of the surrounding area when Spirit reaches the top. Once it is there, a determination will be made on where Spirit should go next. The crew will be looking for layered rocks because that might be the best location to look for prior existence of water. The reason is because the layering can be the result of water. It is amazing what the rovers have accomplished in the year and a half that they have been on Mars. That's what I would call bang for our buck.
Sunday, August 21, 2005 -- AfternoonThe original manuscript of Albert Einstein's 1925 paper on Quantum Theory of the monatomic ideal gas was found in the archives at the Leiden University's Lorentz Institute for Theoretical Physics by a graduate student who was working on his thesis. According to the school, the graduate student is sure to get top marks on his thesis because he also found some other documents that the school did not realize were in the archives, such as a letter from Niels Bohr. I wonder if the thesis is on how the school is not very good at cataloging its archive! The Einstein paper was about how particles in a gas an near absolute zero will clump together into one huge "mono-atom".
Saturday, August 20, 2005 -- AfternoonDiscovery is being shuttled back to Florida today. Part of the trip was made yesterday, and the final destination should be reached today. Discovery gets back across the country on the back of a Boeing 747 jet. It's amazing to see how small the shuttle is in comparison. It looks like a baby chimp hanging on to its mum.
Friday, August 19, 2005 -- MorningThe space shuttle flight are on hold until March of next year. The biggest issue right now, which may be time consuming, is that that engineers will have to find a solution for the foam issue. I'm imaging that they won't go back to tried and true method that they used to use because of the freon issue. It does make you wonder though if they should. It might be that environmentally safe/politically correct and safe space flights might not go hand in hand.
Thursday, August 18, 2005 -- AfternoonIt seems that NASA is having problems learning from their mistakes. It seems that the members of the oversight panel that have been working on the space shuttle are disappointed in NASA's ability or inability to make matters right after the Columbia disaster. The panel is quoted in the report saying "We expected that Nasa leadership would set high standards for post-Columbia work...we were, overall, disappointed" and "It is difficult to be objective based on hindsight, but it appears to us that lessons that should have been learned have not been." Not only hasn't NASA done what it should to make the shuttle safe, but what it did cost more, took longer and was more complex than it needed to be, at least according to the panelists. We shall have to see how NASA addresses the issues given a second change. Right now, the administration at NASA should be thanking its stars that they do have a second chance, and that this past mission with Discovery didn't go horribly wrong.
Friday, August 12, 2005 -- Early MorningThe Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter just launched at 7:45 am EDT. It looks like everything has gone well, and it is on its way to Mars. Safe trip Orbiter!
The earliest that the space shuttle will launch will be November. Before they fly again, NASA has to resolve the issue with the foam on the launching rockets. That might be an expensive and timely proposition.
Thursday, August 11, 2005 -- MorningThe Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been delayed yet again. This time problems where found when hydrogen fuel was being loaded for the mission. It appears that the issue was due to a computer glitch that showed up as the rockets were being fueled. It was a problem similar to the one that was noted with the space shuttle prior to its launch were the sensors weren't accurately measuring the fuel that was being loaded into the rocket. At this time, there is no time mentioned as an alternative launch time or date.
Set your alarm clock to get up before sunrise tomorrow to see the best display of the 2005 Perseid Meteor Shower. The meteor shower occurs every year from the end of July through the beginning of August, and there is always one day that is the best. This year, the best time to check things out will be tomorrow. Get out anytime between 2 am and sunrise. Try to get away from the city lights, hope for no cloud cover, and look to the east for the show. You will also be able to see Mars at the same time because it will be in the same location.
Wednesday, August 10, 2005 --AfternoonIt seems to be official. The Pens have a goaltender. Today the goalie in question is Jocelyn Thibault. It seems that the Pens traded a fourth round draft pick to get Thiabault from the Chicago Blackhawks. Now we still have to sign Thibault because he is a restricted free agent.
Wednesday, August 10, 2005 -- MorningThe Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter launch has been delayed until tomorrow for safety reasons. It seems that there are problems with the rocket that is going to be used to launch the orbiter. The rocket is the Atlas V. It seems that there was a failure with the Redundant Rate Gyro Unit (RRGU) when the rocket was tested at the manufacturer. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is also going to see if Beagle 2 can be located. Beagle 2 was the British Mars Rover that was lost on Mars in December 2003.
Tuesday, August 9, 2005 -- AfternoonTomorrow NASA will be launching another Mars probe. This one is the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), which will orbit Mars looking for good landing locations for future robotic or manned missions. The probe will also be looking for signs of water on the planet. The probe has a launch window starting around 7:54 am EDT.
Tuesday, August 9, 2005 -- MorningThe space shuttle Discovery landed safely this morning at 8:12 am ET. The shuttle had to land at Edwards Air Force Base due to unstable weather in Florida. Because of the change in landing venue, the cost to transport the shuttle back to Florida will be around $1 million. Everything with the landing went just as it should have.
Over at Montour School District, filming has begun for ESPN's reality series, Bound for Glory, that will show Dick Butkus coaching a local high school football team. The goal is supposed to be a championship, but considering the fact that Butkus has never coached before, it's probably not likely. Yesterday was the first day of training camp for the Montour Spartans, and things seemed to go well without Butkus really stepping on the toes of coach Lou Cerro. So far, Butkus only "knows" about 12 of the student players, but considering that he doesn't know how to pronounce their names, he must not know them that well. It just goes to show to what depths a school district will go to get some money. I don't think this was a move to get to a championship. Hiring Cerro was the thing that would get them to the championship. Having Butkus come in deters from the work that Cerro could do. I will be watching the series though since it is Pittsburgh based.
Monday, August 8, 2005 -- MorningIt's a good thing that I didn't get up in the middle of the night to watch the landing of the space shuttle. The landing has been postponed for 24 hours due to cloud cover in Florida. The shuttle should definitely be landing tomorrow because they are looking at other locations besides the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. They can also attempt a landing at Edwards Air Force Base in California. It seems that the weather is still unstable in Florida, so it was a good idea to scrub the landing. I'm not sure why the alternate landing site could not be used today. Okay, so it takes 24 hours to get ready for a landing (I'm just guessing here). The issue that I have is that you would think and hope that the areas are ready and prepared for a landing whenever the shuttle is in space. After all, you never know when an emergency might happen. Also, even if you have to change trajectory, you would not think that would take 24 hours. I suppose that that biggest issue is that the shuttle has to get back to Florida in the end, so they would rather it land there, than to land elsewhere and have to be ferried back.
Thursday, August 4, 2005 -- AfternoonThe folks at NASA have decided against another spacewalk. They have decided that the thermal blanket does not need to be fixed and all should be good for reentry on Monday.
It seems that there aren't any lakes or rivers on Saturn's moon, Titan. It seems that the Huygens sent back imagines from Titan that on closer examination don't reveal any signs of liquid on the surface. The study was mostly on the southern hemisphere of the moon, so there is still a possibility that there is something in the northern hemisphere.
Thursday, August 4, 2005 -- MorningThere are more problems with Discovery. It seems that thermal blanket that lies under the cockpit window has been damaged. This damage alone isn't a problem. The concern is that the blanket will come loose during re-entry and will cause damage elsewhere on the shuttle that could be catastrophic. A decision will be made later on to determine if a spacewalk is needed to repair the damage, and what the repair will be. The thing is that some of this damage might have happened in previous flights without problems, but now with the scrutiny of NASA on every square inch of the shuttle, more things are coming to light.
Wednesday, August 3, 2005 -- MorningI am watching Steve Robinson removing the gap filler material from the underbelly of the space shuttle. They are showing it live on FOX News. He was able to easily remove the filler by pulling it out. Now he is moving on to the second area of concern. The second piece which was around ten feet from the first was removed even more easily than the first. So the mission was a success.
Tuesday, August 2, 2005 -- MorningThe shuttle crew are going to remove the hanging material from the underbelly of the shuttle tomorrow. The astronaut who is going to be doing, Stephen Robinson, said that he feels comfortable with the task. This will be the first time that any of the shuttle crew has gone to do a a repair on the underside of the shuttle while it is in orbit. The plan at this point is to remove the dangling piece. First Robinson will attempt to pull the piece out, and if that doesn't work, he will cut it off. The pulling bit always makes me nervous. You wouldn't want it to be like the proverbial string that hangs from the sweater and a yank winds up unravelling the sweater.
Sunday, July 31, 2005 -- EveningFor more serious news, there is an issue with Discovery. There is some material that is dangling from the underbelly of the craft. This material will burn during reentry, and right now the scientists are trying to determine if the risk to the safety of the flight is minimal or not. If it is not, then the crew will have to make a spacewalk to either remove the material or shove it back into place and hope it holds. The flight itself is being extended a day so the International Space Station can be restocked and to help out in general.
Saturday, July 30, 2005 -- AfternoonSome astronomers are considering the discovery of the object orbitting beyond Pluto as the tenth planet. Right now, it is only being referred to as 2003 UB313, but a name has submitted for the planet is now in the approval process. Speculation, because at this point we really don't know for sure how large the object is, is that the planet is larger than Pluto. This does raise some questions though. The question then becomes what constitutes a planet. Do we set a size limitation? Some people think that Pluto should have its planetary status removed because it really isn't large enough to be considered a planet, and might even be a moon of Neptune that escaped Neptune's gravitational field. Of course, as I will say over and over again with alot of the things that are mentioned in astronomy, it's speculation. We need to have more robotic missions to these areas to gather alot more information before we can claim to be sure.
Friday, July 29, 2005 -- MorningIt seems that some foam may have hit Discovery. At this point, it appears that the shuttle can stil make a safe re-entry to Earth. It seems that there are 11 "indications" of what could have been impacts from foam. There are four areas on the wing that might have been damaged.
Astronomers have found an ice lake in the northern pole region of Mars. The lake lies inside of an impact crater in the area. It appears that the ice is highly visible, so it's not just a matter of speculation, but appears to be a valid observation.
Meanwhile there have been further discoveries in our Solar System. A fairly large object has been found orbiting the Sun out past Pluto. Of course because of its distance, astronomers are sure if the object is a large, dim object or a small, bright one. Speculation is that the object is composed of rock and ice. There's not alot of information on the discovery because of how far it is from us.
Thursday, July 28, 2005 -- AfternoonDiscovery docked with the International Space Station today. Before docking, the shuttle did a back flip so the astronauts in the station could take pictures of the underbelly for any damage. The shuttle astronauts then went over to the station where they were given bread and salt which is supposed to bring you luck in the Russian culture. Meanwhile NASA has announced that future shuttle flights are grounded due to the debris issue that NASA has with the fuel tanks. The question my boyfriend had this morning is why all of a sudden has debris become a problem. We just didn't know that it has been a problem of late. It seems that there were problems with the Columbia flight in 1997. The scientists found that there was more damage to that Columbia flight than there has been in the past--with damage in areas that should not have been damaged and of a greater intensity than in the past. What they suspected was the reason is that they changed the way they were making the foam. Originally it was made with freon, but in the interests of being environmentally safe they changed the chemical makeup. Now the problem could be due to the adhesive that attaches the foam to the tanks or the actual makeup of the current foam. I say go back to the original formula even if it isn't environmentally correct.
Wednesday, July 27, 2005 -- MorningDiscovery is being checked out for damagae that may have occurred during the flight. It appears that a chunk of insulation came off of the fuel rocket again, but this time did not appear to hit the shuttle. Also, there is a tile that is missing near one of the wheel wells. In the past, tiles have gone missing during the launch. It was only a problem with the last flight, and I believe that may have been because the lose of the tiles was in a sensitive area. Supposedly, this time around, the astronauts will be able to carry out some repairs on tiles while orbitting. In fact, it was on the schedule to do some fixes just to make certain that it can be accomplished. I don't know if I would want to go up in the shuttle. As I was saying yesterday, the 1 in 100 odds (which in real life is actually 1 in 57) just don't strike me as very promising. After looking up the odds of dying it appears that you are as likely to die in the space shuttle as in a motor vehicle accident. At least with the 1 in 100 odds.
Tuesday, July 26, 2005 -- Late MorningDiscovery had liftoff at 10:39 am today. It was quite a dramatic moment. I think that folks have lost sight at times about how impressive and dangerous it is to send man into space. After all, there's not only the lift off, but the reentry. There was clean separation of the rockets. I don't know that I would want to go up to space in the space shuttle. NASA estimates the risk of a catastrope happening with one of the shuttles is 1 in 100. Those odds aren't very good in my opinion. The actual rate of catastrophic failure has been 2 in 113 flights which is 1 in 57. So far, Discovery is doing well. The mission is scheduled to be 13 days long with a return early in the morning on Sunday, August 7.
Tuesday, July 26, 2005 -- MorningDiscovery is on target for launching in an hour's time. The hatch was closed on the astronauts a few minutes ago. So far, everything is going fine, and there hasn't been a repeat of the fuel gage glitch that caused the last flight to be delayed. Instead of watching the event on television, I am watching it via NASA TV.
Friday, July 22, 2005 -- MorningScientists have completed a chemical study of Mars, and they believe that Mars has been cold. These scientists believe that any periods of warmth on the planet may have been short lived, and that the notion that the planet was ever warm for an extended period of time are not true. Now there is some contradictory evidence from some meteorites that scientists believe came from Mars. It seems that these meteorites shows that there is evidence of microbial activity on Mars. Which is it? Well, perhaps the microbes were ones that developed and thrived in cold temperatures. Our prejudice is that we believe there is only one way for life to be initiated and prosper. As we do more investigation, we may find that there are alternatives.
Thursday, July 21, 2005 -- MorningNASA has said Discovery is scheduled for launch this coming Tuesday, July 26. The engineers believe that the problem is due to an electrical grounding issue somewhere inside of Discovery. The problem isn't fixed, but what they will do is to fuel Discovery, begin the countdown, and see where they get. So the shuttle may launch without the problem really being fixed or identified. I think that at this point, NASA really just wants to get the launch done just to get back into space. The only thing that would concern me if I were them is the safety of the flight. If something goes wrong with this flight, you know that the likely hood of the shuttle flights continuing will be nill.
It was 36 years ago yesterday that the first man landed on the moon. In honor of the occasion, Google has put together a site that allows anyone to explore the site of the lunar landings. There really isn't alot of information available, but it is what NASA has made public. The funny part of it is that when you zoom in all the way, the image changes to one of yellow swiss cheese! After all, isn't the Moon made out of cheese? You can check out the Earth in much more detail.
Tuesday, July 19, 2005 -- MorningIt now seems that Discovery won't be lifting off before July 26. Engineers still can't figure out what caused the sensor failure. It doesn't look good for liftoff this month, but I suppose that NASA doesn't want to hold off until the next flight window in September.
Saturday, July 16, 2005 -- MorningIt may be awhile before Discovery launches. NASA announced last night that the shuttle won't be flying until this coming week at the earliest.
Friday, July 15, 2005 -- MorningIt seems that the earliest that the space shuttle will launch will be this coming Monday. The scientists and engineers at NASA are still trying to figure out what caused the fuel tank sensor to say that the tank was full when it was really empty. My question is--shouldn't they have known whether they put fuel in the tank or not? But I suppose that's not high on their list. It seems that this is the first time that the fuel sensor malfuntioned. It also happened in April which was the reason behind the delay in its May launch date. If the shuttle doesn't launch by July 31, they will have to wait until September 9 for the next launch window to open.
Thursday, July 14, 2005 -- AfternoonThere was a huge solar flare/explosion from sunspot 786 this morning. The sunspot is in such a position that the explosion wasn't aimed at Earth, but we should still experience some repercussions here on Earth in the way of auroras and geomagnetic storms. Spaceweather.com has some really nice pictures and video of the event. This one is particularly nice.
Thursday, July 14, 2005 -- MorningIt's not certain how long the launch of the shuttle, Discovery, will be delayed. The reason for the uncertainty is that no one seems to know yet if the repair to the fuel tank sensor can be replaced on the launch pad, or if the shuttle will have to be moved to the hangar. Obviously a move to the hangar will mean a longer delay.
Scientists are discovering planets in other solar systems with increasing frequency. This time there is evidence that there is a planet in a system that has three stars. The main star is one that is like our Sun. The other two stars are a pair that are as distant from the main star as Saturn is from the Sun. Scientists aren't understanding how the planet could have formed because it would have been thought that the gravitational forces wouldn't have allowed the planet to form. It just goes to show how much we have to learn about such things. The planet is the size of Jupiter and is so close to the main star that its orbit is 3.5 days.
Wednesday, July 13, 2005 -- AfternoonI was just watching the news on television, and I hear that Discovery's flight has been cancelled for today. It seems that four engine sensors were not functioning properly, so the flight was scrubbed. They don't know what the cause was or what is really going on. They will be studying the problem for the past hour, and hope to reschedule the flight for tomorrow. Liftoff was supposed to be around 4 pm EDT, so tomorrow, it will be around 3 pm EDT.
Tuesday, July 12, 2005 -- MorningMeanwhile Discovery is still on target for launch tomorrow. The clock is already ticking on the flight, and the external tank will be filled with liquid hydrogen and oxygen tomorrow at 6 am EDT. There is a countdown clock on NASA's website for the Return to Flight mission. At 11 am EDT, the countdown is 1 day 4 hours and 50 minutes. So liftoff should be tomorrow afternoon if all goes well.
Monday, July 4, 2005 -- MorningEarly in the morning, shortly before 2 am, Deep Impact did indeed do its job. The probe collided into the comet, Temple 1. The impact was larger than expected, but the scientists at NASA assure us that the impact did not affect the path of the comet. What they are hoping to do now is to position the flyby spacecraft so that it can observe changes in the activity of the comet. Observations where also taken by the flyby craft of the impact itself. Materials that were ejected by the impact should have been observed by the flyby craft to give us some idea of the makeup of the comet.
Sunday, July 3, 2005 -- EveningDeep Impact has released the probe that is supposed to impact with the comet, Temple 1. The impact should be happening after midnight, and is supposed to still be on time. The expected time of impact in EDT is 1:52 am. Unfortunately, our cable company does not carry NASA TV, so my only option will be to watch the Internet feed. I'm going to keep my eye on the news channels to see if they are going to carry any coverage.
Sunday, July 3, 2005 -- MorningA Japanese man, Akira Haraguchi, yesterday set the world record for reciting the digits that make up pi. Pi is defined as π=C/d, or pi is equal to a circle's circumference divided by its diameter. The man was able to recite the first 83,431 digits. It took him several hours to do it because he had to restart after 3 hours of reciting when he lost his place. Amazing!
Saturday, July 2, 2005 -- EveningVenus Williams won her third Wimbledon title. Lindsay Davenport started out strong and won the first set 6-4, but then she started to have some problems with her back, and had to leave in the third set for medical treatment (ie, cortisone shot). The whole match was a hard fought one, and Venus won with a final tally of 4-6, 7-6 (7-4) 9-7. It was an exciting match to watch.
Friday, July 1, 2005 -- EveningSo you think that all the questions we have about science have been answered? Well, you wold be wrong. Science Magazine has a feature in the current issue that highlights the 125 questions to which we don't have answers. Some of the questions that are in the top 25 are "what is the universe made of", "how much can human life be extended", "how does the Earth's interior work", "is there life outside of our planet", "how did life on Earth arise", "how are memories stored and restored", and "can we find a cheaper oil or a replacement for it". One of the ways to subscribe to Science is to join the American Association for the Advancement of Science. I'm going to have to go to the library at the Pitt to check out the current issue.
Friday, July 1, 2005 -- AfternoonThe news today is that Saturn's rings appear to have an atmosphere of their own that is separate from the planet. This latest information comes from the Cassini-Huygens mission. It seems that since the rings are made up of watery icy and rocks water can sometimes come off of the rocks. When this happens molecular oxygen (O2) is released which is what makes up the atmosphere. It also seems that the planetary rotation has slowed down. Measurements that were taken in the 70s and the 80s had the rotation seven minutes faster than Cassini is measuring today. It may be that Cassini is measuring surface rotation instead of core rotation and that the planet really isn't starting an internal slow down. If that isn't the case, scientists don't seem to know what could account for the difference in observation. Remember that Saturn is a gaseous planet, and that explains the comment about surface rotation differing from core rotation.
Wednesday, June 29, 2005 -- MorningNew research and analysis is suggesting that a dark spot that is seen on Saturn's moon, Titan, might actually be a lake. The scientists are basing this assumption on the smooth outline of the feature which some refer to as a shoreline. According to the scientists, they say that the smoothness of the "shore" is reminiscent of a shoreline on Earth that has been eroded over time. Sometimes scientists will see what they want to see, and make analysis based on what is common to them. I think this is where science can go wrong. Sometimes you have to realize that you aren't looking at a picture of Earth but of a planet/moon that is much distant and might be different.
I saw this sign on a door in my doctor's office this morning. I think it belonged to one of my doctor's co-workers. It's a quote from Einstein: "If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?" How true!
Tuesday, June 28, 2005 -- AfternoonDeep Impact is still on schedule for its July 4 rendezvous with comet Tempel 1. This animation shows you the journey that Deep Impact has made, and how the rendezvous will occur. Basically, a probe is going to be place in the path of Tempel 1, and the probe and comet will collide. That is a better idea than trying to land on a small moving object. It's at times like this that I wish my cable provider carried NASA TV. Granted I can watch online, but it would be better on a larger screened television. NASA TV is also going digital starting July 1. The nice thing about digital over analog is that you can get more stuff transmitted with digital--digital can be compressed more than analog.
Thursday, June 23, 2005 -- MorningIBM has built the world's most powerful computer. It's called Blue Gene/L and already has a peak processing speed of 136.8 teraflops--and it's still in the process of being built. When the system is complete, it is expected to have a speed of 360 teraflops. What's a teraflop you say? It measure the speed of a computer and is equal to a trillion floating point operations per second. Pretty impressive!
Wednesday, June 22, 2005 -- EveningPoor Cosmos-1! The solar sail spacecraft was lost shortly after its launch. There was a problem with the booster rocket 83 seconds after the launch. So far there hasn't been any sign of the debris. There have been attempts to launch solar sail objects in the past, but none of them have succeeded for a variety of reasons.
Hubble has confirmed that there is a planet at a nearby young star. The star is Fomalhaut, and it is 25 light years away from us. The star is still surrounded by the matter that formed it, and it forms a ring around the star like our Kuiper Belt. Basically, there is a distortion in this ring of dust surrounding the star, and scientists believe that it is caused by a Saturn sized planet. The dust around the star is not centered around the star, and that is a sign that there are other objects in the neighborhood that are exerting a gravational force on the matter.
Continuing with more astronomy, if you are interested in seeing a conjunction, go out and look at Venus, Mercury, and Saturn this weekend. Starting on Saturday, the planets will appear in our skies in a triangle so close together that if you held your thumb up to the sky, it would cover all three planets. On Saturday, the planets will be 1.5 degrees apart. On Sunday, it will be 0.5 degrees, and on Monday, it will be less than 1/10 of a degree. To see the planets, look west near the setting Sun, close to the horizon.
Tuesday, June 21, 2005 -- EveningBad news for Cosmos-1. It seems that the spacecraft may have malfunctioned shortly after lift off. So far, there have been no signals from the craft, and that is definitely not a good sign. The craft may not have separated from its launch rocket, or something else might be wrong. Nothing definite is known other than the lack of communication.
Tuesday, June 21, 2005 -- AfternoonIf you want to ward off Alzheimer's, you should start exercising your brain. It seems that the goal is to build up a "cognitive reserve" that will be useful as you age or possibly develop dementia. You can build up the cognitive reserve by learning a foreign language as an adult, tackle some puzzles, learn to play chess, or just continue education classes. I signed up for the daily puzzle from Brain Bashers to build my reserve. There are other keys to good brain health, such as exercising on a regular basis, avoiding stress and anxiety, interact with others socially, and eat the right foods. Vitamins B, E, and C are supposed to be good. Folic acid is also important. (And if you take folic acid be sure to take some B12 so the folic acid will be absorbed.)
Cosmos-1, a solar sail spacecraft, is supposed to be launched sometime today or tomorrow. It is the first vehicle to use the concept of a solar solar for power. The craft will be powered by a sail that reflects photons from the Sun. This will give the craft momentum in the opposite direction, and thus give the craft motion. Carl Sagan was a big proponent of the solar sail, and his wife Ann Druyan continued the work in his memory. The craft should be launched from a Russian submarine in the Barents Sea, and will orbit the Earth once every 101 minutes. The craft won't get alot of speed from solar power, but as time goes on, it should start to gain speed and climb higher in orbit.
Monday, June 20, 2005 -- AfternoonThe full moon this week is going to be hanging lower in the sky than any full moon since June 1987. Because of this, we are going to experience an illusion that the moon is much larger than usual. The effect is known as the Ponzo Illusion. Basically in the Ponzo Illusion, you take two lines of equal length, and you put them on a pair of converging lines. One of the lines looks larger than the other because it looks like it spans more of the converging lines. The moon's Ponzo Illusion is probably caused by the houses and trees and will make the moon look larger than it is. You only see this effect with your naked eyes, and not in a photograph.
Sunday, June 19, 2005 -- EveningThis may be news to some, but to me it just makes common sense. Scientists have found that people who have bigger brains are smarter than those with smaller brains. I know that there was research in the past that showed that it was the brain grooves that determined the intelligence. Scientists are now able to use MRIs to get a better estimate of brain size than they did in the past. In the past, you had to wait for someone to die, and then measured brain size. My boyfriend always tells me that I have a big head, and I say that I just have a big brain. Now he says that I have a thick skull and not a big brain, when I told him that this study showed that I might be smarter than his small headed self.
Saturday, June 18, 2005 -- AfternoonIf you are in the Northern part of the Earth, summertime is the time to see noctilucent or night shining clouds. These are clouds that are higher than the usual clouds that we see, right on the fringe of space. Some scientists believe that they are affected by space dust while others think they are a sign of global warming. All I have to say to the later is that some people would anything as a sign of global warming. Noctilucent clouds are electric blue in color and look very pretty. They are usually seen in the sky after sunset. The reason some scientists think that they are a sign of global warming is because they can sometimes be seen in the Southern Hemisphere, and scientist think that global warming leads to lower temperatures in the higher atmosphere which leads to ice crystals and the spread of noctilucent clouds.
Computer scientists in the US believe that within a human generation, we will be able to teleport 3D objects. Supposedly, it can be done by capturing images of a moving object and person, and transporting that information to atoms via camera. The atoms then, in theory, would bunch together to form the image. Sci-fi fans are excited, but so far it is just one of those theories. I love how scientists come up with these theories. Only a small percentage of them actually turn into fact. However, I don't begrudge them the theories. Where would we be today without the wild theories of the past? 200 years ago, folks would have thought the telephone, televisions and computers of today were crackpot ideas.
Friday, June 17, 2005 -- AfternoonScientists have figured out what blurry images on Deep Impact. It appears that during the testing process, the mirror became warped during the low temperature simulation. Basically the test chamber was flooded with liquid nitrogen, and when the test image became clear, the technicians locked the mirror into place, little knowing that the mirror was actually warped. The front part of the mirror contracted more than the back face of the mirror which is what caused the warping. The good news is that the image problem was fixed earlier by making modifications to the image file once it is received here on Earth. Deep Impact is still on schedule for its July 4 landing on the comet.
Scientists have come up with a new model for time travel. The dilemna has always been that if you go back in time and prevent your parents from marrying (aka Back to the Future), then how could you have been born to go back to prevent them from marrying. Well, the new quantum model allows you to go back, but no changes could be made that would affect the future. As soon as the first person time travels, we'll see if the theories work!
Tuesday, June 14, 2005 -- MorningIt seems that researchers have done a study on PMS, and they have found that a diet that is rich in calcium may be able to prevent PMS altogether. Of course, any time you take calcium, you have to take it with vitamin D because that helps in the absorption and processing of the mineral. The calcium is supposed to at the least reduce the symptoms. Now you have to make sure to get enough calcium, and that is thought to be four or more servings of a dairy product a day. Right now, I don't get that much, and my irritabilty scale is pretty high. So I suppose this means more milk, ice cream and cheese for me.
Monday, June 13, 2005 -- AfternoonThe smallest non-gaseous planet outside of our solar system has been found. It is orbiting a star 15 light years from our solar system. The star is Gliese 876, and the planet is thought to orbit the star in 2 days. The planet is also thought to be 7.5 times the size of our planet with a temperature of 200 to 400 degrees Celcius. I keep on saying "thought" because of course there are no direct observations of planets that are orbiting distant stars. In this case, the planet was found with the "wobble" effect. Basically the star has a wobble to it on its axis and movement, and the cause of the wobble is attributable to an orbitting body. Scientists can make calculations on distance and size based on the amount of the wobble. Gliese 876 is a star that is similar to our own star the Sun. Whenever scientists find planets around such stars, it makes the case for extraterrestrial life more compelling.
Monday, June 13, 2005 -- MorningThere are going to be some big shake-ups at NASA in the coming months. By August, twenty senior officials should be gone. They are the folks who have been responsible for the manned flight program, both with the space shuttle and the Mars initiative. Supposedly the goal will be to have a less political and more scientific administration. That would be a great idea. Let's see if it gets implemented.
Saturday, June 11, 2005 -- EveningSeagate has announced a new line of hard drive for folks who want to live "terabyte lives". One of them is a 2.5 inch 160 GB hard drive. Seagate also has made some 20 and 30 GB drives that can withstand temperatures between minus 30 to 80 degrees centigrade. The drives are meant to handle conditions that you might find in a car that is either outside in freezing temperatures in the winter or under a hot beating sun in the summer. They can also handle the vibrations that you would find in driving a car. For the small 160 GB drive, they use perpendicular recording to fit as much as possible on the drive. The old drive technology used longitudinal recording which lines up the bits of horizontally. Perpendicular recording also allows for bits to be placed vertically which allows for more data to fit on the drive.
Friday, June 10, 2005 -- AfternoonNASA scientists think that they have solved the problem of the blurry lense on the Deep Impact space craft. This is the spacecraft that is supposed to land on Comet Temple 1 around 1:52 am EDT on July 4. The way they will solve the problem is by using deconvolution on the images when they arrive at Earth. This is a mathematical process that will be applied to the images and it should reverse the distortion.
It seems that scientists have found a magnetar only 10,000 light years away. What's a magnetar you ask? It's a neutron star that has a surface that quake releasing high energy gamma rays. These types of stars are rare, and we haven't done alot of research on them because of that, but their magnetic qualities are very strong. The star in question is Cassiopeia A, which had a supernova explosion in 1572 and was observed by Tycho Brahe. I remember watching Cosmos and hearing Carl Sagan talk of Tycho Brahe's nose. It seems that a part of it was cut off in a duel, and he had a replacement made from an alloy of gold and silver.
Wednesday, June 8, 2005 -- EveningThe Cassini spacecraft has found an icy volcano on Saturn's moon, Titan. Analysis of the results of Titan's surface show that there aren't any methane oceans on Titan's surface, so what they think happens now is that ice is forced up in the volcano and that is what puts the methane into the atmosphere. Of course, all of this is pending further analysis where they will have another theory about the methane.
Tuesday, June 7, 2005 -- EveningThe American Geophysical Union says that it believes that NASA is giving up on space and Earth sciences in favor of the manned missions to the Moon and Mars. After a review of the 2006 budget, the American Geophysical Union says that there is too much on NASA's plate, and that will mean that projects like Earth System Pathfinder will not get the funding that it deserves.
Monday, June 6, 2005 -- AfternoonApple is rumored to be ending its deal with IBM as its sole provider of processors. It seems that Apple will be switching to Intel. What does this mean for the consumer? It could mean cheaper prices. Right now, the chips that IBM makes for Apple accounts for only a small portion of its business. Because Intel makes so many chips, they could probably give Apple a much better price. Supposedly the first Intel Mac will be out in 2006, and all Macs will be Intel by 2007.
Two of the robotic vehicles made at CMU have been selected as semifinalists to compete in the qualifying rounds for the DARPA challenge. Basically the challenge is for a robotic vehicle to navigate a 175 mile desert trip on its own. The first one to finish the race will win $2 million dollars. Last year there were no winners. The semifinals will be held from Sept. 27 to Oct. 5 in Fontana, CA. The main race will be held on Oct. 8 at a location to be announced.
Sunday, June 5, 2005 -- MorningThe Mars Rover, Opportunity, has finally been freed from the sand dune that it has been stuck in for the last five weeks.
Friday, June 3, 2005 -- EveningI love a good nap. Sometimes a weekend afternoon isn't complete without a nice nap. Sometimes after a nap, I wake up feeling refreshed and raring to go, and other times I just don't want to get up. Well, it seems that NASA scientists are finding that there is alot about naps that we didn't know. It seems that a well timed nap is actually good for you. The scientists did some research on naps for the astronauts. It seems that they don't always get a good night's sleep, so a nap seems to be the solution. 91 volunteers were observed over a ten day period. These folks were supposed to have a night's sleep that ranged from 4 to 8 hours in length and daily naps from 0 (no nap for you!) to 2.5 hours. They found that longer naps were better than shorter ones, and that working memory benefited more than alertness. Working memory means you remember one thing while working on another. Naps also weren't very helpful if you were a night worker. It seems that working in the night and sleeping during the day threw folks out of sync. The other thing that the scientists found was something called "sleep inertia". Basically that means that when you had a hard time waking up from a nap, and tended to be groggy for an hour after the nap. This seemed to happen when the biological clock was thrown out of whack by the night work, and sometimes would also occur with the folks on a regular schedule.
Friday, June 3, 2005 -- MorningNASA is planning to launch a mission to Mars called Phoenix Mars Lander in 2007 that is to land in the North Pole area and check for evidence of water and signs of life. I would imagine that they will have some luck in the water area because we already suspect that the polar caps are formed of water. I wonder when we will hear about the mission to terraform Mars.
Thursday, June 2, 2005 -- AfternoonIt seems that scientists have found a way to tell what sex a dinosaur was. The discovery came about with a T. Rex and strengthens the link between dinosaurs and birds. It appears that female birds have a tissue called a medullary bone that is seen in birds that are laying eggs. An article in Science have identified this bone in the hind quarters of some T Rexes. Now the question is does this translate to other dinosaur breeds?
Wednesday, June 1, 2005 -- EveningTom DeLay is saying that NASA's top priority will be to find funding for manned missions to the Mars and the Moon. According to Michael Griffin the new NASA administrator, the agency has gotten the funding necessary to look into manned flights. In fact, Griffin said that the agency has gotten the amount of funding in the last 16 years that it received in the first 16 years. That's promising news. I am one of those folks who is in favor of the continuation of manned flight. I understand that there are difficulties both on the toll on the human body being in zero gravity for an extended period of time, in money to fund the missions, and in the technology that will be needed for an extended mission and fuel generation. But as JFK said, "We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."
Astronomers have used a group of supercomputers to recreate the Big Bang and the creation of the Universe. The experiment is being called Millennium Run and the results are in the latest issue of Nature.
The guy responsible for the designing and developing the domain name system (DNS) which gives our computers their names on the Internet, Paul Mockapetris, has been given a lifetime achievement award from ACM Sigcomm.
Monday, May 30, 2005 -- EveningAstronomers have discovered that the Andromeda galaxy is larger that originally thought. It seems that stars that were originally thought to be part of a halo and not part of the actual galaxy are now being counted as part of the galaxy. It just goes to show you that scientists, especially astronomers are revising their opinions and findings. Sometimes I just wonder if they come up with ideas just knowing that they will eventually change their minds in a few years. So how much did the galaxy grow? It tripled in size from 70,000 or 80,000 light years to 220,000 light years. This extra bit is supposed to be the result of collisions with smaller galaxies.
Wednesday, May 25, 2005 -- MorningScientists are now agreeing that Voyager is indeed exiting the solar system. Scientists are now pretty sure that Voyager is 8.7 billion miles from the sun, and that it has entered the heliosheath. The heliosheath is the area where the solar winds means interstellar space, and the area is basically hotter and denser than the space before it. Why do scientists believe that Voyager is in this area? Because the magnetic field that Voyager is registering has increased in strength over in November of 2003, and then increased again in December of 2004 and is now holding steady.
Monday, May 23, 2005 -- AfternoonAccording to Ian Pearson, the head of British Telecom's futurology department, we are going to be able to download the contents of our brain to a computer. Mr. Pearson's claim is that rich people will be able to do brain downloads by 2050 and poor folks will be able to do it by 2075 or 2080. Why does Mr. Pearson believe this will be the case? Because the new Playstation 3 is a sign of the times to come. It's supposed to be 35 times more powerful that its predecesor, and the Playstation 3 is one percent as powerful as the human brain. This seems like a pretty major leap in logic in my opinion, but I supopse that Mr. Pearson's job is to imagine things that might be. NOw, I'm not sure if he actually does any work in making the things happen or if he is just a theoritician who speculates on what might be while someone else has the onerous task of making it so. I suppose the whole thing makes for a good sci-fi story, but I don't think we really understand how the human brain works yet to make such a claim. Forty five years is not that far away.
Tuesday, May 17, 2005 -- EveningThe Wall Street Journal released its 2004 Technology Innovation Awards. There were winners in a variety of technology genres, but the one of interest to me were the overall winners. The gold medal winner was Sun Microsystems because of the innovations in increasing the speed of data transfers. Silver medalist was Given Imaging from Israel for their pill shaped camera that can be swallowed and used to check out problems in the esophagus. Bronze went to another Israeli company, InSightec Image Guided Treatment Ltd for a device that destroys tumors using a combination of ultrasound and MRI. Israel is obviously the hotbed for innovative technology.
Friday, May 13, 2005 -- EveningFriday the 13th in 2029 might be an unlucky one for Earth. An asteroid should make a close pass to Earth on that date, but it is not supposed to hit us. Theoretically, it is possible that there might be a collision, but scientists aren't worried. That's scientists for you. The asteroid was only discovered in June of 2004, and there isn't alot of data on it. The thing is that from the information they have been able to gatherAsteroid 2004 MN4 crosses Earth's orbit twice. On April 13, 2029, the asteroid should be only 18,600 miles from Earth's surface. Some satelites are 22,300 miles from Earth, so it is pretty darned close! We should be able to see the asteroid with the naked eye. The asteroid is 320 meters wide, and if it did impact with Earth it could take out land the size of Texas.
Wednesday, May 11, 2005 -- MorningScientists have found a new moon that is in one of the gaps of Saturn's rings. It seems that the moon's gravitational pull is also creating ripples in the rings. There is only one other moon that is found in a gap in Saturn's rings.
Astronomers have also detected the birth of a black hole. It seems that the black hole is being formed by the merger of two dense neutron stars. This is one of the possible end results of a star--to become a neutron star. It's gamma rays were detected by the Swift telescope a couple of days ago.
Monday, May 9, 2005 -- AfternoonNASA scientists have been simulating the trapped condition of the Mars Rover, Opportunity, and should have some steps to take in make the great escape from the sand trap Opportunity is in. They don't want to make matters worse, and think that they should have something ready for action in a few days.
Friday, May 6, 2005 -- EveningTomorrow is the Kentucky Derby, and it seems that some think the field is open. The two that I think might do well in the race are Bellamy Road who is owned by George Steinbrenner, and Afleet Alex. Most favor Bellamy Road because he won the Wood Memorial while Afleet Alex won the Arkansas Derby. I think that I am leaning towards Afleet Alex.
Friday, May 6, 2005 -- MorningIt seems that Phoebe, a moon that orbits Saturn, may actually have been a comet that was captured by Saturn. The Cassini mission has data that implies that Phoebe came from the Kuiper Belt which is the area that marks the outer reaches of the solar system.
Wednesday, May 4, 2005 -- MorningScientists have twelve new moons orbiting Saturn. The moons are basically small in size--anywhere from 3 to 7 kilometers. This now brings Saturn to a total of 46 objects orbiting the planet. Saturn is still number two in the natural satelite contest. Jupiter leads with 63 satelites. It also seems that all but one of the new moons go around Saturn in the opposite direction of Saturn's larger moons, which it typical for bodies that are captured by plantary gravitation.
Saturday, April 30, 2005 -- MorningScientists are now saying that a photograph of a red dot by star in the constellation of Hydra, which is 230 light years from Earth is indeed a planet. There has been some question about whether the image is indeed that of a planet, but spectroscopic readings on the object shows water in the atmosphere which implies that it is a cold object and not a hot object, So that means that it must be a planet. The size of this new planet is five times the size of Jupiter.
The Mars Rover, Opportunity, is stuck in a patch of sand on Mars. The operators of Opportunity think that they can get it unstuck, but it may take a bit of time. It seems that this sort of thing has happened with the rovers in the past, so that's why the scientists are hopeful. This happened right after Opportunity had found two, small intact craters.
Friday, April 29, 2005 -- AfternoonThe space shuttle will not be launching July. It seems that there are still issues with the fuel tank, and the shuttle managers don't feel comfortable with a launch date in the next two months. It seems that there is still an accummulation of ice on the outside of the external tank, and NASA is afraid that this might break away during the launch and cause problems as it did last time with Columbia.
Thursday, April 28, 2005 -- MorningDeep Impact has gotten its first glimpse of Comet Tempel 1 that it will be landing on July 4. The craft send back a photo of the comet on April 25. The picture is on the Deep Impact homepage. So it seems as if things are on target for that project.
Friday, April 22, 2005 -- EveningResearchers have found that interrupting your work to read email causes a drop in IQ. Something about this study just seems sort of bogus to me. I think that the problem here is not a drop in IQ, but the fact that breaking your concentration on a task to pay attention to the ding of a email is disruptive to getting your work done. What I find incredible to believe is that someone needed to waste research dollars on a study that should be obvious to anyone who has any sort of intellectual thought process. So guess what the researchers recommend? That people not check email all the time when working on a project, and that when someone is at work, they should be concentrating on what they are doing instead of stopping every few minutes to check email from friends and other co-workers. I need to find one of these research jobs because I could tell them what the results would be, and there were be no need to waste time and money on stupid things like this. HP funded the research.
Thursday, April 21, 2005 -- AfternoonThe Space Shuttle launch has been delayed until May 22 while the orbitter is prepared. There may be additional delays as it gets closer to flight date as NASA tries to make the flight as safe as possible.
Wednesday, April 20, 2005 -- EveningScientists are still wondering about the findings of methane on Mars. The interest in the methane is that it could be evidence of biological life. The thing is that it could also be the result of volcanic activity under the surface of the planet. Time will tell.
Monday, April 18, 2005 -- EveningAlbert Einstein died on this date 50 years ago today. Einstein was 76 years of age. This year is also the 100th anniversary of the year in which Einstein published the three papers that defined modern physics.
Monday, April 18, 2005 -- AfternoonIt seems that the problem with DART may have been that it ran out of fuel. Supposedly, there were an "unexpectedly high number of navigational errors". NASA isn't speculating on whether these things were the cause of the problem with the fuel, but I would imagine that if you are making corrections and changing course alot, you eat up more fuel then if you got the trip right.
Sunday, April 17, 2005 -- AfternoonOn April 13, it was the 35th anniversary of the Apollo 13 flight. This was the moon flight that wasn't to be because of an explosion in one of the oxygen tanks, and it was made into that great Ron Howard movie. It seems that the decisions that were made at the time weren't as rushed as folks might think from watching the movie. It seems that various simulations in the past helped the engineers and others on the ground come up with solutions for the crew in space. sometimes you wonder if the same amount of work and effort goes into the process now especially with all of NASA's failures of the past few years.
Sunday, April, 17, 2005 -- Late MorningThe math equation for today is yet another simple one. This time we will look at how you can calculate the average velocity of an object. Velocity is basically the speed of an object. If you think about it, common sense will tell you how to figure this one out. For example, if it took you an hour to travel 60 miles, you would know that your speed was 60 miles per hour. That means you take the total distance you have traveled and divide it by the total elapsed time. Now if you went 55 miles in a half an hour, that would be 55 miles/.5 hour (30 minutes is 1/2 of an hour. That would mean that you were traveling at 110 miles per hour. The equation is Vavg = distancetotal/timetotal.
Saturday, April 16, 2005 -- Late EveningNASA's DART mission, the robotic spacecraft that was supposed to repair satelites, was launched yesterday. It was within 300 feet of a Pentagon satelite that it was to repair when it ended its approach and went into orbit. NASA is trying to put a positive spin on the whole incident, and is now in the process of finding out what the problem may have been.
Saturday, April 16, 2005 -- EveningThe math equation for today is a very simple one. We all what π is. Nope, you don't eat it, and it's not made with apples. Now if someone asked you what π was, you would probably reply 3.1415 and continue on with however many digits you knew for π. However, π is actually defined as the ratio of the circumference (c) of any circle divided by its diameter (d). So π = c/d.
Saturday, April 16, 2005 -- Late MorningNow here's a reality show that we could all enjoy and use as a learning experience. The BBC's Channel 4 is having a competition to find the person who can popularize science. The point is to find someone who can explain science so the ordinary person without an advance physics degree can see how entertaining science is, and how science principles can be used in everyday life.
Thursday, April 14, 2005 -- EveningAs a break from astronomy, and to get back on track with the math equation for the day, today we will look at Ohm's Law. Ohm's Law gives us the relationship between voltage, current and resistance. Basically you have a energy source and an object that connects to the source in an unbroken circuit. Current is then generated in the circuit. The equation that is used is V=I*R where V=voltage, I=current and R=resistance. If you want to increase the current, you have to decrease the resistance or increase the voltage. Obviously then, if you want to decrease the current, you have to increase the resistance or decrease the resistance. The applet here can visually show you Ohm's Law at work.
Thursday, April 14, 2005 -- AfternoonA relic star has been discovered, and is posing some questions for scientists. Basically a relic star is a star that is a relic of the period immediately after the Big Bang, and scientists are theorizing that this star, HE0107-5240, was around only 15 minutes after the Big Bang. Now, personally, I would say that's a pretty bold guess. I know that the scientists are supposed to know what they are talking about, but I think that sometimes they are just really good at making up stories that others believe. HE0107-5240 and another star, HE1327-2326, are supposed to be composed of the lowest amount of heavier elements. Basically the way a star gets heavier elements is that it is born from the death of another star. The temperatures and pressures that are seen in an old and dying star will produce these elements, and then a star born in that vicinity will have those elements in its composition. The two new stars have the lowest composition of heavy elements that scientists have found so far. The elemental makeup of the new found stars is not quite what scientists expect in a primitive star, but what the heck. They are invesigating the matter. What we need not lose sight of is that we are looking at something in the past. This star may not be, and probably isn't, currently in existence. It's that whole time that light takes to travel from there to here deal.
Tuesday, April 12, 2005 -- EveningThe math equation for today is a very simple one. The volume of a sphere is one that can be applied to physics in that stars and planets are spherical objects. The equation is also based on the sphere surface area that I had on Saturday's entry. Spherical volume = 4/3 πr3.
Monday, April 11, 2005 -- EveningScientists believe that a cosmic ray burst caused a mass extinction on Earth 450 million years ago. It seems that the gamma ray burst depleted the Earth's ozone layer which caused the Sun's ultraviolet radiation to kill off 60% of life on the planet. At that time, life was mostly found in the oceans, so it was marine life that was hit by the extinction.
For today, the math equation will be the Stefan-Boltzmann law. The Stefan-Boltzmann law gives us a relationship between an object's temperature and it's energy flux per square meter per second. Since flux is rate of flow, the energy flux basically lets us know how much energy is flowing out a object. The mathematical representation of the law is F=σT4, where σ is known as the Stefan-Boltzmann constant, and has the value of 5.67 x 10-8 W m-2 K-4.
Sunday, April 10, 2005 -- EveningThe math equation for today is Wien's Law, λmax = 0.0029/T. This law is named after Wilhelm Wien who was the scientist who discovered a correlation between the temperature of a blackbody and its dominant wavelength. A blackbody is an object that is a perfect emitter and absorber of raditation. So with Wien's Law, you can determine the temperature of an object based on the maximum intensity of its light. For example, we can determine the surface temperature of the Sun because we know that the maximum intensity of sunlight has an wavelength of 500 nm or 5 x 107 m. So we have T = 0.0029/5x107 = 5800 K.
Saturday, April 9, 2005 -- Late EveningSince it is late, and I have had a busy day, I will have another simple math equation for the day. Today's equation is how to find the area of a circle and a sphere. These equations would be of use in astronomy because they can be used to find the size of any spherical object, such as a planet or star. The area for a circle can be defined as a = πr2. This can then be applied to a three dimensional object by multiplying by 4. This is then a = 4πr2.
Saturday, April 9, 2005 -- MorningThe next crew of the space shuttle has commented that NASA still has to have some attitude changes towards safety with the shuttle. Discovery is scheduled for takeoff on May 15. The astronauts say that the staff needs to speak up more about problems, and ask more questions. The commander of Discovery, Eileen collins said that it's a work in progress to improve the way things are done, and that she will "trust but verify".
Friday, April 8, 2005 -- Late EveningThe European Space Agency hopes to have a Mars lander that should land by 2013. This rover would be different than the US one in that it would sniff the air for signs of biological life and feel for Marsquakes.
Today's math equation is my boyfriend's favorite. It's the Pythagorean Theorem. This is the theorem that the sides of a right angle triangle equal the hypotenuse. Everyone has seen this one. It is a2 + b2 = c2. There's a very nice animated proof of the theorem.
Thursday, April 7, 2005 -- AfternoonAstronomers are hoping to get a glimpse of distant galaxies with the Dazel. It's an instrument that will look for the specific wavelength of light that should have been emitted from the first stars in the universe. When we look at distant galaxies we are actually looking back in time. If an object is a hundred light years away from us, by the time the light for it reaches us, we are seeing it as it was a hundred years ago, not its current state. Hence if we look for something distant enough, we are seeing it as it was thousands of years ago. It's an interesting concept because are you actually looking at something that is a distance away, or are you just looking back in time? How is it possible now to see something as it was then? It's enough to boggle the mind.
The math equation for today is the Titius Bode Law. This is a basic formula that can be used to approximate the location of planets around the Sun. The planets actually do appear to follow this law quite closely. The equation is a=0.4 + 0.3xk (k is the sequence of the power of two--so the numbers for k would be 0, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, etc.) You can also denote it as a=0.3 + 0.4(2n) where n is -infinity for Mercury, 0, 1, 2, etc. If you do this, you find that you will approximate the semi-major axis, and be able to locate the planet. So for Saturn, which is the fifth planet, you put in 32 for k and come up with a=0.4 + (0.3x32) which leads to a=10 and Saturn's semi-major axis is 9.54. Now the 10 and the 9.4 are multipliers of the astronomical unit (AU). So Earth is 1 AU, and it's number with Titius Bode is 1. Saturn is then 9.6 AUs from the Sun. 1 AUearth = 147.597x106 km. It gives you an idea of where to look for a planet if you didn't know if one was there.
Wednesday, April 6, 2005 -- EveningThe Mars Rovers are getting an extension on work contract. Since the rovers have been so productive, and are still chugging away, they were granted an additional eighteen months to continue gathering data. This is great news because even at this late date, they are finding out some interesting things about the water content in the soil.
The math equation today will be a representation of Kepler's Third Law. To start, the mass and the center of mass of two planetary objects are related with the equation m1r1=m2r2. When can then take r1 + 2=a, where a is the distance between the two masses. This quantity can then be put into Newton's equation for gravitational force with F=G(m1m2/a2. G is the universal constant of gravitation. From this we can derive a relationship between the orbital period (P) between the two bodies and their common center of mass. This comes to P2=[4π2/G(m1 + m2)]a3. In our solar system, the Sun has the largest mass, so we just make the substitution of its mass for any two objects in our system. This leads to P2=[4π2/GMsun]a3. If P is measured in years and a is measured in astronomical units, [4π2/GMsun] will equal 1. So the equation can simply be represented as P2=a3.
Tuesday, April 5, 2005 -- EveningFor the math equation for today, let's look at how astronomers figure out the radius of a distant star. We can determine that radius of the star as a function of its luminosity. We know that energy flux is related to temperature with the equation E=σT4 where σ if the Stefan-Boltzmann constant. Luminosity can then be defined as the energy flux over the area of the spherical object that is the star. This becomes L=4πR2σT4. In this equation, the 4πR2 is the area of a spherical object. So if we want to find the radius (R), we have R=(1/T2)([L/4πσ]1/2).
Tuesday, April 5, 2005 -- AfternoonBritish researchers say that there are probably alot of planets around other stars that are waiting to be discovered>. Right now, it is difficult to find planets because they only reflect light and do not give it off. The only way to notice that there might be something orbiting a star is by a wobble that it has due to the graviational pull of the planet or planets. If you look at the Drake Equation there is a constant that is used for the percentage of stars that have planets associated with them. Estimates at this point run from 20% to 50%. The Drake Equation is used to guesstimate the probability of finding intelligent life outside of our solar system.
Monday, April 4, 2005 -- EveningFor today's equation in honor of Math Awareness Month, we'll look at a real life application of the Doppler Effect as it relates to cosmology. The Doppler Effect is the change in wavelength that is observed in a moving object. You can hear the Doppler effect when an ambulance approaches you and then passes you. You can hear a shift in the sound of the sirens. The same thing happens with light. The wavelength of an object that is moving away from you are longer than if it was stationary. Red falls in the spectrum with a longer wavelength. So when things are moving away from you, like stars or galaxies, they are referred to as redshift. When an object is approaching you, the wavelength is shorter. Blue falls in the spectrum with a shorter wavelength. Hence when something is coming towards you it is referred to as blueshift. Knowing this, we can figure out if galaxies or stars are moving away from us or towards us, and how fast it is doing it. We do this by observing the shift or change in wavelength. We know what the spectrum and wavelength are for hydrogen, and we know that the normal wavelength is 656.285 nm. If we observe another star that gives off a hydrogen spectrum, but the wavelength is different, we can calculate the change in wavelength. For example, Vega's hydrogen spectrum has a wavelength of 656.255 nm. The change in wavelength is Δλ. So, Δλ = λ - λ0, where λ0 is the normal wavelength, and λ is the observed wavelength in the distant object. In the case with Vega, we have 656.255 nm - 656.285 nm = -0.030 nm. The equation that relates wavelength and velocity is Δλ/λ = v/c (where c is the speed of light). In our example we can find the speed that Vega is moving by plugging in the numbers that we know: c is a constant that equals 3x105 km/s, the wavelength of hydrogen 656.286 nm, and the Δλ which equals -0.030 nm. So v=c(Δλ/λ) which is 3x105 km/s(-0.030 nm/656.286 nm) = -13.7 km/s. If the velocity is negative that means the object is moving towards us, so that means that Vega is moving at 13.7 km/s and is moving in our direction.
Monday, April 4, 2005 -- AfternoonWe now actually have a photograph of a planet orbiting another star. It is possible that the picture isn't showing the planet, but may actually show another object that is close to in the sky, at least from our vantage point. The planet is said to be 100 times farther from its star than Earth is from the Sun. The scientists believe that the star is similar to a younger version of the Sun. Scientists do have some questions about whether the planet on the pictures is indeed the planet. The biggest concern is the size of the planet which is 42 times the size of Jupiter. So it could be that the object is not a planet, but a brown dwarf, or a star that failed to ignite.
Sunday, April 3, 2005 -- AfternoonFor the daily math formula, today we will figure out how to calculate the lifetime of the Sun. This could apply to any star since the Sun is a star. The basic formula is lifetime equals energy divided by the rate at which energy is emitted. We can figure out how much energy the sun emits based on how bright the sun appears to us at our distance on Earth from the Sun. How much energy the sun has to burn is calculated based on our knowledge of the chemical makeup of the sun. We know the sun is basically a huge nuclear reactor, and that it transforms four hydrogen atoms into one helium atom. If we look at a periodic table, we see that the atomic weight of 1 helium atom is 4.002602 while the atomic weight of 1 hydrogen atom is 1.00794. Multipled by 4 (for the 4 atoms) and you get 4.03176. That's a difference of 0.029158 which comes to .7%. That means that 0.7% of the mass was lost, and we know from our knowledge of physics that the mass isn't just lost, but converted into energy. This leads us to the equation that we get from Einsteain: E=mc2 so that means that E=(0.007)mc2. c is the speed of light, and m is the mass of the object. Now the reaction really only occurs in the inner part of the Sun, so we would say that only 10% of the Sun is involved in the reaction (or 0.10), and that would figure into our equation, leading to an equation of the form of E=0.007 x 0.10 x Msunc2. If we throw in all the parts, we get 1.3 x 1044 Joules. This is the total amount of energy that the Sun has to burn. Now we know the rate because we measured it here on Earth as 3.8 x 1026. So lifetime = energy/rate which is 1.3x1044 divided by 3.8x1026 which leaves us with a lifetime of 10 billion years. We estimate that 5 billion of those years have already passed, so the Sun has another 5 billion left to go.
NASA has set the launch date for its robotic spacecraft that can repair satelites without human intervention. The spacecraft is known as DART, and will be launched on April 15.
Saturday, April 2, 2005 -- AfternoonToday's math formula is the Parallax formula. This is the formula that can be used to calculate the distant to a remote object, such as a star or a planet. Basically triangulation is the method that is used to derive the distance. For very distant objects, such as a star, we have to start out with a base, and the one unit that we can measure and know is the radius of the Earth's orbit. The radius of the Earth's orbit is basically the difference between the Earth and the Sun. This is referred to as 1 astronomical unit (AU). The position of the star in the sky is noted, and then checked again in six months. The apparent difference in position of the star in the sky will give us the parallax angle. The formula to determine the distance to the star shows that the distance (d) is equal to the radius (a) of the Earth's orbit divided by the parallax angle (p) which gives us d=a/p. The parallax angle is measured in arcseconds, and the distance to the star is in parsecs with 1 parsec equal to 206,265 AU.
Friday, April 1, 2005 -- EveningApril is Math Awareness Month. The theme of the this year's Math Awareness Month is Mathematics and the Cosmos. Obviously alot of physics deals with the use of mathematics. So for the month of April, I'll have an equation a day, and try to keep to the use of math in astronomy or physics. Today's equation is for the gravitational pull that two bodies exert on each other. This equation is based on Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation. The force of gravity between two bodies is equal to the mass of body 1 times the mass of body 2 divided by the distance between the two bodies. The form is F=(m1*m2)/d. This is derived from Newton's famous equation: F=ma (where the force acting on an object is equal to the mass of the object times the object's acceleration). This is the equation that Newton came up with to describe the apple falling to the ground.
Spirit, the Mars Rover, has a new life due to a recent wind storm on Mars. It appears that the wind storm cleaned the dust accummulation off of Spirit's solar panels and have given the rover new life and energy. The difference between how it was looking to now is striking.
There is going to be a solar eclipse on April 8. Unfortunately, we won't see any of it here in Pittsburgh, but to the south of us, they will get to see a partial solar eclipse. That means that only a portion of the sun will be blocked by the moon, looking like something took a chunk out of the sun. The interesting thing is that cresent shaped beams can be observed in shadowed areas. It's a phenomena that happens with partial eclipses.
Friday, April 1, 2005 -- MorningA robotics evaluation of servicing the Hubble telescope has led NASA to a deorbit only decision. This evaluation agrees with the decision made earlier that Hubble should be scrapped. The cost of repairing the telescope is enormous, and depends on the space shuttle crew.
Thursday, March 31, 2005 -- AfternoonScientists at the Carnegie found a fossil of a little mouse sized muscular mammal that may have lived off of termites. The little mammal, named Popeye, came from the Jurassic period. The find will be published in Science tomorrow. The scientists say that this little mammal is different from others of that period and shows that there was greater diversity than originally believed.
Tuesday, March 29, 2005 -- AfternoonIt seems that one of the cameras on Deep Impact has an issue and is sending back blurry pictures. Deep Impact is the spaceship that was sent out to crash on a comet this July 4th. The blurriness was discovered after the verification phase of the trip. After the craft was launched, they ran the tests, and did some heating procedures to remove residual moisture from the barrel of the instrument, the HR1. That's when they noticed the blurry pictures. The scientists do believe that they can fix the problem.
Scientists have discovered a protein that may help folks suffering from allergies to cats. It seems that the protein may also be helpful with more dangerous food allergies too, like allergies to peanuts or bananas. The protein was tested in mice that were bred to have allergies to cats. Now that's ironic I think--a mouse that is allergic to cats. It seems that the protein trains the immune system to not react to the allergen, and therefore stops the symptoms that we experience when we come in contact with the allergen. The research should be released in the April issue of Nature.
Saturday, March 26, 2005 -- EveningWorld Expo 2005 opened in Japan yesterday, and folks there were greeted by a very life-like robot that is able to great visitors in four languages (Chinese, Japanese, Korean and English). The expo will be running for six months, and has 63 different types of robots. There are cleaning robots, robots that play music in a band, and another robot that is capable of picking up a human. there will be a prototype robot expo from June 9 to 19 at the Expo. The Emperor of Japan attending the opening with his wife and son, the Crown Prince. Crown Princess Masako did not attend because she has been having alot of stress issues with her role and the demand to produce heirs.
Thursday, March 24, 2005 -- EveningPaleontologists have found some T-Rex tissue. It seems that they found a fossil in Montana in an area where they find alot of fossils. Well, they found a thighbone. If you have ever seen a T-Rex in a museum (not everyone may be as lucky as we are here in Pittsburgh with the Carnegie Musuem's dinosaur display), you will know that the dinosaur is huge. Well, they couldn't fit the thighbone into the helicopter that they had, so they had to break the thighbone to get it in. That's how they discovered the tissue. What a bit of luck! They are hoping to be able to learn some things about dinosaurs from the find, such as whether or not they were warm blooded.
Wednesday, March 23, 2005 -- EveningIt's very difficult to see planets in other solar systems. Because planets only reflect light and don't generate it, it makes it very difficult to see them, especially since they orbit something that gives off light. Try it yourself. In a dark room, turn on a single light, and from a distance try to see what's around that light. Not that easy is it? Well, it seems that for the first time, astronomers were able to detect two planets from heat emission. It seems that the planets are gas giants and are around different stars. They found the planets by using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope.
Monday, March 21, 2005 -- EveningInterested in science? Would you like to know what is going on at NASA? Well, if you have an iPod or other mp3 player, you could download podcasts of NASA news stories. If you don't have an iPod, you can download the NASA channel on your Palm with Avantgo.
Friday, March 18, 2005 -- AfternoonFor those of us who are not large chested, help is on the way. Chewing gum with extracts from a plant called "Pueraria mirifica" is very popular in Japan, and is said to enhance breast size. A university in Thailand found that using Pueraria mirifica could have an effect on breast size by 80%. The gum is being sold in Japan with the name of Bust-Up. It would be interesting to try.
Spring will be sprung this coming Sunday. The problem is that usually we associate spring with March 21, not the 20th. If you are wondering why the date changed, the reasons are that the calendar year isn't an even number of days, the Earth's elliptical orbit is changing the its orientation to the Sun, and the pull of gravity of other planets is effecting our location in our orbit. Also, the seasons themselves are not an even number of days. The longest season is summer with 93.651 days, spring is next wtih 92.758, autumn is third with 89.842 and winter is last with 88.994 days. It's funny how winter always seems to be the longest while summer always seems to be so short. I suppose it is all relative to how you much you like or dislike the season.
Friday, March 18, 2005 -- Early AfternoonAccording to a paper to be released in Science this week, the warming of our planet is at a point of no return. According to the model that the scientists used who wrote this article, even if the greenhouse gases that we emit had been stablized in 2000, we would not be able to stop global warming. That means without any adding any more of those pesky greenhouse gases, we would experience a half degree Celsius increase in temperature, and to have the global sea levels rise 4 inches by 2100. The question that I have is how do we know for sure that the models these folks use is right, and how do we know if there is anything we can do to reverse the process. As they state here, they don't think that we can. Based on my own experience with scientific models that I used in my engineering classes, I know that they tend to be closed models. That means that there are certain elements that you consider and no others. The problem with that is that the world is not a closed model, but an open model. That means there are more factors than we can imagine that might play a role that we would have difficulty in presenting in a model, basically because we don't even know what they might be. In order to get any results at all in a timely fashion, you have to resort to the closed model. I'm not saying that the research can't be done, just that we should take some of it with a grain of salt.
I found an interesting science article on the 13 things that don't make sense. The first item is the placebo effect because it really doesn't make sense to scientists how the human body will react to a placebo in the exact same way that it would if given a drug. In fact at times, when blind tests are done on drugs with A being the drug and B being a placebo, patients will have similar reactions with both positive effects from the drug and side effects. It does go to show that the brain is much more complex that we are capable of understanding at this point. Another interesting item is the drop off after the Kuiper Belt--called the Kuiper cliff. Scientists believe that the sharp drop off in amount of rocks in this area imply that there is a planet the size of Earth or Mars in the area. We just can't locate it if it is there. The question is why not look in the area with Hubble. Well, I looked around and Hubble does look at our solar system. It's like looking for a needle in a haystack though to find it when you don't know where it is.
Thursday, March 17, 2005 -- AfternoonFox has announced that it has a new marketing plan for boxed DVD sets of its TV shows. Basically the plan will be to release two shows on a single DVD starter kit that would sell for less than $10. If you like the show, and want to buy the complete set, you can do so with a $10 coupon inside the box for the single set. I suppose that this is a good idea to sell the very expensive boxed set. The only thing that I have to say is that you wind up with two of the shows twice, and the overall cost of the boxed sets is still too high. What I think would have been a much better deal would have been to drop the cost of the boxed sets to something more reasonable. Instead of retailing for close to $60 perhaps they should drop the cost so with a discount, it might be possible to buy a season of a television show for $30. After all, I think that the DVD sets are pure profit for the company because the shows were basically paid for with advertiser dollars at inception. When you throw in syndication fees and the fees from the DVD sells, they can rake in a pretty penny. I think in the long run, they will sell more DVDs and make more money if they drop the overall cost of the boxed sets.
Wednesday, March 16, 2005 -- AfternoonA report has been released in the Geophysical Research Letters that questions the validity and mathematical technique used to create the hockey stick diagram that shows abrupt global warming over the past 1000 years that is supposed to be related to human activity. It seems that the report states that a method was chosen to look for data that would result in the hockey stick shape and use that data so that the dominant pattern would result in a hockey stick. Of course, scientists supporting the hockey stick model say that it is only a tecnical issue and that other data would show the same result. The question is who do you believe? There is a problem when you have bias in science because you are not getting the truth but someone's version of the truth. Unfortunately, that appears to be what is going on here.
Monday, March 14, 2005 -- AfternoonThere are plans afoot for a joint mission between Europe and the US to investigate Europa, a moon of Jupiter. The moon is of interest because scientists believe that there is a vast ocean of water under the ice crust of the moon that could be the home to micro-organisms.
Thursday, March 10, 2005 -- EveningGoing to be in Huntsville, Alabama on April 5 through 7? Then you might want to check into the Physics for the Third Millenium conference. The conference is being geared toward the lay person and will include hands on demonstrations and talks about careers in physics on the final day. The conference is one of many that are being held to commemorate the World Year of Physics that is meant to honor the hundred year anniversary of 1905 when Albert Einstein wrote three papers that had a huge impact on physics. The three papers covered the theory of special relativity, light as particle (photons), and Brownian motion as random collisions of molecules.
Scientists have announced that they have found the upper size limit of stars. The cutoff is supposed to be a star that is 150 times the size of our Sun. The reason that it has taken awhile to determine what may be the biggest size that a star can achieve is that there aren't alot of really large stars to examine. The larger the star is the shorter its life span. The reactions that happen within the star are accelerated by its size. It burns brighter, and therefore burns through its mass quicker than a smaller star.
So some of the older missions from NASA may have to have the funding cut. Some folks are having a problem with this because they feel that the projects haven't reached the end of their life spans. One project that cost $4.2 million dollars a year is the voyager project. Voyager was a two spacecraft mission started in 1978, and has passed 10,000 days productivity. According to NASA, they receive valuable data from the project, but only 10 full time employees are dedicated to the project. Right now, the scientists believe that Voyager I is entering the final frontier of our solar system, the area that makes the end of our solar system and the beginning of interstellar space. My question is whether the project is worth $4.2 million, and if 10 full time employees and goodness knows how many part time employees should be working on the project. I know that researchers and scientists want all projects funded for an unlimited amount of time because of valuable data collection. What they don't ask is where the money will come from. I get the feeling that they believe that all other fundings are not important, especially if it is for the defense department of this country. Only so many projects can be funded, and at times you have to terminate funding on some projects, even if data is still incoming.
Monday, March 7, 2005 -- AfternoonCMU is preparing to take part in the Grand Challenge. This is the robotic vehicle race over 175 miles that must be completed in 10 hours. The vehicles are to be totally autonomous, so there should be no human intervention or control in movements. The race should be held on October 8, and the CMU team is hoping to have two vehicles competeting this time. The Challenge is being held by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Rumor has it that there should be vehicles that complete the challenge this year, and the first to do so will win $2 million. Last year, the CMU challenger got the fartherest, but it didn't finish the race.
Sunday, March 6, 2005 -- EveningScientists believe that space dust may have been responsible for the time periods when the Earth experienced major glacial and ice coverage that resulted in mass extinctions. It appears that there are dense clouds of space dust that the solar system could have gone through on the two occasions when global ice patterns covered the planet. This isn't a common occurance, but according to scientists, it could be an explanation for the mass extinctions on our planet.
Saturday, March 5, 2005 -- AfternoonIt appears that NASA made a boo-boo, and accidentally switched around an instrument that was going into the Mars Rovers. So now Opportunity has a tool that was meant to be in Spirit and vice versa. The problem came to light because of readings that scientists were getting on the chemical composition off the rocks. It seems that the alpha-particle X-ray spectrometer (APXS) was switched, and the difference in the tools was causing a higher reading in Opportunity than in Spirit. Once the scientist involved figured out the reason, corrections were made for the difference in tools. It seems the tools were created based on rocks samples that they anticipated finding in the area. NASA isn't too embarassed by the mix-up. The issue is a minor one, and the two rovers are identical.
Friday, March 4, 2005 -- Late AfternoonIf like you mysteries and physics, you will want to check out Mousetrap: the Physics Detective. The story is a special that Nature is presenting in honor of its Year of Physics. There are ten parts in the story, and it has been running since January. Right now, it is at part seven.
Friday, March 4, 2005 -- AfternoonScientists have found a star the size of Jupiter. The thing that is surprising about a star this size is that scientists did not believe that something that small would be capable of having nuclear reactions that would generate light. The star is part of a binary star system with a much larger star as its partner. The star that was found is estimated to be 16% larger than Jupiter, but is 96 times more massive.
Monday, February 28, 2005 -- AfternoonMore than seven thousand people said that they would pay to go into space. Richard Branson, the guy who is behind Virgin Air, is also the person behind the recent private space ship enterprises that we have seen, like SpaceShipOne. Supposedly, the flights will start in 2008. I don't know if I would want to go up into space. Well, in a way, I would love to see what the Earth looks like, and it might be interesting to feel weightless. I think my biggest problem would be the fact that I am really not a risk taker. Ever since the time I had a rough air flight a few years back, I've been nervous about flying. When I imagine how rough the launch would be to get me into space, and the potential problems with landing, I think that I will keep my feet on firm ground.
Friday, February 25, 2005 -- AfternoonAt a space conference, an Italian scientist, Vittorio Formisano, says that he believes that the composition of gases currently found on Mars might indicate current biological activity. In other words, the scientist believes that the little green men are alive and well, and probably just right under the surface. He says that the combination of methane and formaldehyde could be signs of life because the gases should have a short life span. The fact that we see evidence of it implies that there is a source replenishing the gases. Formisano believes that more soil samples need to be taken before a definitive answer is given. Boy, does he know how to cover his butt! Through some comment out there based on the minimal amount of information that we currently have, and see where it flies. That is how science works. You have to postulate a theory, and then see if you can get financial backing to prove it. The only thing is that you have to hope that you have enough information so that you will be able to prove it in the end. I would love to see more research done on Mars, and I hope that the governments of the world can afford it.
Wednesday, February 23, 2005 -- AfternoonScientists have found a dark galaxy that they suspect is made of dark matter. There is no visible trace of stars in the galaxy, and it was found because of the huge amount of hydrogen gas in that area. It seems that hyrdrogen gas releases radiation, and they found the location by using radio telescopes.
Tuesday, February 22, 2005 -- EveningMobile PC has a list of the Top 200 Gadgets of all time. The list is pretty versatile. It includes a Zippo light (number 81), Rubik's Cube (89) and HP Omnibook 300 (76). There are some criteria that they used to select the gadgets. The gadgets had to be electronic or have moving parts; it had to be able to function on its own; and it had to be smaller than a bread box. Here's my top five gadgets and the reason why I picked them. Number 5 would be the transistor radio. I have very fond memories of lying in my bed as a kid and listening to my transistor radio with the one ear earphone. What did I listen to? The racing results from the local horse racing tracks. Number 4 would be the DVD player. I love the ability to watch a movie AND be able to jump from scene to scene or fast forward at different speeds instead of just one speed fast forwarding that you get with a VCR. And those extras? What more could you want? Number three would be the Dial-O-Matic. How can you not have a Ron Popeli product as a top gadget? I love watching his commercials, and my mother used to have one of these when I was a kid. You could slice food, you could shred food, and tons of french fries in only a few minutes. Number 2 would be my Palm Tungsteen E. Boy, it was like watching the Wizard of Oz, where all of a sudden you go from the drab black and white world to the color world of Oz. And now the drum roll--my number one gadget is the cell phone. Anywhere you go, you can call anyone or get any call. Not only that, but in all of those mystery books, the heroine just needs to call for help instead of being a damsel in distress. That is if she has a signal and didn't forget to charge her phone.
Monday, February 21, 2005 -- EveningScientists believe that there is a frozen sea beneath the surface of Mars. The analysis is based on photos that have been taken by Europe's Mars Express. Somehow we have to send something or someone up there to actually see if this is actually the case.
On a personal note, I had a very good day today. Over a year ago, my eye doctor noticed that I had a blind spot in a visual field test. I was having the test done because glaucoma runs in my family. So I was diagnosed with glaucoma. The damage to the nerve is only in one eye, and it is only 1/12 of the nerve. Fortunately for me, the damage does not affect my vision as far as I can tell. The brain is a complex thing and fills in the blind spot at this point. All the drugs that I have tried in the past year have failed, and my regular eye doctor, Dr. Richard Bowers, thought that I should see a glaucoma specialist. He recommended Dr. Robert Noecker. Dr. Noecker has alot of experience with SLT treatment. This is laser surgery to the eye where holes are poked into the part around the iris of the eye. This forces the eye to go into healing mode and this lowers the pressure. I'm not really sure that I understand how it all works, but it does work. At least it did work for me. I had the treatment on my right eye only in December and I went to see Dr. Noecker today, and the pressure in both eyes is an acceptable 13. My issue was open angle glaucoma, and my pressure was never really high which is why the problem was only caught by the visual field test. Since I have been seeing Dr. Noecker, I have been feeling more confident about the glaucoma being managed so I don't experience visual problems. One of the problems with the glaucoma drugs is that they really dry out the eyes. This was a major problem for me because I had dry eyes to start with. Dr. Noecker recommended that I take flaxseed for the dryness, and believe it or not, it has helped! Dr. Noecker has noticed increased tear production in my eyes. I have to admit that I am very glad that UPMC hired Dr. Noecker. Now there is one thing that I should add. I still take Lumigan for pressure. One of the side effects of Lumigan is that it really lengthens your eye lashes. It's funny when your doctor has to hold your eyes open to keep your eye lashes out of the way while he checks your pressure.
Friday, February 18, 2005 -- EveningThere was an explosion on a super magnetic neutron star 50,000 light years away in our galaxy. What did we see of this? Well, it appears that the blast affected detectors on telescopes that are orbiting Earth, and on December 27 lighted up the Earth's atmosphere. That's quite a blast. Scientists theorize that if the star were within 10,000 light years of Earth, it would have caused "severe damage to our atmosphere and possibly triggered a mass extinction" said Bryan Gaensler of Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. I wonder how the climate change folks would blame this on human abuses of the planet.
Thursday, February 17, 2005 -- EveningA University of Pittsburgh professor is getting money to study lava flow on Mars. That's not the only news about Mars today. It appears that some NASA scientists believe that there is present life on Mars. They believe that the finding of methane is similar to that found here on Earth and could mean that there are some basic life forms in caves or underground on Mars. They have a paper that is being peer reviewed now for publication in Nature.
Wednesday, February 16, 2005 -- EveningThe Mars Rover, Spirit found an interesting rock that has been named Peace. The interesting thing about the rock is that it has more sulfate salt than any other rock that has been investigated on Mars. Usually the sulfate is found on the surface of the rock, but in this case, it was found deeper in the rock. The sulfur has a correlation to magnesium, and it is theorized that the rocks may have been in a liquid rich in magnesium.
Feeling stressed? Have a cuppa tea. Want to fight cancer? Have another cuppa tea. It seems that researchers are finding health benefits. At first, it was thought that only green tea was healthy and that black tea was a problem because of the caffeine contant. But now the good qualities are being realized. I have always been a big tea drinker and it's nice to know it might also be good for me too.
Tuesday, February 15, 2005 -- EveningToday is Galileo's 441 birthday--well, it would be if he were still alive. One of the things that Galileo did was become the first person to actually study sunspots with a telescope. Sunspots are dark areas that are observed on the Sun that are associated with the changing magnetic field of the Sun which occurs every 11 years. Of course, it is really dumb to look directly at the Sun for any length of time, but there are methods to observe the Sun. Basically what you want to do is project the image onto a screen and do your observations that way.
Monday, February 14, 2005 -- EveningThe smallest extra-solar planet has been found. The interesting thing about finding planets around stars is that since planets don't generate heat, they are usually observed by the graviational effect that they place on the star. This particular planet is orbiting a pulsar which is a rotating neutron star. When a massive, supergiant star reaches the final death throes, one of the things that it can become is a neutron star. Neutron stars are very heavy and dense stars. The pulsar gives off a pulsating light that is caused by the fact that it is rotating. This particular planet that was found around a pulsar is one-fifth the size of Pluto and was discovered with the use of the Arecibo radio telescope. I wasn't able to find information on how they managed to observe the planet. I'm keeping my eye open for more information.
Sunday, February 13, 2005 -- AfternoonIt was 75 years ago that Pluto was discovered. At that time there wasn't alot of debate on what Pluto was. But nowadays folks want to remove it from planet status and make it a Kupier Belt object. That's the area where comets usually come from. As the scientists say, they want to change the classification because of Pluto's size and its irregular orbit.
Friday, February 11, 2005 -- AfternoonThey are still trying to launch an Ariane rocket in Europe. The hope is that this one won't blow up a few minutes after launch as its predecessor did.
Thursday, February 10, 2005 -- EveningSo have you ever wondered how astronauts go to the bathroom in space? This and other questions are answered at NASA's Brain Bites. And the answer to the bathroom question is...well, you will just have to check it out for yourself.
Thursday, February 10, 2005 -- MorningEven though there was a screw-up with turning on receivers to capture data from Huygens last month, scientists have been able to salvage the data. They were able to collect the data from a variety of other radio telescopes from around the globe. They did find that the winds near the surface of Titan are weak, while much stronger higher in the atmosphere. The winds move in the same direction as the rotation, and were measured at a speed of 120 miles per second.
Scientists have observed a star that is moving fast enough to escape our galaxy. In 1999, another astronomer named Jack Hill theorized that if a star system came in close contact with a black hole that it was possible for the star to be expelled with such force that it could escape the galaxy's gravitational pull. The astronomers at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who observed the star that is leaving the galaxy now say that the makeup of the star is medal rich which implies that it came from the star forming center of the galaxy which would also be the location of a massive black hole.
Tuesday, February 8, 2005 -- AfternoonIan Wilmut and Kings College London have been given permission by the British government to clone human embryos. The goal for the group is to study motor neuron disease. The question becomes is cloning of a human embryo ethical? Sometimes I think it depends on what your personal situation is. If you have a family member that would ultimately benefit from the research, then you would obviously be more inclined to be for it. I wonder myself if there are other possible methods that can be used that will have the same end result. There have been earlier attempts at human embryo cloning, but it was successful. The Advanced Cell Technology lab was able to division to six cells before the process stopped.
Monday, February 7, 2005 -- EveningScientists are trying to think of ways to make Mars more habitable. As they say, the stuff to make the planet hospitable and conducive to life is there, it's just a matter of releasing it. Now this could be a scary concept because is terriforming another planet wise? Will we resurrect organisms that will make the journey back to this planet on a space ship that will lead to wiping out life on our planet? I remember watching Cosmos with Carl Sagan years ago, and he had a plan to terraform Mars. His plan was to put something dark on the southern polar cap which should absorb heat, warming the planet abit, and possibly melting the ice on the cap. This would release the gases from the solid, and start to make the atmosphere more dense and hospital to plant life or life that might be hidden in the polar caps or ground/rocks. From that point it would just snowball. Interesting that folks are just coming around to this idea that Carl Sagan had 30 years ago.
NASA is going to let Hubble die a slow death. There really isn't money in the budget to repair it, and the attempts to repair it are risky to human life. So instead of throwing more money at Hubble, the money can go towards other items such as manned flight to the Moon, and then on to Mars.
Monday, February 7, 2005 -- AfternoonSunlight might not be bad for you after all. For years we have been hearing that being out in the sun would cause skin cancer. Now, there are reports that it might not be that risky. I think in our culture, we are very quick to find the one thing to mark as a taboo, like smoking, cheesecake, and exposure to the sun that we go overboard and lose the forest for the tree.
Friday, February 4, 2005 -- EveningScientists have found some of the matter in the Universe that has been "missing". Basically when the amount of stuff that makes up the objects in the Universe is totalled, it doesn't amount to what computer models say should be out there. The answer is dark matter and baryons. Baryons are elemental particles, and scientists have found evidence of them with the help of the Chandra X-ray Observatory. I think that we really don't have a very good understanding yet of all the things that are going on. It will take a very long time, and what we know now may go through a major revision as we do more observations.
Scientists have discovered a hot spot on the southern hemisphere of Saturn. It's not clear yet what is the cause, and it has scientists perplexed because the change in temperature from one section to another isn't a graduation one. It just suddenly increases by several degrees. It seems that the hot spot is a polar vortex, and other planets have them, including Earth. The difference is that on the other planets the polar vortex is cold while on Saturn it is hot.
Thursday, February 3, 2005 -- EveningA report has been released about Beagle 2. A committe of European Space Agency members determined that Beagle should not have been launched. It appears that there were several problems with it, and the ship in general was just considered as a part of the whole as opposed to an individual ship that should be given special attention.
Wednesday, February 2, 2005 -- EveningI was having trouble sleeping last night, and was constantly tossing and turning. Part of my problem is that I tend to obsess over problems in my life, real and imagined, and that leads to me getting up every hour and noting the time. I should have put on some soft music because researchers say that it calms poeple and helps them to fall asleep. If you think about it, that sounds like common sense. Soothing music should calm the soul and body. I tend to like movies playing on the television. If I get up, and find myself obsessing, I can just pay attention to the show for abit and forget my worries.
Need to do some massive number crunching? Sun Microsystems will rent computing time to folks with the need for $1 an hour. Sun believes that it is the wave of the future, and that computer grids such as these will become as common as the electricity grids.
Tuesday, February 1, 2005 -- EveningJane Seymour was on Fox and Friends this morning. She was there to talk about the fact that although women are most terrified about getting breast cancer, nine times more women are killed by heart disease. So Jane was on the show to publize the National Wear Red Day. It seems that the California Pistachio Commission is helping with the campaign, and has a link to postcards that Jane designed for the California Pistachio Commission to generate money to make women aware of the heart risks they face.
Pistachios are supposed to be good for you. It's cholesterol free, and has lutein which helps with eye health. The majority of pistachios that we eat in this country come from California.
It appears that bulimia increased in the UK after folks found out that Princess Diana was bulimic. Now the question becomes whether the amount of people with bulimia increased, or whether the fact that she talked about the disease encouraged people to come forward to get treatment.
A new steriod has been discovered when it was seized on the Canadian border. Actually, the substance was not identified on the border, so the border police took a sample, and that's when the authorities found out that it was a THG type steriod. So far, two steriods have been identified, but goodness knows how many more are out there.
Sunday, January 30, 2005 -- AfternoonThe Martian Rovers are still doing their job, but there's no idea how much longer they can last. The dust on Mars is settling on the solar panels and blocking energy the panels can absorb. So far, Spirit is the mostly heavily covered, and it is noticing a decline in power.
Thursday, January 27, 2005 -- EveningThe Earth was bombarded with the largest proton storm since 1989. Basically a huge sunspot on the sun exploded and released an enormous amount of protons into space. A sunspot is a dark spot on the surface of the Sun. It looks dark because the temperature there is cooler than the surrounding area. Why is it cooler? Because of a magnetic field that doesn't allow for proper heat transfer. The sun changes it magnetic pole every year, and this occurs usually at the peak of the sunspot cycle. Or rather you could say the sunspots peak because of this change.
Wednesday, January 26, 2005 -- EveningChina is planning on sending more men into space later this year. The plan is to have a heavier ship that can carry three people. It may even include a space walk.
Tuesday, January 25, 2005 -- MorningScientists are searching for chemical signs of life on Titan. As they say, methane is destroyed by exposure to sunlight, so there must be something there that is generating the methane. Now, the thing is that methane doesn't have to be produced by biological means. It could be a geological event. Although the surface of the planet is not very hospitable, it appears that the scientists believe that there is an ocean of liquid water 100 to 300 meters below the surface.
Astronomers are finding evidence that our solar system was created with the help of a near supernova explosion. This conclusion is coming from finding an isotope in a meteorite. There are two methods to form the isotope, chlorine-36. One involves a supernova, and the other by a nebular cloud getting radiation from the Sun when it was forming. They don't buy the second method because there isn't any chlorine-36 found closer in to the Sun in our solar system.
Friday, January 21, 2005 -- EveningThere is more news from Saturn. Since the probe was launched there was talk of information and data that wasn't received, and there was an investigation on the matter. It appears that the problem was due to the fact that one of the two receivers was not turned on. The data was being transmitted from Titan, but there wasn't anything on this side to pick it up. Some of the data was picked up by receivers elsewhere in the world. This is yet another poor showing on the part of the ESA. There is also more information about what has been found on Titan. It appears that there is an abundance of liquid methane on the planet.
Thursday, January 20, 2005 -- EveningScientists will be presenting more details on Titan this Friday in Paris. Hopefully, they will have lots of information because they have had a week to analyze the data.
Thursday, January 20, 2005 -- AfternoonFor my continuing search about smoking, I found something that says that only 15-20% of smokers develop emphysema. This is continuing support for my boyfriend's contention that cigarette smoking won't kill you. Not that it is good for you, but it does make you wonder if the problem is that if you are predisposed to a certain condition, cigarette smoking hastens the process.
Wednesday, January 19, 2005 -- EveningIt appears that the Mars rover, Opportunity, did indeed find a meteorite on Mars. There goes my theory that it was a piece of an alien spacecraft.
Tuesday, January 18, 2005 -- AfternoonWe all have a reason now to not make our beds in the mornings. It seems that leaving the bed unmade means that the sheets are exposed and any moisture on the sheets has a chance to dry up which makes for an undesireable location for dust mites.
I also will be adding camomile tea to my daily diet. It seems that if you have five cups of camomile tea a day for two weeks, it elevates both glycine and hippurate in the blood which can help fight colds and muscle spasms that are commonly found with menstruation. The effects appear to remain in the blood two weeks after stopping the regime. I have had camomile in the past because it is supposed to be a mild sedative. Now there is more to recommend the herb.
Saturday, January 15, 2005 -- EveningThere are more images released from Titan. It seems that the surface of Titan is orange with a tangerine sky. Now that's my kind of place. I love orange. It's my favorite color, and if I see a piece of clothing in orange, I get it. The images are showing a definite liquid ocean, and a methane fog hanging over the land area. It's also thought that the area where Huygens landed was once flooded, and that surface that it is on is moist and squishy.
Friday, January 14, 2005 -- Late EveningHuygens has sent back data from Titan. It seems from a show on the Discovery channel that five hours of data has been received, and it will take some time to do a complete analysis of the images. The analysis of some of the images so far appears to point to a liquid like surface. It is not clear what the liquid is, or if it is just a tarry surface. There is also a picture from the surface that shows a boulder strewn surface. It will be very interesting to see what will result from a complete study of the images. I would imagine that what will result is an interest in sending a probe that can do a longer analysis of Titan.
The whole point in getting a closer examination of Titan is that it seems to be place that might mimic the early Earth. We would like to see how life could have formed, and it is very possible that organic matter will be found there. The question is where have the organic molecules on Earth come from? Is there other life in the Universe? Astrobiology is a fascinating topic, and I think that we have just touched the very surface of what we can learn about life outside of Earth. What is fascinating is that Carl Sagan was one of the first to collect evidence that Titan's atmosphere contained the building blocks of life.
If you are interested in seeing some video of Mars exploration, check out Mars TV. There are a slew of videos that are available.
Friday, January 14, 2005 -- MorningHuygens has started its descent to Titan this morning. So far, NASA has received a signal from the probe that shows that the probe is alive and that it is able to send signals back to Earth. It is still too early for more information. The thing that sucks is that we don't get the NASA Channel on our cable. Fortunately, it is available through the Internet.
Thursday, January 13, 2005 -- EveningHuygens is going to investigate Titan tomorrow morning around 7:09 AM EST. The Cassini Huygens Home page has a countdown ticker to the descent. From what I have heard there is some uncertain on whether we will get any signals back. I hope that we do because it will be interesting to see what's there.
Opportunity has found a curious object on Mars. Scientists are quite sure what it is, but it appears to be a metallic meteorite. Opportunity will be doing a closer examination of the rock, and more information should be available soon. Personally, I think that it's a tiny crashed space alien ship. I keep on remembering the Pepsi commercial where the NASA guy was watching the video from one of the rovers, and he was bored and had a Pepsi. As he was drinking it, he missed the littel Martians destroying the rover.
Wednesday, January 12, 2005 -- AfternoonDo you remember the story from the old days that the analog cell phones would cause brain tumors with extended use? Well, it appears that the current type of phone also has issues. There has been a report released in the United Kingdom that states that children under the age of 8 should not use a cell phone. It seems that they are at greater harm from brain and ear tumors.
Tuesday, January 11, 2005 -- Late AfternoonDeep Impact will be launched as early as tomorrow afternoon. This is the probe that is going to study the comet. There is a window of opportunity that lasts until January 28 for the launch to put it on the correct path for the comet
Scientists have identified the three largest stars found in the universe. If the stars were in our solar system, and centered where the Sun is now, the stars girth would go out past Jupiter--1.5 billion kilometers. The stars are red giants. That means that the star is nearing the end of its life, and although it is large, its temperature is cooler.
Monday, January 10, 2005 -- EveningNASA scientists are studying the Indonesian earthquake. It seems that all earthquakes have some effect on the rotation, axis, and shape of the Earth.
As a person with high cholesterol, I am interested in the fairly new research on CRP levels as a risk factor in causing heart attacks and strokes. I read something about this around a year ago, but recently the New England Journal of Medicine confirmed that in women high levels of CRP can predict whether the woman will have a heart attack or stroke. CRP (C-reactive protein) is an inflamatory agent, and it appears that it can be connected to instability with plaque that forms in the veins. Now CRP levels can be tested in the blood stream, but the problem is that even if you do have elevated CRP levels, it appears that there really isn't any treatment for it.
Sunday, January 9, 2005 -- EveningMy friends and I had a discussion about smoking today that started because of smoking laws. My friend who went to Germany recently was upset because Germany doesn't have laws against smoking in public places. The question is should governments make laws that prevent people from smoking. I don't smoke and being in smoky places really clogs my sinuses, however, I do wonder if it is the governments job to make such bans. Some of my friends say that it is necessary because smoking will lead to your death. Now my boyfriend says that just because you smoke, it doesn't mean that you will develop a disease. My goal is to find statistics on what percentage of smokers develop a particular disease. Now most folks would tell you that smoking would lead to lung cancer, and 85 to 90% of those with lung cancer are smokers. However, research shows that only 10% of people who smoke develop lung cancer. There's also a big debate on the dangers of second hand smoke. Again, it appears that the EPA found through some longitudinal studies that having a spouse who smokes lead to the non-smoking spouse having a 20% increase in developing lung cancer. So in my opinion the claims of non-smokers that these laws must be passed to save the health of non-smokers is not sustantiated with hard facts. I'm not saying that smoking is good for the smoker or non-smoker, but if I saw statistics that said 50% of non-smokers who are around heavy smokers develop lung cancer, I would be more agreeable with the laws. The way it should be handled is through popular demand. If I don't like a smokey place, I won't go to it. Hence, I don't go to bars in Pittsburgh because they tend to be smokey and the smoke makes my allergies worse. If there were a non-smoking bar, I might go to it. Should bars be forced to be non-smoking? No. Why? Because I don't have to go into a bar. Let's put it this way, smoking isn't good for you, and can lead to health problems with no clear statistics on how many smokers have health problems of a certain type. I don't like smoking personally, but that does not mean that the government should be involved in smoking in restaurants or bars.
Friday, January 7, 2005 -- EveningScientists have found that the nose has a more complicated airflow than a jet's wing. It seems that the reason for this is due to the fact that the olfactory bulb needs air to hit it at high velocity. The hope is that the research will lead to find cures for runny and congested noses. That would be great! I would love to be able to breath through my nose instead of through my mouth.
Wednesday, January 5, 2005 -- EveningThe earthquake that caused the tsunami may have also caused the Earth to spin abit faster, and to tilt an inch on its axis.
Sunday, January 2, 2005 -- EveningI knew there was a reason why I liked turmeric. It seems that there is research that shows that the spice might be useful in slowing down Alzheimer's disease. It also seems that turmeric is useful in "aiding digestion, fighting infection and guarding against heart attacks". It also seems that Alzheimer's isn't found alot in people in India where the spice is used alot. I usually use the spice when I make pasta and put it liberally on chicken. I'll have to find more uses for turmeric.
Saturday, January 1, 2005 -- AfternoonNASA will be launching Deep Impact on January 12. Deep Impact is a spacecraft that is going to observe Comet Tempel 1. The plan is for Deep Impact to reach the comet six months after the launch, and it will basically record images of the comet, and then release a device that will land on the comet (around July 4, 2005), and create a crater on the comet. The mothership will fly off and record information on materials released by the impact. The goal is to identify the composition of comets. The scientists are saying that what they are doing with Deep Impact should not do anything to move the comet's orbit into any conflict with the Earth's orbit. That's part of the problem with destruction of comets that are on a collision path with the Earth. By trying to blow up the comet or asteroid, are we just making smaller bits that will still hit Earth, or by just having a detonation on a comet, could we deflect it from a near miss into a definite hit? Research like Deep Impact needs to be done so we can make a better guesstimate on how to handle possible future impacts.
Friday, December 31, 2004 -- EveningWith the end of the year, there are several top ten lists of things. What's always so funny is that people just can't seem to agree on what the top story is. Here's a sampling of top ten science stories for 2004. For example, Science magazine picks evidence of water on Mars as the top story, while Discover magazine picks the global warming as the biggest story of the year. My personal top pick would have to be the Mars Rovers and their discoveries. My second would be the Cassini-Huygens trip to Saturn.
The Science Channel has a marathon of Watch Mr. Wizard. I never saw Mr. Wizard when I was a kid, but I have to admit that watching them as an adult is alot of fun. Right now, I am watching the show where Mr. Wizard and the child helper are making flour paste. It almost makes me want to go into the kitchen to try it out. The shows that they have on this evening are ones that I haven't seen in other Mr. Wizard marathons that the Science channel had in the past. This one is on adhesives. Others this evening are on everday illusions, heat transfer, paper towel chemistry, science with candles and time. I wonder why there aren't as many science shows being made now. Even the Discovery channel (which is the parent company for the Science channel) seems to concentrate more on reality shows that have nothing to do with science.
Thursday, December 30, 2004 -- EveningCassini is going to make a pass by one of the moons of Saturn tomorrow. This particular moon is of interest because it has two "different" sides. One side looks bright while the other is dark. Scientists hope to find out why this is the case. This is all part of the Cassini-Huygens study of Saturn and Titan. On January 14, the probe, Huygens, will be descending on Titan to send back data on the moon. This probe is of high interest because for years now, astronomers have thought that Titan stood the best change of having an early Earth like atmosphere, although at colder temperatures. It will be interesting to see what we find out from the probe.
The other interesting astronomy news is that the Mars rovers are still functioning and gathering data. The rovers have been doing an excellent job of finding evidence of water on the planet. I am one of those folks who supports man exploration of Mars. When you think of the things that we are finding with rovers, just imagine what we would find with humans! I understand the difficulties of it--the amount of time that man would have to spend in zero gravity and the effects on the human body, radiation, the heaviness of the ship required and the fuel needed to get it there, and the question of how to bring it back. I just believe that we should find ways to make the Mars mission happen. The Mars Society sponsers the Mars Direct plan which looks at a way for humans to get to Mars with maximum results and minimal costs.
We are approaching the 100th anniversary of Einstein's paper proving the existence of photons. The Economist has an article that explains what it Einstein actually did. Interesting reading about an interesting man.