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First off, some back story. This will end up as a mini-editorial, but some of you will find this very interesting. Lake Vostok is a large (10,000km2), presumably fresh water body located under some 4km of ice in East Antarctica. The lake is not some little pool of water, its a gigantic, 250km long and 50km wide.
Because the lake is under kilometres of frozen ice, it has been untouched by todays technology and hence, the hands of man. The contents of this secret under-the-ice lake, have not seen the light of day for more than 20 million years. Because of this long period of pure isolation, it is believed that the water inside Lake Vostok could contain new, never-before-seen lifeforms, and unique geochemical processes.
For the past five-plus years, Russia and the United States have been seeking to probe Vostok in order to discover its underlying secrets from this pure, pristine body of water. The problem associated with such an untouched body of water is that as soon as it is discovered, tested and exposed, we would have contaminated it in multiple ways. Because of its long period of isolation, it cannot be explored without the introduction of the outside world, i.e. us.
We're not even finished with the first month of 2012 and we are already experiencing some seriously powerful stuff happening to us because of one of the most important things we, humans, require to live: our Sun, our Star. The Sun, at around 0359 UT on January 23, from sunspot 1402 erupted and produced a long-duration M9-class solar flare.
The explosion's M9-ranking puts it on the threshold of being classed an X-flare, the most powerful there can be. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured the flare's most extreme ultraviolet flare, below:
The resulting coronal mass ejection (CME) hit Earth's magnetic field at 0617 UT on January 22 and according to analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab, the CME strongly compressed Earth's magnetic field and briefly exposed satellites in geosynchronous orbit to solar wind plasma. The effects of this will last roughly 24 hours, where Earth's magnetic field reverberates from the impact. This causes bright auroras to be seen around the arctic circle. Bjørn Jørgensen observed this display from Tromsø, Norway:
Jørgensen said "this was amazing, it was a wonderful experience to see these stunning auroras".
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen who has plans to create a business for commercial space travel
Space Travel. Microsoft. Skynet. The steps are there, and we're hitting them at a nice pace. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has announced new plans to create a business for commercial space travel. It should take roughly five years to develop.
With the U.S. government slicing space flight, Allen has sensed a gap in the market for investment. Yesterday, Allen showcased designs for a new craft that would eventually have the ability of taking human passengers into the vast space that is, well, space.
Allen has previously funded spaceflight, as he was behind SpaceShipOne, which was the first manned private journey. Stratolaunch System are the ones behind the building of the new craft, which is a company founded by Paul Allen.
Lunar Eclipse this Saturday, visible in Australia and parts of Asia, won't be seen against until 2014
Want to see something you won't be able to see again for another three years? Well, be outside on Saturday and you'll see a lunar eclipse. It will only be visible from Australia and in some parts of Asia.
The entire moon will turn red, as it falls behind Earth's darkest shadow. Sydney Observatory's Geoffrey Wyatt says:
People will see the shadow of the earth moving across the moon, and for 52 minutes witness the usually milky white moon turn a blood-red rusty colour.
This is the second total lunar eclipse this year, with the previous one in May. Wyatt says that the east coast will be the one of the best places on Earth to see the eclipse. It is set to start at around 11:30pm on Saturday, and last for around three hours.
Thank you to my wife for reminding me of this news!
For those of you who don't know, there is a 400m-wide asteroid called "2005 YU55" that will fly past us (and in-between the Moon) on November 9. It will fly past at just 324,600km away, which is 0.85 the distance of the Moon itself, it won't kill us; but it is close enough to be news-worthy.
According to NASA, the "trajectory of asteroid 2005 YU55 is well understood", so there's no dangers whatsoever. The asteroid won't have any gravitational influence on Earth, so it won't make volcanoes go off or cause Earthquakes, etc. But, our gravitational pull might re-direct 2005 YU55. This is something NASA don't really cover, because it will [of course] most likely cause panic.
Also remember, that on the same day, FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) along with the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) and the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will be running a nationwide event coordinated by those agencies and administrations. Come November 9, there will be a test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) in which the test will be heard on the radio and seen on local, cable and satellite TV.
Elon Musk of SpaceX has made pretty bold moves here, he's saying that his company will "probably" have a man in space within the next three years and has another goal of having men on Mars within the next 10 to 20 years.
SpaceX earlier this month unveiled plans for the "world's most powerful rocket", the Falcon Heavy, mere weeks from receiving NASA's $75 million gift in hopes of kick-starting development of it's commercial spaceflight projects. Musk's enthusiasm is great, with an excellent quote from him below:
This could well be the future folks, reprogrammable chips. Startup company, Tabula, is trying to create the hardware equivalent of software - a chip that over time, can have hardware improvements without completely replacing the device. If a programmable chip like this makes it to the market, it would replace the current mantra of replacing the entire device when a new, faster device comes out.
The idea isn't new, field programmable gate array (FPGA) is a similar technology which is used in some finished devices or prototypes before production begins. But right now FPGA chips are large as they require all the space for the reprogrammable circuitry. This of course makes them slow and expensive.
For years people have wondered, talked about, made movies about, created successful businesses locally and internationally, sold goods and accessories, all around the Roswell incident involving UFOs that crashed. Files have now appeared on the FBI's "vault" website that was once devoted to classified documents have now become public.
The memo is brief but it's from an Air Force informant about "flying saucers". The memo has FBI agent Guy Hottel saying what an "investigator for the Air Forces" told him about what is called "the Roswell incident", Hottel says:
Three so-called flying saucers had been recovered in New Mexico . . . they were described as being circular in shape with raised centres, approximately 50 feet in diameter . . . Each one was occupied by three bodies of human shape but only 3 feet tall, dressed in a metallic cloth of a very fine texture. Each body was bandaged in a manner similar to the blackout suits used by speed flyers and test pilots.
Lining Yao, Anthony DeVincenzi, Ramesh Raskar, and Hiroshi Ishii from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab have developed a prototypal teleconference interface demonstration using Microsoft's Kinect sensor array.
Featured in their demo video, Lining (Lizzie) and Anthony (Tony) show off some of the features they managed to successfully implement. In their interactive interface, speakers will be given time-bubbles that pop up over their respective heads, tracking the length of time that each is speaking. Amazingly, the clock stops as soon as the person stops speaking, meaning the program is recognizing voices individually. A cool feature (that may need a bit of tweaking, but cool nonetheless) they also included is the automation of focus- when a person is speaking, the focus of the camera changes, ensuring that everything but the speaker is blurry. This wasn't as successfully implemented as the time-tracker, but a very interesting idea, especially for someone like me with rampant ADD.
Speaking of ADD, I have many problems when it comes to not answering or responding to portable phone vibrations, so this next feature made me sigh in relief that someone was actually working on it. The MIT team developed a way that a person in a teleconference can actually freeze an image of themselves, for instance sitting at a table with a rapt...
Aerogel is a material that is a solid but has a tiny bit of weight to it making it the lightest solid material in the world. The translucent nature of the material has led to it being dubbed frozen smoke. The aerogel has been redesigned by researchers to make it even lighter weight using carbon nanotubes. The new material is called multiwalled carbon nanotube aerogel.
The researchers think that the material might be useful in electronics, inside chemical reactors, and to detect toxic substances. Traditional aerogels are made from silica, metal oxides, and other materials. Making an aerogel from carbon nanotubes has been tried before and is difficult to do.
The researchers that created the new material started with a liquid solution of carbon nanotubnes and then removed the liquid from the wet gel leaving behind the aerogel with a huge surface area. If all the nanotubes inside a one-ounce cube were unraveled and laid side to side and end to end they would cover three football fields.