Science, Space, Health & Robotics News - Page 255
Convinced that the world will end on December 21 2012? Well thanks to the folks running the Slooh Space Camera, you can watch it all unfold online!
The online Slooh Space Camera will broadcase a series of live cosmic shots all week starting today. The webcast which are free will aid in helping us keep track of any monster solar storms, impending asteroid strikes or other potential agents of the so-called "Mayan apocalypse" that doomsayers claim is set for Friday.
"By acting independently of any government agency, which assumedly would be disbelieved by the millions who are convinced a giant cover-up is in place, Slooh will observe the planets and the ecliptic plane for anything out of the ordinary," Said Astronomy Magazine columnist Bob Berman.
NASA's next step into the dark beyond is with their Orion capsule, which is looking to enter its first test flight in 2014. NASA's Apollo missions are behind them, so the space agency are looking into the future with their Orion spacecraft and Delta IV rockets to send man into space.
Part of the process is to make sure that the Orion capsule will survive the extreme temperatures of re-entry, and even though Orion is one of the most advanced spacecraft ever designed, testing is still necessary.
The Apollo missions most important part of surviving re-entry is thanks to its heat shield which protects the ship during re-entry. The Orion capsule takes it a step further where it's composed of two parts: a Titanium skeleton that is bolted to a carbon fiber skin. This takes nearly 3,000 bolts to hold the skeleton to the skin, after this the heat shield is shipped to Textron Defense Systems just outside of Boston, where they'll add the final layer of albative material.
40 years ago today, the last men to walk on the surface of the moon blasted off and headed for home. Apollo 17 was the last of the Apollo missions to the moon, a feat we have not ventured to repeat since.
After three days exploring the Taurus-Littrow lunar valley, Apollo 17 astronauts Eugene Cernan (pictured above) and Harrison Schmitt lit the engine on the upper (ascent) stage of their lunar module "Challenger" and launched off the surface at 5:55 p.m. EST (2255 GMT) on Dec. 14, 1972. The word "Ignition" which was voiced by Schmitt was the last words ever spoken by man on the surface of the moon.
Schmidt was also the first geologist and professional scientist to fly on an manned NASA mission. Eugene Cernan, commander of the mission was the last human to leave a footprint on the surface and with his words "Lets get off" an era came to an end.
Raspberry Pi, an ARM based micro computer that runs Linux, has seen a huge surge in its user base since its release. The reason for this is no doubt its price point of $35, which gets you a fully capable Linux machine with 512mb of memory, USB, Ethernet, and SD Storage. Well the Pi just got cheaper, with the model A costing a mere $25.
The model A has not yet been released for sales yet, but some boards did wind up in the hands of Limor Fried of Adafruit Industries as well as Pete Wood of Design Spark. Both of whom has released videos covering the new little ARM board.
Skywatchers across the globe are in for a major treat tonight as the Geminid meteor shower peaks tonight along with a new unnamed meteor shower. With the moon at its new phase tonight the skies will be as dark as possible for the breathtaking event which is expected to produce around 100 "shooting stars" an hour.
To view the event you simply need to lay on your back and watch the constellation of Gemini. The meteors will seem to magically appear from that constellation. The action will be taking place all night with things really heating up starting at 10:00 local time and going into full effect around 2am. "Meteors from the new shower (if any) will be visible in the early evening, with the Geminids making their appearance later on and lasting until dawn," Bill Cooke, head of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office, said in a statement.
For those of you unfortunate enough to have cloudy skies tonight like me, NASA will host a live web chat overnight from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. EST (0400 to 0800 GMT), complete with live video of streaking meteors captured by a special camera at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. It will all happen here:
A couple of months ago, we reported that a team of physicists were going to see if The Matrix were more real than meets the eye - well, we've gotten a little further now and another team of physicists have found another way to experiment if we're all living within a computer.
There has been a philosophical thought experiment that has for quite some time shown that it is more likely that we're actually living in a machine - yes, that the real world is not so "real". This theory goes onto a path that any civilisation which would get as far as a 'post-human' stage would end up with the ability to run simulations on the scale of a universe. Considering the scale of what is out there, billions of stars, suns, worlds, and more - it is not only possible, but it is likely that it has already happened.
Then we tumble further down the rabbit hole, and it is statistically possible that we're (the human race, our universe) is within a chain of simulations within simulations. Inception springs to mind, so does The Matrix. The alternative to this is that we are the first civilisation, within the first universe - and this is virtually impossible.
Caltech engineers have developed a cheap X-ray technology that will allow it to see through solid materials. The engineers, Ali Hajimiri and Kaushik Sengupta, have tweaked silicon microchips to emit terahertz waves. These high power waves can go through solid materials and send back an image of what is inside.
The wave used by the engineers is also quite a bit safer than ionizing X-rays, and has actually been used for a while now. Current systems, however, are bulky and costly. This new chip uses a microchip like you would already find in your phone, making it cheap and compact and able to be put into a mobile device.
"We are not just talking about a potential," Hajimiri said. "We have actually demonstrated that this works. The first time we saw the actual images, it took our breath away."
Think about the potential. You twist your ankle and think it's broken. Now you can do a quick check to see if it is. If you're not sure, you could send the image off to your doctor who could respond via text whether you need to come in or not. This, along with many other uses, make this an awesome advancement of technology.
If you thought NASA's Curiosity rover was already cool, checking in on Foursquare on Mars and all, well, they're looking to launch another rover in 2010. NASA have announced the news at the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco, but haven't provided many more details unfortunately.
NASA's Management Astronaut and the Associate Administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA headquarters (imagine that on your resume), John Mace Grunsfield, did tease the world by saying that the next-generation rover would be "based on Curiosity". The current budget for the currently-dubbed "Science Rover" will hover at around $1.5 billion, with no funding coming in from other departments.
NASA details findings in new post, found organic compounds on Mars, but no 'definitive evidence' of life, yet
Our little Curiosity rover is all grown up now. Sitting on the surface of Mars, it has gone to work analyzing soil samples collected from a drift known as Rocknest. The sampling at this location served two purposes. One, it tested the equipment and provided data. Two, the fine sand particles were used to scrub the equipment of any lingering substances that came with the rover from Earth.
"We have no definitive detection of Martian organics at this point, but we will keep looking in the diverse environments of Gale Crater," said SAM Principal Investigator Paul Mahaffy of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
"We used almost every part of our science payload examining this drift," said Curiosity Project Scientist John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. "The synergies of the instruments and richness of the data sets give us great promise for using them at the mission's main science destination on Mount Sharp."
While not fully detecting organic compounds from life, the tool set did detect "the oxygen and chlorine compound perchlorate." This chemical, combined with with others, was heated in SAM and formed chlorinated methane compounds. So, while there does appear to be organic materials on Mars, it's not definitive evidence of life.
Check out the source link, direct from NASA, for more information.
Curiosity is awesome from many different standpoints. It's one hell of a robot, a feat of engineering, and a great way to increase our knowledge about Mars and space in general. Rumors of a massive discovery, according to NASA and Curiosity's Twitter account, have been a bit overblown, but never-the-less, NASA will be presenting its findings so far tomorrow at 12:00 p.m. EST, 9:00 a.m. PT.
The press conference will be held during the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union, which takes place in San Francisco. NASA has been trying to dial-in expectations and has said that there won't be any unbelievable findings presented tomorrow. "Rumors and speculation that there are major new findings from the mission at this early stage are incorrect," officials at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory wrote. "The news conference will be an update about first use of the rover's full array of analytical instruments to investigate a drift of sandy soil."
The rumors of a massive discovery started making their rounds two weeks ago when an NPR story used a quote from John Grotzinger, mission chief scientist, that said the SAM tool had found data "for the history books." If an earth-shattering discovery is presented tomorrow, you'll be able to read about it here.