Posts from the ‘Space’ Category

Five holes blasted by Curiosity using its super-awesome laser on some Martian ground. Not only does it shoot, but it can break down the resulting plasma and determine what molecules are present.

quantumaniac:

Todd Akin and the Anti-Science House Science Committee

Aside from the sheer biological ludicrousness of Todd Akin’s ideas on female physiology, one unsettling subplot to the debacle is his presence on the House of Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

That’s right: A moron who, to put it gently, ignores what science tells us about how babies are made, helps shape the future of science in America. It would be shocking, but for the fact that many of the committee’s GOP members have spent the last several years displaying comparable contempt for climate science.

Now, there’s no question that climate change is less well understood than human reproduction. The rate at which warming permafrost will release methane is open for debate, whereas it’s a long-settled fact that women can become pregnant from rape. But in both cases, there exists a factual proposition that can be studied through observation and hypothesis-testing — and it’s the scientific method itself that’s ultimately under attack in the House science committee.

The committee’s chair, Ralph Hall (R-Texas), lumps “global freezing” together with global warming, which he doesn’t believe humans can significantly impact because “I don’t think we can control what God controls.”Dana Rohrbacher (R-CA) thinks cutting down trees reduces levels of greenhouse gases they absorb. Mo Brooks (R-Alabama) still trots out the debunked notion that a scientific consensus existed in the 1970s on “global cooling,” which he portrays as a scare concocted by scientists “in order to generate funds for their pet projects.”

Dan Benishek (R-Michigan) strikes that climate-scientists-as-charlatans note, dismissing contemporary research as “all baloney. I think it’s just some scheme.” Paul Broun (R-Georgia) says that “Scientists all over this world say that the idea of human-induced global climate change is one of the greatest hoaxes perpetrated out of the scientific community.”

Broun, who likens the CDC’s encouragement of fruit and vegetable consumption to “socialism of the highest order,” is also seen by some people as anti-scientific for asserting that an embryo is a human being, though that criticism is unfair: When life begins, and whether and how to value the existence of an embryo, are moral questions, and science can’t answer them except to contrast the properties of embryos with people.

Also tarred as anti-scientific are votes against funding certain types of research, from studies on embryonic stem cells to sociology, government support of which has been recently attacked. Funding, however, is ultimately a political decision. It’s possible to reject support for certain scientific endeavors without denying the fundamental validity of science itself, just as it’s possible to think climate change isn’t a terrible problem while respecting the science describing it.

But when it comes to climate and the House science committee, the rhetoric shows that it’s about the validity. And whatever Ralph Hall purports to support when he says, “I’m not anti-science, I’m pro-science. But we ought to have some believable science,” it’s not science.

In-depth look at what’s wrong with our House science committee. Stay informed, and you can be more effective in spreading science literacy!

explore-blog:

“Because of what you have done,” the President told the astronauts, “the heavens have become a part of man’s world. And as you talk to us from the Sea of Tranquility it required us to redouble our efforts to bring peace and tranquility to earth.”

Men Walk On Moon – the original New York Times moon landing front page story, July 21, 1969.

jtotheizzoe:

explore-blog:

Neil deGrasse Tyson takes us inside NASA’s undersea mission to save Earth from an asteroid, all the more reason why space exploration needs all the support it can get but is hardly getting.

Terrestrial science, even that that is underwater, is an essential precursor to extraterrestrial science. A really interesting look at how we are perfecting techniques to visit an asteroid by living underwater. This project is the last of its kind. Don’t let it perish.

ikenbot:

How to Build a Planet: Heavy Metals Are Key Ingredients

Image: An artist conception of a newly formed star surrounded by a swirling protoplanetary disk of dust and gas, where debris coalesces to create rocky ‘planetesimals’ that collide and grow to eventually form planets. A new study suggests small rocky planet may actually be widespread in our Milky Way galaxy. Credit: University of Copenhagen, Lars A. Buchhave

Planets may not be able to form without a heaping helping of heavy elements such as silicon, titanium and magnesium, a new study suggests.

Stars that host planets have higher concentrations of such “metals” — astronomer-speak for elements heavier than hydrogen and helium — compared to iron than do planetless stars, the study found.

“To form planets, one needs heavy elements,” said lead author Vardan Adibekyan, of the Centre for Astrophysics of the University of Porto in Portugal.

Connected at birth

Planets coalesce from the disk of dust and gas left over after the birth of their parent star. According to the leading theory of planet formation, the core accretion model, small particles clump together, growing larger and larger until they produce protoplanets.

Scientists have long suspected that stars with higher metallicities are more likely to have planets orbiting them. Iron has long been a primary indicator.

“Usually, in stellar physics, people use the iron content as a proxy of overall metallicity,”

Full Article

quantumaniac:

RIP Neil Armstrong – First Man on the Moon

Neil Armstrong, the astronaut who became first to walk on the moon as commander of Apollo 11, has died. He was 82 years old.

He was born in the small town of Wapakoneta, Ohio, on Aug. 5, 1930.

On July 20, 1969, half a billion people — a sixth of the world’s population at the time — watched a ghostly black-and-white television image as Armstrong backed down the ladder of the lunar landing ship Eagle, planted his left foot on the moon’s surface, and said, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Twenty minutes later his crewmate, Buzz Aldrin, joined him, and the world watched as the men spent the next two hours bounding around in the moon’s light gravity, taking rock samples, setting up experiments, and taking now-iconic photographs.

“Isn’t this fun?” Armstrong said over his radio link to Aldrin. The third member of the Apollo 11 crew, Michael L. Collins, orbited 60 miles overhead in the mission’s command ship, Columbia. President Richard Nixon called their eight-day trip to the moon “the greatest week in the history of the world since the Creation.”

jtotheizzoe:

An Interactive Simulation to Count Alien Worlds

Enrico Fermi famously asked, in his paradoxical analysis of the likely existence of extraterrestrial life, “Where is everybody?” If there are a certain (large) number of planets in the universe that are habitable, then a subset of these (also a large number) should be inhabited. Any civilization that formed, given enough time, could develop the means for interstellar communication or travel.

So yeah, “Where is everybody?

Years later, Frank Drake developed a precise equation to calculate the likely number of inhabitable worlds within range of observation or communication from Earth. Well, it’s as precise as you define it, anyway, given that the variables that go in are just that – variable. Things like how long it would take a civilization to develop communication, how long said civilization would last, how many stars and planets are estimated to exist … just the basics.

It’s called the Drake Equation, and thanks to the stupendous folks over at BBC Future, you can go tweak the equation with an interactive tool! Click here to start defining your galaxial parameters and see how many civilizations you think should exist.

I’m getting some pretty big numbers . . !

(via BBC, tip o’ the SETI dish to Russ Creech)

Played around with this some earlier, definitely worth checking out. It’s important to remember that the Drake Equation is an approximation and many factors that we’re a little unsure about go into it.

On the other hand, even setting most of the variables very low results in several billion planets with life on them. We should be able to develop interstellar communication in a manner that is observable and understandable within our lifetimes..right? Please?