DRIVING through the countryside south of Hanover, it would be easy to miss the GEO600 experiment. From the outside, it doesn't look much: in the corner of a field stands an assortment of boxy temporary buildings, from which two long trenches emerge, at a right angle to each other, covered with corrugated iron. Underneath the metal sheets, however, lies a detector that stretches for 600 metres.
For the past seven years, this German set-up has been looking for gravitational waves - ripples in space-time thrown off by super-dense astronomical objects such as neutron stars and black holes. GEO600 has not detected any gravitational waves so far, but it might inadvertently have made the most important discovery in physics for half a century.
For many months, the GEO600 team-members had been scratching their heads over inexplicable noise that is plaguing their giant detector. Then, out of the blue, a researcher approached them with an explanation. In fact, he had even predicted the noise before he knew they were detecting it. According to Craig Hogan, a physicist at the Fermilab particle physics lab in Batavia, Illinois, GEO600 has stumbled upon the fundamental limit of space-time - the point where space-time stops behaving like the smooth continuum Einstein described and instead dissolves into "grains", just as a newspaper photograph dissolves into dots as you zoom in. "It looks like GEO600 is being buffeted by the microscopic quantum convulsions of space-time," says Hogan.
If this doesn't blow your socks off, then Hogan, who has just been appointed director of Fermilab's Center for Particle Astrophysics, has an even bigger shock in store: "If the GEO600 result is what I suspect it is, then we are all living in a giant cosmic hologram."
Very interesting stuff. Check out the full article at the link.
"The Star reports about a new power generation model using smaller distributed power generators located closer to the consumer. This saves money on power generation lines and creates an infrastructure that can be more easily expanded with smaller incremental steps, compared to bigger centralized power generation projects. The generators in line for this are green sources, but Hyperion Power Generation, NuScale, Adams Atomic Engines (and some other companies) are offering small nuclear reactors to plug into this type of infrastructure. The generator from Hyperion is about the size of a garden shed, and uses older technology that is not capable of creating nuclear warheads, and supposedly self-regulating so it won't go critical. They envision burying reactors near the consumers for 5-10 years, digging them back up and recycling them. Since they are so low maintenance and self-contained, they are calling them nuclear batteries."
New Scientist Health, Dec. 1, 2008
Pacific BioSciences says that by 2013, it could sequence a person's entire genome in half an hour with 99.999 per cent accuracy for under $1000.
The new technique involves attaching a different coloured fluorescent dye to each of the four types of nucleotide and watching these flash as they are incorporated into the strand (see diagram). The sequence of coloured flashes in this molecular fireworks display indicates the order in which the nucleotides appear.
the company hopes will hit the market in 2010. By 2013, it aims to squeeze a million ZMWs onto a single chip and observe DNA being assembled in each simultaneously. Company founder Stephen Turner estimates that such a chip would be able to sequence an entire human genome in under half an hour to 99.999 per cent accuracy for under $1000.
TUSTIN, Calif., Sept. 6 /PRNewswire/ — The aerospace industry has taken notice of a California researcher who, using off-the-shelf components, built and successfully demonstrated the world’s first successful amplified photon thruster. Dr. Young Bae of the Bae Institute first demonstrated his Photonic Laser Thruster (PLT) with an amplification factor of 3,000 in December, 2006.
Major aerospace agencies and primary contractors have since invited Bae to present his work, including NASA JPL, DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), and AFRL (Air Force Research Laboratory). Senior Aerospace Engineer at AFRL, Dr. Franklin Mead, “Dr. Bae’s PLT demonstration and measurement of photon thrust (is) pretty incredible. I don’t think anyone has done this before. It has generated a lot of interest.”
Recently, the Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets, a peer-reviewed AIAA (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics) (http://www.aiaa.org) Journal, accepted Dr. Bae’s PLT demonstration paper, “Photonic Laser Propulsion: Proof-of-Concept Demonstration” for publication this year. In his paper Bae documents in explicit detail how he overcame the inherent inefficiencies of traditional photon thrusters in generating thrust by amplification with the use of an innovative optical cavity concept. For decades rocket scientists have tried to overcome the inefficiency of photon thrusters by amplification based on optical cavities separated from laser sources, but failed. In contrast, Bae’s patent-pending PLT breakthrough places the laser medium within a resonant optical cavity between two platforms to produce a very stable and reliable thrust that is unaffected by mirror movement and vibration — ideal for spacecraft control or propulsion.
He knew his colors and shapes, he learned more than 100 English words, and with his own brand of one-liners he established himself in TV shows, scientific reports, and news articles as perhaps the world’s most famous talking bird.
But last week Alex, an African Grey parrot, died, apparently of natural causes, said Dr. Irene Pepperberg, a comparative psychologist at Brandeis University and Harvard who studied and worked with the parrot for most of its life and published reports of his progress in scientific journals. The parrot was 31.
That was one smart bird. I’ve read about him several times over the years.
TUSTIN, Calif., Sept. 7, 2007 — An amplified photon thruster that could potentially shorten the trip to Mars from six months to a week has reportedly attracted the attention of aerospace agencies and contractors.
Young Bae, founder of the Bae Institute in Tustin, Calif., first demonstrated his photonic laser thruster (PLT), which he built with off-the-shelf components, in December.
The demonstration produced a photon thrust of 35 µN and is scalable to achieve much greater thrust for future space missions, the institute said. Applications include highly precise satellite formation flying configurations for building large synthetic apertures in space for earth or space observation, precision contaminant-free spacecraft docking operations, and propelling spacecraft to unprecedented speeds — faster than 100 km/sec.
“This is the tip of the iceberg,” Bae said in a statement from the institute. “PLT has immense potential for the aerospace industry. For example, PLT-powered spacecraft could transit the 100 million km to Mars in less than a week.”
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Millions of inventions pass quietly through the U.S. patent office each year. Patent No. 7,033,406 did, too, until energy insiders spotted six words in the filing that sounded like a death knell for the internal combustion engine.
An Austin-based startup called EEStor promised “technologies for replacement of electrochemical batteries,” meaning a motorist could plug in a car for five minutes and drive 500 miles roundtrip between Dallas and Houston without gasoline.
By contrast, some plug-in hybrids on the horizon would require motorists to charge their cars in a wall outlet overnight and promise only 50 miles of gasoline-free commute. And the popular hybrids on the road today still depend heavily on fossil fuels.
“It’s a paradigm shift,” said Ian Clifford, chief executive of Toronto-based ZENN Motor Co., which has licensed EEStor’s invention. “The Achilles’ heel to the electric car industry has been energy storage. By all rights, this would make internal combustion engines unnecessary.”
This sounds awesome. Too good to be true almost. So it probably is.
From Bad Astronomy…
Bad Astronomy Blog » Texas: really, really doomed
When I posted about Don McLeroy, a creationist who the Texas governor just appointed to head the State Board of Education, I knew the situation was serious. Following in the bleak tradition of this current White House of making sure you appoint the absolute worst 180-degree-wrong person for a job, McLeroy seems to be the perfect candidate: he thinks the Universe is 6000 years old, he thinks evolution is wrong, he wants to bring religion into the classroom, he honestly thinks abstinence-only sex education is a good idea. I read his website, too, where he makes all this — and much more — very clear.
On his own this guy would just make me sad. But as the head of the BoE, he is dangerous. He wants to brainwash kids. And his ideas would make someone’s from the Dark Ages appear quaint.
I’ve known Rick Perry was a douchebag for awhile…. he’s really validating my opinion with this dumbass.
Bad Astronomy Blog » Neil Tyson on exploring space
Astronomer Neil Tyson wrote a pretty good article for Parade magazine this week about why we explore space. He hits a lot of the right points, and he says something that I wind up hammering when I give public talks as well:
How many times have we heard the mantra: “Why are we spending billions of dollars up there in space when we have pressing problems down here on Earth?” Let’s re-ask the question in an illuminating way: “What is the total cost in taxes of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the space station and shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit and missions yet to fly?” Answer: less than 1% on the tax dollar—7/10ths of a penny, to be exact.
So, with 99 out of 100 cents going to fund the rest of our nation’s priorities, the space program is not now (nor has it ever really been) in anybody’s way.
The short version: space exploration costs us very little. Need I remind you that we are basically setting fire to $11,000,000 per hour in Iraq? When I talk on this topic, I make an analogy: when your disk drive is full, do you go through and take hours to delete thousands of small text files, or do you delete that one big 3 Gb video file you never watch? NASA is a text file on the hard drive of the government.
Spot on. And people never stop to think that the money is ALL spent right here on earth and almost all of it is spent in the United States. Jobs, factories, services…..
Danger Room - Wired Blogs
Robots have been roaming the streets of Iraq, since shortly after the war began. Now, for the first time — the first time in any warzone — the machines are carrying guns.
After years of development, three “special weapons observation remote reconnaissance direct action system” (SWORDS) robots have deployed to Iraq, armed with M249 machine guns. The ‘bots “haven’t fired their weapons yet,” Michael Zecca, the SWORDS program manager, tells DANGER ROOM. “But that’ll be happening soon.”
The SWORDS — modified versions of bomb-disposal robots used throughout Iraq — were first declared ready for duty back in 2004. But concerns about safety kept the robots from being sent over the the battlefield. The machines had a tendency to spin out of control from time to time. That was an annoyance during ordnance-handling missions; no one wanted to contemplate the consequences during a firefight.
So the radio-controlled robots were retooled, for greater safety. In the past, weak signals would keep the robots from getting orders for as much as eight seconds — a significant lag during combat. Now, the SWORDS won’t act on a command, unless it’s received right away. A three-part arming process — with both physical and electronic safeties — is required before firing. Most importantly, the machines now come with kill switches, in case there’s any odd behavior. “So now we can kill the unit if it goes crazy,” Zecca says.
In 12 million years, we’re dead: Sciam Observations
In 12 million years, we’re dead
I know there are disasters just over the horizon–terrorism, climate change, the rapture–but some ends to the human race are so profoundly unavoidable that they deserve further scrutiny, even if it’s just to satisfy my need for some kind of secular eschatology.
Back in May, a pair of researchers at the University of Kansas proposed a unique solution to the puzzling periodicity of mass extinctions on Earth–which happen about once every 62 million years.
According to Adrian Melott, professor of physics and astronomy at KU, the motion of the solar system exposes Earth to an onslaught of cosmic rays on a schedule that is synchronized to the mass extinctions.
I wonder what will be around on the planet at that time.
Baby mammoth find promises breakthrough | Science | Reuters
MOSCOW (Reuters) - The discovery of a baby mammoth preserved in the Russian permafrost gives researchers their best chance yet to build a genetic map of a species extinct since the Ice Age, a Russian scientist said on Wednesday.
“It’s a lovely little baby mammoth indeed, found in perfect condition,” said Alexei Tikhonov, deputy director of the Russian Academy of Science’s Zoological Institute, which has been taking care of the mammoth since it was uncovered in May.
“This specimen may provide unique material allowing us to ultimately decipher the genetic makeup of the mammoth,” he told Reuters by telephone.
The mammoth, a female who died at the age of six months, was named “Lyuba” after the wife of reindeer breeder and hunter Yuri Khudi who found her in Russia’s Arctic Yamalo-Nenetsk region.
She had been lying in the frozen ground for up to 40,000 years, said Tikhonov.
Bringing back Mammoths and letting them roam the Great Plains… sounds kinda cool.
First artificial life ‘within months’
Scientists could create the first new form of artificial life within months after a landmark breakthrough in which they turned one bacterium into another.
In a development that has triggered unease and excitement in equal measure, scientists in the US took the whole genetic makeup - or genome - of a bacterial cell and transplanted it into a closely related species. This then began to grow and multiply in the lab, turning into the first species in the process. The team that carried out the first “species transplant” says it plans within months to do the same thing with a synthetic genome made from scratch in the laboratory. If that experiment worked, it would mark the creation of a synthetic lifeform.
Very radical work and very cool.
Nuclear rockets could cut cost of Moon base - space - 28 June 2007 - New Scientist Space
Howe envisions using a nuclear engine similar to one designed and tested in the 1960s called Nuclear Engine for Rocket Vehicle Application (NERVA). In the NASA-funded NERVA design, hydrogen gas is heated by nuclear reactions in a uranium reactor and expelled to produce thrust.
I am ALL for this. We are long past due on using nuclear rocket engines.
The higher efficiency of such an engine means almost 29 tonnes of cargo could be delivered to the Moon in a single Ares V launch, compared to 21 tonnes with the non-nuclear version. This would allow a 250-tonne lunar base to be constructed with only nine rather than 12 Ares V launches, Howe says.
New Horizons Web Site
This five-frame sequence of New Horizons images captures the giant plume from Io’s Tvashtar volcano. Snapped by the probe’s Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) as the spacecraft flew past Jupiter earlier this year, this first-ever “movie” of an Io plume clearly shows motion in the cloud of volcanic debris, which extends 330 kilometers (200 miles) above the moon’s surface. Only the upper part of the plume is visible from this vantage point – the plume’s source is 130 kilometers (80 miles) below the edge of Io’s disk, on the far side of the moon.
Mars rover finds “puddles” on the planet’s surface - space - 08 June 2007 - New Scientist Space
A new analysis of pictures taken by the exploration rover Opportunity reveals what appear to be small ponds of liquid water on the surface of Mars.
The report identifies specific spots that appear to have contained liquid water two years ago, when Opportunity was exploring a crater called Endurance. It is a highly controversial claim, as many scientists believe that liquid water cannot exist on the surface of Mars today because of the planet’s thin atmosphere.
If confirmed, the existence of such ponds would significantly boost the odds that living organisms could survive on or near the surface of Mars, says physicist Ron Levin, the report’s lead author, who works in advanced image processing at the aerospace company Lockheed Martin in Arizona.
Along with fellow Lockheed engineer Daniel Lyddy, Levin used images from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s website. The resulting stereoscopic reconstructions, made from paired images from the Opportunity rover’s twin cameras, show bluish features that look perfectly flat. The surfaces are so smooth that the computer could not find any surface details within those areas to match up between the two images.
The imaging shows that the areas occupy the lowest parts of the terrain. They also appear transparent: some features, which Levin says may be submerged rocks or pebbles, can be seen below the plane of the smooth surface.
This would be pretty damn cool.
Update: Much higher res pics here
The end of the plug? Scientists invent wireless device that beams electricity through your home | the Daily Mail
Scientists have sounded the death knell for the plug and power lead.
In a breakthrough that sounds like something out of Star Trek, they have discovered a way of ‘beaming’ power across a room into a light bulb, mobile phone or laptop computer without wires or cables.
In the first successful trial of its kind, the team was able to illuminate a 60-watt light bulb 7ft away.
This would be great. Need lots of studies on body effects though.
Mercury Messenger flew by Venus yesterday. Hopefully it worked flawlessly and we’ll have a lot of pics and data soon.
SPACE.com — MESSENGER Flyby of Venus a Dress Rehearsal for Mercury
MESSENGER is expected to collect more than 6 gigabytes of data about the Venus system and take more than 600 images during the 73- hour-flyby. The information will provide new observations about Venus’s atmosphere, cloud structure, space environment, and perhaps even its surface.
During its brief sojourn, MESSENGER will join a European spacecraft, Venus Express, that is currently in orbit around Venus. The two probes will work together to investigate how particles from the Sun’s solar wind affects and controls the upper layers of Venus’s atmosphere.
“By coordinating and comparing these observations, we will be able to maximize the science from both missions and potentially learn things that would not be revealed by one set of observations alone,” said study team member Ralph McNutt, also of APL.
Launched in August 2004, the MEcury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) mission is the first to visit our solar system’s innermost planet in more than 30 years, ever since NASA’s Mariner 10 mapped about 45 percent of its surface. MESSENGER’s mission is to map the entire planet, as well as gather information about Mercury’s composition and structure, its geologic history, and the makeup of its core and poles.
I can’t wait to see the pictures from this. I’ve never been real happy with the lack of visible-light hi-res pics of Venus.