Archive for the ‘Science’ Category
This from the intriguing Blog “Anybody Want A Peanut”.
As you can see, beginning March 9 there is not a single day where this year was warmer than last year, or where we exceeded the normal historical high for that day. In fact for the most part we were a good 5-10 degrees below the normal temperature for that time of year.
That’s a pretty spectacular run of below-normal temps!
The tricky question is: why did it happen? What happened on March 9 to cause our thermometers to plummet?
Well, I looked into that too and I’ve found the answer: On March 9 an asteroid the size of a city block buzzed by earth. It is apparent that the gravitational pull or cosmic wake from this asteroid caused a short term alteration in Earth’s weather patterns such that winter was extended by a month and a half on the prairies.
That is your explanation folks. If you are skeptical then that means you don’t trust science.
Photo of southern Manitoba from April 21, 2013.
The astonishing 90-mile high solar eruption on the Sun’s surface that burns at 4MILLION degrees C
- Pictures provide evidence of magnetic ‘braids’ that play a key role in heating the Sun’s atmosphere
- They occur when the swirling of plasma in the Sun’s surface wraps magnetic fields around each other
Spectacular pictures of the Sun’s 90-mile high solar eruptions have been captured in the highest ever resolution by NASA scientists.
The images of the star’s outer atmosphere provide evidence of magnetic ‘braids’ believed to heat this region up to four million degrees Celsius.
A collage of solar images from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) shows how Nasa has captured the solar surface in different wavelengths
NASA used the High-resolution Coronal Imager (Hi-C) launched on a rocket last July that obtained roughly five minutes of data before re-entering Earth’s atmosphere.
The extreme-ultraviolet telescope looks at coronal plasma with temperatures of around 1.5 million degrees Celsius – and has a resolution five times higher than previously achieved.
Scientists Build Lasers Out of Sound, Call Them Phasers
A false-color scanning electron microscope image of the etched circuit that produces the sound laser. Courtesy Imran Mahboob
Using a nanoscale drum, scientists have built a laser that uses sound waves instead of light like a conventional laser.
Because laser is an acronym for “light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation,” these new contraptions – which exploit particles of sound called phonons – should properly be called phasers. Such devices could one day be used in ultrasound medical imaging, computer parts, high-precision measurements, and many other places.
A laser is created when a bunch of light particles, known as photons, are emitted at a specific and very narrow wavelength. The photons all travel in the same direction at the same time, allowing them to efficiently carry energy from one place to another. Since their invention more than 50 years ago, almost all lasers have used light waves. Early on, scientists speculated that sound waves be used instead, but this has proved tricky to actually achieve.
It wasn’t until 2010 that researchers built the very first sound lasers, coaxing a collection of phonons to travel together. But those first devices were hybrid models that used the light from a traditional laser to create a coherent sound emission.
“In our work, we got rid of this optical part,” said engineer Imran Mahboob of NTT Basic Research Laboratories in Japan, co-author of a paper describing the new sound lasers that appears Mar. 18 in Physical Review Letters. Because they need one less part, these new phasers “are much easier to integrate into other applications and devices.”
United Federation Scientists would be proud.
In traditional lasers, a bunch of electrons in a gas or crystal are excited all at the same time. When they relax back to their lower energy state, they release a specific wavelength of light, which is then directed with mirrors to produce a beam.
Sound lasers work on a similar principle. For Mahboob and his team’s phaser, a mechanical oscillator jiggles and excites a bunch of phonons, which relax and release their energy back into the device. The confined energy causes the phaser to vibrate at its fundamental frequency but with at a very narrow wavelength. The sound laser produces phonons at 170 kilohertz, far above human hearing range, which peters out around 20 kilohertz. The entire device is etched onto an integrated circuit that’s about 1 cm by 0.5 cm.
Don’t expect to set your phasers to stun just yet. Light has the advantage of being able to travel through a vacuum, so a laser beam can easily go from its origin point anywhere else, even through space. Phonons require a medium to travel through, which means the phaser waves are confined to their device for the time being.
“We would lose the lasing if we get it out,” said Mahboob. “So we will need to figure out how to build structures onto the resonator that would allow us to transmit the vibrations out as energy.” Currently, he doesn’t have a good idea of how to do that, though other researchers will likely expand on the work and offer suggestions.
While this means you can’t make the cat chase after a tiny dot of sound, there are still a lot of potential uses for these phasers. A tiny part of the device translates the mechanical vibration into an oscillating electrical signal, which could serve as a tiny clock. Most modern day electronics use a quartz crystal to keep time but these crystals tend to be relatively bulky objects that consume a lot of energy. A miniscule sound laser could provide the same effect and replace quartz crystals, said Mahboob.
Other potential applications, once the technology matures further, would be to use the ultrasound frequencies to scan objects or people for safety or medical purposes. Alternatively, the extremely narrow sound wavelengths could be used for high-precision measurement, suggested electrical engineer Jacob Khurgin of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.
Khurgin praised the research. “It’s still in its infancy, but they showed it can be done, and more people will get involved,” he said.
Optical lasers have found hundreds of uses in modern life, in computer electronics, science, medicine, and the military. But their power wasn’t immediately apparent when they appeared a half-century ago. The first paper on a laser using visible wavelengths was rejected from a journal whose editors thought it a waste of time.
When it was finally published in Nature, the research “generated a new field of optics and communications,” said Mahboob. “Maybe we’ve started something new, too.”
NEAR SAN PEDRO DE ATACAMA, CHILE — A massive new telescope that will unveil the faintest, most distant objects in our universe is officially inaugurated today, with great fanfare and anticipation from the world’s astronomical community. Scientists gathered in the desolate Chilean Andes this week say the new Atacama Large Millimeter-submillimeter Array could revolutionize cosmology. It it is the largest, most complex and most ambitious telescope project in history.
ALMA, whose acronym means “soul” in Spanish, will uncover some of the most mysterious and yet most common phenomena in the cosmos. From its perch on the 16,400-foot Chajnantor Plateau, it will see the birth pangs of stars, the collision of cosmic crumbs that turn into planets, and possibly even the formation of moons around faraway worlds.
“This is much more than an astronomers’ observatory. ALMA will allow us to get deeper into this universe, but also to get deeper into our own nature, and our own lives,” said the president of Chile, Sebastián Piñera. “The native Chilean people that lived here since 10,000 years ago knew this from the beginning. In their native language, Chajnantor means ‘point of observation.’ … We know that Chile is a very small country, but with your help, in astronomy, we want to become a real giant.”
Pinera led a delegation of luminaries who drove on winding unpaved roads, past grazing llamas and looming cactus, before traipsing through the soft gray dirt at ALMA’s Operations Support Facility.
A week prior to the ceremony, a shaman and other indigenous Andeans traveled to the array and blessed the telescope’s antennas. Even the astronauts orbiting Earth on the International Space Station joined in the celebration with a surprise message Wednesday. Along with future observatories, including the James Webb Space Telescope, ALMA “will enable the exploration of the universe with unprecedented power,” said Chris Hadfield, who recently turned over the commander’s seat. “We congratulate the scientific communities of North America, and Europe and east Asia. …”Enjoy your new discoveries.”
The ceremonies Wednesday capped 30 years of planning and a decade of construction. The U.S. spent $500 million on the ALMA project, making it the largest investment ever by the National Science Foundation in any facility in the world, according to Subra Suresh, the outgoing director of NSF. Along with its potential for groundbreaking new science, the technology behind ALMA will translate to countless new innovations we might not even imagine now, he said–just as the Apollo moon program set off new products that had nothing to do with the moon.
“We put man on the moon before we put wheels on a suitcase, but wheels on a suitcase is also an important innovation,” he said. “ALMA will not only lead to innovations [in astronomy], it will lead to many, many seemingly small innovations that will improve humanity.”
The technology that makes ALMA possible only came into existence in the past few years, astronomers said. Throughout its expected 30-year lifetime, it can also be upgraded with even more powerful receivers that could probe even deeper.
“There’s no way this could have happened any sooner, because the technology is state-of-the-art,” said Alison Peck, former head of ALMA commissioning and now an associate scientist at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, an ALMA partner.
What is ALMA?
Half of all light in the universe is in millimeter-wavelength light between the far infrared and radio waves. ALMA can detect this light, which is emitted by cool objects and distant objects. It’s possible thanks to the telescope’s location at 16,400 feet in the driest desert on Earth, and because of the incredible precision of its 66 antennas.
All telescopes are limited in their angular resolution by the ratio of their aperture to the wavelength they observe, explained Michael Thornburn, head of the ALMA department of engineering. ALMA is an aperture synthesis telescope.
“We cannot make a single aperture 15 kilometers across, so we do it in pieces,” he said. “The signals from individual dishes are combined to build up the image from a single large aperture.”
Radio signals from distant cosmic sources arrive at each dish at ever-so-slightly different times, and these are combined with the signals from every other antenna. This technique, interferometry, allows ALMA to operate like a single huge dish with an adaptable radius.
In a carefully choreographed ballet, each dish moves in unison with the others to change the telescope’s observing area. Along with moving in place, giant transporter trucks, specially designed for the dishes, can pick them up and cart them across the Chajnantor Plateau to one of 192 concrete pads. At their greatest distance apart–16 kilometers–ALMA’s angular resolution will be equivalent to the Hubble Space Telescope, Peck said.
ALMA is observing sources that are 10 times weaker than those observed with other arrays, explained Pierre Cox, ALMA’s incoming director. This is key to ALMA’s capability for observing phenomena like star formation, he said.
“Future observations should allow us to detect dark matter substructure and shed light on its nature,” he added.
There’s much more to learn about how ALMA works, and why astronomers are so excited about it–stay tuned for more dispatches from the Atacama.
At least this device will stop people who walk and look down at their smartphones from bumping into poles or other people.
Google Glass (stylized simply as GLASS) is an augmented reality head-mounted display (HMD) being developed by Google in the Project Glass research and development project. Google Glass displays information in a smartphone-like format hands-free, and can interact with the Internet via natural language voice commands. The eyewear’s functionality and minimalist appearance (aluminium strip with 2 nose pads) has been compared to Steve Mann’s EyeTap, and uses Google’s Android operating system.
Google Glass has the ability to take photos and record 720p HD video. While video is recording, a recording light is displayed above the eye, which is unnoticeable to the wearer.
In general, reception for Google Glass has been positive in the technology industry. There have been parodies and criticisms aimed at the general notion of augmented reality glasses, ranging from the potential for Google to insert advertising (its main source of revenue) to more dystopian outcomes. However, Google has stated they have no plans to insert advertising.
Concerns have been raised regarding intrusion of privacy.
At designer Diane von Furstenberg’s spring 2012 fashion at New York Fashion Week, models wore Google Glasses down the runway, filming the audience.
In November 2012, Glass received recognition by Time Magazine as one of the “Best Inventions of the Year 2012″, alongside inventions such as the Curiosity Rover.
The New York Times originally reported that Google Glass would be available to the public for “around the cost of current smartphones” by the end of 2012, but other reports have stated that the glasses are not expected to be available for purchase soon. The product (Google Glass Explorer Edition) will be available to United States Google I/O developers for $1,500, to be delivered in early 2013, while a consumer version will be available by the end of 2013 for under $1,500.
Halley VI Research Station is the first fully re-locatable research station in the world. It was commissioned in 2006 and its unique and innovative structure was the result of an international design competition in collaboration with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). The state-of-the-art research facility is segmented into eight modules, each sitting atop ski-fitted, hydraulic legs. These can be individually raised to overcome snow accumulation and each module towed independently to a new location.
The station took four years to build and delivered its first scientific data in 2012. Its iconic design houses a cutting-edge science platform and modern, comfortable accommodation.
The central red module contains the communal areas for dining, relaxation etc., while the blue modules provide accommodation, laboratories, offices, generators, an observation platform and many other facilities. Remote scientific equipment, set up for long-term monitoring, is housed in a number of cabooses around the perimeter of the site, which also contains numerous aerials and arrays for studying atmospheric conditions and space weather.
Science at Halley VI provides vital information for a global understanding of ozone depletion, polar atmospheric chemistry, sea-level rise and climate change. Since it was first established in 1956, meteorological and atmospheric data has been continually collected at Halley, providing an unbroken record.
The station operates throughout the year with a maximum population of 70 in the summer and an average of 16 over winter. The Emperor penguin colony near Halley, which is present from May to February, is a special attraction, while other recreational trips take members further inland towards the “hinge zone” where the floating ice shelf is joined to the continent.
There have been six Halley bases built so far. The first four were all buried by snow accumulation and crushed until they were uninhabitable. Various construction methods were tried, from unprotected wooden huts to steel tunnels. Halley V had the main buildings built on steel platforms that were raised annually to keep them above the snow surface. However, as the station’s legs were fixed in the ice it could not be moved and its occupation became precarious, having flowed too far from the mainland to a position at risk of calving as in iceberg.
Vomiting Larry is not the name of this year’s hot new toy, or a new TV show on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. He’s a robot head that is helping scientists in the U.K. to study norovirus, most commonly known in Britain as the winter vomiting bug, which can cause vomiting and/or diarrhea and has infected at least 880,000 people in the U.K. this year. Noroviruses also infect millions of people in the U.S. every year.
As reported by the BBC, Vomiting Larry was built by scientists at the Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL) to study how norovirus spreads. They built a metal stomach and an anatomically correct human-like head that could “vomit” over and over again so scientist could see exactly what happens. HSL explains on its website that the intent was to understand the “extent with which the surrounding environment becomes contaminated when an individual vomits.”
Who needs a robot. Just get a few college lads after a shooter and beer party.
Look at that flipping ship! U.S. Navy celebrates research vessel’s 50th year with acrobatic display.
Seen out of context, it looks like a ship silently slinking under the waves, like the final scene in a disaster movie.
But have no fear, this is simply a very special U.S Navy ship, taking a ‘flip’ as it celebrates 50 years of cartwheels.
With an ability to drift over the ocean like a ship – yet transform into a vertical buoy in pursuit of scientific research – the Navy’s Floating Instrument Platform (FLIP) is one of the most unique ships on (or under) the water.
Ready to flip: This ship looks fairly conventional at this point – but see what happens next..
Up and away: The Floating Instrument Platform begins to rise out of the water
Lifting… Lifting… If you look closely, you can see crewmembers leaning back on the top of the ship
…And vertical: The ship stands tall in the water, looking like a ship that is about to slip under the waves
The ship conducts investigations in a number of fields, including acoustics, oceanography, meteorology and marine mammal observation.
Dr Frank Herr, head of ONR’s Ocean Battlespace Sensing Department, said: ‘FLIP’s unique characteristic of a low-profile, stable observational platform has proven particularly useful over the years.
‘It will continue to be a research vessel of choice for our naval scientists.’
What makes the vessel so special is that it can partially submerge like a sinking ship by filling ballast tanks in its stern with water.
When in its vertical position, FLIP’s visible floating platform extends 55 feet above the ocean surface while the rest of the hull reaches 300 feet below the water.
Because so much of the vessel is submerged when it sits upright, the platform is impervious to the ocean waves, providing a stable environment for researchers to do their work.
‘I’m so thankful that ONR and Scripps have been able to maintain FLIP as an active platform,’ said Dr. C. Linwood Vincent, a recently retired ONR division director who managed a number of projects that employed the vessel.
Now on the faculty at the University of Miami, Vincent added, ‘It would be very difficult to conduct these studies on a rocking ship.’
Built in 1962, the steel-hulled platform accommodates 11 researchers and a crew of five for up to 30 days.
It does not have its own propulsion and must be towed to research locations in the ocean, where it ‘flips’ into vertical position in approximately 20 minutes.
FLIP, designed by Scripps scientists Fred Spiess and Fred Fisher, operates in two modes, drifting with the currents or moored to the sea floor, and supports the deployment of a variety of sensors and instruments.
‘FLIP was originally designed to study underwater acoustics – the bending of sound,’ said William Gaines, the program manager at Scripps.
‘In recent times, we’ve done a lot of the marine mammal research because FLIP has the ability to be very quiet in the vertical position. We can place hydrophone arrays far below the surface and put marine mammal observers up top to correlate the signals from the animals to the visual observations.’
In 2010, researchers used FLIP for a set of experiments called High Resolution Air-Sea Interaction project, which measured wind and swell conditions. That data is helping to improve weather models and other ocean-atmosphere databases.
‘FLIP was the pivotal platform for that project, which also included research done by traditional research ships and remotely piloted aircraft,’ said Tim Schnoor, the program officer who oversees ONR’s research vessel programs.
Naval Research Laboratory scientists recently employed FLIP for oceanographic work using lasers. Additional studies are in the works, and FLIP will continue to support scientists in their research endeavors.
‘It’s in good material condition,’ said Schnoor. ‘We’ve continued to invest in maintenance and preservation of the platform, including taking hull thickness measurements to ensure hull integrity. There’s no reason it can’t continue to serve research needs as long as we have users to exploit her unique capabilities.’
No detail overlooked: Naturally, if you need a toilet break when the ship is vertical, you will need a different sink – and be careful to pack your toiletries up properly