Science Tidbits 3

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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by Gary » Mon Jul 21, 2014 1:42 pm

Watch a 72-year-old Buzz Aldrin punch a jerk in the face for calling him a 'liar'
Buzz Aldrin: Famed astronaut, second man on the moon, and puncher of smug faces.

Sunday marks the 45th anniversary of the lunar landing — unless, of course, it never happened and the government faked the whole danged thing to make America look super powerful at the height of the Cold War. Is that conspiracy theory likely? Probably not, though there are some who ardently believe in it.

Bart Sibrel is one of those lunar truthers. And back in 2002, he ambushed Aldrin outside a Los Angeles hotel and berated him about his supposed role in the hoax, asking him to swear on a Bible he landed on the moon and calling him a "liar" and a "coward." Offended that someone would question his integrity, and fed up with being pestered for so long, Aldrin finally snapped and socked Sibrel in the face.
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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by Lupine » Mon Jul 21, 2014 4:07 pm

^I remember that :lol:

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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by RJDiogenes » Mon Jul 21, 2014 10:20 pm

Me, too. I oppose violence, but I found that very satisfying. :lol:
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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by Gary » Fri Aug 01, 2014 6:29 pm

NASA tested an impossible space engine and it somehow worked
NASA has been testing new space travel technologies throughout its entire history, but the results of its latest experiment may be the most exciting yet — if they hold up. Earlier this week at a conference in Cleveland, Ohio, scientists with NASA's Eagleworks Laboratories in Houston, Texas, presented a paper indicating they had achieved a small amount of thrust from a container that had no traditional fuels, only microwaves, bouncing around inside it. If the results can be replicated reliably and scaled up — and that's a big "if," since NASA only produced them on a very small scale over a two-day period — they could ultimately result in ultra-light weight, ultra fast spacecraft that could carry humans to Mars in weeks instead of months, and to the nearest star system outside our own (Proxima Centurai) in just about 30 years.

The type of container NASA tested was based on a model for a new space engine that doesn't use weighty liquid propellant or nuclear reactors, called a Cannae Drive. The idea is that microwaves bouncing from end-to-end of a specially designed, unevenly-shaped container can create a difference in radiation pressure, causing thrust to be exerted toward the larger end of the container. A similar type of technology called an EmDrive has been demonstrated to work in small scale trials by Chinese and Argentine scientists.

While the amount of thrust generated in these NASA's tests was lower than previous trials — between 30 and 50 micronewtons, way less than even the weight of an iPhone, as Nova points out — the fact that any thrust whatsoever is generated without an onboard source of fuel seems to violate the conservation of momentum, a bedrock in the laws of physics.

Most impressively, the NASA team specifically built two Cannae Drives, including one that was designed to fail, and instead it worked. As the scientists write in their paper abstract: "thrust was observed on both test articles, even though one of the test articles was designed with the expectation that it would not produce thrust." That suggests the drive is "producing a force that is not attributable to any classical electromagnetic phenomenon," the scientists write. It may instead be interacting with the quantum vacuum — the lowest energetic state possible — but the scientists don't have much evidence to support this idea yet.

There are many reasons to be skeptical: the inventor of the Cannae Drive, Guido Fetta, has only a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemical Engineering and is operating his company Cannae as a for-profit venture. Still, the fact that such results were produced by NASA scientists is promising and should warrant further investigation.
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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by RJDiogenes » Fri Aug 01, 2014 11:07 pm

Weird. There seems to be a bunch of things going on there. From the description, it seems to be a variation on a LASER that derives its thrust from the same principle as a solar sail. I'm not sure why they're saying that there's no fuel, since there must be a power source, even if it's external. And if it's really "producing a force that is not attributable to any classical electromagnetic phenomenon," deriving energy from some unpredicted interaction with the quantum foam, it may be related to various controversial results over the years involving zero point energy. That would be pretty trippy. Zero point energy always sounded pretty much in the same category as perpetual motion to me, except for the fact that Arthur C Clarke believed in it; and he had a habit of being right.
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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by Lupine » Sat Aug 02, 2014 4:11 pm

I'm a bit skeptical as well, since as RJ points out, that some kind of fuel would be needed regardless. It does sound very similar to a laser drive.

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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by Lupine » Mon Aug 04, 2014 4:24 pm

Phil Plait has a bit of a follow-up on this story.

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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by RJDiogenes » Mon Aug 04, 2014 11:14 pm

That's a good summation. It doesn't sound like a very rigorous experiment.
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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by RJDiogenes » Mon Sep 08, 2014 10:45 pm

I got a ping today about a new planet sifted from the Kepler data. This one is really interesting. KIC 9632895 b is about six times the mass of Earth and has a circum-binary orbit. The two stars have a period of 27 days and add up to about the mass of the sun put together. The planet's orbit is almost perfectly circular and is 240 days long, putting it the equivalent of just outside the orbit of Venus, which, in this system is comfortably inside the habitable zone. That all sounds promising, but the weird thing is that, while it is six times the mass of Earth, it is .562 radii of Jupiter, giving it a surface gravity of .16g. which (according to my amateur calculations) the same as the Moon. This does not seem right to me, but that's what it says.
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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by Lupine » Tue Sep 09, 2014 3:52 pm

^Yeah, that doesn't sound right.

Artificial construct maybe? :unsure:

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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by RJDiogenes » Tue Sep 09, 2014 10:40 pm

"That's no moon." That's certainly an intriguing thought. I can't imagine why anything only six times as massive as the Earth would be half the size of Jupiter.
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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by RJDiogenes » Sun Sep 14, 2014 8:20 pm

Courtesy of Maddie's Tumblr blog, here is some new research into Stonehenge. There's also a link to a BBC article and there is apparently a new BBC documentary on this that aired last Thursday. I'm hoping that it shows up on BBC America. It looks mighty interesting. Seems like a lot of new info has been brought to light about Stonehenge recently.
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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by Lupine » Mon Sep 15, 2014 4:03 pm

I'd like to see that documentary as well. Perhaps it might turn up on one of the PBS stations. Not too surprised by these discoveries though. I always figured it would take an extensive civilization to have made Stonehenge so there should be quite a bit of stuff to discover.

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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by RJDiogenes » Mon Sep 15, 2014 10:27 pm

Yeah, that Romantic notion of an isolated temple in the middle of a misty plain populated my silent druids performing arcane rituals is kind of going out the window. It's starting to seem more like city hall or something. I checked around On Demand today and it's nowhere yet.
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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by RJDiogenes » Mon Sep 22, 2014 10:41 pm

And I just remembered that we have a dedicated Mars Thread, so I moved all those posts. :blush:
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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by RJDiogenes » Wed Sep 24, 2014 11:32 pm

I just got this story in the latest Hubble site email. They're getting better at deducing specific properties of individual exoplanets and this one looks really interesting. Clear skies and lots of water. It's rather encouraging in light of some theories that other Earth-like planets would be generally too dry to support life. Apparently there are plenty of wet planets out there.
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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by Lupine » Mon Sep 29, 2014 4:30 pm

^I was never impressed with the dry world theories anyway. (sorry for not noticing this post sooner :blush: )

Meanwhile, an interesting article on Bad Astronomy about where we might find alien first. My internet is too slow to watch the video but it's a fascinating idea to think about.
My guesses: 1. Mars. It's the planet where most of our off-world assets are and one of the rovers or landers might spy something, like a fossil, that is obviously alien.
2. Comets. We're getting sample returns now and it something panspermia is correct there might be microorganisms hitching a ride. Though there's always a chance they could be very old terrestrial life.
3. Radio waves, though the article points out the problems with that.
4. Exo-planets with oxygen. The article mentions that oxygen could be produced by exotic non-life environs, but if we see multiple worlds with free oxygen that would almost be certain that life was involves in most.

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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by RJDiogenes » Mon Sep 29, 2014 10:49 pm

Lupine wrote:^I was never impressed with the dry world theories anyway. (sorry for not noticing this post sooner :blush: )
No problem. I do the same thing. Frequently. :lol:

This is a question I think about a lot (thus my story "Photo Finish"). My thinking more or less mirrors his. I think there's a very strong chance for life on Europa and near-certainty of fossilized evidence of life on Mars-- but it will be a very long time before we can find either, unless one of our rovers happily stumbles upon something very obvious. To detect radio signals, the aliens would almost certainly have to be directly broadcasting a message to us. It might be possible to deduce that radio waves from a planet are artificial, but there would be no content decipherable-- when I lived in Dorchester, we needed a roof antenna to pick up Boston stations, so I've never put much stock in the idea that aliens are watching I Love Lucy. Anyway, we have no idea what their broadcast standards are-- if America and Europe are incompatible, Earth and Alpha Centauri surely will be. If we detect a strong oxygen signature in the spectrum of an exoplanet, there may be some weird geological process responsible, but that's unlikely-- it will almost certainly be the result of life. As he said, people will argue about it, but it will pretty much convince me. And since our technology is rapidly reaching the point where we will be able to do such a spectral analysis, my money is on the oxygen.
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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by Lord_Plecostomus » Sat Oct 04, 2014 5:40 pm

Actually I think life will be discovered on Titan or another chemically-rich planet before Mars. That's live-life, not remains of life. I think all we'll find on Mars is what once was. Real living creatures will be found in environments vastly different than ours. Heck the gas-giants are more than likely teeming with life we just haven't looked. Wherever there are complex molecules, and heat... life will evolve. We learned that with the tube-worms around volcanic vents deep under the ocean!
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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by RJDiogenes » Sat Oct 04, 2014 7:21 pm

I agree, but the problem with oceans on icy moons or cloud-borne life in gas giants is that it is so hard to observe or get to. I think we're far more likely to stumble upon fossils on Mars first than to see a Europafish. In fact, it's possible that we already have.

And I wouldn't rule out Mars completely, either. There's that weird methane thing that goes on. I'm hoping MAVEN might shed some light on that.
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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by Lupine » Fri Oct 10, 2014 4:36 pm

Some really old cave art has been found on Sulawesi. This of course is sparking debate of just when humans starting doing art like this. The notion of some kind of neurological evolution taking place in Europe some 30,000 years ago is now defunct- and I never liked the idea in the first place. Researchers are now thinking that it probably dates back to Africa. Personally I think artwork probably predates modern humans and frankly I think there's more than enough evidence of it (it's been shown that Neandertals mixed pigments). I'm just waiting for some kind of artwork to be discovered that pre-dates moderns.

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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by Gary » Fri Oct 10, 2014 9:59 pm

You can have my Oxford comma when you pry it from my cold, dead, and lifeless hands.

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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by Lupine » Sat Oct 11, 2014 4:06 pm

^Interesting and not the 'welding' I was expecting from the title. Seams are so ubiquitous that it will be a little jarring to see clothes without them.
And someday in the future clothes will likely have simulated seams just for style.

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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by RJDiogenes » Sat Oct 11, 2014 7:56 pm

Ah, now I know why you've taken up welding. :D This kind of reminds me of that scene in "The Paradise Syndrome" where Miramanee can't figure out how to get Kirk out of his shirt, and has to rip it off. :lol:
Lupine wrote:Some really old cave art has been found on Sulawesi. This of course is sparking debate of just when humans starting doing art like this. The notion of some kind of neurological evolution taking place in Europe some 30,000 years ago is now defunct- and I never liked the idea in the first place. Researchers are now thinking that it probably dates back to Africa. Personally I think artwork probably predates modern humans and frankly I think there's more than enough evidence of it (it's been shown that Neandertals mixed pigments). I'm just waiting for some kind of artwork to be discovered that pre-dates moderns.
Undoubtedly, the neurological equipment to create art existed before outward migrations from Africa-- since we know that tool making and such occurred, and art is the other side of the intellectual coin from science. The problem is that we can only discover what survives, and very special conditions have to exist to preserve a work of art for 40,000 years. I'm sure there were many amazing things created outside of caves that are long gone and we will never know. :(
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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by Lupine » Fri Oct 31, 2014 4:29 pm

^There's another mention of art in this article about Neanderthals. Apparently this year evidence was found that they were producing rock art as well. And the article itself is pretty interesting, though it leaves out the odd phenomena that occurred with the advent of the Eve Theory.
In the late 60s and 70s, when many considered it plausible that Neanderthals contributed some ancestry to modern humans, they were often depicted as having language (though rudimentary) and culture. Aul's Clan of the Cave Bear was based off this view. However when the Eve Theory and early genetic tests seemed to indicate that Neanderthals might not have been closely related to us, the view on them changed radically. Researchers were seriously suggesting at times that Neanderthals didn't have language, or culture, or the ability for abstract thought. or even had less planning capabilities than chimps or even dogs.
Now further tests have shown that Neanderthals did contribute to the modern genome (including my 3.4%- I have to brag :D ) and the views have changed accordingly. I find it interesting that the moment that Neanderthals stopped being "us" it was automatically assumed that they were massively inferior, but when they became "us" again all those abilities were given back. I think it says a lot about our perception of the world.

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