Science Tidbits 3

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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by RJDiogenes » Sat Jan 17, 2015 7:35 pm

Lupine wrote:Speaking of planets, Bad Astronomy has an article on a segment from QVC. I saw the clip on the Rachel Maddow Show Thursday night and it is simultaneously hilarious and depressing, though Phil Plait is fairly diplomatic about it.
Yeah, very diplomatic. I don't recall ever hearing any scientific debates about whether or not the Moon is a star. :lol: It often horrifies me how ignorant the general public is. I'm wondering if those people even know what the Earth is.
And in other planetary news, here's an article about the possibility of super-earth sized planets beyond Neptune. I really hope that this is the case. First off it would be seriously cool, and also I'd love to see the IAU try to justify classifying a body 10-times Earth mass as a "Dwarf Planet"/asteroid (come on IAU, will you guys clean this mess up already).
That would be fantastic. :D And I love how Phil Plait was a lot less diplomatic about that stupid definition. He's a lot less forgiving of professionals-- as he should be.
Though the theory that Sedna might have been captured from another star would be cool as well.
How would they classify that, I wonder. A Step-Planet? :lol:
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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by Lupine » Sat Jan 17, 2015 7:43 pm

It would be classified as a "Step-Dwarf Planet, that's an Asteroid, but we'll call it a Dwarf Planet because we don't like Pluto".

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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by RJDiogenes » Sun Jan 18, 2015 9:41 pm

Biggest asteroid EVUH! :lol:
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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by Lord_Plecostomus » Wed Jan 21, 2015 5:45 pm

Been reading up on the Shuttle program and the missteps that lead to what we had.

Originally it was envisioned as an inexpensive freight-truck that could deliver a payload, land, be refurbished in 2-3 weeks and re-launched. As designed it was little more than a cockpit, engines, cargo-bay and wings. It was designed so we could build HUNDREDS of them.

Then NASA wanted it to have science capabilities, so they installed living quarters of a sort and a second deck. Then the Air Force came up with a list of demands regarding the engines, flight profile and the heat-shield.

All of these things took away from the original "space truck" concept and made the shuttle heavy and complex... Thanks to certain requirements tacked on at the last moments of the design work what would have been able to be refurbished in a month would now take far longer and be much more expensive.

In other words NASA put all it's eggs in one basket. Instead of developing complimentary technologies such as Apollo-style single use pods for certain missions, they built a ship that could do everything sort of and nothing very well.

This is why we are going back to pods. Individual pods can be tailored to specific missions. Military wants a special pod they can build one. Science community wants a lab-pod, they can build one. Each pod will be a fraction of the cost of a single shuttle launch and far safer too.

It seems on the surface to be a step back, but it's actually a huge leap forward.
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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by Lupine » Wed Jan 21, 2015 11:38 pm

One of the books I have details the early days of the Shuttle design. It indicated that NASA budget cuts also took their toll on the program.

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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by RJDiogenes » Thu Jan 22, 2015 12:07 am

A perfect example of too many cooks spoiling the soup. NASA, Congress, the military. So we ended up with a ship that (while amazing) did nothing very well. And now we have nothing at all. Letting the private sector develop vehicles is the smartest thing they've done in a long time.
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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by Lord_Plecostomus » Thu Jan 22, 2015 3:26 am

RJDiogenes wrote:A perfect example of too many cooks spoiling the soup. NASA, Congress, the military. So we ended up with a ship that (while amazing) did nothing very well. And now we have nothing at all. Letting the private sector develop vehicles is the smartest thing they've done in a long time.
Lupine wrote:One of the books I have details the early days of the Shuttle design. It indicated that NASA budget cuts also took their toll on the program.
The shuttles did some amazing things, don't get me wrong. But they were based on the best technology the 1970s could apply to a design first put forward in the 1960s. By the time it was ready the basic design was actually decades behind. Thanks to the way the government works though NASA was locked into this one program and could not develop/deploy anything else.

It quickly became too expensive to build too. Columbia was actually a Static Test Module, was never intended to fly. Atlantis, Discovery and Challenger were the production units and once the last was built the tooling was largely set aside -- NASA wanted 16 of them but in the end never got more than four.

Well that's all behind us now, with the new lower-cost technologies and commercial-space-programs we are in for some interesting times!
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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by RJDiogenes » Thu Jan 22, 2015 11:11 pm

I certainly hope so. I think private space technology is in the same place where home computing was in the early 80s-- at some point in the next couple of decades it will reach a critical threshold and take off. It's too bad Heinlein didn't live to see it.
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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by Lupine » Wed Jan 28, 2015 5:07 pm

Looks like some really old planets have been discovered. Interesting as these are a bit smaller and Earth as well.
There's also talk of the Fermi Paradox and while aliens haven't visited Earth yet. Personally I don't we have enough data right now to even contemplate the idea, as fun as it might be. There are really too many variables at work with environment, evolution, and even the psychology of alien life to really give a guess on what is happening.
But it will be fun to find out.

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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by RJDiogenes » Wed Jan 28, 2015 11:30 pm

I think the answer to the Fermi Paradox is a combination of the odds-- life is very common, multicellular life is much rarer, and intelligence is much rarer than that-- and the immense distances between stars-- the cost in resources, no matter the economy used by the aliens, would be huge (plus the commitment in time-- whether you use a generation ship or engineer your people to be long lived, it's going to take a long time).

These little old planets are fascinating, though. I wonder what they're made of. As he says, the universe had a lot less heavy material back in those days. Of course, there is also the possibility that these planets formed later, when the star passed through a younger nebula or something.
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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by Gary » Sat Jan 31, 2015 12:51 am

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 RJDiogenes » Sun Feb 01, 2015 7:42 pm

That's a nice effect. The "pictures around corners" effect is even more amazing. It won't be long before we see that in a James Bond movie. :D

In other news, Hubble scientists have discovered a Loopy Galaxy. I like the sound of that. :loopy: :D
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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by Lupine » Mon Feb 02, 2015 4:34 pm

RJDiogenes wrote:That's a nice effect. The "pictures around corners" effect is even more amazing. It won't be long before we see that in a James Bond movie. :D
I'm certain we'll see it in some movie pretty soon.
In other news, Hubble scientists have discovered a Loopy Galaxy. I like the sound of that. :loopy: :D
Imagine what the night skies on worlds in that galaxy look like. :eek:

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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by RJDiogenes » Mon Feb 02, 2015 11:23 pm

Yeah, I often wonder what the sky must look like on other planets. Like that solar system with the three Earth-sized planets all squeezed into the habitable zone, and years only a few months long. Must be very cool.

My Exoplanet app finally notified me of the solar system with the five ancient planets. They're slowing down.
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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by Lupine » Fri Feb 06, 2015 5:07 pm

An interesting article on Space.com about what might happen after we find life beyond Earth.
The author is right that it will likely be a drawn-out process, short of aliens landing at the White House. Even when evidence of life is found on Mars or Europa it will possible that we will be distantly related to them. The one thing I wonder about in the event we find truly alien life, is that it could be intelligent and we may not realize it at first. It's unsettling to think about the blunders we might make if we're not careful. :unsure:

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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by RJDiogenes » Fri Feb 06, 2015 11:53 pm

That's going to be an extremely interesting book.

It will very likely be a drawn-out process, that is true. And there are so many ways that we could find evidence of life. And most of them would be denied by the same people who deny evolution and the benefits of vaccination. Fossils on Mars or elsewhere in the Solar System would be denied. Evidence of oxygen on an exoplanet would be denied. A transmission from a technological civilization would be denied (and would probably take forever to translate anyway). Even among rational people, there would likely be a difference of opinion, simply on the basis of extraordinary claims needing extraordinary proof. As it is, there is not-inconsiderable evidence of past or present life on Mars-- but I don't accept it as definitive as yet. I sometimes wonder what I would accept-- there is likely always going to be some measure of doubt, unless we find some actual wriggling bit of protoplasm or an incontrovertible email from the stars. I do, however, believe that the evidence will quickly escalate over the next decade or so.
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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by Lupine » Thu Feb 26, 2015 5:00 pm

We're getting some updates on Ceres!
At first glance it doesn't look like a particularly interesting world. But if BA is correct there might be a lot of water there.

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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by RJDiogenes » Thu Feb 26, 2015 11:27 pm

Ah, at last! That's a great picture already; I can't wait to see the close-ups. Looks like Dawn reaches orbit a week from tomorrow. :D While I'd like to think that the shiny spots are the remains of a crashed spaceship, it does seem to prove that Ceres is a big sponge. It might end up being a good target for a colony.
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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by Lupine » Tue Mar 03, 2015 5:05 pm

More coolness from Ceres!

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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by RJDiogenes » Tue Mar 03, 2015 11:07 pm

It seems to have a few fairly bright spots on it. He's probably right that they represent exposed ice. But it's weird how that really bright spot just seems to appear in the middle of the animation rather than rotate into view-- it does rotate out of view.
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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by Lupine » Tue Mar 03, 2015 11:31 pm

^Maybe it has something to do with the movement of the spacecraft itself. :conf:

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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by RJDiogenes » Wed Mar 04, 2015 11:21 pm

Maybe. I've been picking apart the layers in Photoshop and it's kind of odd. The spots continue to glow after the floor of the crater is in shadow-- in fact, after the crater has passed the terminator. It's giving the impression of something three-dimensional that is actually taller than the rim of the crater. If that's the case, the only reason I can think of for it to suddenly spring into view like that is if it is only shiny on one side, and dull on the other side and the top. And both spots behave pretty much the same way. The brightest dot is right in the center of the crater, so it might represent that central peak that you get in some craters.

But it's reminding me of 2001 a bit. :unsure:
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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by RJDiogenes » Sat Mar 07, 2015 8:12 pm

Dawn successfully entered Ceres orbit yesterday. :bounce:

Or would that be Ceresian orbit? :unsure:

Anyway, the bad news is that it apparently won't be able to start sending pictures until April 23rd. :mellow:
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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by Lupine » Sat Mar 07, 2015 10:22 pm

I was going to post about that yesterday but got overly busy with other stuff. Wonder why there's a delay with the pics? :conf:

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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by RJDiogenes » Sun Mar 08, 2015 12:38 am

The article I read just said that it was passing behind Ceres, but I find it hard to believe that it will be in a radio shadow for a month and a half.
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