Sci/tech

Tarantula Nebula
November 16, 2011 12:48 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

The Tarantula Nebula has an apparent magnitude of 8. Considering its distance of about 160,000 light years, this is an extremely luminous non-stellar object. Its luminosity is so great that if it were as close to Earth as the Orion Nebula, the Tarantula Nebula would cast shadows. In fact, it is the most active starburst region known in the Local Group of galaxies. It is also the largest such region in the Local Group with an estimated diameter of 200 parsecs. This spiderweb-like tangle of gas and dust is a star-forming region called 30 Doradus. It is one of the largest such regions located close to the Milky Way galaxy, and is found in the neighboring galaxy Large Magellanic Cloud. About 2,400 massive stars in the center of 30 Doradus, also known as the Tarantula nebula, are producing intense radiation and powerful winds as they blow off material. Multimillion-degree gas detected in X-rays (blue) by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory comes from shock fronts -- similar to sonic booms -- formed by these stellar winds and by supernova explosions. This hot gas carves out gigantic bubbles in the surrounding cooler gas and dust shown here in infrared light from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope (orange).

Weed Ray Guns
November 14, 2011 12:51 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Weed control is the botanical component of pest control, using physical and chemical methods to stop weeds from reaching a mature stage of growth when they could be harmful to domesticated plants and livestock. In order to reduce weed growth, many weed control strategies have been developed in order to contain the growth and spread of weeds. The most basic technique is plowing or manual weeding which cuts the roots of annual weeds. Today, chemical weed killers known as herbicides are widely used. So what is there a better way? The Air Force is requesting proposals/research topics to develop a device that uses directed energy technology to prevent and abate unwanted plants (weeds) in areas that require control or defoliation. The purpose of this system will be the removal of unwanted plants and keep seeds from germinating.

Federal Government Unveils New Comprehensive Geospatial Map of United States
November 14, 2011 10:40 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

A new map website created by the Federal Geographic Data Committee has been created and made available to the public. Its ease of use and depth of information may give a serious run on other established mapping sites such as Google Earth, Bing, or Mapquest. For professionals who need maps for work or the average geography enthusiast, the new website will be very useful. Currently in its prototype phase, the map offers multiple layers including the standard street map, aerial view, plus topo maps and terrain maps. The website then allows the user to create an editable layer to draw features on the map, add text, save and share the map.

Primordial Gas
November 14, 2011 09:23 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Before the first planet, before the first star, there had to be gas. For the first time, astronomers have found pristine clouds of the primordial gas that formed in the first few minutes after the Big Bang. The composition of the gas matches theoretical predictions, providing direct evidence in support of the modern cosmological explanation for the origins of elements in the universe. Only the lightest elements, mostly hydrogen and helium, were created in the Big Bang. Then a few hundred million years passed before clumps of this primordial gas condensed to form the first stars, where heavier elements were forged. Until now, astronomers have always detected metals (their term for all elements heavier than hydrogen and helium) wherever they have looked in the universe.

The First Stars
November 11, 2011 09:16 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

The very first stars in our universe were not the giants scientists had once thought, according to new simulations performed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. Astronomers grew stars in their computers, mimicking the conditions of our primordial universe. The simulations took weeks. When the scientists' concoctions were finally done, they were shocked by the results -- the full-grown stars were much smaller than expected.

The Environmental Benefits of Cloud Computing
November 9, 2011 03:03 PM - David A Gabel, ENN

A new report released by the Carbon Disclosure Project in London has found that blue-chip companies can reduce their carbon emissions by 50% if they move their data storage operations to the cloud. The study focused on major IT companies in France and the United Kingdom. These are the same companies which are also developing such "cloud" technologies and services. The release of the report follows an announcement that the use of cloud services may well triple within the next two years.

How Black Can It Be?
November 9, 2011 02:04 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

The color black is the absence of light and/or something that absorbs all light. Of course, there is nothing that is 100% black. NASA engineers have produced a material that absorbs on average more than 99 percent of the ultraviolet, visible, infrared, and far-infrared light that hits it -- a development that promises to open new frontiers in space technology. Black is the perfect stealth material. Black materials serve another important function on spacecraft instruments, particularly infrared-sensing instruments, added Goddard engineer Jim Tuttle. The blacker the material, the more heat it radiates away. In other words, super-black materials, like the carbon nanotube coating, can be used on devices that remove heat from instruments and radiate it away to deep space. This cools the instruments to lower temperatures, where they are more sensitive to faint signals.

After Images
November 8, 2011 03:36 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Here is a strange thought/illusion to consider. When we gaze at a shape and then the shape disappears, a strange thing happens: We see an afterimage in the complementary color. Now a Japanese study has observed for the first time an equally strange illusion: The afterimage appears in a complementary shape—circles as hexagons, and vice-versa. "The finding suggests that the afterimage is formed in the brain, not in the eye," the author, Hiroyuki Ito of Kyushu University, wrote in an email. More specifically, the illusion is produced in the brain’s shape-processing visual cortex, not the eye’s light-receiving, message-sending retina. The findings appear in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal published by the Association for Psychological Science.

The Lights of Really Distant Cities
November 7, 2011 08:25 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Light pollution is not something to be terribly happy about. Researchers from Princeton and Harvard universities now suggest a seemingly more straightforward method to see who is out there by seeing who's left the light on. Edwin Turner, a professor in Princeton's Department of Astrophysical Sciences, and Avi Loeb, professor and chair of Harvard's Department of Astronomy, have reported a technique that could detect alien civilizations by the artificial light that would emanate from their cities. Turner and Loeb's work, which presents a mathematical algorithm to detect and observe this artificial light from Earth, has been submitted to the journal Astrobiology.

Life on Mars
November 4, 2011 04:51 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

It has been speculated for centuries that life existed or once existed on Mars. A new NASA study suggests if life ever existed on Mars, the longest lasting habitats were most likely below the Red Planet's surface. A new interpretation of years of mineral-mapping data, from more than 350 sites on Mars examined by European and NASA orbiters, suggests Martian environments with abundant liquid water on the surface existed only during short episodes. These episodes occurred toward the end of a period of hundreds of millions of years during which warm water interacted with subsurface rocks. This has implications about whether life existed on Mars and how the Martian atmosphere has changed.

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