Sci/tech

Mars Science Laboratory launches, on its way to Mars
November 27, 2011 08:16 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

Yesterday, NASA began a historic voyage to Mars with the launch of the Mars Science Laboratory, which carries a car-sized rover named Curiosity. Liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard an Atlas V rocket occurred at 10:02 a.m. EST. "We are very excited about sending the world's most advanced scientific laboratory to Mars," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. "MSL will tell us critical things we need to know about Mars, and while it advances science, we'll be working on the capabilities for a human mission to the Red Planet and to other destinations where we've never been." The mission will pioneer precision landing technology and a sky-crane touchdown to place Curiosity near the foot of a mountain inside Gale Crater on Aug. 6, 2012. During a nearly two-year prime mission after landing, the rover will investigate whether the region has ever offered conditions favorable for microbial life, including the chemical ingredients for life. "The launch vehicle has given us a great injection into our trajectory, and we're on our way to Mars," said Mars Science Laboratory Project Manager Peter Theisinger of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "The spacecraft is in communication, thermally stable and power positive."

Silk Versus Synthetic Fibers
November 23, 2011 11:07 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Scientists at Oxford University and The University of Sheffield have demonstrated that natural silks are a thousand times more efficient than common plastics when it comes to forming fibers. A report of the research is published this week in the journal Advanced Materials. The finding comes from comparing silk from the Chinese silkworm to molten high density polyethylene (HDPE) - a material from which the strongest synthetic fibers are made. The researchers used polarized light shining through a disk rotating over a plate to study how the fibers are formed as the two materials are spun.

The Chevrolet Carbon Stories, Part 3 Metrolina Greenhouse
November 22, 2011 04:50 PM - R Greenway, ENN

It's no secret that all buildings, whether residential or business, need energy for heat. No building is a better example than a greenhouse, which traditionally uses fossil fuels to create enough heat to grow plants. That's a lot of energy expended. But what if we can substitute fossil fuel for biomass, especially waste wood or tree trimmings / waste from forests in place of fossil fuels? As part of its Carbon Reduction Initiative, Chevrolet is supporting Metrolina Greenhouse in North Carolina. Metrolina grows over 70 million plants a year and is one of four greenhouse projects from the same developer that is utilizing biomass burners for heating the greenhouse instead of fossil fuel burners. The greenhouses grow plant materials that are shipped all over the U.S. The biomass fuel is mostly wood that would otherwise be destined for the landfill, or low value wood from forest thinnings. This type of biomass meets the United Nation's Clean Development Mechanism’s "Definition of Renewable Biomass." This project will reduce fossil fuel consumption, divert waste from landfills and improve the quality of air for the community surrounding it.

Explosives in Your Shoes
November 22, 2011 12:24 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

For those who fly the ritual of standing barefoot waiting to be scanned as your shoes are intimately examined for explosives, is a common airport mishap. The ability to efficiently and unobtrusively screen for trace amounts of explosives on airline passengers could improve travel safety – without invoking the ire of inconvenienced fliers. Toward that end, mechanical engineer and fluid dynamicist Matthew Staymates of the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and colleagues have developed a prototype air sampling system that can quickly blow particles off the surfaces of shoes and suck them away for analysis.

Exoplanet Count to 700
November 21, 2011 11:45 AM - Andy Soosm ENN

One can look up and count the stars that can be seen. Finding exoplanets orbiting these stars is a different matter because they cannot be seen by the naked eye. There are two main counters of the exoplanents: NASA and the European count. NASA is more conservative while Europe will include the new exoplanet when it is announced. So Europe will also be slightly more. The count topped 500 in November 2010, and it passed 600 just two months ago when scientists with the European Southern Observatory announced 50 newfound planets, including one super-Earth that might be a good candidate for hosting life. Now it is 700.

Galactic Process
November 18, 2011 08:14 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

New observations by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope are expanding astronomers' understanding of the ways in which galaxies continuously recycle immense volumes of hydrogen gas and heavy elements. This process allows galaxies to build successive generations of stars stretching over billions of years. This ongoing recycling keeps some galaxies from emptying their fuel tanks of interstellar gas and stretches their star-forming epoch to over 10 billion years.

Starving Bacteria
November 17, 2011 04:52 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Though it was known in the nineteenth century that bacteria are the cause of many diseases, no effective antibacterial treatments were available back then. In 1910, Paul Ehrlich developed the first antibiotic. Bacteria are also notorious for existing antibiotic treatments. A new study is showing that bacteria that are starving tend to resist antibiotics better. During an infection there is a tendency to starve bacteria under certain conditions. How can this be reversed? "Bacteria become starved when they exhaust nutrient supplies in the body, or if they live clustered together in groups know as biofilms," said the lead author of the paper, Dr. Dao Nguyen, an assistant professor of medicine at McGill University.

How Apple’s Product Design Reduces Carbon Footprint
November 17, 2011 07:57 AM - Gustavo Grad, Sierra Club Green Home

Apple products come in black, white—and green, says the company's environmental Web page: "Apple reports environmental impact comprehensively. We do this by focusing on our products: what happens when we design them, what happens when we make them, and what happens when you take them home and use them."

Gamburtsev Mountain Birth
November 17, 2011 07:30 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

The Gamburtsev Mountain Range (also known as the Gamburtsev Subglacial Mountains) is a subglacial mountain range located in Eastern Antarctica. The current speculated age of the range is over 34 million years[6] and possibly 500 million years. The birth of the Gamburtsev Subglacial Mountains buried beneath the vast East Antarctic Ice Sheet — a puzzle mystifying scientists since their first discovery in 1958 — is finally solved. The remarkably long geological history explains the formation of the mountain range in the least explored frontier on Earth and where the Antarctic Ice Sheet first formed. The findings are published this week in the journal Nature

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).

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