Breaking science news and multimedia, heavy on astronomy and physics (and heavy on citing) New vids, pics, articles, and the occasional research post for ResearchBlogging.org.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Top Pics and Vids in Science News Today: Mar. 28, 2011

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ESA posted an awesome video today on the Cryosat orbiter.  This satellite gathers information about the thickness or thinning of ice in the polar regions.  The video's editing looks like a dossier cutscene from a shooter videogame.  To top it off, the music is really cool.



Video Credit: ESA | embedding thanks to YouTube user Duzsmogo


NASA's Earth Observatory Image of the Day is stunning!
"Central Tien Shan, China"
"The Tien Shan—“celestial mountains” in Chinese—is one of the largest continuous mountain ranges in the world, extending approximately 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) roughly east-west across Central Asia." -William L. Stefanov, NASA-JSC
Click to embiggen.

Image Credit: NASA/JSC/ISS


Our Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn just released a new photograph of Saturn's moon Janus sitting in front Saturn's rings. 
"Janus in the Way"
"Saturn's moon Janus obscures part of the planet's A ring as the Cassini spacecraft looks toward the main rings and the thin F ring.  Janus (179 kilometers, or 111 miles across) appears as a dark oval to the left of the center of the image." -NASA
Picturesque!

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute


Universe Today just posted a beautiful pic in their article:
"Astrophoto: A Mexican Orion"
"This stunning new image of the Orion Nebula has a bit of salsa to it! César Cantú of the Chiledog Observatory in Monterrey, Mexico took this image earlier this month." -Universe Today

Image Credit: César Cantú


Last but not least, Hubble just released this week's new featured image, of Messier 12:
"Cluster’s Deceptive Serenity Hides Violent Past"
"The high concentration of stars within globular clusters, like Messier 12, shown here in an image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, makes them beautiful photographic targets." -NASA/ESA/Hubble
Click to embiggen, this pic is huge!


Image Credit:ESA/Hubble & NASA


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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Today's Slice of Beauty in the Cosmos: Mar. 27, 2011

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NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day today:
"Valles Marineris: The Grand Canyon of Mars"
"The largest canyon in the Solar System cuts a wide swath across the face of Mars. Named Valles Marineris, the grand valley extends over 3,000 kilometers long, spans as much as 600 kilometers across, and delves as much as 8 kilometers deep." -NASA
Click to embiggen.  This is my current computer wallpaper.

Image Credit: Viking Project, USGS, NASA


Earth Observatory's Image of the Day today is quite beautiful, almost like a painting:
"Tassili n’Ajjer National Park"
"Acquired during the year 2000, this false-color composite image shows the complex topography of Tassili n’Ajjer National Park in southeastern Algeria."-NASA
Click to embiggen.

Image Credit: Michael Taylor, Landsat Science Project Office. Caption by Michon Scott based on image interpretation by Michael Taylor.



Over on Starts With a Bang, one of my favorite blogs, this image of a starry night:
"Weekend Diversion: Seeing Anything New This Weekend?"
Click to embiggen.

Image Credit: NASA



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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Collection of Coolest Science Videos Recently: Mar. 26, 2011

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Yesterday on ScienceNews, an animation showing an almost hypnotic, fluid simulation based on a new theory of planetary development:
"Planets take shape in embryonic gas clouds"
"A radical new theory that planets are born within a massive veil of gas may help explain how recently discovered extrasolar planets developed their stunning diversity of sizes and locations." -ScienceNews


PLANETARY SWIRL from Science News on Vimeo.


Just Posted on Universe Today, a video from the Solar Dynamics Observatory, recent violent activity on the sun:
"Fireworks on the Sun"
"The Sun continues to be active! This movie from the Solar Dynamics Observatory starts at 11:35 UT on March 24, 2011 and goes through midnight." -Universe Today



Video Credit: NASA/SDO/YouTube user LittleSDOHMI


Astropixie shared a video with us today: a behind the scenes look at a telescope's instruments being built and the science behind their structure:
"KMOS on the very large telescope"
"A new telescope instrument called KMOS will use 24 tiny "pick off" mirrors to look at individual galaxies. It's being built in Scotland but will soon be fitted to the side of one of the giant telescopes at the VLT in Chile."-Backstage Science
7 minutes long.  If you have the spare time, it's fascinating.  Here's a still from it, showing the difference between infrared and visual light spectroscopy on an identical image:





Video Credit: Backstage Science


Hubble/ESA's Archive Video of the Day is an amazing 3d video. Short, sweet, and beautiful.
"Flying through a nebula (Artist's impression)"

Loading player...




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Friday, March 25, 2011

Doubt Arises Concerning New Scientist's Article on Trees Engulfed by Spiderwebs

Yesterday I posted the article by New Scientist: Short Sharp Science:
"Trees cocooned by spiders could reduce malaria risk

I noticed doubt has arisen
The blog Culturing Science expresses doubt concerning the veracity of the story that I posted yesterday.  New Scientist's article spoke of overwhelming numbers of spiders in the trees due to flooding, with a heartwarming end result (less malaria locally) that rounds out a formulaic structure.  Exaggeration from "acecdata," a word that Culturing Science is partial to (meaning data from anecdotes) may be to blame.  He explains how attractive news of this type can be.  The emotional draw, along with counter-intuitive results that seem sound, is a cocktail for interest.  Shaky data could be taken at face value by a journalist.  It's tempting, since this is a structure that can easily cause a story to spread quickly in popular news and social circles.

Image Credit: Russell Watkins/DFID

Here's his take: 
"The danger of appealing stories: anecdata, expectations, and skepticism"
He saw shaky data and took it with a grain of salt.  That's a good thing to point out.  For good measure, his article in turn should be taken with a grain of salt.  Actually lets get a round of salt for everyone!
It's is always a great idea to have a bit of skepticism.  



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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Another Handful of Cool Science Pics Today: Mar. 24, 2011

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Our X-Ray satellite, the Suzaku spacecraft, took this picture, shown in NASA's article:
"Suzaku Shows Clearest Picture Yet of Perseus Galaxy Cluster"
"This Hubble Space Telescope image shows NGC 1275, the galaxy located in the center of the Perseus Galaxy Cluster. The red threadlike filaments are composed of cool gas suspended by a magnetic field."-NASA
Click to embiggen, this is a large one.  It's my current computer wallpaper.

Image Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration)


New Scientist's Short Sharp Science features this ridiculous picture of trees completely taken over by spiderwebs:
"Trees cocooned by spiders could reduce malaria risk"
"Covered in spiders' webs, these cocooned trees in Sindh, Pakistan, are an unexpected result of floods that hit the region in 2010."-New Scientist

Image Credit: Russell Watkins/DFID


Finally, National Geographic's Breaking Orbit gives us a beautiful, serene picture in:
"Night Sky News: Ghostly Light Cone on the Rise"
"Ancient Romans thought this spooky haze was due to far-off campfires below the horizon, while the ancient Greeks said that it must be caused by distant volcanic eruptions."-National Geographic

Image Credit: ESO


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Today's Space Pics: Mar. 24, 2011

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Chandra released a new X-Ray photograph today in:
"Tycho's Supernova Remnant: Exploding Stars and Stripes"
"This image comes from a very deep Chandra observation of the Tycho supernova remnant, produced by the explosion of a white dwarf star in our Galaxy."-Chandra
Amazing. Click to embiggen.

Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Rutgers/K.Eriksen et al.; Optical: DSS

 Another view, showing the stripes of note:

Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Rutgers/K.Eriksen et al.


Just posted on Universe Today, an impressive artist impression in:
"Famous Binary Cygnus-X1 Displays First-Ever Polarized Emissions"
"Using the IBIS telescope onboard the European Space Agency’s INTEGRAL satellite, researchers have reported the first measurements of polarization from a black hole binary system, which comprises a black hole and a normal star orbiting around a common center of mass."-Universe Today

Image Credit: NASA / Honeywell Max-Q Digital Group / Dana Berry


A new image captured by SDO of a solar eruption that just occurred on March 19th.  Posted on Space.com's article today:
"Sun Eruption Creates Spectacular Plasma Tentacle"
"SDO captured this nicely rounded prominence eruption from March 19, 2011 as a prominence became unstable and erupted into space with a distinct twisting motion." -Space.com

Image Credit: NASA/SDO/GSFC


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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ode to the Brain: Awesome New Carl Sagan Autotune

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From the guy who first autotuned Carl Sagan in his viral video sensation, John Boswell aka Symphony of Science comes with a new installment.  Ode to the Brain is arguably the best yet.  I'm already hooked!



Video Credit: Symphony of Science / MelodySheep

It puts a huge grin on my face.


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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Today's Images from Space: Mar. 22, 2011

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NASA's APOD, Astronomy Picture of the Day:
"NGC 6384: Spiral Beyond the Stars"
"...this colorful telescopic view of spiral galaxy NGC 6384, about 80 million light-years away in the direction of the constellation Ophiuchus. At that distance, NGC 6384 spans an estimated 150,000 light-years." -NASA 
Click to embiggen.  This is a great widescreen computer wallpaper.

Image Credit: ESA, Hubble, NASA


Similar but different, NASA's Image of the Day:
"The North American Nebula"
"This swirling landscape of stars is known as the North America Nebula. In visible light, the region resembles North America, but in this new infrared view from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, the continent disappears."-NASA
These pictures today are huge, click to embiggen.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


Yesterday, New Scientist's Short Sharp Science got a hold of an incredible picture of Japan, at night, from space:
"Satellite snaps extent of Japan's post-quake blackout"
It might appear to be glowing with light, but this recently released image shows just how much of northern Japan was left without power the day after a powerful earthquake hit the country." -New Scientist

Image Credit: DMSP/NOAA

Finally, on Hubble's Archive Picture of the Day, from the spacecraft I so adore: 
"Light and Shadow in the Carina Nebula"
"The picture is a montage assembled from four different April 1999 telescope pointings with Hubble's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2, which used six different colour filters." -ESA/Hubble

Image Credit: NASA/ESA, The Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/STScI)



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Monday, March 21, 2011

Stop Everything! Brand New ESO Space Pictures Will Blow Your Mind

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The European Southern Observatory, ESO for short, regularly publishes a quarterly journal called The Messenger. 

This kind of a release is extremely exciting, providing previously unseen glimpses into new corners of the cosmos! 

The March issue, released online today, can be found HERE.  It contains a very exciting array of brand new telescopic imaging, some of which I'll happily share with you now.  Click any of the following images for their full resolution.  Many of the following are great computer wallpapers!

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Messier 78
"This new image of the reflection nebula Messier 78 was captured using the Wide Field Imager camera on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at the La Silla  Observatory, Chile and was awarded the first prize in ESO’s Hidden Treasures competition. Igor Chekalin from Russia uncovered the raw data for this image in ESO’s archives, processed the raw data with great skill and claimed first prize in
the contest." -ESO



Image Credit: ESO/Igor Chekalin


Monoceros R2
"Near-infrared colour image of the core of the nearby star formation region Monoceros R2 formed by combining VISTA images in the Y-, J- and Ks-bands. Monoceros R2 is part of a large  association of embedded high and intermediate mass star-forming regions, reflection nebulae and molecular clouds."-ESO

Image Credit: ESO


Four Antennas of ALMA
"Four antennas of the Atacama Large Millimeter/sub millimeter Array (ALMA) on the Chajnantor plateau profiled against the night sky. The Moon illuminates the scene on the right, while the Plane of the Milky Way stretches across the upper left." -ESO

Image Credit:ESO/Jose Francisco Salgado


Low-mass star-forming region NGC 6729
"The low-mass star-forming region NGC 6729 is shown in a VLT FORS1 colour composite of Hα and S ii exposures, processed by the second-prize winner Sergey Stepanenko." -ESO

Image Credit: ESO/S. Sepaneko


Sliver of Sunlight
"An image of a sliver of direct sunlight photographed from the International Space Station [ISS015-E-10471, 3 June 2007, courtesy of NASA]. This illustrates the colour of the light source that i­lluminates the eclipsed Moon at the boundary between the umbra and penumbra of the Earth’s shadow"... "We note that the darker, dirty yellow band dividing the troposphere from the stratosphere corresponds to the region of maximum ozone absorption and so demonstrates that the Chappuis band is visible without the use of a spectrometer!" -ESO



Image Credit: NASA/ISS


Pair of Galaxies NGC 3169 and NGC3166
"The colour image of the pair of galaxies NGC 3169 and NGC 3166, a field also containing the recent supernova SN 2003cg, obtained with the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope and processed by Igor Chekalin."-ESO

Image Credit: ESO/I. Chekalin


Aquila Molecular Cloud Complex as Observed with Herschel
"PACS-SPIRE colour composite"



Image Credit: ESO


3D Simulation of a Large-Scale Jet from a Nearby Young Star
"In this picture the bow shock has propagated roughly 400 milliarcseconds out from the jet engine (from Staff et al., 2010)."

Image Credit: ESO Staff et al., 2010



How awesome!


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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Vid: Human Mosaic of Space Shuttle / Pix: Mars and Synapses

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NASA employees last Friday gathered in the Kennedy Center's parking lot, making a Human Mosaic of a Space Shuttle.
I love stories like this, showing that scientists can have fun too. 



Video Credit: Found via Io9 | Posted by YouTube account NASAKennedy


An awesome image from NASA/JPL posted via PhysOrg's article:
"Image: Chasma Boreale, Mars"
"Chasma Boreale, a long, flat-floored valley, cuts deep into Mars' north polar icecap.  Its walls rise about 4,600 feet, or 1,400 meters, above the floor." -NASA/JPL

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU


Io9's article today, 
"The secret to making long-term memories" sports this artist's impression of synapses.  
Nice eye-candy!  Click to embiggen.  This is my current computer background.  It's a huge image, and works centered, scaled, or even stretched.  (mine is stretched and you can't tell)

Image Credit: TinEye Search points to Science Daily's Article giving credit to: iStockphoto/Sebastian Kaulitzki



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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Looking at the Bending of Light Around the Multiple Galaxy Collisions in "Pandora's Cluster"

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A new arXiv paper has been released analyzing Pandora's Cluster of galaxies.
"Creation of cosmic structure in the complex galaxy cluster merger Abell 2744"

As you can see from the paper's title, the technical name for Pandora's Cluster is Abell 2744.  This area of the sky is in a state of extreme cosmic violence.  We're witnessing a rare situation where there are multiple galaxies smashing into each other with multiple collisions.

A team of scientists have just taken more precise measurements of Pandora's Cluster.  Updated analysis of the data is the core purpose of the paper.  This new data is essentially a playground for astrophysicists and mathematicians. 

Image: Embedded in cited arXiv pdf, Fig 1. "The central field of Abell 2744 as revealed by VLT VRI imaging..."


The bulk of this analysis was focused on Gravitational Lensing.  By examining very carefully the bending of light around massive objects, you can further calculate the mass and location of the matter causing the lensing.  When you hear that scientists have found indirect evidence for Dark Matter, the biggest phenomena they're referring to is quantifiable gravitational lensing.  Light bends around matter, so the (dark) matter therefore has to be there when light is seemingly bent by nothing.  It's sneakily hiding from the light that we use to gather our cosmic information.

This has been seen in Pandora's Cluster, as shown in the paper.  Using gravity lensing, they map out Pandora's Cluster in more detail, inferring where the dark matter is.  Both the green and red circles here shows the inferred presence of dark matter in Pandora's Cluster.

The breakdown of what this image actually is, is fascinating:

Image: Embedded in cited arXiv pdf, Fig 7. 
"The different merging bodies in the field of Pandora’s cluster. The false-colour background is provided by HST/ACS, VLT and Subaru images..." "...Overlaid in cyan are the surface-mass density contours most concentrated in the ’core’ area and in magenta the more evenly-distributed X-ray luminosity contours. The positions of the dark matterclumps are indicated by the small circular green annuli, showing also an aggressive and a conservative error estimate on these positions. The small red circles show the position of the local overdensities in the gas distribution , associated with each individual dark matter clump. The white rulers show the separation between dark matter peaks and the bright clusters galaxies and local gas peaks."


 ArXiv is a publicly accessible website where scientists post academic papers.  New papers are submitted here for the world to see, often even before publication.  You can sometimes find a gem of a story on here a week or more before it pops up elsewhere online.  They are a 1st generation resource, written by the scientists themselves.  Let me point out that arXiv can be browsed over and read by non-academics.  True, some papers are incredibly dense with technical language, but others are almost entirely layman-friendly.  The more you learn about a certain field, the more you pick up and understand when reading these papers.  Plus, some of them, like this one, have really awesome pictures.

A final gem of a picture from the paper, illustrating the results of their strong lensing data:

Image: Embedded in cited arXiv pdf, Fig 2. "Shown as a continuous white line is the critical curve of the cluster as it is derived from the strong-lensing model. It assumes a source redshift zs = 2.0. Also shown are the approximate positions of the identified multiple-image systems..."





CITATION:
J. Merten, D. Coe, R. Dupke, R. Massey, A. Zitrin, E. S. Cypriano, N. Okabe, B. Frye, F. Braglia, Y. Jimenez-Teja, N. Benitez, T. Broadhurst, J. Rhodes, M. Meneghetti, L. A. Moustakas, L. Sodre Jr., J. Krick, & J. N. Bregman (2011). Creation of cosmic structure in the complex galaxy cluster merger Abell
2744 MNRAS arXiv: 1103.2772v1


ResearchBlogging.org

   
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Friday, March 18, 2011

Collection of Some Beautiful Science Pictures In Recent News: Mar. 18, 2011

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A helluva lot of incredible space released today. Eye candy all over the interwebs, I love it!

NASA today with a few beauts:
"Stars Gather in 'Downtown' Milky Way"
"The region around the center of our Milky Way galaxy glows colorfully in this new version of an image taken by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope." -NASA

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


From NASA's Lunar Science Institute today, a zoomed in photo of the northern polar region of the moon:
"LROC produces illumination map of the Moon's north pole."
"WAC illumination map, brighter tones represent areas with more illumination during a year" -NASA

Image Credit: ASA/GSFC/Arizona State University


Today, an artist's impression for a fascinating new development from Leuven University via PhysOrg's:
"Astronomers detect echoes from the depth of a red giant star"
"Today an international team of astronomers reports the discovery of waves inside a star that travel so deep that they reach the core." -Leuven University

Image Credit: SAp/CEA


Here's a still image I cropped from NASA's new video of Saturn's Moon Titan's Northern Polar Clouds
"Titan's Northern Polar Clouds"
Unbelievable that this is orbiting around Saturn isn't it!

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute


Last but not least, Discovery News hits us with an simulator's 3d modeling of Gravitational Waves emanating from the collision of two black holes, via their article:
"Gravitational Affairs: LIGO's Little Black Box"
"For the last several weeks, there have been whispers of excitement surrounding possible new results from the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Observatory (LIGO), a huge collaboration that has been searching space for gravitational waves since 2002." -Discovery News

Image Credit: MPI for Gravitational Physics/W.Benger-ZIB



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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Photo Collection: From Earth to Orbit and Beyond

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Today Jamie Hansen opens up her article "Out of the field, but still experimenting" on PLoS Blogs with this stunning picture:
"Midnight Sun in Barrow"

Image Credit: MarmotChaser via Flickr




Space.com has a Slideshow today of photographs taken by Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli while in space.  Here are some of the best:

"Canada Ice"
"The icy landscape of northern Canada takes center stage in this Jan. 11, 2011" -Space.com

Image Credit:ESA/NASA/Paolo Nespoli

"Earth's Cloud Sculptures"
"Some amazing wispy clouds as seen on Jan. 16, 2011 from the International Space Station"-Space.com

Image Credit:ESA/NASA/Paolo Nespoli

"Eerie Aurora"
"Aurora Borealis. Surreal!" -Paolo Nespoli

Image Credit:ESA/NASA/Paolo Nespoli


Over at Io9 today in "A spiral galaxy that’s on a collision course with Andromeda — and with our own" you can see a "face on" picture of galaxy M-33. 
Perfect positioning, from our viewpoint, for photographs.

Image Credit: Ted Wolfe



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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Despite Mounting Fears, Our Future is Nuclear Fusion: Point and Counterpoint

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Nuclear fission reactors are building up quite a bad reputation at the moment.  Instead of dissecting the flaws and strengths of our current nuclear power plants, I like to focus on the near future, perhaps as close as the 2030's, where nuclear FUSION plants might reign.  With fusion technology, nuclear plants vastly different than the current fission nuclear plants will produce essentially no waste, and remove the global reliance on fossil fuels.  There's an overwhelming safety advantage in fusion reactors.  In case of emergency such as in Japan after the tsunami, stopping the fusion process is as easy as flipping a switch. 

The snowballing chance of nuclear meltdown that we're currently dealing with in the case of Japan's fission plants is only inherent with fission reaction, and not applicable with fusion.

Fission is the splitting of an atom's nucleus, where as fusion is literally fusing two separate nuclei into a single heavier atom.  This phenomenon is the same phenomenon that the Sun and other stars employ, causing them to shine.  The process releases a truly tremendous amount of clean energy.

A clear and succinct idea of the fission process can be found quoting from the Institute of Particle Physic's Michael Dittmar in his scientific paper on arXiv, "The Future of Nuclear Energy: Facts and Fiction: An update using 2009/2010 Data" Cite:See Bottom

Dittmar on Fission:
"Nuclear energy is released by the neutron induced fission of the uranium isotope U235, 0.71% of natural uranium, and the plutonium isotope Pu239. The released energy per nuclear fission reaction is about a hundred million times larger than in any chemical molecular reaction. The released fission energy is carried by the fission products and is then transferred to water molecules by elastic collisions within the reactor. The resulting heated water is used, similar to fossil fuel
power stations, to produce electric energy..."

Investment in fusion power plants is an investment in the holy grail to the energy crisis.  To quote the video posted below,
"As little as 2 liters of water and 250 grams of rock are enough to cover a European family's demand for electrical energy for an entire year."

Mind you, streamlined and finalized fusion plant technology is not quite there yet.  However, when it comes, it will be here to stay.  Research and development are making strides, but funding is causing problems.

Dittmar speaks negatively on a leading project in the field, the ITER plasma physics project:
"The 2009 and 2010 news about the ITER plasma physics project, known also as the path to commercial nuclear fusion energy, a multi billion dollar/euro dream project of all larger countries, demonstrates that it is becoming nothing short of a financial nightmare for high level powerful bureaucrats and politicians in Brussels and elsewhere."

Variety of Projects:
As he points out though, there are other projects running with the same basic goal.  Different developing technologies employ an interesting variety of resources, from extraction of materials from simple water and stone found everywhere, (which you will see in the video posted below) to the extraordinarily rare Helium 3, found most plentifully on the moon of all places.

Dittmar has little faith in nuclear fusion.  The paper focuses on fission reactors of many different flavors and corresponding analysis of input/output.  In regards to fusion, he provides a cynical counter-opinion to mine:
"We can thus safely predict that the belief in commercial nuclear fusion on our planet will end once the younger generation of scientists sees that plasma fusion research is a dead end career path and turns its talents to other research projects."

With optimism for fusion's potential, this 10 minute video by the German Institute for Plasma Physics shows the research in progress and explains a great deal.
After watching it, it's hard to imagine Dittmar's vision of our future scientists adopting a defeatist attitude toward the technology.



Video Credit: Institute for Plasma Physics, Germany. | YouTube user stevibd1

Mounting fear is rising surrounding nuclear technology.  In coming years, we will have to educate the public in the phenomenal difference between fusion and fission in order for politics and funding to continue with confidence and turn the vision of this new technology into a reality.

If all goes right...
Bye bye fossil fuel!  Bye bye nuclear fission!
Hello Nuclear Fusion!
Let's stride forward.  Our future is as bright as the sun!

CITATION:
Michael Dittmar (2011). The Future of Nuclear Energy: Facts and Fiction: An update using
2009/2010 Data arXiv arXiv: 1101.4189v1



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ResearchBlogging.org

Astronomy Pictures in the News (late night edition) Mar. 15, 2011

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From http://www.spacetelescope.org/ , a new Hubble picture of the Tarantula Nebula
"Hubble has taken this stunning close-up shot of part of the Tarantula Nebula. This star-forming region of ionised hydrogen gas is in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small galaxy which neighbors the Milky Way." -ESA / Hubble Information Centre
Absolutely Gorgeous! Click to embiggen.

Image Credit: NASA/ESA


Today on Space.com's article, "Excitement Builds as NASA Spacecraft Nears Mercury" there's a great artist's conception of the Messenger Spacecraft in orbit around Mercury. 
It's almost there, and will be falling into orbit on Thursday.  I'm highly anticipating the info and pictures we'll be getting soon!

Image Credit: NASA


Another awesome artist's impression, this of exoplanet GJ 1214b, in Universe Today's article:
"Exoplant May Have Metal-Rich Atmosphere"
"Discovered by the MEarth Project in 2009, [GJ 1214b] orbits an M dwarf in Ophiuchus in a tight orbit, swinging the planet around every 1.6 days." -Universe Today

Image Credit: ESO/L. Calçada


And finally, an awesome (non embeddable) video from NASA, showing us some great shots of the moon.  
Check it out HERE.  
A great image was included together with this press release and can be seen below.

Image Credit: NASA/LRO/LOLA Science Team


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Monday, March 14, 2011

In Physics, Is Everything Predictable? Actually No.

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My awesome barista Devin Elise, this is for you!

When the science of quantum mechanics really solidified in the 1920's, there was a huge upheaval in science.  Everything has a cause and effect in macroscopic physics, and results are totally able to be calculated and predicted (if you know all values for environmental factors).  The upheaval was that, on a quantum level, this was shown not to apply.  Instead of predictably, at this scale there's only probability (as a wave function) that a particle will be located at any specific spot.  It's one of my favorite science facts, partly because it's so counter intuitive.

This video by Sixty Symbols explains the Wave Function wonderfully.



Video Credit: Sixty Symbols (I'm a huge fan of that site)
 
This is a great example of a provable scientific concept that provides me with more wonder than any pseudoscience used to, when growing up as a wee gullible lad. 



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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Some Beautiful and Mysterious Scientific Eye-Candy in Recent News

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Earth Snapshot has an especially beautiful satellite image of 
"Vegetation Index of Cuba and the Bahamas"
"A small section of the coast of Florida, USA, can also be seen west of the Bahamas." -Earth Snapshot
This is my current computer background.  It's almost big enough to fill my rather large screen, but it works well enough.

Image Credit: Chelys srl



I ventured into the back alleys of the interwebs today, specifically Fox News AHHHHH!  For the record, I distrust and dislike Fox News.  Regardless, their article today, "NASA to Visit Mysterious Mercury Next Week" sports a ridiculously beautiful image of Mercury:
"This image released by NASA shows an enhanced photo image of Mercury from its Messenger probes 2008 flyby of the planet." -Fox News

Image Credit: AP Photo/NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Arizona State University/Carnegie Institution of Washington


And finally, a follow up to a topic I wrote about months ago:  It used to be seen as a solid fact that isotopes have an exact and unchanging decay rate.  Recent research has shown that the position of the Earth in relation to the sun and, solar activity in general, directly impacts decay rate.  Mind you, it's a minuscule change, and I have yet to come across anyone mentioning that this could invalidate the estimated ages we have calculated for carbon dating (and all isotope based measurements of age). 
This video posted on Discovery News in today's article: "THEMIS Tracks the Origins of Solar Substorms" explains the phenomenon.  Very interesting indeed.



Video Credit: Discovery News

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