Breaking science news and multimedia, heavy on astronomy and physics (and heavy on citing) New vids, pics, articles, and the occasional research post for http://researchblogging.org/ Join me on http://www.facebook.com/Astronasty for all the juicy in-between-posts picture sharing :)

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)"

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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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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

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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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Science Videos in the News: Volcanoes in Hawaii / Cassini Movie for IMAX

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A lil' Geology for you today:
Mount Kilauea in Hawaii has been erupting for 28 years straight.  Recently it's been getting especially grumpy and unruly.

Footage of the lava awesomeness today On New Scientist
"Time-lapse Tuesday: Hawaiian volcano light show"



Video Credit: New Scientist / USGS



Cassini, our spacecraft orbiting Saturn, was launched in '97, fell into Saturn's orbit in '04, and has been taking ridiculously amazing photographs of Saturn, its moons, and rings ever since.  
A movie is being made by Stephen Van Vuuren, for IMAX, called Outside In. It's essentially a high definition montage of the photographs taken by Cassini in sequential order, providing a visual journey through the eyes of our orbiter.
Here's a sample:  



5.6k Saturn Cassini Photographic Animation from stephen v2 on Vimeo.
Video Credit: Stephen Van Vuuren/NASA



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Saturday, March 5, 2011

Collection of Some New Exceptional Science and Tech Videos

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PLoS Blogs: Speakeasy Science posted two really cool videos today of science experiments in the classroom "The Amazing Exploding Classroom":
"Water Cooler Bottle Methanol Fireball"
Short and awesome.



Video Credit: Mad Physics

"Potassium Chlorate and Gummy Bear"
CAUTION: This video is quite loud once the experiment is underway.  You might want to turn down the volume.  It's worth it.



Video Credit: Wallsacc



Discover Blogs: Cosmic Variance posted an article today, 
"14 billion years in 7 minutes" featuring this video from TEDxYouth Castellija.  
This is a succinct presentation on cosmology, outlining the the basics with nice visuals and a focus on wonder.
"TEDxYouth@Castilleja - RISA WECHSLER"



Video Credit: YouTube User TedXYouth



BoingBoing posted a stunning video in their recent article: 
"Waterfall in Yosemite looks like it's on fire"
At first I was extremely skeptical.  As the video progresses, it's clearer that this seems to be a true phenomenon, and quite beautiful.



Video Credit: Yosemite National Park



Technical marvels abound these days.  Here's a video of an aerial drop of military trucks, flying off the back of an airplane.
Very intense.



Video Credit: Found on Gizmodo, "Trucks Flying Out of the Back of an Airplane Are Just as Awesome as They Sound"





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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Science Videos Round the Web: Mar. 2, 2011

The Sagan Series (pt. 1)  Beautiful.



Video Credit: NASA/ YouTube user Damewse | Found via Io9



Discovery News: Doomsday Asteroid



Video Credit: Discvoery News article "SHOULD THE CLUTTERED SKIES DEMOTE EARTH?"



VIDEO of that recent Solar Flare captured by NASA/SDO
"When a rather large-sized (M 3.6 class) flare occurred near the edge of the Sun, it blew out a gorgeous, waving mass of erupting plasma that swirled and twisted over a 90-minute period (Feb. 24, 2011)"



Video Credit: NASA/SDO | Found on their Flickr Site | directed there from Bad Astronomy

AGAIN, from a different perspective and different filtering:


TWINKLE from Science News on Vimeo.
The most powerful solar flare to erupt from the sun in more than four years can be seen in this video taken by the Solar Dynamics Observatory. The flare appears as a brief flash just below and to the right of center, about two seconds into the video.
Credit: NASA/SDO/SOHO



BBC has a great video on perspective, explaining just how small a nanometer is.  It's REALLY cool, but they won't allow me to embed it here.  Just go the their article, it's near the bottom: "Microscope with 50-nanometre resolution demonstrated"



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