Posts tagged ‘Science’

Watch Out for the Blue Moon

August 29, 2012: When someone says “Once in a Blue Moon,” you know what they mean:  Rare, seldom, even absurd.

This year it means August 31st.

For the second time this month, the Moon is about to become full.  There was one full Moon on August 1st/2nd, and now a second is coming on August 31st.  According to modern folklore, whenever there are two full Moons in a calendar month, the second one is “blue.”

Cue up the Elvis records! “Blue Moon…. You saw me standing alone, without a dream in my heart, without a love of my own.” In song and literature, blue moons have long symbolized lost love and melancholy. Elvis set the standard for lunar heartbreak in his 1956 pop hit “Blue Moon.”

Watch Out for the Blue Moon (splash)

A new ScienceCast video explores the facts and myths of Blue Moons.

But will the moody Moon of August 31st actually turn blue?  Probably not.

Most Blue Moons look pale gray and white, indistinguishable from any other Moon you’ve ever seen.  Squeezing a second full Moon into a calendar month doesn’t change the physical properties of the Moon itself, so its color remains the same.

With that caveat in mind, however, be aware that on rare occasions it can happen.

A truly-blue Moon usually requires a volcanic eruption. Back in 1883, for example, people saw blue moons almost every night after the Indonesian volcano Krakatoa exploded with the force of a 100-megaton nuclear bomb. Plumes of ash rose to the very top of Earth’s atmosphere, and the Moon … it turned blue!

Krakatoa’s ash was the reason. Some of the plumes were filled with particles 1 micron wide, about the same as the wavelength of red light.  Particles of this special size strongly scatter red light, while allowing blue light to pass through. Krakatoa’s clouds thus acted like a blue filter.

People also saw blue-colored Moons in 1983 after the eruption of the El Chichon volcano in Mexico. And there are reports of blue Moons caused by Mt. St. Helens in 1980 and Mount Pinatubo in 1991.

Certain forest fires can do the same trick.  A famous example is the giant muskeg fire of Sept. 1953 in Alberta, Canada.  Clouds of smoke containing micron-sized oil droplets produced lavender suns and blue Moons all the way from North America to England.

There are plenty of wildfires burning in the hot, dry USA this month.  If any of them produce smoke with an extra dose of micron-sized particles, the full Moon might really turn blue.

On the other hand, maybe it will turn red.  Often, when the moon is hanging low, it looks red for the same reason that sunsets are red.  The atmosphere is full of aerosols much smaller than the ones injected by volcanoes.  Measuring less than a micron in diameter, these aerosols scatter blue light, while leaving the red behind. For this reason, red Blue Moons are far more common than blue Blue Moons.

Sounds absurd? Yes, but that’s what a Blue Moon is all about. Step outside at sunset on August 31st, look east at the moonrise, and see what color presents itself.

Source:- science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2012/29aug_bluemoon/

Cyborg tissue is half living cells, half electronics

They beat like real heart cells, but the rat cardiomyocytes in a dish at Harvard University are different in one crucial way. Snaking through them are wires and transistors that spy on each cell’s electrical impulses. In future, the wires might control their behaviour too.

Versions of this souped-up, “cyborg” tissue have been created for neurons, muscle and blood vessels. They could be used to test drugs or as the basis for more biological versions of existing implants such as pacemakers. If signals can also be sent to the cells, cyborg tissue could be used in prosthetics or to create tiny robots.

“It allows one to effectively blur the boundary between electronic, inorganic systems and organic, biological ones,” says Charles Lieber, who leads the team behind the cyborg tissue.

Artificial tissue can already be grown on three-dimensional scaffolds made of biological materials that are not electrically active. And electrical components have been added to cultured tissue before, but not integrated into its structure, so they were only able to glean information from the surface.

Bio-scaffolds go electric

Bioengineers at Harvard University have created the first examples of cyborg tissue: Neurons, heart cells, muscle, and blood vessels that are interwoven by nanowires and transistors. Source

Electrically inflamed

Lieber’s team combined these strands of work to create electrically active scaffolds. They created 3D networks of conductive nanowires studded with silicon sensors. Crucially, the wires had to be flexible and extremely small, to avoid impeding the growth of tissue. The scaffold also contained traditional biological materials such as collagen.

The researchers were able to grow rat neurons, heart cells and muscle in these hybrid meshes. In the case of the heart cells, they started to contract just like normal cells, and the researchers used the network to read out the rate of the beats.

When they added a drug that stimulates heart cell contraction, they detected an increase in the rate, indicating the tissue was behaving like normal and that the network could sense such changes.

Lieber’s team also managed to grow an entire blood vessel about 1.5 centimetres long from human cells, with wires snaking through it. By recording electrical signals from inside and outside the vessel– something that was never possible before– the team was able to detect electrical patterns that they say could give clues to inflammation, whether tissue has undergone changes that make it prone to tumour formation or suggest impending heart disease.

Commanding cells

“You could use these things to directly measure the effects of drugs in synthetically grown human tissue without ever having to test them in an actual human being,” says Lieber’s colleague Daniel Kohane. He also envisions tissue patches that could be added to the surface of a heart, say, to monitor for problems.

Vladimir Parpura, a neurobiologist at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, who was not involved in the study, suggests using the tissue to build tiny, biomimetic robots or implants that repair damaged tissue via electronic pulses.

So far, though, the researchers have only used the electrical scaffolds to record signals– they have yet to feed commands to cells. So Lieber’s next step is to add components to the nanoscaffold that could “talk” to neurons. He says the goal is to “wire up tissue and communicate with it in the same way a biological system does”.

Journal reference: Nature Materials, DOI: 10.1038/nmat3404

Hover vehicle flies into future

A resurrected hover vehicle won’t fly through dense forests as effortlessly as the “Star Wars” speeder bikes from “Return of the Jedi,” but its intuitive controls could someday allow anyone to fly it without pilot training.

The aerial vehicle resembles a science fiction flying bike with two ducted rotors instead of wheels, but originates from a design abandoned in the 1960s because of stability and rollover problems. Aerofex, a California-based firm, fixed the stability issue by creating a mechanical system — controlled by two control bars at knee-level — that allows the vehicle to respond to a human pilot’s leaning movements and natural sense of balance.

“Think of it as lowering the threshold of flight, down to the domain of ATV’s (all-terrain vehicles),” said Mark De Roche, an aerospace engineer and founder of Aerofex.

Such intuitive controls could allow physicians to fly future versions of the vehicle to visit rural patients in places without roads, or enable border patrol officers to go about their duties without pilot training. All of it happens mechanically without the need for electronics, let alone complicated artificial intelligence or flight software.

“It essentially captures the translations between the two in three axis (pitch, roll and yaw), and activates the aerodynamic controls required to counter the movement — which lines the vehicle back up with the pilot,” De Roche told InnovationNewsDaily. “Since [the pilot's] balancing movements are instinctive and constant, it plays out quite effortlessly to him.”

But Aerofex does not plan to immediately develop and sell a manned version. Instead, the aerospace firm sees the aerial vehicle as a test platform for new unmanned drones — heavy-lift robotic workhorses that could use the same hover technology to work in agricultural fields, or swiftly deliver supplies to search-and-rescue teams in rough terrain.

Even the soldiers or Special Forces might use such hover drones to carry or deliver heavy supplies in the tight spaces between buildings in cities. U.S. Marines have already begun testing robotic helicopters to deliver supplies in Afghanistan.

The hovering drones would not fly as efficiently as helicopters because of their shorter rotor blades, but their enclosed rotors have the advantage of a much smaller size and safety near humans.

“They are less efficient than a helicopter, which has the benefit of larger diameter rotors,” De Roche explained. “They do have unique performance advantages, though, as they have demonstrated flight within trees, close to walls and under bridges.”

Aerofex has currently limited human flight testing to a height of 15 feet and speeds of about 30 mph, but more out of caution rather than because of any technological limits. Older versions of the hover vehicles could fly about as fast as helicopters, De Roche said.

Flight testing in California’s Mojave Desert led to the presentation of a technical paper regarding Aerofex’s achievements at the Future Vertical Lift Conference in January 2012. The company plans to fly a second version of its vehicle in October, and also prepare an unmanned drone version for flight testing by the end of 2013.

Source:-   http://www.livescience.com/22523-hover-vehicle-star-wars.html

Two Suns? Twin Stars Could Be Visible From Earth By 2012

Earth could be getting a second sun, at least temporarily.

Dr. Brad Carter, Senior Lecturer of Physics at the University of Southern Queensland, outlined the scenario to news.com.au. Betelgeuse, one of the night sky’s brightest stars, is losing mass, indicating it is collapsing. It could run out of fuel and go super-nova at any time.

When that happens, for at least a few weeks, we’d see a second sun, Carter says. There may also be no night during that timeframe.

The Star Wars-esque scenario could happen by 2012, Carter says… or it could take longer. The explosion could also cause a neutron star or result in the formation of a black hole 1300 light years from Earth, reports news.com.au.

But doomsday sayers should be careful about speculation on this one. If the star does go super-nova, Earth will be showered with harmless particles, according to Carter. “They will flood through the Earth and bizarrely enough, even though the supernova we see visually will light up the night sky, 99 per cent of the energy in the supernova is released in these particles that will come through our bodies and through the Earth with absolutely no harm whatsoever,” he told news.com.au.

In fact, a neutrino shower could be beneficial to Earth. According to Carter this “star stuff” makes up the universe. “It literally makes things like gold, silver – all the heavy elements – even things like uranium….a star like Betelgeuse is instantly forming for us all sorts of heavy elements and atoms that our own Earth and our own bodies have from long past supernovi,” said Carter.

UPDATE: To clarify, the news.com.au article does not say a neutrino shower could be beneficial to Earth, but implies a supernova could be beneficial, stating, “Far from being a sign of the apocalypse, according to Dr Carter the supernova will provide Earth with elements necessary for survival and continuity.”

Source - Huffingtonpost.com

The article is reproduced in accordance with Section 107 of title 17 of the Copyright Law of the United States relating to fair-use and is for the purposes of criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.

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Wolf Moon Rising

Jan. 19, 2011 Upton, Lincolnshire, UK

 

It’s called the Wolf Moon because of folklore: northern Native Americans named it after packs of singing wolves they once heard during the winter month of January.

 

Source – Spaceweather.com

The article is reproduced in accordance with Section 107 of title 17 of the Copyright Law of the United States relating to fair-use and is for the purposes of criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.

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Astronomy Picture of the Day

The Once and Future Stars of Andromeda

Explanation: The big, beautiful Andromeda Galaxy, aka M31, is a spiral galaxy a mere 2.5 million light-years away. Two space-based observatories have combined to produce this intriguing composite image of Andromeda, at wavelengths outside the visible spectrum. The remarkable view follows the locations of this galaxy’s once and future stars. In reddish hues, image data from the large Herschel infrared observatory traces enormous lanes of dust, warmed by stars, sweeping along Andromeda’s spiral arms. The dust, in conjunction with the galaxy’s interstellar gas, comprises the raw material for future star formation. X-ray data from the XMM-Newton observatory in blue pinpoint Andromeda’s X-ray binary star systems. These systems likely contain neutron stars or stellar mass black holes that represent final stages in stellar evolution. More than twice the size of our own Milky Way, the Andromeda Galaxy is over 200,000 light-years across.

Credit and Copyright: ESA/Herschel/ PACS/SPIRE/J.Fritz(U.Gent) / XMM-Newton/EPIC/W.Pietsch(MPE)

Source – NASA.com

 

The article is reproduced in accordance with Section 107 of title 17 of the Copyright Law of the United States relating to fair-use and is for the purposes of criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.

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Astronomy Picture of the Day

Jets on the Sun

 

Explanation: Imagine a pipe as wide as a state and as long as the Earth. Now imagine that this pipe is filled with hot gas moving 50,000 kilometers per hour. Further imagine that this pipe is not made of metal but a transparent magnetic field. You are envisioning just one of thousands of young spicules on the active Sun. Pictured above is one of the highest resolution image yet of these enigmatic solar flux tubes. Spicules line the above frame of solar active region 11092 that crossed the Sun last month, but are particularly evident converging on the sunspot on the lower left. Time-sequenced images have recently shown that spicules last about five minutes, starting out as tall tubes of rapidly rising gas but eventually fading as the gas peaks and falls back down to the Sun. What determines the creation and dynamics of spicules remains a topic of active research.

 

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What in The World are They Spraying by G. Edward Griffin & Michael J. Murphy

 

Filmmaker Michael J. Murphy and G. Edward Griffin: What in the World Are They Spraying, a documentary that covers chemtrails and the rapidly developing industry called geo-engineering driven by scientists, corporations, and governments intent on changing global climate, controlling the weather, and altering the chemical composition of soil and water — all supposedly for the betterment of mankind. Michael J. Murphy is an independent journalist and political activist from the Los Angeles area whose work focuses on issues that go beyond the interest of the corporate mainstream media. G. Edward Griffin is an author, film producer, and political lecturer. Griffin founded Freedom Force International, a libertarian activist network, and is the other of numerous books, including the classic The Creature from Jekyll Island: A Second Look at the Federal Reserve.

 

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Solar Activity 2010

An enormous magnetic filament is perched directly above sunspot 1112 near the sun’s southeastern limb. If the filament collapses (as they often do) and hits the sunspot below, the resulting explosion could be impressive. Actually, it’s already impressive:

Dutch amateur astronomers Jo Dahlmans and Wouter Verhesen took the picture yesterday using a Lunt solar telescope. “We inverted (made negative) the sun’s surface for a stunning display of the snaking filament,” says Dahlmans. “In the distance you can see prominences dancing like flames along the limb of the sun. What a vista!”

more images: from Dave Gradwell of Birr, Ireland; from Jimmy Eubanks of Boiling Springs, SC; from Robert Arnold of Isle of Skye, Scotland; from James Kevin Ty of Manila, Philippines; from Michael Buxton of Ocean Beach, California; from Gianfranco Meregalli of Milano, Italy

The article is reproduced in accordance with Section 107 of title 17 of the Copyright Law of the United States relating to fair-use and is for the purposes of criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.

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SOHO catches a UFO?

It’s  genuine. It appears on NASA’s official SOHO website. See for yourself!

NASA.com /Search for Lasco C2 images. Start date 2010-10-10 and click down to 12:12 and…

Stop the video at 12:12 <easier on 480> if you can’t see it, try here on the Official NASA SOHO stream here – NASA.gov

The article is reproduced in accordance with Section 107 of title 17 of the Copyright Law of the United States relating to fair-use and is for the purposes of criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.

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