A huge section of the Thermosphere recently contracted. According to John Emmert of the Naval Research Lab, "This is the biggest contraction of the thermosphere in at least 43 years". The Thermosphere has been known to contract during periods of the solar minimum. The contraction happens in response to a lack of Extreme Ultraviolet Light (EUV). EUV normally heats the thermosphere causing it to expand. It is also thought that the increase in CO2 could be having a radiant cooling effect on the Thermosphere which caused it to shrink and collapse. However, both of these effects are not expected to cause the thermosphere to contract to the level that has been observed. In short, a third unknown cause is presumed to be at work.
The nation of India has developed a $35 touch screen computer. Thus far they have not found a manufacturer for the device. If it is manufactured, it will also be subsidized by the government so that students can purchase it. The computer runs on Linux.
Recent research reveals that our Sun is not likely to have a companion star. In 1984 this proposed companion star was named Nemesis. Nemesis was proposed as an explanation of the roughly 27 million year cycle of mass extinction that occurs on planet Earth. The idea was that companion brown dwarf star (ie, Nemesis) would be in an orbit that would occasionally attract a high number of asteroids and comets from deep outer space. These asteroids and comets would occasionally meet up with the Earth's surface and cause mass extinction. The recent research by Adrian Melott and Richard Bambach, however, shows that the orbit necessary for this to happen is not possible.
NASA is currently looking for ways to expand the scope of robotics in space. Their current plans include robotic engines, probes, fueling depots, and a humanoid helper robot. These robotic projects are expected to help NASA increase it's scope of operations. The robots may be instrumental in an asteroid visit or mars landing.
Below is a humanoid robot, Robonaut2 (R2), which may eventually be found on the International Space Station (ISS).
Below is the robotic X-37 space plane. This plane will be capable of operating in earth's orbit for an unspecified amount of time and return for a landing on earth.
This is a video of a UAV being taken down by laser over the coast of California. It is a 50kW laser created by Raytheon. It was created by bolting together six bog-standard commercial lasers used in the car industry. It is small enough to be mounted on trailers or ships.
In a recent study at the University of Buffalo, it was shown that a worm can be remotely controlled using magnetic fields. This was done by getting nanoparticles tp attach to cell membranes. The nanoparticles in question had the property of heating up in response to a magnetic field. This works to remotely control the worm because the ion channel of the cell membrane will open immediately in response to a certain temperature. In the case of the observed worms it was about 93°F. In humans this response is generated at about 122°F
NASA and NOAA have predicted that the next solar cycle, dubbed Solar Cycle 24, will peak in May 2013 with the lowest number of sun spots since 1928. Predictions are for a sunspot number around 90 during the next solar maximum compared to 78 in 1928.
The sunspot number is based on a calculation rather than actual observations. According to spaceweather.com, "As a rule of thumb, if you divide either of the official sunspot numbers by 15, you'll get the approximate number of individual sunspots visible on the solar disk if you look at the Sun by projecting its image on a paper plate with a small telescope."
In preparation for the upcoming solar maximum, groups such as the International Living with a Star (ILWS) and most national space programs are beefing up their heliophysics assets in order to better monitor and predict solar flares.
Boeing has plans to create a spacecraft dubbed the CST-100 (Crew Space Transport) which will be able to ferry up to 7 passengers into low earth orbit. This craft would be able to get people to sites such as the International Space Station or Bigelow Aerospace's Orbiting Hotel.
The CST-100 is part of the $18 million dollar award that Boeing received as part of NASA's Commercial Crew Development Space Act Agreement
NASA is set to release a video game called 'Moonbase Alpha'. It's a PC based game where up to size players can coordinate to create a lunar base. Moonbase Alpha comes as a precursor to NASA's Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG), 'Astronaut: Moon, Mars & Beyond'. Assuming that the original slashdot post references the same project, the MMORPG has been in development for more than 2 1/2 years.
I'm sure that my game, Astrogators, is better.
A gentleman named Ed Moses wrote the attached article about the potential for Fusion electrical generation in the coming decades. Apparently there is a place called the National Ignition Facility (NIF) where they can converge 192 beams of amplified coherent light (lasers) on a peppercorn sized target of the hydrogen isotopes, deuterium and tritium. This convergence of laser beams should be able to heat the hydrogen to 200 million ° F, compressing and heating the hydrogen into a fusion ignition. This fusion ignition would yield 10 to 100 times the energy required to create the ignition. The energy from the ignition would be collected by molten salt which would heat a more commonplace steam turbine engine. This project is part of a larger project at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory called the 'Laser Inertial Fusion Engine' (LIFE).
The suborbital tourism ship, SpaceShipTwo, did not separate from the mothership, the WhiteKnightTwo, but all systems checked positive during the 6 hour and 12 minute flight.
Props to the writer at space.com, Clara Moskowitz, for writing a whole article on this psuedo maiden flight! Cause, I'm done in a sentence.
There is an architectural exhibit in New York until Sept. 11th called, 'Our Cities Ourselves'. In this exhibit 10 architects from around the world were invited to create their vision of what the a 'green' city of 2030 would look like. Outside of the AP News story, there isn't much available on the actual content of the exhibition -- so there isn't much for me to write about. I suppose the green city idea would be nice -- at the very least it would create more livable city structure by shrinking the distance between things and promoting more interaction friendly transportation (ie, walking and biking).
A San Diego company called Genomatica has begun a small scale manufacturing operation for a type of hard plastic, 1,4‐butanediol, or BDO utlizing a bioengineering microorganism. The mircoorganism eats water and sugar and produces BDO as a byproduct. BDO is currently used for such applications as golf balls, skateboard wheels, and sneakers.
The company has also said that it can create a bioengineered version of an industrial solvent, methyl ethyl ketone, or MEK.
Current manufacturing efforts have produced 3,000 liters of BDO in a pilot plant. Their next challenge is to scale up production to produce industrial quantities of the material.
A planet roughly the size of Jupiter was recently observed orbiting a distant star. The problem is that the planet was observed about 300 times farther from the star than earth. This observation has lead to a contradiction in the current working theories of how planets and stars are formed. The current theory of stellar formation is basically that swirling clouds of dust coalesce to form the celestial bodies. However, current theories would have predicted that there wouldn't be enough material floating that far away from star. So, start those new theories churning! Or find the hole in the observational data.