The Indian Space Research Organization has reported that they found the signature of organic compounds in the lunar surface. This finding following the collision and data gathering of ISRO's Nov, 2008 Moon Impact Probe. The organic compounds detected were carbon molecules in the presence of some other element such as Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Oxygen, etc. These molecules can be formed under a wide variety of conditions and do not necessarily mean that life is present, or has ever been present. The organic compounds are essential building blocks for life, however.
Generally, the harsh conditions in space will break down more complex molecules such as organics. However, the MIP crashed into a frozen crater, the Shackleton Crater. The theory is that cold temperatures have a tendency to preserve these complex organic molecules.
NASA has also reported organic compounds on the moon. These were found during the lunar landings of the 1960's as well as with the LCROSS data from earlier this year.
Super Earths are planets that range from 2-10 earth masses. Several of these planets have been in the news lately, a result of the several ongoing research projects dedicated to looking for new planets outside of our solar system.
In the attached article, Leslie Mullen talks with Harvard astronomy professor Dimitar Sasselov regarding the potential superiority of these super earths for harboring alien life. Sasselov makes the assertion that a low mass planet like Earth is probably not the ideal place for life to take root and grow.
The lower mass of Earth has several drawbacks compared to super-earths:
GE will be supplying 338 2.5-megawatt wind turbines for a wind farm project at Shepherds Flat in North Central Oregon. Installation at Shepherds Flat will begin in 2010 and be completed in 2012. Once completed it will be an 845-megawatt wind farm. The project will supply power to Southern California Edison and 235,000 households in California. GE will be paid $1.4 billion for the turbines. An additional $600 million will be spent constructing roads and power lines for the project.
The total contract (minus infrastructure and maintenance) works out to $5957.45 per household for electricity. Including the new infrastructure, the cost comes to about $8310 per household. As part of the contract, GE will provide 10 years of maintenance on the turbines. They obviously expect each turbine to last at least that long without replacement. $8310 / 10 years / 12 month = Project cost: $71 per month per household.
This contract marks the first time that GE has sold their 2.5-megawatt wind turbines in the United States. Previously, the turbines have been installed in Europe and Asia.
Virgin Galactic unveiled SpaceShipTwo yesterday at the Mojave spaceport in California. I suppose this means that they are on target for their 2010 launch date.
Tuna. Fishing quotas are being cut as wild populations decline (a 1/3 decrease is scheduled next year for Atlantic Tuna). Monaco is pushing for Atlantic Tuna to be declared an endangered species. But people love tuna. We eats lots of it. I, myself, have several tuna sandwiches each week. The Japanese? They really love it. Japan consumes 80% of the world's tuna.
Science, you have been challenged. Do you accept?
Challenge accepted. Answer: Tuna farming. There is still lots of work to be done to get the quality of farmed tuna up to snuff. Apparently farmed tuna is white and lacks the 'fishyness' of it's wild caught brethren. The fish need lots of room to swim, they eat alot, they are sensitive to their environment, and they do not breed well in captivity. Despite the challenges, Maruha Nichiro Holdings Inc., has invested in several tuna farms around Japan.
Next stop: whale farms.
Michael Goodfellow, of free-the-memes.net, put together a wonderful analysis of the leaked climate change emails. He balances the standard practices of scientific researchers against the unique situation of a politically charged topic to assess the potential fallout of the leaked emails and any impact those emails may have on the science of man-made global warming.
Researchers at Yale's School of Engineering & Applied Science led by assistant professor Hong Tang have proven that light can be used to push nanoscale switches. Previously it had been proven that the attractive force of light can be used to 'pull' nanoscale switches. Funding for the project was provided by DARPA.
The repulsive force of light is seen when two light beams are out of phase with each other. This is in counter distinction to normal objects. Normally "oppositely charged particles attract each other, but out-of-phase light beams repel each other." This phenomenon only occurs when two beams of light are restricted to wavelength guides. The wavelength guides are different lengths of silicon 'nanowire'. When two light beams are forced to travel the wavelength guides, they become out of phase and will repel each other.
In a project called, LifeHand, An team of Italian researchers at Campus Bio-Medico in Rome were able to create a robotic forearm that could be controlled by an amputee's mental impulses. A 29 year old man lost his forearm in a car crash. The team implanted electrodes in the man's forearm which were connected to the nerves left from the accident. The implants were able to send signals to a robotic arm which responded accurately to the amputee's commands 95% of the time. The experiment lasted one month.
During the experiment, the robotic arm was not attached to the patient. Instead the arm and associated machinery is kept separate from the patient. The bulky machinery is required to to translate nerve impulses into digital signals. The same researchers have started a project called 'SmartHand' which is working to make that technology smaller so that it can be implanted onto the patient for extended periods of time.
A school district superintendent from Mesa, AZ claims that it will cost more than $1 million to remove the software and repair damage to the school's computer network caused by SETI @ home. The superintendent,Denise Birdwell, blames SETI @ home for slowing down the systems network and causing disruptions in the classroom. There is no mention of how many computers within the district had SETI @ home installed on them.
This is an older article from back in March, 2009. It has been sitting in my ever increasing list of articles to catalog.
There are two major ideas covered by the article. One is Ames Research Laboratory research, Carol Stoker's Habitability Index. The other is the idea that Mars may have harbored some biological life in the past with the implication that Mars has the ingredients needed to support life in the future.
Stoker said that the current level of knowledge about biology leaves 3 factors which affect the probability of life occurring in a given place.
Awkwardly, MSNBC lists a fourth very sensical necessity for life "temperature and water activity must be high enough to support growth."
Basically, the habitability index is a way of boiling down all the above factors into one simple number.
Phoenix Lander, Northern Plains landing site
Below is a video of BMW's Gina concept car. The car's construction is a movable metal frame surrounded by a fabric material. Wikipedia mentions that this fabric is a polyurethane coated Spandex.
Plans for a manned mission to an asteroid are being assembled. The planning brings together Lockheed Martin, the U.S. Human Spaceflight Plans Committee, and the Small Bodies Assessment Group (SBAG). Lockheed has the contract to produce the Orion space vessels. The crux of the plan is to use Lockheed's Orion vessel to travel to a Near Earth Body (NEO).
The proposed benefit of an asteroid mission is to 'build confidence' in long duration missions to Mars or the Moon. AKA, it's being billed as sort of a stepping stone for larger projects. Hence the name, I suppose. The proposed mission will be to have a vessel travel to a NEO where the vessel will 'park' for around 5 days. Astronauts will jet pack to the surface of the asteroid where they will unload scientific equipment and take samples.
Peter Homer won NASA's Glove design competition for the second time. The $250,000 prize was part of NASA's Centennial Challenge program which invites all sorts of people to submit prototypes for various space oriented activities. The regolith challenge also falls into this category.
Peter Homer previously won the glove challenge in 2007.
This year, artist Ted Southern took home the $100,000 second prize.
This is a video of a robot from MIT that uses sticky finger pads and some fancy foot articulation to climb walls.
A quick look at BioBricks and a student project from Edinburgh Univesity.
A student project at Edinburgh University has created a landmine sensor using bacteria and a DNA manipulation process called 'BioBricking' according to BBC News, et al. The bacteria glows green in the presence of explosives.
According to the BBC News
Edinburgh University said the microbes could be dropped by air onto danger areas.
Sounds like a pretty neat idea. Although some posters at BoingBoing have noted the nefarious implications of being able to carpet bomb an area with DNA. And at Inhabitat.com the netizens have noted that the bacteria should be known to be safe before use.
What is BioBricking
First off, it seems that BioBricking is a bit of a misnomer. BioBrick genetic parts are trademarked names for bits of DNA that have been entered into an open source database of genetic code. The database is run by the BioBricks Foundation. A BioBrick part is a DNA sequence with a known basic biological function.