Dear readers,

I’ve come to the hard decision that it’s time to put Steve Cross Loves Music and Science to rest. Don’t worry, I still love music and science! I just don’t have time to blog about it anymore. The natural progression of life, relationships, commitments, etc… has forced me to re-organize priorities. That’s not a bad thing, it just means that blogging has to take a backseat to more important things. So, this is the end of this blog! I’ll keep the domain for the foreseeable future, and everything will remain archived as-is. Everything has a a life cycle, and this blog has reached the end.

This is not the end of me sharing this type of content on the internet, however! I do intend to share more science articles, links, tidbits, etc… on my Facebook and Twitter feeds, so follow me there. This will allow me to still share my interests and love of music & science with whomever is willing to listen. I’m also on Instagram, so follow me there for more visual content.

I also have other blog ideas that I’ve been milling around for a while, but I’m keeping that under wraps until I officially decide what I’m doing. If and when that comes to fruition, it will be made public via my Twitter and Facebook.

Whether you’ve just started following me or have been for many years, I hope you learned something, gained something, or otherwise benefited from this blog!

Peace out.

-Steve

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA’s Curiosity rover is back to work on Mars, after a few weeks of radio silence due to Mars’ being behind the Sun from Earth’s perspective. The photo above shows a new hole created by Curiosity’s drill, and scientists hope that the analysis of the samples taken from this hole will match up with, or at least support, the exciting results of the previous drilled rock analysis back in February. Those results suggested that Mars’ surface was once habitable for microbial life as we know it. The results of the analysis will no doubt be released in the next few weeks, before Curiosity begins the long drive to its ultimate destination, a huge layered mountain known as Mt. Sharp. (Via Universe Today)

Warning: If you are one who is prone to getting sucked into rabbit holes of Wikipedia links and losing all sense of productivity, I highly recommend you DO NOT read this article while at work!  Wikipedia has a really awesome, really addictive list of common misconceptions. Don’t say I didn’t warn you! (Via Kottke.org)

LHCBlackHole

Credit: CERN/NASA/Ian O’Niel

Here’s a quick roundup of some interesting stories and headlines that have popped up in the science world recently:

  • Based on new calculations using information from the Higgs Boson discovery last year, some physicists are worried that the universe might be doomed for boredom. The new math shows that the very existence of everything could be inherently unstable, and in a few tens of billions of years a tiny bubble of an apparently much more boring, alternate universe might pop-up and subsequently expand at the speed of light, destroying everything. Granted, there’s still a lot to learn about the Higgs, the equations used to make this prediction will improve drastically over the coming years, and the human race probably won’t be around to see this happen, but I can’t help but laugh thinking about the universe vaporizing into a more “boring” state of existence. (Via Discovery News and New Scientist)
  • I wish I had time to cover/post about the Russian meteor explosion this past weekend, but I was out sick Friday and had a very busy weekend/early week of moving in with my lady Old Red Boots. You probably know the basics- a medium-sized meteor entered the atmosphere over Chelyabinsk, Russia last Friday at about 9:20am local time. I just want to point out the important facts: (1) The Russian meteor explosion had nothing to do with the close fly-by of asteroid 2012 DA14 which happened later that same day. The trajectories/orbits of the two were completely different. It was simply a bizarre coincidence. (2) The damage to buildings and glass was caused by the massive sonic boom, as well as the actual explosion of the rock itself high in the atmosphere. The sounds and damage were NOT from the impact of the meteor hitting the ground. There’s tons of footage of this thing, but this video has the best audio I’ve found– if you have a subwoofer, turn it up and you’ll get some sense of the earth-shattering rumble. This video is long but shows both the bright streak of the meteor (about 4:30 in) and has the ensuing sonic boom (about 7:00 in). (3) NASA estimates the meteor was about 55 feet across and weighed between 7,000 and 10,000 tons. (4) A large chunk of the space rock is believed to have landed in Chebarkul Lake near Chelyabinsk, gouging a large hole in the ice. Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy had great coverage and follow-up of this event, so be sure to check those posts out as well!
  • Dennis Tito, the first space tourist, wants to put humans on Mars in 2018, and he’s created a non-profit called the Inspiration Mars Foundation to do it. I have to be honest, the timeframe of this sounds absolutely crazy to me. Not many details have been announced, but apparently there will be a press conference next Wed. Feb. 27th in which more details will be revealed, so I’ll try to withhold my skepticism until then, but it’s hard. (Via Universe Today)
  • Astronomers with NASA’s Kepler Mission have found the tiniest exoplanet yet, orbiting the star Kepler-37 about 200 light years away. This planet is significant because it’s even smaller than our own Mercury, and just barely bigger than Earth’s moon! Finding a planet that small is a major milestone and huge accomplishment for the Kepler team. I’ve no doubt they will be finding the Holy Grail of planet-hunting, a true Earth twin, within a year or two. (Via Bad Astronomy)

This is an interesting short documentary episode from Vice’s Motherboard series on Copenhagen Suborbitals, a self-proclaimed “open-source, do-it-yourself space endeavor” started by two really smart guys in Denmark. Basically they want the world to realize that getting to space is actually a very achievable thing for average people if they really truly want to do it. It’s an awesome idea and one that I applaud whole-heartedly. Just watch and be amazed at what these guys have accomplished so far with their DIY approach.

This video clip shows some of the amazing footage from Felix Baumgartner’s chest and head cameras during his successful supersonic skydive attempt Sunday. I’m sure you’ve heard most of this by now, but the preliminary numbers are 9 minutes & 3 seconds jump to landing, top speed of 833.9 mph or Mach 1.24, jump height of 128,100 feet, and freefall time of 4 minutes & 20 seconds. He broke all the records previously owned by Col. Joe Kittinger (who was a consultant on the mission and coached Felix through the whole jump) except for one: longest freefall. Presumably this is because he fell so fast. The faster you fall the shorter your freefall time will be. Felix entered a terrifying spin during the first part of the dive, but he managed to regain control and did not have to deploy the emergency stabilization chute, which would have prevented him from breaking speed of sound.

In other science-related news, photographer and videographer Christopher Malin created a surreal new type of timelapse that I’ve yet to see used on space station footage- a stack. Stacking involves blending each frame of the footage into the next, creating a blurred effect with light trails and star trails. Just watch it, it’s kind of a head trip:

A combination of technical problems and gusty winds caused Feliz Baumgartner’s record-breaking 23-mile supersonic skydive attempt to be aborted just as the balloon was being inflated today. They had a good window of calm winds to work with, but weren’t able to get the balloon off before a gust of wind came along and blew parts of the partially inflated balloon onto the ground. This is a dicey situation, because the balloon material is so delicate and folded so meticulously that once it’s been unfolded, it cannot be deflated and used again. As far as I can gather from what was said during live webcast, they only have one backup balloon. Since this is the largest balloon of its type ever made or used, it’s REALLY expensive, so they really have to get it right on the next attempt.

The air at the surface, and for roughly the first 1,000 feet off the ground, must be absolutely still for the launch to happen safely. Even a little bit of crosswind can take the balloon off course, dragging the capsule across the ground or smashing it into anything nearby, just as NASA learned first-hand a few years ago during this failed balloon launch in Australia.

Just a quick roundup of some news and updates in the science world:

  • Felix Baumgartner’s supersonic, record-setting skydive attempt was delayed until Tuesday morning due to weather concerns. The balloon launch is scheduled for around dawn, so I’ll try to tune into the interwebs tomorrow morning to see how it goes. More at Discovery News.
  • Space X successfully launched its first official, non-demonstration mission to the ISS last night. The launch was successful despite the Falcon 9 rocket losing one of its 9 main engines about 90 seconds into the launch. The faulty engine was immediately shut down and the onboard computer recalculated the flight trajectory, adding the necessary burn time to get its Dragon capsule to the correct orbit to rendezvous with the ISS. Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy has the full deets.
  • The Mars Rover Curiosity successfully scooped up a sample of soil and agitated it in a bin this past weekend. Instruments on board will soon run a series of tests to determine if the soil could have supported microbial life in the past. Check out this video created from a couple hundred photos taken of the sample as it was being agitated.

What could possibly be more awesome than a TORNADO MADE OF FIRE?!? Not much. This is a spectacular natural phenomenon that occurs in wildfires. It’s the same atmospheric process that causes dust devils- the difference here is that the strong updraft is from the heat of the fire, so it’s much more intense than a normal dust devil. The hot air rises rapidly and the surrounding winds happen to be flowing into the updraft at just the right angles so that the rising column of air gets a twist. From there the law of conservation of angular momentum takes over and the vortex becomes self-sustaining. This one was captured recently in Australia.

Also from the department of TOTALLY AWESOME: Warp Drives (like the ones they used in Star Trek) may actually be much closer to reality than ever thought. NASA physicist Dr. Harold White has recently done some tweaking of the theoretical design of the famous Alcubierre Warp Drive, originally proposed in 1994 by physicist Miguel Alcubierre. The original design, while theoretically possible, was completely impractical because it required more energy than a human mind can comprehend. But with Dr. White’s tweaks, the amount of energy required to run this thing suddenly became more plausible. Essentially the ship would be able to travel much faster than light, without actually traveling faster than light. It does this by literally compressing a region of space-time ahead of it and expanding a region behind it. The ship itself is in a bubble in which it never breaks the speed of light relative to the space-time it’s in. Think of it like surfing a wave of space-time. Granted, the amount of energy require to run the Warp Drive is still roughly equivalent to 1.5 million Hiroshima bombs, but with a little antimatter (about 500 kilograms) that number is not out of reach. The problem is that the idea hasn’t been tested in real life. So Dr. White and his team are currently attempting to actually warp space-time on a microscopic scale in their lab. Take a moment to digest that. Right now, we are attempting to warp space-time in a lab. It doesn’t get much more awesome than that. For more info on how the drive actually works check out this article on Extreme Tech or this article on Discovery News.

Click to enlarge. Trust me- you want to do this!

Before the newsy stuff I had to give you that eye-gasm of a photo of our nearest star a.k.a. the Sun, blowing off millions of tons of hot gas into space a couple weeks ago. This image combines two spectrums of light that we can’t see with our eyes, both of which are in the ultraviolet range and show the magnetic activity better. Both were taken with NASA’s Solar Dynamic Observatory (SDO). We should be glad this enormous eruption wasn’t aimed directly at Earth, else we could have had serious satellite and power disruptions.

Now for the headlines:

  • The teams of physicists at the Large Hadron Collider have officially published their findings on the Higgs boson in a legit, peer-reviewed journal- Physics Letters B. This is the same journal in which Peter Higgs first published his revolutionary paper that began the hunt for the boson to begin with. Once a discovery passes this level of scrutiny, it’s DONE. That means we did it! Scientists have been a little hesitant to actually call this discovered particle the Higgs boson, however, since all the properties and attributes of the particle are yet to be nailed down. Over the next few years we’ll start to get a better picture of just what this particle looks and feels like, so to speak, and I’m sure there will be many more questions raised than answered. (Via NewScientist)
  • Star Trek is starting to look a bit more like reality than science fiction thanks to new research being done into anitmatter and fusion propulsion. That’s right- antimatter, as in the stuff they used to run the Enterprise‘s Warp Drive. NASA teamed up with consulting firm the Tauri Group for a presentation that included a prediction that human technology will have advanced to the point that antimatter and fusion propulsion will be possible for spaceships by around 2060. The technology will not, however be capable of faster-than-light travel. According to the 2010 report the presentation was based upon, it would take about 4 months to get a ship to Jupiter with this technology. That’s significantly faster than current technology, but still a very VERY far cry from Warp speed. (Via Space.com)

These are both Mars-related stories that popped up across the blogosphere over the past week:

The first bit of news is that NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission is getting ever closer to its destination, and the dreaded “Seven Minutes of Terror” entry and landing sequence. They recently produced a video that does a pretty good job of conveying just how hard it is to land anything on Mars, and especially how insane this particular landing sequence is. It’s CRAZY HARD to do what they’re attempting to do. I’ve seen many other animations of this many times over, and it STILL blows my mind just how tedious and difficult this is from a scientific and engineering perspective. Seeing the video is essential, so here it is. Just watch:

The second bit of Mars-related news is a little crazier and far-fetched. A group of private investors are pooling their resources and claim that we can have humans on Mars by 2023. This project is called Mars One, and I have to be honest… the whole thing sounds utterly insane. They want to create such a huge media spectacle that the public interest and avenues for profit are such that they can raise the massive amount of cash it’ll take to make this happen. The craziest part of the whole thing is that it will be a one-way mission for the people who actually go to Mars. I think the ethics of such a thing are mostly subjective- I have no problem with a one-way mission if the people going are truly, honestly 100% dedicated to it. I think it’s honorable, and who am I to judge them for making such a profound decision. Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and the rest of the Apollo astronauts all knew the extremely high risks involved with what they were doing. They accepted it and went on to accomplish arguably the greatest feat in the history of mankind thus far- walk on the moon. I hope they pull it off, I really do, and without all the oversight and red tape of a government agency like NASA, the likelihood of this happening so soon is greater. But still. 2023 is REALLY REALLY soon to put humans on Mars. Here’s their promo video:

Crazy? Or just crazy enough to make it happen?