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It’s been a while since I posted much of anything science-related. Honestly I’ve been veeerrrry busy. Fucking slammed is a good way to put it. But here are some important bits of news/etc… to come out of the science world recently.

  • First off, there’s been rampant speculation on some news blogs in the last day or so regarding an upcoming NASA press conference (scheduled for tomorrow afternoon) that will “affect the search for extraterrestrial life.” Of course many are taking that to mean that NASA has found aliens. That almost certainly NOT the case, and I must direct you to the ever-reliable ambassador of reality, Dr. Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy, for much more reasonable speculation on what NASA will be announcing tomorrow. Also, as always, Universe Today is on top it as well. The announcement will probably involve the discovery of a new way or process by which life could exist on Saturn’s moon Titan. So chill out, and don’t believe the sensationalist news sites that are claiming NASA has discovered aliens.
  • The Large Hadron Collider has been busy slamming lead ions together for the past month or so. They had been in a “recess” of sorts since their last set of collisions involving single protons. Now they’re slamming much heavier lead nuclei together in an effort to recreate the conditions that physicists think existed just milliseconds after the Big Bang. (On an atom-size scale, of course.) They got what they were looking for, though it was a bit surprising. The leading theory was that a superheated blob called a quark-muon plasma existed, and that it acted much like a gas. However, this experiment showed that the quark-muon plasma actually behaved more like a perfect liquid with no viscosity. This collision was the most energetic heavy ion collision ever achieved on earth, 13 times more powerful than the previous record set by the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider in Brookhaven, NY, but it’s only about half of the LHC’s full capacity. Who knows what we’ll find when the LHC ramps up to full capacity over the next few years. (Via NewScientist)
  • We have now officially discovered over 500 exoplanets in our galaxy. Sort of. The news was announced, but there is really no way to put a “500” label on one particular planet. The problem is that the line between “confirmed” and “unconfirmed candidate” is a bit unclear, and many times in the past previously “confirmed” planets have been retracted as new, more accurate data has been gathered to prove they were in fact something else that’s not a planet. But the number is sufficiently past 500, so we can officially be happy that just 20 years after the discovery of the first exoplanet, we’re now past the 500-mark. With NASA’s Kepler spacecraft on the hunt, and already having produced over 700 exoplanet candidates, that number will soon start to rise very quickly. I’d say the next exoplanet milestone we’ll be celebrating is 1,000, along with the discovery of a true earth-twin. (Via Universe Today)
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As you can see from this video, NASA is joining in on the fight against junk science and stupidity in general by putting some of their scientists into the public eye to debunk the 2012 doomsday B.S. This is the manager of their Near Earth Object tracking office. I’d say he’s a pretty good one to talk about doomsday scenarios, since his office is responsible for tracking asteroids and any other objects that might slam into our pale blue dot and kill us all. DON’T BELIEVE THE SCAREMONGERS! THERE IS NO REAL, CREDIBLE SCIENCE BEHIND ANY OF THE 2012 DOOMSDAY MYTHS! (Via Universe Today)

In other science news, apparently the Vatican is officially acknowledging the possibility of extra-terrestrial life. They recently had a week-long study/discussion involving over 30 scientists and religious experts to develop an official stance/policy/statement about the subject. This is kind of surprising, because we all know that most sects of Christianity don’t always agree with science/reality. Good job, Pope. (Via Physorg)

The American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) has been working with the Library of Congress for the past couple of years to create a huge online resource for photography info. They just launched it, and I can’t even begin to describe how awesome dpBestflow is. Find some downtime, and go check it out if you’re at all interested in photography. They’ve compiled loads of industry knowledge, standards, and general information, and it’s all in one place, for free. Basically, it’s everything you could possibly want to know about the profession of digital photography, all in one place. (Via Photo Business & News Forum)

Image Via Space.com

Image Via Space.com

A European satellite observatory recently discovered a very small exoplanet that is said to be the first with a proven density similar to Earth’s. Follow-up observations were done at a telescope in Chile to determine the planet’s mass, which was then combined with its radius to calculate its density. The planet has about 5 times Earth’s mass. But don’t get too excited just yet- the planet is far from habitable. It orbits VERY close to its parent star (23 times closer than Mercury is to our Sun), which not only means it’s really effin’ hot, but it also is probably tidally locked, which means the same side of the planet is always facing the star. So one side is literally boiling with molten rock, and the other side is extremely cold. There’s no way it could have any atmosphere, either. BUT this is still an important step toward finding an Earth-twin. No we know that we can find planets similar in size and density to our own. It’s just a matter of time until Kepler or CoRoT finds one orbiting in its star’s habitable zone. (Via Space.com)

Ever wondered about the difference between a nerd, a geek, a dweeb, and dork? Look no further. This pretty much nails it down perfectly. (Via Clusterflock)

nerd-venn-diagram-9420-1252236207-2-300x281

Foxes… dinosaurs… robots.

February 19, 2009

Science first today. Then we’ll get to the funny stuff.

In some really depressing news, the Space Shuttle Mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope one last time may be in serious jeopardy. That satellite collision last week, which you’ve undoubtedly heard about by now, was in the same general orbit level of Hubble, and the debris from the collision significantly increases the likelihood of a debris strike during the servicing mission to unacceptable odds. NASA estimates that the chance for a debris impact will be about 1 in 185, which is over their threshold of 1 in 200. Even a tiny piece of metal the size of a pea or even smaller could do serious damage to an astronaut’s space suit during a spacewalk, and since there were 5 spacewalks planned to service Hubble, well… you can see where this is going. The good news is, they’re pretty sure the International Space Station is not at much risk for impact from the debris, because its orbit is much lower than that of satellites. It’s just beyond the outer edges of earth’s atmosphere, which means there are just enough air molecules floating around to put a slight drag on any space junk at that orbit level, thus said space junk burns up relatively faster than junk at higher orbits. Thus, low earth orbit stays comparatively clear of debris.

Space.com reports on how the discovery of alien life could impact society. According to the article, a panel of scientists sponsored by the SETI Institute and the NASA Astrobiology Institute recently met over 3 days to discuss this and come up with a basic outline of what impacts they thought such discovery could have on human society.

Very good news for Hummer-haters (myself included!): The Tennessean reports that GM has announced that it will discontinue or sell the Hummer brand by March 31st. Let’s hope it’s the former, not the latter. In my opinion, there is no greater symbol of the wasteful and inefficient extravangance that helped get us into this economic shitstorm than the Hummer. Good riddance!

Remember my post about the movie Coraline from a week or two ago? At the time I was unclear as to the extent of They Might Be Giants’ contribution to the soundtrack. Well, turns out that 28-second jingle that plays through one of the TV trailers is it. Stereogum reports that they did some other material for the movie that got canned, because in the end it turned out not to be “dark” enough.

Dinosaurs fucking robots. Via iO9.

Foxes jumping on a trampoline. Via Yewknee.

Need I say anything else?

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