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Credit: NASA

Space Shuttle Discovery touched down for the final time this morning just before noon at Kennedy Space Center. The shuttle has spent a total of 365 days in space and traveled a total of 148 million miles on 39 missions. It is the oldest shuttle in the fleet and has always been considered NASA’s workhorse. Universe Today has a post with a crop of great photos from this last mission, as does the NASA website of course. Some cool facts from my own knowledge as well as tweets from Astrophysicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson: the shuttle is traveling roughly 17,500 mph while in orbit, but it’s de-orbit thrusters slow it by only 188 mph. That’s enough to allow it to slowly drop into the upper reaches of earth’s atmosphere, at which point the air begins to take over the slowing process. The drag from the earth’s atmosphere is the only thing that slows the shuttle down from then on, including on the runway because the shuttle has no brakes, just a parachute that deploys just after it touches down. Everything in the re-entry process is meticulously calculated because they only have one chance at it. The shuttle has no power- it’s only a glider once back in the atmosphere, so everything has to be absolutely perfectly executed. The pilot is assisted by lots of powerful onboard computers that take care of most of the difficult fine-tuned adjustments, but the pilot must be able to take over if something goes wrong- the skill level required is immense. On April 12th, NASA is expected to announce the final destinations of the three remaining orbiters after their retirement. Discovery is expected to go to the Smithsonian, but that is not certain until the announcement is made. More on that at Space.com.

I feel I must also mention the alien bacteria craziness that happened over the weekend and earlier this week. NASA scientist Richard Hoover had a paper published that claimed that he had found evidence of extraterrestrial bacteria in a meteorite. Well, basically everyone else in the science community is saying he’s wrong, and I’m inclined to agree. There are a host of reasons why his claim is probably bogus, not the least of which is the fact that contamination of a meteorite by earthly bacteria is all but inevitable. Also, the paper had not completed a peer-review process before it was published, not to mention that it was published in a less-than-reputable journal that has a history of publishing error-laden work. NASA even issued a statement saying that they had nothing to do with Hoover’s paper or his claim. Most of this info comes from Phil Plait’s analysis of the situation. Get the whole story from him.

On a lighter note, enjoy this animated GIF gem, also from Plait’s Bad Astronomy blog:

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This weekend in Nashville

December 3, 2010

Before I get to my picks for what to this weekend in Nashville, I must very briefly mention the famous Arsenic bacteria that NASA announced yesterday. It’s all over every news site in the universe, so I feel no need to say anything other than- this is totally awesome and it will force biologists and astrobiologists to rethink their theories of what type of life might exist on other worlds. It also proves that life can be much more adaptable than we ever thought. And I can’t help but post this great comic from XKCD:

Now for this weekend’s picks:

FRIDAY:

Charlie Louvin, w/ Porter Hall, TN at Foobar. This will be in the new Foobar expansion room, not the tiny stage at the main bar. And it’s fucking Charlie Louvin! Dude’s a living legend. 9pm I would assume… but I can’t find a definite time listing anywhere, so you might wanna show up early- dude’s a legend but he’s also very old, and old people tend to go to bed early.

Tim & Eric Awesome Tour Great Job! Featuring Tim & Eric, Pusswhip Banggang, and Neil Hamburger at the Cannery Ballroom. 9pm, but I hear it’s sold out. So hopefully you already have tickets…

SATURDAY:

Duh! Where else would you be besides La Paz? As I mentioned yesterday, I’m throwing a tacky sweater holiday disco party at La Paz with DJs Potamus and Vitalic Noise. La Paz is now at 2214 Elliston Pl., where Ombi used to be. It’s 21+, is FREE between 10-11pm, and $3 after 11pm. We’ve got $2.50 PBRs, $4 margaritas, and a round of $2 jello shots coming out at midnight. We’ll also have a disco ball, fog machine, and plenty of dark corner makeout sessions.

BUT if you MUST do something else tomorrow night-

Old 97’s w/ Hayes Carll at Mercy Lounge. 9pm but it’s sold out.

Black Cab Sessions day show: in-store at Grimey’s with Tristen and We Were The States (who have a new album out!)

Black Cab Sessions night show: at the Basement with PUJOL, Tristen, Cheap Time, Altered Statesmen, and more. If you don’t know what the Black Cab Sessions are, go here.

Have a great weekend!

Remember that meteorite from Mars that caused a huge stir back in 1996 when NASA announced that it thought it had found remnants of fossilized bacteria in it? If you don’t, just know that this meteorite, named the “Alan Hills meteorite,” had what we initially thought was a fossilized remnant of ancient Martian bacteria. But then some other scientists came forth with an equally plausible hypothesis for a non-microbial origin of the microscopic formation. So ever since then, the scientific community has been at odds, with one camp saying “Yes, it’s an ancient Martian microbe! There really was life on Mars!” and another camp saying “Nope. That formation wasn’t biological in origin.” But new technology has shed some light on the subject that wasn’t possible back then. Researchers at the Johnson Space Center have used more sophisticated High Resolution Electron Microscopy than was available in 1996 to study the meteorite, and their findings contradict the nay-sayers. So, if no new nay-saying hypotheses come out, then we can be pretty damn certain that microbial life once existed on Mars. AND it may even still exist there, under the surface! (Via Universe Today)

Kottke.org is one of longest-running blogs in existence, and it’s almost always full of random awesomeness. In this case, it’s all about the H1N1 vaccine, and how it and other vaccines are made. I had no idea it took soooo many chicken eggs. Do yourself a favor and read all about it.

Now here’s yet another hilarious comic from xkcd:

Image via Stargate Universe blog

Image via Stargate Universe blog

Ok first of all I have to get out my excitement about Stargate Universe, the third show in the Stargate TV franchise. The 2-hour series debut will hit your screen this Friday at 9pm (8pm Central) on SyFy. io9 posted a fairly revealing clip from it today. Don’t get me wrong, no real spoilers there, just a good idea of the vibe and overall tone of the show. This series will be a much more serious take on the Stargate saga. I’m thinking it’s going to end up taking on a similar mood to Battlestar Galactica.

Ok now that’s out of my system….

I’m sure you’ve seen the headlines about how water was discovered on the moon recently by NASA’s mineral mapper instrument aboard India’s Chandrayaan-1 probe launched in 2008. First of all, this does NOT mean that water is swirling around on the surface of the moon. The moon has no atmosphere and therefore water can’t even exist in a liquid state at all. What’s happening is that the incoming solar rays are reacting with the material on the surface to create a thin layer of hydroxyl (OH) and normal water (H2O) in the very top milimeter or so of regolith. This layer is so thin that it would amount to 1 liter of water per ton of surface soil. That’s a VERY small amount, but it’s a lot more than we ever thought would be there. What does this all mean for the future of human exploration on the moon? Read this Universe Today article to find out.

Here is a great Daily Galaxy article about something that I had honestly never even heard or known before. I hadn’t the slightest clue that there are more bacteria/microbes in our bodies than there are actual human cells. That’s to say that if you counted the number of human cells and the number of microbial/bacterial cells in your body, there would be more bacteria/microbes. In fact it’s utterly awe-inspiring (and slightly terrifying) to think that some of the species if bacteria actually don’t exist anywhere else outside our bodies, and that we could NOT survive without them. Essentially they’re as important as any organ. We’re literally more germ than we are human, and it couldn’t exist any other way. Of course, we look more like us because human cells are MUCH bigger than bacteria cells. The crazy thing, as the article points out, is that doctors still don’t know anything about most of these bugs that live inside us. But they’re trying to change that.

Let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way 1st… Camera Obscura was amazing last night, and we got to chat with TracyAnne for a minute. She seemed to like Nashville and I told her to be sure to come back on their next tour. Let’s hope they do. Oh, and the sound was exceptional too. Mercy has good sound for the most part, but this mix was especially good. Perfect night.

final-logo-2The Green Wagon is an awesome little store that only opened 6 months ago on Murphy Road in the Sylvan Park area, and just as I expected, the girl who runs it is opening another location on the east side. I must say it’s much sooner than I expected, though! She’s also opening a vegetarian cafe along with it. I’ve been to the current store a few times and it’s pretty awesome. If you haven’t checked it out yet, please do. And if you’re on the east side you’ll no longer have an excuse not to go. Via Nashvillest. Also, thanks to Morgan for pointing out my error regarding the age limit of the Opryland’s Poolapalooza events on yesterday’s post. They are actually all-ages this year.

Some cool sciene-y tidbits today:

The next mission to Mars will be called “Curiosity” thanks to a 6th grader name Clara Ma who won NASA’s essay contest to name the rover. Up until now it’s been called “Mars Science Laboratory.” This next rover will be by far the biggest we’ve sent to the red planet- about the size of a small sedan. Via Bad Astronomy.

Just when you thought Blu-Ray had totally killed the DVD, some scientists in at Swinburne University in Australia have come up with a new 5-dimensional storage technology that may put the DVD back in 1st place. Their idea is to use sophisticated multi-surface gold nanoparticles in the disc. It will not only use the different layers of the disc (as DVD’s currently do), it will also use polarization and the color of the laser light to encode information. The end result will be a DVD that can potentially hold about 7 TERAbytes of data. TERA-bytes. More at the Daily Galaxy.

Remember those crazy devices on Star Trek that doctors could just wave over a patient and tell what was wrong with them? Well, that technology is slowly becoming reality with the invention of a new portable device that identify pathogens in about 5 minutes. The Ostendum corporation has developed a prototype and is currently testing it. Although you still have to take blood or other fluid samples from a patient to use this thing, it’s still pretty damn cool, and will be a HUGE advantage in the battle against pandemics such as the H1N1 (Swine) flu. Via Science Daily.

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