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Image via Universe Today

Image via Universe Today

You may have heard about the killer asteroid aptly named Apophis, which had a chance of hitting earth in 2036 and potentially devastating a good chunk of the human population. Thankfully, scientists have now made more accurate observations of Apophis and ruled out the possibility of it hitting earth.

The asteroid has been on a watch list for many years because in 2029 it will pass very VERY close to earth. So close that it will actually be inside the orbit of some of our satellites! The fear was that if the asteroid passed through a very specific spot as it passed us, the earth’s gravity would tug on it just right so that its orbit would be altered and it would hit earth on its next pass in 2036. Due to limited observations of Apophis, astronomers didn’t know its exact orbit accurately enough to determine if it would pass through this very specific gravitational “keyhole.” Even before this latest observation, which occurred during its latest flyby of earth, the odds of Apophis passing through that keyhole were very slim (about 1 in 100,000 if I remember correctly, but don’t quote me on that) but significant enough to worry. Further observations a few years ago lessened the odds considerably to about 1 in 1,000,000. Now, astronomers are absolutely positive the rock will not pass through that gravitational keyhole, and the rock will never hit earth. They also learned from these latest observations that Apophis is actually larger than originally thought- about 325 meters in diameter, vs. 270. So it’s a really good thing that this rock won’t hit us!

This does not mean we can sit back and relax, however. There are probably thousands of asteroids flying around out there that we haven’t even seen yet, and any of them could be on a collision course with us. It’s a very real threat, and based on our knowledge of past extinctions and impacts, statistically it’s only a matter of time before we get smacked by another one. We just have be able to detect it before it hits us, and have the technology in place to deflect it.

More detailed info can be found at Bad Astronomy and Universe Today.

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It’s been a while since I got on my soapbox of how the 2012 Mayan calendar doomsday myth is, well… a myth. Let me begin by saying that there is no reason to believe that anything exceptional will happen when the Mayan long count calendar ends. Anyone that tells you otherwise is either totally full of shit, or is very gullible to fluff and hype (generated by the former). The descendants of the Mayans themselves have even said that the doomsday myth is bullshit. So, this thing is already completely blown out of the water by real science and reason, but just in case you needed another reason not to believe the doomsday hype, now the actual date of the end of the long count calendar is in question. The methods used to convert the Mayan calendar into our own Gregorian years has been shown to be unreliable, and this could throw off the date conversion by as much as 50 to 100 years. So in reality, the Mayan calendar might have already ended (and thus simply started over again)! I’ll keep an eye out for any updates and clarifications to this story, but let’s face it- the Mayan calendar doomsday hype is nothing more than fear-mongering and utter ignorance. (Via LiveScience)

Image via Wikipedia

I know I link to this blog all the time, but the Boston Globe’s Big Picture blog continually showcases some of the most amazing imagery you’ll find anywhere, and what’s best about it is the content. This particular series involves the National Ignition Facility in California. This massive experiment could literally solve all the world’s energy problems. What they’re attempting to do here is essentially create a miniature star right here on earth. Just recently they completed a successful test in which they fired 192 lasers simultaneously into one tiny frozen target capsule containing deuterium and tritium (isotopes of hydrogen). The ultimate goal is to create a nuclear fusion reaction- the same process taking place in the center of our Sun. As you can easily deduce, this would release enormous amounts of energy that is completely clean- the only by-product is helium, which is the element formed when hydrogen atoms fuse. The only hurdle is that it already requires a massive amount of energy to power the lasers that start the reaction in the first place, so the reactor must produce significantly more energy than it consumes in order to truly be a viable solution to the energy crisis. Another issue could be safety. With a reaction as powerful as nuclear fusion, things can get dangerous very quickly. Thankfully though, if an explosion were to occur, it wouldn’t involve the radioactive fallout danger associated with current nuclear reactors which use a different process- nuclear fission. (AKA the reaction used in the atomic bomb.) Click here to learn more about the NIF.

Pardon me while I totally nerd-out for a minute… but I must share some news that made me very happy this morning. I first saw this in a tweet from Dr. Neil de Grasse-Tyson. Dr. Phil Plait- astronomer, author, blogger, and relentless promoter of real science and reality in general- is getting his very own show on the Discovery Channel. I’ve been a big fan of his ever since discovering his blog Bad Astronomy. He’s been mentioning a so-called “sooper seekrit project” in his posts for about a year now, and this must be what he was referring to. I get the feeling that there was some sort of miscommunication between him and the powers-that-be at Discovery, because all the tweets and mentions about this new show lead back to this YouTube video, which is basically a promo commercial/sneak-peek at the new series. However, he hasn’t yet mentioned it on his blog or even tweeted about it *update: he finally mentioned it on his blog here. Turns out it will only be a 3-part series… :(* . This doesn’t surprise me given the fact that he’s currently at Comic-Con. It looks like the show is going to take on a Mythbusters-esque vibe but mostly focusing on all the myths and junk science surrounding various doomsday/disaster scenarios such as asteroid impacts, comet impacts, gamma-ray bursts, and hopefully the ridiculous 2012 Mayan calendar myth. I honestly wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprised if Jamie and Adam of Mythbusters are producers of this show… or somehow otherwise involved with it.

Check it out: *Updated youtube link- they took the video down for a few days and reposted it.*

No idea when this show will air, *the show will probably air this fall* but I’m definitely looking forward to it. Congrats, Phil!

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)

Science-y tibits 10/13/09

October 13, 2009

I haven’t posted any science-related stuff on here in waaaay too long. Part if it has been Next Big Nashville, which I’m still recovering from, along with other general business. That being said, here are some goodies for you:

NASA has a renewed focus on the moon, especially to determine how much, if any, water is there.  One of the ways they decided to do that was to smash the rocket stage of the current satellite into the surface and analyze the result plume of dust and debris. Sunday they did just that, and the results are still coming in, but it was definitely a successful impact. Check out more about the LCROSS mission here.

I’ve mentioned the 2012 doomsday myth on here before and linked to various website that thoroughly debunk it, but today one article caught my eye. I’d never even thought to research what the Mayan descendants have to say about this issue. Turns out they are pretty smart and fully understand that the world won’t end just because their Long Count calendar ends. The whole steaming pile of bullshit that is the 12/21/2012 doomsday myth is entirely a creation of modern Western culture that’s been imposed on the Mayan culture and one of their many calendars. The point to drive home here is that THE VERY PEOPLE WHO INVENTED THE CALENDAR DON’T EVEN BELIEVE THE HYPE BECAUSE IT’S BULLSHIT! They simply take it for what it is: an anniversary of sorts, a time when the Long Count calendar starts over again. Read the article at Discovery News.

Remember when Stephen Colbert lead a huge campaign to get the newest node for the Space Station named after him? While he did win the popular vote, NASA had the final say and didn’t name it after him, but they did come up with a ridiculous name for the new treadmill for the ISS that, when abbreviated, spells C.O.L.B.E.R.T. and the astronauts just completed its assembly. Here’s a pic of them using it for the first time:

Via Space.com

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