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Here’s an interesting tidbit that came across my radar today: A very illusive and rare meteor shower may flare up tonight for the first time since 1930! On June 11th of that year, a small group of astronomers reported a short-lived meteor shower that was sought out in subsequent years, but never seen again. Now an astronomer named Peter Jenniskens with NASA and SETI has suggested that Earth is passing through the same comet trail it did back in 1930, and thus we could see this rare outburst, called the Gamma Delphinids, again- TONIGHT. Fortunately the moon will have set several hours before the expected peak between 2:30 and 4:30am CDT, leaving only the weather to stand in the way of getting to witness this rare event. I must point out, however, that scientists aren’t nearly as certain about this meteor shower as they are about the more reliable yearly showers such as the Leonids, Geminids, Perseids, etc… So if you’re a fan of meteor showers and have the will power to get up in the wee hours and sit outside to watch, tonight could reward your efforts with a show not seen in 83 years. (Via Universe Today and the American Meteor Society)

In other science news, more evidence of normal, habitable water on the ancient Mars surface was discovered recently. You’re probably thinking this discovery came from the Curiosity rover, but it actually came from Opportunity, one of the twin rovers that landed on Mars in 2004. Opportunity’s team sent her to investigate an interesting rock outcropping, and they found evidence of certain clay minerals that could only have formed in water that would be habitable to life as we know it. This discovery is right in line with Curiosity’s findings from February, and strongly supports the theory that Mars once had running water on the surface, and might have even supported microbial life! As Curiosity keeps trekking toward Mount Sharp, the rover will keep looking for these same minerals to help paint a clearer picture of Mars’ watery past. (Via New Scientist)

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Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/MSSS

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/MSSS

Fuck yes! That’s all I can think right now about the awesome news that came from NASA a few hours ago. The Curiosity rover has found evidence in samples of rock gathered a few weeks ago that Mars once had an environment suitable for microbial life. The rover drilled out samples from inside a rock in an area dubbed “Yellowknife Bay” by mission scientists. Those powder samples where then analyzed by specialized instruments on board, and the results showed that sulfur, nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, phosphorus, and carbon are all present in the rock. The range of minerals actually surprised the mission scientists, who weren’t expecting to find quite such a wide range of minerals.

“Were conditions on Mars ever suitable for life?” is one of the core questions the Curiosity mission, and now that question has been answered with a big YES. This is very exciting news, and hopefully there will be even more clues into Mars’ past discovered on this mission. For the full report, check out the press release on NASA’s website.

In other, less-exciting science news, beware of media reports claiming that fossils of diatoms (microscopic plant life) were recently found inside a meteorite. The claims come from¬†Chandra Wickramasinghe, who is a scientist known for outlandish claims that don’t stand up to real scientific scrutiny, and are largely intended to stir controversy. This latest report claims that the fossilized diatoms were found inside a fragment of a meteorite that fell over Sri Lanka in 2012. Except they don’t prove that a) the sample was from said meteorite, or b) that the sample was from a meteorite at all! Also diatoms are EVERYWHERE on earth, and can very quickly contaminate any meteorites that make it to the surface. Thankfully there are skeptics like Dr. Phil Plait out there who regularly and thoroughly debunk such things when they pop up. Head over to his blog Bad Astronomy to read more on how Wickramasinghe’s experiments were flawed, and why his claims just don’t hold water.

Mars rover Curiosity updates

February 14, 2013

It’s been a hot minute since I mentioned the Mars rover Curiosity. She’s been slowly but surely working her way across Gale Crater, stopping to take photos along the way and investigate anything interesting she comes across. Recently she came across this bizarre-looking rock protrusion that looks a bit like a shiny door handle or knob:

mars-shiny-closeup-430x580

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

It was a pretty interesting and puzzling find, but NASA scientists think they have an explanation. Indeed, it’s not a knob or hood ornament, nor is it made by aliens. A much more logical explanation is uneven weathering and erosion. For the full details head over to Universe Today. But in short, Ronald Sletten from the Mars Science Laboratory team at NASA/JPL explained in a press release that the object is a small part of the rock that is different in composition from the rest. The shiny part is made up of a harder type of rock than its surroundings. Since the surface of Mars is home to lots of dust/wind storms, there is quite a bit of wind erosion, and the softer surrounding rock erodes aways much faster than the harder rock. The shininess is also a by-product of erosion- certain types of rocks have a tendency to become smooth and shiny from erosion rather that just being blown away. NASA also posted a PDF with some good photos comparing the Mars image to similar phenomena on Earth. What I’m wondering is- what is that harder part of the rock made of? Why is there? Are there any other formations like it nearby? I know that on earth some volcanic rocks have a smooth & shiny appearance, so could this be a chunk of volcanic rock that was flung from an eruption and landed in water, then moved to its current location by fast-moving water and deposited in a muddy area that subsequently hardened into sedimentary rock? Maybe more theories will come out soon.

In other Curiosity news, the final instrument yet to be used/tested was the percussive rock drill. The drill was successfully tested and then used on Feb. 8th to drill the hole seen on the left in this image:

PIA16726

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The rover has now successfully tested all of her science instruments and everything is working perfectly. A sample of the pulverized rock was taken, and will be analyzed in the days to come. This rock is suspected of having been altered or eroded by flowing water on the surface many millions of years ago. I’m looking forward to seeing what they find to confirm (or deny) this theory and what else is learned about Mars’ watery past.

Credit: NASA (Click for full size)

NASA just released some pretty interesting news this afternoon. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has been taking photos of the surface of Mars for many years, and scientists have seen what looked like gullies on the surface. But, they had no way to confirm whether those gullies were caused by water or just sand sliding down a slope, or by frozen CO2. There is still no way to confirm for certain that what we’re seeing was caused by flowing water on the surface, but evidence is starting to lean in that direction. These dark finger-like features have been seen changing shape before- but on the colder side of the slope that faces away from the sun most of the day. That would point toward the gullies being caused by frozen CO2. These new images are of features on the warmer sun-facing side of the slopes, meaning the likelihood of them being caused by flowing liquid water is far greater. The most important thing here is to remember that this is NOT confirmation of liquid water on the surface of Mars. It is, however, highly suggestive of liquid water on the surface of Mars. This is exciting news because if it is indeed liquid water, there’s a much better chance that microbial life might still exist. Another important thing to remember is that we already know water exists on Mars- we’ve seen it as ice, both directly (Phoenix lander) and indirectly (radar soundings from MRO indicating water ice below the surface). The key to life though, is liquid water.

As usual, Dr. Phil Plait has a very good explanation of all this on Bad Astronomy, so I recommend checking that out. The NASA article can be found here.

DJ A-Trak’s Dirty South Dance 2 mixtape is officially available for free download today via his Bandcamp. This mix follows up his 2007 release Dirty South Dance, and continues his style of blending popular hip hop vocal lines with more electro/dance beats. Personally I’m a fan just about everything he does, but then again who isn’t? Dude is one of the most well-respected DJs in the world right now. Just go grab the mix and enjoy. (Via A-Trak’s blog)

Speaking of DJs and dancing, Justin Kase is apparently planning a revival of the post-Buddytown/pre-Happy Valley era Youth Group parties at a yet-to-be-disclosed new location. Kase is planning to move to L.A. this September, thus the emphasis on making the most of this summer. More info will posted here as soon as I know it, but I’m sure it’ll be well-publicized.

Tonight is the final Road to Bonnaroo 8 off 8th at Mercy Lounge. Come early and stay late, and cast your vote not based on who you’re friends with, but who fucking rocks your face off. I’ll be there shooting pics as usual. Lineup is: Heartbeater, My Tyger, Pico Vs. Island Trees, Delta Saints, Space Capone, Cheer Up Charlie Daniels, And The Relatives, and Deep Fried Five.

On a side note- if you’re in Nashville, please check your property for standing/stagnant water. The recent floods combined with the typical hot/humid summer weather will make the mosquito population explode this year, so if we don’t take measures to prevent them from breeding, we may be in for one very itchy, West-Nile virus-ridden summer. Mosquitoes breed in even the smallest areas of standing water- empty flower pots, buckets, old tires, etc… All you have to do is simply empty them out after it rains, or put them in a place where they won’t collect rainwater. If you (like Megan and me) use a rain barrel to water your lawn/garden/flowers, you can get tablets at any gardening store that when dissolved in said rain barrel, will prevent mosquitoes from breeding in the water. I like summer for the most part, but I absolutely dread dealing with mosquitoes every year. I’m cursed with a pretty significant reaction to their bites, and they usually leave me with a quarter-size whelp that lasts a couple of weeks. So, for your own sanity and the sake of everyone else’s, PLEASE take measures to minimize the mosquito population this summer! For more info read this article from WKRN.

The flood waters that have turned Nashville into “Nashlantis” came close to our house but thankfully spared us. There are many, MANY who were not so lucky, so first and foremost I want to direct you to this post on Nashvillest, where they are continuously and tirelessly updating info about where volunteers are needeed, where they’re not, where supplies are needed, where they’re not, and just about anything else about how to help. Seriously, those girls deserve a medal of honor for their awesome work aggregating information and putting it all in one easy place. Morgan/Christy- I’m buying you both a drink next time I see you out. If manual labor is not your thing, the best thing you can do right now is CONSERVE WATER. As of now the water supply is perfectly fine and safe to drink, however officials are concerned that with one water treatment plant flooded and another threatened, Nashville may end up with a clean water shortage. LIMIT YOUR WATER USAGE TO ONLY THE ABSOLUTE NECESSITIES. WHEN YOU TAKE SHOWERS, LIMIT THEM TO 3 MINUTES OR LESS, AND DON’T USE DISHWASHERS OR LAUNDRY WASHING MACHINES. DON’T EVEN WADE THROUGH FLOOD WATER UNLESS YOU HAVE TO, BECAUSE IT IS LIKELY CONTAMINATED WITH RAW SEWAGE.

Relating this to the local music scene: there will be many benefit shows in the next few weeks, the first of which is happening at Mercy Lounge tomorrow (Wed.) night. They have turned their Cinco De Mayo party into a benefit show, and it will feature Paper Route, How I Became the Bomb, the Dozen Dimes, Hillbilly Casino, and possibly more. Please come out and donate some $$$ to help out. Also, my band Powerbrrrd had our first show in many months booked this Sat. May 8th at the End, and we’ve all decided to turn it into a benefit show as well. Other bands are Diarrhea Planet, Frank the Fuck Out, and Bad Cop, and Spanish Candles. We’re gonna try to start right at 9 since we’ve got 5 bands. It’s Diarrhea Planet’s EP release show as well.

If you’re interested in some of the statistics on this event, check out this public information statement from the National Weather Service containing most of the records that were set/broken this past weekend.

In dire times like these, it’s good to lighten the load on your mind for a minute and just laugh at something. So in case you haven’t already seen it, I give you the Great Nashville Weather Penis.

Here are a few select photos I took Sunday and Monday at the Farmer’s Market and in my neighborhood in north Nashville. The full set is on my flickr.

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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