Tag Archives: Pluto

Stellar rebirth, Pluto, Earth’s Moon, hotter, nano-meds, spray-tough, tiny France, Apple II update, 168-year-old ship, Maya Codex, Tech podcast

Pluto's moon Charon got its red cap from Pluto
Pluto’s moon Charon got its red cap from Pluto

Astronomers just witnessed a rare stellar rebirth for the first time — At the heart of the Stingray Nebula some 2700 light years from Earth lies a small, aging star known as SAO 244567. Astronomers have been observing it on and off for decades, and they can now confirm they’ve witnessed something amazing: a never-before-seen stellar rebirth.
~ Gee, I’ve never seen one of those before. 

Pluto emits X-Rays, and it’s moon once banged into Mars — Something very strange is going on around Pluto. The icy world that sits some 3.6 billion miles from the sun appears to be emitting X-Rays—high energy radiation associated with gases with temperatures of a million degrees. That makes Pluto the furthest known x-ray source in our solar system. If confirmed, the finding could reshape our understanding of the dwarf planet’s atmosphere. Also its moon, Charon, got its strange red cap, apparently, from methane gas escaping the dwarf planet Pluto itself. It then froze solid in the frigid pole.
~ Is it that weird? I’m pretty sure my dentist emits X-Rays too. 

We were wrong about our Moon — New measurements from Apollo-era moon rocks suggest that the moon and Earth had a much more savage past than we knew.
A new paper out in Nature says the moon formed as a result of a more violent space collision than previously believed. Since the 1970s, many researchers have championed a theory in which the moon was created from thrown-off debris when a Mars-sized body grazed Earth in a relatively low-contact collision. Instead, the researchers say new evidence shows that the impact was more “like a sledgehammer hitting a watermelon.”
~ I’d rather be the sledgehammer than the watermelon. Yes I would …

Gifs shows Earth warming — We just had the warmest August on record, which also tied last month for the warmest month ever recorded. But it’s the overall trend that’s truly scary, and now you can watch it unfold right before your eyes.
~ Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton must have did it.

Nano-sized metal fish deliver targeted drugs to your body — Doctors have long dreamed of delivering drugs to specific parts of your body, and they may soon have a clever way to do it: fish. UC San Diego researchers have developed nanoscale metallic fish (they’re just 800 nanometers long) that could carry medicine into the deeper reaches of your bloodstream. Each critter has a gold head and tailfin, as well as a nickel body joined by silver hinges.
~ As long as doctors make a fortune from prescribing them , right? 

Spay-on coating even makes eggs indestructible — Line-X’s spray on coating makes things super tough. So YouTube’s How Ridiculous tried it on an egg.

Tiny house costs NZ$1652 and can be built in three hours — ‘France’ is a prototype designed by Joshua Woodsman of Pin-Up Houses, which sells plans for sheds, cottages, and tiny houses. According to Woodsman, his latest creation only costs US$1200, and takes a team of three people about three hours to put together.
~ Just need to work on downsizing Aucklands’ expectations. 

This Apple II is at MOTAT in Auckland
This Apple II is at MOTAT in Auckland

Apple II receives OS update after 23 years — Software developer John Brooks released what is clearly a work of pure love: the first update to an operating system for the Apple II computer family since 1993. ProDOS 2.4, released on the 30th anniversary of the introduction of the Apple II GS, brings the enhanced operating system to even older Apple II systems, including the original Apple ][ and ][+.
~ Now we have ‘Apple Too’

168-year-old Arctic wreck — An arctic research mission claims it’s discovered the HMS Terror, one of two Franklin Expedition ships that sunk during a doomed attempt to traverse the Northwest Passage. Incredibly, the 168-year-old wreck would probably not have been found if it weren’t for information provided by an indigenous crew member. Underwater footage shows the ship in excellent condition, with all three masts still standing and nearly all hatches closed. A pair of wine bottles, tables, a desk (with its drawers open), and empty shelving were seen inside the wreck.
~ OK, let’s take a look at that ship’s name again …

Controversial Maya Codex appears to be real after all — Scientists have been arguing over the authenticity of an ancient document called the Grolier Codex for 50 years. A new analysis published in a special section of the journal Maya Archaeology has concluded the codex is indeed genuine, making it the oldest surviving manuscript from the pre-Colombian era.
~ ‘Begin by frying an onion in a little oil …’

Tech talkin’ — Want to hear me chat about tech and the Apple announcements? I’m on this long-running (episode 301!) NZ tech podcast show with host Paul Spain.

Futurology ~ Pluto, Planetary Habitability, alien coms, universe simulation, solar, burying carbon, happiness


Pluto has a blue sky — NASA just released its first colour view of those planetary hazes they have been so curious about. And, it turns out that, just like Earth, Pluto has bright blue skies arching overhead.  The blue tint tells us about the size and composition of the haze particles in its atmosphere.
~ Some may have been hoping for Purple Haze.

Planetary Habitability Index — Researchers at the University of Washington’s Virtual Planetary Laboratory have devised a new habitability index for judging how suitable alien planets might be for life. The point of the exercise is to help scientists prioritise future targets for close-ups from NASA’s yet-to-be-launched James Webb Space Telescope and other instruments.
~ Meanwhile, we’re lowering our own. 

How to message aliens — Our devices interface extremely well with humans but might not be very good modes of communication for an Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence. If alien life did pick up our broadcasts or space probes the relatively narrow-range of audio (narrow and low frequency), visual (slow refresh rate), and data transmission methods we use may make no sense to non-human entities. It’s therefore interesting to think of other ways we might communicate with beings of fundamentally different biology.
~ ‘We’re scary, unpredictable and violent, especially against our own kind and against anything we do understand, and against our own planet, but please don’t nuke us.’ Good luck with that. 

Simulating a universe on computer — The EAGLE Project is trying to simulate a universe inside a supercomputer. Housed at the University of Durham in the UK, is trying to understand how galaxies form and evolve. It starts using the basic information gleaned from cosmic microwave background by the Planck satellite, and then lets gravity ‘work its magic from there’.
~ Wait till they find the one actually running our universe. 

The port of Los Angeles had such a successful tech upgrade it’s already hitting its 2023 emission goals — Ports are responsible for some of the nastiest air pollution in major cities. The air was so bad from diesel-burning container ships as well as the trucks required to move the containers away from the port of LA that the surrounding neighbourhood of San Pedro sued LA, launching a highly publicised public health battle. In 2005 a series of strict environmental reforms planned to cap emissions at 2001 levels, something that was called impossible at the time. But ten years later, LA did it.
~ It has giant charging stations so container ships can ‘plug in’ to electrical power instead of burning more diesel in the port.

Wind power now the cheapest energy in the UK and Germany — Wind power has now crossed the threshold to become the cheapest source of energy in both the UK and Germany. This is the first time it has occurred in a G7 country. In the US, wind and solar are still massively overshadowed by the power generated from fossil fuel plants, but the percentage is creeping up.
~ No subsidies required. 

Princess making solar waves in Africa — Many people living in Africa need electricity. Luckily, something of a solar power revolution is afoot in Africa, triggering a wave of innovation from solar energy entrepreneurs. One of them is a princess (descended from an ancient Mossi warrior princess) who stresses that the best way to combat this problem is by empowering the people to educate and help themselves.
~ Goodbye to top-down solutions, which only really benefit the top.

France plans to bury its carbon emissions. Literally — At a March 2015 conference on Climate Smart Agriculture, Le Foll proposed the ambitious target of increasing French soil carbon contents by 0.4% year-on-year (“4 pour mille”). How France will meet the target is currently unclear but Le Foll clearly wants to stimulate French farmers and researchers into action.
~ And then you can’t see the problem. 

Tactics for Happier Living quiz — This quiz combines a number of scientifically valid scales for measuring happiness. These measurements are then used to generate a highly detailed and customised report with concrete suggestions for how you can live a happier life. It also includes your greatest strengths and weakness as it relates to your score, and compares it to population averages.
~ I’m happy. Or deluded. Either way, all good. 

Futurology ~ Starlight lasers, Black Hole matter cannon, Ceres, Pluto, faster-than-light, airport land art, memory alloy, wood chips, aging reversed

The surface of Ceres in the most detail shot yet.
The surface of Ceres in the most detail shot yet.

Combing starlight with lasers to find exoplanets — In April 2015, two so-called laser frequency combs were installed at the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) planet-finding instrument of the European Southern Observatory’s 3.6m telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile. ESO explains what these devices and the spectra they produce are good for.
~ Just don’t get it in the eyes of any alien pilots or there’ll be hell to pay.

Black hole shooting matter into matter — Recently, after piecing together a string of pictures, have we seen what’s really happening. The black hole at the centre of NGC 3862 galaxy has been shooting out massive jets of plasma for a long time. The ejections form bundles like glowing bullets. In the last two decades, the black hole has ejected one ‘bullet’ so fast it has smashed into the back of the previous bullet, causing them both to glow.
~ And don’t annoy this thing with lasers either. 

Ceres’ pockmarked surface — NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is getting progressively closer to Ceres, and getting some amazing views — this remarkably detailed shot (main picture, above) shows the dwarf planet’s cratered surface from a distance of only 5100 kms.
The shot, taken by Dawn’s OpNav9 camera on May 23, shows some previously unseen features including secondary craters formed by the re-impact of debris strewn from larger impact sites.
~ But where’s the oasis? I do see a rather large capitol Y near top centre. 

And Pluto gets inspected too — NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has traveled 32 million kilometres since it last beamed back images of Pluto. The latest set of photos hint at a complicated and high-contrast surface and includes more evidence in support of the theory that the dwarf planet features a bright polar cap.
~ Much better images to arrive in a few months as it gets closer. 

Four plausible ways to travel faster than light — It’s one of the cardinal laws of physics and the underlying principle of Einstein’s relativity itself: the fact that there’s a universal speed limit to the motion of anything through space and time, the speed of light, or c. Light itself will always move at this speed (as well as certain other phenomena, like the force of gravity), while anything with mass — like all known particles of matter and antimatter — will always move slower than that. But there are real, physical phenomena that do exactly this, while remaining perfectly consistent with relativity.
~ I have a fifth: in your imagination. 

Land art cuts aeroplane noise near Amsterdam — A study conducted by the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research found that low frequency and long wavelength jet engine droning noise was significantly reduced after farmers plowed their fields near Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport in autumn. The furrows’  multiple ridges absorbed sound waves, deflected the sound and muted the noise.
This led to the development of the Buitenschot Land Art Park, a buffer park featuring “land art” has significantly reduced aircraft noise without requiring cuts in the number of allowed flights in and out of the airport.
~ Plus it looks amazing, below. 

The 80-acre green space is the Buitenschot Land Art Park near Schiphol.
The 80-acre green space of the Buitenschot Land Art Park near Schiphol.

New memory alloy springs back into shape even after 10 million bends — Memory alloys that spring back into a pre-defined shape are nothing new, but regular bending means they fatigue and fail within a relatively short time-scale. Now, a team of engineers has developed an alloy that rebounds into shape even after 10 million bends.
~ Disinter Spring Heeled Jack – he gets a new lease of life!

Computer chips made of wood — Researchers in the US and China have developed semiconductor chips made almost entirely made of a wood-derived material. In addition to being biodegradable, the cost of production is much less than conventional semiconductors.
~ I wonder where Cellulose Valley will spring up? 

Human cell raging revered — Professor Jun-Ichi Hayashi of the University of Tsukuba in Japan has discovered the regulation of two genes involved with the production of glycine are partly responsible for some of the characteristics of waging, and he has been able to “flip the switches on a few genes back to their youthful position, effectively reversing the aging process.”
~ I just dream of a younger self when I sleep. It’s much cheaper. 

Futurology ~ Ceres, Sun star, Pluto, Info theory, HIV progress, medical future past,

These two images, captured by NASA's Dawn spacecraft  from just over 80,467 kms away lets us see some of the geographic details of the dwarf planet.
These two images, captured by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft from just over 80,467 kms away lets us see some of the geographic details of the dwarf planet.

Our closest look at Ceres reveals a surface riddled with craters — As we get closer and closer to Ceres, we keep seeing new things. Initially, it was just the barest outline of the dwarf planet, then a strange selection of white spots, and, in these newest, sharpest images yet, you can see its mysteriously scarred surface.
~ At least it doesn’t have McDonalds and KFC yet. 

A star came within 0.8 light-years of our Sun just 70,000 years ago — An international team of astronomers has identified a star that passed through the outer reaches of the Oort Cloud some 70,000 years ago. It came within a distance of 0.8 light-years, making it the closest known flyby of a star to the Solar System.
~ That’s a breathtakingly close 8 trillion kms.

Nix and Hydra are  the tiny moons of Pluto — Eighty-five years ago, Clyde Tombaugh found a small dot of light shifting position while hunting for the trans-Neptune planet predicted by Percival Lowell. Now, the New Horizons probe en route to Pluto has photographed its tiny moons, Nix and Hydra.
~ Both names sound a bit negative, don’t they?

Theory of Information could resolve one of the great paradoxes of Cosmology — Stephen Hawking described it as the most spectacular failure of any physical theory in history. Can a new theory of information rescue cosmologists?
~ Well, I try not to worry too much about the cosmological constant paradox myself, but I’m glad someone is. 

How a ‘Photoshop for sound’ could transform restaurants and music halls — Restaurants have to strike a fine balance between eerily quiet and shouting-across-the-table loud. At Oakland’s Oliveto, the high-tech solution is a set of mics, speakers and sound-absorbing panels that constantly record, modify and pipe back the ideal background noise — essentially real-time Photoshop for sound.
~ Dare I venture ‘just turn the damned music off’?

Researchers block HIV infection in monkeys with artificial protein — Immunologists have developed a synthetic molecule that’s able to attach to HIV and prevent it from interacting with healthy cells.
~ One suspects the monkeys were artificially infected in the first place. Still, I’m sure they’ll be relieved.

The medical miracle headlines of the future (from 1951) — On January 2, 1951, the Rex Morgan, MD comic strip featured a New Year’s greeting insisting to readers that time is measured by progress instead of simply by years. And it’s not a bad thought, but looking at the ‘headlines of the future’ from 1951, one can’t help but be a little bummed out.
~ Progress (still) needed.