Tag Archives: Sun

Futurology ~ Farout, Mars ice crater, best quantum, Norwegian buildings generate, dino-feathers


A composite picture of the Korolev crater in the northern lowlands of Mars, made from images taken by the Mars Express High Resolution Stereo Camera overlaid on a digital terrain model. Photograph: Björn Schreiner/FU Berlin/DLR/ESA

Farout is really far out — For the first time, an object in our solar system has been found more than 100 times farther than Earth is from the sun.
The International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center announced the discovery Monday, calling the object 2018 VG18. But the researchers who found it are calling it ‘Farout.’
They believe the spherical object is a dwarf planet more than 310 miles in diameter, with a pinkish hue. That colour has been associated with objects that are rich in ice, and given its distance from the sun, that isn’t hard to believe. Its slow orbit probably takes more than 1000 years to make one trip around the sun.
~ It sounds cold. 

Mars crater filled with ice — The stunning Korolev crater in the northern lowlands of Mars is filled with ice all year round owing to a trapped layer of cold Martian air that keeps the water frozen.
The 80-km-wide (50-mile-wide) crater (main picture, above) contains as much water ice as Great Bear Lake in northern Canada, and in the centre of the crater the ice is more than 1.6kms (one mile) thick.
~ Whiskey on that?

Best quantum computer yet? A startup based in Maryland has released and tested an impressive new quantum computer that demonstrates the power of an occasionally overlooked quantum computing architecture.
~ Yeah, that’s true, I had overlooked that. 

Norway Is Entering a New Era of Climate-Conscious Architecture — The country now has a suite of buildings that generate more energy than they use. Powerhouse Brattørkaia is an ‘energy positive’ building that will open to the public next year in Norway.
The European Union has a target of making all new buildings zero-energy by 2020, but in Norway, carbon neutrality isn’t enough.
A consortium in Oslo made up of architects, engineers, environmentalists, and designers is creating energy-positive buildings in a country with some of the coldest and darkest winters on Earth. “If you can make it in Norway, you can make it anywhere,” says Peter Bernhard, a consultant with Asplan Viak, a Powerhouse alliance member.
~ Well, if anyone’s going to be climate conscious!

Dinosaur feathers — Feathers were common among dinosaurs, but scientists aren’t certain if the fur-like coverings of pterosaurs – a group of flying reptiles – were of the same sort seen on dinos and birds or something completely different. The discovery of two exquisite fossils in China now suggests pterosaurs were very much covered in feathers, potentially pushing back the origin of this critically important evolutionary feature by 70 million years.
~ Wonder if they were as brightly coloured as parakeets? 

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Futurology ~ Planets, Mars, probes, seafloor, robots, weather and mass extinctions


The Rosetta probe is having its comet-ride closest to the sun
The Rosetta probe is having its comet-ride closest to the sun

‘Young Jupiter’ — Astronomers from Stanford and the Kavli Institute have discovered a new exoplanet orbiting 51 Eridani that strongly resembles a young Jupiter. They say its similarities could help us to understand how our own solar system formed. It’s a convenient discovery, because 51 Eridani is less than 100 light-years away, and only about 20 million years old.
~ Phew, it’s still youthful! 

Rosetta probe now in serious tanning range — The European Space Agency has released pictures taken by the Rosetta probe at comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko as it reached its closest approach to the Sun. The comet has now travelled 750 million kilometers since Rosetta arrived, and the increased solar radiation has caused ices to sublimate and created jets of gas.
~ Break out the sunblock! You are at perihelion!

Mars One still completely full of s__t — After watching a two-hour debate on the feasibility of the Mars One mission last night, Maddie Stone thinks she finally understands its problem. “It’s not that the company is broke. It’s that we don’t yet have the technology to sustain human life on Mars, and Mars One still won’t admit it.”
~ That’s fighting’ talk. But basically, if you go there, you will die, but you might not even make it as you might die on the way. Not really selling it, Mars One.

Hubble might soon look like a toy — The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which will be “in many ways a hundred times” more capable than Hubble, isn’t launching until 2018, but already astrophysicists are thinking about its successor. They’re calling it the High Definition Space Telescope (HDST) which would have a 12-metre segmented mirror.
~ I actually already have toys that look like toys – much cheaper.

PinataDigital seafloor map can help in climate change predicting — We know less about the deep ocean than we do about the surface of Mars. But if we want to really understand how humans are impacting the Earth, we need to start looking deep into the murk. That’s why scientists created the first digital map of the seafloor’s geologic composition. The latest map, published in the journal Geology, is the first to describe the diverse sedimentary composition of the seafloor. And that’s important, because patterns in sediments can help scientists unravel past environmental changes and predict our planet’s future.
~ But it looks like a piñata. And it missed New Zealand again. 

Universal language — We know a lot about language but we know relatively little about how speech developed. Most linguists agree a combination of movement and sound like grunts and pointing probably got us started, but how we decided which sounds to use for different words remains a mystery. Now, an experimental game has shown that speakers of English might use qualities like the pitch and volume of sounds to describe concepts like size and distance when they invent new words. If true, some of our modern words may have originated from so-called iconic, rather than arbitrary, expression—a finding that would overturn a key theory of language evolution.
~ And you were hoping it was love …

Cheap, 3D-printed stethoscope challenges top model — Tarek Loubani, an emergency physician working in the Gaza strip, has 3D-printed a 30-cent stethoscope that beats the world’s best $200 equivalent as part of a project to bottom-out the cost of medical devices. It out performed the gold-standard Littmann Cardiology 3. They now intend to make a range of ultra-low cost medical devices for the developing world.
~ Yay! I can hardly wait for the affordable pulse oximeter. And also to know what that is.

Robot builds robots, learns and builds better ones — An experiment was carried out at the University of Cambridge in collaboration with ETH Zurich, and the results were published in the journal PLOS One. A mother bot (a big robotic arm) designed, built, and tested “generations” of ten “kids”: tiny, cube-shaped bots. The mother used what it observed in each experiment to churn out even better-performing offspring the next go-around.
~ I think the best response is ‘oh shit’.

Robo-Weather — Microsoft researchers Ashish Kapoor and Eric Horvitz are using machine learning to make more accurate weather predictions over a 24-hour period. So while this robo-brain won’t be able to help you with a five-day forecast, it can more accurately tell you if rain or shine is more likely during the course of your day.
~ If only we could tell if it was raining just by feeling, seeing or hearing it …

Robots simulate mass extinctions — By simulating a mass extinction on a population of virtual robots, researchers have shown these cataclysmic events are important contributors to organisms’ ability to evolve, a finding that has implications to evolutionary biology, the business sector – and even artificial intelligence.
~ OK, this is now all too robo-incestuous.

Yosemite 10.10.3 update, Photos, iTunes


Photos arrived with OS 10.10.3 ... iPhoto is now dead.
Photos arrived with OS 10.10.3 … iPhoto is now dead.

Update your Mac: Apple fixes major flaw in OS X Yosemite, but won’t patch Lion, Mountain Lion or Mavericks — A serious vulnerability present in every iteration of Apple’s desktop operating system since OS X 10.7 — one which allows any user process to gain root privileges — was disclosed to the public on Thursday following the release of OS X 10.10.3, which addresses the issue, and users are urged to update as older OS X versions will remain susceptible to attack.

Photos for Mac launches with OS X 10.10.3, replaces iPhoto and Aperture — With OS X 10.10.3, Apple’s new Photos app, meant to replace both iPhoto and Aperture for people managing photos and video clips on their Mac, is now available to all Yosemite users.
The app is organised primarily into Photos, Shared, Albums, and Projects tabs. Users can narrow down content further through Moments, Collections, and Years views, which group files according to date and location metadata.

iTunes Update improves Mac Photos compatibility — Apple released iTunes 12.1.2 on Thursday following Wednesday’s release of OS X Yosemite 10.10.3 and the new Photos app for the Mac. Apple’s release notes say the iTunes update improves import and syncing support from the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch into Photos.

Futurology ~ Sun vid, Spaceplane, sun-fuel, Meccano furniture, war balls, tents


NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory provides incredibly detailed images of the whole sun 24 hours a day.
NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory provides incredibly detailed images of the whole sun 24 hours a day.

Spectacular video shows the beautiful and epic explosions on the Sun — To celebrate the fifth anniversary of NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, NASA put out this video of all the coolest, jaw-dropping explosions that happened on our sun over the past five years. You basically watch the sun dance with shooting flares and solar loops. It’s unreal.
~ Pretty mesmerising. 

Inaugural launch of Europe’s Experimental Spaceplane — The first launch and reentry of the European Space Agency’s unoccupied Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) went off this morning after a slight delay. The mini spaceplane made a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean after a quick but flawless journey.
~ To me it looks more like a rocket than a plane. 

Converting sunlight into liquid fuel with a bionic leaf — Artificial leaf techology made waves the moment it was announced by Daniel Nocera back in 2011. His latest research, published in PNAS, involves gathering hydrogen from this artificial leaf, carbon dioxide from another source, and feeding it to Ralstonia eutropha bacteria to create liquid fuel.
Researchers say the same process could be used to make vitamins.
~ Don’t real leaves do something similar?

 

Giant Meccano pieces let you build your own furniture —
Most of us can build furniture using instruction manuals. But what about when that safety net is gone and you’re forced to construct tables, chairs and shelves using just your imagination? That’s what Meccano Home proposes:, super-sizing the metallic construction toy so it can be used to build actual human-sized furniture.
~ And it looks cooler than Ikea.

Marine robotic war balls — Establishing a beachhead on enemy-held turf is historically one of the most dangerous jobs in warfare. A research team from Stamford, Connecticut has developed an amphibious drone currently being tested by the Marines. The GuardBot is a robot ball that swims over water at about 6.5 kilometres per hour and then rolls along the beach, at as much as a 30-degree incline and 32kph.
~ Inspired by the Barnes-Wallis bouncing bomb, perhaps. It certainly gives ‘beach football’ a new complexion.

Tents are becoming cubes — The lightest freestanding, mass-production tent currently available is the Big Agnes Fly Creek 2 Platinum. It weighs in at a scarcely believable 709g but.it’s very expensive at $US550. Gizmodo follows the evolution of hiking tents.
~ The lighter they are, the more flimsy, surely? All my hikes seem to have involved bad weather. 

The US used to get ‘monster hurricanes’ — A new analysis shows that the northeast corner of what is now the United States was slammed by at least 23 severe hurricanes from the years 250 to 1150, many of them reaching category 3 and 4 status.
Researchers say these hurricanes, which formed in relatively warm seas, could be a harbinger of things to come.
~ Yay, more harbingers. 

 

Futurology 14 ~ Mimas, Saturn, ancient comet, Mars, Solar Civ, Sun, Tesla, Ebola, life-raft, Cheerios, ash, Titanic


Comets from the Oort cloud are both ancient and rare. This one will bathe Mars in its light tail
Comets from the Oort cloud are both ancient and rare. This one will bathe Mars in its light tail

Mimas might have a subterranean ocean — It’s not the prettiest thing in the solar system, but Mimas — a pockmarked moon in orbit around Saturn — exhibits an odd wobble. A team of astronomers reckon there are two possible explanations: a subterranean ocean or it has an irregularly shaped core. Another Saturn moon looks frighteningly like a wasp nest
~ I vote we call the underground sea ‘Marcel M’.

Ancient comet will bathe Mars in light — Our Monday, something historical will happen: An ancient rare comet will arrive to Mars after millions of years travelling at 53km/s from the Oort cloud. It will look like you can see at this link, passing to within just a third of the distance from Earth to the moon and engulfing the Red Planet in its large tail.
~ Mars Bath.

Dark Matter sends a signal for the Sun — Astronomers from Leicester University have detected a strange signal in the X-ray spectrum that appears to be a signature of ‘axions’ — a hypothetical dark matter particle. It could take years to confirm, but this may be the first direct detection and identification of dark matter.
~ Scientists think it exists but they can’t prove it. It’s like the National Party’s conscience.

White House seeks advice on ‘Bootstrapping A Solar System Civilisation’ — The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy is planning ahead — way ahead. The agency wants you to email ideas for how “the Administration, the private sector, philanthropists, the research community and storytellers” can develop “massless” space exploration and a robust civilization beyond Earth.
~ It will end up ‘Let the market run it’, no doubt.

Mystery space ship lands on Earth after record time away — America’s spy space drone the X-37B has landed safely after a record-setting orbit of 675 days. The fact that this spacecraft has been in orbit for almost two years and has returned to Earth intact is an amazing technological feat, apparently.
~ It’s amazing? The Moon stays up there all by itself. 

Tesla S has iPhone 6 supplier internals — Well, sort of: the Tesla Model S gets attention because it’s an EV that can go from from 0 to 96kph in 4.2 seconds and can travel 265 miles on a single charge. But, a teardown of the vehicle by IHS Technology has also revealed that Elon Musk went for two 1.4Ghz, quad-core NVIDIA Tegra processors. IHS called the Tesla’s head unit the most sophisticated it’s ever seen, with 1000 more components than any it has previously analysed.
~ Now for the drivers …

Ebola robots — US robotics researchers from around the country are collaborating to build autonomous vehicles that could deliver food and medicine, and telepresence robots that could safely decontaminate equipment and help bury victims of Ebola.
~ Minimise contact – and then remote-sterilise the robots, too. 

Tipping rescue raft makes it easier to pull people from the water — Water rescues can be particularly tricky because you’re on the exact opposite of stable ground while you’re trying to pull someone to safety. But getting enough leverage to pull a heavy body out of the water looks a little easier with this clever inflatable raft that can be tipped backwards for easier access to the water, without that whole sinking issue.
~ And it’s back-packable.

Cheerios inside bags grow new Antifungals — Scientists grew a soil fungus for four weeks in a bag full of Cheerios and discovered a new compound that can block biofilm formation by an infectious yeast. The chemists claim that Cheerios are by far the best in the cereal aisle at growing chemically productive fungi.
~ So why am I not surprised?

Cigarette ash water filters — Among the long, long list of reasons why we shouldn’t smoke lies cigarette ash: it’s an unsavoury chemical cocktail that also happens to be a major eyesore around any popular smoking spot. But thanks to a team of chemists, we could use that same cocktail of horrific chemical to make water clean.
~ And it tastes like …?

A single breakthrough could cut costs on solar energy by 25% — Costs on solar are coming down steeply, and now they’re about to get even cheaper. A group of chemists at Ohio State University has invented a solar panel that stores energy without an external battery. The self-contained tuner/capacitor panels are already being licensed to industry.
~ We welcome the forthcoming Epic of Solarmesh.

New pictures of Titanic launch have emerged — There’s a new exhibition at an Irish museum showcasing previously unpublished sepia-tinged photos of the ill-fated Titanic as it’s being launched to sea. The goose-bump inducing images show the luxury liner as it’s going down the Belfast shipyard’s slipway, along with excited spectators cheering on.
~ 117 prints in all!