Tag Archives: TRAPPIST

Futurology ~ Trappist, Einstein’s Sun, Titan, space pooh, Norway electric, antifungal, genes, holograms, Australia-USA

The piece of Australia around Georgetown once belonged to the North American landmass (Image from Apple Maps)

Trappist may have two Earth-likes — It’s been less than a year since astronomers detected seven planets around TRAPPIST-1, a remarkable star system located 39 light years from Earth. New research suggests life could take root on at least two of these planets, thanks to a fortuitous orbital quirk. But other scientists aren’t so sure, saying TRAPPIST-1 still has much going against it in terms of its ability to foster life.
~ I am a great fan of fortuitous orbital quirks.

Another Einstein theory proven: the sun is losing mass — Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun, has a history of helping us study gravity. Albert Einstein demonstrated that Newton’s laws of motion break down when dealing with very large masses. He created his theory of general relativity to account for this: gravity is a manifestation of the warping of spacetime caused by massive bodies such as the Sun. Mercury’s orbit shows this warping most clearly – and, indeed, before Einstein’s work, scientists were long puzzled by its strangeness, even attributing it to gravitational effects from a made-up planet called Vulcan. Now, a team of researchers in the US are using new measurements of Mercury’s orbit to learn more about the Sun – and more about Einstein’s theory itself.
~ The genius who keeps on giving. 

Titan adds a third Earth-like feature — Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, is remarkable in that it features a dense atmosphere and stable liquid at the surface. The only other place in the solar system with these particular characteristics is, you guessed it, Earth. Thanks to a pair of new studies, we can add a third trait to this list of shared characteristics: a global sea level.
~ Well, haha, Titan, ours is on the rise! What’s yours doing?

Space pooh food — A Penn State researcher team has shown it is possible to rapidly break down solid and liquid waste to grow food with a series of microbial reactors, while simultaneously minimising pathogen growth. They reported their findings in the journal Life Sciences in Space Research.
To test their idea, the researchers used an artificial solid and liquid waste that’s commonly used in waste management tests. They created an enclosed, cylindrical system, four feet long by four inches in diameter, in which select microbes came into contact with the waste. The microbes broke down waste using anaerobic digestion, a process similar to the way humans digest food. The team found that methane was readily produced during anaerobic digestion of human waste and could be used to grow a different microbe, Methylococcus capsulatus, which is used as animal feed today. The team concluded that such microbial growth could be used to produce a nutritious food for deep space flight
~ Every week, I swear, there’s another reason not to venture into space. 

Electric flights for Norway — Norway’s public operator of air transport plans to make all short-haul flights in the country entirely electric by 2040. State-owned Avinor, which operates most of Norway’s civil airports, is aiming to be the ‘first in the world’ to switch to electric air transport.
In a 2017 report, Avinor announced that in cooperation with the Norwegian Sports Aviation Association and major airlines, it had set up a development project for electric aircraft. Avinor said it had called for Norway to be established as a test arena and innovation center for the development of electric aircraft. Avinor intends to reduce aircraft greenhouse gas emissions in the short term by phasing in biofuels in the coming years, and then build on these reductions by phasing in electric planes.
~ Yesway! Electric at home paid for by exporting gas elsewhere. 

New antifungal provides hope in the fight against Superbugs —
Microscopic yeast has been wreaking havoc in hospitals around the world, creeping into catheters, ventilator tubes, and IV lines and causing deadly invasive infections. C. auris is particularly problematic because it loves hospitals, has developed resistance to a wide range of antifungals and once it infects a patient, doctors have limited treatment options.
But in a recent Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy study, researchers confirmed a new drug compound kills drug-resistant C. auris, both in the laboratory and in a mouse model that mimics human infection. The drug works through a novel mechanism: unlike other antifungals that poke holes in yeast cell membranes or inhibit sterol synthesis, the new drug blocks how necessary proteins attach to the yeast cell wall. This means C. auris yeast can’t grow properly and has a harder time forming drug-resistant communities that are a stubborn source of hospital outbreaks.
~ The drug is first in a new class of antifungals which could help stave off drug resistance.

Parent’s not-passed-on genes may still effect you — Children resemble their parents in health, wealth, and well-being. Is parent-child similarity in traits and behaviours due to nature (the genes that children inherit from their parents) or nurture (the environment that parents provide for their children)? Answering this enduring question can directly inform our efforts to reduce social inequality and disease burden. Kong et al used genetic data from trios of parents and offspring to address this question in an intriguing way. By measuring parents’ and children’s genes, they provide evidence that inherited family environments influence children’s educational success, a phenomenon termed genetic nurture.
~ Doesn’t explain my super clever kids, then!

Cheap holograms — Holograms are a mainstay of almost any science fiction film set in the not-too-distant future and beyond. But the capabilities of our real-life versions still fall drastically short. They generally require an extensive set-up, can only be seen correctly from certain angles and often require special viewing headgear. But new research published in Nature might represent one of the greater leaps forward to date: a way to create a three-dimensional, solid- and clean-looking image that can exist in the same space as other objects and even move.
~ Don’t tell me, it’s called An Actual Object?

1.7-billion-year-old chunk of north America found sticking to Australia — Geologists matching rocks from opposite sides of the globe have found that part of Australia was once attached to North America 1.7 billion years ago. Researchers from Curtin University in Australia examined rocks from the Georgetown region of northern Queensland. The rocks (sandstone sedimentary rocks that formed in a shallow sea) had signatures that were unknown in Australia but strongly resembled rocks in present-day Canada. The researchers, who described their findings online January 17th in the journal Geology, concluded the Georgetown area broke away from North America 1.7 billion years ago. Then, 100 million years later, this landmass collided with what is now northern Australia, at the Mount Isa region.
Nuna then broke apart some 300 million years later, with the Georgetown area stuck to Australia as the North American landmass drifted away.
~ Trump might build a wall around it and take it back. 


Futurology ~ TRAPPIST, self-extinguishing civilisations, NZ Milky Way, bacteria balloons, algae steroids, Wind and solar health, out-tanking EV, Penguin code, forever-glider

Artist’s rendering of the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system. (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Everyone’s favourite alien system is a cranky old grump — Trappist-1, the ultracool dwarf star system which was first announced back in February, has garnered a lot of interest because it harbours seven Earth-size planets. At least three of those planets are within the habitable zone that can support liquid water and potentially, life. As we’re all clamouring to understand this alien system, a duo of researchers has figured out some pretty salient information about its star’s age. They estimate it’s between 5.4 and 9.8 billion years old. Our Sun, by comparison, is only about 4.5 billion years old.
~ But has it retired yet? Anything living on these might be very ancient and hardy. Besides …

Astrophysicist believes technologically-advanced species extinguish themselves — Why haven’t we heard from intelligent life elsewhere in the universe? Retired astrophysicist Daniel Whitmire explains that using the principle of mediocracy (a statistical notion that says, in the absence of more data, that your one data point is likely to be ‘average’), that not only are we the first intelligent life on Earth but that we will likely be the only (and thus the last) intelligent life on this planet…
Unfortunately that isn’t the worst of it. Coupled with the Great Silence, it implies the reason we haven’t heard from anyone is that intelligent life, when it happens anywhere else in the universe, doesn’t last and when it does it flames out quickly and takes the biosphere with it (preventing any other intelligent life from reappearing. Sorry dolphins!).
~ Luckily, it usually appears that we’re far from ‘advanced’

Unintended experiment tracks a solar flare to the edges of the System — On 14 October 2014, our Sun let out a great big burp, a coronal mass ejection that swept through the Solar System at an incredibly fortuitous angle, because several spacecraft (and one intrepid Martian rover) detected the solar blast, resulting in an unprecedented experiment that stretched all the way from Venus to outer reaches of the Solar System.
~ Data was combined from a  variety of probes and satellites, and even Mars rovers.  

Milky Way from New Zealand — Christchurch’s Paul Wilson constructed a 113-megapixel photograph that captures the galaxy shimmering above a tumbling shoreline and reflected in the dark water of a dark part of the South Island.
~ Wow!

NASA launching bacteria balloons — These enormous balloons are part of a project aptly named the Eclipse Ballooning Project, and will be used to run several experiments, one of which could help researchers preparing for a mission to Mars. Of 75 balloons, over 30 of them will carry small samples of an extremely resilient strain of bacteria called Paenibacillus xerothermodurans over 24,384m above Earth. The P. xerothermodurans samples will be attached to thin, aluminium “coupons” and attached to the outside of the balloons. According to the researchers, Earth’s stratosphere is similar to the surface atmosphere on Mars, so they will be able to get some idea of how bacteria might behave there.
~ Sounds mental. 

Our life came from algae on steroids — What was life really like here on planet Earth before animals were big enough to leave fossils behind? How did living things turn from dinky capsules of genetic material into the intelligent, complex organisms that do things like fart and type curse words into posts on the internet? Scientists think they have found the answer… in algae steroids.
~ This supposition is based on the increasing diversity of organic compounds found in rock samples. Metallica, anyone?

Wind and solar health benefits surpass all subsidies — A paper in Nature Energy suggests the benefits we receive from moving to renewables like wind and solar that reduce air pollution exceed the cost of the subsidies required to make them competitive with traditional fossil fuels. Berkeley environmental engineer Dev Millstein and his colleagues estimate that between 3000 and 12,700 premature deaths have been averted because of air quality benefits over the last decade or so, creating a total economic benefit between $30 billion and $113 billion. The benefits from wind work out to be more than US7 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is more than unsubsidized wind energy generally costs.
~ So, Big Coal and Big Oil, how do you come back to that? Start paying your lobbyists even more immediately, I guess. 

Electric off-roader out-torques a tank — A Utah startup has just released the specs on the Nikola Zero, a four-seat UTV (utility task vehicle, or what you may know as a side-by-side) guaranteed to make you grin like a lunatic if you ever drive one. The less crazy version produces 415 horsepower and 3,675 foot-pounds of torque. But most people will probably take leave of their senses and go for the thoroughly crazy version, good for 555 horsepower and 4,900 foot-pounds of torque.
~ So this begs the question: did Nikola Tesla have a middle name for another electric vehicle startup? 

Scientists crack penguin undersea code — When Gentoo penguins swim into the open ocean to hunt for food, they often produce wierd buzzing sounds that marine biologists assume is a form of communication. By strapping cameras to the backs of these aquatic birds, scientists have finally figured out the purpose of these odd vocalisations.
~ ‘Hey, I have this weird thing strapped to me, can you help me get it off?’

Smart forever-glider — After learning a clever trick from birds, a sailplane featuring run-of-the-mill RC technology includes artificial intelligence that researchers are developing to pilot it. Using data from sensors that monitor air temperature, wind direction, altitude and other metrics (in addition to speed and location data from GPS), the AI pilot can detect when the sailplane is suddenly gaining altitude, indicating it has located a rising thermal, as birds do.
~ And us humans re generating more and more of these, thanks to our generous efforts to warm the planet.