SN-1006 - (See "Early Supernov"
Over the Edge
Roundup of Strange Science for the Month
from Seawater - The U.S. Navy thinks it figured out
how to take water and use turn it into oil to fuel its ships.
The process called "liquid hydrocarbon" would allow Navy
ships to avoid the re-supply problems associated with operating
at sea for long lengths of time and having to rendezvous
with tankers. The procedure extracts carbon dioxide and
hydrogen gas from seawater and then using a catalytic converter,
transforms these into a fuel by a gas-to-liquids process.
A recent breakthrough allows them to extract both significant
amounts of carbon dioxide and hydrogen gas at the same time,
something they have not been able to do in the past. The
fuels could not only be used to power ships, but jet aircraft.
The projected cost of the jet fuel would be three to six
dollars per gallon.
Up the Collider! - The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) which
has been off-line for an upgrade for over a year, has been
switched on again. However, the process isn't like flicking
on a circuit breaker. The LHC has many parts that must be
powered up, checked and adjusted and will not be fully operational
again until 2015. The atomic sub-particles that the LHC
uses are first pre-accelerated in a daisy chain of other
accelerators that ramp up the particles speed before they
can be feed into the LHC. The first of these, Linac2, was
switched on in April. The next in the chain, the Proton
Synchrotron Booster, which has been given significant upgrades
during the break, will be powered up soon. On its last run
the LHC proved the existence of the Higgs boson - the exchange
particle that endows matter with mass. Scientists are hoping
for even greater discoveries once the LHC get running again
Has a Tattoo - Researchers at the British Museum have
discovered a tattoo on a 1,300 year-old mummy from Egypt.
The tattoo on the woman's thigh displays the name of the
biblical archangel Michael. The body, wrapped in woolen
and linen, was mummified by the intense desert heat, and
recovered 10 year ago, but just recently unwrapped. The
tattoo, written in ancient Greek, reads M-I-X-A-H-A, or
Michael. Scientists suspect that it was a symbol worn for
religious and spiritual protection. The position, on the
inner thigh, may have been meant for safety in childbirth
or protection against sexual violation, according to researchers.
The tattoo was so well-persevered that researcher could
see it with their naked eyes, but used medical infrared
technology to get more detail.
Bank and Roll Like Fighter Planes - Ever try swatting
a fly and miss? It's a commons occurrence. In the latest
issue of Science researchers have found that tiny fruit
flies employ maneuvers not unlike fighter planes to avoid
attack. The researcher built a set up with a high-speed
camera (7,500 frames a second) and a mechanical swatter
and recorded the action. "Although they have been described
as swimming through the air, tiny flies actually roll their
bodies just like aircraft in a banked turn to maneuver away
from impending threats," said co-author Michael Dickinson,
a University of Washington professor of biology. "We discovered
that fruit flies alter course in less than one one-hundredth
of a second, 50 times faster than we blink our eyes, and
which is faster than we ever imagined." The flies perceive
the direction of the predator, or swatter, and plot a course
that will take them away from it. Though they were not researching
better fly swatting techniques the scientists suspect that
a two handed technique, where the first hand cause the flies
to bank into the second hand would be most effective.
Inside Cockroaches - Bioengineers have successfully
injected cockroaches with nanorobots made from DNA that
can unfold to dispense drugs. The robots were given a fluorescent
marker so they could be tracked within the cockroache's
body to see if they delivered the drug to the right place.
"This is the first time that biological therapy has been
able to match how a computer processor works," said Ido
Bachelet from Bar Ilan University's Institute of Nanotechnology
and Advanced Materials. Cockroaches are used because they
do not reject the robots as foreign invaders as mammals
would. However, the team seems confident that the robots
can be made to work with humans too and hope to start trials
within five years. It is hoped that someday nanorobots might
be programmed to seek out diseases inside humans and treat
them at their location deep inside that body.
Quote of the Month - "Science
is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound
source of spirituality." - Carl Sagan.
New at the Museum:
Oceans of Earth -
the acknowledged worlds both in our solar system and circling
distant stars, Earth is the only planet known to have liquid
oceans. And it's probably no coincidence, either, that our
world is the only planet we know of that also harbors life.
Picture of the Month - What
is this this?
- Your kid's interested in legendary animals that may,
or may not, exist? Check out an encyclopida of cryptids
by young authors Francis and Lucas Rosa. The New Hampshire
twins had an early interest in animals on the edge of myth
and researched and wrote this new book. For more information
check their website at http://cryptidpediabook.com/
UFO - How does an ionocraft work? I've only ever
seen unmanned models of them--is it possible to build a
manned one? - Specboy
In the August 1964 issue of Popular Mechanics there was
an article entitled "Major De Seversky's Ion-Propelled Aircraft."
It tells the story of a wonderful new method of flight being
developed at Electron-Atom Inc., a research firm in Long
Island City, New York, under the direction of aviation designer
Alexander P. de Seversky. The author, Hans Fantel, describes
watching a model aircraft with no props, no jets and no
wings lift straight up and fly silently around the company's
test facility. The engineers predicted that as soon as some
of the bugs got worked out they could build a full sized
aircraft that would climb straight up like a helicopter,
but capable of extremely high altitudes (300,000 feet) and
super-high speeds. As a bonus since it didn't generate heat
it would be invulnerable to heat-seeking guided missiles.
They called this test model an ionocaft.
the 1960's the Soviet engineers speculated about building
to say those predictions from half a century ago have not
panned out. Still, the ionocraft is a fascinating device
and many engineers are still intrigued by it. It is simple,
quiet and had has no moving parts.
does it work? Typically there are two major parts to an
ionocraft: At the top is a "Corona Wire." This wire is charged
with positive high voltage electricity. This will strip
the electrons from the surrounding air "ionizing" it and
giving it a positive electrical charge. The second part
of craft is a collector which is negatively charged and
placed just below the corona wire. The positively charged
air is attracted to the collector and moves downward through
the gap between the two parts. As the charged air makes
this move it bumps into neutrally charged air pushing it
downward also. This creates a downdraft and this downdraft
provides lift for the vehicle.
ionocraft they were experimenting in the 60's had a metal
grid for the collector and rising above it spikes which
created the corona. The ions moved from around the spikes
to the grid creating the downdraft. The engineers pictured
the full-size version as a cockpit would hang below the
grid, a bit like the way a basket hangs below a balloon.
ionocrafts you see today, however, are just science fair
demonstrations. They are usually built in a triangular shape
with three corona wires just above three collectors made
of foil. By increasing the voltage to any of the three corona/collector
pairs the lift of that section is increased. This allows
for it to be steered by just adjusting the voltage to each
of the sides.
problem that the engineers ran into with the ionocraft back
the 60's was that the technology did not scale up well.
They could never build a vehicle that had enough lift to
carry the equipment needed to produce the electricity to
drive it. Any version of an ionocraft you see today has
wires running to it that carry the electricity from a power
plant located on the ground.
engineers have not given up on using electrohydrodynamic
lift to create engines. NASA's developed their NSTAR electrostatic
ion thruster in the 1990's, which has been used to power
a number of deep space probes and satellites, using similar
principles as with the ionocraft.
has been somewhat of a revival in interest in electrohydrodynamic
lift in the last few years and recently researchers at MIT
did a study on the ionocraft and discovered it is actually
a much more efficient way to produce thrust than a jet engine.
Professor Subrata Roy of the University of Florida is working
with NASA to design a prototype airship called the Wingless
Electromagnetic Air Vehicle (WEAV) using a design similar
to an ionocraft. Roy's design calls for a vehicle that ionizes
the air around it, then pushes it away by using electromagnets.
He has the same power problems, however, as other engineers
encountered with their ionocrafts, but hopes to find a solution
using either a battery, ultracapacitor, solar panel or some
combination of those items. The shape of Roy's vehicle would
be disc-like: In other words, a flying saucer.
perhaps this is why so many people have been fascinated
by the idea of the ionocraft for so long. These strange
flyers sound so much like the descriptions people have reported
over the years about UFO sightings: They make almost no
sound (just a humming or crackling) are disc shaped and
can move in any direction. Perhaps if Roy is successful
we may actually see a flying saucer in our skies someday,
though instead of being from Mars it would be from Florida.
a question? Click here to
send it to us.
Supernova - In May of 1006 Chinese astronomers recorded
the appearance of a 'guest star' in their skies. It is thought
that this is the first observation of a "Supernova." The
Chinese watched the star continued to increase in brightness
until it was more intense than anything else in the night
sky other than the moon. It could even been seen during
the day. What was left of this supernova was re-discovered
in 1965 (and given the name SN 1006) by radio astronomers
Doug Milne and Frank Gardner and later also observed by
optical and x-ray techniques.
the First to See the Camelopardalids - Up for a new
meteor shower? Some scientists are predicting that comet
209P/Linear which is headed toward the sun, has left a cloud
of dust behind it that will result in a meteor shower in
the night skies around May 24th. Since we've never encountered
this trail of dust before it is unknown how many meteors
might be seen. Some are hoping for a spectacular display
given that this is a "fresh" cloud of dust. Expect it to
be most visible between midnight and 2AM. The name given
to this tentative shower is the Camelopardalids.
in German Town - If you fly your flying saucer to the
town of Göttingen, in the German state of Lower Saxony,
you should easily find a place to park. The town recently
created a Ufo-Landeplatz (UFO Landing Place) in the center
of the village. The event was celebrated by a party involving
local politicians, sciences buffs, comedians and just regular
people. The area marked off is a circle that is no longer
available for public parking, but now limited to use by
extraterrestrial spacecraft. Town officials warn that anyone
who attempts to park their car in the ULP does so at their
own peril and might come out of the local beer hall to find
their vehicle crushed by ET's mother ship.
check local listing for area outside of North America.
Why Sharks Attack - Will analyzing the hunting instincts
of this endangered predator reduce deadly attacks? On PBS
May 7that 9 pm ET/PT
Escape from Nazi Alcatraz - A crack team rebuilds a
glider that POWs hoped to catapult off the top of Colditz
Castle. On PBS May 14th at 9 pm ET/PT
Avalanche Tragedy - Unprecedented access and eyewitness
accounts from the rescue and recovery that took place after
the avalanche struck the Khumbu Icefall, just above Mt.
Everest base camp, during the morning of Friday, April 18,
killing 13 and leaving three missing. On the Discovery Channel:
May 4th 9:00PM & 11:00PM
the City 2: Machu Picchu- Machu Picchu, the crown jewel
of the sprawling Incan empire, is constant threatened by
earthquakes, landslides, and torrential rain. Using CGI
to strip it, layer by layer, we explore the infrastructure
that keeps it from tumbling down the Andes mountans. On
the Science Channel: May 3rd 10:00AM
President's Book of Secrets - Moments after the President
of the United States is sworn into office he gains access
to "The Nuclear Football," a briefcase that contains the
most volatile top-secret information in the world--America's
nuclear launch codes. The Football is a high profile national
secret, but it's only one of many pieces in the classified
arsenal at the President's disposal once he assumes the
role of Commander in Chief. Journey inside White House history
to unveil staggering information about secrets known only
to the President, from top-secret intelligence and classified
events to covert codes and future technologies. Features
exclusive interviews with Washington insiders, including
former CIA Director Michael Hayden, former Director of Homeland
Security Michael Chertoff, former Vice President Dan Quayle,
former White House Press Secretary Dana Perino and Presidential
daughter Susan Ford who reveal what it is like to live and
work in the White House. On the History Channel: May 1st
the Great Lakes - North America?s Great Lakes are the
largest system of free fresh water on earth, wielding huge
influence on the continent. Over 34 million people live
by their shores in some of greatest cities in the world.
This groundbreaking television program pulls a virtual plug
on the huge lakes, using computer-generated imagery to reveal
hidden secrets of their human history and changing geological
past. On the National Geographic Channel: Sunday May 12th
at 7PM .
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