Asian nations vie for stake in moon

November 10, 2008


When India’s Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter reaches its destination on 8 November, it will join two others – and neither is American, Russian or European. For the first time, probes from China, Japan and India will be orbiting the moon. This signals the latest stage in a new space race in which Asian nations are seeking a place alongside the established space powers. Both China and India are looking for helium-3 in the lunar crust as a possible fuel for nuclear fission reactors on Earth. The moon is estimated to have a millions tonnes of the stuff, the result of billions of years of bombardment by the solar winds.

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Liquid Mirror Telescopes on the Moon

October 9, 2008

“It’s so simple,” says Ermanno F. Borra, physics professor at the Optics Laboratory of Laval University in Quebec, Canada. “Isaac Newton knew that any liquid, if put into a shallow container and set spinning, naturally assumes a parabolic shape—the same shape needed by a telescope mirror to bring starlight to a focus. This could be the key to making a giant lunar observatory.” Borra, who has been studying liquid-mirror telescopes since 1992, and Simon P. “Pete” Worden, now director of NASA Ames Research Center, are members of a team taking the idea for a spin. “A mirror that large could peer back in time to when the universe was very young, only half a billion years old, when the first generation of stars and galaxies were forming,” Borra exclaimed. “Potentially more exciting is pure serendipity: new things we might discover that we just don’t expect.” Says Worden: “Putting a giant telescope on the Moon has always been an idea of science fiction, but it soon could become fact.”

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Autosub 6000

September 18, 2008

Autosub6000, which was developed by British scientists, descended almost three miles below the surface to investigate a canyon north of the Canary Islands. The trough contains the deepest seabed volcanoes in the world. Its next mission is to investigate the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, one of Europe’s worst natural disasters, in which more than 10,000 people died. The successful first dive this week formed part of a research expedition investigating potential threats to Western European coasts from tsunamis, giant landslides and earthquakes.On its return to the surface, 24 hours after its launch, it provided scientists with three-dimensional images showing holes in the sea floor the size of Wembley Stadium – evidence of giant underwater avalanches in the past, and a potential cause of tsunamis in the future. Autosub6000, which was developed at the National Oceanographic Centre, Southampton, can dive to a depth of 6,000 metres – nearly four miles – allowing it to reach 93 per cent of the world’s seabed. It is an exciting prospect as the deepest parts of the sea floor remain the last explored places on our earth.

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September 11, 2008

After years of waiting, It was really satisfying yesterday to see the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) come online to an amazing amount of media coverage and be successful.  However, that was only the first test for the LHC and the really interesting stuff we are still waiting for.  So while we wait for the ‘big-bang’ experiments, I thought it would be a good time to talk about a couple of other projects which arguably are just as important as the work being done at the LHC.

The fist is ITER project, a joint international research and development project that aims to demonstrate the scientific and technical feasibility of Fusion energy.  Fusion is the energy source of the sun and the stars. On earth, fusion research is aimed at demonstrating that this energy source can be used to produce electricity in a safe and environmentally benign way, with abundant fuel resources, to meet the needs of a growing world population.  ITER is very early in its development and its likely we won’t see anything like the spectacle surounding the LHC for 20+ years.  This is partly due to the enormous amount of energy it takes to start a Fusion reaction and the extreme temperatures (think the Sun) it produces.


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The Fight to End Aging Gains Legitimacy, Funding

June 28, 2008

Gandhi once said, describing his critics, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

After declaring, essentially out of nowhere, that he had a program to end the disease of aging, renegade biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey knows how the first three steps of Gandhi’s progression feel. Now he’s focused on the fourth.

“I’ve been at Gandhi stage three for maybe a couple of years,” de Grey said. “If you’re trying to make waves, certainly in science, there’s a lot of people who are going to have insufficient vision to bother to understand what you’re trying to say.”

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Temperature Conditions of a Supernova Recreated

May 30, 2008

Scientists are one step closer to attaining the ultimate goal: producing temperatures high enough to sustain fusion, the reaction that powers our Sun and the possible future for global energy production. Researchers at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire, UK, have attained temperatures higher than the surface of the Sun, 10 million Kelvin (or Celsius), by using a powerful one petawatt laser called Vulcan. This experiment goes beyond the quest for fusion power; generating these high temperatures recreates the conditions of cosmological events such as supernova explosions.

This is some awesome research. An international collaboration of researchers from the UK, Europe, Japan and the US have succeeded in harnessing an equivalent of 100 times the world energy production into a tiny spot, measuring a fraction of the width of a human hair. That’s a whopping one petawatt of energy (one thousand million million watts, or enough to power ten trillion 100W light bulbs) focused on a volume measuring about 0.000009 metres (9µm) across. Vulcan blasted its target with the one petawatt laser beam for a mere 1 picosecond (one millionth of a millionth of a second). This may seem miniscule, but this microscopic period of time allowed the target material to be heated to the 10 million degrees Kelvin.

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The International Space Station

April 23, 2008

The International Space Station (ISS) is a research facility currently being assembled in space. The on-orbit assembly of ISS began in 1998. The ISS has been continuously inhabited since the first resident crew entered the station on November 2, 2000, thereby providing a permanent human presence in space. Early crew members all came from the Russian and U.S. space programs. The ISS was also the destination of the first five space tourists. At an estimated cost of $157 billion for the ISS project from its start until the program will end in 2017, the ISS is the most expensive object ever built by humankind. This is dwarfed by the price of the Iraq War with the total cost to the U.S. economy estimated at $3 to 5 trillion in five years.

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