Category Archives: Science

Curiosity finds conditions habitable to life

In the first rock samples taken after recovery from a recent memory glitch, Mars rover Curiosity has reportedly discovered conditions that may have supported ancient life on Mars. Scientists say the sample contains sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon — some of the key chemical ingredients for life. The mission of Curiosity, in a large part, is to determine whether Mars could have once supported a habitable environment. According to the lead scientist at NASA’s Mars Exploration Program: “From what we know now, the answer is yes.”

The father of all men is twice as old as previously thought

Genetic testing had shown that all men gained their Y chromosome from a common male ancestor. This genetic “Adam” lived between 60,000 and 140,000 years ago, or so we thought. Recently, geneticists were surprised to learn that the “father of all men” is at least twice as old, and how they found this is an interesting story.

Albert Perry, a recently deceased African-American who lived in South Carolina, had his DNA submitted by a family member to Family Tree DNA for genealogical analysis. When Family Tree technicians tried to place Perry on the Y-chromosome family tree, they discovered that his Y chromosome was unlike any other so far analyzed. Further testing revealed that Perry’s male lineage was 338,000 years old.

The first anatomically modern human fossils date back only 195,000 years. Researchers speculate that modern humans must have interbred with ancient humans sometime before then.

Curiosity switches to ‘Safe Mode’

Space.com reports that engineers have switched Mars rover Curiosity operations onto its backup computer, following a memory issue that was noticed when Curiosity had not sent recorded data back to Earth or switch into a daily sleep mode as it was expected to. It’s suspected that cosmic radiation may have damaged hardware on the “A-side”. The “B-side” will take over while engineers determine the best way to restore the A-side as the new backup. It amazes me the engineering that went into this project that allows for such plan B actions at a distance of 35 million miles.

First images of a planet being born

Planet being bornThe European Southern Laboratory acquired this infrared image from their “Very Large Telescope”  (VLT) recently, saying that it may be an image of a baby planet being formed
The photo shows a portion of the disk of gas and dust around the star HD100546, located 335 light-years away in the constellation Musca.

If confirmed to be a planet forming, this image would be the first of a baby exoplanet (planets outside our solar system). Indications are that it would be a large planet as well, possibly a gas giant larger than Jupiter.

Eternal clock proposed

4D Space-time Crystal A 4D space-time crystal, researchers say, could run a clock that would be able to keep time forever.

From the article:

“…the scientists would aim to create a ring of charged particles, with the resulting electromagnetic forces causing the structure to rotate perpetually. At its lowest quantum-energy state, also known as its ground state, the system has no disorder, or entropy, and there is no way for its entropy to increase over time. Thus, the crystal’s temporal structure and timekeeping ability would continue even after the universe reached a state of ‘heat death,’ also known as thermodynamic equilibrium, when it had devolved into entropy.”

The clock would apparently keep time even after the universe itself has ceased to exist.

Warp drive more feasible than previously thought

Warp Drive StarshipA ‘warp drive’ to achieve faster than light travel may not be as unrealistic as previously thought (early calculations determined that such a device would consume prohibitive amounts of energy). Physicists now say “that adjustments can be made to the proposed warp drive that would enable it to run on significantly less energy, potentially bringing the idea back from the realm of science fiction into science.”

Greetings from Mars!

First Image From Curiosity

The 1-ton Curiosity Mars rover has landed safely on Mars, and sent back this first image to signal it’s arrival. NASA’s biggest, most ambitious interplanetary mission is now on the ground and running.

Curiosity survived a harrowing and unprecedented journey to the Red Planet’s surface. After hurtling into the Martian atmosphere at 13,000 mph late Sunday (21,000 kph), Curiosity’s spacecraft deployed an enormous supersonic parachute to slow down to 200 mph (320 kph) or so. The vehicle then fired rockets to slow its descent further, to less than 2 mph (3.2 kph).

Then the craziness began.

A rocket-powered sky crane lowered Curiosity to the Martian surface on cables, then flew off and crash-landed intentionally a safe distance away after the rover’s six wheels hit the red dirt. The ambitious maneuver capped a landing sequence that NASA officials have dubbed “seven minutes of terror.”

In all, an eight-month voyage across 352 million miles, landing the equivalent of a car on an alien planet at a distance so great that we didn’t even know it was successful until 14 minutes after it happened — because that’s how long it takes signals to reach us! This is an amazing achievement of science and technology.