Up and away: SpaceX's Falcon 9 is scheduled to launch today.
Up and away: SpaceX's Falcon 9 is scheduled to launch today.Courtesy Maggie Osterberg via Fiickr (Graphic by Mark Ryan)
The scheduled launch of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket is a go for today at 2:25 CDT*. So, if you want to watch it live, it's easy to do. Just set your alarm and come back here to use the simple link below to view a live video-stream of the event. Hey, folks, it's not rocket science...wait, what?

NASA Public on UStream

*Neither I nor Science Buzz is responsible for launch delays or postponements.

Last week some impressive photos of whales riding the surf in Hawaii made their rounds on the internet. Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) can often be seen in Hawaii between December and May as they migrate north but rarely as close as they were at Pipeline, a legendary surfing location on Oahu's North Shore. Now a spectacular video of the unusual event has surfaced. Using a camera drone, videographer Eric Sterman captured some pretty amazing footage of the whales (including a calf), swimming and breaching just off shore of the popular surfing site.

SMM President Eric Jolly will be among the science presenters at Monday's annual Easter Egg Roll at the White House. Check out this quick video presentation on what he'll be helping visitors discover there.

Apr
17
2014

Virus Filter - The fibers of the filter are white and the virus green.
Virus Filter - The fibers of the filter are white and the virus green.Courtesy Björn Syse

Scientists have developed a paper made of cellulose nanofibers that can be used to filter out harmful viruses.

The new filter paper is made with cellulose fibers, a natural component of green plants that gives wood its strength. Cellulose is the main component of plant cell walls, and the basic building block for many textiles and for paper. Cellulose works well for filters because it is inexpensive, disposable, inert, and non-toxic; cellulose is also mechanically strong and stable in a wide range of acid and alkaline conditions.

But normal filter paper can't trap viruses. A virus is tiny, about a thousand times smaller than a human hair. Normal filter paper has pores that are too large to remove tiny viruses. The new nano fiber filter paper is made with cellulose fibers with diameters of less than 100 nanometers. Viruses range in size from 30-50 nanometers, and can be trapped in the nano fiber filter paper.

The research has been conducted at two Swedish universities, Uppsala University and Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences/Swedish National Veterinary Institute.

To read more about this research visit:
http://www.uu.se/en/media/press-release-document/?id=2271&area=3,8&typ=p...

To learn more about nanotechnology, science, and engineering, visit:
www.whatisnano.org

To see other nano stories on Science Buzz tagged #nano visit:
http://www.sciencebuzz.org/buzz_tags/nano

Apr
16
2014

Matthew Beattie-Callahan is another senior at 'Iolani School in Honolulu, Hawaii. He also participated in outreach for his final project for AP Biology. He wrote this blog post describing his experience being the teachers, not the students, to promote environmental sustainability in the next, next generation.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was an anti-Nazi dissident during World War II and was executed by the Gestapo for his involvement in plans to assassinate Adolf Hitler. A Lutheran Pastor, Bonhoeffer said, “The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.” Since World War II, the world has made great strides in working to promote peace and stability as well as prevent the types of atrocities that were committed by the Nazis. Yet, now the world is faced with a greatly different problem: a rapidly disintegrating environment; and this time children are not only passive receivers of the problems of earlier generations, but also the potential solution to these problems.

Often it seems that education and lifestyle changes on an individual level are as necessary and effective, if not more so, at promoting environmental sustainability as sweeping governmental legislation can be. This is the fundamental reason that youth are such an essential part of the solution to our environmental problems; it is in the younger generations that new lifestyle practices and social norms can and must be established to promote environmental sustainability. The first step to accomplishing those goals is environmental education. This past February, a group of my AP Biology classmates and I had the opportunity to engage in this environmental education; however this time we weren’t the students, we were the teachers.

We made the short walk over to Ala Wai elementary school to meet and teach a group of extremely energetic and bright fifth graders on a range of environmental topics: bacteria, water chemistry, weather, big animals, and small animals. Each of the topics was related to the neighboring Ala Wai Canal and the ecosystem of the area. We hoped that by teaching the fifth graders more about their environment and the fragility of ecosystems they would be more aware of their own actions and impact on the environment.

I think we were all a little nervous about trying to keep the fifth graders interested and engaged during our presentations. However, it quickly became apparent that the problem was instead trying to answer all of their questions in the time we had been allotted. The students were fascinated by everything from plankton under a microscope, to crabs they could hold, to the colorful bacterial colonies of a water sample from the Ala Wai.

Our experiences at Ala Wai Elementary show that environmental education can be fun, enlightening, and valuable. Hopefully, after seeing the bacterial samples from the Ala Wai, the animals that live in the canal and understanding the nature of the ecosystem, the students will be more aware and conscious in their efforts to maintain a clean environment both at school and at home. Furthermore, there is always the hope that by exposing students to biology and other science fields early in their education, they will develop a love for science and go on to make even greater contributions to environmental science and sustainability. It was an amazing experience to be able to teach the Ala Wai Elementary students, but my greatest takeaway from the experience was hearing the shrieks of laughter as the students held a crab or helped assemble a weather station and the knowledge that we had hopefully created a group of students who are more aware of their environment.

See video

During our interview with Mary Mclaughlin and Jasmine Koncur, they shared some things on what they did before getting this job. Check it out!

Mary and Jasmine are Sheffield Research Associates whom we worked with at the expedition.

Apr
14
2014

Lunar eclipse: Tonight's will be the first in a tetrad of four total lunar eclipses over the next year-and-a-half.
Lunar eclipse: Tonight's will be the first in a tetrad of four total lunar eclipses over the next year-and-a-half.Courtesy Mark Ryan
The first of 4 consecutive total lunar eclipses occurs late tonight (and early Tuesday morning) and will be visible to practically all of the United States (local weather permitting). The astronomical event begins around 5:58 UT, and should last about 4 and a half hours from start to finish.

A total lunar eclipse takes place when the moon passes through the Earth's umbra, the innermost darkest shadow created by the Earth as it (from the Moon's perspective) blocks out the Sun. Refraction caused by the Earth's atmosphere allows for some of the Sun's light to bend around the Earth and bathe the Moon in an amber glow, resulting in what is sometimes referred to as a Blood Moon, especially by some fundamental religious groups who see it as an omen of the biblical End Times. There are two other kinds of lunar eclipses. When the Moon passes only through the penumbra, the faint part of the shadow, that's called a penumbral lunar eclipse. When only a portion of the Moon intersects with the darker umbra, that's a partial lunar eclipse.

As I mentioned, tonight's eclipse is the first in a series of four consecutive total lunar eclipses. This is a pretty uncommon occurrence known as a tetrad. Only 62 tetrad events will have occurred from 1 A.D. to the year 2100, and just eight in the 1200 months of the 21st century.

Each year there are at least two lunar eclipses and sometimes as many as five. Eclipses don't happen every month because the plane of the Moon's orbit around Earth is tilted. Usually, consecutive eclipses are a mix of partial, penumbral, and the relatively rarer total lunar eclipses. To have four total lunar eclipses happen in a row, as we will over the next seventeen months or so is even rarer. And luckily, all four of them be will visible to most of us in the United States.

Tonight's celestial event begins at 11:55 PM (Minneapolis time) and reaches maximum eclipse at 2:46 AM, then finishes at 4:32 AM. If you want to confirm the times for your area, use this handy eclipse calculator. The night-owl timing of tonight's eclipse might keep many of you from enjoying it (I'll probably be sleeping), but just know there are three more headed our way: October 8, 2014, April 4, 2015, and September 28, 2015.

SOURCES and LINKS
NASA Eclipse Web Site
Eclipse expert Fred Espanek's Lunar Eclipse Primer
Universal Time (UT) conversion table
Observing tips at Space.com
Eclipse visibility maps at Space.com

Apr
13
2014

Tiktaalik roseae: Field Museum of Natural History
Tiktaalik roseae: Field Museum of Natural HistoryCourtesy Eduard Solà via Wikipedia
If you missed last week's PBS broadcast of Your Inner Fish, the documentary based on paleontologist-anatomist Neil Shubin's book by the same name, you have another chance to catch up on the first of three segments on the web. It's an excellent opening segment of the 3-part series, but is only available (for free!) right here through April 23, 2014.

The series deals with Shubin's search for the connections we all have with our fishy and reptilian ancestors. His discovery of the remarkable transitional fossil named Tiktaalik roseae on Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic has added great evidence of our ties with our distant piscean relatives. The flat-headed, 375 million year-old Tiktaalik possessed the exact features - such as both lungs and gills, a wrist and neck - that you'd hope to find in a transitional form between swimming fish and land-walking tetrapods.

The next episode, titled Your Inner Reptile airs Wednesday, April 16th on your local PBS station. It's on here in the Twin Cities at 9pm but check your local listing for times in your area.

In the meantime, watch the first episode, and read about some of the reaction to Shubin's find here, here, and here.

LINKS
University of Chicago Tiktaalik roseae page

Gooseberry Falls in calmer times
Gooseberry Falls in calmer timesCourtesy Mark Ryan
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary the definition of "ice-out" is: the disappearance of ice from the surface of a body of water as a result of thawing. After the long winter we've been through it's a welcomed event, and a pretty spectacular example took place earlier today at Gooseberry Falls on the North Shore of Lake Superior. You can watch it on this video provided by the Duluth News-Tribune.

Apr
09
2014

Contributed by Haley Harada

We see headlines, newspaper articles, and television specials almost everyday—“Oil Spill in South America”, “Bird Species Endangered”, and “Temperatures At All Time High Due to Global Warming”. Environmental catastrophes and problems are undoubtedly a major world issue. While we are likely aware of some of the various environmental challenges global citizens face, preserving and restoring Earth’s delicate environment often leaves us with more questions than answers. Mahatma Gandhi once advised, “Be the change you wish to see in the world”. But progress is impossible if we do not understand or realize what those changes should be.

After participating in an environmental outreach program between ‘Iolani School and Ala Wai Elementary, I’ve begun to see the importance of environmental education. Awareness is the first step towards action. Children especially, should be taught about their surroundings in order to become educated voters, innovative scientists, and productive members of an environmentally conscious society. Teaching children about anything, from the trees in their backyards to the earth’s atmosphere, can broaden their perspectives of organisms and the systems in which they operate. Although the saying is cliché, it is undoubtably true: children are the future. Ultimately, they are the ones who will propagate change and answer our questions.

When we first started introducing ourselves to the students at Ala Wai Elementary, they seemed nervous and a bit confused about the purpose of the outreach project. One concept that we really wanted the students to understand was the connectivity of all living and non-living things, from animals and plants to water and weather. Although in the allotted time period it was impossible to go in depth about each subject, it was most important for the students to see the connection between the concepts. We also brought up ideas that the students were already familiar with and tried to get them to think about each in a new way. As the project continued, the students became more comfortable and seemed to gain at least some environmental insight. It filled me with joy to watch them playing with fish and looking through microscopes at things that they had never seen or paid attention to before.

The most rewarding part of the project was bringing the Ala Wai surroundings, often taken for granted, to life. Showing students that experiments can be interesting and fun might encourage them to seek environmental learning opportunities in the future. My hope is that students realized that there is an endless amount of things to see and learn about in their world. In the process of trying to teach younger students, I myself became more aware of the importance of bringing the outside world into the classroom. Children need to put down their iPads and cell phones once in a while to understand and appreciate the world around them. In the future, they'll be thankful they did.

Haley Harada is a high school senior at 'Iolani School. She wrote this blog post as part of a final project for AP Biology.