Oct
18
2006

Dry moon: Radar images taken from the moon's south pole have decreased the odds that ice, and therefore water, can be found on the moon's surface. Photo from NASA
Dry moon: Radar images taken from the moon's south pole have decreased the odds that ice, and therefore water, can be found on the moon's surface. Photo from NASA

New pictures from the moon are drying up any ideas that its poles might have traces of ice that could hold water for future manned trips there.

The high-resolution images, shared in the recent edition of the journal Nature, dispute the theory of cold traps on the poles, particularly the moon’s south pole, where water particles were thought to possibly be found as ice. Radar shots from Earth can now look into these cold traps, which are permanently shaded craters on the moon’s south pole.

Such ice deposits have been found on the planet mercury using the same radar measurement techniques. But the latest images showed no traces of ice on the portions of the moon that radar imaging was done on.

Researchers point out that it doesn’t mean there is no ice on the moon’s south pole, just on the areas that were tested. But the bad news, to anyone thinking of making a manned mission to the moon, is that there probably wouldn’t be enough iced water on the pole to help support a long mission.

Six years ago, the Lunar Prospector orbiter found concentrations of hydrogen around the lunar poles. If that hydrogen could be combined with oxygen in some fashion, estimates were that there could be up to a 1 or 2 percent mixture of ice in the soil on the moon’s poles.

So if you’re planning on going to the moon anytime soon, still plan on bringing enough water for everyone in your party.

Oct
17
2006
Oct
17
2006

Sucked in: Will this harm your development?
Sucked in: Will this harm your development?

Autism is a serious concern in our country today, with 1 out of every 166 children diagnosed with some form of the disorder. But could the sharp rise in Autism (it was only 1 in 2500 30 years ago) be linked to the increased prevalence of TV in our homes? Economists from Cornell University say that the data shows a pretty strong correlation.

Michael Waldman and Sean Nicholson looked at populations in California, Oregon, and Washington using the Department of Labor's American Time Use Survey. They compared this information with clinical autism data and found a statistically significant correlation between and increase in early childhood hours spent watching TV and autism rates.

Is that science?

Well, the authors of the study will be the first to say that this isn't definitive proof that TV causes autism (or that autism causes TV...sorry, bad joke). And these guys are economists looking at population data not medical scientists studying individuals with autism. But that doesn't mean this study is without merit. Something in our environment causes autism and we don't really know what it is. I support any unique thought on the subject that gives us new research questions to evaluate.

Do you have a story or thought on autism? Have you heard of other possible causes of autism?

Oct
16
2006

Snowflake Stamps: The new snowflake stamps
Snowflake Stamps: The new snowflake stamps

Physicist Kenneth Libbrecht used a high-resolution microscope to take pictures of snowflakes. These images were put on to four new 39-cent commemorative stamps by the United States Postal Service. The images were taken from snowflakes in Michigan, Alaska, and Ontario. To take the picture, Libbrecht used a paintbrush to transfer the snowflake onto a glass slide. He then took the picture using a digital camera through a high-resolution microscope. Libbrecht does most of his work outside to keep the snowflakes from melting. According to Libbrecht, there are 35 different types of snowflake crystals. The stamps feature two specific types, stellar dendrite snowflake crystals and sectored plate snowflake crystals.

Snowflakes are created when a water droplet inside a cloud freezes into an ice particle. The particle spreads out and becomes a six-sided prism as water vapor gathers on its surface. As more vapor accumulates, the prism grows branches and begins to look like a crystal. No two snowflakes are the same because, inside the cloud, the snowflake crystal is pushed around between temperature and humidity changes which affect the shape of the snowflake.

Oct
16
2006

Giant Panda Bear: A Giant Panda forages for food.
Giant Panda Bear: A Giant Panda forages for food.

According to a graduate researcher at the Georgia Institute of Technology, giant pandas can see in color. Two pandas at Zoo Atlanta were tested over a period of two years, in numerous trials, to see if they could distinguish between colors and shades of gray. The bears were presented with three pipes- two pipes hanging over a shade of gray and one pipe hanging over a color, either red, green, or blue. If the bear chose the color, it received a treat. If it pushed a gray- labeled pipe, the bear got nothing. While the results of the tests for each color, red, green, and blue, were varied in their success, the results did prove that giant pandas have some color vision, though the level of vision they have remains in question. Reserachers say that the ability to see color could aid the bears in foraging for food, like being able to tell the difference between a patch of healthy, green bamboo and a patch of brown, dead bamboo.

Oct
16
2006


MN Energy Challenge: Website here.

Save money. Save our planet.

I just signed up for the "Minnesota Energy Challenge". By pledging to reduce my energy use in specific ways, I will reduce CO2 emmissions and save dollars. I was given the option of adding my savings to a team of participants. I chose Saint Paul (which is beating Minneapolis 2905 to 2692 tons of CO2 saved). I wish the Science Museum of Minnesota had a team. I think it would be neat to have our staff, members, and visitors demonstrate that they are willing to "become the change they envision"(Ghandi). You can join up on the mnenergychallenge.org website.

The Minnesota Energy Challenge is a statewide initiative, developed by the Center for Energy and Environment" (CEE), to encourage every homeowner, renter, business owner, educator, worship leader, city manager and student to reduce their electricity and energy use. CEE has projected that a 2 percent annual reduction in electricity energy use will eliminate the need to build more coal-fired energy plants in Minnesota.

There is a meeting tonight(Oct. 16)

Minneapolis newscaster, Don Shelby, will be speaking at 7:30 p.m.

  • October 16, 6 - 9 p.m.
  • Hale Elementary School
  • 1220 54th Street E, Minneapolis

In addition to introducing the energy challenge, displays and demonstrations will cover topics such as energy-saving light bulbs, programmable thermostats, energy audits, high-efficiency furnaces, project financing, tax incentives, and preparing the home for the heating season. The first 500 attendees at each fair will receive free light bulbs, and there will be activities for the kids.

Thankyou missgo76 for alerting me about this on the Energista website.

Oct
15
2006

Coral in trouble: photo from NOAA via Wikimedia
Coral in trouble: photo from NOAA via Wikimedia

Oceans appear unhealthy

What if Earth's oceans get so sick they start a chain reaction of death? Zones of death are showing up in the Gulf and off the coast of Oregon. The coral reefs off Madagascar, Australia, and Belize are dying.

More than 90 percent of the earth’s living biomass (weight of living matter) is found in the oceans, and 90 percent of that is made up of single cell and microbial species. ...
There are signs that marine life is failing right at the bottom of the food web as the result of global warming, which could start a series of aggravating feedback effects on climate change. Institute of Science in Society

"Increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has had effects in the ocean, where it's causing increased acidity," says director of NSF's biological oceanography program, Phil Taylor, "This increasing acidity has the potential to disrupt the calcifying processes that lead to coral reef development, for example, as well as disrupt those same processes in the microscopic plankton that form the center of the ocean's food web." National Science Foundation

Cacium carbonate depends upon non-acidic ocean

Since the industrial revolution began, ocean pH has dropped by approximately 0.1 units, and it is estimated that it will drop by a further 0.3 - 0.4 units by 2100 as the ocean absorbs more anthropogenic CO2 (Caldeira and Wickett, 2003; Orr et al., 2005) (via Wikipedia). Ocean life which use calcium carbonate find themselves dissolving when their environment is too acidic.

More research needed

In a recent study, scientists discovered several small reefs near Madagascar with corals that appeared to be resilient to rising sea temperatures. These resilient areas could be used to reseed damaged reefs ensuring the continued existence of coral reefs around the world and the marine species that rely upon them for survival.

Coral bleaching should serve as a red flag warning us that we need to understand the complex interactions between changing ocean chemistry and marine ecology. We need to develop research strategies to better understand the long-term vulnerabilities of sensitive marine organisms to these changes.

Oct
14
2006

Kite power: photo by Tobias Jäger from Wikimedia
Kite power: photo by Tobias Jäger from Wikimedia

Kite wind generator idea earns award

Wind is usually stronger and more dependable at high altitudes. High towers are expensive, though. Why not use kites and strong string to capture power from high altitude winds?

This idea of using kites to generate electricity earned a 2006 World Renewable Energy Award.

The main idea of Kite Wind Generator is based on a vertical axis turbine whose blades are the flying airfoils. The plant is able to provide 1 GigaWatth/year, it is 25 metres high, it has a turbine radius of 800 metres and it requests ground wind speed of 3 m/sec to fully operate. The needed area is 4 km2, that is more than 80 times smaller than the area for the equivalent wind farm based on traditional eolic generators. The cost of this machine is around 300 Millions €, including transportation, installation, foundations and connection to the grid. World Renewable Energy Congress.

The way KiteGen works is to have a giant horizontal merry-go-round with kites attached to its perimeter. Sensors and controllers would fly the kites in a way that would spin the generators at its axis.(watch video simulation here).

KiteGen electrity could be 30 X cheaper

Research by Sequoia Automation, the small company near Turin heading the project, estimates that KiteGen could churn out one gigawatt of power at a cost of just 1.5 euros per megawatt hour.

Outstanding questions about such a generator include location and possible bureaucratic headaches over permits for air space. Current speculation is that KiteGen may soar above the former Trino Vercellese nuclear power plant, already a no-fly zone, in the region.

Read more at Wired News.

Oct
14
2006

Today at the Science Museum, the Make-It team made rockets. Kids made short or long rockets. It's fun to watch the kids make rockets. NASA is making a new rocket. It is going to be done in 2014. The design will help protect the people who are going out into space if anything goes wrong with the rocket.

Oct
13
2006

White buffalo: A huge increase in the occurance of white bison has scientists scratching their heads about what's going on with the genetics of the breedCourtesy xxxtoff
White buffalo: A huge increase in the occurance of white bison has scientists scratching their heads about what's going on with the genetics of the breed
Courtesy xxxtoff

What's going on with bison genes these days? Scientists aren't sure but they're checking into the possibilities.

A white bison was extremely rare back in the days before the westward movement of white civilization. At its peak back then, there were 80 million bison roaming the ranges. The presence of a white bison was so unusual, native peoples thought its appearance was a message from the gods.

But in the past dozen years, two dozen white bison calves have been reared in captivity out of a population of around 500,000. The new white bison aren't albinos, but genetic ancestors of those famous rare bison of yore.

Geneticists who know about bison are amazed at the long odds to have so many white creatures coming back, for such a recessive gene to have so much prominence again. And they're zeroing in on some significant factors.

Several possible causes could be hyping the chances of the recessive gene to be present in bison calves: the impact of exposure to radiation, some type of chemical exposure or some natural accident in the process of cell-duplicating DNA.

Another factor may be the result of significant cross-breeding of bison with French Charolais cattle, which are white, to create the hybrid animal that is butchered into "beefalo."

The issue came into more focus this summer when a second white bison was born into the Dave Heider herd near Janesville, Wisc. For years, Native Americans came to his farm to see Miracle, a white bison that was born in 1994. It died two years ago, but then this August another white bison was born of the same herd. That Bison has been named Second Chance. While no DNA testing has been done on the herd, the situation is mystifying as the two white bison come from completely different blood lines.

White bison have been considered so rare and special that it carried high spiritual significance to the Lakota people. And members of the tribe are looking to a spiritual explanation for the significant rise in the numbers of white bison, saying that it signifies a need for people to unify and settle differences.

On the other hand, some native peoples are suspicious of the efforts to breed white bison as being a way to exploit their religious beliefs and practices. Those practices assert that white bison are the sacred spirit of the White Buffalo Calf Woman who first appeared 2,000 years ago during a plague of starvation for the Lakota people.