Science Saturday: Giant Rocket + Virgin Submarine + Torn-apart Star + New Particle? + more April 9, 2011by Kayla Iacovino , Filed under: Science/Technology , trackback
This is a big week for science, with a giant new rocket unveiled by SpaceX, Richard Branson going from Galactic to Oceanic with a cool one-man submarine, FermiLab physicists discovering a new particle (or maybe a new ‘force’ or something they aren’t sure), and NASA telescopes spotting a star being literally torn apart by a giant black hole. We have all that plus a do-it-yourself cannon, and the birthday of the Internet (maybe).
SpaceX Unveils Plans for World’s Most Powerful Rocket
Private spaceship maker SpaceX has announced plans to construct a new heavy-lift rocket that will be the most powerful rocket currently in operation and the most powerful commercial rocket ever built. The new unmanned rocket, Falcon Heavy, will be able to carry twice the payload of the space shuttle at around one-tenth of the cost ($1,000 per pound), setting a new record for the cost per pound to orbit. The first launch of Falcon Heavy could come as early as 2013.
Learn more at SpaceX.
Richard Branson Announces Virgin Oceanic + Plans for One-Man Submarine
Sir Richard Branson, owner of the Virgin conglomerate, has unveiled plans for a new venture called Virgin Oceanic. Similar to the company’s space exploration initiative, Virgin Galactic, Virgin Oceanic will push human boundaries into the final frontiers of exploration. The project will develop a single-man “flying” submarine described as, “the only piloted craft in existence that has ‘full ocean depth’ capability”. Virgin Oceanic explains: “The one person sub has an operating depth of 37,000ft (7 miles) and is capable of operating for 24hrs unaided. Once fully descended, the submarine’s hydroplanes (the equivalent of wings for submarines) and thrusters will allow it to ‘fly’ up to 10km over the ocean floor whilst collecting video and data, something submersibles could only dream of.”
Virgin Oceanic promo video
New Particle or ‘new force’ discovered – or not?
Not willing to let CERN and the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland grab all the headlines, this week FermiLab in Illinois announced their old Tevatron still has some tricks up its sleeve with the possible discovery of a new subatomic particle or maybe even a "new force". Fermilab physicist Christopher Hill told the New York Times “nobody knows what this is…If it is real, it would be the most significant discovery in physics in half a century.” The discovery of this "bump" has the physics community abuzz this week, with some skepticism also arising, astrophysicist Michael S. Turner tells LiveScience that the discovery could "completely transform high-energy physics, and cosmology as well, as the two fields are joined at the hip, But there is one big IF — if it holds up and
is not explained by standard model physics." The challenge for the physics community now is to replicate the result, possibly at the bigger LHC, with CERN’s Gavin Salam adding this note of caution “over the past decade there have been a number of particle-physics anomalies whose statistical significance was similar to this one, yet which, on accumulation of new data and subsequent reanalysis, turned out merely to be due to fluctuations of the data or incomplete estimates of the sources of background contamination.”
The bump heard round the world of physics
NASA Spots Star Torn Apart By Giant Black Hole
A collection of NASA telescopes (Swift, Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory ) observed an unprecedented stellar explosion this week. No it wasn’t the Hobus supernova which Spock turned into a giant black hole with Red Matter, but it was close. According to astronomers the unusual blast likely arose when a star wandered too close to its galaxy’s central black hole. Gravitational forces then literally tore the star apart with the spinning black hole creating an outflowing jet. The star was discovered in the constellation Draco and is now cataloged as gamma-ray burst (GRB) 110328A (they really need to jazz up those names). The location of the burst has been pinpointed to the center of a galaxy 3.8 billion light-years away. More details and images available at NASA.gov.
Swift Telescope observing X-Ray flares from
Gadget of the Week: DIY Gorn Canon
Captain Kirk had to rely on his own resourcefulness in a sticky situation (not to mention his dumb luck that everything he’d need would be laying around on some desert planet…) to defeat the Gorn captain. But, thanks to this video by HouseholdHacker, you can plan ahead and make your own Gorn canon-esque tennis ball shooter from a few household items! (via CBS News Tech Talk)
Video of the week: Happy Birthday To The Internet – or is it?
Is the Internet 42 years old? On April 7th 1969 an engineer drafted the first Request for Comment document for APRAnet, the precursor to the Internet. Tony Long of Wired argues this represents the “symbolic birth date of the net because the RFC memoranda contain research, proposals and methodologies applicable to internet technology.” However not everyone agrees, as Yahoo points out there are other dates that might count as day one for the Internet. G4’s Attack of the Show decided to get to the heart of the controversy.
Not enough science for you? Here’s a warp-speed look at some more science tid-bits that are worth a peek.
- New theory from Cassini team "Titan shaped by weather, not volcanoes"
- Private company MoonEx is planning mission to moon to search for minerals worth mining
- NASA is close to decision as they evaluate landing spots for next Mars robot mission