Welcome back to Science Saturday! This week: Debunk those faster-than-light neutrinos, take a flight in an all-electric aircraft, rename the Very Large Array, and see a mysterious Argentinian sunrise. All this and more, plus our gadget of the week: the throwable panoramic ball camera!
Faster-Than-Light Neutrino Mystery Claimed Solved via Special Relativity
It’s been three weeks since CERN scientists released the news that neutrinos had been measured moving faster than the speed of light between two laboratories, as measured by super accurate GPS. Since then, specialists have been pouring over the data looking for an explanation of the event. The general concensus is that the CERN scientists must have missed something, and that the neutrinos are still bound by the universal speed limit, c. Ronald van Elburg at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands has made a convincing argument citing special relativity as the culprit for the misfit neutrinos. It’s a rather complicated story, but simply put, van Elburg says that CERN scientists failed to account for the motion of the GPS satellites relative to the Earth. For most uses, this is a negligable effect, but when measurement accuracy needs to be within nanoseconds, this relativistic motion can make a big difference. In fact, according to van Elburg’s calculations, the adjustment for special relativity equates to about 64 nanoseconds, almost exactly the time discrepency observed at CERN.
Concensus? Einstein’s still right.
NASA Awards Largest Prize in Aviation History for All-Electric Aircraft
NASA has awarded the largest prize ever given out in aviation history, that’s $1.35 million, to Team Pipistrel for their electric airplane, Taurus G4. The Taurus covered 200 miles in less than 2 hours, using the electrical equivalent of less than one gallon of fuel per passenger. The idea behind the NASA- and Google-sponsored CAFE (Comparative Aircraft Flight Efficiency) Green Flight Challenge has been to encourage the development of a new era of ultra-efficient aircraft that use either pure electricity or ultra-efficient fuel engines. Check out a video of the Taurus G4 below.
Very Large Array Radio Observatory Asks Public for New Name
The world’s most famous radio telescope, the Very Large Array (VLA), is looking for a new name to reflect its new capabilities. The VLA, featured in in films such as Contact, Armageddon, and Transformers: Dark of the Moon, has undergone a transformation known as the VLA Expansion project, which began in 2000 and increased the array’s capabilities by a factor of 8,000. The National Radio Astronomy Observatory has decided that the VLA needs a new name to reflect its new upgrades. The public are welcomed to submit their name ideas, and entries are being accepted until midnight December 1st. The new name will be announced January 10th, 2012.
Re-name the VLA!
Strange Sunrise over Argentina
The image below (click to embiggen), captured by a photographer in Buenos Aires, Argentina shows a new kind of sunrise phenomenon that no one can yet explain. The image is a combination of a normal and very short exposure so as not to oversaturate the bright sun, but the photographer saw this structure with his own eyes, indicating that it is not the effect of the camera or lens. Some speculate that the effect may be caused by low level clouds just thick enough to scatter sunlight but not so thick as to block out the sun. For now, it remains a mystery.
Gadget of the Week: Throwable Panoramic Ball Camera
As someone who frequently takes panoramic photos, I am super excited by this new concept: a throwable panoramic ball camera. Basically, it’s a ball (duh) with 36 mobile phone cameras facing in all directions. When thrown into the air, the camera detects when it’s at the apex of it’s trajectory, then takes all of the panoramic snaps at once. There’s even a computer program that will stick the photos for you and let you look around and zoom within the entire space. Unfortunately, this baby’s not for sale yet. But, the company is looking for investors and hopes to release the product to the public soon!
Check out these science related events happening soon:
Launch of Mars Science Laboratory aka Curiosity Rover
Friday, November 25th at 10:21am EST
Watch live on NASA TV
World Space Week
Events are happening all over the world during World Space Week! Check their website for events near you!
Not enough science for you? Here’s a warp-speed look at some more science tid-bits that are worth a peek.
- IceBridge returns to Antarctica, begins third consecutive year of data collecting on Earth’s biggest ice sheet
- NASA buys flights on Virgin Galactic’s private spaceship