Science Saturday: Roddenberry Research Center + Skeptic-Funded Climate Study + A Star is Born + Tractor Beam Tech + More

Bored during your late-night duty shift in Cargo Bay 2? Take a break and read about this week’s science news! This week: Roddenbery’s new stem cell research center, the results of a skeptic-funded climate change study, witness a star being born (literally), and try out the new astronaut tractor beam! All this and more, plus our gadget of the week: the Holodesk!


Rod Roddenberry Inaugurates Roddenberry Stem Cell Research Center
For his first philanthropic initiative, Rod Roddenberry and the Roddenberry Foundation have announced the Roddenberry Center for Stem Cell Biology and Medicine at Gladstone. Roddenberry says that the $5M donation to the center was made to honor the legacy of the Great Bird of the Galaxy, his father, Gene Roddenberry. “This gift is our largest to date, and with it, we hope to help accelerate advances in biomedical research,” said Roddenberry. “In addition, if our support can inspire one child to become a scientist, one organization to become more charitable, one person to simply invest himself or herself in improving the future of our world, then our foundation can be a catalyst in making the future envisioned through Star Trek a reality.”

Learn more about the stem cell research at Gladstone

Climate Change Skeptic-Funded Study Concludes Global Warming is Real
We’ve all heard the claims before: average global land temperatures on Earth have risen almost two degrees Fahrenheit since the 1950s. So, what’s different about this new study by the Berkeley Earth Project? It’s an independent, non-government sponsored, open source project funded by climate change skeptics. It uses more data than any previous study and directly addresses concerns that have made skeptics doubt studies in the past, including urban heat island effect and reliability of temperature monitoring station data. Their concensus? The same as those previous, government funded projects. The Earth is warming. So, will this convince the skeptics that called for the study? Probably not. Haters gonna hate.

How Berkeley Earth compares to previous studies

First Ever Images of a Star Being Born
The youngest ever planet, still in the process of forming, was imaged in the Taurus constellation by Adam Kraus of the University of Hawaii at the Keck Observatory in Mauna Kea. The planet, named LkCa 15 b (A horrible name. Can we call it Larry?) is about 6 times larger than our Jupiter, and rests 11 times farther from the sun than Earth (that’s 11 AU). Larry lies about 450 light years from us, and looks to be about 50,000-100,000 years old. Kraus and his colleague Michael Ireland have already submitted their findings for publication.

Larry, ready for his close-up

New Laser ‘Tractor Beams’ Could Save Drifting Astronauts
A new method, which some are calling “tractor beams”, has been devised to reel in astronauts that float a bit too far from their spacecraft. It’s not so much of a Trek-style tractor beam, as the astronaut is still propelled by conventional thrusters. What’s unconventional is that the thrusters can be activated by a remotely targeted laser beam. So, your buddy back on the spacecraft could shine a laser at your helpless, floating astro body and reel you back home. Current rescue methods involve spring-loaded or gas-driven tethers that have a maximum range of 100 meters or nitrogen thrusters affixed to the astronaut’s space suit. The new “tractor beams” will allow for the rescue of an astronaut, even if they are incapacitated.

Engage tractor beam!

Video of the Week: Our Future in Space
If you like science, and I know you like science, you won’t want to miss this video about our future in space, featuring none other than: Phil Plait, Pamela Gay, Lawrence Krauss, Bill Nye, and Neil de Grasse Tyson.

TAM Panel – Our Future in Space from JREF on Vimeo.

Picture of the Week: One Day in One Photograph
One ambitous photographer set out to capture one full day in one photograph. To do it, he spent 30 hours taking photos and managed to capture one of the most beautiful photographs I’ve ever seen. He gives a full description of the method on his website.

Click to Embiggen

Gadget of the Week: Microsoft’s Holodesk
No, no, not Holodeck (sorry). HoloDESK! Microsoft has been showing off a project that combines a Kinect sensor and a beam-splitter to create an interactive, virtual 3D “desk” that can be manipulated by the user. A webcam tracks the location of your head and eyes to keep the projection consistent, and can even work with other real objects placed onto the desk. Holodeck tech, here we come! Check out the demo video below!

Upcoming Events
Check out these science-related events happening soon:

  • Halley’s comet meteor shower
    This weekend!
    More at NASA Science News

  • Bay Area Science Festival
    October 29th-November 6th
    Unleash your inner scientist at the free Bay Area Science Festival in San Francisco

  • Launch of NPOESS Preparatory Project
    October 28th
    The first step in the NPOESS, the next generation Earth-observing satellite system

Science Bytes
Not enough science for you? Here’s a warp-speed look at some more science tid-bits that are worth a peek.


Sort by:   newest | oldest
October 22, 2011 5:20 am

holodesk is cool. but it’s less hologram and more smoke and mirrors.

Commodore Mike of the Terran Empire
October 22, 2011 6:17 am

Oh the things we can do with a Holodeck.
I believe there is warming. But not man made. I believe it is simply the climate that is going through it’s normal phase.

October 22, 2011 6:44 am

Wow, the holodesk is awesome. Just imagine where we will be in 20 years. It’s going to be really crazy.

Niall Johnson
October 22, 2011 6:51 am

I object to Climate Change skeptics being referred to as “haters”. I”ll be blunt. I do believe in climate change. History and geological records prove this. The Doomsday Book lists six vineyard in England of all places! I am however wary of it all being in the hands of man. The Solyndra and Solpower debacles lend credence to the idea of man-made global warming to be a hoax and money making scam. Furthermore. slight temperature increases have been recorded on Mars and Saturn. Not too many gas guzzling SUVs there folks!

C Mosenko
October 22, 2011 8:04 am

By the time everyone believes climate change is real, it will be too late to do anything about it. We will need the help of an alien culture, but their prime directive will prevent them from helping us. At some point we will be at a point of do something about it or it’s too late.

October 22, 2011 8:05 am

Niall, I think Solyndra and Solpower simply show that when large sums of money are thrown at a problem, you’re going to get some scoundrels who will try to steal some of it, and some well meaning investors and managers who don’t have a clue what they’re doing and hence lose it all. History is full of such examples. It doesn’t at all suggest that man-made global warming is real or not.

Personally, I think global warming is a natural phenomenon that has been made worse by man. And I don’t think there is anything we can do about it. As long as China keeps building a new coal plant once a week and Brazil keeps chopping down rain forest, no matter what the rest of us do, things will keep getting worse.

Steve T. in NY
October 22, 2011 8:11 am

I dont think anyone is saying that Man is the ONLY cause of Climate Change..But we now have 7 Billion people on this planet, we continue to use dirty fossil fuels to power our cities. homes and cars. Something needs to be done. Solar, wind and geothermal make up less than 10%.. 10%!! of our energy needs.. so as a “money making scam” that argument doesnt hold water. The government have given billions to private companies and so far Solyndra is the only one going under. Of course when that happens the other side gets it stuck in their claws that .. “See!! Its all a scam!!”. Its not a scam.. It will be better for all of us. China is producing solar panels.. so should we just say.. okay.. you guys get to do this one?? I say no way.. We need this country to begin innovating again, developing better tech and then PRODUCING that tech.. no just seel the rights overseas so they can get the jobs and make their countries richer..I’m all for all forms of alternative energy.. What i would love to see is our country make fusion a reality.. and export it to the world with our citizens making the parts and the tech ourselves. We need to ship products overseas.. not ideas!!

October 22, 2011 8:15 am

I don’t think it really matters whether it was people-made or not, we should all be constantly doing things that conserve, and thinking of new ways of conserving. If you’re able take the stairs, use lower-flow water only when it’s actually washing or filling something, don’t waste paper, don’t throw food away, recycle every possible item you can and reuse everything else.

On a larger scale environmental regulation and conservation should be a matter of course simply because even if global warming wasn’t happening, or wasn’t people-made, it’s indisputable that things like oil and trees are consumed at a faster rate than they’re made.

I do object to the phraseology in the article above that presumes that skeptics probably won’t be convinced, not because it’s necessarily true or untrue, but because that lack of faith in others would turn people off of being convinced of such a study. It’s an unnecessary wall that obstructs the coming together and compromise that is endorsed by implication.

October 22, 2011 9:23 am

I bet that holodesk will be awesome, once it’s tied to industrial machines or a matter compiler. (OK, I’m a Stephenson’s throw away from reality, but still…)

Still don’t get what the day long pic is. I’m just slow.

Climate change. Wonderful. I’ll add it to the list of ways the human race is gonna croak. And, no, I don’t expect the anti-science crowd to change their minds (or whatever those piles of mush between their ears are.) We GOTTA get off the Earth. We have got to spread out.


Thanks, Kayla.

Captain Dunsel
October 22, 2011 9:54 am

@9. CmdrR – “We GOTTA get off the Earth. We have got to spread out.”

Do you mean, “We need breathing room!” (To quote General Chang)

October 22, 2011 9:56 am

Here’s the problem with man-made climate change: put simply, if God wanted to destroy the Earth He certainly doesn’t need man to do it (read the book of Genesis). Also, according to that graph, the climate change has happened in the past 60 or so year? So in 60 years man has apparently been able to destroy a planet that’s thousands of years old? Also, if you look at that graph as it rises it appears there’s drops and spikes in temperatures. What will that graph look like 30 years from now? Will we see it going down? Towards the end of that graph it looks like its leveling out and maybe even starting a downward spiral.

October 22, 2011 9:58 am

I appreciate the science bites, but “haters” seems unfair and off-balance.

October 22, 2011 9:59 am

Heh. Larry. Awesome name for a planet. I say petition the Astronomical Union to have become its official name.

Can you imagine if we colonize that planet in a couple of thousand years, and the name still holds? “Hi, I’m from the planet Larry. I’m a Larrian!”

Ok, that planet is probably gonna be too hot for a few million years, but whatevs. Larry is still a cool name!

October 22, 2011 10:18 am

Thanks for the climate change story. Ironic, since the skeptics now realize it’s true. It’s relevant because we’re heading into a presidential election year. Whoever is President in 2012 can lead the way to halt the increasing tempatures that the planet faces.

Red Dead Ryan
October 22, 2011 10:19 am


It’s still early….

As for climate change, yeah it’s happening. And its too late. We’ve now gone far beyond the point of no return. Mass destruction of rainforests and extinction of most of Earth’s species is well underway. Even if we cease all carbon emissions, and stop polluting the oceans, scientists believe the Earth will still heat up by an average of at least 5 celsius in the next fifty years. Add to that today’s rapidly increasing famine rate in third world countries, increasing economic and geopolitical instability as well as the potential global nuclear armageddon, and you may yet see the worst case scenarios come true: absolute hell on Earth.

October 22, 2011 10:21 am

VZX – Somebody beat you to it, when they named a planet “Bob.”

Red Dead Ryan
October 22, 2011 10:24 am


that should read “….of at least 5 degrees celsius…”

October 22, 2011 10:55 am

It still amazes me how people have been led to believe that a greater amount of carbon in the atmosphere is going to be bad for the planet. Plants feed off the stuff; in the past, the atmosphere has had far greater amounts of CO2 than it does now, and the Earth was more healthy than it is, today.

Also, take a look at that global-warming chart. For the past decade, it records the temp as significantly dropping, even as China keeps pumping out coal factories and Brazil keeps burning forests. In the late 90’s, you might have been able to argue that the temp was rising. Not anymore. It is clearly dropping; there is a large amount of scientific consensus about this, and the chart above demonstrates why. Anyone who says the earth is still warming is simply 10 years out of date on their research.

October 22, 2011 11:14 am
Even skeptic Dr. Lindzen agreed, back in 2001 I think it was, that climate change was occurring according to the data; the issue for HIM was the cause. And that climate change study also found no clear cause to climate change, which doesn’t support the anthropogenic angle. Now you could mention that the study was funded by the Kochs, but then you have to make a choice: You can’t cite the study to support your own thesis and then dispute the study when it does not support your own thesis. So which is it gonna be? Science is tentative, it should never or at least rarely be settled on anything, and on something as complex as the CAUSES of climate change I would put my money on “never.” Or at least not until the smoking gun evidence comes in. Whichever comes first. When it’s “settled” about such complicated matters — unless there is a smoking gun, which there is not as far as I know — then it’s not science it’s religion. And I think it’s quite telling that so many scientists, usually bastions of doubt, are condemning skepticism with regard to causes — the CAUSES, I repeat — of climate change, in the absence of smoking gun evidence. Of course, science is probabilistic, and you could point out that the evidence is weighted toward anthropogenic causes rather than natural ones, but the probabilistic quality of such evidence is also an argument in FAVOR of caution and skepticism and against… Read more »
Dr. Cheis
October 22, 2011 11:14 am

“Haters gonna hate.”

I lol’d.

Red Dead Ryan
October 22, 2011 11:17 am


Almost three quarters of the Earth’s plantation is permanently gone. Therefore, CO2 has no where to go but to hang around in the atmosphere. The remaining plants are being choked by too much CO2. The same elements that once fed plants are now killing them.

As for the graph, I see a slight dip, but at the very end, is spiking up again.

Also, scientists have recently found a correlation between earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, flooding and global warming.

For example, it has now been proven that rapid glacial melting can cause the earth’s crust to shift, as a result of the rapid movement of the mass of water. Massive earthquakes have been proven linked to the thawing of the Earth after the Ice Age.

October 22, 2011 11:20 am

@20: Lovely post, especially the last part.

Roddenberry centre for biomedical research? Well, if someone shows up and asks for two dozen Khans to go, I see trouble brewing…

Keachick (rose pinenut)
October 22, 2011 11:58 am

Plants take in CO2 and give out oxygen. Fewer plants eventually leads to less oxygen, surely. I think the problem is that it is just not the higher levels of CO2 but also the level of other types of toxins/pollutants being created by the burning of fossil fuels and by various industries. This kind of thing is unprecedented in human history, but not necessarily for the much older earth. However, most of the life that we are familiar with could not survive in those much older times…

October 22, 2011 12:04 pm

Most people know that the planet is heating up. The disagrement is on the cause. There seems to be enough evidence to support the idea that, at least in part, the planet is heating up due to sources beyond our ability to control. Regardless, it’s a shame that political grandstanding and naked power grabs related to the issue have been the rule of the day, as opposed to identifying and implementing reasonable means to control pollution.

October 22, 2011 12:06 pm

I honestly don’t know what to make of the global warming debate anymore. Too many political and ideological interests involved. It sounds more like a religious debate than anything else, and I’d rather not get involved in those.

But hey, if what Mr. Doom & Gloom says at #16 is correct and it’s already too late, might as well sit back and enjoy the show. At the end of time, Armageddon just might be more entertaining than a stupid Michael Bay movie.

October 22, 2011 12:29 pm

@26: Uhh, we are the show. And speaking as one of your fellow performers, I’d much rather a happy ending then the last act of Day After Tomorrow…

Jerry Modene
October 22, 2011 12:53 pm

I was under the impression that climate change was cyclical. Weren’t we worried, a few years ago, about things cooling down?

The problem with the whole issue is that too many people are politicizing the thing, without a clear picture of what (if anything) needs to be done about it.

Just remember, one of the great oxymorons of our time (after “military intelligence”) is “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you.”

October 22, 2011 2:08 pm

Looking at the climate chart, it actually looks like everything but NOAA shows a flat or cooling trend this last decade.


October 22, 2011 3:28 pm

11 – Gotta get our eggs into more than this one basket.
Hey, Gen. Chang led the Von Trapp’s to safety, so no dissin’ on the Changster.

Tanner Waterbury
October 22, 2011 3:54 pm

My resource about the conditions of Climate Change….ANY Climate change. Seems that “Independent” study has the same conclusions as other Government funded studies, just with slight variances.

Commodore Mike of the Terran Empire
October 22, 2011 4:00 pm

One thing I HATE!!. ANYONE THAT IS NOT! LOYAL TO THE EMPIRE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.

Keachick (rose pinenut)
October 22, 2011 4:59 pm

There has been a shift in the climate. In the south of England there are manuka trees growing. It is from the native NZ manuka that you get the honey. Until recently, manuka would not grow in England because it was too cold most of the time. Now it can…

October 22, 2011 5:06 pm


Uh, not if we can’t control it.
If it is too late as RDR suggests, then why worry about it?

Mankind had a nice run. Pyramids, the printing press, television, air conditioning, ice cream—yeah, it was fun while it lasted, but let’s not drag it out too long. After all, third acts are supposed to be fun and exciting… and ending.

Anthony Thompson
October 22, 2011 6:52 pm

That’s a very generous donation! Bravo to Rod!

As for the climate change skeptics, they probably won’t believe anything with the Berkeley name attached to it. ; )

Hat Rick
October 22, 2011 6:56 pm

Actually, I quite enjoy my late-night duty shift in Cargo Bay 2. It’s rather relaxing and the view is amazing.

Red Dead Ryan
October 22, 2011 6:59 pm

Another cause might be attributed to human flatulence. The average human pumps out an average of two tons of intestinal gasses over a lifetime. Considering that the Earth now has a population of over 7 billion, it could get a bit stinky as well as hot. ;-)

Not to mention, when we die, our bodies emit even more noxious fumes!

October 22, 2011 7:16 pm

I don’t think the person who reported on the Tractor Beam realized that’s exactly how the ST tractor beams worked.

October 22, 2011 8:03 pm

Bravo #20. dmduncan!

The “Haters gonna hate” remark was uncalled for. You’ve just lost a reader and I’ll be going elsewhere for my Trek news.

October 22, 2011 9:05 pm

Tractor Beam….Yessss:)

October 22, 2011 9:13 pm

Well, let me just say that it behooves us to question authority, and there’s a disturbing trend towards not being skeptical about authority. Just give me the facts. I’ll know what to do with them. Just like…you don’t have to tell me to NOT like Hitler. Give me the facts about what he did and I WILL BE disgusted. You don’t need to panic that I might not have the reaction you want unless you tell me what reaction you expect from me. I do believe that people tend to put their support in the right places when they are accurately informed. Getting them to be accurately informed is the problem because there are so many damned factions fighting to shape public sentiment.

Facts are like delicate crystal wares in a glass shop; you get two bulls tearing it up in there and the facts get smashed to pieces and all you end up with to help you make your decision is who you think won the fight.

October 22, 2011 9:39 pm

“Haters gonna hate” regarding anybody who doe not buy into this new book on global warming???

Kayla, nice journalism there!

October 22, 2011 9:51 pm

@25 “Most people know that the planet is heating up. The disagreement is on the cause. There seems to be enough evidence to support the idea that, at least in part, the planet is heating up due to sources beyond our ability to control. Regardless, it’s a shame that political grandstanding and naked power grabs related to the issue have been the rule of the day, as opposed to identifying and implementing reasonable means to control pollution.”

Agreed. The earth has heated and cooled down for repeated cycles across the millienia WITHOUT mankind’s influence, and ditto for the amout of CO2 in the atmosphere today. For example, there were vineyards and major farming in Greenland just 1000 years ago, but people today would have you believe that Greenland getting slightly warmer is a problem???

I am ALREADY for less pollution, a greener planet and less dependence on fossil fuels, but I don’t need a bunch of in-you-face elitists and politicians telling me that I must believe in their pseudo-science (e.g. “religion”) of the greenhouse calamity to force me to be more environmentally conscious and support their politics.

October 22, 2011 10:02 pm

Haters will continue to hate. Yeah, humans are destroying the delicate balance of the ecosystem/carbon cycle/ozone layer, etc. We are multiplying faster than current technology and agriculture can keep up with.

That’s why we gotta move to planet Larry. Or Bob. Larry is too young of a planet now, maybe Bob would be better.

Keachick - rose pinenut
October 22, 2011 10:26 pm
The problem is that this planet 1000 years ago and at other times did not have a human population of nearly 7 billion people, a good part of its rainforests decimated and much of the ocean polluted. It is not just the huge loss of CO2 guzzling trees but the green algae/plankton that is gone because of pollution. Large scale oil spills don’t help. In fact it is the pollution of the world’s oceans which cover a larger percentage of the earth’s surface that may be responsible for climate and other environmental changes. Some climate change may not be all bad, like the fact that plants can grow in areas where they could not grow at one time. Even though there have been always been cycles of warmer and cooler times – I believe around the time of the Renaissance, Europe got warmer – never have we had such a high human population nor the loss of so many other natural life forms, both fauna and flora. We humans depend on there being enough of these existing in order to ensure our longterm healthy survival. What to do. Yes, places like Greenland getting warm may be a problem because with the melting of ice, the sea levels begin to rise. Live down here on one of the Pacific islands and tell me there is no problem. It is NZ and Australia who will be the countries having to take in these climate change refugees in the future. Millions of people… Read more »
October 22, 2011 10:54 pm

Antarctica is getting colder, actually, and the main icepack on Antartica is increasing not decreasing. But you have to actually look at ALL the data and information to see this, ass the climate profits keep cherry-picking a couple areas on Antarctica where temps are decreasing, and would have us all then falsely believe that Antarctica is going to melt. It is a joke, and the media and much of the public now falsely believes that Antarctica is melting.

Don’t you find is suspicious just a bit that for the vast amount of coastal regions in the world there has been virtually no sea level increase measured over the last 70 years? Where is the sea level rise? For example, I have lived in CA all my life and am still going to beaches and piers I went to as a kid, and there is NO measurable sea level rise? We should be seeing increases in sea levels everywhere over the last 70 years, so why aren’t we?

Keachick (rose pinenut)
October 22, 2011 11:04 pm

#46 – I did say that so far things are OK, as in sea levels appear to be where they have always been, for the most part. I have lived in Auckland all my life, except for two years, and the beaches are still there.

So, do you think there is some sort of conspiracy going on here? Perhaps a topic for Bob Orci/Alex Kurtzman’s new television series? Could be very interesting.

What would the conspiracy be and why?

October 22, 2011 11:11 pm

No, it is not a “conscious conspiracy”, but there are a lot of researchers out there who are letting their science take a back seat to their political beliefs as well as their urge to make a dollars and build up their research dollars and academic empires. And the same goes now for the majority of politicians worldwide. The global warming cottage industry is now self-perpetuating, and it we all don’t wise up, in twenty years it is going to be on par with what we all now call the “military-industrial complex.”

Buzz Cagney
October 23, 2011 12:22 am

Earth has always gone through climate changes, of that fact there is no doubt. But that does not mean we shouldn’t care for her. It is the only planet we have after all. Conserving resources and finding a better, more sustainable way of preserving our way of life and Mother Earth is imperative. And if that means we give up gas guzzlers then its a small price to pay.

Buzz Cagney
October 23, 2011 12:30 am

and yes, there are probably too many Humans on the planet. But I heard we could still all fit in the state of Texas!
Maybe some of us could volunteer to be done away with, you know, for the greater good?. After all tgood of the 7 billion outweighs….. ah, you know the rest. ;)