Science Saturday: Lava Flows in the Quad + Curiosity Updates + Neuron Video + New Space Planes + More |
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Science Saturday: Lava Flows in the Quad + Curiosity Updates + Neuron Video + New Space Planes + More August 25, 2012

by Kayla Iacovino , Filed under: Science/Technology , trackback

The post Vegas Con blues had got us down for a while, but now we’re back in action with a brand spanking new edition of Science Saturday! This week: see real live lava flows moving through New York, get the latest updates on our newest Martian friend Curiosity, watch proteins swimming through neurons, hop on the next Dream Chaser flight into orbit, and more! All this, plus our gadget of the week, in which a real hovercraft takes a test-drive!


Scientists Send Lava Flows Through Syracuse University’s Campus
Ever stand a few feet from a real live lava flow? In a unique mix of science, art, and education, the Syracuse University Lava Project sees scientists melting and pouring molten lava to create real, natural-scale lava flows in front of SU’s Art Building. The spectacle brings the excitement of a volcanic eruption to New York, and also allows scientists to model the movement and flow properties of lavas on a real-world scale. Read more at EARTH Magazine.

Test No.3: Making a continuous lava flow with a coke-fired iron furnace. Its a Volcano.

Curiosity Rover Update: Flexing, Zapping, and Driving
It’s been almost three weeks since the Mars rover Curiosity landed safely on Martian soil. Since then, we’ve been privy to gorgeous HD pictures and video, Curiosity stretching her arm, wiggling her wheels, firing her laser (yes, a laser) at rocks on the surface, and even taking her first drive. What does this all amount to? Well, besides illustrating the public’s love for Curiosity akin to that of Mars Phoenix, it means that NASA has confirmed that all of Curiosity’s systems — propulsion, motors, power, software, cameras, scientific instruments — are functioning properly. And, after a long wait, we are finally in a place to start doing some science in Mars’ Gale Crater. What comes next is the most sophisticated set of analyses ever performed on Mars rocks, which should reveal much about the planet’s history.

The latest video showing Curiosity’s recent test drive

HD video of Curiosity’s descent to the Martian surface

Incredible Video Shows Proteins Moving Through a Single Neuron
A new video from a team of molecular biologists at USC shows actual footage of proteins moving through a single neuron. A neuron, which transmit impulses throughout the human brain via electrical signals, needs to completely rebuild itself each day. “Your brain is being disassembled and reassembled every day,” said scientist Don Arnold, co-author on the study. “One week from today, your brain will be made up of completely different proteins than it is today. This video shows the process. We’ve known that it was happening, but now we can watch it happen.” Arnold explained to io9 that this video has a frame rate of about 15 fps, so you are seeing the process about 15-20 times that of real-time. More at io9, and read the scientific journal article in Cell Reports.

NASA Helps Fund Small, Private Space Shuttle
The Dream Chaser, Sierra Nevada Corporation’s small private space vehicle that could launch into space atop an Atlas V rocket as early as 2015 has just been given a funding boost from NASA to the tune of $212 million. The spacecraft, which DVICE is calling the “chubby mini shuttle”, is based on NASA’s HL-20 lifting body concept vehicle from the 1980’s. The Dream Chaser wouldn’t replace the now long dead Space Shuttle, but would act more like a business jet to space for private industry. As of now, the concept vehicle has been built and is about halfway to being orbit-ready. The new money from NASA will allow Sierra Nevada to perform a barrage of flight tests on the mini-shuttle to see that it’s fit for travel by 2015.

But, Dream Chaser isn’t the only game in town. XCOR Aerospace just announced its plans to build and fly Lynx suborbital vehicles from Kennedy Space Center. Read more at

Sierra Nevada Corp.’s Dream Chaser Space Vehicle

Image of the Week: See an Undersea Volcano from Space
NASA’s Terra satellite captured the below image of a ribbon of floating pumice — ultra-porous volcanic rock — that erupted about a month ago from an undersea volcano northeast of New Zealand.

Gadget of the Week: Real Hovercraft Tested in Mohave Desert
The rotocraft, a hover bike developed by Aeroflex, uses helicopter technology (read: two gigantic fans) to lift and propel its rider across the terrain. Rotocraft’s first test flight back in 2008 ended… badly. Suffice to say it burst into flames. But, after a few years of stabilization of the product and design, this baby’s flying high (well, okay, low) over the Mohave desert showing off its maneuvering capabilities. Not shown in the video is rotocraft’s top height of 15 feet and to speed of 30 mph.

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



1. Captain Kork - August 25, 2012


2. Mark Martinez - August 25, 2012

Cool lava flow!

3. Lostrod - August 25, 2012

Thanks or the science news. Keep it up.


4. Caesar - August 25, 2012

Sierra Nevada now makes planes? I thought they just made beer.

5. rm10019 - August 25, 2012

Love the science news updates, thanks Kayla!

6. dmduncan - August 25, 2012

Hovercraft is awesome! But now I have questions!

How many meters per gallon does it get? If you run into a low flying bird and get knocked off your seat, what happens if you fall into the fan?

7. Markonian - August 25, 2012

The Dream Chaser looks so adorable! I hope routine commercial spaceflight will become a reality before the 20s.

8. Harry Ballz - August 25, 2012

“She dazzled me with science!”

Thanks, Kayla!

9. CmdrR - August 25, 2012

So THAT’S where I left my finger 2 million years ago. Mars!

Nice to see we’re getting more models this year, before I pick out my Space Ride.

Thanks, Kayla.

10. Majicou - August 25, 2012

Science Saturday is sadder for the loss of Neil Armstrong, but at least it shows that some people are still keeping up the good work.

11. Peter N - August 25, 2012

@4 Right on, brother! Maybe they should call it the Torpedo IPA (InterPlanetary Aircraft) since it is on a rocket?

12. Azrael - August 25, 2012

Neil Armstrong, first man to set foot on the moon, has died today.

Rest in Peace

13. Thorny - August 25, 2012

Frist Sally Ride, now Neil Armstrong. This is an awful year for legendary astronauts.

14. Gary Neumann - August 25, 2012


15. Phil - August 25, 2012

God speed, Neil Armstrong….

16. CmdrR - August 25, 2012

A hero, in every sense of the word.

Thank you, Neil Armstrong.

May you enjoy the mark you made… for all of us.

17. section9 - August 25, 2012

Someday, perhaps, a starship will be named after Neil Armstrong.

18. ados - August 25, 2012

The best thing about Neil was his humble demeaner…no endorsments, no fame seeking millions…just a pure American hero…he will be missed

19. ados - August 25, 2012

And a Giant leap for Heaven

20. Jesse - August 25, 2012

@17 And a lake.

21. Thorny - August 25, 2012

NASA’s new “Moon and Beyond” rocket does not have a name. It is simply called “Space Launch System”. I’d like to suggest NASA name it the Armstrong.

22. Vultan - August 25, 2012


I second that. Excellent idea. But how do we get such a suggestion to those who make those sort of decisions? A petition to Congress perhaps….

Armstrong I, Armstrong II, Armstrong III, etc.
Yep. I like the sound of that!

23. crazydaystrom - August 25, 2012

Great Saturday Science report Kayla. And great to have one!

And RIP Neal Armstrong

24. Mark Lynch - August 25, 2012

RIP Neil Armstrong

I remember watching the first Moon landing on television with my Dad at around 4am (UK time) a few months before my fifth birthday. It is the only really clear recollection I have of that time in my life, which goes to show what a huge impact it must have had on me.

25. MJ - August 25, 2012

Kayla, seeing as how Anthony has disappeared again on one of his long unnanoucned absences, might you be able to jump in and provide a short artcile on remembering Neil Armstrong?


26. Red Dead Ryan - August 25, 2012

Sad to hear about Neil Armstrong’s passing. He seemed a very humble and private man. I was born a dozen years after the moon landing, but its hard not to feel a deep admiration for this heroic and legendary human being who risked his life to show the rest of us what is possible.

“One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. Indeed. We wait for the next “giant step”.

A sad day, for sure, but his spirit will always live on.

27. Red Dead Ryan - August 25, 2012


I second that! :-)

28. Emperor Mike of the Empire - August 25, 2012

Neil was a True!. Great American hero. He will be Sorly Missed. Rest in Peace Sir.

29. Romulus - August 25, 2012

RIP Neil Armstrong

30. Romulus - August 25, 2012

@25. MJ

Kayla, seeing as how Anthony has disappeared again on one of his long unnanoucned absences, might you be able to jump in and provide a short artcile on remembering Neil Armstrong?

Thanks! ”

after the way that you bullied Kayla regarding climate change I would have more respect for her if she told you to F^%$ off

31. Red Dead Ryan - August 25, 2012


Dude, that was well over a year ago. Bringing that up was totally uncalled for, especially when everyone is mourning the loss of a legend.

32. Romulus - August 25, 2012

@31. Red Dead Ryan
haters gonna hate

33. Jonboc - August 25, 2012

#2. “Kayla, seeing as how Anthony has disappeared again on one of his long unnanoucned absences, might you be able to jump in and provide a short artcile on remembering Neil Armstrong?


Wow…nice way to work in yet another dig at Anthony…couched in a seemingly worthy request for a memorial article. Poor form MJ, even for you.

34. Joe Schmoe - August 25, 2012

What happened to the recap of the Con????

35. Sebastian S. - August 25, 2012

RIP, Neil Armstrong.
A hero for the whole of humanity.

I met his ‘wingman’ Buzz Aldrin a couple of times, but I always held out some, distant, remotest hope that one day I’d get to meet Armstrong too. Sadly, that’ll never be.

First Ray Bradbury (my favorite author), Dr. Sally Ride and now the first human to set foot on another world… a very sad day indeed. Such a humble man, too; went back to Ohio and became a teacher. Never tried to capitalize on his fame. He was the exact opposite of all the so-called ‘celebrities’ of this age; who do nothing at all of merit and expect to be fawned over for it.

Armstrong was a classy guy. One of a kind. ;-)

And Kayla? The Mars videos (esp. the EDL vid) were inspiring. Thanks for posting them; it lifted my spirits considerably to see that the legacy of reaching into the unknown (be it manned or unmanned probes) continues…

36. C Miles - August 25, 2012

RIP Neil Armstrong.

Would be nice if NASA named a rocket after him, but doubtful- more likely a research center, a library or important/noteworthy object/locaton in Outer Space.

What would be cool

Before opening credits on Star Trek 12 /II / 2013 (whatever they call it)

“For Neil Armstrong”

37. rose by any other name - August 25, 2012

RIP Neil Armstrong.

I have this tiny recollection of watching the moon landing on TV and wondering why everybody, before the actual event, was saying that this landing and walking on the moon was history. I could not understand how something that had not happened could be history…I was very young at the time. I get it now…:)

Kayla, what happened at the Las Vegas Con that caused everybody to have the blues?

38. BuzzCagney - August 25, 2012

Love the Hoverbike but I think i’d still favour a Range Rover!

I can recall being led downstairs in the middle of the night to watch the first moon landing as a bleary eyed 5 year old. Obviously not really aware of the significance of what I was watching but I figured it must have been important for my parents to get us kids up in the middle of the night. I remember thinking it was kind of like Christmas, such was the feeling of something special happening. I’m very glad my parents did that. Its a great memory to have.
I’m sure they’ll find something worthy of carrying the name Armstrong. Wonder if its too late to get something in the next Trek movie?

RIP Neil Armstrong. American, Human, Hero.

39. Anthony Thompson - August 25, 2012

I have a case of the Vegas con blues, too. And I wasn’t even there. I have the blues because I haven’t been able to read any coverage of the Saturday or Sunday events.

40. Chasco - August 26, 2012

My parents woke me up to watch Neil Armstrong step onto the moon. I didn’t understand why at the time, but I’m so grateful now that they did.

I love the ‘Armstrong rocket’ idea, hope NASA can deliver.

And there should be some Trek acknowledgement too, given he was a fan –

41. porthos's bitch - August 26, 2012

RIP Neil….godspeed sir.

I think it’s a good weekend to watch From the Earth to the Moon.

42. Greg Stamper - August 26, 2012

I agree. Remembering Neil Armstrong would be very appropriate for the next ST film.

43. Jonboc - August 26, 2012

#36. I agree, a dedication to Neil Armstrong just seems right. Make it so, Bob Orci! :)

44. Praetor Tal - August 26, 2012

What, it Bob Orci our fairy godmother? Rub his belly and make three wishes?

45. Well Of Souls - August 26, 2012

RIP Neil Armstrong
As an avid fan of TOS from the onset, the 1969 landing on the moon had my 9 year old imagination running wild. I really believed at that time we were truely on the brink of something much closer in approaching that “Final Frontier”. Obviously enormous strides have occured in space since that historic landing, but nothing in the magnitude where as a kid I wished I would see in my lifetime. That will have to wait for the future astronauts, our descendants. Neil Armstrong’s achievements have inspired millions, and many of those that he has inspired will continue his legacy in venturing deeper into the far reaches of the cosmos.

If you go back to the original “Under Construction” trailer for Star Trek 2009 you hear the JFK statement: “The eyes of the world now look into space”…, followed up by the comment: “That’s one small step for man…”, “The Eagle has landed”…etc..Personally, I thought that trailer was nothing short of brilliant and left me with high expectations, providing me a rush of something huge was about to happen, which I felt did eventually deliver when the film did arrive.
As an after thought, what if that audio part of the trailer was played on a black screen, echoing in the dark theater followed up by the words appearing in silence on the screen: “In fond memory of Neil Armstrong 1930-2012″. Then have the sound of the transporter occur as the statement disappears & begin the movie. Just a thought. I attempted to grab a YouTube vid of that 1st trailer. Guess we’ll see if it posts.

Thanks for the memories Neil and Godspeed…

46. P Technobabble - August 26, 2012

It’s too bad that we can’t feel what Armstrong felt as he stepped onto the surface of the moon. It must’ve been quite a rush…

47. Dee - lvs moon' surface - August 26, 2012

R.I.P. Neil Armstrong!

48. Dee - lvs moon' surface - August 26, 2012

Happy Birthday to Chris Pine!

49. MikeTen - August 26, 2012

RIP Neil Armstrong and William Windom. Mr. Windom, Captain Decker from “Doomsday Machine”, died on August 16th.

50. MikeTen - August 26, 2012

Sorry, I meant Commodore Decker from “The Doomsday Machine”. Didn’t mean to demote him. Captain Decker was his characters possible relative in TMP.

51. Anthony Thompson - August 26, 2012

It’s nothing less than a shame that this site has ignored the deaths of William Windom and Neil Armstrong!

52. Sebastian S. - August 26, 2012

# 36.


A dedication at the beginning of the movie, to both Neil Armstrong and Dr. Sally Ride would be appropriate, IMO. Dr. Ride similarly inspired many young women to join the space program; her contribution mustn’t be forgotten as well.

The dedication could be similar to the dedication to the Challenger crew at the beginning of Star Trek 4.

53. Thorny - August 26, 2012

Just an FYI… astronaut Alan Poindexter (two Shuttle flights) died on July 1 in a watercraft accident near Pensacola.

54. Vultan - August 26, 2012


Excellent point. I’d forgotten all about that dedication at the beginning of VH. Hopefully TPTB are reading this board. A Trek dedication to Armstrong and Ride would be very classy (and appropriate).

55. rm10019 - August 26, 2012

God Speed to Mr. Armstrong and those we have lost this year. Hearing of Sally Ride’s passing touched me, she was a true pioneer as well

56. Hat Rick - August 26, 2012


I am in a sad frame of mind today.

So soon after the passing of Sally Ride, Neil Armstrong, one of America’s true heroes, left our planet — this time, forever.

This sadness is something that the passage of time will ease; soon, our minds will be preoccupied with other things. But history will never forget the name, “Armstrong,” and neither should we.

I realize that I am only one of many voices mourning the loss of Dr. Armstrong, a great man who did great things, and yet wanted nothing in return.

I realize that there are millions who harken back to the halcyon days when space seemed to full of promise.

I realize that there are many who wish we were farther advanced along humanity’s path to the stars.

And I am still saddened to know that Dr. Armstrong never got to see humanity set foot on another planet.

If there is any justice in the universe, the world would take heed of his passing, not only to build monuments to the man, but to build the means to leave our planet and land on another. To colonize the planets, and then the stars.

If there is any justice in the universe, Dr. Armstrong would be remembered not only by his accomplishment, but by the fulfillment of his dreams.

A small boy in Ohio grew up to be the only man to be the first to set foot on the Moon.

We remember and mourn the loss of a great American — and most of all, a great human being.

Who can, or will, follow in his footsteps?

57. MikeTen - August 26, 2012

Sierra Nevada and SpaceX are the real life versions of Zefram Cochrane. They are building on the work done by people working at government agencies like NASA and great people like Mr. Armstrong, Ms. Ride, and others who at great personal risk traveled into space and have gone where few or no humans have gone before.

I know a lot of people hate the direction President Obama is taking the US Space program but I for one think if it works space will be open to far more people than just government employees. I hope for a future like the one in the movie 2001 where people could fly on a “space liner” like people fly on airliners today and someday in the future private people will own space craft like Harry Mudd, 7 of 9’s family, or Travis Mayweather’s family.

And then hopefully one day in the future a real life version of Commander Riker can tell the story of looking up from his home in Alaska and seeing Lake Armstrong on the Moon.

58. cd - August 26, 2012

Rest In Peace Neil Armstrong.



59. bmar - August 27, 2012

@46 P Technobabble – Interestingly, I read in one of the articles about Armstrong this week that he was less interested in walking on the moon, and felt that the more challenging and interesting part was landing on the moon – a true challenge for any pilot. I seem to recall a quote (which I am paraphrasing here) in which he said “pilots fly.”

And of course, as many have recounted over the last few days, the landing itself was nothing short of a nail biter – mere seconds from running out of fuel and crashing on the surface.

I have no doubt that he felt great emotion stepping on to the lunar surface, but my guess is secretly, his favorite part was the landing. Everything after that was anti-climactic.

RIP Neil.

60. Locke for President - August 27, 2012

— If you take the graphic of the shuttle at the very top of the page and turn it 90 degrees clockwise, it looks like a shark. I caught that by accident by looking at my laptop at a weird angle. (The image farther down on the page isn’t the same).

— Seems ironic that you have one Armstrong, Lance, get busted for cheating a couple of days before another Armstrong, Neil, passes away. What a example of how things have changed. Neil lands on the moon, stays private and humble, and doesn’t bring attention to himself. Lance, allegedly, cheated for years to get his fame and fortune.

61. Hat Rick - August 27, 2012

60, as to your second point, the same thought struck me yesterday.

I think that it is an unhappy coincidence that both men share the same surname. On the scale of accomplishments, even without the allegations against Lance Armstrong, his effect on the world simply does not compare with that of Neil.

Neil Armstrong was the exponent of a creed that espoused landing on a new heavenly body not for personal gain, and not even for national advantage, but for all mankind. When was the last time that anyone, anywhere, did that?

62. John from Cincinnati - August 27, 2012

Neil Armstrong

Was born in Wapakoneta, Ohio. He would occasionally fly his plane to the Dayton airport while growing up. Upon retiring from NASA, he took a professorship at the University of Cincinnati. He spent the rest of his life living in a Cincinnati suburb. A true hero. Roberto Orci and the guys should make a nice tribute to this Ohio Astronaut in the next movie. Either the USS Neil Armstrong or some tribute the state of Ohio has contributed to space exploration:

Armstrong, Neil A., born in Wapakoneta
Bassett, Charles A., II →, born in Dayton
Cameron, Kenneth D. →, born in Cleveland
Currie, Nancy J. →, considers Troy her hometown
Eisele, Donn F. →, born in Columbus
Foreman, Michael J. →, born in Columbus
Gernhardt, Michael L. →, born in Mansfield
Glenn, John H., Jr., born in Cambridge
Good, Michael T. →, considers Broadview Heights his hometown
Harbaugh, Gregory J. →, born in Cleveland
Henize, Karl G. →, born in Cincinnati
Hennen, Thomas J. →, considers Columbus his hometown
Henricks, Terence T. →, considers Woodville his hometown
Johnson, Gregory H. →, considers Fairborn his hometown
Lovell, James A., Jr. →, born in Cleveland
Low, G. David →, born in Cleveland
Overmyer, Robert F. → , considered Westlake his hometown
Parise, Ronald A., Ph.D. →, born in Warren
Resnik, Judith A. →, born in Akron
Sega, Ronald M. →, born in Cleveland
Springer, Robert C. →, considers Ashland his hometown
Thomas, Donald A. →, born in Cleveland
Walz, Carl E. →, born in Cleveland
Weber, Mary E. →, born in Cleveland
Williams, Sunita L. →, born in Euclid

Ohio has contributed more astronauts, per capita, than any other state.

Armstrong was also an avid Trekker.

Godspeed Neil Armstrong

63. TrekMadeMeWonder - August 27, 2012

Funny how Armstrong has never come up in a Trek storyline.

64. rm10019 - August 27, 2012

63 – I’m sure would have if Trek had been on the air, just after the Moon Landing, or in the early 70’s. It would have been too juicy a possibility for a plot line. By the time TNG came around, no one was talking about it much anymore.

I would have loved to see the detail the Okudas and Rick Sternbach would have but into those shows!

65. porthos's bitch - August 27, 2012

I remember in an episode of Lost in Space (return to earth) guy williams character states ” it wasnt till late 1970 that we landed a man on the moon”……pretty good guess for fall 1968…

The momentum we had in 69. Everything seemed possible..TOS in 2300, lost in space in 1996,2001 (in 68) even Space 1999…(in ’74 ?)…what happened…??

The question where do you think we’d be now?. My quess if we’d followed thru Mars would have been achieved in the early 90’s…definetly a permanent presence on the moon..

” man explored…he discovered he had too”

66. modo - August 27, 2012

On a related note, yesterday in Christa McAuliffe’s hometown of Concord NH, a new elementary school bearing her name was dedicated.

Stephen McAuliffe, her husband, delivered a moving dedication speech.

I toured the school, and it is a bright, colorful, well thought out, lovely living monument to her memory and her dream.

67. TrekMadeMeWonder - August 27, 2012

Way to go, Modo!

68. DJT - August 28, 2012

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