Science Friday: Pi Day Edition

This week in Science Friday we bring you news from the recent Enceladus flyby from the Cassini crew, a look at some baby stars, why the NASA chief refuses "to boldly go", whether or not the Grand Canyon is lying about its age, a new book outlining Trek possibilities, a gadget to solve all that talking when on the phone, and a tribute to an infinite day. Read on!

Porco: Enceladus Flyby "Unprecedented Triumph"!
Wednesday, we got a unique look at Cassini’s recent Enceladus flyby as it happened. Now, reports are coming in of Cassini’s "unprecedented triumph" in its mission. Valuable information about the south polar surface and the gaseous/particulate environment above was collected by Cassini’s particle analyzers, and Carolyn Porco and the team got some great images as well. “As always, it will take a bit of time for us to pull it all together and
take our results from a preliminary to a presentable state,” says Porco. We know the wait is excruciating, but in the mean time you can check out

A raw, unprocessed image from the March 12th flyby

Organics and Water Found Around Baby Star
Scientists using the Spitzer space telescope (ahem…named for astrophysicist Lyman Spitzer) have discovered simple organic gases and water in a planet forming region surrounding an infant star, along with evidence that these molecules were created there. With new infrared spectrographic techniques created by the Naval Research Laboratory, scientists can point their sensors towards a star’s proto planetary disk — a stage in stellar evolution — and analyze the composition of the gasses there. These findings might give us a look at the beginnings of our Solar System, and new ways to detect life supporting planets abroad. See ScienceDaily for more.

Spitzer uses long range sensors to scan distant stars

NASA chief wanted Trek motto, balked at grammar
Apparently, "To boldly go where no man has gone before" was vetoed as a possible NASA motto due to the chief’s unwillingness to tolerate the slogan’s poor grammar. In a New Scientist blog, NASA administrator Mike Griffin revealed that bad grammar is one thing that really "pushes his buttons". He joked that Trek’s tag line would be great to use as NASA’s own mission statement, except that the split infinitive offends his inner pedant. As far as his run as NASA chief, Griffin commented, "I can’t grade my own paper," but gave it a go anyway saying that his greatest achievement has been putting space experts in top posts at NASA.

NASA administrator Mike Griffin

Parts of Grand Canyon May be 17 Million Years Old
Scientists have found new evidence by dating mineral formations in caves in the walls of the Grand Canyon that this giant chasm may in fact be three times older than previously thought. By measuring the uranium and lead isotope concentrations in the mineral layers, researchers can determine when they were deposited. Although some good data has been collected, many geologists are skeptical of the claims being made about the canyon’s age. “Data from the oldest of the cave formations might have been linked to the carving of canyons that predate the Grand Canyon,” notes Joel L. Pederson, a geomorphologist at Utah State University. See more at ScienceNews.

The Grand Canyon may or may not be older than previously thought

Is the impossible possible?
Noted theoretical physicist and futurist Michio Kaku has a new book out called "Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel". New Scientist describes the book "The study of the impossible has opened up entirely new vistas for science…It is here that the book’s strength lies: the impossible is a gateway for discussing what we still do not quite understand, those grey areas that are surely the most fascinating part of physics." In the brief clip below, Kaku describes the book and how some of the things we see on Star Trek may be possible.  

Is Trek tech doable?

Gadget of the Week: Audeo Neckband Allows Voiceless Phone Calls
You know what’s wrong with phone conversations? All that dang talking you have to do. Luckily for us, some scientists at Ambient Corporation are fixing that with their “Audeo” wireless neckband which taps into nerve signals being sent to vocal chords and vocalizes those “thoughts” for you. Users have to specifically think about voicing words so that the device may pick up on them. See a demonstration below.

Science Quickies

Here’s a warp-speed look at science tid-bits that didn’t quite make the cut, but nonetheless merit mention.

And lastly, Happy Pi Day from!
It is 3.14, and so today you can celebrate that wonderful number Pi.
Here are some links to help you PiDay celebration: ‘Official’ Pi Day site, Wiki Page, Songs, Limericks, Classroom activities, and Greeting Cards.  

When you care enough to send the very nerdiest


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Now, this is what makes Friday the best day on this site!

Haffry Piday!

Re Mr. Griffin:
To go boldly where, before, no man has gone? To go boldly where no man before has gone? To go boldly where no man has gone?

Somehow it just doesn’t have the same ring.

Peace. Live long and prosper.
The Vulcanista }:-|

The throat device is a cool and promising tech.

nor to let out my inner boob:

“Spitzer uses long range sensors to scan distant stars…”
… for signs of “nightlife” perhaps? IfyuoknowwhatImean.


mmmm. Pi.

Sometimes poor grammar is the best! Oxymoron I suppose….

Agreed, Vulcanista. Heading to the stars without a sense of poetry is like having sex after a dose of novacaine.

“To boldly go…” using the old “man” or the new “one”? I wonder if they would have used the new gender neutral one. I prefer the new one myself. I remember watching Trek VI and all the women screamed when Kirk corrected himself when using that line at the end. It was so unexpected to me at the time that I got chills. It was just another in a long line of wake up calls about social justice. Even Star Trek gets things wrong from time to time. Nice to know that Trek has self-correcting fans though. :)

now let tell me will the organics and wter still be there in a couple billion yrs when the planets form?

mike just not better show up hear. how does he handel the boards. just about every one speaks with bad grammer and acronyms on line.

17 mil yrs old canyon? what does this mean for that ep of the flintstones??

we already have transporters, and time travel…..

great caesars ghost… that voiceless thing is scary
it reminds me of the borg queens line about linguistic communication.
that part about a stray thought… your in a conversation with dome one you dont like or want to talk to but you dont tell them off but your phone transmits your thoughts any way. next some one will have a reciever powerfull and sencitive enought that they can read your thought from across the room. better get out the tinfoil hats again :D

happy pi day :D

Star Trek’s tag line would be AWESOME for NASA! Too bad it doesn’t meet Mr. Spitzer’s grammatical expectations.

Happy PI Day everyone!

Well the technology of the future always looks like the magic of the present (Sagan or Arthur C. Clarke?) In 300 years time heaven knows what may be possible, but I have always had a feeling that GR had an inkling of humanity’s future…



– W –
* smirks *

3.1415926535 8979323846 2643383279 5028841971

…sorry but it had to be done!

He can’t just “to go boldy” and unsplit the infinitive? What a prick.

Mr Lerpa, I enjoy both your comment and your name. Kudos :-D

-Yes..i just love dogs and any abstract science…

The name of my new Star Trek tribute band is The Split Infinitives.

Wouldn’t you hate to have Griffin as a boss – every email, progress report and powerpoint presentation would be riddled and interrupted with corrections. Methinks the man needs some major loosening up.

Kayla, the Spitzer photograph is mesmerizingly beautiful. Major kudos to the research team involved in that endeavor.

I’ve seen Michio Kaku in several History and Discovery channel programs over the years and he is not only a brilliant physicist but gets more handsome every time I see him… yum…

organics and water around a star?
for sure?

Fluidic space!

Spitzer continues to amaze me!

“To confine our attention to terrestrial matters would be to limit the human spirit.”
– Stephen W. Hawking

“Captain’s Log” at… SWEET!!! =D

Happy Pi Day every body! =D

Peace Out


18. Ha ha! What irks me about the “fluidic space” thing, though, is in that ep of VOY when species 8472 are posing as humans on that planet and one girl says something like, “Non-fluidic space has it’s advantages”. Which is hilarious, of course, since the planet had air on it….which is a fluid….filling up the space…. see where I’m going with this one?

#21, Even the science has continuity errors. ;)

Haha ;)

Kayla that star system forming , Im guessing its about where our solar system was about 4 billion or so years ago, How far is that system from ours?

re: the famous ‘split infinitive’ …

I was a corporate speechwriter some years ago, and I wrote a presentation for a senior exec in which I included the phrase ‘to boldly go where no one has gone before.’ Unfortunately, the exec knew nothing about Star Trek. I was helping run his TelePrompter, and when he got to that sentence … he fixed the split infinitive! I was embarrassed for him.

BTW, Griffin overreacted. English is a living, evolving language. Split infinitives are considered largely acceptable now.

And yet, if NASA’s Mission Statement did include “To Boldly Go…”, and they actually drew up missions that did “Boldly Go…”, they probably wouldn’t be having all the funding issues they’ve been dealing with since the seventies…

Ouch. Response time on that collar thing is pretty sluggish. Cool idea but keep developing, folks.

24. That’s correct, the Nebular hypothesis tells us that this is likely how our solar system formed. The star they are observing in this instance is AA Tauri, a star about 450 light years away from Earth.

RE: #5 CmdrR…

The word you used was very apt…although Star Trek’s tag line may be grammatically incorrect…it is very POETIC. Personally, I find it a perfect motto for NASA in it’s original form…grammtical errors and all. The spirit held within that phrase is unmistakable and appropriate for our nation’s space exploration. Star Trek has influenced many parts of our culture, it only seems fitting that it influence our culture’s venture into the unknown.

And as always…Kayla, wonderful work.

Someone needs to remind Mike Griffin of what Winston Churchill supposedly said when someone corrected him for splitting an infinitive: “That is the sort of arrant pedantry up with which I will not put.”

Too bad Churchill probably never said such a thing. Still, it points out that sometimes in life, you’ve got to split a few infinitives to make a memorable and yes, poetic, mission statement.

As for the “man” versus “one” version of the quote, consider this: “one” is far more chauvinistic. There are (in Trek’s fictional universe at least) plenty of “ones” out there already. But no “man” (Earth human) has been to those places yet. It’s like saying no one had been to America before Columbus.

“Human” would be the most correct choice, but a single syllable seems called for there. I’m going with “man.”

Scott B. out.

So, it should be “We came in peace, for all Onekind”?

‘Man’ is yet another figuratively used word in this case. It is very inclusive.

There is a lovely cadence to “Space, the final frontier…” It’s no less valid than “O wad some Power the giftie gie us, to see oursels as ithers see us!” for the non-Scot. There’s a power in the chosen word that should be felt not forced into some grammatical straight-jacket. And, yes, space is all about poetry, or else why go?

Hm. In re-reading my earlier post, I see it’s knuckleheaded flaw. Churchill wasn’t splitting infinitives; he was ending sentences with prepositions! Another gremlin that brings out the grammar police!

Oh well. That mistake is the sort of arrant stupidity of mine up with which I have to boldly put.

Scott B. (sheepishly) out.

P.S. Loved your post, CmdrR, #31!

Decloaking . . .

Kayla . . . I know . . . I’m the last person you want to hear from. I offer only butterflies, baby kisses, and puppy dog tails this time. ;-}

This is a great column and I look forward to it every week. Thanks especially for keeping us up to date on Space Science.

Believe it or not I’m a writer and I had completely forgotten about the whole split infinitive thing. This just goes to prove (as I frequently argue with my editor) that ignoring a rigid fixation on grammer rules frequently leads to more interesting and compelling writing.

Double thanks for the link to “askOxford.” That will come in very handy.



ITA!! It’s called “creative license.”

Peace. Live long and prosper.
The Vulcanista }:-|

Decloaking . . .

Hey Vulcanista! Haven’t posted with you before!

Indeed, I have my creative license stapled to my wall.

Like I told Denise a couple days ago, you and Seven should honeymoon in Minsk. Forget Risa, Minsk in lovely in July, just before the snow melts . . . Minsk!


Well, as lovely as it would be to honeymoon in Minsk, I am neither engaged to anyone named Seven, nor likely to become so in the near future.

Perhaps you have me confused with someone else?

Peace. Live long and prosper.
The Vulcanista }:-|

Decloaking . . .

I think the whole thing was a joke. But hey, I’m a writer. I’m supposed to live in a state of confusion; that’s my job.

Just don’t pinch me. I need to remain conscious a little while longer.

By the way (now exposing my internet ignorance), what does ITA mean?


I agree with #7. That neck thing is really really scary. When the technology is perfected it will change everything. People will be able to read each other’s thoughts. People will be connected to machines. Sometimes I think “The Matrix” is going to be closer to the future than Star Trek. Maybe it will be a bit of both. But such a future in which people can broadcast thoughts without speaking, or read thoughts that are not vocalized, is downright terrifying. And it seems it’s real, and at the rate of technology growth, what, fifteen years from now? Scary.

32 – Scott

Thanks. Bobbie Burns also gave Scotty his “Me bairns, me poor bairns!” Wouldn’t change a syllable.

RE: Enceladus and Cassini

I was reading today that a software clitch prevented the Cassini spaceprobe from analyzing the water-ice material from the geyser — so they did not get the information they were looking for.

They are doing another fly-through of the Enceladus geyser later on this year (October, I think)…hopefully they will get everything working correctly on that fly-through to be able to discern whether or not Enceladus has a liquid water ocean under its frozen surface.

11. Mr Lerpa – March 14, 2008
3.1415926535 8979323846 2643383279 5028841971

…sorry but it had to be done!

It’s a good start, Mr. Lerpa… but Pi, will never be “done”.

and to be fair… will phi get it’s own day now too?

Why not “seeking out … and boldly going where no one has gone before”?

I think that avoiding the infinitive this way avoids splitting it but keeps the effective word order. “Boldly go” is just so much better than “go boldly” — the first one sounds like an action, while the second sounds like an order from the admiral.


ITA = I totally agree.

‘sokay about the joke. My brain just got back from vacation about 45
minutes ago.

#43: I say we just leave it as written, notwithstanding Mr. Griffin’s objections to the split infinitive. :-)

Peace. Live long and prosper.
The Vulcanista }:-|

Aww, great. The interest of my inner linguist is piqued. Now I’ve got to wonder: is this split infinitive a construct which only appears in English?!?

Aww.. wtf.. its time for me to quickly go to bed..!

Doesn’t Paramount/CBS have a trademark on the “boldy go” slogan? If not, why not?

happy PI DAY!

Decloaking . . .

44. The Vulcanista.

I’m sorry. I know that humor is a difficult concept. };-}

After reading the Shat thread, I think that Denise was making the joke about Gary Seven and Iowagirl.

But, then again, I’m a writer. If I knew what I was talking about I’d have a real job. Sorry to all those involved.


“since the planet had air on it….which is a fluid.”

Air is a fluid ????????? Please elaborate.

Either my scientific education or my memory fails me. Perhaps you’re joking about gaseous anomolies????


I would think that Mr. Griffin should spend his allocated taxpayer dollars at something more important. For starters, finally establishing
on-demand access to earth orbit. Forget about Apollo on steroids-it’s the rocket game all over again. How about the X-20 on steroids??