This week’s Science Friday is full of interesting science news, but, isn’t it always? We bring you a look into future Enceladus missions with the Cassini Watch, a lesson in ancient Bajoran inter-planetary travel thanks to a new discovery about our Sun, how coffee can keep you healthy, and the “poop” on 14,000 year old fossils, along with an exciting new gadget of the week: the Senisphere.
Cassini Watch: Future Enceladus Missions
Last week Science Friday brought reports from the findings on the recent super-close flyby of Eneladus, a moon of Saturn which is thought to be very likely to contain life. Recent spectral analyses of the water jets coming from cracks in the icy moon have strengthened this life-supporting hypothesis. The next major event for Enceladus won’t be until August with a mission designed to allow extremely high resolution images of the surface sources of the jets. Will we actually see open vents? Or clear signs of deposition on the surface? In 4.5 months, we’ll know. Visit CICLOPS for more.
The north polar region of Enceladus
Source of Solar Wind Discovered
The solar wind consists of electrically charged particles that flow out from the Sun in all directions. These particles are moving at very high velocities with large amounts of energy. They cause the northern and southern aurorae and can even interfere with satellites when in contact with Earth’s magnetosphere. Using the Extreme Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrometer (EIS), scientists have linked the movements of the Sun’s magnetic field to the hot gas which escapes from the sun as the solar wind. This could be useful for the implementation of real life Bajoran Lightships. Solar sails, however, do have their limits, and, with what is currently known of their physics, can be very inefficient. XKCD suggests a laser elevator in an article with some informative figures involving levitating a squirrel. For more, see Science Daily.
A Bajoran Lightship utilizing the power of the solar wind!
A Coffee a Day Keeps the EMH Away?
In a recent study, scientists have found that a daily dose of caffeine blocks the disruptive effects of high cholesterol linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Just one cup of coffee a day could protect the blood-brain barrier (BBB), which protects the central nervous system, from harmful colesterol. Caffeine appears to protect BBB breakdown by maintaining the expression levels of tight junction proteins. These proteins bind the cells of the BBB tightly to each other to stop unwanted molecules crossing into the central nervous system. Maybe that’s why Janeway is so sharp.
"Coffee: the finest organic suspension ever devised… I beat the Borg with it."
Archaeologists “Abuzz” Over 14,000 Year Old Poop
Yes, you read that headline correctly. Coprolites, or fossilized poop, are often a tool used by archaeologists and paleontologists to infer information about the dietary and ecological habits of the creatures that created them. Recently, scientists uncovered some human coprolites in an Oregon cave which have been described by their discoverers as, “remarkable for several reasons.” Their age suggests that the creators of said fossils were the earliest known Americans, strengthening the theory that humans travelled to the American continents via land bridge.
That’s some old crap!
Gadget of the Week: Senisphere Round Gesture Screen
For times when a simple 2D screen just won’t do, students from the University of Augsburg developed this spherically shaped touch-interactive display. The idea is similar to Microsoft Surface. And, while seemingly less functional for many practical applications, it takes the cake when it comes to digital globe simulation. Can we install one of these babies in astrometrics?
Here’s a warp-speed look at science tid-bits that didn’t quite make the cut, but nonetheless merit mention.
- Terraforming the moon?The moon seeen as a laboratory for life
- Finding Earth-like planets. What are the chances?
- Soccer Robots compete for the title.