The Phoenix mission team is on the move (while the lander stays firmly in place), and news just keeps flying in from all directions about our newest Martian arrival. Today in Science Friday, read about martian soil, ice, and weather, flexible computers, real life cyborg implants, the hunt for superplanets, and our gadget of the week: Six-Legged Logger, another totally creepy walking bot.
Phoenix Delivers Martian Soil, Possible Ice, and Space Weather Widget
Since the Phoenix Mars Lander made its touch down last week with an unprecedented success, a lot of news has come in from the Red Planet’s newest robot. After experiencing a little trouble early on with the robotic arm, it appears that all systems are go for NASA to begin sampling Martian soil, one of the craft’s main goals.
All of this scooping is largely in search for ice which theoretically could lead to past or present life. And, the landing site is looking good for that. As seen in the image below, Phoenix’s landing rockets uncovered a light colored substrate directly under the craft which scientists hope is water ice.
Another lesser publicized mission of the Phoenix Lander is that it will serve as the first weather station in the Martian polar region. Phoenix will gather data about the Martian atmosphere and other surface meteorological conditions in order to significantly improve models of global climate on Mars. A widget has already been released for you to get the latest Martian weather conditions on your home computer. Get it here!
Screenshot from the Mars weather widget
Flexible Computers Use Displays With Any Shape
The shape of things to come in the computer world will be anything but flat. University laboratories are now developing prototypes of these new "non-planar" devices. Not only will they take on flexible forms we’ve never imagined — like pop cans with browsers displaying RSS feeds and movie trailers — computers of the future will respond to our direct touch and even change their own shape to better accommodate data, for example, folding up like a piece of paper to be tucked into our pockets. I can’t wait!
Interactive Coke can developed at Queen’s University
Could ‘Cyborg’ Veins Lead to Artificial Hearts?
Jean-Luc Picard can tell you two things to avoid at the Academy: the cafeteria chili and getting stabbed through the heart by a Naussican over some bumper pool. Luckily, if that happens, 24th century technology can save your life with an artificial heart. New 21st century man-made veins and arteries created by London scientists could make artificial coronary bypass grafts a reality and lead the way to mainstream use of artificial organs which can adapt and even heal themselves like our natural body parts do. Via ScienceDaily.
A combination of man-made materials and human cells
Hunt For SuperEarth Planets Underway
NASA’s EPOXI mission, which uses the Deep Impact spacecraft, has begun its search for "super Earth" planets. The team has currently focused its attention on GJ436, a red dwarf star 32 light-years from Earth which has a Neptune-sized planet that transits in front of the star. The orbital period of the “super Earth” is not precisely known, but the EPOXI team estimates it to be in the range from 20 to 30 days.
EPOXI was originally part of the Deep Impact mission
Gadget of the Week: Six Legged Logging Vehicle Almost as Creepy as BigDog
This six-legged vehicle — reminiscent of a previous gadget of the week — may look like some kind of alien life form, it’s actually a prototype vehicle for moving felled trees. The legs allow it to move through more unstable and varied terrain than wheeled or tracked vehicles, as it can just step right over any obstacles it encounters. Just take a look at this thing moving! It’s unsettling, and not just because it was designed to aid in the clear cutting of forests!
Here’s a warp-speed look at science tid-bits that didn’t quite make the cut, but nonetheless merit mention.