Science Friday: Digging Mars, Hunting Superplanets, Flexing Computers, Walking Machines + more

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!

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

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no mention of the japanese dude that pulled off cold fusion?????

Creepy, but awesome machine

One word… MECH


Cool machine. Can’t wait for my personal All-Terrain-Tactical-Enforcer!

Can Imperial Walkers be far behind?

Scott B. out.

Hmmm. MEMS. I think I like that better than nanites, actually.
As for flex-puters, I’d rather pass. 99.999% seem to be aimed at frivilous uses. I’m sure there are medical and practical applications. But, like in Minority Report, I think most are going to be a vast sensory assault trying to get you to buy crap you don’t really need. Or else glow-in-the-dark honeymoon-issue combat jammies. Woo-hoo. The shape of things to come.

mars weather reeport = cool
but i thought mars was hte 4th planet in the sol system. why does it say sol 9?

the coke can demo. ok suree put a battery on the bottom but im suree you could also power it up just by shaking the can :)
oh built in rfid tags. your coke can rec other cokes and bluetooths your ipod or cell phone. can even warn you if a pepsi is in the area. i sense a presence, ive not felt since… :)
you drink. the can gets empty. hte can finds the closest store that sells coke. you buy another coke but leave in the car or put it in a fridge that is not cold enough. the can talks to you ” what are you doing dave “


like that sisco systems commercial.
creepy stuff.

#7 Yes, Mars is the 4th planet from the sun. What sol 9 is referring to is the ninth day that Phoenix has been on Mars. On Mars, a day is 24 1/2 hours long and is called a Sol instead of a day.

but y sol?
i can understand it and meybe even syuupport it. but this i think is the first iver heard of it. how long has this been in use. to me sol was the sun and yes can be used for day. but when ref with a following number it has to me always been used as a ref to the solar sytem. these two are now competeing. whats the story behind this. are we pushing mars centric thinking to the genral public?

Great article Kayla.

Not as creepy as Big Dog, but impressive.

Next for walking machine: get them to move faster, much faster; also, scale them up to a size that can accommodate cargo and passengers.

One more important step would be to create an autonomous walking machine, like the wheeled machines that won the DARPA Grand Challenge.

I’m scared – I Robot seems closer every day…

Wow..that robot looks like a dinosaur or elephant had some fun with an ATAT. *lol*

‘starships dont need keys’
new lincoln commercial. whos seen it?
is just a generic add, was it a nod to star trek or was it a paramount thing for the new trek movie? that couldnt have been stoped sincee the reelease date was pushed back (yeah right)?

now this new lincoln add vs that ol hummer one. whats your fav?

hmm as a computer science student myself, its interesting to hear about flexible computers, me thinks the next gen of say ebooks readers , will be interesting.

and yay , they fixed the toilet on the ISS ,(in soviet russia toilet fixes you (sorry had to) meh its not like they really needed on i mean what the Enterprise D had only 1 for 1000 people. But yea good job , and the new
Japanese Kibo lab look cool .

Walking mech? hmm why does that remind me of Metal Gear? Metal Gear series is awesome :)

Great article as usual.

The latest information on the Mars Phoenix mission is that there is an unexplained problem actually getting the sample of Martian soil into the TEGA oven. While the sample was successfully delivered onto what appears to be the surface of the spacecraft near the opening of the intended TEGA oven, it does not appear that any of the sample actually went through the oven screen into the device itself.

Scientists are currently working on the problem.

Updates on my blog as may be practical.

I wish they could develop a substitute to the Hubble telescope and name it Roddenberry, I think it would be a fitting tribute to one of the greatest mind and science fiction write, because lets face it, I think he inspired more people to do sciences than any other person on this planet…

I’m one of those… Gene inspired me