Phoenix has continued to dig on the surface of Mars in search of the oh-so-elusive water ice, with some new trenches and new glitches. NASA is hard at work designing the next generation of space suits that will take our astonauts to the moon and beyond. New nanotube technology looks promising in defeating cancerous cells. Also, TrekMovie celebrates the Summer Solstice with you! All this plus our gadget of the week: the futuristic Kohler Crevasse sink.
Phoenix Update: Digging “Snow White” and Loosing Data
Phoenix generated a high volume of data last Tuesday causing the loss of some non-critical science data. Engineers noticed Phoenix’s strange behavior when it sent a piece of engineering data 45,000 times like a broken record. “It’s unfortunate to lose any bit of science,” said mission scientist Ray Arvidson. “But it’s not really critical stuff that you kick yourself over.” The glitch occurred after Phoenix began digging in an area called “Wonderland” early Tuesday, taking its first scoop of soil from a polygonal surface feature likely caused by the shrinking and expansion of water ice. This area has been dubbed the “national park” region of Mars that mission scientists have been preserving for science. Pictured below is the newest trench known as Snow White.
The “Snow White” trench dug by Phoenix Tuesday
Next Generation of NASA Spacesuits
NASA has just awarded its contract for future spacesuits to Oceaneering International, a company that now has the task of designing and manufacturing the new suits to be worn by our future astronauts as they explore the moon, Mars, and beyond. The suits are going to be ready for the first launch of the Orion Space Capsule in 2015, and it’s going to set back the government a whopping $745 million.
The two new space suit designs by Oceaneering International
Infrared-heated nanotubes seek out cancer cells, torch them
The war on cancer has a new secret weapon: carbon nanotubes heated up via near-infrared light, scorching the cancerous cells inside the body. Developed by scientists at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, the nanotubes are stronger than steel and can be attached to an antibody that seeks out cancer cells and bind to them. At that point, the near-infrared light is beamed in, heating the tubes up until the cancer is roasted.
Nanotubes: a better way to fight cancer?
10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Summer Solstice
Today, June 20th, marks the 2008 Summer solstice (or Winter solstice for those of you South of Earth’s equator). This is the first time since 1896 – 112 years – that the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere has occurred before June 21. To kick off the official summer season, we at TrekMovie have provided a list of 10 facts surrounding the Summer Solstice.
- Summers are hot not because Earth is closer to the sun, but because the tilt of the Earth’s axis lets rays of sunlight hit one hemisphere more directly.
- During the Northern Hemisphere’s summer, we’re actually farthest from the sun, receiving 7 percent less sunlight than the Southern Hemisphere does during its summer.
- The summer solstice—June 20 this year—is the Northern Hemisphere’s longest day, with 24 hours of unbroken sunlight north of the Arctic Circle.
- For obsessive-compulsives: The site www.archaeoastronomy.com maintains a second-by-second countdown to each solstice.
- The Tropic of Cancer—the latitude on Earth where the sun is directly overhead at noon on the summer solstice—got its name because when the ancients established it, the sun appeared in the constellation Cancer. But, due to subsequent shifting of Earth’s axis, the Tropic of Cancer is now misnamed. On the current June solstice, the sun actually appears in the constellation Taurus.
- Other planets have solstices too. By cosmic coincidence, this year Mars and Earth have solstices that fall within a few days of each other, with the Martian solstice occurring on June 25.
- Uranus’s axis of rotation is nearly aligned with the plane of its orbit, meaning that each pole on Uranus experiences a 42-year-long summer of steady sunshine—followed by a depressing 42 years of winter darkness.
- At the other extreme, Venus’s and Jupiter’s poles are almost exactly perpendicular to their orbits. Because of that, their solstices—hence their seasons—are barely noticeable. Then again, you would have difficulty noticing any kind of season on Venus because you would be simultaneously suffocated, crushed, and cooked at 870 degrees Fahrenheit. On Jupiter it would be worse: You would be killed by radiation long before you got close.
- Even without seasons, changes in the sun affect the planets. Sunspots wax and wane on an 11-year cycle; at times of peak sunspot activity, such as the year 2000, the sun is 0.07 percent brighter than during periods of low activity.
- And the sun keeps getting brighter. Models of stellar evolution estimate that the sun is about 40 percent more luminous today than it was when the Earth formed 4.5 billion years ago.
Video of the week: counting monkeys
Forget about being smarter than a third grader, are you smarter than a chimp? Check out this video and prepare to be worried about our future simian overlords.
Gadget of the Week: Kohler Crevasse prep sink belongs on the Enterprise
The Kohler Crevasse rinsing sink looks like a 33-inch stainless steel slot cut out of your countertop. A button press whisks food scraps down the drain, and you can choose to automatically activate a synchronized garbage disposer at the same time. Check out that swank stainless steel switch with its edge-lit indicator, lighting up in a blue glow when the flume of water rinses the sink, and then flashing blue when the grinder is whirring away. It’s all safe, too, because the switch can only be activated by a human touch, not by some errant pot or pan. Via DVICE.
Sleek futuristic sink belongs in futuristic kitchens
Here’s a warp-speed look at science tid-bits that didn’t quite make the cut, but nonetheless merit mention.
- NASA Tests Lunar Bots and Suits
- Scientists find trio of “super Earths”
- New type of comet dust mineral discovered
- “Titan Unveiled” a look at the accomplishments of Cassini-Huygens
- Plutoid fallout: New Horizons principal investigator applies the “Starship Enterprise test” for his definition of a planet