Science Friday: New Rings, New Life, New Micro-subs + more

Well, the hubbub from the Large Hadron Collider’s first beam is over and it appears that we survived, for now. But, the Earth could be incinerated at any moment, so hurry up and enjoy this week’s edition of Science Friday  with new rings of Saturn, new life forms on Earth, Mini submarines, and a gamma-ray burst mystery solved.
All this plus our gadget of the week!

Cassini Watch: Spacecraft Discovers Ring Arcs Among Saturn’s Moons.
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has detected a faint, partial ring orbiting with two small moons of Saturn, Anthe and Methone. "Findings like these are helping us to understand how the orbits of the bodies and ring material in a planetary system, like Saturn’s, are configured by their mutual gravitational resonances," says Carolyn Porco, Imaging Team Leader and Star Trek‘s science advisor. This is further evidence that most of the planet’s small, inner moons orbit within partial or complete rings. The general brightness of the image (along with the faint horizontal banding pattern) results from the long exposure time of 15 seconds required to capture the extremely faint ring arc and the processing needed to enhance its visibility.

See more images from Cassini at

Biologists On the Verge of Creating New Form of Life
A team of biologists and chemists is closing in on bringing non-living matter to life. Jack Szostak and his lab at Harvard Medical aren’t just seeking out new life; their creating it! Szostak’s “protocells” are built from fatty molecules that can trap bits of nucleic acids that contain the source code for replication. Combined with a process that harnesses external energy from the sun or chemical reactions, they could form a self-replicating, evolving system that satisfies the conditions of life, but isn’t anything like life on earth now, but might represent life as it began or could exist elsewhere in the universe.

The “protocells” which could define a new life form

Mini Subs to Search for Life on Earth and Beyond
Water locked underneath icecaps or glaciers can tell us about our planet’s past and its possibly warmer future. Similar environments on distant worlds, like Jupiter’s moon Europa, could tell us whether life can originate in these harsh conditions. To study the icy depths, a Swedish team of researchers is designing a tiny submersible that can slip down a narrow borehole. “Most of the other ROVs are not this small because they don’t need to be,” said Jonas Jonsson of the Angstrom Space Technology Centre. In response to growing interest in studying sub-glacial lakes on Earth, Jonsson and his colleagues are developing a cylindrical probe 5 centimeters across and 20 centimeters long — smaller than two soda cans stuck end to end.

Artist conception of a submersible searching for life, and a prototype mini sub

Extraordinary Gamma-ray Burst Aimed Directly at Earth
Astronomers think they know what caused the brightest ever gamma-ray burst, which was observed in March: a tightly beamed jet of matter that happened to be aimed almost directly at Earth. Gamma-rays bursts (or GRBs) are thought to be caused when massive, spinning stars collapse to form black holes and spew out jets of gas at nearly the speed of light. These send gamma rays our way, along with visible light produced where the jet heats up surrounding gas. Last March 19th, astronomers nabbed a view of the brightest such burst ever to be seen in visible light. The blast, dubbed GRB 080319B, came from 7.5 billion light years away, more than halfway across the universe. Despite the immense distance, it would have been visible with the naked eye at dark sites on Earth for 40 seconds.

An animation showing how astronomers think light was released from the GRB

Gadget of the Week: Special Edition Esquire Magazine With E-Ink Cover
Personally, the concept of a newspaper or magazine with moving print that remains paper-like, thin, and flexible, has always been one of my favorite Sci-fi gadgets. It really seems to capture the feeling of the future, and it is still so far away from being a reality. Nonetheless, E-Ink has been steadily increasing in popularity as displays and electronics get smaller and thinner. This special edition of Esquire magazine proves that. Although it may not look like something out of 2025, it’s an impressive jump-start into the technology of practical flexible displays.

Go grab your special edition issue!

LHC: Update – Are we in a parallel universe?
Earlier this week the Large Hadron Collider went online and it appears that it didn’t destroy the planet. But did it catapult us into a parallel universe? There is some evidence coming from Yale Professor Michael Zellar, who has been working on the collider, and was quoted saying "What did they say in ‘Star Wars’? We’re going where no man has ever been? Well, that’s where we’re going." To Professor Zellar, from all the Trekkies, as Commander Skywalker of the USS Enterprise was fond of saying "may the force be with you."  

Must see: Keep an eye on the LHC, click the image below for a LHC webcam, this should be watched very closely.

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

Martian dust devils at the Phoenix lander site!

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The proto-life sounds a little like genesis. Always great to mix Trek and Wars.

May the force live long and prosper.

The LHC is so cool. People need to stop hating on it.

Totally unrelated, but in my Astronomy class we’re doing a re-creation of the trial against Galileo. I’m on the church side, and I have to cast doubt on the theory of a heliocentric universe. Do any of you science fans out there have any idea how I could go about such a task?

Never give up the Force, never go where no man has surrendered before…

Or something.

I wonder if Commander Skywalker of the USS Enterprise has ever encountered Jedi Master James Kirk.

OK, funny bit with the webcam……….LOL

James, I am your father.

“Star Wars”?!?! Dr. Zellar needs to turn in his geek card over that one. That is a big goof up.

One can only ridicule the primitive notion that our views of GRB’s are actually of cones of light directed at our location.

A GRB can only be one thing: Matter/antimatter collision.

#5- I do believe that Captain Skywalker and Vulcan second in command Han Solo had a run in with him when he took a landing party down to the Federation colony of Mos Eiesly on Tatooine.

In fact Dr. Kenobi had one of the best known quotes from the episodes: “Logic is no match for a good blaster.”

#3 boJac

Sure, just stick you fingers in your ears and say “not listening….not listening….not listening” with an air of absolute conviction that you cannot possibly be wrong! ;)

And your right, the LHC seems cool…but I’ll reserve my final judgement until that baby is REALLY fully ‘fired-up’ in the months to come….

NASA chief blasts US space policy in leaked email .

anybody else read it , man i feel sorry for Nasa , right now , i guess there going to have to keep flying the suttle , i hope it safe , as it well past retirment . but i mean so the US goverment and the Russian goverment are feeling a little cold towards each other , does that mean two space agencys can work together , i mean alot of people have said that Roskosmos will make Nasa paid alot to for seats on soyuz , but has anybody asked ? , and i mean what are nasa going to do if they cant fly the stuttle just give up there presents on the ISS, and yes again i have to say i am more then disapointed that the Orion will be an Nasa only craft, as i wish ESA, Roskosmos and JAXA could have worked with nasa on it , there is talk of these 3 working together on CSTS , which i hope they do , but it just seems stupid to me , to have 3 agency working together , or at least trying , and then Nasa doing their own thing.

Mwuhahaha LOL, I love the webcams of LHC!

Live long and prosper, said the Stormtrooper to the Wookie…

Re: #3 – boJac: The primary defense is that God caused the sun to stand still so that Joshua could finish up a battle. See Joshua, Chapter 10. Obviously, the sun moves around the Earth.

But even better is your own eyes and common sense. Do you feel any motion when you stand on the Earth? And doesn’t the sun move through the sky? If we were rotating AND orbiting, wouldn’t everything fly off the Earth? Common sense, man!

Hope those help.

My guess is that Zellar was misquoted in the LHC article. Whom do you think is more likely to mix up Trek and Wars — a physicist or a journalist? The same journalists that have been telling us the LHC is going to open a hole in the fabric of space and suck us all in?


Scott B. out.

I wonder if Mike Griffin is cleaning out his desk right now?

Poor guy. The U.S. hasn’t had a coherent space policy since about 1972. And it doesn’t look like we’ll be getting one any time soon, judging by our two Presidential candidates. Dang it all.

Scott B. out.

To Professor Zellar: With all respect, the Lucasfilm-owned “Star Wars” franchise didn’t use “Boldly Go”, only the CBS-owned “Star Trek” did.

“happened to be aimed almost directly at Earth” — Hey 7.5 billion light years away guys, nyah! nyah! Missed us!

That memo from NASA is chilling. It’s horrible to think that people who do what politicians do to gain power are in charge of our future in space.

boJac, I don’t hate on the LHC. I’m just waiting for Barbara Luna to appear in my doorway in her naughty nightie.

Thanks, Kayla!

LHC web cam freaked me out a bit, enough though it’s a fake. That’s the ALICE machine I think it’s called and you can’t see the bit in front because I saw a photo of it the other day and it was covered with what looked like concrete blocks for shielding.

LHC web cam freaked me out a bit, even though it’s a fake. That’s the ALICE machine I think it’s called and you can’t see the bit in front because I saw a photo of it the other day and it was covered with what looked like concrete blocks for shielding.

Captain Kirk isn’t going to be happy when he hears about Professor Zellar? Even CNN picked up the story and had a good laugh over it. Dare we wonder about the mind of a man who can’t even get a Star Trek quote right? Hmmm.

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