Science Friday: LHC Delays, Massive Rings, Colliding Planets, Electric Supercars + more

This week in Science Friday, planets in a nearby solar system are experiencing violent collisions while atoms at the LHC are not. The Phoenix Mars lander is still diggin’ away and takes a peek under a rock. New information is revealed about Saturn’s rings, and the newest and strangest dwarf planet is discovered. All this plus our gadget of the week: the Dodge EV.

Large Hadron Collider Failure Delays Tests Until 2009
The Large Hardon Collider just can’t seem to keep itself out of trouble days. Recently, a failure within the Large Hadron Collider facility caused around a hundred magnets to overheat. As if that wasn’t bad enough, a leak caused by a faulty electrical connection caused its 27-kilometer-long ring to be flooded with a ton of liquid helium. From the LHC press release:

A full investigation is underway, but it is already clear that the sector will have to be warmed up for repairs to take place. This implies a minimum of two months down time for LHC operation. For the same fault, not uncommon in a normally conducting machine, the repair time would be a matter of days.

It looks like the LHC won’t start accelerating and smashing particles until sometime next year, after its scheduled winter shutdown.

The LHC shuts down its engines until 2009

Two Planets Suffer Violent Collision
Two terrestrial planets orbiting a mature sun-like star some 300 light-years from Earth recently suffered a violent collision, nearly obliterating each other. “It’s as if Earth and Venus collided with each other,” say scientists. “Astronomers have never seen anything like this before. If any life was present on either planet, the massive collision would have wiped out everything in a matter of minutes — the ultimate extinction event.” This looks similar to our own moon-forming event when a Mars sized object collided with the Earth some 4.5 billion years ago. What’s startling astronomers is the fact that this more recent collision happened in a “fully mature planetary system,"
something they were not expecting to find.

Two planets violently collide in a nearby solar system

Phoenix Mars Lander Peeks Under A Rock
NASA’s newest member of the mars lander family is still running full force on the red planet, and scientists have been trying to find creative ways to use its robotic arm for things it wasn’t designed to do. Phoenix has spent the last several sols collecting chemical and atmospheric data, and now it has successfully moved a rock about the size and shape of a VHS tape in order to take a peek at what’s underneath. In its wake, the rock – informally named “Headless” – left a nice trench of fresh surface ice for Phoenix and her Earthbound scientists to study. To get the most up to date news, go straight to the source at Phoenix’s very own Twitter .

This image of Headless was taken at about 12:30 p.m., local solar time on Mars.

Cassini Watch: Saturn’s Rings May Be More Massive, Older, Than Previously Thought
The Cassini spacecraft currently in orbit around Saturn (and whose imaging team is lead by Star Trek‘s own science advisor Carolyn Porco) has recently taken measurements to indicate the Saturn’s famous rings may be much more massive and much older than scientists previously thought. Because the rings appear so clean and bright, it was argued that the rings of Saturn were much younger than Saturn, which is some 4.5 billion years old. These results support the possibility that Saturn’s rings formed billions of years ago, perhaps at the time when giant impacts excavated the great basins on the Moon. The findings also suggest that giant exoplanets may also commonly have rings.

Cassini is sparking new ideas about Saturn’s rings

Strange New Dwarf Planet Haumea
One of the strangest objects in the outer Solar System was classified as a dwarf planet last week and given the name Haumea. This designation makes Haumea the fifth designated dwarf planet after Pluto, Ceres, Eris, and Makemake. Haumea’s smooth but oblong shape make it extremely unusual. Haumea’s orbit sometimes brings it closer to the Sun than Pluto, but usually Haumea is further away. Shown below, an artist visualizes Haumea as a nearly featureless ellipsoid. Quite possibly, however, Haumea has interesting craters and surface features that currently remain unknown. Originally discovered in 2003 and given the temporary designation of 2003 EL61, Haumea was recently renamed by the IAU for a Hawaiian goddess. Haumea has two small moons discovered in 2005, recently renamed Hi’iaka and Namaka for daughters of the goddess.

Haumea, the newest and strangest dwarf planet

Gadget of the Week: Dodge EV Sports Car. 100% Electric.
Chrysler has rolled out three prototypes of its own electric vehicles (EV) — a conventional-looking Jeep and minivan, and then its own Tesla copy, the Dodge EV which is 100% electric. One of these babies will be released in 2010, we’re hoping it’s the EV. The Dodge EV sports car looks curiously similar to the Tesla, for good reason because both bodies are built by Lotus. The Dodge EV will have similar specs, too, accelerating from 0-60 in under 5 seconds with a top speed of 120mph and a range of 150-200 miles. Let’s just hope Chrysler can get that price down way lower than the Tesla’s too-steep $109K. Check out this video to see it in action.

100% electric, and still so stylish


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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Ow yeah, give me one Dodge EV Sports Car!!

Did anyone hear that a young girl killed herself just because of the LHC going online? They think that is will cause a black hole to open that will
kill us all. Yeah wright…..

Sounds like the “Large Hardon Collider”,,,cant get it up


@ #2 Bennie

Yeah I’ve read about it, it was a 16 year old girl from India… But in earlier reports here on, it has been discussed that IF a black hole was created, it CAN suck up the whole world.. But I believe that the people who has created the LHC, has calculated that risk to NOT-POSSIBLE (I hope haha)

Something tells me the LHC won’t become “fully operational” until Dec 2012…..Hmmmmm

Okay folks, I know we all want to drool over the sports car, but if they really want to make an impact in terms of cars most people will actually use, and they’ll actually sell, they need to do the minivan or Jeep. They’re not glamorous, but these kind of practical platforms are what we need to see these kind of drive systems in on a regular basis if you want to make a real impact on replacing the full internal-combustion only systems. Offering these new electric systems only in $100,000 sports cars – or even $50,000 sports cars – both misses most budgets and what most people use their vehicles for.

Hell Yea,
the old Maya prophecy ^^

You didn’t include the Chinese space toilet.

Anyway, nice round-up, Kayla.

fully electric vehicles need freely available, cheap electricity and for the next 50-100 years, that means nuclear. better start building those plants now…

i love my wrangler, been driving it for almost 10 years, hopefully the next one i buy will be all electric and the cost defrayed by gub’ment subsidy.

the sooner they can fire up the lhc, the better… these delays are ridiculous, how much did that thing cost? and now its collecting dust until next year?

another dwarf planet = another chunk of solar system flotsam… a big rock. yawn.

speaking of solar system… why do news reporters refer to extra-solar star systems as ‘solar systems’?

theres only one solar system, ours. other star systems are named for their stars, ours is ‘sol’…. alway been a peeve of mine.

ah, a good friday rant…. happy weekend all.

Yeah, wouldn’t it be nice if they would put $700 billion into mass transit and highway infrastructure costs? Or development of alternative fuel sources?

Can you give us a link to the article about the planet collision?

I’ve been wanting a hybrid minivan for a decade. The kind of people who care about a fuel efficient power plant in a vehicle are the kind of practical people who buy minivans. Why no auto maker has realized this is beyond me.

While I’m ranting … why are practical (ie, NOT sports cars, SUVs, Jeeps) hybrid or electric cars so darn ugly? Is there a rule that practical cars have to also be dorky-looking? (I’m talking to you, Prius.) :-)

Scott B. out.

Colliding planets????

Um, Steven Spielberg, if you are reading this…. where (and when) is your production “When Worlds Collide” coming out???

I am happy to see things go back to the electric car. I miss the Saturn EV that was introduced in 1996.

Awesome article Kayla!

“Two terrestrial planets orbiting a mature sun-like star some 300 light-years from Earth recently suffered a violent collision”

So, the violent collision actually happened 300 years ago, correct?

The Honda Accord hybrid is not ugly, just expensive. What do you suppose could alter the orbits of the planets enough to make them collide?

Here’s me completely scholarly and fact-based conclusions aboot today’s news:

God hates LHC.
God didn’t like them two planets much either.

Ye’ know… not bein’ a geologist or a fridgidaire (one who studies ice) I am not that excited aboot shufflin’ rocks on Mars… should I be? Maybe a wee martian wit’ a Centurain helmet will emerge oot and nuke Australia oot o’ spite…

Saturn’s rings more massive? Now then… weren’t they chunks o’ dust and water ice? With 2 moons stuck in ’em somewhar’? Still a bonny view. Imagine if a class M had rings… tha’ look in tha’ sky… see such wonder… tha’ ancient stories that would be handed down aboot what they be… like that Skyship ep o’ Janeway’s jaunts… bein’ ice, a class M would be too warm, eh? Maybe we could just send up a stream o’ all them plastic water bottles lyin’ aboot and make our own Earth ring system up…

Last week I got juiced pretty darn good drivin’ me electric car in a rainstorm… But good news- I found me a 27-kilometer sewer line in Geneva ta’ take care o’ all me waste needs… who knew this great big tube was thar’ and no one had tapped it nor wuz flushin’ in it yet?


Kayla, do a bit on your research sometime.

“Japan actually planning a space elevator:” Arthur C. Clarke LIVES!

Q: Is that a actual pic of Saturn?????????? WOW!

As always, absolutely beautiful pictures. And so cool to be following the MarsPhoenix Twitter!

Is that Large Hardon Collider, or large hard-on collider?

Kayla- What on earth (excuse the wording) would cause two planets to veer from one or both established orbit/orbits and collide? Does science currently have any vaguely workable theories?

Is that an actual picture of the planets colliding?

Those new electric cars, stylish as they may be, cost about thirteen times more than a simple conversion vehicle available today. Take the Geo Metro, not too bad looking if given animaginative paint job. A conversion kit from the EVA (Electric Vehicles of America) costs under three thousand, and a used Geo can easily be found, in good shape, for under one thousand. Not only that, but while making the used car into an electric vehicle, some savings can be accrued by selling its old engine.

All one needs is an empty garage, a way to lift out the old engine, some spare time and the will to start a new hobby…

It could be that one of the planets was not native to that star system, the galaxy could be full of rouge planets for all we know. Also, chaotic orbits could be common in star systems, and we are just lucky to live in a system of stable orbits.

But this has got to be the most amazing thing I have read all day, all I can say is “wow’.

If you want more on space elevators and the Japan space elevator you can always attend the Space Elevator Conference coming up soon! Get more information at Or maybe it’s just a joke…

Love the Cassini photo!

Wasn’t there a Voyager episode about a space elevator?

I didn’t realize we could image terrestrial planets as far as 300 l.y. away. If so, it is pretty darn amazing astronomers caught two of them smacking into each other.

Is the evidence of the collision indirect, or did they detect a flash or something?

We’re worried about global warming. Can you imagine if one of those planets had intelligent life with telescopes? Horrifying.

Scott B. out.

Sexy car! Looks like a cross between a Viper and an Elise. Love it.

As far as the plants colliding goes, that could happen here, but not in the next 40 million years (this is not all that long in astronomical terms).

Here is a good URL, but search google on mercury mars collision for more

This looks similar to our own moon-forming event when a Mars sized object collided with the Earth some 4.5 billion years ago? Nah, I don’t buy it.

You guys crack me up.

You know if my car was electric, I bet a sunroof/solar panel could charge it while it sat in a parking lot while I was at work. That would be nice.

Of course, if I were to get a conversion, it would have to be a hover conversion. That would be bad a**!

Re the planets smashing into each other:

I wonder if George Pal told his wife he’s gonna give her some terrible thrills…

Clearly, the LHC was damaged by all the micro-black holes it created when they turned it on.

(nods solemnly)