Science Friday: Real Shields, Martian Headstones, Enceladus Close-ups, Trek Science Costumes + more

Welcome to Science Friday! This week, learn about how Trek-like technology could protect astronauts, get the latest on Trek’s science advisor in our newest Cassini Watch, read Mars Phoenix’s favorite tombstone quotations, see spherical satellites working along side our astronauts in the ISS, and see TrekMovie’s favorite Trek and science Halloween costumes! All this plus our gadget of the week: the Fortis IQ Blackboard watch!

Trek-like Shield May Protect Future Astronauts
A powerful magnetic shield may be able to deflect dangerous solar radiation from spacecraft traveling to the moon and other planets, according to a new study. Magnets tested in a recent laboratory experiment could divert radiation safely, a discovery that’s “like Star Trek coming to life,” said Ruth Bamford, a plasma physicist. On Earth, us humans are protected from the Sun’s harmful radiation by the Earth’s magnetosphere. “With a journey to Mars, [radiation] is the most difficult problem,” said Bamford. “So the idea is, Why don’t we just bring a magnetosphere with us?” The idea of using magnetic fields as radiation shields was first proposed in the 1960s, but the concept languished until a resurgence of interest in manned expeditions to the moon and Mars. More info…

Shields up! The Enterprise demonstrates how a magnetic field can protect against harmful radiation

Cassini Watch: Latest Enceladus Flyby Results in Great New Images
Cassini’s last skeet shoot maneuver executed during its close flyby of Enceladus on October 31, 2008 resulted in another bounty of very high resolution views of the south polar terrain and its famed tiger stripes. “We don’t encounter Enceladus again, up close, for another year,” said Carolyn Porco, Cassini Imaging Team Leader and Star Trek‘s science advisor. “At that time the sun will be slipping below the horizon as seen from the south pole. So, take your fill of these images now because you won’t see anything like them for a long while.” See for more!

Image “footprints” of latest Enceladus flyby

Mars Phoenix Lander Gets Twitter Epitaphs

With winter already threatening to coat the lander in carbon dioxide, an ill-timed dust storm sent Mars Phoenix into hibernation as the solar energy hitting the bot’s photovoltaic panels fell too far. The little lander that could is still in communication with Earth, but it looks like it may be done for good on the science front. To mark this exciting, crowd-pleasing, Tweeting trip to the Martian north pole, Wired Science thought it’d be fun to mark the occasion with a Mars Phoenix Twitter-style epitaph contest. That means that these particular virtual headstones had to be under 140 characters. See all contest entries here. Here are the winners from the contest:

Popular Vote

Wired Science Picks

1. Veni, vidi, fodi. (I came, I saw, I dug)

Graham Vosloo
1. I dug my own grave. And analyzed it.


2. So long and thanks for all the ice.
D. Adams
2. Error 404: Lander Not Found!*
Fred Rogers
3. It is enough for me. But for you, I plead: go farther, still.

Fernando Rojas

3. Water, water, everywhere, and not a drop that isn’t already sublimating into the thin, frigid atmosphere.
Dylan Tweney’s favorite entry:

If Found, Please Return:
First Star on the Right…
Straight On Until Morning

Matt Greenfield

You can still follow @MarsPhoenix on Twitter!

Spherical Satellites Aboard the ISS
Three free-flying SPHERES — or Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites — are currently zooming around inside the International Space Station. bowling-ball sized spherical satellites are part of an experiment devised by students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to test autonomous rendezvous and docking maneuvers for future formation flying spacecraft. If successful, these mini-satellites, and their potentially larger versions, would be able to refuel/repair other satellites, establish positioning around space-based telescopes, and support space docking routines. But these have to be a lot of fun to play with during off hours on the space station: zero-g bowling or space volleyball, anyone?

SPHERES aboard the ISS

TrekMovie’s Favorite Trek and Science Halloween Costumes of 2008!
In last week’s special Halloween edition of Science Friday, I asked you to send me your 2008 Star Trek and science themed Halloween costumes. Here are some of our favorites! Haven’t sent in photos yet? I’d love to see ’em!

Borg and daughter borg go trick-or-treating

Maurie Giustini of Boone, North Carolina as a TOS era vulcan

Andrew Britton and yours truly as mad scientists

Gadget of the Week: Fortis IQ Blackboard Watch For Math Nerds With Money
Designer Rolf Sachs has teamed up with watchmaker Fortis to develop the limited-edition IQ blackboard-style watch. Math nerds will surely love it—especially the glow in the dark hands and markings. And you’ll look smart/annoy your friends by constantly giving them the time in square roots and equations. Unfortunately, the dreaded “art premium” is tacked on to the price of this watch, so it may be out of the reach of many professor’s salaries. Available for $1050.

Show off your uber-nerdiness with a watch that makes you think

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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That’s one gnarly looking Borg!

I love those Enceladus images.

I’ll miss the rovers when they finally stop functioning :-(


And the dad looks pretty mean too….

Dang your hot!

Luv that Cassini.

Man, that dude spent some serious time on that Borg get-up. He should of been reading Sci-Friday instead.

Oooo, a pointy eared woman right here in NC! Time for a trip to the mountains of Boone.

Thanks, as always Kayla, and is the atmosphere really considered a fluid?

She is the cutest borg ever!


A tombstone trek fur our martian explorer,
Volleyballs all floating throughout tha’ space corridor,
A guy wit’ lots o’ black tubing and so much free time
A watch, I imagine, I’d be unable to wind
A lady whose ears I didda not even see thar’
And shields that protect us from winds that be solarrrrrrr

What fun!


what does a ? have to do with 10 on the watch, i got everything else but the ? stumps me.

Star trek rules

“Maurie Giustini of Boone, North Carolina as a TOS era vulcan”

that outfit is bought from a sex shop
google ann summers
my wife has 1

My favorite geek watch is the Atomic/Solar Casio Pathfinder paw1500t-7v!!, It sets itself, and i will never have to change a battery again.

Yay! That party was great. Drinking out of those flasks was an awesome idea.

Baby Borg! That’s the cutest thing I’ve seen in a long time!

Best Borg ever! Gotta love Daughter of One.

Perhaps they should put this on the tombstone:

James R Kirk


More proof that President-elect Obama is a Trekkie: He wants the White House to have a science officer!

Maybe NASA could find a long rope and lower Phoenix down a pot of hot coffee.

For that kind of money, I want my watch to talk to me.

Thanks, Kayla. Oh and… nice beakers!

The shields are closer to the navigational deflector array, and less like the defensive deflector shields. Still, that’s a pretty cool idea. I hope it works!

And BTW, who is “yours truly”? She’s kinda hot!

to transplant a hilarious quote about an alien world from the Mystery Science Theater 3000 feature film onto this Enceladus pic topic…EWWWW…IT’S MICHAEL STIPE’S HEAD!!!! LOL!

AWWWWWWWW it’s a little borglet

Japan is making functional brain tissue? That is HUGE news!

Has anyone noticed the colors of the SPHERES – command gold, science blue, and services red?

I’m just sayin’…

Hey! I made it on here! (I’m Maurie, lol).

And yes, the costume was bought at an adult shop, but it was bought by a friend to wear to conventions, and she only wore it twice. She offered it to me after it had been sitting on a mannequin in her apartment for a couple of years.

I got lots of compliments on that costume on Halloween, especially for the ears. :)

Maurie – you are hotter than the fires of hell girl… So much so it is quite, ermm, illogical!

I can see some guys really going for a she-borg. A babe with Black n Decker tools glued to her body? Hot!

Commodore Lurker and sharpied 79–thank you for the compliments!

“Hot as Vulcan… now I know what that expression means!” ;)

Maurie, you should drop me a line sometime…

Keep those costumes coming! lol

I would love this to be the Star Trek era of Presidency… with the Chief Technology Officer, Obama could rename the Surgeon General: the Chief Medical Officer.

The head of the Department of Defense: The Chief Security Officer.

The head of the Department of Energy: The Chief Engineer.


Awwww, lil’ Borg is cute. Not only is resistance futile, it’s also strangely adorable. :)

I would have loved to have seen those costumes walking around my neighborhood. The Watch is really cool. My hubby would really like that.



Science fiction is becoming real.