Science Friday: Canadian Meteor, Martian Glacier, Antarctic Biology + Affordable Gadget Gift Guide + more

Welcome back to Science Friday with this week’s jam packed edition. See a 10-ton rock fall from the sky, learn about the latest set-backs for MSL, discover why Antarctica is teaming with life, uncover hidden Martian glaciers, and put science back into politics. All this plus our gadget of the week in our ongoing Holiday gadget series: the best tech toys under $30.00!

10-ton Meteorite Makes Fireball Over Canada
Investigations of the fireball which streaked across Canadian skies last Thursday has led to the discovery that it was caused by an asteroid fragment weighing about 10 tons. Researchers at the University of Calgary have since located the desk-sized space rock and several fragments which broke off in the meteorite’s descent. The fireball penetrated the atmosphere at a steep angle of approximately 60 degrees from the horizontal and lasted about five seconds while fragmenting spectacularly in a series of explosions across the night sky. A police officer recorded all of the action on his cruiser’s dash cam.

Mars Science Lab Launch Delayed Until 2011
NASA’s launch of Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) has been delayed two years from it’s original launch date of 2009 to the next possible launch window which isn’t until 2011. Launch attempts only come every 26 months, when Earth and Mars are closest. The MSL team has been working around the clock, but many of the rover’s components need more work and can’t be adequately tested in time. Changing to a 2011 launch “will allow for careful resolution of any remaining technical problems, proper and thorough testing, and avoid a mad dash to launch,” says NASA Associate Administrator Ed Weiler. You can follow @MarsScienceLab on Twitter.

Mars Science Lab now set to launch 2011

Antarctica More Biologically Diverse than the Galapagos
A group of isolated Antarctic islands have proved to be unexpectedly rich in life. The first comprehensive biodiversity survey of the South Orkney Islands, near the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, has revealed that they are home to more species of sea and land animals than the Galapagos. A research team found over 1200 species and identified 5 new species. These findings go against the traditional view that biodiversity declines away from the tropics and towards the polar regions.

Blanket of Soil May Hide Vast Martian Glaciers
The surface of Mars can be a bumpy place, particularly in the midlatitudes. There, steep peaks are surrounded by broad lobes of material that stretch away from the peaks for up to a dozen miles. Scientists have long thought that those bumps might contain water ice, but in what form or amount no one knew. New evidence from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter suggests that the lobes are pure ice in the form of glaciers, buried under a thin layer of soil and rock. If so, there may be an enormous amount of ice on Mars, potentially providing a convenient resource for human missions. More info…

Mars’s midlatitudes may contain hidden glaciers

Adding Science to the Presidential To-Do List
In a recent New York Times opinion article, Olivia Judson brought to light the need for science in politics. Judson writes, “President-elect Obama already has a long to-do list. But here’s another item for it: to restore science in government.” In his presidential campaign, Obama emphasized the importance of focusing on the sciences. As the first Trekkie president, it will be interesting to see what changes Obama will make in the scientific field once he is in office. Read the article.

Video of the Week: Jetpack Flight Over Colorado Gorge
It’s the stuff of science fiction and James Bond. Strap a jet pack to your back and fly like a bird–sort of. But jet packs are science fiction no more. It’s 1,500 feet across from cliff to cliff, and more than 1,000 chilling feet down to the bottom of the Royal Gorge on the Arkansas River near Canon City, Colo. and stuntman Eric Scott is going to fly over it with a jetpack. And, for good measure, he’s not wearing a parachute.

Gadget of the Week: Best Tech Gifts for 2008 — Under $30
‘Tis the season, so TrekMovie is going to bring you the best tech gifts for the holiday season every week in Science Friday before December 25th. This week, we’ve got the 5 best tech toys under $30.00!

1. Anti-Grav R/C Wall Racing Car
[From Think Geek, $29.99]
Why use the floor with its myriad obstacles and bad carpeting when you can defy gravity and race on the walls? This amazing little car generates a powerful vacuum underneath causing it to cling to any flat surface. Hit the gas and you’ll be cruising effortlessly across the wall leaving the floor free for those other lowly ground based r/c vehicles.

2. Hexbug
[From Red5, £10.00]
We’ve found some creepy crawly insects that you won’t be stamping on. The Hexbug is a robotic cockroach that can move around freely detecting and navigating past obstacles. Not only does it have its sensor antennas but it can also hear! When ever it makes contact or hears a loud noise (e.g a clap) it will reverse in a semi circle to the left and then continue in a straight line.

3. Giant Plush Microbes
[From, $7.95]
GIANTmicrobes® are stuffed animals that look like tiny microbes — only a million times actual size! They’re humorous, educational, and fun! Each microbe comes with an image and information about the real microbe it represents. They make great learning tools, as well as amusing gifts for anyone with a sense of humor. Best sellers include: The Common Cold, The Flu, Martian Life, and many more!

4. Mini Solar-Powered Car
[From Think Geek, $19.99]
Ever wanted your own Mars Rover? Well, try out this mini solar powered car, and pretend it’s the real thing! It zooms along when the sun shines on the solar panel. No batteries – it gets its power just from the sun.

5. Silverlit VBeat Air Guitar
[From Blue Unplugged, £20.83]
This motion-sensing electronic guitar simulator is perfect for wannabe guitar heroes who’ve graduated beyond air-guitar and tennis rackets, but haven’t quite got to grips with the real thing yet! Pre-programmed rhythms and an instructive guided learning feature will ensure great sounds in no time at all.

Here at TrekMovie, we don’t like to provide you guys with faulty information, so I must make a correction to the last edition of Science Friday. I, your humble science editor, made the bone-headed mistake of putting the WRONG ROVER in the picture below my article about Mars Science Laboratory. I must admit, I was in a hurry and attached the first image I could find, not even realizing it was actually a picture of the current Mars Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity (they’re twins). I was alerted to the mistake initially by my boyfriend who works at the Mars Space Flight Facility (where I even worked for a short time) taking care of the Mars Rovers. But, my face got even redder when none other than Star Trek’s own Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens noticed my fumble. So, sorry guys! My bad!

To make up for it, here is a family portrait of the three Mars rovers (Right to left: Spirit/Opportunity, Sojourner, and MSL) courtesy of Judy and Gar. By their description: The little guy in the middle is Sojourner, launched on the Mars Pathfinder mission — basically, it’s the Original Series of Mars Rovers. On the left is the Mars Exploration Rover — the Next Generation model. And on the right is the Mars Science Lab — nuclear powered, stand-off laser, basically the JJ version, due to launch in Fall ’09, and land in July ’10.

The Mars Rover family!

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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air guitar, WOOT

also: first

The R/C Car that can climb up walls is similar to that scene in Batman Forever where Batman drives the Batmobile up the building’s wall.

Holy S***t! That Dash Cam Video was crazy!

If I saw that in person I would have shat myself.

The car is going in my show on Monday…

robo-roach, too.

THANKS, KAYLA! You’re my guitar hero!

Wow that meteor lit up the night sky like day time for a second.

I got two of those Hexbugs for Father’s Day this year. They’re sitting on my desk right now. Cute as … well, bugs. You can get them for $10 at Radio Shack here in Atlanta. That’s a lot of robot goodness for a sawbuck.

Scott B. out.

Anybody seen this yet? “Space Beer.” They even cite it in the article as being a “mission to boldly grow…”

Another example of how prevalent Trek is in the common psyche. :)

Hate to tell you this, but I think you got the identification of the Rovers in the order of the picture wrong – right to left, it’s MSL, Spirit/Opportunity, and Sojourner.

Thanks for playing!

Wow that Astroid was Soething. Imagine if that had hit the earth like that when it was at it’s brightest. Thats would have not been good. But kool Video.

Those jet-packs commercially available yet? ;D

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but MSL will no longer be equiped with a laser =(

That’s the problem living in Canada, space debris falling everywh

I love Science.

#3: Would you have William Shat yourself? Baa-rum-bum. Thank you, I’ll be here all week.

12. everywh— THUD!

Air guitar wooo what is that. It looks strange.