Science Friday: Martian Methane, Transparent Aluminum, Googling Khan, Klingon Keyboards and more

Welcome to another exciting week in the world of science! In this edition of Science Friday you can discover life on Mars, make transparent aluminum, make like the ship’s surgeon, create cryogenic icicles on a rocket engine, and more. All this plus our gadget of the week: The Klingon Keyboard.


Martian Methane: Have We Found Life on Mars?
Mars has long been thought to be a “dead planet” with nothing currently living on its surface. But, research published this week may indicate current life on Mars. In 2003 and 2006, researchers documented plumes each spewing out about 19,000 metric tons of methane from the Martian subsurface. Similar plumes occur on Earth. And, on our home planet, microbes are responsible for churning out the gas. There might be other ways of getting plumes of methane into the air — generating it from magma, for example. But, scientists say that microbes buried a mile or two under the surface may be responsible. Whatever process is powering these plumes — be it geological or biological — water has to be involved, and water is essential for life as we know it. With these new data, many astrobiologists believe that this may be the "smoking gun" which points to life on Mars. New missions to Mars will undoubtedly take a closer look at these findings. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see!

Methane detected on Mars

Transparent Aluminum Could Replace Bullet Proof Glass
As we all know, transparent aluminum first popped on the scene in San Francisco circa 1986 when our own Montgomery Scott polluted Earth’s time line by sharing its formula. Today, the stuff has been perfected and makes a great replacement for bullet proof glass, improving on it in just about every way. The transparent aluminum is a finely polished ceramic alloy made from aluminum, oxygen, and nitrogen. It is both stronger and lighter than bullet proof glass and stands up to .50-caliber armor piercing rounds. Such a material could save lives, so why isn’t it widely in use now? Cost, for one. Transparent aluminum is up to 5 times more expensive than traditional bullet proof glass. If it becomes more cost effective, transparent aluminum may be used wide-spread for military and civilian applications. Would that be worth something to you? Or should I just punch up clear…

Scotty’s formula for transparent aluminum

Invisible Surgery: New Less Invasive Techniques
Less invasive surgical techniques are much touted as the next frontier in medicine. Similar to the way Bones or Beverly can cure what ails you with with a hypospray, doctors and patients alike would love to see surgery performed without incisions. A new technique called “invisible surgery” takes us one step closer to this goal by performing only minimal incisions. Recently, a patient had an appendectomy — removal of the appendix — with no abdominal incision. The organ was removed entirely through one small cut in the patient’s hoo-ha of all places. One doctor explains, “Without incisions in the abdomen, there is no opportunity to develop surgery-related hernias or wound infections. Patients who undergo procedures such as these are expected to recover and resume most normal activities within just a few days.”

To Bones this is still stone knives and bear skins

Video of the Week: Icicles on a Rocket Engine
How can a rocket engine that generates scalding 5,000 degree steam and a whopping 13,000 lbs of thrust form delicate icicles at the rim of its nozzle? Cryogenics! NASA is using the Common Extensible Cryogenic Engine (“CECE” for short) to develop technologies for a next-generation lunar lander. CECE is fueled by a mixture of -297 F liquid oxygen and -423 F liquid hydrogen. The engine components are super-cooled to similar low temperatures–and that’s where the icicles come from. As CECE burns its frigid fuels, hot steam and other gases are propelled out the nozzle. Check out the video below.

Picture of the Week: The Graph of Khan
Check out this nice graph of Google searches done on KH(Ax)N for x=1 to 100. The y-axis is number of searches, the x=axis is number of A’s.

Gadget of the Week: Klingon Keyboard
Surely a typing apparatus for serious Trekkies only, the Klingon keyboard is useful for planning your next trip to the Klingon home world or just writing your next term paper with honor! If you do speak Klingon fluently, we salute you. For the rest of us, we’ll just have to stick to online Klingon translators. You can buy from Cherry Keyboards for a mere £43.99.

A warrior’s keyboard!

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

UPDATE: Fire sale at Circuit City – Company declares bankruptcy
Looking for a good deal on a new TV, computer or other electronic gadget? Well you may be able to take advantage of the liquidation of the $2 Billion in inventory at the hundreds of Circuit City stores across the country, all of which are closing. The company announced today that it could not cut a deal with creditors and it is closing down and everything must go. More details in this CNBC report.




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Decloaking . . .

OMG, the Martians have gas! Better encase it in transparent Aluminum before the whole planet stinks like rotten eggs. Oh wait, it already does.


I had no idea Transparent Aluminum was real. Another piece of Treknology that I was alive to see become a reality. How cool! Thanks, Kayla!

The Klingon keyboard would be a funny office trick on someone,,


“Would that be worth something to you? Or should I just punch up clear…”

LOL. Anyone else hear his voice as you read that. Ah Jimmy, I miss ya.

Heh, heh… You said hoo-ha.

the khan graph is genius.

You just have to say it: Is Mars farting?

I wish the press wouldn’t keep calling the substance “transparent aluminum.” That’s tantamount to calling water “liquid hydrogen” or salt “crystalline chlorine.” It’s actually a type of glass, but instead of being made from silica it’s made from alumina, aka aluminum oxide, aka corundum or emery. Alumina is the stuff that rubies and sapphires are made of and the stuff that coats emery boards. It contains aluminum atoms, but that doesn’t mean it is aluminum any more than water is hydrogen.

And this alumina glass has been around for a long time, yet somehow every few months it gets reported on as if it were a new invention, and they always stick the “transparent aluminum” label on it because reporters can never resist trying to spice up science news with sci-fi analogies, even when they’re totally wrong and misleading.

I don’t remember ever seeing the hoo-ha on any anatomy charts. Please clarify.

Was transparent aluminum something materials engineers were working on in the ’80s, or did one of the Trek IV writers just dream it up? If so, that’s darn amazing … and darn amazing someone invented the stuff!

I miss my Mac Plus….

Scott B. out.

I’m not sure that Macintosh Plus could even play Zork, never mind design Transparent Aluminum.

#3 Or, the ultimate test in a layperson’s college touch-typing keyboarding exams. No looking at the keys of much use, guaranteed! But the mapping’s all wrong, and the Klingon numbers aren’t shown on the mockup. Not that it *really* matters. :)

Perhaps Anthony can add an obMarvin the Martian image into the article. I can’t help but think of Marvin passing gas…

The math in that khann function is fascinating.

Great news as always, Kayla. Thanks again!

#8 But even in trades, copper pipe, which isn’t 99.999% copper is really just an alloy that’s primarily copper. Silicone isn’t just silicon, but many think so. Silicon valley? Copper pennies aren’t. Iron Man isn’t. And neither is the Man of Steel. And your prime examples… hydrogen. Well, that literally means “water maker”…. salt? which salt? Salt is most any ionic compound. Magnesium chloride is salt, too. So is copper sulfate.

Transparent aluminum is primarily aluminum. If you like, consider the proper name of the element is really *aluminium*. So outside of North America, “aluminum” wouldn’t be such a bad thing to call an alloy that’s primarily made of aluminium. It doesn’t really matter though, GE invented translucent alumina in 1961. I’ve got any number of spectral lamps around the upper level physics labs that have that type of ceramic glass….

Khannnn!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Hmmm life on mars are just little microbes. I guess that means there will be no invasion from Mars. Scotty you old Space Dog. Do not hit Clear it is worth something to us. kayla as usual you did a fine job in this weeks Sci friday. Im still bumbed about the Passing of Ricardo Montalbon.

What in blazes is a “hoo-ha?” Some clarification would be nice…I have no idea what you’re talking about.

Transparent aluminum first appeared in the original 1978 Battlestar Galactica. It’s not a Trek-ism. Sorry folks.

#9, #14

C’mon… where did you think it was those surgical instruments were boldly going?

That Klingon keyboard is just retarded. There is people who are absorbed in the show and enjoy it because it’s a cool show, and then other people who think it’s real. Go figure.

I miss my old Macintosh Plus…and mouse microphone ;)

Looks like Im the first person on here to care about circuit city closing? Just 34,000 people with out a job, but when there’s a Klingon keyboard, who cares. Great to see this great legacy that Bush and co. left the American people. Guess he wouldnt want to make Obama’s presidency easy now, would he?

RIP Ricardo Montalban. You will always task me.

Damn. ;)

KH(Ax)N where x=255 is too long.

Guess we’ll just have to settle for KH(Ax)N where x=125..!!

Oh my god.. then there’s:

LOL @ the graph of Khan. Cheers to the dude that thought it up!

The company taking over all the stores for the Circuit City liquidation is a different company. They will mark prices up to the original retail price…then they discount the price.

As has happened before you will end up paying more then you would have.


And all other Obama koolaid drinkers

Rich people are selling their stocks and shorting the market because Communist Che Obama is going to increase the capital gains tax. Clinton had the capital gains tax at 50%, figure Obama will have it at least 75%.

IF you werent already super rich, fat chance you’ll get rich for “Dictator of the Proletariat” Chairman Obama.

Yeah, it’s President Bush’s fault that Circuit City is closing. OK. I guess he didn’t buy enough electronics.

Great roundup of articles, but you should have included a link (thanks #16) for the invisible surgery,.

Because, yeah, I wanted to know specifically which hoo-ha they used for the appendectomy. Though I guess that should have been obvious, the appendix is a short trip from the poop dispensing hoo-ha.

@ 19. Will H. & 25. McCoy’s Gall Bladder:

I think it was Groucho Marx who said, ““Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it, misdiagnosing it, and then misapplying the wrong remedies.”

Lighten up gents.

“Hoo-ha” is such an infantile term for vagina. It was especially quite jarring to read it used in an article discussing medical procedures, so I hope the author considers this and uses the proper terminology should it come up in future articles.

19: “Great to see this great legacy that Bush and co. left the American people.”

Spoken like a true political illiterate!

From November 17th: “”The Cage” looks great and we will have much more on that with a full TrekMovie review (w/ screenshots and video) coming up. ”

And yet still no full-length review of The Cage?! Come on, come on.

You mean instead of making a simple incision in your abdomen to remove one’s appendix, the procedure involves sticking things up your vagina/anus/whatever to get it out?!? And this is supposed to be LESS invasive?!?! Are they kidding me?!? Come ON people, I thought this was supposed to be an advancement!!

Circuit City has been living on borrowed time for the last 3 years.
Damn it Jim!, I’m a Doctor not a retail outlet surgeon!

Hoo-Ha has been used since Vaudville days

It’s considered polite

29: ““Hoo-ha” is such an infantile term for vagina.”

Oh, you must mean the va-jay-jay? *shakes head at the Oprah-ism*

Regarding the invisibility cloaking device, I once invented one of these but couldn’t find it again after I turned it on.

Will H. warning for trolling

stop with the politics people…this is just a science article



get a life and post something relevant

Here in the UK, asking “What’s all the hoo-ha?” would simply mean “What’s the racket/fuss/noise/cheering about?”
Glad I’ve never had cause to use the phrase in a Stateside hotel lobby!

Shouldn’t that caption read “STONE knives and bear skin”?

I’ll get excited when someone makes the first working lightsaber.

For heaven’s sake it’s called ‘aluminum’! One extra sillable can’t be too much to master!

Edit: It’s called ‘aluminium’!

See what your usurped version of the English language made me do!

Wow. KLINGON Keyboard????? I would love to have one, but im not that big of a fan.

#42/43: As part of our conservation efforts to improve the planetary environment and help Earth sustain us until we can warp out into space, Americans conserve wasteful additional vowels like those used in resource-depleting words like aluminium, colour, and armour. To help prevent vowel erosion, we also protect the vowels in words like centre and spectre by moving them inside the hard consonantal shell.

8, 12 — you guys on Big Bang Theory? :)

Well, I’ve never been all that hip to naughty slang, but I had no idea that hoo-ha referred to female anatomy. Thanks for clearing that up for me. From the context in the above article, I’d assumed it was the lower GI tract … kinda like the ying-yang … unless I’ve always been wrong about that one too.

I’ll never be able to read another Spider-Girl comic book again with quite the same innocence. Her joyous exclamation of choice is “Hoo-ha!”

Scott B. out.

who makes keyboards without a usb connection these days? My parent’s computer doesnt even have PS/2 ports only USB.

I can imagine a no-brainer use for transparent aluminum; spacecraft windows and space helmets.
That should take care of possible micrometeorite impacts.
Radiation might take a different approach…

Klingon Keyboard: concept: awesome; no USB: FAIL.
The Circuit City sale is greatly overrated. Even with the discounts, their prices are still higher than Best Buy’s regular prices. But then again, there’s a reason they’re going out of business…
(Prices surveyed were on items I wanted, not necessarily representative of all prices.)