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!
Here’s a warp-speed look at science tid-bits that didn’t quite make the cut, but nonetheless merit mention.
- New developments on Duke’s invisibility cloak
- Exoplanet atmospheres detected from Earth
- Next NASA moon mission completes major milestone
- Giant rockets could revolutionize astronomy
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.