Science Friday: Alaskan Volcano, Titan Gas, Jurrasic Copter, Air Power + more

Brace yourself for this week’s super exciting edition of Science Friday! Learn how to prepare for impending volcanic eruptions, protect yourself from methane rain on Titan, harvest power out of thin air, take a look at MS Surface in action, pilot a triceracopter, and bring the moon home — literally. All this and more plus our gadget of the week: The Amazing Water Jet Pack!

Alaskans Prepare for Impending Volcanic Eruption
A volcano just 100 miles from Anchorage — Alaska’s largest city — could erupt any day now after being inactive for 20 years (only a tiny fraction of geologic time). The fresh wave of seismic activity at Mount Redoubt suggests that the eruption could occur within days or weeks, seismologists say. Redoubt’s recent tremors have sparked worry about potentially hazardous ash fall on Anchorage, where citizens are stocking up on extra food, water, and respiratory devices. Volcanologists are checking instrument readings and satellite images around the clock to watch for temperature changes. In addition, a webcam was installed about 7.5 miles from the summit.

Cassini Watch: It’s Rainin’ Methane!
First sighted in June 2005, one of Cassini’s most important discoveries about Saturn’s moon Titan has been the presence of hydrocarbon lakes in the polar regions. Now, the Cassini imaging team (led by Star Trek’s science advisor, Carolyn Porco) released a new paper detailing how the changing seasons on Titan affect the lakes. It turns out that methane rains fills these lakes seasonally. New maps and images of the moon have been released to show these methane lakes in action.

Titan’s polar region w/clouds and lakes of methane

Intel Harvests Power Out of Thin Air
One of the next best things in electronics is wireless power. The tech is improving more and more all the time. Now, Intel has found a way to extract power wirelessly from radio waves that are always in the air from radio and TV broadcasts. A Seattle TV station located about 4.1 km away was able to power the nifty LCD weather station in the picture below. Besides experimenting with wireless electric power, Intel is also working on ways to soak up energy from body heat, ambient light, waste heat from machinery, and a lot more.

Looks like wireless power is the next big thing

Super Bowl Security Using MS Surface for Coordination
This weekend is the big Super Bowl in Tampa Bay, FL, and Florida police along with general Super Bowl security officers are already utilizing Microsoft’s Surface technology that we’ve only so far seen as a demo. Surface is used in the way you’d think it would be used—to zoom in and out and scale things to people can view a map from the sky. There’s voice communication and real-time tracking as well as instant messaging. It’s a great advertisement for Microsoft, but also cool for us since we finally get to see this tech used to it’s fullest extent in a real world situation.

Picture of the Week: Triceracopter!
If only evolution had worked out a bit differently, we might have gotten this half triceratops, half helicopter TRICERACOPTER! Built as a sculpture in 1977 by artist Patricia Renick, it’s now available now for the discerning collector/dinopilot. Become a fan and see more pictures on the Triceracopter’s FaceBook page.

Come on, people! Dinosaur helicopter!

Video of the Week: Kim Jong Il to Bring Moon to North Korea
The Onion News Networks always high quality coverage of the events has topped itself once again by breaking this amazing story.

Kim Jong Il Announces Plan To Bring Moon To North Korea

Gadget of the Week: Amazing Water Jet Pack
We’ve had jetpacks featured as our GOTW before, but never one quite like this. This water jetpack uses water as fuel to propel its wearer into the air. You’re tethered, but you can still go pretty high and far, and you can just drop into the water if anything goes wrong! It solves all the problems of conventional jetpacks! Someone please tell me where I can get one of these things. This sure beats the heck out of a lazy river.


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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My own jetpack?! The future is finally here!

That water jetpack reminds me of paddle ball. The contraption where it was a rubber ball attached with rubber string to a wooden paddle and the object of the “game” was to you hit the ball, it bounces, gets to the end of the rubber string then rebounds and you see how many times or how long you could keep it going.

That thing looks like fun!

Show me a water powered dinosaur jetpack and I may be impressed :P

Tesla knew all about wireless power but thanks to the money-grubbers it never got developed. We could all be running wireless by now had he not been suppressed.

frederick… you may have watched “The Prestige” one too many times. (Good flick! Hope Scotty isn’t hiding something nasty in cargo bay 3.)

2,240 degrees Fahrenheit? What about the humidity?

I’ve been trying to find more on the water jetpack, but it looks like whoever invented it didn’t survive long enough to write about it. Hmmm.

Anyway — Thanks, Kayla!

That wireless power thingie blows my mind. Even if it’s only small amounts – can you imagine if your phone or your iPod could just be charging all the time?

The Triceracopter is the stupidest thing I ever saw. Beast Wars, anybody?

hmm call me crazy but i don’t think that moon report is real at all at all, :P , i hope not anyway, i was gonna bring it to my home town next year, oh well.

6. no, actually he’s right. Tesla WAS working on the wirless transmission of power, try knowing what you’re talking about BEFORE you speak.

here’s your new assignment, find out about his ‘Peace Ray’

PS: he also invented radio before marconi.

Did’nt Mario have one of those jetpacks back in the gamecube days?

Also wireless power is very cool, Tesla did it 100 years ago, but he could only power buildings not ipods.

How much is it for summer cabin rentals on the shores of one of Titan’s methane lakes?

Great article, as always, Kayla.

Ummmm, someone tell Michael Bay that one of his Transformer props is stuck half-way through its transformation. Cut! Take 2!

(very weird…but enjoyed the rest of the articles as always, Kayla.)

“Now, Intel has found a way to extract power wirelessly from radio waves”

Okay, I am not a physicist, but I do know that you cannot get ‘free’ energy. It has to come from something. Not sure which law I am (hopefully) quoting here, ‘energy can neither be created or destroyed but only have its state changed’.

If there end up being lots of these devices sucking up energy from radio waves, does that not mean that we will be getting rubbish reception from all our radio stations?

14 – EM Waves, such as Radio Waves, are a form of transmitted energy.

So the energy is there to be extracted, or tranformed into electrical energy.

It may actually be a theoretically simple process.

Think of the generators that work on wave movement (they are there), and that may be close to what Indel is doing for radio waves.

It looks like time to send “Team America” to North Korea again to bust some heads.

Dude! That Jet Pack is RAD!!!

16 – agreed! LOL!

Seriously, where can we get one of those jetpacks? And will they be featured on a future installment of Mythbusters?


Well, Tesla was doing it at the beginning of the 20th Century. wireless energy, that is.

It seems that if a lot of his ideas were taken seriously at the time, we would perhaps not have those damn ugly electric pylons criss-crossing our planet and everybody around the world would have free access to electrical energy to power their homes.

Nah. It would never catch on. Free energy, no motivation (i.e. no profit) in that.

Big companies losing business and profit.
I think that is why a lot of people believe that Tesla’s theories have been supressed.

14- Radio is an inefficient way to transmit energy as you have signals going out like a spherical shell (bounching off things) so you have signals going into space. What Intel seems to be doing is harnessing the background EM radiation that’s already there from various sources at the location of use. It’s not practical to try to catch any significant portion of the broadcast energy so what Intel’s doing wouldn’t affect whether you get your radio reception, just give a little trickle of energy for some ridiculously frugal electronic device. I would think this kind of thing would be good for things like powering a small remote electronic sensor device that isn’t doing much or something with Flash memory and a small chip (electrons get lost in Flash memory over time, generating slowly some extra electrons to refresh the state of cells could be useful). Most advanced research in the physical sciences doesn’t work…

Isn’t it true that Tesla (inventor of remote control and the alternating current) was working on a practical application of wireless power?

That Volcano in Alaska looks Pretty Impressive. I hope it does not do what St Helens Did back in 1980.I like the jet Pack. Where can I get one or make that 2. A Methene Lake Hugh. I wonder what kind of Fish I can Catch with my Methane proof Boat. Lol. Hey maybe I can use the Jet Pack on the Methane Lake. But I would need all Kinds of Special Equipt.

#21 sounds about right. Just making use of some ambient radio waves to power something that doesn’t need a lot of energy. Neat idea, and with all the little electronic doodads out there needing batteries and recharges, I say thumbs up to Intel. I don’t see any way to scale up wireless energy transmission practically though.

Love the water jet pack, but I keep thinking it’s one of those CGI hoaxes, like people surfing on water waves created by dynamite blasts. I want to believe … I want to believe … I want to believe….

Triceracopter. Finally some modern art I can love. :-)

Scott B. out.

Alaska is on the TrekMove map! Nice! We’re just waiting it out up here in Anchorage, expecting some ash if it blows. Sounds like something might happen over the weekend. My office is prepping computers and such as though it will happen. So yeah, fun stuff!

My understanding is that he was able to power wireless light bulbs at a considerable distance from the power source.
Also, he illuminated different bulbs with different radio frequencies.

This might be my favorite science friday evar!

Volcanoes, jetpacks, crazy Koreans!

Oh, maybe Obama should appoint Palin to be his volcano advisor since she lives so close to them and can probably tell him a lot about them.

Oh, and the volcano webcam is down right now, probably due to all the traffic you sent there.


Again, the theory is sound but when one looks at efficiency, health risks, cost, etc; a thick conductive coil beats most other ways to move a bunch of electrons from point A to point B safely.

#8 “The Triceracopter is the stupidest thing I ever saw. ”

You obviously never saw some of the guys with whom I went through Basic Training…

#25. I wish you guys the best and hope everything Works Out.

19 – Mythbusters already sorta did this. They levitated a car using jets of water. Although a personal water jetpack would be cool to see the guys do.

In other news, the Triceracopter is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. Half helicopter, half dinosaur, half animal.

Radio waves already work on a power transmission principle: The electromagnetic waves at radio frequencies transmit energy captured by an antenna. The energy causes the electrons in the antenna to oscillate, creating a pseudo-AC power source able to power a (very) small electronic device, such as a crystal speaker. We’ve done that in my Physics class. Capture enough energy with a large enough antenna, and you can power something more significant like that weather station they show.

Actually we have Tesla to thank for long-distance wired power transmission, as he was the proponent of the Alternating Current. Had Edison and his Direct Current ideas won over, we would have had to have additional generators and substations every couple miles along a transmission line.

A real interesting article on wireless power transfer can be found here:

10 — Yes, I know Tesla was amazing. Just getting in a bit of cultural humor.


Where are the flying cars! I was promised Flying Cars!

…and then he moved his leg into the water stream and flayed the skin off. I think I’ll pass.

If not CGI, the jetpack seems rather lame to me.

Tethered to what looks like a jet ski so wouldn’t it be simpler to just ride the darn jet ski to wherever?

Yeah but what if you tethered it to the triceratopter?

#36 – You’re missing the point: it’s a JET PACK!

Jet packs = Awesome.

Scott B. out.


Do that with a regular jet pack… Oh … wait.


This Alaskan vocano, Redoubt… is Governor Palin planning to do a survey on the summit to check out the danger?

This Alaskan volcano, Redoubt…. is it going to affect the tapings of Ice Road Truckers?

Wireless Power, was that concept not part of Solar Panels in Space beaming us energy via microwaves. Tesla first tried this back in the 1890’s between Denver and Colorado Springs on his ranch. So someone is reviving those ideas. It is still converting one form of energy to another. What is the question is what is the conversion ratio. Is is more efficient than chemical to electrical. Efficiency is still the factor, Oil was good for a century or so, but the side effects have been Al Bore’s (and I mean Bore because he is a boring fool) Global Warming thing. We may never find the perfect way to convert energy, but it is all in the ways we package the conversion factor that we make a living from.

The best conversion method I know of is Matter/Anti Matter, is that not why Gene used it to power Star Ships that indirectly defy Einstein’s Universal law that nothing can exceed the speed of light.