Welcome to another Friday the 13th edition of Science Friday! This week, learn how tribbles go green, dodge space junk on the Soyuz, enjoy wolverine-inspired gadgetry, feel safer in that red shirt after all, and make energy from a mysterious fluid. All this and much more, plus our gadget of the week: TH!NK FROST — the arctic vehicle worthy of a starship captain.
Quadrotriticale is Real and Renewable
Every tribble’s favorite grain is now being looked upon as a new sustainable and renewable resource. The Canadian-grown crop Triticale, a combination of wheat and rye together, can grow in areas where there is little water and land nutrients. Alberta researchers are saying the crop can be used for everything from biofuels to fabrics. The best part? Scientists are playing up the Star Trek connection and have taken some great photos for the press release.
This is my chicken sandwich and coffee
ISS Crew Board Soyuz to Dodge Debris
The three-member crew of the International Space Station were forced to board the Russian Soyuz spacecraft for 11 minutes yesterday to dodge a small but potentially lethal piece of space junk that came whizzing by. The old rocket motor is about 5 inches wide, and the risk of collision was small. However, the crew played the better safe than sorry game and took the precaution. Usually, the crew can nudge the space station’s orbit out of the way of oncoming debris, but NASA received notice of the latest object late Wednesday night after the crew had already gone to sleep. Instead, the crew members were instructed to evacuate the station and climb into the attached Soyuz module, which acted as their lifeboat. They emerged safe and sound six minutes after the near miss.
The Russian Soyuz spacecraft attached to the ISS
Self-Healing Polymer Makes Gadgets Into Wolverine
When we humans get scratched, our skin can repair itself. Researchers want to make gadgets that can do the same thing, with the help of some sunshine. The trick is in the three chemical components that make up the self-repairing layer: scratch-resistant polyurethane, and components OXE and CHI. When the polyurethane gets nicked, the unstable structure of OXE causes it to bleed out, and UV light will cause the CHI and OXE to form bonds and fill the gap — just like human skin. The promising tech isn’t quite ready for the consumer circuit just yet. But, who knows, maybe when you one day drop your iPhone 5G, you will be able to set it on the table and watch it repair itself.
The self healing gadgets of the future
Coloring Our Perception: Red for Safety?
Colors can have a profound effect on our behavior and cognitive performance. This much has been known for a while, but there has always been disagreement among scientists as to just what effect different colors have on the human mind. Now a paper in Science adds some new data to the debate, with findings that suggest blue increases creativity, whereas red enhances attention to detail and reduces risk-taking. The latter finding will come as cold comfort to the legions of (ex-)Starfleet redshirts who found out the hard way that being an unknown actor on an away mission usually meant a one-way trip. Full article in Science.
Science suggests he may have died sooner wearing blue
NASA Mystery Fluid Can Create Electricity
NASA is looking into a promising high-pressure fluid that emerged as a result of studies on how the agency’s underwater robots could power themselves far below the surface. Known as a phase-change substance, a system developed by NASA uses water temperature and motion to pressurize the fluid, which could then be transported to land and converted into energy. “When the material melts, it expands, compressing a central tube in which another liquid is stored. This liquid, now under high pressure, is used to generate electricity,” said the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. JPL thinks the system shows promise, as various bodies of water including lakes and rivers could be mapped by computers for the potential energy the system could produce.
A new way to harness energy from water systems
Pic of the Week: Kepler’s Streak
Pictured below is the Delta II rocket carrying NASA’s Kepler spacecraft skyward as seen from the crowded pier about 3 miles from the Cape Canaveral launch site. Kepler’s mission is to search for Earth-like planets orbiting in the habitable zone of other stars. A planet orbiting within a star’s habitable zone would have a surface temperature capable of supporting liquid water, an essential ingredient for life as we know it. This amazing photo was captured by launch photographer Ben Cooper.
Video of the Week: Real Transformers
Transformers are real! And, they’re from Japan! Check it out.
Gadget of the Week: TH!NK FROST is what Kirk needs on the ice planet
If Captain Kirk wants to travel on ST09’s ice planet in style, he needs to pick up one of these babies. TH!NK FROST, the oddly named super-snow mobile for two, was created by a Norwegian designer to mimic the look and feel of the arctic it would travel through. It’s got treads instead of wheels, bunch of fans to keep things warm, and a dorsal, sensitive hose reads the environment and relays that information to the driver. If you ask me, this design is worthy of a starship captain.
Check out more images at Auto Motto
Here’s a warp-speed look at science tid-bits that didn’t quite make the cut, but nonetheless merit mention.
- Take a look at some new pictures of Mars Phoenix from orbit
- Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter images Deimos, a martian moon
- Hydrogen leak postpones shuttle launch
- AIDS vaccine getting closer to reality