This week in Science Friday, learn about how scientists may have solved the vampire problem in the lab, take a tour of space (or not), recover the “Rosetta stone of asteroids”, witness the huge ash eruption from Alaska’s Mt. Redoubt, and debate the name for the newest ISS module. All this and more plus our gadget of the week: The Cajun Crawler.
Scientists Working to Produce Synthetic Human Blood
British scientists are on their way to producing the first synthetic human blood using embryonic stem cells from O-negative donors. The blood type is extremely rare, but works universally on anyone without being rejected. The use of stem cells means that it would be possible to make enormous quantities, as stem cells multiply indefinitely, and the blood would be inherently free of infection since it would never have seen a human body. In theory, just one stem cell could meet the nation’s needs. Who knows, maybe blood drives will soon be a thing of the past.
Vampire-related deaths will be a thing of the past!
No More Space Tourism?
Yesterday’s launch of a paying civilian – American billionaire Charles Simonyi – may be the last one for some time. The Russian rockets that have been carrying the civilians into space since 2001 may soon be booked up by professional astronauts. There are only eight remaining space shuttle flights before we retire our country’s only method of transport into space, and NASA wants to get more professional astronauts up to the space station whether it be in the shuttle or the Soyuz. The President of the US firm Space Adventures is hopeful that they will be able to continue providing their $35 million service, but NASA says that the last tourist to fly for a while just went up today.
Darn! I only had $34,999,988 left to save up!
Recovered Asteroid Holds Clues to Cosmic History
For the first time, scientists were able to recover pieces of an asteroid that was tracked in space en route to Earth before breaking up in the atmosphere and landing on terra firma. Asteroids are found on Earth all the time, but we don’t know where a single one of them comes from. “For the first time, we can dot the line between the meteorite in our hands and the asteroid astronomers saw in space,” said Dr. Jenniskens, the lead author of the Nature paper which documents the find. The 280 pieces, about 10 pounds in total, are of a rare type of meteorite known as ureilites. The hodgepodge of minerals in ureilites indicates they were heated up but not fully melted, suggesting that they were once part of a much larger asteroid that possessed planetlike geological processes. Said one scientist, “It’s like the first step towards a Rosetta stone of understanding asteroids.”
The first traceable meteorite
Mt. Redoubt Erupts!
Alaska’s Mt. Redoubt erupted again Thursday morning at 9:42am local time sending a cloud of ash 65,000 feet into the air in the largest explosion since the volcano awoke Sunday after nearly two decades of inactivity. Volcanic ash contains silica particles, a conductive material that’s capable of destroying circuit boards, and as a result, ash is known for its ability to wreak havoc on desktops, servers, and basically any type of IT infrastructure that has moving parts. But, despite some nervous moments Thursday morning, officials say that the Anchorage region has managed to avoid potentially destructive ashfall. Check out the Alaska Volcano Observatory website for the most up to date info and tons of great photos.
Mt. Redoubt’s ash cloud photgraphed on Thursday morning
Colbert: The Name of the Newest Space Station Module?
In an example of the power of the internet (and the influence of comedian Stephen Colbert) Colbert just may be the name of the newest module that will be added to the International Space Station. NASA opened up a contest for the public to name the station and suggested four possible names. Their mistake was in accepting write-in suggestions. Colbert got wind of this and encouraged his viewers to write in his name, which they did in massive numbers. NASA recieved 230,539 votes for Colbert, which beat out Serenity, one of the NASA suggestions, by more than 40,000 votes. NASA officials say they still have the final say on the official name but that they give the winning name “the most consideration”. If you ask me, the guy earned it. Come on, NASA, let’s have space station module Colbert!
What’s your vote? Should NASA name the module "Colbert"?
Pic of the Week: Martian Sunset
In January 2004, NASA landed two identical robotic rovers named Spirit and Opportunity on the surface of Mars. The twins were primed for a brief 3-month mission to tell us a story of water and possibly life itself in the planet’s past. More than five years later, the dynamic duo are still roving the Red Planet, engaged in a saga of overachievement that has transformed Mars exploration. Today, we celebrate the 5 year MER anniversary with this image of a Martian sunset recorded by Spirit in 2005.
Video of the Week: The Science of Little Red Riding Hood
This is probably the best telling of Little Red Riding Hood that I have ever seen. It’s an animation of the story sort of told from a science/engineering perspective: analyzing each little bit of information that is relavent (or not) to the story. A very interesting way to get a story accross, indeed. Although it might be a bit confusing if you don’t know the tale before hand. The animation is really great quality and production value is high. Check it out below!
Gadget of the Week: The Cajun Crawler
If you think Segways are cool (or even if you don’t), take a gander at the Cajun Cralwer! Based on the work of kinetic sculptor Theo Jansen, the Cajun Crawler holds up a Segway-style platform with a scary collection of steampunk-like mechanical legs, which can scurry across a floor with surprising agility. It’s creepy and mesmerizing at the same time. I love it! The project was built by a team of folks at the University of Louisiana. Skip to about 1:00 in the video for the real action to start.
Not enough science for you? Here’s a warp-speed look at some more science tid-bits that are worth a look.
- Can we grow flowers on the moon?
- Spacewalkers test planetary protection concept
- Scientists tackle 1,200 mile arctic road trip to build a better NASA rover