Science Friday has moved to Science Saturday this week, but have no fear. We are here to bring you your weekly science fix! This week, help astronomers discover an ancient planet near Earth, purchase flat and bendy OLED light bulbs, do zero-gravity experiments in space, and create the next generation of geoscientists. All this and more plus our gadget of the week: CrunchPad Table PC.
The Hunt for Remains of Ancient Planet Near Earth
NASA’s twin STEREO probes are entering a mysterious region of space to look for remains of an ancient planet which once orbited the Sun not far from Earth. If they find anything, it could solve a major puzzle–the origin of the Moon. “The name of the planet is Theia,” says Mike Kaiser, STEREO project scientist. “It’s a hypothetical world. We’ve never actually seen it, but some researchers believe it existed 4.5 billion years ago—and that it collided with Earth to form the Moon.” NASA is asking the public to help discover asteroid debris by scrutinizing images from the spacecraft. If you see a dot of light moving with respect to the stars, you may have found a “Theiasteroid”. Links to the data and further instructions may be found at sungrazer.nrl.navy.mil.
Artist concept of one of the STEREO spacecraft.
OLED Breakthrough: New Electrode Paves the Way for Flat Light Bulbs
OLED technology is great. The panels are extremely thin, drain less power than many other techs, and the screens can even be bendy. Every commercial OLED so far, though, has used indium tin oxide (ITO) as a transparent electrode, which has conductivity issues at low temperatures. But clever researchers created an OLED that uses a new transparent polymer called Orgacon, which has up to six times the conductivity of ITO. Even better, the new material is much cheaper to make. The researchers created a prototype OLED lighting panel about the size of a 4.75-inch square. With the new material, you might be able to walk into a store and buy some flat, bendy light bulbs for a decent price by 2011.
Bendy OLED lights getting even better
Making Gadgets in Space
Back in February, TrekMovie reported on astronaut Donald Pettit’s invention of a zero-g coffee cup. The space inventor was featured on this week’s edition of NPR Science Friday and spoke about this and many other science experiments he has concocted while in orbit. Don has made several videos of his experiments which demonstrate basic scientific concepts. He demonstrates how surfactant molecules such as soap work to clean grease off of your clothes using water, oil, and candy corn. He also rigged up a camera set up to take time lapse videos of aurora seen from orbit. Check out some videos below.
Candy corn in space
Time lapse from orbit
Why Earth Science? Training the Geoscientists of Tomorrow
When the Enterprise visits a new world, they have to send scientists to collect data and determine information about the planet and its ecosystem. Enthusiasm for the Earth Sciences is not at a high point in today’s education system. Many people perceive it as a “secondary” science to things like physics, chemistry, and biology. But, studying the planet we live on and other planets throughout the solar system and beyond is really the application of these three “core” disciplines in order to learn about our surroundings. The American Geological Institute has created the below 6 minute video on why we study Earth Science, and articulates the need for teachers to create the geoscientists of the future.
SciFri’s Tidbit of the Week: Please Install a Holodeck
Is there anyone here who hasn’t wished they could have a holodeck installed in their home or office? No? Didn’t think so. Apparently, someone at Google wants one so bad, that they sent in a request for one to be installed. Check out the e-mail correspondence below. The names have been blocked out for anonymity. Click on the image for a larger, easier to read version.
Gadget of the Week: $250 CrunchPad Tablet PC Prototype
Last July, Michael Arrington, creator of this CrunchPad Tablet PC prototype, said he would build a Firefox web tablet for less than $200. Newly leaked images show that he is on his way to keeping his word, and this thing might just become a reality. Arrington specified a 12-inch screen, built-in camera, no hard drive or keyboard, and direct-to-browser booting. He adds that it will cost less than $250 to build (slightly higher than his original price), it’s using an Intel Atom processor, and it’s running Ubuntu Linux.
At $250, this thing looks irresistible
Not enough science for you? Here’s a warp-speed look at some more science tid-bits that are worth a look.
- Mt. Redoubt gives Alaskans a taste of the moon
- Chemists create bipedal, autonomous DNA walker
- GOCE’s electric ion propulsion engine switched on