Science Saturday: Lost World, Flat Bulb, Space Inventor & Geoscience FTW

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

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.

Click for a larger 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

Science Quickies
Not enough science for you? Here’s a warp-speed look at some more science tid-bits that are worth a look.


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Science is cool!


*(credit to Keanu Reeves)

I am first :D…….hello slovakia :D

I love the time lapse videos!! I wish I could go to the space station! That would be AWESOMEEEEEEE!!

Candy corn + water + zero G = The Fesarius!

I feel like an idiot; I totally don’t get the candycorn jargon. I know it’s “why things make globby balls,” but beyond that… DUH!

Cool light show, though. I want to take an orbital hop. But, they’ll have to make it last longer than 4 minutes and bring the price down below a quarter-million.

A 2nd Earth? Cool. Maybe that’s where all my missing socks went.

To quote Scotty: “Ion power!”

Thanks, Kayla. Hey: Science Saturday. That’s a lot of alliteration for an overanxious author…

hey there!
Its my birthday.
I want one of those tablets. they look damn cool.
when will those bad boys be on the shelf, eh?

Who knows? Ancient astronauts from Theia, having escaped the destruction of their planet via a form of lifeboat, might have decided to land on Earth, thereby colonizing it.

In other words, WE might actually be Theians.

Sounds almost Trekkian. Or Galactican.

Also: LOL on the Google correspondence. As it turns out, only Google is real, and the rest of the universe is actually a figment of its imagination.

The candy corn looks like the Fesarius from ‘The Corbomite Maneuver’ ….


Was thinking the same thing!


We’ll all rue the day when Google achieves consciousness and starts taking over the planet. It will start out slowly. Searches for novelty gift ideas will start resulting in topless Britney Spears photos.

Pretty soon all web searches will end up taking people to adult content. Just when Google has everyone addicted to this, it will then start inserting its sinister mind control messages.

Before we know it, we’ll all be sitting there staring at topless girls and chanting in unison, “All Hail, Google . . . . All Hail, Google . . . All Hail, Google . . .”

P.S. Oh wait, we’re doing that already . . . .

First in line for a CrunchPad……WOO HOO!

The ‘Flat Light Bulbs’ could be a precursor to those light panels from “Return of the Archons”.


Should be called the CrunchPADD!
Real space trumps fake space any day.


Ah,…you beat me to it. I always thought that was one of the really interesting parts of that episode (one of my favs). Not a big deal made of it…just a little sideline thing…thrown out there that implied sooo much. One of the things I thought TOS did very well. The less is more…you think about it, you figure it out principle.

this stuff is amazing. I love science. I’m a stupid idiotic teenager who also happens to a total science NERD. Someday I swear I will be in space….


Is your review of the movie going to be up today? I really need to know your opinion.

Hat Rick: “Who knows? Ancient astronauts from Theia, having escaped the destruction of their planet via a form of lifeboat, might have decided to land on Earth, thereby colonizing it. In other words, WE might actually be Theians. Sounds almost Trekkian. Or Galactican.”

Nice theory, but the Earth was uninhabitable for QUITE SOME TIME after the collision.

A more plausible version is that we are Martian descendants. In fact our sleep cycle reverts to that of the day/night cycle of Mars if we are isolated from the normal day/night cycle of the Earth. 22 hours IIRC.

If it’s flat, it’s not technically a ‘bulb’ though, is it?

#7–you got it wrong: that idea came from The X Files….except they used Mars…which brings to mind a theory of mine: WHAT IF MARS IS THEIA? think about it…Mars is significantly smaller than Earth, but enough so the remaining mass that would account for the size differential is roughly equal to the moon’s size with the leftover elements from what hit proto-Theia most likely making up the asteroid belt…additionally if Theia was an Earthlike planet, Mars being the bulk of its remnants would explain why Mars has seeming hints at it having been Earthlike at one time in history…so, #17, if Mars IS Theia, in a way both you AND Hat Rick could be right…LMAO

#11—yup:) and at that point the Google-plex (xD) will begin assimilating us, thus creating the Borg Collective LOL

Relax, Cupcake…: “a theory of mine: WHAT IF MARS IS THEIA?”

I like the way you think, but doesn’t really work: Mars orbit is too far away; any remnants of the impact should be roughly in the same orbit as Earth, I would think.

Gigastazio: “If it’s flat, it’s not technically a ‘bulb’ though, is it?”

*SIGH* God, I love semantics…

Well, if there IS only the Google and nothing else, then that makes my Monday easier. No need to get up to go to work — the Google will do what is needed. (“The Apple” (TOS) meets the Matrix.)

On whether Earth could be inhabited — good point. It wouldn’t be for millions of years, but then again, who knows how long the Theians could have lived or waited? Perhaps they were in hibernation, as well, in massive sleeper ships (a la Khan).

On whether Mars could be Theia — it’s possible, if you believe Velikovsky-type theories (and who among us doesn’t? .. ahem..) — that there’s some sort of weird undiscovered planet out there that could have perturbed Mars’ orbit and moved it away from its original orbit after having hit the Earth. (Leave aside the identification of Velikovsky’s actual theories relating to Venus.) Call it a mysterious “Planet X” far beyond the orbit of Pluto.

Or, perhaps, the lifeboat-asteroid of Theians are hidden among the asteroids, waiting to be discovered (“For the World is Hollow…” (TOS)).

(An aside: It’s almost scary, isn’t it, how much we think like Trek episodes….)

I’m pretty sure that Google Holodeck thing was just an April Fools Day thing.
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