Welcome back to another exciting edition of Science Friday! This week, discover the hand of Apollo, see Antarctica bleed micro-organisms, learn to speak dolphin, and see the effects of the recent Italian quake. All this plus our gadget of the week: EXACTO super bullets!
NASA Finds the Hand of Apollo
You always wondered how Apollo did that hand-in-space trick. Well, now NASA has the answer. Well, at least they’ve found something terribly similar. The Chandra X-Ray Observatory took the below awesome image of a celestial hand reaching towards a 150 light year-wide nebula. This vast nebula was created by a tiny, dense pulsar only 12 miles in diameter. A pulsar is a rapidly spinning neutron star which is spewing energy out into the space around it to create complex and intriguing structures, including the hand. The combination of rapid rotation and ultra-strong magnetic field makes this particular pulsar, known as B1509, one of the most powerful electromagnetic generators in the galaxy.
Is this indeed the hand of a god?
Glaciers “Bleed” Million-Year-Old Ecosystem
The McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica are considered one of the least hospitable places on Earth. So much so that NASA has used them to simulate conditions that might prevail on Mars. Nobody would have suspected that there is any life underneath this ice, which is hundreds of meters thick, if it weren’t for the striking red ice erupting from the glacier’s terminus, giving the formation the name Blood Falls. The red color is thanks to the high iron concentration in a microbial ecosystem that has been trapped under the glacier for over a million years. Researchers are now discovering what fuels these bacteria, and how they ever became trapped here in the first place. Read more…
The bloody ice in Antarctica has given clues to an ancient microbial ecosystem
Scientists Learn to Speak Dolphin
UK-based acoustics engineer John Reid has been working on a machine for a decade that may be able to translate dolphin talk in much the same way that we decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics. Called the Cymascope, the device analyzes the noises the mammals make and shapes them into a map of reproducible sound patterns, termed CymaGlyphs. The machine uses a basin of water monitored by a video camera, and a few other odds and ends, including sand, brass plates and a violin bow. "What we’re going to do is excite the water by introducing the whale song, then look at what happens on the TV monitor," Reid said. "What you see is the image of the sound." The final aim of the study is to develop a basic dolphin vocabulary.
Turns out they’re all just saying, “So long, and thanks for all the fish”
Satellites Show How Earth Moved During Italy Quake
Scientists have begun analyzing the movement of Earth during and after the 6.3 earthquake that shook the medieval town of L’Aquila in central Italy on 6 April 2009. Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data from satellites are being used to map surface deformations that occurred after the earthquake and the numerous aftershocks that have followed. The SAR technique merges data acquired before and after the earthquake to generate ‘interferogram’ images that appear as rainbow-colored interference patterns. With the high speed acquisition of this satellite data, scientists have been able to immediately see the physical geographical effects of the quake.
Satellites help map recent Italian earthquake
Gadget of the Week: EXACTO Smart Bullets
This week’s gadget is sure to excite those three Navy SEAL snipers who ended the hostage crisis on the high seas. The EXACTO (EXtreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance) smart bullets are capable of changing course in mid-air by utilizing built-in tech that senses air currents and moving targets, adjusting a bullet’s flight so it can stay exactly on course. Then again, maybe those SEALs don’t need these bullets; they were able to pick off two pirates who briefly poked their heads out of a small covered lifeboat, and simultaneously shot a third pirate through the boat’s tiny window. At dusk using night vision. From a tilting and rolling ship, while their targets were also bobbing boat. Amazing stuff.
Can EXACTO bullets make great SEAL snipers even greater?
Not enough science for you? Here’s a warp-speed look at some more science tid-bits that are worth a look.
- Boldly Going Nowhere, an op-ed article by Seth Shostak, an astronomer at SETI