Science Friday: LHC Rebooting + Finding The Martian Lander + Gamma Ray Mystery + more

This week in Science Friday take a look into the reboot of the LHC, search for lost Martian landers, live forever with the Easter Island compound, and impress your co-workers with positron and gamma ray technobabble. All this and more plus our gadget of the week: the spherical robot.


Large Hadron Collider Back Online Soon
Particle collisions are once again imminent over at the LHC. The massive particle collider has now recovered from the faulty weld last September that flooded the facility with liquid helium and ground all operations to a halt. Last month, CERN put the LHC through a massive stress test by sending data at 4 GB per second to computers all over the world. When running, the LHC only needs to crank out around 1.3 GB per second. If the continued testing of the collider goes well, we should hear about its reboot soon.

The LHC should be up and running again soon

Help Find the Mars Polar Lander!
The Mars Polar Lander was to be a mission to the Martian south pole to study climate, weather, and the polar cap. But, the spacecraft went missing after entering the Martian atmosphere. Scientists are still unsure of what caused the malfunction, and no one knows for sure its whereabouts. Today, we have the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and the powerful HiRISE camera orbiting the red planet, and scientists are scanning the surface to find MPL. The best part? They’re asking for your help! With so much ground to cover, the folks at HiRISE are asking the public to help look through photos to find the lander.

“This HiRISE image is one of a sequence searching for either the parachute or the crumpled lander on the ground. However, we expect the debris from this mission to be covered with dust and ice, making it a challenge to identify them. The more eyes that search these images the better, so try your luck!”

The lander was to touch down on the southern polar layered terrain, between 73°S and 76°S in the region, Planum Australe less than 1,000 km from the south pole, near the edge of the carbon dioxide ice cap in Mars’ late southern spring. Trekkies are a resourceful bunch, so TrekMovie offers this mission to you: find the Mars Polar Lander!

  • The Planetary Society has organized a great web page outlining how to search, what to look for, and links to all the images you will need.
  • Extra tips can be found on the HiRISE website (look through the comments section).

Find MPL using hi-res images from HiRISE

Is Easter Island the Fountain of Youth?
New research suggests that a compound found in the soil of Easter Island may increase human life span. In preliminary research, the compound — “rapamycin” after the island’s Polynesian name, Rapa Nui — extended the expected life span of middle-aged mice by 28 percent to 38 percent. In human terms, this would be greater than the predicted increase in extra years of life if cancer and heart disease were both cured and prevented. Many so-called “anti-aging” medicines have been unsuccessfully tried. According to one project scientist, “I never thought we would find an anti-aging pill for people in my lifetime; however, rapamycin shows a great deal of promise to do just that.”

The famous Easter Island heads

Antimatter Positrons and the Great Gamma Ray Mystery
Over the past five years, gamma ray measurements in the Milky Way Galaxy have lead some scientists to speculate on a “great mystery” because the distribution of these gamma rays were not as expected and could not be explained. In today’s issue of the journal Physical Review Letters, new astrophysics research shows how antimatter particles knows as positrons (best known for their role in android brains) explain the funky gamma rays. Until now, an exotic form of dark matter was thought to be responsible, but new data is quite consistent with the “standard picture” of the universe. Read more (with plenty of technobabble!) at ScienceDaily.

The INTEGRAL satellite, which collected the funky gamma ray data

Gadget of the Week: Spherical Robot Reminds Me of Freaky Sci-Fi Gun Turret
This spherical robot was created by designer , and has no apparent purpose. But, hey, it looks cool, right? My thoughts: a futuristic sci-fi machine gun turret bringing mass destruction. Or perhaps it shoots lasers. Perhaps.

Spherical Robot 02 from Nils Völker on Vimeo.

Pic of the Week: Amazing Images from Alaska’s Mt. Redoubt

Beginning March 22nd, 2009, Alaska’s Mount Redoubt, began a series of volcanic eruptions, and continues to be active to this date. This website shows a handful of beautiful images of the volcanic crater.

Click the image for more, larger pictures


If you are on Twitter, you know there are plenty of amazing people out there tweeting away. And, many of them are scientists! Every Friday I’ll be bringing you a new list of great scientists and techies to follow on Twitter. This week…

  • @HiRISE: High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
  • @thesciencebabe: A physicist with a deep passion for communicating science to the masses. Secondary life as philosopher and actor. Made in Mexico.
  • @universetoday: A feed from the great articles posted on

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


TrekMovie’s Science Friday is an homage the the great NPR radio show Science Friday. Science Friday® is a registered service mark of ScienceFriday Inc.

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Dark matter DOES matter!

We are truly at the frontier of something new… first!

Find the Mars Lander! cool


The Polar Lander probably landed on a piece of ice that broke off and floated too far away from shore. Then it melted and fell into the ocean — with it’s little R2-D2 eye thingy sticking out of the water, whimpering for help.

Darned that Martian global warming!

Looking for the Mars Polar Lander in that pic is kind of like looking for R2 in the debris field over Vulcan.

Besides it isn’t there anyway, the Martians already scooped it up & took it to their underground base to study it & see how much more technically advanced they are.

When they reboot the Large Hadron Collider, they’d bloody well better NOT change the way it looks, or it’ll be a DISASTER! Anything but green wiring is NOT cannon!

The Martians will find, take it apart, find out who sent it, and come after us!
or perhaps it disappeared in a black hole, fell into orbit of a machine planet, grew beyond it’s original programming, is currently on it’s way to find it’s creator…..mars rover become: m r e …perhaps this will be the storyline of the next TREK movie!

#10, Oh, you’re talking about M’ver.

It’s original mission was to scoop up a handful of snow. But now, it returns to earth in order to turn the entire planet into Buffalo in January.

9. Captain Dunsel – July 10, 2009

– At least they didn’t build it in Iowa! ;-)

Kayla, it’s not a robot ball. It’s a robot hamster in a ball.

Easter Island skin cream: you won’t live any longer, but you’ll look 3000 years old.

I t’ink da Mahz landuh musta took a wrong turn at Albequerque.

As always, Kayla, thanks for the great stuff. You’re keeping our brains from collapsing into black holes.

Mr Spock. Lock Scanners on Mars and locate the Lander. Acknolwdged Capt. Lander Found. Mr Sulu. Lock Photon torpedoes on to the lander and fire!!!. Target destroyed. Well That takes care of the lander. In the Terran Empire thats what would happen. Well. Mt Redoubt and St helens and others can be Trickey.

I heard they’re not going to test the LHC fully untill December 21, 2012.

Cool! The Mars Polar Lander is now the planetary version of “Where’s Waldo?”!

Can you see Russia from Mt. Redoubt?

Why do I think that Large Hadron Collider is gonna do to Earth what Nero’s red matter bomb did to Vulcan?:(

#16 I’d like to know where you can by the Wheres Waldo for $498 million, that’s what my brother who helped built the lander at the Denver plant says it cost Lockheed Martian and NASA

And my brother says the biggest reason for losing Mars Probes is one little missed mistake, and the error is spoted with ease by outsiders. It gets through the checking because they think that it being so obvious that someone down the line will report it and fix it. So they do not want to blemish their own record of being semi perfect. This he says is a quote from his boss and his boss also says if you want to find more like that just go to D.C. but if you see anyone here doing that and he will let you hand him the pink slip.

I’m leaving names out so I do not offend or harm Lockheed Martin employees (you know the ones that pay most our Taxes so we pay little in Taxes)

and #18 Many people have the feeling the World will end, and they love to blame it on physical objects, few hall the balls and blame people.

The truth is that one day the World will end, and how it will end for any individual is by their death, and every human we know will some day die. The World ends when you stop living in it. It does not matter how it will end. What matters is one day it will end, thus making future human birth on Earth much harder if not impossible.

That’s why we need to get of this blue rock and start humanity every where we can. Currently we are planning to test the waters of the Moon in hope to reach Mars. We will still have training wheels on our ships that leave Sol. Hopefully in a few Centuries we can look like the Federation.

@ #19 – I certainly meant no offense to anyone on the Mars Polar Lander mission. I’m sure it was a devasting loss to those that worked on it, as well as a scientific tragedy to all.

But if what you are saying about the culture of Lockheed Martian and NASA is true, then they really need to re-evaluate their policies and somehow make allowances for anonymous tips and/or whistle blowing. Sure everyone makes mistakes, and Lockheed Martian and NASA are no exception, but I had thought that they had learned their lessons from the shuttle disasters by now!

The Decepticons got the Mars lander. Simple as that. ;)

#20–can’t you detect a tongue-in-cheek joke? because thats what my previous comment was

That spherical robot invokes feelings of sympathy. It looks aimless.

@ #2

you weren’t first

Imagine if Ripley had been riding inside something like that when she fought off the Alien Queen! Couldn’t get near her, and add some gun turrets…

The Spherical Robot reminds me of the Zeroids from The Terrahawks.

Check out the Redoubt eruption photos. Absolutely incredible!

With abundent Rapamycin it’s no wonder the Easter Islanders have stood there for so long staring blankly off into space. Now if they can just find a good dematologist.

That Mt. Redoubt gallery is astonishing, thanks very much for sharing that with use, Kayla

I now plant my flag as a founding member of the Official Kayla Iacovino Fan Club. }:-D>