This week in Science Friday we celebrate the discovery of two more water sources in our solar system: Mars and the Moon! Get your sciencey fill by diving into space water, taking a virtual 3D tour of Rome via Flickr, and enjoying another ride to the edge of space (this time in HD!). All this and more plus our gadget of the week: the U3-X aka the UniSegway.
Confirmed: Water on the Moon
It’s official: scientists have found water on the surface of the moon using data from three separate spacecraft. In last week’s Science Friday we talked about finding hydrogen on the moon. Well, this time we’ve detected actual H2O molecules and in greater quantity than predicted. But, we’re not talking lakes. By water on the moon, we mean water and hydroxyl molecules interacting with dust and rock in the very top portion of the lunar soil. The discovery of water molecules and hydroxyl on the Moon raises new questions about the origin of “Moon water” and its effect on lunar mineralogy. Answers to these questions will be studied and debated for years to come. More info at NASA.
Image from Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft showing water on the moon
(Credits: ISRO/NASA/JPL-Caltech/USGS/Brown Univ.)
Orbiter Spots Ice on Mars Exposed by Meteor Impacts
NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has revealed frozen water hiding just below the surface of mid-latitude Mars — a location previously thought to be too warm for such a discovery. Observations show that fresh impact cratering from meteorites is excavating this ice from 0.5-2.5 meters below the surface. Some of the craters show a thin layer of bright ice atop darker underlying material. The bright patches darkened in the weeks following initial observations, as the freshly exposed ice vaporized into the thin Martian atmosphere. One of the new craters had a bright patch of material large enough for one of the orbiter’s instruments to confirm it is water-ice. More at JPL.
Image of an ice-filled crater taken by Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
CompuSci: Algorithm Generates a Virtual Rome in 3D from 150,000 Flickr Users’ Photos
They came, they saw, they took pictures. And thanks to them — about 150,000 Flickr users — a team of computer scientists built Rome in a day. Using nearly half a million Flickr photos of Rome, Venice, and the Croatian coastal city of Dubrovnik, a team of computer scientists at the University of Washington’s Graphics and Imaging Laboratory assembled digital models of the three cities in 3-D. A series of videos on the project Web site lets visitors fly through landmarks like St. Peter’s Basilica, the Colosseum and Venice’s San Marco Square. For much smaller Dubrovnik, you can see the whole city, including mountains in the distance. Each video includes clusters of small diamond shapes, which represent each photographer and his or her vantage point. (Via PopSci.com)
More From the Edge of Space (in HD!)
In the continuing saga of curious humans sending high-altitude balloons to the edge of space with cameras (or chairs) strapped to them, a group hailing from Edmonton, Canada have one-upped those thrifty MIT kids and their $150 space photo rig, albeit at greater expense: their Canon Vixia HD camcorder sent up on a hydrogen balloon has captured what is probably the world’s first amateur HD video from near-space. Before the balloon burst at an altitude of 107,145 feet (sending the camera on a nauseating free-fall), the camera dutifully recorded over four hours of HD footage, with the memory filling up just 53 seconds after the package parachuted to safety. (Via PopSci)
Video of the Week: Water + Antacid in Space
Don Pettit, frequent member aboard the International Space Station, has become known for doing fun, small science experiments in space and filming them. In honor of our Science Friday “water in space” theme this week, we bring you an experiment showing the nucleation of bubbles in a large water sphere in space due to the reaction with an actacid tablet. Check out the video below; the action starts around 2:40.
Bonus Video: “Bounce” Water Bounces off of a Hydrophobic Surface
The effect seen in this video is known as the “Lotus Effect“, a property of the Lotus flower that repels water from its surface. This is also known as “hydrophobic” (latin for fear of water). The surface at the bottom of the frame is coated in a super-hydrophobic ultrathin layer allowing for droplets of water to bounce off of it. Check it out below!
Gadget of the Week: U3-X aka the UniSegway?
From the land of wacky electronic gadgets (Japan) comes Honda’s newest mobility device. It’s kind of like a cross between a unicycle and a Segway. A UniSegway, if you will. It uses the balance control technology developed during the creation of Asimo, which means that the rider controls speed and direction merely by leaning with their upper body. Unlike most mobility devices, which either put the user above or below the eye level of pedestrians, this thing sits its rider at just the right height. Check out the video below to see it in action.
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, techies, geeks, and all around cool people to follow on Twitter. This week…
- @PopSci: Popular Science’s Twitter feed, featuring every article from the magazine, plus online exclusives and more!
- @davidalanmack: Bestselling SF/fantasy author, obsessive-compulsive, husband, cat-lover, drunkard
- @TrekMovie, @kaylai, @charlestrotter: Shameless self plug! Follow TrekMovie’s staff on Twitter!
Not enough science for you? Here’s a warp-speed look at some more science tid-bits that are worth a look.
- Cause of red color of Mars may not be what you think
- 2009 Lennart Nilsson Award to be presented to Carolyn Porco
- Low-gravity Space Station lab used to study crystal growth
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.