Science Friday: Rockets, Planets, Stars & Bears…oh my

Welcome back to Science Friday! I missed you all so much last week. So, to make up for it, this week we’ve got a double dose of awesome. Discover 32 new exoplanets, go or no-go for NASA’s new rocket, save the polar bears, and help redefine the shape of our solar system. All this and more plus our gadget of the week: $1 Million Batmobile!


32 New Exoplanets Discovered
Astronomers announced Monday the discovery of 32 new exoplanets, or planets outside of our solar system. The discovery puts the number of known exoplanets beyond 400. The instrument to make the discovery is the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher, better known as HARPS. Over the past five years HARPS has spotted more than 75 of the roughly 400 or so exoplanets now known, and this new finding solidifies its place as the foremost planet finder. We haven’t quite yet answered the question as to whether or not we are alone in the universe, but perhaps we are inching ever closer. In another exoplanet discovery this week, NASA researchers have detected organic molecules around a gas planet. Read more on that at Science Daily.

Artist’s conception of an exoplanet

NASA rolls out Ares
This week at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, NASA literally rolled out its new Ares I rocket, the first rocket other than the space shuttle to stand at Launch Pad 39-B in the last 34 years. Next Tuesday the Ares I X will have its first test flight. The current plan is for the Ares to carry astronauts into orbit by 2015, which means that NASA will be without any capability to launch humans into orbit for five years, after the Shuttle fleet retires next year.

Should NASA Scrap its New Rocket?
A blue ribbon panel said Thursday that NASA should consider scrapping the rocket that it has been developing to replace the space shuttle and bypassing the moon for now. Most of the options for an overhaul of the US human space flight program turned to private companies to provide astronauts with a ride into low-Earth orbit and replace moon landings with the “flexible path approach” (aka flybys). Carolyn Porco, science advisor for Star Trek 2009 and leader of the Cassini Imaging Team, had this to say about the suggestion in a tweet:

So we are supposed to fly by the Moon/Mars/asteroids and not land? What if Columbus sailed past America & didn’t land? …Is THAT a ‘Human Spaceflight Program Worthy of a Great Nation?’ I think NOT!

The panel’s findings do not differ much from the series of hearings over the summer and the report released last month, but they conclude that NASA will not be able to push beyond low-Earth orbit without a $3 billion budget increase. The Obama administration has given little evidence to which option will be adopted.

Will we ever get to see the Ares carry men and women into space?

Polar Bear Habitat Proposed for Alaska Coast
The Interior Department proposed Thursday to allocate more than 200,000 square miles of land, sea, and ice along the northern coast of Alaska to a polar bear habitat. The area, the largest single designation of protected habitat for any species, encompasses the entire range of the two polar bear populations that exist on American land and territorial waters. Government scientists estimate that there are roughly 3,500 bears in the two groups, known the Chukchi Sea and the Southern Beaufort Sea populations. Officials said the bears’ range was shrinking because of the disappearance of sea ice linked to global warming. “Proposing critical habitat for this iconic species is one step in the right direction to help this species stave off extinction, recognizing that the greatest threat to the polar bear is the melting of sea ice caused by climate change,” said one government official.

They’re so cute, how can you NOT give them 200,000 square miles?!

Cassini Helps Redraw Shape of the Solar System
In a recent paper published in the journal Science, researchers from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) present a new view of the region of the sun’s influence, or heliosphere, and the forces that shape it. New findings suggest that the Sun travels through the galaxy like a giant bubble as apposed to a comet, as suggested by existing models. “These images have revolutionized what we thought we knew for the past fifty years; the sun travels through the galaxy not like a comet but more like a big, round bubble” said Stamatios Krimigis, principal investigator for the MIMI instrument aboard Cassini, which is orbiting Saturn. “It’s amazing how a single new observation can change an entire concept that most scientists had taken as true for nearly fifty years.”

The heliosphere may be shaped differently than previously thought

Video of the Week: How Dyson’s Bladeless Fan Works

Many of you speculated last week at how the Science Friday gadget, the Dyson bladeless fan, actually works. It’s not witchcraft. It’s science! Watch the video below for an explanation by NewScientist Video.

Bonus Video: Meteorite Caught on Camera

Three golf ball-sized fragments have been found from a meteorite that created a brilliant fireball seen over Ontario, Canada on September 25, 2009. The first meteorite fragment recovered did some damage to the windshield of a Nissan Pathfinder, and now two other fragments have been found on nearby properties. The meteor made headlines initially because it was captured on video by Western’s Southern Ontario Meteor Network (SOMN) on seven of its ‘all-sky’ cameras. The brightness was estimated to be approximately 100 times brighter than a full moon. (Via Universe Today)

Gadget of the Week: $1 million Batmobile Rocks the Bat Tech
An industrious Swede spent 20,000 hours putting together this full-sized Batmobile replica. Built on a 1973 Lincoln Continental chassis, it’s loaded with gadgetry, including machine guns, video cameras to see behind you, height-adjustable bodywork, and there’s even a plasma TV stuffed in there somewhere. Want one? If you crave this piece of bat-tech today, you’ll have to build it yourself, and you’ll need to be rich as Bruce Wayne. The 700-horsepower techno-sportster is a one-of-a-kind creation, three-and-a-half years in the making. Oh yeah, and it cost over $1 million to construct. (Via DVICE)


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…

  • @dvice: We love technology. We live for shiny new gadgets, momentous breakthroughs, and cutting-edge design. Basically anything that looks like it came from the future.
  • @spacefuture: Space is the future! Cool news about space stuff.
  • @levarburton: Actor, Director, Educator. Cool recent tweet from Levar: “RT @Chris_Doohan: @levarburton My dad loved working with you. – He was THE best damned Engineer I ever worked with! Also a great guy!”

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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nice car

RE: The Bladeless Fan…and we’re one step closer to The Dyson Sphere LOL

Nasa is also working on an unmanned smaller version of the shuttle. Re-usable, landing like a plane upon re-entry. The military is involved so not too many details are available, but I saw the headline today on Foxnews.Com.

“It’s the car, right? Chicks dig the car.”

I love polar bears. They’re so white, and furry, and cute and —

(Anyone read “The Terror” by Dan Simmons? Great book. Don’t bet on the Brits.)

So, the sun is a soap bubble? Um. And that means exactly what?

I’d actually prefer the ’60s Batmobile, which is a renovated Lincoln Futura concept car. You can add in gps and a few other real gadgets.

Anyway… Thanks, Kayla!!

I have little faith in the Ares I rocket system, and would prefer to see the entire Ares architecture scrapped in favor of the Direct plan from MSFC. Charlie Bolden, the NASA administrator, has ordered a review of ‘all alternatives’ to the Ares system within the next month, so the Marshall boys have some hope of securing a switch to their design.

Sadly, while I believe it is the better design overall, I seriously doubt the ability of MSFC, NASA, or its contractors to convert over from the current planned Ares designs in a timely enough fashion to prevent the spaceflight gap that is about to ensue.

I do, however, expect NASA to get a shuttle extention of a flight a year for at least two years… not enough, but something.


Awwwww… look at tha’ cute and cuddly wuddly polarrrrrr bears… they be cute and cuddly until they rip yer’ arm off though…

I’ll vote “nay” on Ares as well… Why I could build a better rocket wit’ a bucket a gin, an old grain silo down tha’ way, duct tape, and me day olde undies fur’ ignition… It may smell bad, but it’ll go! Last week I had made it ta’ tha’ next county.

Oh, I managed ta’ cut meself anyways on that Dyson fan… dunna’ ask how…

And apparently,

We all live in a yellow sun bubble
A yellow sun bubble
A yellow sun bubble


Kayla, I think you might want to look at this news link about an ion engine which will enable a rocket make a trip to Mars in 39 days.

Great link.

“NASA researchers have detected organic molecules around a gas planet”

Is that so? well, all I have to say is this:

You boys have to be clear on this: there can’t be so much as a microbe or the show’s off.


Re: that “Artist’s conception of an exoplanet”…

Chesley Bonestell, he ain’t…


I feel so much platonic nerd love for you right now… aww….

That fan looks really…”cool.”*


*Yes, I know I made that joke last time. It’s a callback.

I’m sorry, but I REALLY cant resist. Some of ya might hate me for saying this but it is truth: The world is not WARMING! The world has been on a steady cooling trend since 2002. To see this little posting on the polar bears is just ridiculous. Lets not also forget to mention that the population of Polar bears has been increasing greatly, and that the threat of their extinction is far from the truth. Anyways enough of my rambling, I just wanted to get that out of the way. I WANT THAT BATMOBILE!!!!

How about the Earth warms and cools, I think it is called this odd word Weather. When you see a 3-5-7 day forecast in upcoming weather, it;s nice to get a prediction, but then again it’s a prediction and are you ready to bet your kids on it. I think the answer is HELL no!!! So the 100 year ones are a possibility but the correct odds are 50/50 or less time 365.2422 days x 100 years or .5! * 365×100 or in plain English .5 * .5 for (365.2422 days 100 years). Ain’t got a calculator handy or even GW Basic to write a program to get the number, but it is a real tiny size, down in the atomic particle size of being correct. Can you see an atom with your naked plain eye.

The Polar Bears remind me of the 2 bear cubs that were at the Denver Zoo in the late 90’s and the papers and news for a few months.

AS for the Ares rocket, can not ask my brother who works on the Electronics for the Command Module at Lockheed Martian, that’s because he is down there doing his 18 hour days. But from memory it passed all the tests, but not all on the first try for the engines. I do not have the sucerity pass to talk to him about the Electronics. He gives me the old ine when I ask, I could tell you but then I’d have to kill ya.

And as for the Solar System bubble, they seem to be missing one aspect. The Cosmic wind that the Milky Way Galaxy has flowing amoung the stars. This item is talked about in last weeks link to the 43 minute NASA Science YouTube Video I captured and burned to DVD

And by the way Kayla hope you enjoyed you day or week off, because it is the last one us fans here will ever let you have. No thing against the 5 star General Anthony. You’ve become a symbolic symbol here. The science news may be just as good but it does not seem to have that essence of Kayla to it. And many here love that flavor.

I know it’s a suck-up job but it’s a in-direct way of saying thanx.

Oh forgot the Batmobile, I bet I could have a comfortable living off just the sales tax on the fuel costs for that thing. But can I take it for a test drive on the Salt Flats?

And I can make one weather prediction that will come true in 100 years. The sun will rise at such a time and then set at such a time. The times will vary depending on your location on the globe. That will happen unless ex-VIP Gore and his irrelevant friends figure out how to put it out. Oh ya does his warming formulas/predictions never have Solar Energy Influance in them so the Sun is illrelevent, and putting it out will not alter a thing.

Sure you can argue about Global Warming all you want (I’m not going to argue a mute point), but how can you argue against a polar bear habitat? Even if their population was doing well (which it’s not), would your attitude be “They’re fine, so no protection for them”? Anyways, I thought it was a nice story and a bit of good news. I really thought people could look past the good ol’ global warming debate on this one. I hate when science gets politicized. Everyone’s an expert, sheesh! :-P

That is a bad-ass Bat-mobile! Gotta keep saving my money though. I still think someone should pick up the X-33 project and run with it. It’s like friggin’ 2009 already.

Tanner, to accept your statements on your word alone would simply be preposterous. I want evidence… and for now…

There seems to be overwhelming evidence that something detrimental is happening to our Earth.

Notice I did not say the Earth is warming (but I do believe it is possible, perhaps even likley).

I remember in the 1970s some scientists were claiming our planet was heading towards an ice age. To some degree, some might say that scienctists can easily be swayed.

Clearly, Antarctica and the Arctic Ocean are both are experiencing something horrendous and the sad fact the indigenous animals are being adversly affected is a disaster in the making… and most likely human-initiated.

All of the news about the discovery of new planets is extremely exciting! It almost makes one wonder how far we are from first contact.

17. Kayla Iacovino once parenthetically expressed “I’m not going to argue a mute point”.

Welcome back.

As a point of clarification, by “mute point” did you mean “an unspeakable point” or did you mean one of the meanings of the phrase “moot point” which, itself, has two possible meanings?:

1. an issue which is subject or open to debate.

2. a point of which the discussion would be purely academic, and otherwise of no practical significance.

One amazing thing about humanity is that it often snatches defeat from the jaws of victory.

If Obama goes back on his promise to explore the final frontier and screws up the Constellation program, I do not believe I will ever forgive him.

I wonder how Stephen Colbert is going to feel about this massive safe haven for bears?

Probably thinks it’s un-bear-able. ;-)

So, to quote the “bladeless” fan video, “a motor driven rotor, hidden inside the base, blows air up into the hoop.” Forgive me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t that just mean they hid the blades in the base? I figured that was the design, but it’s been bugging me for a week. How do you push a fluid without a turbine? My answer: if they really want it to be bladeless, they should ionize the air and blow it with an inductor.

The next logical step would be to use electrohydrodynamics to push water through a garden hose, thereby freeing municipal water pumping stations to do more important things, whatever they may be. Of course, it might take thousands of times more energy per household to accomplish this task, but at least it’s inventive, right?

As I said before — Dyson sphere, yes! Dyson bladeless fan, um … pass.

Mind you, I admire the concept, and the energy savings, of a bladeless fan. It’s just that it may be solution in search of a problem. After all, a little buffeting air never hurt anyone outside of an aircraft.

The Batmobile is cool as!!