Science Friday: Space Ribbon + NASA Coke + Earthquake From Space + Girlfriend Equation + E-Ink + more

Welcome to Science Friday! This week, solve the mystery of our solar system’s own space ribbon, pre-game with rocket scientists, see the destructive power of a magnitude 7 earthquake, and use science to find out why you don’t have a girlfriend. All this and more, plus our gadget of the week: LG’s E-Ink Newspapers!


Space Ribbon Mystery Solved?
Last October, Science Friday reported on a mysterious space ribbon found by IBEX (Interstellar Boundary Explorer) at the edge of our solar system. Scientists called it a “shocking result” and were puzzled over its origin. Now, the mystery may have been solved. “We believe the ribbon is a reflection,” says a NASA heliophysicist. “It is where solar wind particles heading out into interstellar space are reflected back into the solar system by a galactic magnetic field.” Now, I’m no heliophysicist, but that sounds to my idealist ears like saying, “This is a space ribbon just like the Nexus from Star Trek: Generations. We must re-route it to Earth at all costs by blowing up a nearby star!”

Space ribbon data from IBEX

Rocket Scientists Have More Fun? NASA Finds Cocaine in Shuttle Hangar
A small amount of cocaine was found in a restricted area of the processing hangar for the shuttle Discovery at the Kennedy Space Center in Fla., NASA recently said in a statement. This is the same base where astronauts are due to blast off into orbit next month. NASA says that the mission will not be affected, but the find has raised some safety concerns. The space agency has now launched an investigation and are drug testing all 200+ employees who worked in that area. It turns out that NASA already has a reputation for pre-gaming. Three years ago, NASA denied allegations of booze parties in crew quarters after an official report claimed that at least two astronauts went into space drunk.

Kennedy Space Center in Fla.

Satellite Photos of Haiti Before and After the Earthquake
Newly released images show the immense amount of destruction that Haiti has suffered after the magnitude 7 earthquake occurred Tuesday. Yesterday, WIRED Science posted the below images showing Haiti satellite photos before the earthquake along side newly gathered images. Google Earth has also released a KML file, which can be downloaded and viewed in Google Earth as an overlay. For all of the images, check out WIRED.

Before and after images from Haiti

UK Grad Student Rewrites Drake Equation to Show Why He Doesn’t Have a Girlfriend
“While extraterrestrial civilizations may be rare,” writes UK Grad student Peter Backus, “there is something that is seemingly rarer still: A girlfriend. For me.” Backus has taken it upon himself to scientifically estimate the probability of him having a girlfriend a la Frank Drakes famous Drake Equation, a mathematical formula famous for estimating the likelihood of communication with extraterrestrial intelligence. The Drake Equation is basically a statistical analysis of probability that includes parameters such as fraction of life-supporting planets, length of time communicating civilizations survive, number of planets similar to Earth, etc. By changing out these values for ones applicable to love in the UK, Backus demonstrated that, on any given night in London, there is greater than a 1 in 1000 chance that he will meet an attractive woman between 24 and 34 with a university degree. For full details and an explanation of the equation and its variables, check out Peter’s PDF: “Why I don’t have a girlfriend: An application of the Drake Equation to love in the UK.”

xkcd comic “Useless

Video of the Week: Rare Annular Eclipse Watched Worldwide

A solar eclipse that reduced the sun to a blazing ring surrounding a black disk has entered the record books as the longest annular eclipse for 1000 years. The phenomenon, which lasted eleven minutes and eight seconds, set a record that will not be beaten for another millennium. An annular eclipse occurs when the moon only blocks the sun’s middle, creating a ring. See the video below. [via BBC News]

Gadget of the Week: LG’s Newspaper-sized Flexible e-ink Display
Honestly, I could care less about all this 3D television hype. A tech that I’ve been waiting my whole life to come into the mainstream is moving image newspapers a la Firefly, Harry Potter, and countless other sci-fi flicks. LG has recently been showing off their newest e-ink display, which is built to be used like a newspaper. It’s 0.3mm thick, slightly thicker than a piece of paper (about 0.06mm), and it weighs about 4.5 ounces (a lot heavier than a normal newspaper). Still, this tech is getting closer and closer to reality.

LG’s new e-ink newspapers


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…

  • @wired: Wired’s official Twitter feed. This week’s town sheriff: Wired mag associate research editor @ErikMalinowsk
  • @jennifurret: I’m a liberal, geeky, nerdy, scientific, perverted atheist girl trapped in the Midwest
  • @Starfleetmom: I’m a crazy mom, sci fi nut, birdwatcher and I actually married an alien! Really!

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

  • From ancient Amazons: Biochar may help sequester CO2
  • Second smallest exoplanet spotted


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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