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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Also, does the e-ink display play Crisis?


The reason the UK guy doesn’t have a girlfriend is he is sitting at home figuring it out using equations instead of getting out there and looking.


Wait… a real-life Nexus? KEGGERS AND DRUGGIES AT NASA? FTW???


2 – Nicely said.

LG Newspapers (or any other print medium) may be the gadget that will draw people back to papers… or the next thing that takes their place. I really think people would read more actual newspapers if they didn’t have to a) buy em daily, b) go out in the rain to retrieve em, or c) live with a pile of old ones. THIS IS GOOD. C’mon, consumers! Get behind this great idea.

Saw an annular ecslips in Atlanta in the early 1980’s. Absolutely awesome. Temps dropped 20 degrees in minutes. Night critters started making noise at noon. Beautiful effect (kept a TV nearby, and also dared to squint for a split second at the real thing.)

Cocaine in the hangar? Makes Zephram Cocraine look like a tea-totaller.

Thanks, Kayla!


Even more important than the Nexus is this: “…by a galactic magnetic field.”
The galactic barrier is real?! :D


It’s “couldn’t care less,” not “could care less.” :)

Pyork (JE) Productions

I couldn’t agree more

Blake Powers

If the cocaine dude/chick gets fired from NASA, I say we fly Him/Her out to Vegas for the Trek Con and have him/her throw a party.

For your consideration.


Anyone else notice the lack of difference between the before and after pictures of haiti?

Yeah I’m going to hell.


9: No, mostly I just noticed that the earthquake made Haiti appear in better resolution.

Is anyone -really- surprised that a bunch of astronauts (fighter pilots) like to get drunk and do coke?


@2 and 7: Thanks, I try
@9: I’ll be waiting for you.
@ Everybody: I posted that I was “First” but my post was taken away. Good thing I did that second post. I’m still “First”.

You know that at NASA there’s going to be that one guy/girl who sarcastically suggests “Maybe if we get high on cocaine, it will alter our perception of reality and we might discover warp drive.” This time somebody actually tried it. Fail.

Caption for the Annular Eclipse video still: “That doesn’t look like your mother naked”

I’ll just link to another xkcd strip that seems appropriate and leave it at that:

Thank you much.

Lt. Bailey

If that guy in the UK has such universal langauge (math) skills, he may need to study a more primative langauge that we speak on this planet in order to meet females because this guy is looking for a custom fit in an off-the-rack world. Finding love is not such an exact science, we may find a cure for cancer before he finds his math mate. I wish my British cousin all best in his effort.


I don’t have a girlfriend because I am a girl. :D

Does the equation swing the other way, too?

U.S.S. Manila NCC-99232

Does it really work? I’m a little heartbroken by now.


I was going to make a “crack” about astronauts on cocaine but I shall refrain…..


14 Its always easier for girl to find a boyfriend than it is for a boy to find a girlfriend. That reason is money, which I don’t have much of right now. :-(

Alf, in pog form

I knew NASA never went to the moon, it was all just a cocaine induced illusion.


“Well I sure as hell am not going up there sober!”
-Zefram Cochrane

Michael Craft

Your copy:

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

Earthqake??? Sorry, but it had to be pointed out!


Gee, you really got me with the headline “NASA coke”. I thought it was about some special brand of Coca Cola designed for astronauts or something like that.

why we have earthquake in all courtry!