This Science Friday, board the ISS with a familiar Klingon, check in on Spirit on Mars, discover the secrets of the universe with the LHC, see Pac-Man on the moon, and break the laws of nature. All this and more plus our gadget of the week: see-through solar cells!
WORF To Board the International Space Station
When space shuttle Discovery blasts off (scheduled for April 5th), the mission STS-131 will be carrying a little bit of Klingon into space with it. WORF (short for Window Observational Research Facility) is just one of the payloads being delivered to the ISS. The WORF module is basically a special dark room for scientists to get better images from the observation window in the US lab destiny. To commemorate it’s Klingon namesake, the payload patch even includes a bit of the tlhIngan Hol (Klingon language)! Learn more about WORF at the official website.
Q’plah WORF and ISS-131!
Spirit Rover Beginning Months-Long Hibernation
If you’ve been following the news about the Spirit Mars Rover, you know that she has been stuck in the sand for some time now. Researchers think that she may never rove again, but Spirit would still be used as a stationary science platform. The biggest danger now, however, is that winter is coming on Mars. What does that mean for Spirit? Well, the days are getting shorter and nights are getting longer, and for a rover that runs on solar energy, that means less power to help keep her instruments warm enough to keep working properly. We have gone through this every winter with Spirit and Oppy, but this time Spirit’s power is getting dangerously low. Mission planners are concerned that Spirit missed her last scheduled check it, but they are hopeful that she will wake up when she warms up and say hello. Jonathon Hill, a mission planner for Spirit at the Mars Space Flight Facility, said this about Spirit’s condition:
Spirit skipped a communications pass on March 30th, which indicates she has likely experienced a low-power fault as our power engineers had predicted. Under a low-power fault, all activities other than minimal survival heating and clock maintenance are suspended and any extra power is used to charge the batteries. Spirit will continue hibernating until her batteries are charged enough to wake up for a comm pass, which could be days, weeks or even months. In any case, the DSN will be listening during all possible comm passes in case Spirit decides to phone home.
Hopefully we’ll hear from her soon!
The Return of CERN and the LHC!
The world famous Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is up and running again and creating it’s own mini big bangs to study how our universe formed. By smashing particles together in the gigantic particle accelerator, scientists are attempting to replicate the conditions under which our universe was created and study the very first nanoseconds of time. The newly up and running experiments have come in successfully, and they are the first step in discovering the secrets of our universe. They haven’t yet found the mysterious higgs boson particle, but the LHC is primed and ready to look for it.
Click to watch the video
Sure everything is all peachy now with the LHC, but will it stay that way? The folks at College Humor have peered into the future to find out. Check it out.
Take a look a the LHC’s discoveries, one year from now
Life Imitates Art: Cassini Spots Pac-Man on Mimas
The Cassini spacecraft currently in orbit around Saturn (and official friend of TrekMovie) has caught an interesting new view of the tiny moon Mimas. The probe measured temperature differences across the moon’s surface and the temperature map looks strikingly like Pac-Man gobbling up a cherry. Mission scientists are not entirely sure why Mimas displays such a broad range of temperatures, but they speculate that it could be due to texture variations on the surface. Pac-Man isn’t the only pop culture reference Mimas is known for, however. It has been dubbed “the Death Star moon” because of a large, distinctive impact crater known as Herschel Crater, which makes the moon look a lot like the Death Star of Star Wars. Be sure to check out CICLOPS.org for more Cassini imaging news.
That’s no moon! It’s a beloved 1980’s arcade game!
Did Physicists Break the Laws of Nature?
Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, energy cannot be created nor destroyed, and the pull of gravity is proportional to the inverse of the distance squared. The fundamental laws of nature are not meant to be broken. But, for one brief instant, it is possible that physicists from the Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island have broken the fundamental law of Parity, which states that the laws of physics remain unchanged when expressed in inverted coordinates. The science team was smashing gold nuclei together in a particle accelerator to study the law of parity under extreme conditions. In their experiment, subatomic particles interacted with a magnetic field in a very peculiar way, suggesting that the law of parity had been broken. The scientists think this is a real effect, but we will know more after more experimentation and evaluation. To read the details of their discovery, see Science Daily.
A full-energy collision between gold ions
Video of the Week: First Flight of the VSS Enterprise
Virgin Galactic announced last month that the VSS Enterprise had completed her inaugural captive carry flight from Mojave Air and Spaceport. The first flight was a huge success. Check out the video below.
Gadget of the Week: Transparent Solar Panels
Imagine if instead of looking out your window to see your solar-panel array, your windows were your solar panel array? New Sphelar solar cells, from the Kyosemi Corp, could potentially be integrated into glass of any shape to make domes, glass bricks, or a typical window. Because the design uses solidified spherical drops of silicon to capture solar energy, they’ll pick up sunlight at all times of the day, from all angles. Just imagine if all those shiny glass skyscrapers could be generating their own power! (Via DVICE)
New see-through solar power
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…
- @Voyager2: Official twitter of the Voyager2 spacecraft! Be the first to hear when V’ger encounters the computer planet!
- @TrekTrivia: Delicious Star Trek trivia. Always use the hashtag #TrekTrivia with your answers. Only you know if you cheat. Have fun!
- @glennztees: Glennz Tees, a company that makes tons of hip tees, including many Trek designs. Check ’em out!
Not enough science for you? Here’s a warp-speed look at some more science tid-bits that are worth a look.
- To the writers and director of “Hot Tub Time Machine,” from a physics professor
- Colony of young stars shines in new Spitzer image
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.