Your humble science writer is on the road again, but I’ve still got you covered with this late edition of Science Saturday! This week, don’t believe the Mars hoax, discover multi-planet solar systems, turn plastic back into oil, and feel like a real astronaut. All this and more plus our gadget of the week: Tuned Pale Ale.
The Mars Hoax Returns
Have you received an e-mail recently stating that Mars will “BE AS BIG AS THE MOON ON AUGUST 27TH”? Don’t believe a word of it! The truth? Right now, Mars is currently just about as far away from Earth as it can get. The e-mail hoax has been circulating the internet every year since 2003, when Mars was truly unusually close to the Earth. Still, even in 2003, the red planet appeared only about 75 times smaller than the Earth’s moon. NASA has been trying to squelch the false rumors since they began, and they recently published another edition of Science@NASA explaining the origin of the myth. The original e-mail was written by a person with a poor understanding of optics. Because Mars would appear 75 times smaller than the moon, the author assumed that a modest backyard telescope with a 75x lens would allow Mars to show up the size of the moon. Not quite true. But, the e-mail began mutating and changing, eventually leaving out the part about using a telescope. When the year was erased from the e-mail as well, the hoax became immortal. See the Science@NASA article for more.
Don’t believe the Mars hoax e-mail!
Kepler Finds Multi-Planet Solar System
NASA’s planet finding Kepler spacecraft accomplished another first for itself when it spotted a multi-planet solar system. The Kepler-9 system includes two Saturn-class planets orbiting very close to the parent star as well as a possible third Earth-sized planet that whirs through a hellish “year” in just 1.8 days. “The Kepler mission has discovered two new planets orbiting the same star and actually there’s a third possible, or candidate, planet that may be transiting that star as well,” said William Borucki, the Kepler principal investigator. “It is the first discovery of (multiple) planets transiting the same star. Trailing the Earth in its orbit around the sun, Kepler’s 95-megapixel camera is aimed at a patch of sky in the constellation Cygnus that’s the size of an out-stretched hand, a target zone that contains more than 4.5 million detectable stars. For more info, see the Kepler website.
Kepler spacecraft discovers a multi-planet solar system
Man Invents Machine to Turn Plastic Into Oil
Plastic is made from oil, so how hard could it be to turn it back? That was the thinking behind a project that has led to the creation of a device that does just that. Using Japanese technology, one man has created an ultra portable machine that takes unsorted plastic garbage and converts it back into oil that can be used to power vehicles. He has spent time traveling around the world teaching people about the importance of proper disposal of plastic waste. He says that once people realize the plastic is oil, they collect it rather than throwing it on the ground.
Electrodes Simulate Astronaut Reentry by Tricking Your Brain
Have you ever wanted to experience what it feels like to plummet back down to Earth after becoming used to the weightlessness of space? Apparently all it takes is 5 milliamps of electricity behind your ears. The Galvanic Vestibular Stimulation (GVS) system, created by Dr. Steven Moore of the National Space Biomedical Research Institute, is a device used during astronaut training that simulates the disorientation of Earth reentry during shuttle simulations. Astronauts who had no difficulty landing a shuttle without the device showed severe disorientation and drifted to dangerously high speeds while having trouble steering the shuttle when the GVS was used.
GVS astronaut training system
Gadget of the Week: Tuned Pale Ale
Tuned Pale Ale is the first and only beer that encourages your social drinking experience to become a musical one. The labels on the glass beer bottles are properly marked to let you know what notes you can play by blowing air across the bottle when your beer is at those levels. A small batch of the stuff was created and tested, and the creators found an overwhelmingly positive response, with people eventually making songs together. The side of the bottle is ribbed so that it can be played with the bottle cap, and the limited addition case is designed to be flipped over and used as a drum set! Check out the product’s website for more info and pictures. The beer is not yet widely available, but the creators are seeking distribution.
Tuned Pale Ale
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, and trekkies to follow on Twitter. This week…
- @RealNichelle: Nichelle Nichols (Uhura, TOS). Avid supporter of NASA, and the acceptance of all races and genders.
- @maejemison: Dr. Mae Jemison: First woman of color in space, Physician, Scientist, Engineer, Explorer and Futurist. Someone who proves that daring makes a difference!
- @ArcticMandy: Self-proclaimed polar bear with a travel addiction searching the globe for all things sci-fi!
Not enough science for you? Here’s a warp-speed look at some more science tid-bits that are worth a look.
- Virgin Galactic enlists “space agents” to sell $200,000 tickets to space
- Some asteroids live in own little worlds
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.