Science Saturday: Easter Egg Chemistry & Robots + Commercial Spaceships + Underground Telescope + Binary-Star Flora + Sunspot Evolution + more

Welcome back to another exciting edition of Science Saturday. Celebrate the vernal equinox with the chemistry of Cadbury Creme Eggs, peer beyond the Big Bang with an underground telescope, imagine life on alien worlds, see the latest from SDO solar observatory, and check out four possible commercial manned spacecraft. All this and more plus an Easter Egg Gadget and our DIY gadget of the week: Phi wall art!


Happy Easter! A Look at the Chemistry of Cadbury Creme Eggs
The guys over at Periodic Table of Videos has just uploaded their latest, very timely video looking at the chemistry of Cadbury Creme Eggs, including various ways to destroy them with science. Check it out!

Underground Telescope Could See Black Holes, Peer Beyond the Big Bang
An ambitious new underground telescope is in the making – one that could use gravitational waves to learn about some of the universe’s most violent phenomena such as black holes, neutron stars, and the Big Bang. The telescope, called the Einstein Telescope could also reveal for the first time whether there were universes in existence before our own by looking for the echoes of previous Big Bangs similar to the one that created our own universe 13.7 billion years ago. The project is comparable in size and scope to the Large Hadron Collider and is expected to cost somewhere between £500 million and £1 billion to build. (via The Telegraph)

Seeing beyond the Big Bang with gravitational waves

Planets in Binary Star Systems Could Grow Colorful Trees, Black Plants
A planet with two or more suns is a common theme in science fiction, but what would a planet in a binar star system really look like? In a new study, scientists have set out to determine what plant life would look like on planets with two suns or with red dwarf suns. Their conclusion? The look of plants could be radically different. For example, on a red dwarf planet where the light from the sun is dimmer, plants might be black instead of green in order to soak up as much photosynthetic energy as possible.

“Our simulations suggest that planets in multi-star systems may host exotic forms of the more familiar plants we see on Earth. Plants with dim red dwarf suns for example, may appear black to our eyes, absorbing across the entire visible wavelength range in order to use as much of the available light as possible. They may also be able to use infrared or ultraviolet radiation to drive photosynthesis. For planets orbiting two stars like our own, harmful radiation from intense stellar flares could lead to plants that develop their own UV-blocking sun-screens, or photosynthesizing microorganisms that can move in response to a sudden flare”

— PhD student Jack O’Malley-James from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland

What might the plants on alien worlds really look like?

NASA Funds Four Possible Private Manned Spacecraft
With the Shuttle program winding down, NASA is now making good on its promise to foster private enterprise for the next spaceship to take humans to low Earth orbit. This week NASA awarded $269.3 million to four companies working on new spaceships: Blue Origin, the Boeing Co., Sierra Nevada Corp. and SpaceX. This is the second phase in NASA’s plan to choose a commercial partner to begin flying astronauts to low Earth orbit by 2015. Florida’s WESH reports on the four possible next manned spacecraft.

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SDO Watches Evolution of Sun Spots
It’s only been one year since NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) launched and began sending unprecedented images of our sun back to Earth, and in that short period we’ve seen some of the most amazing views of Sol ever captured. Below is the latest release: a video showing three images of a group of sun spots. The large image on the left is a combination of x-rays and visible light. The top right is only the x-rays, which allows you to see the magnetic field lines caused by the sun spots. And, the bottom right is visible light where you can see the sunspot group evolve (growing, twisting, and rotating). The recent surge of solar activity sure has made SDO’s first year in space an exciting one! Here’s to many more exciting years to come.

Sciencey DIY of the Week: Phi Wall Art
Phi. The golden ratio. 1.6180339887… The thing that defines the shape of a nautilus shell, proportions within the human body, and a thing of truly mathematical beauty. Now you can show your love of φ on the wall of your home or office! Instructables member kaptaink_cg takes you step-by-step through the quick and easy process of creating your very own Phi wall art!

Make your own Phi wall art at Instructables

Gadget of the Week: Egg-bot

In keeping with the Easter theme, Science Saturday presents the faboulous Egg-bot. The amazing gadget is an an open-source art robot that can draw on spherical or egg-shaped objects from the size of a ping pong ball to that of a small grapefruit. And it can be yours for only $195.


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


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The only way a creme egg gets “destroyed” around here is by going in my mouth…shame about my waistline…:(

The commercial spacecraft farthest along is SpaceX’s Dragon, which has already orbited the Earth unmanned. So the race for commercial space is theirs to lose. Runner-up is probably Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser, which also is bending metal as we speak (Sierra Nevada bought the startup company SpaceDev in 2008, and SpaceDev had been working on Dream Chaser for NASA’s Orbital Space Plane program back before Columbia went down.) Boeing’s CST-100 capsule is interesting, and they have name recognition, but Boeing just screams “old way of doing things” so they probably won’t win. Blue Origin is the big question mark, that’s Jeff Bezos’s ( space startup, and very little is known about what they’re up to out in West Texas.

And remember, Lockheed’s Orion is still under construction, now called the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle. Lockheed plans to test Orion unmanned by launching it on a Delta IV-Heavy in 2013, about the same time the commercial guys ought to be about to fly.

2013 might be a very exciting year for manned spaceflight (even if the first flights aren’t manned.)

Happy Easter to everyone! … :-) :-)

I am a participant in the Solar Stormwatch group and also in the Zooniverse as well. It is a great community, and we get to help find objects that aid scientists in discovering new planets and galaxies. Solar Stormwatchers track solar flares/storms and calculates how big, how fast and if these storms may impact our functions on Earth.

I loved the link to the Instructables- I plan on making several of the items listed within the site.

Thanks for the information!

#2 We’ll have to take what we can get. I just can’t get excited:
Constellation was well into testing when you-know-who pulled the plug.
Now, it’s two- no, more like FOUR- steps back.
Simply tragic.

5. Constellation had produced nothing but smoke and mirrors for the $9 billion NASA spent on it from 2005 to 2011. The “Ares 1X” test flight in 2009 was a standard Shuttle SRB with a fake fifth segment to represent the new Five Segment SRB. on top of that was a mockup of the Ares 1 second stage… no propellant tanks, no engine, nothing. Ares 1-X used avionics and guidance systems borrowed from the Atlas 5, instead of the new avionics being designed for Ares 1. (We could have simply built the Atlas 5-Heavy for a fraction of the cost and started flying this year, but no, not enough pork for NASA and its Congressional supporters.) And when the SRB separated from the “second stage”, it slammed into it, causing damage that led to one of three parachutes failing and major damage to the SRB. NASA itself said that Ares I/Orion wouldn’t fly until very late in 2014. The independent Augustine Commission said 2016 was more likely and wouldn’t rule out 2018, and no matter what date, it was going to cost a lot more than what NASA was saying. This was NASA’s plan when Mr. Obama took office. The only real surprise was how long it took President Obama to kill Constellation… over a year after he took office.
In the same time period NASA spent $9 billion building test articles, SpaceX spent about $600 million (a little from NASA) to build and fly two new rockets (Falcon 1 and Falcon 9) and the Dragon spacecraft that in its unmanned form carries about 5,000 lbs. of cargo to the Space Station. Dragon flew a nearly perfect mission in December. NASA’s Orion is still two years from a similar flight. SpaceX says that for about $1 billion they can give NASA a manned Dragon in 2013-14… that includes the manned system upgrades to both Dragon and Falcon and three test flights on Falcon 9. NASA’s canceled Ares/Orion (now called SLS/MPCV) will need at least $15 billion according to NASA’s own figures and won’t fly before 2016. Two years ago, sure, there was reason to be suspicious of SpaceX’s claims. But now Falcon 9 has flown twice and Dragon once. Why are we still throwing away money at Ares/Orion (aka SLS/MPCV)? Let’s tell NASA “no more rocket development please, just build the deep space spacecraft.” Spend a billion on SpaceX, and maybe another billion on Dream Chaser or Boeing’s CST-100, and odds are we’ll have two new manned spacecraft and $13 billion from what we would have blown on Ares/Orion.

Great stuff Kayla. Other universes? I have trouble existing in this one.


Richard Branson continues to make everyone else look like they’re going backwards when it come to outer space designs & concepts

What would I do if I had his kind of sick money ?

I’d do the same, spend it on my own space program, not like he’d spend it all in his lifetime anyway, yes ?