Science Saturday: Lava Flows in the Quad + Curiosity Updates + Neuron Video + New Space Planes + More

The post Vegas Con blues had got us down for a while, but now we’re back in action with a brand spanking new edition of Science Saturday! This week: see real live lava flows moving through New York, get the latest updates on our newest Martian friend Curiosity, watch proteins swimming through neurons, hop on the next Dream Chaser flight into orbit, and more! All this, plus our gadget of the week, in which a real hovercraft takes a test-drive!


Scientists Send Lava Flows Through Syracuse University’s Campus
Ever stand a few feet from a real live lava flow? In a unique mix of science, art, and education, the Syracuse University Lava Project sees scientists melting and pouring molten lava to create real, natural-scale lava flows in front of SU’s Art Building. The spectacle brings the excitement of a volcanic eruption to New York, and also allows scientists to model the movement and flow properties of lavas on a real-world scale. Read more at EARTH Magazine.

Test No.3: Making a continuous lava flow with a coke-fired iron furnace. Its a Volcano.

Curiosity Rover Update: Flexing, Zapping, and Driving
It’s been almost three weeks since the Mars rover Curiosity landed safely on Martian soil. Since then, we’ve been privy to gorgeous HD pictures and video, Curiosity stretching her arm, wiggling her wheels, firing her laser (yes, a laser) at rocks on the surface, and even taking her first drive. What does this all amount to? Well, besides illustrating the public’s love for Curiosity akin to that of Mars Phoenix, it means that NASA has confirmed that all of Curiosity’s systems — propulsion, motors, power, software, cameras, scientific instruments — are functioning properly. And, after a long wait, we are finally in a place to start doing some science in Mars’ Gale Crater. What comes next is the most sophisticated set of analyses ever performed on Mars rocks, which should reveal much about the planet’s history.

The latest video showing Curiosity’s recent test drive

HD video of Curiosity’s descent to the Martian surface

Incredible Video Shows Proteins Moving Through a Single Neuron
A new video from a team of molecular biologists at USC shows actual footage of proteins moving through a single neuron. A neuron, which transmit impulses throughout the human brain via electrical signals, needs to completely rebuild itself each day. “Your brain is being disassembled and reassembled every day,” said scientist Don Arnold, co-author on the study. “One week from today, your brain will be made up of completely different proteins than it is today. This video shows the process. We’ve known that it was happening, but now we can watch it happen.” Arnold explained to io9 that this video has a frame rate of about 15 fps, so you are seeing the process about 15-20 times that of real-time. More at io9, and read the scientific journal article in Cell Reports.

NASA Helps Fund Small, Private Space Shuttle
The Dream Chaser, Sierra Nevada Corporation’s small private space vehicle that could launch into space atop an Atlas V rocket as early as 2015 has just been given a funding boost from NASA to the tune of $212 million. The spacecraft, which DVICE is calling the “chubby mini shuttle”, is based on NASA’s HL-20 lifting body concept vehicle from the 1980’s. The Dream Chaser wouldn’t replace the now long dead Space Shuttle, but would act more like a business jet to space for private industry. As of now, the concept vehicle has been built and is about halfway to being orbit-ready. The new money from NASA will allow Sierra Nevada to perform a barrage of flight tests on the mini-shuttle to see that it’s fit for travel by 2015.

But, Dream Chaser isn’t the only game in town. XCOR Aerospace just announced its plans to build and fly Lynx suborbital vehicles from Kennedy Space Center. Read more at

Sierra Nevada Corp.’s Dream Chaser Space Vehicle

Image of the Week: See an Undersea Volcano from Space
NASA’s Terra satellite captured the below image of a ribbon of floating pumice — ultra-porous volcanic rock — that erupted about a month ago from an undersea volcano northeast of New Zealand.

Gadget of the Week: Real Hovercraft Tested in Mohave Desert
The rotocraft, a hover bike developed by Aeroflex, uses helicopter technology (read: two gigantic fans) to lift and propel its rider across the terrain. Rotocraft’s first test flight back in 2008 ended… badly. Suffice to say it burst into flames. But, after a few years of stabilization of the product and design, this baby’s flying high (well, okay, low) over the Mohave desert showing off its maneuvering capabilities. Not shown in the video is rotocraft’s top height of 15 feet and to speed of 30 mph.

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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Cool lava flow!

Thanks or the science news. Keep it up.


Sierra Nevada now makes planes? I thought they just made beer.

Love the science news updates, thanks Kayla!

Hovercraft is awesome! But now I have questions!

How many meters per gallon does it get? If you run into a low flying bird and get knocked off your seat, what happens if you fall into the fan?

The Dream Chaser looks so adorable! I hope routine commercial spaceflight will become a reality before the 20s.

“She dazzled me with science!”

Thanks, Kayla!

So THAT’S where I left my finger 2 million years ago. Mars!

Nice to see we’re getting more models this year, before I pick out my Space Ride.

Thanks, Kayla.

Science Saturday is sadder for the loss of Neil Armstrong, but at least it shows that some people are still keeping up the good work.

@4 Right on, brother! Maybe they should call it the Torpedo IPA (InterPlanetary Aircraft) since it is on a rocket?

Neil Armstrong, first man to set foot on the moon, has died today.

Rest in Peace

Frist Sally Ride, now Neil Armstrong. This is an awful year for legendary astronauts.


God speed, Neil Armstrong….

A hero, in every sense of the word.

Thank you, Neil Armstrong.

May you enjoy the mark you made… for all of us.

Someday, perhaps, a starship will be named after Neil Armstrong.

The best thing about Neil was his humble demeaner…no endorsments, no fame seeking millions…just a pure American hero…he will be missed

And a Giant leap for Heaven

@17 And a lake.

NASA’s new “Moon and Beyond” rocket does not have a name. It is simply called “Space Launch System”. I’d like to suggest NASA name it the Armstrong.


I second that. Excellent idea. But how do we get such a suggestion to those who make those sort of decisions? A petition to Congress perhaps….

Armstrong I, Armstrong II, Armstrong III, etc.
Yep. I like the sound of that!

Great Saturday Science report Kayla. And great to have one!

And RIP Neal Armstrong

RIP Neil Armstrong

I remember watching the first Moon landing on television with my Dad at around 4am (UK time) a few months before my fifth birthday. It is the only really clear recollection I have of that time in my life, which goes to show what a huge impact it must have had on me.

Kayla, seeing as how Anthony has disappeared again on one of his long unnanoucned absences, might you be able to jump in and provide a short artcile on remembering Neil Armstrong?


Sad to hear about Neil Armstrong’s passing. He seemed a very humble and private man. I was born a dozen years after the moon landing, but its hard not to feel a deep admiration for this heroic and legendary human being who risked his life to show the rest of us what is possible.

“One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. Indeed. We wait for the next “giant step”.

A sad day, for sure, but his spirit will always live on.


I second that! :-)

Neil was a True!. Great American hero. He will be Sorly Missed. Rest in Peace Sir.

RIP Neil Armstrong

@25. MJ

Kayla, seeing as how Anthony has disappeared again on one of his long unnanoucned absences, might you be able to jump in and provide a short artcile on remembering Neil Armstrong?

Thanks! ”

after the way that you bullied Kayla regarding climate change I would have more respect for her if she told you to F^%$ off


Dude, that was well over a year ago. Bringing that up was totally uncalled for, especially when everyone is mourning the loss of a legend.

@31. Red Dead Ryan
haters gonna hate

#2. “Kayla, seeing as how Anthony has disappeared again on one of his long unnanoucned absences, might you be able to jump in and provide a short artcile on remembering Neil Armstrong?


Wow…nice way to work in yet another dig at Anthony…couched in a seemingly worthy request for a memorial article. Poor form MJ, even for you.

What happened to the recap of the Con????

RIP, Neil Armstrong.
A hero for the whole of humanity.

I met his ‘wingman’ Buzz Aldrin a couple of times, but I always held out some, distant, remotest hope that one day I’d get to meet Armstrong too. Sadly, that’ll never be.

First Ray Bradbury (my favorite author), Dr. Sally Ride and now the first human to set foot on another world… a very sad day indeed. Such a humble man, too; went back to Ohio and became a teacher. Never tried to capitalize on his fame. He was the exact opposite of all the so-called ‘celebrities’ of this age; who do nothing at all of merit and expect to be fawned over for it.

Armstrong was a classy guy. One of a kind. ;-)

And Kayla? The Mars videos (esp. the EDL vid) were inspiring. Thanks for posting them; it lifted my spirits considerably to see that the legacy of reaching into the unknown (be it manned or unmanned probes) continues…

RIP Neil Armstrong.

Would be nice if NASA named a rocket after him, but doubtful- more likely a research center, a library or important/noteworthy object/locaton in Outer Space.

What would be cool

Before opening credits on Star Trek 12 /II / 2013 (whatever they call it)

“For Neil Armstrong”

RIP Neil Armstrong.

I have this tiny recollection of watching the moon landing on TV and wondering why everybody, before the actual event, was saying that this landing and walking on the moon was history. I could not understand how something that had not happened could be history…I was very young at the time. I get it now…:)

Kayla, what happened at the Las Vegas Con that caused everybody to have the blues?

Love the Hoverbike but I think i’d still favour a Range Rover!

I can recall being led downstairs in the middle of the night to watch the first moon landing as a bleary eyed 5 year old. Obviously not really aware of the significance of what I was watching but I figured it must have been important for my parents to get us kids up in the middle of the night. I remember thinking it was kind of like Christmas, such was the feeling of something special happening. I’m very glad my parents did that. Its a great memory to have.
I’m sure they’ll find something worthy of carrying the name Armstrong. Wonder if its too late to get something in the next Trek movie?

RIP Neil Armstrong. American, Human, Hero.

I have a case of the Vegas con blues, too. And I wasn’t even there. I have the blues because I haven’t been able to read any coverage of the Saturday or Sunday events.

My parents woke me up to watch Neil Armstrong step onto the moon. I didn’t understand why at the time, but I’m so grateful now that they did.

I love the ‘Armstrong rocket’ idea, hope NASA can deliver.

And there should be some Trek acknowledgement too, given he was a fan –

RIP Neil….godspeed sir.

I think it’s a good weekend to watch From the Earth to the Moon.

I agree. Remembering Neil Armstrong would be very appropriate for the next ST film.

#36. I agree, a dedication to Neil Armstrong just seems right. Make it so, Bob Orci! :)

What, it Bob Orci our fairy godmother? Rub his belly and make three wishes?

RIP Neil Armstrong
As an avid fan of TOS from the onset, the 1969 landing on the moon had my 9 year old imagination running wild. I really believed at that time we were truely on the brink of something much closer in approaching that “Final Frontier”. Obviously enormous strides have occured in space since that historic landing, but nothing in the magnitude where as a kid I wished I would see in my lifetime. That will have to wait for the future astronauts, our descendants. Neil Armstrong’s achievements have inspired millions, and many of those that he has inspired will continue his legacy in venturing deeper into the far reaches of the cosmos.

If you go back to the original “Under Construction” trailer for Star Trek 2009 you hear the JFK statement: “The eyes of the world now look into space”…, followed up by the comment: “That’s one small step for man…”, “The Eagle has landed”…etc..Personally, I thought that trailer was nothing short of brilliant and left me with high expectations, providing me a rush of something huge was about to happen, which I felt did eventually deliver when the film did arrive.
As an after thought, what if that audio part of the trailer was played on a black screen, echoing in the dark theater followed up by the words appearing in silence on the screen: “In fond memory of Neil Armstrong 1930-2012”. Then have the sound of the transporter occur as the statement disappears & begin the movie. Just a thought. I attempted to grab a YouTube vid of that 1st trailer. Guess we’ll see if it posts.

Thanks for the memories Neil and Godspeed…

It’s too bad that we can’t feel what Armstrong felt as he stepped onto the surface of the moon. It must’ve been quite a rush…

R.I.P. Neil Armstrong!

Happy Birthday to Chris Pine!

RIP Neil Armstrong and William Windom. Mr. Windom, Captain Decker from “Doomsday Machine”, died on August 16th.

Sorry, I meant Commodore Decker from “The Doomsday Machine”. Didn’t mean to demote him. Captain Decker was his characters possible relative in TMP.