Friday, August 3, 2012

Chocolate, Elephants and Curiosity

It's silly, but Curiosity always makes me think of Robert Heinlein's book The Rolling Stones. Heinlein was one of my first influences to get interested in science, to watch science fiction become science fact. The Rolling Stones was out of print for my youth though, so I didn't get a chance to read it until after he passed. If you haven't read it, you don't know about flat cats.

Martian Flatcats are quite possibly where the idea of Tribbles came from. They purr, they multiply like crazy.

Curiosity will not kill the flatcat, but the joke is still in the back of my mind. I love the name, and I'm so looking forward to seeing the data it sends back!

Elephants Don't Purr

Check out this article at the Discover magazine site about the research being done into elephant vocalizations. It's interesting!

Mayan Chocolate

Recent findings show evidence that chocolate was used in pre-Hispanic South America/Mexico as a possibly condiment. My daughter, the other occasional author of this blog, has used chocolate quite successfully in her chilis. They help create a more complex flavor. I wonder what else it could be used in as part of a savory main dish?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Mother Very Easily Makes creamy vanilla Java Shortcake Using No precious eggs

Vesta dwarf planet
A photo of Vesta, courtesy of NASA

Remember that mnemonic?
Mother Very Easily Makes Jam Sandwiches Using No Peanut butter
Mercury Venus Earth Mars Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune Pluto

Except when Eris was found to be bigger than Pluto, then that implied Eris must be a planet too. The International Astronomical Union conferred and re-classified Pluto as a dwarf planet, and upgraded Eris and Ceres from asteroids to dwarf planets.

A lot of people are still pretty upset about Pluto being downgraded. I'm thrilled though, because it's proving that our solar system is bigger than we imagined and we are still discovering so much about it. You can't say "Pluto is a planet" without saying that everything that's close to the same size with gravitational pull and in the Sun's orbit is also a planet.

So I suggest a new mnemonic for now-
 Mother Very Easily Makes creamy vanilla Java Shortcake Using No precious eggs
Mercury Venus Earth Mars Ceres Vesta Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune Pluto Eris
The planets are capitalized and the dwarf planets aren't.

Check out NASA's page for the Dawn spacecraft mission to the asteroid belt. Next up, it's going to be visiting Ceres!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Majorana particles, penguins from space and jokes about auroras

In environmental news, satellite imaging was used to count emperor penguins (Scientific American). Since Antarctica is so very inhospitable to people, this method of an idea of the numbers of penguins gives us a better idea of when they are threatened.

Auroras spotted on Uranus (National Geographic) is a topic that just begs for off-color jokes, but it's also a neat look at our own solar system, which unfortunately we still don't know enough about.

In particle physics, an Italian scientist 75 years ago predicted a particle that could be it's own anti-particle. The name of the scientist, and the hypothetical fermion named after him is Majorana. Instead of using massive equipment like at Cern, scientists have been coming up with small devices to try and track this elusive particle. One such device shows evidence (BBC).

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Diamonds are a quantum computer's best friend

Quantum level computing built in a diamond at USC. Link is to the USC News site.

Scientists at USC have build a quantum computer inside a man-made diamond. It uses the flaws as part of the design, and it's the first computer that is built with protection against "decoherence".

It's also very promising toward the goal of solid state, rather than liquid or gas state quantum computing.

What does this mean for personal computing? Nothing for a while, but the times keep speeding up between discovery and application. In the future, it means faster computers, smaller computers and tinier chips that can be used in everyday world applications as well as in science and medicine.

It's a wonderful time to be alive. The science fiction of my youth is the tech we hold in our hands today. The stupidest smart phone is smarter than the Cray computer. Paper is saved because people have tablets and e-readers. Tiny cameras can be swallowed to see things that were only visible by cutting someone open in the past and technology just keeps improving.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Smart Sand

here is something awesome, although i think the only use it would be to me would probably be to fix a decapitated barbie, those pesky things.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Aurora Borealis Over Seattle

Aurora Borealis Over Vancouver and Seattle at Night
Image courtesy of Earth Sciences and Image Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center

In a speech, Dr. Tyson said that NASA inspires children to study science like nothing else does. It's true. The stars, the other planets, the moon, are all incredibly inspiring. They have inspired myth, movies, stories. They have inspired science.

NASA's image archives are public domain, you can browse through them for education or just to look and wonder, and download larger versions of the photos. NASA Gateway to photos of Earth

The photo above shows the Aurora Borealis from space, over Vancouver and Seattle.

Living in Alaska, I'm lucky enough to be able to see the Northern Lights fairly regularly, and they take my breath away looking up at them. I'm very grateful for the scientists and astronauts that give us the opportunity to see them from orbit.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Tiny Chameleons

Photo from PLoS ONE

Tiny leaf chameleon lizards were found in Northern Madagascar. You can read about them here.

I'm still finding a voice for this blog. My daughter,  who will also be writing in this one considers it a science blog, a place to put very cool science things. I think science and philosophy.

It's very exciting that there is still so much to discover in this beautiful world of ours, and that evolution continues to improve and create species.