Monday, April 30, 2007

NASA denies snubbing Russia's Moon offer

Have you heard about this? You know, I can just imagine bonehead upper management at NASA doing this.... this is so typical of the bureaucracy that is rampant at NASA! (pac)

NASA denies that it has received any proposal from Russia to conduct joint Moon activities, despite media reports to the contrary. Still, some experts say the US agency is pursuing an increasingly isolationist stance and could be left behind as other nations forge new partnerships to explore space.

On Sunday, the Interfax news agency reported that Anatoly Perminov, head of the Russian space agency Roskosmos, said that Russia had proposed pooling resources to explore the Moon. "We were ready to cooperate, but for unknown reasons, the United States have said they will undertake this programme themselves," he said.

But NASA spokesperson Michael Braukus, speaking from the agency's headquarters in Washington, DC, said that NASA has not received such an offer from Russia. "Nothing was offered and nothing was declined," he told New Scientist. "We have not received a Moon cooperation offer from Roskomos."

Submitted by Shaun A. Saunders

NASA starts competition for better space suit glove

Six teams are getting ready to compete in the first ever Astronaut Glove Challenge, one of NASA's Centennial Challenges. The goal of the $250,000 competition, which will be held on 2 and 3 May, is to spur innovation to design more flexible spacesuit gloves. Gloves are possibly the most important part of the spacesuit from an astronaut's perspective. In addition to cranking levers and handling power drills, astronauts use their hands – rather than their feet – as their primary mode of "walking" around the International Space Station. Current gloves use two inner layers – a rubbery balloon-like layer surrounded by cloth to help keep the glove's shape – and an outer shield that protects against micrometeoroids and orbital debris and insulates the hands against the extreme temperatures of space. The gloves are pressurised, making it difficult for the astronauts to move their fingers. The labour-intensive spacewalks often leave astronauts' hands bruised and pinched and their fingernails bent backwards. So NASA has gone outside the usual big aerospace companies. Up for grabs is $250,000 in prize money. Each competitor's glove will be graded on how it withstands pressure, how flexible it is and most of all, how comfortable the glove is while doing work. The team with the glove that scores highest in the three tests and also beats the existing spacesuit glove will take home the $200,000 prize.

submitted by Shaun A. Saunders

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Could black holes be portals to other universes?

The objects scientists think are black holes could instead be wormholes leading to other universes, a new study says. If so, it would help resolve a quantum conundrum known as the black hole information paradox. A black hole is an object with such a powerful gravitational field that nothing, not even light, can escape it if it strays within a boundary known as the event horizon. But physicists in France, and in Germany now say that these objects could be structures called wormholes instead. Wormholes are warps in the fabric of space-time that connect one place to another. If you imagine the universe as a two-dimensional sheet, you can picture a wormhole as a "throat" connecting our sheet to another one. Physicists studying what such a wormhole might look like, and were surprised to discover that it would mimic a black hole so well that it would be virtually impossible to tell the difference. Matter would swirl around a wormhole in the same way as for a black hole, since both objects distort the space around them in the same way.

submitted by Shaun A. Saunders

Summer Sci-fi Channel offerings

For those of you out there that are not interested in wrestling on the Sci-fi channel and - horrors- prefer science fiction! Oh come now... embrace your scienceficioness.... rejoice in your need for science fiction on the sci-fi channel! Better? Good.

Now, from the folks at SWf...ummmm SF Signals reports that the Sci-Fi channel have announced the U.S. start dates for series starting or retuning this summer. Here is what we can expect!!!

Flash Gordon premieres Aug. 10.

Destination Truth debuts June 6 at 10 p.m. ET/PT.

The as-yet-untitled Derren Brown Project premieres July 25 at 10 p.m. The series stars British mentalist Derren Brown. (OMG, they aren't going to do this crap again are they? Well, maybe it IS a step up from wrestling.... and they canceled SG-1.....for what....mental wrestling....just shoot me now please)

Among returning series, Ghost Hunters comes back June 6 at 9 p.m., Doctor Who July 6 at 9 p.m., Eureka on July 10 and Who Wants to Be a Superhero? July 25 at 9 p.m. (somebody please hide Stan's crack pipe? Pleaaaase? Another season of people in bad fitting spandex not taking their meds?!!!! ... OK...maybe it off-sets wrestling....but I swear....I can't be the only one who wants to open a vein when I hear these shows coming back)

Friday, April 27, 2007

Stephen Hawking goes Zero G

Wow, Courtney scooped me on this one! Thanks for the tip!

Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking on Thursday fulfilled a dream of floating weightless in zero-gravity. A modified jet carrying Hawking, a handful of his physicians and nurses, and dozens of others flew up to 32,000 feet and made a parabolic dive back to 24,000 feet, allowing Hawking and the other passengers to experience weightlessness for about 25 seconds. Hawking, a mathematics professor at the University of Cambridge who has done groundbreaking work on black holes and the origins of the universe, has the paralyzing disease ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. "As you can imagine, I'm very excited," Hawking told reporters before the flight. "I have been wheelchair bound for almost four decades. The chance to float free in zero-g will be wonderful." The 65-year-old was the first person with a disability to experience the flight by Zero Gravity Corp. "I want to demonstrate to the public that anybody can participate in this type of weightless experience," Hawking said Thursday.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Robot Chicken to do Star Wars

Now unless you live in a cave, you knew that Cartoon Network's Adult Swim juvenile delinquent child Robot Chicken did a parody of the latest Starwars outing. Seth Greene and crew really pounded on the bad boys of the Star Wars universe - having Darth Vader making a hysterical call to his boss the Emperor and the Emperor doing a very corporate character assignation. Oh the episode was funny beyond all reason and I was left thinking that George is going to take these jokers to court sooooooo bad. Well it aint working out that way. It seems Lucas Films wants the parody on their own site! Whats more, Lucas Films is going to let the maniacs at Robot Chicken do a "feature" length Robot Chicken Star Wars....staring believe it or not George himself and Mark H. as Luke! Seth Green and Matthew Senreich are actually working with LucasFilm Ltd. to create the 30-minute parody of the Star Wars series. Senreich says it's a dream come true and "How many people can say that George Lucas let them play with his entire Star Wars universe and do Robot Chicken-like things to it?"

Sci-Fi channel shows....loosing ground

According to MICHAEL HINMAN over at SF Portal

The second week showing for some of the Sci-fi channel's pillars of Friday night have not faired as well as hoped.

"Stargate SG-1" and "Stargate: Atlantis" both lost a good chunk of their audiences for their second episode outings last Friday, with SG-1 losing as much as 30 percent of its mid-season premiere audience from just the week before. This according to GateWorld.

Atlantis dropped 15 percent to a 1.2 rating.

Painkiller Jane finishing behind both Stargate series, losing 26 percent of its own audience to earn a 0.95 rating.

Stargate SG-1 airs Fridays at 8 p.m. ET on SciFi Channel with "Atlantis" and "Painkiller Jane" finishing right behind.

Rudy Rucker's science fiction webzine Flurb #3 is out

Beam Me Up readings on Hugo awards page

Ok, so I am ringing my own bell here a bit....but it is a bit of a feather in the cap if you would. It seems that the Beam Me Up podcast site is not the only place where you can find my dulcet tones waifing in your direction.... It would seem that some astute person has linked some of the Hugo award nominated stories available online, to the ones that I am reading. Well not all, but I just noticed that Paul Melko's story, The walls of the Universe has headphones beside them I clicked and cool, I was on Beam Me Up at podomatic! Thats fun.

Ok, so what am I really pushing here? All tongue in cheek humor aside, this years Hugo Award site is the most loaded up site yet. Virtually all the stories that are up for awards (novels on down to short stories) are available for you to read! Oh yes chillins, its a feast! Click the article title and go check it out for ya sell! Is this great or what!!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Scientists find most Earth-like planet yet

European astronomers have spotted what they say is the most Earth-like planet yet outside our solar system, with balmy temperatures that could support water and, potentially, life. They have not directly seen the planet, orbiting a red dwarf star called Gliese 581. But measurements of the star suggest that a planet not much larger than the Earth is pulling on it. It appears to have a mass five times that of Earth's. The researchers suggest that its radius should be only 1.5 times the Earth's radius, and models predict that the planet should be either rocky, like our Earth, or covered with oceans. Most of the 200 or so planets that have been spotted outside this solar system have been gas giants like Jupiter. But this one is small, with a radius that should be only 1.5 times the Earth's.

NASA puts on 3-D glasses to view sun

NASA released the first three-dimensional images of the sun, saying the photos taken from twin spacecraft may lead to better predictions of solar eruptions that can affect communications and power lines on Earth. The images from the STEREO spacecraft (for Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory) are available on the Internet. (Put your 3-D glasses on and take a look) The twin spacecraft, launched in October, are orbiting the sun, one slightly ahead of the Earth and one behind. The separation, just like the distance between our two eyes, provides the depth perception that allows the 3-D images to be obtained. That depth perception is also particularly helpful for studying a type of solar eruption called a coronal mass ejection. Along with overloading power lines and disrupting satellite communications, the eruptions can endanger astronauts on spacewalks. The eruptions -- also called solar flares -- typically blow a billion tons of the sun's atmosphere into space at a speed of 1 million miles per hour. Besides power and communications problems, the phenomenon is responsible for the northern lights, or aurora borealis, the luminous display of lights seen in the upper latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere.

submitted by Shaun A. Saunders

Monday, April 23, 2007

MISSILE GAP by Charles Stross — Online For Free , in their blog just printed this!

we (along with the estimable author, Charlie Stross), have decided to make the full text of the just nominated for a Locus award novella, Missile Gap, available online for Free over at Subterranean Online. Enjoy! Thanks also to the kind folks who voted in the Locus poll, making Subterranean a finalist as Best Publisher.

This is really a cool thing that Subterraneanpress has decided to do, I know I am certainly going over to take a look, and from what I see, there is plenty to keep even the most jaded reader happy for some time! Take a look.

Summer 2007 Sci-Fi Movie Slate

From the SF Signal blog: This summer's "sci-fi" offerings with U.S. release dates

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Black Holes Produce Enormous Gas Cloud

A giant cloud of superheated gas 6 million light years wide might have been formed by several super-massive black holes. The plasma cloud, might also be the source of mysterious cosmic rays that permeate our universe. The plasma cloud is located about 300 million light years away, and is spread across a vast region of space thought to contain several galaxies with supermassive black holes, or active galactic nuclei (AGN), embedded at their centers. The cloud might be evidence that AGNs convert and transfer their enormous gravitational energy, by a yet-unknown process, into magnetic fields and cosmic rays that spread across the universe. The new finding could also help explain the unwanted and confusing “noise” scientists observe in the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB). The CMB is a ubiquitous radiation in the universe that is said to be a remnant of the Big Bang.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Jiggling Asteroid

Shaun Saunders, just sent me a very interesting article concerning the asteroid Itokawa. It seems that the diminutive asteroid (only 1,600 feet ,500 meters, in diameter.) jiggles like jar of mixed nuts! This "jiggling" action, is sorting loose rock particles on its surface by size, causing the smallest grains to sink into depressions. Images, taken by the Japanese Hayabusa spacecraft in 2005, revealed that some areas were coated with fine particles and appeared smooth, while others regions looked bumpy, The regolith (a mix of boulders and gravel), distribution suggests Itokawa has been shaken up in the past, but what might have rattled it is still an open question. One hypothesis is that smaller asteroids occasionally strike Itokawa and shake the space rock up. Because of its diminutive size, even tiny impacts could send Itokawa into a tremor. Another idea is that Itokawa might occasionally fly close enough to the Earth, where our planet’s gravity could jostle it.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Space shield to block radiation

British scientists are planning to see whether a Star Trek-style deflector shield could be built to protect astronauts from radiation. They argue that magnetic shields could be deployed around spacecraft and on the surfaces of planets to deflect harmful energetic particles. Scientists hope to mimic the magnetic field which protects the Earth. There are a variety of risks facing future space explorers, not least of which is the cancer-causing radiation from cosmic rays and solar flares that astronauts will encounter when they venture beyond the Earth's protective magnetic envelope, or magnetosphere. To create the deflector shield around a spacecraft or on the surface of a planet or moon, scientists need to generate a magnetic field and then fill it with ionised gas called plasma. The plasma would held in place by a stable magnetic field (without the magnetic field, the plasma would simply drift away). This shield could be deployed around a spacecraft or around astronauts on the surface of a planetary body such as the Moon. As energetic particles interact with the plasma, energy is sapped away from them and they slow down.

submitted by Shaun A. Saunders

Meet the Robinsons - a review...of sorts...

I don't often run movie review from other blogs. Mostly because movies and reviews are really so subjective. But I got to reading Matthew Pook's (over at RevolutionSF) review of Disney's first all computer generated sf story, and was very entertained. Matt doesn't gut the movie as so many are in the habit of doing these days. He might not have enjoyed himself but he gives a good showing of his opinion. So much so that I am going to suggest that you click on this article's title and zoom over and take a read.

here is a couple of lines from the review, to get you started...

f the first notable thing about a film is the fact that it has seven screenwriters, you know that you are in trouble and are not going to enjoy the next ninety minutes.

If you're going to watch a computer-animated film and it's not made by Pixar, then you know that you are in trouble and are not going to enjoy the next ninety minutes.

If you're going to watch a Disney film and it's not made by Pixar, then you know that you are in trouble and are not going to enjoy the next ninety minutes.

and more like that! lol... yes, very much worth the read.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Ancient impact may have bowled the Moon over

An enormous impact basin located near the lunar south pole may have caused the Moon to roll over early in its history. The biggest, deepest impact crater in the solar system lies near the Moon's south pole. It is 2500 kilometres wide and 12 kilometres deep and is thought to have been created about 4 billion years ago. It is believed that the impact probably occurred near the Moon's equator. That is because the equator lies in the plane of most other objects in the solar system. The giant hole destabilised the Moon, so that within 100,000 to 1 million years of forming, the basin – a region of low mass – had rolled over to the south pole.

Submitted by Shaun A. Saunders

Unusual "Red Square" nebula discovered

From Cory Doctorow's Boing Boing Blog

This is an image of the newly-discovered Red Square nebula, detailed in last week's issue of the journal Science. A nebula is an interstellar cloud of gas, plasma, and dust. At the heart of the Red Square nebula is a dying star identified as MWC 922. This infrared image was taken at Palomar and Keck Observatories (Credit: Peter Tuthill). Apparently, the Red Square is one of the most symmetrical objects ever spotted by astronomers. The Red Square’s extreme symmetry suggests the star’s surroundings are extremely still and not buffeted by external stellar winds or other turbulence... The new findings suggest the system’s perfect form results from an even outflow of gas.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Chimps 'more evolved' than humans

Humans, it seems, have been taken down a notch or rung on the evolutionary ladder!
Chimpanzees are the more highly evolved species, according to new research. Evolutionary geneticists at the University of Michigan compared DNA sequences for 13,888 genes shared by human, chimp and rhesus macaques. The research team found that 233 chimp genes, compared with only 154 human ones, have been changed by selection since chimps and humans split from their common ancestor about 6 million years ago.

Click here for more info

submitted by Shaun A. Saunders

Monday, April 16, 2007

Of Mice and ... print version doing well on antipodean Science Fiction

As our listeners know, Shaun A. Saunder has written many excellent short stories and novels. Plus contributing heavily to the science portion of the podcast with submission to this blog. In Beam Me Up episode 46 we ran an original piece of fiction from Shaun called Of Mice and...which is a story of the future and more the implications of combining the human genome withanimal DNA. If you would like to read the original story (and more of Shaun's writing) log onto this month's Antipodean Magazine. This month's Antipodean's url is

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Plants on alien worlds, it isn't easy being green

The greenery on other planets may not be green. Astrobiologists say plants on Earth-sized planets orbiting stars somewhat brighter than the Sun may look yellow or orange, while those on planets orbiting stars much fainter than the Sun might look black. Vegetation colour matters to astrobiologists because they want to know what to look for as a sign of life on planets outside the solar system. Terrestrial photosynthesis depends mostly on red light, the most abundant wavelength reaching the Earth's surface, and blue light, the most energetic. Plants also absorb green light, but not as strongly, so leaves look green to the eye. Extraterrestrial plants will look different because they have evolved their own pigments based on the colours of light reaching their surfaces.

submitted by Shaun A. Saunders

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut, Counterculture’s Novelist, Dies

Kurt Vonnegut author of “Slaughterhouse-Five,” “Cat’s Cradle” and “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater died last night in Manhattan. He was 84. His death was reported by his wife, the author and photographer Jill Krementz, who said he had been hospitalized after suffering irreversible brain injuries as a result of a fall several weeks ago. His novels — 14 in all — were alternate universes, filled with topsy-turvy images and populated by races of his own creation, like the Tralfamadorians and the Mercurian Harmoniums. He invented phenomena like chrono-synclastic infundibula (places in the universe where all truths fit neatly together) as well as religions, like the Church of God the Utterly Indifferent and Bokononism.

Finns Form Fabrication Technique For Human Spare Parts

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Tampere University of Technology and Nanofoot Finland Oy have developed a direct-write three-dimensional forming method of biomaterials. The methodology enables fabrication of nano and micrometer scale structures that can be used as parts of tissue engineering scaffolds. High accuracy biomaterial structures need to be used as tissue engineering scaffolds or cell culture platforms where the fine features have to follow the dimensions of the cultured cells.

Future Space Telescopes Could Detect Earth Twin

For the first time ever, NASA researchers have successfully demonstrated in the laboratory that a space telescope rigged with special masks and mirrors could snap a photo of an Earth-like planet orbiting a nearby star. The technique uses a system called the High Contrast Imaging Testbed at JPL. A roll-subtraction technique, borrowed from space astronomy, was used to distinguish planets from background light. The device is basicly a fairly simple coronagraph - an instrument used to "mask" a star's glare - paired with an adjustable mirror. The two, used together, could enable a space telescope to image a distant planet 10 billion times fainter than its central star. To date, scientists have used various techniques to detect more than 200 exoplanets. Most of these exoplanets are from five to 4,000 times more massive than Earth, and are either too hot, too cold or too much of a giant gas ball to be considered likely habitats for life. So far, no one has managed to capture an image of an exoplanetary system that resembles our own solar system.

Submitted by Shaun A. Saunders

Assistive robot adapts to people, new places

Remember "The Jetsons," a robotic maid named Rosie? Well a robot this sophisticated is still decades away, but, researchers are working on a very early version of such intelligent, robotic helpers, who grasp objects and place them on shelves or counters. Such robotic helpers could help elderly or wheelchair-bound people with simple household tasks like putting away dishes. Other potential applications include agriculture, space travel and assisting workers on an assembly line. Robots that can work in a 3-d environment are considered the next logical step of earlier robots which was designed to interact with humans, and and other types, which could learn to manipulate unknown objects. These more advanced research areas incorporates elements of both of those types robots. The real potential of robots in the future is going to be realized when they can do many types of manual tasks. There are now plenty of robots doing manual work on factory assembly lines, but those machines follow a script and can't learn to adapt to new situations, which is the aim of present robotic research.

submitted by Shaun Saunders

First sign of water found on an Alien World

Water has been detected in the atmosphere of an alien world for the first time, a new analysis of Hubble Space Telescope data suggests. The planet, called HD 209458b, is about 70% as massive as Jupiter and is scorched by the heat of its parent star, which it orbits 9 times as close as Mercury does to the Sun. Because of its orbit, astronomers have been able to glean a lot of information – such as its size and mass – about the distant world. n February, researchers using the infrared-sensitive Spitzer Space Telescope announced that there was no sign of water vapour in its atmosphere, now, Hubble observations seem to have revealed the missing water. Astronomers at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, US, did a computer analysis of previously obtained Hubble data taken when the planet partially eclipsed its parent star. Hubble observed light from the host star that had filtered through the outer reaches of the planet's atmosphere. The relatively small amount of light filtering through at about 0.9 microns suggests the presence of water, which absorbs light at this wavelength. But despite the presence of water, scientists point out that the planet's prevailing temperatures of about 1000° Celsius mean conditions would not be favourable to life.

submitted by Shaun A. Saunders

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Who Owns the Moon?

Making a mint out of the Moon - Dennis Hope says he owns the moon and he will sell you some!

From his office in Nevada, entrepreneur Dennis Hope has spawned a multi-million-dollar property business selling plots of lunar real estate at $20 (£10) an acre. Mr Hope exploited a loophole in the 1967 UN Outer Space Treaty and he has been claiming ownership of the Earth's Moon - and seven planets and their moons - for more than 20 years. Hope says he has so far sold more than 400 million acres (1.6 million sq km). These are "truly unowned lands", he says. "We're doing exactly what our forefathers did when they came to the New World from the European continent." Buyers include Hollywood stars, large corporations - including the Hilton and Marriot hotel chains - and even former US presidents Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter. George W Bush is also said to be a stake holder.

This of course is all in good humor....however it's no mystery that China and Russia are making major pushes to gain a manned foothold on Earth's neighbor. Also one of the biggest is US space contractor Lockheed Martin, which is currently developing technologies that will enable future lunar residents to exploit the lunar surface. In particular, it is working on a process which will convert Moon dust into oxygen and water. It may even be able to turn it into rocket fuel. However one of the biggest paydays might come from what is just laying around on the Moon. Data collected from the Apollo Moon landings have indicated that large deposits of an extremely rare gas called helium 3 are trapped in the lunar soil. Scientists believe that this helium 3 could be used to create a new source of almost inexhaustible, clean, pollution-free energy on Earth. A metric ton of helium 3 would supply about one-sixth of the energy needs today of the British Isles. Plans are already afoot in the US and Russia to strip-mine lunar helium 3 and transport it the 240,000 miles (385,000km) back to Earth. To get an idea of how valuable H3 is, if gold were mined on the moon (there is ample evidence that the mineral is in plentiful supply there) it would be too expensive to transport it to Earth, however Helium Three is worth several billion dollars a ton!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Revolution, flashmobs, and brain chips. A grim vision of the future

Information chips implanted in the brain. Electromagnetic pulse weapons. The middle classes becoming revolutionary, taking on the role of Marx's proletariat. The population of countries in the Middle East increasing by 132%, while Europe's drops as fertility falls. "Flashmobs" - groups rapidly mobilised by criminal gangs or terrorists groups.This is the world in 30 years' time envisaged by a Ministry of Defence team responsible for painting a picture of the "future strategic context" likely to face Britain's armed forces.

This article covers many facets of research that is at present going on. Click article title, for complete story

submitted by Shaun A. Saunders

Monday, April 09, 2007

Scientists getting closer to creating invisibility


Related Entries:

darien_fawkes.jpgScience fiction may soon see another of its concepts defect to the realm of science now that engineers at Perdue University have an invisibility device in the works. Still just a concept at this point, the plan would be to surround an object with a specially designed cone with metal needles sticking out of it. The needles would change the refractive properties of the cone in such a way that light would bend around it and make any stuff inside disappear.

One problem: the design can only bend one wavelength at a time. That's still useful, though, since it could possibly shield soldiers from night-vision goggles, which see in only one wavelength of light (infrared). It could also protect objects from "laser designators," used by soldiers to highlight targets for laser-guided weapons.

Ed Regis on the future of spaceports

Young Scientists Design Open-Source Program at NASA

From "Wired"

NASA scientists plan to announce a new open-source project this month called CosmosCode -- it's aimed at recruiting volunteers to write code for live space missions. The program was launched quietly last year under NASA's CoLab entrepreneur outreach program, created by scientists from the NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. Members of the CosmosCode group have been meeting in Second Life and will open the program to the public in the coming weeks, organizers said. CosmosCode is indicative of a larger shift at NASA toward openness and transparency -- things for which complex and bureaucratic government labs are not known. The software project is part of CoLab, an effort to invite the public to help NASA scientists with various engineering problems. NASA is also digging into its files from previous missions and releasing code that until now remained behind closed doors. Together, these projects are creating a sort of SourceForge for space. NASA has already released more than 20 open-source software titles, including World Wind, a 3-D virtual globe similar to Google Earth, and Vision Workbench, a framework for computer vision applications. Organizers of CosmosCode will create a wish list of software, which could include applications such as mission-design and flight software.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Billionaire blasts off for space station

While Martha Stewart watched on.....

A Russian rocket carrying Charles Simonyi and two cosmonauts soaring into orbit on a two-day journey to the international space station.

the American billionaire who helped develop Microsoft Word roared into the night skies over Kazakhstan on Saturday. The Soyuz TMA-10 capsule lifted off at 11:31 p.m. local time (1:31 p.m. ET) and it is scheduled to rendezvous with the station Monday. Simonyi, a 58-year-old native of Hungary, paid $25 million for the 13-day trip, the fifth such paying “space tourist,” or “spaceflight participant,” as officials prefer to call them.

Submitted by Shaun A. Saunders

Friday, April 06, 2007

Barred spiral galaxy shown by Hubble

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has delivered an unrivalled snapshot of the nearby barred spiral galaxy NGC 1672. This remarkable image provides a high definition view of the galaxy's large bar, its fields of star-forming clouds and dark bands of interstellar dust.

Submitted by Shaun Saunders

Dust Storms May be Causing Global Warming

Scientists have been studying dust storms now for decades. They have determined that these storms has contributed greatly to global warming and the drastic shrinking of the planet's polar ice caps. But are we talking about Earth? No, Mars!

Computer simulations similar to those used to predict weather here on Earth show that the bright, windblown dust and sand particles affects Mars’ albedo—the amount of sunlight reflected from the planet’s surface. The research, detailed in the April 5 issue of the journal Nature, suggests these albedo variations play an important role in the climate of Mars. It could also potentially explain how global dust storms are triggered on the red planet.

Shaun Saunders sent this in saying that this ties in well with other articles posted here earlier on similar subject matter.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Swiss scientists developing telepathic helmet

The days of keeping your thoughts to yourself may be numbered, as scientists in Switzerland have begun developing a machine that can actually read minds. Adapting the same thought-reading technology that allows paralysis victims to type with their brains, the Swiss managed to go a few steps further, creating a helmet that's, uh, totally mental.

The Telepathic Helmet picks up the thoughts of the wearer, sending them to a computer, which writes them out on the monitor. Although the technology isn't perfect — using it while hungry leads to stray thoughts about food getting jumbled in, apparently — it represents a big leap forward in mind-reading tech. Also in the works is getting the helmet to create pictures from thoughts, though the experiments so far can only discern whether the person is thinking about a big bright blur or a big dark blur.

Mallcity Shaun?

Poll: The greatest sci-fi film of all time (isn’t Star Wars)

From the Trivia Geek Blog!!!

Star Wars is no longer the most popular science fiction film ever made, at least according to a recent poll conducted by British science fiction magazine SFX. Serenity. A mildly successful, mid-budget sci-fi Western based on a TV show that was cancelled after a dozen or so episodes in 2002 is now the preferred SF flick of Brit fandom? However it should be noted that SFX's poll only had about 3,000 respondents, and they put some rather suspicious candidates into the Top Ten finalists. (Back to the Future? Seriously?) Below is SFX's final top ten, in order.
  • Serenity
  • Star Wars
  • Blade Runner
  • Planet of the Apes
  • The Matrix
  • Alien
  • Forbidden Planet
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • The Terminator
  • Back to the Future
Now if your so inclined - you can go to Geekend's blog and they have the exact same list up with selectors, so you can cast your vote for best SF movie....

I would be interested also in what readers have to say. I made my selection and was gratified to see it place higher up than SFX's poll....(NO!! it wasn't Star Wars! But I did like the first one! I loved Lea's tight buns!)

Human Computer Interaction in Science Fiction Movies

Thanks to Cory Doctorow's boing boing for this story link

Michael Schmitz's paper, is a visual, thematic tour through the ways that people talk to computers (and vice-versa) in movies and TV shows, from Metropolis to Futurama. Mr. Schmitz prefaces his article with a description of his own - Science Fiction movies have been a source for speculation about the future of technology and human computer interaction. This paper presents a survey of different kinds of interaction designs in movies during the past decades and relates the techniques of the films to existing technologies and prototypes where possible.

(I have read through this once already and its every bit as fascinating as the talk given by the Saltwater Film Society that was broadcast by BMU last December)

Robotic Fleas Spring into Action

A robotic flea has been developed that is capable of jumping nearly 30 times its height, rubber band power. These tiny rubber band powered micro-robots could serve as ultra-small sensors. Swarms of such robots could eventually be used to create networks of distributed sensors for detecting chemicals or for military-surveillance purposes. Early tests show that the solar-powered autonomous "flea-bots" can store enough energy to make a 7-millimeter robot jump 200 millimeters high. This flea-like ballistic jumping would enable these sensors to be mobile, overcoming distances and obstacles that would normally be a major problem for micrometer-sized bots.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Who will get to the Moon next

In light of some of the more resent posts concerning the exploration of the Moon and possible permanent posts there - Shaun Saunders asked me in email this question. (below) I thought I would bring this conversation to the blog and see what other comments we could garner. Please post your comments in that section. Please feel free!
Shaun Wrote:
mmmm do you think the Chinese will beat the US to the moon? (i.e., to walk on it next?)

My Response:
they could...but will they? no....we could put another man on the moon in 5 years given enough drive. The tech is there just the hardware needs to be built....The Chinese? right now it looks like there are doing a lot of Internet spaceflight. You can't go by their present position in space though. They are not 40 years behind. The technology they need is close, but not close enough. Could they put a man on the moon inside 15 years? I don't see that as likely. The technology may be close but their experience in the shear scope is still quite rudimentary. But then the Russians did could the Chinese anything is possible.

Shaun Responds:
"But Paul, what the Chinese might lack in outright technology they make up for in beautful hand drawings and paintings of their space program..."

Paul responds:
rotf! oh my yes that is so true! It is so well done as well! Well...this went to hell quick! LOL!


Shaun as you know is our science guy (and a damn good speculative fiction writer) and often posits question that really make you think. I would like to open more of our email conversations up to public discussion. We often have quite spirited debates between just the two of us. Please join in!

Engineers unveil China moon rover

Chinese scientists have shown off a prototype Moon rover that could lead to the country's first unmanned mission to the lunar surface in 2012. The 1.5m (5ft) high, 200kg (440lbs) rover should transmit video in real time, dig into and analyse soil, and produce 3D images of the lunar surface. Though noticably similar in design to the NASA Mars rovers, the Chinese Moon rover may have a few radically different components. Unlike the solar-rechargeable lithium-ion batteries used by the US space agency's (Nasa) Mars rovers, the Chinese model will eventually run on a radioisotope thermoelectric generator. Such devices convert heat from a radioactive source into electricity.

Submitted by Shaun A. Saunders

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Possible New Mars Caves Targets in Search for Life

Mars Odyssey's Thermal Emission Imaging System recently spotted seven dark spots near the planet's equator that scientists think could be entrances to underground caves. The football-field sized holes, potential caves, were spotted near a massive Martian volcano, Arisa Mons. Their openings range from about 330 to 820 feet (100 to 250 meters) wide, and one of them, Dena, is thought to extend nearly 430 feet (130 meters) beneath the planet's surface. Caves on Mars could become habitats for future explorers or could be the only structures that preserve evidence of past or present microbial life.

Submitted by Shaun Saunders

Fastest Rotating Object in Our Solar System Is One of Strangest

On 1994 July 16-22, over twenty fragments of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 collided with the planet Jupiter. Before that time, even though there was ample evidence, direct observation of an impact between object in our Solar System had no solid proofs. Now it's commonly accepted that comets have and will continue to fall on their heavenly neighbors. Collisions between even more massive object was accepted as statistically unlikely and had not been observed in astronomical history. That was until a big rock called 2003 EL61, which is almost the size of Pluto, was discovered. In the Kuiper Belt where most object are made up of ice, resides El61, an extremely large rocky body. Not only is this huge rocky object there, it is the only object in our solar system shaped like an American football and tumbling long end-over-end every four hours, making it one of the fastest spinning object in our Solar System. Planetary astronomer Michael Brown, Ph.D., at Cal Tech, says he has discovered icy satellites in the EL61 region that have surface properties nearly identical to those of 2003 EL61. These satellites suggest a gigantic impact long ago. Brown thinks that EL61 was once covered in ice and as large as Pluto. Some time ago EL61 was struck a glancing blow at extremely high speed, by another rocky body, maybe as much as 60% of EL61's mass. This type of collision would have blown off the outer ice mantle and sped up the rotation. The spin itself would have pulled it out into the shape like the football. It is just such a collision with a Mars sized planet that might have been responsible for splitting of a major piece of crust and forming Earth's satellite - the Moon

Submitted by Shaun Saunders