March 2007

New Optics Paint Orion’s ‘Bullets’

March 22, 2007

When you can work with a deformable mirror that compensates for atmospheric distortions, wondrous things can emerge. The Gemini Observatory (Mauna Kea, HI) used such a system coupled with a laser guide star as reference to produce an image of fast-moving ‘bullets’ of gas and the wakes they leave as they move through molecular hydrogen […]

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Institute for Advanced Concepts Scrapped

March 20, 2007

I’ve been waiting for something official re the reported closing of NASA’s Institute for Advanced Concepts, but now that New Scientist is confirming the story that Keith Cowing at NASAWatch broke earlier this morning, I think it’s time to comment on this grim development. NASA will save $4 million in its annual budget by closing […]

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Quantum Weirdness and Communications

March 20, 2007

‘Spooky action at a distance’ is still spooky no matter how you explain it. Einstein famously used the phrase to describe quantum entanglement, where two entangled particles appear to interact instantaneously even though separated in space. Now we’re talking about using the effect for communications, following the news that European scientists have proven that entanglement […]

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Another Small Step Toward Fusion?

March 19, 2007

We’re a long way from achieving practical fusion to supply our power needs, much less fusion rockets to the stars. Just how far can be gauged by a look at current research. The principle seems straightforward: Heat hot, ionized gas to the point of ignition and you can fuse hydrogen into helium. But can you […]

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A Practical Use for Antimatter

March 17, 2007

If we need a huge particle accelerator to produce antimatter and use it only for exotic experiments, how are we ever going to ramp up production to the point where it becomes practical as a propulsion system? One answer may be that as we study the minute amounts of antimatter available for study today, we […]

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Mulling Robots and Their Names

March 17, 2007

Lee Gutkind takes a look at the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon in Almost Human: Making Robots Think (W.W. Norton, 2007), a book entertainingly reviewed in this weekend’s Los Angeles Times. Out of which this wonderful clip from reviewer M.G. Lord: I wish Gutkind had spent more time on an area that I find fascinating: […]

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Making the Case for Space

March 16, 2007

When you think about it, so much of science involves putting our instruments into the right place at the right time. The transit of Venus across the Sun in 1769 was an opportunity to use triangulation from opposite sides of the Earth to calculate the distance to the Sun more accurately. That effort took James […]

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Light Off an Alien Ocean

March 15, 2007

If you want to put the hunt for planets around other stars in perspective, consider this. For almost all of our species’ time on this planet, we have looked at the planets in our own Solar System as unresolved points of light that seemed to move upon a celestial sphere. The brief time that we […]

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Planets, Comets & Footballs

March 14, 2007

I remember talking to the exuberant astrophysics professor Sheridan Simon about a football-shaped planet he had created one Super Bowl eve. This was at a science fiction convention and it must have been fifteen years ago. Simon frequented such venues because he had built a cottage industry around creating planets for various science fictional settings. […]

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The Seas of Titan

March 13, 2007

If the dark features Cassini has found near Titan’s north pole really are filled with liquid, they’re seas more than lakes, one of them larger than any of the Great Lakes in North America. The image below says it all, comparing the largest of these features with Lake Superior. This work is being done through […]

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