November 2009

Powering Up the Dark Matter Starship

November 30, 2009

I had intended to start the week with a look at Charlie Stross’ ideas on the ‘starship’ metaphor, but I’ll hold the Stross essay until tomorrow because I want to finish up Marcus Chown’s piece in New Scientist. On Friday we talked about the idea of using Hawking radiation from a man-made black hole to […]

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A Universe Optimized for Starships?

November 27, 2009

When you consider that conventional chemical rockets extract a mere 10-8 of the energy locked up in their fuel, the attraction of antimatter becomes undeniable. Could we build an engine that extracts 100 percent of the energy created by matter-antimatter annihilation? Louis Crane (Kansas State University) is dubious, pointing to problems of storage and the […]

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Circumstellar Disk Around a Massive Star

November 25, 2009

The image at the right shows HD200775, a close binary that contains one star ten times the mass of the Sun. The two stars illuminate the surrounding cavity of molecular gas, the closest of which forms the reflection nebula known as NGC7023. The binary is located some 1400 light years from Earth and is the […]

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How Do Brown Dwarfs Form?

November 24, 2009

Now that we are looking forward to the WISE mission (Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer) and its investigations into nearby brown dwarfs, it’s startling to realize that we detected the first of these objects as recently as 1995. Today they’re all the rage, particularly among that small band of us obsessed with missions to nearby interstellar […]

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A New Shape for the Heliosphere

November 23, 2009

One problem with journeys that are beyond today’s technologies is that we forget, in our zeal to get a payload to the target, how little we know about the regions we’ll pass through along the way. It’s amazing how little we know, for example, about the heliosphere around the Solar System, yet any probe pushing […]

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Bringing the Starshade to Reality

November 20, 2009

The goal of detecting a terrestrial class exoplanet has burned bright in the imagination ever since the discovery of the first planets orbiting main sequence stars. In a recent SEED Magazine story, Lee Billings (one of the most graceful science writers now working) harkens back to then NASA administrator Daniel Goldin’s 1996 speech at the […]

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“RuBisCo Stars”: Part II

November 19, 2009

by Joe Davis Yesterday we followed Joe Davis’ adventures in Puerto Rico as he arranged for the transmission of a message to the stars near the 35th anniversary of the famous message to M13, sent from the same site in 1974. Today Davis concludes the story, with a look at how the ‘RuBisCo’ message was […]

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“RuBisCo Stars” and the Riddle of Life

November 18, 2009

by Joe Davis We’ve looked before at the work of MIT biology research affiliate Joe Davis, whose passion is the melding of science and art. Among his many ideas are the creation of an ‘infogene,’ engineering a sign of human intelligence into the genome of bacteria that could be flung into the heavens by the […]

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Notes & Queries 11/17/09

November 17, 2009

Focus on FOCAL I’m just back from a weekend in Texas, meeting with Hal Puthoff and Eric Davis at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Austin and spending a great deal of time with Claudio Maccone, who flew in from Italy and goes on from Texas to a presentation at the SETI Institute. Our subject […]

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Targeting Planetary Migration

November 16, 2009

When the stars are properly aligned, expect remarkable things. How useful, for example, to find that a planet we would like to know much more about — HAT-P-7b, about 1000 light years from Earth — is not only providing intriguing transit information right now, but is also in Kepler’s field of view. We’d like to […]

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