Thursday, December 18, 2014

SETI Talk - Dr. Alexander...

Dr. Claudia Alexander - Geophysics, NASA Project Scientist, APS
Here we have a talk by Claudia Alexander who will explain the science background of some of the mysteries of comets including pros and cons about why we think comets might have brought Earth’s water, concepts regarding missing nitrogen in the outer solar system, and material the comet is made of. Finally Dr Alexander will set the stage for the landing and walk through the 60 hours of time spent on the comet’s surface. The initial findings are summarized as well.

Source: Physics Database

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Mars, Molecules and Methane...

Curiosity's "Space Selfie," Wikipedia. Video: The Telegraph
Reuters - NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has found carbon-containing compounds in samples drilled out of an ancient rock, the first definitive detection of organics on the surface of Earth’s neighbor planet, scientists said on Tuesday.

The rover also found spurts of methane gas in the atmosphere, a chemical that on Earth is strongly tied to life. Additional studies, which may be beyond the rover’s capabilities, are needed to determine if the organic compounds and/or the methane gas were produced by past or present life on Mars or if they stem from geochemical processes.

“We have had a major discovery. We have found organics on Mars,” Curiosity lead scientist John Grotzinger, with the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., said during a webcast press conference at a science meeting in San Francisco.

“The probability of any of these things being sources (from life) ... we just have to respect that it is a possibility,” he added.

Reuters Science:
NASA rover finds organic molecules, methane gas on Mars, Irene Klotz

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Dark Matter Signal...

This ellipse shows a region of sky where a galaxy made of dark matter is thought to exist.

Astronomers may finally have detected a signal of dark matter, the mysterious and elusive stuff thought to make up most of the material universe.

While poring over data collected by the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton spacecraft, a team of researchers spotted an odd spike in X-ray emissions coming from two different celestial objects — the Andromeda galaxy and the Perseus galaxy cluster.

The signal corresponds to no known particle or atom and thus may have been produced by dark matter, researchers said. Cosmic Mystery Solved? Possible Dark Matter Signal Spotted, Mike Wall
Eureka Alert: Researchers detect possible signal from dark matter

Monday, December 15, 2014


Source: Link below

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — NASA will weigh several factors when it makes a Dec. 16 decision on a plan for its Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), including how well each option supports later human missions to Mars, according to the agency official who will make that decision.

In an interview here Dec. 1, NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot said he will use a “matrix” of variables when deciding between two options for carrying out the robotic portion of ARM.

In one approach, called simply Option A by NASA, a robotic spacecraft would shift the orbit of a small near-Earth asteroid, up to ten meters in diameter, into an orbit around the Moon. The alternative, Option B, would use a robotic spacecraft to grab a boulder a few meters across from a larger asteroid and move that into lunar orbit.

“One of the main things I’m looking for is the extensibility to a martian mission,” Lightfoot said. Hardware proposed for ARM under each option should also be applicable for missions to the moons of Mars or even the martian surface itself, he said. “I want to build as little ‘one-offs’ as we can.”

Another factor will be potential commercial partnership opportunities for the mission. That would include, Lightfoot said, “commercial entities coming in to either help us do this or even take advantage of it once we’ve done it.” Other major factors he said he will consider are the technical and budgetary risks of each option.
NASA To Weigh Several Factors in Decision on Asteroid Mission Option, Jeff Foust

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Bauer Mythos...

Image source: Forbes

“The United States participated actively and effectively in the negotiation of the Convention. It marks a significant step in the development during this century of international measures against torture and other inhuman treatment or punishment. Ratification of the Convention by the United States will clearly express United States opposition to torture, an abhorrent practice unfortunately still prevalent in the world today. The core provisions of the Convention establish a regime for international cooperation in the criminal prosecution of torturers relying on so-called ‘universal jurisdiction.’ Each State Party is required either to prosecute torturers who are found in its territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution.”

- Ronald Reagan, President of the United States, 1984
Address to the Nation upon signing the UN Convention on Torture

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Boys' Club...

Source: Radio Nessebar
Shanley Kane is the founder and editor of the most interesting and original of new publications that cover technology: Model View Culture, a quarterly journal and media site that offers readers a remorseless feminist critique of Silicon Valley. The critical distance expressed by the publication’s articles, essays, and interviews, where the Valley’s most cherished beliefs and practices are derided and deconstructed, was honestly won: Kane worked for five years in operations, technical marketing, and developer relations at a number of infrastructure companies in the San Francisco Bay Area. Often frustrated by the unexamined assumptions of her industry and irritated by the incompetence of her managers, she began blogging about technology culture and management dysfunction at startups, which led to Model View Culture (the name is a play on a technology, familiar to software developers, used to create user interfaces), founded a year ago. She maintains a lively and often profane Twitter persona, where she caustically dismisses the arguments of the kinds of men who tried her patience when she worked for them, and generously amplifies the ideas of writers and thinkers she admires, mostly women and minorities. She spoke to MIT Technology Review’s editor-in-chief, Jason Pontin.

(Disclosure: MIT Technology Review subscribes to Model View Culture, as it subscribes to many other publications, and Jason Pontin once made a small contribution to support an issue of the journal.)

“We are not getting hired, and we are not getting promoted, and we are being systematically driven out of the industry.”

“In the upper levels of tech, you are generally dealing with white men who have been coddled their entire lives, and they have rarely encountered even mild criticism.”

MIT Technology Review: A Feminist Critique of Silicon Valley, Jason Pontin

Tomorrow: The Bauer Mythos

Friday, December 12, 2014

Einstein's Dead Sea Scrolls...

Source: Link below
On the sexist treatment of Madame Curie (fellow Nobel Laureate):

The treatment to which Einstein referred included the fact that the French Academy of Sciences denied her application for a seat, possibly because of rumors that she was Jewish — or because she was having an affair with a married man, the physicist Paul Langevin.

“I am convinced that you consistently despise this rabble,” Einstein wrote, “whether it obsequiously lavishes respect on you or whether it attempts to satiate its lust for sensationalism!”

“Anyone who does not number among these reptiles,” he said of her critics, “is certainly happy, now as before, that we have such personages among us as you, and Langevin too, real people with whom one feels privileged to be in contact.”

Einstein concluded that “[i]f the rabble continues to occupy itself with you, then simply don’t read that hogwash, but rather leave it to the reptiles for whom it has been fabricated.”

On the discrimination against African Americans:

“Even among these there are prejudices of which I as a Jew am clearly conscious,” he continued, “but they are unimportant in comparison with the attitude of the ‘Whites’ toward their fellow-citizens of darker complexion, particularly toward Negroes. The more I feel an American, the more this situation pains me. I can escape the feeling of complicity in it only by speaking out.”

Einstein then addressed the complaints of those who have had “unfavorable experiences…living side by side with Negroes” which have led them to believe “[t]hey are not our equals in intelligence, sense of responsibility, reliability.”

“I am firmly convinced that whoever believes this suffers from a fatal misconception,” he wrote. “Your ancestors dragged these black people from their homes by force; and in the white man’s quest for wealth and an easy life they have been ruthlessly suppressed and exploited, degraded into slavery. The modern prejudice against Negroes is the result of the desire to maintain this unworthy condition.”

“The ancient Greeks also had slaves,” he wrote. “They were not Negroes but white men who had been taken captive in war. There could be no talk of racial differences. And yet Aristotle, one of the great Greek philosophers, declared slaves inferior beings who were justly subdued and deprived of their liberty. It is clear that he was enmeshed in a traditional prejudice from which, despite his extraordinary intellect, he could not free himself.”

The "Dead Sea Scrolls of Physics" online: Princeton Einstein Papers
#P4TC: Einstein