There have been great hopes that a carbon nanotube cable could be used to create a space elevator, providing easy access to orbit. According to recent research, however, that may not be possible for the foreseeable future. Even atomic-level defects in the nanotube will greatly reduce its strength, and current mass manufacturing techniques are quite error-prone.
Archive for the 'Space' Category
ISS Commander Chris Hadfield was asked by high school students to demonstrate what happens when you wring out a washcloth in zero gravity. The result is pretty cool and is all about surface tension!
Earth is doomed, and there’s nothing we can do about it. The Andromeda galaxy is about to smash into the Milky Way. (It’s currently heading towards us at 250,000 mph, and that speed will increase as it gets closer.) Earth will be torn from its galactic orbit and flung elsewhere. Fortunately this will happen in about 4 billion years, so I for one will be quite happy to see it in person.
Thanks to Josh for this link.
[NOTE: I usually ignore this type of stuff, labeling it as pseudo-science, but the source is reliable.]
According to the linked article, faster than light travel is not only theoretically possible but is something that we might be able to implement. This would change everything. The method, known as an Alcubierre drive, hinges on the fact that we can’t reach the speed of light while moving through spacetime, but spacetime itself does not have that restriction (for instance, the universe has expanded much more quickly than lightspeed). There are still major technical challenges, however, as the energy requirement is very high—the energy in a mass the size of the Voyager 1 probe is, I believe, much more than any nuclear bomb every created.
Thanks to O.Roy for this link.
On Wednesday, a SpaceX cargo rocket successfully delivered its cargo to the International Space Station (ISS). While it wasn’t without problems, all I can say is, “It’s about time—now do it again!” Note that this isn’t actually the first SpaceX launch to the ISS, but the previous one was a test to verify that the rocket would actually work as designed.
[EDIT: Yes, this is a duplicate article. My bad.]
While it hasn’t actually happened yet, plans are underfoot to capture a near-Earth asteroid and mine it for precious metals. Asteroid mining was a staple of ’50s science fiction, and now we have people putting up money to make it happen. Should it prove feasible, it will also give us more resources and stave off the catastrophes predicted by limited-resource doomsayers.
This gold ring includes a band made from a meteorite, with embedded gems representing the nine planets (yeah, yeah, I know). Way cool! And it can be yours for only $4200.
Tomorrow, May 20th, we will have an annular solar eclipse. An annular eclipse is one where the moon isn’t quite big enough to block out the entire sun, so the maximum eclipse has a ring of sun showing around the moon. The tail end of the eclipse will be visible in the Southwestern United States at around 7:30pm Mountain Time. Unfortunately for those of us in Colorado, it appears that we’re going to just miss it. The maximum eclipse is at 5:53pm MDT, when the eclipse shadow will be somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. The linked article has pictures showing where and when the eclipse will be visible—the times are in UTC, which is 6 hours ahead of Mountain Daylight Time.
Thanks to Josh for this topic.
Update: The path shown in the linked article is where the ring eclipse will be visible. A partial eclipse can be seen from a much larger area. So if you know how to safely view an eclipse, you should be able to see the partial eclipse from much of the Western United States.
Update #2: Josh writes: “I was doing some online research and apparently http://events.slooh.com/ is doing some sort of broadcast of the eclipse from various locations along the line of annularity (via Huffington Post)”.
Mining asteroids has long been a staple of science fiction. Now an effort is underway to make it a reality, by a company named Planetary Resources. Admittedly, the mining will take some years to actually occur, and the first asteroid will be smaller than 50 meters. And the asteroid won’t actually be from the asteroid field that’s between Mars and Jupiter. But still…. What I find interesting is that this is another example of technology solving our sustainability problems—asteroid mining has the potential to bolster the limited resources we have here on the planet Earth.
Forget those expensive space tourism trips to the International Space Station! A Russian company named Orbital Technologies is planning to have a space hotel in orbit by 2016. A five-night stay will cost $1 million.
Have you ever wondered why a piece of toast always seems to fall with the buttered side down? Turns out it’s not an accident. Likewise, researchers have determined that amino acids, basic building blocks of life on Earth, have a high probability of forming based solely on the laws of thermodynamics. Thus if we ever do make contact with aliens, they may share some of the basic building blocks of our biology. (And they’ll be humanoid in shape… NOT!)