Archive for September, 2013

What is Panspermia?

There are many theories on how life evolved on Earth and one such theory in the running is called Panspermia. The hypothesis in this case is that life actually began on the planet when meteoroids brought tiny life forms such as bacteria and yeasts with them from another planet or source.

When the Solar Sytem was young the planets and moons were regularly hit by a number of meteorites. Planetary Scientists support this theory with proof of meteorites that have fallen to Earth from Mars. It is not too much of a stretch in the imagination which can lead us to believe that the basic live cells also hitched a ride on similar meteorites.

The detractors of the theory ask if it would have been possible for even the toughest form of life to survive not just inter space travel to Earth but also the impact that the meteorite would have on arrival? While the Earth’s atmosphere might have been rarer then than it is now, it would have still heated up the rocks falling from the sky.

So now we must consider, without much scientific evidence to support the theory, that life on another planet may not really be alien but actually related to us at a molecular level. More science projects would needed to prove or disprove this theory.


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Self Healing Polymers

When you saw the Terminator heal itself you thought it was cool. Now scientists are coming up with a new science project where this piece of science fiction may actually become fact. Although currently at a very small scale at the Centre for Electrochemical Technologies in Spain.

Ibon Odriozola and his research group have come up with self-healing silicone elastomers using silver nanoparticles as cross-linkers in the past. Unfortunately these needed an external pressure to be applied and the silver was too expensive to be economically viable. Now they have overcome these problems by using common polymeric starting materials.

They managed to show that permanently cross-linked poly(urea-urethane) elastomeric network was able to heal itself within two hours once it was cut by a razor blade.  It goes without saying that this ability will have widespread industrial applications once made available commercially.

The researchers are now going to conduct further scientific research in stronger materials which would be tougher than the softer composite formed by the current self healing polymer. Needless to say that the results of this science experiment will be closely monitored by industry specialists. Who knows it just might be possible to actually come up with an entire robotic machine with such self healing properties as demonstrated by the Terminator some day.


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What is the Heliopause?

As the first man made object crosses out into interstellar space there has been a lot of noise made by scientists and researchers the world over about its crossing the heliopause. The heliopause is the boundary between the heliosphere and interstellar space. Now we need to define the heliosphere and interstellar space.

The heliosphere happens to be the solar bubble, which is inflated by plasma that streams outward from our sun, Sol. This tends to extend far beyond the farther most planets of the solar system. For the last few years the Voyager I has been traveling through this and it was finally cleared in mid September 2013.

As the word suggests interstellar space is essentially the space between the stars. One team member of the Voyager I mission said that traveling to interstellar space is at present like traveling to a new location with an incomplete guide book. While there are many theories about what scientists expect to find in interstellar space, there is as yet little known about it.

As the Voyager I travels onwards away from the sun, it will provide the scientists back home with invaluable data on interstellar space. So when the next science project launches a space craft to travel out of the solar system, we will know a whole lot more than we do today.



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Voyager has left the Solar System – NASA

When 36 years ago Voyager 1 was launched for a four year mission to study Saturn in 1977, the technology it carried was laughable by today’s standards. It had an 8 track tape recorder, a very basic model of an i-phone and computers with extremely low memory capacities.  However this little outdated space shuttle has out performed its creator’s wildest fantasies by become the first man made object to formally leave the Solar System.

After considerable debate to decide what actually were the boundaries of the Solar System the Voyager Mission team leaders finally claimed that the space craft had crossed into the abyss of interstellar space in mid September 2013. There had been no hope that the small craft would make it so far and everything it has achieved after crossing Saturn is taken as a huge bonus by the scientists.

Incidentally 1977 was also the year that “Star Wars” was released. One can just hear the title track say, “in a galaxy far far away,”as the Voyager rolls out into space. Making science fiction fact is what NASA and the space exploration program is all about. And this new feat is sure to engage another generation of eager new scientists ready to prove their mettle with new science projects in the era of space exploration.


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LADEE is Launched

LADEE which is short for the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer and is pronounced “laddie” has been launched successfully from Wallops Flight Facility on the Virginia shore. The latest NASA lunar project hopes to study the mysteries in moon dust and the atmosphere of the moon.

The lunar mission hopes to shed light on the moon’s rare atmosphere which remains as much as a mystery today as it was when man first landed on it so many decades ago. Richard Elphic, project scientist for LADEE at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California said that it is also packed with a number of new technological wonders being tried out for the first time.

These include a new laser communications system which promised to cut down on communication time with the space craft and also allow more data to be passed to earth. LADEE is the first to be launched off a Minotaur V Rocket. This is a launch vessel that also has a Peacekeeper intercontinental ballistic missile borrowed from the U.S. Air Force attached to it.

The space craft was also built in a uniquely different manner as compared to its predecessors. Its different module designs can be used if tested successfully in future space missions. All in all NASA must be pleased with the successful launch of its latest science project.

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