Archive for December, 2013

From the Moon with love

Being the closest celestial body puts the moon in a unique position to help take on the excesses of the population of Earth. A possible colonization of the moon has already been discussed with many nations working out the possibility of setting up a permanent station on the moon. It could be expanded to entail a full colony complete with families and schools some time in the future.

A solution to the problem of feeding the teeming population of the planet, could be to grow more crops out of this world. In fact the moon would be a likely candidate for this operation. The oxygen rich soil on the moon could be irrigated and used under contraptions like the green houses that are currently used on the planet.

Another ambitious project dubbed the Lunar Ring is hoping to generate electricity in the area around the moon and then beam it back to earth for use. The company planning this exercise is ambitious enough to imagine that the Lunar Ring would be able to handle the energy crisis currently facing the planet.

The moon has always featured in science experiments  and science fantasy as being the solution of Earth’s problems, but just how true that is will have to be seen as time goes by.


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Helping Astronauts Stay Healthy

For man to explore outer space it is important for the astronauts to stay healthy. Unfortunately living in outer space is not the most hospitable of experiences and often leads to a number of niggling health related issues. An ongoing science project at the Kansas State University hopes to make it easier for astronauts to monitor their health using bio-sensors.

They are incorporating bio sensors that can help to monitor the state of an astronaut into the spacesuits that they wear. This will bring together the kinesiology department and the apparel, textiles and interior design department in a bid to make the most of bio sensors implanted in the spacesuits.

The science project involves five parts. The first deals with designing bio sensors that can monitor astronauts’ vital data. The second involves making a wireless network that will allow these bi0 sensors to interact with the space station. The third part is working on energy harvesting methods to help provide energy for the bio sensors to function in the spacesuit.

The fourth part deals with actual construction of hardware prototypes for these bio sensors and the energy harvesting electronics. The fifth and last part will involve working on spin off technologies to create new radio technologies and devices which can be adapted and used around the home.


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Scientists and Archaeologists at cross purposes

Roman of lead extracted from the Sierra of Cartagena about two thousand years ago ended up sinking near the coast of Sardinia. These were recently recovered and used to build the ‘Cryogenic Underground Observatory for Rare Events’ (CUORE) in the Gran Sasso National Laboratory in Italy.

CUORE is a detector of neutrinos that are almost weightless subatomic particles. It is a part of ongoing efforts to identify dark matter particles. The lead ingots recovered from another old ship which sank off the French coast in the 18th century has also been bought by the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (CDMS) team in Minnesota.

The lead that is extracted today is contaminated with the isotope Pb-210, which prevents it from being used as shielding for particle detectors, as per a researcher at the University of Cambridge. This leads scientists to use old lead ingots in the research. Unfortunately archaeologists say that it is a destruction of heritage.

Should our cultural heritage be sacrificed to gain greater knowledge of the universe and the origin of humankind? What they are looking for now is recovery  of lead ingots for knowledge in both fields, and not merely for commercial reasons. Perhaps this science project is best left to those who are not so bothered about the destruction of ancient artifacts.

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Did Comet ISON Survive?

Last month there was considerable excitement as Comet ISON approached the sun. It was one of the clearest comet sightings in recent times and was even visible by the naked eyes as it approached the sun and began to disintegrate. As it flew by earth a number of scientists and researchers have used this opportunity to understand the behavior of comets better.

While most comets are unpredictable, Comet ISON stayed true to predictions and did not veer off at a tangent from its calculated orbit. Most observers thought that the trip into the inner solar system would spell the end of this particular comet. However the scientific community is hoping that a small nucleus of the Comet ISON has survived its encounter with the sun.

Photographs of the white smear that moved away from the sun after the disintegration taken by the European Space Agency and NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory have added to this hope. Those who have studied the photographs are confident that the nucleus may have the ability to rebuild the comet as it cools and escapes into the outer solar system again.

Will it succeed? Only time will tell. Analyzing the data that was generated by this close observation of the comet will give rise to ample science projects all over the scientific community.

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Mice in Space Lose Good Eyesight

Being in space is no walk in the park. It has always been considered that astronauts suffer for their exposure to hostile conditions present in outer space and are prone to a number of diseases when they return back to planet earth. Now in a study conducted on mice one more ill effect has been confirmed.

Within two weeks of being in orbit mice researchers at the Houston Methodist, NASA Johnson Space Center, found that mice saw profound changes in eye structure and gene expression. As per pathologist Patricia Chévez-Barrios they found many changes in the expression of genes that help cells cope with oxidative stress in the retina, possibly caused by radiation exposure.

While the researcher said that these changes were partially reversible upon return to Earth, it is undeniable that human eyes would be affected as well. This was also confirmed by a NASA-sponsored Ophthalmology study of seven astronauts showed that all seven had experienced eye problems after spending at least six months in space.

It seems that the Earth’s atmosphere is a much better filter and protector against radiation than the metal hulls and shells of space craft. Ironic, but true and proved now by scientific evidence based on these interesting science projects.

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