Archive for November, 2014

Earth’s Invisible “Force Field”

About 7,200 miles above Earth there lies an invisible shield that protects the Earth from killer electrons that have posed a serious threat to astronauts and their equipment in space. The researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder have found that this shield is rather like the fictional Force Field that  protected the Star Ship Enterprise in Star Trek.

Essentially it is something between the two previously knownVan Allen radiation belts around the earth which stops these electrons from wreaking havoc on Earth. Professor Daniel Baker who headed the study said that it’s almost like theses electrons are running into a glass wall in space.

The team originally thought the highly charged electrons, which are looping around Earth at more than 100,000 miles per second, would slowly drift downward into the upper atmosphere and gradually be wiped out by interactions with air molecules. But the impenetrable barrier seen by the twin Van Allen belt spacecraft stops the electrons before they get that far, said Baker.

So perhaps it is indeed true that the Earth is protected in more ways than we can begin to imagine. As the team continues its scientific study we should learn more about this invisible shield that protects us.

Leave a Comment

Mars One Colonization Plan

Mechanical Engineer Bas Lansdorp has started Mars One, a company that will send humans to the red planet in a bid to colonize it. The critics are not quite sure that the vague plan that Mars One has for setting up an establishment are really going to help in any way till technology catches up with what needs to be accomplished.

The four stage plan currently includes launching communication satellites which will allow the colonists to keep in touch with Earth. This includes one in a stationary orbit around Mars and another in orbit around the Sun. This part can actually be accomplished with ease. The second stage is to deliver a rover to scout for the best property to set up the colony on. Considering the success of Curiosity has been traveling just five miles in the last one year, this is going to take a long time with current tech rovers.

The third stage is to set up the habitation pod. This includes sending cargo  and a second rover that will be able to pull the cargo into the location selected for the colony. Not only is it extremely difficult for cargo missions to deliver their loads in close proximity, the kind of power that the transportation rover will need is not yet available.

The final stage of this science project is to bring in the human beings who will physically inhabit the colony. This is of course the most improbable stage as of now. It will be entertaining to see just how well this group of armchair enthusiasts deals with getting out into space.

Leave a Comment

One Way Trip To Mars!

Bas Lansdorp is a Dutch entrepreneur who is convincing people to take a one-way trip to Mars! What’s more thousands of people from around the world have actually agreed to go. Would you leave Earth to go live on a self sustaining colony in space knowing that no matter what you did you could never ever return home?

While NASA with the blessing of President Obama decided that they would consider landing man on Mars by mid 2030, but only if they could be brought back home safely, the project got delayed due to budget cuts. That is when Bas Lansdorp decided that if governments were too picky it was time for private enterprise to take over the colonization of Mars.

Since April 2013 Lansdorp’s team at Mars One has been screening the resumes of people who want to be a part of the trip from countries across the globe. The first phase of this exercise ended in December 2013 when they narrowed down the hopefuls to 1058 people. It may seem quixotic to you and me, but these people are all set to blast off and never look back.

So far the science project is no where near ready to launch people off the Mars but it makes for interesting news and does seem entertaining to the more Earth bound people. Will it ever succeed? Only time and Bas Lansdorp can tell.

Leave a Comment

Pipe-Bot : I Seek Leaks

In March 2014 what began as a negligible leak in a gas pipeline managed to escalate to a full blown explosion that created eight fatalities in an apartment building in New York City. A leak in a water pipe may not pose a great hazard, but as this explosion that leveled two whole apartments showed, a gas leak is nothing to ignore.

Kamal Youcef- Toumi is a mechanical engineer at MIT who may have the perfect solution to tracing gas leaks before they cause a tragedy. His team has been working on a science experiment to produce an autonomous robot who will be able to do what no sensor in the world is able to do today, patrol the pipes from within.

The Pipe-Bot as it has been nicknamed is a two liter pet bottle sized prototype which floats through the interior of the pipe looking for pressure differences that may indicate a leak. This data is then sent over with GPS coordinates to a technician who can check the section of the pipe physically and make necessary repairs.

This system when implemented commercially will be far more effective in detecting leaks than the existing acoustic sensors that are currently in use to detect leaks from above the ground.

Leave a Comment