MIT Technology Review reports:
The Tunguska impact event is one of the great mysteries of modern history. The basic facts are well known. On 30 June 1908, a vast and powerful explosion engulfed an isolated region of Siberia near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River. […]
That changes today with the extraordinary announcement by Andrei Zlobin from the Russian Academy of Sciences that he has found three rocks from the Tunguska region with the telltale characteristics of meteorites. If he is right, these rocks could finally help solve once and for all what kind of object struck Earth all those years ago.
The catch: Zlobin collected the samples in 1988, and waited 20 years to analyze them, casting some uncertainty on his research.
Phil Plait writes:
I read the paper, and really it’s more of the same as from the first paper. In some ways, it’s even shakier; they provide lots of technical data that gives their work a veneer of credibility, but when you look a bit deeper you find they didn’t do a lot of critically necessary tests to establish the veracity of their claims. All the technical stuff obfuscates the fact that they missed the boat in some very basic ways.
In a nutshell, they don’t establish the samples they examined were actually meteorites. They don’t establish they were from the claimed meteor event over Sri Lanka in December 2012. And perhaps most telling, they don’t eliminate the possibility of contamination; that is, diatoms got into the samples because those rocks were sitting on the Earth where diatoms are everywhere.
There’s more, too, including some unusual methods if you’re trying to establish a paradigm-overthrowing claim: They don’t consult with outside experts (including those in the fields of meteorites and diatoms), they don’t get independent confirmation from an outside lab, and they published in a journal that is, um, somewhat outside the mainstream of science.
This isn’t the first time these guys have made this sort of claim. The new paper is here if you want to have a look.
I just finished a new Psychetect track last night. Hopefully I’ll be able to share it with you before Space Kills Us All:
Space is out to kill you. There is no way to stem its aggression. But it’s usually an incompetent killer, so don’t freak out. […]
All the advanced air defenses that humanity has invested in? The interceptor missile that are (sometimes) able to stop an adversary missile from impacting? The early-warning monitoring systems that are supposed to give humanity enough time to plan a response? They are useless, useless against a meteorite onslaught. Do not believe the stories about the Russians shooting the cosmic rock down. […]
But there’s good news. Space rocks are lousy shots. The Earth is mostly ocean and uninhabited areas. The frequency of meteorite impacts is correlated with size, Weeden explains, and the smaller the meteorites, the more often they land. “But the places where people are is actually pretty small,” he says. Even the injuries that occurred at Chelyabinsk were mostly concussions and accidents from shattered glass, not from the meteorite itself. Close but no cigar, space: “Your odds of dying by a meteor are pretty damn small. You’re thousands of times more likely to die by car on way to work.”
Man, Space must really hate Siberia.
NPR’s Robert Krulwich writes:
What are those things? They were first seen in 1998; they don’t look like anything we have here on Earth. To this day, no one is sure what they are, but we now know this: They come, then they go. Every Martian spring, they appear out of nowhere, showing up — 70 percent of the time — where they were the year before. They pop up suddenly, sometimes overnight. When winter comes, they vanish.
As the sun gets hotter, they get more spidery.
Krulwich explains that we still don’t know what these are, but the leading explanation is that they are geysers kicking up black dust. From the surface of Mars, they might look a little something like this:
Yes, that’s as linkbaity a headline as they come, but it’s actually fairly accurate:
A Buddhist statue brought to Germany from Tibet by a Nazi-backed expedition has been confirmed as having an extraterrestrial origin.
Known as the ‘iron man’, the 24-cm high sculpture may represent the god Vai?rava?a and was likely created from a piece of the Chinga meteorite that was strewn across the border region between Russia and Mongolia between 10,000 and 20,000 years ago, according to Elmar Buchner of the University of Stuttgart, and his colleagues.
The paper is here, behind a paywall.
I’ve written here before about “future fatigue,” a modern condition from which I seem to suffer. Over at TechCrunch I wrote about why I think the space democratization movement cuts through my future fatigue:
What gives me a real “future buzz” are the things that haven’t been science fiction tropes for decades. Like electric cigarettes. The whole idea weirds me out. And if someone had told me in the 2000 that my friends would be smoking electronic cigarettes in 2012, I’d have told them they were full of it. At first I only saw them advertised on torrent trackers and the like, advertised along with penis enlargement pills and services that would connect me with “adult friends.” I thought electronic cigarettes were just a scam. But now I regularly see people I know smoking them.
Electric cigarettes seem like a true novelty. More so than quantum teleportation or iPhones or the Large Hadron Collider, electronic cigarettes make me feel like I’m living in the future.
The thing is electronic cigarettes are actually pretty low tech. According to sources cited by Wikipedia, the first electronic cigarette was invented back in the 60s but never commercialized. I can imagine them showing up in ads in the back of comic books, along side x-ray specs, the 60s equivalent of advertising on torrent sites. It apparently took until 2000 for someone else to take the idea seriously. Realistically the 60s version would probably have been much larger, and I’m not sure the components would have been cheap enough in the 60s to make it economical and you wouldn’t be able to charge it over USB. But we’re just talking about freebasing drugs here, not quantum teleportation.
I wrote about NASA’s PhoneSat project for Wired:
The first version of NASA’s satellite — PhoneSat 1.0 — costs about $3,500 to build. It’s a coffee-cup-sized cube designed to withstand cosmic radiation, containing an HTC Nexus One phone running the Android operating system, an external radio beacon, external bateries, and a circuit that will reboot the phone if it stops transmitting data — all off-the-shelf commercial parts.
It has been tested under various adverse conditions, such as “thermal-vacuum chambers, vibration and shock tables, sub-orbital rocket flights and high-altitude balloons.” The plan is to launch this month with the modest goal of staying alive long enough to send a few photos back to earth.
The next version, PhoneSats 2.0, will use newer Samsung Nexus S phones and include a two way radio system that will enable researchers to control the satellite from earth. Other enhancements include solar panels and magnetorquer coils.
Last April, NASA sponsored a development contest giving programmers the chance to write Android apps that will run on the PhoneSat. Examples of potential applications include star tracking and radiation monitoring apps.
ArduSat is a (funded) Kickstarter project that aims to launch an Arduino based satellite into space that will run experiments designed by people like you. The idea is that, since it will use open source hardware, you’ll be able to design your own research experiments and submit them to the ArduSat team. They’ll test your experiment and, if everything seems legit, upload your experiment to the satellite, collect data and send it back to you to do whatever you’d like.
Here are some possible applications of ArduSat from the Kickstarter page:
SCIENCE: Meteor Hunter - Small meteors that strike the atmosphere every day created trails of ionized gas in the atmosphere in the upper atmosphere. Write an experiment to try and detect meteor impacts, by listening for radio stations beyond the horizon, reflected by the meteor trails!
ENGINEERING: Your Eye in the Sky - Try writing an app that would synchronize the output of a head mounted-gyro to the steering system on the satellite. If you’re feeling really ambitious, try downlinking the attitude vector in real-time to watch the satellite follow your head - you could even tie-in your head-steering to our program that takes pictures! (Talk to Joel if you’re interested in this experiment!)
ENGINEERING: Point-and-shoot - The following settings can be set on the camera: “exposure, gamma, gain, white balance, color matrix, windowing”. Try designing an algorithm that fine-tunes the settings to take even better pictures or more artistic pictures!
ENTERTAINMENT: Geiger Counter Bingo - Write an app that transmits a message with a random number and letter every time a particle hits the satellite with enough energy. Have a ‘bingo from space’ game between HAM radio amateurs.
ENTERTAINMENT: Photography Competition - See who among your friends can snap the coolest/most interesting picture from space. The eye of a hurricane, sunrise over the Indian ocean, even aurora from space – see what marvels you can capture!
Take Pictures from Space
The satellite is not just for scientific purposes; ambitious photographers and artists will be able to steer the satellite cameras take pictures on-demand of the Earth, the Moon, or the stars. Especially from the Artist community we expect to see some spectacular private space pictures so we all can marvel at the beauty of Earth from above.
A coronal mass ejection is headed for earth:
A massive solar flare that erupted from the sun late Tuesday (March 6) is unleashing one of the most powerful solar storms in more than five years, a solar tempest that may potentially interfere with satellites in orbit and power grids when it reaches Earth. […]
"When the shock arrives, the expectation is for heightened geomagnetic storm activity and the potential for heightened solar radiation," Kunches said.
This heightened geomagnetic activity and increase in solar radiation could impact satellites in space and power grids on the ground. Some high-precision GPS users could also be affected, he said.
"There is the potential for induced currents in power grids," Kunches said. "Power grid operators have all been alerted. It could start to cause some unwanted induced currents."
Airplanes that fly over the polar caps could also experience communications issues during this time, and some commercial airliners have already taken precautionary actions, Kunches said. Powerful solar storms can also be hazardous to astronauts in space, and NOAA is working close with NASA’s Johnson Space Center to determine if the six residents of the International Space Station need to take shelter in more protected areas of the orbiting laboratory, he added.
(via Jon Mitchell)
The moon remained a vacant lot in a bad neighborhood - until last month, when TransOrbital Inc. became the first private company granted government permission to explore, photograph and land there. What’s fueling this moon rush is not just a juicy balance sheet, but a pulp fantasy version of the frontier. Rather than belonging to the Earth, lunar soil would belong to whoever staked a claim and had the best business model.
(via Three River Tech Review)