August 24, 2016
CONFIRMED! We advised skepticism earlier, but it has now been confirmed that Proxima Centauri, the closest known star to our solar system, does indeed have a rocky "Earthlike" planet.
It get's better...
Although Proxima is considered a moderately active star, its rotation period is about 83 days (ref. 3) and its quiescent activity levels and X-ray luminosity4 are comparable to those of the Sun. Here we report observations that reveal the presence of a small planet with a minimum mass of about 1.3 Earth masses orbiting Proxima with a period of approximately 11.2 days at a semi-major-axis distance of around 0.05 astronomical units. Its equilibrium temperature is within the range where water could be liquid on its surface5.
One of The Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes has thoughts on the matter....
This is still, an insanely long way out. An Orion drive (which involves propelling a ship by exploding atom bombs behind it) could get a crewed expedition there in about 100 years. More advanced nuclear pulse propulsion systems (that, unlike Orion would require considerable advancements to get working) could make a one way trip in around 45 years, as could the proposed laser sail designs.
Ok, that's a littler silly given that one needs to be darned sure of a destination if one embarks on a one way trip.
Obviously an unmanned probe could get there faster still...as little as 15 years for one design using near term technology and a very small probe. Well, that design now has a concrete goal.
And IF there was something very interesting found there...well, assuming a 20 year lead time to build the ship (which would involve the equivalent of constructing 4-10 Nimitz class aircraft carriers in terms of mass) then we could still put a, flag, some footprints and a small town there in the lifetime of the people that set the project in motion.
This is, on the one hand, unspeakably extravagant and optimistic given the challenges our civilization faces regarding its health and even survival in the near term. However, given those difficulties and others peculiar to having all of our eggs in this pale blue basket, such an extravagant project is not quite as insane as it sounds at first blush, given that a successful implementation would mean that our civilization would be multi-stellar at that point and our species's survival far more likely.
In any event, this is an awesome development in astronomy, for other reasons. The fact that the very closest star to our sun just happens to have one of these planets makes the odds of such things far more likely...especially since red dwarf's such as Proxima Centauri are the most common type of star in the galaxy.
The implications for that are nontrivial indeed.
UPDATE: This image, by ESO Calcada is, of course, pure speculation regarding the planet's appearance, but it gives a very good idea of the scale of space. Note that Proxima Centauri is generally considered to be a part of the Alpha Centauri System, Alpha Centauri A and B are both about the same size and brightness of our sun (A liitle larger and a little smaller respectively). Keeping in mind that they are in the same solar system as Proxima, note their distance from their little red companion in this picture.
August 18, 2016
A Mere 4.25 Light Years Away.... One of the Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes brings us up to speed on potentially consequential news from the world of astronomy.
"Take the following with a grain of salt."
There is a report that German and Chilean astronomers have discovered an "Earthlike" world...in the habitable zone....of...Proxima Centauri.
A couple of things about that sentence: "Earthlike" in that context seems to mean a terrestrial planet, which is referring to rocky worlds like Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars...only one of which would be described by laymen as Earthlike. The habitable zone of a red dwarf is very narrow , so this is a very lucky happenstance if their figures are right. Note though, that we have three terrestrial planets in our solar system's habitable zone and only one of them had everything break just right. Finally, the actual paper has not been released yet, The article is based on an anonymous leak to Der Spiegel.
Still, if a random planet has been found around a red dwarf, especially the closest star to our solar system, this is a big deal, if it IS in the habitable zone, it's an even bigger deal.
It should be noted though that even this, closest of stars would take thousands of years to reach with our current fastest spacecraft. Nuclear pulse propulsion and laser sails however, both have the potential to reduce that to less than a century.
"Science Babe" is Mercy from Overwatch as imagined by GGGG
Painting is an imagining of another planet orbiting a red dwarf in a trinary star system Gliese-667c and comes via ESO-Calcada
July 03, 2016
Do Keep In Mind That This Chart is Two Years Old The rest of us....are just old.
I'm as old as C.
May 26, 2016
This Seems...Ill Thought Out
One of the Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes reacts to the latest information on this "tunnel bus" or "straddle bus"currently being tested in China.
OK...I find myself in general agreement with her.
This does not seem wise. I mean it really looks like many, many, accidents waiting to happen. In a broader sense it's a neat idea though, and as a streetcar (on rails) it might work very well indeed.
There's more on this here, though not quite as much as there was before the translation.
April 28, 2016
One of These Words Seems Out of Place Optically. Transparent. Wood.
But wait...there's more.
This actually isn't the first time we've seen wood turned into a transparent material, as nanofibrillated cellulose has been used to create items such as the substrate for wood-based computer chips. According to KTH, however, the new process should be particularly well-suited to large-scale applications and mass production.
...scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison have started producing "wooden" semiconductor chips that could almost entirely biodegrade once left in a landfill. As an added bonus, the chips are also flexible, making them prime candidates for use in flexible electronics
"Also enforces obsolescence when they rot."
See? When words are used incorrectly, there is mischief affoot.
"PIXY!! My computer has termites!"
January 05, 2016
F-Word The F-word of the evening is FUSION.
As in Fusion bomb.
One of which The People's Democratic Republic of North Korea seems to have just detonated successfully.
Note that tonights selection should not in any way preclude one from using any other F-words of one's choice.
Fusion Bombs (ie: Hydrogen bombs) potentially can have vastly more yield than pure fission weapons and, more importantly, can allow much higher yields in small packages suitable for delivery from missiles.
Coincidentally we are sure, the North Koreans just last month completed a successful test of a submarine ballistic missile. This is the third and seems to have fixed the bugs they ran into in their previous test.
BTW, that last link (38 North) is one to watch over the next few days with regard to analysis of tonights nuclear test.
UPDATE: There is some skepticism being expressed in some quarters. The Diplomat is estimating the yield at only 10 kilotons (half a Hiroshima) and Jeffery Lewis and others are suggesting that this is a fusion boosted fission weapon, which is technically a fusion weapon but not a real H-bomb.
Canopus. Exactly like tonight's test except for being in the wrong hemisphere, larger, above ground and French.
December 28, 2015
So. Their Cover Story is...Salt. Two of The Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes bring us news from two different planetoids.
Art by Six
First up, we have what is actually a tad more than week old news from the Main Belt. It seems that scientists going over the data from the Dawn Probe have reached a consensus for their cover story regarding the glowy bits on Ceres. They claim is that it not an alien city nor a steadily charging space laser preparing to wreak havoc upon the Earth, but rather a really big salt lick.
The effect is enhanced by thin clouds of water vapor outgassing in the salty areas that give a refractory effect that one would not normally get on a nigh airless body. It could be that Ceres has cometary properties and is orbiting right on the cusp of its critical distance from the sun.
Farther afield (quite a bit farther actually) another of our proficient and pulchritudinous planetologists brings us these spectacular videos from the New Horizons flyby of Pluto. These were only recently processed due to the combination of a necessarily slow data transmission rate and the vast amounts of information that New Horizons gathered on its brief pass.
November 23, 2015
Well Then. This Would Be a Bad Thing.
"Holy fricking crap!"
One of The Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes reacts to what Volcano Cafe' has chosen as their final and potentially deadliest entry in their "Volcanoes That We Really Should Be Paying More Attention To because We Don't Know Nearly enough About Them But What We Do Know Is Pretty Scary" series.
The whole list is interesting as well as disturbing, but the last on the list is quite the doozy.
Already synonymous with misery for unrelated reasons, the worlds bloodiest porkchop may one day bring suffering and death to many far from its bleak shores.
November 10, 2015
It appears that NASA's New Horizons probe may have photographed volcanoes on Pluto.
Well, they certainly DID photograph two mountains that each have big fumaroleesque holes in their tops. Additionally, they seem to be associated with fairly young terrain so it is quite possible that these are, in fact, multi-mile high volcanoes.
Interestingly, these two mountains don't fit into the general pattern of geek addled naming conventions for the planetoid and it's satellite, being named for aviation pioneers ( it's those Piccards, not the other one).
Of course, while volcanoes are the most likely explanation yet, they could be something else, perhaps access tunnels for the saucers of the Sinister Snake-Women of Pluto.
Err...There's more here.
November 08, 2015
Nukes on a Flatbed Truck
Russia has announced that they intend to begin producing a series of road mobile nuclear power plants. (via)
The project is called Pamir and the mobile plants are supposed to hiot the road sometime in 2020.
Such a short development time might be cause for considerable skepticism save for one important detail not mentioned in the article.
The picture is of a previous project, also called "Pamir" which was a Mobile Nuclear Power Plant being developed in the 1980s. The project was suspended after only two had been produced in the aftermath of the Chernobyl unpleasantness.
The concept seems to have been twofold. The plants would power dispersed mobile radar arrays that would be moved around constantly to add uncertainty to any wild weasel operations and they could be dispersed and hidden by the dozens to provide power for rebuilding after a nuclear war.
"Oh please...He doesn't have any idea what the hell that means."
There is also a PDF concerning the Pamir from the perspective of its dismantling under a nonproliferation program here.
Given that the original design seems to have worked, it may not be a stretch to expect that they could simply spool up production again, though the loss of the original engineering cadre would certainly be a significant hurdle.
To what end they are making this non-trivial expenditure is unclear. A couple of megawats available on 2 flatbeds would certainly be useful in building infrastructure and kick-starting settlements in Siberia, though given current events, the original operational concept may well be closer to the mark.
November 04, 2015
Space Geysers The massive south polar geysers of Enceladus from the night side. Picture taken by Cassini on approach during its historic pass through the plumes last week.
"Because Astro Oceanographic Vulcanology is AWESOME!"
October 31, 2015
A Want Ad: If Fortran is Your Thing, Your Time is Now
One of Dr. Pournelle's correspondent's passed this along.
Voyager needs a programmer
Dear Dr. Pournelle,Perhaps someone in your reading audience would like to take up the challenge. It seems the current engineer for Voyager 1/2 is retiring.http://www.popularmechanics.com/space/a17991/voyager-1-voyager-2-retiring-engineer/So they need someone who is greatly skilled with Fortran and Assembly languages to step in and keep the probe running. This is old-school programming at its finest; there are only 64kb of memory to work with, and this will be real-time programming , I suspect, with hard constraints.I’m a little disappointed. Voyager is the reason I got into computers in the first place, but now after years of writing database and object-oriented programs I don’t have anywhere near the experience required to do this kind of work. I’d be willing to learn .. but I suspect "willing’ isn’t enough. "Willing” doesn’t instantly make you an expert in real time software.Respectfully,Brian
October 28, 2015
One of the Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes reacts to the news that Cassini has survived its plume dive.
Allow us to explain...
Saturn's moon Enceladus is known to have a global, ice-covered ocean. It also has massive geysers in its southern hemisphere that spew the contents of its ocean far above its surface.
Well, in order to find out exactly what is in its ocean NASA has turned to its only probe in the Saturnian system (Cassini). Since Cassin'is only deployable sub-probe was sent down to Titan, and since scientists have learned about all they can by spectroscopy and other remote methods, they've decided to go for broke and fly the probe on a low pass right through the plume.
Pictures and other data should be coming in within 48 hours!
In the meantime here is the closest picture ever taken of Enceladus's northern hemisphere which was taken last week...
October 24, 2015
There's Going To Need To Be A Re-Release One of The Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes points out the obvious application for the blackest substance ever synthesized by humans.
Art by S. Zenith Lee
October 21, 2015
Today in History
We have twitter, but no self lacing shoes, Mr. Fusion or Hoverbo....
October 16, 2015
A Rescue Mission MUST Be Undertaken! For some reason, this story does not have top billing on Drudge, despite its awesome implications.
We should note that one of The Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Stunning Experts pointed us to the story.
Art by Ayaki
UPDATE:The linked story is problematically parsimonious with the pictures. There is a better spread at the Daily Mail of all places and, of course, a bunch of super high-res pictures can be found at the New Horizon's page at NASA.
October 06, 2015
Simple Processes Involving Layyyzeerrzz
The most strongest of The Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Fairies brings us news fro the practical application of coherent light.
Via Brian Wang, we learn that General Atomics (could there BE a more awesome name for a company?) is expected to be offering its line of Avenger drones with 150 kilowatt lasers on them. The Avenger is a stealthy development of the much used Predator (and was formerly called Predator-C)
For comparison purposes, the article helpfully provides video of what the prototype 30 kilowatt laser on the USS Ponce can achieve.
WARNING: Military grade laser...demo may cause ear damage and extreme irritation.
Yes gentle readers, in a little over a year we will have flying robots armed with lasers!
Sarah Connor, raise your son well.
Farther afield, in San Luis Obispo, Scientists are working on a solar laser that can de-spin asteroids for exploration and exploitation as well as alter their orbits so as to deflect space rocks that threaten to impact the Earth.
Note too that if they can get a solar laser working, it is just a matter of scaling it up (a whole hell of a lot) to allow interstellar probes, perhaps even manned ones.
September 28, 2015
Meanwhile, on the Second Closest Planet One of the Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes was supposed to be reporting on NASA's news conference today, but instead seems to be focused on organizing an excursion to the beach...
"We're going to need sunblock, some really big mirrors, high yield, low fission fraction H-bombs, a few tons of CFCs, some ham biscuits, lichen, iced tea, blue green algae and a towel."
I'm not sure wh...
"Our quest on Mars has been to ‘follow the water,’ in our search for life in the universe, and now we have convincing science that validates what we’ve long suspected,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "This is a significant development, as it appears to confirm that water -- albeit briny -- is flowing today on the surface of Mars.”
Percival Lowell, he died 99 years too soon.
("Science Babe" is actually Sakura War's Diana Caprice as drawn by Ao Ume)
September 24, 2015
This is Worrisome It's not just that these incredibly simple, basic questions were answered correctly by only 6% of the nation...but that one question is not even about science (indeed its opposite).
September 20, 2015
Oh My Stars And Garters YES!
Also this...which is just as awesome but lacks the derp.
103kb generated in CPU 0.08, elapsed 0.1948 seconds.
79 queries taking 0.129 seconds, 302 records returned.
Powered by Minx 1.1.6c-pink.
79 queries taking 0.129 seconds, 302 records returned.
Powered by Minx 1.1.6c-pink.