Archive for June, 2010

Bigelow’s Space Station

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Prototypes of Bigelow Aerospace’s Sundancer habitat via Bigelow Aerospace

In 2014, Bigelow Aerospace, a private space development company in Las Vegas founded by Robert Bigelow, is set to launch a space station that will be leased to governments, companies and perhaps space tourists. Its activities in space are planned to dwarf those of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and other governmental space agencies.

Central to this future space station is the Sundancer, an expandable space habitat being developed by Bigelow Aerospace. Fabricated mainly of multiple layers of a Kevlar-type material, Sundancer is launched unmanned, designed to be packed inside a small payload area. It then expands into its full volume once in orbit.

A full-sized model of this future space station sits on the warehouse of Bigelow Aerospace factory, prototypes of the inflatable Sundancer arranged into what will become the solar system’s first private space station. Paying customers — primarily nations that do not have the money or expertise to build a space program from scratch — would arrive a year later. The future space station consists of two of these Sundancers and one larger habitat that is linked via a node similar to the International Space Station Unity module.

Mr. Bigelow has spent about $180 million of his own money so far and has said he is willing to spend up to $320 million more. The plan is that in 2014, Sundancers begin their voyage to create a space station. One year later (2015), the first paying customers—mainly nations that do not have the money or expertise to build a space program from scratch, will arrive. And in 2016, a second, larger station would follow. The two Bigelow stations would then be home to 36 people at a time — six times as many as currently live on the International Space Station.

A stay on a Bigelow station, including transportation, is currently priced at just under $25 million a person for 30 days. That is less than half the more than $50 million a seat that NASA is paying for rides alone on Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station. Doubling the stay to 60 days adds just $3.75 million more.

Bigelow currently has two fully inflated test modules in orbit already, and if plans go to schedule, the company will be buying 15 to 20 rocket launchings in 2017 and in each year after, providing ample business for the private companies that will be part of the so-called commercial crew initiative, where governments (including NASA) and other enterprises buy rides for astronauts into orbit.  Boeing is currently developing a new capsule that will  act like a ‘space taxi’, transporting the crew to and from Sundancer.

Sundancer is the third prototype for Bigelow Aerospace following the successful launches of Genesis 1 in July 2006 and Genesis II in June 2007.

via Bigelow Aerospace and New York Times

Known for not granting many interviews, space entrepreneur Robert Bigelow first discussed in 2002 his vision of what we will experience when we habitat space with the Sputnik Observatory:

Just the fact of moving ourselves out into space someday, eventually humans will bump into an extraterrestrial sooner or later. That’s going to become an event, for sure. And that will be a significant consciousness-changing event. Wouldn’t it be interesting? Imagine what you could share. But again you get into that, as you remove yourself from a city into a rural environment, you see how people behave differently, usually. Things are usually a little bit more calm down on the ranch. So there is probably going to be a different kind of behavior and different kind of culture that would emanate from a colony on Mars. Even if there were 10 or 20 or 30-thousand people, or on some huge orbiting space station facility of some sort. There would be significant differences between those folks and those folks back on home, back on terraform, Earth. And especially if they were allowed to be there for a few generations, and you look back and they were there for like 50 years on that colony on Mars, were growing and were around for 50 years, and somebody who was born and raised there finally made a trip to planet Earth. You could imagine that would be quite an interesting experience. For both sides. Suppose the Earthlings had never seen that colony, nobody from that colony had ever visited Earth – and you had this large number of people, that were thriving, thousands, and nobody had visited Earth for some reason, just in theory. You would probably have, it would not be just like meeting somebody from a different country, it would be a very interesting exchange. So I imagine as you expand that on out, those differences are going to grow, even if the physiology doesn’t change, but physically I think there would be some significant physical changes because of the gravitational influences.

The Power of Sound Podcast

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Photo via flickr by alexkess

The Power of Sound explores our changing soundscape, questions if we are building a society out of tune, suggests the power of vibrational healing and how sound is a bionuturient, and how everything in our vibrational universe is musical.

Featuring: artist Robert Adrian X, sonic architect Bill Buchen, composer and sound artist  Bruce Odland, composer and naturopathic doctor John Beaulieu, Mind/Body Medicine and Energy Medicine expert Dr. Wendy Hurwitz and theoretical physicist Brian Greene. (Brian Greene recorded at Sputnik manTransforms event 2001)

Listen here: The Power of Sound

The Power of Sound is a Mindtrends radio production of the Sputnik Observatory (2006).

Seafloor Lakes

Saturday, June 19th, 2010

Photo via National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Deep below the sea exists underwater lakes and rivers that boast their own mini ecosystems.

Seafloor lakes are actually brine pools. Brine is water with extremely high concentrations of salt, so high that the mixture is heavier than water and lies underneath the normal sea salted water.

Brine pools are formed by salt tectonics but in the Mexican Gulf, specifically, during the Jurassic period, the seas were shallow and soon dried out to form a think layer of salt up to 8km thick. As water returned to the area, it filled again with normal sea water and the super-saline layer that had been covered with sediment, and preserved to became an underwater lake.

During an expedition in the Gulf of Mexico in 2007, Natural Marine Sanctuaries captured images of a brine channel at the base of East Flower Garden Bank. Hypersaline water flowing from under the sea floor created a concentrated brine lake and river measuring about 10 inches deep.

Because of the high salinity of seafloor lakes, nothing can live in the brine but bacteria, and a few other creatures like molluscs or shrimp can live near it.

Source: Yahoo! Green

Explore a seafloor lake with David Attenborough:

During the Deep Slope 2006 Exploration, the Alvin submersible dive scientist observed an extraordinary sight. Listen to scientist Harry Roberts, Mandy Joye, and Gavin Eppard as they witness an underwater wave pass across the surface of a Brine Lake, at the interface between the ‘lake’ and overlying ocean:

Europeans Bury ‘Digital DNA’ Inside Mountain

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Photo via flickr by Daniel Leininger

In a secret bunker known as the Swiss Fort Knox deep in the Swiss Alps, European researchers recently deposited a “digital genome” that will provide the blueprint for future generations to read data stored using defunct technology. Accompanied by burly security guards in black uniforms, scientists carried a time capsule through a labyrinth of tunnels and five security zones to a vault near the slopes of chic ski resort Gstaad.

The sealed box containing the key to unpick defunct digital formats will be locked away for the next quarter of a century behind a 3-1/2 ton door strong enough to resist nuclear attack at the data storage facility.

The capsule is the culmination of the four-year “Planets” project, an 15 million-euro ($18.49 million) project which draws on the expertise of 16 European libraries, archives and research institutions, to preserve the world’s digital assets as hardware and software. The capsule deposited contains the digital equivalent of the genetic code of different data formats, a ‘digital genome.’

Around 100 GB of data—equivalent to 24 tons of books—has already been created for every single individual on the planet, ranging from holiday snaps to health records, project organizers said, adding this amounted to over 1 trillion CDs worth of data across the globe.

But as technological breakthroughs help people to live longer, the lifespan of technology gets shorter, meaning the European Union alone loses digital information worth at least 3 billion euros every year, they said. Studies suggest common data storage formats like CDs and DVDs only last 20 years, while digital file formats have a life expectancy of just five to seven years. Hardware even less.

“Unlike hieroglyphics carved in stone or ink on parchment, digital data has a shelf life of years not millennia,” said Andreas Rauber, a professor at the University of Technology of Vienna, which is a partner in the project.

The project hopes to preserve “data DNA,” the information and tools to access and read historical digital material and prevent digital memory loss into the next century.

This could have uses for countless different organizations, from pharmaceutical companies trying to access test data decades from now or aerospace companies checking design details of planes built to fly for 30 or 40 years.

People will be puzzled at what they find when they open the time capsule, said Rauber. “In 25 years people will be astonished to see how little time must pass to render data carriers unusable because they break or because you don’t have the devices anymore,” he said. “The second shock will probably be what fraction of the objects we can’t use or access in 25 years and that’s hard to predict.”

via PC Mag

Happy Birthday Jacques Cousteau

Friday, June 11th, 2010

Jacques Cousteau’s Underworld Village in the Red Sea via BBC on YouTube

Legendary marine explorer, inventor, innovator, filmmaker and environmental activist Jacques Cousteau was born June 11, 1910 in Saint André de Cubzac, a small town in southwest France.

To mark the centennial of his birth, the Cousteau Society is launching a year-long celebration in Paris with Cousteau’s global legion of admirers, and welcomes proposals from around the world.

The re-launch and tour of Calypso, the ship aboard which Cousteau created many of the world’s first glimpses of deep-sea life, will highlight the end of the centennial in 2011.

Instantly recognizable by his red cap and gaunt silhouette, Cousteau was just 33 when he co-invented the aqualung that enabled divers to explore ocean depths for extended periods, opening a window to an entire world then virtually unknown to humankind.

He went on to pioneer many areas, including documenting the sonar-like capabilities of dolphins, public demonstrations to protect the oceans from radioactive dumping and over-exploitation, and mass communication of marine research through films and television.

In 1996, the year before his death at age 87, Cousteau’s historic Calypso was sunk and badly damaged when a barge in Singapore accidentally rammed it. Today the vessel is in the Brittany region of France being refurbished under the direction of the Cousteau Society and l’Equipe Cousteau, led by Francine Cousteau, widow of the late explorer.

Calypso will be re-purposed as a touring educational exhibition, to include the Cousteau-designed one- and two-person mini-submarines, the underwater scooters, aqualungs, diving suits, cameras and other emblematic equipment used during his expeditions, which earned him countless awards including Emmys, Oscars and the Palme d’Or of the Cannes Film Festival.

“In this year, the 100th anniversary of his birth, we owe it to his memory to ensure that the spirit of Jacques-Yves Cousteau and his work inspires new generations,” says Pierre-Yves.

“The oceans occupy nearly 72% of our planet’s surface and they contain more than 97% of all our planet’s water. They are the place where life appeared 3.8 billion years ago and remain the largest living space in our known universe. Nevertheless, less than 20% has been explored by humans and we have already damaged most of it.” says Tarik Chekchak, the Cousteau Society’s Director, Science and Environment.

“Our research with UNESCO into how best to educate people and protect our oceans and indeed all our vital waterways is more necessary today than ever – as the tragic event unfolding this past month in Gulf of Mexico sadly demonstrates.”

Under Pierre-Yves’s leadership, the Cousteau Society is developing a monitoring program of the oceans, Cousteau Divers, which will involve the active participation of divers worldwide.

The public is invited to contribute to an online book of remembrances and appreciation at The Cousteau Society.

via The Cousteau Society

Quantum Teleportation

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

Photo via flickr by flash200

Scientists in China have succeeded in teleporting information between photons further than ever before—over a free space distance of 16 km (10 miles), bringing us closer to transmitting information over long distances without the need for a traditional signal.

Quantum teleportation is not the same as the teleportation most of us know from science fiction, where an object (or person) in one place is “beamed up” to another place where a perfect copy is replicated. In quantum teleportation two photons or ions (for example) are entangled in such a way that when the quantum state of one is changed the state of the other also changes, as if the two were still connected. This enables quantum information to be teleported if one of the photons/ions is sent some distance away.

In the experiments, pairs of photons were entangled and then the higher-energy photon of the pair was sent through a free space channel 16 km long. The researchers, from the University of Science and Technology of China and Tsinghua University in Beijing, found that even at this distance the photon at the receiving end still responded to changes in state of the photon remaining behind.

The distance of 16 km is greater than the effective aerosphere thickness of 5-10 km, so the group’s success could pave the way for experiments between a ground station and a satellite. This means quantum communication applications could be possible on a global scale in the near future.

The public free space channel was at ground level and spanned the 16 km distance between Badaling in Beijing (the teleportation site) and the receiver site at Huailai in Hebei province. Entangled photon pairs were generated at the teleportation site using a semiconductor, a blue laser beam, and a crystal of beta-barium borate (BBO). The research team designed two types of telescopes to serve as optical transmitting and receiving antennas.

The experiments confirm the feasibility of space-based quantum teleportation, and represent a giant leap forward in the development of quantum communication applications.

via PhysOrg

Top 10 New Species for 2010

Sunday, June 6th, 2010

Photo of Psychedelic Frogfish by David Hall /

The International Institute for Species Exploration (IISE) announced the top 10 New Species for 2010. Chaired by Dr. Janine Caira of the University of Connecticut, an international committee of taxon experts selected the Top 10 New Species from the thousands of species fully described and published in calendar year 2009. Nominations from the public were invited through the IISE Web site and were also generated by IISE staff and committee members themselves.

And the winners are:

Attenborough’s Pitcher

Bombardier Worm

Udderly Weird Yam

Bug-eating Slug

Far-out Frogfish

Uber Orb-weaver

Small Favor

Fanged Fish

Short-circuited Electric Fish

Killer Sponge

Nominations for 2011 Top 10 New Species is open. Anyone may nominate a species for consideration. The species must have been officially described as new during calendar year 2010. The closing date for nominations is March 15, 2011. There are no firm rules or guidelines for the selection of the top ten species and the final list shall be determined by a vote of an international committee of experts appointed by the IISE.

Obvious examples of criteria for selection include “records” (largest, smallest, etc.), “superlatives” (most, first, last, etc.), humorous or interesting names, surprising characters, properties or distributions, etc. Nominations should include a reference to the actual description in a journal or monograph, reference to a Web site or images of the species if they exist. If you would like to nominate a species, please visit IISE Species Nomination.

via Arizona State University

Extraterrestrial Dust Found in the Antarctic

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

A new family of extraterrestrial particles has been identified for the first time in Central Antarctica.

Discovered by researchers from the Center for Nuclear Spectrometry and Mass Spectrometry (CSNSM), attached to the Institut national de physique nucléaire et de physique des particules, the micrometeorites, which are remarkably well preserved, are made up of organic matter containing small assemblages of minerals from the coldest and most remote regions of the Solar System.

The team discovered two micrometeorites in ultra-clean snow near the French-Italian camp, “Concordia,” established in 1955 to 1970 and located in the central region of the Antarctic continent, one of the most remote places in the world.

The larger object is 85% carbon -the essential ingredient for the organic chemistry needed for life, and the smaller one is 48% carbon. Both contain higher-than-expected amounts of deuterium, a rare form of hydrogen, in a concentration 30 times higher than is usually found mixed with hydrogen on Earth – all elements common in interstellar clouds of dust in deep space, far more ancient than the Sun.

When the team used a microscope to examine the dust particles, says the study, they also found tiny crystals which could only have been “condensed or processed at close distances from the young sun.”

Comets are made up of a mixture of icy materials and dust. Occasionally, some of them enter the inner Solar System. When they pass near the Sun, the rise in temperature causes massive sublimation of the icy materials, leading to an ejection of a mixture of gases and cometary grains into interplanetary space. Some dust grains may cross Earth’s orbit as they drift towards the Sun, where most of them finish their journey. It is probably some of these cometary grains that the CSNS scientists discovered in Antarctica.

Until now, only the US Stardust space mission had enabled international teams to carry out mineralogical and geochemical analysis of cometary grains. The micrometeorites discovered at Concordia show numerous similarities to the samples from the Stardust mission.

For the first time, they allow scientists to study extremely well preserved assemblages of minerals and organic material that were present beyond Jupiter’s current orbit at the time when the Sun and the planets were being formed. Their chemical and isotopic composition should make it possible to comprehend the physical and chemical processes at work inside the disk of gas and dust that surrounded the early Sun 4.5 billion years ago.

via CNRS