Asteroids and Black Holes | SciByte 20

Asteroids and Black Holes | SciByte 20

We take a look at asteroid flyby’s, black hole data, new elements, Mars water, the brain, headaches, Mars500, health sensors in our cars and game systems, and take another peek at what’s up in the sky this week.

SciByte will provide you with a treasure trove of small talk for your next cocktail party, the knowledge to show off to friends and family, and provide you the means, with the help of our trusty show notes, to further investigate the things that interest you the most.

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Show Notes:


Nov. 8 Asteroid Flyby

Direct Observations of disk around black hole

*— NEWS BYTE — *

Three New Elements Added To The Periodic Table

Mars’ history is a fluid situation

  • The low down
  • The picture painted by a review paper in the November 3 issue of Nature.
  • An international team of researchers crafted a tale of Mars’ parched, frigid history
  • Four billion years ago, the Martian surface may have been cold and dry — not warm, watery and more Earthlike than it is today, as many scientists have suggested.
  • Instead of saturating the dusty surface, fluids appeared only occasionally, quickly shaping channels and other landforms that bear watery footprints.
  • Beneath the planet’s reddish, rocky sands lurked a warm and wet subterranean environment, a potential incubator powered by hydrothermal activity and revealed when meteorite impacts blasted telltale minerals from the planet’s crust.
  • Water-carved landscapes, like snaking channels and river deltas, played a large role in producing the current view of a warm and watery Martian past.
  • Significance
  • If the authors are right, scientists hunting for evidence of past Martian life might be better off using a shovel
  • While the evidence for subterranean hydrothermal activity is strong, Bishop says it’s unlikely that transient or small amounts of surface water quickly crafted some of the river features, valley networks, or layered beds seen across Mars.
  • In September, NASA announced that Opportunity had found a rock at the edge of Endeavour Crater that looked as though it had been formed in a subterranean hydrothermal system.
  • Whether life might have evolved in the Martian subsurface is an open question. But on Earth, even multicellular organisms can live in the deep.
  • Multimedia
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Mars’ history is a fluid situation @
  • ‘Tisdale 2’ Rock, Next Stop for Opportunity @

Researchers identify brain cells responsible for keeping us awake

Headache tree is a pain in the brain

  • The low down
  • One whiff of bay laurel tree can spur intense, excruciating pain — and now scientists know why.
  • An ingredient in the tree sets off a chain of events that eventually amps up blood flow to the brain’s outer membrane.
  • The protein tickles the same cellular detector that responds to painfully cold stimuli and the sinus-clearing scent of wasabi and mustard oil
  • This protein prompts blood vessels to swell, and scientists think this swelling puts pressure on the skull and nerves, causing pain.
  • Significance
  • Other headache triggers interact with some of the same cellular machinery, suggesting they all work via the same pain-inducing mechanism.
  • Stimulating this chemical detector ultimately triggers the release of a particular protein implicated in migraine headaches
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Headache tree is a pain in the brain @

Mars500 experiment ends

Health check on the road

  • The low down
  • A research team at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM), in collaboration with researchers at the BMW Group develop a sensor system integrated into the steering wheel that can monitor the driver’s state of health while driving
  • monitors vital signs such as heart rate, skin conductance and oxygen saturation in the blood via simple sensors in the steering wheel
  • A driver’s skin conductance, for instance, reveals whether he or she is under severe stress, or whether his or her blood pressure exceeds a critical value
  • Two commercially available sensors are key elements of the integrated vital signs measurement system
  • One of them shines infrared light into the fingers and measures the heart rate and oxygen saturation via reflected light
  • One of them shines infrared light into the fingers and measures the heart rate and oxygen saturation via reflected light
  • Significance
  • the device might be used recognize the onset fainting spells or heart attacks
  • When a stress situation is detected by means of skin conductance values, phone calls can be blocked, for instance, or the volume of the radio turned down automatically.
  • With more serious problems the system could turn on the hazard warning lights, reduce the speed or even induce automated emergency braking
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Health check on the road @
  • Health Check on the Road: Safe Stop When the Driver Can’t Go On @ ScienceNEwslineTechnology

Sony Patent Reveals Biometric Controllers

  • The low down
  • Measuring skin moisture, heart rhythm and muscle movement
  • The last time biometric feedback was introduced to mainstream games was Nintendo’s vitality sensor, which was announced at E3 2009 but never released.
  • Mentioned in the application
  • Character changes based on biometric feedback, such as a character sweating when you’re nervous.
  • Tensing up your muscles to absorb an attack or power up shields
  • Weapons that become more accurate or less steady depending on your level of stress
  • A boost to run faster, jump higher and punch harder while stressed
  • Rapid decreases in health if your stress increases
  • Different attacks based on stress levels.
  • Background music that matches your stress level, or becomes more relaxing if you’re stressed
  • Scaling difficulty based on stress level.
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Sony Patent Reveals Biometric Controllers

Largest Sunspot in Years Observed on the Sun


Phobos-Grunt and Yinghuo–1


Looking back this week

  • Nov 11, 1572 – 439 years ago : Tycho’s Supernova – Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe began his meticulous observations of the supernova. Brahe was at the beginning of his career in 1572, and it was this supernova that inspired him to devote his lifetime to making accurate measurements of the positions of the stars and planets. Thus 16th-century astronomers learned that the heavens were not immutable, as had been believed. Brahe’s book on his observations, De Nova Stella, originated the word “nova.”
  • Nov 14, 1666 – 345 years ago : First blood transfusion – the English physician, Samuel Pepys, made an record in his diary describing Richard Lower making the first documented blood transfusion.
  • Nov 10, 1885 – 126 years ago : Motorcycle – the world’s first motorcycle, designed by Gottlieb Daimler, made its debut. The frame and wheels were made of wood. A leather belt transfered power from the engine to large brass gears mounted to the rear wheel. The single cylinder engine had a bore of 58mm and stroke of 100mm giving a displacement of 264cc’s. The engine gave 0.5hp at 700 rpm. The top speed for the motorcycle was 7mph [12 km/h]
  • Nov 12, 1901 – 110 years ago : First Nobel Prize in Physics – The first Nobel Prize for Physics was awarded to Wilhelm Roentgen for his discovery of X-rays.
  • Nov 11, 1925 – 86 years ago : Cosmic rays – the discovery of cosmic rays was announced in Madison, Wisconsin by Robert A. Millikan who coined their name.
  • Nov 12–13, 1927 – 84 years ago : Holland Tunnel – the Holland Tunnel connecting N.Y. and N.J., the world’s first underwater vehicular tunnel, officially opened.
  • Nov 13, 1946 – 65 years ago : Artificial snow – artificial snow from a natural cloud was produced over Mount Greylock, Mass., for the first time in the U.S. An airplane spread small pellets of dry-ice (frozen carbon dioxide) for three miles at a height of 14,000 ft. Although the snow fell an estimated 3,000 feet, it evaporated as it fell through dry air, and never reached the ground.
  • Nov 09, 1957 – 54 years ago : Laser invented – Gordon Gould began to write down the principles of what he called a laser in his notebook during a sleepless Saturday night. By Wednesday morning he had a notary witness and date his notebook. Unfortunately, he misunderstood the patent process, and did not file promptly. But, other scientists, did file for a patent on their similar but independent discovery of how to make a laser. When Gould belatedly tried to get a patent, it took decades to eventually establish priority and gain what had then grown to be profitable royalties from the established laser industry.
  • Nov 13, 1971 – 40 years ago : Mars satellite – Mariner–9, the first man-made object to orbit another planet, entered Martian orbit. The mission of the unmanned craft was to return photographs mapping 70% of the surface, and to study the planet’s thin atmosphere, clouds, and hazes, together with its surface chemistry and seasonal changes.
  • Nov 10, 1983 – 28 years ago : First computer virus – U.S. student Fred Cohen presented to a security seminar the results of his test – the first documented virus, created as an experiment in computer security.In the paper, he defined a virus as “a program that can ‘infect’ other programs by modifying them to include a … version of itself”.
  • Nov 09, 1991 – 20 years ago : Nuclear fusion power – In Culham, England, nuclear fusion was first harnessed to produce a significant amount of power. Though lasting for only two seconds, about 1.7 megawatts of electric power was produced.

Post Show Correction

  • One letter can make a world of difference …
  • Today’s power plants use fission to generate heat and do useful work. The creation of the first man-made fission reactor, known as Chicago Pile–1, achieved criticality on December 2, 1942. Fusion differs from the fission reactions used in current nuclear power plants for it occurs when light nuclei travelling at high speed combine, without radioactive waste as a byproduct.

Looking up this week

  • You might have seen …

  • Tuesday, Nov. 8 : The bright “star” near the Moon is Jupiter. Although they look close together, Jupiter is 1,400 times farther away.

  • Tuesday, Nov. 8 : 2005 YU55 passed closer to us than the Moon; closest approach was at 6:28 p.m. EST. ’s visible across North America in the ensuing hours, dim at 11th or 12th magnitude and moving fast Chart

  • Keep an eye out for …

  • Wednesday, Nov. 9 : In bright twilight just 20 or 30 minutes after sunset, bring binoculars to a location with a clear view practically down to the southwest horizon. There will be Venus

  • Thursday, Nov. 10 : Full Moon

  • Thursday-Sunday Nov. 10–13 : Mars moves past Regulus, the brightest star of Leo, the lion. They rise shortly after midnight and are high in the southeast at first light. Mars looks like a bright orange star with Regulus quite close to the right or lower right.

  • Friday, Nov. 11 : Venus and Mercury are quite lo

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