Solar Storms & Private Space Flight | SciByte 30

Solar Storms & Private Space Flight | SciByte 30

We take a look at the recent solar flare, SpaceX’s plans for reaching the space station, dolphin speech, exoplanets, getting energy from seaweed, crowd sourcing earthquake data, spacecraft updates, and as always take a peek back into history and up in the sky this week.

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Show Notes:

You might have seen meets ‘Breaking’ Science with Coronal Mass Ejection

*— NEWS BYTE — *

SpaceX Space Station resupply mission resceduled

Do dolphins talk in their sleep?

  • The low down
  • A group of dolphins born in captivity were performing in their shows every day
  • Performing dolphins are primed to learn and remember information
  • During their show music and sounds were played in the background, a new track included music, sea gulls, dolphin whistles and humpback whale calls
  • Significance
  • Because little is known about the nighttime sounds of dolphins researchers had hand hung underwater microphones into the dolphins tank at night
  • One night they discovered that they had produces 25 new sounds that they had never made before
  • When playing back the tapes the researcher found that the new sounds sounded similar to whale songs
  • A new sound track including
  • When analyzed by a computer program the two sounds were very similar
  • When 20 human volunteers were asked to listen to and identify the dolphin nocturnal sounds and humpback whale songs, 76% of the time they classifies the imitations as sounds from real whales
  • Since the dolphins did not make the noises during the day, it indicates that they wanted to wait to practice the sounds at night
  • Of interest is finding out if the dolphins are asleep and dreaming during the time they are making the noises
  • If the dolphins are dreaming it might indicate that, like humans, they etch new information into memories during sleep
  • Next for the research is to take electroencephalogram recordings of the dolphins’ brains at night to determine if they are asleep during the time they make the sounds
  • * Of Note*
  • Before the whale sounds sound track was added to the show the dolphins did not make produces the ‘humpback whale song’
  • Some scientists are not convinced saying that dolphins make so many different sounds that it would be too difficult to quantitatively identify one as an imitation of a particular sound
  • Dolphins are known for mimicry and songbirds rehearse imitations of sounds at night, it is not all that unlikely that if they mimicking dolphins might do the same
  • Multimedia
  • Page with clips of sounds
  • Social Media
  • Science Mag News @ScienceNOW
  • Facebook : ScienceNOW
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Do Dolphins Speak Whale in Their Sleep? @
  • Do dolphins rehearse show-stimuli when at rest? Delayed matching of auditory memory @

Supercritical water and homeless exoplanets

  • The low down
  • The size of a planet can be measured indirectly by analyzing the amount of dimming of a star when the planets transits, and the mass can be identified though ground based measurements of how much gravitational force the planet excerpts on it’s star.
  • From those measurements the density of a planet can be roughly calculated
  • Exoplanets themselves are estimated to outnumber the stars in out galaxy by almost two-to-one
  • One such planet scientist have been analyzing is 55 Cancri, a rocky planet about 7.8 times the size of the Earth, orbiting relatively closely to it’s sun and 40 light-years away from Earth .
  • Significance
  • New observations of a this explanet suggest that about a fifth of the planet’s mass must be made up of light elements and compounds, including water
  • Since this planet if thought to have surface temperatures as high as 4,800 F [2,700 C] this planet is a much weirder planet than originally thought to be
  • The high temperature and pressure conditions on this planet are so extreme the liquids likely exist in a supercritical state
  • Super-critical fluids can best be imagined as liquid-like gases in high pressure and temperature conditions, water becomes supercritical in some steam turbines
  • These superritical fluids could be seeping up from the outer layers of the planets crust, giving scientists an interesting study of a planet
  • * Of Note*
  • Perhaps even stranger is that almost 75% of the exoplants in our galaxy might be ‘free-floating’ planets no longer orbiting a star
  • Some suspected free-floating planets have already been observed and it has been speculated that those free-floating exoplanets would be from gravitationally unstable orbits
  • Recent computer simulations indicate there may be more exotic reasons for the planets to be ejected.
  • One simulation blames end of life stars that expand into red giants litterely pushing their planets into interstellar space
  • Another simulation blames gravitational forces by passing stars, planetary system moving either in or out of a galacy’s dense spiral arms, or interactions with dense molecular clouds
  • The most likely reason for ejection of exoplanets would be from parent stars being gravitationally acted upon in tightly packed star clusters
  • Multimedia
  • VIDEO : Oozing planet @
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Weird World! ‘Oozing’ Alien Planet Is a Super-Earth Wonder @
  • ScienceShot: Why So Many Homeless Planets? @

Running your car with … seaweed?

  • The low down
  • Biofuel is energy from biological material from living or recently living organisms, biomass, that use carbon to grow
  • Using seaweed to create biomass has been a sought after source of biofuel for years as it is full of the sugars needed for the process
  • Seaweed also grows very fast, does not compete for land with crops, and requires no fertilizer or freshwater
  • If a process could be made to meet a certain efficiency it would broaden the biofuels possibilities
  • Significance
  • Unfortunately the gummy cell walls of seaweed make it very hard to get the needed components to make biofuel, making it difficult to compete with other forms of biomass.
  • Researchers have now engineered a bacterium that has the ability to break down those cell walls so that ethanol and other useful products can be gained
  • The process was developed by combining several enzymes that could convert the interior into fuel,
  • The researchers then used the cellular transportation system to inject the combination so that it would secrete the enzyme
  • * Of Note*
  • Currently the bacteria yields approximately 80% of it’s theoretical maximum of ethenol, with further tweaking that number may go even higher
  • Partially broken down product could be used in processes for making nylons or plastics
  • The newly engineered E.coli has no danger of escaping into the environment and consuming seaweed, as it lives best in the human gut, and would likely die in an ocean environment in a short period of time
  • Multimedia
  • IMAGE GALLERY: Top 10 Sources for Biofuel @
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Genetically Engineered Stomach Microbe Converts Seaweed into Ethanol @
  • Seaweed Biofuel Breakthrough Found @
  • Seaweed study fuels bioenergy enthusiasm @

Crowd sourcing hits earthquakes

  • The low down
  • We mentioned before what social media can do to help the medical community track outbreaks of communicable diseases
  • Seismologists are now getting on the social media tracking band wagon
  • In the past seismologists have relied on sensors in the vicinity of an earthquake and post anecdotal evidence from interviews of people who experienced it
  • Significance
  • There have already been instances where citizen-generated reports have had value in information gathering for earthquakes
  • Scientists had begun to set up websites specifically for people to add what they know about an earthquake to existing data
  • Being a public system seismologists can filter Twitter messages so focus on earthquake related messages, giving researchers real time data as people message about the earthquake
  • Also available to the public are seismic monitors that can attach to building, public or private, to send data via WiFi to designated research facilities
  • In addition to social media there are also Smartphone apps that are available that can be used to turn the phone itself into a vibration sensing device when it is not being carried
  • Other new sensors will become available as interest increases
  • * Of Note*
  • As these new sources of information become available it increases the amount and density of the observational and scientific data
  • More data from earthquakes gives scientists more detailed information about earthquakes, which increases the understanding of them
  • The ability to understand the precursors of an earthquake or even what leads to earthquakes will increase the prediction models
  • Multimedia
  • VIDEO : Page with video about crowdsourcing earthquakes @
  • Social Media
  • Twitter Results for [#earthquake](!/search/%23earthquake)
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Scientists turning to crowdsourcing to gather more information about earthquakes @
  • Transforming Earthquake Detection? @


New Horizons

Opportunity Rover


Looking back

  • Jan 27, 1888 : 124 years ago : National Geographic Society founded : The National Geographic Society was established with Gardiner Greene Hubbard as its first president. Two weeks earlier, on 13 Jan 1888, 33 founders in Washington, D.C., U.S.A., had met at the Cosmo Club in Lafayette Square, across from the White House. Their mission was to establish “a society for the increase and diffusion of geographical knowledge.” By Oct 1888, the first National Geographic Magazine was published as a society membership benefit, which continues its monthly issues to the present with photographs and popular articles now expanded from topics of geography and exploration to science, history and world cultures. The society has awarded over 9,000 grants for scientific research, and sponsors a museum and travelling exhibits.
  • Jan 27, 1957 : 55 years ago : Hearts get a portable jump-start]( : In 1957, an external artificial pacemaker with internal heart electrode is first used. To maintain a patient’s heartbeat rhythm an electrode was sewn to the wall of the heart and connected through the chest to an external desk-top pulse generator. A team of scientists at the University of Minnesota, led by Dr C. Walton Lillehei, made this medical advance. However, such bulky equipment was not a good long-term solution since infection often occurred along the electrode wires, and the device required no interruption in the house electricity. So Dr. Lillehei also initiated research on the use of a small portable external pacemaker for these patients with heart block. This ultimately led to the development of the billion-dollar pacemaker industry.
  • Jan 30, 1958 : 54 years ago : Please be careful stepping on or off the platform]( : Although the first moving sidewalk was a whopping 119 years ago, at the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893. The first two-way, moving sidewalk, 1,425 feet long, was put in service at Love Field Air Terminal in Dallas, TX. It consisted of three loops. In each loop a continuous rubber carpet was attached to a continuous train of wheeled pallets, flexibly interconnected so they could follow vertical or horizontal curves as required. It was known not only as a moving sidewalk, but also as a passenger conveyor. more icon

Looking up this week

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