Solar Storms & Higgs Boson | SciByte 37

Solar Storms & Higgs Boson | SciByte 37

We take a look at recent solar activity, new ideas and imaging of the Titantic, Higgs Boson particles, Dinosaur feathers, transparent electrodes, dust devils on Mars, viewer feeedback and as always take a peek back into history and up in the sky this week.

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Show Notes:

The power of the Sun

*— NEWS BYTE — *

How the moon might have affected the Titanic

  • The low down
  • There is some evidence that and unusually close approach by the moon on Jan. 4, 1912, may have caused abnormally high tides
  • An uncommon event occurred on that Jan. 4 when the moon and sun lined up in such a way their gravitational pulls enhanced each other, well-known as a “spring tide"
  • Significance
  • Researchers looked to see if configuration maximized the moon’s tide-raising forces on Earth’s oceans enhanced tides caused increased glacial calving to reach the shipping lanes by April
  • Normally, icebergs can not move southward until they’ve melted enough to re-float or a high enough tide frees them a process that can take several years
  • However the unusually high tide in Jan. 1912 would have been enough to dislodge many of those icebergs and move them back into the southbound ocean currents
  • The high tide would have allowed them to travel southward much faster than typical, could explain the abundant icebergs in April of 1912
  • * Of Note*
  • Researchers have recently assembled what’s believed to be the first comprehensive map of the entire 3-by–5-mile Titanic debris field
  • Sonar imaging and more than 100,000 photos taken from underwater robots have been assembled to create the map
  • The mapping took place in the summer of 2010 during an expedition to the Titanic led by RMS Titanic Inc., the legal custodian of the wreck who was joined by other groups, as well as the cable History channel
  • Details on the new findings have not being revealed yet, the network will air them in a two-hour documentary on April 15, exactly 100 years after the Titanic sank
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Full Titanic site mapped for 1st time @
  • The iceberg’s accomplice: Did the moon sink the Titanic? @



More Dinosaur feathers get color

  • * You might Recall *
  • Feedback & Space Lego’s | SciByte 31 (Jan 31, 2012) – Dinosaur feather colors
  • The low down
  • A team of American and Chinese researchers have uncovered the color and detailed feather pattern for the Microraptor, a pigeon-sized, four-winged dinosaur that lived about 130 million years ago
  • Four-winged dinosaur’s feathers were black with iridescent sheen
  • The fossilized plumage, which had hues of black and blue like a crow, it the earliest record of iridescent feather color
  • Significance
  • Feather color is produced partially by arrays of pigment-bearing organelles called melanosomes, melanosome’s structure is constant for a given color
  • Using the power of scanning electron microscopes, paleontologists have begun to analyze the shape of the fossilized melanosemos and compating then to living birds.
  • Paleontologists have also made predictions about the purpose of the dinosaur’s tail
  • Once thought to be teardrop-shaped used in flight is actually much narrower with two elongate feathers
  • Researchers not believe it to be ornamental, and used in social interactions like courtship
  • * Of Note*
  • Although its anatomy is very similar to birds, Mircroraptor is considered a non-avian dinosaur placed in the group of dinosaurs called dromaeosaurs that includes Velociraptor
  • Previously the Microraptor was considered a nocturnal animal, but glossy plumage is not a trait found in modern day birds.
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • ScienceShot: Flashy Feathers @
  • Four-winged dinosaur’s feathers were black with iridescent sheen @

Transparent Electrodes

  • The low down
  • Scientists have shown that ultra-thin sheets of an exotic material remain transparent and highly conductive even after being deeply flexed 1,000 times and folded and creased like a piece of paper.
  • The basic structural is a five-layer sandwich made up of alternating single-atom sheets of selenium and bismuth stacked on top of each other as thicker samples are made
  • Selenium-selenium bonds between the units are weak which provides an overall material to flex durably without being damaged
  • Significance
  • Experiments also showed that bismuth selenide does not degrade significantly in humid environments or when exposed to oxygen treatments that are common in manufacturing
  • This material will solve the problem modern transparent electrodes on the surfaces of most cells as they are either too fragile or not transparent or conducting enough,
  • In solar cells roughly half the solar energy that hits the Earth comes in the form of infrared light, and few of today’s solar cells are able to collect it
  • It may also be useful in communications devices, by improving infrared sensors common in scientific equipment and aerospace systems.”
  • * Of Note*
  • The combination has been testing with sheets of bismuth and selenium, each just one atom thick, to form five-layer units.
  • The bonds between the units are weak, allowing the overall material to flex while retaining its durability
  • The material itself conducts electricity only on its surface while its interior remains insulating and is as good as gold as an electrical conductor
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Exotic material shows promise as flexible, transparent electrode @

Martian Dust Devil

  • The low down
  • The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been examining Mars with six science instruments since 2006
  • Mars orbiters, rovers and landers have all captured devils in action before
  • A towering dust devil, casts a serpentine shadow over the Martian surface in an image acquired by the High Resolution Imaging
  • Significance
  • Unlike a tornado, a dust devil typically forms on a clear day
  • The ground is heated by the sun, warming the air just above the ground, heated air near the surface rises quickly through a small pocket of cooler air above it and the air may begin to rotate, if conditions are just right.
  • It lofted a twisting column of dust more than half a mile [800 meters] high, and had approximately a 90ft [30 yards] radius Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
  • * Of Note*
  • Like on Earth, winds on Mars are powered by solar heating
  • Mars is now farthest from the Sun, and exposure to the Sun’s rays is now less, the dust devils are still moving dust around on Mars’ surface
  • This mission has returned more data about Mars than all other orbital and surface missions combined and can reveal features as small as a desk
  • More than 21,700 images taken by HiRISE are available for viewing on the instrument team’s website
  • Twitter : HiRISE@HiRISE
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Huge Dust Devil on Mars Captured in Action @
  • Mars orbiter catches twister in action @
  • Photo from NASA Mars orbiter shows wind’s handiwork (Jan 2012) @

Fossilized circle of life

Accurate Clock

  • The low down
  • Atomic Clock – A precision clock that depends for its operation on an electrical oscillator regulated by the natural vibration frequencies of an atomic system
  • A new time-keeping device is tied to the orbiting of a neutron around a nucleus of an atom
  • The clock would remain accurate to within 1/20th of a second over 14billion years, making it nearly 100 times more accurate than the best atomic clocks we have now
  • You might ask or note that ‘Neutrons’ do not ‘orbit’, that the orbiting items are electrons
  • Scientists are proposing to use lasers to orient the electrons in a specific way, then observing the neutrons as they rotate around the nucleus
  • Because the neutron is so close to the center of the atom the oscillation rate is nearly unaffected by external perturbations compared to the electron
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube VIDEO : Atom Animation
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Proposed nuclear clock may keep time with the Universe @
  • Proposed nuclear clock may keep time with the Universe @

SPACECRAFT UPDATE – GRAIL Moon Probes Ebb and Flow


Archeology in Space


Looking back

  • March 19 1800 : 212 years ago : Electric eels : Electric eels were captured by Alexander von Humoldt with Aimé Bonpland. They were on a five-year expedition in the jungles of South America, on the way to the Orinoco river, where at Calabozo they discovered swamps crowded with electric eels, Electrophorus electricus. During their scientific investigation of the behaviour of the eels, the scientists received massive electric shocks. Humboldt reported a severe lack of feeling in his joints for the better part of a day after standing directly on an electric eel. They learned that horses had been killed by them. Humboldt published an article Observation on the Electric Eel of the New World in 1808
  • March 16, 1926 : 86 years ago : Goddard Rocket : The first US liquid-fuel rocket flight was launched by Robert Goddard in a field in Auburn, Mass. He thought stable flight could be obtained by mounting the rocket ahead of the fuel tank. The tank was shielded from the flame by a metal cone and was pulled behind the rocket by the lines for gasoline fuel and oxygen. The design worked, but did not produce the hoped-for stability. The rocket burned about 20 seconds before reaching sufficient thrust (or sufficiently lightening the fuel tank) for taking off. During that time it melted part of the nozzle. It took off to a height of 41-ft, leveled off and within 2.5 seconds hit the ground 184 feet away, averaging about 60 mph. The camera ran out of film, so no photographic record of that flight remains.

Looking up this week

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