Dinosaurs & Neutrinos | SciByte 50

Dinosaurs & Neutrinos | SciByte 50

We take a look at estimating dinosaur weight, pollution data, exoplanets, mosquitos, Johnson Space Center, Io, updates on Venus transit and Neutrinos, spacecraft updates and as always take a peek back into history and up in the sky this week.

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Dino’s on diets?

Image Credit | William Sellers

  • The low down
  • One of the most important things palaeobiologists need to know about fossilised animals is how much they weighed
  • In the past scientists have used several means of estimating dinosaur weight
  • One of those means of estimation include measuring the volume of an artist’s sculpture
  • Scientists have now developed a new technique to accurately measure the weight and size of dinosaurs and discovered they are not as heavy as previously thought.
  • Significance
  • Using lasers scientists have measured the minimum amount of skin required to wrap around the skeletons of modern-day mammals, including reindeer, polar bears, giraffes and elephants
  • This technique showed that the animals had almost exactly 21% more body mass than the minimum skeletal ‘skin and bone’ wrap volume
  • Previous estimates of the giant Brachiosaur weight have varied, with estimates as high as 80 tonnes
  • Applying this approach reduced that figure to just 23 tonnes
  • This calculation method has the advantage of requiring minimal user intervention and is therefore more objective and far quicker
  • This new technique will apply to all dinosaur weight measurements
  • Its primary limitation, for now, is that the specimen should consist of a complete skeleton as possible
  • Of Note
  • In general estimated weights for many species of dinosaur have been dropping since about the early 1960’s
  • The information from these calculations can also be applied to sophisticated locomotor reconstructions, such as the running simulations produced in the past
  • One problem with the technique is that none of the animals used in the laser calibration had the long fleshy tails that dinosaurs have, so this model may be to be altered in the future
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Dinosaurs were lighter than previously thought, new study shows | Phys.org
  • Dinosaurs Skinnier Than Previously Thought | news.Discovery.com


Chinese Pollution Data

  • The low down
  • China has said foreign embassies are acting illegally in issuing their own air quality readings and that only the government could release data on the nation’s heavy pollution.
  • China says publishing China’s air quality are related to the public interests and as such are powers reserved for the government
  • According to the latest Environmental Performance Index compiled by Yale University, China ranked 128th out of 132 countries for air quality.
  • Until recently, official air quality measurements from China regularly rated their air quality as good while data from the US embassy in Beijing showed off-the-chart pollution
  • Most Chinese cities base their air-quality information on particles of 10 micrometres or larger
  • Beijing announced earlier this year it would change the way it measured air quality to include the smaller particles experts say make up much of the pollution in Chinese cities, after a vocal campaign
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • China tells US to stop reporting Beijing’s bad air | phys.org
  • China tells embassies to stop issuing pollution data | phys.org

Giant exoplanet imposters?

  • The low down
  • The Kepler spacecraft produces potential exoplanet data by watching for the darkening of a star, but not everything that darkens a star is a planet
  • A new study suggests that there is a one in three chance that it’s not really a planet at all when it’s a giant planet closely orbiting a star
  • Significance
  • Out of Kepler’s more than 2,300 possible planets, only 46 were categorized as very large exoplanets with estimated orbit very close to their star
  • 11 of those systems were already known and the team confirmed 9 more
  • Of the remaining 26 candidates were : 13 unknowns, two failed brown dwarf stars, and 11 members of binary star systems
  • From this the team arrived at the 35 percent false-positive rate
  • While this may seem very significant, scientists don’t consider it a serious flaw for Kepler
  • Even with a 35% false positive rate for very large, closely orbiting exoplanets the percentage is still very low compared to all other transit programs
  • Of Note
  • Short period transiting planets are exotic objects, not expected to be everywhere
  • In addition the false positive rate does not affect any smaller or long orbiting planets
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Some newfound planets are something else | ScienceNews.org


Channel : andrew52987 | Channel : coegatech

  • The low down
  • The collision between a raindrop and a mosquito is analogous to a collision between a human and a bus, except for the part where the mosquito survives
  • Significance
  • What makes the difference is the (relatively) huge, fast drop doesn’t transfer much of its momentum to a little wisp of an insect
  • Instead the falling droplet sweeps the insect along on the downward plunge
  • The drawback is that mosquitoes hitchhiking on water experience acceleration 100 to 300 times the force of Earth’s gravity, so survival is dependent on breaking away before hitting the ground
  • Of Note
  • This effect may inspire engineers designing swarms of tiny flying robots, or interest physicists and mathematicians studying complex fluid dynamics at this scale
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube : Mosquito raindrop BW | andrew52987
  • YouTube : Low Mass Saves Mosquitoes from Death by Raindrop | coegatech
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • How a mosquito survives a raindrop hit | ScienceNews.org


Touring NASA’s Johnson Space Center

Image Credit : science.ksc.nasa.gov

  • Of Note
  • NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida has announced that beginning on Friday, June 15 a limited number of daily tours will take guests into the spaceport’s historic Launch Control Center (LCC)
  • This will be the first time in 30 years that the home of 152 countdowns to launch including both Apollo and shuttle programs has been opened to the public
  • The KSC Up-Close: Launch Control Center (LCC) Tour will run through the end of the year. It costs $25 for adults and $19 for children in addition to the regular admission to the visitor complex.
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Inside Historic Launch Control Center | Space.com

Jupiter’s moon Io

Image Credit : NASA/JPL-Caltech/Bear Fight Institute

  • Of Note
  • A new map of Jupiter’s moon Io has revealed the most comprehensive ever compiled of Io’s hundreds of active volcanoes
  • When studying the layout of the volcanos the distribution of the heat flow is that it is not in keeping with the current preferred model of tidal heating of Io at relatively shallow depths
  • The main thermal emission occurs about 40 degrees eastward of where we would expect with tidal heating
  • In addition that heat comes from Io’s depths along with its shallower reaches
  • The study also found that known active volcanoes account for only about 60 percent of Io’s emitted heat
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Jupiter Moon Io’s Volcanoes Revealed in New Map | Space.com

— Updates —

Additional Venus Transit stories and photo’s



Shuttle Enterprise’s last landing

Dragon back on the ground

NASA’s Aquarius measuring ocean salinity

Mars Curiosity Rover

Image Credit : NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/DLR/FU Berlin/MSSS

  • Of Note
  • With a scheduled landing of Aug 5 and increased confidence in precision landing technology NASA has narrowed the target for its most advanced Mars rover, Curiosity
  • NASA has narrowed the target for its most advanced Mars rover, Curiosity
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • NASA Mars Rover Team Aims for Landing Closer to Prime Science Site | jpl.nasa.gov](http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2012–168)


Looking back

  • June 13, 1611 : 401 years ago : Sunspots : A publication on the newly discovered phenomenon of sunspots was dedicated. Narratio de maculis in sole observatis et apparente earum cum sole conversione. (“Narration on Spots Observed on the Sun and their Apparent Rotation with the Sun”). This first publication on such observations, was the work of Johannes Fabricius, a Dutch astronomer who was perhaps the first ever to observe sunspots. On 9 Mar 1611, at dawn, Johannes had used his telescope to view the rising sun and had seen several dark spots on it. He called his father to investigate this new phenomenon with him. The brightness of the Sun’s center was very painful, and the two quickly switched to a projection method by means of a camera obscura.
  • June 15 1752 : 260 years ago : Lighting and Kites : In 1752, Franklin published a third-person account of his pioneering kite experiment in the The Pennsylvania Gazette, without mentioning that he himself had performed it It was at a later date that he admited to performing the experiment himself. Evidence shows that he was insulated from the kite, while others trying to repeat the experiment were electrocuted in the following months. The entire process, led to the invention of the lightning rod in September of the same year.

Looking up this week

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