Cool Pavement & Martian Snow | SciByte 63

Cool Pavement & Martian Snow | SciByte 63

We take a look at keeping pavements cool, snow on Mars, volcano’s, painless shots, tooth protection, updates on the Higgs-Boson, spacecraft updates, and as always take a peek back into history and up in the sky this week.

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Show Notes

Pavement Temperatures

  • New ‘Cool pavement’ technology could make parking lots cool, literally
  • The low down
  • In a typical city, pavements account for 35 to 50 percent of surface area, half is comprised of streets and about 40 percent of exposed parking lots
  • Pavements reflect as much as 30 to 50 percent of the sun’s energy, compared to only 5 percent for new asphalt (and 10 to 20 percent for aged asphalt)
  • Most of these are constructed with dark materials
  • Dark pavements absorb almost all of the sun’s energy, the pavement surface heats up, which in turn also warm the local air
  • Significance
  • Berkeley Lab scientists have been studying “cool pavement” technologies
  • Like cool roofs, which are lighter-colored roofs that keep the air both inside and outside the building cooler by reflecting more of the sun’s energy
  • Cool pavements can either be made from traditional pavement materials that are lighter in color such as cement concrete or it can consist of cool-colored coatings or surface treatments for asphalt surfaces
  • An ideal design goal would be a pavement with solar reflectance of at least 35 percent
  • Sealcoats are a common maintenance practice for parking lots and schoolyards since the asphalt pavement structure degrades over time
  • scientists will be collecting data from the exhibit to see how the coatings fare over time and at some point they will reach an equilibrium at which the solar reflectance won’t degrade much anymore
  • They are very interested to see what happens when it rains, which may help the coatings self-clean and restore higher reflectance
  • Cool pavement coatings can be used in lieu of a sealcoat, and is a good strategy for cities looking to introduce cool pavement technologies
  • Across an entire city, small changes in air temperature could be a huge benefit as it can slow the formation of smog
  • And just a couple of degrees can also reduce peak power demand, by reducing the energy load from air-conditioning
  • In addition more reflective parking lots could allow building owners and cities to save on energy needed to illuminate streets and parking lots
  • Chicago has already reported energy savings from using solar-reflective pavements in its alleys
  • More field studies are needed however to verify and quantify the results as many of these benefits have been confirmed by scientific models
  • Heat Island Group has converted a portion of a new temporary parking lot at Berkeley Lab into a cool pavement exhibit that will also allow them to evaluate the products over time
  • The exhibit provides an opportunity to feature cool pavement coatings that are applied directly to existing paved surfaces
  • It features six coatings donated by two manufacturers [Emerald Cities Cool Pavement and StreetBond]
  • The team will closely monitor the solar reflectance values and temperatures of 20 x 24 square-foot pavement sections of six different materials on a residential street on the UC Davis campus
  • Scientists hope to better understand how changes in solar reflectance over time affect heat transfer throughout the pavement structure
  • Of Note
  • These studies may assist policymakers and pavement professionals in making informed decisions regarding cool pavement requirements for building codes and project specifications
  • One hurdle is that the benefits of cool pavements are more for the public rather than the building owner as benefits are less immediately tangible than for cool roofs
  • The initial cost premium can potentially be offset over the lifespan of the product with increased durability and less need for ongoing maintenance
  • Cool pavements come in different hues, including green, blue and yellow, and their solar reflectance value depends on both color and material
  • Some colors that look dark but are actually more reflective in the near infrared spectrum
  • Schoolyards are a particular target because of the negative health implications of hot blacktops for schoolchildren
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Heat Island Group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
  • ‘Cool pavement’ technologies studied to address hot urban surfaces |


Let it snow dry-ice on Mars

  • Spacecraft orbiting Mars has detected carbon dioxide snow falling on the Red Planet, making it the only body in the solar system known to show this weather phenomenon
  • The low down
  • Data was gathered by MRO’s Mars Climate Sounder instrument during the Red Planet’s southern winter in 2006–2007
  • The instrument measures brightness in nine different wavelengths of visible and infrared light, allowing scientists to learn key characteristics of the particles and gases in the Martian atmosphere, such as their sizes and concentrations.
  • One large cloud was 300 miles (500 kilometers) wide
  • Significance
  • One line of evidence for snow is that the carbon-dioxide ice particles in the clouds are large enough to fall to the ground during the lifespan of the clouds
  • Another comes from observations when the instrument is pointed toward the horizon
  • The infrared spectra signature of the clouds viewed from an angle clearly showed carbon-dioxide ice particles, and they extend to the surface
  • The snow on Mars fell from clouds around the planet’s south pole during the Martian winter spanning 2006 and 2007
  • The Martian south pole hosts a frozen carbon dioxide – or “dry ice” – cap year-round
  • This new discovery may help explain how it formed and persists, researchers
  • These observations were also the first definitive detections of carbon-dioxide snow clouds
  • The clouds were composed of carbon dioxide, flakes of Martian air, and they are thick enough to result in snowfall accumulation at the surface.
  • Of Note
  • Astronomers still aren’t entirely sure how the dry ice sustaining Mars’ south polar cap – the only place where frozen carbon dioxide exists year-round on the planet’s surface – is deposited.
  • It could come from snowfall, or the stuff may freeze out of the air at ground level, researchers said.
  • The finding of snowfall could mean that the type of deposition (snow or frost) is somehow linked to the year-to-year preservation of the residual carbon dioxide polar cap
  • Dry ice requires temperatures of about minus 193 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 125 Celsius) to fall, reinforcing just how cold the Martian surface is.
  • In 2008, NASA’s Phoenix lander observed water-ice snow, this find means Mars hosts two different kinds of snowfall
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Snow on Mars: ‘Dry Ice’ Snowflakes Discovered by NASA Probe |

Atlantis Volcano Active?

  • The island that was created 3,600 years ago when a volcano erupted that was the second-largest blast in human history is swelling with lava
  • The low down
  • The eruption that created the island of Santorini may have destroyed the Minoan civilization on nearby Crete, which may have started the myth of Atlantis
  • Santorini locals began to suspect last year that something was afoot with the volcano under their Greek island group
  • Wine glasses occasionally vibrated and clinked in cafes, suggesting tiny tremors, and tour guides smelled strange gasses.
  • Beginning in the January 2011 data, there were more than a thousand small quakes, most of them imperceptible
  • Satellite radar technology has revealed the source of the symptoms
  • A rush of molten rock swelled the magma chamber under the volcano by some 351–702 million cubic ft [13 to 26 million cubic yards] or about 15 times the volume of London’s Olympic Stadium between January 2011 and April 2012
  • This has forced parts of the island’s surface to rise upward and outward by 3 to 5.5 inches [8–14 cm, ) confirmed with satellite radar images and GPS receivers
  • Significance
  • The earthquake activity and the rate of bulging have both slowed right down in the last few months
  • Even with these events the volcano has been quiet for 60 years and recent events don’t indicate an imminent eruption
  • It is quite likely that it could remain quiet for another few years or decades.
  • Since scientists don’t know enough about the lifecycle of large volcanoes in between eruptions to be certain
  • Catastrophic eruptions on Santorini, which produce mostly pumice rather than lava, appear to occur here about 20,000 years apart
  • The last one, in 1950, oozed enough lava to cover a few tennis courts
  • Despite its relative quiet, Santorini is an ideal location to learn more about processes like the magma chamber’s rapid inflation
  • While satellite evidence of swelling magma chambers has rarely been available for an active volcano, the processes the data represent may not be all that unusual
  • Some large volcanoes like Santorini and Yellowstone spend hundreds or thousands of years in a state of what you’d call dormancy and often have these little restless patches
  • These types of phenomena are likely to be common, but you need the right instruments and technology to detect what are usually rather small changes in behavior.
  • Of Note
  • We aren’t any closer to knowing if, or when, the next lava eruption might happen
  • Scientist are comparing the recent events to to someone blowing a big breath into an invisible balloon when you don’t know how small or big the balloon is, and don’t know whether just one more breath will be enough for it to pop or not
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Santorini Bulges as Magma Balloons Underneath |

Painless shots

  • A new laser-based system blasts microscopic jets of drugs into the skin could soon make getting a shot as painless as being hit with a puff of air
  • The low down
  • In previous studies, researchers used a laser wavelength that was not well absorbed by the water of the driving liquid which caused the formation of tiny shock waves that dissipated energy and hampered the formation of the vapor bub
  • The laser with a wavelength of 2,940 nanometers, which is readily absorbed by water. This allows the formation of a larger and more stable vapor bubble
  • Hypodermic needles are still the first choice for ease-of-use, precision, and control
  • Significance
  • This type of laser is commonly used by dermatologists, particularly for facial esthetic treatments
  • The laser is combined with a small adaptor that contains the drug to be delivered, in liquid form, plus a chamber containing water that acts as a “driving” fluid
  • A flexible membrane separates these two liquids
  • Each laser pulse, which lasts just 250 millionths of a second, generates a vapor bubble inside the driving fluid.
  • The pressure of that bubble puts elastic strain on the membrane
  • The impacting jet pressure is higher than the skin tensile strength and thus causes the jet to smoothly penetrate into the targeted depth underneath the skin
  • The drug to be forcefully ejected from a miniature nozzle in a narrow jet a mere 150 millionths of a meter (micrometers) in diameter or a little larger than the width of a human hair
  • To test the effectiveness of the drug delivery system, a special gel is used to mimic the behavior of human skin
  • Tests on guinea pig skin show that the drug-laden jet can penetrate up to several millimeters beneath the skin surface, with no damage to the tissue
  • Because of the narrowness and quickness of the jet, it should cause little or no pain and the region of the skin has no nerve endings, so the method "will be completely pain-free
  • Of Note
  • Researchers are now working with a company to produce low-cost replaceable injectors for clinical use
  • Further work would be necessary to adopt it for scenarios like mass vaccine injections for children
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube Laser-powered ‘Needle’ Promises Pain-free Injections | BusinessWire
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Laser-powered ‘needle’ promises pain-free injections |


Tooth protection

  • Japanese scientists have created a microscopically thin film [0.00016 in/0.004 mm]that can coat individual teeth to prevent decay or to make them appear whiter, the chief researcher said
  • The film is a hard-wearing and ultra-flexible material
  • It is made from hydroxyapatite, the main mineral in tooth enamel
  • It could be five or more years before it could be used in practical dental treatment such as covering exposed dentin, the sensitive layer underneath enamel, but it could be used cosmetically within three years
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Japan tooth patch could be end of decay |



  • The announcement two months ago that physicists have discovered a particle consistent with the famous Higgs boson has cleared a formal hurdle with publication in a peer-reviewed journal
  • Although CERN’s announcement was never doubted, it still had to be vetted by peers and then published in an established journal to meet benchmarks of accuracy and openness.
  • Further work is being carried out to confirm whether the new particle is the famous Higgs
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Higgs boson: landmark announcement clears key hurdle |


Shuttle Endeavour

  • There have been a few weather delays so the schedule continues to change so watch my twitter feed and #SpotTheShuttle for the latest updates
  • JB Mars Base
  • [#spottheshuttle](!/search/%23spottheshuttle)

Expedition 32

  • The low down
  • Soyuz spacecraft carrying two Russian cosmonauts and an American spaceflyer (Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka, Sergei Revin and NASA astronaut Joe Acaba) has landed safely back on Earth
  • They landed at 02:54 UTC on Monday, September 17 (8:53 a.m. Kazakhstan time Monday, 10:53 p.m. EDT Sunday, September 16
  • The Mission
  • The Soyuz crew was in good health and spirits
  • The three signed their Soyuz spacecraft, which is destined for a Russian museum
  • Their 125-day spaceflight began in mid-May and included three spacewalks and several robotic cargo ship arrivals
  • The three spaceflyers were originally slated to blast off in March, but a pressure test incident cracked their first Soyuz capsule, causing a six-week delay while another spacecraft was readied.
  • They finally launched on May 14 and just eight days later, SpaceX’s robotic Dragon capsule docked with the station on a historic demonstration mission, becoming the first private vehicle ever to do so.
  • on Sep. 5, crewmates Sunita Williams and Akihiko Hoshide performed an extra spacewalk – the third for the mission
  • They replace a vital power unit on the station’s backbone-like truss. Using improvised tools such as spare parts and a toothbrush to remove a stuck bolt that had delayed the fix a week earlier
  • Expedition 33
  • Expedition 33 is now underway as Commander Suni Williams and Flight Engineers Aki Hoshide and Yuri Malenchenko continue their stay until Nov. 12
  • They will have the station to themselves until mid-October, when three more astronauts will float through the hatch and bring the expedition up to its full complement of six crewmembers.
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube [[ISS] Expedition 32 Safely Landed | SpaceVidsNet](
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Touchdown! Soyuz Spacecraft Lands Safely with Russian-US Crew |
  • Expedition 32 Lands Safely in Kazakhstan |

Opportunity is still finding new things

  • A strange picture of odd, spherical rock formations on Mars from NASA’s Opportunity rover has scientists wondering what exactly they’re looking at.
  • The low down
  • Opportunity is currently exploring a location known as Cape York along the western rim of a giant Martian crater called Endeavour
  • A recent photo by Opportunity shows a close-up of a rock outcrop covered in blister-like bumps that mission scientists can’t yet explain
  • The rock, called Kirkwood, is chock full of a dense accumulation of these small spherical objects
  • Significance
  • The photo is actually a mosaic of four images taken by a microscope-like imager on its robotic arm
  • At first the formations appear similar to so-called Martian “blueberries”, iron-rich spherical formations first seen by Opportunity in 2004
  • “Blueberries” are actually concretions created by minerals in water that settled into sedimentary rock, they were first spotted by Opportunity soon after its landing in 2004 and has seen them at many of its science site
  • However they actually differ in several key ways, and scientists have never seen such a dense accumulation of spherules in a rock outcrop on Mars
  • In this new photo, many of the strange features are broken, revealing odd concentric circles inside that seem to be seem to be crunchy on the outside, and softer in the middle
  • These bumpy, spherical formations on the Kirkwood rock represent something new
  • The accumulations are different in concentration, structure, composition and in distribution
  • The science team have several theories, but none that truly stand out as the best explanation
  • Making this one of the most extraordinary pictures from the whole mission, showing that Opportunity is still pumping out new discoveries after more than eight years on Mars.
  • Of Note
  • As the spring equinox is approaching on Mars, ensuring increasing levels of sunshine for Opportunity’s solar arrays and are currently at production levels comparable to what they were a full Martian year ago
  • The Kirkwood outcrop is just one science pit stop at Cape York for Opportunity
  • Mission scientists have already picked out another interesting rock outcrop nearby, a pale patch that may contain tantalizing clay minerals, for possibly study after Opportunity completes its current analysis.
  • Social Media
  • Spirit and Oppy ‏ @MarsRovers
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Strange Mystery Spheres on Mars Baffle Scientists |


  • Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer [APXS] which is used to analyze mineralogy of samples was also tested
  • There is new panorama from Mars where you can zoom in and you can see actual rocks
  • Curiosity has nearly finished robotic arm tests. Once complete, the rover will be able to touch and examine its first Mars rock
  • It will drive some more and try to find the right rock to begin doing contact science with the arm
  • There is also a look ahead to the terrain to get to the foothill of Aeolis Mons, or Mount Sharp where there appear to be big dunes
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube Curiosity Rover Report (Sept. 13, 2012) | JPLNews
  • Image Gallery Mars Science Laboratory
  • Social Media
  • Curiosity Rover @MarsCuriosity
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Say Ahhh to Mars |
  • [Drive Time: Curiosity Rover Ready to Roll toward First Martian Destination: Scientific American Gallery


Looking back

  • September 23, 1846 : 166 years ago : Neptune discovered : The German astronomer Johan G. Galle discovered Neptune after only an hour of searching, within one degree of the position that had been computed by Urbain-Jean-Joseph Le Verrier. Independently of the English astronomer John C. Adams, Le Verrier had calculated the size and position of a previously unknown planet, which he assumed influenced the irregular orbit of Uranus, and he asked Galle to look for it.

Looking up this week

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