“Super-Earths” & Plastic Skin | SciByte 71

“Super-Earths” & Plastic Skin | SciByte 71

We take a look at a possible new “Super-Earths,” simulated skin, airless tires, Viewer Feedback, Curiosity update, and as always take a peek back into history and up in the sky this week.

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Show Notes:

New “Super-Earth” Exoplanet-Candidate?

  • Last time on SciByte
  • Painful Math & Canadian Rovers | SciByte 70 – Viewer Feedback [Nov 8, 2012]
  • Researchers poring over data from ESO’s HARPS planet-hunting instrument are suggesting that there are likely at least six super-Earth exoplanets one of them appearing to be in the star’s water-friendly “Goldilocks” zone
  • The Telescope
  • HARPS (High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher) on ESO’s La Silla 3.6m telescope is a dedicated exoplanet hunter detect the slight wobble of a star caused by the gravitational tug of orbiting planets
  • The exoplanet system
  • The planet orbits a star about 42 light-years away in the constellation Pictor
  • The system was thought to harbor only three “super-Earth” exoplanets in close orbit but sensitive data-filtering methods revealed the presence of three more
  • The planetary candidate that is farthest-out of these lies in a “sweet spot
  • Detection
  • Scientists detected the new planets from changes in the light of the host star as the planets’ gravity tugged on it.
  • Instead of analyzing all the light from the star the scientists split the light into different wavelengths to pick out the planets’ signals from those
  • This allowed them to be able to look more deeply into the data and detect weaker signals
  • HD 40307 g, a New “Super-Earth”?
  • The star HD 40307, is a perfectly quiet old dwarf star, so there is no reason why such a planet could not sustain an Earth-like climate
  • HD 40307 g is located far enough away from its star to likely not be tidally locked meaning it wouldn’t have one side subject to constant heat and radiation while its other “far side” remains cold and dark
  • The estimated 7-Earth-mass exoplanet receives around 62% of the radiation that Earth gets from the Sun
  • HD 40307 g is still a candidate, more observations are needed to not only confirm its existence but also to find out exactly what kind of planet it may be.
  • More detailed characterization of this candidate however are very unlikely using ground based studies because it is very unlikely to transit the star, and a direct imaging mission seems the most promising way of learning more
  • Of Note
  • Nothing is known yet about the new planet’s physical and geochemical properties
  • Just finding potential Earth-sized worlds in a system like HD 40307′s is a big deal for planetary scientists
  • This system is a good target for a space-based imaging mission, because it is so close to Earth
  • The potential-exoplanet has been added to the Planetary Habitability Laboratory’s Habitable Exoplanets Catalog, now in 4th place of top exoplanets of interest based on similarity to Earth
  • Multimedia
  • HD 40307g super-Earth in habitable zone HD 40307
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Astronomers find tantalizing hints of a potentially habitable exoplanet | Phys.org
  • Super-Earth joins ranks in life-supporting zone | ScienceNews.com
  • Astronomers Find Tantalizing Hints of a Potentially Habitable Exoplanet | UniverseToday.com
  • Super-Earth Planet: Potentially Habitable Alien World Explained (Infographic) | Space.com


Plastic Skin

  • Researchers in California may have designed a synthetic version—a flexible, electrically conductive, self-healing polymer.
  • The low down
  • For a decade science had been working on the production of circuits thin and flexible enough to be attached to skin, like wearable heart rate monitors since silicon, the base material of the electronics industry, is brittle
  • Chemists, meanwhile, have become increasingly interested in “self-healing” polymers
  • Several research groups have produced plastics that can join their cut edges together when scientists heat them, shine a light on them, or even just hold the cut edges together
  • So far all the self-healing polymers demonstrated to date had had very low bulk electrical conductivities and would have been little use in electrical sensors.
  • Significance
  • The researchers detail how they increased the conductivity of a self-healing polymer by incorporating nickel atoms, allowing electrons to “jump” between the metal atoms
  • It is also sensitive to applied forces like pressure and torsion (twisting) because such forces alter the distance between the nickel atoms
  • This would affect the difficulty the electrons have jumping from one to the other and changing the electrical resistance of the polymer
  • To demonstrate the properties after the material had been damaged and healed, the researchers cut the polymer completely through with a scalpel. After pressing the cut edges together gently for 15 seconds, the researchers found the sample went on to retain 98% of its original conductivity and retains this property the course of several cuts
  • Of Note
  • One worry is that with a scalpel you can very precisely cut the material without inducing significant local mechanical deformation around the wound
  • There is some question about failure due to mechanical tension, however, could stretch the material, producing significant scarring and preventing complete self-healing
  • Researchers are working to make the polymer more like human skin flexible and stretchable
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Self-Healing Plastic ‘Skin’ Points Way to New Prosthetics | news.ScienceMag.org
  • New Skin? A Plastic That Heals Itself, Conducts Electricity, and is Sensitive To Touch | blog.DiscoveryMagazine.org


“The Standard Model” and Supersymmetry

  • The low down
  • An extremely rare particle measurement from the world’s largest atom smasher could cast doubt on a popular theory about the fundamental building blocks of the universe, including dark matter.
  • initial observations correspond so well with the Standard Model predictions isn’t a hopeful sign for what scientists call “new physics,” such as new particles not predicted by the Standard Model.
  • Watch for more information
  • Going to take further analysis on this before commenting any further
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Rare Particle Find May Cast Doubt on Popular Physics Theory | Space.com

Airless tires

  • A Colorado company sees the future of tires on mountain bikes, and they are puncture-proof and airless
  • The low down
  • The physics behind the ERW is like that of a garage door
  • When an object can be sprung by stretching rubber Scientists call this “Elastic Potential Energy”
  • Significance
  • Even though a garage door weighs several hundred pounds, when it is sprung by the use of springs
  • When you lift it, it only feels like it weighs a few pounds
  • At the center of the ERW is a layer of rubber. Via rods that are adjustable, the rubber is stretched, which stores elastic potential energy in the wheel
  • When the ERW is attached to an object, that object becomes sprung. "Just like a garage door that is sprung
  • The ERW’s inner elastic layer construct, provides the cushioning that air provides in traditional tires.
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube EnergyReturnWheel channel
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Corporate Site – Britek Tire and Rubber
  • Airless wheels for mountain bikes may ditch patches and pumps | phys.org



Looking back

  • Nov 16, 1972: 40 years ago : Skylab III : Skylab III, carrying a crew of three astronauts, was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on an 84-day mission that remained the longest American space flight for over two decades (until Norm Thagard broke it aboard Mir in 1995 and Shannon Lucid, Feb 2002-Sep 2003). The Skylab III crew, Gerald P. Carr, William R. Pogue and Edward C. Gibson, maintained their physical condition by walking treadmills and riding an on-board stationary bicycle. Among the thousands of experiments conducted during this flight, the astronauts took four space walks, including one on Christmas Day to observe the comet Kohoutek. After 1214 orbits, the crew returned to Earth, splashing down on 8 Feb 1974.


Looking up this week

— Science is taking Thanksgiving Week off—

  • I’m thankful for
  • SciByte listeners! [aka chat stars of the video version, Science Ninja’s, etc]
  • For all things science, and even non-science
  • Jupiter Broadcasting!

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