Memories & International Spacecraft | SciByte 111

Memories & International Spacecraft | SciByte 111

We take a look at how you remember things, 3D printing dinosaur bones, a SpaceX launch, India’s Mars Orbiter Mission, China’s lunar rover, and as always take a peek back into history and up in the sky this week.

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Geocaching Memories

  • Using a video game in which people navigate through a virtual town delivering objects to specific locations, a team of neuroscientists have discovered how brain cells that encode spatial information form \”geotags\” for specific memories and are activated immediately before those memories are recalled.
  • The work shows how spatial information is incorporated into memories and why remembering an experience can quickly bring to mind other events that happened in the same place
  • The findings provide the first direct neural evidence for the idea that the human memory system tags memories with information about where and when they were formed
  • The Study
  • This study involved playing a simple video game on a bedside computer
  • The game in this experiment involved making deliveries to stores in a virtual city
  • The participants were first given a period where they were allowed to freely explore the city and learn the stores\’ locations
  • When the game began, participants were only instructed where their next stop was, without being told what they were delivering
  • After they reached their destination, the game would reveal the item that had been delivered, and then give the participant their next stop
  • After 13 deliveries, the screen went blank and participants were asked to remember and name as many of the items they had delivered in the order they came to mind
  • Brain Recordings
  • This allowed the researchers to correlate the neural activation associated with the formation of spatial memories (the locations of the stores) and the recall of episodic memories: (the list of items that had been delivered).
  • \”Having these patients play our games allows us to record every action they take in the game and to measure the responses of neurons both during spatial navigation and then later during verbal recall.\” Michael Kahana, professor of psychology in Penn\’s School of Arts and Sciences
  • By asking participants to recall the items they delivered instead of the stores they visited, the researchers could test whether their spatial memory systems were being activated
  • Neural Map
  • Using the brain recordings generated while the participants navigated the city, the researchers were able to develop a neural map that corresponded to the city\’s layout
  • As participants passed by a particular store, the researchers correlated their spatial memory of that location with the pattern of place cell activation recorded
  • With maps of place cell activations in hand, the researchers were able to cross- reference each participant\’s spatial memories as they accessed their episodic memories of the delivered items
  • Results
  • Given just the place cell activations of a participant the researchers could predict, with better than chance accuracy, the item he or she was recalling
  • While researchers cannot distinguish whether these spatial memories are actually helping the participants access their episodic memories, simply seeing that this place cell activation plays a role in the memory retrieval processes
  • Earlier neuroscience research had suggested the hippocampus has two distinct roles, tracking the location information for spatial memory, and recording events for episodic memory
  • This experiment provides further evidence that these roles are intertwined
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Memories Are ‘Geotagged’ With Spatial Information, Penn Researchers Say | University of Pennselvania News
  • Memories \’geotagged\’ with spatial information | ScienceDaily.com

— NEWS BYTE —

Printing Dinosaur Bones

  • During World War II, a bomb fell on the Museum of National History in Berlin\’s east wing, collapsing the basement where dinosaur fossils were stored
  • Most of the fossils that weren’t blasted to dust had had their labels burned, so no one could identify what the remaining concrete jackets held
    or where they had been dug up
  • Last Time on SciByte …
  • YouTube | Special SciByte Nov 19 | with Nikki and Heather | Mars Base
  • In a small roadside quarry west of Denver, the first Apatosaurus ajax muzzle ever found in morrison sandstone. The sandstone surrounding the fragile fossils was so hard that the paleontologists were afraid that trying to remove the rock would irreparably damage the bone.
  • 3D printing technology will allow paleontologists to see inside the block and even to 3D-print a perfect copy of the bones inside without having to remove them physically and still get the needed data
  • Layers of Confusing Identification
  • Bones from two separate expeditions had been housed in the same area
  • One expedition, in Tanzania, ran from 1909 to 1913 and brought back 235 tons of fossils, labeled with letters based on their locations.
  • The other fossils came from a 1909 discovery in Halberstadt, Germany. Those bones also used a letter-based label system based on individual animals
  • One Fossils Journey
  • The target fossil for the new study was a specimen that had been dug up from a German clay pit in the early 1900s
  • The object, still encased in much of the rock that had entombed it, had been slathered in concrete and then transported back to a museum in
    Berlin
  • A CT scan of one revealed that it held a vertebra from a Plateosaurus and by comparing the scans to sketches of the long-ago digs, the researchers determined that the vertebra came from the Halberstadt dig in Germany
  • The scans showed a fractured bone. Some of the cracks were no doubt from fossilization, but one crunched-up corner was likely the result of the bombing
  • To recreate the bone as it was before the bombing, the researchers took data from the CT scan and built a blueprint to 3D print the fossil
  • When the process was done the researchers were able to print the bone chip from the bombing damage, which fit into the rest of the vertebra like a puzzle piece.
  • 3D Printing Dinosaur Bones
  • Scientists have long used CT scans to peek inside fossil-bearing rocks, but the increasing use of 3D printers now enables them to make endless
    numbers of exact copies of those relics
  • The technique might even help museum folk speed up their analyses: By knowing what’s inside a lump of rock, researchers can determine which
    fossils are worth extracting, and which ones can wait
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • ScienceShot: Printing a Dinosaur | Science/AAAS
  • Dinosaur Bone Damaged in WWII Revealed with 3D Printing | LiveScience.com

— TWO-BYTE NEWS —

SpaceX Launch

  • Thanksgiving Day Launch Aborted, What Happened
  • It fired its engines and was moments away from liftoff from Cape Canaveral when the commercial booster aborted the launch after computers detected the engines were too slow building up thrust.
  • The Falcon 9 pressurized its propellant tanks, switched to internal power and ignited its nine Merlin 1D first stage engines a few seconds before the appointed launch time
  • The Falcon 9\’s computer-controlled countdown sequencer recognized a problem and called off the launch
  • As engineers continued to study and resolve the problem, SpaceX elected to restart the countdown to preserve a chance to launch Thursday
  • Ultimately, however, SpaceX said they could not get comfortable with the issue in time and ordered another hold with less than a minute left in the day\’s second countdown.
  • The Mission
  • The Dec 3 liftoff at 5:41 p.m. EST (2241 GMT) marked SpaceX\’s first entry into the large commercial satellite market and its first launch into a geostationary transfer orbit needed for such a mission.
  • This also marks the first commercial launch from the this Florida
    launch pad and the first commercial flight from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in over five years
  • **The Future***
  • SpaceX has nearly 50 launches on manifest, of which over 60% are for commercial customers
  • Being able to launch into this new orbit will let SpaceX compete against Europe and Russia to haul large telecommunications satellites into orbit.
  • This launch also marks the second of three certification flights needed to certify the Falcon 9 to fly missions for the U.S. Air Force under the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program
  • When Falcon 9 is certified, SpaceX will be eligible to compete for all National Security Space (NSS) missions
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube | Launch of SpaceX Falcon 9\’s First Commercial Mission – SES-8 | SpaceVids.tv·
  • YouTube | SpaceX Falcon 9 / SES-8 Launch Abort After Engine Ignition On Thanksgiving Day |Matthew Travis
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • SpaceX Aborts Thanksgiving Rocket Launch Due to Engine Trouble | Space.com
  • SpaceX Successfully Completes First Mission to Geostationary Transfer Orbit | SpaceX
  • SpaceX Launches Falcon 9 Rocket On High-Stakes Commercial Satellite Mission | Space.com

— Updates —

Comet ISON

— SPACECRAFT UPDATE—

India’s Mars Orbiter Mission

China\’s First Lunar Rover

  • China successfully launched its first ever lunar rover bound for the Moon’s surface aboard a Long March rocket at 1:30 a.m. Beijing local time, Dec. 2, 2013 (12:30 p.m. EST, Dec. 1) from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China.
  • The name for the ‘Yutu’ rover – which translates as ‘Jack Rabbit’ – was chosen after a special naming contest involving a worldwide poll and voting to select the best name, ‘Yutu’ stems from a Chinese fairy tale, in which the goddess Chang’e flew off to the moon taking her little pet Jade rabbit with her.
  • Mission Plan
  • The Chang’e 3 lander will fire thrusters to enter lunar orbit on Dec. 6.
  • It is due to make a powered descent to the lunar surface on Dec. 14, firing thrusters at an altitude of 15 km (9 mi) for touchdown in a preselected area called the Bay of Rainbows or Sinus Iridum region.
  • The Rover
  • Jack Rabbit measures 150 cm, nearly 5 ft, high and weighs approximately 120 kg, 265 lb
  • The rover and lander are equipped with multiple cameras, spectrometers, an optical telescope, radar and other sensors to investigate the lunar surface and composition
  • The rover is expected to continue operating for at least three months
  • Of Note
  • The next step will be an unmanned lunar sample return mission, perhaps around 2020
  • If successful, the Chang’e 3 mission will mark the first soft landing on the Moon since the Soviet Union’s unmanned Luna 24 sample return vehicle landed nearly four decades ago back in 1976.
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube | Animation of Chang\’E-3 lunar probe | CCTV News
  • YouTube | China\’s Chang\’e-3 Lunar Probe Launch | CCTV America
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Spectacular Liftoff Thrusts China\’s First Rover \’Yutu\’ to the Moon | UniverseToday.com

SCIENCE CALENDAR

Looking back

  • Dec 10, 1901: 112 years ago : First Nobel Prizes : At the first Nobel Prize Award Ceremony, the king of Sweden distributed the first Nobel Prizes, in accordance with the will of inventor Alfred Nobel. The day was the anniversary of Nobel\’s death. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences had decided on 10 Nov 1901 to award the first Nobel Prize in Physics to Wilhelm Röntgen for his discovery of X-rays and the first Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Jacobus H. van\’t Hoff for his work on rates of reaction, equilibrium and osmotic pressure. The first Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was given to Emil von Behring, for his work on serum therapy, particularly for its use in the treatment of diphtheria. His Nobel diploma was dated 30 Oct 1901, signed by staff at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm. Nobel Foundation | Wikipedia, First Prizes | Wikipedia

Looking up this week

  • Keep an eye out for …
  • Wed, Dec 4 | Twilight | The waxing crescent moon is to the far lower right of Venus
  • Thurs, Dec 5 | Twilight | Venus now sits about 7* to the lower left of the moon. [5* ~3 middle fingers held at arms length]
  • Fri, Dec 6 | The moon will be high above Venus in the SW
  • Sat, Dec 7 | Earliest sunset of the years. *Note, the longest night is Dec 21st, and the latest sunrise will be Jan 4th. Apparent solar time or true solar time is based on the apparent motion of the actual Sun. The length of a solar day varies through the year, and the accumulated effect produces seasonal deviations of up to 16 minutes from the mean.
  • Planets
  • Saturn | Dawn | Saturn is in the E-SE skies as it returns to view as its position in the sky gets farther from the sun
  • Venus | \”Evening Star\” | In the SW during and after dusk, no settin until about 1.5 hours after dark
  • Mars | Rising about 1am local it moves to the high E skies by dawn
  • Jupiter | ~7-8 pm local | Rises in the E-NE until it reaches its highest point ~2am

  • Further Reading and Resources

  • Sky&Telescope
  • SpaceWeather.com
  • StarDate.org
  • For the Southern hemisphere: SpaceInfo.com.au
  • Constellations of the Southern Hemisphere : astronomyonline.org
  • Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand : rasnz.org.nz
  • AstronomyNow
  • HeavensAbove

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