Category: News Posts

The Ultimate Guide In Making The Perfect Snowball

Moisture and air content

Light powder snow is the driest kind, containing lots of air. This snow makes for terrible snowballs because it won’t pack – and it won’t pack because of its low moisture content.

Try looking for a place where you know the snow will be slightly warmer. The heat given off by a house, for example, could make snow just moist enough to make it good for snowballs.

Be patient. If all else fails, lie down on some snow for a few minutes; your body heat will begin to melt the snow just a bit, providing that moisture you need to pack it better.




Temperature

The ideal temperature for snowballs is right around freezing. If you know the temperature is around 32F (0C), then don’t waste your time scooping snow from near a house; the world’s your oyster!

Depth of the snow

If you have more than a few inches, skip the snow on the very surface; your strategy should be to scoop snow out from underneath.

Why? It has already been packed together gently, which means less work for you.

Even the lightest snow, after an accumulation like this, will be easier to pack after being buried beneath snow layers.

Gloves or mitts?

For a snowball fight, choose gloves. Avoid ­mittens for a couple serious reasons. If they feel warmer, it’s because less heat is escaping them.

But a little bit of heat from our hands helps immensely when it comes to packing snow into a snowball, so gloves make more sense.

Not only that, but have you ever tried to throw a snowball in mittens?

It’s reminiscent of those childhood nightmares in which you’re trying to defend yourself from some villain, but you have absolutely no ­physical strength.

The delicate art of packing

Scoop up enough snow to fill your cupped hands. You’ll inevitably lose a little of it as you pack, and the packing will condense the snow as well.

From this cupped position, slowly close your hands together and begin rotating them as if you were trying to trap an insect without killing it.

Apply increasing pressure as you rotate your hands into this position, and once they are hiding most of the snow, increase your pressure.

Rotate your hands back and forth slightly as you do; you’ll hear the muted sounds of friction as the snowflakes compress.

Be careful not to pack too forcefully. If you don’t apply enough pressure, the snowball will never be firm, but too much force applied too rapidly will cause the snowball to fall apart.

Gradual pressure allows you to withdraw pressure as you feel resistance.

A perfect snowball should leave its mark.

If you have found the right snow and applied that magic amount of pressure, your snowball should leave a clinging mark, physically and psychologically – a brief mark of humiliation on your foe.

But there’s little time to wallow in self-admiration. You have to start all over again.

You’re a snowball artist, one of the most romantic of all arts – alternately pure and transgressive but, above all, ephemeral.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

NASA Planning A 2069 Mission To Look For Life On Newly Discovered Earth-Like Planets

NASA is reportedly planning an interstellar mission to search for life outside our solar system in the three-star Alpha Centauri system.

The mission is as yet unnamed and the technology required to get a craft there does not exist yet, but the projected launch date would coincide with the 100th anniversary of the first moon landing.

The ambitious mission would require a craft that would need to travel at a minimum of 10 per cent of the speed of light.




The Alpha Centauri constellation is 4.4 light years away, and even if a record-breaking tenth of the speed of light could be achieved, the system would still be a 44-year trip, reaching our nearest neighbor by 2113.

NASA is said to be considering sending tiny probes powered by lasers which in theory may be able to reach a quarter of the speed of light.

Other techniques under consideration include harnessing nuclear reactions, or through collisions between antimatter and matter, the magazine reported.

There is already a known exoplanet in the Alpha Centauri star system, Proxima Centauri b, which orbits a red dwarf star.

However, it has not been considered a perfect location for finding alien life, as the star throws out bursts of radiation that make the conditions inhospitable.

So far humans have only made one spacecraft that has successfully left our solar system – the Voyager 1 craft.

Which was launched in 1977 and despite the limitations of the technology it was equipped with, provided astonishing new insights into the planets and moons within our own solar system.

However, it was never designed to be an interstellar craft.

NASA’s announcement follows an admission from the former head of the Pentagon’s secret UFO-hunting bureau that he believes “we may not be alone”, and said he had seen compelling evidence to support the idea of alien life.

As the first alien rock to travel here from another star, it was immediately recognized as highly unusual – but as scientists learn more about the object, they are discovering how strange it actually is.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: New Scientist

Drastic ‘Double Decker’ Space Probe That Could Reveal The Secrets Of Mercury

It is one of the most mysterious planets in the universe – and one we know very little about.

Now European space bosses hope to send two probes stacked on the same craft to the rocky planet in 2018.

BepiColombo will be the European Space Agency’s (ESA) first mission to the closest rock to the Sun.

BepiColombo aims to “follow up on many of the intriguing results of NASA’s Messenger mission, probing deeper into Mercury’s mysteries than ever before,” the ESA said.




BepiColombo will study the peculiarities of Mercury’s internal structure and magnetic field generation, and how it interacts with the Sun and solar wind.

The joint project with the Japanese agency JAXA, which has cost more than 1.3 billion euros ($1.48 billion), involves some 33 companies from 12 EU nations, as well as firms from the US and Japan.

The craft has an unusual design, comprising a ‘stacked aircraft’ carrying two orbiters—one European, the other Japanese—which will separate on arrival to go into different, but complementary orbits around Mercury.

It has been delayed several times, but the mission chiefs are now confident that it is on track to launch in October next year.

Mercury is the ‘most peculiar of all rocky planets,’ Alvaro Gimenez, ESA’s director of science told reporters at the agency’s center in the Dutch coastal town of Noordwijk.

Its surface is wracked by extreme temperatures, ranging from +450 to -180 degrees Celsius (+842 to -292 degrees Fahrenheit).

It also has a magnetic field, the only rocky planet besides Earth to have one.

But Mercury is so weak that the field does not provide a shield against solar radiation.

It orbits just 58 million kilometers (36 million miles) from the Sun, and its surface is blasted by radiation levels that would destroy earthly lifeforms.

Its proximity to the Sun also makes Mercury hard to study from Earth because the brightness impedes the view.

The Sun’s huge gravity also makes it difficult to put a craft into steady orbit around the planet.

So far only two NASA missions have visited Mercury—Mariner 10 in the 1970s and Messenger, which orbited the planet from 2011 until it ran out of fuel in April 2015.

BepiColombo will study the peculiarities of Mercury’s internal structure and magnetic field generation, and how it interacts with the Sun and solar wind.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: New Scientist

Inside The Weird World Of Quantum Computers

In a world where we are relying increasingly on computing, to share our information and store our most precious data, the idea of living without computers might baffle most people.

But if we continue to follow the trend that has been in place since computers were introduced, by 2040 we will not have the capability to power all of the machines around the globe, according to a recent report by the Semiconductor Industry Association.




What is quantum computing?

Quantum computing takes advantage of the strange ability of subatomic particles to exist in more than one state at any time.

Due to the way the tiniest of particles behave, operations can be done much more quickly and use less energy than classical computers.

In classical computing, a bit is a single piece of information that can exist in two states – 1 or 0. Quantum computing uses quantum bits, or ‘qubits’ instead.

These are quantum systems with two states. However, unlike a usual bit, they can store much more information than just 1 or 0, because they can exist in any superposition of these values.

A qubit can be thought of like an imaginary sphere. Whereas a classical bit can be in two states – at either of the two poles of the sphere – a qubit can be any point on the sphere.

This means a computer using these bits can store a huge amount more information using less energy than a classical computer.

Last year, a team of Google and NASA scientists found a D-wave quantum computer was 100 million times faster than a conventional computer.

But moving quantum computing to an industrial scale is difficult.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: New Scientist

According To Psychologist, Love At First Sight Doesn’t Actually Exist

We’ve all seen that movie moment when two strangers meet and feel an instant romantic connection.

In fact, “love at first sight” has been a mainstay of literature for thousands of years, and people in real life often claim to experience a similar spark.

But is that feeling actually love? Not quite, according to the authors of a new study.

In the study, researchers investigated whether people feel love at first sight — LAFS — or whether they believe retroactively that they felt that way, once they’ve already formed an attachment to a romantic partner.

The scientists also questioned whether what people call: “love” at a first encounter is truly representative of the complex emotions that make up love — or just a powerful physical attraction.




Prior studies have shown that being in love activates certain brain regions, and the location of the activity can vary depending on what type of love the person is feeling, such as emotional, maternal or passionate love.

Intense, passionate love activates the same networks in the brain as addiction does, and more long-term love sparked responses in brain regions associated with attachment and reward.

Researchers have also previously reported that as many as 1 in 3 people in Western countries claim to have experienced LAFS.

And that the feeling is associated with more passion and stronger bonds within the relationship, the scientists wrote in the new study.

But there was little evidence indicating if LAFS occurred when people thought it did — at the moment of their first meeting ― or if they merely remembered it happening that way through the lens of their current romantic feelings, the study authors explained.

The scientists collected data from about 500 encounters between nearly 400 participants, mostly heterosexual Dutch and German students in their mid-20s.

Using three stages of data collection — an online survey, a laboratory study and three dating events lasting up to 90 minutes each.

The researchers gathered information from their subjects about meeting prospective romantic partners.

They noted whether participants said that they felt something akin to LAFS upon a first meeting, and how physically attractive they ranked the person who inspired those feelings.

To define what qualified as “love,” subjects submitted self-analysis of several key components: “eros”,”intimacy,” “passion” and “commitment.”

During the tests, 32 different individuals reported experiencing LAFS a total of 49 times — and that observation wasn’t typically accompanied with high ratings for love components such as intimacy and commitment.

However, reports of LAFS did correspond with a potential partner scoring higher as physically attractive, the researchers discovered.

About 60 percent of the study participants were women, but men were more likely to report feeling LAFS “on the spot,” the study authors reported.

And in every case, their experience of LAFS was unreciprocated, suggesting that mutual, instantaneous LAFS “might generally be rare,” according to the study.

The authors determined that LAFS was, in fact, merely “a strong initial attraction” that people identified as love, either at the moment they felt it, or in retrospect.

And though some study subjects who were already involved with someone reported that they fell in love at first glance, it’s hard to say for sure if that happened the way they remembered.

Answering this question would require further investigation into romantic relationships, to see how those initial, powerful feelings of instantaneous love play out over time, the scientists wrote.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: New Scientist

Anthropocene: We Might Be About To Move From The Holocene To A New Epoch

After 11,700 years, the Holocene epoch may be coming to an end, with a group of geologists, climate scientists and ecologists meeting in Berlin this week to decide whether humanity’s impact on the planet has been big enough to deserve a new time period: the Anthropocene.

The term, coined in the 1980s by ecologist Eugene F. Stoermer, takes its prefix from the Ancient Greek word for human because its proponents believe the influence of humanity on the Earth’s atmosphere and crust in the last few centuries is so significant as to constitute a new geological epoch.




The Anthropocene Working Group assembles in Berlin on Friday, an interdisciplinary body of scientists and humanists working under the umbrella of the International Commission on Stratigraphy and “tasked with developing a proposal for the formal ratification of the Anthropocene as an official unit amending the Geological Time Scale“.

The 30-strong group, which includes a lawyer, has outlined two key questions which it will address during deliberations at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt:

How does the recent cognition of the immense quantitative shift in the biophysical conditions of the Earth affect both scientific research and a political response to these changes?”

And “Does the Anthropocene also pose a profound qualitative shift, a paradigm shift for the ways in which science, politics, and law advance accordingly?”

Following the Pleistocene, we have for the last 11,700 years lived in the Holocene epoch, which is characterized by the warmer and wetter conditions that came after the end of the last ice age and has seen humans establish new territories and the Earth’s population soar.

Many scientists are happy with the Holocene as a term, but after Nobel Prize-winning atmospheric chemist popularized the “Anthropocene” at the turn of the millennium it refuses to go away and the ICS has deemed it in need of serious debate.

Based around a series of presentations by members of the AWG and statements from invited speakers from the humanities, the social sciences, and political fields, the forum will “discuss both the extraordinary changes to the Earth system as well as its consequences in setting new agendas for governing, researching, and disseminating crucial knowledge.”

The group has given itself until 2016 to come up with a proposal to submit to the ISC, which ultimately determines what time period we live in.

This might seem like a long way away, but when you consider the earliest epoch, the Paleozoic, began approximately 541 to 252 million years ago, it’s just a speck in the Earth’s history.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it in: New Scientist

How Molten Salt Reactors Might Spell A Nuclear Energy Rebellion

Since former NASA engineer Kirk Sorensen revived forgotten molten salt reactor (MSR) technology in the 2000s, interest in MSR technology has been growing quickly.

Why this sudden interest in a nuclear technology that dates back to the 1950s?

The answer lies in both the phenomenal safety of MSRs and their potential to help solve so many of today’s energy related problems, from climate change to energy poverty to the intermittency of wind and solar power.

In fact, MSRs can operate so safely, they may alleviate public fears about nuclear energy.

Before looking at the potential of MSRs, though, it is useful to first take a high-level look at what they are and how they work.




What is a Molten Salt Reactor?

A molten salt reactor (MSR) is a type of nuclear reactor that uses liquid fuel instead of the solid fuel rods used in conventional nuclear reactors.

Using liquid fuel provides many advantages in safety and simplicity of design.

Unlike conventional reactors, the rate of fission in an MSR is inherently stable.

Nonetheless, should the fuel salt become too hot to operate safely, a freeze plug below the reactor will melt and the liquid content of the reactor will flow down into emergency dump tanks where it cannot continue to fission and can cool safely.

Why Molten Salt Reactors?

MSRs are a huge departure from the conventional reactors most people are familiar with. Key features include:

  • Unparalleled safety – MSRs are walk-away safe. They cannot melt down as can conventional reactors because they are molten by design. An operator cannot even force an MSR to overheat.
  • A solution to nuclear waste and stockpiles of plutonium – Conventional reactors use solid ceramic fuel rods containing enriched uranium. The fission of uranium in the fuel releases gases, such as xenon, which causes the fuel rods to crack.This cracking, in turn, makes it necessary to remove and replace the fuel rods well before most of the actinides such as uranium have fissioned.
  • Abundant energy cheaper than energy from coal – MSRs can be made cheaply because they are simple compared to conventional reactors that have large pressurized containment domes and many engineered and redundant safety systems.

  • Load following solar and wind power – Gas plants must ramp up quickly when power from wind and sun is scarce, and ramp down quickly when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing.
  • Abundant energy for millions of years – Although it is sometimes claimed that nuclear power is not sustainable, the truth is that there is enough nuclear fuel on earth to provide humanity with abundant energy for millions of years.
  • Replaces fossil fuels where wind and solar are problematic – MSR technology has potential far beyond generating electricity cheaply and without emitting CO2.

MSRs could also be used to power large container ships, which currently run on diesel.

The 15 largest of these ships produce as much air pollution every day as do all of the cars on the planet.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

3D-Printed Chains of Ice And The Robot-Assisted Igloos Of The Future

A small but dedicated team led by Pieter Sijpkes and Jorge Angeles has been spear-heading the experimental use of ice at the university.

Creating everything from 3D-printed chains to what they describe as “commercial and industrial part modeling” used in fabrication, including full-scale construction tests for “the ice-tourism industry.”

For instance,” they explain, “small-scale ice models represent economical alternatives to intricate 3D models of architectural objects, be they scale models of buildings, site models, or building details.




Why prototype in plastic, in other words, when you can simply use the renewable, re-meltable, and re-freezable resource of freshwater?

Awesomely, like something out of the X-Men, Sijpkes and Angeles add that “casting techniques are being investigated in order to produce high-quality metal copies from ice originals.”

Here’s how the printing is done:

The idea is that you deposit a very thin bead of water onto your build surface is the same way that would extrude plastic.”

“Once a layer has been laid down there would be a delay of a few minutes while it freezes in the cold build chamber.”

“Once frozen, the next layer is deposited and the process repeats. By keeping the beads of water only a few millimeters in size surface tension alone should be enough to keep them in place.”

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

At Last, Make Perfect Popcorn With Science

Popcorn has been around for hundreds, if not thousands of years.

But though scientists have long known that expanding moisture within a kernel of corn causes it to burst into all its edible glory, they’ve had to contend with lingering popcorn mysteries.

What’s really going on when popcorn puffs? What makes that popping sound, anyway?

And what’s the perfect temperature for popping corn?

Now, French scientists have answers on both fronts. The BBC reports that a team of physicists used high-speed cameras to observe popcorn as it was heated in an oven.




As they cranked up the oven temp in 10°C increments, they could see every wobble, burst and jump as unpinned kernels turned into popcorn.

At 2,900 frames per second, the physicists were able to see the physical mechanisms that give popcorn its pop. First, it forms a “flake” as internal pressure begins to fracture the kernel.

Then, a compressed “leg” erupts from the kernel, causing it to take off and jump.

They concluded that “popcorn is midway between two categories of moving systems: explosive plants using fracture mechanisms and jumping animals using muscles.”

And when the scientists synced up audio recordings to unravel the mystery of the sound that gives popcorn its name, they learned that it’s not caused by the fracturing kernel or its rebound as it pops, but by a release of pressurized water vapor.

So what’s the ideal temperature for popping corn? When heated to 338 degrees Fahrenheit, only 34 percent of kernels popped.

But by bumping up the temperature another increment to 356F, the scientists found that 96 percent of the kernels popped. At last—better popcorn through physics.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

SpaceX Launch Leaves Ghostly Glowing Trail In The Sky

People along the West Coast looked toward the heavens Friday to find a strange, morphing orb glowing in the night sky.

It looked like the stuff of science fiction, but it was actually the mark of a SpaceX rocket hauling a group of telecom satellites into Earth’s orbit.

The rocket took off from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in central California, and kicked up a flurry of wonder from social media users from across the state.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk fueled the fun by teasing onlookers who were confused by the eerie contrail.

Nuclear alien UFO from North Korea,” he tweeted.




But the show was, in fact, put on by the rocket’s exhaust meeting the crisp air.

Water vapor from the aircraft engine exhaust is immediately exposed to very cold temperatures at very high altitudes.”

“The impurities in the exhausts and the very cold temperatures are the perfect recipe for a condensation trail,” writes meteorologist and Forbes contributor Marshall Shepherd.

It’s just like what airplanes leave behind when they streak across the sky.

Friday’s launch marked SpaceX’s 18th and final launch for the 2017 calendar year, making it the busiest private-sector rocket company in the world.

The mission was to deliver a group of 10 telecommunications satellites to low-Earth orbit for a company called Iridium, which is in the process of replacing its vast satellite network.

It’ll be used to deliver communications services and, among other things, track airplane traffic.

Musk took advantage of the buzz created by Friday’s spectacle to tout SpaceX’s next big feat: conducting a test launch of its massive new rocket, called Falcon Heavy.

That’s due in January.

To translate, “rocket cores” refer to the boosters at the base of the rocket.

They provide the initial thrust at lift-off. SpaceX’s defining move is to guide those boosters back to Earth for a safe landing so they can be reused in future missions.

The Falcon Heavy has three boosters, two more than SpaceX’s operational Falcon 9 rocket, and SpaceX will attempt to recover all of them.

Droneship refers to a landing pad that SpaceX sends into the ocean to capture boosters that fly out with a horizontal trajectory.

Reusing hardware is all part of SpaceX’s plan to drastically drive down the cost of spaceflight, and the company has all but mastered the move. It’s landed rockets on 20 separate occasions.

No rocket landing was attempted on Friday, however.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science