It's hard to imagine what the universe looked like 11 billion years ago, especially when I have trouble imagining what I want to do this weekend.
Scientists with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey are helping out by creating what they say is the largest 3D map of our universe. They did so by relying on ancient light emanating from quasars situated many eons away.
Quasars are extremely bright, remote objects that are often referred to as a "galactic nucleus" and emit incredible amounts of energy. A total of 14,000 quasars were tapped to create the map, and mapmakers used them in conjunction with interstellar hydrogen gas clouds that absorb light as it travels to Earth.
The detail in the map is based on wavelengths of quasar light that are absorbed by hydrogen gas clouds, revealing specific wavelengths of light and the distance between each. The result is a stunning 11-billion-year-old cosmological model. … Read more
Boeing said today that its Phantom Ray unmanned aircraft has flown on its own for the first time.
The prototype unmanned airborne system, which sports a striking flying-wing design, flew for 17 minutes on April 27, reaching a speed of 178 knots and an altitude of 7,500 feet. More flights will take place in the coming weeks, Boeing said.
"The UAS bar has been raised," Craig Brown, Phantom Ray program manager for Boeing, said in a statement. "Now I'm eager to see how high that bar will go."
An American-built remotely operated vehicle (ROV) has finally retrieved the black box of an Air France jet that crashed in the Atlantic in 2009, killing all 228 people aboard.
The Remora 6000, built by Maryland-based Phoenix International, fished out the data recorder of Flight 447, an Airbus A330 that went down June 1, 2009 en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. It may have flown through thunderstorms but investigators still don't know why it crashed.
Wreckage from the aircraft was first spotted in early April, and the plane was found at a depth of about 3,900 meters (12,800 feet).
Photos of the orange recorder produced by Honeywell International suggest the device is intact, but it's unclear whether data can be retrieved from it after such a long period on the seabed. … Read more
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla.--Engineers have traced an electrical problem blamed for grounding the shuttle Endeavour Friday to a power distribution box in the ship's engine compartment, officials said today. Replacing the box will delay launch until at least May 8--Mother's Day--and possibly later.
"I'm here to disappoint everybody by saying I'm not going to tell you what the new launch date is because I have no idea," Mike Moses, chairman of NASA's Mission Management Team, told reporters after engineers decided on a course of action. "We have a lot to evaluate, both the work to do, the R & R (removal and replacement), the retest that has to be done, how we work all that schedule in.
"But we can tell you pretty much it's not going to be any earlier than the 8th. That doesn't mean we're going to go launch on the 8th, that just means we know right now the 8th is our next available opening," he said.
Launch Director Mike Leinbach said engineers plan to remove the suspect aft load control assembly--ALCA-2--box from Endeavour's cramped engine compartment tomorrow, install a replacement Tuesday and get into a complex re-test procedure Tuesday night or early Wednesday.
To make a launch at 12:09:17 p.m. EDT on May 8, NASA would have to start a fresh three-day countdown around 10:30 a.m. Thursday. Whether the team can complete the ALCA-2 swap-out and re-test in time remains to be seen.… Read more
Not to be outdone by Boy Scouts who can now earn a robotics badge, a team of Girl Scouts from Iowa has created a prize-winning prosthetic device to help a 3-year-old girl born without fingers on her right hand.
The Flying Monkeys robotics team developed the BOB-1 tool as part of the FIRST Lego League (FLL) competition, an international kids' robotics program.
The Monkeys are 11 to 13 years old, including one who has a limb difference that provided inspiration for the invention. The girls consulted a prosthetics maker and an occupational therapist and came up with a design that has a platform strapped to the arm as well as a cylindrical holder for writing implements or other tools.
The device helped 3-year-old Danielle hold a pencil with her right arm and write for the first time. It also netted the Flying Monkeys an FLL Global Innovation award of up to $20,000 to patent the invention, which they have applied for (PDF).
Danielle's family has worked with the team to improve the device and would like another for a 5-year-old boy it adopted who also has a limb difference.
Many years ago, there was a cricket match between the West Indies and England. (Cricket's a little like baseball, only takes longer and often no one wins.)
The radio commentators were talking about a bowler (pitcher) called Michael Holding. The batsman (hitter) was Peter Willey. One of the commentators then said, quite naturally: "The bowler's Holding, the batsman's Willey."
After a nanosecond of silence, the whole commentating crew was reduced to monstrous giggles. They couldn't stop. There was nothing they could do. Because, well, one of them had suggested that the bowler was holding … Read more
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla.--An electrical glitch with the shuttle Endeavour's hydraulic power system forced NASA managers to scrub today's planned launch on a space station assembly mission, disappointing thousands of spectators and spoiling a visit by President Obama and his family.
It also was a disappointment to commander Mark Kelly's wife, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who flew to Florida on Wednesday to watch the launch. Giffords has been recovering after being shot in the head during a shooting in January.
"But as we always say in this business, we will not fly this machine until it's ready," said Launch Director Mike Leinbach. "And today, it was not ready to go."
NASA managers do not yet know what it will take to resolve the problem, but they are hopeful a faulty thermostat in a heater circuit is to blame. If so, the shuttle could be ready for another launch attempt as early as Monday at 2:33:56 p.m. EDT.
But if the problem requires a cockpit fuse panel swap out, or installation of a replacement electrical box in the shuttle's aft engine compartment, Endeavour's launch on its 25th and final mission likely will be delayed until May 9 or 10, after the planned May 6 launch of an Atlas rocket carrying a missile early-warning satellite.… Read more
A spaceship isn't much use if it doesn't have the juice to go somewhere. And if you're an astronaut bouncing around destinations like the moon, random asteroids, Lagrange points, and Mars, you'll probably need an interstellar gas station.
Cryogenic propellants used in rocket engines are usually made of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. Both liquids reside in enormous insulated containers and are pumped through an expansion chamber, then mixed and ignited in the combustion chamber. The result is an incredible amount of power per gallon of cryogenic proellant, up to 40 percent higher than other rocket fuels.
However, there are many challenges to creating a gas station in the stars. The primary objectives of the study are to address key elements including a fail-safe way to transfer the propellants from a storage container to a ship. The difficulty is high since hydrogen tends to leak (it's the smallest element), and can eventually deteriorate the container it's stored in. … Read more
DNA molecules are not merely carriers of information. They are also highly stable and programmable, which is why researchers have been working so feverishly on a design strategy called DNA origami.
And now a team at MIT is developing a program that makes the game playable by more than just a select few.
DNA origami--constructing specific 2D and 3D shapes out of DNA strands--could prove to be a highly effective means of developing nanoscale tools, such as synthetic photocells that perform artificial photosynthesis and highly targeted drugs (think of sending a cancer drug to hunt down a specific tumor).
The result is that today a small number of brilliant and highly specialized minds are bent over a nanoscale game of origami, playing with various sequences to try to build specific shapes for specific tasks. Imagine a room of highly sophisticated gamers playing with building blocks in a world without Tetris; if they had the game, they'd be able to work faster.… Read more