Space

Boeing concept jet could be Prius of the skies

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: May 2, 2012   View Article

In 2050, flying commercial may still mean crammed overhead bins and crummy food, but the engine could be powered by liquefied natural gas or electricity, according to an ongoing study on the future of flight.

Such planes might also be constructed with lighter materials, sport high-span truss-based wings, and be routed with improved air-traffic control systems, according to Marty Bradley, a technical fellow with Boeing Research and Technology who is the leading the NASA-funded study.

Unknown “Structures” Not Tugging on the Universe After All?

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: January 20, 2012   View Article

Mysterious, unseen structures on the outskirts of creation most likely aren’t tugging on our universe, according to a new study. The paper reexamines “dark flow”— an unusual, one-way motion of matter —using measurements of supernovae and the existing laws of physics.

In 2008, a team of scientists took measurements of hundreds of galaxy clusters and calculated that everything in the visible universe—and likely beyond—is flowing at 2 million miles (3.2 million kilometers) an hour in the same direction.

The data couldn’t be explained by the distribution of matter in the known universe, so the scientists suggested that chunks of matter had been pushed out shortly after the big bang, and their gravity is now pulling on everything around us.

New Calendar Would Add Extra Week to December

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: January 17, 2012   View Article

Wish you’d had an extra holiday week this year? If a proposed permanent calendar is adopted in the next few years, you’ll get one at the end of 2017.

This “leap week” would occur every five or six years under the proposed Hanke-Henry Permanent Calendar.

The occasional extra December week would keep the months in tune with the seasons in a calendar that would otherwise stay the same year after year after year.

Can urine whiz rockets to Mars

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: October 4, 2011   View Article

The idea of using urine to whiz rockets to the moon and beyond is once again leaking into the realm of possibility.

That’s because scientists have begun to crack the code of how bacteria that live without the aid of oxygen convert ammonium — a key chemical in urine — into hydrazine, which is a type of rocket fuel.

A step closer to explaining our existence

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: July 1, 2011   View Article

Why are we here? It remains one of the largest unexplained mysteries of the universe, but particle physicists are gaining more confidence in a result from an atom smashing experiment that could be a step toward providing an answer.

We exist because the universe is full of matter and not the opposite, so-called antimatter. When the Big Bang occurred, equal parts of both should have been created and immediately annihilated each other, leaving nothing leftover to build the stars, planets and us.

Thankfully, it didn’t happen that way.

Is Arctic ice thinning?

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: June 22, 2011   View Article

Scientists have long used satellite imagery to illustrate the shrinking extent of the Arctic sea ice. Now they’ve got satellite data that will provide regular updates on whether the ice is getting thinner as well.

The first ice thickness map from the European Space Agency’s CryoSat spacecraft was released Tuesday at an air show in Paris. It was compiled with data collected in January and February.

The map shows, for example, the ice is thickest near the North Pole and off the coasts of Greenland and northeastern Canada. It thins as it stretches out towards Alaska and Russia.

How lightning shoots for the stars

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: May 20, 2011   View Article

On rare occasions, jets of lightning escape from the tops of thunderclouds and shoot up into the atmosphere where they pose a threat to weather balloons and other scientific instruments. New research explains how it happens.

“In some instances there is enough energy and electric charge available for that lightning to just keep propagating up and up and up and it keeps going to about 50 miles high,” Steven Cummer, a lightning expert at Duke University, told me today.

The jets come to a halt at 50 miles high because they run into the ionosphere, the electrically conducting part of the atmosphere, which “sort of shorts it out and prevents it from getting any farther,” he added.

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