I love neutrinos. I’ve written about them over and over and over again because they’re super fascinating and we’re only starting to uncover their secrets. So naturally I’m psyched that the physics Nobel Prize this year was awarded to two scientists that theorized neutrino oscillation: The 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded this morning to two physicists whose teams discovered a fundamental property of neutrinos. Neutrinos come in three types: electron, muon and tau.
If you’ve seen the (relative) deluge of journal retractions over the past couple of years, you’re probably wondering why science is broken. FiveThirtyEight is here to tell you that it’s not, explaining the peer review process and the various ways in which it works or doesn’t. Of particular note are the issues concerning either purposeful statistical manipulation of data or just plain old confirmation bias: If you tweaked the variables until you proved that Democrats are good for the economy, congrats; go vote for Hillary Clinton with a sense of purpose.
Adam Frank notices a critical breakdown around our expectation of flying cars: We’re masters of electromagnetism, not gravity. It’s fascinating to think about, actually. Our high tech world is based almost entirely on the electomagnetic force. The electron and photon are the basis of most technological progress in the last hundred years. Or, as Adam puts it: And the digital culture we’ve built rests directly on our ability to understand and manipulate electromagnetism’s quantum manifestations.
I’m used to seeing lots of predictions for which exoplanets might be in the habitable zone for which newly discovered solar system (less so now… Kepler has identified so many of them people don’t even bother anymore) but here’s a best-case scenario: A solar system filled to the brim with 60 habitable worlds (and a bonus 4 gas giants)! The system is really a combination of two systems in binary configuration (two suns orbiting each other at a distance of 100 AU).
The next surface visitor to Mars got the green light today to begin construction for a launch and landing in 2016. InSight is a static experimental platform that will conduct tests on the geology of Mars in an attempt to learn more about the history of the planet. The platform is based on the successful 2008 Phoenix mission which means we’ll see a parachute-and-retrorocket descent with a soft landing at its final destination.
I saw this image of K2 again recently - K2 is the plan to keep the Kepler spacecraft looking for exoplanets despite the loss of two reaction wheels - and I wondered how K2 was doing. Last I heard it was still searching for a funding source for the new plan. It turns out that K2 is already collecting data for “Field 0”, a sort of trial run to see how successful stabilization via solar wind can be.
Ok, this is mostly me just trying out crossposting to Fine Structure, but you’ve got to admit a little part of your ten year-old self just died a bit: Researchers studying insects from sub-fossilized fragments of copal, an amber-like resin, extracted remains of stingless bees trapped around 10,000 years ago and attempted to analyze DNA fragments found within. A few very short base pair chains matched parts from an asian bumblebee and some bacteria but nothing significant, the DNA has long since decayed and this is only after a short (geological) time.
This youtube video from NASA shows a galactic simulation for approximately 13.5 Billion years. While watching galaxies tear each other apart is fun and all, the fascinating part is that it is, after all, a simulation. Take some physical rules and enough processing power and you can simulate 13.5 Billion years of dust coming together which in turn attracts more dust and creates stars which attracts more dust which creates young stars which… you get the idea.
Wanna back something novel on Kickstarter? HyperV is attempting to raise funds to develop plasma jet thrusters that could be used in spacecraft outside of the atmosphere. It’s not exactly citizen science (which I’d like to see on Kickstarter some day) but it’s a great start if you want to be involved with funding an awesome science and technology project and get interesting updates along the way. Ignore their standard science company website and the slightly awkward funding video and back their awesome project today!
Yes, we’ll be getting our own Shuttle flyover! September 20th will see flyovers of Moffet Field, Sacramento and San Francisco on the way to Endeavour’s final resting place at the space center in LA. Expect some awesome shots of the Golden Gate Bridge!
While Curiosity was busy going through it’s seven minutes of terror, the Mars Recon Orbiter was taking pictures overhead. Yes, you heard that right. We took a picture of a tiny little lander descending through the Martian atmosphere with another robot which currently orbits Mars.
Need some help getting ready for Sunday’s MSL landing on Mars? BoingBoing has details of all the online NASA livestream events where you can watch the landing (more or less) live. Landing should occur at 10:31pm Pacific time on Sunday night. It’s great timing for the west coast, I might make a little Google hangout for anyone else watching on Sunday.