Archive for the 'Space, the final frontier' Category

Scientists to unleash something lurking 20 million years in Antarctica

Perhaps someone should send them a copy of At The Mountains of Madness. Washington Post:

After drilling for two decades through more than two miles of antarctic ice, Russian scientists are on the verge of entering a vast, dark lake that hasn’t been touched by light for more than 20 million years.

Scientists are enormously excited about what life-forms might be found there but are equally worried about contaminating the lake with drilling fluids and bacteria, and the potentially explosive “de-gassing” of a body of water that has especially high concentrations of oxygen and nitrogen.

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“If it goes well, a breakthrough opens up a whole new chapter in our understanding of our planet and possibly moons in our solar system and planets far beyond,” he said. “If it doesn’t go well, it casts a pall over the whole effort to explore this wet underside of Antarctica.”

If all goes as I suspect and we awaken a slumbering Cthulhu, I just want to take this opportunity now to thank you all. We had a good run. If we survive, I’ll be back with my regular schedule of irregular posting.

Murder and the secrets of the universe

From The New York Times:

It’s “Amadeus” meets “Da Vinci Code” meets “Hamlet,” featuring a deadly struggle for the secret of the universe between Tycho, the swashbuckling Danish nobleman with a gold-and-silver prosthetic nose, and the not-yet-famous Johannes Kepler, his frail, jealous German assistant. The story also includes an international hit man, hired after a Danish prince becomes king and suspects Brahe of sleeping with his mother (and maybe being his father!).

For comic relief, there’s a beer-drinking pet elk wandering around Tycho’s castle, as well as a jester named Jepp, a dwarf who sits under Tycho’s table and is believed to be clairvoyant.

Naturally, the scientists analyzing Brahe’s remains are steering clear of all this gossip, including the claim that Brahe had an affair with the Danish queen that helped inspire “Hamlet.” The archaeologist leading the team cautions that even if they confirm suspicions that Brahe was poisoned by mercury, that wouldn’t necessarily prove he was murdered, much less identify the killer.

Who knew astronomy could be so exciting?

Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, 1932-2008 (RIP)

Majel Barrett-Roddenberry has boldly gone on.

Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, the wife of “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry, has passed away, Access Hollywood has learned. She was 76.

The actress died of leukemia at 12:27 AM on Thursday with her son, Rod, by her side. She was diagnosed with the disease six months ago.

Majel, whose acting credits included “Bonanza” and “Leave It To Beaver,” had been a part of “Star Trek” in all of its forms since it first premiered on September 8, 1966.

As the sound of the Enterprise’s computer in its many variations, her voice has been a part of my life for longer than I care to remember.

Whisper from the dark side

Paging H.P. Lovecraft. Mr. Lovecraft to the courtesy phone please. New York Times:

A concatenation of puzzling results from an alphabet soup of satellites and experiments has led a growing number of astronomers and physicists to suspect that they are getting signals from a shadow universe of dark matter that makes up a quarter of creation but has eluded direct detection until now.

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“Nobody really knows what’s going on,” said Gordon Kane, a theorist at the University of Michigan. Physicists caution that there could still be a relatively simple astronomical explanation for the recent observations.

But the nature of this dark matter is one of the burning issues of science. Identifying it would point the way to a deeper understanding of the laws of nature and the Einsteinian dream of a unified theory of physics.

Earth’s magnetic poles ‘overdue’ for reversal

From Cosmos (no not Cosmo) magazine:

SYDNEY: A reversal of the Earth’s magnetic poles could happen sooner than we think, according to Dutch scientists who report that the planet’s magnetic field is becoming gradually less stable.

A reversal could affect everything from navigation and communications equipment to the composition of the atmosphere, say experts.

The report, published today in the U.K. journal Nature Geoscience, found that reversals have been far more common in the last 200 million years than they were deep in the planet’s history.

Sure, it may create disasters (or may not), but it still sounds like it would be kind of cool to experience.

Images of colliding galaxies

So what kind of accident rate coverage do colliding galaxies have?

Earth Day

Today is Earth Day, a time to celebrate the only habitable planet we’ve got.

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Arthur C. Clarke, RIP

From The New York Times:

Arthur C. Clarke, a writer whose seamless blend of scientific expertise and poetic imagination helped usher in the space age, died early Wednesday in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where he had lived since 1956. He was 90.

Rohan de Silva, an aide to Mr. Clarke, said the author died after experiencing breathing problems, The Associated Press reported. Mr. Clarke had post-polio syndrome for the last two decades and used a wheelchair.

From his detailed forecast of telecommunications satellites in 1945, more than a decade before the first orbital rocket flight, to his co-creation, with the director Stanley Kubrick, of the classic science fiction film “2001: A Space Odyssey,” Mr. Clarke was both prophet and promoter of the idea that humanity’s destiny lay beyond the confines of Earth.

Other early advocates of a space program argued that it would pay for itself by jump-starting new technology. Mr. Clarke set his sights higher. Paraphrasing William James, he suggested that exploring the solar system could serve as the “moral equivalent” of war, giving an outlet to energies that might otherwise lead to nuclear holocaust.

Mr. Clarke’s influence on public attitudes toward space was acknowledged by American astronauts and Russian cosmonauts, by scientists like the astronomer Carl Sagan and by movie and television producers. Gene Roddenberry credited Mr. Clarke’s writings with giving him courage to pursue his “Star Trek” project in the face of indifference, even ridicule, from television executives.

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Mr. Clarke was well aware of the importance of his role as science spokesman to the general population: “Most technological achievements were preceded by people writing and imagining them,” he noted. “I’m sure we would not have had men on the Moon,” he added, if it had not been for H.G. Wells and Jules Verne. “I’m rather proud of the fact that I know several astronauts who became astronauts through reading my books.”

Serenity 2?

This would be shiny.

British military opens UFO files

From our favorite British isles newspaper, The Scotsman:

The Ministry of Defence has for the first time opened its real-life ‘X Files’, detailing how its experts have examined photographs of UFOs hovering over the UK.

While the images range from the baffling to the risible, there is no doubting the seriousness that officials reserve for the issue of extraterrestrial life.

Correspondence between the MoD and members of the public who report sightings of strange objects reveals that Whitehall mandarins remain “totally open-minded” about the existence of UFOs.

The letters – obtained by Scotland on Sunday through the Freedom of Information Act – confirm that the MoD has a procedure of scrambling fighter planes to confront any unidentified craft or object that enters UK airspace.

Although the story doesn’t say it, many of the descriptions sound like the SR-71’s replacement, the Aurora.

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