Tuesday, 22 December 2009

The Curious Case of ...

In a revealing juxtaposition, Nature have published their own favourite stories from 2009, alongside those of their readers'.

Whilst Nature scribes attached significance to research funding, GM crops, biomedicine, melting glaciers and notable scientists, their readers were more enamoured by giant snakes, spooky computers, magnetic monopoles, dark-energy particles, and bendy laser beams.

Source: http://www.nature.com/news/specials/2009/reader_topten.html
Source: http://www.nature.com/news/specials/2009/feature_topten.html

Monday, 21 December 2009

Light glinting off Kraken Mare

Cassini has found a sunlit lake on Titan.

This image shows the first flash of sunlight reflected off a lake on Saturn's moon Titan. The glint off a mirror-like surface is known as a specular reflection.

The first flash of sunlight confirms the presence of liquid on the part of the moon dotted with many large, lake-shaped basins. Cassini scientists had been looking for the glint, since the spacecraft began orbiting Saturn in 2004. But Titan's northern hemisphere, which has more lakes than the southern hemisphere, has been veiled in winter darkness.

The ray of light was detected by Cassini's visual and infrared mapping spectrometer (VIMS). Scientists were able to correlate the reflection to the southern shoreline of a lake called Kraken Mare. The sprawling Kraken Mare covers about 400,000 square kilometres an area larger than the Caspian Sea, the largest lake on Earth.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Dark matter detected in the underworld

As expected, dark matter has hit the headlines, with the publication of new results from the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (CDMS).

As reported last week, new data from the CDMS subterranean experiment, seems to reveal two events that have characteristics consistent with the particles that physicists believe make up dark matter.

The results are still controversial. Some believe the signals could be other particles with interactions that mimic the signals of dark matter candidates.
Symmetry Magazine provides a good round up of the debate:

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Astronomers have discovered Herzog's Wild Blue Yonder

Physics World reports that the best evidence yet of a planet beyond our solar system that is about the same size and temperature as the Earth has been released by a team of international astronomers. Recalling Herzog's The Wild Blue Yonder, preliminary measurements of the exoplanet's temperature, mass and radius suggest that it made almost entirely of liquid water ...

Monday, 14 December 2009

Listening to the time-music of space

"He watched the sky, listening to the time-music of the quasars"
J.G. Ballard

The long-lost twin of the radio station Radio Astronomy has been found.

Space Weather links to the Air Force Space Surveillance Radar, which transmits a 216.98 MHz signal into the heavens 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Meteors, satellites and spacecraft passing overhead reflect those signals back down to Earth. The radar's primary antenna is located near Lake Kickapoo, Texas. A few hundred miles away in Roswell, New Mexico, radio engineer and long-time spaceweather.com associate Stan Nelson picks up the echos using a yagi antenna on his roof. When a meteor or satellite passes over the facility, there is an whistling echo.


Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Dark Matter Discovered?

The Science Blogs are alive with rumours that traces of dark matter has been found deep underground.

The Soudan Underground Laboratory in Minnesota is the leading deep underground science and engineering laboratory in the United States.

There the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (CDMS) experiment consists of two dozens of germanium and silicon ice-hockey pucks cooled down to 40 mK. When a particle hits the detector it produces both phonons and ionization, and certain tell-tale features of these two signals allow the experimenters to sort out electron events (expected to be produced by mundane background processes) from nuclear recoils (expected to be produced by scattering of dark matter particles, as the apparatus is well shielded from ordinary nucleons).

Today, rumours that there latest experiements reveal telltale signs of dark matter began to leak:


Thursday, 3 December 2009

The neutrino and the whale

A physicist recording underwater sounds has made an unexpected discovery.

An underwater effort to detect subatomic particles has ended up detecting sperm whales instead.

Nature reports on a reports on a partnership between marine biologists and particle physicists in Catania, in Eastern Sicily.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Shape-shifting antennas

Scientists have created antennas using an alloy that "can be bent, stretched, cut and twisted -- and will return to its original shape". The antenna consists of liquid metal injected into elastomeric microchannels.

ScienceDaily reports that research from North Carolina State University is revolutionizing the field of antenna design -- creating shape-shifting antennas that open the door to a host of new uses in fields. Antennas aren't just for listening to the radio anymore. They're used in everything from cell phones to GPS devices, from public safety to military deployment.