Project Kronos is a documentary film set in the not too distant future, following a mission to achieve interstellar space travel. As the mission unfolds with extraordinary results, the scientists find themselves dealing with a much bigger agenda.
Salt Pond Ecosystem
The color of salt ponds range from pale green to deep coral pink, and indicate the salinity of the ponds. Microorganisms create these spectacular colors, changing their own hues in response to increasing salinity.
In low-to mid-salinity ponds, green algae proliferate and lend the water a green cast. As the salinity increases, an algae called Dunaliella out-competes other microorganisms in the pond, and the color shifts to an even lighter shade of green. In mid-salinity ponds, millions of tiny brine shrimp clarify the brine and contribute an orange cast to the water. And in mid-to high-salinity ponds, high salt concentrations actually trigger the Dunaliella to produce a red carotenoid pigment. Halophiles, such as Halobacteria and Stichococcus, also contribute red tints to the hypersaline brine.
Kite aerial photographs by Charles “Cris” Benton.
The Pale Blue Dot
In his book Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, astronomer Carl Sagan related his thoughts on a deeper meaning of the above photograph:
Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.
Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.
It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.
Image Credit: Startled Disbelief
The science fiction vision of stars hurtling by as sharp streaks when spaceships travel in hyperspace—that is, travel faster than light—isn’t supported by physics.
In theory, were any spacecraft to move at the speed of light, the frequency of light would be shifted so dramatically that it would fall outside the visible spectrum. Which means astronauts on board wouldn’t see any starlight, at all.
Instead, cosmic microwave background radiation, left behind after the Big Bang, would veer into the visible spectrum, and the crew would see a disc of luminous glow.
Quantum computers rely on the bizarre properties of atoms and the other construction blocks of the universe. The world is a fuzzy place at its very smallest levels — in this realm where quantum physics dominates, things can seemingly exist in two places at once or spin in opposite directions at the same time.
The new computers rely on “boson” particles, and resemble quantum computers, which differ from traditional computers in important ways. Normal computers represent data as ones and zeroes, binary digits known as bits that are expressed by flicking switch-like transistors on or off. Quantum computers, however, use quantum bits, or qubits (pronouced “cue-bits”), that can be on and off at the same time, a state known as “superposition.”
This allows the machines to carry out two calculations simultaneously. Quantum physics permits such behavior because it allows for particles that can exist in two places at once or spin in opposite directions at the same time.
Women in Science
Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin – born on this day in 1910 – is the only British woman to ever win a Nobel Prize in science. She was an expert X-ray crystallographer, who deduced the structure of vitamin B12, penicillin and the protein hormone, insulin. When Dorothy was admitted to study at the University of Oxford they were then imposing a quota on women such that they never exceed one in every four students. While this rule no longer applies, and society no longer expects women to give up their jobs to have a family, there are still few women in positions of scientific leadership. This short film introduces a jewellery heirloom scheme for women in science, run jointly by the Medical Research Council and University of the Arts, London. The aim of the scheme is to encourage women to pursue positions of power within the scientific realm.
Written by Brona McVittie
Smoke and lava issue forth from Russia’s Tolbachik Volcano in a pair of pictures from NASA’s Earth Observing 1 satellite. What a difference in the perspectives!
The visible-light view from EO-1’s Advanced Land Imager, captured on Dec. 1, shows billows of ash and steam, with a stream of dark lava cutting across the landscape.
In contrast, the infrared-plus-visible view reveals a nightmarish red river, running through a bilious green landscape. This version of the scene gets its eerie look from the false colors used to represent different wavelengths in the infrared part of the spectrum. The blood-red shade reflects the high surface temperatures of the lava, while the shades of green signify colder surroundings on the Kamchatka Peninsula.
Neil deGrasse Tyson answers: “What is the most astounding fact [about the universe]?”
NASA has finally answered a long-standing question: all but one of the six American flags on the Moon are still standing up. Everyone is now proudly talking about it. The only problem is that they aren’t American flags anymore. They are all white.
So America f*ck yeah, right? Not quite. While the $5.50 nylon flags are still waving on the windless orb, they are not flags of the United States of America anymore. All Moon and material experts have no doubt about it: the flags are now completely white. If you leave a flag on Earth for 43 years, it would be almost completely faded. On the Moon, with no atmospheric protection whatsoever, that process happens a lot faster. The stars and stripes disappeared from our Moon flags quite some time ago.
The speed of light is the cosmic speed limit, according to physicists’ best understanding: No information can be carried at a greater rate, no matter what method is used. But an analogous speed limit seems to exist within materials, where the interactions between particles are typically very short-range and motion is far slower than light-speed. A new set of experiments and simulations by Marc Cheneau and colleagues have identified this maximum velocity, which has implications for quantum entanglement and quantum computations.
If a portion of Earth underwent a major cataclysm, how long would it take for life to recover?
The 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens is giving scientists an unprecedented opportunity to witness a recovery from devastation, as the eruption leveled the surrounding forest, blasted away hundreds of meters of the mountain’s summit, and claimed 57 human lives.
Landsat satellites have tracked what has happened on the mountain, and how the forest was reclaimed — all on its own.
In the spirit of the well-circulated Facebook friendship map by Paul Butler, research analyst Olivier Beauchesne at Science-Metrix examines scientific collaboration around the world from 2005 to 2009:
‘I was very impressed by the friendship map made by Facebook intern, Paul Buffer [sp] and I realized that I had access to a similar dataset. Instead of a database of friendship data, I had access to a database of scientific collaboration.’
From an extensive database of academic citations:
I extracted and aggregated scientific collaboration between cities all over the world. For example, if a UCLA researcher published a paper with a colleague at the University of Tokyo, this would create an instance of collaboration between Los Angeles and Tokyo.
Rafting for Solar Neutrinos
Credit: Super-Kamiokande Collaboration, Japan