Science Doesn’t Sleep (9.2.08)

Touchdown! The Tigers Win the Game!
He’s excited because he’s getting smarter.
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photo credit: foundphotoslj

So here’s what went down after you logged off.

Crew aboard the International Space Station had a bit of excitement over the long weekend (on top of the presumably high levels created by living in space) – as they had to fire the station’s thrusters in a “debris avoidance maneuver.” This is a fancy way of saying they were about to be hit with space trash.

Not really a “team player?” No worries – even watching sports improves brain function.

The Rodney Dangerfield of the solar system: Astronomer Heidi Hammel wants you to know why the Icy Giants deserve more respect.

Even geniuses make mistakes: Einstein made at least 23 of them.

He was only 18 when he died, but King Tut may already have been a father – of twins.

Rap + Physics = awesome. A rap video about the science behind CERN’s Large Hadron Collider has been viewed over 600,000 times. It’s no dramatic hamster – but for a video about science, that’s pretty solid.

Meltdown: The Houston Chronicle weighed in on climate change today – what are your thoughts?

Looking Back…

In case you were wondering about notable science events that happened the week of April 18th…

Creative Commons License photo credit: Luís Vieira

Gross? Or just plain cool? After Albert Einstein’s death on April 18th, 1955, pathologist Thomas Stoltz Harvey removed Einstein’s brain for preservation in the hope that people in the future could determine what made Einstein so smart.

Got sterilized milk? On April 20th, 1862, Louis Pasteur and Claude Bernard completed the first pasteurization test. Pasteurization involves heating liquids in order to kill viruses and harmful organisims.

On April 20th, 1902, Pierre and Marie Curie succesfully isolated the metal radium (88 on the periodic chart). Radium was initially used in self-luminous paints for items like watches, clocks, or aircraft switches. However, radium was removed from the production process of these items when it was discovered to be radioactive and harmful to the body. Now it is most commonly used to produce radon gas and battle cancer. Ironically, Marie Curie died from apalstic anemia, almost certainly caused from prolonged exposure to radium.

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In 1926, also on April 20th, Warner Brothers announced their plans for the Vitaphone, which would allow music or dialogue to be played on a phonograph simultaneously with silent pictures, giving them sound for the first time. The Vitaphone was not actually used until August of that year.

Are we alone in the universe? The answer is still unknown, but on April 22nd of 1992, astronomers Aleksander Wolszczan and Dale Frail took a significant step in aswering this question. Although planets in other solar systems had long been theorized, these two men were finally able to prove that there were planets around the pulsar known to scientists as PSR B1257+12 (its in the constellation virgo).

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On April 24th, 1990, the Hubble Telescope was launched into space via the Space Shuttle Discovery. The Hubble Telescope was designed to be easily repaired by astronauts, and has been serviced four times since it was launched 18 years ago. The telescope has led to a refining of the estimate of how old the universe is as well as how fast the universe is expanding.

 

 

 

Looking Back… (4/11/08)

In case you were curious about notable science events that have happened on April 11th…

Uh, Houston, we have a problem. On April 11th, 1970, NASA launched Apollo 13. The mission, which was to land on the moon, was cut short on the second day when an explosion crippled the spacecraft. Although the mission was aborted and the shuttle never landed on the moon, all three astronauts successfully returned home.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Kévin Froissard

It’s all relative. On April 11th, 1905, Albert Einstein revealed his Theory of Relativity. His theory revealed many new and surprising possibilities. Einstein hypothesized that moving clocks are measured to tick more slowly than an observers “stationary” clock. This effect, known as time dilation, is a principle commonly associated with black holes, as any sci-fi or Stargate fan could tell you.

Einstein’s theory also explained the relativity of simultaneity (its a real word, I promise). This theory states that two events that appear simultaneous to a stationary observer will not appear simultaneous to a moving observer. Didn’t quite follow that? Me, either. Here’s a little video explaining it.
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