Russian Poison From The Sky

This time, it’s the Russian’s turn to randomly drop a spacecraft to Earth from orbit, only this one is loaded up with ten tons of highly toxic chemicals. When you duck, don’t forget your umbrella.

Toxic Russian Mars Probe Heads Back to Earth

It’s hard to believe that only last week we were getting excited for Russia’s first interplanetary mission in 15 years to launch. By now, we should be happy in the knowledge that the ambitious — and awesome — mission is powering through space, toward the Martian moon Phobos.

The reality is that we are now discussing uncontrolled reentry scenarios.

As if that wasn’t enough bad news, we are looking at an uncontrolled toxic reentry scenario. Phobos-Grunt — correctly written “Fobos-Grunt,” meaning “Phobos-Soil” or “Phobos-Ground” — is fully-laden with unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide; that’s ten tons of fuel and oxidizer. The probe itself weighs-in at only three tons.

The majority of the fuel will likely vaporize during reentry, but everyone will be hoping for a splash-down in an ocean (which covers two-thirds of Earth, fortunately), as the wreckage will still be hazardous. There’s also a small quantity of radioactive cobalt-57 in one of the science missions housed in the probe — a fact that will most likely cause a media frenzy.

It is for these reasons that the Russian media is dubbing Phobos-Grunt “Most toxic falling satellite ever.”

See also:
Russia’s Phobos-Grunt Spacecraft Goes AWOL
Russian Mars Probe Will Likely Come Crashing Back to Earth
Toxic Russian Mars Probe Likely Heading Back to Earth
Mood grim over Mars probe faultRussia Running Out Of Time, As Mars Mission Seems Destined To Fail
Report: Russians Believe Martian Moon Probe is ‘Lost’
Source: Russian Space Probe Unlikely to be Saved
Phobos-Grunt Mars probe remains silent in Earth orbit
Now Russians can’t even contact their busted Mars probe
Contact with Russian Mars probe ‘unlikely’ – expert
Failed Russian space mission shows difficulty of exploring Mars
Salvaging Science from Stricken Mars Moon Probe: A Scientist’s View
Phobos-Grunt mission
Fobos-Grunt

Man, the Russians just can’t catch a break. This is their fourth launch failure just this year and now they’re 0 for 18 at Mars missions.

/and we trust the Russians with our U.S. astronauts, it makes me nervous

Just How Stupid Are U.S. Kids?

Apparently, they’re really dumb. Seriously, how smart do you have to be to enlist in the Army?

Fourth of students fail military entrance exam

Nearly one-fourth of the students who try to join the Army fail its entrance exam, painting a grim picture of an education system that produces graduates who can’t answer basic math, science and reading questions, according to a study released Tuesday.

The report by The Education Trust bolsters a growing worry among military and education leaders that the pool of young people qualified for military service will grow too small.

“Too many of our high school students are not graduating ready to begin college or a career — and many are not eligible to serve in our armed forces,” U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told the AP.

Read the report:

Shut Out of the Military:
Today’s High School Education Doesn’t Mean You’re Ready for Today’s Army

Take the test:

ASVAB Practice Test

See also:
APNewsBreak: Nearly 1 in 4 fails military exam
APNewsBreak: Nearly 1 in 4 fails military exam
1 in 4 high school graduates unable to pass military entrance exams
Shut Out of the Military: More than one in five young people do not meet the minimum standard required for Army enlistment
APNewsBreak: 23 percent can’t pass military exam
New study finds U.S. high school grads not ready for military
Nearly 17% of young Utahns score too low on military exam to enlist
Almost half of state’s young black Army applicants failed enlistment exam, study finds
The Education Trust

And the Pentagon and Michelle Obama think childhood obesity is a threat to national security? What about childhood imbecility? Fat is a lot easier to correct than stupidity. What a total national embarrassment, what the bloody hell has happened to the education system in this country?

/don’t bother answering that, it was a rhetorical question, remember, the Jimmy Carter created United States Department of Education has only been around for the last 30 years and, apparently, they’re doing a damn fine job of steadily stupefying our kids to the point of illiterate idiocy

Building Organs From Scratch

They’re getting really close now, this is exciting stuff.

Growing lungs in a lab: researchers move closer to goal

Now two research groups have made major strides in attacking the problem. One has successfully engineered a lung that can sustain a living rat and the other has created a lung-mimicking device for toxicology studies that acts more like a real lung than any earlier efforts, the groups reported Thursday in the journal Science.

One report brings closer the day when artificial lungs might be grown for human transplants; the other offers a method for testing the effects of toxic chemicals on lungs that is cheaper and more humane than animal tests and more reliable than ones done in test tubes, scientists said.

In work colleagues described as daring, a team led by Dr. Laura Niklason at Yale University grew rat lungs almost from scratch.

Because lungs are so complicated, the group used a scaffold-based approach — they took lungs from adult rats and dissolved away all the cells, leaving behind a fibrous lung “skeleton.”

They seeded these scaffolds with lung cells from newborn rats and — through careful coaxing that included incubation in a “lung bioreactor” that mimicked the fetal lung environment — produced what appeared to be functional lungs.

They then implanted the lungs into four live rats and showed that the engineered lungs were 95% as efficient as natural ones.

The same methodology had been used to successfully create beating rat and pig hearts in 2008 — although in those cases, the organs were never transplanted into living animals.

“It’s exciting to see that it’s not just about [the] heart; it works in other organs and tissues too,” said Doris Taylor of the University of Minnesota, who conducted the pioneering heart work. “It really reinforces the belief that these scaffolds are smart. They know how to tell cells what to do, where to go and how to behave.”

There are still kinks in the process: A few hours after rats received the lungs, tiny blood clots began to form, probably because of bare spots on the scaffold. “It’s pointed out to us what worked, but it’s also pointed out to us what needs to be made better,” Niklason said.

See also:
Breakthrough: Lab Lungs Live and Breathe
Mouse Lungs Grown From Stem Cells At U Of M
Scientists Build a Rat Lung
Breathing lungs, straight from the lab
N.E. researchers create functioning lung tissue
UTMB grows lungs from ‘skeletons’
Engineered Mouse Lungs Function Well in Laboratory Study
Scientists make progress in growing new human lungs
Building Living, Breathing Lungs In The Lab
Breakthrough In Lung Transplant Biomedicine
Lung-on-a-chip points to alternative to animal tests
A Chip Takes Its First Breath

/as Glenn Reynolds would say, faster please

Chinese Science Sucks . . . Light!

Researchers create portable black hole

Physicists have created a black hole for light that can fit in your coat pocket. Their device, which measures just 22 centimetres across, can suck up microwave light and convert it into heat.

The hole is the latest clever device to use ‘metamaterials’, specially engineered materials that can bend light in unusual ways. Previously, scientists have used such metamaterials to build ‘invisibility carpets’ and super-clear lenses. This latest black hole was made by Qiang Chen and Tie Jun Cui of Southeast University in Nanjing, China, and is described in a paper on the preprint server ArXiv1.

Black holes are normally too massive to be carried around. The black hole at the centre of the Milky Way, for example, has a mass around 3.6 million times that of the Sun and warps the very space around it. Light that travels too close to it can become trapped forever.

The new meta-black hole also bends light, but in a very different way. Rather than relying on gravity, the black hole uses a series of metallic ‘resonators’ arranged in 60 concentric circles. The resonators affect the electric and magnetic fields of a passing light wave, causing it to bend towards the centre of the hole. It spirals closer and closer to the black hole’s ‘core’ until it reaches the 20 innermost layers. Those layers are made of another set of resonators that convert light into heat. The result: what goes in cannot come out. “The light into the core is totally absorbed,” Cui says.

“I am very impressed,” says John Pendry, a theoretical physicist at Imperial College London. Pendry says that the black hole is yet the latest example of the many strange devices that can be built with metamaterials. But, he adds, it is not a perfect black-hole analogy. The enormous gravity of real black holes causes them to emit an eerie quantum glow, known as Hawking radiation. “The optical device reported in this paper has no internal source of energy and therefore cannot emit Hawking radiation,” Pendry says.

Nevertheless, Cui says that the hole could prove useful. By the end of the year his team hopes to have a version of the device that will suck up light of optical frequencies. If it works, it could be used in applications such as solar cells.

See also:
Chinese Scientists Create First-Ever Artificial Black Hole
Artificial Black Hole Created in Chinese Lab
Chinese Scientists Build Working Black Hole
Scientists Make Desktop Black Hole
Artificial Black Hole Created in Chinese Lab
Table-Top Black Hole Can Absorb Light
Chinese Lab Creates Artificial Black Hole
How to Create a Black Hole on a Lab Bench
Metamaterial Revolution: The New Science of Making Anything Disappear
Metamaterial

/is that a black hole in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?

Let’s Play Whack A Moon

NASA spacecraft to slam into moon to search for water

Early Friday morning, NASA will slam two spacecraft into the moon in the hope of unearthing signs of water.

The spacecraft, called the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite or LCROSS, will break into two parts to hit the moon a few minutes apart. First the Centaur upper stage rocket will hit the lunar crater Cabeus near the southern pole, sending a plume of debris about 6 miles above the moon. LCROSS then will fly through the debris, collecting and analyzing the debris, searching for signs of water ice before slamming into the moon at 5,000 miles per hour.

Space-based and Earth-based telescopes will scrutinize the plumes. Observers here in Utah plan to join the party. Several members of the Salt Lake Astronomical Society will attempt to catch a glimpse of the plumes.

Patrick Wiggins, NASA Solar System Ambassador to Utah, says discovering water on the moon could have big implications for the future of space exploration. Not only would water allow astronauts to replenish drinking and sanitation water on the lunar surface, but rocket fuel is made of a special blend of oxygen and hydrogen, the base elements in water.

“If we could build future spacecrafts on the moon, and launch from there, spacecraft would be much smaller and more efficient because of the lower gravity there,” Wiggins said. “It would be much easier and cheaper to explore the distant realms of the solar system and eventually beyond. A lot of good things could happen if we confirm there is water on the moon.”

See also:
NASA to Bomb the Moon Friday
NASA satellite to intentionally slam into moon
NASA Changes LCROSS Crater Target
Moon-crashing probe aimed at bigger target
NASA Needs Your Help with LCROSS Impact
How to watch NASA’s big crash on the moon
NASA MSFC Invites News Media to Participate In LCROSS Impact Events
Astronomy service Slooh will let you watch the LCROSS impact live on October 9
Back To The Moon
There’s Water On That Thar Moon!

/LCROSS angry, LCROSS SMASH!

Saw This In a Movie Once, Pretty Sure It’ll Work*

*Steven Wright

Scientists Not So Sure ‘Doomsday Machine’ Won’t Destroy World

Scare headline aside . . .

Three physicists have reexamined the math surrounding the creation of microscopic black holes in the Switzerland-based LHC, the world’s largest particle collider, and determined that they won’t simply evaporate in a millisecond as had previously been predicted.

Rather, Roberto Casadio of the University of Bologna in Italy and Sergio Fabi and Benjamin Harms of the University of Alabama say mini black holes could exist for much longer — perhaps even more than a second, a relative eternity in particle colliders, where most objects decay much faster.

Under such long-lived conditions, it becomes a race between how fast a black hole can decay — and how fast it can gobble up matter to grow bigger and prevent itself from decaying.

Casadio, Fabi and Harms think the black hole would lose out, and pass through the Earth or out of the atmosphere before it got to be a problem.

“We conclude that … the growth of black holes to catastrophic size does not seem possible. Nonetheless, it remains true that the expected decay times are much longer (and possibly >> 1 second) than is typically predicted by other models,” the three state in a brief paper posted at the scientific discussion Web site ArXiv.org.

See also:
On the Possibility of Catastrophic Black Hole Growth in the Warped Brane-World Scenario at the LHC

Probing Question: Could the Large Hadron Collider swallow the Earth?

Large Hadron Collider homepage

So, the alternatives are, we could all die or we could find the evidence that proves there are really 11 dimensions, give or take a few. A.K.A. M-theory, it would be a a game changer, we’d have to change all the science textbooks.

See also:
M-theory, the theory formerly known as Strings

Status of Superstring and M-Theory

As soon as they get the LHC fixed, I say fire it up!

/you pays your money, you takes your chances