Science & Technology

Better Earth

Clube and Napier: Coherent Catastrophism

In 1982, two British astronomers, S. V. M (Victor) Clube and William Napier, published a book entitled The Cosmic Serpent. Clube and Napier suggested that the outer planets occasionally divert giant comets (more than 50 kilometers in diameter) into the inner solar system into short-period orbits. Debris from the resultant disintegration of these giant comets can adversely affect the environment of the Earth. Dusting can block sunlight, resulting in globally cooler conditions. Impact events in the super-Tunguska class may result in not only heavy localized destruction but also the occasional "impact winter" or dust veil with global climatological effects.
Better Earth

AIAA 2007 Planetary Defense Conference


1. Meeting Overview

The 2007 Planetary Defense Conference was held March 5-8, 2007 at the Cloyd Heck Marvin Center at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The primary objectives of the meeting were: to highlight current capabilities in Near Earth Object (NEO) detection, characterization and mitigation; to advance understanding of the threat posed by asteroids and comets and arrive at possible responses to an asteroid impact; and to consider political, policy, legal and societal issues that would affect our ability to mount an effective defense. The conference followed a format similar to the 2004 Planetary Defense Conference, results of which are summarized in an AIAA Position Paper.

Copies of papers, presentation material, and videos of the presentations themselves are available at the conference web site.

Peanut butter diamonds on display

Peanut butter is being turned into diamonds by scientists with a technique that harnesses pressures higher than those found at the centre of the earth.

Ancient Tomb Art Found in Path of Irish Highway

Tomb engravings dating back 6,000 years are among the latest discoveries unearthed on the route of a controversial highway under construction in Ireland.

©Mary Deevy, National Roads Authority
This large stone decorated with engravings dating to the Late Stone Age has been discovered at an ancient site in Ireland that sits in the path of a controversial highway project.

NASA's Quest to Find Water on the Moon Moves Closer to Launch

Cameras and sensors that will look for the presence of water on the moon have completed validation tests and been shipped to the manufacturer of NASA's Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite.

The science instruments for the satellite, which is known as LCROSS, departed NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field Calif., for the Northrop Grumman Corporation's facility in Redondo Beach, Calif. to be integrated with the spacecraft. A video file is available on NASA Television. LCROSS is scheduled to launch with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla., by the end of 2008.

"The goal of the mission is to confirm the presence or absence of water ice in a permanently shadowed crater at the moon's south pole," said Anthony Colaprete, LCROSS principal investigator at Ames. "The identification of water is very important to the future of human activities on the moon."

Tiny Magnets to Attack Disease at Cellular Level

By injecting tiny magnets into your body, doctors hope to treat diseases without using chemicals or hormones. Don't worry about sticking to the refrigerator - the nano-sized magnets are only strong enough to affect your cells.

For the first time, doctors created bead-shaped magnets that bind with receptor molecules on cell walls. When a magnetic field is applied, the beads are attracted to each other and pull together, dragging the receptors with them. As they cluster, the receptors release biochemical signals that trigger cell functions.

"This technology allows us to control the behavior of living cells through magnetic forces rather than chemicals or hormones," said biologist Don Ingber of Children's Hospital Boston, who devised the technique.

Organism Lives 10 Times as Long After Genetic Tinkering

Scientists have extended the lifespan of yeast, microbes responsible for creating bread and beer, by 10-fold. That's twice the previous record for life extension in an organism.

The breakthrough could ultimately inform efforts to extend human lives.

Instead of one week, the yeast lived for about 10 weeks through genetic tinkering and a low-calorie diet.

"We've reprogrammed the healthy life of an organism," said Valter Longo, a biologist at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles who led the life-prolonging experiments.

Europe sets sights on 10 space missions this year

The European Space Agency (ESA) said Monday it would take part in 10 major missions this year, including long-delayed trips to the space station, new explorations of Earth and deep space, and a joint unmanned trip to the Moon with India.

The missions on ESA's 2008 roster include the dispatch next month of two key components of the International Space Station (ISS), the orbital outpost being assembled by a US-led consortium of five partners.

They are a science module, Columbus, scheduled to be taken aloft on February 7 by the US space shuttle, and a robot freighter, due to be placed in orbit by ESA's Ariane rocket in the third week of February and then automatically rendezvous with the ISS.

In May, GOCE, a satellite billed as "the Ferrari of micro-gravity fields," is scheduled to be taken aloft from ESA's space base in Kourou, French Guiana, with the goal of monitoring ocean circulation -- a key factor in the climate-change question.

Scientists create darkest material

A scientist at a Houston university has created the darkest known material -- about four times darker than the previous record holder.

Pulickel Ajayan, a professor of engineering at Rice University, created a carpet of carbon nanotubes that reflects 0.045 percent light, making it 100 times darker than a black-painted Corvette, the Houston Chronicle reported Monday.

New study blames Columbus for syphilis spread

Chicago, Illinois - New genetic evidence supports the theory that Christopher Columbus brought syphilis to Europe from the New World, U.S. researchers said on Monday, reviving a centuries-old debate about the origins of the disease.