Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Earth from Saturn, Dolphins Using Names, and Neutrino News (Pictures of the Day: 7/23/13)

There are so many cool new things in science today that I've decided to have three Pictures of the Day for today.

A view of Earth from the rings of Saturn. Source
The Cassini spacecraft recently looked back past the rings of Saturn to take a picture of its place of origin, Earth. You can see the pale blue dot that the arrow is pointing to. That pale dot is our home. This picture really puts our size into perspective. Cassini is well within our tiny solar system, and yet Earth still appears as little more than a piece of dust. We truly are just specks walking around on a speck which orbits a speck that is just one of billions of specks that make up even larger specks in our vast, vast universe. It's things like this that make all of my problems seem insignificant.
For more information, check out this article.
Dolphin. Source

New research seems to indicate that dolphins have names given to them by one another. The researchers used a specific call that corresponds to a specific dolphin to run this test. Whenever the call that corresponded to the dolphin was used, that dolphin would respond, but if they used a different call, the dolphin just ignored it. As far as we can tell, this is the first animal besides humans that has ever been observed using a name. The reason that this is different from your dog responding when you yell "Fido!" is because the dolphins assign this name to one another. It seems like we are constantly learning that other animals aren't as dumb as we thought. Sure, dolphins don't know how to build cars, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't give them a little respect. After all, they have a form of language just like us.
For more information, check out this article.
Super Kamiokande particle detector in Japan. Source


Researchers have learned something new about neutrinos. Neutrinos are the elusive and nearly massless particles that stream through us every day. What most people don't know is that there are three kinds of neutrinos, three "flavors". There are electron-neutrinos, muon-neutrinos, and tau-neutrinos. These researchers fired a stream of muon-neutrinos at the Super Kamiokande detector in Japan and observed a much greater number of electron-neutrinos than they would have expected if these neutrinos weren't changing in transit. This evidence tells us that it is possible for neutrinos to switch their types. In other words, they can switch flavor. I find this fascinating. Who knows what will come of this discovery in the future?
For more information, check out this article.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Spacewalk Catastrophe (Picture of the Day: 7/18/13)

Space walking astronaut. Source
Two days ago, on the 16th, a nightmare became reality. Two astronauts, Luca Parmitano and Chris Cassidy, were going on a routine maintenance spacewalk on the International Space Station when disaster struck. A leak appeared in Parmitano's helmet. At first, ground control thought that it was just a leak from his water bag and that it would quickly stop. After a few minutes, however, it became apparent that the leak was much more serious. Once the water had saturated his hair and gotten into his eyes, ground control finally ordered an end to the space walk. Once the astronauts were safely inside, it became apparent that Parmitano's radio wasn't working because he couldn't hear ground control's messages. The other astronauts on the ISS assure us that he's okay, however.
It seems likely that the leak came from the cooling system in Parmitano's space suit. Adding just another danger on the list of things that can kill you in space.
For more information, check out this article.