Archive for Science

First Photos of a Black Hole

The announcement of this scientific discovery was made public through a series of six brief papers presented in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, 875(#1, April 10, 2019). These articles are rather dense and not meant for the layperson (at least not this layperson). More accessible information can be gleaned from the Event Horizon Telescope site as well as from NASA.

For those who do not know what a black hole is, this explanation is for you. Black holes are featured prominently in science fiction literature as well as films.


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What’s the Weather Like on Mars?

As of readings for February 20, the high temp was tolerable if you bundled up – plus 8 degrees; however, the low temp would be a tad much to handle at minus 139 degrees. This coupled with a lack of breathable air do present challenges to any manned missions. Wind speed, wind direction, and barometric pressure are also included in the daily weather reports.

Certainly not the climate from the Barsoom novels or Bradbury’s haunting The Martian Chronicles.

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When We Get To Mars, What Will We Live In?

NASA sponsored a competition for 3-D printed structures to be erected on Mars preceding an actual mission. Here are the five winners along with brief videos explaining their different processes/buildings. This article – A Home Away from Home – goes over some of the “nuts and bolts” of constructing habitations on the Red Planet.

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Rare Earth Elements – Recent Developments

In a discovery that might alter the world’s economic infrastructure, a small island off Japan has been found to contains hundreds of years’ worth of rare earth elements used in everything from cellphones to computers to batteries. Read the original paper here.

China has long held the spot as the top producer of these metals, but this find will weaken its stranglehold on the marketplace. China’s Rare-Earth Industry (US Geological Survey Open File Report, 2011) presents a lucid explanation of China’s situation. This 2017 USGS Professional Paper – Critical mineral resources of the United States—Economic and environmental geology and prospects for future supply – reinforces the national security implications for this country not having adequate supplies of these metals.

These CRS reports provide additional information:  China’s Rare Earth Industry and Export Regime: Economic and Trade Implications for the United States (2012); Rare Earth Elements in National Defense: Background, Oversight Issues, and Options for Congress (2013); Rare Earth Elements: The Global Supply Chain (2013); and China’s Mineral Industry and U.S. Access to Strategic and Critical Minerals: Issues for Congress (2015).

This 2015 RAND dissertation – Critical Rare Earths, National Security, and U.S.-China Interactions – has proven useful as well as this 2013 report Critical Materials Present Danger to U.S. Manufacturing.

And don’t forget Mission 2016: The Future of Strategic Natural Resources from MIT.


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Stephen Hawking’s Last Scientific Paper

He was working on this – A Smooth Exit from Eternal Inflation – when he died. For those of us who are not physicists, an explanation in understandable terms can be found hereMany of his other papers are freely available online as well.


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Most Downloaded Documents from the National Academies Press

The NAP is the publishing arm of the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. It annually issues hundreds of reports, studies, and analyses on a wide variety of topics. Here is a list of the top twenty downloaded documents ranging from information technology to fostering student success. And they are all free to read!

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How Would Alien Life Forms Develop?

This article, Darwin’s Aliens, uses both theoretical and mechanical models to explain how aliens might evolve. And with some interesting results. The article concludes that “Combining both approaches is the best way to make predictions about the many hundreds, thousands or millions of hypothetical aliens. Now we just need to find them.”

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