Thinking Science
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Thinking Science
World through the eyes of Science
Curated by Nikunj Vaidya
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Ideas Worth Spreading and the Whitechapel fiasco

Ideas Worth Spreading and the Whitechapel fiasco | Thinking Science |

Graham Hancock and Rupert Sheldrake, a fresh take | TED Blog

March 18, 2013 at 5:24 pm EDT

Nikunj Vaidya's insight:

Science is about inquiry, debate and acceptance by reproducibility & proof. Does this mean every person gets a platform to have their say? Yes! But, does it mean that such a platform has no freedom to be selective in extreme cases? I guess not.

While I am usually skeptical about how worthiness of some ideas is decided, this is one instance where I will go with the call of taking down Sheldrake's talk. It is banned out of the TED portal and is freely available with commentary. That is how science should work.

morphic resonance is an interesting science-fiction and fringe-science concept. Please get more proof and let us progress further on this. But, where there is none lets, not debate on its correctness and proceed towards getting more data.


From TED blog,

"The hardest line to draw is science versus pseudoscience. TED is committed to science. But we think of it as a process, not as a locked-in body of truth. The scientific method is a means of advancing understanding. Of asking for evidence. Of testing ideas to see which stack up and which should be abandoned. Over time that process has led to a rich understanding of the world, but one that is constantly being refined and upgraded. There’s a sense in which all scientific truth is provisional, and open to revision if new facts arise. And that is why it’s often hard to make a judgement on what is a valuable contribution to science, and what is misleading, or worthless."


"Some speakers use the language of science to promote views that are simply incompatible with all reasonable understanding of the world. Giving them a platform is counterproductive. But there are also instances where scientific assumptions get turned upside down. How do we separate between these two?"


Now, that is the right question, and this article is a good read for further thought on the subject and an analysis on how it is handled here.

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EcoWatch: 10 Scientists Criticize Fox’s Climate Coverage

EcoWatch: 10 Scientists Criticize Fox’s Climate Coverage | Thinking Science |

An analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that 93 percent of Fox News’ recent climate change coverage was misleading. Over the last two years, several leading scientists have told Media Matters the same thing. Here are ten scientists who have criticized Fox for distorting science to downplay the threat of climate change.

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Crypto breakthrough shows Flame was designed by world-class scientists | Ars Technica

Crypto breakthrough shows Flame was designed by world-class scientists | Ars Technica | Thinking Science |
The spy malware achieved an attack unlike any cryptographers have seen before.


The Flame espionage malware that infected computers in Iran achieved mathematic breakthroughs that could only have been accomplished by world-class cryptographers, two of the world's foremost cryptography experts said.


Flame uses a yet unknown MD5 chosen-prefix collision attack which itself is very interesting from a scientific viewpoint, and there are already some practical implications.


Flame is the first known example of an MD5 collision attack being used maliciously in a real-world environment.


Collision attacks are based on two different sources of plaintext generating identical cryptographic hashes. In late 2008 a team of researchers made one truly practical. By using a bank of 200 PlayStation 3 consoles to find collisions in the MD5 algorithm—and exploiting weaknesses in the way secure sockets layer certificates were issued—they constructed a rogue certificate authority that was trusted by all major browsers and operating systems.


With a custom-designed forensic tool to analyze Flame components it is concluded that the collision attack was unlike any that cryptographers have seen before.


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Obama Ordered Wave of Cyberattacks Against Iran

Obama Ordered Wave of Cyberattacks Against Iran | Thinking Science |

David E. Sanger reports in the NewYork Times his research on background of the Stuxnet attack on Iran's nuclear enrichment facilities calling it (as already believed earlier) a state-run Cyber-Attack.


This comes after extensive research on the Stuxnet malware behavior and its spread in-the-wild by security researchers focused on protecting the Internet and its users.


From a scientific standpoint, Stuxnet and possibly the newer malware called Flame are examples of how technology evolves and reaches (benefiting or as in this case hurting) unexpected places. They are also examples of how research digs deep to identify the nature of things, their evolution and predict future progress. 

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NASA - NASA Lends Galaxy Evolution Explorer to Caltech

NASA - NASA Lends Galaxy Evolution Explorer to Caltech | Thinking Science |

The Galaxy Evolution Explorer -- 'little engine that could,' -- forging ahead into unexplored territory.


NASA is lending the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) to the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, where the spacecraft will continue its exploration of the cosmos.

In a first-of-a-kind move for NASA, a Space Act Agreement was signed May 14 so the university soon can resume spacecraft operations and data management for the mission using private funds.

The Galaxy Evolution Explorer spent about nine years as a NASA mission, probing the sky with its sharp ultraviolet eyes and cataloguing hundreds of millions of galaxies spanning 10 billion years of cosmic time.

The spacecraft was placed in standby mode on Feb. 7 of this year. Soon, Caltech will begin to manage and operate the satellite, working with several international research groups to continue ultraviolet studies of the universe. Projects include cataloguing more galaxies across the entire sky; watching how stars and galaxies change over time; and making deep observations of the stars being surveyed for orbiting planets by NASA's Kepler mission. Data will continue to be made available to the public.

"We're thrilled that the mission will continue on its path of discovery," said Kerry Erickson, the mission's project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "The Galaxy Evolution Explorer is like the 'little engine that could,' forging ahead into unexplored territory."


During its time at NASA, the Galaxy Evolution Explorer made many discoveries involving various types of objects that light up our sky with ultraviolet light.


For astronomers, the most profound shift in their understanding of galaxy evolution came from the mission's findings about a "missing link" population of galaxies. These missing members helped explain how the two major types of galaxies in our universe -- the "red and dead" ellipticals and the blue spirals -- transition from one type to another.


Galaxy Evolution Explorer .

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Exotic explanation for Pioneer anomaly ruled out -

Exotic explanation for Pioneer anomaly ruled out - | Thinking Science |

Physicists have known for more than a decade that the Pioneer 10 and 11 probes are following trajectories that cannot be explained by conventional physics. Known as the "Pioneer anomaly", both craft seem to be experiencing an extra acceleration towards the Sun as they exit the solar system that is 10 billion times weaker than the Earth's gravitational pull. Many explanations have been proposed for the origins of this anomalous acceleration, involving everything from the gravitational attraction of dark matter and modifications of Einstein's general theory of relativity to string theory and/or supersymmetry.


The unusual trajectories of the Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft as they leave the solar system are not caused by any exotic new physics but by mundane thermal emissions powered by radioactive decay. That is the verdict of researchers in the US and Canada, who have compared the results of an extremely detailed computer simulation of the thermal forces on one of the craft with the same forces calculated from the trajectory of the mission. The study also suggests that the observed reduction of the extra acceleration over time is the result of how electricity is generated on board the spacecraft and distributed to its scientific instruments. see if thermal emissions really are driving the anomaly, Turyshev, Toth and Ellis joined forces with three other researchers – Gary Kinsella, Siu-Chun Lee and Shing Lok – to create a detailed computer simulation of the thermal properties of the spacecraft and the directions in which key components emit thermal radiation.


According to Turyshev, the biggest challenge in developing the simulation was the "lack of precise and complete information on the spacecraft", which was designed and built more than 40 years ago. ...crucial to the team's success was the use of data that were beamed back to Earth during the mission. These included the temperature at several locations on the spacecraft, which allowed the team to evaluate the accuracy of its computer model and also to infer the thermal properties of some of the materials used in the satellite.


The team also performed an independent analysis of the trajectory of Pioneer 10 from which the researchers were also able to extract the relative contributions of the RTG and instruments to the anomalous acceleration. Both the thermal simulations and the trajectory analysis gave similar results, within experimental and computational errors.


"I think that we now completely understand what is going on with the spacecraft and that the anomaly is completely down to anisotropic heat radiation," says Rievers.

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NeuroLogica Blog » FTL Neutrinos? Einstein Can Rest Easy

A short summary on all those #FTL #neutrinoes...


The scientists exhaustively searched for any possible source of error they could think of and eliminated it, and the 60 nanosecond discrepancy persisted. Only when they did everything they could to disprove their results did they announce them to the world – still with the proper caution that was due. They essentially asked the rest of the scientific community to help them find the source of the error, while tentatively saying that if their results are true, wouldn’t that be interesting.


This whole science news story. It is a great opportunity to teach the public how science really works.

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You are bitching about the wrong things when you read an article about science

You are bitching about the wrong things when you read an article about science | Thinking Science |
Science may be a source of fascinating, world-changing discoveries, but that doesn't stop people from bitching about it.


Some quick picks... to tempt you to the article and its references.


A comment like "duh that's obvious" relies entirely on common sense and anecdotal knowledge. And the scientific method does not acknowledge either as a valid method of proving something about the world. That's why science has destroyed "common sense" ideas like the world being flat. It's why anecdotes about bright lights in the sky do not scientifically prove that fairies exist.

Science is designed to challenge our common sense assumptions about the world because they are often wrong. Sometimes, however, common sense turns out to be right. Which is why occasionally science seems to prove the obvious. But that's not science being useless - it's science doing what it does best, which is applying rigor and rationality to anecdote and dogma.


Consider that there's a big difference between feeling like something is true and having evidence that it's true based on concerted study.


The fact is that there are certain areas of science that we shouldn't fund because of ethical considerations. One I think we can all agree on is the Tuskegee experiments last century, where African-American men infected with syphilis weren't treated so that doctors could see what would happen to them long term. But the problem wasn't funding the medical science behind treating syphilis - the problem was the unethical way the study was carried out. Likewise, some people have an ethical problem with other areas of scientific study, like climate change, and it's better that we debate it as an ethical dilemma rather than a funding issue so that we know what's really at stake.


The next time you feel the burning urge to say the problem with a study is the fact that it was funded at all, you should consider two things: 1) Everything deserves scientific scrutiny; and 2) Maybe the problem isn't the funding but the ethics.


Bitch Like This Instead

So often, I wish more people would ask:

1. "Where is the attribution?"


When you don't see any links to source materials and scientists, it's likely that scientists do not actually say the thing the writer is claiming. Instead, the writer simply wants to bolster his or her opinion by making it seem as if it has scientific validity.


When you read that one new study has "changed everything" or "now scientists believe," the author of those statements had better have more than one person or study to back up those sweeping claims.


2. "This news is just a reprinted press release."


Press releases are by their very nature biased. They are intended to showcase the importance of a particular group's work, and so they will downplay or simply leave out dissenting views. To reprint them as "news" without acknowledging their potential bias is dishonest.


Ideally, you want a news story about a scientific development to include comments from people not involved with the study or the lab where it took place. But in the absence of that, the bias of the press release source should be acknowledged.


My hope is that, armed with this knowledge, your bitching can be more scientifically informed.

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Violinists can’t tell the difference between Stradivarius violins and new ones | Not Exactly Rocket Science | Discover Magazine

Violinists can’t tell the difference between Stradivarius violins and new ones | Not Exactly Rocket Science | Discover Magazine | Thinking Science |

With a double-blind test, "Claudia Fritz (a scientist who studies instrument acoustics) and Joseph Curtin (a violin-maker) may have discovered the real secret to a Stradivarius’s sound: nothing at all."

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UFO Disclosure Studies

Broad strokes on the edges of Science and Philosophy

(or, How the Internet helps Critical Thought)


Leslie Kean writes a "New York Times bestseller",

'UFOs: Generals, Pilots and Government Officials Go On the Record'


Then, theoretical physicist & Popularizer of Science professor Michio Kaku backs it and is criticized by philosopher & evolutionary biologist Massimo Pigliucci.


An earlier book by Pigliucci, was criticized by philosophy lecturer and critic Carlin Romano to which biologist PZ Myers responded thusly,


And, the chain goes on -- which way will you continue reading? Think carefully, Think more., Reason.

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This Extraordinary Claim Requires Extraordinary Evidence! : Starts With A Bang

This Extraordinary Claim Requires Extraordinary Evidence! : Starts With A Bang | Thinking Science |

Here is an example of how Science continues to check itself.

"Nothing travels faster than light, with the possible exception of bad news, which follows its own rules." -Douglas Adams

My inbox is on fire today with messages about this story about neutrinos breaking the speed of light: What's going on here? A group (a large group, mind you) of physicists known as the OPERA collaboration have made a neutrino beam, and have been studying it for the past few years.

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Is Science the Problem?

Was recently reading about a debate on how Science was a 'curse' as well as a 'boon' because it created large-scale disasters. The opposing argument being Science is not inherently good or bad, it is the people using it and their ultimate intentions that matter.

Along those lines,


[ Nov 17, 2011 (CIDRAP News) – A national biosecurity board that monitors "dual use" research is apparently worried about an as-yet-published study in which a mutant form of H5N1 avian influenza virus was found to be easily transmissible in ferrets, which are considered good models for flu in humans.

The motivation behind experiments made by Dr. Ron Fouchier here and their effects may be debated for some time. But, like popular science-fiction characters keep saying, are some things not to be tampered with? Now, that one is going to be a very difficult question.

Fouchier gave a general description of his experiments at a European meeting in September, according to a news story published in Scientific American after the meeting. He and his team introduced various mutations into the virus and watched their effects on its ability to attach to human respiratory tract cells. They found that with as few as five single mutations, the virus could bind to nasal and tracheal cells, according to the story.

But when tested in ferrets, this mutant virus still didn't spread very easily through close contact. Fouchier and his team then undertook to let the virus evolve naturally—a project that he described as "really, really stupid," according to the story. They inoculated one ferret with the mutant virus, and after it got sick, they exposed a second ferret to infectious material from the first one.

After they repeated this process 10 times, "H5N1 became as easily transmissible as seasonal flu," the story said. Fouchier said he concluded from this that H5N1 viruses "can become airborne" and do not need to reassort with other mammalian flu viruses to do so.



Which brings us to others arguing,
[ "It's just a bad idea for scientists to turn a lethal virus into a lethal and highly contagious virus, and it's a second bad idea to publish how they did it so others can copy it," said Thomas V. Inglesby, MD, director of the Center for Biosecurity at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, who is not a member of the NSABB.

While biology has a culture of openness and relies on the full sharing of findings, occasional exceptions to this policy are warranted, and Fouchier's study calls for an exception, he told NPR.



So, you moderate fire-cracker industries and lock-down nuclear-research for its greater dual-use impact. This will (hopefully) prevent script-kiddies from blowing up your metro-cities. Hopefully, because (paraphrasing and twisting Spiderman a bit) with greater reach of the Internet comes easier access to knowldege. When such stuff can be done in a private lab by people with vested (and dare we say malicious) interests, will we continue to blame Science and close our textbooks?


More on the H5N1 research at this Scientific American article,

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Why the Higgs Boson Matters | Basic Space, Scientific American Blog Network

Why the Higgs Boson Matters | Basic Space, Scientific American Blog Network | Thinking Science |

Physics prize entry in the Science Challenge essay competition at Imperial College, London.

Why should the average person care whether we discover the Higgs boson?


From afar it may seem entirely disconnected from the real world, but the Higgs boson is much more integral to life, the universe and, well, everything than you may think.


Peter Higgs told the Guardian why he was drawn to theoretical physics in the first place: “It’s about understanding! Understanding the world!”


As humans we have a natural curiosity about the world around us, and we should not suppress that curiosity simply because the practical benefits of following it are not clear at the outset. Without such a curiosity the modern world as we known it would not exist.

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MIT Hacks Kinect Laser For A Wearable Map Generator For Firefighters

MIT Hacks Kinect Laser For A Wearable Map Generator For Firefighters | Thinking Science |

At MIT, researchers have hacked the Microsoft Kinect’s laser into a wearable chest sensor that creates a floor-plan as the user moves throughout a building.

Via Luca Baptista
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Skepticblog » When cold fusion was hot

Skepticblog » When cold fusion was hot | Thinking Science |

The death of Martin Fleischmann reminds us of the lessons of the cold-fusion debacle of March, 1989, and the need for scientists to be vigilant in peer review, and not announce results prematurely before they have been checked by other labs.


This is a nice incidentally-inspired article describing how science works and corrects its path.

When any scientist makes claims that are so far out of the mainstream yet seem potentially legitimate, it is a challenge to other scientists in their field to test their results. Most scientists were skeptical that true cold fusion had been achieved, especially since the announcement was made without peer review of the paper, which had not even been published yet. Today, when someone makes a startling announcement, scientists expect the peer-reviewed scientific paper to be soon available so they can check the science for themselves; and this precaution was largely a result of the cold-fusion debacle.

Although cold fusion was a failure, it is an important object lesson in the nature of science. Many of the mistakes and problems that we saw with the cold-fusion experience inform other similar problems in scientific research and its acceptance by a scientific community.
1. Never do science by press release
2. Pathological science
3. Science is always scrutinizing and testing its claims
4. Peer review works
Details in the article.

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Disentangling the wave-particle duality in the double-slit experiment | Ars Technica

Disentangling the wave-particle duality in the double-slit experiment | Ars Technica | Thinking Science |
Photons act like they go through two paths, even when we know which they took.


The subtlest experiment in quantum mechanics is also one of the simplest: send a stream of particles through two openings in a barrier, and you'll produce an interference pattern because the particles act as waves. Amazingly, this also works if you send the particles through one at a time—the interference pattern builds up slowly as more particles go through. The double-slit experiment has been replicated with photons, electrons, atoms, and even entire molecules.


Typically, the particle nature and the wave nature have to be observed separately; if you track the particles through a single slit, the interference pattern vanishes. However, Ralf Menzel, Dirk Puhlmann, Axel Heuer, and Wolfgang P. Schleich entangled two photons and allowed one to pass through a barrier with two slits. The entanglement enabled them to determine which opening the photon went through, but a detector on the other side still picked up an interference pattern, demonstrating light's wave- and particle-like characteristics simultaneously.


The key to the experiment is the particular state in which the photons were produced. The researchers started with a laser in a configuration known as TEM01 mode, which means the electric (E) and magnetic (M) fields are perpendicular (or transverse, T) to the direction the photons travel. The "01" means there are two distinct points of maximum intensity.

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SpaceX: why the docking of the Dragon capsule changes space exploration

SpaceX: why the docking of the Dragon capsule changes space exploration | Thinking Science |

More than 50 years after the first missions left the launch pad, a new era of privately-funded space exploration has begun...


Perhaps not a giant leap for mankind, but a moment in history none the less. The first private mission to dock with the International Space Station (ISS) marked the dawn of a new era of space exploration.


"Looks like we caught a Dragon by the tail," said a triumphant Pettit, grabbing the probe as both it and the Space Station hurtled silently over the Earth at 17,500mph. Don Pettit is the Nasa astronaut charged with capturing the SpaceX Dragon capsule as it floated alongside, with the Space Station's sinewy, articulated robot arm.


The Dragon probe blasted off to the ISS aboard SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, which had flown only twice before, on Tuesday, after a bid to launch days earlier from Cape Canaveral in Florida was aborted even after the main engine fired.


For three days, the Dragon capsule steered a course towards the orbiting outpost, along the way performing a battery of manoeuvres required by Nasa to demonstrate it was under control and safe to attempt the historic docking.


Once captured by the Space Station's robotic arm, the capsule was swung around and locked into the Harmony module docking port at 12.02pm EDT, ready for astronauts to unload nearly half a tonne of food, water, clothing, batteries, laptops and lab equipment over the next two weeks.


Private industry has been interwoven with space exploration since the first missions left the launch pad more than half a century ago, but the SpaceX mission changes how space is done.


Before, Nasa designed rockets and paid companies to build them, at almost any cost, and paid a hefty profit on top. SpaceX and other private companies do not have this luxury.


The job of running routine flights to low Earth orbit, to resupply the Space Station, and ultimately to ferry astronauts back and forth, is steadily being handed over to industry, which must innovate, design and test their products in a competitive marketplace.



In two weeks time, astronauts will use the Space Station's robotic arm to unplug the Dragon capsule – now filled with return cargo – and release it around 10m away, for its homeward journey. If all goes to plan, the Dragon will fire its thrusters and begin a half hour plunge that ends in splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, about 450km off the west coast of the US.


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NASA - Hubble to Use Moon as Mirror to See Venus Transit

NASA - Hubble to Use Moon as Mirror to See Venus Transit | Thinking Science |
Hubble cannot look at the sun directly, so astronomers are planning to point the telescope at the Earth's moon, using it as a mirror to capture reflected sunlight that is filtered through Venus's atmosphere.


These observations will mimic a technique that is already being used to sample the atmospheres of giant planets outside our solar system passing in front of their stars. In the case of the Venus transit observations, astronomers already know the chemical makeup of Venus's atmosphere, and that it does not show signs of life on the planet. But the Venus transit will be used to test whether this technique will have a chance of detecting the very faint fingerprints of an Earth-like planet, even one that might be habitable for life, outside our solar system that similarly transits its own star. , Venus is an excellent proxy because it is similar in size and mass to our planet.


Hubble will observe the moon for seven hours, before, during, and after the transit so the astronomers can compare the data. Astronomers need the long observation because they are looking for extremely faint spectral signatures. Only 1/100,000th of the sunlight will filter through Venus's atmosphere and be reflected off the moon.


Hubble will need to be locked onto the same location on the moon for more than seven hours, the transit's duration. For roughly 40 minutes of each 96-minute orbit of Hubble around the Earth, the Earth occults Hubble's view of the moon. So, during the test observations, the astronomers wanted to make sure they could point Hubble to precisely the same target area.


This is the last time this century sky watchers can view Venus passing in front of the sun. The next transit won't happen until 2117. Venus transits occur in pairs, separated by eight years. The last event was witnessed in 2004.

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Is That The 'Death Star' Suckling on the Sun? : Discovery News

Is That The 'Death Star' Suckling on the Sun? : Discovery News | Thinking Science |
The strange shape spotted in the sun's atmosphere isn't a UFO, but it is a fascinating glimpse at some explosive solar dynamics.
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Replacing electricity with light: First physical 'metatronic' circuit created

Replacing electricity with light: First physical 'metatronic' circuit created | Thinking Science |

Building circuits with Light -- (but, let's not start thinking Tron please :-)


The "meta" in "metatronics" refers to metamaterials, the relatively new field of research where nanoscale patterns and structures embedded in materials allow them to manipulate waves in ways that were previously impossible. Here, the cross-sections of the nanorods and the gaps between them form a pattern that replicates the function of resistors, inductors and capacitors, three of the most basic circuit elements, but in optical wavelengths.


In their experiment, the researchers illuminated the nanorods with an optical signal, a wave of light in the mid-infrared range. They then used spectroscopy to measure the wave as it passed through the comb. Repeating the experiment using nanorods with nine different combinations of widths and heights, the researchers showed that the optical "current" and optical "voltage" were altered by the optical resistors, inductors and capacitors with parameters corresponding to those differences in size.


"A section of the nanorod acts as both an inductor and resistor, and the air gap acts as a capacitor," Engheta said.


Beyond changing the dimensions and the material the nanorods are made of, the function of these optical circuits can be altered by changing the orientation of the light, giving metatronic circuits access to configurations that would be impossible in traditional electronics.


This is because a light wave has polarizations;


"The orientation gives us two different circuits, which is why we call this 'stereo-circuitry,'" Engheta said. "We could even have the wave hit the rods obliquely and get something we don't have in regular electronics: a circuit that's neither in series or in parallel but a mixture of the two."


This principle could be taken to an even higher level of complexity by building nanorod arrays in three dimensions. An optical signal hitting such a structure's top would encounter a different circuit than a signal hitting its side.

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NASA sends GRAIL shaped beacon to the Moon | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine

NASA sends GRAIL shaped beacon to the Moon | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine | Thinking Science |
Today, NASA successfully put a new mission into lunar orbit: GRAIL, for Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory. Great acronym, weird name, right? What this mission will do is map the gravity field of the Moon, and use that to probe the interior composition. The basic idea isn’t all that complicated: fly a probe around the Moon. If it goes above a region where the density is higher, there will be a slightly stronger gravitational pull, and the spacecraft will accelerate a bit. By carefully measuring the spacecraft position and velocity, you can make the lunar gravity map.

Using tried and tested technology in new frontiers.

Also look out for #MoonKAM, a set of four cameras on each probe. These will make high-resolution maps of the lunar surface. This is part of the Education and Public Outreach for GRAIL designed for middle school (grade 6 – 8) students. They can set up mini-control centers in their classrooms and track where the two GRAIL spacecraft are, getting precise position data. They can then see if the probes will fly over any interesting areas the students want to know more about. They can then write proposals and request the data from NASA itself!

And who knows? A future lunar colonist may get their start in the next few weeks, because they happened to be in a classroom with a direct connection to the Moon.

Excerpts from article by Phil Plait.

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Detecting neutrinos from the Sun | Italy's Borexino Experiment at Gran Sasso |

Detecting neutrinos from the Sun | Italy's Borexino Experiment at Gran Sasso | | Thinking Science |

Neutrinos are generated by nuclear reactions and certain types of radioactive decay. They are created in great multitudes in the nuclear furnace of the sun, flowing through Earth's surface in numbers as high as 420 billion per square inch (65 billion per square centimeter) per second. However, they have a neutral electrical charge and almost never interact with other particles, which means they stream through regular matter virtually unaffected, only rarely slamming into atoms.


Starting in the late 1990s, researchers discovered that neutrinos actually had mass, albeit a vanishingly small amount. It remains a mystery as to why neutrinos are so lopsidedly smaller than every other known particle — they are about 500,000 times smaller than the electron — one that hints at new science and potentially a zoo of as-yet unknown particles to discover.


The Borexino experiment instrument uses 2,200 sensors to detect neutrinos in the exceedingly rare instances they interact with about 300 tons of a special organic liquid. All this is housed at the center of a large sphere surrounded by about 2,000 tons of pure water.


Altogether, the purity of this organic liquid, along its protective layer of water and the mountains above it, maintain its core as the site most free of trace radiation on the planet. This helps ensure that almost anything it detects is in fact a neutrino.


Borexino also investigated the odd phenomenon of neutrino oscillation, which underlies their mass. Neutrinos come in three types, or "flavors" — electron, muon and tau. As they zip through space, neutrinos change or "oscillate" from one flavor to another, and their mass arises from these transformations.


In the future, the scientists hope to identify the origin of every type of neutrino coming from the sun. This can help assess the relative levels of carbon, nitrogen and oxygen there, deepening our understanding of how the sun evolved and how its workings compare to that of larger stars.


Neutrino detectors are the only way scientists have of directly imaging the core of the sun, as only neutrinos can escape essentially undisturbed from the dense solar core, Pocar said.



The Borexino neutrino detector is located at Italy's Gran Sasso National Laboratory, about 5,000 feet (1.5 km) under Gran Sasso Mountain. The instrument detects anti-neutrinos and other subatomic particles that interact in its special liquid center, a 300-ton sphere of scintillator fluid surrounded by a thin, 27.8-foot (8.5-meter) diameter transparent nylon balloon. This all “floats” inside another 700 tons of buffer fluid in a 45-foot (13.7-meter) diameter stainless steel tank immersed in ultra-purified water. The buffering fluid shields the scintillator from radiation from the outer layers of the detector and its surroundings.

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ProPhoto Dan Carr | Founder | Photo Gear & Adventure

ProPhoto Dan Carr | Founder | Photo Gear & Adventure | Thinking Science |

Lytro. Gimmick Or Glimpse Into The Future?

A look at Lytro and some of the technical limitations of how it works.

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» How Many Neutrinos Does It Take to Screw Up Einstein?

» How Many Neutrinos Does It Take to Screw Up Einstein? | Thinking Science |
Results from a second experiment uphold the observation that neutrinos are moving faster than the speed of light.


This is why I like Scientific Inquiry:


“This eliminates one major class of systematic errors, and it’s impressive for the OPERA team to have mounted in a short period of time,” said physicist Robert Plunkett of Fermilab National Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois. “However, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t an error somewhere else in their system.”


“I can now say that the probability of the result being correct has increased from 1 in a million to one in 100 thousand,” wrote physicist Philip Gibbs on the viXra log (though he stressed that those numbers were merely illustrative and not actual calculated values).


Ultimately, the only thing that would convince many in the field is if another team upholds the findings in an independent experiment. Plunkett, co-spokesperson for the Main Injector Neutrino Oscillation Search (MINOS) experiment at Fermilab, says that his collaboration expects to have results checking the OPERA findings in the spring of 2012.

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Mars Science Laboratry -- Science Instruments

Mars Science Laboratry -- Science Instruments | Thinking Science |

The MSL rover features ten science instruments. An additional science payload is installed on the heat shield/aeroshell. remote sensing, contact science, analytical laboratory instruments and the environmental sensors.


It is anticipated that MSL will enter the Martian Atmosphere at a verlocity of 6.1m/s. In combination with its size and mass, the air flow around the vehicle will become turbulent fairly early into re-entry. Heat flux and shear stress on the Thermal Protection System will be greater than on any previous Mars Mission. Uncertantites in simulations prompted large margins in the design of MSL’s heat shield at the cost of mass and science payloads. Reducing these margins for future missions requires more accurate simulations based on actual data obatined in the entry environment. MEDLI will provide data concerned with atmospheric properties and heat shield performance that will be compared with pre-flight predictions to evaluate the level of uncertainty and the margins used for this mission. MEDLI’s data collection will be the largest set of data acquired in a non-Earth Entry. Inertial Measurement Unit Data of the entry phase will be combined with MEDLI information to provide data on surface pressure distribution, vehicle attitude, dynamic pressure on the structure, Velocity, and the atmospheric density and winds. With MEDLI data, peak heat flux, distribution of heating on the heat shield, map transition to turbulence, and TPS performance will be acquired.

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