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Wednesday Science Stack
Author: BobR    Date: 09/07/2016 14:00:44

Yes, FOX "News" is melting down. Yes, the tRump campaign is circling the bowl. Yes, he held a fundraiser for the prosecutor who dropped his case. But today, we take a break from presidential campaign politics to revisit an old friend - the Science Stack. It's been quite a while since we perused the myriad interesting science-related stories out there. So let's feed our minds for one day before we wallow in the mud.

First up: The Juno Jupiter probe. The Juno probe was launched 5 years ago with the goal of giving us a better understanding of the largest planet in our solar system. It has completed a few orbits, and sent back the first pictures of Jupiter's north pole (which is not visible from earth). It was not what scientists expected:
“First glimpse of Jupiter’s north pole, and it looks like nothing we have seen or imagined before,” said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “It’s bluer in color up there than other parts of the planet, and there are a lot of storms. There is no sign of the latitudinal bands or zone and belts that we are used to -- this image is hardly recognizable as Jupiter. We’re seeing signs that the clouds have shadows, possibly indicating that the clouds are at a higher altitude than other features.”

One of the most notable findings of these first-ever pictures of Jupiter’s north and south poles is something that the JunoCam imager did not see.

“Saturn has a hexagon at the north pole,” said Bolton. “There is nothing on Jupiter that anywhere near resembles that. The largest planet in our solar system is truly unique. We have 36 more flybys to study just how unique it really is.”

I am looking forward to seeing what other new information and images we get from this project.

Also out in space, we will be launching a probe tomorrow that will collect - and return - samples from an asteroid following earth's orbit around the sun:
A U.S. space probe was cleared for launch on Thursday to collect and return samples from an asteroid in hopes of learning more about the origins of life on Earth and perhaps elsewhere in the solar system, NASA said on Tuesday.

A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket was scheduled to blast off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida to dispatch the robot explorer Osiris-Rex on a seven-year mission.
[...]
Osiris-Rex is expected to reach Bennu in August 2018 and begin a two-year study of its physical features and chemical composition. The solar-powered spacecraft will then fly to Bennu’s surface and extend a robot arm to collect at least 2 ounces (60 grams) of what scientists hope will be carbon-rich material.

“We’re going to asteroid Bennu because it’s a time capsule from the earliest stages of solar system formation, back when our planetary system was spread across as dust grains in a swirling cloud around our growing protostar,” lead researcher Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona told a prelaunch news conference on Tuesday.

Hopefully, the information will give us a better understanding about the formation of our own solar system. I don't know how NASA scientists can deal with such long project timelines. I would be bouncing out of my seat waiting for results.

A little closer to home, the Chinese have put a satellite in earth orbit to test quantum communications:
QUESS is an experiment in the deployment of quantum cryptography — specifically, a prototype that will test whether it’s possible to perform this delicate science from space.
[...]
Inside QUESS is a crystal that can be stimulated into producing two photons that are “entangled” at a subatomic, quantum level. Entangled photons have certain aspects — polarization, for example — that are the same for both regardless of distance — in fact, the satellite will test that at 1,200 km, which will set a new record.

The basis of this is that since protons "entangled" at the quantum level will always behave the same, changing the polarity of one will cause the polarity of the other to change as well, through a process we do not yet understand. That could be the basis of a completely secure instantaneous digital communications mechanism.

Finally, in the "are you kidding me? - Gross!" category, scientists are looking at cockroach milk as a new superfood. I am not even going to quote the story - read it yourself. First, though, they're going to need to create some very small milking machines...

23 comments (Latest Comment: 09/08/2016 13:09:21 by BobR)
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