A catalogue of space probes in flight

Tuesday, 3 March, 2015

With Pluto bound space probe New Horizons rapidly approaching its destination, and who knows, about to turn all we know of the solar system’s best known dwarf planet on its head, Spaceprob.es allows us to check in on the numerous other active craft that are trawling interplanetary and interstellar space, on our behalf.

Leading the charge is Voyager 1, at a distance of almost twenty billion kilometres, or eighteen hours and seven minutes light travel time, from Earth, while the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is virtually above our heads, some 372,000 kilometres away.

By the way, if you’re interested in checking out Voyager 1’s approximate location in the night sky, give or take a few light minutes, here are some directions.

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Welcome to the Infinite Hotel where you can always check in

Friday, 27 February, 2015

A breakdown of the concept of infinity, using the would-be Infinite Hotel – where there’s never any vacancy but always room for more – to explain the concept. Once the maths kicks in though, it really gets mind boggling.

My question though, why must people move from their rooms, especially in the middle of the night, why not simply place the infinite number of arriving guests, in one of infinitely available rooms? If you know the answer to that, you can see how bewildered I am by the whole (mathematical) notion of infinity.

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Anyone care for some laboratory grade peanut butter?

Monday, 23 February, 2015

If you’re a scientist running tests and experiments on peanut butter – and after all the cake and watermelon, it is really just another chemical compound – you might find yourself paying top dollar to obtain the laboratory grade stuff… as in US $671, for a jar similar in size to what you see on supermarket shelves.

This peanut butter isn’t actually intended for your mouth (rude, I know), but to be fed into laboratory gadgets like gas chromatographs and mass spectrometers. Smart people then use it to establish an industry-wide standard to which similar food products can be compared. The high price has nothing to do with taste or quality, but simply reflects all the scientist-hours that went into its making.

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That neutron in front of you may be from another universe

Wednesday, 11 February, 2015

Yes, it is possible that the universe is part of a collection of similar such entities, that may constitute what’s called a multiverse. But how do we find out for sure if this idea holds water?

One option might be to drill a hole in the boundary of the universe, if we could ever find, or reach it, and take a look at what’s outside, or, we could simply, if that’s the right way to put it, look for artifacts from other universes, or branes, that have somehow made their way into ours:

One of the more exciting ideas in high energy physics is the possibility that our three-dimensional universe is embedded in a much bigger multidimensional cosmos. Physicists call these embedded universes “branes” and say that it should be possible for stuff from our brane to leak into other branes nearby and vice versa.

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Seen in the infrared, Earth becomes another planet all together

Monday, 9 February, 2015

The motion of water vapour in the atmosphere, when viewed in the infrared, almost makes Earth look like a gas planet, such as Jupiter or Saturn, albeit far more volatile.

What we’re seeing here though is an animation made up of images taken by orbiting satellites, where each, single, second represents twenty-one hours. That’s probably a good thing, it means Earth’s atmosphere isn’t quite as churned up as it appears to be here.

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Is the alternative me, in the alternative universe, doing better?

Monday, 9 February, 2015

If the universe is limitless, and/or, our universe but one of infinitely countless such entities within a multiverse, or there are, for that matter, many upon many multiverses, then it is entirely possible there is an alternative me, and an alternative you, out there somewhere doing more or less what we’re doing right now.

Or maybe they’re doing it a little bit differently, possibly they avoided a disappointment that we experienced. It’s entirely possible, if the cosmos is without bounds.

In other worlds, would it be possible that there’s a Universe out there where everything happened exactly as it did in this one, except you did one tiny thing different, and hence had your life turn out incredibly different as a result?

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You can’t unboil an egg’s yoke, but can unboil an egg’s white

Friday, 6 February, 2015

An egg cannot be unboiled. I’d always thought that was an immutable law of the universe. Not anymore it seems, a way has been found to uncook a boiled egg, but not the yoke, so far at least, only the white, or albumen or glair, to use the, I guess, scientific name.

In fact, they boiled the heck out them for 20 minutes at 90 degrees C (194 degrees F), so they were very hard indeed. They then set out to reverse the process and turn the hard whites into a clear protein called lysozyme by adding urea, which breaks down the chemical bonds that cause the coagulated chains to misfold on one another. The rather unpalatable liquid mass was then run through a vortex fluid device designed by Professor Colin Raston at South Australia’s Flinders University. This set up shear stresses that caused the chains to untangle into their previous uncooked form.

Would not then a… breakthrough like this be akin to stumbling upon some sort of holy grail of pyhsics or science? No, apparently not, the space-time continuum appears to be intact, its fabric undisturbed, as it was always was.

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What if the Earth was the child of another star?

Wednesday, 4 February, 2015

What if our home planet orbited the likes of Alpha Centauri, Vega, Arcturus, or Sirius? How might the sky look? Short answer, rather different, and for a variety of reasons.

I like Alpha Centauri mock up… orbiting a binary star system that may even be a triple system, would be, I think, quite cool.

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Looking for pigmentation in a beige coloured universe

Wednesday, 4 February, 2015

I think to reach the conclusion that the average colour of the universe is beige, pale beige at that, is to understate the chaos and, yes, colour, of the cosmic entity that we reside within.

If you’re viewing all the light in the universe at once, you’re probably not viewing it under any light at all. The light conditions the physicists ultimately settled on, when correcting their error are, “for looking at the Universe from afar in dark conditions.” And under those conditions, the universe is probably the following, very pale shade of beige.

However, astronomers who participated in the calculation process later decided “Cosmic Latte” would be a better way to refer to the resulting colour.

Good call.

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Déjà vu and other things that might be, or were

Monday, 2 February, 2015

A British man appears to be so afflicted by what might be called persistent déjà vu, he avoids watching TV, listening to the radio, or keeping up with the news, because he feels he has already seen and heard it all before.

Interestingly, his condition has prompted some medical professionals to speculate that there may be a link between feelings of déjà vu and anxiety. But déjà vu is not the only instance of feeling something that may not be something.

  • Jamais vu: when something familiar, such as a word, seems alien, or unknown
  • Presque vu: the sense of almost, but not actually, recalling a memory
  • Déjà entendu: the feeling of having heard part of a conversation before

I’m pretty sure I’ve encountered déjà entendu, in addition to déjà vu of course, but not often.

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