Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Z is for Zoology

Animals. I love them! Who doesn't?

Zoology is the branch of science to the animal kingdom, including structure, embryology, evolution, classifications, habits, and distribution of all animals, both living and extinct. Zoologists are biologists who increase scientific knowledge not only for their branch of science, but for the general public too. 

What is zoology good for? I'm close to the San Diego Zoo (home to over 3,700 animals and 360 species and sub-species. It's also one of the few zoos that house giant pandas. The San Diego Zoo partners with the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, an 1,800 acre free range park housing 2,600 animals, 3,500 species and 350 plant species. 

We have season tickets to both parks. They are great at educating the public regarding the current state of these magnificant animals shrinking habitat. If it wasn't for parks like these, many species would go extinct during out life time. They breed endangered species in hopes to bring their numbers back up.

However, it is becoming evident many species and sub species will only survive in parks like these. Left alone in the wild, they would be poached out of existance.

So my last word to you from this A to Z Challenge is to take a moment to appreciate God's greatness and creativity when it comes to animals. Soon, many will only exists in zoos and their related parks. Make it a point to take the family to a zoo this summer. You'll be glad that you did. Zoos are on the cutting edge of some truly amazing programs to help our furry friends thrive on this dangerous planet.

Question: My favorite animal is the giraffe. What's yours?

References: San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, Wikipedia

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Y is for Yttrium

Yttrium is a chemical element with symbol Y and atomic number 39. It is a silvery-metallic transitional metal chemically similar to the lanthanides and it has often been classified as a "rare earth element". 

Yttrium is almost always found combined with the lanthanides in rare earth materials and is never found in nature as a free element. Its only stable isotope, 89Y, is also its only naturally occurring isotope.

The most important use of yttrium is in making phosphors, such as the red ones used in television set cathode ray tube (CRT) displays and in LEDs. Other uses include the production of electrodes, electrolytes, electronic filters, lasers and superconductors; various medical applications; and as traces in various materials to enhance their properties. Yttrium has no known biological role, and exposure to yttrium compounds can cause lung disease in humans. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

W is for Water In Space

Water: Without it, we die. Real fast. So if we are to colonize the moon, Mars, asteroids, and beyond then we need to find ample sources of water. We as space travelers simply cannot lug it into space with us. 

We have to ask: How much water is in space? Where is it? Can we find and extract it at a cost that makes sense? And if there is water (in ice, vapor, or liquid form), will there also be life? 

Water forms when two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom get together. So theoretically, water can exist in abundant forms in outer space. 

"Two teams of astronomers have discovered the largest and farthest reservoir of water ever detected in the universe. The water, equivalent to 140 trillion times all the water in the world's ocean, surrounds a huge, feeding black hole, called a quasar, more than 12 billion light-years away."  

"The environment around this quasar is very unique in that it's producing this huge mass of water," said Matt Bradford, a scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "It's another demonstration that water is pervasive throughout the universe, even at the very earliest times. Reference 

But what about our solar system? Is there water close to home? Just take a look at this map of Our Watery Solar System. Planets, moons, asteroids, and dwarf planets are places that hold water to some degree. If the image is not clear, please click THIS LINK

So, just how the heck do we mine this water in our solar system? Sorry, but I'm out of room and out of time. But for now I wanted to present this concept of water in outer space and the possibilities we can exploit. How to mine it is a mini-series I will present shortly. Please stay tuned.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

V is for Virgin Atlantic

Care to take a flight into space? As a civilian, of course. Why not? The opportunity is right on the horizon.

Virgin Galactic, part of Sir Richard Branson's incredible vision (and perhaps madness), plans to make available sub-orbital flights for the general public, for space science missions, and for orbital launches of small satellites. Well, at least for those who can afford it. here's the cost breakdown for tourists:

Pioneer Astronaut – The Earliest Available Seat
Deposit - US$200k full payment up front Our most popular reservation and nearly sold out Join the community of over 500 future astronauts Secure one of the last remaining seats among the first 500 to fly Expect to be among the first 1000 humans to have travelled to space Priority access to Galactic events, milestones and trips Pioneer welcome and confirmation package 
Guarantee the price of $200k for your spaceflight
Voyager Astronaut – Join the Waiting List for a Later Seat
Deposit - $20k Join the community of over 500 future astronauts Secure a spot on the waiting list after the first 500 to fly Take part in the Galactic milestones, events and trips Voyager welcome and confirmation package 
Guarantee the price of $200k for your spaceflight
Spaceship Charter
$1 millionAn exclusive spaceflight for you and up to 5 friendsPioneer status for all 6 seats
6 seats for the price of 5
Spaceport America
Yes, our world is changing before our very eyes. Gotta love Branson's vision, "Screw it, let's do it!"
So be the first on your block to reserve your spot as an astronaut. Just think of the bragging rights you can have at your annual Fourth of July block party. I double dog dare anyone to top this exploit! Especially that nosey Gladys Kravitz across the street (bonus points for who identifies this character). 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Tomorrow's Devices

Intel has a project called Tomorrow's Project where their Chief Futurist Brian David Johnson recruits science fiction writers to produce "science fiction prototypes" such as future tech that help the engineering and product groups spark discussion.

They discuss their vision of the coming world and what they would like to build in a whole new way.

Users "don't care about the technology anymore," said Jim McGregor, chief technology strategist at researcher In-Stat. "They care about how they can use it. It's cultural change that needs to happen" at Intel, McGregor said.

The chipmaker is trying to speed along the change by reaching engineers in a language they understand: science fiction. Last year Intel hired four sci-fi writers to study the company's latest research projects and produce an anthology, "The Tomorrow Project," envisioning how cutting-edge processors might be used in the near future.

Once again, sci-fi writers are on the cutting edge of what the world could look like tomorrow. And business and technology are looking to them to help lead the way.

So take heart all you writers! You may be contributing far more to the advancement of civilization than you think.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

S is for SpaceX

Now That's A Rocket!!!
Yes folks, private industry is nipping on the heals of government space programs like NASA. 

Case in point: Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, or SpaceX - is run by billionaire Elon Musk, who made his fortune as a co-creator of PayPal. He also owns the electric car maker Tesla Motors.

In May of last year, SpaceX made history as the world's first privately held company to send a cargo payload, carried on the Dragon spacecraft, to the International Space Station. 

Last March, the capsule brought back more than 1 ton of science experiments and old station equipment. It's the only supply ship capable of two-way delivery. NASA is paying SpaceX more than $1 billion for a dozen resupply missions. Space X can reuse their 
Docking With International Space Station

SpaceX has signed contracts with private sector companies, non-American government agencies and the American military for its launch services. It has already launched, for a paying customer, a low earth orbiting satellite with its Falcon 1 booster in 2009. The company plans to launch its first commercial geostationary satellite in 2013 from a Falcon 9.

Musk has stated that his intention for the company is to help in the creation of a permanent human presence on Mars.

How's that for vision! 

I have more on this company in upcoming posts. Folks, we are on the verge of truly remarkable breakthroughs and discoveries led by the private and the public sector.

Here's a fun short video clip (with a really cool song). This is pretty darn amazing! 

Monday, April 21, 2014

R is for Relocation (of the Human Population)

Problem: Many large cities, such as crowded Tokyo, are running out of space for an ever expanding population. And the problem is only getting worse as the global population increases. Especially for cities built on a shoreline such as an ocean or a major river where expansion is limited by mountain ranges or other geological obstacles.
Solution: Artificial islands. Man-made islands are an answer to finding suitable space to expand living, work, and leisure space. Man-made islands are constructed by people rather than formed by natural means. They are created by expanding existing islets, construction on existing reefs, or amalgamating several natural islets into a bigger island.
A number of countries have been reclaiming land for centuries such as the Netherlands. But man-made islands are an engineering feat that have only recently left the drawing board. And the vision will continue to grow exponentially into truly amazing cities and other marvels during our lifetime that will marvel the imagination San Diego's Plan for Floating Airport. Why Not?
But Wait, That’s Not All: Airports are also being built on man-made islands. Japan and China are helping to lead the way. Yep, a mini-series is on tap for this very topic that will truly amaze you. Really. It will. San Diego has plans on the table for a solution to their land-locked airport that is in need of expansion. Check out this Reference.
Then there are the truly fascinating man-made floating islands for the very rich. But that’s another mini-blog series reserved for a little bit later down the road. Stay tuned.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Q is for Quantum Computers

We’ve all been hearing about quantum computers. Are we on the cusp of a new Age, an Age of Quantum Information that will leave the Stone Age, Copper and Bronze Age, Iron Age, Renaissance Technology, Age of Exploration, Industrial Age, and the previous Information in light years in its dust?
Let’s take a closer look ..... 
When it comes to data crunching, quantum computers will leave today's fastest processors in the dust.
For starters, a quantum computer would be able to store more bits of information in its memory than there are particles in the universe. And where a conventional silicon-based computer handles one computation at a time in sequence, a quantum computer would work on millions at once.
That kind of staggering power would give a single quantum computer the ability to simulate a whole world in a holographic environment, replicate biological systems to understand diseases and find cures, solve the loads of equations necessary to create extremely accurate weather forecasting and simulate how subatomic particles interact, showing fundamentally how everything in the universe works.
Several quantum computers linked together would make a quantum Internet so powerful that search engines would respond to queries almost like a human being, answering questions immediately and in any language.
In recent months, different groups of scientists and engineers have made important strides toward this amazing new world. They have built machines that can store quantum particles, control them, observe them and send them over fiber-optic cables.
Stay tuned folks. You haven’t seen anything yet!

Friday, April 18, 2014

P is for Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis (Designer Babies)

Designer Babies: Okay, I needed to squeeze this issue somewhere on the A to Z Challenge. There is a ethical and moral debate regarding Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis to screen embryos for genetic defects. Follow this through, and designer babies are not far off on the horizon. 

This is a topic that is a mini-series just waiting to happen. And it will. So I will leave this very entertaining video clip for you to view. With great power comes great responsibility. Will we as a race properly steward our ever-increasing understanding of DNA?


Thursday, April 17, 2014

O is for Orion (not the belt) and the Oort Cloud

Ever wonder what will fill the incredible void left behind from shuttling the Space Shuttle Program that flew 135 missions, helped construct the International Space Station and inspired generations?
Look no further. The Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) is NASA’s first planned beyond-low-earth-orbit manned spacecraft since the Apollo era. Crewed missions will be sent to the Moon, asteroids and Mars. Each Orion spacecraft is projected to carry a crew of four or more astronauts. It is also planned as a backup for ISS cargo and/or crew delivery. The first planned test flight is set for September 2014.
Orion will serve as the exploration vehicle that will carry the crew to space, provide emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during the space travel, and provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities.
Of course, the Orion MPVC will find fierce competition from private industry and other countries like China, India, Russia, and the European community.
So hang in tight folks. Because we will see far more than one giant leap for mankind. Man and machinery will be going far deeper into space and at an accelerated pace in our immediate future.
The Oort Cloud is a spherical cloud of comets that lies at the outer reaches of our solar system, roughly one or maybe up to two light year away from our Sun. The sphere was named after the astronomer Jan Oort who hypothesized its existence in 1950. Although it has not yet been proven through direct observation, the reality of the Oort Cloud is widely accepted in the scientific community.
It’s believed most comets originate from here and circle the Sun in every direction. They do not stay on the flat disk. These objects break the rules of the Solar System and create a sphere of trillions of comets around the Sun.
The comets (theoretically) where formed in then thrown out of the inner Solar System by Jupiter and Saturn as if the planets were giant sling shots.
The most famous object discovered in the Oort cloud is Sedna, a planet like transneptunian object orbiting our Sun that only approaches the Sun briefly during its 10,500 solar orbit.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

N is for Neutron Star (and Pulsars)

Neutron Stars are among the most extreme objects in the universe and can warp light. They are difficult to find, even with our so called advanced technological equipment. They are ancient remnants of stars that have reached the end of their evolutionary journey through space and time.
These interesting objects are born from once-large stars that grew to four to eight times the size of our own sun before exploding in catastrophic supernovae. After such an explosion blows a star's outer layers into space, the core remains—but it no longer produces nuclear fusion. With no outward pressure from fusion to counterbalance gravity's inward pull, the star condenses and collapses in upon itself.
Despite their small diameters—about 12.5 miles (20 kilometers)—neutron stars boast nearly 1.5 times the mass of our sun, and are thus incredibly dense. Just a sugar cube of neutron star matter would weigh about one hundred million tons on Earth and if placed on the ground would sink straight through to who knows where.
Neutron stars pack an extremely strong gravitational pull, much greater than Earth's. This gravitational strength is particularly impressive because of the stars' small size.
When they are formed, neutron stars rotate in space. As they compress and shrink, this spinning speeds up because of the conservation of angular momentum—the same principle that causes a spinning skater to speed up when she pulls in her arms.
Pulsing Lights (which are neutron stars): These stars gradually slow down over the eons, but those bodies that are still spinning rapidly may emit radiation that from Earth appears to blink on and off as the star spins, like the beam of light from a turning lighthouse. This "pulsing" appearance gives some neutron stars the name pulsars.
After spinning for several million years pulsars are drained of their energy and become normal neutron stars. Few of the known existing neutron stars are pulsars. Only about 1,000 pulsars are known to exist, though there may be hundreds of millions of old neutron stars in the galaxy.
What To Watch: How about a simulated exploding star from the BBC and scatter the building blocks of life out into outer space. Very cool!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

M is for Milkw Way Galaxy

Our Milky Way Galaxy is a spiral galaxy. Our solar system lies in a sleepy little section about half way out. Like any spiral galaxy, we whirl around the center that most scientists believes contains a supermassive black hole and it’s called Sagittarius A.
What lies just outside our Milky Way galaxy? There are about 200 ball-shaped globular cluster of stars each one containing around a million or so stars.
Together with about 40 other galaxies we make up what is called the Local Group that spans 10 mega-light years. The Milky Way and the Andromeda galaxies are by far the two biggest in the Local Group.
The other galaxies in the Local Group are much smaller and include two galaxies that can be seen with the naked eye from countries south of the equator. The galaxies are called the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, after the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan.
Did You Know: Our Milky Way galaxy is warped. It has a central bulge caused from the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds (see above paragraph) pulling on our Dark Matter like a tug of war.
Fun Facts: The Milky Way has a halo of dark matter that makes up over 90% of its mass. And we don’t have the faintest idea what dark matter is. We just know that it’s there. Hence, the name Dark Matter.
The Milky Way is cannibalistic and has been devouring neighboring smaller dwarf galaxies.

Part Milky Way Viewed From Earth
It’s about as old as the universe itself, about 13.6 billion years old.
Our solar system makes up an extremely tiny part of the Milky Way. If you imagine our solar system were the size of a US quarter, the entire Milky Way would be almost half the size of the United States!
It’s part of the Virgo Supercluster, a grouping of galaxies within 150 million light years across.
Bonus Fun Fact: The Milky Way Galaxy rotates clockwise at a speed of 190 miles a second. This means that the space you were sitting in one second ago, is now 330 miles away from you. At this speed it takes the Milky Way 200 million years to rotate once.
For more on galaxies, check out my G is for Galaxies post from last week!

Monday, April 14, 2014

L is for Luna

Our moon does not officially have a name, like the other 175 known natural moons in our solar system. It is simply called “The Moon.” Our moon is more accurately called a satellite. Luna is the ancient Roman divine personification of the Moon. It is derived from the Latin word l┼źna meaning “moon; month; crescent”.
There are a lot of different and really strange planets in our solar system. And our moon is no different. For instance, the moon, our nearest neighbor, is massive compared to other moons, errr .... satellites orbiting other planets. It’s one fourth the size of Earth, having 27% the diameter and 60% the density of Earth.
For this reason some believe our moon is actually a dwarf planet caught in Earth’s gravitational pull. But the popular theory of how our moon came to be is another planet collided with Earth many moons ago (no pun intended) and the collision caused part of Earth to be thrown out into space. Earth’s gravity trapped this debris and eventually it coalesced into the moon. The moon is made up of pretty much the same stuff Earth is.
Theoretically, this makes sense. And using the Gap Theory that there could be billions of years between Genesis 1:1 and the following verses, God simply spoke the moon into being with material he created in Genesis 1:1. Check out this link for more on the GAP THEORY.

Did You Know: The Moon is so large that it doesn't really orbit Earth at all. Both bodies orbit a point located between them called the barycenter located about a thousand miles below the surface of Earth. This makes the motion of the Earth-Moon system as it orbits the sun something like a spinning dumbbell with the weights on the ends mismatched
Fun Facts:
• The Moon rotates on its axis in around the same length of time it takes to orbit the Earth. This means that from Earth we only ever see around 60% of its surface (50% at any one time).
• The side that we can see from Earth is called the near side while the other side is called the far side (it is sometimes called the dark side despite the fact that it illuminated by the Sun just as much as the near side).
• The Soviet Union’s Luna program featured the first successful landing of an unmanned spacecraft on the surface of the Moon in 1966.
Blood Red Moon
• The surface of the Moon features a huge number of impact craters from comets and asteroids that have collided with the surface over time. Because the Moon lacks an atmosphere or weather these craters remain well preserved. (One more reason our universe has to be 13.8 billion years old rather than 6,000 years old).
• Although research is continuing, most scientists agree that the Moon features small amounts of water.
• The Moon is very hot during the day but very cold at night. The average surface temperature of the Moon is 107 degrees Celsius during the day and -153 degrees Celsius at night.
• The Earth’s tides are largely caused by the gravitational pull of the Moon. • The phases of the Moon are: New Moon, Crescent, First Quarter, Waxing Gibbous, Full Moon, Waning Gibbous, Last Quarter, and Crescent.
Night Time Viewing: Be sure to look for a Blood Red Moon April 15th. While you're at it, check out the 2014 Celestial Calendar tab at the top of this page. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

K is for Kuiper Belt

The Kuiper Belt is names after its discoverer Gerard Kuiper in 1992. This is the area beyond the orbit of Jupiter, but still under the gravitational pull of our Sun. It contains Pluto, other dwarf planets, and miscellaneous icy objects.
It is similar to the Asteroid Belt, but it is far larger—20 times as wide and 20 to 200 times as massive. Like the asteroid belt, it consists mainly of small bodies, or remnants from the Solar System's formation. Although some asteroids are composed primarily of rock and metal, most Kuiper belt objects are composed largely of frozen volatiles (termed "ices"), such as methane, ammonia and water.
The classical belt is home to at least three dwarf planets: Pluto, Haumea, and Makemake. Some of the Solar System's moons, such as Neptune's Triton and Saturn’s Phoebe, are also believed to have originated in the region
In 2006 NASA dispatched an ambassador to the planetary frontier: The New Horizons spacecraft, now more than halfway between Earth and Pluto, is on approach for a dramatic flight past the icy dwarf planet and its moons in July 2015. It's mission is to find the origin of Pluto and it's moon Charon.
After 10 years and more than 3 billion miles, on a historic voyage that has already taken it over the storms and around the moons of Jupiter, New Horizons will shed light on new kinds of worlds on the outskirts of the solar system.
Pluto gets closer by the day, and New Horizons continues into rare territory, as just the fifth probe to traverse interplanetary space so far from the sun. And the first ever to travel to Pluto
New Horizons Space Probe
Did You Know: An Astronomical Unit (AU) is 93,000,000 miles, or the distance from the Sun to the Earth.
Fun Facts: New Horizons is about 29 AU’s from Earth and about 3.5 AU’s from Pluto. It will take 4.5 hours to relay a transmission. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

I is for Ida (Planets Aren't The Objects in Space with Moons)

Dactyl and Ida
Many planets have moons. But guess what. So do some asteroids.
Just as 17th century astronomer Galileo Galilei was first to see moons around another planet, the 20th century spacecraft named in his honor was the first to discover a moon orbiting an asteroid.
In 1993 while on its way to Jupiter, NASA’s Galileo spacecraft flew right by an asteroid called Ida. It’s 19 miles wide and has a small one mile wide moon orbiting it called Dactyl. These were the first binary asteroids discovered.

Spacecraft Galileo
Since then more asteroids with a satellite (formal name for a moon) have been discovered:

In 1999, astronomers using Earth-based telescopes found that 135-mile-wide Eugenia has an eight-mile-diameter moon, which they dubbed Petit-Prince.
• In 2000, 90-mile-wide Pulcova was discovered to have its own moon, about nine miles wide.
• In 2001, scientists found Linus orbiting Kalliope, and another moon around asteroid Sylvia.
Many more binary asteroids have been confirmed as Near-Earth Objects, in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and in the trans-Neptunian area, or beyond the farthest planet (sorry Pluto) from our sun.
Astronomers used radar to observe some of the closer asteroid-moon pairs. Most of the others were discovered in visible light, using ground-based telescopes with adaptive optics. (These systems use computer-controlled deformable mirrors to compensate for the blurring effects of Earth's atmosphere, creating sharper images.) Scientists are able to calculate an asteroid's mass and density by observing the moon orbiting the asteroid. Reference

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

H is for Heliosphere (This Is Exciting Stuff!!!)

The Heliosphere is often described as a kind of bubble that contains our solar system. This magnetic sphere, which extends beyond Pluto, is caused by the Sun’s solar winds.
These winds spread out from the Sun at around 400 km/s until they hit what is known as interstellar space, which is also called local interstellar medium (LISM) or interstellar gas. Interstellar space is the space in galaxies that is unoccupied by either stars or planets.
When the solar winds hit local interstellar medium, a kind of bubble forms that prevents certain material from getting in. Thus, the heliosphere acts as a kind of shield that protects our solar system from cosmic rays, which are dangerous interstellar particles.
The Voyager Spacecraft have actively explored the outer reaches of the heliosphere, passing through the shock and entering the heliosheath, a transitional region which is in turn bounded by the outermost edge of the heliosphere, called the heliopause.
The heliopause is what separates the heliosphere and the interstellar gas outside the solar system. This is where the final frontier begins.