Friday, November 19, 2010

Saturn’s hex has people spell bound

The planet Saturn has a very large hexagon shaped structure at it North pole.

Some people insist that the hexagon shaped structure is not natural, even going so far as to say it was constructed by Aliens!

However, someone made a really cool video that explains how such a structure can come about. The key is to realize that Saturn's atmosphere is immense, it is much deeper that the width of the Earth and sits on top of an even deeper liquid layer – there are no continents or mountains to complicate things. It might help if you realize that the Earth has large scale atmospheric structures, but not so obvious from space – such as the jet streams of winds over 300 Kph. Not to mention hurricanes that are very visible. Now just imagine a much bigger planet like Saturn, without the complications of land masses...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Jet Contrail Mistaken for a Secret Missile Launch!

A CBS news chopper filmed what they thought was the exhaust from a 'secret' missile launch, but it was actually the contrail of a jet. The fact that the missile was moving rather slowly seemed not to have caused them to have doubts!

I saw this mentioned first in a Bad Astronomy posting, and more in a follow-up, with a very detailed explanation complete with radar tracking data and 3d visualisation by a site that really specialises in analysing unusual contrails.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Spectacular views of a Comet Nucleus

The solid heart of comet Hartley 2, looks rather like a dog's bone, quite different to what I would have expected a comet nucleus to look like! Conspiracy 'theorists', might think it looks like some kind of weird alien spaceship masquerading as a comet.

For more useful scientific information, and for some spectacular photograph, have a look at the following web sites: one at Bad Astronomy and the other at Astronomy Picture of the Day

The photographs were taken when the EPOXI mission spacecraft came close to it. You can plainly see jets of dust and gas squirting out from the roughened ends of the comet nucleus.

The mission is not just about science and pretty pictures, if a comet was likely to ever impact the Earth, then the more we understand comets, the better we could execute a mission to save the Earth.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Design your own way to get Jupiter & win prizes!

There are a few 'pesky' rules to follow, and to succeed is decidedly non-trivial, but could be interesting for some people.

Note that the ESA is the European Space Agency - NASA is not not the only Western organization associated with Space Exploration.

Mission Analysis and Design
This yearly competition aims at advancing the automation of the trajectory design process. The competition has been taken up by the community after its first edition organized by the Advanced Concepts Team.

To organise the first international competition to find the global optimal of an interplanetary trajectory was a risky idea. We saw it, a bit romantically perhaps, as a sort of "sailing challenge", with our galaxy as the racing waters and mathematical tools as the competing boats. In keeping with this idea, we hoped each successive winner would become the host (and referee) for the next event. The competition was opened to the widest international community including industry, academia and research groups. Still it was far from certain that any of these specialists and researchers would be willing to devote their (usually scarce) free time to such a contest. As it turned out, luck was indeed on the side of those who dare, and not only seventeen different groups participated to the first contest, but the winner also accepted to carry on and organise the next event, thereby fully supporting the original vision.

See also comments on slashdot, one of which related to an existing game called Orbiter, which is a space flight simulator.

Another of the Slashdot comments says:
Also, it's a decent example of the sort of thing possible with HTML5 crap, and it's GPL, so at least it's got that going for it.

Note that Firefox 3.6 has some support HTML5, and Firefox 4 will support HTML5 even better!

Monday, October 4, 2010

UFO alert – Alien spaceship seen masquerading as a moon of Saturn!

The REAL TRUTH will be revealed, once you read the Bad Astronomers blog!

See the photo of the moon like spaceship with full afterburners!

Note how a real Astronomer reacts to this exciting discovery.

Unlike fake photos of UFOs, this is real, and so is the science involved.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Plait Tech-Tonics - Astronomer goes Entrepreneurial

With the recent bad times and consequential budget cuts, Astronomers have had to look for other sources of remuneration to supplement their incomes so that they can properly support their families...

So Bill Plait came up with a new product 'Plait Tech-Tonics', and he states that "With a slogan like "Dark energy, light taste" it can’t lose!"

So never write of Scientists as boring and lacking in Entrepreneurial spirit!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Photographs of the Moon, processed by a New Zealander

(I had accidentally posted this to another blog about open source software)

Maurice Collins, in Palmerston North, reprocessed images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter camera to produce some stunning photographs.

Unfortunately, he uses somewhat non-standard HTML, so I was unable too look at most of his pages at his website using Firefox.
However, the raw wide-angle images are somewhat distorted by the camera, but Maurice Collins, a Moon enthusiast from New Zealand, found that putting several images together in a mosaic removes a lot of the distortions and produces a much clearer image. The results are nothing short of stunning; here are a few example of Maurice’s handiwork, including this jaw-dropping image of the Marius Hills region of the Moon. Click on any of these images for a larger version on Maurice’s website, Moon Science

Sunday, September 26, 2010

LHC beautiful diagrams of Quark 'atoms'

In the 6 September 2010: Beautiful atoms entry of the LHCb experiment web site, they have some wonderful diagrams showing how they found 'atoms' of Beauty and anti-Beauty quarks. They show how the experimental results can be mapped to the transitions where the 2 quarks drop from higher to lower energy orbitals, just like as in an Hydrogen atom.

In other news: the actual number of protons in the LHC beam is now about a millions times more than when they started this year!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

How humans adapt to eating new types of foods

Most people who realize humans can adapt to digesting new types of food, think they know that there are one or two ways for humans to adapt to new food: by having new types of bacteria in our intestines and the other is to evolve news ways of digesting.

However, there are other ways, as we can sometimes pick up new DNA from other species, as well as pick up the required bacteria to properly digest the new foods.

I suppose that most people would never have consider that a virus could ever have a positive impact on our health!

Viruses and Other Gene Transfer Mechanisms
The Transfer of DNA Across Species Boundaries
Bacteria trade genes more frantically than a pit full of traders on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange — Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan (3)

While recombination moves whole blocks of genetic instructions within a cell, other processes move whole blocks of genetic information from one bacterium to another bacterium of a different kind. In the analogy between genes and written text, this move is a transfer of paragraphs or pages from one library to another

Sushi may 'transfer genes' to gut
A traditional Japanese diet could transfer the genes of "sushi-specific" digestive enzymes into the human gut.

This is according to researchers who discovered a substance in marine bacteria that breaks seaweed down into digestible pieces.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

LHC experiments described

I thought initially that there were 8 main experiments at the Large Hardron Collider (LHC), there are in fact 6.

Note that While they are looking at the same types of collisions, they are constructed in different ways to look at different aspects.

You can see that a large number of scientists are involved from all around the world.

It is important to have short names to refer to the experiments rather than a long but more meaningful phrase. However, you can see some groups were struggling to come up with good short names!

The following are brief excerpts about each of the experiments, click on the links for more details.

ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment)
For the ALICE experiment, the LHC will collide lead ions to recreate the conditions just after the Big Bang under laboratory conditions. The data obtained will allow physicists to study a state of matter known as quark‑gluon plasma, which is believed to have existed soon after the Big Bang.
A collaboration of more than 1000 scientists from 94 institutes in 28 countries works on the ALICE experiment (March 2006).

ATLAS is one of two general-purpose detectors at the LHC. It will investigate a wide range of physics, including the search for the Higgs boson, extra dimensions, and particles that could make up dark matter. ATLAS will record sets of measurements on the particles created in collisions - their paths, energies, and their identities.
More than 2900 scientists from 172 institutes in 37 countries work on the ATLAS experiment (December 2009).

CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid)
The CMS experiment uses a general-purpose detector to investigate a wide range of physics, including the search for the Higgs boson, extra dimensions, and particles that could make up dark matter. Although it has the same scientific goals as the ATLAS experiment, it uses different technical solutions and design of its detector magnet system to achieve these.
More than 2000 scientists collaborate in CMS, coming from 155 institutes in 37 countries (October 2006).

LHCb (Large Hadron Collider beauty)
The LHCb experiment will help us to understand why we live in a Universe that appears to be composed almost entirely of matter, but no antimatter.

It specialises in investigating the slight differences between matter and antimatter by studying a type of particle called the 'beauty quark', or 'b quark'.
The LHCb collaboration has 650 scientists from 48 institutes in 13 countries (April 2006).

TOTEM (TOTal Elastic and diffractive cross section Measurement)
The TOTEM experiment studies forward particles to focus on physics that is not accessible to the general-purpose experiments. Among a range of studies, it will measure, in effect, the size of the proton and also monitor accurately the LHC's luminosity.
The TOTEM experiment involves 50 scientists from 10 institutes in 8 countries (2006).

LHCf (Large Hadron Collider forward)
The LHCf experiment uses forward particles created inside the LHC as a source to simulate cosmic rays in laboratory conditions.

Cosmic rays are naturally occurring charged particles from outer space that constantly bombard the Earth's atmosphere. They collide with nuclei in the upper atmosphere, leading to a cascade of particles that reaches ground level.
The LHCf experiment involves 22 scientists from 10 institutes in 4 countries (September 2006).

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

British Libel Laws can be used against people in other countries

British Libel Laws are not only extremely costly to defend against, but they are used to silence legitimate concerns fro people around the world, as American corporations (and others) can go to England to take legal action against Scientists in New Zealand (and people in other countries). You can help, even if you don't live in England.

Simon Singh is attempting to force a much need repeal of these laws, so please take a moment to read the message from Singh below:

Message from Simon Singh: “A big step for me, a small step for libel reform, and what you can do to help today.”

Dear Friends

Sorry for the silence, but it has been a ridiculously hectic (and happy) time since last week’s victory at the Court of Appeal. However, I urgently wanted to get in touch to update you on the status of my case, the latest news on libel reform and what you can do today to push libel reform up the political agenda.

BCA v Singh

April Fool’s Day 2010 was a day to remember. The Court of Appeal gave a ruling in my libel case with the British Chiropractic Association. The ruling strongly backs my arguments and puts me in a much stronger position when my trial eventually takes place. At last, after two years of defending my article and my right to free speech, I seem to have the upper hand and can breathe a small sigh of relief.

Moreover, the judges made it clear that they did not want to see scientists and science journalists being hauled through the High Court. In particular, they endorsed the view that a so-called comment defence should be adequate for scientific and other articles on matters of public interest. As well as the legal technicalities, the three wise, charming and handsome judges quoted Milton on the persecution of Galileo and directed that the High Court should not become an “Orwellian Ministry of Truth”.

Libel Reform Campaign

This is a small step forward for libel reform, but there is still a huge battle to be fought over the issues of costs, libel tourism, public interest defence, balancing the burden of proof, restricting the ability of powerful corporations to bully individuals (e.g., bloggers, journalists, scientists) and so on.

The General Election was called yesterday and the manifestos will be published in the next week, so we need one last push to persuade the major parties to commit to libel reform. Although we have already achieved a huge amount (from editorials in all last week’s broadsheets to the Commons Select Committee recommending libel reform), we must keep up the pressure!

Both the Labour and Conservative parties have made encouraging sounds about libel reform, but now is the time for them to make commitments in their manifestos.

What you can do today to pressure politicians

I have spent over a million minutes and £100,000 defending my article and my right to free speech, so I am asking you to spend just one minute and no money at all persuading others to sign the petition for libel reform at

The last time I made this request, we doubled the number of signatories from 17,000 to 35,000. Can we now double the number from almost 50,000 to 100,000?!

You could ask parents, siblings, colleagues or friends to sign up. You could email everyone in your address book. You could blog about it, mention it to your Facebook friends and twitter about it. In fact, I have pasted some possible tweets at the end of this email – it would be great if you could twitter one, some or all of them.

You could forward all or part of this email to people or just steer them to . Or you could persuade people that English libel law needs radical reform by using some of the reasons listed at the end of this email.

Remember, we welcome signatories from around the world because English libel law has a damaging impact globally.

Please, please, please apply maximum pressure to the politicians by encouraging as many new signatories as possible. Please do not take my victory last week as a sign that the battle is over. My case is still ongoing and the campaign for libel reform is only just starting.

Thanks for all your support – it has been incredibly important for the campaign and a real morale booster personally over the last two years.

Simon Singh.

Ps. Please spread the word by sending out one, some or all of the following tweets

Pls RT English libel law silences debate, says UN Human Rights Committee. Sign up at & back #libelreform Pls RT English libel costs 140x more than Europe. We can't afford to defend our words. Sign up at & back #libelreform Pls RT Two ongoing libel cases involving health. The law should not crush scientific debate. Sign up at & back #libelreform Pls RT London is notorious for attracting libel tourists who come to UK to silence critics. Sign up at & back #libelreform

PPs. Reasons why we need radical libel reform:

(a) English libel laws have been condemned by the UN Human Rights Committee.

(b) These laws gag scientists, bloggers and journalists who want to discuss matters of genuine public interest (including public health!).

(c) Our laws give rise to libel tourism, whereby the rich and the powerful (Saudi billionaires, Russian oligarchs and overseas corporations) come to London to sue writers because English libel laws are so hostile to responsible journalism. (Again, it is exactly because English libel laws have this global impact that we welcome signatories to the petition from around the world.)

(d) Vested interests can use their resources to bully and intimidate those who seek to question them. The cost of a libel trial in England is 100 times more expensive than the European average and typically runs to over £1 million.

(e) Two separate ongoing libel cases involve myself and Peter Wilmshurst, and we are both raising concerns about medical treatments. We face losing £1 million each. In future, why would anyone else raise similar concerns when our libel laws are so brutal and expensive? Our libel laws mean that serious health matters are not necessarily reported, which means that the public is put at risk.

PPPs. I know that I will leave people out of this list, but I owe a huge thanks to:

1. The 10,000 people who joined the Facebook group “For Simon Singh and Free Speech - Against the BCA Libel Claim”, particularly those who joined when the rest of the world ignored the issue of libel.

2. The 300 people who packed Penderel’s Oak in May 2009 and who helped launch the Keep Libel Out of Science campaign, particularly the speakers: Nick Cohen, Dave Gorman, Evan Harris MP, Professor Brian Cox, Chris French, Tracey Brown (Sense About Science), Robert Dougans (Bryan Cave) and David Allen Green.

3. The 20,000 people who then joined the Keep Libel Out of Science campaign.

4. Jack of Kent and every other blogger who ranted and raved about libel reform when the mainstream media was turning a blind eye.

5. Everyone in the mainstream media who is now covering the various libel cases and the issue of libel reform.

6. Sense About Science, Index on Censorship and English PEN, who formed the Coalition for Libel Reform. And thanks to everyone who has contributed pro bono to the campaign in terms of design, technical support, chivvying support for the EDM and more.

7. The 46,000 people (i.e. you) who have signed the petition for libel reform, particularly those who have cajoled others to sign up at

8. All the big names who have spoken out in favour of libel reform, from Professor Richard Dawkins to Derren Brown, from the Astronomer Royal to the Poet Laureate, from the Amazing Randi to Ricky Gervais. Particular thanks go to Dara O Briain, Stephen Fry, Tim Minchin and Robin Ince, who have gone out of their way to step up to the plate when the campaign has needed them. Immense thanks also to the 100+ big names who were the first to sign the petition to keep libel out of science and highlighted the need for libel reform.

9. Everyone who has emailed and twittered and told me in person that I am not going crazy, and who reassured me that I am doing the right thing by defending my article.

10. Thanks to Nick Clegg, leader of the Lib Dems, for promising to put libel reform in his manifesto. And thanks in advance to Jack Straw (Justice Secretary) and Dominic Grieve (Shadow Justice Secretary), because I know that the Labour and Conservative parties are going to commit to libel law reform. I cannot believe that they will allow more scientists, serious journalists, bloggers, biographers, human rights activists and others to go through the same hell that I have had to endure for last two years.

Friday, April 2, 2010

previous post: LHC discovers black rings

My previous post: LHC discovers black rings, was an April Fool's joke, just in case someone was fooled, but it did link to genuine sites. However, to someone non technical, it does give a good flavour of how particle physics is actually done, though real nuclear physicists will note inaccuracies and gross over simplifications.

I discovered after I initially wrote the previous post, that there were actual Black Rings predicted, but the chances of the LHC creating one is much lower than the LHC actually discovering the Higgs boson in a definitive way within the next week - at best physicists could hope for are a few events suggestive of the Higgs boson.

The LHC is now starting its long 3.5 TeV run to look for the new physics, but I would be surprised if there were papers published in the next 3 months revealing any new particles based on this energy level. However, I would love to be wrong in this case!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

LHC discovers black rings

Now that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has increased its energy level to 3.5TeV (3.5 Tera electron Volts = 3,500 Giga electron Volts = 3,500,000 Mega electron Volts) new physics is starting to emerge.

Normally there is agreement not to release findings too early, as this is very much a team sport, and papers are published with hundreds if not thousands of physicists names attached. In fact the first paper published last year from an LHC collaboration had 20 pages just listing the authors.

However, a recent joiner with their PhD still fresh, emailed a friend with some exciting news about the discovery of Black Rings – obviously not realizing that such would soon become public.

Well apparently they had recorded 97 double collisions in the CMS experiment, where the second collision happened within a few picoseconds of the first. This meant that particles ejected from the second interacted with products of the previous collision. Initial analysis was very puzzling, as some anomalous tracks were discovered. Fortunately a brilliant theoretical Nuclear Physicist from Estonia, Prof. Selrahc Nivag, found a possible explanation, a Black Ring.

A Black Ring is a theoretical possibility when an intense gravitational field interacts with strange quarks. Now quarks are normally bound up with others and not seen by themselves. The first collision generated hadrons containing strange quarks, the second collision generated transient super dense collection of protons and neutrons (a hyper nucleus) with a high quantum spin number, and their interaction created a transient Black Ring which lasted less than a microsecond.

About 34 of the 97 double collisions gave anomalous results tentatively identified with Black Rings. Theoretical predictions suggest that for collisions of this type, after allowing for variations in the precise details of the actual double collisions, would generate 31 such events – not bad correlation, considering the accuracy of the measurements, and within the expected margin of experimental error.

A Black Ring is predicted to decay in a flash of gamma radiation with several particles flying out in the same plane as the ring. Additionally, in 3 of the Black Ring events, later particles were seen going through the centre of the Black Ring – identified by particle tracks ending abruptly where the Black Ring was, and having continuation tracks indicating they had been converted to their anti-matter counter parts (the surrounding magnetic field caused the tracks to curve in opposite directions, due to the abrupt change in the sign of the charged particles).

This interpretation is still highly speculative, as the significance is only at the level of 2 standard deviations, and physicists prefer to get enough data for it to be valid at at least 7 standard deviations.

So no Black Holes, just a few Black Rings – maybe.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Large Hadron Collider will restart soon at 7 TeV

The Large Hadron Collider, otherwise known as the LHC, is designed to hurl protons and nuclei of atoms together a phenomenally high speeds extremely close to the speed of light.

The LHC has 2 beams going in opposite directions around an oval of about 27 kilometres, at specified pints, where experiments like ATLAS and CMS are located, they cross and collisions may occur.

These collisions are at an energy high enough that particles are created from the interaction of the colliding protons and neutrons. Most of the particles detected from these collisions are known, but physicists are still interested in how they behave at the energies achieved in the LHC, but the most sought after prize is the Higgs Boson - along with possibility of finding other particles predicted, but not yet observed.

Theoretical nuclear physicists can not account for why the sub atomic particles, that we have already detected so far, have mass. So Peter Higgs, along with others, postulated a totally new type of particle, now called the Higgs Boson, that appears to neatly resolve the problem.

Some other physicists, think that the Higgs Boson does not exist, and there must be some other mechanism to account for mass. However, most physicists feel that searching for the Higgs is worthwhile, as it is important to find evidence of it either definitely existing or not existing, as the case may be. The existence of the Higgs would confirm our understanding of the so called standard model of nuclear particles and allow our understanding of it to be extended to higher energies, or force physicists to reconsider the standard model in a very fundamental way.

Also of considerable interest: would be new types of particles not predicted, and new ways of matter behaving at the super high temperatures found in the collisions of nuclear particles at the LHC.

The LHC had been designed to run at 10 TeV (10,000,000,000,000 electron volts, as distinct from the maximum energy possible in the average New Zealand home of 240 volts), but due to technical problems they will run at 7 TeV. The LHC will be run at this energy for 18 to 24 months to get a decent amount of physics done and to get more experience of operating the system, plus it gives more time to prepare what is required to operate at the design energy of 10 TeV.

Note that the LHC is run at about 270 degrees Celsius below the freezing point of water, or less than 2 degrees above absolute zero. So another reason for the long period at just one energy level of 7 TeV, is that while there are improvements they can make to increase the energy in stages to 10 TeV, is that simply warming the LHC up to room temperature and cooling it down again takes at least 2 months, in addition to the time required to make the actual engineering modifications and subsequent testing.

It is expected that the LHC will restart operations in the few days about the level it finished last year of about 1 TeV and ramp up over a few week to 7 TeV. They want to avoid any mishaps that might put the LHC out of commission, like what happened shortly after they started up the first time when they had an explosion that forced a delay of a year while they fixed the problem.

Physicists from all around the world are hard at work preparing to do some exciting new physics at the LHC, including some people from New Zealand.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

White Blood Cell Chases Bacteria

Here is an excellent video, and at the end it gives a chance to look at more videos that give further glimpses into what is happening at the microscopic level of life.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Age no barrier to being productive in Theoretical Physics

Edward & Nappi are 2 Theoretical Physicists married to each other, talking about where advances are most likely to be made in their field (part 2 of 2 of the article). Note that Ed's wife is confident that they can both still contribute effectively, despite being 50+.
He reckons the most influential insights in string theory will come from the younger generation, but Nappi isn't so sure. She cites a recent study showing that scientists in their 50s and 60s are at least as productive as those in their 30s, if not more so. "We are planning to get a lot more work done now that the children have moved out," she says. It's a fearsome prospect: Ed Witten might just be entering his prime.
Be sure to also look at part 1 of the article, Inside the tangled world of string theory!

Friday, January 29, 2010

The interactive scale of the Universe

This article from Bad Astronomy (actually a very good website, its name came from Phil's desire debunk the bad astronomy found in hoax sites) links to a very useful interactive demonstration of the relative size of things in the Universe from far smaller than an atom, to the size of the known universe.

It will be very usefully in getting a handle on the relative size of things, plus get an understanding of modern physics and astronomy, with the size of biological things somewhere in the "middle" of the size scale.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Thorium is a much safer more efficient reactor fuel than Uranium

The main reason all current commercial and military nuclear reactors use Uranium, is because the US government wanted to produce lots of Plutonium for nuclear weapons. Now that the infrastructure and perceptions of many people are fixated on Uranium, and hence there is a huge commercial and political inertia against moving towards a Thorium energy program.

Thorium as a fuel is a lot less expensive to refine and manufacture for use in nuclear reactors than Uranium, by several orders of magnitude. Plus the Thorium reactors are intrinsically much safer, as there is no chance of a Chernobyl style incident using Thorium.

Using Thorium largely eliminates the problems of radioactive waste (compared to Uranium), and totally eliminates the worry that such reactors could lead to increased availability of weapons grade Plutonium.

I think that if nuclear reactors had been based on using Thorium, rather than Uranium and there had been less emphasis on Nuclear weaponry, then New Zealand would have been much less anti-nuclear.

The article itself goes into much more depth, and also gives some useful additional background:
When Sorensen and his pals began delving into this history, they discovered not only an alternative fuel but also the design for the alternative reactor. Using that template, the Energy From Thorium team helped produce a design for a new liquid fluoride thorium reactor, or LFTR (pronounced “lifter”), which, according to estimates by Sorensen and others, would be some 50 percent more efficient than today’s light-water uranium reactors. If the US reactor fleet could be converted to LFTRs overnight, existing thorium reserves would power the US for a thousand years.

Overseas, the nuclear power establishment is getting the message. In France, which already generates more than 75 percent of its electricity from nuclear power, the Laboratoire de Physique Subatomique et de Cosmologie has been building models of variations of Weinberg’s design for molten salt reactors to see if they can be made to work efficiently. The real action, though, is in India and China, both of which need to satisfy an immense and growing demand for electricity. The world’s largest source of thorium, India, doesn’t have any commercial thorium reactors yet. But it has announced plans to increase its nuclear power capacity: Nuclear energy now accounts for 9 percent of India’s total energy; the government expects that by 2050 it will be 25 percent, with thorium generating a large part of that. China plans to build dozens of nuclear reactors in the coming decade, and it hosted a major thorium conference last October. The People’s Republic recently ordered mineral refiners to reserve the thorium they produce so it can be used to generate nuclear power.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Sailing the Seas of Titan

There are shades of Hal Clement's Science Fiction (SciFi) novel "Mission of Gravity", where aliens are employed by Earth's scientists to investigate a fast spinning super Jupiter type planet in sailing ships. However, this article about a nautical craft for Saturn's moon Titan, is a real proposed scientific project, although no aliens are involved as crew members!
The first interplanetary nautical craft may be a boat to explore the methane seas of Titan. A proposed mission to Titan would explore some of its largest seas, including Ligeia Mare (pictured) or the Kraken Mare, both of which are in the northern hemisphere of the foggy moon of Saturn. The concept has been studied for over two years by scientific team led by Ellen Stofan of Proxemy Research, Inc. in Washington DC, and has recently been submitted to NASA.