Science Blast: Spare Us, Florence!

Tomorrow, Asteroid Florence will show us her kind mercy…or not!

(3122) Florence will pass safely by Earth on September 1, at a distance of about 4.4 million miles. Image credit: University of Colorado.(3122) Florence will pass safely by Earth on September 1,
at a distance of about 4.4 million miles.
Image credit: University of Colorado.

Asteroid Florence to Fly Safely Past Earth on September 1

Florence [full name (3122) Florence] is among the largest near-Earth asteroids that are several miles in size.

The space rock was discovered by Schelte ‘Bobby’ Bus at Siding Spring Observatory in March 1981.

According to the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center, the asteroid is “named in memory of Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), English nurse and hospital reformer, who almost singlehandedly established trained nursing as an honorable profession for women.”

“She transformed the English field hospitals during the Crimean War and was known there for her quiet dignity, her rigorous discipline and her determination.”

“Florence Nightingale is most remembered as The Lady of the Lamp for her courage, compassion and devotion to the injured troops as she visited the hospital wards after a full day’s work.”

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Science Blast! Polluted Indian River Drives Dogs…Blue?

Who’s a Blue Boy?

Indian Dogs Tinted by Polluted River

Science Blast! Two Years of Dino-Slaying Night!

Imagine a night that lasts two years. Dinosaurs going berserk as they slowly starve to death. Who could survive such terrible conditions? Only the most adventurous pulp hero!

And yet, it might have actually happened!

An illustration of an asteroid impacting Earth.
Credit: Image courtesy NASA

Tremendous amounts of soot, lofted into the air from global wildfires following a massive asteroid strike 66 million years ago, would have plunged Earth into darkness for nearly two years, new research finds. This would have shut down photosynthesis, drastically cooled the planet, and contributed to the mass extinction that marked the end of the age of dinosaurs.

These new details about how the climate could have dramatically changed following the impact of a 10-kilometer-wide asteroid will be published Aug. 21 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study, led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) with support from NASA and the University of Colorado Boulder, used a world-class computer model to paint a rich picture of how Earth’s conditions might have looked at the end of the Cretaceous Period, information that paleobiologists may be able to use to better understand why some species died, especially in the oceans, while others survived.

Scientists estimate that more than three-quarters of all species on Earth, including all non-avian dinosaurs, disappeared at the boundary of the Cretaceous-Paleogene periods, an event known as the K-Pg extinction. Evidence shows that the extinction occurred at the same time that a large asteroid hit Earth in what is now the Yucatán Peninsula. The collision would have triggered earthquakes, tsunamis, and even volcanic eruptions.

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Science Blast: Make It Rain…Diamonds

Scientists recreate diamond rain thought to exist on Neptune and other gas giants. Now that sounds like loot worthy of a great pulp adventure!

By conducting experiments at the Linac Coherent Light Source — one of the world’s most powerful X-ray lasers — an international team of researchers led by HZDR physicist Dr. Dominik Kraus was able to demonstrate that hydrocarbon compounds split into carbon and hydrogen inside ice giants such as Neptune, shown here. The carbon turns into a “diamond shower.”

Credit: Greg Stewart / SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Scientists create ‘diamond rain’ that forms in the interior of icy giant planets

SLAC’s X-ray laser and Matter in Extreme Conditions instrument allow researchers to examine the exotic precipitation in real-time as it materializes in the laboratory

In an experiment designed to mimic the conditions deep inside the icy giant planets of our solar system, scientists were able to observe “diamond rain” for the first time as it formed in high-pressure conditions. Extremely high pressure squeezes hydrogen and carbon found in the interior of these planets to form solid diamonds that sink slowly down further into the interior.

The glittering precipitation has long been hypothesized to arise more than 5,000 miles below the surface of Uranus and Neptune, created from commonly found mixtures of just hydrogen and carbon. The interiors of these planets are similar — both contain solid cores surrounded by a dense slush of different ices. With the icy planets in our solar system, “ice” refers to hydrogen molecules connected to lighter elements, such as carbon, oxygen and/or nitrogen.

Researchers simulated the environment found inside these planets by creating shock waves in plastic with an intense optical laser at the Matter in Extreme Conditions (MEC) instrument at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory’s X-ray free-electron laser, the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS).

In the experiment, they were able to see that nearly every carbon atom of the original plastic was incorporated into small diamond structures up to a few nanometers wide. On Uranus and Neptune, the study authors predict that diamonds would become much larger, maybe millions of carats in weight. Researchers also think it’s possible that over thousands of years, the diamonds slowly sink through the planets’ ice layers and assemble into a thick layer around the core.

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Science Blast: Light goes BOOOM!

New theory about the nature of light!

Scientists Suggest Light Momentum Carried By Atomic Shock Wave by Peter Clarke


Finnish scientists have shed some light on 100 year-old paradox that there have been two different values for the momentum of light in a transparent medium and that typically, these values differ by a factor of ten.

The paradox that light has momentum but does not have mass is another matter.

Researchers from Aalto University have published a paper in Physics Review A that claims to show that the propagation of light in a transparent medium is associated with the transfer of atomic mass density. The passage of the photon through the medium sets the atoms in motion and a propagation wave of those atoms carries a significant part of the total momentum of the light. In the case of silicon this atomic wave carries 92 percent of the total momentum of light.

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Science Blast: New Particle Debuts!

Just what we need to spice up our science fiction: New particles!


Physicists using the Large Hadron Collider beauty (LHCb) experiment at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, have discovered a new kind of heavy particle, they announced this week at a conference in Venice.

The particle, known as Xi-cc++ (pronounced “Ksī-CC plus-plus”), is composed of three smaller elementary particles called quarks—specifically, one lighter-weight “up” quark like those found in protons and neutrons as well as two “charm” quarks, which are a heavier and more exotic variety. (The designations “up” and “charm” are two of the six “flavors” physicists assigned to quarks based on the particles’ varying masses and charges.) The Standard Model of particle physics predicts Xi-cc++ and many other possible particles with various configurations of the six known flavors of quarks.

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Science Blast: Every Window a Power Supply!

Vladimir Bulović of electrical engineering and computer science (left), Miles Barr PhD ’12 (right), and Richard Lunt (below) are making transparent solar cells that could one day be deposited on everyday objects from mobile devices to windows, turning surfaces everywhere into low-cost energy-harvesting systems. This research was supported by the MIT Center for Excitonics, an Energy Frontier Research Center funded by the US Department of Energy. Photo: Justin Knight


MIT researchers are making transparent solar cells that could turn everyday products such as windows and electronic devices into power generators—without altering how they look or function today. How? Their new solar cells absorb only infrared and ultraviolet light. Visible light passes through the cells unimpeded, so our eyes don’t know they’re there. Using simple room-temperature methods, the researchers have deposited coatings of their solar cells on various materials and have used them to run electronic displays using ambient light. They estimate that using coated windows in a skyscraper could provide more than a quarter of the building’s energy needs without changing its look. They’re now beginning to integrate their solar cells into consumer products, including mobile device displays.

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