April 28, 2015

Biggest structure ever found is a really cold hole

Filed under: Big Bang, Cool, Cosmology — bferrari @ 8:19 pm
Largest Structure Ever Found is a Really Cold Hole. Image from the Planck telescope shows the Cold Spot, circled.  (ESA and the Planck Collaboration)

Largest Structure Ever Found is a Really Cold Hole. Image from the Planck telescope shows the Cold Spot, circled. (ESA and the Planck Collaboration)

Largest Structure Ever Found is a Really Cold Hole. Image from the Planck telescope shows the Cold Spot, circled. (ESA and the Planck Collaboration)

Researchers using NASA’s Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer and a telescope in Maui have discovered what they are calling the “largest individual structure ever identified by humanity,” reports the Royal Astronomical Society.

So large, in fact, that the only way to measure its size is in light-years—1.8 billion of them. The so-called supervoid is about 3 billion light-years away, a distance astrophysicists call “close” in the scheme of things.

The researchers were on the hunt for a supervoid in the direction of what’s known as the cosmic microwave background (CMB) Cold Spot, they report in the Society’s Monthly Notices.

First discovered in 2004, the Cold Spot has led some to question our understanding of the Big Bang theory, which doesn’t account for such large, cold spaces.

The latest study suggests that this supervoid—which isn’t empty but rather less dense, essentially “missing” 10,000 galaxies, reports the Guardian—found in the middle of the Cold Spot drains energy from light that travels through it.

Still, the mystery continues, as this drain accounts for only 10% of the Cold Spot’s extreme temperature dip. “It’s like the Everest of voids—there has to be one that’s bigger than the rest,” says one researcher.

“But it doesn’t explain the whole Cold Spot, which we’re still in the dark about.” Experts say “exotic physics” that we’re not familiar with could be at play.

Still, the discovery does provide evidence “for the existence of dark energy,” an outside researcher says. (How close to absolute zero is the “coldest place in the universe”?)

This article originally appeared on Newser: Largest Structure Ever Found Is a Really Cold Hole


April 27, 2015

Mars One Finalist Explains Exactly How It‘s Ripping Off Supporters

Filed under: Government Policies, Inner Solar System, Life, Mars — bferrari @ 7:53 pm

Mars One Finalist Explains Exactly How It‘s Ripping Off Supporters

No money, no process, no explanation: An insider speaks out on the hopelessly flawed scheme.
By Elmo Keep

When Joseph first signed up with Mars One — the media-hyped, one-way mission to colonize the red planet being floated by a Dutch non-profit — he didn’t think much of it. The former NASA researcher said he never really took the application seriously; he was just putting his hat in the ring mostly out of curiosity, and with the hope of bringing public attention to space science.

But eventually Joseph — who is actually Dr. Joseph Roche, an assistant professor at Trinity College’s School of Education in Dublin, with a Ph.D. in physics and astrophysics — found himself on the group’s shortlist of 100 candidates all willing to undertake the theoretical journey. And that’s when he started talking to me about the big problems he was seeing with Mars One.

It was difficult for him to break his silence, but he was spurred into speaking out by the uncritical news coverage. Many basic assumptions about the project remain unchallenged. Most egregiously, many media outlets continue to report that Mars One received applications from 200,000 people who would be happy to die on another planet — when the number it actually received was 2,761.

As Roche observed the process from an insider’s perspective, his concerns increased. Chief among them: that some leading contenders for the missionhad bought their way into that position, and are being encouraged to “donate” any appearance fees back to Mars One — which seemed to him very strange for an outfit that needs billions of dollars to complete its objective.

“When you join the ‘Mars One Community,’ which happens automatically if you applied as a candidate, they start giving you points,” Roche explained to me in an email. “You get points for getting through each round of the selection process (but just an arbitrary number of points, not anything to do with ranking), and then the only way to get more points is to buy merchandise from Mars One or to donate money to them.”

“Community members” can redeem points by purchasing merchandise like T-shirts, hoodies, and posters, as well as through gifts and donations: The group also solicits larger investment from its supporters. Others have been encouraged to help the group make financial gains on flurries of media interest. In February, finalists received a list of “tips and tricks” for dealing with press requests, which included this: “If you are offered payment for an interview then feel free to accept it. We do kindly ask for you to donate 75% of your profit to Mars One.”

The result, said Roche, is that high-profile prospects — including those in a list of “Top 10 hopefuls” published last month in The Guardian— are, in fact, simply the people who have generated the most money for Mars One. A spokeswoman confirmed by email that the positions were “based on the supporter points that our community can earn,” but said that “this number of points is unrelated to our selection process.”

As Roche also told me, that secretive selection process is hopelessly, and dangerously, flawed.

“I have not met anyone from Mars One in person,” he said. “Initially they’d said there were going to be regional interviews… we would travel there, we’d be interviewed, we’d be tested over several days, and in my mind that sounded at least like something that approached a legitimate astronaut selection process.

“But then they made us sign a non-disclosure agreement if we wanted to be interviewed, and then all of a sudden it changed from being a proper regional interview over several days to being a 10-minute Skype call.”

Mars One’s selection process to date has required candidates to complete a questionnaire, upload a video to the project’s website, and get a medical examination with each candidate’s local doctor (which they had to arrange themselves). Roche said he then had a short Skype conversation with Mars One’s chief medical officer, Norbert Kraft, during which he was quizzed with questions from literature about Mars and the mission that Mars One had provided to all the applicants. No rigorous psychological or psychometric testing was part of the appraisal. Candidates were given a month to rote-learn the material before the interview.

Mars One’s testing methods fall well short of NASA’s stringent astronaut corps requirements — not least in the case of anyone who would be training to be the mission commander, the individual who would actually pilot a theoretical craft to Mars. Commanders at NASA are required to have logged 1,000 jet aircraft flight hours to even be considered as training candidates for spaceflight.

Applicants were told they did not have permission to record the interview or to take any notes. Today, Roche said, he has still never had an in-person meeting with anyone associated with Mars One, and he is not aware that any candidate has ever been interviewed in person to assess their suitability to be sent one-way, forever, on a deep-space mission.

“That means all the info they have collected on me is a crap video I made, an application form that I filled out with mostly one-word answers… and then a 10-minute Skype interview,” Roche said. “That is just not enough info to make a judgment on someone about anything.”

The story continues here…

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This mind-blowing new 3-D printing technique is inspired by ‘Terminator 2​’

Filed under: Cool, Gadgets — bferrari @ 7:37 pm

The Continuous Liquid Interface Production (CLIP) technology is shown at 7x speed. (Carbon3D, Inc.)

In an iconic scene in the movie “Terminator 2,” the robotic villain T-1000 rises fully formed from a puddle of metallic goo. The newest innovation in 3-D printing looks pretty similar, and that’s no mistake: Its creators were inspired by that very scene.

The company Carbon3D came out of two years of stealth mode Monday night with a simultaneous TED Talk and Science paper publication. Their new tech, which they say could be used in industrial applications within the next year, makes coveted 3-D printers the likes of those sold by MakerBotlook like child’s play.

[Coming soon: 3-D printed mud houses for impoverished countries]

“We think that popular 3-D printing is actually misnamed — it’s really just 2-D printing over and over again,” said Joseph DeSimone, a professor of chemistry at University of North Carolina and North Carolina State as well as one of Carbon3D’s co-founders. “The strides in that area have mostly been driven by mechanical engineers figuring our how to make things layer by layer to precisely create an object. We’re two chemists and a physicist, so we came in with a different perspective.”

Just as the evil T-1000 rises from its puddle of metal alloys, objects created by the new printer seem to ooze into existence from the ether. They come out fast, too: 25 to 100 times faster than anything on the market now, according to the study published in Science.

This 10x speed video shows a 3D model of the Eiffel Tower emerging from a resin pool. The model was created using the Continuous Liquid Interface Production (CLIP) methodology. (Carbon3D, Inc.)

DeSimone and his colleagues call their new process “continuous liquid interface production technology,” or CLIP.

CLIP places a pool of resin over a digital light projection system. A special window between the resin and light allows both light and oxygen to travel through (much like a contact lens, DeSimone explained).

To create an object, CLIP projects specific bursts of light and oxygen. Light hardens the resin, and oxygen keeps it from hardening. By controlling light and oxygen exposure in tandem, intricate shapes and latices can be made in one piece instead of the many layers of material that usually make up a 3-D printed object.

Those layers are defects, keeping the object from being a smooth surface. To minimize them, designers have to spend even longer printing the objects out.

“These hurdles mean that 3-D printing can be amazing for making prototypes, but just not as good for creating a commercial product in a lot of applications,” said Carbon3D’s chief marketing officer Rob Schoeben. “That’s what we’re most interested in changing.”

[5 amazing ways 3-D-printed food will change the way we eat]

Watching CLIP in action is impressive, and so are the objects it’s already produced. DeSimone hopes that the technique’s knack for making small, smooth objects will help make breakthroughs in the tiny sensors we rely on for smartphones and fitness bands, as well as in making microneedles and other drug delivery systems.

DeSimone has always turned his students into entrepreneurs in the lab, but Carbon3D is the first company he left the classroom to develop. “This is a field that’s like breathing for me,” he said, “and we have an opportunity to make a big impact.”

His co-founder and fellow UNC professor Edward Samulski agreed, saying that the basic principle — keeping a polymer from forming with oxygen — is something  they frequently encountered in the classroom.

“We all teach this in our undergraduate courses,” Samulski said. “It illustrates what 1937 Nobel Laureate Albert Szent-Gyorgyi said: ‘Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.’ ”

More reading: 

Meet Derby, the dog who runs on 3-D printed legs

3-D printers could squirt out squid-inspired plastics

NASA just ‘emailed’ a wrench to space for the first time


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