I've always wondered why modern day astronauts don't have the celebrity status like they did just a few decades ago. But today, it finally dawned on me. Social Media.
Everyone knows that you're not officially in a relationship if it's not official on Facebook. And you're not officially a celeb unless you've got a social media rep to prove it.
Meet Chris Hadfield, the singing sensation who has recently conquered social media. And, he's an astronaut.
Hadfield spent five months on the International Space Station during which he created a series of videos from how to wring out a washcloth in space, to getting sick and preparing food — his popularity has exploded to the point that people from across the Internet are calling Hadfield the "King of Space," though a well-timed photo in Kazakhstan didn't hurt.
Most recently to gain mass interest is his music video, "Space Oddity," adapted for space from the original song by David Bowie.
I really like this guy. Not only because he makes awesome videos about space, not because these videos are so authentic and mind-boggling when you see a distant Earth spinning in the background window, but because he is exciting people about space again.
Space exploration is so exciting; just because it's not longer about the Space Race like it was for the United States in 1969, doesn't mean it's not crucial to continue to explore.
Seriously, if you need a new video to watch while getting your daily YouTube fix, Hadfield is the guy to search.
Daniel Stolte of the UA Communications team reports that the UA's OSIRIS-REx mission, which will send a space probe to an asteroid for a few years before returning to Earth, is a go:
OSIRIS-REx, the $1 billion asteroid sample return mission led by the University of Arizona, reached a major milestone on May 16: The project passed the agency-level confirmation review called Key Decision Point-C, or KDP-C. KDP-C authorized continuation of the project into the next phase of development, giving the team the authority to proceed toward launch in 2016.
"This means we have now made the final deal with NASA in terms of the mission objective, the cost cap and the schedule all the way from development and launch through Earth return," said Dante Lauretta, UA planetary science professor and the mission's principal investigator.
"We have presented our plan, including all aspects of the mission, from the engineering to the science to the schedule, and NASA has accepted that plan and committed to fully fund the mission."
The UA is leading the mission. For the first time in space-exploration history, the mission will travel to and return pristine samples of a carbonaceous asteroid with known geologic context. Such samples are critical to understanding the origin of the solar system, Earth and life, Lauretta explained.
"Successfully passing KDP-C is a major milestone for the project," said Mike Donnelly, OSIRIS-REx project manager for NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "This means that the agency believes we have an executable plan to return a sample from the asteroid, Bennu. It now falls upon the project and its development team members to execute that plan."
The OSIRIS-REx mission will travel to near-Earth asteroid Bennu (named via a recent student competion), study it for a year with a variety of instruments, collect a sample and return it to Earth in 2023.
If you were to watch the above video without any background, you may think it's a trailer for the latest space disaster movie. But you'd be wrong.
Mars One announced last Monday that they will being accepting applications from people 18 years or older to apply for a one-way ticket to Mars. They would depart in the year 2022 and arrive seven months later in 2023.
The organizations goal is to establish a settlement of human life on the red planet. Therefore, anyone who applies for their trip to Mars would not have the chance to return home; they would live out the rest of their life there, indefinitely.
"From now on, we won't just be visiting planets, we'll be staying. You will be staying," the video says.
Nice to know that Canada and Australia have teamed up to compile information that every human being already assumed to be true...women find men with larger penises more attractive than their less-endowed counterparts:
So Mautz and his team, working at the Australian National University, designed an experiment in hopes of settling the controversy. They created 49 unique, computer-generated, nude, life-sized male figures. Each figure varied in three traits: height, shoulder-hip ratio and flaccid penis size.
The researchers then displayed all the figures to 105 Australian women with an average age of 26. The women, who were not told which traits varied, were asked to rate the attractiveness of the figures as sexual partners on a scale of 1-7. The women were alone in the room and their responses were anonymous.
As past studies have shown, women prefer tall men with broad shoulders and narrow hips, like an Olympic swimmer. But when Mautz controlled for those variables, it turned out that penis size (overall length and girth) was about as important as stature.
“As you increase penis size, the amount of attractiveness scores gets bigger” in a linear fashion, he explained, until 7.6 centimeters, or 3 inches. After three inches, attractiveness still increased, but in smaller increments.
Not only were the ratings higher, but the women also spent more time gazing at the generously endowed figures, a sign they preferred looking at them as opposed to figures with smaller penises.
The good (?) news, I guess? If you're a man larger than three inches in length, you've made it over the general attractiveness ledge to where the ratio of size/likelihood-any-woman-will-ever-want-you levels out. That's something, right?
In today’s surreal science news, researchers in Kyoto, Japan have reportedly built a “dream-reading machine” using MRI and electroencephalography (come again?) technology, according to a study published today in Science.
A membership is required to view the entire study (you can view the abstract here), but Smithsonian took an inside look at how the findings may be the “first case” of objective data documenting the content of a human brain in dream-mode:
A unidentified American man received a 3-D printed implant this week, replacing 75 percent of his skull and making him the second person ever to undergo this type of procedure after a woman was implanted with a titanium jaw last year.
Once the Food and Drug Administration ok’d the technology, produced by Connecticut company Oxford Performance Materials, the man underwent a head scan so the implant could be molded to fit the exact dimensions of his skull.
How this information affects your day-to-day life, I'm not sure, but the discovery of a new species of scorpion near Seven Cataracts Vista in the Santa Catalina Mountains by Dr Rob Bryson Jr. is interesting in the sense that there's still a lot in our immediate area to still explore.
Here's a description of the scorpion from the online journal ZooKeys:
Relatively small-bodied scorpion from the Seven Cataracts Overlook area of the Santa Catalina Mountains, southern Arizona (total body length of the female holotype is 27.50 mm). Color is light to medium brown, light brown to yellow on the legs, with underlying dark mottling on carapace and mesosoma. Metasoma is light brown with darker carinae.
Researchers, led by a neuroscientist from Duke University, have found a way to link the brains of two rats that are occupying different cages—and that's not even the crazy part.
In the new study, the researchers implanted small electrode arrays in two regions of the rats’ brains, one involved in planning movements, and one involved in the sense of touch.
Then they trained several rats to poke their noses and whiskers through a small opening in the wall of their enclosure to determine its width. The scientists randomly changed the width of the opening to be either narrow or wide for each trial, and the rats had to learn to touch one of two spots depending on its width. They touched a spot to the right of the opening when it was wide and the spot on the left when it was narrow. When they got it correct, they received a drink. Eventually they got it right 95 percent of the time.
Next, the team wanted to see if signals from the brain of a rat trained to do this task could help another rat in a different cage choose the correct spot to poke with its nose — even if it had no other information to go on.
They tested this idea with another group of rats that hadn’t learned the task. In this experiment, one of these new rats sat in an enclosure with two potential spots to receive a reward but without an opening in the wall. On their own, they could only guess which of the two spots would produce a rewarding drink. As expected, they got it right 50 percent of the time.
Then the researchers recorded signals from one of the trained rats as it did the nose-poke task and used those signals to stimulate the second, untrained rat’s brain in a similar pattern. When it received this stimulation, the second rat’s performance climbed to 60 or 70 percent. That’s not nearly as good as the rats who could actually use their sense of touch to solve the problem, but it’s impressive given that the only information they had about which spot to chose came from another animal’s brain, Nicolelis says.
Information was transferred from one brain to another, by way of electronic stimulation, and no other intermediary.
Scientist hope to use this information to help patients who have suffered brain injuries through trauma or stroke to rehabilitate and recover function (though a researcher notes that you don't necessarily need another brain to do that, just a computer program), while I wonder how long it will take before private industry (Google?) acquires and uses this tech to transmit data to us directly—like, say, kung fu.
We're just that much closer to The Matrix, people.
The UA College of Science continues its exploration into the world of genomics with Arizona Center for the Biology of Complex Diseases Director Donata Vercelli explaining "Why DNA Is Not Our Destiny." The free talk will bring a big crowd to Centennial Hall at 7 p.m., so get there a few minutes early, especially since roadwork has closed Park Avenue around University Boulevard.
Here's the idea behind the lecture, via the College of Science:
Two twin sisters, one with and one without asthma. Two genetically identical mice, one black and lean, the other yellow and obese. Two human cells, one from the brain and the other from the skin: they look and act different, but they have the same DNA sequence. All of this is the work of epigenetics. Much emphasis has been placed on DNA and genes as repositories of the code designed to transmit information and dictate biological programs. However, developmental trajectories and responses to environmental cues are — and need to be — highly plastic. This plasticity is made possible by epigenetic mechanisms that enhance or silence gene expression at the right time in the right environmental context but do not change the DNA sequence. Thus the code inscribed in our DNA is necessary but not sufficient to recapitulate our biological identity and determine our biological destiny. This lecture will explore how understanding epigenetics will advance our understanding of human biology and disease.
More details here.
If you're a long-time or native Tucsonan like me, you may have memories of Hector Vector Star Projector like I do from my first school field trip in second grade: An awe-inspiring, state-of-the-art projector rising majestically from beneath the planetarium floor, delivering full-dome images that transported me to Mars and other worlds.
While Hector still cuts a majestic and imposing figure for school groups and adults, he has sadly fallen behind the times - what with the miniaturization and high-definition quality of modern digital projectors.
If you want to get a glimpse of what the future of the Flandrau Planetarium could be, you have your chance for this weekend only. While the laser projector that treats fans to Pink Floyd and other music shows is out for repair, Flandrau will be showing demos of some new dome shows using a SkyScan digital projector, one of the best on the market.
All shows are free this weekend only, and are first-come, first-serve. The featured show is "Life: A Cosmic Story," which takes you on an immersive journey through cells and into galaxies, and is narrated by Jodie Foster:
There's also a cool kid's show, as well as "Voices in the Dark," an awesome music and animation show:
Full disclosure: I used to be in charge of marketing and digital for Flandrau (I helped bring back the Pink Floyd laser show - you're welcome). But if Tucson wants to ever get some cool new gear to get kids excited about science and blow their parents' minds with awesome shows, folks need to come out and show their support.
Show times are available at Flandrau's website.
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