Thursday, November 20, 2014

CIBER Spots Outcast Stars

Data from the Cosmic Infrared Background Experiment, or CIBER, provided support that background infrared light in the universe (seen by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope), comes from distant stars ejected from parent galaxies. 

"We think stars are being scattered out into space during galaxy collisions," said Michael Zemcov, Ph.D., experimental astrophysicist at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.

Using smaller suborbital NASA rockets, CIBER spotted two cosmic infrared (IR) wavelengths shorter than those measured by Spitzer. The light appears to come from a previously undetected population of stars between galaxies and CIBER measurements suggest the IR glow between distant galaxies is caused by orphan stars.

To test whether stray stars have been spun off from parent galaxies, future CIBER experiments will check to see if the stars are still located in roughly the same neighborhood. Go science!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Neuroprosthetics or Making Stuff Work with Your Mind

Recently I came across an article in New Scientist online about progress being made in the advancing area of neuroprosthetics

Put simply, a neuroprosthetic is a device that boosts the input/output of the nervous system (electrical brain signals). These initiated and/or amplified signals help replace signals that have been short-circuited by disease or trauma. Researchers are also designing bidirectional brain-computer interfaces that link a device (e.g., robotic arm) to sensory nerves and muscles.

Surgical implants are being tested that restore functionality in patients with severe sensory or motor disabilities. External non-invasive brain simulators are even being sold that improve attention span while gaming. I might buy one to boost my attention when I have to gather all the information to do my taxes every year. A major snooze fest activity.

Some devices collect external stimuli/input and convert it to a signal the nervous system recognizes (e.g., cochlear implant or retinal prosthesis). This would give many folks with loss of sensory function or disabilities much more independence. Go science!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Stain Free Materials with Nanotechnology

Always looking for ways to become a laundry ninja, I happened across nanoparticle research being done by Dr. Anish Tuteja, Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and Arun Kota, PhD, at the University of Michigan on coatings that not only resist stains and liquids (e.g., honey, syrup, sulfuric acid, etc.) but actually bounce off it. 

The new coatings could be applied to waterproof paints that reduce drag on ships, phones to eliminate any and all fingerprints, as well as windshields and ski goggles that would never spot. Moreover, the coating could lead to breathable garments that would protect soldiers and scientists from chemicals and microorganisms. Go science!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Checking Out A Mars Comet Flyby

We tend to forget how much space hardware we have in our cosmic quiver. Now these space science assets are gearing up for a once-in-a-lifetime comet (C/2013 A1) flyby of Mars on October 19, 2014. The comet, also called Siding Spring, will pass within 87,000 miles (139,500 km) of our neighboring planet. This may not seem like a near miss, but to put it into perspective, it is less than half the distance to our moon from Earth. 

NASA expects Siding Spring (coming from the Oort Cloud 5,000 - 100,000 astronomical units away and thought to be left from the formation of the solar system) to pass by Mars with little problem, but the debris trail that accompanies comets may be a different story. [NASA rovers Curiosity and Opportunity should be fine and checking out the visitor.] Time will tell.

In any event, we Earthlings and our NASA instrumentation/satellites will have front row seats to the action. Go science!