Monday, January 25, 2010

My new Sci-Fi blog!

I've got a few irons in the fire, and one of them is Exonauts! my new blog about developing ideas for sci-fi RPGs and writing. Exonauts are explorers and adventurers cavorting to/from/around/on exoplanets--it's as simple as that. Instead of creating a campaign based on a single world, I thought it might be cool to do one from a an adventuring perspective where any world could be one of many destinations. So how would these exonauts be equipped, what would they find, where would they go? That's what the new blog is all about....

Have a look for yourself.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Diamonds on Uranus the Size of Icebergs!

 Photos: NASA
And Neptune too! Scientists now speculate that Uranus (yes, I'm just going to keep saying "Uranus") has oceans of liquid diamond that may also have solid "icebergs" of diamond floating on the surface. Apparently diamond is quite common in the solar system (really?) but the boiling point hasn't been previously measured. You might not think that Uranus is hot (Ha! Been waiting for that one!) but boiling--and by extension melting or vaporizing a material--also takes intense pressure. Which, as it turns out, Uranus has lots of pressure. (Must be those old jeans!).

Anyway, Discovery Networks explains how the scientists were able to replicate the science in a lab:
When the pressure dropped to about 11 million times the atmospheric pressure at sea level on Earth and the temperature dropped to about 50,000 degrees solid chunks of diamond began to appear. The pressure kept dropping, but the temperature of the diamond remained the same, with more and more chunks of diamond forming.

 Then the diamond did something unexpected. The chunks of diamond didn't sink. They floated. Microscopic diamond ice burgs floating in a tiny sea of liquid diamond. The diamond was behaving like water.
With most materials, the solid state is more dense than the liquid state. Water is an exception to that rule; when water freezes, the resulting ice is actually less dense than the surrounding water, which is why the ice floats and fish can survive a Minnesota winter.
So there you go, a concise explanation for diamond oceans and ice fishing in Minnesota all in one tidy package.


Meanwhile, on Neptune....

Hey! Uranus ain't the only one with diamonds! 

Yeah, yeah, whatever...

UPDATE! Scientists say they're launching a probe in the near future:

Seriously, I better stop because I could do this all day.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Mystery Object Hurtling Towards Earth TODAY!

Photo: E. Guido and G. Sostero / AFAM / CARA via MSNBC
Scientists have identified and object that will pass the Earth (but won't hit it) sometime today. In a somewhat disconcerting twist, they don't know what it is. It's going to fwoosh by, missing us by only 80k miles (that's a third of the distance from here to the moon just FYI). Calm yourselves people! We can get through this. See, it's only  about 10 meters wide, which turns out to be a good thing because (from MSNBC):
.....the "asteroid," or whatever it is, gives us a new standard: A 10-meter-wide (33-foot-wide) asteroid can be detected two days before it potentially hits Earth.
That's supposed to be COMFORTING? 
What makes this near-Earth object, or NEO, special is that it has an orbital period of almost exactly one year. This fact has led some scientists to speculate that 2010 AL30 could be an artificial object and not an asteroid.
So it's space junk? But couldn't it still cause some damage?
It is worth noting that even if 2010 AL30 did hit Earth, it would most likely explode high in the atmosphere (with the energy of a small nuclear bomb), posing little danger to anyone on the ground. Impacts of this size happen every year.
Well that makes me feel better! Unless it's artificial and not made by humans.....

Read more about about this impending doom from above interesting space anomaly.

UPDATE: Wired posted an update (it is an asteroid) and some new images, including an animation of the fly by.

Monday, January 11, 2010

GIANT Crystal Caves of Naica

All photos: National Geographic
Been meaning to post this one for a looooong time--and thanks to Eiglophian Press for jogging my memory! These are absolutely amazing and REAL! National Geographic did a story in 2008 and ran a TV special on Mexico's Cueva de los Cristales (Cave of the Crystals). The cave boasts some enormous crystal structures (among the largest ever discovered). The cavern is part of the Naica mine deep under the Chihuahuan Desert. It's like something out of a Jules Verne novel, but REAL! But don't take my word for it, from National Geographic:
Hidden deep beneath the surface of the Earth is one of the greatest natural marvels on the planet: a giant crystal cave with crystals up to 36 feet long and weighing 55 tons. But this scorching cavern could kill humans after just 15 minutes of exposure.

Nat Geo put together an entire web story (in their usual, superb fashion) with video as a companion to the TV special  that does this more justice than I ever could! Take a look...

Seriously, this is just about the coolest discovery I've ever heard of.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Lava Tube Awaits Lunar Colonization

Photo: ISAS/JAXA/Junichi Haruyama et al. via Popular Science
Or something like that. Actually that headline is waaaay better than "Moon hole might be suitable for colony" which was CNN's attempt at 4th grade humor.

It looks like JAXA (Japanese for NASA) has identified a lava tube that's 213 feet wide and 260 feet deep which could potentially shield lunar colonists from the dangers of intense radiation. If you've made it this far without devolving into complete "Uranus" joke humor, then congrats, because this is actually pretty cool news. From CNN:
"Lunar lava tubes are a potentially important location for a future lunar base, whether for local exploration and development, or as an outpost to serve exploration beyond the Moon," writes the team, led by Junichi Haruyama, a senior researcher with the Japanese space agency JAXA.
"Any intact lava tube could serve as a shelter from the severe environment of the lunar surface, with its meteorite impacts, high-energy UV radiation and energetic particles, and extreme diurnal temperature variations."
Lava tubes have previously been discovered on the moon, but the scientists say the new hole is notable because of its lava shield and because it does not appear to be prone to collapse.

The full story...

Popular Science also has a nice article.