Nov. 28th, 2009
Monster Waves on the Sun are Real (w/ Video)
The STEREO spacecraft confirmed the existence of solar tsunamis, waves of plasma more than 100,000 km high and traveling 250 km/hr in a circular pattern away from a sunspot eruption. The site has a short video clip showing the event from 90 degrees apart.
Dark power: Grand designs for interstellar travel - space - 25 November 2009 - New Scientist
New Scientist presents two ideas for achieving interstellar travel within the human lifetime.
The first proposal is by physicist Jai Liu who sees a Bussard ramjet powered by dark matter. One theory of dark matter is that is composed of neutralinos, particles that have no antiparticles except itself. The limitation of the idea is that the ship would have to travel through areas rich in dark matter, but would only weigh 100 tonnes and need a collecting area of 100 square metres. Liu speculates that one reason we have never been visited by extraterrestrials is that our region is low, a problem that would hinder our ability to create a dark matter-powered spaceship.
The second proposal was by mathematicians Louis Crane and Shawn Wetmoreland involved using the Hawking radiation emitted by a million-tonne black hole the size of an atomic nucleus. Once constructed, the emissions by the black hole would be collimated by a parabolic mirror to form the exhaust of the ship for a journey of no more than 100 years (the lifetime of a black hole that size). Smaller black holes would generate more energy per unit mass but would have much shorter lifespans. As a side note, they suggest that one way to identify an advanced civilization would be to detect high-frequency gravitational waves generated by a black hole propulsion system. Current gravitational wave detectors, such as LIGO, only detect low-frequency waves.
Magnetic heat shield test could use Russian launcher
The European Space Agency (ESA) is developing a magnetic heat shield that should deflect air away from the surface where friction generates so much heat. Live re-entry tests will determine if the system is sufficient to reduce or even eliminate the need for heat shielding.
Embryonic development—lost in space? - Research Highlights - RIKEN RESEARCH
Experiments in simulated zero gravity seem to indicate that reproduction in space may be problematic. Fertilization (at least in vitro fertilization) appears to work just as well as at 1G, but after that the rate of successfully reaching viability is significantly reduced. They plan to perform further experiments at other gravitational levels to establish the minimal gravitational limit required for normal reproduction.