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Black Hole Drive Could Power Future Starships | Universe Today

In an earlier post, I mentioned two physicists who had worked out the operating parameters of a black-hole power source. The article linked in this post provides more details, including how someone would propel a miniature black hole. They postulate that particle beams could be used to simultaneously feed the black hole and propel it in the desired direction. They also note that black holes would make highly efficient energy sources, turning any matter into energy. In fact, a black hole with a radius of 0.9 attometres would generate 160 petawatts of energy. The only problem? Creating a single black hole of up to a few attometres in diameter would be a massive undertaking.

A PDF document of the original research is also available.
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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.

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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.
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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.
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Space hotel says it's on schedule to open in 2012 - Space- msnbc.com

Barcelona-base Galactic Suite Ltd. says that they expect to have a hotel in space by 2012. Each pod (see photo below) will hold 4 guests and 2 pilots. The cost of a 3-night stay? $4.4 million, which includes an 8-week training course on a tropical island.

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'Frankenstein' fix lets asteroid mission cheat death - space - 20 November 2009 - New Scientist

The Hayabusa asteroid probe is back on track to Earth after losing three of its four engines. With only one working engine, the craft seemed doomed to remain in the asteroid belt, but Japanese scientists managed to produce the equivalent of one working engine using the three broken ones. Specifically, one of the ion engines could only generate positive ions, but too much of this would have resulted in a dangerous buildup of charge so they used one of the other engines that were still able to generate negative ions to counter the charge buildup. If all goes well, the craft will return to Earth in June 2010.
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SPACE.com -- Water Discovery Fuels Hope to Colonize the Moon

Some scientists, including the CEO of the X-prize Foundation, hope that the recent discovery of "significant" quantities of water detected in the LCROSS probe debris will drive a renewed interest in establishing a human presence on the moon.
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Seattle team wins $900,000 in Space Elevator Games

For the first time since the contest was started four years ago, a team has won the $900,000 prize to demonstrate a vehicle that is able to climb a 1-kilometre-long cable (suspended from a helicopter), powered only by a ground-based laser. Two other finalists, one from the US and the other from Canada were unable to complete the climb.
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Jupiter's Moon Europa Has Enough Oxygen For Life

Researchers theorize that if there is an ocean under Europa's ice then it is possible that it might have enough oxygen to support complex organisms.
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'Look Ma, No Parachute!' Lunar Lander Floats on Electric-blue Jets

NASA's prototype lunar lander. The blue colour is due to ice crystals forming in the air as a result of the stream of cold compressed air.

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Galileo's Jupiter Journey Began Two Decades Ago

October 18th is the 20th anniversary of the launch of the Galileo spacecraft.
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Canwest News | New rocket engine could make trips to Mars realistic

The success of recent tests of the VASIMR ion propulsion drive have space scientists confident that it may be possible to reach Mars in as little as 39 days. Canada"s part in this experiment is the building of the generators for the motor by Nautel Ltd. of Halifax.
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Giant impact near India -- not Mexico -- may have doomed dinosaurs

A recent examination of the Shiva basin off the coast of India reveals that it may be a 65-million year-old impact crater, the result of a bolide as much as 40 kilometers in diameter. The impact would have vapourized the 30-mile thick crust, revealing the magma beneath. The team theorizes that this impact, not the one in the Yucatan Peninsula off the coast of Mexico, may have been the dinosaur killer.
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Galileo's notebooks may reveal secrets of new planet

A recent study of Galileo's notebooks indicates that he discovered the planet we now know to be Neptune in 1613, more than 234 years before its official discovery. The notebooks don"t state directly that he knew it was a planet, but was included records of multiple observations of a "star" near Jupiter, which he was studying at the time. It is possible that he recognized it as a planet, but he was in the habit of announcing his discoveries as anagrams sent to his colleagues. A copy of the possible and as-yet-undecoded anagram may still be in his notes.

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14-year-old hit by 30,000 mph space meteorite - Telegraph

A 14-year-old German boy survived being struck by a pea-sized meteorite. He emerged relatively unharmed except for  3-inch scar on his hand., although the meteor left a foot-wide crater in its wake. Scientists are now studying the meteor.
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Technology Review: Blogs: arXiv blog: First extra-galactic planet spotted in Andromeda

Astronomers believe they may have detected the first planet outside our galaxy. Using gravitational microlensing, they were able to observe a star in the Andromeda galaxy for several days. Analysis of it's variability seem to indicate that it has a companion planet about 6 times the mass of Jupiter. Microlensing is a short-term effect so it can't be used to perform long-term observations of distant objects, but scientists believe it may be possible to detect extra-galactic Earth-mass planets using this technique.
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Inflatable tower could climb to the edge of space - space - 08 June 2009 - New Scientist

Move over space elevator, the latest idea is a giant tower constructed from inflatable Kevlar-polyethylene tubes. The team from York University suggest that a tower 15-km high could be constructed from 100 modules 150 metres high and 230 metres long, with each module constructed from 2-metre long inflated tubes. They calculated that the tower could be extended to 200 kilometres tall but don"t go into much detail about a structure of that magnitude. Gyroscopes and active stabilization would be required to withstand winds, but the loss of a few modules wouldn't bring the structure down.

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Technology Review: Blogs: arXiv blog: Sustainability: The Clue That Could Solve Fermi's Paradox

The Fermi paradox states that, given the size and age of the universe, would should be able to find many advanced civilizations but not one has been found. Two Pennsylvania State University researchers have postulated that the flaw in the Fermi paradox is that it assumes exponential population spread outward from the home world, something that would require an exponential expansion in the amount of resources available. Instead, they suggest that sustainable growth is limited because materials and energy are finite resources, so any advanced civilizations that do exist are those that have managed to curb the tendency toward exponential expansion.
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Chernobyl fallout could drive evolution of 'space plants' - environment - 15 May 2009 - New Scientist

A study of radiation-resistant plants living in the Chernobyl fallout zone could lead to crops engineered to be radiation resistant so that they could be grown in space or on other planets.

January 2010

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