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NeilBlanchard 02-14-2013 04:56 PM

I *Really* Love Science!
This week's NOVA episode is excellent! "Earth From Space"

Video: Earth from Space | Watch NOVA Online | PBS Video

A friend gave my family the DVD set of "Wonders of the Solar System" and "Wonders of the Universe" hosted by Brian Cox. It is a BBC series, and I don't think it is available online. If you get a chance, watch it.

This is all the tectonic plate movements since Pangaea and then projected out to 100 million years from now:

What science gives you a kick? Neanderthal DNA is kewl... So is a dinosaur with FOUR wings. Why is water the only material to expand when it freezes? Do you know where elements heavier than iron come from?

NeilBlanchard 02-14-2013 08:32 PM

Have you heard of the frog that can be frozen alive?

Did you know that due to a bulge around the equator, Ecuador's Mount Chimborazo is, in fact, closer to the moon and outer space than Mount Everest.

The 'Highest' Spot on Earth? : Krulwich Wonders... : NPR

The tube worms that live next to the "smoker" vents on the ocean floor (which are about 450C) do not have a mouth or an anus? They have symbiotic bacteria inside their body just like we do, though.

Why does the moon rotate on it's axis almost exactly the same time as it takes to orbit the earth? Did you know that a day at the beginning of the earth was about 22 hours long? On Venus, a day is longer than a year...

MTXA 02-15-2013 09:04 AM

I worked at Argonne National Laboratory for 21 years as a fleet mechanic. The last bunch of years I was there they opened the Transportation Technology R&D Center Argonne Transportation Technology R&D Center - Lithium-ion Batteries, Hybrid Vehicles, Alternative Fuels, Engines, Fuel Cells, PSAT, GREET, TRACC,PHEV, HEV.

In the mid eighties, when the TT R&d Center was first being established, we had side by side gasoline VS CNG, E85, & M85 test fleets. M85 was some nasty stuff.

I got a job offer for more $$ doing fleet maintenance with a major utility and left there in 2001.

Click the link and take a look around. Some pretty amazing science going on there.

NeilBlanchard 02-15-2013 12:08 PM

The near-miss with the asteroid (about 150 feet!) that is passing the earth only about 17,500 miles away (!!) along with the meteor hitting in Russia pose an important question: how's that space program going?

Reminder: An Asteroid Buzzes By On Friday (But NASA Says Don't Worry) : The Two-Way : NPR

'No Link' Between Meteor That Hurt Hundreds And Asteroid About To Fly By : The Two-Way : NPR

Back on the NOVA program "Earth from Space", I was hoping that they would discuss the GRACE satellites and the gravitational pull of the largest bodies of ice and the effect on the seal level. This is why Mount Chimborazo is closer to space but is not counted as being taller than Mount Everest, and it has a big affect on the tectonic plates, as well.

Mustang Dave 02-15-2013 10:39 PM


Originally Posted by NeilBlanchard
Did you know that due to a bulge around the equator, Ecuador's Mount Chimborazo is, in fact, closer to the moon and outer space than Mount Everest.

Or any other mountain peak on Earth. I learned that in 1985. From "Powder" magazine. Skiers know stuff about mountains. :)

NeilBlanchard 02-16-2013 11:38 AM

Yup - and do you know why it is pear shaped? And why isn't the level of the sea actually level?

NeilBlanchard 02-17-2013 12:10 AM

No, the tectonic plates are a symptom, like sea level. The earth's rotation makes it into an oblate spheroid (rather than a pure sphere) and the Antarctic ice is so massive, that it not only presses the land underneath it down by almost a HALF A MILE - but it also increases the gravitational pull, and this is what pulls the bulge from the rotation southward.

And yes, underwater topography also affects the sea level. But additional gravity of mountains and land ice pull the sea level up around them. Greenland and other large masses of land ice affect the sea level near them, too, along with Antarctica. Another cause of sea level variability is the temperature of the water - warmer water is less dense and it expands, while maintaining the same weight.

Can you imagine what will happen to the tectonic plates if the land ice melts? And expanded sea water spreads out, so it is likely to also affect the tectonic plates.

jamesqf 02-17-2013 01:23 PM


Originally Posted by Old Tele man (Post 356851)
...also, don't forget about the Antartica's brine convection "river of salt" that the Artic doesn't have.

Actually it does. See e.g. Thermohaline circulation - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia for an introduction.

NeilBlanchard 02-17-2013 10:26 PM

Parts of the Arctic does have similar things called thermohaline columns - to the north and east of Greenland. These are the driver of the Gulf Stream current.

Frank Lee 02-18-2013 01:19 AM

Fat Charlie 02-18-2013 08:06 AM

Yeah, "Earth From Space" was beautiful. It even kept my first grader and my four year old riveted.

There's also a great new series "Strip The City" on the Science Channel. It helps that my wife got the kids into disaster movies and the first episode was about San Francisco.

Xist 02-18-2013 02:37 PM


Originally Posted by Old Tele man (Post 356763)
Pear shape is due to plate tectonics.

[Scrubs] - Wrong wrong wrong wrong! - YouTube

Sir Bedevere: ...and that, my liege, is how we know the Earth to be banana shaped.
King Arthur: This new learning amazes me, Sir Bedevere. Explain again how sheep's bladders may be employed to prevent earthquakes.

[Monty Python's "Quest for the Holy Grail"]

Very interesting stuff!

Xist 02-18-2013 02:40 PM

Frank Lee, how did you include the video?

NeilBlanchard 02-18-2013 10:24 PM

Most animals have red blood with hemoglobin that is iron based. What animal has sky blue copper based blood?

Hint: this animal's blood is worth $15,000 a quart! Extra points if you know why it is worth so much?

Xist 02-19-2013 12:19 AM

Is it worth $15,000 a quart for the copper? :D

NeilBlanchard 02-19-2013 08:21 AM

Yes, the horseshoe crab is either used as bait OR it is partially bled in labs and collected. Figure that out...

What purpose is horseshoe crab blood used for that makes it so valuable? ALL of us have probably directly benefited from this use... (And no, it is not the copper!)

Fat Charlie 02-19-2013 12:14 PM

They lubricate muffler bearings with it?

NeilBlanchard 02-19-2013 05:58 PM

Ding, ding, ding! Horseshoe crab blood has an autoimmune reaction to any contaminates within about an hour, so it is a very quick and reliable way to check medical drugs for contaminates. They used to use live rabbits (I think?) and this process took like 2-3 days, so this is why horseshoe crab blood is so valuable!

By the way the horseshoe crab species is about [350 million] years old. Many, many other species depend on them to survive.

Video: Crash: A Tale of Two Species | Watch Nature Online | PBS Video

sid 02-19-2013 09:43 PM


By the way the horseshoe crab species is about 350,000 years old. Many, many other species depend on them to survive.
I thought the horseshoe crab species was at least 350 million years old.

NeilBlanchard 02-20-2013 09:27 AM

My mistake - thanks for the correction. I knew this but went from memory...

Arragonis 02-22-2013 05:35 PM

I have pretty much everything that Brian Cox has done on TV downloaded or on DVD - we are just watching his Wonders of life series here on Sundays - well shot, well explained, science in action.

I think the Beeb is lining him up to replace David Attenborough.

And he used to be a band member of D:ream too - although we should not hold that against him, or indeed his support of Oldham Athletic.

NeilBlanchard 02-23-2013 05:38 PM

Yeah, he looks a bit like a musician. ;-) David Attenborough has done a retrospective, and he is obviously getting close an age when he can't do all the travel etc.

This was a cool report - bumble bees can "see" the positive charge of flowers!

Honey, It's Electric: Bees Sense Charge On Flowers : NPR

Remember - plants generate electricity at the cellular level - this is how they do photosynthesis. So, this is probably how the flowers become positively charged; and the bees themselves are negatively charged (caused by their flying), and the pollen is attracted to them. Cool stuff.

NeilBlanchard 02-27-2013 02:10 PM

If you watch this, you will probably learn something about the jet stream:

NeilBlanchard 03-06-2013 02:43 PM

True that...

Arragonis 03-06-2013 03:19 PM

The BBC did a series, I think it was something like "the history of physics" where they covered the conference where that photo was taken, the guy fronting it actually stood in the courtyard in the picture.

Wish I could find it but I didn't have the BBC download skills I have now :D I'll wait for BBC Four to repeat it, I'm sure they will.

NeilBlanchard 03-13-2013 08:20 AM

Rogue Planets!
Have you heard about rogue planets?

Living on Earth: Superman of Astrophysics


CURWOOD: Yeah, that I wanted to ask you about. And thereís something that Iíd never heard ofÖ a rogue planet?

TYSON: Oh yeah! Oh, youíve never heard about the rogue planets? Well, we didnít even think to think of these things until our models of the formation of the solar system showed us that if you start out with a star and a collapsing gas cloud making surrounding planets, you can make planets in all kinds of places in orbit around the host star, but not all of those places are orbitally stable.

And what we found was the solar system itself might have started with two, three dozen planets, and depending on where their orbits are relative to other planets, they might not maintain a stable, forever, orbit around their host star, and they can end up getting flung into interstellar space. And when this happens, they become rogue planets. Homeless planets. And what makes it interesting is some planets still have heat left over from when they formed.

Jupiter still has heat left over. Actually, itís generating heat because itís slowly collapsing so it radiates more heat than it receives from the sun. And of course Earth has all this heat from its geologic activity, weíve got this magma sitting below the crust and all of this volcanic activityÖ that heat, that energy is not traceable to the sun. Thatís born here on Earth. So you could imagine flinging a planet out into interstellar space, and still have energy there that could possibly sustain life.

So itís been hypothesized that most life in the universe is found on rogue planets, where they donít need a star. And weíre pretty sure that there are more rogue planets than planets that are in happy, stable orbits around host stars.
So, there is a fairly good chance that there is life on a large rogue planet that has a totally different reference point for time than those lifeforms like us who live on an orbiting planet - they have no day and night, no seasons, no years - but they do have an ever changing view of the stars.

If that doesn't expand your mind, I don't know what would!

NeilBlanchard 03-13-2013 05:34 PM

Antarctica seen naked for the first time!
(click on image for link)


From this work, some key findings:

The volume of ice in Antarctica is 4.6% greater than previously thought.
The mean bed depth of Antarctica, at 95 metres, is 60 m lower than estimated.
The volume of ice that is grounded with a bed below sea level is 23% greater than originally thought meaning there is a larger volume of ice that is susceptible to rapid melting. The ice that rests just below sea level is vulnerable to warming from ocean currents.
The total potential contribution to global sea level rise from Antarctica is 58 metres, similar to previous estimates but a much more accurate measurement.
The new deepest point, under Byrd Glacier, is around 400 metres deeper than the previously identified deepest point

Arragonis 03-17-2013 01:06 PM

The BBC (home of Mr Cox) is currently showing "The Trials of Life" which is a very good bit of mr Attenborough in his prime.

BBC iPlayer - The Trials of Life: Growing Up

NeilBlanchard 03-18-2013 09:33 AM

Unfortunately, the BBC player is blocked for those of us outside the UK.

My brother recently had his DNA done for the purposes of genealogy and it is mind blowing how much we can learn about our ancestors, and how much of human history we have a glimpse of through the information contained in our living cells. I had not even heard of Denisovans, let alone that we now have a single DNA sample that came from the pinky bone of a 5 year old girl who lived ~40,000 years ago in the area we call Siberia.

Folks - virtually all of us who who ancestors came from outside Africa have 1-4% Neanderthal DNA, and in some cases may have a similar proportion of Denisovan DNA. People who's ancestors have always lived in Africa are 100% homo sapiens.

Arragonis 03-18-2013 12:36 PM

Try a proxy, getiplayer might also work outside the UK - there is a lot of good stuff on the iplayer, the radio science is really cool too.

Arragonis 03-18-2013 04:33 PM

I mentioned this in the Minimal computing thread - the Raspberry pi in space by kids

BBC: Cracking the Code | Raspberry Pi

(you may also need a proxy too)

And a girl (13) who has programmed one and done a TED style presentation.

EDIT - Link!

NeilBlanchard 03-19-2013 03:16 PM

Hi folks,

I found these articles just today on the Neanderthal and Denisovan genomes:

German researchers publish full Neanderthal genome

Entire genome of extinct human decoded from fossil

DNA scan sheds new light on mankind's mysterious cousins (Update)

Fossil finger bone yields genome of a previously unknown human relative (w/ Video)


Complex picture of evolution In the light of the Neanderthal and Denisovan genomes, a new, more complex picture is emerging of the evolutionary history of modern humans and our extinct relatives. According to Green, there was probably an ancestral group that left Africa between 300,000 and 400,000 years ago and quickly diverged, with one branch becoming the Neanderthals who spread into Europe and the other branch moving east and becoming Denisovans. When modern humans left Africa about 70,000 to 80,000 years ago, they first encountered the Neanderthals, an interaction that left traces of Neanderthal DNA scattered through the genomes of all non-Africans. One group of humans later came in contact with Denisovans, leaving traces of Denisovan DNA in the genomes of humans who settled in Melanesia.

Read more at: Fossil finger bone yields genome of a previously unknown human relative (w/ Video)
So, some more information will be available on both genomes.

Science is so cool!

NeilBlanchard 03-28-2013 04:19 PM

You can watch the latest NOVA a learn more about the latest meteor to hit the earth:

Video: Meteor Strike | Watch NOVA Online | PBS Video

I think we need to invest in the infrared sensing satellite to look for these smaller and medium sized meteors, as well as the really huge ones that we can see fairly well already.

Arragonis 03-28-2013 05:11 PM

BBC did this on 7th March

BBC iPlayer - Horizon: 2013-2014: The Truth About Meteors: A Horizon Special

Ah well, nice to see NOVA keeping up. :D We (BBC science watchers) are already looking for the next one, and not seeing any have decided to look more at Pompei.

A Junior is going there with his school next year, if we can afford it...

Arragonis 03-28-2013 05:14 PM

Double post - (Sir) Terry Pratchett looks at the extinction of some animals

BBC iPlayer - Terry Pratchett: Facing Extinction


Author Sir Terry Pratchett finds out what the future holds for orangutans, and discovers a new threat to their habitat that could push them to the brink of extinction.
A superb program for nature lovers, if you can get a proxy go for it.

NeilBlanchard 03-28-2013 06:17 PM

Inside Nature's Giants - The Camel is Ecomodded for Hot Deserts!
This is not for the squeamish - but you will be surprised with the elegance of design that evolution as wrought:

Video: Camel | Watch Inside Nature's Giants Online | PBS Video

Arragonis 03-29-2013 03:03 PM

BBC Radio is doing a series called Medical Detectives - doctors trying to work out how and why people get sick.

BBC iPlayer - The Medical Detectives: Death in the Parish

EDIT - I meant to add, these are historical plays about how doctors and scientists worked out how illness happened.

NeilBlanchard 04-02-2013 05:55 PM

Here's a brilliant young scientist:

NeilBlanchard 04-08-2013 05:25 PM

Who built the first computer?

Video: Ancient Computer | Watch NOVA Online | PBS Video

The ancient Greeks...

NeilBlanchard 04-08-2013 10:42 PM

If you watch the NOVA program I linked to above, I think you will be blown away.

Incredible stuff. Truly.

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