Friday, October 13, 2023

How do you build a road on the moon?

 Apparently, just as easily as on Earth. You just use a lens to focus sunlight to melt the lunar dust, turn it into tiles, and put them together. The only thing you need to take is the lens. And some people or robots to do the actual construction work...

(Science fiction writers writing about lunar colonies take note. This technique could be used for more than just roads!)

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Science is great...

 ...and so are pretty pictures. Like this image of the stellar nursery NGC 364.

Image source: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, N. Habel (JPL). Image Processing: P. Kavanagh (Maynooth University)

Lots of dust. And now we can get a good count of the stars and protostars. We'll learn about star formation.

But I sort of want to hang that on my wall.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Lost birds

 One of the things birders like is when a poor bird gets lost. It was trying to fly to Newfoundland and winds up in Scotland.

(In the U.K. "twitcher" was a derogatory term for people who chased those birds and trampled all over people's property on the way).

We now know why migratory birds (and sometimes local birds) get lost: Space weather. Solar flares can interfere with their ability to navigate using the magnetic field and cause them to wander way, way off course.

There have been instances of these lost birds getting help from the handy humans to get back on hitching rides on ships going the right direction. Apparently cruise ships going across the North Sea routinely have passengers too, but those birds are just being lazy and smart ;).

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Mining the Asteroids?

 In 2029, a NASA mission will reach the asteroid Psyche. Psyche is metal. Very metal. The estimate is about 60 percent. We don't know how it got so metal.

Metal asteroids like this could contain valuable resources for building in space, where you don't need to pull them out of a gravity well.

Or, perhaps, it's aliens.


Definitely not.

Monday, October 9, 2023

XY is male, XX is female...

 ...not if you're a bee.

Bee sex is determined by the Csd gene, which has more than 100 variations. Except...that it's still the same. Two different alleles, girl. Two of the same, boy.

But you don't want to be a sexually produced boy bee. Drones are produced via asexual reproduction and reproduce only outside the hive.

So, what happens to male workers?

Infanticide. The eggs are "not raised." Which is probably a euphemism, nothing's wasted in a hive.

No, we don't currently know how the workers can tell. Scent is the lead theory.

Why do we care? It could be useful for breeding better bees.

Friday, October 6, 2023

Mars has big things...

 ...including a 1.2 mile tall dust devil. 200 feet diameter. Moving at about 12 mph. They couldn't see the top of it, but they were guessing the height. Perserverence snapped it.

Dust devils on Mars get huge because of the lower atmospheric pressure. And dust storms can encompass the entire planet.

If writing stuff on's some bad weather for you to use.

Oh, and they can come with lightning too!

Thursday, October 5, 2023

A Good Problem to Have

 NASA has a problem. You know that asteroid sample.

They got more than they bargained for. Specifically the dark fine-grained material on the inside of the lid and base was unexpected. And could give us SCIENCE sooner than we thought. What an excellent problem to have!