Sep 11, 2008 | 3
Discovery News directs our attention to the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory at Florida State University, where researchers are working on the "world's most powerful magnet—one that won't blow up a split second after it's turned on."
The bit about not blowing up is key. Researchers have actually built more powerful magnets before, according to Discovery News, but this $10 million electromagnet, housed at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, is apparently the first *reusable* magnet of its kind.
The 100 tesla multi-shot magnet consists of a cylinder 5 feet tall by 5 feet thick, with an 8-inch hole through the middle. Inside the hole are nine copper coils reinforced with thin silver wire. Assuming it works like the old iron nail wrapped in copper wire, electricity pulsed through the coils generates a magnetic field in the metal cylinder.
Sep 10, 2008 | 19
Forget black holes. Here's the real question about the Large Hadron Collider: How fast could it defrost a pizza?
The forward thinking editors at Scientific American was all over this question in the June 2007 issue. Our staff made an estimate based on the rate and energy of particle collisions when the machine's two beams meet head on. (SA actually considered lead ion beams—which the LHC will begin circulating in a few years—which would impart more energy than colliding protons.)
But the collision frequency refers to how often the beam particles run into other tiny beam particles, not pizza molecules, notes Peter Steinberg of Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, N.Y., a member of the US/LHC group blog. He suggests using the electric current of the beam to get its power (energy imparted per second).
Sep 9, 2008 | 74
Heads up, science fiends and night owls: The greatest science experiment ever built is set to switch on at around 3:30 A.M. Eastern time tomorrow.
After 14 years and $8 billion, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) plans to inject the first beam of protons fully around the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the circular particle accelerator 17 miles (27 kilometers) long straddling the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva.
It will most assuredly not destroy the world.
What it will do is help researchers answer some big questions about the universe—why particles have mass; what dark matter may be made of, and why matter survived its brush with antimatter when the universe was young.
Aug 28, 2008 | 15
Researchers may have turned up the 45th example of a Mersenne prime—a type of prime number rare enough that months or years of computerized searching are required to pick one out among the throngs of mere primes.
Details are still sketchy but the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS) has announced on its Web site that a computer turned up a candidate Mersenne (pronounced mehr-SENN) prime on August 23. Checking began this week and should be completed by September 16.
If it checks out, the finding of the 45th Mersenne prime (MP) might qualify for a $100,000 prize offered by the Electronic Frontier Foundation for anyone who a prime number having at least 10 million digits. The 44th MP, discovered in September 2006 by two researchers at Central Missouri State University, clocked in at 9.808358 million digits.
Aug 22, 2008 | 11
Are we closing in on laptops that can recharge without those annoying power cords?
Yesterday Intel, the world's largest chip manufacturer, demonstrated a form of wireless energy transfer by lighting a 60-watt bulb from a power source three feet away, in an effect they referred to as WREL (wireless resonant energy link)
If the trick sounds familiar, that's because researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) reported the same thing last year under the moniker WiTricity.
Two years ago, MIT researcher Marin Soljacic figured out a way to transmit electricity via the magnetic field surrounding a charged loop of wire. A similar loop wired up to a light bulb or another electrical device would draw power from that magnetic field—no wires attached.
Aug 20, 2008 | 7
Budding astronauts, avert your eyes. NASA has posted photos of a failed test landing (read: crash) of a mock-up of the Orion crew exploration vehicle, part of the Constellation program to replace the shuttle in 2015.
NASA dropped the Orion mock-up from a C-17 aircraft flying 25,000 feet about the U.S. Army's Yuma Testing Grounds in Arizona on July 31. The good news: All but one of 18 parachutes inflated. The bad news: That 18th one was responsible for orienting the mock-up for a safe landing (see results at left). The space agency said it was torn and didn't inflate properly.
Keith Cowing of NASAWatch.com wonders why NASA isn't advertising the new images, posted online yesterday without fanfare.
Aug 19, 2008
The last thing you want on a flight to the moon is a headache.
That's why NASA engineers have been working to figure out how to reduce vibrations predicted to occur in the Ares 1 rocket, a multi-stage launch vehicle that plays an early role in the space agency's Constellation program to return to the moon by 2020.
NASA plans to field the Ares 1 in 2015, using it to launch the Apollo-like Orion crew capsule into orbit (left). But engineers believe that combustion in the rocket's solid-fuel motor would likely set up vibrations across both vehicles for a few seconds during the ascent. These "thrust oscillations" could injure astronauts or make it hard for them to see the controls and respond to emergencies.
Aug 18, 2008 | 2
The battle for juicy NASA contracts is heating up as the space shuttle nears retirement in 2010 and work continues on the Constellation program to replace it.
NASA announced on Friday that it's terminating a potentially $745 million contract with Oceaneering International, Inc. of Houston to make new space suits (left) for Constellation, which is supposed to return us to the moon by 2020.
Exploration Systems & Technology, Inc., a competitor for the contract, filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) after NASA awarded it on June 12 to Oceaneering.
Aug 15, 2008
Here's a scenario that might be going through the minds of NASA astronaut Greg Chamitoff and his two fellow Russian crew members on the International Space Station (ISS).
Lawmakers warned this week that escalating tensions with Russia may leave the U.S. without ready transport to the ISS after NASA retires the space shuttle fleet in 2010.
The space agency does not expect the shuttle's replacement, the Orion—an Apollo-like craft being developed as part of the Constellation program—to be ready to fly until 2015. NASA's plan was for the interim was to use Russian Soyuz craft (left) to send up crew and cargo to the $100 billion station.
Aug 14, 2008 | 2
Many researchers were none too happy when the International Astronomical Union (IAU) voted in 2006 to cast Pluto out from among the planets, demoting it along with similar bodies in the solar system to the status of mere dwarf planets.
Some of them would still like to reverse that decision, or at least convince the public that the IAU process did not reflect the give and take of workaday science. Hence "The Great Planet Debate: Science as Process," a three-day conference under way right now at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL).
As I write, conference co-organizer and vocal Pluto booster Mark Sykes, director of the Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, Arizona, is set to duke it out this afternoon in a public debate with dwarf planet-proponent Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the American Museum of Natural History's Hayden Planetarium in New York.
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