Scientists build an alien ocean to test NASA submarine

February 12, 2018 by  
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Researchers at Washington State University have constructed a replica of Titan’s oceans to test a NASA submarine for an eventual mission to Saturn’s largest moon. The scientists replicated ocean conditions, including temperatures of -300 degree Fahrenheit and a liquid content of methane and ethane rather than water. They were even able to reproduce the atmospheric cycle predicted to exist on the planet, which features ethane-methane snow and rain. This feature draws heightened interest from scientists, who note Titan’s similarities to Earth in the moon’s lakes, rivers, and clouds. The research team constructed a chamber capable of holding the methane-ethane liquid mixture at very cold temperatures. To test the impact that such an environment would have on a NASA submarine , the team added a two-inch cylindrical cartridge heater that produces approximately the equivalent heat to a submarine. When a machine powered by heat is placed in these conditions, nitrogen bubbles begin to form. The researchers were particularly interested in how these nitrogen bubbles could affect the submarine’s functionality. Related: NASA communicates with spacecraft 13 billion miles from Earth The team found it difficult to document their experiment due to challenging video conditions. They created a device that, under 60 pounds per square inch of pressure, incorporated a boroscope and camera to record images of the hostile sea. “Those aren’t the friendliest conditions,” said research leader Ian Richardson . “You have to come up with creative solutions.” The team managed to capture footage of methane-ethane rain and snow within the chamber. The researchers also discovered that methane and ethane freeze at lower temperatures under Titan’s conditions than expected. “That’s a big deal,’’ said Richardson. “That means you don’t have to worry about icebergs .” Via Washington State University Images via NASA   (1)  and Washington State University

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Scientists discover ingredient for life on Saturns moon

July 31, 2017 by  
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Will Titan, one of Saturn’s moons, be the next rock humans aspire to reach after visiting Mars ? According to new research published today in Science Advances , possibly so. This is because researchers have found a complex molecule in the atmosphere of the moon that could very well lead to the formation of life. The molecule is vinyl cyanide and researchers believe it could be the key to developing cell membranes in Titan’s environment . Unlike Earth, Titan’s atmosphere is extremely cold. As a result, lipids can’t form and create cell membranes as is common on this planet. However, vinyl cyanide mixed with liquid methane — a substance Titan has lakes of — could very well foster the development of those essential cell membranes. The discovery was made by NASA’s Cassini probe, which has been exploring the Saturn system for 13 years. According to The Verge , evidence of the molecule was found on Titan but the probe wasn’t able to provide any conclusive measurements. To circumvent this, researchers used data collected from the Atacama Large Millimeter Array in Chile . Scientists were able to read the radio waves emitted by different types of frequencies which result from various gas molecules jumping back and forth from one level of energy to another to determine that similar to Earth , Titan has periodic rainfalls. Of course, unlike showers of water, rainfall on Titan is liquid methane. Because of this fact, it was concluded there is a likely chance vinyl cyanide can also be found in the moon’s methane lakes. While no evidence yet exists that there are cell membrane-like structures forming on Titan , the researchers discovered at the minimum that it is possible for life to develop on the moon. As a result, scientists feel encouraged to continue studying it. Related: Saturn’s biggest moon has enough energy to power a US-sized space colony Said Martin Cordiner, co-author of the study, ”This is a far cry from saying [life] definitely happens on Titan and these cells are involved in some kind of primitive life . But it gives us a starting point in that discussion. If there was going to be life in Titan’s oceans, then it’s plausible vinyl cyanide could be a component of that.” + Science Advances Via The Verge Images via NASA  and Deposit Photos

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Scientists discover ingredient for life on Saturns moon

Shell Oil CEO says his next car will be electric

July 31, 2017 by  
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You know the electric vehicle era has arrived when even oil execs are giving up their gas-powered cars for battery-powered cars. Royal Dutch Shell CEO Ben Van Beurden just announced that his next car will be an electric Mercedes-Benz S550e. Beurden will be ditching his diesel car when he purchases the plug-in hybrid this September. When Beurden goes electric, he will be joining Chief Financial Officer Jessica Uhl, who already drives a BMW i3. “The whole move to electrify the economy, electrify mobility in places like northwest Europe, in the U.S., even in China, is a good thing,” Van Beurden said on Bloomberg TV. “We need to be at a much higher degree of electric vehicle penetration — or hydrogen vehicles or gas vehicles — if we want to stay within the 2-degrees Celsius outcome.” Related: Electric cars could reach cost parity with conventional cars by next year Shell is moving into the EV market, announcing in February that it will start installing chargers at its gas stations this year. Britain and the Netherlands are the first two countries that will see electric vehicle chargers at Shell gas stations with the battery charging infrastructure eventually being deployed at all of the 25,000 Shell-branded gas stations in the world. Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts that a third of the world’s cars will be plug-in by 2040, the same year that both Britain and France  plan to ban the sale of new diesel and petrol cars. Via Autoblog Image via Flickr

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Honolulu is the first US city to ban using your phone while crossing the street

July 31, 2017 by  
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Most people think they can walk and text, but statistics prove otherwise. Between 2015 and 2016, for instance, there was a 10 percent spike in pedestrian fatalities in the United States, likely due to the number of people walking while distracted by their phones. It’s because of this that Honolulu, Hawaii, recently passed legislation that targets  texters and other “smartphone zombies” as they step off the curb. On Thursday, Mayor Kirk Caldwell signed the “Distracted Walking Law” which is the first law of its type to be passed in the U.S. Reuters reports that it passed 7-2 earlier this month by the city council. Said Caldwell, “We hold the unfortunate distinction of being a major city with more pedestrians being hit in crosswalks, particularly our seniors, than almost any other city in the country .” The law will go into effect on October 25, at which time the Honolulu Police Department will begin handing out fines. First-time offenders will receive a $15-$35 fine, second time violates within the same year will be fined $35-$75, and those who are caught a third time will be charged $75-$99. People making calls for emergency services are exempt from the ban. According to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser , police will implement a three-month training and warning period until the law goes into effect. Related: This Clothing Staple Lets You Make Simple Gestures to Send a Text Maureen Vogel, a spokeswoman for the council, applauded the initiative. She said during a phone interview, “ Cell phones are not just pervading our roadways but pervading our sidewalks too.” Opponents, on the other hand, argue that it “infringes on personal freedom and amounts to government overreach.” Nonetheless, it is expected that the law will result in improved public safety — and that is applaudable. Via Reuters Images via Deposit Photos and  Pixabay

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