June 10th, 2014

No wind chill on Mars Science News

Even though daytime temperatures in the tropics of Mars can be about –20°C, a summer afternoon there might feel about the same as an average winter day in southern England or Minneapolis. That’s because there’s virtually no wind chill on the Red Planet, according to a new study—the first to give an accurate sense of what it might feel like to spend a day walking about on our celestial neighbor.
“I hadn’t really thought about this before, but I’m not surprised,” says Maurice Bluestein, a biomedical engineer and wind chill expert recently retired from Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis. The new findings, he says, “will be useful, as people planning to colonize Mars need to know what they’re getting themselves into.”

January 7th, 2005

Concrete Nation Science News

Each year, billions of tons of concrete become the stuff of buildings, highways, dams, sidewalks, and even artworks. The list goes on. Not only is the material ubiquitous, it has a long history. The Romans invented cement-based concrete more than 2,000 years ago and used the material to build architectural masterpieces such as the Pantheon. To Christian Meyer, a structural engineer at Columbia University, there’s just no question about it: “Concrete is the world’s most important material.” And it’s one of the simplest. A typical mix of concrete consists of 60 to 75 percent sand and gravel or crushed stone, 15 to 20 percent water, and 10 to 15 percent cement, which is prepared by roasting limestone, clay, and other ingredients. The cement is the paste that binds the components into concrete.

April 9th, 2004

Martian Methane: Carbon compound hints at life Science News

Evidence that parts of ancient Mars had oceans and might have supported some form of life in the past grabbed front-page headlines just a few weeks ago. But detection of the simple carbon compound methane in the Martian atmosphere by both ground-based telescopes and an orbiting spacecraft spotlights an even more intriguing possibility: There might be primitive life, even today, on the Red Planet.

October 5th, 2002

Ribbon to the Stars Science News

A space elevator would transform the economics of space travel, making ventures ranging from space spas to exotic scientific exploration more possible. Even a decade ago, an elevator to the heavens seemed like sheer fantasy, akin to the beanstalk Jack climbed in the fairy tale. There was no material strong enough to make the cables. But an advance in one of the tiniest of technologies

January 19th, 2002

Exploring the Red Planet Science News

Last week, flight controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., breathed a collective sigh of relief. Although in 1999 they had lost the last two spacecraft that journeyed to Mars, their current mission to the Red Planet had completed a risky maneuver, using the friction of the Martian atmosphere to begin settling into its designated orbit 400 kilometers above the surface. Early next month, if all continues according to plan, the Mars Odyssey craft will begin a 2-year exploration of the composition of the Martian surface, hunt for near-surface deposits of water, and examine the planet’s radiation background. Odyssey embarks on its mission at a time when questions about past and present conditions on the planet, including its water content and ability to harbor life, seem more puzzling than ever. “We’re in state of maximal confusion,” says planetary geologist David A. Paige of the University of California, Los Angeles.

March 10th, 2001

Mayan Mars Science News

The curiously looping movements of the planets relative to the stars have presented all sorts of puzzles to keen, patient observers of the night sky. In 1601, Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) undertook the challenge of deciphering the orbit of Mars and developing a mathematical theory of its motion to fit observations of the planet’s changing position in the sky. In assuming that Earth itself traveled around the sun, Kepler’s immediate hurdle was to find a way to disentangle Mars’ motion from that of Earth. He then faced the daunting task of choosing an appropriate geometry for the two planetary orbits so that a line joining Mars and Earth and projected to the stars would correctly mark the position of Mars relative to the stars as seen from Earth. Remarkably, several centuries earlier in Central America, Mayan astronomers had developed their own model to describe the motion of Mars with uncanny accuracy. Anthropologists Harvey M. Bricker and Victoria R. Bricker of Tulane University in New Orleans and astronomer Anthony F. Aveni of Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y., describe the evidence supporting the Mayan model in the Feb. 13 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.