Humans may not be fast enough to run across water, but we’ve found other ways to conquer the waves. It’s even possible (though definitely not recommended) to ride across stretches of water on a dirt bike. To do so, you have to keep the bike (hydro)planing, and to understand what that means, let’s take a moment to talk about boats.
At low speeds, boats stay afloat based on buoyancy, a force that depends on how much water they displace. But when moving at high speeds, modern speedboats lift mostly out of the water and skim the surface instead. At this point, it’s hydrodynamic lift that keeps the boat above the surface and we say that the boat is planing. Calculating that hydrodynamic lift is fairly complicated and depends on many factors – for those who are interested, check out some of David Savitsky’s papers – but, generally speaking, going faster gives you more lift.
This brings us back to the dirt bike. There’s nothing particularly hydrodynamic about a dirt bike. It’s not shaped to provide hydrodynamic lift, but it does come with a high power-to-weight ratio. It’s this ability to create pure speed, and a rider’s keen sense for holding the bike at the right angle, that enables pros to cross open water. Needless to say, this is the kind of stunt that could end reallybadly, so don’t try it yourself. (Image credits: C. Alessandrelli, source; EnduroTripster, source; via Digg; submitted by 1307phaezr)
“The era of gravitational wave astronomy is now upon us. Owing to the incredible capabilities of ground-based detectors like LIGO and Virgo, we have now detected six robust events over the past 2+ years, from black holes to merging neutron stars. But huge questions surrounding the black holes in the Universe, such as how many there are, what their masses are early on compared to today, and what percent of the Universe is made of black holes, still remain to be answered. The direct efforts have gotten us a very long way, but the indirect signals matter, too, and can potentially teach us even more if we’re willing to make inferences that follow the physics and math. LIGO may be missing upwards of 100,000 black hole-black hole mergers a year. But with this new proposed technique, we might finally learn what else is out there, with the potential to apply this to neutron stars, non-merging black holes, and even the leftover ripples from our cosmic birth. It’s an incredible time to be alive.”
When you look up at the stars in the night sky, you think you’re seeing just countless numbers of them. It’s beautiful what’s out there, as you look up and take it all in. Break out the binoculars, and things get even more spectacular. Yet even with that assist, you’re missing nearly a million stars for every one you can see. That’s the same situation with black hole and neutron star mergers, where LIGO and Virgo have seen a total of six, but have missed nearly a million over the multiple years they’ve been running. Directly, there’s no way to see them with our current equipment. But from an aggregate computational perspective, we might be able to extract the true signal and know, at least statistically, how many black hole mergers are occurring in our Universe overall.
Over geological timescales – on the order of millions of years – even hard substances like rock can flow like a fluid. Heat from the Earth’s core drives convection inside our mantle, and that fluid motion ultimately drives the plate tectonics we experience here at the surface. But most other planetary bodies, including those with mantle convection similar to ours, don’t have a surface that shifts like our tectonic plates. Mars and Venus, for example, have solid, unmoving surfaces. The images above provide a peek at what goes on beneath. The upper image shows a simulation of mantle convection inside Mars over millions of years. The lower image is a timelapse of dye convecting through a layer of glucose syrup being heated from below. Notice how both examples show evidence of convective cells and plumes that help circulate warm fluid up and colder fluid downward. (Image credit: Mars simulation – C. Hüttig et al, source; N. Tosi et al., source; submitted by Nicola T.)
NASA Kepler’s Scientists Are Doing What Seems Impossible: Turning Pixels Into Planets
“It isn’t the image itself that gives you this information, but rather how the light from image changes over time, both relative to all the other stars and relative to itself. The other stars out there in our galaxy have sunspots, planets, and rich solar systems all their own. As Kepler heads towards its final retirement and prepares to be replaced by TESS, take a moment to reflect on just how it’s revolutionized our view of the Universe. Never before has such a small amount of information taught us so much.”
When you think about exoplanets, or planets around stars other than the Sun, you probably visualize them like we do our own Solar System. Yet direct images of these worlds are exceedingly rare, with less than 1% of the detected exoplanets having any sort of visual confirmation. The way most planets have been found has been from the Kepler spacecraft, which gives you the very, very unimpressive image of the star you see featured at the top. Yet just by watching that star, the light coming from it, and the rest of the field-of-view over time, we can infer the existence of sunspots, flares, and periodic “dips” in brightness that correspond to the presence of a planet. In fact, we can figure out the radius, orbital period, and sometimes even the mass of the planet, too, all from this single point of light.
Stripe-like wave clouds can often form downstream of mountains. This satellite image shows such clouds in the South Pacific where rocky mountains jut 600 meters (2,000 ft) above the sea. This disrupts air flowing east by forcing it to move up and over the island topography. The air does not simply settle back down on the other side, though. It must come back into equilibrium with its surroundings in terms of density and temperature. While doing so it will travel up and down along a wavy path. As it reaches the crest of the wave, humid air cooling condenses and forms a cloud. At troughs, the air warms and the condensation disappears. This creates the stripey cloud pattern in the mountain’s wake, which fades out as the atmospheric gravity waves die out. (Image credit: NASA/J. Schmaltz; via NASA Earth Observatory)
“The first Friedmann equation describes how, based on what is in the universe, its expansion rate will change over time. If you want to know where the Universe came from and where it’s headed, all you need to measure is how it is expanding today and what is in it. This equation allows you to predict the rest!”
In 1915, Einstein put forth General Relativity as a new theory of gravity. It reproduced all of Newton’s earlier successes, solved the problem that Newton couldn’t of Mercury’s orbit, and made a new prediction of bent starlight by large masses, verified during the 1919 solar eclipse. Despite the fact that it included a cosmological constant to keep the Universe static, that didn’t deter Soviet physicist Alexander Friedmann from solving Einstein’s equations for a Universe that was filled with matter and energy, all the way back in 1922. The two generic equations he found, known as the Friedmann equations, immediately related measurable quantities like the amount of matter in the Universe to the expansion or contraction rate, which just years later became validated by Hubble’s observations. But the young Friedmann never lived to see it; he died of typhoid fever contracted when he was returning from his honeymoon in 1925.
There aren’t many naturally occurring plasmas in our daily lives; by far the most common one is lightning. So it’s something of a surprise that a stream of water hitting a material like glass is able to produce a toroid of plasma like the one above. The key here, though, is that the jet has to be fast – to the tune of 200 meters per second or faster. When a jet of deionized water strikes a surface at that speed, the water has to take a very sharp, 90-degree turn, and, thanks to the polar nature of water, this causes a (negative) charge to build up at that turn. It’s akin to rubbing a balloon to build up a static charge, and it’s known as a triboelectric effect. At rest (and without high shear rates), water and glass in contact tend to create in a positive charge in the water. The plasma is created when an arc forms through air between those two charged areas.
Experiments in helium environments create a different color of plasma, confirming that the arc definitely travels through the gas. Similarly, if you use regular water instead of deionized water, the conductivity of the dissolved salts in the water is enough to prevent the necessary build up of charge. (Image and research credit: M. Gharib et al.; video credit: Applied Science; submitted by Kam-Yung Soh)
Want to see the most distant galaxy in the Universe? You don’t simply need the world’s greatest telescopes; you also need an assist from gravity. Galaxy clusters provide the largest gravitational sources in the Universe, thereby providing the largest natural magnification enhancements through gravitational lensing. While the internal dynamics of the galaxies tell us that there must be dark matter present, and that dark matter is something other than normal (atom-based) matter, the overall gravitational effects enhance any telescope-based views of the Universe. The joint Hubble/Spitzer RELICS program is imaging 41 of these massive galaxy clusters, hoping to magnify ultra-distant galaxies more distant than any we’ve ever seen before. When the James Webb Space Telescope comes online, these will be the places where our greatest target candidates for “most distant galaxy in the Universe” will come from.
“MERS-CoV (Middle- East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus) is a Coronavirus, endemic in Middle East. The virus attacks the human respiratory system and is considered to be highly pathogenic, causing a series of non-specific symptoms which complicate the diagnosis. It is transmitted through human-to-human contact, as well as through direct or indirect contact with host animals. The Wolrd Health Organization has declared MERS-CoV as one of the most likely to cause a future epidemic and urges for further research. It is worth mentioning that the mortality rate of humans infected by MERS-CoV is above 35%.
Since 2012, there have been reported cases of MERS-CoV infection in 27 countries, including Greece. The majority of cases were located in Saudi Arabia. However, the issue does not concern only the Middle East but the entire world as well. Modern means of transport eliminate distances, thus facilitating the movement both of humans and pathogenic microorganisms. Our test will be of great use to international travellers, so as to avoid outbreaks of the virus in regions were it isn’t endemic.”