Inquiry, Discovery, Inquiry

The feature called Maskelyne is one of many newly discovered young volcanic deposits on the Moon. Called irregular mare patches, these areas are thought to be remnants of small basaltic eruptions that occurred much later than the commonly accepted end of lunar volcanism, 1 to 1.5 billion years ago. (Image Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University)

This is why NASA rocks:

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has provided researchers strong evidence the moon’s volcanic activity slowed gradually instead of stopping abruptly a billion years ago.

Scores of distinctive rock deposits observed by LRO are estimated to be less than 100 million years old. This time period corresponds to Earth’s Cretaceous period, the heyday of dinosaurs. Some areas may be less than 50 million years old. Details of the study are published online in Sunday’s edition of Nature Geoscience.

“This finding is the kind of science that is literally going to make geologists rewrite the textbooks about the moon,” said John Keller, LRO project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Variations of a blue pigment were developed at Oregon State University. (Photo: Mas Subramanian)Science as a career is, to a certain degree, a form of job security. That is, while one might argue the idea of job security through perpetuation of the problem in certain political argumentation, the reality is that you don’t need to do that with science. That is to say, when you make a scientific discovery, you also raise a million new questions for scientists to answer.

No, really. Did you hear about the time all of five years ago that scientists at Oregon State University accidentally created a new shade of blue?

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NASA. “Release 14-284: NASA Mission Finds Widespread Evidence of Young Lunar Volcanism”. NASA.gov. 12 October 2014.

Chang, Kenneth. “By Happy Accident, Chemists Produce a New Blue”. The New York Times. 23 November 2009.

Nothing to See Here: Titanian Clathrate Edition

NASA would like your attention long enough to explain a thing or two about how—

—absolutely cool the Cassini-Huygens mission really is.

The NASA and European Space Agency Cassini mission has revealed hundreds of lakes and seas spread across the north polar region of Saturn’s moon Titan. These lakes are filled not with water but with hydrocarbons, a form of organic compound that is also found naturally on Earth and includes methane. The vast majority of liquid in Titan’s lakes is thought to be replenished by rainfall from clouds in the moon’s atmosphere. But how liquids move and cycle through Titan’s crust and atmosphere is still relatively unknown.

A recent study led by Olivier Mousis, a Cassini research associate at the University of Franche-Comté, France, examined how Titan’s methane rainfall would interact with icy materials within underground reservoirs. They found that the formation of materials called clathrates changes the chemical composition of the rainfall runoff that charges these hydrocarbon “aquifers.” This process leads to the formation of reservoirs of propane and ethane that may feed into some rivers and lakes.

And it doesn’t stop there.

Continue reading

Stephanie L. Kwolek, 1923-2014

Stephanie L. Kwolek

Stephanie L. KwolekIt is with sadness that we note the passing of Stephanie Kwolek, widely praised as a pioneer among women in science, and best known as the inventor of Kevlar.

“I knew that I had made a discovery,” Kwolek said in an interview several years ago. “I didn’t shout ‘Eureka,’ but I was very excited, as was the whole laboratory excited, and management was excited because we were looking for something new, something different, and this was it.”

(BBC)

The synthetic fiber is widely used in everything from tires to airplanes to bulletproof vests to mobile phones, but in truth Stephanie L. Kwolek’s incredible innovation was always most apparent to me because the stuff makes awesome sails.

Yes, really.

The Chemical Heritage Foundation—yes, there is such a thing—notes:

Kwolek has received many awards for her invention of the technology behind Kevlar fiber, including induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1994 as only the fourth woman member of 113. In 1996 she received the National Medal of Technology, and in 1997 the Perkin Medal, presented by the American Section of the Society of Chemical Industry—both honors rarely awarded to women. She has served as a mentor for other women scientists and participated in programs that introduce young children to science. One of Kwolek’s most cited papers, written with Paul W. Morgan, is “The Nylon Rope Trick” (Journal of Chemical Education, April 1959, 36:182–184). It describes how to demonstrate condensation polymerization in a beaker at atmospheric pressure and room temperature—a demonstration now common in classrooms across the nation.

Stephanie Kwolek was 90 when she passed away in June.

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British Broadcasting Corporation. “Kevlar inventor Stephanie Kwolek dies”. 21 June 2014.

Roberts, Rich. “Sailcloth of the Future”. Sailing World. May, 2000.

Chemical Heritage Foundation. “Stephanie L. Kwolek”. 2014.

Kevlar sail

Linkadelica

Animal armory

• The legend of rocket cats.

• How does the internet get from here to there?

• Two words to brighten your day: beekeeping donkey.

• It turns out your teeth can teach scientists about how to make glass stronger by cracking it.

• Study well, and one day you, too, can unlock the secrets of the Universe.

• Space is really, really big, right? Contemplate our solar system with interactive models from BBC Future and Josh Worth.

• The name of your next band? Try earthquake lights.

• It’s not all in the wrist; the “flat loop” rope trick is also in the thumb and forefinger.