A new kind of engine under development, called a detonation engine, could save the military hundreds of millions of dollars in fuel costs every year. The technology, which military researchers are working on together with scientists at GE and other companies, could reduce fuel consumption at power plants, in ships, and on airplanes by as much as 25 percent. The Navy alone estimates that retrofitting its ships with the technology would reduce annual fuel costs by $300 to $400 million.
The most highly developed form of detonation engine, which has been in the works for many years, is the pulse detonation engine, the type GE is developing. Whereas combustion occurs continuously in a conventional jet engine, pulse detonation involves setting off a series of detonations—say, 60 to 100 per minute.
The Naval Research Laboratory has another idea. It involves the use of a specially designed doughnut-like combustion chamber. One explosion is set off with a spark in one part of the chamber. As the shock wave propagates out from that explosion, the researchers keep it going by feeding in a precise mixture of fuel and air ahead of it. A handful of research groups have tested small versions of the engine that burn hydrogen. And the Navy researchers recently published a paper that shows the idea can work with hydrocarbon fuels like the ones that would be used in a ship, at least in detailed computer simulations.
Along with [Columbia University Professor Christopher] Emdin, Wu-Tang member GZA and the founders of the hip-hop lyrics website Rap Genius will announce a program that utilizes hip-hop to teach science in 10 New York City public schools. […]
Science has been one of the harder subjects to teach to black and Latino students, who make up 70% of the city’s rolls, according to New York’s Independent Budget Office. The 2009 National Assessment of Education Progress said only 4% of African-American seniors were proficient in sciences, compared with 27% of whites. […]
The process is simple, Emdin said. After learning the material, students will have to create rap songs relaying the material back to the teacher. This can be done individually or in groups known as cyphers, where people stand in a circle and take turns rapping.
This is a supremely fantastic idea. I really hope it works well.
Most parents are security conscious but Australian superb fairy-wrens take it to another level. They have no choice: fairy-wren mothers often have their nests hijacked by Horsfield’s bronze cuckoos (Chalcites basalis).
The cuckoo egg looks like the wren eggs but hatches earlier, at which point the cuckoo chick ejects the wren eggs. Unless the mother wren realises an intruder is in the nest, she raises the cuckoo as her own, wasting time and food.
But the cuckoo only gets away with it 60 per cent of the time. In the other 40 per cent of cases, the wren detects the cuckoo within days, abandons it, and starts another nest. That’s because the mother teaches her chicks a password while they are still inside their eggs. Once hatched, the mother abandons the nest if they can’t give the password.
Nature is both weird and awesome at the same time.
Resist your gag reflex — this is not yet more gauche east-meets-west self-help nonsense. As far as I can tell this appears to be a summary of several highly serious neuroscience research efforts. Great read.
From the abstract of the paper “Possible Bubbles of Spacetime Curvature in the South Pacific” by Benjamin K. Tippett:
In 1928, the late Francis Wayland Thurston published a scandalous manuscript in purport of warning the world of a global conspiracy of occultists. Among the documents he gathered to support his thesis was the personal account of a sailor by the name of Gustaf Johansen, describing an encounter with an extraordinary island. Johansen’s descriptions of his adventures upon the island are fantastic, and are often considered the most enigmatic (and therefore the highlight) of Thurston’s collection of documents.
We contend that all of the credible phenomena which Johansen described may be explained as being the observable consequences of a localized bubble of spacetime curvature. Many of his most incomprehensible statements (involving the geometry of the architecture, and variability of the location of the horizon) can therefore be said to have a unified underlying cause.
Yup. That’s right. H.P. Lovecraft’s 1928 story “The Call of Cthulu” analyzed with general relativity. Click through to read Tippett’s blog post about the paper. Happy halloween, folks.
Speaking of Lee Billings, here’s another piece from him about Alpha Centauri. This time it’s a long form profile in Seed Magazine of the two teams that have been searching for planets orbiting Alpha Centauri. Really great work, keep your eye on this Billings guy, readers.
Lee Billings, guest writing on interstellar exploration blog Centauri Dreams:1
At a distance of just over 4.3 light years, the stars of Alpha Centauri are only a cosmic stone’s throw away. To reach Alpha Centauri B b, as this new world is called, would require a journey of some 25 trillion miles. For comparison, the next-nearest known exoplanet is a gas giant orbiting the orange star Epsilon Eridani, more than twice as far away. But don’t pack your bags quite yet. With a probable surface temperature well above a thousand degrees Fahrenheit, Alpha Centauri B b is no Goldilocks world. Still, its presence is promising: Planets tend to come in packs, and some theorists had believed no planets at all could form in multi-star systems like Alpha Centauri, which are more common than singleton suns throughout our galaxy. It seems increasingly likely that small planets exist around most if not all stars, near and far alike, and that Alpha Centauri B may possess additional worlds further out in clement, habitable orbits, tantalizingly within reach.
Anyone in the Southern Hemisphere can look up on a clear night and easily see Alpha Centauri — to the naked eye, the three suns merge into one of the brightest stars in Earth’s sky, a single golden point piercing the foot of the constellation Centaurus, a few degrees away from the Southern Cross. In galactic terms, the new planet we’ve found there is so very near our own that its night sky shares most of Earth’s constellations. From the planet’s broiling surface, one could see familiar sights such as the Big Dipper and Orion the Hunter, looking just as they do to our eyes here. One of the few major differences would be in the constellation Cassiopeia, which from Earth appears as a 5-starred “W” in the northern sky. Looking out from Alpha Centauri B b and any other planets in that system, Cassiopeia would gain a sixth star, six times brighter than the other five, becoming not a W but a sinuous snake or a winding river. Cassiopeia’s sixth bright point of light would be our Sun and its entire planetary system.
Billings goes on to give a very good overview of the changes and tensions happening in astronomy. The new planet hunters and interstellar explorers are fighting for resources currently allocated to the theorists and deep space researchers. Worth reading.
Iron fertilization is the intentional introduction of iron to the upper ocean to stimulate a phytoplankton bloom. This is intended to enhance biological productivity, which can benefit the marine food chain and is under investigation with regards to being a successful means of facilitating increased carbon dioxide removal from the atmosphere.
This sounds really cool but also has the potential to go horribly, horribly wrong when the phytoplankton swear revenge and build a giant robot with all the iron.