Posts by Daniel Evans

190 posts • joined 7 Dec 2008

'My house is on fire m8 lol' ... 911 texting tested in the US

Re: What about support for photos and video?

In the bank robbery case, that sounds like a normal piece of evidence that you should pass to the police during their investigation. For the former, you'd want to establish contact first - if you're able to send them a photo, you would presumably tell them this, and they would provide a way for you to do so if they feel it would help.

(Also, if your smartphone handles photos and SMS, I would hazard a guess that it is also GPS capable)

Google files patent for eyewear that SHOOTS LASERS

Re: Lasers

Do reliable, cheap UV lasers exist? I thought anything much beyond green was a bit of a pain to get working.

Asteroid miners hunt for platinum, leave all common sense in glovebox

Re: the "gravity" of the situation

First sentence should probably read "the orbital period-distance equation", not "Kepler's laws" (it's technically the 3rd law).

Re: the "gravity" of the situation

Planet mass is almost entirely negligible in almost all applications of Kepler's laws, definitely so in the solar system (the barycentre of the SS is within the Sun itself, so assuming that the Sun is stationary is a pretty good approximation).

Seeing as the Earth's mass is 1 part in 10^6 of the Sun's, the Sun contains 99.86% of the entire mass in the solar system, and the vast majority of that remainder is in Jupiter (which orbits pretty happily), slurping up a few extra asteroids will have an approximate effect of "nothing".

~mico - it's actually about 0.05%, so assuming you guessed, you weren't far off!

Stars spotted dancing superfast tango around black hole handbag

The last I read, Sgr A*'s radius was definitely less than 1AU (distance from here to the sun), with a mass of 4E6 times the sun's.

Space Station ready to SWERVE sat junk hurtling towards it

Re: couldnt the astronoughts

They'd be astronuts to even consider doing such a thing!

Re: Franko

Not only designed years ago, but also using specially-hardened cosmic-ray-resistant skycrane-landing-capable hardware. Space is a nasty place - fewer dust bunnies, though.

Here's the software guy's explanation of it all: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BArApRIjdTI&feature=player_detailpage#t=1987s

Martian sunsets are, in fact, blue: http://io9.com/5906367/why-are-martian-sunsets-blue

Higgs boson chasers: Now only 1-in-300 MILLION chance we're wrong

Oh dear...

What's the chance of your birthday being the 5th of March?

That's the chance that your birthday is the same as mine.

(I hope you're trolling...)

@AC: It'll be interesting to see how many posts in we get before that!

The Higgs boson search continues ... into ANOTHER dimension

Re: Is there an end point?

Well, we've not reached it yet - and that's about the best answer you can get, most likely!

Re: Having been rear-ended by people texting ...

Also don't see how this avoids the texting problem anyway - you don't need signal to be reading/writing a text.

Kepler space telescope peers at hot alien couple

Re: Which Star ?

No idea where you got that information from! The generally accepted system is:

Kepler 36 is the system. In a binary (or more) star system, the stars would generally be A and B - in a single-star system, it is acceptable to drop the A (so Kepler 36 = Kepler 36A). Objects orbitting around Kepler 36A are labelled with lowercase letters, with the central object (the star) being designated Kepler 36Aa = Kepler 36a. The planets are then Kepler 36Ab and Kepler 36Ac, but again the A can be dropped as there is no ambiguity.

An alternative example would be the 16 Cygni system, consisting of 3 stars (16 Cyg A, B and C), with the 16 Cyg B system containing two components - 16 Cyg Ba, the star, abd 16 Cyg Bb, a planet.

Hessman et al's paper is a good reference for this: http://arxiv.org/pdf/1012.0707v1.pdf

Re: The pictures don't do it justice

Neptune is 10x wider than the moon, but this planet is 5x further away - so it would only be double the width of the moon in the sky, which actually seems to be what that image shows!

Re: Which Star ?

The star itself is Kepler 36 (well, Kepler 36a). You then label planets as b, c, d, and so forth. So we would technically be Sol d, by that naming system!

Re: How do they do that?

And a few notes now I've posted and re-read that:

The Mass/Radius of the star comes from its colour - bluer stars are more massive, larger, and hotter; red stars are smaller and cooler. We've spent a lot of time modelling these! Look up the "Main Sequence" if you want to know a bit about that.

We're not entirely sure on planet compositions for things that aren't represented in the solar system - this is why we're not too sure what a Super-Earth is actually like. When do you stop being a ball of rock and become an ice/gas giant? The theoretical chappies have been having great fun with all that.

Spectroscopy isn't so good for getting actual planet sizes - you can get the mass ratio of the star:planet easily, and if you guess the star's mass, you can get the planet's one too. But as mentioned above, if something is 3 times the mass of the earth, do we model it as a ball of rock or a ball of gassy ice? Ideally you want to combine information from both spectroscopy and transits ("photometry").

Re: How do they do that?

No spectroscopy here (most likely, anyway) - stars have an annoying habit of being so bright that they drown out any light from the planet itself. Instead, you look at how the light from the star dims as the planet passes in front. You can guesstimate the mass of the star quite well, and from that and the orbital period, you can get the star-planet distance. You then know a bigger planet will block more light at a given distance than a tiny one, so you can work out the radius of the planet by the amount of starlight blocked, the radius of the star itself, and how far apart they are. You then use fairly handwavey arguments and say that if it's Earth radius, it's like Earth, and that if it's Neptune radius, it's like Neptune!

That is, of course, much simpler than how it actually is!

NASA cuts inspire 'Planetary Exploration Car Wash & Bake Sale'

Just wait...

Once the Planetary Scientists get their go at a funding round, all the Astronomers will throw a similar fit over whatever potential project gets chosen instead. Almost every budget (whether it be ESA, NASA or someone else) will pick one over the other, and the next budget will give the other lot their go - I've heard some fairly bitter comments about missions that got cancelled "because it was the planetary scientists turn"...

China begins work on world-beating MEGA power cables

Re: It's kV not kv, BTW

Ah, someone got there before I did. Glad I'm not the only one who knows their units!

British 4G mobile data rollout 'will mean NO TELLY for 2m homes'

Re: Oh FFS

Which works great, until you find a house where you can't get decent satellite coverage - the rather large hill to the south of my home (and the other 34 houses on the road) would make it pretty difficult for me to see any geostationary satellite without a rather large tower for the antenna. Oddly enough, I don't believe that the council would be too happy with someone attempting to stick up 20m poles with antennae on top in a conservation area...

100 EARTH-LIKE PLANETS orbit stars WITHIN 30 LIGHT-YEARS!

Eurgh, percentages? Horrible things. Decimals make much more sense.

Jupiter and Venus get cozy in revealing late-night display

Re: other bright things

Pleiades are still up high in the early evening - Cassiopeia, Orion, Canis Major, Ursa Major, etc. are all easily visible right now.

As always, I shall plug the excellent (and free) Stellarium - the best bit of kit I've found for "what's that bright thing up there?", "what can I see tonight?" and "where is wotsit going to be?", with all sorts of advanced options whilst remaining blindingly simple to use: http://www.stellarium.org/

Galaxy is teeming with homeless planets

Re: Re: How do they confirm the planet?

Having glanced through a paper on this (http://arxiv.org/abs/1105.3544), it seems that they grab a series of images - the lensing varies with time (it brightens the background star), so they can plot the light received versus time and compare with models of what a lensing event should look like. The paper takes some time to discuss how they tried to cut out other events that look similar (supernovae, cataclysmic variables).

For completion, the paper the article is about is available at http://arxiv.org/abs/1201.2687 (not all their references are about gravitational microlensing - Bihain et al 2009 seems to have chosen to look in the infrared to find suitably cool objects)

Met Office wants better supercomputer to predict extreme weather

Re: Re: 'Idle' computer power isn't so idle these days

There is (was?) a climate modelling project out there - but as with all these things, it was designed to give a client a chunk of modelling data ("model 1830-2030 using these initial parameters") - and it didn't care if you took a month to do it. The MET want to run single iterations of their model, but in time for the evening's forecast, using what I'd imagine is "a lot" of data, which can't be split up into areas (easily, anyway) - you can't just model North America on one client and Europe on the other.

US Navy preps railgun for tests

I would like to disassociate myself from these boffins.

Using E = 1/2 * m * v^2, and rearranging for v = sqrt (2E / m), a 1 ton car would be doing 594mph, and a London routemaster (using dogged's mass) would do 224mph.

Also, dogged's maths is off - multiplying mass by 7.7x reduces speed by 2.77x, for the same energy.

Ancient cave girl genome could crack Man's genetic puzzle

It's Bytes

(Aimed at all the posts below too)

The data's all there with filesizes - it's the first link in the article. It does indeed add up to a shave under 500gig.

Planet-hunting Kepler hits EXOPLANET JACKPOT

"Size" isn't everything

Are you talking mass or radius here? In terms of mass, above 13 M(Jupiter) you have a brown dwarf. Radius also doesn't increase with mass, much, at that size - you just squash the gas down more (Saturn is half the mass of Jupiter, but only 1/7th smaller in radius). Brown dwarfs at the lower end aren't significantly higher in radius than Jupiter.

If you had a planet 25 times the mass of Jupiter, it's definately a Brown Dwarf. If you have one 25 times the radius, you're larger than the sun.

"Hudgins didn't elaborate on exactly what he meant by that well-examined patch of sky being a bit larger than your fist, but we can only assume that he's referring to a fist being held at arm's length – and if that's the case, the sky being "positively loaded" with exoplanets may even be a bit of an understatement."

Your fist at arm's length is about 10 degrees wide. Let's say for argument's sake it's 10 degrees high, as well - so your fist covers 100 square degrees (so it is pretty damn close to Kepler's FOV, actually). There are 41,253 square degrees of sky - so Kepler studies approximately 1/410 of the sky.

In that region, it studies 145,000 stars. Let's say 2300 planets is about 2000 stars, accounting for a few multi-planet systems - so of those 145,000 stars, 1 in 73 have had a potential planet come between us and the star 3 times in 3 years (I believe it's 3 transits to be a candidate, anyway - that might be "confirmed", though). Just think of all the planets whose orbits do not come between us and their star (anything more than a few degrees either way); that are far enough out to orbit less than once every year (every planet outside Earth in our solar system); and are too small for Kepler to see (<Earth-ish size).

"Understatement" may be an understatement.

NASA shuts off Voyager 1's central heating

From what I've read elsewhere, the temp sensor isn't much use any more - it can't actually read temperatures under 79C, hence the "below" qualifier from NASA

Billions of potentially populated planets in the galaxy

"The microlensing process can tell boffins the mass of the planet, but unfortunately, it can't give the scientists any idea of what that world is made of. Just because a world is within the habitable zone, doesn't necessarily mean it will have the life-giving composition of our own planet."

Not quite sure how you linked "mass" to "habitable zone" there - the mass of a planet isn't necessarily linked to where it orbits (depends what theory you feel like using, and exosystems have thrown out some really odd distributions). In fact, the mass of the planet is a pretty damn good indicator of composition - if it's the mass of Jupiter, it's probably not made of rock.

Germans increase office efficiency with 'cloud ceiling'

Pretty Dim

Is it just me who thinks those photos make it seem like it's really rather dark in there?

Greenland 'lurched upward' in 2010 as 100bn tons of ice melted

Geodesy - a pretty well established science, and you've been able to show the earth's gravity varies by position for a long time.

As for doing it by satellite, GOCE's been in the news a lot, surprised you didn't hear: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GOCE

Secrets of the asteroid belt: Vesta actually more like a planet

That's half the issue here - going from meteorite to rocky planet, there's very little difference other than "size" (and for gas giants, it's just the fact they're massive enough to hold onto Hydrogen/Helium/Volatiles).

Size does determine whether or not you can differentiate into a distinct structure (Core/Mantle/Crust) or are just a pile of assorted rubble. The thing is we don't quite know at what size that happens - hence why Vesta being less rubble-y and more structure-y is a bit of a surprise!

Potential ALIEN LIFE habitats FOUND ON MOONS

200C Plasma?

Yeah, that part's pretty hard to imagine - Plasma's a bit warmer than that.

The issue with "other forms of life" is one of chemistry, really. You need to base it around some fairly common element - so nothing heavier than Iron (the element at which nuclear fusion gives up), and the lighter the better.

You want something which is able to bond to as much as possible - Carbon and Silicon are the two good examples there. You then need to work your way up from that:

Hydrogen will almost certainly be involved, as it's so damn common

Nitrogen isn't too useful as it's pretty unreactive chemically in its standard (N2) form (note that 80% of the atmosphere is Nitrogen, and it does bugger all most of the time)

You then need to consider energy requirements (photosynthesis, geothermal, or "eating stuff" are the three I can think of), and so on...

Phobos-Grunt 'crippled by US aurora station', 'is a bio-weapon'

Asimov (I think, anyway) wrote a short story on that - a set of astronauts are sent out to the moon, and upon getting round to the dark side, find it's made of wooden scaffolding and paper (one of them having spent a fair bit of the mission saying "wouldn't it be weird if it was all just made to fool us..."). Upon said crew member getting a little "worked up", they are amazed to find ground crew opening up the hatch - discovering it was all a psychological experiment, they never actually left the Earth, and they weren't meant to last long enough to get round the back of the moon...

Will Mars rover Curiosity be the last of its nuclear kind?

\$5m in 2013?

That's some funny predicting you've got going there. Third it 2010-2011, third it 2011-2012, then... halve it 2012-2013?

NASA's nuclear laser tank will hunt down any life on Mars

"The space truck is the size of a small SUV"

We can launch something that size and (hopefully) land it on another planet? Oh science, you are wonderful.

It's ALIVE! Broken Russian Mars probe finally answers calls

Phobos-Grunt was intended to land on Phobos and then launch back to Earth again - so it needs to carry enough fuel to wander all the way back to Earth again. Curiosity is only going one way, so needs half as much fuel (for argument's sake, I doubt the planned routes to and from Phobos are identical) - so NASA can afford to go on the slightly more "expensive" route by making their fuel tanks a little bit bigger.

This wiki article gives a fairly good overview of how much "Delta-v" is used for certain transfers: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delta-v_budget

Interestingly, according to that page, orbit-keeping is fairly cheap (25-100m/s a year) versus the minimum 12,400m/s to Phobos and back. Assuming a couple of percent spare fuel on board, it might actually be possible to wait til the next window, on a fuel basis alone.

Neutrinos still FASTER THAN LIGHT in second test

Thing is you need to build a particle accelerator over in Italy as well then - and those are neither small nor cheap.

In addition, the neutrino pulses can only be created when you whack a "bunch" of protons from the ring into the neutrino-makery-thingy - the beam isn't constant, so you'd have to wait until a bunch is in the right place on the ring, and you'd have some even more fun errors taking into account the time for the system to react to the incoming signal and the time for the bunch to reach the target to be neutrino-ised.

Also, not quite sure what this would achieve anyway, other than showing that the effect happens both ways, rather than in only one!

Scientific Papers

The paper at arXiv (see article link) has, unsurprisingly, a huge section on the "method". Section 4 discusses measuring the distance.

Because there isn't a pipe.

Army raygun to boost power with starlight de-twinkling tech

"employs piezoelectric actuators to warp the shape of a telescope mirror"

Changing the telescope mirror is Active Optics, which works against wind, gravity (a 10m telescope bends a bit as you turn it around), etc.

Adaptive Optics works with an entirely different (much smaller) mirror. It's a bit hard kicking around a few tons of mirror accurately on millisecond timescales. You can even fit Adaptive Optics to refracting telescopes ("ones wot got lenses"), whereas it's a bit harder to fit actuators on a lens (tends to get in the way of the light, apparently).

European boffins on voyage of discovery to the Earth's core

I did snigger somewhat

"It is easier to reach Mars than to visit even the base of the Earth's thin crust"

Try telling the Russians that...

Alien city lights could be detected across interstellar space

@Too Long An Interval

Actually, you can get some pretty speedy astronomy these days - pulsars are measured down to periods of 1.4ms, and sampling theory states you'll need to get a snap less than every 0.7ms for that.

You are right to say that you'd get nowhere near 60Hz for something as faint as city lights, though.

Has your account been pwned? New website will tell you

Isn't that what they all say?

Astronomy crowd spots PLANET KILLER!

This is astronomy!

Only values in terms of Earth Radii, Solar Radii, Astronomical Units or Parsecs will be accepted.

Bo Peep insures jubs for \$1m

Uhm?

\$5 million in 1950 is edging up to \$50 million today - so these jubs apparently have 1/50th the value of those legs.

Chocolate weighed in Schwarzeneggers: Official

What is this weight you speak of

And why is it being measured in units of mass?

'Angry Bird in the Sky' spotted by astronomers

And last, but not least...

Compensation for atmospheric refraction, too (hence why the telescope is on a big hill in Chile - less air in the way). T'is why stars twinkle.

Scientists discover Tatooine-style world 200 lightyears off

The latter

The stars orbit eachother at about .2AU, the planet is out at .7AU. Page 11 gives a diagram, 13 has numbers: http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1109/1109.3432.pdf

It should be noted that they predict that the orbits will change over time - they mention that the planet will stop eclipsing the stars at some point in the future, before returning to eclipse again after a couple of decades.

Boffin Term

Plane of motion is an appropriately boffiny term that comes to mind.