January 23, 2014
Astronomers Witness Water Vapor Spewing From Ceres – On Science
Are greener cars really the answer to our growing emissions problems?
Who are the contenders in a scientific showdown over spider silk?
How did Google Glass end up getting one man interrogated by the feds?
And is sitting worse for your heart than smoking? Coming up today…On Science!
Hello and welcome to On Science. I’m Emerald Robinson.
One celestial body is letting off some steam and it’s heating up the astronomical community! Water vapor has been discovered around the dwarf planet, Ceres, thanks to new data from the Herschel Space Observatory. The planet is the largest body in the asteroid belt and is believed to be composed of a rocky core with an icy outer mantle. This new data confirms that Ceres most likely has an icy surface and atmosphere. Scientists say the water vapor was only seen when the dwarf planet was in the part of its orbit closer to the Sun. This is the first time water has been detected in the asteroid belt and astronomers say this data supports the argument that asteroid and comet impacts helped deliver water to planets like Earth and Mars. But it’s the dawn of new discovery on Ceres—kinda literally. NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is expected to arrive at Ceres for more observations in the spring of 2015.
So I actually went to the D.C. Auto Show yesterday, and the 2015 trend is definitely towards more green and environmentally friendly cars. But is it all in vain? A paper from North Carolina State University and the University of Minnesota concluded that the increase in electric drive passenger vehicles, or EDVs, would actually have very little impact on total carbon emissions. After looking at 108 different scenarios, researchers found that even if 42% of all passenger vehicles were EDVs, there would be little to no reduction in air pollutant emissions by 2050. Well, that’s disappointing. However, passenger vehicles only make 20% of carbon dioxide emissions and they say the better policy would be to set a goal to reduce emissions in total, not just counting on EDVs. Well, at the very least they still save you at the pump!
There’s a show down of sorts in the science community. In one corner we have Iowa State University saying that spider silk conducts heat as well as metal. In the other corner, the Challenger University of the Basque Country in Spain, says that just not so. Last year, we reported a finding from Iowa State University saying that spider silk was as good of a heat conductor as metal. Now, physicists from the University of the Basque Country say that they were not able to repeat those findings. Basque Country is bringing Iowa State’s findings into question. The Basque team found that the thermal diffusivity of the spider silk was about 300 times smaller than the Iowa study. They said this is because spider silk is formed of amino acid chains, which are poor conductors of heat. Iowa State, are you gonna answer back?
And you might want to leave your Google Glass in the car outside the movie theatre unless you want to get challenged by the feds. An Ohio man’s movie date with his wife turned into an ordeal befitting a good plot line itself. A 34-year-old man was enjoying a movie with his Google Glass, which he had had prescription lenses added to, when a federal cop came up and jerked the glasses off his face and demanded that the man come with him. Investigators questioned the man for hours believing that the Google Glass wearer had been trying to illegally tape the movie. Finally, the man convinced the ICE Homeland investigators to search through the files in the Glass to confirm there was no illegal content. Hey, at least he got a good conversation piece out of the incident.
Maybe the man should have just gone for a jog instead of sitting in a movie theatre. After all, sitting can be really bad for you and even worse than smoking. Really though—worse than smoking? Recent research says that in some cases, sitting can be equally as bad as smoking when it comes to major cardiovascular risk. One study found that men who spent five or more hours a day sitting were 34% more likely to develop heart failure than those who spent no more than two hours per day sitting. The answer? Not only exercise regularly, but get up from your desk at work at least once an hour and find other ways to move around more throughout your day. Or do like we did here at On Science and get an office PlayStation to replace water cooler breaks.
And that’s what’s happening today On Science.