October 31, 2012
Moon’s Dark Spot Formed By Asteroid Impact – The Daily Orbit
Have scientists solved the mystery of the moon’s dark spot?
Drones and commercial planes? Flying high in the same skies?
And who’s afraid of MATH?!!!
All that and more coming up on the Daily Orbit!
Hello and welcome to the Daily Orbit. I’m Emerald Robinson. Happy Halloween!
So trick or treat? Treat. Scientists have found the cause of the dark spot on the moon. Known as the Ocean of Storms, they are saying it’s actually a scar from a giant cosmic impact. They believe an asteroid more than 180 miles in diameter hit the moon about 3.9 billion years ago. Scientists are saying that this impact created a magma sea more than a thousand miles wide and several hundred miles deep. They say this may help explain why the moon’s near and far sides are so different from one another. Think about that when you look up at the moon on this haunted Halloween night!
And here’s a story that sounds like a scene right out of a sci-fi movie: drones and commercial aircraft could one day share domestic airspace. The military has long used unmanned aircraft, but with improvements in technology and the likelihood of autonomous vehicles on American highways, General Atomic Aeronautical Systems Inc. says that drones could be a viable part of our future. The company has been testing the autonomous aircraft with a sense-and-avoid system aboard that makes the drone aware of other domestic air traffic, so it can stay clear. They say they are working closely with the FAA to advance the safety of drones and make them possible for domestic use; mainly for surveillance and package transportation. Actually this story kind of reminds me of the Jetsons.
And here’s a hopeful story for everyone with bad habits! Neuroscientists say they have identified a region of the brain in the prefrontal cortex that is capable of switching between new and old habits. They say it is responsible for moment-by-moment control of which habits are switched on at a given time. They say that the study provides some hope for those people who are trying to break some bad habits as it raises the possibility of intervening in that brain region to treat people who suffer from disorders like obsessive-compulsive disorder. I wouldn’t know anyone like that…no…
And if you find the thought of math scarier than the ghouls and goblins lurking about this Halloween, don’t feel bad. Your dog is bad at math too. A new study suggests that formal math is a uniquely human trait. A research team was able to show how variations in both advanced arithmetic and geometry skills specifically correlated with variation in a human’s sense of magnitude. Scientists say that it is an obvious adaptive value for all animals to be able to discriminate between less and more. However, only humans are able to learn formal math, including symbolic notations of numbers, quantitative concepts and computational operations. I don’t know about you, but I really didn’t expect animals to be proficient at geometric reasoning.
And it’s actually been a while since we brought you a Curiosity update so I know your curious about what that little Rover’s up to. Well, Curiosity recently sent back its first analysis of Martian soil. The sample revealed the presence of crystalline feldspar, pyroxenes and olivine mixed with some amorphous material. NASA said that the soil sample taken within Gale Crater resembles what could be found in volcanic soils in Hawaii. Curiosity was able to analyze the soil by directing an x-ray beam at a sample and recording how the x-rays scattered, allowing them to identify and quantify the Martian material. NASA says they are “elated” with the results and that the findings “heighten” their anticipation for future chemical and mineral analyses. Curiosity will stay at its current location for another week before moving on.
That’s all for the Daily Orbit. Watch out that you don’t get tricked instead of treated this Halloween