March 21, 2013
Asteroid Detection Plan Needed – The Daily Orbit
Why does NASA say Congress should be praying?
What does the military really, really want?
What’s telling all under the skin?
And a toe tale on today’s Daily Orbit.
Hello and welcome to the Daily Orbit. I’m Emerald Robinson.
Well, asteroids are in the news again! At least this time it’s not because one has crashed into Earth. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and other officials appeared before the House Science, Space and Technology Committee on Tuesday to discuss how NASA is tracking near-Earth objects, and how prepared we are in case one poses a threat. This meeting came in response to the recent meteoric activity in our skies. Only 10 percent of mid-sized asteroids were detected in 2012, meaning over 10,000 passed by without notice. NASA says Congress’s directive to detect 90 percent of Earth-bound asteroids by 2020 is proving to be quite the challenge. When asked hypothetically the strategy for dealing with an Earth-threatening asteroid coming in three weeks, Bolden said “If it’s coming in 3 weeks… pray.” Bolden said that we are not as prepared as we could be since we have put off dealing with the issue for decades. Just in case…Amen.
“And please help the military create a more secure wireless network.” Yep, the U.S. military is seeking new technologies for a more secure and resilient wireless communications network for its troops out in the field. Currently, if one radio is misconfigured or compromised, it could debilitate an entire network, threatening productivity and mission success. They are looking for a network-based solution that could identify the bad nodes and work around them. Current protocols implicitly trust all information shared about the security and operational state of each node in the network. And as you know, never trust anyone. Just kidding.
And the toe is telling it all. Scientists have fully sequenced the genome of the Neanderthal from the remains of a toe bone found in a cave in Siberia. The fragment collected in the Denisova Cave in 2010 has provided the most accurate, high-quality sequence from a single Neanderthal. The analysis showed that the individual was closely related to other Neanderthals in Europe and western Russia and that both Neanderthals and Denisovans were present in the Siberian cave. All that from a less than two-thousand-of-an-ounce toe bone fragment! Huh!
And forget survival of the fittest. For polar bears, it’s survival of the fattest! Polar bears main food source is seals which are hunted almost exclusively on the ice. With the annual loss of sea ice, polar bears are migrating to shore earlier in the summer and leaving later in the autumn, which means they must go without energy-rich seals longer so they have to rely on stored up fat. Researchers say that this is probably what is leading to the decline in the bears’ body conditions and cub production. So ultimately for the polar bear it is now truly survival of the fattest! Unfortunately, I don’t think it works the same for us humans.
Sure can’t call this a “chip off the old block.” An innovative chip is breaking into the future of blood monitoring. EPFL scientists have developed a tiny device a few cubic millimeters in volume that when implanted just beneath the skin can detect up to 5 proteins and organic acids simultaneously and then transmit the info via Bluetooth to your doctor’s computer. Still in the experimentation phase, the chip runs on a small battery patch that sits on top of the skin. The sensor’s surface is covered with an enzyme to detect substances such as lactate, glucose, and ADP. Tests of the chip thus far have been successful. Developers say it will be helpful to sufferers of chronic disease of chemotherapy patients, as it could send alerts before symptoms occur and anticipate the need for medication.
Well that’s all for the Daily Orbit. See you tomorrow Orbiters!