August 22, 2013
How To Create An Aurora Indoors – The Daily Orbit
Harnessing the light of the auroras.
Cassini and citizen scientists create a collage.
Need to learn a new skill? Sleep on it!
And playing games on the Daily Orbit!
Hello and welcome to the Daily Orbit. I’m Emerald Robinson.
Imagine harnessing the light of the Aurora Borealis? It would be magical. And scientists at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA, are making magic. They’ve created a simulation via a device called Planeterrella – sounds like something from a kid’s cartoon – that re-creates the Northern Lights by combining a magnetic field, charged particles, and a sphere. Planeterrella glow! How beautiful! It recreates what happens 80 km up in the Earth’s atmosphere when particles, originally from the sun, precipitate into the atmosphere. The machine is a spinoff of the Terrella experiment, which first demonstrated the glowing result of electrically charged particles mixing with a magnetic field. Planeterrella will be on display at the Virginia Air and Space Center and some lucky classrooms will get one of their own. Can we get one for the Daily Orbit?
And here’s more in science meets art—NASA recently released a “wave at Saturn” collage from a Cassini photo shoot. Back in July NASA alerted the public that Cassini would be taking an image of Earth from 900 million miles away and encouraged Earthlings to go outside and wave for the shot. NASA received more than 1,400 images from partakers from 40 countries and 30 US states from which they created a collage. Thanks NASA for letting us citizen scientists join in on the fun!
And NASA’s hogging the news today. The space agency just does so much! And today we celebrate the 5-year anniversary of its Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. The telescope has given us not only insights into thunderstorms here on Earth, but a picture of extraordinary universal phenomena including black holes in galaxies far, far away. And Fermi has much more to do. The telescope has entered its next phase, studying the high-energy cosmos. Fermi has revolutionized our view of the universe in gamma rays. One of the telescope’s most notable discoveries so far is that of giant bubbles extending more than 25,000 light-years above and below the plane of our galaxy. And scientists say Fermi is fit as a fiddle and performing great.
I keep trying to learn the guitar but to no avail, so now I’m going to try sleeping on it. Researchers say sleeping on a skill can aid in the learning process and now they understand why. The study found that participants who were allowed to sleep after learning a task performed the task better than a control group that was not allowed to sleep. Brain scans of participants showed major changes occurred in the supplementary motor area, located at the top-middle of the brain. Researchers said, “sleep is not waste of time.” But imagine how much more time you could have if you didn’t have to sleep.
But if sleeping on it doesn’t work and you’re still are looking for a brain boost, here’s an unexpected suggestion – play a video game. A new study out of London is giving gamers a good excuse to game on. Researchers reported that “certain” types of video games help the brain to become more agile and improve strategic thinking. The study found that participants who play games like StarCraft, which is a fast-paced game where one has to construct and organize armies to battle an enemy, exhibited quicker and more accurate performance in cognitive flexibility tasks than those who played the Sims, a simple game that requires little memory or tactics. Researchers concluded that action video games could promote our ability to think on the fly and learn from past mistakes. On a side note, all participants were female because researchers couldn’t find enough men who originally played video games less than 2 hours a week. Yes, I have lost many a boyfriend to dreaded video games.
And that’s all for the Daily Orbit. See you tomorrow!