July 16, 2013
How Do You Drink Coffee In Space? – The Daily Orbit
Space mug for a space coffee.
A new moon for Neptune.
The calendar gets a few thousand years older.
And sounding out volcanoes on the Daily Orbit!
Hello and welcome to the Daily Orbit! I’m Emerald Robinson.
Imagine being stuck out in space without coffee. It would be like being stuck in the Twilight Zone! Gravity is an essential part of the brewing process—hot water drips onto fresh grinds, which strips oil from the beans to create that cup of Joe. So brewing is difficult. And without gravity you’d have a hard time getting the coffee to leave the cup…you’d basically be chasing coffee droplets through the air. But scientists are trying to resolve that with a microgravity coffee cup. It has one side with a sharp interior corner. Then is it still considered a cup per se? Capillary forces send fluid flowing along the channel right into the lips of the drinker. The cup is part of the team’s Capillary Flow Experiment that seeks to create better working toilets, air conditioning, fuel tanks, and recycling systems. I’ll stick with my mug.
Just when you thought Neptune had enough moons with 13, they discover yet another. Neptune’s newly discovered moon, S/2004 N 1, brings the count to 14. Could we please give it a better name? It’s tiny—about 100 million times fainter than the faintest star that can be seen with the naked eye. The moon has eluded NASA’s Voyager 2 since 1989 but one scientist noticed a white dot 65,400 miles from the planet. Going to back through the Hubble telescope photos from 2004 to 2009, the same white dot appears. So there’s Triton, Proteus, Larissa… how about Emerald for the new Neptune moon? No? Well, I keep trying.
The calendar just got 5,000 years older. That’s a big jump! Archaeologists have uncovered what they believe to be the world’s oldest calendar in Scotland. Believed to be used by hunter-gatherers, the calendar appears to mimic the phases of the moon, keeping track of lunar months over the course of a year. It also aligns to the Midwinter Sunrise to account for the changing in seasons astronomically. This calendar pre-dates the previously oldest known formal calendar by 5,000 years. Archaeologists say the calendar illustrates an important step towards the formal construction of time and history itself and that knowing what food resources were available at different times of the year was crucial for survival for these societies. Save the date!
[ volcano screaming sound ] What the heck was that?! [ sound of an eruption ] Scientists have discovered that a series of small earthquakes that occur in rapid succession right before a volcanic eruption create sound vibrations that rise in pitch until the volcano erupts. Kind of like a teapot maybe? They refer to this sound as harmonic tremor. They say this phenomenon occurs as magma is forced into the center of the mountain where this thick magma sticks to the rock surface until the pressure forces it higher and then the process is repeated until it eventually blends into a harmonic tremor. The frequency reached 30 hertz. They say human ears detect frequencies starting at 20 hertz. So keep your ear to the ground!
And scientists say they know why a polar bear died in captivity in the Berlin Zoo in 2011. Knut died in captivity at the age of four while most polar bears in captivity live to see 35. Researchers found new sequences of endogenous retroviruses or (ERVs) in Knut’s genetic material. At some point, these viruses insert themselves into the nuclear genome of a host’s germ cell. The virus is passed from one generation to the next, and the endogenous retroviral genome would therefore be inherited by new species that evolve from the original host. Scientists found the same ERV in a giant panda at the zoo name Bao Bao who died in 2012. Researchers say some of these sequences are suspected of playing a role in the occurrence of cancer, neurodegenerative or autoimmune diseases.
And that’s it for the Daily Orbit!