January 17, 2014
Waking Up Rosetta In Time For Comet Rendezvous – On Science
What sleeping spacecraft is about to awake for a galactic rendezvous?
Google is taking technology to the next level…again.
What explosive find is blowing up in D.C.?
And we’ve got the new buzz about drunk driving. Coming up today…On Science!
Hello and welcome to On Science. I’m Emerald Robinson.
Wake up people! It’s comet time. And it’s time for Rosetta to wake up too. ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft has been in hibernation for over two years awaiting the arrival of a particular comet. And the time is nearly at hand. Launched in 2004, Rosetta has traveled long and far using the gravitational pull of Earth and Mars to arrive at the proper trajectory towards the comet. However, the spacecraft went into hibernation mode back in 2011 to get through its toughest part of the journey to reach the comet. Rosetta’s alarm clock will go off on January 20 in time to wake up and rendezvous with the comet, land on it, and follow it as it swings around the sun for perihelion. This mission will hopefully help unlock unanswered questions about the building blocks of the Solar System. Talk about waking up and getting to work.
And in other space news…Researchers have discovered the first black hole orbiting a star. Using the Liverpool and Mercator telescopes at an observatory in the Canary Islands, Spanish astronomers located the first known binary system consisting of a black hole and a Be-type star. These stars have a strong centrifugal force and rotate super, super fast. Their observations revealed that the black hole orbits around the Be star and is fed by matter the star ejects. The high-speed rotation of the star causes a lot of matter to be ejected, which the black hole attracts. Researchers think, although unusual to us, it’s really not one of a kind. They predict that this system is merely a member of a hidden population of Be stars paired with black holes. Sounds like a pretty healthy working relationship.
And Google has another smart idea…a smart contact lens. Google X, known for developing risky technology that may never make it to market, has announced their latest ambition in wearable technology, the smart contact lens. But it’s not the Minority Report-esque fun technology of the Google Glass. It’s meant to help diabetics monitor glucose levels. Sufferers of diabetes don’t always properly monitor their sugar levels as testing can be painful and inconvenient. The contact lens, equipped with very tiny chips and sensors, would keep check on glucose levels through tears. These very special chips Google had to develop itself, and they sit between two layers of soft contact lens material. That’s definitely a vision of the future.
Buzzed driving isn’t drunk driving, right? Wrong! A new study from the University of California, San Diego, reveals that even “minimally buzzed” drivers cause more accidents than sober drivers. In studying accidents, these researchers looked at drivers with a BAC of .01 to .07%, under the legal .08 limit. Even with the lowest of .01% BAC, drivers were 46% more likely to be “officially and solely” to blame by accident investigators. Researchers say there is no safe combination of drinking and driving and that laws should reflect what the research shows. So peeps, just don’t drink and drive ever!
Driver’s in D.C. may be driving while high and not even knowing it. Okay, so that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but there is something in the air! Gas leaks are an ongoing problem in our nation’s capital. Scientists from Duke and Boston Universities warn that there are almost 6,000 natural gas leaks in the District of Columbia. And that’s no bueno. These leaks could pose an explosion risk with some manholes having 10 times the amount of methane concentrations than the explosion threshold. And let’s just say the air quality ain’t great. The researchers reported these leaks upon finding them, but were surprised and disappointed to find them again four months after reporting them to officials. Natural gas pipeline failures cause an average of 17 fatalities, 68 injuries, and $133 million in property damage each year. Fixing them would improve air quality, increase consumer health and safety, and save money. Then what’s the hold up? At least I don’t have to worry about that. Wait! I live in D.C. Great!
And that’s what’s happening On Science!