Tag: Winds (page 1 of 3)

THE ALCHEMY OF SPACE – PART 1 – EMPTINESS, CHANNELS & CHAKRAS by Altair Shyam

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ARCHANGEL MICHAEL ~ UNIFIED SPIRITUAL AWARENESS FEBRUARY LM-2-2017 GALACTIC FEDERATION OF LIGHT ✔

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God: Heavenletter #5743 – Set Yourself Free from the Winds That Blow – August 15, 2016

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Here’s Why Tesla’s Battery Is A Big Deal


Excerpt from forbes.com

It’s more about where the market and product are going than where they are today. Think about a complementary system of components:

  1. The big grid – always on, highly reliable power which is expensive during peak demand hours, i.e. when a family actually wants to use the power. But usually the electricity is cheap at night when no one wants to use it and those big baseload plants that are hard (or very hard in the case of nuclear) to slow down are still pumping out power. And sometimes that power is provided by strong night winds.
  2. Home solar – Don’t forget that Tesla’s CEO, Musk, is also Chairman of SolarCity which provides zero down leasing. Home solar is often poorly aligned to peak usage, with installers looking for maximum generation with south-facing solar panels rather than maximum generation during peak with south-west facing panels. Then there are the homes with roofs that are poorly aligned to the sun regardless, so imperfect generation is all that is possible. And that peak generation isn’t necessarily perfectly aligned with peak cost of grid electricity either, but merely overlaps with it.
  3. Home storage – Maximum generation alignment of home solar matters less when you can carry forward the unconsumed electricity from solar panels to your evening of cooking, washing dishes, washing clothes, and streaming Netflix on your 40″ tv. And cheap electricity you can store at night and consume when electricity is really expensive is valuable as well.
So these components exist, but to be fair, they existed before Tesla got into the home storage business and have for a long time. And Tesla’s offering costs about twice as much as more typical lead-acid batteries commonly used for the purpose. So why is this particular home storage battery getting so much attention?
  1. Hype – Don’t underestimate the marvel that is Musk’s ability to get attention. The man is a rock star of event unveiling.
  2. Net metering – Right now, there is a lot of conflict between utilities and home solar users and installation companies. Net metering is the requirement that home solar generators get paid for electricity that they produce and pump into the grid, and only pay for the electricity that they draw from the grid. Output vs input is the net. Home solar used to be an advantage to utilities — reduced peak demand — but has become a liability — reduced or even negative revenue from users of the grid. Basically, utilities still have to pay for the grid which home solar generators use, then they lose revenue or outright pay the home solar generator who is getting use of the grid for free. Since utilities pay for the grid out of electricity revenue, they are starting to demand that people with home solar who aren’t paying much for electricity start paying for grid usage to make up for it. This is getting mixed reviews, as you can understand, but in the USA especially is leading to a desire by many to be completely grid free, a dubious value proposition. Tesla’s hype fell into an emerging market opportunity of people who had solar on their roof, didn’t have batteries but are worried that they’ll be forced to pay more.
  3. Time-of-use billing – Combined with smart meters, time-of-use billing is becoming much more common in utilities in the developed world. This model is simple: reduce demand during peak periods by increasing the price, typically combined with incenting shift of demand to off-peak times by lowering the price. Flattening demand curves, especially peaks, is very advantageous for grid managers because they have to have capacity for the peak. This enables storage to time-shift consumption and save at least some money.
  4. Design – Previous storage units are collections of lead acid batteries, basically the same thing you have in your car, but scaled vertically and horizontally. They aren’t pretty, they are heavy, they take up floor space, they require maintenance, and they are pretty much a toxic addition to homes if breached or even if the tops are removed. Tesla’s model is sleek, hangs on a wall and is much more chemically inert with no liquids. It’s a benign home appliance as opposed to an industrial object (much as some people like the industrial aesthetic at home, it’s less common).
  5. The Gigafactory – What Tesla has going for it is that it is building the world’s largest battery factory, and likely expanding it now that the storage line has taken off so brilliantly. Pretty much everyone paying attention knows that Tesla is already producing batteries much more cheaply on a per KWH capacity at greater volume, and the Gigafactory is going to ramp that up. Battery storage has been dropping in price per KWH of capacity for a long time, but it’s closing in on a cusp point where it’s going to be worth it for average consumers to store at least some electricity.
What all of this adds up to is that home battery storage isn’t economical today, but it’s viable for a subset of the high-consuming market, it’s desirable for its green credentials, it’s desirable due to the hype factor and it will defray its costs. And that the home storage market tomorrow will be viable for a much larger percentage of the market with increasing systemic pressures and pricing that will make it more attractive. Tesla’s home storage battery is getting attention because they are staking a major claim to a market which is expected to increase dramatically.
Why is Tesla’s battery a big deal?: originally appeared on Quora:

Answer by Mike Barnard, Energy guy, on Quora

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Astrophysicists Can Now Make Weather Forecasts For Distant Planets


Exoplanet day/night cycle
Cloudy mornings and scorching hot afternoons: the Kepler space telescope has provided weather forecasts for some distant exoplanets.


Excerpt from techtimes.com

A telescope observing distant planets has found evidence of weather patterns, allowing astrophysicists to "forecast" their conditions.

Analyzing data from NASA's Kepler space telescope, a team of astrophysicists at universities in Canada and Great Britain has identified signs of daily weather variations on six exoplanets.
They observed phase variations as different parts of the planets reflected light from their host stars, in much the same way that our moon cycles though different phases.

"We determined the weather on these alien worlds by measuring changes as the planets circle their host stars, and identifying the day-night cycle," said Lisa Esteves from the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Toronto.

"We traced each of them going through a cycle of phases in which different portions of the planet are illuminated by its star, from fully lit to completely dark," added Esteves, who the led the team on the study.

The scientists have offered up "forecasts" of cloudy mornings for four of the planets, and clear but scorching hot afternoons on two others.

They based their predictions on the planets' rotations, which produce an eastward motion of their atmospheric winds. That would blow clouds that formed over the cooler side of one of the planets around to its morning side — thus producing the "cloudy" morning forecast.

"As the winds continue to transport the clouds to the day side, they heat up and dissipate, leaving the afternoon sky cloud-free," said Esteves. "These winds also push the hot air eastward from the meridian, where it is the middle of the day, resulting in higher temperatures in the afternoon."

The Kepler telescope has proven to be the ideal instrument for studying phase variations on distant exoplanets, according to the researchers.

The massive amounts of data and the extremely precise measurements that the telescope is capable of permits them to detect even tiny, subtle signals coming from the distant world, and to separate them from the almost overwhelming light coming from their host stars.

"The detection of light from these planets hundreds to thousands of light years away is on its own remarkable," said co-author Ernst de Mooij from the Astrophysics Research Centre from the School of Mathematics and Physics at Queen's University, Belfast.
"But when we consider that phase cycle variations can be up to 100,000 times fainter than the host star, these detections become truly astonishing."

There may come a day when a weather report for a distant planet is a common and unremarkable event, the researchers added.
"Someday soon we hope to be talking about weather reports for alien worlds not much bigger than Earth, and to be making comparisons with our home planet," said Ray Jayawardhana of York University in England.

This study was published in The Astrophysical Journal.

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Carl Sagan’s Solar Sail Goes On Test Flight On May 20: Why You Should Care

Excerpt  from techtimes.comMany of the technologies that are in use today such as the airplane and the internet were once ideas that became reality and it appears that this still goes true with the innovations of the future. Take for instance ...

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Water may have been abundant a short billion years after Big Bang





Excerpt from thespacereporter.com

The formation of water vapor after the Big Bang was constrained by the lack of oxygen; it and other elements heavier than hydrogen and helium were created only later on, in the death throes of the first generation of massive stars. Oxygen created by the demises of early stars was swept out in to space by the explosions of supernovae and stellar winds, eventually joining with hydrogen to form water.

This process created islands of gas replete with heavy elements, such as oxygen; these regions were more bereft of oxygen than gaseous regions in the modern Milky Way galaxy. However, a new study by Tel Aviv University and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) has determined that, in certain islands, water vapor might have been as plentiful as it is today, only a billion years after the Big Bang.

According to a CfA statement, the researchers looked at whether water could form in the primordial molecular clouds, which were deficient in oxygen. Their analysis indicated that large quantities of water could form at around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Water molecules would have been shattered by ultraviolet light emitted by stars; however, after hundreds of millions of years, an equilibrium between water creation and destruction would be reached.

“We looked at the chemistry within young molecular clouds containing a thousand times less oxygen than our Sun. To our surprise, we found we can get as much water vapor as we see in our own galaxy,” said astrophysicist Avi Loeb of CfA.

The new study has been accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal and is accessible online.


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Chances of Exoplanet Life ‘Impossible’? Or ‘100 percent’?


Kepler’s Exoplanets: A map of the locations of exoplanets, of various masses, in the Kepler field of view. 1,235 candidates are plotted (NASA/Wendy Stenzel)


 news.discovery.com 

Just in case you haven’t heard, our galaxy appears to be teeming with small worlds, many of which are Earth-sized candidate exoplanets and dozens appear to be orbiting their parent stars in their “habitable zones.”

Before Wednesday’s Kepler announcement, we knew of just over 500 exoplanets orbiting stars in the Milky Way. Now the space telescope has added another 1,235 candidates to the tally — what a difference 24 hours makes.

Although this is very exciting, the key thing to remember is that we are talking about exoplanet candidates, which means Kepler has detected 1,235 exoplanet signals, but more work needs to be done (i.e. more observing time) to refine their orbits, masses and, critically, to find out whether they actually exist.

But, statistically speaking, a pattern is forming. Kepler has opened our eyes to the fact our galaxy is brimming with small worlds — some candidates approaching Mars-sized dimensions!

Earth-Brand™ Life

Before Kepler, plenty of Jupiter-sized worlds could be seen, but with its precision eye for spotting the tiniest of fluctuations of star brightness (as a small exoplanet passes between Kepler and the star), the space telescope has found that smaller exoplanets outnumber the larger gas giants.

Needless to say, all this talk of “Earth-sized” worlds (and the much-hyped “Earth-like” misnomer) has added fuel to the extraterrestrial life question: If there’s a preponderance of small exoplanets — some of which orbit within the “sweet-spot” of the habitable zones of their parent stars — could life as we know it (or Earth-Brand™ Life as I like to call it) also be thriving there?
Before I answer that question, let’s turn back the clock to Sept. 29, 2010, when, in the wake of the discovery of the exoplanet Gliese 581 g, Steven Vogt, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at University of California Santa Cruz, told Discovery News: “Personally, given the ubiquity and propensity of life to flourish wherever it can, I would say that the chances for life on [Gliese 581 g] are 100 percent. I have almost no doubt about it.”

Impossible? Or 100 Percent?

As it turns out, Gliese 581 g may not actually exist — an excellent example of the progress of science scrutinizing a candidate exoplanet in complex data sets as my Discovery News colleague Nicole Gugliucci discusses in “Gliese 581g and the Nature of Science” — but why was Vogt so certain that there was life on Gliese 581 g? Was he “wrong” to air this opinion?

Going to the opposite end of the spectrum, Howard Smith, an astrophysicist at Harvard University, made the headlines earlier this year when he announced, rather pessimistically, that aliens will unlikely exist on the extrasolar planets we are currently detecting.
“We have found that most other planets and solar systems are wildly different from our own. They are very hostile to life as we know it,” Smith told the UK’s Telegraph.

Smith made comparisons between our own solar system with the interesting HD 10180 system, located 127 light-years away. HD 10180 was famous for a short time as being the biggest star system beyond our own, containing five exoplanets (it has since been trumped by Kepler-11, a star system containing six exoplanets as showcased in Wednesday’s Kepler announcement).

One of HD 10180′s worlds is thought to be around 1.4 Earth-masses, making it the smallest detected exoplanet before yesterday. Alas, as Smith notes, that is where the similarities end; the “Earth-sized” world orbiting HD 10180 is too close to its star, meaning it is a roasted exoplanet where any atmosphere is blasted into space by the star’s powerful radiation and stellar winds.
The Harvard scientist even dismissed the future Kepler announcement, pointing out that upcoming reports of habitable exoplanets would be few and far between. “Extrasolar systems are far more diverse than we expected, and that means very few are likely to support life,” he said.

Both Right and Wrong

So what can we learn about the disparity between Vogt and Smith’s opinions about the potential for life on exoplanets, regardless of how “Earth-like” they may seem?

Critically, both points of view concern Earth-Brand™ Life (i.e. us and the life we know and understand). As we have no experience of any other kind of life (although the recent eruption of interest over arsenic-based life is hotly debated), it is only Earth-like life we can realistically discuss.

We could do a Stephen Hawking and say that all kinds of life is possible anywhere in the cosmos, but this is pure speculation. Science only has life on Earth to work with, so (practically speaking) it’s pointless to say a strange kind of alien lifeform could live on an exoplanet where the surface is molten rock and constantly bathed in extreme stellar radiation.

If we take Hawking’s word for it, Vogt was completely justified for being so certain about life existing on Gliese 581 g. What’s more, there’s no way we could prove he’s wrong!

But if you set the very tight limits on where we could find Earth-like life, we are suddenly left with very few exoplanet candidates that fit the bill. Also, just because an Earth-sized planet might be found in the habitable zone of its star, doesn’t mean it’s actually habitable. There are many more factors to consider. So, in this case, Smith’s pessimism is well placed.

Regardless, exoplanet science is in its infancy and the uncertainty with the “is there life?” question is a symptom of being on the “raggedy edge of science,” as Nicole would say. We simply do not know what it takes to make a world habitable for any kind of life (apart from Earth), but it is all too tempting to speculate as to whether a race of extraterrestrials, living on one of Kepler’s worlds, is pondering these same questions.

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NASA and ESA telescopes trace ultra-strong winds blowing from black holes


 



Excerpt from thespacereporter.com

According to a NASA statement, telescopes have revealed for the first time that powerful winds emanate from black holes in all directions. These winds are so tremendous that they can actually work to hamper the formation of new stars in the host galaxy.
The two telescopes that were employed by the agency, NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) and ESA’s XMM-Newton, focused on PDS 456, a quasar, an extremely bright type of black hole, over 2 billion light-years away. The results were then analyzed by a team led by Emanuele Nardini of Keele University in the UK.
The two telescopes studied the quasar PDS 456 at five different times throughout 2013 and 2014. By combining low-energy X-ray observations from XMM-Newton with high-energy X-ray observations from NuSTAR, Nardini and team were able to trace iron dispersed by the quasar’s winds. These data demonstrated that the winds blow outwards from the black hole in a spherical front.
Having ascertained the structure of the quasar winds, the team was then able to calculate the strength of the winds. So strong are the quasar winds that they push huge quantities of matter before them, dispersing it outwards through the host galaxy and preventing it from eventually coalescing to generate new stars. In an earlier period of the universe’s history, about 10 billion years ago, supermassive black holes were more abundant and their terrible winds probably had a hand in shaping the current shapes of galaxies.
“For an astronomer, studying PDS 456 is like a paleontologist being given a living dinosaur to study,” said co-author Daniel Stern of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “We are able to investigate the physics of these important systems with a level of detail not possible for those found at more typical distances, during the ‘Age of Quasars.’”
The new findings have been published in the journal Science.

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Monster Black Hole’s Mighty Belch Could Transform Our Entire Galaxy

This artist's illustration depicts the furious cosmic winds streaming out from a monster supermassive black hole as detected by NASA's NuSTAR space telescope and the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton X-ray observatory.
This artist's illustration depicts the furious cosmic winds streaming out from a monster supermassive black hole as detected by NASA's NuSTAR space telescope and the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton X-ray observatory.


Except from space.com

A ravenous, giant black hole has belched up a bubble of cosmic wind so powerful that it could change the fate of an entire galaxy, according to new observations.
Researchers using two X-ray telescopes have identified a cosmic wind blowing outward from the supermassive black hole at the center of galaxy PDS 456. Astronomers have seen these winds before, but the authors of the new research say this is the first observation of a wind moving away from the center in every direction, creating a spherical shape.
The wind could have big implications for the future of the galaxy: It will cut down on the black hole's food supply, and slow star formation in the rest of the galaxy, the researchers said. And it's possible that strong cosmic winds are a common part of galaxy evolution — they could be responsible for turning galaxies from bright, active youngsters to quiet middle-agers. 

Big eater

The supermassive black hole at the center of PDS 456 is currently gobbling up a substantial amount of food: A smorgasbord of gas and dust surrounds the black hole and is falling into the gravitational sinkhole.
As matter falls, it radiates light. The black hole at the center of PDS 456 is devouring so much matter, that the resulting radiation outshines every star in the galaxy. These kinds of bright young galaxies are known as quasars: a galaxy with an incredibly bright center, powered by a supermassive black hole with a big appetite.
New observations of PDS 456 have revealed a bubble of gas moving outward, away from the black hole. Using NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) and ESA’s (European Space Agency) XMM-Newton, the authors of the new research imaged the galaxy on five separate occassions in 2013 and 2014. The researchers say they can show that the photons of light emitted by the in-falling matter are pushing on nearby gas, creating the wind.
Scientists have studied these cosmic winds before, but the authors of the new research say their work goes a step further.
"It tells us that the shape of the wind is not just a narrow beam pointed in our direction. It is really a wind that is flowing in every direction away from the black hole," said Emanuele Nardini, a postdoctoral researcher at Keele University in Staffordshire, England. "With a spherical wind, the amount of mass it carries out is much larger than just a narrow beam."
According to a statement from NASA, galaxy PDS 456 "sustains winds that carry more energy every second than is emitted by more than a trillion suns." Such powerful winds could change the entire landscape of PDS 456, the researchers say. First, the wind will blow through the disk of matter surrounding the black hole — this disk currently serves as the black hole's food supply. The cosmic wind created by the black hole's appetite could significantly reduce or destroy the disk. In other words, the black hole cannot have its cake and eat it, too. 

Bright young things

With no matter left to fall into the black hole, the radiation would cease as well. The brilliant center of the quasar will dim. By diminishing the black hole's food supply, they may turn quasars and other "active galaxies" like PDS 456 into quiescent galaxies like the Milky Way. Theorists have proposed that cosmic winds could explain why there are more young active galaxies than old active galaxies.
"We know that in almost every galaxy, a supermassive black hole resides in the center," said Nardini. "But, most of the galaxies we see today are quiescent, they are not active in any way. The fact that galaxies today are quiescent — we have to find an explanation for that in something that happened a long time ago."
In addition to quenching the radiation from an active black hole, these cosmic winds may slow down star formation in galaxies. The cosmic wind could blow through regions thick with gas and dust, where young stars form, and thin out the fertile stellar soil.
"If you have a black hole with this kind of wind, in millions of years [the winds] will be able to quench star formation and create a galaxy like our own," Nardini said. Stars will still form in the Milky Way, but not at the high rate of many young galaxies.
It's possible that these cosmic winds are a central reason why most galaxies go from being brightly burning active youngsters to quiet middle-agers.

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Neptune-Like Planets Could Transfom Into Habitable Worlds

Strong irradiation from the host star can cause planets known as mini-Neptunes in the habitable zone to shed their gaseous envelopes and become potentially habitable worlds.Credit: Rodrigo Luger / NASA imagesExcerpt from sciencedaily.com Two ph...

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How 40,000 Tons of Cosmic Dust Falling to Earth Affects You and Me


Picture of The giant star Zeta Ophiuchi is having a "shocking" effect on the surrounding dust clouds in this infrared image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope
In this infrared image, stellar winds from a giant star cause interstellar dust to form ripples. There's a whole lot of dust—which contains oxygen, carbon, iron, nickel, and all the other elements—out there, and eventually some of it finds its way into our bodies.
Photograph by NASA, JPL-Caltech

We have stardust in us as old as the universe—and some that may have landed on Earth just a hundred years ago.

Excerpt from National Geographic
By Simon Worrall

Astrophysics and medical pathology don't, at first sight, appear to have much in common. What do sunspots have to do with liver spots? How does the big bang connect with cystic fibrosis?
Book jacket courtesy of schrijver+schrijver

Astrophysicist Karel Schrijver, a senior fellow at the Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory, and his wife, Iris Schrijver, professor of pathology at Stanford University, have joined the dots in a new book, Living With the Stars: How the Human Body Is Connected to the Life Cycles of the Earth, the Planets, and the Stars.

Talking from their home in Palo Alto, California, they explain how everything in us originated in cosmic explosions billions of years ago, how our bodies are in a constant state of decay and regeneration, and why singer Joni Mitchell was right.

"We are stardust," Joni Mitchell famously sang in "Woodstock." It turns out she was right, wasn't she?

Iris: Was she ever! Everything we are and everything in the universe and on Earth originated from stardust, and it continually floats through us even today. It directly connects us to the universe, rebuilding our bodies over and again over our lifetimes.

That was one of the biggest surprises for us in this book. We really didn't realize how impermanent we are, and that our bodies are made of remnants of stars and massive explosions in the galaxies. All the material in our bodies originates with that residual stardust, and it finds its way into plants, and from there into the nutrients that we need for everything we do—think, move, grow. And every few years the bulk of our bodies are newly created.

Can you give me some examples of how stardust formed us?

Karel: When the universe started, there was just hydrogen and a little helium and very little of anything else. Helium is not in our bodies. Hydrogen is, but that's not the bulk of our weight. Stars are like nuclear reactors. They take a fuel and convert it to something else. Hydrogen is formed into helium, and helium is built into carbon, nitrogen and oxygen, iron and sulfur—everything we're made of. When stars get to the end of their lives, they swell up and fall together again, throwing off their outer layers. If a star is heavy enough, it will explode in a supernova.

So most of the material that we're made of comes out of dying stars, or stars that died in explosions. And those stellar explosions continue. We have stuff in us as old as the universe, and then some stuff that landed here maybe only a hundred years ago. And all of that mixes in our bodies.

Picture of the remnants of a star that exploded in a supernova
Stars are being born and stars are dying in this infrared snapshot of the heavens. You and I—we come from stardust.
Photograph by NASA, JPL-Caltech, University of Wisconsin


Your book yokes together two seemingly different sciences: astrophysics and human biology. Describe your individual professions and how you combined them to create this book.

Iris: I'm a physician specializing in genetics and pathology. Pathologists are the medical specialists who diagnose diseases and their causes. We also study the responses of the body to such diseases and to the treatment given. I do this at the level of the DNA, so at Stanford University I direct the diagnostic molecular pathology laboratory. I also provide patient care by diagnosing inherited diseases and also cancers, and by following therapy responses in those cancer patients based on changes that we can detect in their DNA.

Our book is based on many conversations that Karel and I had, in which we talked to each other about topics from our daily professional lives. Those areas are quite different. I look at the code of life. He's an astrophysicist who explores the secrets of the stars. But the more we followed up on our questions to each other, the more we discovered our fields have a lot more connections than we thought possible.

Karel: I'm an astrophysicist. Astrophysicists specialize in all sorts of things, from dark matter to galaxies. I picked stars because they fascinated me. But no matter how many stars you look at, you can never see any detail. They're all tiny points in the sky.

So I turned my attention to the sun, which is the only star where we can see what happens all over the universe. At some point NASA asked me to lead a summer school for beginning researchers to try to create materials to understand the things that go all the way from the sun to the Earth. I learned so many things about these connections I started to tell Iris. At some point I thought: This could be an interesting story, and it dawned on us that together we go all the way, as she said, from the smallest to the largest. And we have great fun doing this together.

We tend to think of our bodies changing only slowly once we reach adulthood. So I was fascinated to discover that, in fact, we're changing all the time and constantly rebuilding ourselves. Talk about our skin.

Iris: Most people don't even think of the skin as an organ. In fact, it's our largest one. To keep alive, our cells have to divide and grow. We're aware of that because we see children grow. But cells also age and eventually die, and the skin is a great example of this.
It's something that touches everything around us. It's also very exposed to damage and needs to constantly regenerate. It weighs around eight pounds [four kilograms] and is composed of several layers. These layers age quickly, especially the outer layer, the dermis. The cells there are replaced roughly every month or two. That means we lose approximately 30,000 cells every minute throughout our lives, and our entire external surface layer is replaced about once a year.

Very little of our physical bodies lasts for more than a few years. Of course, that's at odds with how we perceive ourselves when we look into the mirror. But we're not fixed at all. We're more like a pattern or a process. And it was the transience of the body and the flow of energy and matter needed to counter that impermanence that led us to explore our interconnectedness with the universe.

You have a fascinating discussion about age. Describe how different parts of the human body age at different speeds.

Iris: Every tissue recreates itself, but they all do it at a different rate. We know through carbon dating that cells in the adult human body have an average age of seven to ten years. That's far less than the age of the average human, but there are remarkable differences in these ages. Some cells literally exist for a few days. Those are the ones that touch the surface. The skin is a great example, but also the surfaces of our lungs and the digestive tract. The muscle cells of the heart, an organ we consider to be very permanent, typically continue to function for more than a decade. But if you look at a person who's 50, about half of their heart cells will have been replaced.

Our bodies are never static. We're dynamic beings, and we have to be dynamic to remain alive. This is not just true for us humans. It's true for all living things.

A figure that jumped out at me is that 40,000 tons of cosmic dust fall on Earth every year. Where does it all come from? How does it affect us?

Karel: When the solar system formed, it started to freeze gas into ice and dust particles. They would grow and grow by colliding. Eventually gravity pulled them together to form planets. The planets are like big vacuum cleaners, sucking in everything around them. But they didn't complete the job. There's still an awful lot of dust floating around.

When we say that as an astronomer, we can mean anything from objects weighing micrograms, which you wouldn't even see unless you had a microscope, to things that weigh many tons, like comets. All that stuff is still there, being pulled around by the gravity of the planets and the sun. The Earth can't avoid running into this debris, so that dust falls onto the Earth all the time and has from the very beginning. It's why the planet was made in the first place. 

Nowadays, you don't even notice it. But eventually all that stuff, which contains oxygen and carbon, iron, nickel, and all the other elements, finds its way into our bodies.

When a really big piece of dust, like a giant comet or asteroid, falls onto the Earth, you get a massive explosion, which is one of the reasons we believe the dinosaurs became extinct some 70 million years ago. That fortunately doesn't happen very often. But things fall out of the sky all the time. [Laughs]

Many everyday commodities we use also began their existence in outer space. Tell us about salt.

Karel: Whatever you mention, its history began in outer space. Take salt. What we usually mean by salt is kitchen salt. It has two chemicals, sodium and chloride. Where did they come from? They were formed inside stars that exploded billions of years ago and at some point found their way onto the Earth. Stellar explosions are still going on today in the galaxy, so some of the chlorine we're eating in salt was made only recently.

You study pathology, Iris. Is physical malfunction part of the cosmic order?

Iris: Absolutely. There are healthy processes, such as growth, for which we need cell division. Then there are processes when things go wrong. We age because we lose the balance between cell deaths and regeneration. That's what we see in the mirror when we age over time. That's also what we see when diseases develop, such as cancers. Cancer is basically a mistake in the DNA, and because of that the whole system can be derailed. Aging and cancer are actually very similar processes. They both originate in the fact that there's a loss of balance between regeneration and cell loss.

Cystic fibrosis is an inherited genetic disease. You inherit an error in the DNA. Because of that, certain tissues do not have the capability to provide their normal function to the body. My work is focused on finding changes in DNA in different populations so we can understand better what kinds of mutations are the basis of that disease. Based on that, we can provide prognosis. There are now drugs that target specific mutations, as well as transplants, so these patients can have a much better life span than was possible 10 or 20 years ago.

How has writing this book changed your view of life—and your view of each other?

Karel: There are two things that struck me, one that I had no idea about. The first is what Iris described earlier—the impermanence of our bodies. As a physicist, I thought the body was built early on, that it would grow and be stable. Iris showed me, over a long series of dinner discussions, that that's not the way it works. Cells die and rebuild all the time. We're literally not what were a few years ago, and not just because of the way we think. Everything around us does this. Nature is not outside us. We are nature.

As far as our relationship is concerned, I always had a great deal of respect for Iris, and physicians in general. They have to know things that I couldn't possibly remember. And that's only grown with time.

Iris: Physics was not my favorite topic in high school. [Laughs] Through Karel and our conversations, I feel that the universe and the world around us has become much more accessible. That was our goal with the book as well. We wanted it to be accessible and understandable for anyone with a high school education. It was a challenge to write it that way, to explain things to each other in lay terms. But it has certainly changed my view of life. It's increased my sense of wonder and appreciation of life.

In terms of Karel's profession and our relationship, it has inevitably deepened. We understand much better what the other person is doing in the sandboxes we respectively play in. [Laughs]

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Spacecraft found on Mars – and it’s ours




Computer image of the Beagle 2


Excerpt from skyandtelescope.com
By Kelly Beatty  


On December 25, 2003, a British-built lander dropped to the Martian surface and disappeared without a trace. Now we know what happened to it.  It's hard to overstate how valuable the main camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been. The craft's High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, or HiRISE, uses a 20-inch (0.5-m) f/24 telescope to record details on the Martian surface as small as 0.3 m (about 10 inches). 

Beagle 2 seen from orbit by HiRISE
An overhead view of Beagle 2's landing site on Isidis Planitia shows a bright reflection from the long-lost spacecraft. Apparently it landed safely on December 25, 2003, and had begun to operate when it failed. NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter recorded this image on December 15, 2014. NASA / JPL / Univ. of Arizona / Univ. of Leicester - See more at: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/beagle-2-lander-found-on-mars-01192015/#sthash.5KSZ8V6W.dpuf


Primarily it's a powerful tool for studying Martian geology at the smallest scales, and NASA scientists sometimes use it to track the progress (and even the arrivals) of their rovers. Beagle 2 on Mars  The clamshell-like Beagle 2 lander weighed just 30 kg, but it was well equipped to study Martian rocks and dust — and even to search for life. Beagle 2 consortium  But the HiRISE team has also been on a years-long quest to find the remains of Beagle 2, a small lander that had hitchhiked to the Red Planet with the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter. It descended to the Martian surface on Christmas Day in 2003 and was never heard from again. Space aficionados have debated its fate ever since. Did parachute failure lead to a crash landing? Did strong surface winds flip the saucer-shaped craft upside down? Did the Martians take it hostage?  Now, thanks to HiRISE, we know more of the story.  
An overhead view of Beagle 2's landing site on Isidis Planitia shows a bright reflection from the long-lost spacecraft. Apparently it landed safely on December 25, 2003, and had begun to operate when it failed. NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter recorded this image on December 15, 2014. NASA / JPL / Univ. of Arizona / Univ. of Leicester 


Images taken in February 2013 and June 2014 of the landing area in Isidis Planitia showed promising blips near the edge of each frame. A follow-up color view, acquired on December 15th and released three days ago, show a bright spot consistent with Beagle 2. The fully-opened lander would have been less than 2 m (6½ feet) across, so the craft is only barely resolved. Apparently the spacecraft made it to the surface intact, opened its clamshell cover, and had partially deployed its four petal-shaped solar-cell panels before something went awry. Beagle 2 seen from orbit by HiRISE  

One encouraging clue is that the bright reflection changes position slightly from image to image, consistent with sunlight reflecting off different lander panels. Two other unusual spots a few hundred meters away appears to be the lander's parachute and part of the cover that served as a shield during the 5½-km-per-second atmospheric descent...


On December 25, 2003, a British-built lander dropped to the Martian surface and disappeared without a trace. Now we know what happened to it.
It's hard to overstate how valuable the main camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been. The craft's High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, or HiRISE, uses a 20-inch (0.5-m) f/24 telescope to record details on the Martian surface as small as 0.3 m (about 10 inches). Primarily it's a powerful tool for studying Martian geology at the smallest scales, and NASA scientists sometimes use it to track the progress (and even the arrivals) of their rovers.
Beagle 2 on Mars
The clamshell-like Beagle 2 lander weighed just 30 kg, but it was well equipped to study Martian rocks and dust — and even to search for life.
Beagle 2 consortium
But the HiRISE team has also been on a years-long quest to find the remains of Beagle 2, a small lander that had hitchhiked to the Red Planet with the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter. It descended to the Martian surface on Christmas Day in 2003 and was never heard from again. Space aficionados have debated its fate ever since. Did parachute failure lead to a crash landing? Did strong surface winds flip the saucer-shaped craft upside down? Did the Martians take it hostage?
Now, thanks to HiRISE, we know more of the story. Images taken in February 2013 and June 2014 of the landing area in Isidis Planitia showed promising blips near the edge of each frame. A follow-up color view, acquired on December 15th and released three days ago, show a bright spot consistent with Beagle 2. The fully-opened lander would have been less than 2 m (6½ feet) across, so the craft is only barely resolved. Apparently the spacecraft made it to the surface intact, opened its clamshell cover, and had partially deployed its four petal-shaped solar-cell panels before something went awry.
Beagle 2 seen from orbit by HiRISE
An overhead view of Beagle 2's landing site on Isidis Planitia shows a bright reflection from the long-lost spacecraft. Apparently it landed safely on December 25, 2003, and had begun to operate when it failed. NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter recorded this image on December 15, 2014.
NASA / JPL / Univ. of Arizona / Univ. of Leicester
One encouraging clue is that the bright reflection changes position slightly from image to image, consistent with sunlight reflecting off different lander panels. Two other unusual spots a few hundred meters away appears to be the lander's parachute and part of the cover that served as a shield during the 5½-km-per-second atmospheric descent.
The initial images didn't just show up. They'd been requested and searched by Michael Croon of Trier, Germany, who'd served on the Mars Express operations team. Croon had asked for specific camera targeting through a program called HiWish, through which anyone can submit suggestions for HiRISE images. Read more about this fascinating sleuthing story.
"Not knowing what happened to Beagle 2 remained a nagging worry," comments Rudolf Schmidt in an ESA press release about the find. "Understanding now that Beagle 2 made it all the way down to the surface is excellent news." Schmidt served as the Mars Express project manager at the time.
Built by a consortium of organizations, Beagle 2 was the United Kingdom's first interplanetary spacecraft. The 32-kg (73-pound) lander carried six instruments to study geochemical characteristics of the Martian surface and to test for the presence of life using assays of carbon isotopes. It was named for HMS Beagle, the ship that carried a crew of 73 (including Charles Darwin) on an epic voyage of discovery in 1831–36.
- See more at: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/beagle-2-lander-found-on-mars-01192015/#sthash.5KSZ8V6W.dpuf

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