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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: October 2004
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Large Hadron Collider
CERN to probe life, the universe and everything
(Oct 19, 2004)

It has revolutionized physics, made Nobel Prize winners and given birth to the World Wide Web – now its successor looks set to answer some of the natural world's most fundamental questions. CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, has made many formidable discoveries since its launch 50 years ago, but these achievements could be dwarfed by findings from a 17-mile accelerator, or particle-smasher, being assembled outside Geneva. From 2007 it will be firing particles at speeds nearing that of light, before smashing them together to re-create the conditions scientists believe existed less than one billionth of a second after the Big Bang - the birth of the cosmos some 14 billion years ago.

Read more. Source: Reuters/MSNBC

magnetized-beam plasma propulsion
Is a 90-day Mars round trip possible via new propulsion?
(Oct 18, 2004)

A new means of propelling spacecraft being developed at the University of Washington could dramatically cut the time needed for astronauts to travel to and from Mars and could make humans a permanent fixture in space. In fact, with magnetized-beam plasma propulsion, or mag-beam, quick trips to distant parts of the solar system could become routine, said Robert Winglee, a UW Earth and space sciences professor who is leading the project.

Read more. Source: University of Washington

new-found globular cluster
Newfound star cluster may be final Milky Way 'fossil'
(Oct 16, 2004)

Just when astronomers thought they might have dug up the last of our galaxy's "fossils," they've discovered a new one in the galactic equivalent of our own backyard. Called globular clusters, these ancient bundles of stars date back to the birth of our Milky Way galaxy, 13 or so billion years ago. They are sprinkled around the center of the galaxy like seeds in a pumpkin. Astronomers use clusters as tools for studying the Milky Way's age and formation. New infrared images from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and the University of Wyoming Infrared Observatory reveal a never-before-seen globular cluster within the dusty confines of the Milky Way.

Read more. Source: Caltech / Spitzer Telescope

neuron connection
Paralysed man sends e-mail by thought
(Oct 15, 2004)

A pill-sized brain chip has allowed a quadriplegic man to check e-mail and play computer games using his thoughts. The device can tap into a hundred neurons (such as the one illustrated here) at a time, and is the most sophisticated such implant tested in humans so far. Many paralysed people control computers with their eyes or tongue. But muscle function limits these techniques, and they require a lot of training. For over a decade researchers have been trying to find a way to tap directly into thoughts.

Read more. Source: Nature

Giant virus qualifies as 'living organism'
(Oct 15, 2004)

Roll up, roll up, to meet Mimi, the biggest virus in the world. This monster has just had its genome sequenced, and scientists say that, unlike its fellow viruses, it may truly be called 'alive'. The virus's genetic sequence also holds clues that may explain the evolution of the very first cells possessing a nucleus of DNA.

Read more. Source: Nature

Lake Bosmtwi crater
Drilling for Africa's climate history
(Oct 14, 2004)

The still waters of Lake Bosumtwi impose a sense of deep calm on those who visit the sub-Saharan African nation of Ghana. But the silence, punctuated by occasional frogs' croaks and bird calls, belies a violent origin. "A million years ago, this was the site of an enormous catastrophe," explains Christian Koeberl, a geologist from Vienna University, Austria. "We had a lush rainforest, filled with animals minding their own business, when a kilometre-sized rock came hurtling down from space, at enormous velocity, and crashed into the ground here.

Read more. Source: BBC

Anniversary launch for 'nanosats'
(Oct 13, 2004)

Fifty mini-satellites are to be sent into space to celebrate the launch of the first such object, Sputnik 1. The "nanosats", each weighing 1kg, will blast into orbit on board an Ariane rocket in 2007, said Arianespace. Each satellite will represent a nation, and will do small-scale research experiments during two years in orbit. The former Soviet Union's Sputnik 1 was the size of a basketball and became the first artificial satellite of the Earth on 4 October, 1957.

Read more. Source: BBC

Jodrell Bank
Radio astronomers remove the blindfold
(Oct 12, 2004)

UK astronomers at the Jodrell Bank Observatory, working with colleagues from Europe and the USA, have demonstrated a new technique that will revolutionise the way they observe. To create the very best quality images of the sky, they routinely combine data from multiple telescopes around the world - a technique called Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI). They have now combined this with the resources of dedicated internet resources to send data from all the telescopes to a special computer, to combine the observations in real-time (e-VLBI).

Read more. Source: PPARC

space garbage
Lost in space: the killer screwdriver
(Oct 11, 2004)

Bolts, old screwdrivers, plastic bags, paint, broken pens, bent CDs - they are the kind of objects you would expect to find in a list of rubbish. Except that this collection of litter is not to be found in the bin at the end of the front garden, but whizzing about in space, threatening to collide with astronauts. Astronomers working for the European Space Agency (ESA) warned yesterday that space is so full of rubbish that it has become a danger to the people and satellites in it. A team from the Canary Islands Institute of Astrophysics predicted that it will have detected around 100,000 fragments of space rubbish by the time it has finished a definitive catalogue.

Read more. Source: Guardian

black hole
Black holes haunt ghost particle theory
(Oct 11, 2004)

The theory that claims to solve cosmology’s major mysteries by proposing that empty space is filled with a fluid of ghostly particles may, literally, be going down the cosmic drain. According to the test calculations, the universe’s black holes would be slurping up any such fluid. The ghost condensate theory, proposed last year, is a modified form of Einstein’s general theory of relativity. It posits an all-pervading fluid of massless particles that exhibits a repulsive gravity, making it behave like an elastic band that stores more and more energy as it stretches out.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

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