Tag Archives: laboratory

Federal government builds a net-zero energy McMansion

I know what you’re thinking, how can a McMansion be green – especially with tiny homes becoming popular – and when you see the photo below you’ll be even more skeptical. Add in the $2.5 million price tag and it sounds like a bridge-to-nowhere disaster. But before you pass judgement let’s learn more about the home.

It’s a 2,700 square-foot house with two stories, four bedrooms, three bathrooms, and an oversized two-car garage. Not your average American home, more like something designed for a wealthy neighbor. And that fits because this home has the best green fixtures money can buy. The multi-million dollar price purchases:

  • Configurable solar panels
  • High thermal efficiency building materials
  • Solar water heater
  • Smart thermostat (rooms can have different temperatures)
  • High velocity, insulated heating/cooling air system
  • Humidifier/dehumidifier
  • Ultra-efficient windows
  • Full details – pdf, page 2

The design allows the National Institute of Standards and Technology to turn the home into a laboratory, where they will test all the features – with no one home. Lights will turn on in the morning and after work. There will be fake microwaving and fake cheering for a football team on the TV. Garage doors will open and close several times. All to simulate the energy use of a typical family of four.

All kidding aside, this is a serious scientific experiment, “buildings account for 40 % of the primary energy consumption and 72 % of the electricity consumption in the United States, while accounting for 40 % of the CO2 emissions…will develop and deploy the measurement science to move the nation towards net-zero energy, high-performance buildings in a cost-effective manner while maintaining a healthy indoor environment.”

It’s a great goal – to have net-zero energy homes – but why did they have to do their research on a McMansion?

 

Learn more about the home – Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility (NZERTF)

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Mars rover Curiosity test fires the laser – pulverizes a rock just for fun (and science)

Johnny Five, aka the Mars rover Curiosity, continues its scientific journey. The nuclear-powered laboratory in-a-box pulled out it’s laser to blast a rock that got in its way. From NASA:

The mission’s ChemCam instrument hit a fist-sized rock named “Coronation” with 30 pulses of its laser during a 10-second period. Each pulse delivers more than a million watts of power for about five one-billionths of a second.

The energy from the laser creates a puff of ionized, glowing plasma. ChemCam catches the light with a telescope and analyzes it with three spectrometers for information about what elements are in the rock.

 

NASA said the main function of this was target practice to calibrate the ChemCam.

You gotta love the sense of play NASA is bringing to this mission. Not only are they releasing these stories about test-firing lasers, but they are all over social medial, including fan art on Facebook, a first-person Twitter account, sharing stories on Google Plus, and posting articles on their much more user-friendly website.

A great idea for the much beleaguered space agency, that I assume is a bid to get them back into America’s good graces…and taxpayer dollars.

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NASA releases a full 360-degree panorama of Mars surface – feels like you’re there

NASA has released an amazing panorama shot of Mars:

 

This full-circle scene combines 817 images taken by the panoramic camera (Pancam) on NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity. It shows the terrain that surrounded the rover while it was stationary for four months of work during its most recent Martian winter.

Its release this week coincides with two milestones: Opportunity completing its 3,000th Martian day on July 2, and NASA continuing past 15 years of robotic presence at Mars.

 

And, Panoramas.dk has turned it into a it’s-like-you’re-there 360-degree view. Make sure to visit Panorama.dk, the shot will make you feel like you are on the surface of Mars.

 

A screenshot of 90-degrees of the panorama:

 

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Astronomers discover black hole with 140 trillion times more water than Earth

Two teams of astronomers have discovered the largest and farthest reservoir of water ever detected in the universe. The water, equivalent to 140 trillion times all the water in the world’s ocean, surrounds a huge, feeding black hole, called a quasar, more than 12 billion light-years away.

“The environment around this quasar is very unique in that it’s producing this huge mass of water,” said Matt Bradford, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “It’s another demonstration that water is pervasive throughout the universe, even at the very earliest times.”

A quasar is powered by an enormous black hole that steadily consumes a surrounding disk of gas and dust. As it eats, the quasar spews out huge amounts of energy. Both groups of astronomers studied a particular quasar called APM 08279+5255, which harbors a black hole 20 billion times more massive than the sun and produces as much energy as a thousand trillion suns.

Astronomers expected water vapor to be present even in the early, distant universe, but had not detected it this far away before. There’s water vapor in the Milky Way, although the total amount is 4,000 times less than in the quasar, because most of the Milky Way’s water is frozen in ice.

 

And, the instruments they used:

Bradford’s team made their observations starting in 2008, using an instrument called “Z-Spec” at the California Institute of Technology’s Submillimeter Observatory, a 33-foot (10-meter) telescope near the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Follow-up observations were made with the Combined Array for Research in Millimeter-Wave Astronomy (CARMA), an array of radio dishes in the Inyo Mountains of Southern California.

The second group, led by Dariusz Lis, senior research associate in physics at Caltech and deputy director of the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory, used the Plateau de Bure Interferometer in the French Alps to find water.

 

Source: NASA - Astronomers Find Largest, Most Distant Reservoir of Water

 

 

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NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s multiple crusades to improve public health

Mike Bloomberg is a mayor with a mission. More specifically, a public health mission: Over the course of a decade he has made New York City a laboratory to test policies that manipulate the healthiness of public environments. His much-protested idea for a large-soda ban comes from a long lineage of much-protested smoking bans and trans-fat bans that have tested what, exactly, government can and cannot do to encourage healthier behaviors.

Some of Bloomberg’s ideas have proved remarkably effective in making New Yorkers healthier and become models for national policy. Some have flopped, showing little public health impact or running into trouble even getting off the ground. From smoking to soda bans, here’s a quick tour through Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s public health crusade.

  • NYC first major city to ban smoking in bars and restaurants.
  • Bans the use of trans-fat in all foods.
  • Requires restaurants to post calorie counts.
  • Proposes a voluntary effort on behalf of Americans’ food producers to reduce salt consumption by 20 percent.
  • Congestion pricing for cars entering New York City.
  • Limit access to sugary sodas.

 

keep reading to learn the impact on public health of each policyMayor Bloomberg Public Health: A Brief History

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Advanced computers push science forward through millions of hours of processing power

Harnessing the power of supercomputers and their million hours of processing power has allowed some very intriguing physics calculations to take place. One of them is the study of matter in the universe on a subatomic level.

The question, how did we arrive at a universe composed almost exclusively of matter with virtually no antimatter?

The calculation took 54 million processor hours on the IBM BlueGene/P supercomputer at the Argonne National Laboratory in the U.S.

The new research, reported in the March 30 issue of Physical Review Letters, represents an important milestone in understanding kaon decays — which are a fundamental process in physics. It is also inspiring the development of a new generation of supercomputers that will allow the next step in this research.

“It has taken several decades of theoretical developments and the arrival of very powerful supercomputers to enable physicists to control the interactions of the quarks and gluons, the constituents of the elementary particles, with sufficient precision to explore the limits of the standard model and to test new theories,” says Chris Sachrajda, Professor of Physics at the University of Southampton, one of the members of the research team publishing the new findings.

The process by which a kaon decays into two lighter particles known as pions was explored in a 1964 Nobel Prize-winning experiment. This revealed the first experimental evidence of a phenomenon known as charge-parity (CP) violation — a lack of symmetry between particles and their corresponding antiparticles that may explain why the Universe is made of matter, and not antimatter.

via Science Daily - continue reading about the next generation of supercomputers, 10-20 times more powerful…

Argonne's Blue Gene/P Supercomputer

 

// Photo via Argonne National Lab - Article via Lauren Weinstein

NASA's latest Mars probe, Curiosity, a nuclear robot with science fiction abilities

Tomorrow morning NASA will launch a Mars Probe, MSL Curiosity, into space for an eight month space journey and then a one year trek across the surface of the planet.

A brief description of the probe:

A new robotic mission to Mars, carrying 10 highly sophisticated instruments to seek the basic chemicals of life in the planet’s ancient rocks, is standing on the launchpad at Cape Canaveral, ready to lift off Saturday morning aboard an Atlas V rocket on a 350 million-mile journey.

The six-wheeled rover named Curiosity is headed for the flanks of a Martian mountain that exists inside a crater where layers of sedimentary rock may hold evidence of what the planet was like a billion or more years ago: warmer, probably; wetter, most probably; and an abode for living organisms – just maybe.

Curiosity’s tools will drill into the mountain’s layered rocks and zap them with a laser so spectrometers can analyze the powdery particles to determine their composition.

Via SFGate

There’s more to the story than lasers and spectral analysis, including a return to nuclear powered robots, this one has a core of plutonium. Not to mention that Curiosity looks like Johnny Five’s bigger, geekier older brother, but that’s not what fascinates me.

It’s the science fiction that does. Two key elements of this mission remind me directly of Star Wars. The first is the Sky Crane that uses rocket thrusters to lower the robot to the surface of Mars.

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NASA’s latest Mars probe, Curiosity, a nuclear robot with science fiction abilities

Tomorrow morning NASA will launch a Mars Probe, MSL Curiosity, into space for an eight month space journey and then a one year trek across the surface of the planet.

A brief description of the probe:

A new robotic mission to Mars, carrying 10 highly sophisticated instruments to seek the basic chemicals of life in the planet’s ancient rocks, is standing on the launchpad at Cape Canaveral, ready to lift off Saturday morning aboard an Atlas V rocket on a 350 million-mile journey.

The six-wheeled rover named Curiosity is headed for the flanks of a Martian mountain that exists inside a crater where layers of sedimentary rock may hold evidence of what the planet was like a billion or more years ago: warmer, probably; wetter, most probably; and an abode for living organisms – just maybe.

Curiosity’s tools will drill into the mountain’s layered rocks and zap them with a laser so spectrometers can analyze the powdery particles to determine their composition.

Via SFGate

There’s more to the story than lasers and spectral analysis, including a return to nuclear powered robots, this one has a core of plutonium. Not to mention that Curiosity looks like Johnny Five’s bigger, geekier older brother, but that’s not what fascinates me.

It’s the science fiction that does. Two key elements of this mission remind me directly of Star Wars. The first is the Sky Crane that uses rocket thrusters to lower the robot to the surface of Mars.

Continue reading