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Asteroid with its Own Moon is the Best Thing Ever.

Just a quickie here, but we have an asteroid due to pass the Earth today – Asteroid 1998 Q#2 – that has its own little moon.Check out this NASA JPL video:

Isn’t that sweet? It’s like that mother and baby owl picture that keeps getting passed around the internet. Only with death and destruction from the skies (not really – we’re safe).

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3D Pizza Printer is the Best Thing Ever

I love pizza. Sure, everyone does right? But I mean I looooove pizza. I would marry it if I could. You know, with a tiny veil and a little bouquet for my little pizza bride…um, never mind.

So here is some awesome pizza related news from NASA! When you combine NASA and pizza, you know you’re in for a good time. NASA has handed out a $125,000.00 grant to Systems and Materials Research Corporation, based in Austin Texas, to develop a 3D food printer, which would print food on demand from canisters containing powdered nutrients. Check out this schematic:

via qz.com

Senior Mechanical Engineer Anjan Contractor won the grant with his proof of concept video, which shows a 3D printer printing chocolate. Apparently chocolate printing is not as new as I thought it was, and it’s damn boring to watch considering it’s implications for the future. But watch it anyway, Okay?

Of course NASA isn’t doing this out of the goodness of its heart, but rather with an eye to feeding its astronauts on interplanetary journeys. One of the main features of the 3D food printer is that it printers from canisters of powdered nutrients which will be shelf stable for up to 30 years.

So, Mr. Contractor’s first order of business is to construct a device capable of 3D printing a pizza, a food chosen because of its distinct layers. First the crust gets printed, and cooked as it prints (I have no idea how that would work), then the tomato sauce, then a nebulous sounding “protein layer” which I guess would mimic cheese. I think they could have spun that last bit a little better, don’t you? By calling it ‘space cheese’ or something? Wait. Maybe that’s actually worse…

https://i1.wp.com/www.missfidget.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/Cheese-Space-Station-22259.jpg

But I’d still eat it. And right after the pizza I am going to print me out some tea. Earl Grey. Hot. Hehehehehhehe. I’m giddy with anticipation. 3D printed food is the Best Thing Ever. Now somebody 3D print me a sandwich…

Sources:

http://qz.com/86685/the-audacious-plan-to-end-hunger-with-3-d-printed-food/

http://www.theverge.com/2013/5/21/4350948/nasa-funding-3d-food-printer-pizza?utm_source=feedly

Scale of the Universe Infographic is the Best Thing Ever

“Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.” Douglas Adams

When I think of objects that are either really big or really small there is a definite limit to my imagination. Once things get past a certain size, I lose all sense of their size relative to each other. Milky Way Galaxy? Horsehead Nebula? Really really big.  Gas Giant? Really really big. It’s just hard to wrap the limited human mind around. But that’s OK. Now I have help:

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Thanks to Reddit, I stumbled across this neato interactive infographic made by Cary Huang – The Scale of the Universe. You can zoom in and out from the smallest thing in the universe to the biggest thing, the universe itself. Go right now! You will love it. I swear.

Some highlights:

Minecraft World: Ok, so technically not a thing in the universe, but its included so I’ll mention it. Minecraft world is huge! At 64 000 kilometres, it is pictured as being on a comparable scale with Neptune and Uranus.

Russell’s Teapot: I didn’t realise there was a stated size for the darn thing, but there is. Its 25 centimetres.

Japanese Spider Crab: Bigger than any spidery looking thing has any right to be (3 metres). Yikes!

Phobos: At 23 kiometres, its about the same size as a neutron star.  And both are smaller than Rhode Island. Who knew?

Human Egg: At 120 micrometres it is just barely big enough to be seen by the human eye. Apparently humans can’t see anything smaller than 100 micrometres.

Proxima Centari: At 200 000 kilometres it could easily fit in between the earth and the moon. Except, you know, bad stuff would happen.

Gomez’s Hamburger: it’s a real thing. In space. And it’s enormous, measuring 2.5 trillion kilometres in total, but honestly? It’s a hotdog.

Visible light: those are some teensy wavelengths. Violet light is 400 nanometres, and red light is 750 nanometres. I guess that’s how they fit them in your eye! I’m joking, don’t hit me!

There’s lots more in there to see. Go have a look (but I recommend you turn the music off – it’s annoying). The Scale of the Universe is the Best Thing Ever.

Three Doctor Who Episodes That Need to Exist, But Don’t

1. Death of River Song.

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When I saw this, I was kind of horrified but they make a good case and I do love me a good closed loop. Via io9. http://io9.com/5972259/10-science-fiction-tv-characters-we-hope-will-die-in-2013?tag=superlist

2. The Time War.

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We know very little about the time war, so it could likely take up an entire season to flesh out. All we really know is that after attempting the Ultimate Sanction, Paul McGann’s very brief (and kinda hot) Doctor seals the Time Lords away in a time lock, and flees, very likely dying in the process. We never see this, but the intense, emotional doctor we end up with is a testament to the traumatic nature of this event. Via topless robot. http://www.toplessrobot.com/2012/12/5_reasons_why_making_a_great_doctor_who_video_game.php?page=2

3. The Doctor Meets Arthur Dent.

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Douglas Adams and Doctor Who are a natural match (for obvious reasons). Adams’ whacked-out H2G2 characters would make and awesome foil for the Ninth Doctor, who alternates between broody intensity and light sarcasm. Referenced in the Christmas Invasion.

Am I the only one who does this? What’s on your Doctor Who wish list? Lemme know…

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NASA Plan to give the Moon a Little Sister is the Best Thing Ever

We need some good news today. So listen to this: over at National Geographic they’re saying that NASA is planning a mission to capture an asteroid and bring it into orbit around the moon. The asteroid would then be available to study and to mine at our leisure. How awesome is that?

My first thought was: “Will we be able to see this Little Sister from Earth?” I sincerely hope so. It would be amazing to look up into the sky and see (with the naked eye) something that we put there. How inspiring would it be to stand outside with your kids, point to the sky  and say that despite all the BS that divides us, a bunch of people got together and put a freaking asteroid in orbit around the moon.

And before anyone mentions it I have seen the International Space Station in the sky before (thanks to Heavens Above, which should probably have it’s own Best Thing Ever post.)

Here’s NASA’s conception of how the mission would run:

The NASA page is a little light on details, as they are still in the proposal stage. It mostly focuses on how this mission will piggyback on knowledge gained from other missions, such as the Near Earth Object Program, to select candidate asteroids and to fine-tune the mission details.

According to National Geographic:

In a presentation, NASA associate administrator Robert Lightfoot laid out the agency’s timeline for the mission: target selection in 2016, asteroid capture in 2019, and the first astronaut visits to the relocated rock in 2021.

Isn’t that exciting? With any luck, this will be just the beginning of humanity’s Age of Exploration in space. Humanity growing up and taking its first steps out into space is the Best. Thing. Ever.

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NASA’s Amazing Earth Month Videos

NASA has declared April to be Earth Month – four solid weeks dedicated to, “understanding and sustaining our home planet”. NASA has collected its best views of Earth from orbit of 2012 in one place:

You can always count on NASA for rousing good space images. Also I like how NASA writers say “our home planet” as if they needed to specify…but maybe that’s what they were going for?

Anyway, you can go here to explore all the clips in detail.

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There’s No Joystick For Driving a Mars Rover

No joystick?! I was pretty sure it was just like playing Combat on an Atari 2600. I’m sad now…

I just discovered NASA’s Mars in a Minute series of videos. They explain important aspects of the Mars Curiosity mission and are short enough to hold even my limited attention span. Packed with information in an upbeat format, these little videos were a hit with me and my six-year-old.

Check these out:

‘Wish you were here’ indeed!

Solar conjunction is coming in April. How will it affect Mars missions?

Vacation time. Surf’s up!

Mars isn’t red?

Mmmmm…butterscotch.

Seriously. These are sooo short you have no reason not to go and watch them all right now. These are the Best Thing Ever.

Via NASA.

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Doctor Who Parodies are the Best Thing Ever

I’ve only ever seen one episode of Community. And this is the reason why i tuned in:

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is a strange fandom. How can that be anything but good? Consider:

I’m pretty sure I’ve blogged this one before, but if you haven’t seen Curse of the Fatal Death, then you need to see it. If you _have_ seen it, you need to see it again. Rowan Atkinson is superlative as the Doctor, as is Joanna Lumley, who makes me yearn for a female doctor.

This odd bit from Barely Political. “He’s from Belgium. Or space…”

And a couple of quickies from Robot Chicken:

It took me exactly 23 hours to get that last one. That’s how awesome it is. Lemme know if I missed one of your favourites. Doctor Who parodies are the Best Thing Ever.

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First Lunar Base May be 3D Printed

The title of this Wired article incorporates just about every awesome word I know:

Giant NASA Spider Robots Could 3D Print Lunar Base Using Microwaves

It would only be more awesome if it incorporated the adjective “timey-wimey” and the phrase “Geiger-style” or possibly “fine Corinthian.”

I’m just saying.

Fig. 1: 2nd generation ATHLETE unloading cargo
ATHLETE rover Image NASA JPL website

The basic idea is to use athlete rovers fitted with microwave powered 3D printers to build a moonbase out of lunar dust, brick by brick.

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Image credit NASA website

The project, apparently, would require microwave units no more powerful than you use at home, which would be used to fuse lunar dust into a sort of ceramic. How cool is that? It’s cost effective because it uses material already on the moon, so no need to transport building materials, or even human builders to set it up.

NASA has a great, accessible backgrounder on 3D printing a lunar base, where they estimate a base could be built at a rate of one building per week. That’s fast.

You can’t tell me people wouldn’t eat this up. The mission would launch and the payoff would come almost immediately. I grew up in an era when lunar settlements seemed inevitable. The moon, after all, is only a few days journey away. Why the heck not go there? Isn’t the planet feeling a little small these days?