“we are our choices.”
image credit: new yorker cartoons – roz chast
Scanning electron microscope image of one of the clumps of presolar grains, or stardust. Image via Janaína N. Ávila/EurekAlert!
Grains of stardust – particles left behind by star explosions – in an Australian meteorite are now the oldest known material on Earth. A new study suggests this stardust came to be long before our sun ever existed.
As the saying goes, we are all made of stardust. It’s true. The elements in our bodies – oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, calcium and so on – are made in the thermonuclear furnaces of stars. When scientists speak of stardust, or cosmic dust, they’re speaking of the leftover tiny particles from dead stars that exploded as supernovae. This stardust later goes into forming new stars, planets and moons, including those in our own solar system. It goes into the solar system’s debris, the asteroids and comets, and ultimately meteorites, or rocks from space that find their way to Earth’s surface. Now scientists at the Field Museum in Chicago have found the oldest known samples of stardust in a meteorite that landed in Australia. The meteorite is estimated to be 5 to 7 billion years old. The stardust samples are the oldest material ever discovered on Earth. This dust is even older than our solar system.
The new peer-reviewed study was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on January 13, 2020.
credits: SPACE – Paul Scott Anderson, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Earth Sky, Chicago Field Museum, Phillip Heck
how many bubbles are in a glass of champagne?
french researcher, gerard liger-belair
has spent more than 15 years studying the drink
and has released his best guess:
that is science, trial and error, trying until you get it right.
in support of his very thorough study,
I may be conducting my own research this evening.
“champagne…it gives you the impression that every day is sunday.”
– marlene detrich
credits: veuve cliquot vintage ad, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, bbc
Membership to one of the most exclusive clubs in the world takes place around a short red and white striped pole in Antarctica. Only those who endure an atmospheric difference of 300 degrees Fahrenheit are granted entry.
To join the elite 300 Club, residents at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, where on winter days the outside temperature dips below -100 degrees, must bare it all. It’s an odd tradition, one that comes with a high risk of frostbite in rather sensitive, traditionally clothed areas.
To join the exclusive group, the scientists must first spend time in the station’s 200-degree sauna. Once they’re fully cooked, they dash outside (at a brisk walk, because running is dangerous) wearing nothing but shoes and an optional neck gaiter to circle the ceremonial South Pole marker, which is hundreds of feet from the station. They then get back into the steamy sauna, which helps thaw their outsides while a bit of alcohol warms them up inside. Those who complete the challenge even earn a commemorative patch.
Though the thought of a naked scientist racing across the ice in dangerously cold temperatures to circle a pole may seem simply absurd, it’s actually a beloved ritual. The temperature only gets low enough a handful of days each year, giving the wacky tradition an almost ceremonial feel. Participants are usually cheered on by bystanders who use flashlights to guide them to the pole during the perpetual winter blackness.
The marker isn’t even the true location of the South Pole. Antarctica is blanketed by massive chunks of moving ice sheets that move about 30 feet each year. The ice’s inability to sit still makes pinpointing the world’s most southern spot with permanent precision impossible.
Finding and marking the accurate geographic South Pole is an annual (fully clothed) New Year’s Day tradition for those staying at the station. Every year since 1959, South Pole residents erect a new temporary marker at the spot and retire the old one into a display case inside the station. The ceremonial South Pole remains where it is, flanked by the flags, awaiting the next group of winter scientists hoping to join one of the world’s weirdest clubs.
“we take to the breeze, we go as we please.”
― E.B. White
story credits: Atlas obscura, kerry wolf
photo credits: martin wolf – national science foundation,
craig knott – national science foundation, alan light
On an eight-day flight aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour in 1992, AAAS member Mae Carol Jemison became the first African American woman to travel in space. Happy International Day of Women and Girls in Science!
Mae C. Jemison, born on this day in 1956, has a few firsts to her name: She was the first woman of color in space, as well as the only real astronaut to have served on the U.S.S. Enterprise, where she portrayed a lieutenant on an episode of Star Trek: TNG.
“we inhabit a universe that is characterized by diversity.”