New Horizons slingshots past Jupiter

New Horizons has received it's gravity assist from Jupiter and is on it's way to Pluto. I was surprised to see how far from Jupiter the probe actually passes. When you think of a gravity slingshot, it seems that the probe would be grazing the surface to get maximum acceleration, when in fact it's still outside the orbits of the Galilean satellites at closest approach.

New Horizons set a record for fastest transit time Earth-to-Jupiter of just over a year.


Interplanetary Internet

A couple years ago, IEEE Spectrum did an article on the Interplanetary Internet, a concept for extending the terrestrial internet into space, and specifically for communications with assets in orbit and on the surface of Mars.

During Columbia's final mission, the first IP file transfer between an orbiting shuttle and the ground took place. Typically the exact route of a transmission, such as which ground station is to be used, is determined a priori. This was the first time the packet found it's way into orbit on it's own.

At the time of that article, internet pioneer and co-creator of TCP/IP Vint Cerf was related to the JPL group that held that it would not be possible to extend TCP/IP beyond low earth orbit due to the lengthy time delays involved, favouring instead the creation of a 'delay-tolerant-networking' protocol.

It seems this effort is now known as the InterPlaNet protocol.

The Fermi Paradox

The Fermi Paradox can be defined thusly:

The size and age of the universe suggest that many technologically advanced extraterrestrial civilizations ought to exist. However, this belief seems logically inconsistent with the lack of observational evidence to support it. Either the initial assumption is incorrect and technologically advanced intelligent life is much rarer than believed, current observations are incomplete and human beings have not detected other civilizations yet, or search methodologies are flawed and incorrect indicators are being sought.

The Space Review talks about a book on the paradox by Stephen Webb, where he delineates 50 possible solutions to the paradox, from autonomous alien weapons to the fact that we're alone.

There is also a new episode of the Universe Today podcast on the Fermi Paradox.

Charting our health by the stars

Charting our health by the stars is a study conducted in Ontario to find correlations between Zodiacal signs and health, to illustrate how easy it can be for a study to produce false results.

Their conclusion:

“There is a danger in basing scientific decisions on the results of one study, particularly if the results were unanticipated or the association was one that we did not initially decide to examine,” says Austin. “But when several studies all arrive at similar conclusions, we reduce the risk of arriving at an incorrect outcome.”

I would note that most news stories about science are actually reports of one-time studies with surprising results. Is any wonder that the public can dismiss science as fickle 'first they said this, now they say that' flip-flopping given the nature of how it is reported. You're rarely going to see a breaking news flash that there is now large-scale scientific consensus on a particular topic. Instead, you're likely to hear that a single study shows Cocoa may improve brain blood flow, or something similarly biased towards small dietary changes saving your life. At least, when it isn't an out-and-out human interest story.

Zodiac study via Wired.

Space paintings by Don Davis

Don Davis is a space artist who did several works for NASA over his career. Happily, he's released them on to the public domain on his website since they were publicly funded.

New Blogger

Decided to give the new blogger a whirl, and looking to reinvigorate this thing. Perpetuating the theory that 40% of all blog posts are along the lines of "I'm going to start posting more."