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A week in space: Mining asteroids, boats on Titan, bubbles inside bubbles inside bubbles, and more

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Artists impression of asteroid mining. Credit: NASA

The big story this week was the launch of Planetary Resources, an asteroid mining company backed by the likes of James Cameron, Larry Page and Eric Schmidt. You can watch the full webcast of the press conference on YouTube. Paul Raeburn at the Knight Science Journalism Tracker has a good round up of the coverage and points out how little scepticism there has been, saying “…there is nothing especially romantic about carving up asteroids to feed an unsustainable demand for metals and minerals.” I must admit, as cool as asteroid mining sounds, similar thoughts did cross my mind too. As if predicting doubters, Forbes stepped in to speak to the company’s President Chris Lewicki and tell us how the company is already making money.

Oh, and while we’re on the topic of asteroids: The only thing that can stop this asteroid is your liberal arts degree.

“In a knitted spacesuit and tight-fitting helmet, Camilla the rubber chicken floated to the edge of space in a modified lunchbox as the sun unleashed the most intense radiation storm since 2003.” Need I say more?

If you want to know more about the big dark matter news from last week, read this blog post.

Another blow to astrophysics, as cosmic rays are not doing what we’d like them to. (For more detail, see this article.)

NASA released an supercut of footage of Earth from space, complete with dramatic music.

Scientists want to send a boat to Titan: “It’s a boat, essentially. You’d have been locked up… if you’d suggested that before.”

If this is what astronauts get to do all day, I want to be one even more now.

Prototype space shuttle Enterprise was flown over New York on Friday morning. I couldn’t see it from here in London, obviously, but those at the Scientific American offices got a good view. Though not as good as this one

Here at Basic Space, I shared stories of snowballs around Saturn and meteorites from Mars. And over at BBC Future, I have a feature up about space weather forecasting: Cloudy, with a chance of solar flares. (If you’re reading from the UK, you might prefer this link.)

I’m afraid that’s it from me. Does anyone who hasn’t been in revision-induced hiding have any important/interesting/cool space links? Share them in the comments.

Kelly Oakes About the Author: Kelly Oakes has a master's in science communication and a physics degree, both from Imperial College London. Now she spends her days writing about science. Follow on Twitter @kahoakes.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. Tom Storm 11:30 am 04/29/2012

    How refreshing – a cynical scientist. Good science needs its cynics – how else we gonna deal with perpetual motion machines – the real and practical applications for the Segue – Schrödinger’s Cat after the invention of the
    wi-fi camera – reliance on Russia to keep the US Space Program aloft. I do feel bad about the Shuttle but I do feel good about the helium cooled Sabre engine powering Skylon.
    Give me cynical scientists with a sense of humor – and put the shiny eyed evangelists like whatsisname Peotr Diamantis in the Museum with 19th. century French hot air balloons.
    On mining asteroids the best idea I’ve heard so far is to attach wings, tail fin and small rocket and fly the thing back to earth.

    Link to this
  2. 2. Torbjörn Larsson, OM 5:11 pm 04/29/2012

    The implication that a Poisson source model of the galaxy is a blow is AFAIU from the outside not a fact.

    First, it is an old problem from at least the 90′s.

    Second, at the beginning ordinary matter were a putatively important dark matter component. That has disappeared, yet the model problem stands.

    Third, dark matter is now tested everywhere else. Implying that it is the Poisson model that has a problem, not dark matter.

    Link to this
  3. 3. HubertB 9:18 pm 05/3/2012

    Who knows, before long someone like Kelly Oakes is likely to say, “Instead of talking about the cosmological constant, dark matter, and dark energy, we should really say, ‘We do not have the foggiest idea why we are getting these results’.”

    Link to this

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