Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Temperature At The Earth's Core


For the first time, scientists have directly measured the amount of heat flowing from the molten metal of Earth's core into a region at the base of the mantle, a process that helps drive both the movement of tectonic plates at the surface and the geodynamo in the core that generates Earth's magnetic field.

The boundary between the core and the mantle lies half-way to the center of the Earth, at a depth of 1,740 miles (2,900 kilometers). Seismologists are able to probe the structure of this region by studying its effects on seismic waves generated by earthquakes. The new temperature measurements were obtained by relating seismic observations to a recently discovered mineral transformation that occurs at the ultrahigh pressures and temperatures prevailing near the core-mantle boundary.


The temperature at the upper boundary of the lens, where the phase transition from perovskite to postperovskite occurs, is around 2,500 kelvins (4,000° F). At the lower boundary, where the reverse transition occurs, the temperature is around 3,500 kelvins (5,800° F). These two points gave the researchers a temperature gradient from which they calculated the heat flow, or thermal flux: about 80 million watts per square meter. Extrapolating to the entire surface of the core gave a total heat flow of about 13 trillion watts. link

A Post-Perovskite Lens and D'' Heat Flux Beneath the Central Pacific. 2006. T. Lay et al. Science 314: 1272-1276.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Space Voyagers: The Delta Brain by Alex Nino

Legardary comic book artist Alex Nino recently returned to the medium after too-long an absence with a book called God the Dyslexic Dog. I’m not sure what’s it’s about (other than god as a ‘dyslexic dog’—a point made in just about EVERY panel) but anything with his art in it is worth picking up (despite a mess of a colouring and printing job that pretty much obscures Nino’s fine pen line).

Nino’s name may not have a high recognition factor but he got his start in NA in the 70’s as one of many Philipino artist’s picked up by DC when they exponentially expanded their line and needed new talent fast. Nino never had a ‘name’ book, never did a superhero that I know of, doing mostly SF and horror short stories, back-ups, and stories for Eerie, Creepy and the other anthology mags that flourished for a while. His art is best described as early Walt Simonson on hallucinogens filtered through that fluid style of the best of the Philipinos, e.g. Nestor Redondo – who’s short lived book ‘Rima, The Jungle Girl’ is worth picking up from the 5 cent bins for the gorgeous art and Nino’s bizarre SF back-up story (see below). Hurrah for anyone with enough sense to have him drawing stories again.

Space Voyagers © DC Comics

Patented This Day: Barbed Wire

In 1874, the first U.S. patent for barbed wire was issued to Joseph F. Glidden of DeKalb, Illinois (No. 157,124). Having filed his application on 27 Oct 1873, Glidden began manufacturing on 1 Nov 1873, in DeKalb. The barbs were cut from sheet metal and were inserted between two wires which were twisted considerably more than with today's common design.

Glidden’s barbed wire opened the plains to large-scale farming, and closed the open range, bringing the era of the cowboy and the round-up to an end. link

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Vaughn Bodé’s 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea: Part 2

Back in the 60’s Vaughn Bodé illustrated a number of classics that had been rewritten for “reading challenged” kids. The books were published by Frank E. Richards and sold exclusively to schools.

Because these books are almost impossible to find at reasonable prices I’ll be posting all the illos from the best book of the bunch, “Jules Verne’s ’20,000 Leagues Under The Sea” in eight installments.

Read: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8

Friday, November 17, 2006

Born This Day: August Möbius

Nov 17, 1790 – Sept. 26, 1868.

Art © Möebius (not Möbius)

Möbius was a German astronomer, mathematician and author. He is best known for his work in analytic geometry and in topology, especially remembered as one of the discoverers of the Möbius strip, which he had discovered in 1858. A Möbius strip is a two-dimensional surface with only one side.

The ‘other’ Möebius

Through The Möebius Strip:

Sold This Day in 1849: The 1st Bowler Hat

In 1849, the first bowler hat was sold by Lock & Co. of St. James's, London, to William Coke of Holkham, Norfolk for twelve shillings. He had placed an order intending for the hat to protect him from low-hanging branches when he was out shooting. On this day, he travelled to London to take delivery, and tested it by putting it on the floor and stamping on it.

It had been made for Lock & Co. by Thomas and William Bowler, felt hat makers on Southwark Bridge Road, London. This accounts for the name by which the hat is now known, although Lock's still refer to the style as a Coke after their first customer who bought it. link

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Dark Energy Existed In Infant Universe

Using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, researchers have discovered that dark energy, a mysterious repulsive force that makes the universe expand at an ever-faster rate, is not new but rather has been present in the universe for most of its 13-billion-year history.
Dark energy was already accelerating the expansion of the universe at least as long as 9 billion years ago. This picture of dark energy would be consistent with Albert Einstein's prediction, nearly a century ago, that a repulsive form of gravity emanates from empty space.

Hubble's new evidence is important, because it will help astrophysicists start ruling out competing explanations that predict that the strength of dark energy changes over time.

In addition, the researchers found that the exploding stars, or supernovae, used as markers to measure the expansion of space today look remarkably similar to those which exploded 9 billion years ago and are just now seen by Hubble. This is an important finding, say researchers, because it gives added credibility to the use of these supernovae as tools for tracking the cosmic expansion over most of the universe's lifetime. link

The Evolution of Wasp Brains

A new study suggests that brain and behavior relationships may have changed in a profound way as larger, more complex insect societies evolved from smaller, simpler ones.

Researchers found that a key region in the brains of a primitively social paper wasp is better developed in dominant females than in subordinate ones.

In the new study, O'Donnell and colleagues from the University of Texas studied the brain development of the primitively social wasp Mischocyttarus mastigophorus in the tropical cloud forest near Monteverde, Costa Rica.

The work is important because O'Donnell said social insects are a great model for understanding the design of brains and the relationship between brain design and social complexity. "And it has implications for human society because the evolution of our own society may affect brain development. Social behavior places pretty heavy demands on the human brain." link

The Wasp Woman:

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Milky Way Shaped Life On Earth

Frenzied star-making in the Milky Way Galaxy starting about 2400 million years ago had extraordinary effects on life on Earth. According to new results published by Dr. Henrik Svensmark the variability in the productivity of life is closely linked to the cosmic rays that rain down on the Earth from exploded stars. They were most intense during a baby boom of stars, many of which blew up.

Art © Darwyn Cooke
'The odds are 10,000 to 1 against this unexpected link between cosmic rays and the variable state of the biosphere being just a coincidence, and it offers a new perspective on the connection between the evolution of the Milky Way and the entire history of life over the last 4 billion years,' Dr Svensmark comments.

Svensmark looked at the long record of life's bounty given by counts of heavy carbon atoms, carbon13, in sedimentary rocks. When bacteria and algae in the ocean grow by taking in carbon dioxide they lock up C12 causing the sea to become enriched in C13. Variations in C13 therefore record how much photosynthetic growth [biological productivity] was in progress when the marine shell-makers were alive.

The biggest fluctuations in productivity coincided with high star formation rates and cool periods in Earth's climate. Conversely, during a billion years when star formation was slow, cosmic rays were less intense and Earth's climate was warmer, the biosphere was almost unchanging in its productivity.

Most likely, the variations in cosmic radiation affected biological productivity through their influence on cloud formation. Hence, the stellar baby boom 2.4 billion years ago, which resulted in an extraordinarily large number of supernova explosions, had a chilling effect on Earth probably by increasing the cloud cover. link

Monday, November 13, 2006

Vaughn Bodé’s 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, Part 1

Back in the 60’s, while he was finishing off his degree at Syracuse University, Vaughn Bodé illustrated a number of classics that had been rewritten for “reading challenged” kids. The books were published by Frank E. Richards and sold exclusively to schools.

Today these books are going for increasingly ridiculous prices on the secondary market. So, until some bright bulb decides to republish the illustrations from these books in one big compendium, I’ll be posting all the illos from the best book of the bunch, Jules Verne’s ’20,000 Leagues Under The Sea’ in eight installments.

I’ve taken the liberty to start each posting with one of the colour plates but otherwise everything is in order of appearance in the book. Enjoy!

All art © the estate of Vaughn Bodé

Read: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Born This Day: Barbie’s Father

St. Barbie © Mark Ryden
Jack Ryan (Nov 12, 1926 - Aug 12, 1991) held 1000 patents including the Barbie doll for Mattell, Hot Wheels and military missles. Jack Ryan invented the joints that allowed Barbie to bend at the waist and the knee.

Poison Ivy © DC Comcs from HERE.
Before he designed the very first Barbie, Ryan worked at the Pentagon as an engineer designing Sparrow and Hawk missiles. Mattel hired him for his "space-aged savvy" and knowledge of materials. Ryan also brought the pull-string, talking voice boxes for Mattel's dolls to the company. link

Invisible Woman © Marvel Comics from HERE.

Barbie Lives!

Thursday, November 9, 2006

Born This Day: Carl Sagan

Nov. 9, 1934 - Dec. 20, 1996

Carl Sagan (1934 - 1996)
"I maintain there is much more wonder in science than in pseudoscience. And in addition, to whatever measure this term has any meaning, science has the additional virtue, and it is not an inconsiderable one, of being true".

Joseph Turner: Shade and Darkness - the Evening of the Deluge
1843; Oil on canvas, 78.5 x 78 cm; Tate Gallery, London

The Edge of Forever:

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Robots Taste Human Flesh: Crave More!

Researchers at NEC System Technologies and Mie University have designed a robot that can taste. Last month, they unveiled the fruits of their two-year effort — a green-and-white prototype with eyes, a head that swivels and a mouth that lights up whenever the robot talks. The "tasting" is done elsewhere, however.

At the end of the robot's left arm is an infrared spectrometer. When objects are placed up against the sensor, the robot fires off a beam of infrared light. The reflected light is then analyzed in real time to determine the object's chemical composition.

When a reporter's hand was placed against the robot's taste sensor, it was identified as prosciutto. A cameraman was mistaken for bacon. Link

Robot Monster Destroys All Humans...!

Transit of Mercury

The Transit of Mercury Webcast is being hosted by the NASA Digital Learning Network. From their home page just choose the Transit of Mercury feature. On the information page you will find many activities and lesson plans.

Webcast Air Time:

Start: 1:30 ET - End: 2:30 ET TODAY!

During the webcast NASA will feature:

A panel of scientists live from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

A telescope 'safety viewing' demonstration with instructions on how to view the transit using a classroom solarscope.

Live images of the transit from 2 NASA satellites, SOHO and TRACE.

Live ground based images from Kitt Peak and Hawaii!

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Children Prefer Those Smiled On By Fate

5- to 7-year-olds more attracted to lucky individuals and groups than victims of bad luck.
Children as young as five to seven years of age prefer lucky individuals over the less fortunate. This phenomenon, the researchers say, could clarify the origins of human attitudes toward differing social groups and help explain the persistence of social inequality.

"Young children express stronger liking for the beneficiaries of good luck compared to the victims of bad lack and generalize this preference to those who share membership in a group. Because the disadvantaged are more likely to experience negative events beyond their control -- such as the tendency for the poor to be most impacted by natural disasters -- this innocuous preference for the privileged may eventually grow more harmful, further increasing negativity toward the disadvantaged. Such preferences may, in turn, help explain the persistence of social inequality." Link.

The work is published in the latest issue of the journal Psychological Science.

Images: link and link

Pick you Lucky Number...:

Friday, November 3, 2006

Speed Racer Goes Hollywood

"Speed Racer" is on a fast track to the big screen in an all-new, live-action feature film that will reunite the filmmaking team behind "The Matrix." Speed Racer" will be written and directed by Larry and Andy Wachowski, marking the brothers' first writing/directing collaboration since their groundbreaking "Matrix" movies.

Based on the classic series created by anime pioneer Tatsuo Yoshida, the big-screen "Speed Racer" will follow the adventures of the young race car driver Speed in his quest for glory in his thundering Mach 5. It will feature other characters that fans of the show will remember, including Speed's family and his mysterious arch-rival, Racer X. Link

Speed Racer Sells Out...:

Why would Speed Racer turn to the Dark Side? Could these two 'Racy Speed Racers' have something to do with it?

(Click to enlarge)
Or maybe it's the cool bikes they ride...

Z Machine Melts Diamond To A Puddle

Sandia's Z machine, by creating pressures more than 10 million times that of the atmosphere at sea level, has turned a diamond sheet into a pool of liquid.

The object of the experiment at the National Nuclear Security Administration facility was to better understand the characteristics of diamond under the extreme pressure it would face when used as a capsule for a BB-sized pellet intended to fuel a nuclear fusion reaction.

Why use diamond at all? It was hoped that diamond would help smooth out the applied pressure loads and keep the capsule implosion symmetric.

In the experiments, the applied pressure came from shock waves passing through the diamond. The waves were created by impacting the diamond with tiny plates hurled using Z's huge magnetic fields at about 20 times the speed of a rifle bullet.