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Saturday, January 31, 2009

This Day In History: 1st Primate In Space

In 1961, the U.S. launched a 4-year-old male chimpanzee named Ham on a Mercury-Redstone 2 rocket into suborbital flight to test the capabilities of the Mercury capsule. During his 16.5 minute suborbital flight, Ham experienced about 7 minutes of weightlessness, reached an altitude of 108 miles and a speed of 13,000 mph.

He was wired to medical sensors to monitor his vital signs. During flight, Ham performed some simple tasks such as pulling levers when a light came on for a reward of banana pellets. Ham was recovered safely 1,425 miles downrange. This was a test flight before risking the lives of human beings.

After Ham's successful flight, NASA was ready to launch the first Mercury astronaut, Alan Shepard, into sub-orbital flight three months later. link

Superman #147 © DC Comics

Friday, January 30, 2009

Quantum Teleportation - A Mark Merlin Mystery!

Teleportation works because of a remarkable quantum phenomenon called entanglement which only occurs on the atomic and subatomic scale. Once two objects are put in an entangled state, their properties are inextricably entwined. Although those properties are inherently unknowable until a measurement is made, measuring either one of the objects instantly determines the characteristics of the other, no matter how far apart they are.

Abstract: Quantum teleportation is the faithful transfer of quantum states between systems, relying on the prior establishment of entanglement and using only classical communication during the transmission.

We report teleportation of quantum information between atomic quantum memories separated by about 1 meter. A quantum bit stored in a single trapped ytterbium ion (Yb+) is teleported to a second Yb+ atom with an average fidelity of 90% over a replete set of states.

The teleportation protocol is based on the heralded entanglement of the atoms through interference and detection of photons emitted from each atom and guided through optical fibers. This scheme may be used for scalable quantum computation and quantum communication.

It’s all explained here
Ref: Quantum Teleportation Between Distant Matter Qubits. 2009. S. Olmschenk. et al. Science 323: 486-489.

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House of Secrets # 42 (March, 1962) © DC Comics
Pencils: Mort Meskin; Inks: George Roussos

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Nuclear Fusion-Fission Hybrid Saves The Future

Physicists at The University of Texas at Austin have designed a new system that, when fully developed, would use fusion to eliminate most of the transuranic waste produced by nuclear power plants.
Toxic nuclear waste is stored at sites around the U.S. Debate surrounds the construction of a large-scale geological storage site at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, which many maintain is costly and dangerous. The storage capacity of Yucca Mountain, which is not expected to open until 2020, is set at 77,000 tons. The amount of nuclear waste generated by the U.S. will exceed this amount by 2010.

The scientists propose destroying the waste using a fusion-fission hybrid reactor, the centerpiece of which is a high power Compact Fusion Neutron Source (CFNS). The CFNS would provide abundant neutrons through fusion to a surrounding fission blanket that uses transuranic waste as nuclear fuel. The fusion-produced neutrons augment the fission reaction, imparting efficiency and stability to the waste incineration process.

The CFNS is based on a tokamak, which is a machine with a "magnetic bottle" that is highly successful in confining high temperature (more than 100 million°C) fusion plasmas for sufficiently long times.

The process would ultimately reduce the transuranic waste from the original fission reactors by up to 99 percent. Burning that waste also produces energy. link
Ref.: Fusion–Fission Transmutation Scheme—Efficient destruction of nuclear waste. 2009. M. Kotschenreuther, et al. Fusion Engineering and Design 84: 83-88.
Roky Erickson - Creature with the Atom Brain (1980)

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House of Mystery #129 (Dec. 1962) © DC Comics

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Life Battery

Strange Tales #78 (March, 1957) © DC Comics
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Suppressed for decades, the shocking truth about the extinction of the dinosaurs can now be revealed! Read on!

Story: Gardner Fox, pencils: Gil Kane, inks: Joe Giella

Friday, January 23, 2009

Cosmic Ray Decay Reveals Secrets of the Stratosphere

Not Brand Echh! © Marvel Comics
The number of high-energy cosmic-rays reaching a detector deep underground, closely matches temperature measurements in the stratosphere. For the first time, scientists have shown how this relationship can be used to identify weather events that occur very suddenly in the stratosphere during the Northern Hemisphere winter.

Cosmic-rays known as muons are produced following the decay of other cosmic rays known as mesons. Increasing the temperature of the atmosphere expands the atmosphere so that fewer mesons are destroyed on impact with air, leaving more to decay naturally to muons. Consequently, if temperature increases so does the number of muons detected.

What surprised the scientists was the intermittent and sudden increases observed in the levels of muons during the winter months. These jumps in the data occurred over just a few days. On investigation, they found these changes coincided with very sudden increases in the temperature of the stratosphere (by up to 40 oC in places!). Looking more closely at supporting meteorological data, they realised they were observing a major weather event, known as a Sudden Stratospheric Warming. On average, these occur every other year and are notoriously unpredictable.

This study has shown, for the first time, that cosmic-ray data can be used effectively to identify these events. link

Ref.: Sudden stratospheric warmings seen in MINOS deep underground muon data. S.M. Osprey et al., Geophys. Res. Lett. in press.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Launched This Day: 1st Atomic Submarine


One this day in 1954, the first atomic submarine, the U.S.S. Nautilus, was launched at Groton, Connecticut. All vessels previously known as "submarines" were in fact only submersible craft. Because of the nuclear power plant, the Nautilus could stay submerged for months at a time, unlike diesel-fueled subs, whose engines required vast amounts of oxygen.

Nautilus demonstrated her capabilities in 1958 when she sailed beneath the Arctic icepack to the North Pole. Scores of nuclear submarines followed Nautilus, replacing the United States' diesel boat fleet. After patrolling the seas until 1980, the Nautilus is back home at Groton. link Atomic Submarine has been released by Criterion(!) in a nice, new boxed set called "Monsters & Madmen" along with The First Man Into Space, The Haunted Strangler, & Corridors of Blood all under a beautiful cover by Darwyn Cooke (we highlighted another of his Criterion covers HERE).

The DVD Journal reviewed the set and had this to say:
"The Atomic Submarine (72 minutes, Criterion no. 366) is to James Cameron's The Abyss what It! The Terror from Beyond Space is to Ridley Scott's Alien. When a nuclear-powered submarine, the Tiger Shark, sets out to investigate a series of mysterious disappearances near the Arctic Circle, its fearless crew finds itself besieged by electrical storms, an Unidentified Floating Saucer, and lots of hairy tentacles."

"There's something sublime in the hairy eyeball's "telepathic" baritone introduction to Arthur Franz: "So, Commander Holloway, as you Earth inhabitants would express it, we meet ... face to face!" Let's not forget the bombastic narrator ("Adapt a complicated guidance system to a huge ballistic rocket, convert it to a water-to-air intercept missile? It was foolish, it was insane, it was fantastic! But it was their only hope. And the Earth's only hope!"). And the Theremin-heavy musical score adds to the cheese factor with "electro-sonic" gusto."
Tomorrow’s Fear Becomes Today’s Nightmare!:

Sunday, January 18, 2009

I Battled The Evolution Beasts

My Greatest Adventure # 54 (April 1961) © DC Comics
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