Saturday, August 16, 2008

Possibilities, Possibilities

New observations of Titan by the Cassini spacecraft suggest the presence of cryovolcanism on the moon's surface. Cryovolcanism has important astrobiological implications, as it provides a means of exposing Titan's organics to liquid water, transforming hydrocarbons and nitriles into more evolved and oxidized prebiotic species.

If that's not enough, here's another reason why life may exist on Titan.

"Physicists from the University of Granada and University of Valencia, analyzing data sent by the Huygens probe from Titan, say they have “unequivocally” proved that there is natural electrical activity on Titan, the largest of Saturn's moons. The world scientist community believes that the probability of organic molecules, precursors of life, being formed is higher on planets or moons which have an atmosphere with electrical storms."

Last but not least, click on the NASA image to get the latest info on Enceladus' Tiger Stripes to learn why researcers are excited about this latest tidbit about possible life on Saturn's tiny moon.

Why We Are Going to Hell

Booze, bling and staff bonuses can be paid for with taxpayer dollars at the upcoming national party conventions under federal regulations, according to a memo the Congressional Research Service (CRS) prepared for Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn last month.

Any questions?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Linked Data

Check out the Linked Data Blog Aggregator to learn more about the Semantic Web. The graphics alone will blow you away.


Oil Spills

With a modicum of luck, the disastrious impact of the Valdez oil spill and others like it may be a thing of the past.

"Oil spills and leaks of all kinds threaten water resources around the world. UniRem, located in Pittsburg, has developed unique, hydrocarbon remediation tools using its Petroleum Remediation Product (PRP) that can be spread on water or soil to absorb, contain, and safely dispose of hydrocarbon pollutants.

Essentially highly absorbent hollow spheres of beeswax, PRP immediately binds with hydrocarbons and provides nutrients to naturally occurring microbes. The feeding microbes then create enzymes that biodegrade contaminants.

The basic delivery system grew out of NASA biological encapsulation research and the orbital production of microspheres so uniformly precise they provide calibration standards for scientific and industrial equipment."

Serendipity: The gift of making fortunate discoveries by accident. (Not quite true in this case but the end result certainly applies.) [from the fairy tale The Three Princes of Serendip, in which the heroes possess this gift]

Click here to get the Daily Galaxy take on this revolutionary tech.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Beyond Feet of Clay

Man is capable of moving beyond Feet of Clay when politics, stupidity and greed are studiously avoided (See Q & A) as seen by the recent breakthrough regarding the storage of solar energy.

"In a revolutionary leap that could transform solar power from a marginal, boutique alternative into a mainstream energy source, MIT researchers have overcome a major barrier to large-scale solar power: storing energy for use when the sun doesn't shine."

This could be the deal maker for Solar as researchers have achieved, in the lab, the holy grail of cheap, efficient storage of energy garnered from the sun.

"Inspired by the photosynthesis performed by plants, Nocera and Matthew Kanan, a postdoctoral fellow in Nocera's lab, have developed an unprecedented process that will allow the sun's energy to be used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gases. Later, the oxygen and hydrogen may be recombined inside a fuel cell, creating carbon-free electricity to power your house or your electric car, day or night.

The key component in Nocera and Kanan's new process is a new catalyst that produces oxygen gas from water; another catalyst produces valuable hydrogen gas. The new catalyst consists of cobalt metal, phosphate and an electrode, placed in water. When electricity — whether from a photovoltaic cell, a wind turbine or any other source — runs through the electrode, the cobalt and phosphate form a thin film on the electrode, and oxygen gas is produced.

Combined with another catalyst, such as platinum, that can produce hydrogen gas from water, the system can duplicate the water splitting reaction that occurs during photosynthesis.

The new catalyst works at room temperature, in neutral pH water, and it's easy to set up, Nocera said. "That's why I know this is going to work. It's so easy to implement," he said."

The race toward viable renewables looks a bit brighter with this latest announcement. Let's hope it scales to real world application, something discussed in a BRT article titled The Long Emergency.