Team Russia launches

Relaunching the blog from Moscow, Russia.

de Ferrers (and West Park) are here taking part in the Space Master Class.

Each day a student will be writing about their experiences.

Mr G.

Our first day began with our space cadets experiencing a wide ranging breakfast of burgers, pizzas and pancakes. Though, after a long day of travelling, some of our students did not quite make the 8.00am start time!

Split into two groups, we embarked on a walking tour of Moscow city. First, however, we had to catch the metro into the city centre, which plunged us right into the daily lives of Russian citizens whilst experiencing the diverse culture that the stations had to offer. Most prominent of which were bronze statues lining the walls of the station depicting Russian workers of many professions. The stunning art pays tribute to Russia’s citizens and rich history.

Whilst above ground today, we were exposed to unique sights such as: the eternal flame, the changing of the guards and the resting place of Lenin. However, the students found most amazement in the beauty of St Basil’s cathedral and the famous Kremlin. Today saw our students experience the immense landmarks that Moscow had to offer, and were not left disappointed. We finished the day with a meal at our hotel and an exclusive presentation given by Alexander Martynov with a special guest… Alexander Volkov, the Ukrainian cosmonaut! This was a fantastic opportunity for the whole team to ask him some pressing questions and even have a photo taken with the national hero.



Curiosity and the God of War

The Curiosity Rover has started its journey to Mars. The Mars Science Laboratory (aka Curiosity) is biggest robotic probe we have ever sent to Mars, the size of a car. It is 5 times larger and 10 times the mass of the two rovers Spirit and Opportunity that we landed on Mars in 2004. Each was due to run for 90 Mars days – Spirit finally broke in 2010 and Opportunity is still going having driven 21 miles so far. The Curiosity rover is nuclear powered – so it does not rely on solar panels – should be running for 668 Mars days (which are slightly shorter so this is 688 Earth days). It might run a lot longer though if it does as well as the previous two.

Here is the launch…

Landing something that size is a problem – before we wrapped probes in air bags and after a parachute slowed it down they bounced onto the ground.

This one needs a bit more care. It involves a heat shield, a parachute and a rocket powered hovering crane that lowers the rover the last few meters.

This is a computer animation of what the rest of the journey will be like.

It’ll hopefully land at Gale Crater on Mars in August 2012.

Mr G

Sources NASAKennedy YouTube channel, The Guardian, Wikipedia

First Post of the Year – First New Science from the LHC

The Large Hadron Collider has been running for over a year now and scientists have a massive amount of data to go through.

So far they have been looking for things we already know about, just to check the thing is working properly.

Now they have started looking for new Physics – in this case trying to work out why the antimatter and matter created at the Big Bang did not cancel each other out. 1 particle in billions of billions got left behind.

LHCb, the detector looking for the beauty quark has noticed that the matter and antimatter quarks are decaying in different ways.

You can see the red curve is different for matter B particles (left graph) and antimatter B particles (right graph). This extra time might be the reason why more matter existed than antimatter after the universe had started expanding.

At the moment the data is mostly certain (sigma 3.5) – we need a sigma of 5 for a formal discovery to be published. Sigma is a measure  standard deviation, the likelihood of the results being by chance.

  • Particle physics has an accepted definition for a “discovery”: a five-sigma level of certainty
  • The number of standard deviations, or sigmas, is a measure of how unlikely it is that an experimental result is simply down to chance rather than a real effect
  • Similarly, tossing a coin and getting a number of heads in a row may just be chance, rather than a sign of a “loaded” coin
  • The “three sigma” level represents about the same likelihood of tossing more than eight heads in a row
  • Five sigma, on the other hand, would correspond to tossing more than 20 in a row
  • A five-sigma result is highly unlikely to happen by chance, and thus an experimental result becomes an accepted discovery
Mr G

Do we understand risk?

Risk, uncertainty, reliability, correlation, relationship, causality….

All very important words to a scientist. They help us explain what our results mean and how we can compare our results and the results of others.

But does the public understand in the same way? This question formed a large chunk of my Masters of Science course when we looked at science communication.

This BBC article sums up the issue quite well (pity it wasn’t around last year… it would have been useful to quote from…) It was triggered by the latest OTT writing about mobile phones and cancer…

Does not knowing something for certain (what ever “certain” is) make us more worried or less worried?

The problem we have (as the public and the scientists) is that lack of evidence FOR a link between things does not mean evidence AGAINST a link (though if 2000 experiments said “no” we get fairly well convinced) – this Digital Lifestyles article from  2 008 sums up the evidence – but notice the “hedging of bets” in the very last sentence…

Mr G

Sources – BBC News, Digital Lifestyles

Blue Goo – best cleaning product ever?

Just like those stick on plaster thingies you use for unclogging your pores a Hawaiian company discovered by accident a material they call DeconGel. You pour it on, let it set and peel it off – along with all the microscopic dirt.

They are using it in Japan to clean up all the tiny radioactive particles that are coating surfaces.

I want some for my house!!

Mr G

Source: PopSci

Goodbye Endeavour – not quite!

The Space Shuttle Endeavour is getting ready to launch for the last time.

Update – the launch has been postponed. Current scheduled date is the 16th of May 2011.

It was scheduled for its final launch last Friday and the mission is being commanded by Captain Mark Kelley – whose wife was the Congresswoman shot in the head and who will hopefully be well enough to watch the launch.

NASA has already retired the Space Shuttle Discovery – which had its last flight in February.

Endeavour is the youngest of the shuttles and was built to replace Challenger, the shuttle that exploded. In total there were 6 Space Shuttles:

  • Enterprise – was a prototype that was originally to be refitted to be the second to fly in space – but design changes meant that it was cheaper to build a new shuttle – Challenger.
  • Columbia – this shuttle disintegrated on re-entry on Feb 1st 2003.
  • Challenger – this shuttle exploded just after launch Jan 28th 1986
  • Discovery – this shuttle launched and took parts to the Hubble Space Telescope.
  • Atlantis – this shuttle will be the last one to fly – it is a back up to the final Endeavour launch and will fly by itself for the last time in June.
  • Endeavour – when Challenger exploded there were plans again to refit Enterprise – but it was again cheaper to start again using spares from Discovery and Atlantis.

In total the Space Shuttles will have flown into space 135 times.

Mr G

Sources: BBC News, Wikipedia, NASA Mission Site

Robotics Club…

Launching this week on Thursdays is the Trent Robotics Club (name to be decided…) – meeting in TB10 at lunch.

We have 7 LEGO Mindstorm kits, the Robotics course, the software and hopefully you have the ideas.

This YouTube video is a little over the top… but…

We are looking for 6 groups of up to 4 students – from Year 10 to 12 at the moment.

Mr G

Anti-Laser is coming to visit…

The anti-laser has been invented.

Light is absorbed by pretty much everything – all the things around you reflect and absorb different wavelengths of light leading to all the colour we see around us.

But lasers have just one wavelength – so designing to absorb lasers completely is hard.

But do not rely on this to protect you from Storm Trooper attack. Since Conservation of Energy must be followed – the thing gets hot…

The energy gets dissipated as heat. So if someone sets a laser on you with enough power to fry you, the anti-laser won’t stop you from frying

Professor Stone, Yale University.

Mr G

Sources: BBC News,

Some Free Science Wallpaper

Here are some galleries of free desktop wallpaper from.


Mr G

Voyager to leave the Solar System.

One of the two Voyager probes launched in the 70’s (and later featuring in the first Star Trek Movie – geek overdrive) is about to leave the Solar System. It is now 10.8 BILLION (10,800,000,000) miles from Earth – and still works thanks to it’s radioactive power supply.

Instruments on board that measure the Solar Wind have begun consistently showing Zero. The particles from the Sun are now being stopped by the particles on interstellar space.

Click the BBC link below for more info and an audio clip from Dr Ed Stone.

Mr G

Sources: BBC, Wikipedia