I’ve found a bunch of interesting articles recently, so I thought I would just combine them into one post.
Commercial spaceflights are on track for 2014 as Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShip Two completed it’s second test flight. The little ship reached 69,000 feet at mach 1.4. This was also the first test of its tilt wing reentry system.
There appears to a slowdown in global warming… or not. Some recent research (popular, Nature) shows that a Pacific cooling phase may be responsible for the slowdown (but not halting) of global warming. Basically, it appears that an exchange between the warm surface water and the cold deep water is causing a La Nina cooling. This is also what’s responsible for the massive droughts in the southern US and the winter storms in the NW US. This event isn’t a permanent feature, but a cyclical event. When that cooling is gone, then the global temperature will likely ramp up quickly.
But some companies in Australia are trying to do something about it. Solar companies in Australia are putting solar panels on people’s roofs for free and then paying for them with the excess power generated by them. Over one million homes in Australia have taken advantage of the offer. In South Australia, almost 20% of all homes are solar powered.
The trend in Australia is very different than in the US. Australia has heavy restrictions on wind power (like every landowner within two kilometers of a turbine have to give written permission), so solar is taking over. Unlike in the US, where wind is much more popular than solar. Australia’s national goal is to have 1/5th of all electricity from clean energy sources by 2020.
A new study shows that cheetahs engage in planning and tailor their pursuit to the prey species. Using accelerometers and (shockingly) direct observation of pursuits, the scientists say that cheetahs have an initial burst of pure speed to get close to the prey, then actively slow down in order to be prepared for prey escape maneuvers.
The researchers also found that cheetahs may be able to predict the possibility of success or failure of the pursuit. Failed pursuits involve less maneuvering and less energy consumption. Kind like when your racing against a buddy and he wins and you just slow down.
Finally, something epically cool. It seems Leonard was right and Sheldon was wrong. There may be a Grand Unified Theory using quantum gravity (and not string theory) after all. Some researchers have distilled the continuum of space into tiny blocks and examined their interactions.
The researchers describe it as looking at several molecules of water and deriving the equations of hydrodynamics from their interactions.
And it seems to have worked. Working from these block of space, the researchers have derived the Friedmann equation. This equation uses general relativity to describe the expansion of space. So they have been able to show that what happens in the quantum world can be linked to the macroworld of relativity. This has been one of the holy grails of physics for decades. I’m looking forward to reading about the extensions of this work.