“Space beer,” one giant leap for mankind

The science of space beer.

“For example, many metals burn more easily in reduced gravity, liquids behave differently, both of which have important implications for safety and the way machinery and equipment operate in spacecraft and space stations. The beer experiments assisted in determining the correct level of carbonation, so that it can in the future be appropriately enjoyed by humans in reduced gravity,”

Flute duet on Earth and in Space

An evening pause: Though this took place last week, on the fiftieth anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s flight, I can’t let it go by, especially because it is so nicely done. Trust me, for two flute players to play a duet with one several hundred miles up in space and traveling more than 17,500 miles per hour while the other is safely on Earth is not easy.

Pluto’s atmosphere is expanding, and scientists don’t know why

Pluto’s atmosphere is expanding, and scientists don’t know why.

Pluto travels along a highly elliptical path and last passed closest to the sun in 1989. Many planetary scientists expected the atmosphere to shrink as the icy orb began receding from the sun’s warmth. The unanticipated expansion may be related to changes in the darkness of the orb’s surface a decade or so ago, which may have caused the surface ices to absorb more solar radiation and more efficiently evaporate. Or, Greaves suggests, long-term variations in the sun’s ultraviolet output, changes linked to the roughly 11-year cycle of solar activity, may be playing a role.

Met Office chief says he has received death threats from climate change skeptics

This is wrong, if true: The chief of the UK’s Met Office said yesterday that he has received death threats from climate change skeptics.

A Met Office spokesman confirmed Mr Hirst had received death threats made in a number of ”unsavoury emails”, but said they were ”isolated incidents” and the organisation had not felt it necessary to involve the police.

NASA Awards Next Set Of Commercial Crew Development Agreements

NASA has awarded the next set of commercial crew development agreements, giving contracts worth from $22 to $92 million to four companies, Blue Origin, Sierra Nevada, SpaceX, and Boeing. More here and here.

The amounts that NASA is giving these companies is minuscule, compared the monies spent on the program-formerly-called-Constellation. Yet I bet they all get their rockets/capsules launched and in operation, supplying cargos and crews to low Earth orbit, before NASA even test fires its heavy-lift rocket.

The real disaster in Japan

Getting control of the nuclear power plant in Fukushima is going to be a challenging job, no doubt. Nonetheless, it remains a minor and comparatively trivial problem for Japan after the earthquake and tsunami destroyed the country’s northeastern coast, and it saddens me that so much of the American press and public seems unable to absorb this simple fact.

This footage of the tsunami hitting a small coastal town in Japan gives us a clear and unvarnished look of the real disaster there. Near the end you can see people fleeing for their lives, and throughout the video the voices of the watchers can only express horrified gasps at what they are seeing.

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