Category Archives: Technology

JPL’s entry in robotics for DARPA competition

The good scientists and engineers from JPL have built an advanced robot that would be of great service to areas like the Fukushima incident, or rescuing trapped individuals after an earthquake. It is so cool that it very well could serve on future space missions. Take a good look–I believe you will like it.


Life without mathematics

The following podcast is enlightening:
Most scientists agree with the opinion– without mathematics most of industrialized society would not exist. However, one is apt to read (in the daily newspaper) that U.S. society ranks low in educating its children in mathematics. High school dropouts will leave high school because they could not pass algebra or geometry. (Although one may not know how to understand chaos theory in high school, the GIF below is has a “certain symmetry” which most can appreciate–in my very humble opinion). Is it possible to imagine a world in which no one could appreciate its beauty? 
 A sample trajectory through phase space is plotted near a Lorenz attractor with σ = 10, ρ = 28, β = 8/3. The color of the solution fades from black to blue as time progresses, and the black dot shows a particle moving along the solution in time. Initial conditions: x(0) = 0, y(0) = 2, z(0) = 20. 0 < t < 35. The 3-dimensional trajectory {x(t), y(t), z(t)} is shown from different angles to demonstrate its structure.

A sample trajectory through phase space is plotted near a Lorenz attractor with σ = 10, ρ = 28, β = 8/3. The color of the solution fades from black to blue as time progresses, and the black dot shows a particle moving along the solution in time. Initial conditions: x(0) = 0, y(0) 2, z(0) = 20. 0 < t < 35. The 3-dimensional trajectory {x(t), y(t), z(t)} is shown from different angles to demonstrate its structure. Author: Dan Quinn


With Gratitude and Inspiration!

Because you have chosen to read my blog, I am humbled and thankful. I will continue to write and find much enlightenment from all of you!

I thought I would post the image to illustrate how inspired I am from my fellow bloggers.

Here is a description of the image from its companion site:
Galaxies of the Infrared Sky
This panoramic view of the entire sky reveals the distribution of galaxies beyond our Milky Way galaxy, which astronomers call extended sources, as observed by Two Micron All-Sky Survey. The image is constructed from a database of over 1.6 million galaxies listed in the survey’s Extended Source Catalog; more than half of the galaxies have never before been catalogued. The image is a representation of the relative brightnesses of these million-plus galaxies, all observed at a wavelength of 2.2 microns. The brightest and nearest galaxies are represented in blue, and the faintest, most distant ones are in red. This color scheme gives insights into the three dimensional large-scale structure of the nearby universe with the brightest, closest clusters and superclusters showing up as the blue and bluish-white features. The dark band in this image shows the area of the sky where our Milky Way galaxy blocks our view of distant objects, which, in this projection, lies predominantly along the edges of the image.

Image Credit:  2MASS/T. H. Jarrett, J. Carpenter, & R. Hurt

If we are all made of stardust, then you have infused much into my existence and intellect!
Image Credit:
2MASS/T. H. Jarrett, J. Carpenter, & R. Hurt

“Atlas Image [or Atlas Image mosaic] obtained as part of the Two Micron All Sky Survey (2MASS), a joint project of the University of Massachusetts and the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center/California Institute of Technology, funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Science Foundation.”

Mad Art Lab | Sagan Day 2013 – We All Live on a Tiny Blue Dot

Mad Art Lab | Sagan Day 2013 – We All Live on a Tiny Blue Dot.

The link above was sent to me from  —follow it. It is beautiful!


Correction added to blog–the following link might work better if you had problems with the first link?


Martian Moons—short note

About two years ago, the Russian republic launched an ambitious probe that never achieved its stated goal—landing on the Martian moon, Phobos. The general public may not readily recall mission, but if it had succeeded it would have brought to Earth a treasure trove of data and materials. As I recall the ballyhooed launch, it was an unfortunate loss and posed a potential environmental hazard (as portrayed by some in the media). The probe eventually fell back to Earth—here is the NYTimes article: Russia’s Failed Mars Probe Crashes Into Pacific .

According to the NASA website: (Phobos-Grund)

“The plan for the mission if it had made it to Mars is as follows: It will orbit Mars for a few months and touch down on Phobos in February 2013. Sample assessment and collection will take place over the next 2 to 7 days. It will collect 15 to 20 separate samples. After the samples have been collected, the springs will propel the return stage away from the lander and the rockets provide the 35 km/hr velocity needed to escape Phobos’ gravity. After the necessary maneuvers, the return capsule should arrive at Earth in August of 2014. The lander experiments will continue to operate on the surface for a year.”

Image of the Phobos-Grund spacecraft

[] –URL source

Martian moons

The moons of Mars bear the potential imprint of past ejecta; SNC meteorites (e.g. Alan Hills meteorite) are found on the Moon and the Earth–and possibly on Phobos (or Deimos) as well.

Although there are many uncertainties, it has been suggested that the ejecta (Martian meteors) may contain evidence of past life (and the potential for panspermia). The topic of panspermia is controversial in many “quarters” of mainstream science–it has not been completely disproved.

Fall Book Review II—Elaboration upon Frontiers of Astrobiology (chapter 13)

Post based upon an elaboration of a chapter in the book: Frontiers of Astrobiology,  (Characterizing Exoplanet Atmospheres, chapter 13 author—Giovanna Tinnetti) [Drs. Impey, Lunine & Funes –editors (Cambridge University Press 2012)]. I hope to further elaborate upon a handful of other chapters, as well.

As I interpret bits-and-pieces of the text in an erudite manner (for reader consumption), I am reminded that anyone pick-up a book, read it and regurgitate the contents. (I hope to provide insight into the text and give some of the book’s flavor to you.)

The author of chapter 13 draws the reader into exo-planet spectral characterization—specifically stating the case for ESA’s future probe, EcHO.


Let’s Speak of Exo-planets and their Spectroscopy

Current space-based telescopes do not possess the technological capabilities for spectral analysis of distant “earth-like” exo-planets.

In spite of the recent breakthrough in exo-planet imaging, of the planet Kepler 7b, astrobiologists need to utilize technological breakthroughs (in parallel fields) to advance their paradigms. The cloud map of Kepler 7b could not be discerned further for it components. (below):

Kepler-7b (left), which is 1.5 times the radius of Jupiter (right), is the first exoplanet to have its clouds mapped. The cloud map was produced using data from NASA’s Kepler and Spitzer space telescopes. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MIT

Image URL:

The cloud map of Kepler 7b is obtained in part from reflected light (the host star is utilized as a light source for cloud discernment).

Using the website description of the “cloud map”—

“Kepler’s visible-light observations of Kepler-7b’s Moon-like phases led to a rough map of the planet that showed a bright spot on its western hemisphere. But these data were not enough on their own to decipher whether the bright spot was coming from clouds or heat. The Spitzer Space Telescope played a crucial role in answering this question. . . . Spitzer’s ability to detect infrared light means it was able to measure Kepler-7b’s temperature, estimating it between 1,500 and 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit (1,100 and 1,300 Kelvin). This is relatively cool for a planet that orbits so close to its star — within 0.06 astronomical unit — and, according to astronomers, too cool to be the source of light Kepler observed. Instead, they determined, light from the planet’s star is bouncing off cloud tops located on the west side of the planet. “Kepler-7b reflects much more light than most giant planets we’ve found, which we attribute to clouds in the upper atmosphere,” said Thomas Barclay, Kepler scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. “Unlike those on Earth, the cloud patterns on this planet do not seem to change much over time — it has a remarkably stable climate.”

Nominally speaking, the cloud map of Kepler 7b seems to indicate a non-habitable world. For sake of argument, how can “we” further discern cloud characteristics of Kepler 7b? What are the component(s) of the clouds? Infrared spectroscopy is key to Kepler 7b’s component characterization. The duty may eventually fall to the next generation of space-based telescopes.

Let’s speak briefly of EcHO

EcHO (when and if launched) provides an unprecedented view of the components of exo-planet atmospheres—namely, the successful quest of a habitable exo-world is paramount to de-provincializing the Earth. Our planet, in many ways, is much the way that Galileo would have interpreted it centuries ago—so much so that we “still” consider ourselves the only kids on the block. EcHO, when successfully deployed, will possess the ability to characterize stellar companions similar to ones in our Solar System. The manner of discernment is to image the planet(s) via transit spectroscopy—in short staring at a part of the sky known to possess an exo-solar system.


Cambridge University Press Link to the Book



October 2012, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 311-353


Tinetti, G. et al

(135 authors total)

Mars & Methane

Current data documenting the absence of Martian methane does not constitute an absence of microbes on Mars. It seems trivial to say, but the finding adds meaning to our present existence. So, it should go without saying—the birth of our solar system should give us pause to wonder from whence we came, the lack of methane is the true reason for us to know the solar system as it truly might be. Around the time of the Viking landers, the majority of space enthusiasts had given up finding any type of life on the surface of Mars; I suppose we felt teased into wishing for ET. However in 1997, I had caught a glimpse into its possibility upon reading the first chapter of a text by McLafferty and Turicek (Interpretation of Mass Spectra); it was in Chapter 1 that the authors presented a trace of data from Mars of Viking 1 in 1976. As plain as the nose on one’s face was hard data for the presence of methane on Mars—although the wet chemistry module of experimentation failed to conclusively find organics. The Mass Spectra of the atmosphere produced evidence for a methane signature and (The authors as well came to that conclusion while speaking of the trace.) to my doubting eyes—was the hard evidence. (page 5 ) of the abovementioned text reveals the telltale peaks at 16 and 12 for methane and carbon) It whet my appetite for more—and then came the Alan Hills meteorite (ALH84001) and the evidence for past, Martian water.

The discipline of astrobiology had found a reason to exist. No longer was the search for ET a fool’s errand—but real, organic chemistry was taking form and shape. While the casual observer may not recognize NASA’s findings as reasons to spend further tax dollars, it was a public relations winner in every sense of the word.

So it is truly safe to say that, astrobiology and its allied sciences are an economic engine—and within past 15-to-20 years, the public flocks to the nearest IMAX theatre to watch footage of the ISS or one of the Mars’ rovers. There are numerous books, magazine articles, and not-to-mention research groups throughout the world which are devoted to the study of the biology and chemistry of early Earth (and the early solar system as well). And, one major advantage which I failed to mention was the “off-shoot research activity” that astrobiology has spawned. Real and practical research has gained a foothold in the form of medical research to understand the how cancer has co-evolved alongside the human condition. The study of astrobiology is a study of us—in a manner that is both unique and unites us as a species.

What the harshest critics fail to notice is that all of this activity is good for the economy and good for our progeny (our children’s children—if you will). Technology advances and our children dream the new dreams of the future.