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Monthly Archives: September 2015

NASA Confirms Evidence That Liquid Water Flows on Today’s Mars


New findings from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) provide the strongest evidence yet that liquid water flows intermittently on present-day Mars.

Using an imaging spectrometer on MRO, researchers detected signatures of hydrated minerals on slopes where mysterious streaks are seen on the Red Planet. These darkish streaks appear to ebb and flow over time. They darken and appear to flow down steep slopes during warm seasons, and then fade in cooler seasons. They appear in several locations on Mars when temperatures are above minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 23 Celsius), and disappear at colder times.

“Our quest on Mars has been to ‘follow the water,’ in our search for life in the universe, and now we have convincing science that validates what we’ve long suspected,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “This is a significant development, as it appears to confirm that water — albeit briny — is flowing today on the surface of Mars.”

These downhill flows, known as recurring slope lineae (RSL), often have been described as possibly related to liquid water. The new findings of hydrated salts on the slopes point to what that relationship may be to these dark features. The hydrated salts would lower the freezing point of a liquid brine, just as salt on roads here on Earth causes ice and snow to melt more rapidly. Scientists say it’s likely a shallow subsurface flow, with enough water wicking to the surface to explain the darkening.

“We found the hydrated salts only when the seasonal features were widest, which suggests that either the dark streaks themselves or a process that forms them is the source of the hydration. In either case, the detection of hydrated salts on these slopes means that water plays a vital role in the formation of these streaks,” said Lujendra Ojha of the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) in Atlanta, lead author of a report on these findings published Sept. 28 by Nature Geoscience.

Ojha first noticed these puzzling features as a University of Arizona undergraduate student in 2010, using images from the MRO’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE). HiRISE observations now have documented RSL at dozens of sites on Mars. The new study pairs HiRISE observations with mineral mapping by MRO’s Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM).

The spectrometer observations show signatures of hydrated salts at multiple RSL locations, but only when the dark features were relatively wide. When the researchers looked at the same locations and RSL weren’t as extensive, they detected no hydrated salt.

Ojha and his co-authors interpret the spectral signatures as caused by hydrated minerals called perchlorates. The hydrated salts most consistent with the chemical signatures are likely a mixture of magnesium perchlorate, magnesium chlorate and sodium perchlorate. Some perchlorates have been shown to keep liquids from freezing even when conditions are as cold as minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 70 Celsius). On Earth, naturally produced perchlorates are concentrated in deserts, and some types of perchlorates can be used as rocket propellant.

Perchlorates have previously been seen on Mars. NASA’s Phoenix lander and Curiosity rover both found them in the planet’s soil, and some scientists believe that the Viking missions in the 1970s measured signatures of these salts. However, this study of RSL detected perchlorates, now in hydrated form, in different areas than those explored by the landers. This also is the first time perchlorates have been identified from orbit.

MRO has been examining Mars since 2006 with its six science instruments.

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The Growth of Robotics in STEM Education


STEM education is the trend on rise. It stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

In today’s world everything moves at a very high pace and so does the education system. The competition today is cut throat. Every child is blessed with a good brain and the education system also laid a great emphasis on further betterment. The STEM education system is one such effort. In order to increase the competitiveness in the field of science and education, this education policy came into being. This system has ramification for national security concerns, workforce development as well as immigration policy.

It has not been very long when the term SMET was changed to STEM in an interagency meet on science education that was held at National Science Foundation. It was chaired by Rita Colwell, the then director of NSF.

The main aim of the STEM education system is to teach the students how to implement what they study in their classrooms. This education system works on bringing into use the principles and practices of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in real world. This hands-on learning program prepares the students in school to carry forward their interest in the STEM subjects to their real life.

The STEM education system has been received by open arms worldwide. Every nation wants its younger lot to excel in his or her career and bring laurels to the nation. The NASA (National Aeronotics And Space Administration) has also enforced programs to STEM education system in order to get the best lot of future scientists and mathematicians. Other nations too, have implemented STEM education system to ensure a bright tomorrow in the world of science and technology.

The United States of America has also started many campaigns to encourage women in taking up STEM fields. The US government is doing every possible thing to empower women in this field to. Qatar is not far behind. It has taken up an initiative called AL-Bairaq program to promote STEM education. The Qatar University carries out this program through Center for Advanced Materials (CAM). In Turkey the program runs as Turkish STEM Education Task Force. Canada produces 21. 2 % of graduates from STEM programs. Other countries like Germany, Austria , France and Finland are also not far behind.

Thus, STEM education system is growing by leaps and bounds. Every nation is putting its faith in this system of education. The STEM education system is growing worldwide. The teachings of science, technology, computer, engineering as well as maths are being practiced out of the class room and that to by the young kids. All the nations are gearing up to produce a sharp and learned lot of young students.

Why STEM Education Is Important In Today’s World

The competition in today’s world is cut throat. To excel in any field, the student must be prepared from the beginning. The STEM education gives the student a chance to develop a better understanding of the STEM subjects from the early grades. This is also very beneficial for the students who already have an inclination towards science, technology, engineering and maths.

As the STEM education makes learning inspiring, fun and engaging, the students imbibe more than what they grap in regular education pattern.  The best thing is the hands- on experience provided by this system. The students learn to work in team and inculcate an intutive understanding of the physical concepts of maths and science. The child imbibes the problem solving strategies in early grades. It gives them a good start at high school & college.

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7 Awesome Inventions You Never Knew Existed


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Layer by layer


Andrew Turley investigates a build-it-yourself 3D printer you can use in your classroom.

It is often said that we are most creative when we’re young. Mozart was composing music at five. Einstein was 26 in the year he published special relativity. Zuckerberg started Facebook as an undergraduate. The evidence is everywhere you look.

The truth, of course, is a little more complicated. Plenty of luminaries burned their brightest later in life. But either way, there’s certainly no harm in starting early. With this in mind, access to tools becomes the key concern, and three issues stand out most prominently: cost, safety and basic mechanics.

In order to play, child chess genius Bobby Fischer needed just a board and some pieces, relatively cheap items to procure and harmless. And the rules of chess are pretty simple – a young Fischer could start experimenting, learning and creating pretty quickly. Chess might be considered one of the easier disciplines for a young student to access.

Chemistry, meanwhile, must rank as one of the hardest. Equipment is expensive, labs are dangerous and the basic mechanics are complex.

Student 3D printing
3D printing offers students a glimpse of how chemistry can be applied to engineering challenges.

As US high school chemistry teacher Matt Ragusa, puts it, ‘it’s not like I can just let the kids loose with the chemicals’.


Matt’s solution has been the build-it-yourself 3D printer, designed by an education outreach team at the University of Illinois.1 The team is led by Joe Muskin, an education coordinator at Illinois tasked with finding new ways to take the university’s research into classrooms. Matt worked extensively on the printer while an undergraduate at the university. He was then able to take the skills, knowledge and experience gained with him into his teaching career.

The printer uses stereolithography, a printing process in which the product is built up, layer by layer, through polymerisation of a photoreactive resin by a light source of some kind, usually a laser. The process is well established, and consumer units are commercially available, but are too expensive for most educational environments.

The Illinois printer swaps out the most expensive components of the consumer units for parts that might be commonly found in schools and colleges or could be acquired at minimal expense.

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Float the Salt, Please: ISS Family Dinner

When there are nine people aboard the International Space Station, it’s a bit of a full house….


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Solar water-splitting technology developed


Rice University researchers have demonstrated an efficient new way to capture the energy from sunlight and convert it into clean, renewable energy by splitting water molecules.

The technology, which is described online in the American Chemical Society journal Nano Letters, relies on a configuration of light-activated gold nanoparticles that harvest sunlight and transfer solar energy to highly excited electrons, which scientists sometimes refer to as “hot electrons.”

“Hot electrons have the potential to drive very useful chemical reactions, but they decay very rapidly, and people have struggled to harness their energy,” said lead researcher Isabell Thomann, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering and of chemistry and materials science and nanoengineering at Rice. “For example, most of the energy losses in today’s best photovoltaic solar panels are the result of hot electrons that cool within a few trillionths of a second and release their energy as wasted heat.”

Capturing these high-energy electrons before they cool could allow solar-energy providers to significantly increase their solar-to-electric power-conversion efficiencies and meet a national goal of reducing the cost of solar electricity.

In the light-activated nanoparticles studied by Thomann and colleagues at Rice’s Laboratory for Nanophotonics (LANP), light is captured and converted into plasmons, waves of electrons that flow like a fluid across the metal surface of the nanoparticles. Plasmons are high-energy states that are short-lived, but researchers at Rice and elsewhere have found ways to capture plasmonic energy and convert it into useful heat or light. Plasmonic nanoparticles also offer one of the most promising means of harnessing the power of hot electrons, and LANP researchers have made progress toward that goal in several recent studies.

Thomann and her team, graduate students Hossein Robatjazi, Shah Mohammad Bahauddin and Chloe Doiron, created a system that uses the energy from hot electrons to split molecules of water into oxygen and hydrogen. That’s important because oxygen and hydrogen are the feedstocks for fuel cells, electrochemical devices that produce electricity cleanly and efficiently.

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Columbus space laboratory tour

In less than three months, ESA’s next astronaut to go to space, Timothy Peake, will depart on his five-month Principia mission – launch is set for 15 December.


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