A few days ago NASA’s IceBridge project hit the news, but not for any of its impressive scientific observations. Instead, a casually tweeted photo of a strange rectangular iceberg captured people’s imagination. Now, NASA has offered up a few more shots, and video, of this unusual sight, helping explain this common yet rarely seen phenomenon.
A laser-powered drill could be used to penetrate the thick layers of ice on Jupiter’s frozen moon Europa, allowing robot probes to explore the oceans beneath.
Batteries would not last long enough, even a small nuclear reactor would be too big, and solar power would be absolutely useless so deep in the depths of the moon’s oceans.
But the VALKYRIE drill would leave its bulky power plant on the surface of the moon, with a high-powered laser shooting down a fibre-optic cable to run the device.
Once it had penetrated icy crust of Europa, it could then explore the oceans beneath collecting and analysing samples before melting its way back to the surface, sealing the hole behind it.
Inventor and explorer Bill Stone unveiled the design yesterday at Nasa’s Astrobiology Science Conference in Atlanta, Georgia.
He told Wired Science: ‘Our modest goal over the next three years is to use a 5,000-watt laser to send a cryobot through up to 250 meters of ice.’
‘All the data show there are no show-stoppers for doing that. But from my standpoint, this is child’s play compared to what we could do.’
Bart Hogan, an optics expert and principal engineer on the project, told Wired: ‘It’s like you have all these groups making lenses for better eyeglasses, and someone says, “Hey, we can put these lenses together and build a telescope,”‘
With a doctorate in structural engineering and 11 patents to his credit, Dr Stone has already designed a range of robot explorers, of which VALKYRIE is just the latest.
His first robot, DEPTHX, descended deep into flooded Mexican hydrothermal springs to to find and collect samples of previously unknown microbial species between 2003 and 2007.
It was while testing ENDURANCE in advance of the Antarctic mission that Dr Stone came up with the novel power solution for VALKYRIE.
ENDURANCE used a tiny fibre optic cable – thinner than a strand of human hair – to communicate with the team sitting at the surface.
Dr Stone was suddenly struck with the idea that a much bigger cable could carry immense amounts of energy in the form of photons.
Researching the possibilities, he found that while there had been huge developments in both industrial lasers and fibre optic cables, no one had tried to fire the former down the latter.
Most development in the technology of fibre optic cables had been in the field of telecommunications, which uses very low power, Dr Stone told Wired.
However, whether the new concept works or not, it is unlikely to make a mission to Europa anytime soon.
Nasa still have no clear, high-resolution pictures of what the surface of the moon is like and whether or not it is possible to land a spacecraft on there.
Mr Stone’s team has already built and tested the laser-fibre-optic power system at his laboratory in Texas.
They now plan to test a prototype of VALKYRIE at the Matanuska Glacier, Alaska, in June 2013.
Attribution: Wired Science, Mail Online
As promised, here’s the follow-up to “None of the Above”.
Current theories of the causes and impact of global warming have been thrown into question by a new study which shows that during medieval times the whole of the planet heated up.
It then cooled down naturally and there was even a ‘mini ice age’.
A team of scientists led by geochemist Zunli Lu from Syracuse University in New York, has found that contrary to the ‘consensus’, the ‘Medieval Warm Period’ approximately 500 to 1,000 years ago wasn’t just confined to Europe.
In fact, it extended all the way down to Antarctica – which means that the Earth has already experience global warming without the aid of human CO2 emissions.
At present the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) argues that the Medieval Warm Period was confined to Europe – therefore that the warming we’re experiencing now is a man-made phenomenon.
‘Ikaite is an icy version of limestone,’ said Lu. ‘The crystals are only stable under cold conditions and actually melt at room temperature.’
It turns out the water that holds the crystal structure together – called the hydration water – traps information about temperatures present when the crystals formed.
This finding by Lu’s research team establishes, for the first time, ikaite as a reliable way to study past climate conditions.
The scientists were particularly interested in crystals found in layers deposited during the ‘Little Ice Age,’ approximately 300 to 500 years ago, and during the prior Medieval Warm Period.
Both climate events have been documented in Northern Europe, but studies have been inconclusive as to whether the conditions in Northern Europe extended to Antarctica.
Lu’s team found that in fact, they did.
During cool periods they are plentiful. During warm periods there aren’t.
‘We showed that the Northern European climate events influenced climate conditions in Antarctica,’ Lu says. ‘More importantly, we are extremely happy to figure out how to get a climate signal out of this peculiar mineral. A new proxy is always welcome when studying past climate changes.’
The research was recently published online in the journal Earth And Planetary Science Letters and will appear in print on April 1.
As evidence mounts that neither CO2 nor man is the cause of planetary warming, the question becomes; how long will the alarmists and false prophets continue to push this fallacy?
Attribution: Daily Mail