Monthly science highlights – 6)

spaceWhen I started these monthly blogs six months ago it was a bit of an experiment.  First, I wasn’t sure if I could keep it going, but if anything every month I come across more things, in blogs and news that I follow, than I can include.  Second, if anyone would be interested, but you are! Thank you.  The bonus for me as a science fiction writer is how it encourages me to take more notice of the subject that fuels my imagination and my writing.  So here we go with this month’s collection of the interesting (and sometimes odd) things that have caught my eye in January:

The continuing saga of star KIC 8462852

A few months back I included this because scientists had found a star (KIC 8462852) where the light from it sometimes dims by as much as 20%.  To put that into perspective a planet the size of Jupiter would be expected to block about 1% of a star’s light.  So, very odd.  What caught my attention at first was the speculation (by the same scientists) that it could be due to some enormous alien mega structure – quickly dismissed of course as being highly unlikely, even though they were the ones that mentioned it?

Then last month I read that they believed it was due to a group of circulating giant comets.  However, someone has now calculated that it would need 648,000 comets with a diameter of 200 kilometres (124 miles) each to have this affect. By comparison, the largest known comet in our solar system is 60km in diameter.  So highly unlikely.  However, no-one seems to want to go back to the aliens explanation – shame!

Burping black holes

I just love the language they’ve used here:

Astronomers have spotted gas being “burped” by the black hole at the heart of a nearby galaxy.   They go on – ‘This vast, rippling belch (rippling belch?) is taking place in NGC 5195 – a small, neglected sibling of the “Whirlpool Galaxy”, 26 million light years away.  Apparently, black holes are well known for consuming gas and stars, but the two arcs of material glimpsed here are the equivalent of a burp after a big meal, the team said.

Staying in space

American astronomers are saying there is strong evidence that there is a ninth planet in our Solar System orbiting far beyond Pluto. There is no direct evidence, the claim is based on the way other far-flung objects are seen to move. However, if true, the planet would have 10 times the mass of Earth.  The astronomers are now trying to track it down.  I’m sure I’ve also read/heard? that this not the first time there have such speculations – but can’t find the source?

Back down to earth

Someone with the great name of Brogan BamBrogan is experimenting with a new mode of transport, the ‘Hyperloop’ and building a test track in the Nevada desert.  Originally from Tesla and SpaceX boss Elon Musk, Hyperloop is straight out of science-fiction.

Passengers and freight will be taken at high speed from city to city at over 1000kph, inside low-pressure tubes on stilts above the landscape.


Not a comment just a link to some fantastic pictures of Earth, the Sun, Mars, Rosetta, Jupiter and Ganymede and more.  Take a look and be awed by our own solar system and then imagine what wonders we might find when we eventually venture into the rest of our galaxy

beach1Finally a few mind boggling facts:

1)  It can take a photon 40,000 years to travel from the core of the sun to its surface, but only 8 minutes to travel the rest of the way to Earth.  OK, that begs the question how do they know.

2)  There are 8 times as many atoms in a teaspoonful of water as there are teaspoonfuls of water in the Atlantic ocean.

3)  Scientists have developed a way of charging mobile phones using urine.  By passing urine through a cascade of microbial fuel cells (MFCs), they managed to charge a Samsung mobile phone.  You have to ask why?

4)  Apparently, if you had a very large piece of paper, and you fold it in half. Then you fold it in half again, and you continue folding it until you have done so 50 times the thickness would be the distance between earth and the sun.  Because if you repeatedly double something very small, you soon end up with something almost unimaginably large. It’s called a geometric series, so I’m told.

As always comments are welcome.

Ian Martyn

Author: Ian Martyn

Science Fiction Writer

2 thoughts on “Monthly science highlights – 6)”

  1. Thanks Ian, I always try to spice up my Paranormal-Romance (heavy on action) vampire novels with some scientific items (I won’t call them facts as many are more theory, such as the NEW “ninth planet”). When I worked in the field of psychology, many years ago and before the internet, I used to subscribe to a paper and ink magazine “Science News” where I found a lot of interesting threads. I appreciate the information you provide!

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