Friday, January 04, 2013

Links 04/01/13

'Researchers with the Keck Institute for Space Studies in California have confirmed that NASA is mulling over their plan to build a robotic spacecraft to grab a small asteroid and place it in high lunar orbit. The mission would cost about $2.6 billion – slightly more than NASA's Curiosity Mars rover – and could be completed by the 2020s.'
Report in the New Scientist; the Keck Institute's proposal here (.pdf)

Dark, carbon-rich material on the surface of Vesta may have transferred during early impacts with small asteroids.  Similar collisions may have delivered the building-blocks of life to Earth.

Stem cell scammers lay the ground work for a thousand technothrillers.

Scientists have manipulated a quantum gas to cool it to a fraction below absolute zero, paving the way to create new forms of material:
'If built, such systems would behave in strange ways, says Achim Rosch, a theoretical physicist at the University of Cologne in Germany, who proposed the technique used by Schneider and his team. For instance, Rosch and his colleagues have calculated that whereas clouds of atoms would normally be pulled downwards by gravity, if part of the cloud is at a negative absolute temperature, some atoms will move upwards, apparently defying gravity.

'Another peculiarity of the sub-absolute-zero gas is that it mimics 'dark energy', the mysterious force that pushes the Universe to expand at an ever-faster rate against the inward pull of gravity. Schneider notes that the attractive atoms in the gas produced by the team also want to collapse inwards, but do not because the negative absolute temperature stabilises them. “It’s interesting that this weird feature pops up in the Universe and also in the lab,” he says. “This may be something that cosmologists should look at more closely.”'


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