This is how the Indian Prime Minister responded to the success of the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) yesterday:
“History has been created by our scientists”, said PM Narendra Modi in his speech immediately after the scientists declared the mission a success. “We have dared to reach out to the unknown.”
“When our cricketers win a tournament, we celebrate in a big way. What these scientists have achieved is thousand times bigger,” he added.
It’s certainly a great achievement – India managed a succesful Mars orbit introduction with the first spacecraft they sent to Mars. We can measures ts success against the fact that more than half the world’s previous attempts – 23 out of 41 Mars missions – have failed, including attempts by Japan in 1999 and China in 2011.
The Indian Mar’s Orbiter arrived in Mar’s orbit just a few days after the US Maven orbiter. Both orbiters have similar tasks. MOM’s scientific goals including using five solar-powered instruments to gather data that will help determine how Martian weather systems work and what happened to the water that is believed to have once existed on Mars in large quantities. It will also search Mars for methane, a key chemical in life processes on Earth that could also come from geological processes.
The BBC described the cost of MOM as “staggeringly cheap” by Western standards. The US Maven orbiter is costing almost 10 times as much. This bodes well for the future of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) – especially for launches of commercial satellites for overseas countries and companies.
Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) scientists and engineers monitor the movements of India’s Mars orbiter at their Spacecraft Control Center in the southern Indian city of Bangalore (Credit: Reuters / Stringer)
While the Shuttle launches and the International Space Station get the media attention I am always impressed by the deep space research that is quietly going on.
This weekend NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will (hopefully) go into orbit around the asteroid Vesta. This photo of Vesta was taken by the spacecraft last weekend.
With a diameter of about 500 km Vesta is the second largest asteroid in the solar system. Dawn will spend one year orbiting Vesta and will then travel to the largest asteroid (1000 km diameter) Ceres. There it will spend 5 months in orbit carrying out similar studies.
Because these asteroids may have remained intact since formation of the solar system they should reveal information dating back to that time. They also have differences (Vesta formed a few million years before Ceres) which will also be illuminating.
This diagram shows the trajectory of Dawn’s trip, together with dates.
Dawn Spacecraft Poised to Enter Orbit at Vesta Asteroid: Scientific American.
All eyes on Vesta
Looming Larger: Dawn Approaches Vesta, Enters Orbit July 15-16
Posted in SciBlogs, science, Science, Science and Society, Technology
Tagged asteroid, astonomy, Ceres, Dawn, Earth, NASA, SciBlogs, solar system, space, Vesta
Vostok-1 recovery capsule
Bloody hell – this was a shock. Sotheby’s has auctioned Vostok: Earth’s First Spaceship!
I got this in a tweet from fellow SciBlogger Aimee. But would the Russians be selling of Yuri Gagarin’s space capsule? And on the 50th anniversary of his historic flight?
Possibly. Anyone familiar with the Rogernomics period in New Zealand knows we have done such things. And the ACT Party would willingly do that again. But the Russians selling of such a historic trophy? Sure they have had their economic problems but even so.
These sort of treasures shoulkd not be in private hads. They should be available to the public.
I know that the capsule was still in Moscow in the 1980s – I saw it at the Cosmos Pavilion in the Economic Achievements Exhibition. (It was well-padded but very pokey. And burned on the outside).
After checking that it wasn’t April 1 I read some of the information supplied in the Sotheby’s catalogue. And information on the item itself THE VOSTOK 3KA-2 SPACESHIP.
Well it did sell – for 2,882,500 USD. And the sales information had quite an interesting history of the spacecraft and Gagarin’s lauch. However, it was only after I had read through a bit before I got to the relevant information:
“The Vostok spaceship flown with the cosmonaut-mannequin Ivan Ivanovich, 25 March 1961, as the final fail-safe and test mission prior to Yuri Gagarin’s first manned space flight just eighteen days later.
Vostok 3KA-2 is not a prototype but an exact twin of Gagarin’s Vostok 3KA-3 capsule, which was later designated Vostok 1.
Vostok 3KA-2 was a critical linchpin of the world’s first manned space program, not only providing the “green light” for the first manned space flight, but afterwards serving for training at the Cosmonaut Training Center, Star City, and later providing the design model for Zenit and other spy satellites manufactured at the Central Specialized Design Bureau in Kuybyshev.
This is the only Vostok spaceship outside of Russia and the only one in private hands; all other surviving Vostok capsules are in permanent Russian museum collections.”
So – that’s a relief! It was Vostok 3KA-2 that was auctioned – not Gagarin’s Vostok 3KA-3 capsule – later renamed Vostok-1.
Yuri Gagarin with daughters
Vostok 3KA-2 was launched about 3 weeks before Gagarin’s flight as a test run. It carried a mannequin Ivan Ivanovich. And there is a bit of a story about the local peasants’ who came on the scene as it was being recovered.
Posted in Russia, SciBlogs, science, Science and Society, Technology
Tagged Ivan Ivanovich, Russia, SciBlogs, Space capsule, Vostok (spacecraft), Vostok 1, Yuri Gagarin
There have been three common reactions to the news that theREDgroup Retail – which owns New Zealand’s Whitcoulls, Borders and Bennetts bookstores, has gone into voluntary administration
(This news may not be as bad as it sounds as unlike receivership, the aim of administration is not to sell the business but to try to return it to viability).
1: Shock – what does this mean for book retail in New Zealand? This is a crisis!
2: So what? Whitcoulls’ customer service was poor. They were only pretending to be a book shop. Bring on internet purchases and eBooks. We may even see growth of the independent book sellers.
3: What’s going to happen to Santa? He’s been such an annual fixture on the Whitcoulls’ Queen Street building in Auckland.
Whatever the financial and customer service problems this move does seem to signal significant changes. Inevitably there will be staff losses and closure of at least some shops. But the interesting thing will be how the company accommodates the huge changes in book retailing currently underway globally.
Commenters have already pointed out the Borders and Whitcoulls had not reacted well to the growth in internet book purchasing. And they have been slow to accommodate growth in eBook sales. So any restructuring of these retail outlets will have to take into account the reality that the internet and digital book revolution provides customers with an alternative of rapid access to almost any book in print or in digital format.
As a recent purchaser of an eBook Reader (see The joys of eBook readers – the Sony PRS-650 Touch) I hope this restructuring will facilitate the lifting of regional restrictions on eBook purchasing.
It’s hard to know what the future of book retail in New Zealand is going to be like. In the last 25 years I have lived through similar upheavals in the music and photographic industries. I guess I have also lived through a similar transformation to digital in financial transactions.
I used to enjoy browsing through records and CDs in music shops. Just as I enjoy browsing through the merchandise in bookshops.
That might change in future. But I will still have the pleasure of browsing through the bottles in a wine shop.
Can’t seen them making that digital.
See also: Are ebooks taking off?
There’s been a lot of rubbish written about “other ways of knowing”. So it’s quite refreshing to read Richard Carrier’s classification of methods of knowing. This is from his book Sense and Goodness Without God: A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism. Well worthy reading by the way.
He starts by pointing out that no method of obtaining knowledge can produce absolute certainty. We can always be wrong, make mistakes. But we can list possible methods in order of reliability:
“What is rational is to assign degrees of conviction to degrees of certainty established by a tried-and-tested method. What is rational is reasonable certainty, not absolute certainty.”
“The methods of logic and mathematics are well-developed and provide the greatest certainty we have yet been able to find regarding anything, other than a present, uninterpreted experience. The next greatest certainty has been found in the application of scientific methods to empirical problems. In third place is our own daily experience, when interpreted with a logical or scientific mindset. Fourth is the application of critical-historical methods to claims about past events. Fifth is the application of the criteria of trust to the claims of experts. Sixth is the untested but logical application of inferential generalizations from incomplete facts—that is, plausible deductions. Such is the scale of methods that we have historically been able to discover and confirm as effective.”
“Experience shows that our degree of certainty will generally be weaker with regard to facts at each stage down this six-rung ladder, though within each category lies its own continuum of certainty and uncertainty, and the ladder itself is a continuum of precision and access to information: the more data we have to ground our conclusions, the farther up the ladder we find ourselves. Thus, mathematics is just perfected science; science, perfected experience; experience, perfected history; and history, perfected attention to experts; while plausible inference is what we are left with when we have none of those things.”
“Lacking any of the above approaches to the truth, we are faced with untrustworthy hearsay and pure speculation, where only the feeblest of certainty can ever be justified, if at all.”
Carrier writes that accurate methods of knowing have the properties of predictive success and convergent accumulation of consistent results. However, these should be evaluated intelligently. Even the best method may produce faulty knowledge if used incorrectly.
So how do the different methods rate?:
Posted in agnosticism, atheism, belief, Darwin, Dawkins, faith, god, interfaith, Krauss, lgbt, news, ocean, perma..., philosophy, religion, SciBlogs, science, state of the arctic, supernatural, superstition, Technology, tradition
Tagged Epistemology, Logic, mathematics, reason, SciBlogs
A recent panel discussion in Mexico debated the question “Does the universe have a purpose?” The speakers for the affirmative were Rabbi David Wolpe, William Lane Craig and Douglas Geivett. And for the negative Matt Ridley, Michael Shermer and Richard Dawkins.
I don’t think the discussion was very good. Contributions were short and the original video is in Spanish. It’s also full of hoopla. Reminds we of an international scientific congress I attended in Mexico some time ago. All the official meetings involved many young women as decoration. And the Mexicans are certainly a very musical people. Music was everywhere.
However, I have included a video below of the short contribution made by Richard Dawkins in this discussion. It gives an idea of the issues discussed:
Vodpod videos no longer available.Prof.Richard Dawkins destroys Dr.William Lane C…, posted with vodpod
Posted in atheism, Dawkins, evolution, intelligent design, philosophy, politics, religion, SciBlogs, science, Technology, theology, tradition
Tagged debate, Matt Ridley, Mexico, Michael Shermer, other ways of knowing, Richard Dawkins, Russell Blackford, SciBlogs, scientism, William Lane Craig
Ian Sample wrote yesterday in the Guardian about Lady Greenfield’s appeal for an investigation into the effects of computer games, the internet and social networking sites such as Twitter on the human brain (see Oxford scientist calls for research on brain change).
Lady Greenfield has coined the term “mind change” to describe differences that arise in the brain as a result of spending long periods of time on a computer. Many scientists believe it is too early to know whether these changes are a cause for concern.
“We need to recognise this is an issue rather than sweeping it under the carpet,” Greenfield said. “We should acknowledge that it is bringing an unprecedented change in our lives and we have to work out whether it is for good or bad.”
Everything we do causes changes in the brain and the things we do a lot are most likely to cause long term changes. What is unclear is how modern technology influences the brain and the consequences this has.
“For me, this is almost as important as climate change,” said Greenfield. “Whilst of course it doesn’t threaten the existence of the planet like climate change, I think the quality of our existence is threatened and the kind of people we might be in the future.”
Lady Greenfield was talking at the British Science Festival in Birmingham before a speech at the Tory party conference next month. She said possible benefits of modern technology included higher IQ and faster processing of information, but using internet search engines to find facts may affect people’s ability to learn. Computer games in which characters get multiple lives might even foster recklessness, she said.
Sure, it can waste paper, but I often find it convenient to print off blog posts or web sites for later reading. Partly because it’s just impossible to read anything of length on a computer screen.
But very few blogs have a print facility. And even those web sites which do, such as most newspapers, are usually not convenient. For example they may not enable one to do a print pre-view. Or the print format may be horrible. Printing straight from the browser usually produces a cluttered result with often unreadable font sizes.
Imagine printing this page directly:
Maori Television has been very successful. As well as the coverage of Maori issues many viewers have been pleased at their programming of quality foreign films.
I came across another gem of theirs recently: 411 – a locally produced programme on innovation, science, technology and design. (See 411.net.nz for information).
Presenters Tumamao Harawira and Taupunakohe Tocker
It’s a fast moving but quite informative programme. Often covering local companies and research institutes.
Recent stories have covered subject like Lense Innovation, Car Recycling, The Synchrotron, Cinematic Games, Kiwifruit Innovation, Maori Digital Art, Virtual Learning, Reef Design, Interactive Books and Wireless Mobile Device Learning.
Future programmes will cover Supercars, Honey Innovation, Bio-Engineering, Gaming Development, Custom Ear Monitors, Appliance Innovation, Building Technology, Observatory Technology and Advanced Materials Manufacturing.
It’s about time we had something like this.
If you are interested tune in Fridays 10:30 pm on Maori Television.
The presenters are Tumamao Harawira and Taupunakohe Tocker
Posted in Environment and Ecology, Health and Medicine, New Zealand, SciBlogs, science, Science and Society, Technology
Tagged Add new tag, design, Māori, New Zealand, research, technology, Television, TV
I can still remember one of the few practical demonstrations I observed in my first year university physics class many years ago. This illustrated conservation of momentum. It involved our lecturer climbing on to the lecture room bench and standing on a plank of wood resting on (empty) beer bottles laid on their side (to reduce friction).
When he jumped forward by a small distance, the plank of wood shot back by a larger distance (conserving momentum). It was a risky experiment and several beer bottles broke.
I am not sure how many students appreciated the physical law being demonstrated. Practical demonstrations were not common in teaching those days. I suspect for many it just reinforced in their minds that this particular lecturer was, if not mad, at least eccentric.
In these more enlightened day I hope teachers use every advantage to practically demonstrate physical laws. Some of the videos being recorded on the International Space Station ISS could be useful for this.
Last week Astronaut Jeff Williams demonstrated the acceleration experienced inside the cabin during a planned ISS reboost. The ISS is reboosted periodically to maintain its orbit, and to prepare for visiting spacecraft, such as the space shuttle (a launch planned this week) and Progress vehicles.
Jeff’s experiment demonstrates that objects will continue in motion unless acted on by a force. In this case he shows that a free-floating body will move relative to the station when the station is accelerating.
A simple demonstration of an important physical law.
via YouTube – Space Station Reboost.