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What work is being done towards the development of a Solar Sail?

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There has been a recent development in the work towards making a Solar Sail – the use of the tiny force of each photon for propulsion. The effect, first shown in simulations, was proven by showing it in action on tiny glass rods (see timelapse photograph on the left).

Like the aerofoil concept of wings, the approach, published in Nature Photonics, works by making use of the radiation pressure of light.

The results are of interest for steering “solar sails”, a spacecraft propulsion based on the same force.

More here: Http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-11927793

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What is the latest theory about the end of the Universe?

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A “galactic lens” has revealed that the Universe will probably expand forever.

Astronomers used the way that light from distant stars was distorted by a huge galactic cluster known as Abell 1689 to work out the amount of dark energy in the cosmos.

Dark energy is a mysterious force that speeds up the expansion of the Universe.

Understanding the distribution of this force revealed that the likely fate of the Universe was to keep on expanding.

It will eventually become a cold, dead wasteland, researchers say.

More detail here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-11030889

Wonders of the Solar System

Very highly recommended!

“In this spellbinding series Professor Brian Cox visits the most extreme locations on Earth to explain how the laws of physics carved natural wonders across the solar system.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00qyxfb

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Instead of SETI what should we do to find ET?

Instead of searching for radio signals it has been suggested we should instead be looking for something else…

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“Scientists have proposed what seems like an obvious solution to finding life on other planets—look for pollution similar to that found on Earth. Light or air pollution would be a dead giveaway to life on another planet, according to a study to appear in the journal Astrobiology.”

See more here: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/discoblog/2009/10/19/how-to-find-aliens-look-for-pollution-on-other-planets/

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Why is SETI unlikely to ever find ET?

 “A top alien-hunting boffin has said that current efforts seeking extraterrestrial intelligent life are unlikely ever to work – not because there couldn’t be any aliens out there, but because the methods themselves are wrong. He proposes several radical new means of finding out whether we really are alone in the universe.”

Currently we search for extraterestrial life with radio telescopes but have not found any reliable signals. The problem is that the leakage from our TV and radio broadcasts is in all directions and will be very weak (particularly now we are using digital transmissions).

Read what professor Paul Davies has to say here: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/03/03/aliens_aliens_aliens/

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How does science help clean a painting or sculpture?

Old artworks are often very dirty and there are many examples of art being damaged by sloppy restoration. Here are 2 ways art can be restored:

Physicists have applied the same laser techniques commonly used for tattoo removal to clean several famous works of art, including wall paintings. “It’s a very effective method. If you use a scalpel you have no way of ensuring discrimination between the encrustation layer and the original surface underneath.” Says Dr Siano of the Restoration School of the Opificio delle Pietre Dure in Florence. See this link for more detail: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8534969.stm

The Chemical makeup of the original paint is closely linked to the colour. If a perfect restoration is to be achieved, the paint must match. Catherine Higget, who tests the samples in the Gallery’s Science Department explains:

“We do get involved in trying to find original recipes, and then trying to follow them in the lab as much as we can. Since a lot of them seem to involve manure and horrible things like that, we spend a lot of time trying to find a slightly more attractive way of doing it. But to work out how these things are really going to age, you really have to have the true material.”

See this link for details: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/3598936.stm

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Large Hadron Collider will restart again next Thursday

The LHC was shut down in September 2008 when an electrical fault in the bus between magnets caused a rupture and a leak of six tonnes of liquid helium. It is currently believed that a faulty electrical connection between two magnets caused an arc, which compromised the liquid-helium containment. Once the cooling layer was broken, the helium flooded the surrounding vacuum layer with sufficient force to break 10-ton magnets from their mountings.

Now this has been repaired the system is ready to restart: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/02/18/lhc_fireup_2010_forecast/

It is unlikely it will end the world, although some think it may be worth being careful!

This link is from Photographer Peter McCready who has created a 3D view inside the Large Hadron Collider: http://petermccready.com/portfolio/08082004.html

View live webcam from the LHC: http://www.lhc-live.com/

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