Monday, March 24, 2014

Check Out These Online Astronomy Classes and Contests

Check Out These Online Astronomy Classes and Contests

Sombrero Galaxy in infrared light Hubble Space Telescope and Spitzer Space Telescope

Universe Today has posted a feature highlighting a number of online Astronomy courses and contests, most of which are photo-related. Check them out to learn more about the great, expansive universe all around our little blue planet.

 

(This story via Universe Today)

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Large Abandoned Cruise Ship Still Missing in Atlantic; No Wonder MH370 Hasn't Been Found

The 1,400 ton cruise ship MV Lyubov Orlova has been lost in the Atlantic since February 2013. Despite large-scale searches by multiple countries, satellite providers, and salvage hunters, the 100m long ship has not been found. An article in the British press described it as populated by “disease-ridden cannibal rats”. This is conjecture based on old ships having rats and there being no other food sources on board.

MV Lyubov Orlowa Petermann Island

While the missing ship is not likely to kick off the zombie apocalypse, it does pose a potentially dangerous threat to shipping, coastal facilities, oil platforms, and the environment. The search is still on, but it is amazing that an object this large can be lost for so long. Giving that Malaysian flight MH370 is a fraction of this size that was lost in a larger area, it is little wonder there has been little progress in the search. The dimensions of both craft are large by human standards, but are extremely small in the context of the size of an ocean.

The Lyubov Orlova, was built in the former Yugoslavia and named after a famous Russian cinema star. It was originally used to ply the arctic and antarctic with wealthy Russian passengers. In 2010, it was seized in St. Johns, Newfoundland for unpaid port fees. Sold at auction for $275,000 in 2012, it was to be towed to the Dominican Republic to be scrapped. On the first day en route, the towline snapped. The ship was wrangled and eventually towed to international waters and set adrift where it was soon lost.

Many experts believe that the ship will never be found. With the ferocity of Atlantic storms, it could already be sitting on the bottom of the ocean. If not, then currents could have carried the ship north to the arctic or south towards Africa and Antarctica. We may never know the fate of the Lybov Orlova.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The audacious rescue plan that might have saved space shuttle Columbia | Ars Technica

NASA has an incredible plan for a potential Space Shuttle rescue in the event of a problem that may have been able to save Columbia

Space Shuttle Columbia on the launchpad at night

When the space shuttle Columbia’s mission went bad, the shuttle Atlantis was already being prepped for its next mission. One of NASA’s viable, albeit far-fetched, plans was to rush prep Atlantis by working crews around the clock. On a normal timetable, Atlantis had at least a few weeks of work before it was flight-worthy, but NASA management felt that could be reduced to mere days.

However, time was against them and their assessments of how quickly they could prepare Atlantis fell far short of when Columbia would no longer be able to provide clean air, scrubbed of carbon dioxide, for the crew to survive. The sad end to Columbia was a great blow to NASA, the United States, and to the families of the crew. Later, many NASA management were reassigned and remaining staff dealt with survivor guilt and PTSD from the tragedy.

(This story via Arstechnica)

FDA Proposes Overhaul of Food Nutrition Labels To Promote Better Health

New FDA Proposal for Food Nutrition Label Overhaul Will Reflect Actual Portion Sizes and Better Nutritional Information

The Food and Drug Administration is proposing to overhaul the current food labeling system for the first time in 20 years. The new proposal would better reflect real-world portion sizes and contain additional nutritional information. Jessica Leighton, Ph.D., senior nutrition science and policy advisor in FDA's Office of Foods and Veterinary Medicine, and Claudine Kavanaugh, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., a health scientist at FDA, explain what you can expect to see if the proposed changes are enacted.

  • There will be greater emphasis—with larger and bolder type—on calories.
  • For the first time, "Added Sugars" would be included on the label.
  • Calories from fat would no longer be listed
  • The number of servings per package would also be more prominent.
  • FDA proposes updating serving size requirements.
  • FDA would update Daily Values for various nutrients. 
  • The amounts of potassium and Vitamin D would be required on the label.

FDA Food Labels Compared

The primary goal of the proposed changes to the Nutrition Facts label is not to tell people what they should be eating, but to expand and highlight the information they most need when making food choices. "It's all about providing information that people can use to make their own choices." Kavanaugh says.

The FDA is proposing the changes as two rules, one to update the nutrition information based on nutrition science and the label design to help highlight important information. The second to make changes to serving size requirements and labeling for certain package sizes. The proposed rules are  published in the Federal Register for a 90-day comment period. Consumers and industry are invited to read and comment on them at the FDA's official docket at www.regulations.gov. Once made final, it is expected that the food industry would have two years to comply after publication of any final rules governing the Nutrition Facts label.

(This story via FDA.gov)