Where to Look for Dark Matter? Part 1



What’s the Universe made of? At first glance, at the night sky, you’d see stars and planets and you might say “It’s made up of stars and planets and hydrogen and helium and other normal stuff.” Congrats. you just named less than 5% of the Universe.

So where’s everything else?

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Pittsburgh Podcamp 8


Right now, I’m at Pittsburgh Podcamp 8. This is a social media get-together where we can learn about various aspects of online interactions. I wasn’t going to mention this day. UnSpace is about science.

What was I thinking? As a child, computers were huge machines that took up rooms and required several technicians to keep running. The average person didn’t have access to these computers. None of the science fiction stories envisioned something like Twitter and Facebook.
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Science Links from Around the Web


I stalled yesterday trying to write another article on geoengineering to reduce global warming. There were two problems:

  • I wanted to mention that the Martians attempted to “martiform” the Earth in H. G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds.”
  • The origin of the word “terraform” is to give something the “likeness” (form) of Earth (Latin “terra”). “Geoengineering” is “Earth (Greek “ge”) engineering.” Terraforming and geoengineering refer to concepts so similar (changing the surface of a planet using technology) that they tend to be used interchangeably, which is technically wrong from a grammatical standpoint.

I got stuck on the grammar technicalities and editing. One of the reasons I created the UnSpace blog was to recover my writing skills that I lost when my focus was on editing. I’m still learning.

In the meantime, here are a bunch of fascinating links from around the web.

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2nd Law of Thermodynamics Permits Evolution



Creationists repeatedly claim that the Second Law of Thermodynamics prohibits evolution. Buzz. Wrong. False. Incorrect. This claim has been around at least back to when I was in college, back when disco was popular. It was wrong then and it’s still wrong.

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Pittsburgh’s Day of Giving


Pittsburgh Day of Giving October 3, 2013

Tomorrow, October 3, 2013 is Pittsburgh’s Day of Giving. This is the 5th year for the Day of Giving. As the PittsburghGives.Org website says,

PittsburghGives is an initiative of The Pittsburgh Foundation.  The aim of this initiative is to:

  • Increase the level of knowledge about nonprofits in our region
  • Leverage or increase individual funding or organizations or an issue in our community
  • Spotlight the charitable trends in our region.  Where are people giving?  What are your community’s nonprofits saying is vital and needed right now?

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Weather Wars


NASA Hangout: Ask a Climatologist

There’s an interesting exchange beginning at 41:08 on the YouTube video of the recording of the NASA Hangout: Ask A Climate Scientist on 30 September 2013. The video starts a few seconds before the 41:08 mark:

NASA Hangout: Ask a Climate Scientist

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Water, Martian Dirt and Life


The water molecules absorbed by a hygroscopic salt are not called "The Solvation Army" They should be.

In a paper just released, “Mars soil contains a huge amount of water, reports NASA’s Curiosity rover.” (1) If you’re interested in making drinking water, check out this video: So Mars Has Water. Could We Drink It?

Unfortunately, getting potable water out of the soil will be difficult, especially with all the oxychlorine compounds (2). If you’re interested in making rocket fuel to get back to Earth, it’s a lot simpler, especially if you’re willing to deal with liquid oxygen and hydrogen. (3)

But what does this mean for life?

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  1. The original paper is here, unfortunately behind a paywall: Volatile, Isotope, and Organic Analysis of Martian Fines with the Mars Curiosity Rover. []
  2. Possibly the oxychlorine compounds are perchlorate, which is a serious water pollutant here on Earth and the oxidizing agent in high power rocketry motors. Yeah, my hobbies sometimes come in conflict []
  3. The basic technique for creating oxygen and hydrogen out of the Martian soil is an exercise left to the reader. The actual chemical engineering involved in creating automated stations to create tanks of liquid oxygen and hydrogen on Mars to await human explorers is an exercise left to the people designing the Human Exploration of Mars Project–or second year Chem Es taking a sadistic final. []

@realscientists Features David Schiffman This Week


@RealScientists David Schiffman

Every week, @RealScientists on Twitter has a “real scientist” talk about what they’re doing as a way of showing the public what “real scientists” do. This week features David Schiffman (@WhySharksMatter), “a Ph.D. student at the Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy at the University of Miami…“. David grew up in Pittsburgh. (1) He’s working toward his Ph.D. by studying the ecology and conservation of sharks.

I’m looking forward to following our native son on @realscientists this week as he explains his work and answers questions! (2)


  1. David’s not the only marine scientist I know from Pittsburgh. Maybe the Three Rivers give people a taste for even more water! ;) The Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium has a great shark exhibit, too. []
  2. (Maybe it will make up for the Discovery Channel’s disastrous Shark Week Megalodon fraud. My wife, Nancy, still hasn’t forgiven the Discovery Channel for that one. If it’s not Mythbusters, we’re not watching it, and she’s even annoyed at the Mythbusters promos which seem to offer new episodes of Mythbusters but are repeats. []

Replacing the Space Shuttle


Space Shuttle Patch

On April 12, 1981, astronauts John Young and Robert Crippen took off in the Columbia space shuttle. Their flight was the first launch of the Space Transportation System (STS). Once in orbit, a look back at the Orbital Maneuvering System (OMS) (the two lumps below the fin on the back of the body of the shuttle) showed there were some insulating tiles missing. Because the OMS had a secondary thermal protection (a felt-like fabric) and the area did not reach as high a temperature during re-entry, STS-1 landed safely. The thermal protection system (of which the tiles were a part) would be a continuing problem for the shuttles, one that would eventually cause the destruction of Columbia and the death of seven astronauts on January 16, 2003.

Columbia was the second shuttle to be lost in flight; Challenger was destroyed January 28, 1986 by a failure of a Solid Rocket Booster (SRB) gasket because of cold weather, and seven astronauts also died.

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I Was Wrong



Some chunk of my brain is convinced that if I and other science communicators can just do a good enough job of presenting the facts about Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW), everyone will come to understand the problem, we’ll fix it and stand around singing Nickelback’s “If Today Were Your Last Day.”

I was wrong.

Research shows that the facts don’t matter. In fact, showing the facts to someone who doubts global warming makes them doubt it even more.

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