Thursday, February 8, 2024

Short Takes – 2-8-24

'Swarm of suicide drones' attacks US army base in Syria in retaliation for Baghdad airstrike. article. Pull quote: “Today's attack comes only a few hours after a suspected American assassination of a Kataib Hezbollah commander in Baghdad.”

US to launch next moon mission on Valentine's Day. article. Pull quote: “SpaceX is targeting a 12:57 am (0557 GMT) blast off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, with Intuitive Machines' Nova-C lander expected to land on the moon on February 22, at an impact crater near the lunar south pole.”

Emergency Order To Prevent Operation of Trains and Other On-Track Rail Equipment on Blackwell Northern Gateway Railroad. Federal Register FRA Emergency Order. Summary: “The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) of the United States Department of Transportation has determined that public safety compels the issuance of an Emergency Order (Order) requiring the Blackwell Northern Gateway Railroad (BNGR) of Blackwell, Oklahoma, to discontinue operation of all trains, locomotives, and any other on-track rail vehicles or equipment under any circumstances over any track BNGR leases or owns, including the rail line extending from milepost (MP) 0.09 at Wellington, Kansas, to MP 35.35 at Blackwell, Oklahoma, and from MP 127.0 to MP 125.0 at Blackwell until BNGR complies with all requirements of this Order.” Summary of safety violations starts here. Scary!

Approval of nuclear pilot plant that uses molten salt coolant instead of water a step towards safer reactors. article. Pull quote: “Flibe, the name given to a mixture of lithium and beryllium fluorides, has been custom designed for the Hermes reactor by Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers. ‘Extensive experience and design information exists from the early US reactor development programme that studied and tested liquid-fuelled molten salt reactors,’ writes Kairos, adding that flibe is compatible with high-temperature structural materials. Additionally, Flibe is not broken down by radiation, does not react violently with air or water and can carry more heat than the same volume of water. ‘In Kairos Power’s reactor, there is no need to provide for make-up coolant since the coolant cannot boil away and … [this] allows more cooling capability under accident scenarios compared to water-cooled reactors,’ Kairos explain.”

Saturn’s ‘Death Star’ moon might contain a hidden ocean. article. Pull quote: “The new calculations suggest that Mimas has an ice shell roughly 20 to 30 kilometers thick, followed by a 70-kilometer-deep ocean and a solid rocky core. To account for the lack of surface cracks, Lainey and colleagues believe the ocean formed between 5 million and 50 million years ago, a geological eyeblink that wouldn’t provide enough time for major alterations to the moon’s exterior.”

Viral news story of botnet with 3 million toothbrushes was too good to be true. article. Pull quote: “Alas, fiction is sometimes stranger than truth. There weren't really 3 million Internet-connected toothbrushes accessing the website of a Swiss company in a DDoS attack that did millions of dollars of damage. The toothbrush botnet was just a hypothetical example that some journalists wrongly interpreted as having actually happened.”

NASA's Voyager 1 satellite is currently lost in deep space due to a critical memory error. article. Pull quote: “Even if the current memory error that has rendered Voyager 1 unusable can be fixed, these Voyager probes are both expected to slowly decay in their usability over time. This is because they use nuclear batteries which will lose power year-over-year, requiring instruments on the spacecraft to be disabled in order to keep operating it once the battery has lost enough power.”

Protecting the Protector Boosts Plant Oil Content. article. A bit bio-geeky, but potentially important to the production of biofuels. Pull quote: “Using clues from other groups that had used a different approach to tackle this problem, the scientists engineered variants of the oleosin protein and tested their effects in tobacco leaves. The team initially designed the variants to change all the amino acids hypothesized to be involved in the degradation of oleosin. Then, they reverted the mutations back one at a time and looked for the biggest changes in oil accumulation. In the end, this allowed them to identify a few key mutations that made oleosin significantly more resistant to breakdown.”

Rubin Observatory will Inspire a New Era in Space Missions without Ever Leaving the Ground. Pull quote: ““Nothing will come close to the depth of Rubin’s survey and the level of characterization we will get for Solar System objects,” says Siegfried Eggl, Assistant Professor at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Lead of the Inner Solar System Working Group within the Rubin/LSST Solar System Science Collaboration. “It is fascinating that we have the capability to visit interesting objects and look at them close-up. But to do that we need to know they exist, and we need to know where they are. This is what Rubin will tell us.””

How to test a Moon landing from Earth.  Pull quote: “However, some aspects of space travel — such as the performance of a lander’s propulsion system — cannot be tested on Earth. “You can’t simulate weightlessness,” says Crabtree. “Until you fire a thruster, you will not definitively know the precise force it imparts.” She says the solution is to make a system that compares expected versus actual thrust to understand by how much the lander’s performance has deviated. Reserves of propellant are built in to make up for such differences.”

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