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Political snippets March 8, 2009

Posted by Sarah in science.
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I’ve been catching up on some of the other science blogs and a few stories have caught my eye – so here is some politically tinted fodder to chew over.

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How the Columbia crew’s lives were lost January 2, 2009

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A new report from NASA has chronicled in great detail the final moments in the lives of the crew on board space shuttle Columbia, which was lost on re-entry, in February 2003. The plain conclusion of the Columbia Crew Survival Investigation Report is that the accident could not have been survived by the crew, who did everything they were trained to do to avoid disaster.

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Science kudos for Obama December 21, 2008

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US President-elect Barack Obama has been appointing some excellent people to advise him on all things scientific during his presidency. His latest appointment, John Holdren, to the post of director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, has been met with particular joy from the scientific community, as Holdren is a physicist and leading expert on climate change. Hurrah!

Read more in The Guardian here, or the New York Times here. Phil Plait has some opinions on Obama’s appointments and the future of NASA under his administration.

UPDATE: Obama’s weekly address on YouTube of 20 December was actually about his science policy and appointments, watch it below. Sounds good!

Black Hole Shocker! December 11, 2008

Posted by Sarah in science.
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Near-IR image of the galactic centre.

Astronomers have been able to confirm that the centre of our Milky Way Galaxy contains a supermassive black hole, read the headlines (here, here, here) yesterday. Brilliant! The galactic centre observations of the last 15 or so years, at both the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching and the University of California in LA are really exciting stuff. Videos like this one (and more here)of the stars whizzing round the galactic centre at immense speeds are great. Furthermore, and most excitingly, the mapping of these stars’ motions has allowed astronomers on both sides of the Atlantic to deduce independently that the central mass in our Galaxy is so dense and confined to such a small space that it can only exist in the form of a supermassive black hole.  The observation of the ultra-powerful radio source, Sagittarius A*, in the central region of the Galaxy supports this conclusion, as radio jets are thought to be associated with infalling matter around black holes.

Technology played a crucial part in the discovery: astronomers have only been able to track the stars in the densely crowded galactic centre to the required precision with the aid of adaptive optics, which correct for distortions arising in the Earth’s atmosphere and give the necessary boost to the resolution of the instrument.

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One More Time: Yes You Did November 5, 2008

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In case you’ve been in hibernation or living in a cave until now, or you just can’t get enough of the man, The Guardian have the full text of Barack Obamas acceptance speech with the video alongside it. Enjoy it here!