sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Friday, March 20, 2015

Understanding Our Proto-planetary Accretion Disk

I don't think that many of you will care, but I am a science geek at heart, so I think this is interesting.

The elements that later went on to constitute the major ingredients in life on Earth -- such as carbon, oxygen, nitrogen and hydrogen, originated as volatile gases in the protoplanetary disk when the solar system was less than 10 million years old. If you want to understand how those elements contributed to the creation of Earth as we know it, you need to understand where they occurred during the time that the Solar System formed.

The rocky planets, Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars formed at roughly the same time and in roughly the same way. Meteorites called chondrites, which are thought to be the most primitive leftovers from the birth and infancy of the solar system about 4.6 billion years ago. They derive their name from their main component -- chondrules, which formed as molten droplets floating in space, melted by massive shock waves that blasted through the early solar system. We can tell that happened based on magnetic residue in the chondrules that tells the story like rings on a tree.

Enter the latest information:

Led by Kelly Miller, a doctoral student in the lab of Dante Lauretta, the principal investigator of NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission, the team has found evidence of minerals within meteorites that formed in an environment that was enhanced in oxygen and sulfur and date from a time before the particles stuck together, or "accreted," to form larger bodies such as asteroids and planets. Specifically, Miller and her co-workers studied sections about half as thin as a human hair that were cut from R chondrites, a rare type of meteorite so named after the location where the type specimen fell: Rumuruti in Kenya. R chondrites are thought to have formed somewhere between Earth and Jupiter. In one specimen, found in Antarctica, they discovered a new type of building block called sulfide chondrules. The samples were obtained from the U.S. collection of Antarctic meteorites -- a cooperative effort among NASA, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Smithsonian Institution.

"Generally, chondrules are made up of minerals rich in silicon, but the chondrules we found in this meteorite are completely different in that they are composed of sulfide minerals," she explained. "This suggests that they formed in a region that was rich in sulfur, and provides evidence for a previously unknown type of environment in the early solar system."

To learn more about the early stages of the solar system including the origin of the building blocks of life and water, the University of Arizona-led OSIRIS-REx mission is getting ready to launch a robotic spacecraft to asteroid Bennu in 2016 and bring a sample of at least 60 grams of pristine material back to Earth for study. The mission will provide ample amounts of sample material and, most importantly, from a known context.

"Unlike with meteorites that came to us serendipitously and we're lacking the context of where the material formed, with OSIRIS-REx we will know exactly where that piece came from, and we will know the travel history of Bennu -- where it has been in the past," Miller said.

Iran - Now Terror-Free?

When you live long enough, you find irony in many more things than you did when you were younger and didn't have that much water under the keel yet. Yes, there are people like (blogger) WoFat who have pissed more salt water than I've sailed over -- but the irony has been kicking in more now than ever before. Thus, I find that it's time for a sermonette, which is a code word for "rant".

The Obama administration bleached Iran and Hezbollah out of its new intelligence report on worldwide terrorist threats. "Domestic threats from suburban soccer moms and their husbands who commute into the city to work, who are not entirely pleased with the Obama Agenda and may run amok," is still high on the US list of concerns...higher, it would seem, that a nuclear armed Iran that is pledged to our destruction.
The 2015 "Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community" excludes Iran and its network of terrorist groups, driven by the Shia sect of Islam, from the report's terror section. 
This is a sharp turn from 2014, when Iran featured prominently in the report on national security threats. In fact, Iran and its Hezbollah army in Lebanon got its own subsection then. What happened in the course of 12 months that took Iran from "evil empire" to near American ally status? Let's bounce back to 2014 and that enumeration of the same report:
"Iran and Hezbollah: Outside of the Syrian theater, Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah continue to directly threaten the interests of US allies," last year's U.S. report warned. "Hezbollah has increased its global terrorist activity in recent years to a level that we have not seen since the 1990s."
First lady Michelle Obama hosted a big White House party celebrating the Iranian New Year known as Nowruz. The event featured a Persian dinner and an Iranian dance troupe. Mrs. Obama explained that celebrating the Iranian New Year is part of the "traditions that make us who we are as a country," as if Nowruz ranks with Thanksgiving or Independence Day. Really Michelle? Really? To me Nowruz is at the bottom of the list, right under Kwanzaa.

While we negotiate away economic sanctions in feeble nuke talks, let's not offend the ayatollah with terror assessments, and while we're at it, let's show him how respectful we are of his culture.

Clearly, the executive branch of government has departed from prudence and any sense of rationality or proportionality. And the pretender to the throne, former Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton, author of the Arab Spring debacle and Bitch of Benghazi... is poised to take over the nuclear launch codes. Do the American people really want her to step into Obama's shoes? The only person inside the beltway who is smaller and more petty, vicious, nasty and venal than Barack Obama is Hillary Clinton - as if anyone would think it possible that someone could be smaller and worse.

I had lunch with a friend from DARPA today down the street from the UCLA Campus and reminded said person that they voted for Barack. They hung their head in shame. I asked if they'd vote for Hillary Clinton (they are dyed in the wool liberal). The answer was a strident , "NEVER". Maybe there is hope.