Math Blaster has Docked onto Facebook

Picture1Hey Blasters! Do you love playing Math Blaster on your computer? Well, now Max and GC have a second home on Facebook! With our new Facebook version of Math Blaster, you can invite all your friends to compete in your favorite Math Academy games! Teach your best friend the ropes of living on the I.S.P and hang out in each others Pods.

Now is your chance to show off your high scores to all your friends. When it comes to Alien Wrangler, are you a true space cowboy? This Facebook version of Math Blaster is perfect for you! Put your friends to the test by inviting your Facebook Friends in the new Facebook app. Watch out though, they might just catch up and beat your score! Thankfully, healthy competition is only encouraged by us at the I.S.P. How else do you think GC and I became skilled enough to save the galaxy?

Play now!

Linking Icequakes and Earthquakes

How much do you know about icequakes? The terminology is not nearly as common to hear as ‘earthquakes,’ but in fact the two have some undeniable links. In its most basic form, icequakes or frost quakes are the breaking up on large frozen masses like ice sheets, glaciers and the like. So what does this all mean and how are these things linked? Read on to learn more!

Recent studies have linked the high impact 2010 Chilean earthquakes to noticeable changes in Antarctica in the form of these ice quakes. What makes the link between this case of earthquakes and subsequent icequakes is the 3,000 mile between the two areas. Not Studies since the 8.8 earthquake in 2010 have revealed that the ice in Antarctica is vulnerable to seismic waves even originating from remote locations.

This ripple effect can be explained to young learners through basic cause and affect principles. Learning about links like these can help them understand how science and the environment work through interlocking systems. Ultimately when one major even like high magnitude earth quakes occur, they can still have repercussions thousands of miles away.

Share this bit of knowledge with your kids to spark their interest in science!

Nothing but Red Skies

A red sky in our atmosphere here on Earth is a beautiful sight at sunrise or sunset and it is also indicative of the weather changing. But on other planets and stars, a red sky may not seem as glamorous or simple. An example of a strange celestial body, called a brown dwarf, with unusually red skies was discovered recently by a team of astronomers.

Photo by JanetR3

Brown dwarfs are actually not planets or stars. They fall in a category in between the two because they are too big to be called planets, but they do not possess the right properties to fully transform into stars either. A Brown dwarf’s size is in between a star, like the Sun, and a big planet, like Jupiter. Sometimes they can be referred to as “failed stars” since they lack the energy source a star has making them cold and not as visible in our night skies.

A particular brown dwarf caught the eye of astronomers recently because of its very red appearance in comparison to others. Using the Very Large Telescope (VLT) located in Chile, astronomers were able to observe this peculiar sight. They found that a thick layer of clouds in the brown dwarf’s atmosphere was causing it to look red. But these clouds aren’t the same as the ones we are used to here on Earth—these clouds are made mostly of mineral dust and the size of these dust grains are what makes the brown dwarf appear red.

The Astronomers found that the brown dwarf’s atmosphere is very hot and extreme, containing gases not suitable for us here on Earth to breath. Not only is the brown dwarf too hot for us to survive there, but it also has very large particles that dominate its atmosphere. Ouch!

Observing these celestial bodies, along with other planets and stars, will give us great insight as to how these extreme atmospheres work. Scientists can also better understand the range of the many atmospheres that can exist in our galaxy.

Shark Week: The Great White

The most anticipated week of the year has finally arrived: Shark Week. Airing on Discovery Channel in late July or early August every year, Shark Week has attracted millions of curious fans who want to learn more about these beasts of the ocean. This year marks Shark Week’s twenty-sixth year on the air and people are still fascinated with these amazing marine animals. There is one shark in particular, however, that has captivated the interest of the public for many years: the great white.800px-Great_white_shark_south_africa

Named for their white bellies, great white sharks are the largest predatory fish on Earth. They average fifteen feet in length, but records show that these sharks can grow up to twenty feet and weigh over 5,000 pounds. Great whites have smooth, streamlined bodies shaped like torpedoes that allow them to propel through the water at speeds up to fifteen miles per hour. These sharks also have the ability to leave the water completely by breaching through the air to attack prey from below. With their keen sense of smell and hundreds of sharp teeth, these sharks prey on animals such as sea lions, seals, salmon, sea turtles, and small whales.

Although many people believe that this fish preys on humans, scientists now understand that people are not on the great white’s menu. Most great white shark attacks that occur are simply curious sharks “sample biting” humans, meaning that they bite and then release when they realize that this is not their normal prey. These sharks rarely come near shore except when attracted to prey such as herring and mackerel. So while great whites have a reputation as being mindless killing machines, we now know that they are not as fearsome as we once believed.

The great white is often a misunderstood fish and is considered an endangered species by many marine biologists. By getting a better understand of these large fish, humans can help protect them from going extinct and be better prepared when they come across one in the water. During Shark Week, audiences will learn about more than just the impressive qualities of the great white. There is so much to learn about the mysteries of these deep ocean fish and, while sharks come in all different shapes and sizes, they are all incredibly fascinating.

Scientists Find Key to Short Gamma Ray Bursts

Short gamma ray bursts that occur in our solar system are some of the brightest explosions to be observed by scientists. These explosions occur when the life of an ultra dense neutron star is ended by a catastrophic collapse to a black hole. The result of these short gamma ray bursts releases as much energy in one second as our entire galaxy does in a year. Scientists have long speculated that enormous magnetic field strengths are the key ingredient to explaining these powerful emissions, but had not been able to recreate such forces.

gamma

At the Albert Einstein Institute (AEI), scientists set out to determine how these magnetic fields—one hundred million billion times stronger than Earth’s magnetic field—could be generated from neutron stars that have a much lower magnetic field strength. These scientists were able to explain this phenomenon by finding rotating plasma layers in these magnetic fields that were continuously rubbing together. This process is called magnetorotational instability and causes magnetic fields to become extremely amplified. Until now, scientists had not been able to recreate this phenomenon without the present numerical simulations.

Scientists at AEI simulated a hypermassive neutron star with an ordered magnetic field that was then subsequently made more complex as the star continued rotating. Once it becomes dynamically unstable, it eventually collapses to a black hole. These simulations have shown and confirmed the presence of magnetorotational instability and its effect on the rapid amplification of these stars magnetic fields.

The results of these findings have a two-fold effect. First off, it shows the development of the magnetorotational instability in the framework of Einstein’s theory of general relativity. Secondly, and most importantly, it has a profound astrophysical impact because it proves that ultra strong magnetic fields could be the key ingredient in understand the massive energy release of these short gamma ray bursts.

 

Sea Lions Move to the Beat

Scientists have found that humans are not the only mammals that can keep a beat. Studies have been conducted at the University of California, Santa Cruz by researchers and have discovered that sea lions possess the capability to conduct certain actions that were quite unexpected.

The University of California, Santa Cruz Cognition and Sensory Systems Laboratory team have been particularly studying one sea lion named Ronan. Ronan was born in the wild in 2008 and was discovered to not be capable of living in the wild. Rescuers had to save this animal from being stranded three times and was finally taken into captivity after its third. In 2010, Ronan joined the UC Santa Cruz’s Cognition and Sensory Systems Laboratory and was used for control studies that focused on the effects of a natural neurotoxin produced by algae on the California coast.

Currently, Ronan is being used for another study. This particular project is run by Peter Cook, a graduate student in psychology at University of California, Santa Cruz. Initially, this study was noted as a simple side project and was not to be highly publicized. However, the findings proved otherwise. Researchers on the team spent several months training Ronan to listen to musical beats.

According to the NBC news article “This Sea Lion Grooves to a Disco Beat”, Cook and the team started out with a simple rhythm track and used food as a reward for Ronan to follow through with the proper head-bobbing behavior. Eventually, Ronan was able to bob her head in time with a variety of tunes, including some that she was hearing for the first time. After observing that Ronan was capable of doing such a task, researchers’ now believe that other mammals out in the wild are also capable of performing at the same level as Ronan.

According to Cook, this study challenges scientists’ previous assumption that “the ability to move in time with a beat was connected to the ability for vocal learning and vocal mimicry.” Before this study, these skills seemed only possible by humans, cockatoos, parrots and budgies. This recent study has placed a new beginning for further studies on comparative psychology.

This Week in Space History

In March of 1979, scientists made a ground breaking discovery regarding our Solar System’s fifth planet from the sun. With the help of the Voyager 1 space probe they were able to observe that the planet of Jupiter was actually surrounded by faint rings made of dust and other space particles, which were never accounted for in earlier studies. Because the low density of the particles, the rings can only be seen from Earth with the use of large scale and powerful telescopes.

To this day many remain unaware of the fact that Jupiter has these rings as they are not as defined and prominent as those of the other outer planets such as Saturn, Neptune, and Uranus. Since they were first documented in the late 70s, scientists have been able to expand our knowledge of Jupiter’s rings and further define each of its components. For example, the rings themselves are now divided into more specific structures that include a Halo ring, a Main ring, the Amalthea gossamer ring and the Thebe gossamer ring.

With our many advances in space and technology, scientists are making history with each and every new find. From the discovery of Jupiter’s rings to the more recent planetary studies on Mars, each new venture in space proves to be  history in the making.