Nasa’s Europa Mission take another step toward reality


NASA’s current plan for exploring Europa has just passed its first major review, proving that it’s feasible, unlike any of the previous ideas the agency’s scientists cooked up. America’s space agency has been developing mission ideas for Jupiter’s moon for years and even considered sending a lander to the satellite as recently as a year ago. Its scientists also once thought of sending a spacecraft to orbit Europa, but they ended up having to scrap that plan: the moon is bathed in Jupiter’s radiation, which would quickly kill any vessel that’s constantly exposed to it. So, instead of a lander or a Europa orbiter, NASA will send out a spacecraft in the 2020s designed to orbit Jupiter itself.

As the agency revealed in May, that spacecraft will be equipped with nine imaging, radar, magnenometry and spectometry tools to study the moon’s ice crust and the subsurface ocean that’s likely underneath it. The vehicle will fly by Europa 45 times during its mission period, and it will use every chance it gets to know more about the natural satellite. It’ll even be equipped to gather liquid/gas samples, in case the moon really does erupt plumes of water into space. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has been studying the mission formally known as the Clipper concept since 2011, with help from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL). Now, that concept is ready to enter development phase, and if all goes well, we’ll finally know if there’s life on Jupiter’s moon.





Spacecraft built from graphene could fly without any fuel


Graphene is a wonder material made of carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb lattice. (Photo: Wiki Commons)

Even though it is only one atom thick, graphene is 200 times stronger than steel. It conducts heat and electricity with great efficiency, is nearly transparent, and might just be the most useful material ever discovered. The amazing properties of graphene, as well as the many inventions that have spawned from its discovery, are becoming too numerous to count. Now scientists have stumbled upon yet another incredible hallmark of this wonder material: It turns light into motion, reports New Scientist.
This latest graphene breakthrough came entirely by accident. Researchers discovered it while using a laser to cut a sponge made of crumpled sheets of graphene oxide. As the laser cut into the material, it mysteriously propelled forward. Although lasers have been shown to shove single molecules around, they shouldn’t be physically capable of moving a structure as large as the graphene sponge.
Baffled, researchers investigated further. The graphene material was put in a vacuum and again shot with a laser. Incredibly, the laser still pushed the sponge forward, and by as much as 40 centimeters. Researchers even got the graphene to move by focusing ordinary sunlight on it with a lens.
How is this possible? Researchers still aren’t sure, but there are two leading theories. One explanation is that the material is acting like a solar sail. Basically, photons can transfer momentum to an object and propel it forward, and in the vacuum of space this effect can accumulate and even generate enough thrust to move a spacecraft.
When researchers tested the solar sail theory, however, it worked too well. This led them to consider a second possibility, that the graphene is absorbing the laser’s energy, building up a charge of electrons. Eventually extra electrons are released, which act like a propellant, pushing the graphene material in the opposite direction.
Though this second theory is a bit vague and incomplete, scientists were able to detect a current flowing away from the graphene as it was exposed to a laser, suggesting that the theory is at least on the right track.
So what does this all mean? It means that researchers may have just accidentally discovered a propulsion system for a spacecraft that requires no fuel whatsoever. Essentially, a spacecraft built from graphene could explore the heavens powered by nothing more than sunlight.
“While the propulsion force is still smaller than conventional chemical rockets, it is already several orders larger than that from light pressure,” wrote researcher Yongsheng Chen and colleagues of the discovery.
More study is required before researchers can say for sure if the material can offer a viable alternative to fuel propulsion, but the results so far are exciting. Truly, there seems to be no end to the amazing qualities of graphene.

By: Bryan Nelson



How Changing My Diet Changed My Life

By Thomas Larson, Special to Everyday Health

Thomas Larson

After my third heart attack in five years, I became a vegan, or a plant-based eater. Then I wrote about it in my book, The Sanctuary of Illness: A Memoir of Heart Disease, which tells the journey of my having gone from a non-recovery recovery to healing after those near-fatal trials,which finally forced me to change my diet.

I was already a vegetarian, a “right” eater — or so I thought. That earlier journey began thirty years ago, while reading Francis Moore Lappe’s ground-breaking book Diet for a Small Planet. I was shaken to the core by the scale of factory farming and clear-cutting of Central American rain forests by McDonalds and other fast-food corporations.

Back then, like tens of thousands of my fellow climate-conscious, meat-is-murder, animal-sparing Californians (I wish I could say Americans), I renounced all sides of beef, bird, and goat. But not their edible byproducts — those tasty commodities like chicken eggs, whole milk, Swiss cheese, vanilla yogurt, and deep-dish pizza.

Yes, I ate right for the sake of the animal’s corporeal life but not for the sake of the planet’s: animal waste is the number one source of methane, scourge of global-warming. I was also not eating right for the sake of my arteries.

But by becoming vegan, I underwent a metamorphosis. I gave up every quarter of the cow for one simple–albeit less-than-obvious–reason: dairy is the devil.

How do I know?

Consider how my traumas and treatments unraveled.

Heart attack #1 — angioplasty, three stents, and a statin drug save me.

Heart attack #2 — angioplasty, one stent, increased exercise, more drugs and higher dosessave me.

Heart attack #3 — angioplasty, two stents, more drugs . . . save — no. Stop! Why do my arteries keep occluding? Why do I keep getting saved but not getting better?

I renewed my study. I found books and a couple movies on plant diets for heart patients. I consulted two lipidologists who ordered detailed blood panels and targeted with supplements the bad strains of cholesterol that continually clogged me.

And, finally, I learned this truth: my arteries inflame at those passageways where lipid deposits jelly-up as vulnerable plaque, that is, plaque likely to burst and block — because of two things. First is my dairy-rich diet and my inability (not that I’d ever really tried) to quit eating eggs and cheese. Second is the spongy cast of my arteries. These are gene-bred from my father, which for him, my older brother, and me guaranteed that we Larsons accrue sludgy pustules of cholesterol in our coronaries, just as Tim Russert and James Gandolfini did (to name two spectacular falls). Thereby, we were more susceptible to cardiac arrest (a.k.a., sudden death) than most Americans.

So, could it be any clearer that the only thing left for me to do, in addition to interventional treatment, exercise, and drugs, was to give up dairy and eat plants? No animal protein. Just plants. Which I did.

What do plants offer?

  1. No cholesterol and no casein, artery-closers extraordinaire
  2. Easily assimilated nitrous oxide, key to arterial self-repair
  3. Plenty of protein that’s nutritionally more beneficial than protein from animals
  4. Soluble fiber for bowel regularity
  5. A stomach-pleasing ban on hard-to-metabolize fat
  6. Enhanced sexual potency in males and females
  7. Less end-of-life disability
  8. Prevention of some cancers

I did ride a rough road from veggie to vegan. In addition to their initial canyon-ledge terror, my heart attacks were confusingly mild and harsh. Mild because each attack, for which I rushed myself to the nearest hospital (it’s smarter to call 911), was less grave than the preceding one, which made me think I was getting better. The statin drug, post-number-one, helped defuse the severity as well. Harsh because the infarctions came three times — carpet-bagging relatives who wouldn’t leave — which meant I was not getting better and my healing regimen was not rooting out the cause. This further said that at the rate I was going, I was never going to improve.

However, I did improve — but only after I discovered that what went in my mouth made me sick and kept me sick. I improved, dramatically, after I cut out the cow.

plant-based diet is a friend with many benefits — I rarely have angina or other chest pains. I dropped thirty-five pounds; I don’t count calories; I don’t diet. I seldom suffer heartburn, so I don’t think it’s masked angina (I used to). I can drink red wine; my LDL is super low (46) as is my total cholesterol (106) and my arteries are less inflamed than they were. My sex life has been reborn with a fit, desirous partner. And while I do have the occasional fatigue-ridden day, it’s probably my old plaques, packed in during my dairy days, still seeping into, and gumming up, my stented coronaries.

I’ll trade that last misfortune for all the other post-vegan advantages.



Is NASA one step closer to warp drive?



Potentially good news for those who want to zip around our solar system, and beyond, at speeds approaching that of light — and maybe even faster.

NASA, according to, is quietly claiming to have successfully tested a revolutionary new means of space travel that could one day allow for such insane speed, and to have done it in a hard vacuum like that of outer space for the first time.

The technology is based on the electromagnetic drive, or EM drive.

The science behind the EM drive is, well, complicated to say the least, but the basic idea is to convert electrical energy into thrust without propellant (the fuel in rockets), which should be impossible because it violates the law of conservation of momentum. That law states that momentum can only be changed by one of the forces described by Newton’s laws of motion — that’s where propellant normally comes in with traditional rockets.

If you want to dive into the “hows” and “whys” of all this, they’re discussed at length — by amateur enthusiasts as well as Ph.Ds and one of the NASA engineers actually working on the EM drive — on this forum.

Scientists from the US, UK and China have demonstrated the EM drive over the past 15 years or so, but it’s been controversial, since as mentioned above, the EM drive would seem to violate classical physics. NASA’s tests in conditions that mimic outer space, however, bring a new sense of possibility to electromagnetic propulsion.


If such a technology really does work, and can be implemented in future spacecraft, the implications include faster, cheaper and more efficient travel around our solar system and beyond, and could even be a stepping stone to faster-than-light travel. Yes Trekkers, I do mean a warp drive.

Imagine a vehicle carrying half a dozen passengers and luggage to the moon in about four hours, or a multi-generational trip at almost one-tenth the speed of light to reach Alpha Centauri in less than a century. The technology that makes this a reality could be in testing right now in Texas at the Johnson Space Center.

NASA did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but we reached out to Paul March, the engineer who has been working on the EM drive at JSC and sharing some of the results on the forum mentioned above. He told us:

“My work at Eagleworks (the lab at JSC where the EM drive is being tested) is just a continuation of my work tackling the fundamental problem that has been hindering manned spaceflight from the termination of the Apollo moon program. That being the availability of a robust and cost-effective power and propulsion technology that can break us loose from the shackles of the rocket equation.”

The technology will still require more tests to verify that it’s the real deal (none of this has gone through anything like a rigorous peer review, except for the pretty vigorous discussion on the above forum), and any spacecraft that ends up using an EM drive will basically need a substantial onboard nuclear power plant that will need to be developed for such a specific use in space.

The notion of flying through space atop a nuclear reactor shouldn’t be any more scary than all the radiation flying through space outside our hypothetical future moon taxi though, so don’t worry.