News Flash Mob

Gavin DeGroot

NASA's Dawn Project: Will We Find Life?

NASA's Dawn project, a project put in place to study the dwarf planet Ceres, had recently been launched. This planet, which is approximately the size of Texas, is made up of about 20% water. Because of this, scientists believe that it may contain life forms.

Ceres orbits the sun in the asteroid belt, which means that it is relatively close to Earth and somewhat easy to explore. It was discovered in 1801 and for a time, this dwarf planet was considered a asteroid and not a planet at all. It was promoted to a dwarf planet in 2006, causing scientists to look at it more closely.

During this Dawn project, scientists will be sending a small spacecraft to the planet to take up a small sample of the planet's crust for further research. The spacecraft arrived in Ceres's orbit on March 6th, 2015. "If we discover something like cryovolcanism on Ceres, that would be spectacular because it would be an indicator that there are subsurface reservoirs of water," said Mark Sykes, a scientist working with the Dawn mission. Once the research is done, scientists will not follow regular protocol of crashing the spacecraft into the planet. "There is a lot happening on this object, and that could make Ceres very astrobiologically important" Sykes said. Because of this, they will leave their spacecraft in orbit of Ceres as a permanent moonlet.

But the question remains: will we find life in this vast and empty universe?

The Complex Science of the Simply Delicious Snack

Two French scientists have recently conducted a study of the physics of popcorn, attempting to find out what makes it "pop" and what makes the actual popping sound.

In this study, engineer Emmanuel Virot and physicist Alexandre Ponomarenko took a high-speed camera and focused it onto a hot plate. They then placed popcorn kernels onto the plate and recorded the results. They found that when the kernels get heated, the water inside vaporizes and expands, causing the hard endosperm inside to become a molten, starchy mass. The added pressure from the expanding water causes the hull to rupture and a "leg" of starch shoots out, causing the kernel to shoot up. At this point, the kernel explodes and the starch flies out in all directions, quickly solidifying as it reaches the final, delicious product.

After this experiment, they were still left with the question of what makes the popping sound. To find this out, the placed a microphone next to the camera and found that the vaporized water escaping into the air was what made the popping sound.

When describing the results of this study, Emmanuel Virot declared that “this phenomenon contains interesting physics from different fields: thermodynamics, biomechanics and acoustics.” Next time you bring out a bag of popcorn, think about the science and complexity of this simply delicious snack.

The Aquarius House Field Trip

Students in Bay View Middle School's Aquarius house went on a field trip to Milwaukee's Discovery World last Monday, April 13th. Many students were excited about the trip and had a lot of fun exploring and learning. However, a few students are upset about the field trip and felt that it wasn't as good as it could've been. Many felt they did not have enough time at some exhibits. Students were split into random groups and had specific schedules showing where they were supposed to be at specific times. Students were also told to fill out a packet answering specific questions, and were often rushed at many exhibits because of that.

After the rushed field trip at Discovery World, students were instructed to take a test which would show what they learned from this event. However, many students didn't fill out any packet during their field trip and would rather have had the opportunity to properly visit the exhibits.

Despite what you may think on first glance, these students were perhaps the most intelligent ones of the bunch. This is because the test given was created incorrectly. Many questions had incorrect answers and some answers didn't even fit the question. One time, the correct answer wasn't even an option! This left the students that filled out a study guide feeling very disappointed and, in some cases, envious of those who didn't fill in their study guides.

Ultimately, this event was not the best it could've been. Some students are calling it a failure, while some are calling only the concept a failure, and yet more simply say that more preplanning was needed. Yet still, most students say that the event was fun, despite it being quite stressful. Many got to see things that they had never seen before and learn about things they had never thought about. Students were quite happy to have gone to such a cool place, even if they were somewhat rushed.