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The 60-mile diameter Manicouagan impact feature in Canada

Defending the Earth

As astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has pointed out, we live in a cosmic shooting gallery. Less than a year ago a good-sized chunk of cosmic rock exploded over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk with a force of over 400 kilotons – over 30 times as powerful as the bomb that flattened Hiroshima. The impact was […]

The post Defending the Earth appears on ScienceWonk, FAS’s blog for opinions from guest experts and leaders.

new_horizons

Where does the plutonium come from?

Last week I wrote about how the shortage of Pu-238 might impact the exploration of the outer Solar System, but I didn’t much get into where the plutonium comes from. After all, while there are trace amounts of natural plutonium, there certainly isn’t nearly enough to fuel a space probe. So this week it seemed […]

The post Where does the plutonium come from? appears on ScienceWonk, FAS’s blog for opinions from guest experts and leaders.

Pu-238 glowing with the heat of alpha radiation decay

Houston – we need some plutonium

The outer Solar System is a dark and lonely place – solar energy drops off with the inverse square of distance to the Sun so a spaceship in orbit around Jupiter (5.5 times as far from the Sun as the Earth) receives only about 3% as much solar energy as one orbiting Earth. Solar panels […]

The post Houston – we need some plutonium appears on ScienceWonk, FAS’s blog for opinions from guest experts and leaders.

life_on_mars

On to Mars!

One of my favorite quotes is, sadly, unattributable (at least as far as I’ve been able to find): “The cowards never started and the weak died along the way.” I first came across this in an explanation of why the American West is traditionally more of a bastion of rugged individualism than is the East […]

The post On to Mars! appears on ScienceWonk, FAS’s blog for opinions from guest experts and leaders.

The big accelerator in the sky

I used to fly quite a bit – for a decade I flew at least 50,000 miles a year, and was at more than 75,000 for nearly half that time.  Every time I fly this means that cosmic rays are falling on me like rain, and continue to do so until we land.  In fact, [...]

The post The big accelerator in the sky appears on ScienceWonk, FAS’s blog for opinions from guest experts and leaders.

Weapons in space

Space may be the final frontier, but it’s likely to be the next battleground. At least that was the conclusion I drew from a distinguished panel that spoke to the Fletcher Club of New York a few days ago (May 9). The evening’s topic, the weaponization of space, seemed reasonably innocuous – I’d expected to [...]

The post Weapons in space appears on ScienceWonk, FAS’s blog for opinions from guest experts and leaders.

Solar Storms

Over the weekend Earth was slammed by the biggest solar storm in about a decade. Days earlier a huge x-class solar flare (the most powerful category) had blasted millions of tons of hydrogen into space, with Earth in the cross-hairs. The eruption – called a coronal mass ejection – blasted through space at more than [...]

The post Solar Storms appears on ScienceWonk, FAS’s blog for opinions from guest experts and leaders.

Who gives a fig for the Higgs?

A few months ago the Center for European Nuclear Research (which goes by the acronym CERN) reported it had found evidence of the most-wanted subatomic particle – the Higgs Boson (aka the God particle). If this finding is confirmed it will wrap up one of the longest-standing loose ends in our current model (the Standard [...]

The post Who gives a fig for the Higgs? appears on ScienceWonk, FAS’s blog for opinions from guest experts and leaders.

Water on Mars?

By Dr. Y The last years have seen an increasing number of observations showing that Mars once had liquid water and that it has ice not far underground today. In the 36 years since the equivocal results of the Viking probes’ search for life space scientists have scaled back their experiments, looking instead for evidence [...]

The post Water on Mars? appears on ScienceWonk, FAS’s blog for opinions from guest experts and leaders.

Change at the United Nations

by: Alicia Godsberg The First Committee of this year’s 64th United Nations General Assembly (GA) just wrapped up a month of meetings.  The GA breaks up its work into six main committees, and the First Committee deals with disarmament and international security issues.  During the month-long meetings, member states give general statements, debate on such [...]

The post Change at the United Nations appears on the FAS Strategic Security Blog.