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First Results From The BICEP2 CMB Telescope Announced re: Gravitational Waves in the Cosmic Microwave Background

Jeffrey Donenfeld News, Science 1 Comment

A little over a year ago, I had the extraordinary opportunity to work with scientists John Kovac, Jon Kaufman, Howard Hui, and others at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, Antarctica (summary of my experience living and working at the south pole) on the BICEP2 and KECK Array Microwave Telescopes. Learning about how the telescopes worked, as well as the science behind what they were doing directly from the scientists involved was a great opportunity, and I was happy to be able to make my small contribution to the project. Checking out BICEP2 Refueling BICEP2 Working on KECK RESULTS “Researchers from the BICEP2 collaboration today announced the first direct evidence for this cosmic inflation. Their data also represent the first images of gravitational waves, or ripples in space-time. These waves have been described as the “first tremors of the Big Bang.” Finally, the data confirm a deep connection between quantum mechanics and general relativity.” Announcement from NASA JPL: Astronomers are announcing today that they have acquired the first direct evidence that gravitational waves rippled through our infant universe during an explosive period of growth called inflation. This is the strongest confirmation yet of cosmic inflation theories, which say the universe expanded by 100 trillion trillion times, in less than the blink of an eye. The findings were made with the help of NASA-developed detector technology on the BICEP2 telescope at the South Pole, in collaboration with the National Science Foundation. “Operating the latest detectors in ground-based and balloon-borne experiments allows us to mature these technologies for space missions and, in the process, make discoveries about the universe,” said Paul Hertz, NASA’s Astrophysics Division director in Washington. This morning, they announced their first set of results from Bicep2 at the Harvard Center for Astrophysics: From Sean Carrol: Monday morning: here are results! First, the best fit to r, the ratio of gravitational waves to density perturbations: BICEP2 2014 Results Release PDF:  BICEP2 II: EXPERIMENT AND THREE-YEAR DATA SET PDF: BICEP2 I: DETECTION OF B-mode POLARIZATION AT DEGREE ANGULAR SCALES Sean Carrol: Gravitational Waves in the Cosmic Microwave Background And a bit of press from around the web: Stamford Advocate: Evidence spotted for universe’s early growth spurt Huffington Post: Good Morning, Inflation! Hello, Multiverse! BBC: Cosmic inflation: ‘Spectacular’ discovery hailed NY Times: Detection of Waves in Space Buttresses Landmark Theory of Big Bang Snowmobiling to the Dark Sector Laboratory Physicist Jon Kaufman stands on top of the Martin A. Pomerantz Observatory. Physicist Jon Kaufman gives me a tour of the BICEP2 Telescope.. Views: Dark Sector Laboratory, South Pole, Antarctica by Google Maps Pics from working on KECK…

Jeffrey DonenfeldFirst Results From The BICEP2 CMB Telescope Announced re: Gravitational Waves in the Cosmic Microwave Background
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Infographic: Major Icebreakers of the World

Jeffrey Donenfeld Infographic, News, Science, Technology Leave a Comment

Great infographic today thanks to the US Coast Guard – a comprehensive review of the world’s major icebreakers. My next task, sail on all of them! From the United States Naval Institute: “The Coast Guard Office of Waterways and Ocean Policy (CG-WWM) began producing the chart of major icebreakers of the world in July 2010. Since then, we have gathered icebreaker information and recommendations from a variety of sources and experts, including icebreaker subject-matter experts, internet posts, news updates, Arctic experts and Coast Guard offices with icebreaker equities. We validate our information within the public forum and update the chart at least semi-annually based on new information and feedback. This chart represents the Coast Guard’s current factual understanding of the major icebreaker fleet. This chart is not intended for icebreaker fleet comparisons and no inference should be drawn regarding a country’s icebreaker “ranking” against another.” U.S. Coast Guard's 2013 Review of Major Icebreakers of the World | USNI News.

Jeffrey DonenfeldInfographic: Major Icebreakers of the World
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Learning to MIG Weld

Jeffrey Donenfeld Science Leave a Comment

Last night I took a class through Denver’s new learning startup Dabble on MIG Welding. The class was taught by structural engineer Nick Geurts of Martino & Luth, Inc.. During the class, hosted in Nick’s backyard garage and workshop, we covered the very basics of welding techniques, and then some of the specifics of entry level MIG Welding on mild steel. After welding a few pieces of steel together, I felt pretty confident in making a basically usable weld – although certainly not perfect or professional. Mig Welding, from Wikipedia: Gas metal arc welding (GMAW), sometimes referred to by its subtypes metal inert gas (MIG) welding or metal active gas (MAG) welding, is a welding process in which an electric arc forms between a consumable wire electrode and the workpiece metal(s), which heats the workpiece metal(s), causing them to melt, and join. Along with the wire electrode, a shielding gas feeds through the welding gun, which shields the process from contaminants in the air. The process can be semi-automatic or automatic. A constant voltage, direct current power source is most commonly used with GMAW, but constant current systems, as well as alternating current, can be used. There are four primary methods of metal transfer in GMAW, called globular, short-circuiting, spray, and pulsed-spray, each of which has distinct properties and corresponding advantages and limitations. Find out more about Nick’s class at Dabble.

Jeffrey DonenfeldLearning to MIG Weld
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The Coldest Place in the World: Dome Argus, East Antarctica

Jeffrey Donenfeld News, Science, Video Leave a Comment

NASA recently revealed that a spot in Antarctica just hit a record -135.3 degrees F below zero – that’s cold! In my time at the south pole, the coldest I experienced was -60F – not even close to the record. Fron NBC News: Ice scientist Ted Scambos at the National Snow and Ice Data Center said the new record is “50 degrees colder than anything that has ever been seen in Alaska or Siberia or certainly North Dakota.” “It’s more like you’d see on Mars on a nice summer day in the poles,” Scambos said, from the American Geophysical Union scientific meeting in San Francisco Monday, where he announced the data. “I’m confident that these pockets are the coldest places on Earth.” Here’s a quick explainer video. Me in the South Pole Ice Tunnels

Jeffrey DonenfeldThe Coldest Place in the World: Dome Argus, East Antarctica
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Scientist Terry Benson Presents On “Innovations in Hot Water Drilling at the South Pole”

Jeffrey Donenfeld Science Leave a Comment

Last Austral Summer, I spent 3.5 months living at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, Antarctica. Among my many jobs on station, one of the most rewarding was the work I did with the Askaryan Radio Array drill and deployment teams. During my time working with the ARA, I got to spend some good time with Scientist Terry Benson. Here’s his excellent slide deck going over the science he’s working on at the South Pole, including details of the ARA Drill Rig I helped construct and test. Specifically, I helped construct the water tank overflow gutter, wired up the emergency stop switches, troubleshoot the main pump system, maintained the hose bindings, and tended to the drill as it operated. Innovations in Hot Water Drilling at the South Pole

Jeffrey DonenfeldScientist Terry Benson Presents On “Innovations in Hot Water Drilling at the South Pole”
Leaving Antarctica at the end of the 2012-2013 Austral Summer Season.

Government Shutdown Halts United States Antarctic Program – Save Science in Antarctica!

Jeffrey Donenfeld News, Science Leave a Comment

It’s truly a sad day for Antarctica. Because of the government furlough, science operations in Antarctica is being shut down as funds dry up, as a “result of the absence of appropriation and the Antideficiency Act.”, according to the official USAP.gov website. Amidst all of the other shakeup and struggle operations in Antarctica have gone through in recent years, I’m sad to hear that another setback has fallen on operations on the ice. So much good science and engineering research is being done there, it’s a shame that the small fraction of the budget that is needed to support the USAP has been suspended. A breakdown of the actual cost of the program, from Change.org: The total cost of the USAP program is approximately $350 million dollars. A value added amount of money which is small in terms of the $3.8 trillion dollar total budget that would be trivial not to have congress authorize a portion of it to allow international science to continue. With any luck, the furlough will end soon, and funds will be made available again before too much of the continent has been emptied out. Effects of the shutdown, from Change.org: The effects this shutdown will be the loss of continuity in projects that have been ongoing since the International Geophysical Year (IGY) some 50 years ago. Scientific data such as the Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) which has been ongoing for 30 years will have a large data gap in at a crucial time in our understanding of climate change. A similar problem would be the abrupt end to 11 years of continuous data on the solar cycle that is used, for example, by the UC Boulder Lidar project. Since solar cycles are 11 years long, missing this last critical bit of data could jeopardize the multi-year investment. Also threatened is our understanding of rapidly changing ecosystems that is being generated by the study of Penguins in the Palmer Peninsula. The full explanation on USAP.gov reads: Planning and Implementation of Caretaker Status for U.S. Antarctic Program October 8, 2013 The National Science Foundation (NSF) is responsible for managing and coordinating the U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP) on behalf of the nation. This includes providing support personnel and facilities and coordinating transportation and other logistics for scientific research. Due to the lapse in appropriation, funds for this support will be depleted on or about October 14, 2013. Without additional funding, NSF has directed its Antarctic support contractor to begin planning and implementing caretaker status for research stations, ships and other assets. The agency is required to take this step as a result of the absence of appropriation and the Antideficiency Act. Under caretaker status, the USAP will be staffed at a minimal level to ensure human safety and preserve government property, including the three primary research stations, ships and associated research facilities. All field and research activities not essential to human safety and preservation of property will be suspended. As NSF moves to caretaker status, it will also …

Jeffrey DonenfeldGovernment Shutdown Halts United States Antarctic Program – Save Science in Antarctica!

Building Electronics For Antarctica’s Automatic Geophysical Observatories Network

Jeffrey Donenfeld Science, Travel and Adventure, Trips 1 Comment

Among the many science experiments taking place at South Pole one of the more interesting field experiments is AGO – the Automatic Geophysical Observatories Network. While Research Scientist Dr. Bob Melville and his team were stationed here at the South Pole Station, I had the opportunuty to help build various electronics, which were subsequently installed at the AGO remote field sensor sites. It was a great experience working with them this year, and I’m certainly hoping to continue my involvement during future seasons on the ice. A bit about AGO, from the University of Maryland: Continued progress in understanding the Sun’s influence on the structure and dynamics of the Earth’s upper atmosphere depends upon increasing knowledge of the electrodynamics of the polar cap region and the key role that this region plays in coupling the solar wind with the Earth’s magnetosphere, ionosphere and thermosphere. Measurements that are central to understanding include the electric field convection pattern across the polar cap and knowledge of the response of the atmosphere to the many forms of high-latitude wave and particle energy inputs during both geomagnetically quiet and disturbed situations. The U.S. AGO network, which consists of a suite of nearly identical instruments (optical and radio wave auroral imagers, magnetometers, and narrow and wide band radio receivers) at six locations on the polar plateau, actively studies the coupling of the solar wind to ionospheric and magnetospheric processes, emphasizing polar cap dynamics, substorm phenomena, and space weather.

Jeffrey DonenfeldBuilding Electronics For Antarctica’s Automatic Geophysical Observatories Network

An Astronaut at the South Pole: Dr. Scott Parazynski Visits The Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station

Jeffrey Donenfeld Science, Travel and Adventure, Trips Leave a Comment

Here at the south pole, we get lots of visitors – and many of them are extremely interesting. This past week I had the honor of meeting NASA Astronaut Scott E. Parazynski, MD. Dr. Parazynzki is now working as the Medical Director of the United States Antarctic Program. Having dinner with both Dr. Parazynzki as well as Dr. Sean Roden, former International Space Station Lead Flight Surgeon and now South Pole Chief MD was extremely interesting. Among other things, we discussed the various missions that Dr. Parazynzki and Dr. Roden had worked together on, as well as a few of the more interesting logistics for Antarctic medicine.

Jeffrey DonenfeldAn Astronaut at the South Pole: Dr. Scott Parazynski Visits The Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station