Both interesting articles are from the Creation-Evolution Headlines site.
A near-earth asteroid named 1950 DA is barely holding itself together, astronomers have found. In Science Magazine, Eric Hand asks “Why hasn’t this asteroid disintegrated?”
Planetary scientists have found an asteroid spinning too fast for its own good. The object, known as 1950 DA, whips around every 2.1 hours, which means that rocks on its surface should fly off into space. So apart from gravity, some other sticky force—identified in a new study—must help to hold the asteroid together.
Nature gives an even more graphic description:
Our logical concepts for how asteroids should behave have taken another knock, as evidenced in a paper by Rozitis et al. on page 174 of this issue. The researchers establish that a kilometre-sized, near-Earth asteroid known as (29075) 1950 DA is covered with sandy regolith (the surface covering of an asteroid) and spins so fast — one revolution every 2.12 hours — that gravity alone cannot hold this material to its surface. This places the asteroid in a surreal state in which an astronaut could easily scoop up a sample from its surface, yet would have to hold on to the asteroid to avoid being flung off.
Scientists’ best explanation is that atomic forces called van der Waal’s forces are providing the edge over gravity alone, otherwise this body should be too flimsy to exist. These are the same atomic forces thought to allow geckos to stick to walls and ceilings.
I am unsure how this could be worked into a Traveller adventure, besides that of a scientific curiosity.
(Thinks like a Vargr space pirate…)
This would be a great way to hide a starship, or – with careful planning – a boarding party. Or a resupply base, or a supply stash. (Or Long-Lost Pirate Treasure…)
These fluffballs are a lot closer than the Oort Cloud, and it’s ‘just another pile of rocks’ to the sensors of most Imperial Navy patrol ship. Densitometers could do a better job of sniffing out something odd, but you have to go relatively close to set the alarms off.
For system defense, you could also stick in a small missile launch pad, with the missiles built to handle a slow launch from the dust ball, to rapidly accelerate after getting free of the rocks.
Or for Deep Time Travellers (aka Long-term Low Berth sleepers), it could be a nice, cosy place to spend the next thousand years, outlasting the UnTraditional Terran Ramshackle Rule of Man to end, so the 5,000 die-hard Vilani colonists can again awake to rebuild the Vilani Empire of the Stars…
(Or be picked up by Vargr pirates,
eaten enslaved, and sold as high-value living curios, as the case may be…)
And, speaking of Deep Time Travellers…
One year after Google created a company named Calico with the goal of extending human life, Menlo Park investor and Stanford-trained radiologist Joon Yun has launched a $1 million science competition with the lofty aim of “curing” the disease more commonly known as aging [sic].
While Calico’s plan remains largely opaque, Yun has laid out specific criteria for the 11 teams that have already signed up to compete for the Palo Alto Longevity Prize, which focuses on improving “homeostatic capacity,” or the ability of an organism to bounce back to normal in the face of stress.
And what is ageing? It’s a treatable condition caused by “Inflammation, stress (and) chronic disease,” according to one stem cell specialist. Yun is urgent about this contest, saying that “every day 100,000 people die unnecessarily of age-related illness.” The contest will start with test mammals and eventually move on to human trials.
Won’t longer life spans hurt the economy? What about overpopulation, and drains on the earth’s resources? Those concerns are addressed and dismissed by advocates, who believe innovation can solve them. Sonia Arrison says,
Arrison, a Palo Alto-based author and teacher, claims that increasing the healthy life span, by extending the sweet spot of adulthood that combines vigor with the wisdom of experience, will give the world’s best minds more time to innovate solutions to humanity’s problems.
How could life extension be achieved? Two methods are mentioned: stem cells and genetic engineering. Doris Taylor thinks the trio of inflammation, stress and chronic disease can be addressed with stem cells. Yun thinks hacking the “source code” (the human genome) is another approach.
“Ultimately, I think we’ll crack the age code and we’ll hack aging [sic],” Yun announced. “And if we do, not only will health care be transformed, but humanity. At that point we’ll have unlocked human capacity.”
Scientists know that telomeres—the end caps on chromosomes—shrink each time a cell divides. When gone, the cell dies. Some cells use the telomerase enzyme to replace lost segments of telomeres. Learning to control that process might allow cells to reproduce an unlimited number of times. That’s one reason cancer cells are able to proliferate and keep on going.
I’m already looking forward to those Old Testament lifespans!
Eric Weinstein, managing director of Thiel Capital, one of the tycoon’s investment funds, spoke at the launch. People are squeamish about major advances in biomedicine, he said, fearful of disrupting the natural order. But innovations that begin in controversy, such as in vitro fertilization, are accepted by succeeding generations.
“We find ourselves sitting on top of our own source code,” said Weinstein, referring to DNA. “We are being invited, either by a deity or by selection, to hack, to create, to collaborate, to join.”
“Natural Selection”, of course, is mere random chance, and can’t invite anyone to do anything (or, for that matter, state that “A” is righteous and “B” is evil.) God, on the other, can invite us to get to work… and I believe that He does.
After all, it is He – and not random, meaningless noise – who tells us that Life (and knowledge, and wisdom) is desirable, and Death (and ignorance, and foolishness) is to be avoided.
But I wonder how the long-lived Vilani would handle it? Especially if that traditionalistic, pragmatic, collectivistic people find the innovative, idealistic, individualistic Solomani outliving them…
(See: “Solomani Rim War, Version 2.0″)