Plotting transmission losses

Transmission loss in GWh in India. Data from Central Electricity Authority. Click on the image for hi-res version. All data available here. Transmission loss as % of net generation in GWh. Net generation = Gross generation — consumption by auxiliary power plant units (Model used to fit: LOESS) Rise of net supply to ultimate consumers…… Continue reading Plotting transmission losses

NASA announces Mars 2020 rover payload

On July 31, NASA announced the roster of instruments that would hitch a ride on board its planned rover to the red planet in 2020. John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Headquarters, Washington, said the instruments would extend the search for life in Mars’s past, conduct geological and environmental…… Continue reading NASA announces Mars 2020 rover payload

New category: Exoplanets

Of late, telescopes like Kepler, Spitzer and ALMA are revealing new things about exoplanets as much as they’re exposing how clueless we are about their origins. Unlike in the search for life, where our only precedents are terrestrial, the search for and study of exoplanet systems is aided by Kepler’s revelation of hundreds of them,…… Continue reading New category: Exoplanets

Why do tilted/eccentric orbits form?

For all its mysteries, the Solar System is uniquely ideal in many ways. For one, while it has rocky inner planets and giant, gassy outer ones, astronomers have found that elsewhere, massive exoplanets often orbit close to their stars, as if they formed at a greater distance and then moved in. For another, the orbits of the…… Continue reading Why do tilted/eccentric orbits form?

Kepler data reveals a frost giant

I’ve been most fascinated lately by studies of planet formation. Every small detail is like that one letter in the crossword you need to fill all the other boxes in, every discovery a cornerstone that holds together a unique piece of the universe. For example, using just the find that the exoplanet Beta Pictoris b has a very short day of eight hours, astronomers could speculate on how it was formed, what its density could be, and how heavy it could get over time. And it isn’t surprising if a similar tale awaits telling by Kepler 421b.

Inspecting nuclear warheads like they were passwords

Nuclear weapon inspectors have a weighty but tricky job. An inspecting state relies on them to verify if a weapon is a nuclear warhead, but the state whose weapons are being inspected doesn’t want to divulge too much information about the weapon’s design or performance. As David Cliff, a researcher at the Verification Research, Training and Information Center,…… Continue reading Inspecting nuclear warheads like they were passwords

Science Quiz – June 30, 2014

Every week, I create a science quiz for The Hindu newspaper’s In School product. It consists of 10 questions and only developments from the week preceding its day of publication (Monday). The answers are at the end. A team of Scottish scientists announced the discovery of the world’s oldest animal-built _____ in Africa in the week of June 23. According to…… Continue reading Science Quiz – June 30, 2014

Looking for life? Look for pollution.

Four-thousand years on Earth and we’ve a lot of dirt to show for it. Why would an advanced alien civilization be any different? That’s the motivation that three astrophysicists from Harvard University have used to determine that powerful telescopes could look for signs of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in alien atmospheres as signs of alien civilization. “If the civilization reaches…… Continue reading Looking for life? Look for pollution.

Restarting the LHC: A timeline

CERN has announced the restart schedule of its flagship science “project”, the Large Hadron Collider, that will see the giant machine return online in early 2015. I’d written about the upgrades that could be expected shortly before it shut down in 2012. They range from new pixel sensors and safety systems to facilities that will double the…… Continue reading Restarting the LHC: A timeline

New results on Higgs bosons’ decay into fermions

For a boson to be the Higgs boson, it has to be intimately related to the physical process it was hypothesized in 1964 to help understand. With new results published on June 22, physicists from CERN, the lab that runs the experiments that first discovered the Higgs boson, have found that to be true, further cementing the credibility of…… Continue reading New results on Higgs bosons’ decay into fermions