Tag Archives: research notebooks

Oxygen Detected in Martian Atmosphere

There may be no busier research notebook than the one in the hands of a scientist exploring information concerning the Red Planet these days. Mars is a hot topic in the scientific community and with each discovery it gets a little bit hotter. Evidence of water on the planet was exciting enough, but now there is evidence of oxygen atoms on Mars as well.

Martian Atmosphere


NASA has been measuring oxygen levels on Mars since the 1970s. Today, the equipment NASA uses is a bit more advanced than it was even in the late 20th century. To be more specific, it relies on SOFIA for much of its research.

SOFIA, or the Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy, is a modified 747 used to explore atmospheric conditions. This Boeing 747SP jetliner had to be modified for many reasons, but the one of most interest to scientists exploring the universe is the telescope on board. SOFIA’s telescope measures out with a 100 inch diameter—not your average star gazing tool.

History of Oxygen on Mars

Though the news is exciting enough to make one think that oxygen is a new development on Mars, it is the opposite that is true. There is far less oxygen on the Red Planet today than there was years ago, though it is difficult to measure exactly how many years ago or what happened to cause this drop in oxygen levels.

One way that scientists measure the oxygen level on the planet is to investigate geological findings. Rocks and other materials can reflect mineral content in the atmosphere over time. In this case, the content was observed through careful research of rocks found on Mars. What they found was that 3% of the rocks on Mars contained manganese oxide. In order for that to happen, at some point Mars must have had a higher level of oxygen atoms, as well as water.

It’s also important to note that the measurements taken were taken in the upper atmosphere. This is key, because the amount of oxygen atoms in the upper atmosphere plays a significant part in the release of other atoms in the upper atmosphere. At this point, oxygen levels are only half of what was expected, and the atmosphere on Mars is 95% carbon dioxide.

Future Research

Because scientists are saying that the planet has only half the oxygen that was expected, it can be assumed that calculations were made that offered some idea of what the levels could be. Those calculations had to be done based on assumed figures—figures which must have been determined based on the most current information combined with what is known about the behavior of planets and their atmospheres.

What this means is that the oxygen levels on Mars didn’t just change the way scientists look at current conditions. They might also change what is understood about atmospheres in relation to their position to the sun or other elements, like details about the activities and changes on the sun itself. In any case, it’s back to the research notebook to review notes and come up with new possibilities.

Oxygen on Mars

Gravitational Waves Discovered?

If Einstein were alive today, there is no doubt he would be digging through his old research notebooks to reflect on his Theory of Gravitational Relativity and comparing it to what was recently seen. Though scientists have long known that gravity exists, they weren’t able to see it. That’s because most of the objects that rely on gravity use such small waves that there is nothing powerful enough to see them.

However, when you want to observe something that requires a large mass, there may be no better source than two black holes merging into one, especially when those black holes are far larger than the sun itself.

Lab notebook

Moving Forces and Gravity

Einstein had a theory that gravity was so powerful that it had the ability to bend space and time. The theory was almost impossible to prove, because gravity waves can’t be seen with the naked eye, and if space or time is changed, it could be impossible to prove, because of the paradox of knowing things that happen in one space or time while being in another. In other words, once these things change, how would you know they changed if they didn’t exist in the current time or space?

Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory

The waves were observed by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory or LIGO. When it comes to observations in science, and especially ones as important as this one, the potential for a “fluke” to have occurred has to be considered. In this case, the observation was the combined effort of a facility in Hanford, Washington and a facility in Livingston, Louisiana. This is because LIGO is divided between the two facilities in order to produce a perpendicular laser effect that can be modified by gravitational waves. After comparing notes, the researchers found the chances of this event being a fluke are less than one in about six million.

Numbers to Consider

So, how big does something have to be in order to produce a measurable gravitational wave with the technology that exists today? The merging black holes are calculated to be around 95 miles across. However, one has twenty-nine times the mass of our sun, while the other has 36 times the mass. Now consider the power that had to be created to allow scientists to fill their research notebooks with these results.

Imagine, if you can, all of the stars in the observable universe. Now, gather them together and consider the amount of power that they would have as one unit, pulled together with all their various elements. Now compare what you imagine to the idea that this merger had fifty times the power that all of those stars combined have.

This merged black hole is being described as a “chirp” in the space-time fabric. The chirp is the result of $1.1 billion worth of effort that spanned over 40 years—more, if you count every single bit of effort put into the discovery since man had the idea that there was such a thing as gravity.

Gravitational Waves

Christmas Gifts for the Budding Scientist

Christmas Gifts for the Budding Scientist

Is there a budding young scientist or engineer in your home? Do you laugh or smile to yourself when it comes to their ideas and questions? Do you dismiss this as thoughts born of youth? You really shouldn’t. While adults have extensive experience to taint their thoughts, the young have unique thoughts and ideas that are not tampered by responsibilities or rigid educational lines. If you think differently, just consider a child’s drawing.

When children are very young and they draw pictures, they draw out the sun and birds. As they get older, someone tries to help them out by showing them how to put the sun in the corner with straight lines for rays and how to use an “M” to draw a bird in flight. This is not a favor to the child. It limits their creativity in order to create a faster process. This same thing happens with young scientists and inventors.

If you want to cultivate this need for information and experimentation in your child, buy him or her the supplies they need for Christmas. Archival pens are a great place to start, but nothing goes as well with archival pens as authentic research notebooks. These items are going to cost a bit more than items that are not made for research tools, but they also stand the test of time, quite literally.

These pens don’t bleed into paper or fade out, over time, like most pens do, and the notebooks are made to last and to be used to categorize data of all sorts. If you want your child to take their interests seriously and use them in the future, don’t you think you should start taking them seriously, as well? Or, you could just buy them another video game for Christmas and watch him or her turn into a television zombie with no original thoughts.