NASA news: Mercury water ice

NASA held a news conference today, unveiling new evidence for water ice at Mercury’s polar regions from the MESSENGER spacecraft.

MESSENGER is an acronym for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging. Powered by two solar panels, it was launched August 3, 2004, reaching Mercury’s orbit March 18, 2011 (UTC).

Mercury has a temperature range of 610 degrees Celsius: 427 degrees on the side closest to the Sun, and -183 degrees on the night side. There are crater floors around Mercury’s poles that are in persistent shade, since its rotation axis does not tilt. NASA’s latest data points to water ice and other frozen deposits in these craters.

The red areas in this image are the permanently shadowed craters of Mercury’s north pole, with the polar deposits in yellow.

Design your own apps

I came up with an idea for an iPhone app on my way home from work so I decided to set my programmer husband on the task.

He registered as an Apple developer at You do need a Mac to develop an app because Xcode, the program used to write apps in Objective-C, only runs on the Mac OS.

If you are interested in designing an application and distributing it through the App Store you can follow the iPad and iPhone app development course from Paul Hegarty at Stanford on iTunes U. Assignments and PowerPoint slides are included. I watched the first lecture and learned a little about MVC (model view controller) design strategy. It assumes a certain comfort level with object-oriented programming, which I do not have, so he pretty much lost me at the introduction to Objective-C.

This image has Paul’s first ever app on the simulator that comes with Xcode.

Stay tuned for more homegrown apps updates!

The Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE)

Here at The Turret we like videos a lot. We assume our readers do too. What if I told you that there was a peer-reviewed (scholarly) video journal that publishes biological, medical, chemical and physical research in a video format? Check out The Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE) through McGill’s journal subscriptions if you don’t believe me. McGill has select access to three of the six sections covered in JoVE: General, Neuroscience, and Immunology and Infection. It’s worth mentioning that each “video article” is accompanied by a textual equivalent with abstract, discussion, step-by-step instructions and a materials list. JoVE also won the “Best Original Content” award from the Library Journal earlier this month. Librarian approved!

Image from the JoVE website

Indoor floor plans now available on Google Maps for the desktop

This week Google Maps announced that the indoor floor plans are available for selected locations on Google Maps for the desktop. Many airports, train stations, shopping malls, and libraries have provided their floor plans on Google Maps. That means, you may be able to choose the restaurant that you would like to eat in an airport or plan your Black Friday itinerary in a shopping mall before you leave home.

Although a number of places worldwide have joined this project, the only location in Canada that made its indoor maps available is West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton. If you were a venue owner, would you submit your floor plans to Google Maps?

Nature’s timeline

I was browsing the website on the history of the journal Nature and came across their timeline. Scanning through the decades from the 1860s to the present gives an impressive overview of the history of science. Read about the argument over who the first person was to think up using fingerprints to identify criminals in 1880, or the debunking of N-rays (N is for Nancy) in 1904. Some key papers have come from Nature, including the famous paper on the structure of DNA from Watson and Crick in 1953. Explore the timeline and learn more about those early reports of X-rays, nuclear fission, lasers, holography, and isotopes.

The Library has an electronic version of the book A century of nature twenty-one discoveries that changed science and the world that you may be interested in as well.

Cooler than your average 3D printer

James McGill statue in ice

James McGill statue printed in ice

April’s recent posts about affordable 3D printers reminded me of a post I read on BoingBoing (coincidentally posted by Cory Doctorow) back in 2010 about a project at McGill that used temperature-controlled water to 3D-print ice sculptures.

“At McGill University (Montreal, Quebec) engineers and architects are working together to explore the possibilities of rapid prototyping (RP) systems for construction with ice.”

New Architecture of Phase Change, Computer-Assisted Ice Construction


Image: Detail from “James McGill statue: original in bronze, STL model, and RFP-constructed ice model” at New Architecture of Phase Change

First Look @ PRISM

I recently came across PRISM, a magazine published by American Society for Engineering Education. I was very interested by the content.

My favorite section is First Look which reports on recent innovations and “breakthroughs” in the world of industry and research institutions. Each story was written in non-technical language and lends a space to be explored further.

If you haven’t found an appropriate topic for your term paper in one of the science or engineering courses, you may want to read these briefings.

Ladies, get editing!

Last month, in sync with Ada Lovelace Day – an international day celebrating the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and math – a group of 20 or so volunteers gathered for a Wikipedia edit-a-thon at the library of the Royal Society in London. Not surprisingly, there’s some gender inequality on Wikipedia so the mission was  to edit and create Wikipedia entries on women who have made significant contributions to the STEM fields. “Making women more visible is a huge job that’ll take a long time. This is a spark. It has awakened a lot of interest,” – Uta Frith, a neuroscientist at University College London and one of the leaders of the event. It certainly awakened my interest and I hope yours too. To learn more about the edit-a-thon, including who got involved, and some of the entries that were added or expanded upon, read this news article from Nature.

Image from