Comment »Posted on Sunday 11 January 2009 at 1:25 pm by Jacob Aron
In Evolution, Space & Astronomy, Weekly Roundup

On Friday I said I’d do a big Weekly Roundup, but I quite liked the “fishy” post yesterday, so I’m going to do a couple more of those to clear my backlog of links. Look for them soon.

Science journalists need new clichés

Hank Campbell at Scientific Blogging thinks that a few science journalism phrases got overused last year, and it’s time to invent some new ones for 2009. On the list (complete with many examples) are “baffled”, “stunned”, “alarmed” and “shocked”. I’m pleased to say that according to the site’s search function, none of these words have appeared on Just A Theory! Until now, that is…

Blast off on a broomstick

Unlike the above clichés, I have talked about the concept of a space elevator before. The basic idea is a satellite orbiting above a fixed point on the Earth’s surface, with a super strong cable in between. Passengers and cargo can be lifted into space by a “climber” attached to the cable, much easier and cheaper than rockets.

Now, a new idea on how to power the climber has come from an unlikely source – a broomstick. Age-Raymond Riise of the European Space Agency proposed that by using carefully timed jerks of the cable and a specially constructed climber, getting into space would be a simple, if bumpy, ride. A suspension system would soon smooth that out, however.

Talking at the Second International Conference on Space Elevator and Tether Design in Luxembourg, he used a broomstick and an electric sander to demonstrate the concept. You can watch a video embedded in the above article – it’s a great combination of low- and high-tech!

Free poster!

Just A Theory hasn’t quite grown to the point where I can hand out freebies, but fortunately the Open University is in a slightly better position. They’re offering a free “Tree of Life” poster to celebrate Darwin’s bicentenary. Grab yours now.


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