This is science at its best

No more floating coffee

NASA scientists have solved a major impediment to space travel: how to drink coffee in space.

Mark Weisogel, a physics professor at Portland State University, says: “Let’s suppose you are on the space station and you have a cup of coffee in your hand. Tilting the cup towards your mouth, as you would do on earth, would not be the best idea and would most assuredly be a bad way to start your day. The coffee would be very hard to control,” Weisvogel says.

“In fact, it probably wouldn’t come out of the cup. You’d have to shake the cup toward your face and hope that some of the hot liquid breaks loose and floats toward your mouth.”

The answer appears to be capillary behavior. If you have a straw in a glass of Coca-Cola, the liquid level in the straw is higher than the level in the glass.

This is because of the intermolecular forces between the molecules in the coke and the straw. NASA is patenting a zero gravity coffee cup using this technology.

The scientists are talking about the importance of fluid dynamics in space, capillary flows and more efficient engines, but I think they’re missing the important thing here: coffee in space.

Naming the stars
And just when we thought that scientists had lost all imagination when it came to naming celestial objects (think Gliese-667C), they christened the moons of Pluto “Kerberos” and “Styx”, reviving the golden age when we named the stars and planets after gods and myths.

In Roman mythology Pluto was the god of the underworld, Styx the river of forgetfulness that separated the lands of the living and dead, and Kerberos the three-headed dog that lived in the underworld. A bit macabre, perhaps, but Kerberos and Styx are better than their previous names, P4 and P5, any day.

T rex – A new discovery
Decades of cartoons and movies of rampaging Tyrannosaurus rex (T rex) were guesswork. Behind the scenes, paleoscientists have been arguing about whether the two-storey-high T rex was the fierce hunter and water-shaker of Jurassic Park or a scavenger of the hyena variety.

This month scientists have found the first proof that the T rex did in fact hunt live prey. A T rex tooth fragment, about 3.75 centimetres, was lodged between the vertebrae of a hadrosaur, according to research led by Robert de Palma of the Palm Beach Museum of Natural History in Florida, US.

However, curator of paleontology at the Museum of the Rockies in Montana, US, told AFP that the discovery “certainly does not refute our idea that T rex was an opportunistic carnivore like a hyena. It simply shows that a tyrannosaur bit a hadrosaur” — Proof that you shouldn’t always trust what you see on TV.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Nokia and Nasa to install 4G on the Moon

Installing a wireless network on the Moon is just one step toward establishing a long-term human presence there

Testing sewage: The Covid canary in our wastewater

Local scientists are using wastewater-based epidemiology to trace the SARS-CoV-2 virus in South Africa’s sewage system, which could act as an early warning system for outbreaks of Covid-19, as well as other diseases

Earth’s toughest creatures may be living on the moon

It is unlikely that they will be rescued in time. Even if they survived, they are doomed,”

Hunt for the octopus from space

Let us entertain the notion — if only for a moment — that cephalopods may be from space. How would we go about testing the hypothesis?

Heigh ho, heigh ho, it’s off to Mars we go

Even if we develop the technology to build pressurised hamster balls, it needs to be recreated on Mars.

Boy genius puts his skills to work at rolling out pathology services to the people

A science graduate believes his company can play a key role in preventative healthcare.

Subscribers only

Toxic power struggle hits public works

With infighting and allegations of corruption and poor planning, the department’s top management looks like a scene from ‘Survivor’

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

More top stories

Q&A Sessions: ‘My north star is the patient’

Rhulani Nhlaniki is Pfizer’s cluster lead for sub-Saharan Africa. As Pfizer starts phase III of the clinical trial of their Covid-19 vaccine candidate, he tells Malaikah Bophela that if it is successful, the company will ensure the vaccine will be available to everyone who needs it

In terms of future-telling failures, this is a Major One

Bushiri knows how to pull a crowd. Ace knows a ponzi scheme. Paddy Harper predicts that a new prophet may profit at Luthuli House

Ghost fishing gear an ‘immortal menace’ in oceans

Lost and illegal tackle is threatening marine life and the lives of people making a living from the sea

Vitamin therapy is for drips

It may be marketed by influencers, but intravenous vitamin therapy is not necessary and probably not worth the hype, experts say

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday