With all the advances in technology and new discoveries about our solar system and the universe, we spend a lot of our time looking towards the heavens. We spend so much time with our heads in the collective clouds that we sometimes forget to look down. Mother Earth has a lot to offer in the form of new discovery and plays a major role in solving the mysteries of our perplexing solar system as well, if we can just figure out how to obtain that information and utilize our planet as a tool. That is exactly what the scientists in this list have figured out and are attempting to do. Buckle up as we go for a ride inside the earth and take a look at what can be achieved when we look down long enough for the Earth to get our attention and whisper her secrets.
Solar Neutrinos are small particles that are born in the Sun's Thermo Nuclear Fusion and travel near the speed of light. Right now, trillions and trillions of them are traveling through space. To get an idea of how many, take the earth's population and multiply by 25. That is approximately how many neutrinos are passing through your thumbnail, right now.
Scientists know they exist but they are so small and travel so fast that seeing one in almost impossible. (Almost) Enter the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO for short) is 2km (6,800 feet) deep in the ground ( a mile plus 1514 feet) in Ontario, Canada. In the largest underground manufactured chamber, there is a sphere or giant orb 20 feet (7 meters) in diameter filled with hard water. This orb, which looks like something straight out of a science fiction movie, is what allows scientists to "see" neutrinos. They know where to look as a neutrino that strikes an atom's nucleus creates a flash of light, allowing us to photograph it. Right next to the SNO stands the SNOLAB, a new expansion to the neutrino and dark matter research program.
The Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory (DUSEL) is a futuristic underground project that is on the table and the National Science Foundation is very excited by the prospect. They have given the nod to start construction and the former gold mine of Homestake will host this laboratory, which, if completed would be the worlds deepest science facility underground. We are talking about 8000 feet (2.4 km) under what would amount to the equivalent of 21600 feet (7200m) of cosmic ray shielding water.
This is just one of the projects on the table and the only one that has been approved for a go-ahead. Those Americans just will not be outdone, will they?
This one is under…, underwater, that is. Based in the Florida Keys, it is used for the underwater scientific research (duh) of that region's marine sanctuary.
The main benefit of this underwater lab, besides looking cool, is to allow scientist an amazing 9 hours of marine exploration as opposed to the one hour of surface diving they are restricted to without this ingenious laboratory. They can achieve this because the lab is at a depth of 60 feet. (20 meters) The divers benefit from the prolonged exposure to pressurized air at 2 atmospheres, allowing them to avoid the deadly effects of the decompression illness known as the bends which, during rapid decompression, nitrogen bubbles form in the blood and tissues usually resulting in an excruciating death from an aeroembolism. The technologically advanced lab also plays a vital role in underwater technology development and as a training facility for NASA's Astronaut training program.
Have you ever wondered what it feels like to be a real Aquanaut? You're in luck! These scientific explorer engineers have set up live web cams so that you can follow them over at their website.
Man, those Russians sure know how to dig. In the 50's and 60's, America and the U.S.S.R. were digging their hearts out. The goal was to obtain information of a Geologic and archeological nature. However, like all grade school bullies that are afraid to fight each other, it turned into a pissing contest with the U.S.S.R. having the bigger drill, as it were. Funding stopped the contest but by the 90's, the Soviets reached an amazing 7.5 miles. (12, 261 meters) This may not seem very deep since the earth is almost eight thousand miles thick but this "little" hole continues to provide a wealth of new information about our world and how it was formed as well as knowledge about our universe.
The Kola Borehole is actually the deepest of several holes out of one larger main hole. The goal of the project was 49,000 feet (15km) but it could not be obtained because our estimations of the temperatures at that depth were wrong. In fact, we have discovered that many of our educated assumptions about our planet's interior were well off the mark. The most notable of these was the lack of basalt that was believed to exist 3 to 6 kilometers down. We now know that what we saw on the seismic reflection tests was not a change in the type of rock but a change in the pressure the rock is under at that depth. These kinds of surprises tell us just how much we do not know about the world we live on.
Isolated on a nearly barren and remote northern island in the vast wilderness of frigid Norway, it waits, alone and sentient, one hundred and twenty meters deep (360 feet) in a cave of a sandstone mountain. It waits… for the next shipment of seeds.
Dubbed the “Doomsday Vault”, the Svalbard Seed Bank of the township of Spitsbergen is the only bank of its kind. Its purpose is to preserve the seeds of our planets food supply, protecting it against disaster, disease, and extinction. The world is playing a deadly game of chance with its food supply. There used to be a wide variety of food types of any given vegetable. Foods such as corn, rice, and wheat are now in danger. The gamble is that some of the varieties of the plants yield more fruit per acre than others and they mature faster. These fast profit turners have been spread throughout the world as the seed of choice, making the other varieties all but extinct. Should a fungus or bacteria specific to these high yielding crops strike, it could wipe out our supply of them, possibly before we could fight it.
The bank and its isolated location and extreme security measures are to ensure that we will have viable seeds to produce more. Another downfall of this type of farming is that some of the other, slower yielding varieties, like bananas, were sweeter tasting. The majority of farmers do not grow these slower maturing crops, planting instead the blander and yet higher yielding variety.
The facility is capable of holding four million samples and has two functions. First, to be able to restore agriculture should a global disaster of some kind reduce or threaten crops in any or all parts of the world. Its second function is the continuous supply to genetic research--viable genetic material for the development of new varieties of the plants to conform to global change and or water restrictive locations. In short, we are taking preventatives steps in our disaster preparation to ensure the future of our food supply. Hey, that is not a bad idea.
Perhaps one of the most surprising and amazing discoveries of our time occurred in 1996 deep in the vast frozen wilderness of Antarctica. Russian scientists were drilling ice core samples. At just under 4000 feet (1.3km), the samples became clean. This, at first, baffled the scientific community until they realized they had discovered the world's largest warm water sub glacial lake. (Roughly the size of Lake Ontario) Even more shocking was finding microbial life in this unforgiving place. Drilling had to cease immediately as a lake buried that deep under ice is under enormous pressure. Had they broken through or even cracked or weakened the ice affecting the lake, it would have been forced upwards and out. The impact of this would have been devastating. In addition, they could not take the risk of contaminating the site.
These problems, the location, and other concerns had everyone involved uncertain as to how to proceed. This is when NASA, realizing the potential applications for the enhancement of space travel, came up with a plan. With the greatest scientific minds from around the world coming to bear on the problem, it was not long before a Cryobot was conceptualized. The microbes buried deep in the ice at Lake Vostok get their food by fixing carbon dioxide. This means that they convert carbon dioxide to organic molecules to be consumed, making them the most efficient CO2 fixers on the planet. Cryobot is a probe that resembles a torpedo. It has a heated tip so that it can melt its way slowly towards the under-ice lake. The ice would refreeze behind it as it makes its way down, sealing it in and eliminating the possibility of depressurizing the site. Once there, it would give itself a sanitizing bath and then release a remote controlled robot (Hydrobot) that could explore and capture samples. Let us wait for more news from Lake Vostok, quite possibly very surprising ones.
Don't get your hopes up, all you gamers out there. This is not a sequel to Super Mario or any other new game. What this is, is an amazing 3,281 feet (1100m) below ground Laboratory. It is directly under Mount Kamiokako, (kah-me-oh-cake-oh) near the Japanese city of Hida. The Super KamioKande is a Super Neutrino Detector. The tank that makes up the largest portion of the device is approximately 136 feet (45m) tall and 129 feet (43m) across and contains fifty thousand tons of ultra-pure water.
The neutrinos pass through almost everything at close to the speed of light, including people. (See the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory listing) In water, however, they leave a slight trail of light, called Cherenkov radiation, the purer the water, the more visible the trip. When neutrinos collide with the nucleus of an atom, they emit a flash of light, (equivalent to what we would experience as a sonic boom, if it were to scale with us.) leaving an imprint on a ring detector on the specialized wall of the tank. This is akin to taking a photograph of the event and allows scientist to study it. There have been some serious discoveries made using these neutrino flash events like telescopic lenses. The Super Kamiokande neutrino detector has also solved a few problems such as where neutrinos come from in the first place, (the sun) and the scare scientist had when not being able to detect the correctly predicted amount of neutrinos coming from the sun which placed the sun's death as imminent.
Gran Sasso National Laboratory has huge underground facilities, so huge that they are in fact the biggest underground laboratory in the World.
The CERN particle accelerator (see number 1) in Switzerland is helping Gran Sasso Lab determine a Neutrino's mass. They are receiving neutrinos sent from the CERN (and of course the Sun) in the hopes of capturing one long enough to equate its mass. While it is still under close scrutiny and scientists are working like maniacs to get the job done, they estimate it will be sometime this year, (2011) as this year the CUORE (Cybernetic Underground Observatory for Rare Events) project will start using the lead from an ancient Roman shipwreck as a shield. The lead, which is donated by the National Archaeological Museum in Cagliari, is far less radioactive than the lead that is currently mined today. Now that is cooperation!
The IceCube Neutrino Observatory at the South Pole is a project that is slightly different from other Neutrino detectors. In order to track neutrinos, you have to trace the light or Cherenkov radiation emitted when they travel through water faster than the speed of light. The IceCube project uses the natural ice of the South Pole instead of water. A string of 70 (and later 86) holes are drilled into the ice one and one half miles deep. An array of light sensors is then lowered into the holes. As neutrinos that interact with the ice and atoms pass through, the sensors pick up the light trail and send the data back to a computer or bank of computers for analyzing. The project is much more complex than this, obviously, and there are projected uses for the application that have a slight Star Trek taste to them.
Did Nostradamus predict the end of the world through CERN technology? Phrophecy 9-44 states:
CERN is the European Council for Nuclear Research. (The letters make sense when said in French) located 110 meters below ground in Northwest Geneva. They have built a particle accelerator and have succeeded in crashing two protons together at 99.99% of the speed of light. The CERN organization is the largest gathering of scientists on the planet incorporating the efforts of over 7,900 of them from 580 universities and over 80 nationalities.
The plan to take a group of protons, a stable particle with a positive charge equal to the negative charge if its electron, and accelerate them using nitrogen, magnets and lots of energy during the process. They have built round tubes that force the protons to move fast, then into a bigger circular tube forcing them to move faster onto a bigger tube and so on. The faster a proton moves the heavier it becomes, the heavier it becomes, the greater the potential for increased speed. At the end of this cycle, when the protons are much larger than they started and reach 99.9% of the speed of light they are separated into tubes moving in the opposite directions, regulated with switch boxes at timed junctions, they then force them to collide. Watch the video to understand the process better, it really is amazing. (see video link below)
The goal of higher energy study should take the world into a fascinating new phase of technology. There are just no limits to what these super smart scientists can discover. Who knows, maybe we will catch up to Gene Roddenberry yet!