On Science – Studying Mars Through Phobos

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 11,002
    11-12-13: On this episode of On science, Mars’ history could be on Phobos’ surface, MRO breaks a new record, and how smartphones are cannibalizing the pro camera market.

    It's a two-for-one deal that's out of this world!

    What Orbiter is going above and beyond?

    Cranky teens need more sleep and…

    Is your camera phone watching you?  Coming up today… On Science!

    Hello and welcome to On Science.  I’m Emerald Robinson.

    It’s a Martian BOGO sale!  Send one spacecraft get two studies for the same price!  An upcoming Russian space agency mission to the Mars’ moon Phobos could also collect dust and soil samples from the Red Planet itself.  Researchers at Brown University say that Phobos often passes through dust, soil, and rock blown off the Martian surface and it stands to reason that there exists a collection of samples from both celestial bodies on Phobos’ surface.  Even though the Russian mission set for 2020 is primarily aimed at learning more about the Martian moon, scientists say it’s a nice bonus to get material returned from Mars as well.  As I always say, I love when you get more than what you expected!


    And the US space agency is definitely getting more than it asked for from one mission.  NASA reported that its Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has sent back of 200 terabits worth of data—or to break it down, three months worth of non-stop high definition video, since 2006.  That figure is more than 3 times the total data returned through NASA’s Deep Space Network for all the other missions managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory over the past 10 years. That’s a lot of data.  But maybe it’s because MRO does practically everything!  It takes 3D images of the Martian surface, probes underground layers, identifies surface materials, examines cross-sections of the atmosphere, tracks weather and the list goes on and on.  The orbiter met all its original mission goals in just 2 years, but has been through three mission extensions.  Talk about an over-achiever! 

    Who are not over-achievers?  Teens lacking sleep.  Researchers from the University of California Berkeley say that adolescents who stay up later are more likely to struggle academically and emotionally.  In the study, the thirty percent of teens who reported bedtimes later than 11:30pm during the school year had lower GPA scores and were more vulnerable to emotional problems than teens who went to bed early.  Late bedtimes during the summer weren’t associated with lower academic performance but were linked to emotional problems.  They say this adds fuel to the argument that middle and high schools should consider later start times.  Or parents just make sure they go to bed!  And here I thought teenagers slept all the time.


    Everyone’s a photographer these days.  Between Instagram and smartphones we all look like pros and it may be putting the pro camera makers out of business.  According to the IDC, the improving quality of smartphone cameras could lead to a significant negative impact on high-end digital camera sales.  Both Canon and Nikon-lowered sales forecast numbers for the end of the fiscal year.  Experts expect a 9% drop in interchangeable-lens cameras that many pro photographers use.  But smartphones like Nokia’s Lumia 1020 with a 41-megapixel PureView camera that features controls similar to many dSLRs and the new iPhone 5S with a wider aperture and more sensitive sensor just make it so easy for everyone to look like a pro for less.  However, one Canon rep had this to say about the smartphone/dSLR comparison—“taking photos with smartphones and editing them with apps is like cooking with cheap ingredients and a lot of artificial flavoring.”  But artificial flavoring tastes so good.


    But what if that camera in your smartphone was being used for evil instead of good picture taking for Instagram?  What if it were spying on you?  Researchers at Cambridge University demonstrated how a program called PIN Skimmer could be used to determine your phone’s password.  The software watches your face with your phone’s camera and listens to clicks as you type through the phone’s microphone.  How accurate were they?  Researchers got a 4-digit PIN correct 50% of the time after 5 attempts and 60% of the time with an 8-digit PIN after 10 attempts.  They suggest that longer PINs and randomizing keys might help.  It’s creepy to think that my phone could be spying on me. 

    And that’s what’s happening On Science today. See you tomorrow!