Round-Up: Pluto vs. Eris, Oil Spills and Time-Travel [SCIENCE!]

Pluto Might Be the Largest Dwarf Planet, After All

Eris, the dwarf planet that ruined everything.

Pluto’s still not a planet, but it’s probably the largest dwarf planet now, and that’s something… right? The discovery of Eris in 2005 led to Pluto’s demise as titleholder of our ninth planet. But new measurements indicate that Eris, once thought to be much larger than Pluto, may actually be the same size or a bit smaller.

Bruno Sicardy of the Paris Observatory and the University of Pierre and Marie Curie in France and his colleagues derived the smaller size for Eris from a 2010 celestial alignment called an occultation. On November 6 of that year, the dwarf planet temporarily blotted out the light of a background star and cast a small shadow on Earth. By comparing the shadow’s size at two different sites in Chile, the researchers estimated that the dwarf planet is 2,326 kilometers in diameter. In 2009 Sicardy and his colleagues had calculated that Pluto’s diameter is at least 2,338 kilometers, although some earlier estimates for dwarf planet’s size ran a bit lower. Regardless of which dwarf planet holds the slight edge in terms of diameter, it now appears that Pluto and Eris are near-equals in terms of size. The findings have been submitted for publication in Nature.

Winner of Million-Dollar X Challenge Cleans Up Oil Spills Three Times Better Than Existing Tech

In what appears to be evidence for the truth behind the adage “necessity is the mother of invention,” the winning team from The Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X Challenge has tripled efficiency in our most modern and effective oil cleaning tech. With the Deepwater Horizon explosion still wreaking havoc in the Gulf of Mexico, it is apparent and imperative that our ability to clean up after ourselves be improved. To help speed things along, the Wendy Schmidt promised $1million to the team who could improve cleanup rates by about two times current maximums. Elastec/American Marine blew thse numbers out of the water, achieving triple efficincy in a project that took under a year to coordinate.

Elastec/American Marine nearly doubled the gallons-per-minute requirement for the X Prize. But perhaps a better way of looking at it is through the lens of the state-of-the-art. In just one year’s dedicated time, NOFI found a way to double the efficiency of the industry’s best available surface oil skimmers. Elastec/American Marine tripled it, doing more in a handful of months than private industry had done in the two decades since the Exxon Valdez disaster.

How to Build a Time Machine

Need to go back to 1955 to make sure your parents get together? Here’s a guide:

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