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Welcome to the Cogno Blog! Cogno is a brand of board games and books that are designed to get children thinking critically and using their imaginations. Check back often as we explore science, learning and blogging in the Cognosphere.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Saturn In Eclipse

The Cassini spacecraft was launched in 1997 to unlock the secrets of Saturn and it’s moon, Titan. It reached Saturn’s orbit in July 2004. This picture was taken in September 2006.

This is an amazing view of Saturn in eclipse -- we're looking almost directly toward the Sun, with the globe of Saturn occulting it. The fainter rings look really bright
because small dust particles scatter sunlight forward to Cassini.
More to come: they are working on merging 12 photos of Saturn from the top. This is going to be an amazing view and the first one that will show Saturn’s rings undisrupted. I’ll keep you posted.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Five Little Bundles Of Dragon Joy!

An eight-year old Komodo dragon named Flora gave birth to five little bundles of joy today in Manchester, England. Why is this news? Because Flora is a virgin! That’s right, Flora has not been hanging out with a male Komodo dragon, yet she now has babies.

Reptile species have been documented to reproduce asexually in a process known as parthenogenesis (I am not going to get into exactly how that works because frankly, I don’t want to know), but this is only the second time asexual reproduction has been documented in Komodo dragons. Another Komodo dragon also gave birth through parthenogenesis in a London Zoo earlier this year. Female dragons have been known to lay unfertilized eggs without the aid of a male. Flora’s case is unique in that her eggs had apparently been fertilized, leading to the birth of five tiny black and yellow baby dragons.

This is an important breakthrough in the field of captive breeding. Komodo dragons are the largest lizard species in the world, and are found exclusively in Indonesia. There are only 4,000 Komodo dragons left in the wild, and keeping them in captivity is difficult because they are susceptible to infection and parasitic disease. The ability for these dragons to breed in captivity, either the “normal” way or all on their own, might help ensure the survival of this remarkable animal.

The most important thing to take note here is that Flora clearly don’t need no man. I like her style.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Seeing Is Believing

The first ever 3D map has been compiled showing the distribution of dark matter in the universe.

“The map is important because it tracks how the distribution of dark matter has evolved over time…, and confirms dark matter’s role as the scaffolding around which visible stars and galaxies congregate.” – NewScientist Magazine, January 13-19, 2007

The map shows some regions where there is dark matter but no visible matter which is kind of worrying. These areas has been attributed to measurement errors but could they be something else?

Monday, January 08, 2007

2006 Word Of The Year: Plutoed

The American Dialect Society has chosen the 2006 Word of the Year: Plutoed. To “pluto” is “to demote or devalue someone or something.” It’s great to see something that happened in the realm of astronomy (the demotion of Pluto as a planet) become part of everyday banter.

And, we should trust their choice because they were the ones who voted “truthiness” the word of the year last year. "The truth that comes from the gut, not books"—originally coined by Stephen Colbert.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Mysterious Object Crashes Through House

Just when O'hare airport seems to have chased away a flying saucer (probably a weather phenomenon, but we're always open to real evidence!), today a story hits of a very heavy golf ball-sized hunk of metal smashing into someone's living room. Will an alien show up at their door and ask to "play through?"

More likely it is one of dozens of daily "meteoroids" that become "meteorites" as they land on Earth. And contrary to popular myth, they typically are cold by the time they hit the ground.

Will homeowner's insurance will pay for the damage? Watch for that meteoroid exclusion.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Lakes Of Methane

For those of you who were planning on taking a trip to Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, to swim in one of its many lakes, you might want to rethink that. It has long been hypothesized that Titan has lakes, but it was not until July of 2006 that researches were able to confirm their suspicions. The northern region of Titan has over 75 lakes, but not lakes of water like here on Earth. In contrast, these lakes are full of liquid methane.

On Earth, methane is in the form of a gas. Titan is so cold however (90 degrees Kelvin), that methane is in a liquid form. The other element that is thought to be found in the lakes is ethane. Scientists believe that if an Earthling was looking over the surface of one of these methane-ethane lakes, it would look very much like an Earth lake. The “water” would be transparent and probably ripple like Earth lakes do.

This is an important discovery for scientists since Titan is now the only body in space, besides Earth, that is known to currently have a fluid, liquid cycle. (It has been known for years that Mars experienced this liquid cycle in the past.) Titan is also experiencing erosion and rain. Scientists can study how climates evolve on Titan and compare the findings to what we have already discovered by studying Earth.

Titan is also important to study because it has similar elements that Earth did when our planet was still forming. For example, Titan has ice and water; important building blocks of life that perhaps tell us where we came from, how we evolved, and what chemicals were involved in the process. Scientists hope by studying this far away moon, we will have a better understanding of how life originated on Earth.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A UFO Sighting In Chicago?!

"A group of United Airlines employees swear they saw a mysterious, saucer-shaped craft hovering over O'Hare Airport" on November 7th of last year.

90% of UFO sightings end with a very simple explanation and just 10% remain unexplained. This sighting has been given a simple explanation. They are calling it a weather phenomenon...low clouds mixed with lots of airport lights.

Not everyone was taking this sighting seriously; one amused O'Hare controller said "To fly 7 million light years to O'Hare and then have to turn around and go home because your gate was occupied is simply unacceptable."

Happy New Year!

We would like to wish everyone a happy & healthy 2007 - from the Cogno Team!