Lake Ellsworth Drilling Project On Freeze For At Least Another Few Months

Lake Ellsworth drilling site, Antarctica

I can’t imagine opening anything that hasn’t been opened for 500,000 years and saying something besides, “Ew.” I also can’t imagine drilling through the surface of the coldest, least explored area of the planet. So I guess we’re all in agreement on why I have absolutely nothing to do with the background of this story.

The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) team, set on drilling through two miles of Antarctic ice to reach Lake Ellsworth, have postponed their $13 million project for an undetermined amount of time. Last week, there was a problem with an electrical component in the main boiler system, and after one failed attempt, the team did replace the part with a working one. Only the secondary boiler was working over time and used up more fuel than planned. It seems to me, when reading stories about this, that the writers wrote with a smug tone, as in, “Well of course you can’t drill through Antarctica, silly goose!” Maybe not. It’s one of the most ambitious and possibly informative explorations in quite some time, as whatever life thrives in the lake could give unlock mysteries about the Earth at that time, as well as conditions beneath the surfaces of Earth-like planets and moons.

The frozen towel was thrown in after two 300m borehole cavities, located 2m apart, failed to connect together at that depth, for reasons as yet unknown. The borehole system would have been used to circulate water from the lake up to the surface via submersible pump, while the second borehole would keep the pressure balanced. If anyone finds any yellow ice in one of those holes, remember I had nothing to do with this.

All is not lost, however, and it won’t be another 500,000 years before someone tries again. The team must get their gear bundled up for the winter time, so they can go back to Britain and get a handle on the situation. Probably by a fireplace. Project leader Professor Martin Siegert said in a prepared statement:

On Christmas Eve we took the decision to cease our efforts to directly measure and sample Subglacial Lake Ellsworth. Although circumstances have not worked out as we would have wished, I am confident that through the huge efforts of the field team, and our colleagues in the UK, we have done as much as we possibly could have done, and I sincerely thank them all. Sixteen years ago, we hypothesized that deep-water subglacial lakes are viable habitats for life, and contain important records of ice and climate history. For now, these hypotheses remain untested. Once back in the UK I will gather our consortium to seek ways in which our research efforts may continue. I remain confident that we will unlock the secrets of Lake Ellsworth in coming seasons.

With any luck and a whole lotta learning, I’ll be writing about their further attempts later next year. Russian scientists broke through to Lake Vostok, long home to their substation, but no information has come forth from their studies, and some believe the samples may have been compromised by drilling fluids. The U.S. plans to drill to Lake Whillans in January or February, funded by the National Science Foundation.



Popular Mechanics Makes 110 Predictions For The Next 110 Years


As a species, we love to try and imagine what the future is going to be like. It’s a fascination that’s at the very core of science fiction, and it’s about more than just letting us ponder exploring the galaxy in a starship (although that part is awesome). I think it’s also about us dreaming about where we want to be, where we hope we will be, rather than merely where we probably will be. Of course, this occasionally leads to disappointments such as me living in the year 2012 and not having a flying car parked in my driveway, but whatever.

In the spirit of that forward-thinking mindset I imagine most of our readers possess, the folks over at Popular Mechanics have compiled a list of 110 Predictions for the Next 110 Years. In his intro to the list, PM Editor-in-Chief Jim Meigs says:

In making the 110 predictions in this special issue, we tried to balance our deep-rooted techno-optimism with some hardheaded skepticism. We turned to scores of experts—scientists, engineers, and many longtime PM contributors and consultants—to help us sketch the rough shape of the next century. We canvassed our experts about the nature of future changes and when key breakthroughs might occur.


Passing Comet Could Put On Quite A Show In 2013


It’s been an amazing year for space, both in humanity’s exploration of it, and in the spectacular images that NASA’s many telescopes have given us. But we’re looking at these things mostly through computers, newspapers, and magazines. The sky above has plenty to offer the naked or telescoped eye, but much of it is the same. I know it’s a cynical way of looking at something with a never-ending streak of being awe-inspiring. But my attention span has become minuscule over the years, and the Gemenid meteor shower was sooo three weeks ago.

From the depths of the Oort cloud, traveling millions of miles across the universe, brought to you by — or discovered by, rather — Russia’s Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok, the comet C/2012 S1 will take over the skies in 2013. The comet, more commonly known as Comet Ison, after the International Scientific Optical Network where it was discovered, will be visible to telescopes and binoculars by the end of the summer. It will bypass Mars some time in October, where its dark, pock-marked, icy surface will then shift due to thermal shock, its crust will begin to crack, and gas will seep through the cracks as it warms up, forming the tail.


First Look At Walking Dead First Person Shooter Survival Instinct

At some point many of us have fantasized or daydreamed about what it would be like to survive a zombie apocalypse, sneaking around, gathering up supplies, machete-ing some undead bastards in the noggin. A new game, The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct aims to give you a little slice of this life, with the added bonus that you don’t have to worry about being bitten, dying, and reanimating as a brain-hungry cannibal.

Check out the first look at the game on IGN.


British Inventor Thinks The Google Generation Is Going Brain Dead


Usually, this kind of story wouldn’t make it to the pages of Giant Freakin’ Robot, because, well, it’s not even a real story. It’s just a gentleman sharing his astute opinions. But when that gentleman happens to be Trevor Baylis, the 75-year-old Officer of the Order of the British Empire, you tend to not take his words for granted. The man is a stunt diver turned inventor, gaining patents for “Orange Aids,” a series of products which helped disabled people grip and maneuver everyday objects, as well as the modern wind-up radio, which he was inspired to create in response to the African AIDS epidemic in the early 1990s. Did you catch that? A stunt diver! One who could probably build a Giant Freakin’ Robot!

But seriously, Baylis is a well-spoken, top-notch kind of guy. And he smokes a pipe, so I don’t think I need to qualify his expertise any more than I already have. For an interview with the U.K.’s Daily Mail, Baylis spoke out in reference to what he calls the “Google generation,” young people who spend more time with their hands on mice and keyboards over everything else, and how this lack of hands-on activities is killing creativity.


Women Prefer Their Virtual Selves Showing More Skin

If you’ve ever taken a long look around a crowd of people on holidays like Halloween or Mardi Gras, you’ll find people have a propensity to dress a tad more risqué, letting their inner stud or slut flag fly high. Maybe they’re wearing only that flag. Outside of these holidays, the way people dress to impress depends on a number of factors, such as weather, self-confidence, and wardrobe choice. That makes studying clothing habits complicated. So without a solid basis for comparison in the real life, researchers from Laval University looked to the one place where the flags fly highest and naughtiest: the Internet.