Science Sunday: Saturn, Chatter and Gay Hate Crimes

Mooning Over Saturn

Hyperion is the eighth largest moon of the planet Saturn. It orbits the planet about every 21 days. Its unusual sponge-like appearance has been explained with the help of imaging from the Space Science Institute in Boulder.

The Cassini spacecraft had a close encounter — at about 300,000 kilometers — with Hyperion in September of 2005 that was specifically targeted at getting high resolution data on the unusual moon. The flyby allowed an accurate measurement of its mass and size. It is only slightly more than half as dense as water. And it has a radius of about 135 kilometers. Earth’s moon, in comparison, has a radius of about 1,700 kilometers.

Photo credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science InstituteHyperion is peppered with craters, between two and ten kilometers in size. The surface is highly porous, which scientists believe contributes to the moon’s unusual appearance.

“The high porosity may enhance preservation of craters by minimizing the amount of ejecta produced or retained, and accordingly may be the crucial factor in crafting this unusual surface,” said the authors of a paper in the week’s journal Nature

Among the passel of authors is Dr. Carolyn Porco of the Space Science Institute.

An accompanying paper on the reflectivity — or albedo — of Hyperion, concluding from this work that it is made of similar material of two of Saturn’s other moons, Iapetus and Phoebe. R.N. Clark of the U.S. Geological Survey at the Denver Federal Center contributed to that paper.

Do Women Talk More Than Men?

There aren’t any Colorado researchers involved, but with the legislature just ended and the presidential campaign under way, this one caught our eye.

Contrary to popular mythology, University of Texas at Austin researchers found that both men and women use an average of about 16,000 words each day. This research refutes long-held beliefs that women talk more than men. One set of numbers commonly used is that women speak 20,000 words a day, and men only 7,000.

But it just ain’t so, Joe (or Jo). The UT researchers recorded the daily interactions of 400 university students in the U.S. and Mexico, learning that men and women  on average talk about the same amount.

The real question now is: Which gender makes more sense? But I guess we all already know the answer to that. Just ask Hillary. Or Barack.

The research was published in this week’s issue of the journal Science.

Anti-Gay Hate Crimes Widespread

Four in ten gay males and about one in ten lesbians report that they’ve been the victim of a violent crime or a crime of property because of their sexual orientation, according to research from the University of California at Davis.

“Overall, 21 percent of the people in the survey reported being the victim of violence or a property crime — including physical assault, sexual assault, theft and vandalism — because of their sexual orientation. In addition, 49 percent said they had been verbally abused because of their sexual orientation, 23 percent reported being threatened with violence, 12.5 percent reported having objects thrown at them, and 11 percent reported housing or job discrimination,” according to the paper by psychology professor Gregory Herek.

The paper has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence. The research was supported by the Denver-based Gill Foundation.