I’d like to think we’re smarter than the Sun. Let’s compare and contrast. Humans, on the one hand, have made enormous advances in science and technology, built cities, cars, computers, and phones. We have split the atom for war and for energy.
When the Golden Gate Bridge went up, it was the longest suspended bridge span in the world – cables hold up the roadway between two towers, with no intermediate supports. And the setting had a number of inherent challenges. It cost about US$37 million at the time; building the same structure today would cost about a billion dollars. So how has the design held up over the past 80 years – and would we do things differently if we were starting from scratch today?
There’s a limit to how fast autonomous vehicles can fly while safely avoiding obstacles. That’s because the cameras used on today’s drones can only process images so fast, frame by individual frame. Beyond roughly 30 miles per hour, a drone is likely to crash simply because its cameras can’t keep up.
We seem to be fascinated by holograms or at least the promise of what they can do. Think the famous Princess Leia projection in Star Wars; holographic fashion shows in New York, Hamburg and Beijing; the massive success of synthetic pop star Hatsune Miku in Japan, or recent reports of holographic politicians in France.
You can’t see them, but swarms of electrons are buzzing through the magnetic environment — the magnetosphere — around Earth. The electrons spiral and dive around the planet in a complex dance dictated by the magnetic and electric fields. When they penetrate into the magnetosphere close enough to Earth, the high-energy electrons can damage satellites in orbit and trigger auroras. Scientists with NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale, or MMS, mission study the electrons’ dynamics to better understand their behavior. A new study, published in Journal of Geophysical Research revealed a bizarre new type of motion exhibited by these electrons.
Everything we see with the unaided eye in a painting – from the Australian outback images of Albert Namatjira or Russell Drysdale, to the vibrant works of Pro Hart – is thanks to the mix of colours that form part of the visible spectrum.
For decades, NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD) has been responsible for developing the technologies that put satellites into orbit, astronauts on the Moon, and sent robotic missions to other planets. Unfortunately, after many years of supporting NASA missions, some of their machinery is getting on in years and is in need of an upgrade.
The first Thursday in May is World Password Day, but don’t buy a cake or send cards. Computer chip maker Intel created the event as an annual reminder that, for most of us, our password habits are nothing to celebrate. Instead, they – and computer professionals like me – hope we will use this day to say our final goodbyes to “qwerty” and “123456,” which are still the most popular passwords.
The 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge is run through a partnership with NASA’s Centennial Challenges Program and Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. The goal of the challenge is to foster the development of technologies to manufacture a habitat using local indigenous materials with, or without, recyclable materials. The vision is that autonomous machines will someday be deployed in deep space destinations, including Mars, to construct shelters for human habitation. On Earth, these same capabilities could be used to produce affordable housing wherever it is needed or where access to conventional building materials and skills are limited.
Nearly 80 percent of Americans own a smartphone, and a growing proportion of them use smartphones for internet access, not just when they’re on the go. This leads to people storing considerable amounts of personal and private data on their mobile devices.
The list of materials that can be produced by 3-D printing has grown to include not just plastics but also metal, glass, and even food. Now, MIT researchers are expanding the list further, with the design of a system that can 3-D print the basic structure of an entire building.
In recent years, multiple space agencies have shared their plans to return astronauts to the Moon, not to mention establishing an outpost there. Beyond NASA’s plan to revitalize lunar exploration, the European Space Agency (ESA), Rocosmos, and the Chinese and Indian federal space agencies have also announced plans for crewed missions to the Moon that could result in permanent settlements.
There are some strange results being announced in the physics world lately. A fluid with a negative effective mass, and the discovery of five new particles, are all challenging our understanding of the universe.
When it comes to objects and force, Isaac Newton’s Three Laws of Motion are pretty straightforward. Apply force to an object in a specific direction, and the object will move in that direction. And unless there’s something acting against it (like gravity or air pressure) it will keep moving in that direction until something stops it. But when it comes to “negative mass”, the exact opposite is true.
Raul Polit Casillas grew up around fabrics. His mother is a fashion designer in Spain, and, at a young age, he was intrigued by how materials are used for design.Now, as a systems engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, he is still very much in the world of textiles. He and his colleagues are designing advanced woven metal fabrics for use in space.
When the Deepwater Horizon oil rig suffered a catastrophic explosion and blowout on April 21, 2010, leading to the worst oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry, the well’s operators thought they would be able to block the leak within a few weeks. On May 9 they succeeded in lowering a 125-ton containment dome over the broken wellhead. If that measure had worked, it would have funneled the leaking oil into a pipe that carried it to a tanker ship above, thus preventing the ongoing leakage that made the spill so devastating. Why didn’t the containment work as expected?
There’s no denying that we’ve seen some absolutely staggering accomplishments in physics in the past year or so, particularly in our ability to measure space and time with unprecedented levels of detail. But being a lifelong “Whovian” excited about Doctor Who returning to our screens once again, I wondered how these accomplishments stacked up to those of the fictional Time Lords.
Luke Skywalker wasn’t just a farmer. In the original 1977 Star Wars film, the lead character was desperate to leave his home planet of Tatooine, where his family farmed moisture from the atmosphere using devices called “vaporators”. In the planet’s hot and dry desert landscape, moisture farming was an important activity for survival.
A fresh approach to designing and manufacturing heat-thwarting thermal protection systems (TPS) for spacecraft is being developed and tested, offering the promise of fabricating larger tile sizes while reducing labor, cost and waste.
You don’t have to wait long to see a headline proclaiming that some food or behaviour is associated with either an increased or a decreased health risk, or often both. How can it be that seemingly rigorous scientific studies can produce opposite conclusions?