Andrew Orlowski at the register wrote this great article on how NASA overcame their original engineering challenges to land on the moon. He also covers some of the less well know aspects of NASA's early days. Yes, it is a 40 year retrospective of sorts... But it is good.
Synthetic Genomics Incorporated headed by Craig Venter will receive half of a $600 million project budget from Exxon Mobile over the next five years. The project is tasked with mass producing bio-diesel from algae. There is no word on how much bio-diesel the experiment is expected to be able to produce. But this experiment is aimed at producing commercially viable quantities.
The guardian quoted Ben Graziano, research and development manager at the Carbon Trust, saying "Exxon Mobil is estimating that algae could yield just over 20,000 litres of fuel per hectare each year, which is in line with our own forecasts. However, producing biofuel from algae on such a massive commercial scale is a major challenge, which will require many years of research and development."
Six men locked in a simulated spacecraft for 105 days emerged yesterday. They were part of an experiment called Mars 500 that sought to see how six people would interact with each other during the estimated flight duration to Mars. This is Russia's third experiment with the psychology of confined places. In 1999 a similar experiment ended early after a nasty fist fight and allegations of sexual misconduct. Before the 1999 experiment Russians tried a year long experiment, which also ended early due to crew conflicts.
This experiment consisted of four Russians, a German and a Frenchman. They were given strenuous schedules of exercise and experiments to run. All the men aboard complained about the lack of sights as well as the isolation from family.
Wolfram Alpha - Stephen Wolfram's 'computational knowledge engine' was released. In online lingo, WolframAlpha is a natural text search engine that seems to specialize in scientific queries. http://www.wolframalpha.com
Space Tomatoes - An attempt to grow tomatoes in space has produced a genetically modified, drought resistant, and high nutrient tomato. Mariya Khodakovskaya, from North Carolina State University, created the seeds. The plants didn't grow well on the space station, but they have been doing great earth-side.
Hubble Fix -- Hubble was fixed.
Enlarged Space Station Crew -- A Canadian, a Russian, and a Belgian climb into a rocket.
Deux ex Junk --
Richard Greenhill runs a junk electronics store in London. For the last several years he and a team of 11 employees have been working to create robotic hands.
This may be making a mountain from a mole hill. But a SETI Researcher, Ragbir Bhatha, recently picked up a short burst of patterned light emissions from space. This happened a couple of months ago. Since then, Bhatha has been double checking his equipment and hoping to find another signal from the same region of space.
Bhatha had postulated that alien intelligences might try to communicate with other planets via a light pulse in 2001.
Here's a car that was designed by Guy Negre, an automotive engineer. It is currently being manufactured in France on the Cote de Azure near Nice. The Airpod runs on compressed air. The top speed? In the article, no top speed is mentioned. The author took a test drive in the parking lot and got up to about 25mph. Mr. Negre claims that a hybrid battery assisted car can reach top speeds of about 100mph.
I like the idea. Maybe in the future will will all be stopping at local refilling stations to pull ice cold air tanks from our cars and slap in a new one.
At 25mph, it's more like a golf cart. But it sounds like they have some big companies behind the idea which may make this hybrid version a reality.
PharmaSat is a tiny, wee satellite. It's about 10 pounds in total weight. The satellite is made of three smaller cubes, called Cubesat's. Cubesats are about the size of a loaf of bread.
In the PharmaSat experiment each of the three cubes will be carrying three different concentrations of yeast and an antibiotic. The purpose of the experiment is to determine what the effect of weightlessness is on the virulence of fungus. They will be testing the yeast, Saccharomyces cervisiae in particular.
The complete cost of the PharmaSat mission is $3 million dollars.
The new Star Trek movie is creating a buzz in the media. It's that funny sort of spin off buzz that generates articles like the one I read this morning. The article stipulates that Star Trek's warp drives may not be impossible. That's good news.
Apparently NASA is even looking into breaking the law of relativity. The trick, apparently, is to realize there is no spoon. Actually, NASA is currently thinking about the problem as one of moving a chunk of space-time through our normally perceived space-time. An object within the bubble would not need to move in order to travel (relative to those sitting still) at speeds faster than light.
They have done an experiment with gyroscopes that may hold some evidence of this phenomenon. Super-cooled rings were placed beneath a gyroscope. When the supercooled rings were moved, the gyroscope stopped spinning. Apparently the spinning of the supercooled rings tricked the gyroscopes into thinking that they were actually spinning. One postulated theory of how this happens is that the supercooled rings are dragging space time.
Veratect Corp. and iJet Intelligent Risk Systems are two companies that crawl the internet. They collect posted data... the giant blur of daily data ... the incomprehensibly huge collection of mental diarrhea that we have come to know as the internet. Both Veratect and iJet seek to pull a meaningful signal from the noise. Despite the AP News hype about this technological marvel, it all seems little more than a bunch of people reading news clippings.
Oddly enough both companies focus on global disease outbreak. iJet also has hands in detecting civil unrest and telecommunications outages.
Apparently, there are a lot of online sites that seek to divine wisdom about coming disease outbreaks. I'm going to quote AP News here:
NASA announced this week that they are scaling back plans for the Orion shuttle. They are planning to drop the crew capacity from 6 to 4 in order to meet the March 15th, 2015 deadline. The current shuttle carries seven astronauts.
Also, acting administrator, Chris Scolese told members of Congress that NASA would not likely pursue a permanent moon base. Missions to Mars or a near Earth asteroid were mentioned as possible replacement goals for NASA. The moon base was originally scheduled for completion by 2020.
This is a video of a chemical gel that utilizes an oscillating chemical reaction called the Belousov–Zhabotinsky (BZ) reaction. In this reaction certain compound concentrations will periodically increase and decrease.
There is some talk that this chemical gel could be used to create mechanical control systems without the need for electronics. For the time being, however, there is a chemical gel that can walk across a lab table.
Brian O'Brien of Perth has published research which suggests that dust on the moon is likely to have a higher electrostatic charge during the lunar mid-day than during the lunar morning or dusk. O'Brien posits that the electrostatic charge of the dust decreases as the sunlight on the moon decreases.
When astronauts landed on the moon lunar dust electrostatically adhered to their suits and equipment, causing equipment failures and general problems. Notably, Apollo 11's Passive Seismic Experiment was victim to overheating caused by excessive dust. (Although it was placed merely 55 feet from the Eagle lander and therefore subject to the dust storm that was kicked off during take off).
The star, Gliese, located within the Libra constellation was in the news about a year ago as Astronomers found a roughly earth sized planet within the habitable zone of the star.
This year, Gliese's planets are in the news again. This time talk is centered around Gliese 581 d and Gliese 581 e. E is too hot. D, may be just right. Gliese 581 D has the proper size for it's gravitational pull to retain water. That planet's orbit is also within the habitable zone of it's star so water shouldn't burn off or constantly freeze.
I saw this video this morning and thought: 'The guy who invented those wheels is a genius'. So I did a little looking.
It turns out that those wheels are called 'Mechanum' or 'Mecanum' wheels. A US patent was filed for in 1972 and obtained in 1975 by Bengt Ilon while he was employed by a Swedish company called Mecanum AB. The US Navy bought the patent and licensed it to various manufacturers in the 1980's.
The Spirit rover mysteriously rebooted twice over the weekend. NASA says that the rover's batteries are charged and the solar panels are generating power. The rover has been operating on Mars since 2004. A recent software update may be the cause of the mysterious reboots. Either that, or the rover is starting to get lonely.