Curiosity is awesome from many different standpoints. It's one hell of a robot, a feat of engineering, and a great way to increase our knowledge about Mars and space in general. Rumors of a massive discovery, according to NASA and Curiosity's Twitter account, have been a bit overblown, but never-the-less, NASA will be presenting its findings so far tomorrow at 12:00 p.m. EST, 9:00 a.m. PT.
The press conference will be held during the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union, which takes place in San Francisco. NASA has been trying to dial-in expectations and has said that there won't be any unbelievable findings presented tomorrow. "Rumors and speculation that there are major new findings from the mission at this early stage are incorrect," officials at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory wrote. "The news conference will be an update about first use of the rover's full array of analytical instruments to investigate a drift of sandy soil."
The rumors of a massive discovery started making their rounds two weeks ago when an NPR story used a quote from John Grotzinger, mission chief scientist, that said the SAM tool had found data "for the history books." If an earth-shattering discovery is presented tomorrow, you'll be able to read about it here.
Solar power, up until now, has not really been all that great - sure, it provides a different method of powering things, but it doesn't capture anywhere near enough light to truly replace coal, oil or nuclear power. But, this week a team of MIT researchers hope to put us on the path of truly sustainable solar power.
Current solar power technology is not that efficient, with the latest development in solar systems delivering around 32% efficiency. This was met with titles of a "major breakthrough" in solar power - but in reality, it's still nowhere near as good as it should be. At this rate, solar farms need to be gigantic, taking up valuable space, in order to collect a useful amount of energy. The price per square foot has always been another issue altogether.
The main issue is that solar energy collectors can only absorb a small amount of the energy being blasted onto it from our star, with the rest of the potential energy not being captured. A recent MIT study has proposed an "atomically thing" sheet of semiconducting material that would be stretched by pushing a pin down onto the center. This may not sound like much, but it has endless possibilities for the future of our species.
Here I am thinking we're getting closer to the end of the Mayan long-count calender, and the world won't end - but now Disney have taught one of their humanoid robotic subordinates how to play catch and juggle with human participants.
Yes, I'm not trolling - Disney have just unveiled this new effort, and designers have given the unit (not named the T100) a cup-shaped, human-like hand which helps with the catching and juggling. The robot uses an ASUS Xtion Pro Live camera which tracks faces and incoming balls - technology similar to Microsoft's Kinect.
The project started off with Kinect, but researchers switched to the ASUS Xtion Pro Live because they didn't need the Kinect's panning motor or microphone.
NPR ran a story this morning after talking with scientists at NASA. It seems as though the Curiosity rover has found something incredible on the surface of Mars while analyzing soil. The SAM instrument, which is a miniature chemistry lab, is capable of figuring out what a sample is made of.
Data from SAM is currently coming back to NASA and it "looks really interesting." Of course, the scientists don't want to jump the gun announcing something that later turns out to be false. They almost had this happen back when the rover detected methane. It turned out the methane had come from air Curiosity had brought from Florida.
John Grotzinger, the principal investigator for the rover mission: "We're getting data from SAM as we sit here and speak, and the data looks really interesting. The science team is busily chewing away on it as it comes down." He adds: "This data is gonna be one for the history books. It's looking really good."
We won't know the details of what Curiosity has potentially discovered until a few weeks have passed. Until then, look forward to some potentially big news coming out of NASA. Let's hope the discovery is enough to get congress to increase funding for the space group.
Man films UFO over Denver, tells CNN who are skeptical, check it out themselves and film the same UFOs on camera
News outlet CNN were notified by a Denver Metro area man of a UFO he recorded on his digital camera. He stood on the hilltop of Federal Heights, Denver and pointed his camera south toward downtown Denver capturing caught footage of an unidentified flying object. The man caught the UFOs flying at between noon and 1pm. The UFOs are flying too fast to see with the naked eye, and can only be spotted when played back on video.
Steve Cowell, Aviation Expert, former commercial pilot, instructor and FAA accident prevention counsellor. "That is not an aeroplane, that is not a helicopter, those are not birds, uhhh, I can't identify it". Cowell told CNN that he knows of no aircraft that can fly that fast. Cowell did state that there was one other possibility, "perhaps there's some sort of debris, that is being raised up by some of the atmospheric winds".
But in his professional opinion, he tells CNN "it is an unidentified flying object". The Federal Aviation Association (FAA) monitors all air traffic across the entire of the United States, and sent the CNN a statement saying:
We've checked with Air TrafficControl and no one has had any reports of the activity you described. Nor have any of our employees observed any of this nature either visually or on their radar displays.
Panasonic is on uStream live streaming a video of a solar eclipse taking place in Australia. This is the first Australian solar eclipse since 2002, and will be the last until 2028. Even though solar eclipses are a common occurrence, most of the occurrences happen over water, so they aren't easily observed.
Numerous people are planning on getting married under the full solar eclipse, a common occurrence. It's a bit cloudy, so the viewing is perfect, but it should still make for a spectacular sight. It's just about 30 minutes away from the total eclipse, so I recommend you tune into the Live Stream now.
UPDATE - there is a clearer view at this link of their second feed.
NASA & ESA test "interplanetary Internet" connection, controlled a Lego robot in Germany from the ISS
NASA and the European Space Agency have just gone where no man has ever gone before, by testing out an "interplanetary Internet" connection. It wasn't quite Mars to Earth, but involved an astronaut on the International Space Station controlling a small robot here on Earth.
NASA is trying to respark the imagination of Americans, and with this latest mission showing off a new communications protocol, it is definitely on the right path. A new communications protocol capable of transmitting data between planets and spaceships - just typing this feels odd, but quite exciting at the same time.
The new protocol is known as Disruption Tolerant Networking (DTN), and is capable of allowing for many disconnections and errors that would occur when a signal travels long distances through space. NASA deputy associate administrator for space communications and navigation, Badri Younes, said in a statement:
The demonstration showed the feasibility of using a new communications infrastructure to send commands to a surface robot from an orbiting spacecraft and receive images and data back from the robot. The experimental DTN we've tested from the space station may one day be used by humans on a spacecraft in orbit around Mars to operate robots on the surface, or from Earth using orbiting satellites as relay stations.
It looks like China is taking off to the stars next year, with a new manned space mission locked in for June 2013. A senior official in charge of the manned space programme has said that the three-person crew would consist of two men and one woman, reports the BBC.
China is the third country to independently send a person into space, second only after Russia and the United States. The new plan follows the flight of the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft, which returned to Earth in late-June. The Shenzhou 9 was part of China's first manual space docking mission, which was a huge milestone in China's ambitious space programme.
The mission also saw another milestone: carrying China's first female astronaut, Liu Yang. Next year's mission could happen as early as June, but there are back-up launch windows slotted in for both July and August, according to Niu Hongguang, deputy commander-in-chief of the manned space programme.
Solar panels are slowing oozing their way across the world, being slapped onto peoples' houses to power their houses. But, some panels don't have enough tech inside to completely power your house from the sunlight captured.
Well, research and development into new methods of capturing sunlight on solar panels is an ongoing thing, with the New Zealand territory of Tokelau being a great example. Tokelau is a group of three islands in the South Pacific which now has enough solar panel installations to completely meet their electrical needs.
Just recently, the islands relied on importing diesel fuel to power electrical generators, but as the New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister, Murry McCully has said, this has huge economic and environmental costs. The project was funded by the New Zealand government to the tune of $7 million, with a collection of solar panels installed on each of the three islands.
Better slap that tin foil hat not only on yourself, but any electrically-powered devices you may own, which would be a lot because Boeing are working on something that could take them all out in a single shot.
Boeing are working on a newly tested Counter-electronics High-powered Microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP) that its missile can slams targets underneath with microwaves that can take down computers, power systems and pretty much anything electrical.
CHAMP can deliver a payload that is invisible, and the prototype is currently capable of targeting multiple individual buildings all without detonating anything, or hurting civilians with it's "blast". Boeing will develop CHAMP in a multi-year program, and currently has no guarantees this will end up as a product for the military's use. Imagine what these things could do if they were reverse-engineered. Worse, imagine what they could do if they were hacked.
We all want thinner devices, but how about flexible? It's all an inevitability, but what materials would be used to deliver such devices to the masses? Well, it looks like graphene, a carbon-based material, could be the answer.
The American Chemical Society, graphene is a "wonder material", which is 100 times stronger than steel and if stretched out thin enough, a single ounce of the material could cover 28 football fields. The ACS have said that the material is currently under development for use in solar panels "that could be used to cover the outside surface of a building, in addition to the roof".
As soon as these solar panels start getting bolted to buildings and houses, the next step would be smart devices. The ACS explains:
Touch screens made with graphene as their conductive element could be printed on thin plastic instead of glass, so they would be light and flexible, which could make cell phones as thin as a piece of paper and foldable enough to slip into a pocket. Because of graphene's incredible strength, these cell phones would be nearly unbreakable.
Physicists could prove that we live in a computer simulation, probably without sunglasses, leather and slow-mo
When The Matrix came out in 1999, so many people walked out thinking "are we living in a computer program?" and it looks like physicists are thinking outside the square when it comes to our origins.
Nick Bostrom has hypothesized that the existence of our race could end up being nothing more than the algorithmic results of a computer simulation. It may sound a little nuts, but it sounds no less crazy than some theories given to use by not science and religion.
The best bit of this is that researchers have reached the point where they have a way that they can test this thought experiment. A team of scientists out of the University of Bonn in Germany suggest that even the most powerful Universe simulation would be subject to certain limitations of its host Universe.
Felix Baumgartner has become the first skydiver to reach a truly special milestone: skydiving from the edge of our planet toward the ground faster than the speed of sound. Baumgartner reached a top speed of 833.9mph (1342km/h).
Baumgartner, an Austrian skydiver, spent two hours travelling up in a balloon to reach dizzying heights of 128,100 feet, (24 miles or 39km). After which he jumped out of his capsule, and spend four minutes in complete freefall, all in a pressurized spacesuit. This gave Baumgartner a world record for the highest ever freefall.
Once he hit the ground, he took a few steps and dropped to his knees, raising his hands in absolute triumph. Baumgartner said to the media just after his record-breaking skydive:
Let me tell you - when I was standing there on top of the world, you become so humble. You don't think about breaking records anymore, you don't think about gaining scientific data - the only thing that you want is to come back alive.
New laser is being constructed, would be powerful enough to tear apart the vacuum of space-time itself
Well, this is interesting - the European Commission has approved the construction of three new huge research lasers, leaving the door open on a fourth that would, for a tiny instant, be several hundred times more powerful than the entirety of the power generated by the human race.
Yes, that is very, very powerful. The scientists hope to actually create virtual particules from absolutely nothing. The fourth laser when at peak power in Europe's Extreme Light Infrastructure project (ELI) would combine a total of ten beams into a single pulse at 200 petawatts. The entire Earth doesn't even generate that much power at any one moment, and if we're talking scale, it is more total power than the Earth receives from our star, the sun.
This is not the type of laser that stays on continuously, and will only use this mammoth amount of power for just 1.5 x 10^-14 second .This is the same time that "it takes for light to travel from one side of a human hair to the other, if you shave your hair down by 90%", reports Dvice.
In one of the pictures that Curiosity has taken and sent back to Earth, the JPL scientists spotted something that looks metallic in the sand below Curiosity. Now there are fears that our little Mars rover may be injured. Take a look in the picture and let me know if you can spot what the engineers did:
Neither could I. The small speck of something is located towards the bottom of the image and engineers fear that it could be a part of Curiosity that fell off. They have now ordered Curiosity to take more pictures of the object and area so that they can determine if it is a part of Curiosity.
If it is, they should be able to determine what part of Curiosity it is and what affect this may have on the mission. Currently Curiosity has spent 65 days of the planned 668 day mission on the red planet. This means it's already 10 percent done. Let's just hope that this possible injury turns out to be nothing serious.
The first year-long mission on the International Space Station is set to happen in 2015 with Russian and American astronauts
Something I don't think I could ever do without half pissing my pants would be to spend twelve months up on the International Space Station (ISS). At the moment, there's an enforced six-month maximum stay on the ISS, but all this changes in 2015.
In 2015, the maximum stay will increase to twelve months, where one Russian and one American will spend an entire year on the ISS. The mission is to help collect more data to help us work out a way of completing deep space travel.
There's already been plenty of data collected, mainly about the effects microgravity has on the human body, but because of the six-month only stays, there's not much information on long-term implications on the human body. Michael Suffredini, International Space Station program manager says:
In order for us to eventually move beyond low Earth orbit, we need to better understand how humans adapt to long-term spaceflight. The space station serves as a vital scientific resource for teaching us those lessons, and this yearlong expedition aboard the complex will help us move closer to those journeys.
Researchers design algorithms that could see lithium-ion batteries charge twice as quick as they do now
I'll take this technology yesterday, thanks - researchers out of the University of California San Diego are working on new algorithms that would see a reduction of 50% in charging times for lithium-ion-based batteries.
Not only that, but we would be seeing cells run more efficiently, and could also slice production costs by 25%. Instead of tracking battery behavior and health with traditional methods of monitoring current and voltage, the team's mathematical estimate where lithium ions are within cells for more precise data.
With this new info in hand, the team were able to more precisely gauge battery longevity and control charging efficiency. The team were awarded $460,000 from the Department of Energy's ARPA-E research arm, where they'll use the new injection of cash to help develop the technology, as well as technology with automotive firm Bosch and battery manufacturer Cobasys, who both received the remainder of the $9.6 million grant.
Scientists manage to produce gold from a toxic gas by using bacteria, won't help our financial problems
Michigan State University scientists have figured out a way to ensure that tech geeks around the world will continue to have gold to use in their electronic connectors. If you didn't know, all of those 1000-2000 pins on a modern CPU are coated in gold, along with the pins in expansion slots on the motherboard.
Professors Kazem Kashefi and Adam Brown utilized the bacteria Cupriavidus Metallidurans to process a naturally occurring toxic gas known as Gold Chloride into 99.9% pure 24-carat gold. You can see the apparatus that was used in the experiment in the above picture. And no, it's not magical.
The bacteria used was discovered to be up to 25 times more resistant to toxic environments than previously thought. This discovery prompted the experiment that resulted in the production of gold. It's a rather simple affair, too. The bacteria is placed into a small bowl into which the toxic Gold Chloride gas is pumped.
Leave it there for about a week and you'll end up with a 99.9 percent pure gold nugget. Unfortunately, it won't be solving any financial problems or making anybody rich anytime soon. While the process is easy, the Gold Chloride gas isn't cheap and since it isn't "natural" gold, it won't be worth as much.
Scientists from the NanoRobotics Laboratory at École Polytechnique de Montreal in Canada have discovered a way of directing nanobots (nano-sized robots) inside the human body. If you're unfamiliar with nanobots, the nano-sized robots are so small that they can only be seen under a microscope.
These bots can be guided toward specific parts of the body that were too dangerous to risk surgery over - and is considered a huge breakthrough in cancer treatment. The technology is still in its infancy, with human testing not even a thought for now, but there are a few robotics firms including Quantum International, Intuitive Surgical, iRobot Corporation, and Dover Corporation, who are all committed to pushing this nanobot technology.
Robert Federowicz, CEO of Quantum, has said:
Using robots to deliver cancer-killing medicine directly to a tumor deep within the body could forever change the treatment of the disease. The market for such astonishing technology would obviously be enormous. Quantum is dedicated to bringing just such innovations out of the laboratory and into the global marketplace.
In the infamous words of Dr. Evil, the earth is filled with "liquid hot magma." Now, some scientists are looking to drill down into the inner filling of our Earth to do more studying. This is no easy task as the people who have attempted it before will tell you. The price tag will be at least $1 billion USD, with no guarantee of success.
The group of international scientists plan to drill into the mantle in one of three places. The three options are located in the Pacific ocean, along mid-ocean ridge lines where the crust is the thinnest due to the quick forming of said lines. Here, the crust is believed to be as thin as 6km, whereas other parts of Earth have up to an 80km thick crust.
This isn't the first attempt at drilling into the mantle of the Earth. Russia attempted something similar with the Kola Superdeep Borehole, which managed to drill as deep as 12km, though not in the middle of the ocean. "It will be the equivalent of dangling a steel string the width of a human hair in the deep end of a swimming pool and inserting it into a thimble 1/10 mm wide on the bottom, and then drilling a few meters into the foundations."
Koba Lab out of the Tokyo University of Science have shown off a 9kg robotic suit that is powered by a pair of pneumatic artificial musics on the back, which are made by industrial equipment maker Kanda Tsushin.
The suit is pretty much powered by air, and when pressurized with air using electrical components from KOA Corporation, the lightweight, loosely-woven PET tubes contract, where they then provide support to the user's back, shoulders and elbows. The legs are left out for now, as the second person to don the suit noted his legs felt the weight.
You can really see the pressure being lifted off their bodies when they enable the pressurized air flow. The demonstration used 50kg of rice, in five 10kg bags. All I need now is a pair of Google Glasses, a Wi-Fi connection, and a love of red heads and I'm close to being Iron Man. The scotch part I have down, and I can grow a goatee if I really wanted to - Robert Downey Jr, watch out. Check the source for the video.