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Scientists from the Argonne National Laboratory are working on something truly incredible, where they are converting plastic bags into batteries - yes, you read that right. Vilas Pol, a Chemist with the laboratory was interviewed by Al Jazeera, where he cut a plastic bag and eventually turned it into a battery.
Pol did this by cutting plastic bags into bits, puts the pieces of plastic bag into a metal tube, adds a 'catalyst', and heats it to 700C. In three hours, a fine black-colored powder - carbon. This carbon sells for $150 per gram, making it worth more than gold. Within a few minutes, the carbon can be converted into a watch battery. Scientists are now working on making this technology cheaper.
The more energy pushed into the battery, the cheaper the battery can get - which is the main driving force of storing more energy into the battery itself. The US government is set to invest $120 million into the project, to create smaller batteries that would eventually be used in smartphones, right up to electric cars.
For Raspberry Pi prototypers, it's sometimes hard to remember which GPIO pin is which. That's where Dr. Simon Monk's Raspberry Leaf comes in handy. This simple piece of paper that can be printed at home goes over the top of the pins and reminds you which is which. You can see it in action below:
It's these simple ideas that can make people millions. Luckily, Dr Monk is part of the DIY community and is releasing the idea and template for everyone to use. You can download the image file and print it out at home from Dr. Monk's website.
While the awesome animated GIF images I posted earlier are fresh in your mind, I would like to bring something else I consider awesome to everyone's attention. My friends at the Melton Memorial Observatory of the University of South Carolina will be hosting a live video feed of their public observing session tonight.
If you tune in to their USTREAM page tonight between 8pm and 10pm US EST, you will be able to see live images of the moon as well as the planet Jupiter as seen from one of the telescopes on campus. They generally hold a live streaming session every Monday with the activities beginning shortly after dark.
It's no secret - I am a huge astronomy buff. So much so that I even endeavor into the complex realm that is astrophotography. I say "complex" because taking a clear, crisp and vibrant image of the cosmos is quite challenging, and requites many hours to produce a single 2D image.
Finnish astrophotographer J-P Mestävainio has taken these complexities and mastered them, but he did not stop there. Mestävainio wondered what the Nebula he was photographing looked like in the third dimension and set out to create what can only be described as breathtaking. Seen below is IC 1396 or the Elephants Trunk Nebula.
These animated GIF images are in all actuality an artist interpretation of how he thinks the nebula would appear if passing by. The GIFs are created by adding interpretations and educated guesses based on the formation of the nebula and a rule-of-thumb that brighter stars are closer than darker ones to known data about the nebula, like distance and the location of certain stars around it to create a 3D model of the nebula.
SpaceX is set to send their unmanned Dragon capsule to the International Space Station on March 1, where it will launch from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Dragon will launch at 10:10am EST (1510 GMT) on March 1, docking with the ISS a day later. SpaceX's Dragon will be toting 1200 pounds of supplies and scientific experiments to the ISS, and will return to Earth just over three weeks later on March 25, splashing down in the Pacific Ocean, just off the coast of Baja California, bringing with it 2300 pounds of experimental samples and equipment.
This will be SpaceX's second contracted cargo mission to the ISS for NASA, and overall, their third visit. SpaceX has a $1.6 billion deal with NASA to make 12 similar flights with their Dragon and Falcon 9 rockets.
We all love our consumer technology, but scientific breakthroughs like this are just extraordinary. Later this year, we'll see the first bionic hand that will give an amputee the ability to feel their hand again.
This will be quite the moment for artificial limbs with sensory perception, where the first man to get the new touch-sensitive bionic hand will be a man in his 20s living in Rome, who lost the lower part of his arm in an accident. The wiring of this bionic hand will be connected to his nervous system, where they hope he'll be able to control the movements of the hand as well as receive touch signals from the bionic hand's skin sensors.
This is coming from Silvestro Micera of the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland, where he's also added that the hand will be attached directly to the patient's nervous system through electrodes clipped onto two of the arm's main nerves - the median and ulnar nerves.
After multiple space agencies have been tracking the asteroid that fled just past Earth waving hello and goodbye, Russia was attacked by space rocks late last week. The meteroid broke up in our atmosphere, but still crashed into Earth injuring over 1200 people and causing millions of dollars of damage.
Because of this, the Science, Space, and Technology Committee in Washington are planning to hold a hearing soon "to examine ways to better identify and address asteroids that pose a potential threat to Earth."
NASA have said that the rock that smashed into the Russian city of Chelyabinsk, which is around 950 miles east of Moscow, was around 15 meters in diameter, and it was moving at an astonishing 18 kilometres per second. It lasted around 30 seconds in our atmosphere before it broke apart, and wasn't detected by any Earth-based telescopes. NASA scientists have said that it is virtually impossible for telescopes to see a meteorite that size in the daytime sky.
SpaceTT: Asteroid 2012 DA14 to make closest pass to Earth today at 2:24 PM US EST - hope it doesn't screw with us
Asteroid 2012 DA14, a chunk of space rock roughly the size of a football field, will make the closest pass to Earth ever recorded of a previously known object. At around 2:24 PM US EST the asteroid will pass Earth within 17,200 miles of our atmosphere.
This close pass comes hot on the heels of an unrelated massive meteorite exploding over Russia yesterday. The meteorite passed over a remote part of Russia and exploded over the town of Chelyabinsk, and injured 500 people when its shock wave shattered the glass in surrounding buildings. You can hear the massive explosion in the video below.
NASA scientists say that the two events are most likely unrelated, and there is zero chance of Asteroid 2012 DA14 hitting Earth. Those interested will be able to observe tonight's flyby by watching a series of webcasts being held by NASA and broadcast on Space.com (Source #2). Personally I will be outside with my 10" Schmidt Newtonian telescope trying to get a fleeting glimpse of the object.
University of Southern California shows off battery featuring silicon nanowires, holds 3x the energy, charges in 10 minutes
I really can't wait for the day when I can buy a new smartphone with a week-long battery, but it looks like the University of Southern California are working on it, almost like they're reading my thoughts.
This technology uses porous, flexible silicon nanowires for the anodes in a lithium-ion battery that would provide the high capacity, fast recharding and low costs that come with the silicon, but without the weaker previous attempts that relied on simpler silicon plates.
This would, in a best case scenario, provide us with triple the capacity of today's best batteries, a full recharge in 10 minutes and more than 2,000 charging cycles. This is where I say "shut up and take my money", but the money hitting my screen and falling onto my keyboard is doing nothing. To finish, researchers have estimated that there should be products hitting consumers' hands with silicon-sporting lithium-ion packs in two to three years, which isn't too long at all.
For those science junkies that were disappointed when the Large Hadron Collider didn't manage to end the world by creating black holes, you'll be getting another chance in two years. The LHC will be down for the next two years so that it can undergo maintenance and upgrades to bring it back to peak efficiency.
The device will eventually make its way back online sometime in 2014. At that time, it's expected that the particle accelerator will be operating at up to 14 trillion electron-volts, double the energy it was running at in 2011. Part of the reason the LHC hasn't achieved higher energies yet is due to the helium gas explosion which damaged and delayed the project.
This maintenance period will be used to fix that damage, perform maintenance and upgrade the detectors, electronic shielding, and ventilation system.