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It has been 35 years since NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft blasted off from terra firma and headed into the final frontier. During this journey, the space probe has visited Saturn, Jupiter, and has even managed to leave our solar system. Well maybe it has left, or maybe it is still here. Not even NASA is sure whether or not Voyager 1 has reached interstellar space.
If you're a space buff like me, I know what you're thinking, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) announced last year that Voyager 1 has in fact left our solar system and is now streaking through interstellar space. Unfortunately, the original Voyager science team seems to think otherwise.
To toss even more confusion into the mix, both the University of Maryland as well as Boston University both agree that Voyager 1 actually reached interstellar space on July 27, 2012, and for the moment, NASA has agreed to simply disagree and released a statement saying that they simply have no idea where Voyager 1 actually it.
A newly released video from NASA is showing us how astronauts will soon be able to create replacement parts for the space station using a 3-D printer while in orbit. The video elaborates on why 3-D printing in space is an important achievement and how it can be used to lessen the cost of space exploration.
The prototype printer shown in the video appears to be of the normal added-deposition style much like consumer level, hobbyist grade printers we have here on earth. The hot end appears to be of similar design to that used on many of the RepRap derivatives such as the Lulzbot, Mendel, and Prusa 3-D printers. A spokeswoman for NASA says that the first 3-D printer to travel to space is scheduled to launch in June 2014 aboard the SpaceX 5 ISS resupply mission.
August holds a special event for stargazers across the nation in the form of the annual Perseid Meteor Shower. This astronomical event occurs on an annual basis and produces more fireballs and "shooting stars" than any other meteor shower. During its peak, stargazers could see more than 100 meteors per hour with some streaking across the sky as bright fireballs.
"We have found that one meteor shower produces more fireballs than any other," Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office said in a statement. "It's the Perseid meteor shower, which peaks on August 12 and 13."
Cook and a team of scientists from NASA have placed meteor observing cameras across the southern United States in an effort to count the amount of fireballs produced during the Perseid event and between 2008 and 2013, the project logged 568 fireballs. This is significantly more than next largest meteor shower event, The Geminids.
The world's smallest re-creation of the Mona Lisa has been painted on a surface that is just 30 microns in width, which is roughly one-third as wide as a human hair. This tiny feat was accomplished by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and used a process known as ThermoChemical NanoLithography, which is similar to the process used to etch the circuitry on the silicon used in microprocessors.
The process uses a precise application of heat in a painstaking process that "paints" the image pixel by pixel. Varying the amount of heat allows for changes in in the darkness of the gray used to illustrate the image. For example, the more heat used in a single pixel, the darker that pixel will be. Likewise, less heat produces a lighter pixel.
"By tuning the temperature, our team manipulated chemical reactions to yield variations in the molecular concentrations on the nanoscale. We've created a way to make independent patterns of multiple chemicals on a chip that can be drawn in whatever shape you want," Jennifer Curtis, an associate professor in the School of Physics and the study's lead author, said in a statement.
Oculus Rift, apart from being awesome, is being used everywhere, but one of the best uses for it so far has to be NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory's super immersive space exploration, which lets you walk the surface of Mars.
The NASA JPL team were pumped for Rift when they first used it at PAX last year, signing up for a developer kit right away. Engadget interviewed Human Interfaces Engineer, Victor Luo, who said they added terrain imagery that was snapped from satellites so that they could actually "walk" on the red planet using an Xbox controller "with up to 25 centimeters per pixel."
Luo thought it would be great to actually physically 'walk' on Mars, so they contacted Virtuix Omni to get one of their treadmills. The Virtuix team were near the JPL labs when E3 2013 was cranking along, and hand delivered an Omni to the excited people at NASA's JPL laboratories. The team hooked the unit up and were able to "wander around" the surface of Mars. Incredible.
Canada's Next-Generation Canadarm (NGC) have developed a new version of their robotic space arm that will help out with space exploration. The program itself is designed to support missions in both low-Earth orbit, and deep space.
The next-gen robotic arm will be used for jobs from repairing communications satellites to helping out on manned missions to the moon, asteroids, Mars, and other vast parts of the universe. Alain Ouellet, the Director of Space Exploration Development at the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) said:
"With the retirement of the space shuttle, a new generation of crewed space exploration vehicles will soon become available. However, these new vehicles are much smaller in size compared to the space shuttle, and therefore there is a need to adapt the robotic arm technology developed for the shuttle and the International Space Station."
If you thought NSA's PRISM system was invasive to your privacy, just wait until you hear what the National Taiwan University team has been up to. Lead by Hao-hua Chu, they've just tested prototypes of a new tooth sensor that is capable of detecting if you're smoking or overeating.
The team tested them in eight people's dentures, with the sensor featuring accelerometers that are capable of detecting the difference between chewing, smoking, speaking and coughing, roughly 94% of the time. It can only get better, with next-gen versions possibly detecting the type of food you're eating, which would be a huge step for health.
The biggest issue is scientists first have to create an on-power power source, as the prototypes currently run from external batteries, and secondly mouth-safe Bluetooth connectivity so that it can transmit data to smartphones. The team are already talking about shrinking the tooth sensor down so that it could fit inside cavities or crowns.
ScienceFriday: Hubble captures breathtaking image of Comet ISON, one of the greatest comets humans will ever see
It has been several months since I have made a Science Friday post here at TweakTown and I have been wanting to bring it back. So many of you have mentioned how much you enjoyed them, so I am going to attempt to make 1-2 science related posts every Friday. Today, NASA released a breathtaking image of Comet ISON taken with the Hubble Space Telescope back on April 30. The image shows ISON streaking through our solar system with many stars and faint galaxies in the background.
The image is comprised of five photos that the researchers at NASA stitched together to form such a wide field of view. "The result is part science, part art," Josh Sokol of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md., which operates Hubble, wrote in a blog post last week. "It's a simulation of what our eyes, with their ability to dynamically adjust to brighter and fainter objects, would see if we could look up at the heavens with the resolution of Hubble."
Comet ISON, is a sungrazing comet discovered on September 21, 2012, by Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok. The discovery was made using a 0.4 meter--16 in--reflecting telescope. As the comet warms as it moves closer to the sun, its rate of sublimation (a process similar to evaporation in which solid matter transitions directly into gas) will increase. The comet will get brighter and its tail will grow longer. The comet is predicted to reach naked-eye visibility in November.
Now this is a scary piece of news. A group of MIT researchers have successfully implanted false memories into the minds of test mice, with a study published in the journal, Science.
The experiment was designed to look at the phenomenon known as "false memory syndrome", where the brain creates recollections of events that have never actually happened: you know, like seeing a black cat twice in The Matrix. By playing with the memory engram-bearing cells in the hippocampus, the MIT researchers convinced a bunch of mice that they had experienced shock to their feet, without physically doing anything different than just standing there.
Now, all this team has to do is sell me a dream pill that gives me the ability to "dream" some "memories". We could call it "iDream", should I go and get a patent on that?
86 years ago, the University of Queensland in Australia began conducting an experiment in which the flow rate of a piece of pitch was measured. For those of you who may not know what pitch is, it's a highly viscous liquid which, for all intents and purposes, appears to be solid. Bitumen is the most commonly used form and at room temperature, this tar pitch flows at a very slow rate sometimes taking up to a decade or more for a single drop to fall.
The University of Queensland is not the only institution studying this phenomenon. Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland has also been conducting their own experiment since 1944. Finally after 69 long years, the first drop of pitch has finally fallen. The drop occurred on July 11, 2013 at 5 PM local time and webcams that were set up last April were on hand to catch this extremely rare occurrence.
While some of you may not understand the excitement, I find in things like this let me break down how many times human eyes have missed seeing this event take place. According to Prof. John Mainstone of the University of Queensland, he has missed several opportunities to witness the drop happening with his own eyes. First in 1979, Mainstone said that he skipped one of his usual Sunday campus visits and coincidentally the drop happened the same day. Then again in 1988, Mainstone left his lab to grab a snack and apparently missed the drop by just five minutes. Finally in 2000, fed up with missing the drop, Mainstone set up a camera but unfortunately a glitch at the moment of the drop prevented any video of the event occurring.