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If you had told scientists 100 years ago that we would be freezing light, they would be astounded - how would you have done it? Well, German scientists have done just that: frozen light for a record-breaking 60 seconds.
Why would you want to freeze light? For one, to make sure that it stays in place to ensure that it keeps its quantum coherence properties - to make it possible to build light-based quantum memory. This means that the longer light can be held in place, the better it is for computation. This would pave the way for more secure quantum communications, over longer distances.
Holding light is no easy task however, as you can't just call in Mr Freeze and ask him to say "Stick Around". Light is an electromagnetic radiation that moves at an incredible 300 million meters per second. On top of that, over 60 seconds, light can travel around 11 million miles (or 18 million km), or 20 round trips to the Moon.
The Pentagon has been building itself some robots, with a new Terminator-like rescue robot that would be deployed into disaster situations, where it would search for survivors.
The 6-foot 2-inch robot named Atlas is one of the entrants in a contest that is designed to build a robotic hero, thanks to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The competition sees entrants' robots capable of finding their way through rough terrain and entering buildings. The competition was created after the magnitude-9 earthquake in Japan which crippled the Fukushima nuclear plant and sent a tsunami into the country.
DARPA is The Pentagon's go-to research department, which has just shown off its Atlas robot - featuring LED lighting, but was switched off and simply in a "static" display for the competition. Head of DARPA's Tactical Technology Office, Brad Tousley, told US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that Hollywood has portrayed an unrealistic expectation in peoples' minds about what robots are capable of - at least at this point in time.
The U.S. Department of Justice must hand over information that justified the launch of drone attacks, including at least two cases in which U.S. citizens were killed abroad. Of note, there has been significant concern over the legality of killing U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in a drone strike while hiding in Yemen in 2011.
"Whatever protection the legal analysis might once have had has been lost by virtue of public statements of public officials at the highest levels and official disclosure of the DOJ White Paper," wrote New York Circuit Judge Jon Newman.
The Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York has told the federal government to release a Justice Department memo from 2010 that discussed the legality of drone attacks on U.S. citizens overseas.
NASA was set about this time last week to launch a resupply mission to the ISS with lots of supplies and scientific gear onboard. Among that scientific gear was the laser communications platform I mentioned before. Before the rocket carrying the Dragon capsule could launch, a leak was discovered that postponed the launch.
NASA had hoped that the launch would take place last Friday, and it did. NASA has announced that nearly 2.5 tons of science investigations and cargo lifted off from Cap Canaveral Florida at 3:25pm EDT on Friday. The launch of the mission marked the third SpaceX cargo delivery to the ISS on its $1.6 billion Commercial Resupply Services contract.
NASA slammed the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft into the moon, following a successful 100-day science mission.
Prior to crashing into the moon, as expected, LADEE was seen flying at an altitude of 300 feet, anticipating an impact before the end of the weekend. NASA researchers hope to use the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) to photograph the site of impact, along with capturing additional information about the lunar atmosphere.
"At the time of impact, LADEE was traveling at a speed of 3,600 miles per hour - about three times the speed of a high-powered rifle bullet," said Rick Elphic, NASA Ames LADEE project scientist, in a press statement. "There's nothing gentle about impact at these speeds - it's just a question of whether LADEE made a localized craterlet on a hillside or scattered debris across a flat area. It will be interesting to see what kind of feature LADEE has created."
The Chinese air force has received a request from President Xi Jinping to increase the department's air and space capabilities moving forward, in an effort to develop a "new-type combat force," so they are better able to deal with any type of air and space emergencies.
It's not a big surprise to hear that China wants to help militarize space efforts, for whatever reasons, as western security officials noted a large amount of space budget in China stems from military-based efforts.
"The United States has paid considerable attention and resources to the integration of capabilities in both air and space, and other powers have also moved progressively toward space militarization," said Wang Ya'nan, Aerospace Knowledge Magazine, in a statement to Chinese media. "Though China has stated that it sticks to the peaceful use of space, we must make sure that we have the ability to cope with others' operations in space."
Wireless power is something I simply can't live without, but I can only charge one or two devices at once. But, over in Daejeon, Republic of Korea, scientists have used something they call the Dipole Coil Resonant System to charge 40 smartphones simultaneously, even if the power source is up to 5m away.
We already know about MIT's Coupled Magnetic Resonance System (CMRS) which was unveiled in 2007, which used a magnetic field in order to charge devices - but it had an envelope of 2.1m. CMRS had some major technical limitations for commercialization, most of which haven't been solved: "a rather complicated coil structure (composed of four coils for input, transmission, reception, and load); bulky-size resonant coils; high frequency (in a range of 10 MHz) required to resonate the transmitter and receiver coils, which results in low transfer efficiency; and a high Q factor of 2,000 that makes the resonant coils very sensitive to surroundings such as temperature, humidity, and human proximity".
Chun T. Rim, a Professor of Nuclear & Quantum Engineering at KAIST, along with his team, developed the "Dipole Coil Resonant System" or DCRS. This system is for an extended range of inductive power transfer, at up to 5 meters between transmitter and receiver coils. Professor Rim's solution to CMRS' problems are all but solved with DCRS.
The technology is capable of powering "a large LED TV as well as three 40 W-fans can be powered from a 5-meter distance" according to to Professor Rim. He continues: "Our technology proved the possibility of a new remote power delivery mechanism that has never been tried at such a long distance. Although the long-range wireless power transfer is still in an early stage of commercialization and quite costly to implement, we believe that this is the right direction for electric power to be supplied in the future. Just like we see Wi-Fi zones everywhere today, we will eventually have many Wi-Power zones at such places as restaurants and streets that provide electric power wirelessly to electronic devices. We will use all the devices anywhere without tangled wires attached and anytime without worrying about charging their batteries".
In something that feels like it's right out of HBO's 'True Blood,' we're looking at a future of artificial blood, mass manufactured on an industrial scale - in the near future.
Wellcome Trust is behind the research, with scientists working on getting to the point of reaching a trial stage of using artificial blood made from human stem cells. Principal researcher, Marc Turner, has said that his team has made red blood cells that are capable of being used in a clinical transfusion. Professor Turner has talked of a technique to culture red blood cells from induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells - cells that have been taken from humans, and 'rewound' into stem cells.
From there, biochemical conditions that are similar to what happens inside of the human body are recreated to induce the iPS cells to mature into red blood cells - best of all, in the universal blood type O. Prof Turner explains: "Although similar research has been conducted elsewhere, this is the first time anybody has manufactured blood to the appropriate quality and safety standards for transfusion into a human being".
Later this month a SpaceX cargo ship will take off and head towards the ISS to restock the orbiting platform with food and other gear. Among the other gear that will be aboard the spacecraft is the NASA Optical Payload for Lasercomm Science platform also known as OPALS.
OPALS is a laser system that is intended to significantly increase the speed of communications between the Earth and the ISS. The system is said to be an upgrade for the ISS sort of like replacing your dial-up internet connection at home with DSL. Basically, this laser is giving the ISS broadband.
Batteries feel like one of the least upgraded devices, but are featured in virtually all electronic devices. NASA, as advanced as the US space agency may be, needs some help designing and making new batteries for its travels into the dark beyond.
NASA is now asking public institutions and companies to submit their proposals for battery alternatives, where it will want to see a new low-level energy cell design. This will include chemistry and packaging, as well as advanced devices that would really outperform the current lithium cell-based batteries.
The US space agency will hand out cash awards to the four most promising candidates, from the first phase of its selection process. NASA might not even find the new power source it is looking for, and if that's the case, maybe it should look at working with Tesla, failing that - Tony Stark?