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Science, Space & Robotics Posts - Page 4

UK firm makes alien-like material that's so dark it's barely visible

A brand new material made from carbon nanotubes is so densely black that it isn't entirely visible to the human eye, if a British company's research is to be believed.

 

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The maker of the material, Surrey NanoSystems, built the so-called Vantablack out of a coating comprising carbon nanotubes. According to the researchers, it absorbs just 0.035 percent of visible light, causing much of the light shined on the material to never appear again. As the company's CTO Ben Jensen explains: "It's like black, like a hole, like there's nothing there," he said. "It just looks so strange." Because it absorbs so much light the material can even distort the appearance of objects around it.

 

Right now the applications for such a material are unclear - but surprise, surprise, it seems like there could be military uses for Vantablack that it's not allowed to talk about at this point. The material will be publicly launched at Britain's Farnborough International Airshow this week - where show-goers will be free to take a look at it, if they can find it at all.

Early plans suggest Scotland as new home of commercial spaceports

Bonnie Scotland could be host to one of the first commercial spaceports outside of the United States according to new plans that have just been unveiled by the country's government.

 

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Scottish voters will soon decide whether or not the country claims independent from the United Kingdom - and according to its government today, only national sovereignty could lead to heavy development of its space industry. A Scottish spaceport would primarily serve to launch satellites, but there are hopes it would also draw in attention from lofty galactic tourism operators like Virgin and XCor.

 

Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Liberal Democrat Danny Alexander, suggested Scotland could take a pivotal role in developing the UK's space industry. The Scottish government, however, seemed to suggest the country could be better going at it alone. "Scotland is proving that it has the expertise to attract and support such a specialized, global industry," a spokesperson told the BBC. "And as such an independent Scotland will be an attractive option for spaceport pioneers."

Microsoft reportedly working on smart headband to help the blind see

Microsoft is putting a piece of wearable tech to the test, which could one day help the blind see their surroundings.

 

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A headband to help the blind is running as a pilot scheme in Reading, the United Kingdom, and is being tested by a group of eight blind people, according to the Sunday Times. While it cannot actually alleviate the physicality of the disability, it should be able to provide information about its surroundings to the wearer through an earpiece.

 

So far the device does not appear to be designed as a competitor to Google Glass, the search giant's smart glasses, but instead was developed as part of Cities Unlocked - a programme of which Microsoft seems to be just one partner, along with Guide Dogs and the Future Cities Catapult, the latter of which aims to investigate ways cities can be made smarter with technology. "We are working together to explore new ideas, approaches and technologies for people living with sight loss to engage in the community and the environment they live in," a Cities Unlocked spokesperson told the BBC. "We look forward to sharing more details of the project later this year."

SpaceX to try to launch Falcon 9 rocket for the fourth time

SpaceX is one of the biggest companies participating in the commercial space flight program with NASA and private companies. SpaceX uses its Falcon 9 rocket to put satellites into orbit for the US government and private firms. The company has been trying to launch its Falcon 9 rocket for a while now, but keeps running into issues postponing the launch.

 

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This will make the fourth time launch has been attempted and comes three weeks after the third launch was postponed due to a mix of technical issues and weather. The first attempt at launch for this payload was in May.

 

The massive Falcon 9 rocket is carrying the first of 17 Orbcomm Generation 2 satellites to upgrade an existing constellation of satellites in orbit. SpaceX plans to try and steer the first stage of the Falcon 9 to splashdown in the ocean for recovery by ship.

Cyberdyne HAL suit helping people walk again is helping change lives

Cyberdyne CEO Yoshiyuki Sankai is living by his vision of developing technology that helps people, as the Cyberdyne HAL robotic suit is helping the elderly and those otherwise disabled walk again. Promoted as the "world's first cyborg-type robot," the HAL platform help gives the wearer better physical functions.

 

 

HAL is able to detect and interpret bioelectric signals, and can assist with walking, sitting up, standing up, and safely moving around. There is hope that using HAL overtime can assist paralyzed patients, recreating the loop for cerebral nerve systems and the body's muscles.

 

The United States and Japan lead the current robotics market, with Japanese engineers greatly interested in creating solutions that can help the country's aging population. Cyberdyne rents HAL suits to hospitals and living car facilities in Japan, teaching medical professionals and wearers how to make the best from wearing it.

Continue reading 'Cyberdyne HAL suit helping people walk again is helping change lives' (full post)

Pentagon studying 'neuroprosthetics' to help recall lost memories

The Pentagon is investing millions of dollars to develop technology that can be used for brain implants able to help patients recall memories. The surgically-installed implant is the latest idea from "neuroprosthetics," designed to help military personnel wounded and suffering from traumatic brain injuries (TBIs).

 

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The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has teamed up with the University of Pennsylvania and University of California at Los Angeles, working together on the Restoring Active Memory program. Geared towards declarative memory, which is the brain's method to "record and recall times, places and other facts necessary for daily living."

 

"We don't have the Rosetta Stone for the memory system," said Michael Kahana, University of Pennsylvania computational memory lab director, in a recent statement. "The DARPA project is trying to dramatically accelerate that effort to decipher that Rosetta Stone. We're poised to do it. With this multisite effort, we might just be able to pull it off."

Continue reading 'Pentagon studying 'neuroprosthetics' to help recall lost memories' (full post)

Argument rages on regarding cost of border drones patrolling the skies

The use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is popular with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, with patrols increasing along the U.S.-Mexico border. The General Atomics MQ-1 Predator drones are flying along the border, but the large costs in manufacturing and staffing drone teams remains controversial.

 

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The federal government has $39.4 million in funding committed to surveillance, and billions spent combating illegal immigration and drug trafficking, drones are an effective, yet expensive option.

 

"Border Patrol wants the money and it wants the drones," said Gregory McNeal, Pepperdine University law professor and drone expert, in a statement to NBC News. "This is the kind of crisis where, if you are Border Patrol, you seize the opportunity to get more funding from Congress."

Continue reading 'Argument rages on regarding cost of border drones patrolling the skies' (full post)

Technology largely unable to protect civilians from IED attacks

The use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) against military targets proves to be successful, killing thousands of U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the civilian death toll is staggering, with IED and suicide bomber attacks boosting casualty rates among civilians 70 percent over the past three years, a report recently noted.

 

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Unfortunately, there are very few technology-based solutions to defend civilians against IEDs, with bomb devices ranging from crude homemade IEDs to explosive devices useing military-grade supplies. As successfully demonstrated during the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, a homemade pressure cooker IED with a mix of gunpowder, ball bearings and nails can be lethal - there was a final death toll of three people, injuring 264 athletes and spectators.

 

U.S. military personnel are relying more on armored vehicles, creating next-generation bomb detectors, and using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to conduct reconnaissance missions. The growing bloodshed in Iraq, however, will be difficult for local police officers and undertrained military personnel reduce civilian deaths. A massive 81 percent of 60,000 deaths recorded from 2011 to 2013 were civilians, and hit 66 countries, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, Somalia, and Thailand.

Continue reading 'Technology largely unable to protect civilians from IED attacks' (full post)

DARPA researching self-guided .50-caliber ammo rounds

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) recently tested a .50-caliber self-guided bullet that pairs a maneuverable round with a custom optical guidance system. The Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordinance (EXACTO) round is designed to help snipers be even more effective, and provides a bigger standoff range.

 

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The U.S. military hopes a self-guided round will make it easier to eliminate targets with a single shot - helping keep snipers hidden. Specifically, the guidance system will prove helpful in Afghanistan and other environments where there are high winds, dusty terrain, and sometimes harsh shooting conditions.

 

Continue reading 'DARPA researching self-guided .50-caliber ammo rounds' (full post)

Hubble telescope detects mysterious deficit of light in the Universe

The Universe as we know it is a lot darker than it should be, according to the latest readings from the Hubble Space Telescope.

 

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A new examination has revealed that ultraviolet light is mysteriously missing from the nearest known parts of the Universe. UV rays are largely invisible to us mortals because their wavelengths come up short of visible light, however, with high frequencies they can be visible in devices like ultraviolet lamps. Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder's Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy says that UV light can travel at great distances across the Universe, and most of it adds up. But closer to home there's a deficit that is tough to explain, leading researchers to question just what's happening to ionizing photons.

 

"If we count up the known sources of ultraviolet ionizing photons, we come up five times too short," said Benjamin Oppenheimer, one of the researchers. "We are missing 80 percent of the ionizing photons, and the question is where are they coming from? The most fascinating possibility is that an exotic new source, not quasars or galaxies, is responsible for the missing photons."

Continue reading 'Hubble telescope detects mysterious deficit of light in the Universe' (full post)

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