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Science, Space & Robotics Posts - Page 49

NASA invest in a self-building spaceship, would construct itself using 3D printers

Well, this is quite the step in an amazing direction - NASA are currently funding research which would see a spacecraft construct itself using built-in 3D printers.


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NASA have invested $100,000 in SpiderFab, a company that is looking at just how feasible it would be to launch a 3D printer with the associated materials into space, and getting it to construct the ship in the dark beyond.


There are of course enormous benefits to this, as construction would not have to be done here on Earth, and then jettisoned into space which is one of the most expensive parts about it. It can be constructed in the weightless of space, and wouldn't have to adhere to the space restrictions to fit into a rocket.

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Scientists working on cyborgs made from half living cells, half electronics

Scientists at Harvard University are working on rat cardiomyocytes, but slightly different than most scientists. They're snaking them through wires and transistors that peer into each cell's electrical impulses. In the future, these wires might actually control their behavior, too.


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"Cyborg" tissues have been created for neurons, muscle and vessels, and could be used to test drugs, or used as the basis for biological versions of existing implants. If signals can eventually be sent to the cells, cyborg tissues could eventually be used to create tiny robots, or get used in prosthetics. Charles Lieber, who leads the cyborg tissue team, has said:


It allows one to effectively blur the boundary between electronic, inorganic systems and organic, biological ones.


Artificial cells can already be grown on three-dimensional scaffolds that are made up of biological materials, but are not electrically active. Electrical components need to be added to cultured tissue before, but not integrated into its structure, so they were only able to scrap information from the surface. Lieber's team combined these strands of work, and created an electrically active scaffold. 3D networks were then created using conductive nanowires studded with silicon sensors.

Continue reading 'Scientists working on cyborgs made from half living cells, half electronics' (full post)

NASA to launch Android-based tiny satellites into space

It looks as though NASA is wanting their Small Spacecraft Technology Program to see Android-powered devices go into space. The space agency wants to see if cheap consumer-based hardware can dependably survive a journey into space.


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NASA believes that sending tiny satellites into space will pave the way for a low-cost delivery system, they also hope to improve upon, or evolve new propulsion techniques by working with much smaller devices, like smartphones. The first-gen, smartphone-powered satellites will be baked into a modular, cube-based chassis named 'CubeSat'.


The first PhoneSat will measure just 10x10x10cm, or roughly double the size of a Rubik's Cube. NASA will throw in Samsung's Nexus One smartphone, one external battery, radio equipment, and a watchdog circuit that will be used to reboot the device in case of a problem. NASA have already run stress tests on the Nexus One, which it passed without any modifications required. These tests were run to see if the smartphone could handle the launch and orbit into the dark beyond of space.

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Astronaut Neil Armstrong, first man on moon, dies at age 82

It's a sad day for the space community. Pioneer astronaut Neil Armstrong has passed away at age 82. For those of you who don't know who Neil Armstrong is, a little back-story is in order. Armstrong commanded the Apollo 11 mission, the first space mission of any country to land humans on the moon.


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Once on the surface of the moon, he spoke the famous words that will forever be used to describe a great achievement that advances science for the better of the world: "That's one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind." Armstrong was one of only 12 Americans to ever set foot on the moon.

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New camouflage face paint that 'resists intense heat from bombs'

If you've ever been camping and sat around a campfire, you know how hot your face can get. While in war, many soldiers wear camouflage face paint. The issue with the current face paint is that it is a concoction of oil and wax which, when exposed to high temperatures such as a bomb blast, melts and burns the skin.


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Furthermore, any face paint is required to have Deet, an insect repellent, included in the formula so that soldiers don't get bitten to death in jungles and other settings. The problem with Deet is that it is highly flammable, not exactly something you want exposed to high heat. This is where the scientists come in.


Scientists have invented a new face paint which "resists intense heat from bombs" and can resist temperatures of up to 600*C for up to 15 seconds. Considering bomb blasts last just two or three seconds, this face paint can protect soldiers' skin from the heat produced by the blast.


The new paint is produced using silicone, something that reflects heat rather than absorbing it. The Deet problem was solved by mixing it with a water-rich hydrogel substance to keep it from catching fire. Scientists are now working on producing a clear version for firefighters so they don't have to wear warpaint when running into a burning building.

120x faster charging for Lithium Ion batteries thanks to new research

Lithium Ion batteries are the best battery technology we currently have in mass production. It's used in everything from laptop computers to hybrid car batteries. Despite this wide spread use, it still has some major drawbacks. The biggest one that comes to mind is the fact that they take so darn long to charge.


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Well, that could all be about to change. New research has shown that a modification in the way Lithium Ion batteries are constructed could reduce the charging time from hours to minutes. Current batteries charge from the outside in. This means the center part of the battery isn't receiving any current until the end of charging.


By putting "a dense network of conductors throughout the electrodes of the battery," researchers were able to charge the entire battery at once. This resulted in charging times that were 30 to 120 times faster than a standard Lithium Ion cell. The only issue is that filling the battery with conductors lowers the capacity or increases the size, albeit only slightly.


But if you can charge a cell phone in 5 minutes versus 2 hours, a slightly shorter battery life is not a problem.

"The best meteor shower of the year" is this weekend--don't miss it!

Continuing with a theme of science and space Friday, we would like to give you something to do over the weekend. It's time for the yearly Perseid meteor shower in the northern hemisphere and it promises to be a good one. NASA has called it the "best meteor shower of the year" so you really don't want to miss it.



The shower will run from August 11 to 13, with the night of August 12 expected to be the best. NASA is predicting that at its peak rate people could be making 100 wishes an hour. In other words, NASA expects it to peak at 100 shooting stars an hour. "We expect to see meteor rates as high as a hundred per hour," NASA's Bill Cooke says.


Heading to the countryside away from city lights is usually advisable. According to NASA, "a visit to the countryside will typically triple the number of meteors you see." The best viewing time will be in the early morning darkness just before dawn. The show should start sometime after 10PM. I'll be heading to a remote location in the Northern California Sierra Nevadas to escape the Sacramento city light pollution.

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Scientists release largest 3D map of the unvierse

I know we've got several space fanatics, myself included, so this video is quite the treat. Some people that are like us, people who enjoy space, actually do this for their job. Scientists at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics have released a massive three-dimensional map of outer space.



The map is a result of its six-year study of the sky. They used the latest Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-III) to produce this map that encompasses four billion light-years cubed. Scientists hope to use this data and map to figure out the movements of the universe over the last six billion years.


The video, seen above, is an animated flight through over 400,000 charted galaxies. It's pretty cool, plain and simple. Even if you don't particularly like space, you have to be in awe of the sheer scale of the place.

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Chinese researchers achieve quantum teleportation, send data across a lake

Chinese researchers have achieved something quite grand, where they've overcome some challenges in regards to open-air quantum teleportation. The team developed a highly accurate laser pointing and tracking system, reports Ars Technica.


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The team of researchers teleported a qubit (which is a standard unit of data in quantum computing) 97 kilometers (!) across a lake, all using a small set of photons without fiberoptic cables, or other such technology. Juan Yin and his team developed the laser targeting device, and the team were necessary to counteract the minute seismic and atmosphere shifts that would usually break the link between the two locations.


Point-to-point accuracy problems are solved by fibreoptic cables, compared to open-air systems, where the cables are used to carry entangled photons, which carry the data required for quantum teleportation. But, this can cause what's referred to as "quantum decoherence", or the corruption of the proton's entanglement data. It's incredibly exciting, and while it's not teleporting people around yet, the aim of it is to transport data, which would require quantum repeater satellites to build the network required.

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A real life Wall-E tugs at your heartstrings

Thanks to a dedicated robot fanatic, Wall-E, that crazy cute robot from a Disney movie, has been brought to life. The entire project started back in 2010 after Mike Senna finished his replica R2-D2 robot. His idea for Wall-E came from seeing how kids reacted to his R2-D2 robot at City of Hope hospital in California.



This build is no easy task. As a case modder myself, I understand how difficult it is to fabricate parts and how frustrating it can be if a detail part isn't exactly right. Adding the motion seen in the video above makes the build that much more complicated. There are no plans, no kits, no pre-built parts--everything had to be scratch built using the movie as the plans.


The project was almost scrapped after 18 months as the workload was so massive for this build. However, Senna persevered and some 3,800 hours of work later, the project was finished. The final result and Senna's return to the City of Hope hospital makes the entire project worth all of the work and love and blood and sweat that went into the project.

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