Archive for the ‘space’ category: Page 662

Jan 30, 2019

Human waste could power plastic-making in space

Posted by in categories: energy, space

Someday recycled urine and exhaled breath could feed specially engineered yeast to make plastics and other useful chemicals on long space missions.

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Jan 30, 2019

New Metamaterial Transmits Light With No Energy Loss

Posted by in categories: computing, mobile phones, space

Very soon we might be able to say good riddance to the overheating laptops, phones and tablets that we deal with every day. Electrons carry information around circuits but lose energy as heat during transmission. Electrons are the best thing we have right now for computing, but in the near future we could wave goodbye to electronics and welcome photon, or light, communication that will be both faster and cooler. There are still few hurdles before we can get this technology in every home and every pocket, but one of its limitations was just solved by the development of a new metamaterial.

A metamaterial is a substance that has properties not observed in nature. In this case, the special property is its refractive index, a value that describes how light propagates through a medium. Take water or glass, for example, which cause light rays to bend as they travel through them. This is why pools always look shallower than they actually are.

The new metamaterial has a refractive index of zero, which means that the light phase in the material can travel infinitely fast. This doesn’t mean that relativity is violated by this material, though. Light has a “group velocity,” the velocity at which the wave propagates into space, and a “phase velocity,” the velocity at which the peaks of the waves move with respect to the wave.

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Jan 30, 2019

Tardigrades, Frozen for 30 Years, Spring Back to Life

Posted by in categories: life extension, space

You can freeze them, burn them, dry them out or even blast them into space, but humble tardigrades can survive it all.

As a demonstration of tardigrade power, a new experiment has shown that even locking the critters in a block of ice for three decades fails to deliver the ultimate knockout.

Japanese researchers successfully brought two tardigrades — often called “water bears” for their claws and head shape — back to life after being frozen for 30 years. A separate team of Japanese researchers with the 24th Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition discovered the eight-legged, microscopic pair of animals back in 1983 in a frozen sample of moss, which was kept below freezing to the present day.

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Jan 30, 2019

New NASA Animations Show How Slowly Light Travels Through Space

Posted by in category: space

It turns out that the universe’s speed limit is pretty conservative.

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Jan 30, 2019

A Robot Teaches Itself to Play Jenga. But This Is No Game

Posted by in categories: physics, robotics/AI, space

Global thermonuclear war. The slight possibility that a massive asteroid could boop Earth. Jenga. These are a few of the things that give humans debilitating anxiety.

Robots can’t solve any of these problems for us, but one machine can now brave the angst that is the crumbling tower of wooden blocks: Researchers at MIT report today in Science Robotics that they’ve engineered a robot to teach itself the complex physics of Jenga. This, though, is no game—it’s a big step in the daunting quest to get robots to manipulate objects in the real world.

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Jan 30, 2019

How Do Plants Grow in Space?

Posted by in categories: food, space

For humans to survive off Earth, we’ll need vegetables to eat and flowers to admire.

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Jan 29, 2019

Arctic weather is plunging into North America

Posted by in category: space

The culprit is a familiar one: the polar vortex.

Seen here is a model using NASA Earth science + other satellite measurements of temperature, moisture, wind speeds and directions, and other conditions:

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Jan 29, 2019

Scientists Generate Quantum Entanglement in Space For the First Time

Posted by in categories: quantum physics, space

The entangled photons were beamed to three ground stations across China, each separated by more than 700 miles—a new record.

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Jan 29, 2019

Artificial Intelligence and the Starship

Posted by in categories: robotics/AI, space, transportation

The imperative of developing artificial intelligence (AI) could not be more clear when it comes to exploring space beyond the Solar System. Even today, when working with unmanned probes like New Horizons and the Voyagers that preceded it, we are dealing with long communication times, making probes that can adapt to situations without assistance from controllers a necessity. Increasing autonomy promises challenges of its own, but given the length of the journeys involved, earlier interstellar efforts will almost certainly be unmanned and rely on AI.

The field has been rife with speculation by science fiction writers as well as scientists thinking about future missions. When the British Interplanetary Society set about putting together the first serious design for an interstellar vehicle — Project Daedalus in the 1970s — self-repair and autonomous operation were a given. The mission would operate far from home, performing a flyby of Barnard’s Star and the presumed planets there with no intervention from Earth.

We’re at an interesting place here because each step we take in the direction of artificial intelligence leads toward the development of what Andreas Hein and Stephen Baxter call ‘artificial general intelligence’ (AGI), which they describe in an absorbing new paper called “Artificial Intelligence for Interstellar Travel,” now submitted to the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society. The authors define AGI as “[a]n artificial intelligence that is able to perform a broad range of cognitive tasks at similar levels or better than humans.”

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Jan 28, 2019

The Hubble Telescope’s Deep View of the Universe Is Now Even More Astounding!

Posted by in category: space

One of the Hubble Space Telescope’s most famous images peered even deeper into the cosmos than scientists had thought.

That photo is the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field (HUDF), which combines hundreds of images taken by the space telescope over multiple years into the deepest view of the universe ever created. The composite pic of a small patch of sky contains a whopping 10,000 galaxies, astronomers have estimated. (The HUDF also refers to that patch of sky, not just imagery of it.)

Now, researchers have painstakingly reprocessed the iconic image, recovering lots of additional light, a new study reports. [The Most Amazing Hubble Space Telescope Discoveries!].

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