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Oct 15, 2015

Why An Interplanetary Fuel Stop Makes Sense For Human Missions To Mars

Posted by in categories: energy, engineering, space travel

My take on the MIT study.


Routine human missions to Mars would be much more efficient if they first swung by Earth’s Moon to pick up fuel for the trip, a new MIT strategic engineering study concludes. NASA’s 90’s-era mantra of “Back to the Moon and on to Mars” really does make sense, a new paper published in the Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets notes.

The idea is that a crewed mission to Mars would greatly save on fuel and launch costs if it first made an interplanetary pit stop at a space-based depot to pick up its needed fuel. In this case, such a depot would optimally be placed at the Earth-Moon Lagrange Point 2 (EML2), a point of gravitational equilibrium lying beyond the Moon’s far side.

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Oct 15, 2015

How Traveling to Deep Space In Cryogenic Sleep Could Actually Work

Posted by in categories: food, neuroscience, space travel

Our bodies aren’t meant for space. We require too much maintenance to speed through the stars. We need a steady supply of things absent from space — namely water, food and oxygen. We crave warmth but won’t find it in deep space, where the average temperature is −455 degrees Fahrenheit. Even if we could survive in an icy vacuum without sustenance, we’d probably go insane without distractions and room to move.

But aeronautic engineers believe they have found the key to solving that puzzle: put your space travelers to sleep. Long-term cryogenic and hibernative sleep may be the key to getting humans to Mars, and beyond. But it may first come to a spa near you.

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Oct 15, 2015

Prosthetic Limbs Could Have Artificial Skin That Really Feels

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, cyborgs

It can transmit different amounts of pressure, just like real skin.

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Oct 15, 2015

Anti-drone rifle shoots down UAVs with radio waves

Posted by in categories: drones, energy, law enforcement, military

While the US military continues to develop new and awesome ways of blowing aerial drones to smithereens, not many of these systems can easily be adapted to use in the civilian realm. That’s why Battelle has developed the DroneDefender, a shoulder-mounted rifle that knocks UAVs offline with a barrage of radio waves.

“It can help us in numerous settings, from the White House lawn to bases and embassies overseas; from prisons and schools to historic sites,” Alex Morrow, technical director on the project, said in a statement. “It easily and reliably neutralizes the threat.” The weapon weighs roughly 10 pounds and can target drones up to 400 meters away. When the trigger is pulled, the gun emits a blast of electromagnetic energy tuned to the most common GPS and ISM frequencies, safely disabling the drone and preventing it from accepting any additional commands from its operator. This is especially helpful if the drone is equipped with an improvised explosive device.

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Oct 15, 2015

Billions in Change — Official Film

Posted by in categories: complex systems, energy, ethics, hacking, health, materials, sustainability, water

“The world is facing some huge problems. There’s a lot of talk about how to solve them. But talk doesn’t reduce pollution, or grow food, or heal the sick. That takes doing. This film is the story about a group of doers, the elegantly simple inventions they have made to change the lives of billions of people, and the unconventional billionaire spearheading the project.”

Oct 15, 2015

Researchers use engineered viruses to provide quantum-based enhancement of energy transport

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, genetics, particle physics, quantum physics, solar power, sustainability

Nature has had billions of years to perfect photosynthesis, which directly or indirectly supports virtually all life on Earth. In that time, the process has achieved almost 100 percent efficiency in transporting the energy of sunlight from receptors to reaction centers where it can be harnessed—a performance vastly better than even the best solar cells.

One way plants achieve this efficiency is by making use of the exotic effects of quantum mechanics—effects sometimes known as “quantum weirdness.” These effects, which include the ability of a particle to exist in more than one place at a time, have now been used by engineers at MIT to achieve a significant efficiency boost in a light-harvesting system.

Surprisingly, the MIT researchers achieved this new approach to solar energy not with high-tech materials or microchips—but by using genetically engineered viruses.

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Oct 15, 2015

MIT’s Crazy Shapeshifting Display Can Now Build With Blocks

Posted by in categories: robotics/AI, virtual reality

MIT made a table-like robot that can build with blocks. No humans needed.

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Oct 15, 2015

Hackers Can Silently Control Siri From 16 Feet Away

Posted by in category: cybercrime/malcode

A clever attack by French researchers turns your headphone cable into an antenna to send surreptitious voice commands.

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Oct 15, 2015

The New Hendo Hoverboard Is a Warm-Up for Elon’s Hyperloop

Posted by in category: transportation

Hoverboard today, Hyperloop tomorrow.

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Oct 15, 2015

Volvo’s first fully electric car will arrive in 2019

Posted by in categories: robotics/AI, transportation

Volvo’s been bullish about self-driving vehicles, but it’s much more coy when it comes to electric cars. The company’s latest XC90 has a hybrid edition, and there’s an existing V60 plug-in, but nothing fully electric. Finally, the Swedish auto-maker is ready to go all in, confirming an all-electric vehicle will go on sale in 2019, plus plans to offer hybrid versions of every car in its range, alongside a new “series 40” range of smaller electrified cars. That’s still quite a wait for the full EV, and the hybrids might not show up until 2017, but as the Wall Street Journal suggests, Volvo might have been spurred on to make the announcement by the recent VW scandal around diesel engines.

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