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Oct 25, 2020

Scientists make digital breakthrough in chemistry that could revolutionize the drug industry

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, chemistry, robotics/AI

At the Cronin Lab at the University of Glasgow chemists developed a robotic chemist called a “chemputer” that turns words into molecules.

Oct 25, 2020

New nuclear engine concept could help realize 3-month trips to Mars

Posted by in categories: chemistry, nuclear energy, space travel

Seattle-based Ultra Safe Nuclear Technologies (USNC-Tech) has developed a concept for a new Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP) engine and delivered it to NASA. Claimed to be safer and more reliable than previous NTP designs and with far greater efficiency than a chemical rocket, the concept could help realize the goal of using nuclear propulsion to revolutionize deep space travel, reducing Earth-Mars travel time to just three months.

Because chemical rockets are already near their theoretical limits and electric space propulsion systems have such low thrust, rocket engineers continue to seek ways to build more efficient, more powerful engines using some variant of nuclear energy. If properly designed, such nuclear rockets could have several times the efficiency of the chemical variety. The problem is to produce a nuclear reactor that is light enough and safe enough for use outside the Earth’s atmosphere – especially if the spacecraft is carrying a crew.

According to Dr. Michael Eades, principal engineer at USNC-Tech, the new concept engine is more reliable than previous NTP designs and can produce twice the specific impulse of a chemical rocket. Specific impulse is a measure of a rocket’s efficiency.

Continue reading “New nuclear engine concept could help realize 3-month trips to Mars” »

Oct 25, 2020

Chernobyl fungus could shield astronauts from cosmic radiation

Posted by in categories: chemistry, nuclear energy, space

Will astronauts have fungi shields as protection against radiation in the future? 😃


When astronauts return to the moon or travel to Mars, how will they shield themselves against high levels of cosmic radiation? A recent experiment aboard the International Space Station suggests a surprising solution: a radiation-eating fungus, which could be used as a self-replicating shield against gamma radiation in space.

Continue reading “Chernobyl fungus could shield astronauts from cosmic radiation” »

Oct 25, 2020

U.S. Army Awards Pocket-Sized Drones $20.6 Million Contract

Posted by in categories: drones, military

The U.S. army will have pocket sized drones.


Nano drones have become a major military tool over the past few years, and the most recent announcement of FLIR Systems being awarded an additional $20.6 million contract for their Black Hornet 3 Personal Reconnaissance Systems (PRS) by the U.S. Army is one big example of that.

While the contract is huge, the FLIR Systems Black Hornet 3 is only the size of a cellphone. This extremely light and nearly silent drone can fly up to 25 minutes, and provide many military advantages in combat.

Continue reading “U.S. Army Awards Pocket-Sized Drones $20.6 Million Contract” »

Oct 25, 2020

French Court Asks Microsoft for Safeguards Against U.S. Surveillance of Health Data

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, government, health, law, robotics/AI, surveillance

U.S. company can keep hosting vast coronavirus-related project but must protect French citizens’ health data from American government, court rules.


A French court has ruled that Microsoft Corp. can continue hosting a government-run project aggregating citizens’ anonymous health data to use for AI-based research, but must guarantee no data will be sent to the U.S. or be shared with American intelligence authorities.

The ruling, handed down last week, contradicts the stance of France’s data protection authority, which told the court this month that any U.S. cloud provider could be forced to comply with U.S. surveillance laws and should therefore not be allowed to host sensitive health data. The regulator’s opinion could provide clues for other companies handling such data, legal experts say.

Continue reading “French Court Asks Microsoft for Safeguards Against U.S. Surveillance of Health Data” »

Oct 25, 2020

How the world came to understand black holes

Posted by in categories: cosmology, physics

Earlier this month, Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel, and Andrea Ghez split the 2020 physics Nobel Prize for decades of work on black holes. Click here to learn more about their monumental achievement and about the history of our understanding of these exotic objects in space.

Oct 25, 2020

A smarter way of thinking about intelligence

Posted by in categories: mobile phones, neuroscience

Why is one particular intellectual capacity valued over so many other worthy qualities, like compassion, honesty, courage, and common sense?


A t some point during the past decade, Harvard professor Michael Sandel started to notice the increasingly frequent invocation of a particular word: “smart.” The term was being applied to all manner of products and devices: smart phones, smart cars, smart thermostats, even smart toasters. He also heard the word creeping into the language of politics, employed to justify and promote governmental initiatives. “The way the word was being used bothered me,” Sandel says. “It seemed to pair a narrow kind of technocratic expertise with an attitude of smug superiority.”

Political philosopher that he is, Sandel decided to conduct an analysis of presidential rhetoric. Before the 1980s, he found, American presidents rarely used the word “smart” in their public speeches. Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush employed the term relatively sparingly. But the use of the word in presidential remarks “exploded” during the administrations of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, Sandel reported, with each man uttering the word “smart” at least 450 times. Barack Obama spoke it more than 900 times, and Hillary Clinton often invoked the term both as Secretary of State and as a candidate running for the highest office. This “rhetorical tic,” Sandel came to recognize, was representative of a much more sweeping cultural change, one he addresses with concern in his new book, “The Tyranny of Merit.” Over the past 40 years, he observes, America’s ruling class has exalted one quality, one virtue, one human attribute above all others: smartness.

Continue reading “A smarter way of thinking about intelligence” »

Oct 25, 2020

DARPA awards Xerox’s PARC another Oceans of Things contract

Posted by in category: sustainability

Ocean of Things was outlined by DARPA in 2017 and the rough idea revolved around deploying small drifters in the Southern California Bight and Gulf of Mexico to collect data on environmental and human impacts. The small devices collect sea temperature and state, surface activities and data on marine life.

PARC’s contract calls for up to 10,000 more compact drifters. In phase one of Ocean of Things PARC built 1,500 drifters.

Oct 25, 2020

The BepiColombo Probe Just Took a Ridiculously Close Video of Venus as It Flew By

Posted by in category: space

Two years after it left Earth, Mercury probe BepiColombo has completed the first of its first flybys of Venus. The manoeuvre is designed to give the spacecraft a boost on its journey — but it’s also too good an opportunity to pass up for a little science.

As it swung around the planet on a curved trajectory, BepiColombo gave its instruments a workout, testing their functionality for a taste of what the spacecraft will do in Mercury orbit and collecting some data on Venus – recently in the news for the discovery of phosphine gas in its atmosphere.

And the joint European Space Agency (ESA) and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) probe took a whole lot of images, which the ESA compiled into a video of the flyby.

Continue reading “The BepiColombo Probe Just Took a Ridiculously Close Video of Venus as It Flew By” »

Oct 25, 2020

SpaceX makes history with 100 successful rocket flights!

Posted by in categories: Elon Musk, government, space travel

SpaceX is a leader in aerospace innovation. The company was founded by Elon Musk in 2002 with the ultimate mission to make life multiplanetary. For over a decade, SpaceX teams have worked to develop technologically advanced rockets and spacecraft. Developing rockets comes with many challenges. SpaceX had a couple of failed missions in the early days. The company went from almost not making it to orbit to returning human spaceflight capabilities to the United States in 2020.

The company’s first rocket, Falcon 1, failed to attain Earth orbit three times: in March 2007 and August 2008, but in September 2008 SpaceX became the first American private company to send a liquid-fueled rocket into orbit. Despite the challenges, SpaceX pushed through until the fourth rocket launch reached orbit. A fourth failure “would have been absolutely game over,” Musk said at the International Astronautical Congress conference in 2017. “Fortunately, the fourth launch, which was … the last money that we had for Falcon 1 –that fourth launch worked. Or it would have been… that would have been it for SpaceX,” he said. The company was able to land a government contract from NASA when it reached orbit.

SpaceX then worked to develop an improved version of the rocket. In 2010, the company launched the Falcon 9, powered by nine Merlin 1D engines. Falcon 9 was designed so that its first-stage could be reused. Other companies use expendable rockets. SpaceX engineers accomplished developing the world’s first orbital-class rocket capable of returning from space to perform a controlled landing powered by its engines. Falcon 9 is capable of launching payload to orbit and landing soon after liftoff. In 2015 a Falcon 9 first-stage booster returned to Earth near its launch site for the first time, after several explosive landings (video below).

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