The Department of Awesome Macro Photography invites you to play a game where we watch “Amazing Worlds Within Our World,” a stunning video of incredibly clear, beautifully lit and close-up macro photos shot by Pyanek, and try to guess what each object or substance is before the video reveals the answer. It’s harder than you might think, but that just means that each answer provides you with a fresh moment of wide-eyed amazement. The larger you’re able to view this video, the more astonished you’ll be….(more)
After a Voyage of More than 3 Billion Miles, NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft is Ready to Begin Exploring PlutoPosted: January 23, 2015
NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft recently began its long-awaited, historic encounter with Pluto. The spacecraft is entering the first of several approach phases that culminate July 14 with the first close-up flyby of the dwarf planet, 4.67 billion miles (7.5 billion kilometers) from Earth.
“We’ve completed the longest journey any spacecraft has flown from Earth to reach its primary target, and we are ready to begin exploring.”
– Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado
“NASA first mission to distant Pluto will also be humankind’s first close up view of this cold, unexplored world in our solar system,” said Jim Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division at the agency’s Headquarters in Washington. “The New Horizons team worked very hard to prepare for this first phase, and they did it flawlessly.”
The fastest spacecraft when it was launched, New Horizons lifted off in January 2006. It awoke from its final hibernation period last month after a voyage of more than 3 billion miles, and will soon pass close to Pluto, inside the orbits of its five known moons.
“NASA first mission to distant Pluto will also be humankind’s first close up view of this cold, unexplored world in our solar system. The New Horizons team worked very hard to prepare for this first phase, and they did it flawlessly.”
– Jim Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division
In preparation for the close encounter, the mission’s science, engineering and spacecraft operations teams configured the piano-sized probe for distant observations of the Pluto system that start Sunday, Jan. 25 with a long-range photo shoot.
The images captured by New Horizons’ telescopic Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) will give mission scientists a continually improving look at the dynamics of Pluto’s moons. The images also will play a critical role in navigating the spacecraft as it covers the remaining 135 million miles (220 million kilometers) to Pluto.
“We’ve completed the longest journey any spacecraft has flown from Earth to reach its primary target, and we are ready to begin exploring,” said Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. Read the rest of this entry »
The system, referred to as Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air, or NIFC-CA, uses Aegis radar, and airborne sensor and SM-6 missile to find, track and destroy approaching threats such as cruise missiles at ranges well beyond the typical radar horizon, Navy officials said.
Alongside Aegis radar and an SM-6 missile, NIFC-CA uses an E-2D Hawkeye aircraft as an airborne sensor to help relay threat information to the ship from beyond its normal radar range.
“We are looking at alternative airborne sensors,” the executive said.
The idea with a demonstration, sources indicate, would be to use the F-35 as an airborne relay node or sensor in place of the E-2D Hawkeye. This could allow NIFC-CA to operate against an increasingly complex set of targets such as stealthy targets, the Lockheed executive explained. Read the rest of this entry »
Dave Scott (left) and Neil Armstrong breathe the fresh air of Earth as the hatches of Gemini VIII are opened after splashdown. Photo Credit: NASA
Ben Evans writes: Gemini VIII astronauts Neil Armstrong and Dave Scott accomplished a key goal in America’s bid to land a man on the Moon by successfully rendezvousing and docking with an unmanned Agena target vehicle in Earth orbit. As noted in part 1 AmericaSpace article, it was the first time that a manned vehicle had achieved physical contact with another target in space. However, the situation aboard Gemini VIII was far from perfect. A distinct lack of available tracking stations across the flight path had already resulted in decidedly “spotty” communications with the Mission Operations Control Room (MOCR) in Houston, Texas.
“We have serious problems here. We’re tumbling, end over end. We’re disengaged from the Agena.”
– Dave Scott
In fact, only two ship-based stations were supporting the flight, the Rose Knot Victor and the Coastal Sentry Quebec, together with a land site in Hawaii. Shortly before one loss of contact, at around 6:35 p.m. EST on 16 March 1966, Capcom Jim Lovell radioed the Gemini VIII crew. If problems arose, he told them, they should immediately deactivate the Agena with Command 400 and assume manual control with the Gemini. It was a standard call. Lovell could hardly have imagined that a potential disaster would soon engulf the mission.
Half an hour after docking with the Agena, Dave Scott instructed the target to roll them 90 degrees, and Neil Armstrong, in the commander’s seat, told Lovell that it had “gone quite well.” The call came a few seconds before Gemini VIII passed out of radio contact with the ground. Alone, the astronauts electronically activated the Agena’s tape recorder. Shortly thereafter, their attitude indicator showed that they were in an unexpected, and almost imperceptible, roll of about 30 degrees.
“Neil,” called Scott, “we’re in a bank.” Were the Agena’s attitude controls misbehaving? Or was it a problem with the target vehicle’s software? Certainly, Gemini VIII’s own thrusters were now switched off and the assumption could safely be made that the Agena was at fault. What they did not know was that one of their thrusters—the No. 8 thruster—had short-circuited and stuck into its “on” position. Unaware, Scott cut off the Agena’s thrusters, whilst Armstrong reactivated the Gemini’s thrusters in an attempt to stop the roll and bring the combination under control.
For a few minutes, his effort succeeded.
Gradually, the craft stabilized. Then, as Armstrong started to reorient them into their correct position, the unwanted motions resumed … albeit much faster than before and along all three axes. Perplexed, the men jiggled the Agena’s control switches, then those of the Gemini, on and off, in a fruitless attempt to isolate the problem. Glancing at his instrument panel, Scott noticed that their craft’s attitude propellant had dropped to just 30 percent. At this stage, it dawned on the astronauts that the fault was with their craft. “We had to disengage from the Agena,” Scott later wrote in his memoir, Two Sides of the Moon, “and quickly.”
“Television stations began interrupting their programmes—Batman and, ironically, Lost in Space—to provide live coverage. Original plans had called for Gemini VIII to splash down in the Atlantic and be recovered by the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Boxer, but the emergency guided them instead to a point in the western Pacific, 500 miles east of Okinawa.“
This posed its own problems, since both craft were rapidly rotating and could hit each other. Quickly, Scott set the Agena’s recording devices to allow flight controllers to remotely command it; a crucial step, since, after undocking, the target would otherwise be dead. “No one would ever know what the problem had been or how to fix it,” he wrote. His prompt action saved the Agena and preserved it not only for subsequent investigations, but also for a remarkable “double rendezvous” on the Gemini X mission in July. Read the rest of this entry »
Ashlee Vance reports: Because he doesn’t have enough going on, Elon Musk—he of Tesla Motors, SpaceX, SolarCity, and the Hyperloop—is launching another project. Musk wants to build a second Internet in space and one day use it to connect people on Mars to the Web.
Musk is tonight hosting a SpaceX event in Seattle, where the company is opening a new office. The talk will mostly be about SpaceX’s plans for hiring aerospace and software engineers in the Pacific Northwest to boost the company’s rocket-building efforts. But he’ll also use the talk to announce his newest idea, which would launch a vast network of communication satellites to orbit earth. The network would do two things: speed up the general flow of data on the Internet and deliver high-speed, low-cost Internet services to the three billion-plus people who still have poor access to the Web. “Our focus is on creating a global communications system that would be larger than anything that has been talked about to date,” Musk told Bloomberg Businessweek ahead of the announcement.
“In Musk’s vision, Internet data packets going from, say, Los Angeles to Johannesburg would no longer have to go through dozens of routers and terrestrial networks. Instead, the packets would go to space, bouncing from satellite to satellite until they reach the one nearest their destination, then return to an antenna on earth.”
The Space Internet venture, to which Musk hasn’t yet given a name, would be hugely ambitious. Hundreds of satellites would orbit about 750 miles above earth, much closer than traditional communications satellites in geosynchronous orbit at altitudes of up to 22,000 miles. The lower satellites would make for a speedier Internet service, with less distance for electromagnetic signals to travel. The lag in current satellite systems makes applications such as Skype, online gaming, and other cloud-based services tough to use. Musk’s service would, in theory, rival fiber optic cables on land while also making the Internet available to remote and poor regions that don’t have access. Read the rest of this entry »
As regulators weigh imposing net neutrality on the Web, Congress tries to pre-empt government overreach
Robert M. McDowell writes: The Federal Communications Commission is about to answer the most important question in its 80-year history: Does the agency intend to protect the open Internet, or is it lunging to seize unlimited power over the Web? We’ll find out on Feb. 26 when the FCC votes on “net-neutrality” rules that would treat the Internet like a public utility, with regulators potentially setting rates, terms and conditions for providers.
Meanwhile, the new Congress is maneuvering to change the net-neutrality equation, with hearings in the House and Senate beginning Wednesday. Republicans circulated draft bills on Friday to pre-empt the FCC’s overreaching new rules while still attaining the White House’s ostensible policy goals. Even congressional supporters of net neutrality, wary of increasing FCC power over something as vast and crucial as the Internet, are working to draft an alternative.
While Republicans and Democrats try to work out a deal, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler should hit the pause button on next month’s vote and let the elected representatives of the American people try to find common ground. At the end of this constitutional process, all sides may be able to claim victory.
“For opponents of new FCC rules, the bills could take Title II off the table; restore regulatory certainty; protect free speech; and create a legal firewall that would protect investment and innovation in the Web’s computer-network infrastructures from more government meddling.”
For years Washington has debated how to keep the Internet open and free from government or private coercion. Regulation proponents have argued that new rules are needed to prevent Internet service providers, such as phone, wireless and cable companies, from blocking or degrading the online content or applications consumers want. Though no market failure exists, and regulators have never conducted a study to diagnose the alleged potential illness, the FCC has twice tried to impose new rules on the Web. Each time it lost in court.
“This would also send a strong signal to foreign governments and international regulatory bodies that they should not smother the Web with antiquated rules designed in an era when people held their phones with two hands.”
The tragedy of this debate is that no one, including phone, wireless and cable companies, has ever contested the goals of keeping the Internet open. It has been open and freedom-enhancing since it was privatized in the mid-1990s because it is protected under existing antitrust and consumer-protection laws. Instead, the fight has been over how much regulatory power the FCC should wield. Read the rest of this entry »
On the International Space Station, ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti gets a haircut from colleague NASA astronaut Terry Virts while cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov assists with the vacuum cleaner, making sure that no hair cuttings float off.
Ted Cruz now oversees NASA, and that’s a very good thing
At The Corner, Josh Gelernter writes: With the GOP in charge of the Senate, Ted Cruz has taken charge of the Science, Space, and Competitiveness subcommittee. Which means Ted Cruz now oversees NASA. On Wednesday, Cruz issued a statement saying that “Our space program marks the frontier of future technologies for defense, communications, transportation and more, and our mindset should be focused on NASA’s primary mission: exploring space and developing the wealth of new technologies that stem from its exploration…We must refocus our investment on the hard sciences, on getting men and women into space, on exploring low-Earth orbit and beyond . . . I am excited to raise these issues in our subcommittee and look forward to producing legislation that confirms our shared commitment to this vital mission.”
It’s not surprising that Cruz has taken an interest in NASA — whatever you think of his policies, there’s no question that he has a powerful intellect. And as a bonus, NASA’s Houston establishment is in the Texan senator’s constituency. So Cruz can be counted on to take this seriously….(read more)
Life, January 17, 1949
Christina Bonnington writes: For years, Gorilla Glass was the toughest material a mobile device could use to protect its delicate display components. A mix of silicon dioxide, aluminum, sodium, and magnesium, Corning’s scratch-resistant composite material was the gold standard in protecting a smartphone’s display against breakage. But starting around mid-2013, a new option became visible: sapphire.
“Even though sapphire never made it into the iPhone’s display, between interest in the new material and its maturation in the market, we’re now seeing sapphire on a growing number of mobile products.”
While more expensive to produce than Gorilla Glass, sapphire is significantly tougher. It’s up to three times stronger; diamond is the only material hard enough to nick it. Apple was widely rumored to be moving to sapphire displays in its mobile devices, particularly after the Cupertino company partnered with GT Advanced Technologies in the construction of a Mesa, Arizona sapphire production plant.
“Sapphire is also making its way into wearables. Apple, of course, has a big stake in the space with the upcoming, sapphire-fronted Apple Watch. But the material has been a staple in mid to high-end watches for many years now, and is a staple across the watch industry.”
That arrangement didn’t pan out. Sapphire didn’t make it into the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus as reported (other than in its camera lens), and the factory was repurposedafter GT Advanced filed for bankruptcy. It turns out it’s very challenging to build sapphire into larger devices like smartphones and tablets, according to DisplaySearch analyst Calvin Hseih, who I spoke with over email. First, it’s far more expensive, costing multiple dollars per square inch compared to roughly five cents per square inch for glass. It can still be chipped or cracked if dropped at the right angle. And, Hseih says, it has a lower optical transmission than glass, which necessitates greater backlight power consumption. Apple’s proposed solution to these challenges wasn’t actually a pure sapphire display cover glass, like we’d see on a watch: According to its sapphire-related patent filings, Apple’s phone displays would have a very thin sapphire layer coated or laminated onto the glass. This takes advantage of the material’s hardness without adding undue strain on battery life or making it too expensive for people to afford. But this design couldn’t be executed at a satisfactory quality level in time. Read the rest of this entry »
[VIDEO] The Fluid Dynamics of ‘The Starry Night': How Van Gogh’s Masterpiece Explains the Scientific Mysteries of Movement and LightPosted: January 13, 2015
Maria Popova writes:
…more than a masterwork of art, Van Gogh’s painting turns out to hold astounding clues to understanding some of the most mysterious workings of science.
This fascinating short animation from TED-Ed and Natalya St. Clair, author of The Art of Mental Calculation, explores how “The Starry Night” sheds light on the concept of turbulent flow in fluid dynamics, one of the most complex ideas to explain mathematically and among the hardest for the human mind to grasp. From why the brain’s perception of light and motion makes us see Impressionist works as flickering, to how a Russian mathematician’s theory explains Jupiter’s bright red spot, to what the Hubble Space Telescope has to do with Van Gogh’s psychotic episodes, this mind-bending tour de force ties art, science, and mental health together through the astonishing interplay between physical and psychic turbulence.
Van Gogh and other Impressionists represented light in a different way than their predecessors, seeming to capture its motion, for instance, across sun-dappled waters, or here in star light that twinkles and melts through milky waves of blue night sky.
“The effect is caused by luminance, the intensity of the light in the colors on the canvas. The more primitive part of our visual cortex — which sees light contrast and motion, but not color — will blend two differently colored areas together if they have the same luminance. But our brains primate subdivision will see the contrasting colors without blending. With these two interpretations happening at once, the light in many Impressionist works seems to pulse, flicker and radiate oddly.”
That’s how this and other Impressionist works use quickly executed prominent brushstrokes to capture something strikingly real about how light moves.
Sixty years later, Russian mathematician Andrey Kolmogorov furthered our mathematical understanding of turbulence when he proposed that energy in a turbulent fluid at length R varies in proportion to the five-thirds power of R. Experimental measurements show Kolmogorov was remarkably close to the way turbulent flow works, although a complete description of turbulence remains one of the unsolved problems in physics. Read the rest of this entry »