Wired's Danger Room blog reports that a new sub called the Underwater Express is being developed by DARPA, who are "seeking to facilitate new operational opportunities in the underwater battlespace."
The new sub uses a process called super-cavitation to envelope the sub with air-bubbles that push away water. This "bubbling" reduces water drag, making the sub faster and quieter.
Excellent for deep-sea research, and potentially more energy efficient. But the only stated purpose of this vessel will be to land Navy SEALS on hostile shores or near enemy ships.
Now, which world power has a lot of shoreline and a growing navy?
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Posted by Sterling at 2/28/2007 03:13:00 AM
Why wait for a factory? Build everything yourself.
The idea of fabricators are not new (replicators anyone?), but some techs at Cornell are making it happen.
From the Science Daily article:
Hod Lipson, Cornell assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, thinks a little machine he calls a Fab@Home may have the same impact.
Some day, Lipson believes, every home will have a "fabber," a machine that replicates objects from plans supplied by a computer. Such devices could change how we acquire common products, he suggests: Instead of buying an iPod, you would download the plans over the Internet and the fabber would make one for you.Such machines could evolve from the 3-D printers currently used by industrial engineers for "rapid prototyping." They design parts in computer-aided design programs and feed the designs to 3-D printers to make working plastic models.
Price tags for these machines average around $100,000, but you can build your own Fab@Home for about $2,300 worth of off-the-shelf parts.
Why is this important?
Jamais Cascio from Worldchanging:
This doesn't mean that we'll all have to design our own chairs and laptops, any more than the rise of F/OSS has meant that we all have to code our own software. Those of us with limited product design skills may well still purchase most of our gear from big manufacturers and retailers, adding various open fabrication items as we stumble across them. But we'll be able to choose from a more diverse field, as microdesigners will find niches and product ideas which appeal to them and a handful of others, personalizing the material world.
Fab@Home - how it works.
And here is a little story about fabbing.
Cory Doctorow - Printcrime
Posted by Sterling at 2/28/2007 02:46:00 AM
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
And it looks like I have some catching up to do.
My vacation was not completely unproductive though. I spent an entire day at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral...
And there's a moon rock on display you can touch. I can't help but think that all you're really touching is a nice layer of dirt and grime built up from previous people who've touched it, but I had to stick my hand in anyway.
This is Atlantis on the launch pad. The rotating pad is firmly locked onto it and workers are preparing for it's scheduled launch on March 15.
But the star of the center is definitely this. These engines are capable of creating 7-million pounds of thrust. Why is so much power needed?
Because they're used to launch this. The 363-foot Saturn V rocket. The immensity of this thing is truly staggering. It's twice the size of the current shuttles, and it's the only vehicle ever produced that can actually get humans to another planet.
After seeing this, any doubts I had about the Moon landing have been squashed.
Posted by Chris at 2/27/2007 01:14:00 PM
Posted by Sterling at 2/27/2007 03:09:00 AM
Monday, February 26, 2007
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Friday, February 23, 2007
NASA wants to get back on the moon with new lunar research.
Pete Worden, director of NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, wants a fleet of small lunar observatories.
Why? because the moon is a stable base for astronomical research that is close to home. From there you can track pulsars, deep space, and possibly other civilisations, better than in LEO.
And it's cool.
The above picture is the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, a small spacecraft that will be launched in 2008. It will launch a smaller vessel (pictured below) called the Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS). The bronze coloured cylinder on the front will be dropped to the surface of the moon. The little orbiter will then observe what gets kicked-up.
After the bombing run, the LRO will study interstellar radiation, mapping the surface of the moon, and something called Selenodetic global topography.
Posted by Sterling at 2/23/2007 03:24:00 PM
Old art and old mathematics.
This complicated design is from the Darb-i Imam shrine, built in 15th century Isfahan, Iran. Mathematicians have now realized that it is more than just fancy tiling: this is a representation of a quasicrystal.
What is a quasicrystal? From BBC article:
"symmetrical polygonal shapes (that) create patterns that can be extended indefinitely."
This pattern, now called "Penrose Tiling" is known to have occurred in art starting 1200 C.E. And it could be older. The west only discovered the math behind these tiles in the mid-1970's.
In medieval Islam this pattern was known as "girih."
I don't know - I have always been interested in math, but could never handle anything beyond addition. The researchers behind this study say that Islamic artists shied away from pictures of people for religious reasons, so they focused on geometric patterns. The researchers also think that the artists might not have understood the mathematics behind their designs.
I'm guessing the artisans had a visceral understanding, but that mathematicians in the courts of the Khans and Sultans and mountain Pashas had a good idea of what was going on.
Just think of it, modeling infinity in tile and stone.
And that is just another example of how easily knowledge can be lost in plain sight, and then rediscovered in the modern age. I hope we don't forget, but I wouldn't be surprised.
New Scientist article
Posted by Sterling at 2/23/2007 02:38:00 PM
Fisherman in New Zealand have possibly caught the largest squid on record.
The Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni was about 10m (33ft) long and weighed an estimated 450kg (990lb).
So how big is that?
Pretty big. Now imagine what it looks like in the deep when it entrances large fish with its bioluminescent skin. Cthulhu has nothing on these guys.
We at the Future Soon would like to make a statement: We regret the loss of this great squids life, and we hope that in the future, when the Giant Squid return to the Earth in their spaceships, they will take mercy on us.
What, you've never read Ken Macleod?
Posted by Sterling at 2/23/2007 03:45:00 AM
A population of savannah chimps in Senegal has been seen skewering bushbabies with spears.
From New Scientist:
Chimps were observed thrusting their spears into hollow trunks and branches with enough force to injure anything inside the holes... The chimps used a “power grip” and made multiple downward stabs – much the same way as a human might wield a dagger.
Male chimps hunt monkeys, but never using spears. In this one population only the females and immature males hunt with spears. The researchers think that these weaker members of the group are hunting a food source that the stronger males ignore.
Video of chimp hunting a bushbaby.
Posted by Sterling at 2/23/2007 03:05:00 AM
Thursday, February 22, 2007
New software has been uploaded into the Opportunity and Spirit rovers. The software, called D*, will let the rovers have a greater degree of autonomy to deal with its immediate environment without having to wait the 40-plus minutes for a signal to go to the Earth and back.
From New Scientist article:
"Their original software 'brains' had limited abilities and could plan out routes of only a couple of metres at a time. This meant that they could not figure out how to get around some particularly large obstacles without help from mission controllers, says rover engineer Mark Maimone of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, US.
...but using the new software, Opportunity planned a new route right away. By angling a little bit to the right early on, the rover avoided the obstacle without needing to back up or make any sharp turns."
The goal is to have smarter robotic explorers that are capable of learning from their environment.
It's a good thing.
Posted by Sterling at 2/22/2007 03:49:00 PM
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Using off the shelf technology, researchers at Clemson University have "printed" cardiac cells.
Science Daily article:
Precision placement of the cells is achieved by filling an empty inkjet cartridge with a hydrogel solution (a material that has properties similar to tissue) and another inkjet cartridge with cells. The printing is accomplished much in the way that color photographs are made, activating alternatively the hydrogel and cell nozzles.
So don't throw out your old printer - it could help save lives!
Also checkout this article form Wired Online about printing organs on demand.
Used for organ printing, this specially outfitted 3-D printer has two positive displacement dispensers. One contains a bio-ink cartridge (illustrated on the right, in black and orange), which is made of a micropipette filled with spheres of bio-ink. The other dispenser prints the bio-paper.
Posted by Sterling at 2/21/2007 11:15:00 PM
The Spitzer Space telescope took this picture of a white dwarf - it shed its outer layers of gas, wiping out the planets in its solar system.
So what's all the white stuff? Spitzer telescope press release:
According to the astronomers, it is most likely being freshly churned up by comets smashing into each other in the outer fringes of the white dwarf's system. A few million years ago, before the white dwarf formed, when it was still a lively star like our Sun, its comets and possibly planets would have been in stable orbits, harmoniously traveling around the star. But when the star died, any inner planets would have burned up or been swallowed as the star expanded. Outer planets, asteroids and comets would have been jostled about and thrown into each other's paths.
The astronomers go on to say that this is what our solar system will look like in five billion years: lots of colour, lots of planetoid sized fragments and only a few of the outer planets still kicking around.
Looking forward to it.
Spitzer Space Telescope - CalTech
Posted by Sterling at 2/21/2007 10:42:00 PM
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are making chainmail with the same tools that you make microchips.
Why? Because his mini-chain mail could be programmable - it could change its shape, carry out sensor readings, look really cool.
I can's wait to have my intelligent suit of chainmail armor - it can be worn for protection, science and style. Like intelligent clothing in a Ken Macleod or Richard Morgan novel.
But will it lead to something like this?
Or this suit found on Cnet?
New Scientist article.
Chris is going to hate me because of this post.
Posted by Sterling at 2/21/2007 03:50:00 AM
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Packetgarden displays your internet activity as a tiny garden world. Kind of like the Little Prince. Mountains, valleys, species of flower and little floating green things all stand for types of activity.
You can also explore your little planet - you have control of a little ball that will give you detailed info. Think of it as backtracking in virtual space.
This visual information experiment appears to be a wiki - you can upload your own designs, maybe.
I wonder what could happen if these gardens became less digital baubles and more online ecosystems? Would there be predation, symbiosis and parasitism? Could sentience arise from linked gardens? And would it be nodal - looking like hyphae, but more intelligent?
Found on Next Nature blog
Posted by Sterling at 2/20/2007 10:47:00 PM
Two cool things to look for:
- Tapeworms carry generations of young inside them, like Russian nesting dolls. "It's tapeworms all the way down."
- Parasites don't usually leave fossils - we have to figure out their biological history through morphology and genetics alone. Or is that only cool to me?
Posted by Sterling at 2/20/2007 02:54:00 PM
On April 13, 2036, a 20-million tonne asteroid named Apophis may hit the Pacific.
From the New Scientist space blog:
"Someone will have to make a decision," says Russell Schweickart, a former Apollo astronaut and founder of the Association of Space Explorers.
So what could we do? Blow them up, pull them with gravitational tractors or put solar sails on them a fly them away.
Asteroid Deflection Strategies
Checkout this group that could handle the 127 known potential asteroid threats, and the thousands we don't know about, if they had the infrastructure and the funding.
And here is a short Japanese film about a very big planetoid smacking into the Earth. Enjoy.
Posted by Sterling at 2/20/2007 04:13:00 AM
Peugeot has annual design competition. The above picture is the winning entry - the Flux. It's small, light and powered by hydrogen. There is no word if they will actually build it. Check it out.
And here are a couple of the 30-plus entries:
The Honey B - a hydrogen fuel-cell suv.
The Fantome roadster
Posted by Sterling at 2/20/2007 03:43:00 AM
I found this picture on Make:Blog. What you are looking at is the Tesla Down Under car anti-theft device. It was built by an Aussie guy who like to fool around with high-voltage electricity. When he isn't taking time-lapse pictures of electrical arcing, he is building ionic lifters, rail guns and a lot of other dangerous, but amazing, stuff.
I think that Tesla Motors should get a hold of this guy.
Posted by Sterling at 2/20/2007 03:07:00 AM
Saturday, February 17, 2007
And now for a special Valentine's edition of Science Chaser. Warning: it is a little racier and experimental than the others. I did this live.
Science Chaser Live
And on a more serious, but fun, note; Here is an interview I did with Graeme Nott, a researcher at Dalhousie who specializes in LIDAR research.
Atmospheric-Optics Laboratory at Dalhousie
Posted by Sterling at 2/17/2007 06:11:00 PM
Friday, February 16, 2007
I have never seen lamps more beautiful or as terrifying as German artist Frank Buchwald's lamps.
They look like a post-singularity robot, or human.
I can just imagine the whole series of lamps exploring the moons of Saturn, building habitable wheels in the Oort Cloud, or grand libraries around dying stars where they are both teacher and light source.
Posted by Sterling at 2/16/2007 06:51:00 PM
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Swiss and Spanish scientists have discovered that a common species of bat, the giant noctule bat Nyctalus lasiopterus, eats song birds that migrate at night.
There had been anecdotal evidence of bat predation: feathers had been found in their feces. But it took new research based on nitrogen and carbon isotopes, called isotopic tracing, to finalize the evidence. The scientists monitored these isotopes in the bats blood for over a year. The isotopes can be tracked to the animals the bats eat: during migration season it is mostly birds.
This new evidence explains the ecology of the giant noctule: its bigger then other bats in Europe (to better take down prey) and it lives almost exclusively in areas that have high migratory songbird numbers.
They are silent night-killers that are pretty much unstoppable by the the birds.
For millions of years these bats have been taking birds out of the sky, and we have just discovered this hunter-prey dynamic on one of the most densely populated continents on the Earth.
Can't wait to see what we find next!
Science Daily article
Posted by Sterling at 2/15/2007 06:43:00 PM
What type of technological world would have created this?
Some sort of Pacific Alliance that re-created the world on the shores of our planets largest ocean?
Some Nuu-chah-nulth mech-maker working in a basement laboratory in Vladivostok?
from The art of Keisuke Kishi via Brass Goggles.
Posted by Sterling at 2/15/2007 02:00:00 AM
Wispy fingers of bright, icy material reach tens of thousands of kilometers outward from Saturn's moon Enceladus into the E ring, while the moon's active south polar jets continue to fire away. (Photo courtesy of NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)
Enceladus is roughing up the surfaces of at least eleven other moons of Saturn. The small moon is erupting geysers of ice out of its south pole. This ice then escapes Enceladus's gravity and moves outward.
Scientists didn't know why the other moons around Enceladus were bright. They now now know that the ice is "sand-blasting" their surfaces, causing them to reflect more light.
It's always something stirring up trouble.
Posted by Sterling at 2/15/2007 01:34:00 AM
Already the fastest man on a bike, Greg wants to beat the world record for a human powered trans-atlantic crossing.
I would love to have one of these when I go back to B.C. Pedal down the coast from my hometown of Ucluelet to Victoria, then go up the Georgia Strait to the Alaskan coast, then go down the Aleutians until I cross to Japan.
It wouldn't be too hard, right?
Posted by Sterling at 2/15/2007 12:55:00 AM