Month: May, 2018

Charging Your Phone While Moving Around? Be Amazed By This Wireless Gadget Charger!

Scientists at Stanford University in the US have developed a device that can wirelessly charge a moving object at close range.

The technology could one day be used to charge electric cars on the highway, or medical implants and cellphones as you walk nearby.

“In addition to advancing the wireless charging of vehicles and personal devices like cellphones, our new technology may untether robotics in manufacturing, which also are on the move,” said Professor Shanhui Fan.

According to the study, published in the journal Nature, wireless charging would address a major drawback of plug-in electric cars their limited driving range. A charge-as-you-drive system would overcome these limitations.

“We can rethink how to deliver electricity not only to our cars but to smaller devices on or in our bodies. For anything that could benefit from dynamic, wireless charging, this is potentially very important,” Fan said.

The team transmitted electricity wirelessly to a moving LED light bulb but the demonstration only involved a one milliwatt charge, far less than what electric cars require.

The scientists are now working on greatly increasing the amount of electricity that can be transferred, and tweaking the system to extend the transfer distance and improve efficiency.

According to the research, the transfer efficiency can be further enhanced if both coils are tuned to the same magnetic resonance frequency and are positioned at the correct angle, but scientists found that was a complex process.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

 

NASA Is Launching A Box Of Lasers To Make The Coldest Spot In The Universe

With an experiment launching to the International Space Station Monday (May 21), scientists will be able to create a temperature that’s 10 billion times colder than the vacuum of space to focus in on atoms’ weird quantum behavior.

The Cold Atom Laboratory  (CAL) is a physics research facility the size of an ice chest, designed and built by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California, that will chill clouds of atoms with lasers and magnets aboard the space station to this ultracold temperature — close to absolute zero, or the lowest temperature possible.

Sunday’s cargo launch to the space station (May 20), will carry a number of experiments, including CAL.

Researchers will be able to conduct remote experiments in CAL, without any help from astronauts, for up to 6.5 hours every day, according to NASA’s project page for CAL.

These ultracooled clouds of atoms are chilled to just about (but not quite) absolute zero. (Absolute zero is equivalent to minus 459.67 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 273.15 degrees Celsius.)




Known as Bose-Einstein condensates (BECs), the clouds contain atoms that are so cold, they move extremely slowly.

Under Earth’s gravity, the atoms in freely evolving BECs can’t be slowed down enough for physicists to observe them for any longer than a fraction of a second, so scientists hardly get a chance to study their quantum characteristics, NASA officials said on the project page.

However, aboard the space station in a microgravity environment, things are much different. Without Earth’s gravity getting in the way, these atoms can be slowed down more than they can anywhere else, using lasers and magnetic forces in an “ice-chest-like” compartment.

The lasers slow down the atoms, cooling them to “like one-tenth of a billion of a degree above absolute zero,” Robert Shotwell, CAL project manager and an engineer at JPL, said at a news conference on May 10.

In using CAL to study the atoms’ quantum activity, physicists will be able to better understand how atoms behave at these extreme temperatures, a main thread in physics for over a century, according to a NASA overview.

After cooling the atoms, CAL will automatically load them into weak magnetic traps, where researchers can study them.

With the atoms held in place, the teams will be able to observe them in a variety of quantum states and interactions, NASA officials said in the overview.

At this extreme temperature, researchers can observe the quantum characteristics and behaviors of BECs for up to 10 seconds, according to the project page.

This might not sound like a lot of time, but it’s significant when compared to the observation time possible on Earth.

The CAL mission began development in 2012 and will operate through 2020.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Watch Lightning Seen From Space

Astronauts were treated to a striking sight when they spotted a lightning storm from space.

These stunning images caught an electrical storm in full flow almost 250 miles above the earth while the space men were orbiting at 17,895 mph in the International Space Station.

The pictures show the swirling clouds and multiple lightning strikes as the eye of the storm moves across land, thought to be Iran.




The flashes were spotted by the European Space Agency’s Nightpod camera, which astronauts set up to take crystal-clear images which have only now been released after being taken in 2012.

Despite the distance from the planet and the speed involved, the high-tech camera is specially adapted to keep the pictures in focus to avoid blurring.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Weird Space Rock Provides More Evidence For Mysterious ‘Planet Nine’

The solar system just got a bit stranger. As astronomers continue their ongoing quest to find the elusive Planet Nine, a team found a space rock that lends credence to the idea that a huge super-Earth planet really exists in the outer reaches of our solar system.

The newfound asteroid, called 2015 BP519, adds to a growing body of evidence about little worlds in the solar system being perturbed by something big.

Astronomers detailed its discovery and description in a new paper, adding that the bizarre angle of its orbit gives more weight to the idea that a big planet is out there — somewhere — tugging on the asteroid’s path around the sun.

Following up on the discovery, Quanta Magazine recently published an article surveying several astrophysicists who specialize in studying small worlds, including the discoverers of 2015 BP519.

While not everybody agreed that Planet Nine was responsible for the strange orbit, the overwhelming majority agreed the new discovery gives more credence to the idea.




The second you put Planet Nine in the simulations, not only can you form objects like this object, but you absolutely do,” lead author Juliette Becker, a graduate student at the University of Michigan, told Quanta.

It’s not the first time Planet Nine was blamed for pushing an object around.

Back in 2014, before Planet Nine was officially hypothesized, astronomers Scott Sheppard and Chadwick Trujillo noticed orbital irregularities in several small bodies beyond Neptune’s orbit.

These included dwarf planet Sedna, a newfound object called 2012 VP113, and several other trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs).

Then, in January 2016, astronomers Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown saw more evidence of TNOs with perturbed orbits.

They were the ones who first gave “Planet Nine” a name, size and distance. They suggested that the mysterious planet could be 10 times more massive than Earth, located 600 astronomical units (AU) from the sun.

A flood of studies followed about TNOs and how Planet Nine might have affected their orbits; the following summary is just a sampling.

Not all teams were enthusiastic, with one group from the Outer Solar System Origins Survey (OSSOS) cautioning that many of these surveys could be just observational bias.

But astronomers persisted, with Sheppard and Trujillo discovering at least two new TNOs possibly affected by Planet Nine. Another study showed Planet Nine perhaps influenced the tilt of planets in our solar system.

And in 2017, astronomers from the University of Madrid in Spain found peculiarities in the orbits of 22 “extreme” TNOs that orbit the sun that could also be explained by a large, distant body exerting gravitational influence.

By October 2017, Batygin said, there were at least five different lines of evidence that suggest the existence of the planet.

“If you were to remove this explanation and imagine Planet Nine does not exist, then you generate more problems than you solve. All of a sudden, you have five different puzzles, and you must come up with five different theories to explain them,” he said in a statement.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Watch Astronauts Taking Spacewalk to Fix Space Station Ammonia Leak

Two NASA astronauts will venture outside the International Space Station on an emergency spacewalk last May 11 in an attempt to fix an ammonia leak in the space station’s vital cooling system.

The six residents of the orbiting laboratory noticed frozen flakes of ammonia leaking from a station coolant loop on the leftmost side of the space station on Thursday (May 9).




Liquid ammonia is a vital coolant for chilling the electronics that produce the outpost’s power.

The plan for this EVA [spacewalk] really is to see if we can identify the leak,” Mike Suffredini, NASA’s International Space Station program manager said during a briefing last May 10.

The plan is to change out the pump on this particular EVA. The most likely sources of the leak is this particular pump.

The space station crew is in no danger, NASA officials said, but the pump responsible for the movement of ammonia through that part of the system was shut off in order to conserve coolant.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

It Seems Someone Is Producing A Banned Ozone-Depleting Chemical Again

The Montreal Protocol—a 1987 international agreement to end production of ozone-destroying chemicals like freon—seems miraculous compared to the long struggle to achieve meaningful action on climate change.

Even more astonishing is that the agreement has worked. Those chemicals (known as CFCs) take a long time to flush out of the atmosphere, but monitoring has shown that the flushing is proceeding largely according to plan.

That keeps the hole in the ozone layer on track to shrink over the coming decades. However, a new study shows that someone has been cheating in the last few years.

A group of researchers led by Stephen Montzka of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had been tracking the progress of CFCs and noticed something off with CFC-11.

This chemical has been used as a refrigerant, solvent, and propellant for aerosol spray cans, as well as in the production of styrofoam. As with the other CFCs, nations agreed to end production of CFC-11 entirely.

While there may still be some older machines leaking CFC-11, these sources should gradually disappear over time, allowing the decline of its atmospheric concentration to accelerate.




Hiding the decline?

Instead of an accelerating decline, CFC-11 showed a steady drop of 2.1 parts-per-trillion each year between 2002 and 2012.

Since then, its decline has actually slowed. Between 2015 and 2017, CFC-11 dropped at only 1.0 part-per-trillion per year.

There are a few possible explanations to sort through. The most important one is natural variations in the transport of emitted CFCs into the stratosphere, which depends on weather patterns.

But some of them can be eliminated quickly. A sudden uptick in the demolition of old buildings with CFC-11 refrigerants in their HVAC systems doesn’t seem to plausibly fit the data, for example.

Careful analysis of the data and some modeling can help us choose among the remaining explanations.

First off, the concentration of these gases has always been a little higher in the Northern Hemisphere than the Southern Hemisphere, because most of the sources are in the north.

Over the last few years, the difference between the two hemispheres has increased a bit. Similar gases haven’t done that, which points to increased emissions from the Northern Hemisphere rather than just a change in the winds.

Second, measurements from atop Mauna Loa in Hawaii show correlations between CFC-11 concentrations and a few other gases known to come from industrial emissions.

That means CFC-11 isn’t the only human pollutant seeing an uptick over the same time span.

A new source

At the height of use in the 1980s, humans released 350,000 tons of CFC-11 each year—a number that dropped to 54,000 tons per year in the early 2000s.

An additional 6,500 to 13,000 tons released each year in Eastern Asia would be enough to change the declining trend in just the way we’ve observed.

An increase that large seems to require renewed production of CFC-11—violating the Montreal Protocol.

Seeing as nations are required to track CFC production and report accurate numbers to the United Nations group that oversees the Montreal agreement, this is going to be a contentious conclusion.

The researchers chose their words carefully, and the network of measurements isn’t complete enough to point the finger at a specific nation.

Still, the list of suspects is short, and some nation needs to find and snuff out the illicit industrial activity within its borders in order to hold up its end of the Montreal Protocol.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Rocket Lab’s Electron Is Making Space Open For Business (Feat. CEO Peter Beck)

You can get a free quote at lumerit.com/answerswithjoe. It’s the easy way to find out how much college will cost you, and what earning your degree will look like.

My interview with Peter Beck: https://answerswithjoe.com/peterbecka…

Rocket Lab is a private space company out of New Zealand founded by rocket engineer Peter Beck. Their goal is to open up space and satellite technology for business by building cheap, disposable rockets that are powerful and flexible.

Their Electron rocket is tiny – less than 1/3 the size of the Falcon 9 – but can launch 62% of payloads into space for only $5 million.

To do this, they have pioneered new technologies like the 3D printed Rutherford engine (named after Ernest Rutherford) that is powered by a battery pack, and completely carbon-fiber construction.

 

The Electron rocket is perfect for micro satellites and cube satellites, with a payload capacity of up to 225 kilograms.

Their first launch of the Electron was called It’s a Test, which achieved orbit, but had communication issues and had to be destroyed.

Their second launch was called Still Testing, which was a complete success, launching two commercial payloads and the Humanity Star satellite.

They also have built their own launch facility on the Mahia peninsula in New Zealand, which is the first privately owned launch facility in the world and the first in the southern hemisphere.

Their first commercial flight, called It’s Business Time is scheduled to launch in late Spring/early Summer 2018.

Rocket Lab’s Electron Is Making Space Open For Business (Feat. CEO Peter Beck)

You can get a free quote at lumerit.com/answerswithjoe. It’s the easy way to find out how much college will cost you, and what earning your degree will look like.

Rocket Lab is a private space company out of New Zealand founded by rocket engineer Peter Beck. Their goal is to open up space and satellite technology for business by building cheap, disposable rockets that are powerful and flexible.

Their Electron rocket is tiny – less than 1/3 the size of the Falcon 9 – but can launch 62% of payloads into space for only $5 million.

To do this, they have pioneered new technologies like the 3D printed Rutherford engine (named after Ernest Rutherford) that is powered by a battery pack, and completely carbon-fiber construction.

 

The Electron rocket is perfect for micro satellites and cube satellites, with a payload capacity of up to 225 kilograms.

Their first launch of the Electron was called It’s a Test, which achieved orbit, but had communication issues and had to be destroyed.

Their second launch was called Still Testing, which was a complete success, launching two commercial payloads and the Humanity Star satellite.

They also have built their own launch facility on the Mahia peninsula in New Zealand, which is the first privately owned launch facility in the world and the first in the southern hemisphere.

Their first commercial flight, called It’s Business Time is scheduled to launch in late Spring/early Summer 2018.

Cosmic Crisp – A New Apple To Get Your Teeth Into

How do you like them apples? Lead scientist Dr Kate Evans at Washington State University’s Tree Fruit Research & Extension Center. Photograph: Ted S. Warren/AP

Nearly 30 years ago, Dr Bruce Barritt was jeered when he branded the apple industry in Washington state a dinosaur for growing obsolete varieties such as red and golden delicious.

Now, farmers in the state, where 70% of US apples are grown, are ripping up millions of trees and replacing them with a new variety, the cosmic crisp, which Barritt, a horticulturalist, has created in the decades since.

With 12m trees to be planted by 2020, and the first harvest of apples due in the shops in 2019, it is the biggest ever launch of a new apple.

Around 10m 40lb boxes are expected to be produced in the next four years, compared with the usual 3-5m for a new variety. It’s a gamble for growers: replanting costs up to $50,000 per acre, so the cosmic crisp needs to fetch top dollar to make their investment worthwhile.

Barritt began his quest for the perfect apple in the 1980s, after being hired by Washington State University (WSU).




I had two projects,” he says. “The orchards being grown were inefficient – big trees that required ladders, poor fruit quality because of shade in the trees… That was a problem I could tackle.

“But I thought the most important problem was that, at the time in Washington, 90% of the crop was red delicious and golden delicious – they’re not crisp, juicy or flavourful.

“I was giving a talk to 2,000 industry people and I told them these were obsolete. It didn’t go down well. If I asked them why they were still growing these varieties, they’d say ‘Because we grow them better than anybody else.’ That wasn’t good enough, because the consumer wasn’t happy.

Barritt was convinced better varieties had to be developed, and made available to every farmer in the state (new varieties such as jazz and ambrosia are often only licensed to small clubs of growers).

He spent six years lobbying the industry in Washington and the university for money to fund a breeding programme, which began in 1994.

Barritt created thousands of seedlings by cross-pollinating the blossoms of parent trees.

‘Sweet but not too sweet’: proof is in the tasting for the cosmic crisp. Photograph: Ted S Warren/AP

When they come into bearing, we walk the long rows and bite, chew and spit, because you can’t eat a lot of apples at once – your taste buds lose their sensitivity.

“The majority you bite into are terrible, but eventually you come up with ones that are good.”

The cosmic crisp, so named because of its yellow star-like flecks on a burgundy skin, is a cross between the honeycrisp and the enterprise.

Honeycrisp’s claim to fame is its crispness; it also has good sugar and acid and texture. Enterprise is large, full-coloured, stores well and is firm. It’s got good acidity and flavour in general.

Enterprise is also known for its resistance to fire blight.

Around this time, Barritt retired. Dr Kate Evans, a British horticulturalist who had been leading breeding programmes for East Malling Research in Kent, took over.

Testing of the apple continued and it was patented in 2014, with Barritt named as the “inventor”. For the next 10 years, it will only be available to US farmers in Washington, because they helped fund the breeding programme.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

The Space Station Is Becoming A Spy Satellite For Wildlife

In 1250, the prior of a Cistercian Abbey reputedly tied a note to a leg of a barn swallow, which read: “Oh swallow, where do you live in winter?” The next spring, he got a response: “In Asia, in the home of Petrus.

This perhaps apocryphal story marks one of the first known instances of someone tagging an animal to track its movements.

Thanks to many such endeavors, we now know that every year, barn swallows migrate between their breeding grounds in the northern hemisphere to wintering grounds throughout the tropics and the south.

In 1912, one intrepid individual that was ringed in England turned up 7,500 miles away in South Africa.

But swallows are the exception rather than the rule. The journeys of most migratory animals, especially smaller species, are a mystery.




Flocks, herds, and shoals are constantly crisscrossing the globe, but despite the intense surveillance of our planet, we often have no idea what paths they take.

They leave in one place and we don’t know what happens to them until they show up in another place,” says Meg Crofoot from the University of California, Davis.

This ignorance makes it hard to save threatened species: what works in one part of the world may be completely undone as animals travel to another. It also jeopardizes our own health.

Where are the birds that harbor avian flu? Where do the bats that carry Ebola go? What about the red-billed quelea, a small finch that flocks in millions and devours crops with locust-like voraciousness?

Since the 1960s, scientists have tried to answer questions like these by tagging animals with radio transmitters. At first, they followed the signals with clunky hand-held antennae.

Later, they loaded receivers onto satellites, allowing them to track animals over long distances and rough terrain.

But even after decades of innovation, satellite telemetry tags are still expensive, slow, and clunky. The smallest weighs around 10 grams and would overburden any animal lighter than 240 grams.

That rules out three quarters of birds and mammals. There are much lighter data-loggers around but they’re light because they don’t transmit any data—so you have to recapture whatever animal you’ve tagged to find out where it has been.

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Pass it on: Popular Science