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Sir Arthur C. Clarke going to outer space

Sir Arthur C. Clarke finally going to outer space on Sunjammer solar sail spacecraft

By Gene J. Koprowski

Published June 20, 2013

  • Sunjammer solar sail 2.jpg

    A giant solar sail is unfurled in this artist’s conception of the Sunjammer, with planet Earth retreating in the background. (Space Services Holdings, Inc.)

  • Sunjammer solar sail 4.jpg

    The Sunjammer’s solar sail, with a handful of researchers beneath it for context. (Space Services Holdings, Inc.)

  • Sunjammer solar sail 1.jpg

    A giant solar sail is unfurled in this artist’s conception of the Sunjammer, with planet Earth retreating in the background. (Space Services Holdings, Inc.)

  • Sunjammer solar sail 3.jpg

    The moon and the Earth are reflected in the giant reflective mirror of a solar sail. (Space Services Holdings, Inc.)

Famed science fiction writer Sir Arthur C. Clarke is finally headed for space — five years after his death.

Though the author of “2001: A Space Odyssey” died in 2008 in Sri Lanka, scientists from NASA today announced plans to send his DNA into orbit around the sun in 2014 aboard the Sunjammer, an astonishing solar-powered spacecraft.

Called the Sunjammer Cosmic Archive (SCA), the flying time capsule is a first in the history of space travel, carrying digital files of human DNA including Clarke’s aboard the sun-powered space ship.

‘Clarke certainly imagined himself going to space someday, and that day is finally arriving.’

– Stephen Eisele, vice president of Space Services, Inc. 

The DNA is to be contained in a “BioFile.” Other so-called MindFiles, including images, music, voice recordings, and the like, provided by people all around the globe, will also be included in the cosmic archive for future generations — or perhaps other civilizations — to see.

“Clarke certainly imagined himself going to space someday, and that day is finally arriving,” said Stephen Eisele, vice president of Space Services, Inc., a NASA contractor on the project. The name Sunjammer comes from the writings of Clarke, but the goal is all-encompassing.

The Sunjammer Cosmic Archive enables all of us to go to outer space,” he said.

The archive is one part of an amazing new NASA mission based on a vision outlined by astronomer Johannes Kepler, in a letter to Galileo in 1610: deployment of a technology that harnesses the light of the sun to propel spaceships.

”Provide ships or sails adapted to the heavenly breezes, and there will be some who will brave even that void,” Kepler wrote to Galileo.

In interviews during the days before the Thursday announcement, developers outlined for FoxNews.com the overall scope of the Sunjammer project, which NASA’s mission manager Ron Unger, at the Marshall Space Flight Center, described as a “game changing technology” that could alter mankind’s approach to space travel.

Simply put, the technology is a “solar sail” that gathers light from the sun and turns it into a propulsion source for a spacecraft, Unger said. It seems like something out of Clarke’s sci-fi writings, which is one reason that his DNA, which he left to science upon his death, is the payload for the mission, Eisele said.

This NASA-funded technology demonstration is designed to highlight the efficacy of solar sails for space propulsion applications; it’s now being built by Sunjammer team leader L’Garde, Inc., based in Tustin, Calif.

According to Nathan Barnes, president of L’Garde, the ship will launch in the fall of 2014 on a 1.9-million mile voyage to the sun from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

The diminutive spacecraft — it’s literally the size of a standard kitchen dishwasher — will be carried as a secondary spacecraft aboard a Falcon rocket 932,000 miles from Earth, where it will be released into space.

For NASA, Sunjammer will demonstrate deployment and navigation of the solar sail technology at nearly a million miles from Earth. Solar sails, sometimes called light sails or photon sails, are a form of spacecraft propulsion using the radiation pressure of a combination of light and high-speed gasses ejected from the Sun to push large, ultra-thin mirrors to high speeds.

These spacecraft offer NASA the possibility of low-cost operations with lengthy operating lifetimes. They have few moving parts and use no propellant, and they can potentially be used many times for delivery of different payloads.

“Sunjammer will morph — much like a butterfly – into a Space Shuttle-sized ship capable of maneuvering solely by riding the photonic pressure of the Sun,” Barnes tells FoxNews.com.  “Such propellant-less space travel has been the subject of human dreams since at least the time of Galileo, and holds great promise.

Here’s the physics of how it works, in a simplified form: Solar radiation creates a pressure on the sail due to reflection and a small fraction that is absorbed, and this absorbed energy heats the sail, which re-radiates that energy from the front and rear surfaces.

The first formal design of a solar sail was conducted in the 1970s, at the height of Sir Clarke’s fame as a sci-fi writer and futurist, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. A conference on solar sails was held just last month in the U.K., and researchers from NASA, a number of leading British universities, and L’Garde were present, discussing the potential of the Clarke-ian technology.

But now the technology is finally moving toward deployment on a major mission as a result of President Obama’s reorganization of NASA during his first term, and the agency’s search for technologies that can rapidly be commercialized, Eisele  told FoxNews.com.

In addition to the payload including the DNA of Sir Clarke,  scientific experiments will be conducted, once this craft is in space to demonstrate the use of solar sails in monitoring space weather, for example, which could provide early warnings of potentially dangerous solar storms.

To be sure, Clarke would have approved of that additional mission as well, Eisele told FoxNews.com.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/science/2013/06/20/sir-arthur-c-clarke-going-to-space-sunjammer/?intcmp=features#ixzz2WvQLrleN

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Send Your Dog on $74,000 Vacation!

Pooch package gives your dog a $74,000 vacation

Published June 18, 2013

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    This luxury dog vacation package includes surfing lessons for your pet. (VeryFirstTo.com)

This trip is really for the dogs.

A U.K. website has put together the world’s most expensive vacation package for one very lucky pooch that includes a two-week stay at the luxury Paw Seasons Hotel — near Bristol, England, limousine transfers, spa treatments –and even one psychiatry session by an animal behavior expert Stan Rawlinson.

Pet owners have be be prepared to plunk down a whopping $74,000 for the deal, which also comes with a personal chef who will prepare Fido’s every meal and movie screenings of pooch-friendly flicks like “101 Dalmatians and Lassie” (and yes, dog popcorn will be served).

And if this all sounds too good to be true, other perks include surfing lesson (for the dog) and a solid bronze car mascot of the dog and portrait by artist Jo Chambers.

“Being the leaders in luxury breaks for dogs, we wanted to be the first to offer the most spectacular luxury holiday a dog could wish for,” Paw Seasons founder Jenny Hytner-Marriott said in a press release.

The package is offered through the luxury site VeryFirstTo.com, which recently sold the world’s most expensive human holiday.  That trip included a stop to every World Heritage site over two years (that 150 countries) going for $1.2 million per couple.

Sadly, owners won’t be allowed on this holiday, but they able to get updates on their pet’s activities via Facebook and YouTube that will be provided by the Paw Season’s staff.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/travel/2013/06/18/pooch-package-gives-your-dog-74000-vacation/#ixzz2WdY5wM8P

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Butterfly Inspired Technology

Butterflies inspire anti-counterfeit tech

By Joel N. Shurkin

Published June 10, 2013

Inside Science News Service

  • Morpho Butterfly.jpg

    Nanotechnology emulates a South American insect’s wings. (Creativity+ Timothy K Hamilton, Flickr)

A Canadian company is fighting counterfeiters by employing one of the most sophisticated structures in nature: a butterfly wing.

To be precise, Nanotech Security Corp. in Vancouver is using the natural structure of the wings of a Morpho butterfly, a South American insect famous for its bright, iridescent blue or green wings, to create a visual image that would be practically impossible to counterfeit. The technology was developed at British Columbia’s Simon Fraser University, and licensed to the company.

The phenomenon Nanotech employs is similar to the way some animals, including male peacocks, produce iridescent colors: instead of using proteins and other chemicals to produce a hue, the creature’s feathers or scales play with light, using very tiny holes that reflect different colors or wavelengths. The Morpho does this with complicated scales on its wing that produce shimmering blues and greens.

‘It lends itself to anything your imagination can come up with. Even brake pads.’

– Clint Landrock, Nanotech’s chief technical officer 

Nanotech’s printed security image can be embossed on virtually any surface, including plastics, metals, solar cells, fabrics, and paper, according to Clint Landrock, Nanotech’s chief technical officer. They even could be embedded on pills and capsules to ensure they are genuine pharmaceuticals, instead of fakes.

“It lends itself to anything your imagination can come up with,” he said, “even brake pads.”

The work is another example of what scientists call biomimicry, which adapts nature’s solutions for innovative human devices, in this instance, nano-optics, a burgeoning new technology.

Researchers at the University of Michigan, for example, use nano-optics to print pictures and images without ink or dyes.

Landrock, one of the inventors, said the Simon Fraser researchers actually studied the shingled, patterned plates of a Morpho wing to see how it handled incoming light. The trick was to make artificial “nano-hole arrays,” which produce similar iridescent efforts with simpler structures. That way, the company can mass-produce billions of nano-holes.

“We can tune the colors by changing the geometry of those hole arrays,” he said.

They used a method similar to the manufacturing of computer chips, known as electron beam lithography, to produce master nano-hole patterns embossed on silicon or quartz.

They worked at the scale of nanometers. A single nanometer is hundreds of times smaller than even the tiniest bacterial cell. The holes in the template ranged from 50 to 300 nanometers in diameter, spaced 300-600 nanometers apart. The process takes from a few hours to a couple of days to produce a master pattern, or mask, depending on the size of the mask and the number of structures. After the mastering, a second process grows the image on nickel. From there it can be transferred to any material.

The entire image could be large enough to be seen from a distance, and, if embossed on high-priced items like designer handbags, would make it easy to spot the phonies, said Doug Blakeway, Nanotech’s CEO.

“If you had a hand bag and the clasp on it had the company’s logo on it you would see it and it would turn on and off in very bright colors.” Simply moving the item or the observer would make the color flicker.

There shouldn’t be any issue with putting the image on a capsule or pill, he said. You could see the brand on it to be sure the medicine was authentic. It would not require Food and Drug Administration approval because the image would not involve dyes or pigments so medicine would not be altered in any way.

Counterfeiting this technology is unlikely, Landrock said. The image would be very difficult to reverse engineer, and expensive because of the equipment needed. The image is much brighter than any created by any other technology, he explained, including holograms.

“I like to say it is similar to describing how an old CRT television display looks compared to a new Ultra HD LED TV,” he said “They may be showing the same thing but you would never mistake one for the other.”

Landrock said the most logical use for the technology would be an anti-counterfeiting device on bank notes.

A nano-optics image can be embossed on coated paper, but many countries, including Canada and Australia, have switched to polymer plastics for its bank notes, which are even more receptive to nano-optics images. Those bills last much longer than U.S. paper currency and are much harder to counterfeit.

Since the company has only begun commercializing the technology, no country has yet signed up.

Even so, it is unlikely the U.S. dollar will see nano-optics any time soon. U.S. bank notes do not even use holograms, common in other currencies, or coated or polymer paper, according to Darlene Anderson, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

The reason for the conservative bills, is that most American currency is held overseas, where it is often used as the reserve currency for the undeveloped world, said Owen Linzmayer, publisher of Banknote News, an industry observer. A radical change to U.S. bills could upset international economies and flood the country with the old bills.

The same restraints do not apply for Gucci handbags.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2013/06/10/butterflies-inspire-anti-counterfeit-tech/?intcmp=features#ixzz2VzGPNjL3

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Invisibility Cloak Created

New ‘invisibility cloak’ creates holes in time

By Tia Ghose

Published June 06, 2013


  • Invisibility Cloak

    The magic of science means Harry Potter’s “invisibility cloak” is an impending reality. (Warner Brothers)

A new invisibility cloak for data can make information vanish by creating holes in time, new research suggests.

The researchers, who describe their work June 5 in the journal Nature, found that by tweaking the optical signals in telecommunications fibers, they created a way to essentially mask data sent between a sender and a receiver to outside observers. This isn’t the first time researchers have taken a page from Harry Potter: Last year, scientists also demonstrated a similar invisibility cloak.

But the new “time cloak” can create many time holes in rapid succession, which means masked data could be sent at commercial data speeds, said Martin McCall, a theoretical-optics researcher at Imperial College London who was not involved in the study.

‘Imagine that some cars at the front of the stream speed up and ones behind slow down, so a gap can open up.’

– Martin McCall, a theoretical-optics researcher at Imperial College London 

Time cloak
In 2006, McCall proposed the idea of making optical data (information sent through optical fibers) invisible to an outsider by manipulating the light that transmits that data.

The process involves manipulating the flow of photons, or particles of light, in an optical data stream.

“If you consider light as a flow of particles a bit like cars going down a highway, you can imagine that some of the cars at the front of the stream speed up and ones behind slow down so a gap can open up,” McCall said.

If data are sent within that gap in time, when the photons eventually change speed to close up the gap, it appears to an outside observer as though nothing ever happened.

Last year, Cornell University researcher Alexander Gaeta and his colleagues demonstrated that a time cloak was possible. But that method was able to create short, 12-picosecond time cloaks that were separated by 24 microseconds meaning a user would have to wait a million times the length of the gap to send any more hidden data. That was much too slow for commercial applications.

Commercial cloak
To attempt to speed up the process, Joseph Lukens, an electrical engineering doctoral candidate at Purdue University, and his colleagues began developing a time cloak that used existing commercial equipment and could transmit optical data at high speeds.

They also employed the principle that light is both a particle and a wave at the same time. In their method, they created a pattern in the traveling light beam so that the wave’s peaks were focused on smaller and smaller areas, and the troughs, or dark spots, got bigger and bigger. This time-lensing effect created several spots in time and space where there was zero light, Lukens said.

“By doing this type of interference effect, we focus the light to even smaller points in time,” Lukens told LiveScience. “So, in the middle, we have all of our energy focused on very small points, and between them, we have regions where, if something were to happen, it would not be detected because there’s no light there to pick it up.”

At the end of the path, the researchers would undo the operations so that to an outside observer, it would seem as though the holes never existed.

The new method covers 46 percent of the spots in a cable, through which the optical data runs, with time holes that can be repeated at 12.7 gigabits per second a speed used in commercial applications.

The new technique could one day be used to create ultrasecure Internet communications, or to foil communications between criminals such as terrorists. On a more mundane level, it could be used to avoid data traffic jams at connection points in networks, Lukens said.

The findings are a significant advance, McCall said.

“It does make it possible to do these things at telecommunication data rates,” McCall told LiveScience. “And as we all know, once the tabletop demonstration has been shown, it’s then a matter of technology the miniaturization, the efficient system engineering tend to follow.”

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/science/2013/06/06/new-invisibility-cloak-creates-holes-in-time/?intcmp=trending#ixzz2VeUZwyPt

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NASA confirms history of water on Mars

NASA confirms Curiosity rover found evidence of ancient stream on Mars

Published May 31, 2013


  • gravel river mars.jpg

    The Link outcrop of rocks on Mars (left) with similar rocks seen on Earth (right). The image of Link, obtained by NASA’s Curiosity rover, shows rounded gravel fragments, or clasts, up to a couple inches within the rock outcrop. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS and PSI)

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    This image taken by the NASA rover Curiosity shows sediment at the bottom of an ancient streambed on Mars. (AP/NASA)

A new analysis of pebble-containing slabs investigated by NASA’s Curiosity rover confirms a stream once ran through Gale Crater on Mars.
During a pit stop last year, Curiosity came upon hundreds of smooth, round pebbles that look strikingly similar to deposits in river banks on Earth.

‘Most people are familiar with rounded river pebbles. Seeing something so familiar on another world is exciting.’

– Rebecca Williams of the Planetary Science Institute 

Scientists believe the rover rolled onto an ancient streambed, but needed to study the stones in more detail. So Curiosity snapped high-resolution pictures and fired its laser at several pebbles to analyze the chemical makeup.

Researchers say the roundness of the stones was shaped by a fast-flowing stream that probably was ankle to waist-deep. Curiosity landed in the crater near the equator last summer.

Rebecca Williams of the Planetary Science Institute, the lead author of the new report, said that researchers were able to determine the depth and speed of the water that once flowed at the site.

“These conglomerates look amazingly like streambed deposits on Earth,” Williams said. “Most people are familiar with rounded river pebbles. Maybe you’ve picked up a smoothed, round rock to skip across the water. Seeing something so familiar on another world is exciting and also gratifying.”

Sanjeev Gupta, a co-author of the report, said that analysis of the amount of rounding on the pebbles indicates that the stream was flowing at a sustained, vigorous speed.

“The rounding indicates sustained flow. It occurs as pebbles hit each other multiple times. This wasn’t a one-off flow. It was sustained, certainly more than weeks or months, though we can’t say exactly how long,” Gupta said.

The stream carried the gravel at least a few miles, the researchers estimated.

The analysis appears in Friday’s issue of the journal Science.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/science/2013/05/31/rounded-pebbles-on-mars-reveal-past-flowing-water/?intcmp=features#ixzz2V24BCUAn

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Fly-sized robot takes first flight

Fly-sized robot takes first flight

By Jillian Scharr

Published May 03, 2013


  • RoboticInsect

    The RoboBee is the smallest flight-capable robot to date. (Kevin Ma and Pakpong Chirarattananon, Harvard University.)

Flies have tiny wings and even tinier brains, yet they are capable of flying swiftly and agilely through even turbulent air. How do they do it?

And could we create a robot capable of doing the same?

That’s the question that’s been buzzing around Harvard professor Robert Wood’s head for 12 years now. And finally, after years of testing and the invention of an all-new manufacturing technique inspired by children’s pop-up books, Wood and his team at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University have created a robot the size of a penny that is capable of remote-controlled flight. 

‘Large robots can run on electromagnetic motors, but at this small scale, you have to come up with an alternative.’

– Kevin Ma, a graduate student at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences 

You’d think that the smaller something is, the easier it’d be to make. But there’s a point at which making things smaller becomes harder rather than easier, which is why making a functional fly-sized robot has proved such a challenge.

The so-called RoboBee flaps its wings approximately 120 times per second, almost faster than the eye can track, and is capable of hovering and flying horizontally in multiple directions like a helicopter.

At 80 milligrams, which is less than one-twentieth the weight of a dime, the robot is so small that traditional components of flight-capable machines simply wouldn’t work, so the team had to create new ones.

“Large robots can run on electromagnetic motors, but at this small scale, you have to come up with an alternative, and there wasn’t one,” Kevin Ma, a co-lead author and graduate student at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, said in a statement.

In place of electromagnetic motors, the team used ceramic strips that can expand or contract when hit with an electric field, a technique known as piezoelectricity. 

The problem of building these parts at a fly-sized scale was also an enormous obstacle. For example, the robot has no onboard power source — instead, it receives electricity via a thin wire connected to an external battery.

To build the other parts, the team looked for inspiration not from the natural world, but from children’s pop-up books and origami.

Their solution is a groundbreaking technique that involves layering and folding sheets of carbon fiber, brass, ceramic and other materials, and then using extremely precise lasers to cut these sheets into structures and circuits. After that, the sheets can be assembled into extremely small but entirely functional devices in a single movement, just like a children’s pop-up book.    

Wood and his team devised the pop-up technique in 2011, publishing a paper on it in February 2012. And last summer, after years of failed prototypes, the first RoboBee took flight in a Harvard robotics lab at 3 a.m.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2013/05/03/fly-sized-robot-takes-first-flight/?intcmp=trending#ixzz2SN5zkDo9

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New engine could boost electric cars

New internal combustion engine could boost electric cars


Published March 13, 2013


  • A revolutionary new internal combustion engine doesn’t go in circles, at all.
Developed by engineers at the German Aerospace Center’s Institute of Vehicle Concepts, the Free Piston Linear Generator is an all-new type of powerplant designed to be used as a range extender for electric cars.

The motor is comprised of two pistons, on either side of a single combustion chamber. Instead of using a crankcase to convert linear piston movement into rotational energy to turn a driveshaft or conventional electric motor, the pistons are mounted on air springs that generate electricity directly as they move back and forth.

As an added benefit, the design allows the size of the combustion chamber and its compression ratio to be infinitely adjusted without having to change parts, allowing it to run on a variety of fuels, including diesel, natural gas and hydrogen.

Although it currently exists only as an oversized technical demonstrator installed in a laboratory, the team behind it believes that it can be downsized into a compact unit that weighs about 125 pounds and puts out up to 40 hp. Several of the generators could be installed side by side to meet the power requirements of various vehicles.

The main hurdle holding back the widespread acceptance of electric cars are the expensive, heavy and relatively low-capacity batteries currently available, and the technology is improving at a snail’s pace. Range extenders allow automakers to use smaller, cheaper batteries that are good enough for everyday driving, while offering convenient long-range, though not zero-emissions, capability.

However, the motors found in cars like this on the road today, like the Chevrolet Volt and Fisker Karma, are simply internal combustion engines that have been converted from use in conventional vehicles, and not optimized for the task at hand. Future generations of plug-in hybrids are expected to feature engines specifically designed to act as range extenders, and the Free Piston Linear Generator is just one idea.

A spokesperson for the center says a production version of the Free Piston Linear Generator could be on the road within four or five years if an industrial partner comes on board to develop the technology for commercial use.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2013/03/13/new-internal-combustion-engine-could-boost-electric-cars/?intcmp=features#ixzz2PZ49Xjr7

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