Charted: Extraterrestrial Driving Records
NASA has just released this cute chart depicting the various distances traveled by wheeled machines on other worlds (click to enlarge).
The comparison was put out in honor of the agency’s Opportunity rover, which has been on Mars since 2004, beating NASA’s previous distance record-holder, the Apollo 17 moon buggy. During its nine years of operations, Opportunity has roved 35.760 kilometers, edging out the Apollo astronaut’s 35.744-kilometer drive.
The champion for driving on another surface still goes to the Soviet Lunokhod 2 rover, which traveled 37 kilometers across the moon in 1973. Of course, Opportunity still has the *ahem* opportunity to overtake the international record holder since it’s continuing to rove around the rim of Endeavour crater on Mars. The little robot has been exploring that area since 2011 and has uncovered some of the most unambiguous evidence for water on ancient Mars. Though NASA’s celebrated Curiosity rover has only gone less than one kilometer since landing in August, it has nuclear batteries that could last 14 years at minimum — ample time to beat all competitors.
This Week in Science - May 13 - 19, 2013:
- Magnetar at black hole here.
- Cloned human stem cells here.
- Cell calculators here.
- Music matched to color here.
- Scientists agreeing on climate change here.
- Remote-piloted plane here.
- Earth’s core here.
- Bright lunar explosion here.
- American asteroid sampling here.
- Hofstadter butterfly effect here.
- Electric shocks aid math skills here.
- Printable solar panels here.
First algae powered building goes up in Hamburg
A 15-unit apartment building has been constructed in the German city of Hamburg that has 129 algae filled louvered tanks hanging over the exterior of the south-east and south-west sides of the building—making it the first in the world to be powered exclusively by algae. Designed by Arup, SSC Strategic Science Consultants and Splitterwerk Architects, and named the Bio Intelligent Quotient (BIQ) House, the building demonstrates the ability to use algae as a way to heat and cool large buildings.
Using advanced Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP) technologies is an essential part of future missions into deep space with larger payloads. The use of robotics and advanced SEP technologies like this concept of an SEP-based spacecraft during NASA mission to find, rendezvous, capture and relocate an asteroid to a stable point in the lunar vicinity offers more mission flexibility than would be possible if a crewed mission went all the way to the asteroid.
NASA’s asteroid initiative, announced as part of the President’s FY2014 budget request, integrates the best of NASA’s science, technology, and human exploration capabilities and draws on the innovation of America’s brightest scientists and engineers. It uses current and developing capabilities to find both large asteroids that pose a hazard to Earth and small asteroids that could be candidates for the initiative, accelerates our technology development activities in high-powered SEP and takes advantage of our hard work on the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft, helping to keep NASA on target to reach the President’s goal of sending humans to Mars in the 2030s.
”’We want to provide people with a perfect photographic memory,’ says Martin Källström, CEO of Memoto. His startup is creating a tiny clip-on camera that takes a picture every 30 seconds, capturing whatever you are looking at, and then applies algorithms to the resulting mountain of images to find the most interesting ones.
Just 36 by 36 by 9 millimeters, the inconspicuous plastic camera has a lot crammed inside. The most important component is a five-megapixel image sensor originally designed for mobile phones. An ARM 9 processor running Linux powers a program that wakes the device twice a minute; takes a picture and a reading from the GPS sensor, accelerometer, and magnetometer; and promptly puts the device back to sleep.
Later, when you get home, you plug the camera into a computer to download the pictures. If you like, the process stops here, but if you subscribe to the company’s cloud storage service, things get more interesting. The pictures are fed through an image-processing algorithm that starts to sort out the events in your day. The images are clustered by their predominant colors, and then ‘we get a diagram of how varied the colors are over the day,’ says Källström, whose 17-person company is based in Linköping, Sweden.
That processing turns your photos into “moments”—between 30 and 35 things that have happened during your day, displayed as stacks of photos in a smartphone app or on the Web. Hours spent in front of a computer add up to one moment, a quick coffee break to another. Each is represented by a single sharp, colorful frame—if possible, one with people in it. ‘It allows you, in the app, to see the good parts of your day with the boring parts hidden,’ says Källström.
It’s this clever filtering system, Källström believes, that makes the Memoto more than just a camera. He calls it a “life logging” device that will help people remember what they’ve seen and experienced, or even keep a record for their descendants. ‘I’d like to be able to put in my will what parts of my life log are going to be available for people that come after me,’ says Källström. ‘I’ve always been fascinated by ways to effortlessly document life.’
Life logging is quickly becoming a significant business as consumers embrace wearable self-tracking devices such as Nike’s FuelBand, a bracelet that measures a person’s movements and estimates calories burned. Sharing photos on services like Instagram or Facebook can also be considered a kind of life logging. ‘It’s already mainstream,’ Källström says.
Many large technology companies are considering how to use wearable devices to collect even more personal data. Google, for instance, is now testing a head-mounted computer that can shoot video (see “Google Wants to Install a Computer on Your Face”).
Källström, a 37-year-old software developer, came up with the Memoto concept in 2011 and began working on it full time the next year with partner Oskar Kalmaru and product designer Björn Wesén. Last fall, the team raised $550,189 from the public on the crowd-funding site Kickstarter, where they promised a camera to anyone who paid $279 up front.”
Star Wars fanatics who’ve longed for the days of fleets of laser-equipped vessels blasting enemies out of the sky and sea, your ship has quite literally come in.
Image credit: NASA Ames
Saturn and its moon Titan. The irregularities in ring silhouette and shadow are due to technical anomalies in the preliminary data later corrected. At the time this image was taken Pioneer was, at that time, 2,846,000 km (1,768,422 miles) from Saturn.
SFX Designer Builds Rideable Two Ton Diesel Robot Hexapod, “World’s Biggest”
Denton, an animatronics and special-effects designer whose portfolio includes “Prometheus” and “Lost in Space” with company Micromagic Systems, has an interest in hexapods that goes way back.
Over the years, he has built a few miniature hexapods at Micromagic. Mantis is his first giant-sized model, the result of four years of research, development, design, and building, and is, Denton claims, the biggest operational hexapod in the world.
The thing comes in at 9.2 feet tall, weighing 2 tons. It’s powered by a 2.2-liter turbo diesel engine and is designed to take on any terrain.
A fireball (very bright meteor) flashes against the coalsack nebula and the Southern Cross in the night sky above Murchison Widefield Array radio telescope antennas.
The fireball left a glowing trail that dissipated over several minutes. The southern Milky Way and our neighboring dwarf galaxies the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds are also visible in this south-looking image.
Emerging out of the Western Australian outback MWA is a remarkable telescope for radio astronomy where more than 2000 antennas are spread across 3 square kilometers, in 128 groups of dual-polarisation dipole antennas. — John Goldsmith
Kepler 2.0: Next-Gen Exoplanet Hunter Approved
NASA has selected a $200 million mission to carry out a full-sky survey for exoplanets orbiting nearby stars. The space observatory, called the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), is scheduled for a 2017 launch.
Like the currently operational Kepler Space Telescope, TESS will be in the lookout for exoplanets that orbit in front of their host stars, resulting in a slight dip in starlight. This dip is known as a “transit” and Kepler has revolutionized our understanding about planets orbiting other stars in our galaxy by applying this effective technique. As of January 2013, Kepler has spotted 2,740 exoplanetary candidates.
Breakthrough in race to creat bio-batteries
Scientists at the University of East Anglia have made an important breakthrough in the quest to generate clean electricity from bacteria. Findings published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) show that proteins on the surface of bacteria can produce an electric current by simply touching a mineral surface. The research shows that it is possible for bacteria to lie directly on the surface of a metal or mineral and transfer electrical charge through their cell membranes. This means that it is possible to ‘tether’ bacteria directly to electrodes – bringing scientists a step closer to creating efficient microbial fuel cells or ‘bio-batteries’.
Estonian first satellite ESTCube-1, built by students, will be launched on Saturday May 4th with Vega space rocket.
ESTCube-1 was built in Estonia by students from Tartu University, Estonian Aviation Academy, Tallinn University of Technology and University of Life Sciences.
The project started in 2008. The main mission of the satellite is to test the electric solar wind sail, a novel space propulsion technology that could revolutionize transportation within the solar system.
The satellite is a cubesat measuring 10 x 10 x 10 cm and weighing 1.05 kg.
Scientists work on fusion rocket for Mars
NBC News: Researchers at the University of Washington say they’ve built all the pieces for a fusion-powered rocket system that could get a crew to Mars in 30 days.
“If we can pull off a fusion demonstration in a year, with hundreds of thousands of dollars … there might be a better, cheaper, faster path to using fusion in other applications,” John Slough, a research assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics, told NBC News. …
Timetables for the advent of fusion energy applications have repeatedly shifted to the right, reviving the old joke that the dawn of the fusion age will always be 30 years away.
Photo: An artist’s conception shows a spacecraft powered by a fusion-driven rocket. (UW / MSNW)
Gynecologists Question Use Of Robotic Surgery For Hysterectomies
Bolstered by a recent study that found doctors performing hysterectomies performed using a pricey robot didn’t produce better results for patients than ordinary — and cheaper — procedures, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recently threw down a latex gauntlet against the use of robots.
“There is no good data proving that robotic hysterectomy is even as good as—let alone better—than existing, and far less costly, minimally invasive alternatives,” said a March statement by ACOG President James T. Breeden.
One in nine women will undergo a hysterectomy during her lifetime, making it one of the most common surgical procedures for women.
In recent years, more women have opted for a robot-assisted procedure, rather than surgery through a large abdominal incision or traditional laparoscopic surgery, in which a doctor manipulates surgical instruments through small incisions in the abdomen.
A study published in February in JAMA, the Journal Of The American Medical Association, and reports of problems have raised questions about robotic surgery. The Food and Drug Administration has been looking at the popular DaVinci robot system.
Health insurers generally pay for robotic surgery just as they would any other surgical procedure, and for patients, out-of-pocket costs are typically the same as they would be for other options.
Robot-assisted hysterectomy surgery is similar to the conventional laparascopic technique. But the procedure is performed by a surgeon sitting at a console some distance from the operating table who uses hand and foot controls to manipulate surgical tools that are attached to a robot’s arms.
Proponents of robot-assisted surgery say that it can be a good minimally invasive option when surgeries are complex and can result in less blood loss, pain and a quicker return to normal life than traditional open surgery.
But it’s also more costly. The JAMA study of more than 260,000 hysterectomy patients found that the median hospital cost for robot-assisted surgery was $8,868, compared with $6,679 for a laparoscopic hysterectomy.
It also found that although patients who got robotic hysterectomy were less likely than laparoscopic patients to be hospitalized for more than two days, there was no significant difference between the two groups on other measures such as complications and blood transfusion rates.
When hospitals have a robot, use of the $1 million-plus metal assistant tends to rise rapidly. The JAMA study found that between 2007 and 2010 robotically assisted hysterectomy grew from 0.5 percent to 9.5 percent overall.
But the growth was even faster when looking at numbers from just those hospitals with the robots. The researchers said robotic surgeries accounted for 22.4 percent of all hysterectomies at those hospitals three years after the robot arrived.
“As a tool, robotic surgery helps surgeons overcome the limitations of traditional [minimally invasive surgical] techniques to provide patients with a less invasive option and prevent the downstream costs and complications of an open procedure,” says Angela Wonson, a spokeswoman for Intuitive Surgical, the manufacturer of the da Vinci system.
Women who have already had multiple abdominal procedures or those with larger uteruses, “anything that might make the surgery technically difficult,” may be good candidates for robotic hysterectomies, says Jason Wright, an assistant professor of women’s health at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and the lead author of the study.
Wright uses a robot to perform some gynecologic procedures.
But the choice isn’t always obvious. “One of the things we struggle most with is to figure out which patient will benefit most with robotic surgery,” he says.