Archive for March, 2018

Mining Asteroids: Now More Than Science Fiction

In most science fiction stories, there is always a distant planet or asteroid which is rich with resources that are being mined by humans or other advanced alien races. These resources are well defended and controlling them could be the issue of starting a galactic war. Guess what? Mining an asteroid my not remain science fiction for too long.

So far the technology has been missing to perform the deed, however with the rapid advancements made in the last couple of decades, humans now have the ability to mine an asteroid and return home with the booty. The only thing stopping them currently, is the prohibitive costs such an operation would currently entail.

Many industrialist are not stopping this fact from allowing them to study and hunt for potentially rich asteroids in the solar system. The composition of different asteroids in the belt between Mars and Jupiter are being studied carefully as they are the most likely canditates for a future science project involving mining.

A company called Planetary Resources is already hoping to mine these asteroids which have a promising wealth of minerals to offer the enterprising pioneer. Maybe in the not so distant future it will be possible for miners to get a Fly-In, Fly-Out mining job on a space station based on a asteroid.

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Smart Glasses for Smarter Cops in China

The police in Beijing have a new advantage, aka smart glasses. The cops are using these smart glasses that can identify car numbers and run facial recognition on the passengers in real time. If the technology finds either in a black list, the smart glasses display a warning including a red box and sign. The entire process takes just a few milliseconds and gives the police a huge advantage against criminals and known offenders.

China is dealing with it’s own set of rising crime and using technology to deal with the issue is not a new idea. What is new is the implementation of smart glasses to use that technology. Surveillance and facial recognition make it much easier for the Chinese cops to do their work. Helping keep the streets of Beijing safe from the criminal elements that would otherwise cause them harm.

If the idea works well enough, China may be implementing the smart glasses in other large cities. It is already something that police in other countries have been thinking about implementing. Soon there will not be any where left for known offenders, however the system does have a few weaknesses. These issues in the science experiment need to be sorted out before the system is copied the world over.

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World’s First Flying Taxis in New Zealand?

After setting up self driven cars, Google founder Larry Page is now looking at self piloting vehicles. Since October 2017 the company called Kitty Hawk has been doing stealth test flights of a vehicle that looks like a cross between a small plane and a drone. The company is run by Sebastian Thrun, the guy who set up Google’s autonomous car unit and is the director of Google X.

So what’s the big deal about this flying vehicle that takes off like a helicopter but flies like a plane? Apparently the pilot-less vehicles are going to be the first commercial air taxis in the world. They will soon be joining an official certification process unheralded by Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand.

The aircraft is called Cora. It has a wing span of 36 feet. It uses 12 rotors powered by batteries to fly. It’s endurance is a range of 99 km. It can easily carry two passengers. The company called Zephyr Airworks ran the vehicles in the covert testing mode. Now things are about to become a lot more public for what may end up being the world’s first commercial, flying taxi, service. Now that’s a science project coming to a truly fruitful conclusion.

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Solar Storms Effects

A Solar Storm causes a temporary disturbance in the magnetosphere around the Earth. It is triggered by a Solar Flare. This is when a massive explosion in the Sun’s atmosphere causes higher than normal levels of radiation to come towards the Earth. When this radiation comes in contact with the magnetic field surrounding the Earth, the flares cause a geomagnetic storm.

What usually happens when a Solar Storm occurs will depend on the severity of the radiation that came in from the Solar Flare. Usually the satellites in the vicinity tend to get knocked out for a while. This means anything from mobile communication to commercial flight GPS systems may get affected. Power outages may also occur in some areas.

A beautiful effect of the Solar Flares is the stunning view that the Northern Lights offer as they process the radiation visibly through the Earth’s atmosphere. The auroras formed during such flare ups of extra radiation, have distinctly different designs. Not all effects of a Solar Storm are destructive. Either way, a scientific study of the effects of a recent solar storm may make for an interesting science project. Data can be obtained from various agencies studying the phenomenon around the world.


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Being a ‘Bird Brain’ May Not Be An Insult

Our feathered friends were always judged by the size of their brains. The mammal way is simple, the larger the brain, the smarter the animal. However with the aviary research over the years, it’s possible to say that the same is not true for birds. Even with their small sized brains, the researchers have been able to come up with a number of instances, where the intelligence shines through.

For instance a Goffin’s Cockatoo taught himself how to cut a piece of cardboard and make it into a tool. A northern Goshawk can assess the density of the trees and intuit how fast they can fly ensuring that they don’t crash into anything in the forest but clear all the openings. Black crows actually know how to wait for the traffic light to turn red before they scoop down on the food that may have fallen onto the road from passing vehicles.

In an experiment conducted in New Zealand, Keas Alpine Parrots figured out that they needed to work together to get the treats inside a wooden tower. The mechanism required two chains on opposite sides of the tower to be pulled simultaneously. A fact that was once demonstrated by the human handler and eventually the parrots in the science project managed to learn how to do the deed as a team.

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Would You Live in the World’s Coldest City?

The Earth has a great number of extremes when it comes to landscape and topography. A fact that Geneva based photographer Steeve Iuncker decided to document in his project called Extreme Cities. He’s been around the globe to the highest city, most crowded one, and even the most polluted one. However the one that really left him in shivers is the world’s coldest city, Yakutsk, Russia.

This is the capital city of the Siberian region known as the Sakha Republic. In the summers the temperature rises to 85 degrees Fahrenheit, but the winters can chill at a regular of – 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The coldest temperature ever recorded at the city center was a mind numbing – 83 degrees Fahrenheit.

As Iuncker remarked, everything is ice, fog and shadows in the city. It was a challenge for him to photograph outside because when he braved the cold and went out frost coated his camera. He cleaned out the frost only to realize that it’s internal mechanisms had literally frozen to a halt. It’s not a place for anyone with a delicate disposition.

The ground is so cold that it can’t be broken, neither for construction purposes nor for graves. The air is literally too cold to fly aircrafts and there is absolutely no way any crops will grow in the region. Markets don’t sell vegetables. Just cold, frozen fish. It would be interesting to conduct a science project listing how one could survive in these conditions.


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