SpaceX Gets A $1 Billion Investment From Google And Fidelity

crs5_dragon_orbit13And just like that, SpaceX is closer to reaching its current endeavors: a commercial space flight business and internet satellites — in space of course. Designed to plentiful enough (about 700), these low-cost, fiber-optic speed satellites would have a range down to Earth and even Mars. Google and Fidelity pitched in the $1 billion investment, which represents close to 10% ownership of SpaceX.

Here’s to the future. Via: SpaceX

Mars Rover Curiosity Comes Across Methane, But No Distinct Proof Of Life

14-330a_0Methane. A chemical that results from decay of organice matter, was read by the Mars Curiosity Rover. Measured in the atmosphere around the rover, along with organic molecules in a rock-powder sample via drill, has been the best evidence for life on Mars. Back in 2013, the methane recorded in the atmosphere were was too low to support living microbes — 1.3 parts per billion. However, recording over 20 months show that the amount varies, and that on average, 7 parts per billion of methane exists on the red planet.

Sushil Atreya of the University of Michigan and a member of the Curiosity rover science team, has this to say about the new results, “This temporary increase in methane — sharply up and then back down — tells us there must be some relatively localized source,” and that, “There are many possible sources, biological or non-biological, such as interaction of water and rock.”

Furthermore, Curiosity found organic materials in the rock-powder sample, however skepticism remains, as the organic material could have been delivered by metoreitites.

Time (and science) will tell. Via: NASA

Researchers In Italy Illustrate The Most Detailed Nerve Endings

1412_snaptag_1By applying a decade-old technique known as SNAP-tagging, the lab at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Italy developed a new technique to illustrate nerves, touch receptors, and hair follicles — all seen as vibrant fluorescent colors, looking more like n art piece than cutting-edge microscopy.

Scientist Paul Heppenstall is marveled at the detail accomplished by the new technology, speaking of the lead image above, which is of nerve endings below the skin: “It’s shocking the first time you see it,” he says. “Normally you’d just see the big fat one without any idea that all these other fibres are there. That was a stunning example.”


Short Film ‘Wanderers’ Imagines The Day We Conquer The Solar System

zlsjgp4fodtalxwrvowgComplete with layered narration by the late Carl Sagan. In less than four minutes, ‘Wanderers’ captivates and demonstrates how the human race might conquer the solar system, with beautiful imagery and motions, some of them not entirely artisitc; in fact many of the shots that were edited for the purpose of the film originated from actual phtoography and information provided by NASA.

It’s excellent, and is best heard with headphones in a dark room. Do it after the line break; you will understand why.

Via: Wanderers, Giz

Nobel Peace Prize In Chemistry Awards Scientists Who Saw Beyond Microscopes

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 7.05.47 AMDrs. Eric Betzig, Stefan Hell, and William Moerner have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Chemistry, after developing breakthroughs in nanoscopy and transcending the limits of traditional, optical microscopes. The three scientists will share the reward of 8 million Swedish kronor ($1.1 million USD); Betzig and Moerner are US citizens, whilst Dr. Hell is a German citizen.

Here’s the rundown on why they received the Nobel: for years, scientists believed that the resolution of optical microscopy was limited to half a wavelength of light, or 0.2 micrometers — however, Dr. Hell passed that limit in 2000, when he developed stimulated emission depletion (STED) microscopy. STED takes two lasers to return images of higher resolution than the limit.

Meanwhile, Betzig and Moerner developed a second method, called single-molecule microscopy, which incorporates a fluorescence of individual molecules and superimposing images to yield a “dense super-image” at the nano level, first demonstrated in  2006.

So, what does nanoscopy do for us today? Well, it’s responsible for breakthroughs in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s diseases, as well as tracking individual molecules inside cells, as well as studying synapses in the brain and to track proteins in fertilized eggs.

Congratulations, doctors.

Via: Nobel Prize

Self-Guided Bullets Are Real, Thanks To DARPA

exacto projectile_fullYes, you read that right (never mind the short hiatus on posts here). DARPA has been funding a project called the Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance, or EXACTO, which in short, is a .50 cal bullet that can adjust its path according to numerous parameters, including its target. Embedded after the break is a video demonstrating its first test — in which it is fully working — but also comes to show us just how real our fantasty and video games are approaching the real-world.

Oh, and of course, DARPA is being rather vague about how this all works:

The system combines a maneuverable bullet and a real-time guidance system to track and deliver the projectile to the target, allowing the bullet to change path during flight to compensate for any unexpected factors that may drive it off course. Technology development in Phase II included the design, integration and demonstration of aero-actuation controls, power sources, optical guidance systems, and sensors.

With compensation for wind and dust, it just occurred to me that there’s almost no evading this bullet. Good game, buddy.


The US Military Wants A Defensive Wall That Comes Out Of A Can

cod-aw-wallCurrently, DARPA is soliciting proposals for BlockADE (Block Access to Deny Entry), a system that would automatically form a barrier from material stuffed into a canister 1ft by 6.5ft or smaller. Instead of using sandbags or barbed wire, an area or entry to a building can be blocked off with this “tactical can”, as it were. Sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it?

What DARPA wants BlockADE to do is slow down intruders with axes or saws, but extra bells and whistles, such as”ballistic resistance” are welcomed, meaning that soldiers could take cover behind their “instant wall”.

Of course, prototypes aren’t even in existence, and there is no confirmation that the idea will ever get off the ground, but knowing the works of science fiction, video games, and of course, the human spirit to engineer, it could very well be a possibility.

NASA Is Giving Code Away To The Public For Over 1,000 Programs

nasalogoIn the spirit of openness and more so, allowing for creativity on a new scale, NASA will be releasing code for over 1,000 programs that the agency has used for years, starting April 10th.

An example of the applications available include life support systems, aeronautics and, as Wired found out, even cryogenics, all available online for your lengthy examination and experimentation. The age of the code: 40-years-old, running till the present, including the code for rockets on the Apollo 11 mission.

The information will be distributed to SourceForge, GitHub and NASA’s website, but next year will be consolidated in one database, for ease of access.

Via: NASA, Wired