For aviation buffs and aerospace junkies, those were the signature events of the year. In the case of the shuttle, there were actually three such moments, and each time we got more verklempt: Discovery, Endeavour, and Atlantis all flew their final missions. But as the door closes on that 30-year piece in history, a window is opening to private space ventures like SpaceX and the newly unveiled Stratolaunch effort from Paul Allen and Burt Rutan.
China's main Space Post Office is actually on the ground in Beijing, but they're happy to route letters through the galaxy's only true "satellite" branch in orbit so you can bag a one-of-a-kind postmark.
Yes, thanks to cuts to NASA's funding, it seems the Chinese have now rocketed ahead of us in the postal space gimmick department. The idea is for space nuts to send e-mails to a computer aboard the Chinese spacecraft Tiangong-1, currently in orbit, which routes the message back to the main Space Post Office to be printed out, stuffed into a commemorative envelope with a special postmark, and sent on to its addressee.
The orbital philatelic experiment is meant to boost business for China's postal service, which has been suffering as people move online. Makes you wonder why the U.S. Postal Service didn't set up shop at Cape Canaveral years ago.… Read more
Engineers at Japan's Advanced Institute of Industrial Technology have developed a system that can recognize individuals by measuring how they apply pressure on a seat when sitting down.
Nikkei reports that a team led by professor Shigeomi Koshimizu is working to commercialize the system as a "highly reliable" anti-theft system. The timeline? Two to three years, if an automaker signs on.
It's the car seat of the future. Or perhaps the airplane seat of the future--no need to show your ticket or appeal to a flight attendant to boot someone out of your coveted window seat. … Read more
To get the benefits of fuel cells in portable electronics, Apple engineers think they need to work well with batteries.
In newly published patent applications today, Apple describes a way for fuel cell power sources to be designed into electronics, such as a laptop, and controlled to optimize their performance without adding a lot of extra weight.
In one patent application titled simply a Fuel Cell System to Power a Portable Computing Device, Apple says there is "increasing awareness and desire" among consumers to use renewable-energy sources. Fuel cells are compelling technically because of their energy density, or … Read more
Jacob Goldman, a physicist who started Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center, died on Tuesday in Westport, Conn., at the age of 90.
Goldman was lauded in a New York Times obituary as a "dynamic leader and ardent supporter of innovative technologies."
Launched in 1970, Xerox PARC is known in computer history as the hub that developed many of the technologies we take for granted today. Its scientists and researchers teamed up to design the Alto, the first modern personal computer; laser printing; the graphical user interface; the first WYSIWYG (… Read more
Speedy lithium ion batteries, the power source for consumer electronics and electric vehicles, are making inroads into the renewable energy business.
A123 Systems today announced that a Hawaiian wind project developer will use its batteries to firm up power delivery into the grid. The Auwahi Wind project, which has a generating capacity of 21 megawatts, will be buttressed by a giant battery bank able to deliver 11 megawatts of power.
It's the second time this year that A123 Systems' storage systems, built around shipping container-size battery banks, were chosen to be co-located with a wind farm. The Laurel Mountain … Read more
I get quite a lot of e-mails from 7-year-olds. At least the content suggests they're 7-year-olds.
So I would like to dedicate the film I have embedded to them. For it reveals, once and for all--with a definitiveness that offers vast relief--what technology Santa Claus uses in order to bring the gift of, well, tons of gifts to the world's young and restless.
Larry Silverberg, associate head of North Carolina State University's Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department, has clearly spent much of his life attempting to solve the Santa problem.
The Geek Squad might not like this development, but we're excited about it. Engineers at the University of Illinois have developed a self-healing system for electronics that they say can restore conductivity to failed circuitry in "mere microseconds."
Today's ever-denser chips face more reliability problems due to the increasingly sophisticated demands on electronic devices. When one circuit within an integrated chip fails, the whole chip, and even the whole device (and your pressing deadline, of course) can go down with it.
"In a multilayer integrated circuit, there's no opening it up," Nancy Sottos, a professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said in a statement. "Normally you just replace the whole chip. It's true for a battery too. You can't pull a battery apart and try to find the source of the failure."
To get around the need for external intervention and diagnostics (which may not be readily available for spacecraft or defense-based aircraft, for example), the researchers adapted a previous technique they'd developed for self-healing polymer materials.
They placed tiny microcapsules (as small as 10 microns in diameter) filled with liquid metal on top of a gold line functioning as a circuit. When the circuit cracks, the microcapsules break open, releasing the liquid gallium-indium alloy into the gap and restoring electrical flow--up to 99 percent in most cases. The liquid does its bidding in less time than it takes to blink. … Read more
As anyone who has ever pulled a white rabbit out of a black hat will tell you, the art of fooling people depends on doing things right in front of their eyes.
What, then, might one think of the explanations being offered to the poor, frightened people of Cowley County in Kansas? For just a few hours ago, they witnessed what some of them suspected was an extra-terrestrial craft being wheeled through their streets.
It was only last Monday afternoon when a vast shrink-wrapped, saucer-shaped thing was seen being towed down Cowley County's Highway 77.
"The ability to pattern functional blood vessels at this scale in living tissue has not been demonstrated before," co-principal investigator and electrical and computing engineering professor Rashid Bashir says in a school news release.