KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla.--The shuttle Discovery's external tank was loaded with more than a half million gallons of supercold liquid oxygen and hydrogen rocket fuel today in a critical test to learn more about what caused cracks in structural ribs, or stringers, that were discovered after a November 5 launch attempt.
The cracks were repaired, but engineers want to pin down the root cause to make sure the huge tank is structurally sound and able to withstand the rigors of another launch attempt.
The fueling test began at 7 a.m. EST and ended at 2:25 p.… Read more
When Jeff Sparkman draws his comic book-style superheroes with colored pencils he often has to ask other people to tell him what color his masked men turned out to be because he's color-blind.
Now, a new smartphone app can help him figure out what colors he's using and how the picture looks to most everyone else.
The DanKam app, available for iPhone and Android for $2.99, is an augmented reality application that turns the vague hues that 1 percent of the population with color-blindness sees into the "true" colors as everyone else sees them.
The word "spiderman" appeared in books in the 1920s, long before the famed Marvel superhero debuted in the early '60s. And the term "smartphone" was in use during the first decade of the 20th century, a century before anyone picked up their first iPhone.
How do I know all this? By using a new tool from Google called the Ngram Viewer. Launched by the search giant yesterday, this tool lets you trace the usage of a word or phrase during the past five centuries--five centuries!--by seeing how often it's appeared in books over that … Read more
In the biggest development to rock the popular-science world since Pluto got demoted, 10 elements will see their atomic weights changed on the periodic table.
With the news, oversize posters and textbook inserts around the world (not to mention the tiny periodic table I've been carrying around in my wallet since the ninth grade) are about to become outdated.
The reason for the change is that atomic weights are not always as concrete as most general-chemistry students are taught, according to the University of Calgary, which made the announcement, and the snappily named International Union of Pure and Applied … Read more
A Russian Soyuz rocket carrying three crew members bound for the International Space Station blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan today, kicking off a two-day flight to catch up and dock with the orbital lab complex.
With Russian commander Dmitry "Dima" Kondratyev at the controls, the booster's first-stage engines roared to life on time and the rocket lifted off at 2:09:25 p.m. EST (1:09 a.m. Thursday local time), quickly climbing away from the same pad used by Yuri Gagarin at the dawn of the space age 50 years ago next April.
Live television shots from inside the cabin showed Kondratyev in the capsule's center seat, flanked by Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli on his left and NASA astronaut Catherine "Cady" Coleman on his right. All three appeared relaxed and in good spirits as the rocket streaked toward space.
Nine-and-a-half minutes later, the Soyuz TMA-20 capsule separated from the rocket's third stage and slipped into its planned preliminary orbit. Solar arrays and antennas deployed a few moments later and Russian flight controllers said the spacecraft was healthy and on course for a docking with the International Space Station around 3:12 p.m. Friday.
"Everything's good on our side. Congratulations on the successful orbital insertion," chief flight director Vladimir Solovyov radioed after engineers assessed telemetry. "Everything looks good, everything pressurized as it was supposed to, and the telemetry is nominal."… Read more
China will soon overtake Japan as the world's second heaviest spender on research and development, according to a report from the Battelle Memorial Institute.
A nonprofit group that conducts scientific research, Battelle published its findings today as part of an article in its R&D Magazine. The article and its full supplementary report (PDF) looked at global R&D spending in general and across six specific segments--Information Technology, Electronics, Life Sciences, Aerospace/Defense/Security, Energy, and Advanced Materials.
Next year, China is expected to spend $153.7 billion on R&D, a big jump from $141.… Read more
We've seen running bipedal robots before, but they tend to move like, well, robots. Ryuma Niiyama of MIT's Robot Locomotion Group wants to build a bot that runs as much like a human as possible, right down to the black nylon running shorts.
The robot, aptly named Athlete, sports an artificial musculoskeletal system that mirrors human muscles in the leg, hip, lower abdomen, and booty and has a springy elastic blade foot like those seen on prosthetic running legs. Niiyama's goal is a flexible, agile robot with less of a mechanical gait and more of a Usain Bolt-type stride.
Athlete has seven sets of actuator-driven artificial muscles in each leg, plus touch sensors on each foot and an inertial measurement unit on the torso for detecting the body's orientation. It does not, as far as we know, take steroids.
But the champion sprinters of the world shouldn't worry just yet. With the aid of a harness hung from the ceiling, Athlete can currently take up to five steps at about 3.9 feet per second, but then it falls down. Hey, robots get muscle cramps too. … Read more
The Phantom Ray UAV got some air time today, with a little help from a jumbo jet.
Boeing's futuristic unmanned aerial vehicle took a 50-minute flight today riding piggyback on a NASA Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, a modified 747 designed to ferry space shuttles from one terrestrial site to another. The aerospace giant had said earlier in the year that the Phantom Ray was on track to make its first flight, but this may not be exactly what it had in mind.
The first flight of the Phantom Ray, which is designed to fly autonomously, is now scheduled for "… Read more
commentary It's been eight years in the making so far, and has gone through any number of delays and problems, but Boeing's 787 Dreamliner is still one of the most-anticipated commercial airplanes in history. And with the plane's testing program under way for almost exactly a year, it is edging closer and closer to carrying its first passengers.
Now, fans of the innovative plane--it is made from 50 percent composite material and is expected to offer carriers up to 20 percent savings on fuel--can get a fix unlike any offered before. With Edgar Turner's new book, &… Read more
Australian researchers are getting ready to conduct human trials next year of a smart chip, which, when implanted in the spinal cord, can measure and stop pain signals from traveling to the brain.
The technology, targeting chronic pain, was developed in Sydney by National ICT Australia (NICTA) over the last two years by experts in biomedical, electrical, and mechanical engineering, as well as textile technology and software applications.
The smart chip is put into a biocompatible device, which is a little smaller than the head of a match. A couple of the devices are sewn into a 1.22mm-wide micro-lead … Read more