What to do with all the space junk now in orbit around Earth? Each year, that question grabs a headline or two before disappearing. But that doesn't mean the problem is getting any closer to resolution.
In fact, just the opposite: scientists warn that the risk of a collision between debris objects in low-Earth orbit and a space craft remains a real risk. In 2009, Hugh Lewis, a lecturer in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Southampton, predicted that the threat posed by space debris would climb by 50 percent in this decade. Perhaps the most high-profile incident occurred … Read more
U.S. Pacific Air Forces is sending an unmanned Global Hawk reconnaissance drone to Japan to help authorities understand the scope of damage from last week's massive earthquake and tsunami.
Kyodo News reported that a Japanese government source said the high-altitude drone may be deployed Thursday to take a closer look at the damaged reactors of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, where workers are trying to prevent a full-scale meltdown.
Images taken by the RQ-4 Global Hawk based at Andersen Air Force Base on Guam may provide a better picture of what's happening at the plant's reactors, … Read more
Researchers at Arizona State University and the Mayo Clinic are partnering up to develop a monitor that enables people to dab their tear ducts instead of prick their fingers--which could be a big deal for those who currently draw blood as many as a dozen times a day to monitor their blood glucose levels.
"The problem with current self-monitoring blood glucose technologies is not so much the sensor, it's the painful finger prick," Jeffrey LaBelle, a bioengineer and chief designer, said in a news release. "This new technology might encourage patients to check their blood sugars more often, which could lead to better control of their diabetes by a simple touch to the eye."
The team reported on the first stage of their research on the sensor in Diabetes Science and Technology in March 2010, and quickly sparked interest from Arizona-based nonprofit BioAccel, which works to speed up the process of bringing biomedical technologies to the marketplace.
Using funding from BioAccel, the team is now compiling data to apply for human clinical trials of the device, but major challenges remain, including accuracy, efficiency, speed of performing the test, reproducible results, and of course making sure the test sample does not evaporate before it can be read.… Read more
Honoring some of the nation's brightest high school seniors for achievements in math and science, Intel yesterday awarded the three highest prizes in its Science Talent Search for three very different types of projects.
The top prize of $100,000 went to Evan O'Dorney, 17, of Danville, Calif., for a project in which he compared two ways to estimate the square root of an integer, discovering which one was the quickest. Though that may sound abstract to non-math people, the results of O'Dorney's research allowed him to solve other equations that could be used to encrypt … Read more
While calling the event groundbreaking might qualify as crass, researchers showcased some truly innovative ideas in the world of cybernics, an emerging field that Japan's University of Tsukuba Cybernics department describes as the "fusion of human, machine and information systems." The word itself is a fusion of cybernetics, mechatronics, and informatics.
One of those ideas, the HAL-5 exoskeleton robotics suit by Tokyo-based company Cyberdyne, is a wearable device that helps ordinary people accomplish extraordinary feats, such as lifting objects they otherwise couldn't. (We covered an earlier iteration of this in 2009.) Think of the improvements possible for caregivers, people with missing or paralyzed limbs, the elderly who want to continue living independently, factory workers, etc.… Read more
The supply chain for thin-film transistor LCDs made in Japan hasn't been majorly affected by last week's earthquake and tsunami, according to recent inventory checks by the research firm DisplaySearch.
DisplaySearch said today that the biggest impact it sees from the earthquake on TFT liquid crystal displays--which are used in a wide range of devices, including televisions, monitors, and smartphones--is the possibility of the disaster to "undermine consumer and business confidence."
That psychological impact is already being witnessed in other markets. According to IHS iSuppli, fear of undersupply in the industry following the earthquake has pushed … Read more
The intensifying nuclear crisis in Japan is raising anxieties on both sides of the Pacific over the potential impacts of radiation exposure, and a relative dearth of official information on radiation levels is leading some to turn to crowdsourced options.
Richard Gross of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory projected the change based on calculations of how the distribution of Earth's mass changed. Moving mass toward the north or south poles, and thus closer to Earth's axis of rotation, can make the planet spin faster in much the same way an ice skater can spin faster by bringing arms and legs closer toward the body.
Rescue robots are making their way to parts of Japan affected by the massive earthquake and tsunamis that devastated coastal areas Friday and in the days following, leaving nearly 6,000 people dead or missing.
A team from Tohoku University led by Satoshi Tadokoro is apparently en route to Sendai with a snakelike robot that can wriggle into debris to hunt for people.
The Active Scope Camera, seen in the 2008 vid below, is a 26-foot long fiberscope covered with a special servomotor system. It has hair-like structures that vibrate to move it forward at a top speed of 2.7 inches per second.
The Scope was used in the collapse of the Berkman Plaza parking garage in Jacksonville, Florida in 2007, penetrating 23 feet into the rubble and relaying images to rescuers.
Tadokoro and Japanese colleagues were apparently in Texas for a workshop when the quake struck Japan, but immediately returned to their country on hearing the news.
Fellow researcher Eiji Koyanagi of the Chiba Institute of Technology's Future Robotics Technology Center, meanwhile, is gearing up to deploy a robot called Quince that can probe hazardous sites after a disaster.
Quince rolls on treads and can sense chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear dangers in areas that firefighters can't reach. It has an onboard camera and can move about 5.2 feet per second. … Read more
The fuel used in the Japanese nuclear reactor where an explosion occurred today is more volatile and toxic than the fuel used in the other reactors there, a Japanese nuclear expert warned.
At a press conference in Tokyo, Masashi Goto, who worked for Toshiba as a reactor researcher and designer, said the mixed oxide (MOX) fuel used in unit 3 of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant contains plutonium, which is much more toxic than the fuel used in the other reactors.
MOX fuel is a mixture of uranium and plutonium reprocessed from spent uranium, and is sometimes involved in the … Read more