research

Arcalasers On The Way?

“Bendy laser beams fired through the air”: https://www.nature.com/news/2009/090409/full/news.2009.360.html

Yet another example of technology in one highly specific area progressing FAR faster than I had anticipated. We're barely starting to get laser weapons, and already we're bending them!

Though 'arcalaser' is a much cooler name than 'Airy beam,' IMHO....

Granted, the article closes with the following: "Bendy laser beams that can pass through obstacles might, at first sight, also seem ideal for military applications, but that's unlikely, says Kasparian. That's because only beams with small diameters — carrying relatively little energy — can be manipulated to curve significantly. "You are not going to be able to shoot people behind walls with this," says Kasparian."

Well, not YET.😎

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Originally posted on Facebook.

The Path to a Warp Drive

A thoughtful and surprisingly optimistic - and not overly technical - overview of the possibility of one day creating an Alcubierre drive (sLume, anyone?).

"The only foreseeable way to do this is through further advances in quantum physics, quantum mechanics and metamaterials, says Agnew. As for the technical side of things, further progress will need to be made in the creation of superconductors, interferometers, and magnetic generators." - Okay, let's do that!

https://www.universetoday.com/143422/just-how-feasible-is-a-warp-drive/

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Originally posted on Facebook.

The Most Habitable (But Probably Not) Exoplanet Yet

Two teams of astronomers independently reported water vapor around K2-18b, an exoplanet 100 light years away. It's the first time water vapor has been detected in the atmosphere of an exoplanet that is not a gas giant: https://www.wired.com/story/scientists-find-water-vapor-on-the-most-habitable-exoplanet-yet/

“The planet, known by the catchy name K2-18b, is 110 light years away and orbits a red dwarf star about half the size of the sun. The planet is twice the size of Earth, eight times as massive, and orbits its host star once every 33 days.

“This is the only planet outside the solar system that has the correct temperature to support water and has an atmosphere that has water in it, making this planet the best candidate for habitability that we know right now,” says Angelos Tsiaras, an astronomer at University College London and the lead author of the study published today in Nature Astronomy.”

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Originally posted on Twitter.

Parker Skims the Sun

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is currently making its third of 24 dives through the sun’s corona this week: https://www.space.com/parker-solar-probe-third-sun-flyby.html. Every loop sends the spacecraft deeper into the corona, increasing the risk to the craft but also the reward in the form of bucketloads of scientific data.

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Originally posted on Twitter.

Building a Wormhole

Half tongue-in-cheek and heavy on the "theoretical," this is nonetheless an entertaining, accessible and tantalizing piece on how we maybe-just-maybe-might-one-day be able to create a traversable wormhole.

Of course, I'm still holding out for negative mass being a real thing, and definitely white holes as well. But cosmic strings would be good, too.

https://www.space.com/building-a-wormhole-with-cosmic-strings.html

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Originally posted on Facebook.

On 'Impossible' White Dwarfs

"Astronomers Have Spotted An 'Impossible' White Dwarf": https://www.iflscience.com/space/astronomers-have-spotted-an-impossible-white-dwarf/

Of course it isn't impossible - either our scientific understanding or our scientific measurement tools, or both, aren't yet sophisticated enough to understand the object. But it's extremely cool that I included an oddity almost exactly like this in Starshine 😎:

"The Siyane hovered 1.5 megameters above the white dwarf. Deep red in color (despite the name), it pulsed at a leisurely period of thirty-six seconds. Seven different ways of measurement told her it radiated a temperature of 910 K.
“That’s not possible.”
“And that’s the fourth time you’ve said so.”
She shot him a glare. “It’s the fourth time it’s been true. The coolest white dwarf ever measured is 2440 K, and it is a helluva lot closer to the center of the damn universe than this is. A temperature so low means it’s almost as old as the Big Bang—and that is impossible.”
“Excellent.” He shrugged. “So…we go back home and win the Nobel Prize in Astrophysics?”"

Thanks to Mark Buxton for pointing me to the story!

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Originally posted on Facebook.

Cosmic Flow of the Universe

Master “plan” of the universe revealed in new galaxy maps. In the renderings, our Milky Way galaxy is a tiny speck in the midst of other galaxies and colossal voids.

It’s a compelling reminder - however big I go in my books, the scope is still just a tiny speck of dust compared to the entire universe.

https://www.nbcnews.com/mach/science/master-plan-universe-revealed-new-galaxy-maps-ncna1040936

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Originally posted on Twitter and Facebook.

Newsflash: The Milky Way Is Not Flat

"The galaxy is not flat, researchers show in new 3D model of the Milky Way": https://techcrunch.com/2019/08/01/the-galaxy-is-not-flat-researchers-show-in-new-3d-model-of-the-milky-way/

Yay for sensationalistic headlines. 😏 No, no one was asserting the Milky Way is "flat" flat; there's no "Flat Galaxy Society" out there posting YouTube videos where they make their case (at least, I don't THINK there is).

The question, rather, was whether the Milky Way was essentially a pancake. Unfortunately, we can't "see" the Milky Way the way we can other galaxies, because we're IN it, and it's going to be a little while before wen can send a probe out at superluminal speeds to snap a pic from beyond the galaxy's edge.

So scientists used Cepheid variable stars to map out a fairly direct series of measurements of the shape of the galaxy. And it turns out, it's shaped like a sombrero that got warped. Possibly because someone sat on it, or stuffed it in the overhead bin of a plane, or left it out in the blazing summer heat for several days.

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Originally posted on Facebook. (The comments to this post have been fantastic.)

LightSale 2 Unfurls

LightSail 2 Unfurls, Takes Next Step Toward Space Travel by Solar Sail: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/23/science/lightsail-solar-sail.html. The Planetary Society crowd-funded and deployed LightSail 2 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, aiming to further demonstrate the potential of the technology for space propulsion.

“The ability to sail across the cosmos, powered by the energy of the sun, is finally becoming a reality.

Engineers in California pressed a button on Tuesday that unfurled the sails on a satellite that can be steered around Earth, advancing long held hopes for an inexhaustible form of spaceflight and expanding the possibilities for navigating the voids between worlds.”

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Originally posted on Twitter.

Big Bucks For the Promise of AGI

Microsoft invests $1 billion in artificial intelligence project co-founded by Elon Musk: https://www.cnbc.com/2019/07/22/microsoft-invests-1-billion-in-elon-musks-openai.html. The project is OpenAI, and its goal is AGI - Artifical General Intelligence - what us old-school futurists consider “true” artificial intelligence (to be distinguished from both the chatbots marketers are calling AI and the narrow, specialized AIs that are beating humans at all those games).

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Originally posted on Twitter.

Neuralink - Or, the 1,000 Steps to eVis

Most great technological advances are actually the culmination of 1,000 baby steps, each one pushing against the limits of our capabilities until those limits nudge a little further out and punctuated by breakthroughs that solve 50 or 100 of those steps in one fell swoop. My feeling is that we're about 1/3 of the way through the thousand steps required to get to eVis, and we're due for one of those breakthroughs to leap us closer (this isn't one, though the work these companies are doing will likely trigger one, hopefully soon).

"Elon Musk unveils Neuralink’s plans for brain-reading ‘threads’ and a robot to insert them": https://www.theverge.com/2019/7/16/20697123/elon-musk-neuralink-brain-reading-thread-robot

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Originally posted on Facebook.

The View From LightSail 2

Crowdfunded spacecraft LightSail 2 snaps amazing photos ahead of solar sail deployment: https://techcrunch.com/2019/07/17/crowdfunded-spacecraft-lightsail-2-snaps-amazing-photos-ahead-of-solar-sail-deployment/.

LightSail 2’s development was funded in part via a successful crowdfunding campaign run by the Bill Nye-led Planetary Society. Its goal is to test a spacecraft’s ability to fly powered only by the force of photons from the Sun striking a solar sail constructed of Mylar. This method of space-based transportation is extremely slow to get started, but thanks to the inertia-free medium of outer space, it could be an extremely energy-efficient way for research craft to travel long distances.

It launched on June 25 as part of the shared payload of SpaceX’s most recent Falcon Heavy launch.

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Originally posted on Twitter.

Map of 4,000+ Exoplanets

NASA has dropped an insane map of 4,000 planets outside our solar system: https://www.cnet.com/…/nasa-drops-insane-map-of-4000-plane…/

The video is absolutely worth watching: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=8&v=aiFD_LBx2nM. It's only a minute long and is a great visualization of how exoplanet discovery just exploded in the last decade (go Kepler!📡✨).

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Originally posted on Facebook and Twitter.

Hunting Mirror Universes

“Scientists Are Hunting For a Mirror Universe and Attempting to Open Portals Into it”: https://www.disclose.tv/scientists-are-hunting-for-a-mirror-universe-and-attempting-to-open-portals-into-it-370794

Just so long as MirrorMe doesn't have a goatee. Because that would be...bad.😟

...Obviously, the headline is a bit sensationalistic, as they so often are, and the experiment is being conducted on the tiniest scale. But the science is still cool and thought-provoking.👍

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Originally posted on Facebook.

Dragonfly is Headed to Titan

NASA has announced its next big "New Frontiers" mission: DRAGONFLY, a nuclear-powered drone/rotorcraft lander, will visit Titan, the only moon in the solar system with a dense atmosphere rich in nitrogen and carbon (and one of the coolest stellar bodies to boot), to search for the molecules of alien life.

Dragonfly will launch in 2026 and arrive at Titan in 2034.

Much more at: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/new-nasa-mission-will-fly-titans-frigid-skies-to-search-for-lifes-beginnings/

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Originally posted on Facebook and Twitter (additional tweets: here and here.