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Vulture 2 spaceplane autopilot brain surgery a total success

We're pleased to report that following four days of intense graft, including some hair-pulling over our Vulture 2 spaceplane's cantankerous Raspberry Pi rig, we've finally got some custom Low Orbit Helium Assisted Navigator (LOHAN) mission parameters loaded into our rocket ship's Pixhawk autopilot. Linus Penzlien flew into Spain …
Lester Haines, 15 Aug 2014

Why your mum was WRONG about whiffy tattooed people

Boffins have overturned the wisdom of parents everywhere by proving that stinky people with tattoos can play a vital role in society: by charging up mobile phones. Dr Joseph Wang and a team at UC San Diego have designed a temporary tattoo which acts as a sensor which contains an enzyme that strips electrons from lactate, …
Jasper Hamill, 15 Aug 2014
Photo by Michael Conen

NASA's rock'n'roll shock: ROLLING STONE FOUND ON MARS

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter probe has spotted a rolling stone on Mars. On 3 July, the craft captured the image below, which NASA published this week and says depicts “a path resembling a dotted line from the upper left to middle right of this image is the track left by an irregularly shaped, oblong boulder as it tumbled …
Simon Sharwood, 15 Aug 2014
kilobot

What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this

Vid Harvard University computer scientists have built a 1,000-strong robot army that can form itself into shapes with little human input. KIlobots And I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords (click to enlarge) The machines, dubbed kilobots because there are 1,024 of them, each contain an Atmel micrcontroller, two …
Iain Thomson, 14 Aug 2014
Basis health-tracking wearable

Intel launches Internet of Stuff Parkinson's research project

Intel has teamed up with the Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research to test a way to use the Internet of Stuff for a useful end – to help find a cure for the second most prevalent neurodegenerative disease in the world. Youtube Video So far, wearable tech and the much-vaunted "Internet of Things" label (IoT) – or as …
Rosetta

Rosetta's comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is one FUGLY space rock

The European Space Agency's (ESA's) Rosetta probe reached its intended orbit around comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko last week. Since then we've heard … well more or less nothing, actually. The ESA has said very little about what Rosetta is doing, or learning, way out there in the unfashionable parts of the solar system. But …
Simon Sharwood, 14 Aug 2014
Asteroid DA 1950

Spin doctors crack 'impossible' asteroid hurtling towards Earth

Pic Scientists studying a mysterious asteroid that could hit Earth in the 29th century think they've found the reason why the fast-spinning object hasn't blown itself apart. The asteroid, 1950 DA, is over a kilometer (0.62 miles) across and rotates completely every 2.1 hours, a speed once thought impossible since the forces involved …
Iain Thomson, 14 Aug 2014
Fields Medal winner Maryam Mirzakhani

Stanford boffin is first woman to bag 'math Nobel Prize'

Iranian academic Maryam Mirzakhani is today the first woman to be awarded the prestigious Fields Medal, known as the “Nobel Prize of mathematics”. Mirzakhani, a professor of maths at Stanford University, landed the top gong for her work on the symmetry of curved surfaces. You can all about her research, right here [PDF]. "This …

Vulture 2 spaceplane brain surgery begins with remote incision

The programming of our Vulture 2 spaceplane's autopilot was going pedal to the metal yesterday as we finally resolved a cantankerous Raspberry Pi issue and got down to some proper Pixhawk wrangling. Linus Penzlien is in Spain to work with APM:Plane lead developer Andrew "Tridge" Tridgell on implementing some custom Low Orbit …
Lester Haines, 13 Aug 2014
CSIRO Parkes radio telescope

CSIRO spells out cash-strapped astronomy future

Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has explained how it plans to trim its astronomy work, after more than AUD$100 million was cut from its budget. With around 17 per cent, or AUD$3.5 million, sliced from its already-slender astronomy budget, the agency has just $AUD17 million to work …
TechDemoSat-1 shot of planet Earth

Blighty in SPAAAACE: Brit-built satellite films the Earth

Video Youtube Video of the satellite footage of the planet Earth. An experiment-filled Brit satellite has released a minute-long video of planet Earth – the first images of our home world captured by an entirely UK-built spacecraft. The TechDemoSat-1, made by Surrey Satellite Technology (SSTL), filmed the short sequence moments after …
The Pi in the Sky board mounted atop the Pi in the Vulture 2

Pi palaver perplexes LOHAN Pixhawk pair

The planned brain surgery on our Vulture 2 spaceplane's Pixhawk autopilot got off to a shaky start yesterday as the aircraft's onboard Raspberry Pi decided it didn't much fancy booting up. Autopilot wrangler Linus Penzlien touched down in Spain on Sunday ahead of an intensive week of graft during which he'll be working with APM: …
Lester Haines, 12 Aug 2014
Pentax Q interchangeable-lens compact system camera

Japanese boffins invent 4.4 TREEELLION frames per second camera

Japanese boffins have invented a way to shoot video at 4.4 trillion frames per second. You read that right. 4.4 trillion. As in a million times a million, or 1012. The camera uses a technique called “Sequentially Timed All-optical Mapping Photography” that, as explained in Nature Photonics, uses “all-optical mapping of the …
Simon Sharwood, 12 Aug 2014

LOHAN acquires aircraft arboreal avoidance algorithm acronyms

We invite readers to raise a glass or two today to autopilot wrangler Linus Penzlien, who touched down in Spain yesterday afternoon ahead of an intensive week of Vulture 2 spaceplane Pixhawk custom parameter programming and testing. And here is the man himself meeting local lass Ruperta this morning ahead of an intensive …
Lester Haines, 11 Aug 2014
A quantum-diamond experimental chip at TU Vienna

Another step forward for diamond-based quantum computers

Building simple quantum gates is common, but creating something that could be built on transistor-like scale is a huge challenge. Now, boffins from the Technical University of Vienna, Japan's National Institute of Informatics, and NTT's Basic Research Labs are offering an architecture they reckon can be scaled up. What the …
The Yutu lunar rover

China to test recoverable moon orbiter

China is about to launch a lunar orbiter capable of returning home. The nation's State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence announced over the weekend that the craft has been built and taken to the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. When it launches later this year, the un-named craft is …
Simon Sharwood, 11 Aug 2014
ANU's water tractor beam

ANU boffins demo 'tractor beam' in water

Video The Starship Enterprise won't be deploying a tractor beam in space any time soon, but in what could be a boon for people trying to control oil spills, Australian National University physicists have created a tractor beam in water with simple wave generators. Their demonstration (video at the bottom) shows the ANU boffins …
Space X Dragon in Orbit

Lawsuit claims SpaceX laid off hundreds without proper notice, pay

Former employees of Elon Musk's SpaceX filed a class-action lawsuit against the private rocketry firm this week, alleging it unlawfully terminated hundreds of employees without giving proper notice or payouts for back wages and benefits. SpaceX reportedly let go between 200 and 400 workers from its factory in Hawthorne, …
The self-folding crawling robot in three stages

Tiny transforming bots: Meet these self-assembling 'thoughtful' droids

Rise of the Machines Engineers have come up with self-folding robots that can put themselves together and crawl away on their own – although batteries must be included. Three stages of the origami robots assembling Three stages of the origami robots assembling. (Credit: Seth Kroll) Foldable ‘bots are nothing new, but this is the first time that …

Fanfare of trumpets as LOHAN reveals mission patch

Cue the traditional portentous drumroll and fanfare of trumpets as we today reveal the final design for our Low Orbit Helium Assisted Navigator (LOHAN) mission patch. And here without further ado is the motif that will shortly be adorning flight suits and lab coats worldwide: Our LOHAN mission patch design Readers are …
Lester Haines, 8 Aug 2014

'Be super careful with AI. It's potentially more dangerous than NUKES'

QuoTW This week will go down in IT history as the week Microsoft scrapped its long-running fixer-upper day of the week – Patch Tuesday. No longer will Tuesdays be about Redmond plugging the latest breaches in software and sorting out its security problems. Now Tuesdays will be about… updates. Yes, indeed, by changing the name of the …
Twitter

Twitter can trigger psychosis in users

Twitter can trigger psychosis in predisposed users, according to a team of doctors from the Universitätsmedizin hospital in Berlin. A study Twitter Psychosis A Rare Variation or a Distinct Syndrome? concluded that Twitter may have "a high potential to induce psychosis in predisposed users" based on the case of a 31 year-old …
Darren Pauli, 8 Aug 2014
Gardiner's frog

IBM boffins stuff 16 million-neuron chips into binary 'frog' brain

Updated IBM researchers developing chips that mimic mortal brains say they've built a 4,096-core processor that simulates a million neurons. The SyNAPSE silicon, fabricated by Samsung using a 28nm process, has 5.4 billion CMOS transistor gates, consumes 70mW of power, and uses a processor architecture completely unlike today's CPUs. …

Vulture 2 strapped to speeding van before delicate brain surgery

On Sunday, Pixhawk autopilot brain surgeon Linus Penzlien touches down in Spain ahead of some serious Vulture 2 spaceplane wrangling. Working with APM:Plane lead developer Andrew Tridgell, Linus will be hewing custom Low Orbit Helium Assisted Navigator (LOHAN) mission parameters from the living code. These include an "ascend …
Lester Haines, 7 Aug 2014
Zombies, credit: Wikimedia from Night of The Living Dead

True fact: Hubble telescope spots ZOMBIES in SPACE

Researchers operating the Hubble telescope have observed an unusual supernova explosion that leaves behind what scientists call a "zombie star". NASA said a team of astronomers had used the giant orbital telescope to capture images of a star system that, despite going supernova, produces surviving dwarf stars rather than …
Shaun Nichols, 7 Aug 2014
Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

SCORE: Rosetta probe hits orbit of duck-shaped comet

Watch live After a 10-year-long chase of the pleasingly duck-shaped "67P", the European Space Agency’s Rosetta probe has become the first spacecraft in history to rendezvous with a comet. Watch live streaming video from eurospaceagency at livestream.com “After 10 years, five months and four days travelling towards our destination, …
A self-portrait taken by the curiosity rover

Two years on, Curiosity's still in the same crater

Its wheels are eroding and its (parody) Twitter account is grumpy, but the Mars Curiosity Rover has celebrated two years in space. Yes, it has been two years since we sat on the edges of our seats, watching (if we were able to) or listening (in the case of this scribe, who was in his car at the time, thankful for the broadcast) …

Six MEEELLION gigabytes-a-year space 'scope wins funding

The multi-billion pixel, multi-colour, all-sky-surveying Large Synoptic Survey Telescope is getting ready to go into its main construction phase, with America's National Science Foundation approving the build budget. The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) has announced the NSF funding here. Overall …
Rosetta

Astounding: We're about to stick a probe in orbit of a COMET

Pic The European Space Agency will be on tenterhooks tonight as the Rosetta space probe reaches its final destination and begins the burn sequence that will put a man-made spacecraft in orbit around a comet for the first time. After a much-delayed launch in 2004, Rosetta has spent the last ten years chasing through the solar system …
Iain Thomson, 6 Aug 2014
Two teenage girls - one whispering in other's ear

BAD VIBES: High-speed video camera records your voice from trash

Vid Run a camera fast enough and its images can capture sound from the way nearby objects vibrate, according to boffins from MIT, Adobe and Microsoft. The experiments, announced by MIT, worked so well that they claimed to have recovered sound from the leaves of plants, and the vibration of a crisp packet. The latter, as the …

Kickstarter hopefuls promise high-res aerial maps for the masses

San Diego-based Drones Made Easy is nudging the Kickstarter target of $30,000 it needs to bring "mapping to the masses" with an site allowing people to "upload raw aerial imagery for processing into high quality stitched aerial imagery". The idea is to take the grunt work out of creating your own stitched imagery "at up to 20 …
Lester Haines, 5 Aug 2014
2001: A Space Odyssey

HUMAN RACE PERIL: Not nukes, it'll be AI that kills us off, warns Musk

Multibillionaire tech ace Elon Musk has a bee in his bonnet about the threat to humanity from ... artificial intelligence. And since he's a major investor in the technology, he ought to know. Worth reading Superintelligence by Bostrom. We need to be super careful with AI. Potentially more dangerous than nukes. — Elon Musk (@ …
Iain Thomson, 5 Aug 2014
EmDrive space motor

NASA tests crazytech flying saucer thruster, could reach Mars in days

NASA has tested an "impossible" electric space drive that uses no propellant – and found it works even when it is designed not to. EmDrive space motor The EmDrive space engine ... a long time coming This has sparked immediate skepticism of the technology. The system is designed to use microwave energy reflected along a …
Iain Thomson, 4 Aug 2014
The 30m dish at Warkworth, New Zealand

Kiwi satellite earth station recycled – as radio telescope

Auckland University of Technology (AUT) is celebrating “first light” from its new radio telescope – a 30m, 30-year-old former satellite Earth station that was once New Zealand's primary link to the outside world. The AUT telescope is now getting ready for a mission studying star formation, the centre of the Milky Way, galactic …
Rosetta

We sent a probe SIX BILLION km to measure temperature of a COMET doing 135,000 km/h

The comet-chasing spacecraft Rosetta has got close enough to its target to start getting temperature readings. The results show that comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko isn't the snowball some boffins were expecting. Between 13 and 21 July Rosetta moved within 5,000 kilometers of the rapidly spinning comet and used its visible, …
Iain Thomson, 2 Aug 2014
From left to right are: the ancestral neotheropod (~220 Million years old), the ancestral tetanuran (~200 myo), the ancestral coelurosaur (~175 myo), the ancestral paravian (~165 myo), and Archaeopteryx (150 myo).

The Therapod diet: From HUMUNGO DINO to TINY BIRD in 50m years

Video Terrifying dino-beasts from the family that spawned Tyrannosaurus rex kept shrinking and shrinking until they evolved into cute little birds, the whole process taking around 50 million years, according to palaeoboffins. Youtube Video Certain members of the theropod family – which counts T rex and Giganotosaurus carolinii among …
The path of the balloon yesterday as it returned to UK airspace

Brit balloon bod Bodnar circumnavigates planet

Brit balloon bod Leo Bodnar has pulled off a bit of a blinder by successfully flying an ultralight radio payload right round the planet. Launched on 12 July from near Silverstone, Northamptonshire, B-64 yesterday returned to Blighty, and was this morning still going strong over Sweden. The path of the balloon yesterday as it …
Lester Haines, 1 Aug 2014
Teh second version of Curiosity for Mars

Mars rover 2020: Oxygen generation and 6 more amazing experiments

Pic NASA's next Mars rover will convert the Red Planet's atmosphere into oxygen – and collect rocks for return to Earth, see half a kilometre under the surface, and use stereo cameras to send back unprecedented snaps of the bleak world. Mars rover 2020 Curiosity v2.0 getting ready to roll (click to enlarge) At a press …
Iain Thomson, 31 Jul 2014
The quantum cheshire cat

Boffins spot weirder quantum capers as neutrons take the high road, spin takes the low

Imagine this: when Australian cricketer Shane Warne bowled “the ball of the century”, a delivery that drifted one way, then hit the pitch and spun the other, the reason batter Mike Gatting was bamboozled was because the spin took a different path from the ball. That's the phenomenon boffins claim they've observed in experiments …

NASA boffin: RIDDLE of odd BULGE FOUND on MOON is SOLVED

An analysis of the shape of the Moon has shown it is not actually a sphere – but is in fact slightly lemon-shaped. This has revealed important clues as to how the Earth's satellite body formed (and no, it still doesn't involve any cheese). A paper published in the July 30 issue of Nature by Ian Garrick-Bethell – an assistant …
Iain Thomson, 31 Jul 2014
The path of B-64 shown on a world map

Brit amateur payload set to complete full circle around PLANET EARTH

It's a tip of the hat today to Brit High Altitude Ballooning (HAB) bod Leo Bodnar, whose B-64 payload is poised to complete an epic 25,000km circumnavigation of the globe. B-64 - comprising a 12g solar-powered radio tracker rig - lifted off on 12 July from near Silverstone, Northamptonshire. Its most recent position showed it …
Lester Haines, 30 Jul 2014
Facebook privacy image

Ethicists say Facebook's experiments not SO creepy

The Ethical Research Project has weighed into the argument over the ethics of Facebook's “creepy” social contagion research, doing the unthinkable: actually asking ordinary punters how they feel about being lab rats. Interestingly, the study suggests that users might have not felt too badly about the Facebook work, if anyone had …