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 Space: 3D printing for space: the additive revolution

ScienceFrom: European Space Agency (ESA)

3D printing is getting ready to revolutionise space travel. ESA is paving the way for 3D-printed metals to build high-quality, intricate shapes with massive cost savings.

ESA and the European Commission have embarked on a project to perfect the printing of space-quality metal components. The AMAZE project – Additive Manufacturing Aiming Towards Zero Waste & Efficient Production of High-Tech Metal Products – involves 28 industrial partners across Europe.

“We want to build the best quality metal products ever made,” said David Jarvis, ESA’s Head of New Materials and Energy Research, during a press conference at the London Science Museum yesterday.

Considered the third industrial revolution among manufacturers, 3D printing builds a solid object from a series of layers, each one printed on top of the last – also known as additive manufacturing.

Almost anything that can be designed by computer can be printed as a physical item, typically by melting powder or wire materials.

The space dimension

AMAZE aims to put the first 3D metal printer on the International Space Station allowing astronauts to produce tools and new structures on demand. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Friday, October 18 @ 22:47:15 EDT (1991 reads)
(Read More... | 4317 bytes more | Comments? | Space | Score: 0)

 Space: After Chelyabinsk: European Experts Assess Asteroid Options

ScienceFrom: European Space Agency

In February, a speeding asteroid slammed into our atmosphere and exploded high over Russia’s Ural region, injuring hundreds and causing millions of euros of damage. What should we do if we have a similar – or even bigger – strike in the future?

Of the more than 600 000 known asteroids in our Solar System, almost 10 000 are classified as near-Earth objects, or NEOs, because their orbits bring them relatively close to Earth’s path.

Dramatic proof that any of these can strike Earth came on 15 February, when an unknown object thought to be 17–20 m in diameter arrived at 66 000 km/h and exploded high above Chelyabinsk, Russia, with 20–30 times the energy of the Hiroshima atomic bomb.

The resulting shock wave caused widespread damage and injuries, making it the largest known natural object to have entered the atmosphere since the 1908 Tunguska event, which destroyed a remote forest area of Siberia.

ESA watching out for Earth

“It’s important that we become aware of the current and future position of NEOs, develop estimates on the likelihood of impacts and assess the possible consequences,” says Detlef Koschny, Head of NEO activities in the Agency’s Space Situational Awareness (SSA) Programme Office. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Wednesday, May 08 @ 22:29:37 EDT (661 reads)
(Read More... | 3696 bytes more | Comments? | Space | Score: 0)

 Environment: A Cooler Way to Protect Silicon Surfaces

Science
New room-temperature process could lead to less expensive solar cells and other electronic devices.

Written by: David L. Chandler, MIT News Office

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Silicon, the material of high-tech devices from computer chips to solar cells, requires a surface coating before use in these applications. The coating “passivates” the material, tying up loose atomic bonds to prevent oxidation that would ruin its electrical properties. But this passivation process consumes a lot of heat and energy, making it costly and limiting the kinds of materials that can be added to the devices.

Now a team of MIT researchers has found a way to passivate silicon at room temperature, which could be a significant boon to solar-cell production and other silicon-based technologies.

The research, by graduate student Rong Yang and engineering professors Karen Gleason and Tonio Buonassisi, was recently published online in the journal Advanced Materials.

Typically, silicon surfaces are passivated with a coating of silicon nitride, which requires heating a device to 400 degrees Celsius, explains Gleason, the Alexander and I. Michael Kasser Professor of Chemical Engineering. By contrast, the process Gleason’s team uses decomposes organic vapors over wires heated to 300 C, but the silicon itself never goes above 20 C — room temperature. Heating those wires requires much less power than illuminating an ordinary light bulb, so the energy costs of the process are quite low. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Wednesday, February 13 @ 21:33:16 EST (686 reads)
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 Space: Building A Lunar Base With 3D Printing

ScienceFrom: European Space Agency

Setting up a lunar base could be made much simpler by using a 3D printer to build it from local materials. Industrial partners including renowned architects Foster + Partners have joined with ESA to test the feasibility of 3D printing using lunar soil.

“Terrestrial 3D printing technology has produced entire structures,” said Laurent Pambaguian, heading the project for ESA.

“Our industrial team investigated if it could similarly be employed to build a lunar habitat.”

Foster + Partners devised a weight-bearing ‘catenary’ dome design with a cellular structured wall to shield against micrometeoroids and space radiation, incorporating a pressurised inflatable to shelter astronauts.

A hollow closed-cell structure – reminiscent of bird bones – provides a good combination of strength and weight.

The base’s design was guided in turn by the properties of 3D-printed lunar soil, with a 1.5 tonne building block produced as a demonstration.

“3D printing offers a potential means of facilitating lunar settlement with reduced logistics from Earth,” added Scott Hovland of ESA’s human spaceflight team. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Thursday, January 31 @ 21:33:52 EST (3765 reads)
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 Space: NASA Joins ESA’s ‘Dark Universe’ Mission

ScienceFrom: European Space Agency

NASA has officially joined ESA’s Euclid mission, a space telescope designed to investigate the mysterious natures of dark matter and dark energy.

To be launched in 2020, Euclid’s 1.2 m-diameter telescope and two scientific instruments will map the shape, brightness and 3D distribution of two billion galaxies covering more than a third of the whole sky and looking back over three-quarters of the history of the Universe.

Scientists hope to solve key problems in our understanding of the evolution and fate of our expanding cosmos: the roles played by ‘dark matter’ and ‘dark energy’.

Dark matter is invisible, but has gravity and acts to slow the expansion. Dark energy, however, seems to be accelerating the expansion seen around us today.

Together, these two components are thought to comprise more than 95% of the mass and energy of the Universe, with ‘normal’ matter and energy making up the remaining small fraction. But what they are remains a profound mystery. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Thursday, January 24 @ 22:35:04 EST (616 reads)
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 Environment: Teaching a Microbe to Make Fuel

Science
Genetically modified organism could turn carbon dioxide or waste products into a gasoline-compatible transportation fuel.

Written by: David L. Chandler, MIT News Office

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — A humble soil bacterium called Ralstonia eutropha has a natural tendency, whenever it is stressed, to stop growing and put all its energy into making complex carbon compounds. Now scientists at MIT have taught this microbe a new trick: They’ve tinkered with its genes to persuade it to make fuel — specifically, a kind of alcohol called isobutanol that can be directly substituted for, or blended with, gasoline.

Christopher Brigham, a research scientist in MIT’s biology department who has been working to develop this bioengineered bacterium, is currently trying to get the organism to use a stream of carbon dioxide as its source of carbon, so that it could be used to make fuel out of emissions. Brigham is co-author of a paper on this research published this month in the journal Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Thursday, August 23 @ 20:26:03 EDT (679 reads)
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 Other News: Glasses-Free 3-D TV Looks Nearer

Science
A new method for producing multiple-perspective 3-D images could prove more practical in the short term than holography.

Written by: Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — As striking as it is, the illusion of depth now routinely offered by 3-D movies is a paltry facsimile of a true three-dimensional visual experience. In the real world, as you move around an object, your perspective on it changes. But in a movie theater showing a 3-D movie, everyone in the audience has the same, fixed perspective — and has to wear cumbersome glasses, to boot.

Despite impressive recent advances, holographic television, which would present images that vary with varying perspectives, probably remains some distance in the future. But in a new paper featured as a research highlight at this summer’s Siggraph computer-graphics conference, the MIT Media Lab’s Camera Culture group offers a new approach to multiple-perspective, glasses-free 3-D that could prove much more practical in the short term. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Friday, July 13 @ 20:23:11 EDT (1397 reads)
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 Space: Researchers Find Evidence of Ice Content at the Moon’s South Pole

ScienceWritten by: Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office

Scientists map Shackleton crater, whose unusually bright floor may hint at the presence of ice. If humans are ever to inhabit the moon, the lunar poles may well be the location of choice: Because of the small tilt of the lunar spin axis, the poles contain regions of near-permanent sunlight, needed for power, and regions of near-permanent darkness containing ice — both of which would be essential resources for any lunar colony.

The area around the moon’s Shackleton crater could be a prime site. Scientists have long thought that the crater — whose interior is a permanently sunless abyss — may contain reservoirs of frozen water. But inconsistent observations over the decades have cast doubt on whether ice might indeed exist in the shadowy depths of the crater, which sits at the moon’s south pole.

Now scientists from MIT, Brown University, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and other institutions have mapped Shackleton crater with unprecedented detail, finding possible evidence for small amounts of ice on the crater’s floor. Using a laser altimeter on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft, the team essentially illuminated the crater’s interior with laser light, measuring its albedo, or natural reflectance. The scientists found that the crater’s floor is in fact brighter than that of other nearby craters — an observation consistent with the presence of ice, which the team calculates may make up 22 percent of the material within a micron-thick layer on the crater’s floor. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Sunday, June 24 @ 15:31:59 EDT (1475 reads)
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 Space: Smooth Moves: How Space Animates Hollywood

ScienceFrom: European Space Agency

If you’ve been to see Wrath of the Titans, then you’ve watched it in action. A computer programmer is using software he developed to control spacecraft to help animators make more realistic computer games and movies.

Originally designed to help guide satellites, the software now helps computers to render human movements smoothly and realistically.

It turns out that movements controlled effortlessly by our brains – picking up a cup, touching our toes or doing a little dance – take a lot of computing power.

“If you want to move your arm, you have to compute the angle of all the joints and the movement of the muscles,” says Alexandre Pechev, CEO of IKinema.

The human brain makes this happen near-instantaneously. But animators creating computer games or movies must often break the body down into parts, calculate their moves and then put the components back together – often resulting in choppy, unrealistic animation.

Using the mathematical routine he developed, the program at the heart of IKinema’s software crunches the numbers much more efficiently. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Friday, June 08 @ 22:18:18 EDT (644 reads)
(Read More... | 6348 bytes more | Comments? | Space | Score: 0)

 Space: Did Earth's Oceans Come From Comets?

ScienceFrom: European Space Agency (esa)

ESA's Herschel infrared space observatory has found water in a comet with almost exactly the same composition as Earth's oceans. The discovery revives the idea that our planet's seas could once have been giant icebergs floating through space.

The origin of Earth's water is hotly debated. Our planet formed at such high temperatures that any original water must have evaporated. Yet today, two-thirds of the surface is covered in water and this must have been delivered from space after Earth cooled down.

Comets seem a natural explanation: they are giant icebergs travelling through space with orbits that take them across the paths of the planets, making collisions possible. The impact of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 on Jupiter in 1994 was one such event. But in the early Solar System, when there were larger numbers of comets around, collisions would have been much more common.

However, until now, astronomers' observations have failed to back up the idea that comets provided Earth's water. The key measurement they make is the level of deuterium – a heavier form of hydrogen – found in water. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Thursday, October 06 @ 22:11:42 EDT (726 reads)
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 Space: Astronomers Searching For Oxygen Can Breathe More Easily

ScienceFrom: The European Space Agency (ESA)

ESA’s Herschel space observatory has found molecules of oxygen in a nearby star-forming cloud. This is the first undisputed detection of oxygen molecules in space. It concludes a long search but also leaves questions unanswered.

The oxygen molecules have been found in the nearby Orion star-forming complex. While atomic oxygen has been long known in warm regions of space, previous missions looking for the molecular variety – two atoms of oxygen bonded together – came up largely empty-handed.

Even the observed amount of atomic oxygen is far less than that expected and this created an oxygen ‘accounting problem’ that can be roughly voiced as “where is all the oxygen hiding in the cold clouds?”

NASA’s Submillimetre Wave Astronomy Satellite and Sweden’s Odin mission have both searched for molecular oxygen and established that its abundance is dramatically lower than expected. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Tuesday, August 02 @ 16:23:43 EDT (750 reads)
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 The News: Computer learns language by playing games

ScienceWritten by: Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office

By basing its strategies on the text of a manual, a computer infers the meanings of words without human supervision.

Computers are great at treating words as data: Word-processing programs let you rearrange and format text however you like, and search engines can quickly find a word anywhere on the Web. But what would it mean for a computer to actually understand the meaning of a sentence written in ordinary English — or French, or Urdu, or Mandarin?

One test might be whether the computer could analyze and follow a set of instructions for an unfamiliar task. And indeed, in the last few years, researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab have begun designing machine-learning systems that do exactly that, with surprisingly good results.

In 2009, at the annual meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL), researchers in the lab of Regina Barzilay, associate professor of computer science and electrical engineering, took the best-paper award for a system that generated scripts for installing a piece of software on a Windows computer by reviewing instructions posted on Microsoft’s help site....

Posted by Blue1moon on Friday, July 15 @ 19:39:08 EDT (859 reads)
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 Space: Eye of Gaia: billion-pixel camera to map Milky Way

ScienceFrom: European Space Agency (ESA)

The largest digital camera ever built for a space mission has been painstakingly mosaicked together from 106 separate electronic detectors. The resulting “billion-pixel array” will serve as the super-sensitive ‘eye’ of ESA’s Galaxy-mapping Gaia mission.

While the naked human eye can see several thousand stars on a clear night, Gaia will map a billion stars within our own Milky Way Galaxy and its neighbours over the course of its five-year mission from 2013, charting their brightness and spectral characteristics along with their three-dimensional positions and motions.

In order to detect distant stars up to a million times fainter than the eye can see, Gaia will carry 106 charge coupled devices (CCDs), advanced versions of chips within standard digital cameras.

Developed for the mission by e2v Technologies of Chelmsford, UK, these rectangular detectors are a little smaller than a credit card, each one measuring 4.7x6 cm but thinner than a human hair. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Wednesday, July 06 @ 23:38:53 EDT (993 reads)
(Read More... | 3693 bytes more | Comments? | Space | Score: 0)

 The News: Inside the Infant Mind

Science
New study shows that babies can perform sophisticated analyses of how the physical world should behave.

Written by: Anne Trafton, MIT News Office

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Over the past two decades, scientists have shown that babies only a few months old have a solid grasp on basic rules of the physical world. They understand that objects can’t wink in and out of existence, and that objects can’t “teleport” from one spot to another.

Now, an international team of researchers co-led by MIT’s Josh Tenenbaum has found that infants can use that knowledge to form surprisingly sophisticated expectations of how novel situations will unfold.

Furthermore, the scientists developed a computational model of infant cognition that accurately predicts infants’ surprise at events that violate their conception of the physical world.

The model, which simulates a type of intelligence known as pure reasoning, calculates the probability of a particular event, given what it knows about how objects behave. The close correlation between the model’s predictions and the infants’ actual responses to such events suggests that infants reason in a similar way, says Tenenbaum, associate professor of cognitive science and computation at MIT. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Thursday, May 26 @ 22:45:37 EDT (851 reads)
(Read More... | 5862 bytes more | Comments? | The News | Score: 0)

 Other News: Better glasses-free 3-D

ScienceWritten by: Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office

A fundamentally new approach to glasses-free 3-D displays could save power, widen the viewing angle and make 3-D illusions more realistic.

Nintendo’s 3DS portable gaming system, the first commercial device with a glasses-free 3-D screen, has been available in the United States for barely a month, and it’s already sold more than a million units. Its three-hour battery life, however, is less than half that of its predecessor, the 2-D DS device.

Researchers at MIT’s Media Lab have developed a fundamentally new approach to glasses-free 3-D, called HR3D, which they say could double the battery life of devices like the 3DS without compromising screen brightness or resolution. Among other advantages, the technique could also expand the viewing angle of a 3-D screen, making it practical for larger devices with multiple users, and it would maintain the 3-D effect even when the screen is rotated — something that happens routinely with handheld devices.

According to Doug Lanman, a postdoc in Associate Professor Ramesh Raskar’s Camera Culture Group at the Media Lab, the 3DS relies on a century-old technology known as a parallax barrier. Like most 3-D technologies, this one requires two versions of the same image, one tailored to the left eye and one to the right. The two images are sliced into vertical segments and interleaved on a single surface. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Thursday, May 12 @ 22:40:46 EDT (864 reads)
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