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Kepler discovers our Solar System’s “ancient twin”

Kepler discovers our Solar System’s “ancient twin”

NASA's Kepler Space Telescope has been studying the system they've called Kepler-444 for about four years. This system, they say, was formed about 11.2 billion years ago, making it one of the most ancient star systems with terrestrial-sized planets discovered thus far. This star system is important not because of its age, on the other hand, but because of its resemblance to our own Solar System. Five planets surround this system's star, each of them rocky, none of them able to support life (as we know it, that is to say).

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Launch America: SpaceX, Boeing to taxi NASA astronauts to ISS

Launch America: SpaceX, Boeing to taxi NASA astronauts to ISS

This week the folks at NASA, SpaceX, and Boeing presented a new program for their combined efforts to continue sending astronauts to the International Space Station. This Commercial Crew Transportation system will be operating under the title Launch America. This system is working with both SpaceX and Boeing, both private organizations, to bring the cost of sending US-based astronauts down significantly. NASA has been using the same system since 2011 to send astronauts to the ISS, one based on Russian technology, one this Launch America system will replace.

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Exoplanet J1407b discovered with more rings than Saturn

Exoplanet J1407b discovered with more rings than Saturn

There's a planet out there in the universe that has rings of matter surrounding it so large, they eclipse its nearby sun. This is J1407b, near the star J1407. The image you see here comes from Ron Miller of the University of Rochester, and it shows the planet and its rings as they would have appeared in early 2007. The planet was discovered back in 2012, but just now its become clear how extraordinary this planetary body truly is. Rings so massive they make our nearby planet Saturn look miniature by comparison.

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DALER: vampire-inspired robot can fly and walk

DALER: vampire-inspired robot can fly and walk

This robot can crawl around on all fours - and it can fly. If you're terrified at the possibility that the future will be run by a robot race that's far superior to humankind thanks to their ability to both walk and fly, turn back now. What we're seeing here is the future of transformer-like technology, bringing LIS, EPFL, and NCCR Robotics together to bring home the gold with a winged metal creature that can crawl. This is DALER, otherwise known as the Deployable Air-Land Exploration Robot, and it's been inspired by a vampire bat.

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NASA private space flights in 2017 to save rubles and respect

NASA private space flights in 2017 to save rubles and respect

SpaceX and Boeing plan to launch astronauts into space in 2017, as NASA's Commercial Crew program prepares to bring launches back onto US soil and in the process end the reliance on Russia. The two private companies are "the future of astronaut transportation to and from the [International Space Station]" Dr. Ellen Ochoa, Johnson Space Center director, said today, with the first flights expected to begin in just a few years time. However, while the ISS may be the first destination, the orbiting research platform isn't the extent of the Commercial Crew program's ambitions. In fact, it's paving the way for manned missions to Mars.

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Google Lunar XPRIZE awards $5.25m to moon mission hopefuls

Google Lunar XPRIZE awards $5.25m to moon mission hopefuls

The Google Lunar XPRIZE competition has handed out $5.25m to five companies for their contribution to taking a private spacecraft to the moon, with the so-called Milestone Prizes awarded in advance of final entries in 2016. XPRIZE aims to spur space exploration with a $30m prize pot from Google's wallet, challenging private industry and researchers help take a private craft to the lunar surface, have it travel at least 500 meters, and transmit high-definition video and imagery back to Earth. Although none of the Milestone winners have actually made it to the moon quite yet, they've been given an early bite of the award cash for their current progress.

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Flexible solar panels are both functional and decorative

Flexible solar panels are both functional and decorative

While scientists and engineers are still racing to make solar panels more efficient and feasible, some are trying to make the technology more attractive. Literally. Researchers from the VTT Technical Centre of Finland have developed a process that creates solar panels that are not only flexible but also organic and recyclable and can be used on things like windows, walls, machines, and other surfaces that can turn any structure, furniture, or even works of art into light-powered sources of energy for small devices and sensors.

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Ford might just move the driver, not go driverless

Ford might just move the driver, not go driverless

Ford's new Palo Alto research center may have driverless cars on the menu, but technology shifting the human driver from the car to across the country might be closer to primetime if engineers have their way. Virtual valets and remotely-piloted car sharing schemes could take advantage of increasingly electrified cars and faster LTE networks, Ford's Mike Tinskey explained to me, with a controller potentially thousands of miles away taking the wheel when a local driver isn't available or practical. Right now, that means going on a joyride in an Atlanta parking lot, when you're actually sat at a Logitech gaming wheel in California.

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We’re three minutes from Doomsday

We’re three minutes from Doomsday

Climate change and the unrelenting development and stockpiling of nuclear weapons have seen the Doomsday Clock pushed another minute closer to global disaster, with scientists warning that we're three metaphorical minutes from destruction. The clock, a symbolic representation of how close humanity is to teetering on the edge of effective annihilation by its own hand, is now just three minutes from midnight, with the team in charge of the hands - the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, counting seventeen Nobel Prize laureates among its members - ominously suggesting that "the probability of global catastrophe is very high."

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Ford’s new Silicon Valley lab isn’t all pie-in-the-sky

Ford’s new Silicon Valley lab isn’t all pie-in-the-sky

Self-driving cars are undoubtedly the most attention-grabbing project at Ford's new tech outpost in Palo Alto, but it's not all the team is working on, and other schemes are far closer to helping modern drivers. The Research and Innovation Center is also exploring how digital dashboards can be smarter, how smart home gadgets like Nest can play nicely with your car, and even how a little Project Ara style modularity could make Fords more future-proof. Read on for three of the more down-to-earth - and potentially closer to production cars at your nearest Ford dealer - projects underway.

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