Archive for the ‘Gizmodo’ Category
Straight from Gizmodo: “Once upon a time, a President thought that taking humans “to the Moon and the planets beyond” was not only good for the economy of the country, but also would push US technology decades beyond everybody’s else. He was right.
That President was John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Of course, he also wanted to go to the Moon to beat the Soviet Union and win a political war, but there were a thousand more reasons to make that trip. All of them were good. As a result of his political will, the Apollo program became the most complex, most advanced, most successful, most beneficial technology endeavor ever taken by the United States of America.
The economical benefits
It put the country decades ahead in every aspect of technology, and its effects, the technologies that came directly out of it, are now an indispensable part of our world: From the development of new metals and microprocessors, to clothing and medicine, the Apollo program touched every single aspect of our lives. Those developments are responsible for your smartphone, your desktop computer, your television set, and even your winter underpants.
But most importantly, the Apollo program inspired generations of kids to become scientists and engineers, indirectly pushing technology even further. Humans were going to the fucking Moon! How cool is that? I can’t think of a more inspiring challenge than to conquer the stars, and those kids thought the same.
Like the program itself, that inspiration also brought long term benefits to the US economy. It made American universities thrive with new talent eager to push technology forward. We—not only America, but the entire world—are still enjoying the benefits that those students and the ones who followed brought to all of us decades after Apollo ended. Those kids went to work at IBM, Microsoft, Apple, Google, Boeing, Lockheed, and the thousands of high tech companies that bring us the amazing technology that we use on a daily basis.
A big mistake
So while some people may want to convince you that President Obama’s decision to fundamentally kill NASA’s manned space program is a great move for the future of space, I’m here to tell you that all that is bullshit.
First, it’s an excuse for a President who has failed to deliver on his promise of a better space program. His proposal is not better than what we had before. Actually, it’s only good for the private space sector which, incidentally, for the most part is just reinventing the wheel that NASA and the Soviet Union space organization invented decades ago.
Even if you agree that the Constellation program wasn’t going anywhere—many people disagree, like those who created the video above—you can’t have the US manned spaceflight program disappear in favor of private space cabs to Earth’s orbit. Even Burt Rutan—the poster child of private spaceflight, creator of Spaceshipone and Spaceshiptwo—agrees that this is an incredibly bad idea:
That is not a “NASA plan”; it is the proposed budget from the White House. It will likely be revised by the Congress. I am for NASA doing either true Research, or doing forefront Exploration, with taxpayer dollars.
Ares/Orion is more of a Development program than a Research program, so I am not depressed to see it disappear. I am concerned to see NASA manned spaceflight disappear, since they provided world leadership in the 60s and part of the 70s. The result was America’s universities being the leader in cience/Engineering PhDs.
Many American kids will be depressed by the thought that our accomplishments will not be continued and thus America will fall deeper away from our previous leadership in Engineering/Science/Math. I believe our future success depends on our ability to motivate our youth.
I would support a restructuring of goals and funding so NASA can be allowed to perform like the 60s on space Research and on Exploration. There is not a shred of evidence that the President sees any value in those goals.
Rutan made those comments yesterday, and I can’t agree more with him. It’s good to see him—of all people—saying this out loud, especially while the rest of space private companies are gloating about how Obama’s “think small” plan will increase their benefits in a big way.
Astronaut Tom Jones—who have been to space four times and has no interest in the private sector—has the same thoughts:
What student would pursue a career in space science or astronautics with the knowledge that the country is turning away from leadership in space?
He also argued in that no private company has launched any astronaut into space and won’t be doing that for a very long time—a time in which we will depend on Russia. SpaceX, the only company launching something into orbit has a dismaying 40% success rate. How many years until the private sector reaches the same success rate as NASA? How many years until they put people in orbit? How many decades until a private company gets us to Mars? It just makes no sense except for those hoping to benefit from the move in the short term. A while all this happens, NASA’s science programs are only getting a couple extra crumbles, not the core of the money.
Inspiring a new generation
In a world of fast forward, short attention spans, and materialism above all things, we need humans in space. Not just tweeting from orbit. But out there, on the Moon and Mars. And if the United States can’t do this on its own, that’s OK. In fact, that would be perfect: NASA should work together with the European Space Agency, the Russian Federal Space Agency, JAXA, and anyone who wants to achieve the greater good and really push humanity forward.
And yes, we need the satellites and the probes and the telescopes, absolutely, but you can’t replace humans with probes. Not because humans would do a better job, but because robots photographing things is not the same as being there. Being there like everyone on Earth arrived to the Moon when Neil Armstrong put his foot on it.
From a bean counter point of view, if you do it right, the economical and technological benefits will be as great as those brought by Apollo, now and in the future. From the point of view of anyone who thinks that the world is about more than counting beans, the benefits are even more obvious than that. The fact is that photographs taken by robots neither push technology forward nor inspire entire generations or bring economical and technological benefits that reverberate through decades to come. That’s what the humans in Apollo did.
Maybe Obama needs to watch the entire JFK’s We Need to Go to the Moon speech, at the Rice Stadium in Houston, TX in the fall of 1962, and remember that the reason the United States chose to go to the moon:
We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.
Kennedy ended that speech with this:
Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it. He said, “Because it is there.”
Well, space is there, and we’re going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there. And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God’s blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked.
I can’t possibly add anything else to his words.”
Straight from Gizmodo: “What do you do if you want the stopping power of a shotgun, but also want the convenient of shoving said shotgun down the front (or back) of your pants? Shotgun revolver. Boom. This crazy DIY monstrosity apparently isn’t the first shotgun revolver, but it is the first one authorities in Taiwan found that can shoot standard 12-gauge rounds. Think about that. 12-gauge rounds in a revolver. I’m not quite sure why there’s a stamp on the side that says “Made in USA” either.”
Straight from Gizmodo: “This is Lockheed Martin’s Sabre Warrior, a next-generation plane that looks like something Batman and Darth Vader would fight over for. Instead, some good-turned-evil computer will get a fleet, as part of a plan to destroy us all. It’s impressive.
The Sabre Warrior drone is 46 feet long, with a 36-foot wingspan, capable of taking off with 30,000 pounds of load using a 22,000-pound trust afterburning turbofan engine. It has two modular payload sections, which can be changed by soldiers in the field. Each bay can handle one 2,000 pound or two AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles or 10 smart bombs or sensors, or even fuel for extended range missions—even while this thing is air refuelable.
Its twin nose can also hold multiple sensors, which are interchangeable. And it is designed so there could be a version with a cockpit, so they can send man version as an on-the-scene controller, overlooking over the unmanned versions.”
Straight from Gizmodo: “Roadside bombs are a a source of fear for both soldiers as well as their worried families at home. Thankfully the Pentagon is working on projects such as Yellow Jacket, unmanned helicopters which detect electromagnetic emissions from potential IEDs.
As many IEDs, improvised explosive devices, are set off using a wireless signal, these drones will be able to survey areas for the electromagnetic emissions associated with receivers and provide an early warning to soldiers. No matter how silly the codename, this is one important project and I hope that it gets put into use as soon as possible.”
And that’s what it is: A really smart giant dog. Big Dog—which is being developed by robotics company Boston Dynamics—has some of the most advanced artificial intelligence and navigation systems in the planet. In fact, US Army officials are stunned by its programmed behaviors, which make Big Dog extremely helpful in the battlefield.
Big Dog can run along soldiers, walk slowly, or lay down to be loaded or unloaded, all while being aware of the terrain around it. No matter what happens, or how hard it’s hit, the robot maintains its course like Captain America, but without falling on the ground under any circumstances. The only way to get him off its path is by a major direct hit, which could mean a rocket or President Obama’s defense cuts—although, since it is low cost and not a Cold War-era weapon, it probably will survive the crisis.
Even while they are not yet ready for actual battlefield action, the US Army has high hopes for this beast. They see it as the most effective way to carry all kinds of material, reducing the weight that soldiers have to tug along, freeing them to move faster and be safer.
Right now, they only need to make Big Dogs quieter—they still buzz like a billion angry bees—and increase their autonomy. If there are no unforeseen problems, they will get into the battlefields in just a few years.”
Straight from Gizmodo: “This is one of the coolest demonstrations ever: NASA’s new Common Extensible Cryogenic Engine for the lunar lander gets icicles on its rim while burning at 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit. How is this feat possible?
The CECE—developed by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne and NASA—is fueled by liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. All the engine components are super-cooled, so when vapor comes out of the burning of the oxygen and the hydrogen and touches the rim of the cryogenic engine, it transforms into ice instantly.
The engine architecture allows it to smoothly throttle from top power levels—it was tested up to 108 percent—down to very-low power: 8 percent, which apparently is a new record in these kind of engines. Its performance allows it to smoothly land on the Moon while carrying a bigger load.”
Straight from Gizmodo: “Rob Galbraith checks out the screens on the three hottest notebooks in their respective classes from a pro photographer’s standpoint—new MacBook Pro, Dell Mini 9 and Lenovo W700—and how they stack up will surprise you
His reference monitor is a Eizo ColorEdge CE240W and he throws a Lenovo ThinkPad T60 into the mix for good measure, since its in-plane switching LCD panel produces good color reproduction and even screen brightness.
That Lenovo’s ThinkPad W700—which is geared toward pro photographers and has a built-in Pantone calibrator—tops the list for color accuracy and “could just about replace a desktop display” for pro work is probably not so shocking. What is crazy, however, is that the Dell Inspiron Mini 9—a $300 netbook—has display with better “overall hue accuracy” than the $1999 MacBook Pro, which is “one or two steps below a good desktop display.” BTW, Rob loves the Mini 9 so much he calls it “a workflow-altering experience.”"
Straight from Gizmodo: “Seeking funding to support the work, the Boston, Massachusetts-based-AeroCopter’s MTR vehicle has a single turbine driving a ducted fan pusher propeller and the electromagnetically driven 8.2m (27ft)-diameter ring that encircles the fuselage. Lift is generated by the rotor blades of the ring, which has counter-rotating upper and lower halves. A driveshaft linking the ring to the turbine uses permanent magnets to turn the ring, which has many more magnets located at short intervals around its circumference. Once at 1,000ft (305m) altitude the ring is tilted through 87° and locked in place.
AeroCopter has designed a 1,320kg (2,900lb) two-seat personal air vehicle with a cruise speed of at least 220kt (405km/h) and a range of 555km (300nm). There is also an unmanned air vehicle version.”
Straight from Gizmodo: “We’ve written about the sci-fi sounding Army’s Future Combat System before, but the Army’s just demonstrated a successful test of one of its components: the Quick Kill vehicle defense system. Check it out: the Raytheon system uses an electronically-scanned radar array to detect an incoming anti-tank rocket-propelled grenade, then vertically launches a countermeasure missile that blows the round to smithereens in mid-flight, saving the RPG’s intended target. It’s a very simple test setup, and, of course the real system will have to deal with complications like vehicles in motion, but it’s an important first step. And it goes boom.”
Straight from Gizmodo: “US sodiers are not the only ones getting advanced uniforms. In fact, Koreans may be taking the lead with a new stormtrooper suit that—if it goes beyond the vaporware stage—will include every sci-fi technology you can imagine. From a heads-up-display helmet to personal cooling and heating systems to a matching weapon that includes a laser-guided target assessment system to fire, you guessed it, mini-missiles. And that’s just the beginning.
South Korea’s Agency for Defense Development will start work in this uniform in 2009 under a two-phase program. The first one will include the battle uniform itself, with the bullet-proof helmet—that will include “sub-miniature cameras”—and their next-generation rifle, called the K-11. The K-11 will have a laser-guided target system which will communicate with the helmet, as well as mini-missiles and a high explosive projectile.
The battle suit itself will include a personal cooling and heating system, as well as a backpack designed to control and coordinate all the components. It will also include a friend-or-foe ID system and a GPS.
In the second phase of development, the soldiers will get upgrades in the suit itself. These will protect them against external threats, including atomic radiation, chemical agents, lasers, and mines.
Yes, you can welcome your new Korean overlords, as they only want to make sure you buy their flat TVs.”
Straight from Gizmodo: “In what’s bound to be embarrassing for the Chinese space program, the president of high-tech company AMAC International has pleaded guilty to giving China military data about fueling systems for space launch vehicles. Shu Quan-Sheng is a Chinese native who’s a naturalized U.S. citizen. The incident puts a black smear on the country’s otherwise extremely successful space endeavor.
Shu admitted handing Beijing information about the design and development of a fueling system for space launch vehicles between 2003 and 2007. Besides pleading guilty to violations of the U.S. Arms Export Control Act, Shu also admitted to offering bribes of nearly $190,000 to Chinese officials to win a contract last year for a French company he represented. He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a million-dollar fine for each violation of the act, as well as a further five years for bribery.
China was able to send its first man into space in 2003, followed by a two-man mission in 2005 and the nation’s first space walk in late September. Last week, China finished its goal of mapping the entire moon in detail, and its prepping even more lunar explorations for down the line.
The news strikes me as similar to some of the more baffling decisions made during the Beijing 2008 Olympics—Can a nation of 1.3 billion really not find a great gymnast who’s absolutely of age? Wouldn’t it have been better just to admit right away that the pretty little girl at the Opening Ceremonies was lipsynching? Likewise, I find it hard to believe China wouldn’t have come up with its own working fuel system without breaking laws. It’s heartbreaking to find out that some aspects of the following achievements might have come from illegally divulged info, but I guess it’s also par for the course for an ambitious rising nation with an almost stifling fear of “losing face.””
Straight from Gizmodo: “Here’s the first look at the final version of the deadly XM25. We learned this morning of the weapon’s destructive power, but now we have a photo of the final version and all the details, starting with the key for its destruction power, a built-in fire-control system that can program each of the weapon’s 25 millimeter rounds wirelessly, in real time, so soldiers can take down enemies around obstacles.
As you can see in the schematics, the fire-control system uses thermal optic, day-sight, laser range finder, compass and IR light to exactly measure the distance to the target, programming each of the rounds’ fuses so it explodes next to the target using a wireless connection. According to the US Army, this gives maximum destruction power and minimum collateral damage, while allowing to save barriers that previously didn’t allow to reach the target.
The capability to program the rounds is what allows this weapon to go “around objects.” If, for example, there’s a sniper hidden behind a trench, the soldier can program each round so it explodes just above the target. The bullets will explode at that exact range, taking down the target thanks to their air bursting power.
The XM25 is capable of firing an air-bursting round out to 600 meters with a 360-degree explosive radius, all with extreme precision according to testers. However, each round doesn’t have to be lethal: There will be two kind of non-lethal rounds (blunt and airburst) to neutralize enemies without killing them.
The new system is also user friendly. Apparently, each type of bullet—high explosive air bursting, armor piercing, door breaching, anti-personnel, non-lethal—is color-coded.
All this technology comes at a price, however. The US Army will have to pay $25,000 for each weapon, plus $25 for each programmable 25mm round. The rounds, however, will be absolutely free of charge for terrorists or anyone at the other side of the battlefield, bad guy or passerby. [Defense Tech]“
Straight from Gizmodo: “Sikorsky, makers of the Blackhawk and other sleek helicopters, have successfully tested their X2 Technology Demonstrator, a prototype designed to showcase new propulsion systems that will allow their helicopters to fly at twice the speed of conventional ones.
Sikorsky Chief Test Pilot Kevin Bredenbeck maneuvered the prototype for 30 minutes in a few basic tasks: hover, forward flight and hover turn. The project is coming slowly into final shape but when finished, it will be able to cruise easily at 250 knots while maintaining the same features of traditional helicopters, like low speed handling, hovering, and autorotation.”
Check out Gizmodo for other photos: “Joe Pappalardo got some crisp, high quality military close-ups of the Spirit of Kansas, the $1.2 billion stealth B-2 bomber that crashed in Guam last February. We published other images of the crash scene before (because we like to see a billion dollars burning), but all the mess was cleaned up then. Here you can see the carnage right after it happened, including Air Force personnel trying to deactivate explosives in the ejected pilot seats.”
Straight from Gizmodo: “Last month, the US Navy and General Dynamics took the lid off the new U.S.S. Independence littoral combat ship (LCS). This beast will sail close to the shore and throw everything imaginable at an enemy—from armored vehicles and helicopters to shells, torpedoes and missiles. Plus, it can hustle at a rumored 60 knots. Basically, that means the enemy will have a difficult time escaping the wrath of this mighty vessel no matter where they are.
Hell, you could be sitting in a Port-a-Potty in the middle of the desert and this thing would probably drop out of the sky hurling torpedoes up the toilet. And the best part is that the price tag tops out at only $208 million, which is fairly frugal for the US government. That’s why the Navy plans on building 55 of them in the near future.”
Straight from Gizmodo: “This admittedly isn’t the newest military tech on the block, but The History Channel in us just couldn’t help writing it up. Russia makes the world’s largest military hovercraft dubbed the “Zubr.” It displaces 621 tons and can haul twice the payload of similar boats from the US Navy (somewhere around 150 tons).
With production dating back to 1988, the last Zubr looks to have launched in 2004. Capable of carrying multiple tanks and a nice mix of 140mm rocket pods, 30mm cannons and air defense missiles, the Zubr can cruise for 300 miles before rapidly deploying troops and equipment close to shore. Scratch that. Directly on shore. In other words, it’s just like that R/C vehicle you lusted after in the ’90s, but it’s way bigger and actually good for something. Or, in this case, potentially very, very bad.”
Straight from Gizmodo: “The dust has settled on PWN 2 OWN and Linux FTW! The Ubuntu-equipped Sony VAIO was the only computer to get through the tournament unscathed, managing to elude the assembled hackers. On Thursday the MacBook Air was the first to go, followed the next day by the Vista-running Fujitsu, conquered by Shane Macaulay. No one, but no one, however, was able to bring down the penguin. [ PWN 2 OWN via PC World ]“
Straight from Gizmodo: “If iTunes music subscriptions don’t happen, it’s not because the industry lacks interest. Universal’s already got a sub plan; Sony BMG is forging ahead with their own; and now Warner Music is investing serious resources and effort into pushing for a monthly music tax. They want $5 a month tacked onto everybody’s internet bill, and in return, everyone would have unlimited access to basically all known music. It’s not as generous as it sounds.Michael Arrington points out that a $5 tax—besides essentially turning music into a service requiring us to perpetually suck on the industry’s teat—would double its size, from $10 billion to $20 billion. So of course the labels are all for it. It’s guaranteed revenue that would flood their coffers like never before. Warner’s plan calls for the cash stream to flow into a pool that’ll be split between copyright holders and artists. But we all know how hard labels want to screw artists.
And as Arrington points out, it would basically freeze innovation in the industry, meaning labels would be able to ream them that much harder. Not to mention, thanks to the fine print, we’d probably no longer own our music. But that’s the whole point.”
Straight from Gizmodo: “Would you go on a mission to mars? What about if it was a one-way mission? And you were by yourself? Yeah, that changes things a bit. Well, that’s exactly what former NASA engineer Jim McClane suggests, saying that it’s worth considering and removes many of the hurdles keeping us from the red planet now.Dubbed “Spirit of the Lone Eagle,” his plan would eliminate the hardest aspect of any potential Mars mission: the need to launch off of Mars to return to Earth.
“When we eliminate the need to launch off Mars, we remove the mission’s most daunting obstacle,” said McLane. And because of a small crew size, the spacecraft could be smaller and the need for consumables and supplies would be decreased, making the mission cheaper and less complicated.While some might classify this as a suicide mission, McLane feels the concept is completely logical.
“There would be tremendous risk, yes,” said McLane, “but I don’t think that’s guaranteed any more than you would say climbing a mountain alone is a suicide mission. People do dangerous things all the time, and this would be something really unique, to go to Mars. I don’t think there would be any shortage of people willing to volunteer for the mission. Lindbergh was someone who was willing to risk everything because it was worth it. I don’t think it will be hard to find another Lindbergh to go to Mars. That will be the easiest part of this whole program.”
So, what do you say, wanna be space travelers? Would you ride in a tiny spaceship to Mars by yourself to be known as the first human ever to travel to, and then die on, Mars? [Universe Today via Danger Room]“