As Congress adjourns there’s still plenty left for them to argue about, but NASA’s mission going forward isn’t one of them. The House of Representatives passed a NASA authorization bill late last night, outlining the budget – $19 billion in 2011 and $58 billion through 2013 – and goals for the space agency going forward. On deck: increased commercial space investment, a new heavy-lift rocket, and a focus on future deep space missions to an asteroid or even Mars.
As if there wasn't enough excitement swirling around the discovery of a potentially habitable planet circling the star Gliese 581 just 20 light years away, one of the scientists behind yesterday's announcement upped the ante during a press briefing yesterday afternoon, declaring "my own personal feeling is that the chances of life on this planet are 100 percent."
A couple of math geeks recently calculated that the discovery of the first "habitable" exoplanet would be announced in May of next year -- but a few stargazers from UC Santa Cruz and their colleagues simply couldn't wait that long. In a paper published in the Astrophysical Journal, the astronomers report the discovery of what may be the first truly habitable earth-like exoplanet orbiting the nearby red dwarf star Gliese 581.
Last week, the world waited with bated breath as Swedish robotics engineers teased us with promises of a robotic swan that danced so beautifully to Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” that the few who had viewed it were moved to tears. The dancing swan was unveiled this week at Sweden’s largest book fair, and due to the overwhelming demands of readers (okay, three of you) we’ve obtained the first video of robo-swan in action.
Iran’s Sacred Week of Defense (celebrating its eight-year resistance to the Iraqi invation of the 1980s) is never without a healthy dose of pomp and ceremony, but this week Iran’s defense ministry took the usual military parade to the waterfront. Yesterday Iran unveiled three squadrons of machine-gun-wielding flying boats. Yeah, you read that correctly.
The most complicated task one used to undertake while driving was changing the eight-track, but now there are more technological bells and whistles in the cabs of our autos than we can possibly pay attention to as. So University of Utah engineers are testing a new tactile system to remove at least one audio-visual distraction from the driving experience, allowing navigation systems to direct drivers by sense of touch.
The universe has only about 3.7 billion years in which to settle its affairs. At least, that’s the new assertion from a group of physicists who say that there is a 50 percent chance that time will end within that time frame. If the laws of physics as we understand them are in fact correct, then time must eventually end – and their math shows that both the sun and the Earth should still be around when that happens.
The truth is out there, and yesterday a group of retired Air Force officers gathered the media and a handful of well-wishers at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., in an attempt to reveal what they say is a government cover-up of decades of alien contact.
We love robots here at PopSci, especially the kind that have practical uses beyond making crowds of onlookers say "wow." But today FastCo reports on a shape-shifting 'bot that is both "wow"-worthy and completely useful: a robotic mannequin that can conform to your specific body measurements to show you how an online clothing vendor's wares will wear on your unique frame.
Biometric systems – those that identify individuals based on unique biological characteristics like fingerprints, retinal patterns, voice, or facial features – have long been considered the future of security protocols. Technological advances over the past decade in particular have made them much more widespread in practical application, but a new report form the National Research Council says that could be a mistake, as the systems are “inherently fallible.”