How Ceres’ bright spots were formed — We now have a good idea of what those bright spots on Ceres are, but the question of how they got there was mysterious. Now, an incredibly low-altitude image of the dwarf planet reveals details about their origins. Nasa’s Dawn spacecraft is currently in its lowest orbit over Ceres, just 386km above its surface, and it’s capturing the closest images (like that above) so far of the mysterious bright spots. Now we know that the glow likely comes from salt, and researchers have shifted their attention to the craters that house them. It turns out the craters are newer than we originally thought.
~ Hands up all those who hoped it was aliens waving lanterns, apart from me?
Something crazy about the atmosphere of Venus — Data from the European Space Agency’s first mission to Venus is back, and with it comes some fascinating insights into our nearest neighbor’s atmosphere. It turns out, parts of Venus are very, very cold thanks to data gathered as the probe crashed towards the surface.
~ That’s odd? I imagine most things in space to be cold.
The ‘impossible’ EM Drive NASA is testing — The EmDrive, the so-called ‘impossible’ space drive that uses no propellant, has roiled the aerospace world for the past several years ever since it was proposed by British aerospace engineer Robert Shawyer. The claim advanced by Shawyer and others is that if you bounced microwaves in a truncated cone, thrust would be produced out the open end. Most scientists have snorted at the idea … but now MIT Technology Review has suggested how it might work after all.
~ Luckily I don’t own a microwave – otherwise I’d be off to the supermarket to buy some ice cream cones.
Solar now cheaper than coal in India — India is on track to soar past a goal to deploy more than 100 gigawatts of solar power by 2022, the country’s energy minister Piyush Goyal has stated. Speaking at the release of a 15-point action plan for the country’s renewable sector, Goyal said he was now considering looking at “something more” for the fast-growing solar sector, since “I think a new coal plant would give you costlier power than a solar plant.”
~ Well, thank goodness for that.
Researchers accidentally make batteries that could last a lifetime — A typical Lithium-ion battery breaks down badly between 5000-7000 cycles. Researchers at the University of California may have discovered a simple way to build a Lithium battery that can withstand over 100,000 cycles. This was a serendipitous discovery as the researcher was playing around with the battery and coated it in a thin gel layer. The researchers believe the gel plasticizes the metal oxide in the battery and gives it flexibility, preventing cracking.
~ Damn, I bet he was pissed off!
Researchers can Identify you by your brain waves with 100% accuracy — Scientists have developed a new system that can identify people using their brain waves or ‘brainprint’ with 100% accuracy, an advance that may be useful in high-security applications.
~ Well, I’ll just turn mine off, ha ha! Who wins then?
Super stretchy artificial muscles also self-heal — When you pull a muscle, it may hurt like heck for a while, but the human body can heal. The same is not true of the electrically-responsive polymers used to make artificial muscles for haptic systems and experimental robots. When they get cut or punctured, it’s game over — until this new polymer that’s super stretchy and self-healing.
~ No robo-yoga instructors required.
Ancient song reconstructed — An ancient song repertory lost since the 11th century has been reconstructed by researchers from the University of Cambridge. Songs of Consolation was a medieval musical retelling of Roman philosopher Boethius’s magnum opus, The Consolation of Philosophy. You can listen to a short excerpt of the recovered work at this link.
~ I’ll wait for the rap version.
We might be wrong about the reasons for the dinosaur extinction — A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences today offers the strongest evidence yet that the extinction of the dinosaurs was less like a healthy tree getting toppled by a chainsaw, and more like a sickly one blowing over in a gust of wind.
~ Er, the wind blew and the dinosaurs fell over? OK, fine, whatever.