Flying to Alpha Centauri on a laser beam — In the 1960s, the physicist and space futurist Robert Forward proposed a radical method of sending a spacecraft to the stars. Roughly speaking, the idea was to attach the spacecraft to a large light sail, and then push it by illuminating the sail with an enormous laser. Forward suggested a powerful laser could accelerate a spacecraft to a large fraction of the speed of light, allowing it to reach some of our nearest stellar neighbors within just a few decades. And now … In April, the physicist-turned-internet-billionaire Yuri Milner, together with Stephen Hawking and other notable scientists and engineers, announced that the Breakthrough Foundation would begin funding work on the concept of a laser-propelled starship, with the long-term goal of reaching the closest neighboring star system to our own, Alpha Centauri.
~ Just a few decades …
Gravitational wave hunt in space — This basic vision for a space-based gravitational wave observatory, which those planning a European mission generally call the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA), is about 30 years old. And it could be 20 years more before we see it in action. But results released today by the European Space Agency’s LISA Pathfinder team suggest it’s possible to achieve the sensitivity needed to build it.
~ Surf’s up.
Rocks could help solve global warming — A new study out today in Science details the protocol followed by a team of researchers at the University of Southampton to turn carbon emissions into rocks. The team took carbon emissions from the atmosphere, dissolved them in water and sealed them in an underground well in Iceland with basalt rocks. Over the course of two years, the carbon solution reacted with the basalt, eventually crystallising into carbon storage rocks.
~ But there are risks.
That long-lived bit — Researchers in the UK have prototyped an ultimate data backup technology — a monocle-sized transparent disc that stores 360 terabytes, withstands fires and heat up to 1000ºC and retains its data even over billions of years. As IEEE Spectrum reported in 2013, the tiny quartz discs store their data as laser-etched nanostructures in the crystal. The nanostructures change the polarization of light passing through it. These changes are read off by an automated microscope algorithm that translates polarization signals back into the stream of stored data.
~ Just keep your players up to date for millennium, and all’s well.
Living bacteria storing data — CRISPR/Cas9 is turning into an incredibly versatile tool. The cheap and easy-to-use molecular editing system that burst onto the biotech scene only a few years ago is being used for a host of applications, including genetic engineering, RNA editing, disease modelling and fighting retroviruses like HIV. And now, as described in a new Science paper, it can also be used to turn lowly microorganisms into veritable hard drives.
~ Just be careful what you ingest.
Bluetooth is about to get more powerful — Mark Powell, executive director of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, noted in a newsletter that Bluetooth 5 will debut June 16. The new incarnation of wireless standard offers “double the range and quadruple the speed of low energy Bluetooth transmissions.”
~ Use your mouse from next door!
Multiple sclerosis patients who were severely disabled are walking, working and even downhill skiing again — This follows a breakthrough therapy which completely destroys, then rebuilds, the immune system. The trial, which is the first in the world to show complete long-term remission from the debilitating disease, has been hailed by experts as “exciting” “unprecedented,” and “close to curative.”
More ‘Hobbit’ skeletons discovered on Flores — Researchers from Australia’s University of Wollongong describe the fossilised remains of three small-bodied hominids thought to be the distant ancestors of Homo floresiensis, an extinct species of ancient human popularly known as the “Hobbits”. The fossils, which include an adult mandible and several teeth, are the first skeletal remains to be discovered on the Indonesian island of Flores outside of Liang Bua (the cave in which paleoanthropologists discovered the original Hobbit remains).
~ They had tiny brains, much like those of Trump supporters.