…Fireproof Ceramic Via Plastic, Cool Pic of Nacreous Clouds, Number of Crazy Drivers and Safer Cars Up, and One Freaky Tractor!
We’d like to take a few moments for famed physicist James A. Van Allen, who was involved in pioneering space physics research and who, at the age of 91, died Wednesday.
In a career that stretched over more than a half-century, Van Allen designed scientific instruments for dozens of research flights, first with small rockets and balloons, and eventually with space probes that traveled to distant planets and beyond, reports The Associated Press.
Van Allen gained global attention in the late 1950s when instruments he designed and placed aboard the first U.S. satellite, Explorer I, discovered the bands of intense radiation that surround the earth, now known as the Van Allen Belts.
The bands spawned a whole new field of research known as magnetospheric physics, an area of study that now involves more than 1,000 investigators in more than 20 countries. The discovery also propelled the U.S. in its space exploration race with the Soviet Union.
A pint to you, sir.
Japanese Quadriplegic Mountain Man and Robot Friend
And a pint also to Seiji Uchida, a Japanese quadriplegic who on Monday partially ascended one of Switzerland’s highest mountains, thanks to a friend who carried him up with the help of a high-tech robot suit.
Uchida, who has been paralyzed from the neck down since a traffic accident more than two decades ago, rode piggyback on a friend who was aided by a motorized exoskeleton, reports The Associated Press.
Uchida’s friend, Takeshi Matsumoto, carried him with the help of a “wearable robot” known as HAL, or “Hybrid Assistive Limb,” which gave him extra strength. HAL was developed by Tsukuba University engineering professor Yoshiyuki Sankai, who created it to help an operator perform tasks a normal human would not be strong enough for. Using HAL, someone who could normally lift 220 pounds at a leg-press machine could lift 396 pounds, according to according to the Web page of Sankai’s venture company Cyberdyne.
That is fantastic!
‘The Most Costly Piece of Punctuation in Canada’
This is for those people who scoff at correct grammar, punctuation and language usage in business…
It seems Rogers Communications Inc. will be forced to pay $2.13 million Canadian dollars more than planned for a deal with Aliant Inc. because of a misplaced comma in the contract between the two companies, according to Toronto’s Globe & Mail.
Rogers thought it had a five-year deal with Aliant Inc. to string Rogers’ cable lines across thousands of utility poles in the Maritimes for an annual fee of $9.60 per pole. The construction of a single sentence in the 14-page contract allowed the entire deal to be scrapped with only a year’s notice.
Page 7 of the contract states: The agreement “shall continue in force for a period of five years from the date it is made, and thereafter for successive five year terms, unless and until terminated by one year prior notice in writing by either party.”
It’s the second comma that’s the problem. The comma separates “and thereafter for successive five year terms” from the last part of the sentence, “unless and until terminated by one year prior notice in writing.” If you take out this dependent clause, the agreement reads, “shall continue in force for a period of five years from the date it is made unless and until terminated by one year prior notice in writing.”
Aliant terminated the agreement with one year’s prior notice in writing. That second comma said it could.
Now Where Did I Put Those Historical Tapes? I Know I Had Them Here Somewhere…
The Sydney Morning Herald has published an article reporting the loss of the original recordings of the Apollo Moon landings, notes Blogger News Network.
The article reveals that the famous tapes went missing from the Goddard Space Flight Center and that an intense search is underway to find them. The tapes were originally stored at Goddard, but without any explanation were taken to the U.S. National Archives in 1970. In 1984, about 700 boxes of tapes were returned to Goddard along with documents stating that the tapes were withdrawn.
When Australian scientist John Sarkassian initiated a study about the participation of Australia in the Apollo Mission, he requested the tapes. NASA told him the tapes were missing.
The missing tapes contain recordings of five original Apollo moon landings. Due to the format incompatibility between the Apollo recordings and the commercial TV, the public transmissions were projected in a screen from which they were filmed using conventional TV cameras, which substantially degraded the quality of the picture.
Scientists at the CSIRO have developed a plastic that transforms into a fire-proof ceramic during a blaze, according to ABC News.
When exposed to temperatures as high as 700 degrees, the polymer becomes a tough ceramic structure.
Scientist Vince Dowling says the polymer could help save lives, especially when people are caught in burning buildings. Containing the fire increases the escape times and therefore allows a more efficient evacuation. Scientists are looking into additional applications for the plastic such as on oil rigs, cargo ships, aircraft, tunnels, office blocks and other public buildings (protecting structural steel)…
And perhaps the kitchen’s most uncomfortable oven mitts.
While people’s driving skills still suck, the cars themselves are becoming safer, a study by an insurance industry research group has found.
In fact, without design changes that have made vehicles safer, including the growing prevalence of air bags, the death toll on the nation’s roads would be higher by about 5k people annually, more than 11 percent of 2005′s total, according to the study.
The reason, says the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety report, is that drunken driving rates have not changed much in the 10 years studied, seat belt use has climbed at only a moderate pace, and people are driving faster.
“We have lost focus on the human behavior side,” said Adrian Lund, an author of the study, which examined the period from 1994 to 2004. “Vehicle design changes are good, but people shouldn’t have to buy new, more crashworthy vehicles to maintain their safety.”
Hack Brings to Question RFID in Passports
A German computer expert has discovered a way to clone the information contained in the new biometric passports.
At a Defcon security conference last Sunday, Lukas Grunwald, a consultant with a German security company, demonstrated how data from a biometric passport can be transferred onto blank chips, which could then be implanted in fake passports, reports All Headline News.
Although Grunwald was not able to alter the information, the revelation does put into doubt the passport-upgrading scheme used by the U.S., UK and other countries.
Not Just Another Pretty Sunset
Renae Baker, a scientist with the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, snapped this photograph of a rare nacreous cloud on July 25 at the country’s Antarctic Mawson station.
The cloud formed at a height of 12.5 miles above the ground and was more than twice as tall as clouds normally seen in polar regions.
Nacreous clouds — also known as polar stratospheric clouds — form “when the fading light at sunset passes through tiny ice crystals blown along by a strong jet of stratospheric air,” according to National Geographic. “The clouds form only in polar latitudes and at extremely cold temperatures.” This type of cloud contributes to the formation of the polar ozone holes. They form surfaces where chemical reactions can take place that produce ozone-destroying molecules.
The phenomenon could help scientists understand more about atmospheric conditions and climate change.
According to one commenter…
This tractor is made in Europe by a subsidiary of John Deere, which is planning to market the vehicle for the logging industry. According to us, it is — well, the best description must be — freaky-deakylicious.