Science And Technology Links 4/6/17
From Will: Translating the lingo here, what they are talking about is having modular avionics (AVIation electrONICS) systems that all follow a common software language and hardware architecture. Modern avionics are essentially networked purpose-built computers that tie into external sensors and internal control systems. Back in the bad old days, the avionics computer was locked just above the pilot’s shoulder and somewhere between his ears. Cockpit indicators, like artificial horizons, airspeed, altitude, etc. were designed to be slotted into common holes in the dashboard and hooked up to common external sensors (like pitot tubes, etc.). That was about as standardized as it got. Nowadays, only the simplest of aircraft are without computerized avionics. I’ve seen restored WWII fighters with modern avionics systems tucked into the cockpit, complete with multifunction touch displays and HUDs.
Commercial and military aircraft all have complex avionics packages. Once upon a time, those avionics systems were unique to each manufacturer, and sometimes unique to an airframe (companies might re-use pieces from one airframe to another, but you also had airframes with completely unique systems). As you can imagine, this made for not only design headaches, but support nightmares. Having common hardware requirements and common software APIs streamlines things quite a bit.
A new twist on an old trick.
But will they help us do the Electric Slide, or the Electric Bugaloo?
The Falcon 9 rocket has been successfully re-used. This is a pretty big deal when it comes to reducing the cost to orbit. Another way to keep down costs is to use a Single Stage To Orbit (SSTO). The reasons we use multiple stages is both weight (once the fuel is used, to point in carry the empty tank around) and efficiency (the traditional bell shaped rocket nozzle has a lot of shape variation, and that variation affects how efficient it is in certain air pressure and density regimes). Now the rocket at the link looks less like a rocket and more like Paul Bunyan’s beard trimmer, but that is what is known as a Linear Aerospike, which is a rocket nozzle that is efficient across a wide range of atmospheric conditions, which means you only need one rocket motor for the whole flight.
Despite the alphabet soup, the topic of interest is the discovery of another key part of why our bodies degenerate with age.
Lungs can make blood, who knew (no one knew, that’s why it’s interesting). Also, we can make blood in a lab using immortal stem cells. I just can’t but wonder what will happen to all the college students who are unable to get free pizza once every 8 weeks.
Speaking of stem cells, fixing a torn rotator cuff. Wave of the future, folks.
Why is AI still kinda dumb?
Once more around this maypole. It bothers me how seemingly blasé law enforcement is about backdoors and the clear danger they represent.
Microchip! Assemble thyself!
Finally, I can put the TV remote in my couch cushion, instead of losing it between them.
Globally, coal power plants are in decline (old ones being retired, new ones not coming on-line). Not surprising. Especially given the interest in other sources of power (full disclosure, the CEO of Windlift is an old friend of mine from Grad School). Related, given the intermittent nature of wind and solar, storing power in compressed air.
The polymer membrane in hydrogen fuel cells is a fragile thing, and a tear in one greatly reduces it’s ability to produce power. New ones will hopefully be able to heal themselves, thus significantly increasing their service lives.
Storing solar power in solar cells, thanks to ferns.
Turning citrus peels into heavy metal water filters. And here I was just using them to freshen up the sink disposal.
Turning leaves into fertilizer! Wait, we already do that with compost? Let me re-read… OH! Using bionic leaves to make fertilizer! The advantage is, no need to using petroleum to make fertilizer, and the ‘leaf’ can be plugged into the ground next to the plants. I’d be curious to see how this would work in a farmer’s field, but I can certainly see something like this working in a garden, or a greenhouse.
I do love a nice poly-cotton blend, but the material hasn’t been very re-usable except as fill. Note the word, ‘hasn’t’.
Graphene Quantum Dots. Not the candy. Handy little things, from TVs to laundry detergent.
And for when we don’t want water hanging around, a self healing, highly durable hydrophobic coating.
Printing with liquid metal (and an introduction to shear thinning).
When I first saw Team Wendy, I was pretty sure I was going to read about how fresh (not frozen) beef was helping soldiers. Turns out, that is not quite right.
Subatomic quantum behavior continues to surprise.
Paging Orson Krennic. Mr. Krennic, your new toy is ready.
Man, if you can’t count on the existence of Dark Energy, what can you count on? Seriously though, there is an important bit in there about models and how they can bite you in the ass.
How much more do we have to learn about mosquitoes before we can just up and wipe the little bastards out?
Thinking about autonomous air vehicles. If self driving cars give you the willies…
Using little plasma generators to give trucks some aerodynamic efficiency.
That is a bad-ass looking wheelchair. And it climbs stairs.
More money for the dream of supersonic commercial flight. Still need to figure out how to quiet the boom.
Sweet Lord Poseidon, I want one!
Image by Joe Dyer