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August 8, 2006, 9:44 PM CT

Learning From Near-impossible Missions

Learning From Near-impossible Missions Artist's impression of Huygens' descent
Projects for space researchers and astronomers taught LogicaCMG a lot about building mission-critical systems. Customers across the world have benefited from this experience.

"Your mission is almost impossible. If you choose to accept it, you'll have to land a small probe on the surface of Titan, Saturn's giant moon".

"We don't know what it's like there - no one has been before. Your mission is to gather data and get it back to Earth. There's only one chance to get it right".

"Oh, and there's one more thing. The spacecraft that will carry the probe to Saturn will take seven years to get to the launch point. The software to control the probe and its instruments must be tested before it leaves".

Perfect delivery.

LogicaCMG is used to briefs like this. The British company has been writing software for tough space missions ever since the European Space Agency was created.

In 1992 LogicaCMG was selected to develop software to control the Huygens probe's descent onto Titan. It also had to operate the scientific instruments and report their findings to mission control.

The probe would be launched on board the Cassini spacecraft in 1997. The descent would happen seven years later after a journey of 1.2 billion kilometres.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source


August 7, 2006, 7:40 AM CT

Station Crew to 'Kick It Up a Notch' With Chef

Station Crew to 'Kick It Up a Notch' With Chef
The crew of the International Space Station will indulge next week in the ultimate "take-out" food, a meal delivered by a NASA space shuttle and designed by chef Emeril Lagasse of the Food Network's "Emeril Live." After tasting several of Lagasse's creations, the three-person crew will talk to the chef at 1:30 p.m. EDT Aug. 10 in a special hookup carried live on NASA TV.

Lagasse sent NASA some of his special recipes for potential use in space. After the mandatory testing and processing, five different meals were selected. Emeril's Mardi Gras jambalaya, mashed potatoes with bacon, green beans with garlic, rice pudding and mixed fruit were delivered to the station aboard the shuttle Discovery in July.

The station is home to NASA astronaut Jeff Williams, Russian cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Reiter. Station crews commonly live and work in space for six months. "Our research has indicated that quality, appetizing food is important for the health and morale of astronauts during space missions, particularly long ones," said NASA's Vickie Kloeris, who oversees the development and distribution of food on the space station.

Menu options for shuttle and station crews are more extensive than ever before, with about 200 U.S. food items available. Russian food also is available.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source


August 6, 2006, 10:09 PM CT

Electronic Capacitors from seaweed

Electronic Capacitors from seaweed
New materials for advanced electronics are usually expensive, high-tech substances. But a team of researchers in France has shown that energy-storage components called supercapacitors can be made from a remarkably cheap and humble material: baked seaweed.

Francois Beguin of the CNRS Research Centre on Divided Matter in Orleans, France, and his co-workers say that seaweed, when burned to a charcoal-like form, is just the right stuff for making the electrodes in state-of-the-art supercapacitors. It performs as well as the carbon-based substances currently used in commercial devices, the researchers say.

"People working on carbons are always looking for improved properties," says Mildred Dresselhaus, a specialist in carbon materials at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She points out that coconut shells are already used as a source of porous carbon for water filtration and other applications. "Low-tech routes are usually used when they do the job," Dresselhaus says.........

Posted by: John      Permalink         Source


August 6, 2006, 9:43 PM CT

Split The Network Upside Down

Split The Network Upside Down
My neighbours are stealing my wireless internet access. I could encrypt it or alternately I could have fun.

Split the network.

I'm starting here by splitting the network into two parts, the trusted half and the untrusted half. The trusted half has one netblock, the untrusted a different netblock. We use the DHCP server to identify mac addresses to give out the relevant addresses.........

Posted by: John      Permalink         Source


August 3, 2006, 11:54 PM CT

Brownfields May Turn Green

Brownfields May Turn Green
Growing crops for biofuels summons images of fuel alternatives springing from the rural heartland. But a Michigan State University partnership with DaimlerChrysler is looking at turning industrial brownfields green.

Kurt Thelen, MSU professor of crop and soil sciences, is leading the investigation to examine the possibility that some oilseed crops like soybeans, sunflower and canola, and other crops such as corn and switchgrass, can be grown on abandoned industrial sites for use in ethanol or biodiesel fuel production. Another partner is NextEnergy, a nonprofit organization that supports energy technology development.

The results of the work conducted here might sprout similar sites across the state and nation in areas that aren't desirable for commercial or residential uses. The results also will contribute crops for biofuel production and may help clean up contaminated soils.

"Right now, brownfields don't grow anything," Thelen said. "This may seem like a drop in the bucket, but we're looking at the possibilities of taking land that isn't productive and using it to both learn and produce".

The project now is a two-acre parcel that is part of a former industrial dump site in Oakland County's Rose Township. Thelen's group is looking to determine if crops grown on brownfield sites can produce adequate yields to make them viable for use in biofuel production. The crops also need to produce adequate quantities of seed oil.........

Posted by: John      Permalink         Source


August 3, 2006, 7:08 AM CT

Direction Of Future Quantum Research

Direction Of Future Quantum Research
Eventhough presently a very young field, Quantum Information Science and Technology (QIST) could well have a vital role to play in future information and communication technologies. Quantum computing and communication techniques have the potential to transform the way we think about computing power.

Or so believes Daniele Binosi of the Institute of Quantum Optics and Quantum Information in Innsbruck, Austria, and the European Centre for Theoretical Studies in Nuclear Physics and Related Areas in Trento, Italy, who has been involved in the first phase of the ERA-Pilot QIST project. "Once we can build a quantum computer, the result will be a revolution much like the initial growth in information technology. It will not be so much an evolution in processing power as a revolution. We cannot even imagine now the increase in processing power that will become available."

The aims of ERA-Pilot QIST are to foster European research efforts in QIST by investigating the present status of quantum research in Europe, identifying the potential for cooperation between research groups, and making recommendations for future research and funding policy at both national and European level. Collaborating with other related projects, it is part of the Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) proactive initiative in the field of Quantum Information Processing and Communication (QIPC). Since 1998, throughout FP5 and FP6 - the EU's Fifth and Sixth Framework Programmes for research, FET has funded projects in this area of research for a total of €100 million.........

Posted by: John      Permalink         Source


August 3, 2006, 7:03 AM CT

Greater Bandwidth From Alternative Semiconductors

Greater Bandwidth From Alternative Semiconductors
With demand for greater bandwidth in communication networks steadily increasing, existing optical transmission and amplification technologies are fast reaching their limits. However simulations of a new type of semiconductor technology show promise in overcoming current bandwidth restrictions, and doing so more cheaply.

In recent years demand for greater bandwidth capacity in telecommunications, especially for fast-growing metro networks, has been answered by using multi-wavelength transmission techniques over single fibres. Now this approach is running up against its own technological limits - an inability to use the total potential fibre bandwidth due to the lack of suitable semiconductor technology. These were the problems the IST project BigBand attempted to solve.

BigBand participants aimed to develop new types of semiconductor devices and systems that could exploit the total bandwidth capability of the latest optical fibres. They focused their efforts around ultra-wideband InP 'quantum dot' technology, which has the potential to overcome the bandwidth restrictions, especially at the longer wavelengths of 1.4-1.65 µm, of the present 'quantum well' based semiconductor materials (where particles, which were originally free to move in three dimensions, are confined to two).........

Posted by: John      Permalink         Source


August 3, 2006, 6:49 AM CT

Shockless Future Spacewalkers' Aim

Shockless Future Spacewalkers' Aim Jeff Williams participates in the first session of extravehicular activity performed by the Expedition 13 crew. Image credit: NASA
Space Station crew members Jeff Williams and Thomas Reiter will work to avoid future shocks during a scheduled 6-hour-plus spacewalk Aug. 3.

They also will have a third station crew member for the first time in more than three years. Expedition 13 Commander Pavel Vinogradov will coach them through their prebreathe exercise program and help them suit up for their outing.

The station crew was reduced to two members in May 2003 in the wake of the Columbia accident. Since then, spacewalkers have had to reconfigure station systems before donning their spacesuits without help.

Once the spacewalk begins, Williams and Reiter will be coached through their tasks by Astronaut Steve Bowen. He will act as spacewalk intravehicular officer from the International Space Station Flight Control Room in Houston's Mission Control Center.

The first and longest major task of the spacewalk is installation of the Floating Potential Measurement Unit (FPMU). That device is designed to measure the electrical potential of the station so ways can be verified or devised to minimize arcing hazards as the ISS grows.

Williams, designated lead spacewalker (EV1), will wear the U.S. spacesuit with red stripes. Reiter, EV2, will wear the all-white suit.

They will spend about half an hour setting up equipment after they emerge from the Quest airlock shortly before 10 a.m. EDT. They'll then move with the FPMU to a camera mount near the upper outboard end of the S1 (starboard one) truss. Total time allotted for the installation is 1 hour, 50 minutes.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source


August 2, 2006, 11:47 PM CT

One Atom At A Time

One Atom At A Time
By observing events at the scale of single atoms, Cornell scientists have found evidence that the mechanism in high-temperature superconductors may be much more like that in low-temperature superconductors than was previously thought.

"This came as a huge shock," said J.C. Seamus Davis, Cornell professor of physics, who with colleagues reports the findings in the Aug. 3 issue of the journal Nature.

Superconductors are materials that conduct electricity with virtually no resistance. The new research may shed light on how superconductivity works in modified copper oxides known as cuprates, which superconduct at the relatively "high" temperature of liquid nitrogen.

"The main expectation has been that electron pairing in cuprates is due to magnetic interactions. The objective of our experiment was to find the magnetic glue," Davis said.

Instead, the scientists observed that the distribution of paired electrons in a common high-temperature superconductor was "disorderly," but that the distribution of phonons -- vibrating atoms in the crystal lattice -- was disorderly in just the same way. The theory of low-temperature superconductivity says that electrons interacting with phonons join into pairs that are able to travel through the conductor without being scattered by atoms. These results suggest that a similar mechanism may be at least partly responsible for high-temperature superconductivity.........

Posted by: John      Permalink         Source


August 2, 2006, 6:44 AM CT

15 Billion Kms And Counting

15 Billion Kms And Counting
The Voyager 1 spacecraft set off from the Earth in 1977 and has clocked up quite a few miles since. On 16th August it is due to reach a whopping 100 AU - 14,959,787,069 km or 9,295,573,000 miles - from the Sun. Eventhough 15 billion kilometres is peanuts by the standards of our local stars, that is well beyond all the planets in our Solar System and is the furthest that any artificial object from the Earth has ever been.

Voyager 1 is now heading away from the Sun at a speedy 17 km/s (38,250 mph) through the heliosheath and should pass beyond the heliopause - the point where the wind from the Sun is balanced by the wind from other stars which demarks interstellar space - within the next 10 years. The flight controllers expect that Voyager 1 (and Voyager 2) will still keep returning data up until 2020, so hopefully our first interstellar travellers will then be able to send back some interesting information about the heliopause.

For more information listen to a nice JPL podcast (13.3 MB).........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source


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