Tag: engineer (page 1 of 7)

Tesla’s Anti-Gravity Research in Use in Dozens of Secretive Military Projects

Just Up Ahead...and Right on Schedule -- Sirian High Council -- Patricia Cori

Christina Sarich, Staff WriterDoctor Richard Boylan, and numerous others have already let the cat out of the bag when it comes to anti-gravity space flight, so why do Boeing and Lockheed, two of America’s largest military industrial contractors, and the recipient of trillions in tax payer ‘black budget’ dollars still hide that they are operating at least 12 anti-gravity aerospace platforms?It seems that Boeing hides this advanced aerospace technology [...]

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Mind Control Programs Exposed – Your Thoughts Are Not Your Own

Vic Bishop, Staff WriterResearch into the structure and function of the human brain continues to accelerate. Collaborations, such as the Human Brain Project in Europe and the BRAIN initiative in the United States, are exploring making great advances in understanding the brain’s circuitry and computing principles.The supposed goals of these research initiatives are to understand the cause of and to improve treatment of brain disorders, to create neu [...]

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Amazing Device that Makes Filthy Water Drinkable

Video – A large part of the world lacks access to clean drinking water. Engineer Michael Pritchard did something about it — he created the portable Lifesaver filter, which can make the most revolting water drinkable in seconds. See an amazing demo below. [...]

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NASA wants your vote on Ceres’ mysterious bright spots

NASA wants your vote on Ceres’ bright spots

The nature of the bright spots has yet to be elucidated.




Excerpt from thespacereporter.com

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has set up a website at which members of the public can register their votes as to the identify of the strange and unexpected bright spots seen on Ceres by the Dawn probe. Although Dawn will study the spots in much greater detail in the near future, having just assumed its first scientific orbit, in the meantime the nature of spots in anyone’s guess. This author voted for “ice”.

It seems ice is the most popular possibility so far, with 33 percent of the vote. The next most popular choice is “other”, with 28 percent. “Volcano” and “geyser” both have 11 percent, “salt deposit” has nine percent, and “rock” has eight percent.

At about 590 miles in diameter, Ceres is the largest body in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Dawn had imaged Ceres’s surface throughout its approach. Dawn entered orbit of Ceres on March 6, the first spacecraft to orbit a dwarf planet. From 2011 to 2012, Dawn also orbited the asteroid Vesta, the second-most massive body in the asteroid belt. Having studied both Vesta and Ceres, Dawn is the first spacecraft in history to orbit two extraterrestrial objects. Dawn’s investigations of Vesta and Ceres will shed light on the early evolution of our solar system; both bodies represent incipient planets, gravitationally perturbed early in their formation.

“The approach imaging campaign has completed successfully by giving us a preliminary, tantalizing view of the world Dawn is about to start exploring in detail. It has allowed us to start asking some new and intriguing questions,” said Marc Rayman, Dawn’s mission director and chief engineer at the JPL, in a separate NASA statement.

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Why the U.S. Gave Up on the Moon

Moon nearside



Excerpt from spacenews.com


Recently, several space advocacy groups joined forces to form the Alliance for Space Development. Their published objectives include a mention of obvious near-term goals such as supporting the commercial crew program, transitioning from use of the International Space Station to future private space stations and finding ways to reduce the cost of access to space.  What is notably missing from these objectives and those of many other space agencies, companies and advocacy groups is any mention of building a permanent settlement on the moon. It’s as if the lunar surface has become our crazy uncle that we all acknowledge exists but we’d prefer not to mention (or visit).  What made the next logical step in mankind’s progression beyond the bounds of Earth such a taboo subject?  If, as the Alliance for Space Development suggests, our nation wishes to move toward a path of permanent space settlements, the most logical step is our own planet’s satellite.

Lunar base conception
A 2006 NASA conception of a lunar base. Credit: NASA


A base on the lunar surface is a better place to study space settlement than a space station or Mars for many reasons. Unlike a space station, the base does not have to contend with aerodynamic drag, attitude control issues or contamination and impingement from its own thrusters. Unlike a space station, which exists in a total vacuum and resource void, a lunar base has access to at least some surface resources in the forms of minerals, albeit fewer than might be available on Mars.  Many people naturally want to go directly to Mars as our next step. Even SpaceX has publicly stated this as its ultimate goal, with SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell noting that “we’re not moon people.” However, Mars makes sense only if we think the technology is ready to safely support humans on another surface for long periods of time. Furthermore, budget restrictions make an ambitious goal like going immediately to Mars an unlikely prospect. Why are we afraid to take the seemingly necessary baby steps of developing the technology for a long-term base on a surface that can be reached in mere days instead of months?  The tendency to want to skip a lunar settlement is not a new phenomenon. Even before the first landing on the moon, U.S. and NASA political leadership was contemplating the future of manned space, and few of the visions involved a lunar base. The early space program was driven by Cold War competition with Moscow, and the kinds of ideas that circulated at the time involved milestones that seemed novel such as reusable spaceplanes, nuclear-powered rockets, space stations and missions to Mars. 

When the United States was on the verge of a series of landings on the moon, building a permanent base just didn’t seem like much of a new giant leap. NASA's ConstellationNASA’s Constellation program, featuring the Orion manned capsule set atop the Ares 1 launch vehicle, was meant to send astronauts back to the moon. Credit: NASA  The idea of a lunar landing mission was not reintroduced seriously until the George W. Bush administration and the introduction of the Constellation program. This program came at a complex time for NASA: The space shuttle was recovering from the Columbia disaster, the space station was in the midst of construction and the United States found itself with large budget deficits. However, despite its budgetary and schedule problems, which are common in any serious aerospace development project from space programs to jumbo-jet development, it provided NASA with a vision and a goal that were reasonable and sensible as next steps toward a long-term future of exploration beyond Earth. 

Constellation was nevertheless canceled, and we have since returned to a most uncommon sense.  The decision to avoid any sort of lunar activity in current space policy may have been biased by the Obama administration’s desire to move as far away as possible from the policies of the previous administration. 

Regardless of the cause, discussion of returning to the moon is no longer on the table.  Without the moon, the only feasible mission that NASA could come up with that is within reach given the current technology and budget is the Asteroid Redirect Mission.  
Even planetary scientists have spoken out against the mission, finding that it will provide little scientific value. It will also provide limited engineering and technology value, if we assume that our long-term goal is to permanently settle space. The experience gained from this sort of flight has little applicability to planetary resource utilization, long-term life support or other technologies needed for settlement.  

If we are to have a program of manned space exploration, we must decide what the long-term goals of such a program should be, and we should align our actions with those goals. When resources such as funding are limited, space agencies and political leaders should not squander these limited resources on missions that make no sense. Instead, the limited funding should be used to continue toward our long-term goals, accepting a slower pace or slight scale-back in mission scope.  Establishing a permanent human settlement in space is a noble goal, one that will eventually redefine humanity. Like explorers before us, it is also not a goal that will be achieved in a short period of time. We would be wise to keep our eyes on that goal and the road needed to get us there. And the next likely stop on that road is a permanent home just above our heads, on the surface of the brightest light in the night sky.  

Paul Brower is an aerospace systems engineer on the operations team for the O3b Networks satellite fleet. He previously worked in mission control at NASA for 10 years.
Recently, several space advocacy groups joined forces to form the Alliance for Space Development. Their published objectives include a mention of obvious near-term goals such as supporting the commercial crew program, transitioning from use of the International Space Station to future private space stations and finding ways to reduce the cost of access to space.
What is notably missing from these objectives and those of many other space agencies, companies and advocacy groups is any mention of building a permanent settlement on the moon. It’s as if the lunar surface has become our crazy uncle that we all acknowledge exists but we’d prefer not to mention (or visit).
What made the next logical step in mankind’s progression beyond the bounds of Earth such a taboo subject?
If, as the Alliance for Space Development suggests, our nation wishes to move toward a path of permanent space settlements, the most logical step is our own planet’s satellite.
Lunar base conception
A 2006 NASA conception of a lunar base. Credit: NASA
A base on the lunar surface is a better place to study space settlement than a space station or Mars for many reasons. Unlike a space station, the base does not have to contend with aerodynamic drag, attitude control issues or contamination and impingement from its own thrusters. Unlike a space station, which exists in a total vacuum and resource void, a lunar base has access to at least some surface resources in the forms of minerals, albeit fewer than might be available on Mars.
Many people naturally want to go directly to Mars as our next step. Even SpaceX has publicly stated this as its ultimate goal, with SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell noting that “we’re not moon people.” However, Mars makes sense only if we think the technology is ready to safely support humans on another surface for long periods of time. Furthermore, budget restrictions make an ambitious goal like going immediately to Mars an unlikely prospect. Why are we afraid to take the seemingly necessary baby steps of developing the technology for a long-term base on a surface that can be reached in mere days instead of months?
The tendency to want to skip a lunar settlement is not a new phenomenon. Even before the first landing on the moon, U.S. and NASA political leadership was contemplating the future of manned space, and few of the visions involved a lunar base. The early space program was driven by Cold War competition with Moscow, and the kinds of ideas that circulated at the time involved milestones that seemed novel such as reusable spaceplanes, nuclear-powered rockets, space stations and missions to Mars. When the United States was on the verge of a series of landings on the moon, building a permanent base just didn’t seem like much of a new giant leap.
NASA's Constellation
NASA’s Constellation program, featuring the Orion manned capsule set atop the Ares 1 launch vehicle, was meant to send astronauts back to the moon. Credit: NASA
The idea of a lunar landing mission was not reintroduced seriously until the George W. Bush administration and the introduction of the Constellation program. This program came at a complex time for NASA: The space shuttle was recovering from the Columbia disaster, the space station was in the midst of construction and the United States found itself with large budget deficits. However, despite its budgetary and schedule problems, which are common in any serious aerospace development project from space programs to jumbo-jet development, it provided NASA with a vision and a goal that were reasonable and sensible as next steps toward a long-term future of exploration beyond Earth.
Constellation was nevertheless canceled, and we have since returned to a most uncommon sense.
The decision to avoid any sort of lunar activity in current space policy may have been biased by the Obama administration’s desire to move as far away as possible from the policies of the previous administration. Regardless of the cause, discussion of returning to the moon is no longer on the table.
Without the moon, the only feasible mission that NASA could come up with that is within reach given the current technology and budget is the Asteroid Redirect Mission.
Even planetary scientists have spoken out against the mission, finding that it will provide little scientific value. It will also provide limited engineering and technology value, if we assume that our long-term goal is to permanently settle space. The experience gained from this sort of flight has little applicability to planetary resource utilization, long-term life support or other technologies needed for settlement.
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If we are to have a program of manned space exploration, we must decide what the long-term goals of such a program should be, and we should align our actions with those goals. When resources such as funding are limited, space agencies and political leaders should not squander these limited resources on missions that make no sense. Instead, the limited funding should be used to continue toward our long-term goals, accepting a slower pace or slight scale-back in mission scope.
Establishing a permanent human settlement in space is a noble goal, one that will eventually redefine humanity. Like explorers before us, it is also not a goal that will be achieved in a short period of time. We would be wise to keep our eyes on that goal and the road needed to get us there. And the next likely stop on that road is a permanent home just above our heads, on the surface of the brightest light in the night sky.

Paul Brower is an aerospace systems engineer on the operations team for the O3b Networks satellite fleet. He previously worked in mission control at NASA for 10 years.
- See more at: http://spacenews.com/op-ed-why-the-u-s-gave-up-on-the-moon/#sthash.czfTscvg.dpuf

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NASA’s Orion Engineer Admits They Can’t Get Past Van Allen Radiation Belts

‘If this does not get the skeptics going wild on the moon debate, we don’t know what will.In the video presentation above, NASA engineer Kelly Smith explains about many of the risks and pitfalls surrounding the new Orion Deep Space Mission to the planet Mars.Surprisingly, chief among Kelly’s concerns is whether or not his spacecraft can successfully pass through the perilous Van Allen Radiation Belts. Such is the prospective danger in fact, that NASA will have to [...]

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Was Roswell UFO Crash A Secret Nazi Aircraft?

 Excerpt from  huffingtonpost.comThe Roswell, New Mexico, UFO crash of 1947 was the result of -- here it comes, wait for it -- top secret Nazi technology. No alien spacecraft, no alien bodies, but an aircraft called the "Bell" (depicted ab...

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If the Moon Landings Were Real, Then Why is NASA Stumped by This?

Buck Rogers, Staff WriterWaking TimesDuring the cold war era the Soviet Union and the United States were locked in an arms and technology race, each nation wanting to prove their dominance over the other, each striving to be the next reigning superpower in a world still shattered by the second world war. The Soviet’s took the lead when in April of 1961, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin successfully orbited the earth and returned home safely. In May, president John F. Kennedy ma [...]

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8 possible explanations for those bright spots on dwarf planet Ceres

Ceres  Excerpt from cnet.com It's a real-life mystery cliffhanger. We've come up with a list of possible reasons a large crater on the biggest object in the asteroid belt looks lit up like a Christmas tree.  We could be approachin...

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What It’s Like to Be at the 24th International UFO Congress







Excerpt from nbcnews.com
By Katie Linendoll
FOUNTAIN HILLS, Ariz. — If words like UFO, extraterrestrial, crops circles and abductee have ever piqued your paranormal interest, do yourself a favor and head to the International UFO Congress. 

The annual conference—which holds the Guinness record for being the largest convention dedicated to unidentified flying objects—takes place in the picturesque desert town of Fountain Hills, and this year it ran from Feb. 18 to 22. It's worth noting that Arizona is known as a hotbed of activity when it comes to sightings. Thousands flock to the annual event, which is produced by Open Minds, a paranormal research organization. 

Each attendee has his or her own reason for being there. My goal was to find out if modern science and technology have changed the game when it comes to UFO sightings and evidence gathering. 

"A lot of people think, go to a UFO convention, it's going to be tinfoil hats, but that's not what this is. We have NASA astrobiologists speak, scientists, high-ranking military officials, the works. I mean, there's a lot of really credible people covering this subject," said UFO Congress co-organizer and paranormal journalist Maureen Elsberry.

Air Force UFO documents now available online

When attending a UFO conference, the best approach is to come in with an open mind, ask lots of questions and talk with people about why they are there. Everyone has a story, from the speakers to the attendees, and even the vendors (some of whom double as ufologists). 

The highlight of this year's conference was undeniably the speaker series, and it was standing room only to see one man, Bob Lazar. Lazar first spoke out in 1989, claiming that he'd worked as a government scientist at a secret mountainside facility south of Area 51's main site, where he saw remarkably advanced UFO technology. Critics have sought to discredit Lazar, questioning his employment record and educational credentials. 

During the conference, George Knapp, an investigative TV reporter in Las Vegas who broke the Lazar story in '89, led an onstage question-and-answer session with Lazar, who discussed the work he did at a place called S4. Lazar spoke in detail about the alien UFO hangars and UFO propulsion systems he was allegedly asked to reverse engineer, and even loosely sketched them out for the audience. 

"All the science fiction had become reality," said Lazar, who was noticeably uncomfortable and clearly surprised by the fact that, decades later, he remains such a draw. 

You never know whom you'll bump into at the Congress. In the vendor hall, I met sculptor Alan Groves, who traveled all the way from Australia to peddle his "true to scale" Zetan alien figurines. I wondered if his side gig was lucrative, only to realize he was selling the figures like hotcakes. Then we talked about his day job, and he told me he's worked on special and creature effects for films such as "Star Wars," "Alien," "Labyrinth" and "Jurassic Park." 

Many of the attendees told me that hard evidence is a requirement for ufologists and paranormal field experts. Derrel Sims, also known as Alien Hunter, told me he spent two years in the CIA, and also has served as a police officer and licensed private investigator. 

He said his first alien encounter happened at age 4, and others in his family have also seen aliens. In 38-plus years of alien research, Sims has learned this: "If you look, the evidence is there." To date, he said, more than 4,000 pieces of that evidence exist. 

Sims is adamant about only working with evidence-based methods, using DNA tests and collecting samples as well as relying on ultraviolet, infrared and x-ray tools in his research. He said that, in 1992, he discovered aliens leave their own kind of fluorescent fingerprint, and he continues to test for these clues. He added that if you have had an alien encounter, it's important to react quickly to gather evidence: "fluorescence" stays on the skin for only 24 hours. He said that other marks aliens leave include "scoop" marks, which are an identifying thread some abductees have in common. 

Another commonality he's discovered is heritage. He said that, in his research, he has found 45 percent of all abductions happen to Native Americans, Irish and Celtic people, and he said that women also have a higher chance of being abducted. 

When it comes to filming hard-to-explain phenomena, Patty Greer, who makes documentaries about crop circles, said that quadcopters — a.k.a. drones — have added production value to her films. Lynne Kitei, who covered a mass UFO sighting in her book and in the documentary The Phoenix Lights, said that even low-tech tools, like the 35mm film she used, are still a reliable way to gather proof of inexplicable flying craft, especially because they offer something an iPhone doesn't: negatives.

White House responds to UFO request

Night vision also offers added opportunities for UFO researchers, according to Ben Hansen, who was the host and lead investigator of SyFy channel's "Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files." He's now the owner of Night Vision Ops, an online store that sells night-vision technology. Hansen said that the consumer accessibility of new military-grade technologies in thermal and light amplification scopes are upping the game for the everyday UFO enthusiast. 

To close out an intense few days on site at the Congress, Hansen's team invited me to a night watch near Arizona's Superstition Mountains. It was fascinating to see the latest optics add incredible clarity to the night sky, amplifying available light up to 50,000 times beyond what the unaided eye can see. Using the right technology, we were also able to see that a certain flying object, which made everyone nearby jump, wasn't a UFO after all. It was a bat. 

I was surrounded by some serious tech all weekend, and it was eye-opening to see the ways that UFO hunters are gathering scientific evidence to learn more about the paranormal world. But I have to say, the gadget that was the most useful to me at the conference was my iPhone, which I used to download a free nightlight app for kids. For the few hours I managed to sleep, it was with the soothing illumination provided by "Kiwi the Green Koala." In short, I was officially freaked out.

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Yes, that 3D-printed mansion is safe to live in


WinSun claims that their new 3D printed five-story building is the tallest of its kind in the world. Credit: 3ders.org
WinSun claims that their new 3D printed five-story building is the tallest of its kind in the world. 


Excerpt from

Back in April, a team of Chinese construction workers used a 3D printer to construct houses. By day’s end, there were 10 standing. They were compact and fairly bare bones — nothing much to look at besides the “wow!” factor of there being as many as — count them — 10. But this time around, those same builders have taken the wraps off an achievement that’s roundly more impressive.
In Suzhou Industrial Park, adjacent to Shanghai, stands a five-story structure that the WinSun Decoration Design Engineering firm claims is “the world’s tallest 3D-printed building.” Next to it is the equally massive 3D-printed mansion, which measures 11,840 square feet. Like the previous buildings, the walls are comprised of a mix of concrete and recycled waste materials, such as glass and steel, and formed layer by printed layer. The company stated that the total cost for the mansion was roughly $161,000. 
In a broader sense, this latest feat is yet another indication of how rapidly additive manufacturing techniques are advancing. Once used primarily as a means to quickly render miniature model versions of products, the technology has reached a point where large-scale printers are now capable of making life-sized working creations, such as automobiles, in mere days. For instance, it took less than 48 hours for start-up Local Motors to print a two-seater called the Strati into existence and drive it off the showroom.
Many of these designs, however, typically don’t amount to much beyond being passion projects meant to push 3D printing into new frontiers and drum up some publicity along the way. One example of this is the massive 3D Print Canal House that’s being constructed entirely on-site along a canal in Amsterdam, a process that’s slated to take longer and is less feasible than standard construction, Phil Reeves of UK-based 3D printing research firm Econolyst recently told CNN.
More promising, though, is a system developed by Behrokh Khoshnevis, a University of Southern California engineering professor. His concept machine, called Contour Crafting, involves a clever combination of mechanical cranes and 3D layering to print and assemble entire homes simultaneously — complete with insulation and indoor plumbing — in less than a day. 

Assembling 3D printed buildings is quite similar to erecting prefab homes. Credit: 3ders.org
Assembling 3D printed buildings is quite similar to erecting prefab homes. 


The approach employed by WinSun isn’t anywhere near that level of sophistication, but it may well prove to be the most practical – at least thus far. There is some labor and equipment costs that comes from trucking in and piecing together the various sections on-site, though the manner in which it all comes together is comparable to the ease of prefab assembly. It’s also reportedly greener thanks to the addition of recycled materials. 
To pitch the advantages of their technology, the company held a news conference to announce that they had taken on orders for 20,000 smaller units as well as highlight some significant cost-cutting figures. According toindustry news site 3Der:
The sheer size of the printer allows for a 10x increase in production efficiency. WinSun estimates that 3D printing technology can save between 30 and 60 percent of building materials and shortens production times by 50 to even 70 percent, while decreasing labor costs by 50 up to even 80 percent. Future applications include 3D printed bridges or tall office buildings that can be built right on site.
WinSun did not respond to a request to disclose how they arrived at those numbers, but Enrico Dini, an Italian civil engineer and chairman of competing start-up Monolite, says that he suspects the calculations may be a tad bit inflated. Still, he emphasized that his own data does back up the claim that, compared to conventional methods, layering may boost overall efficiency. 
“It would be very difficult to fabricate such large sections with traditional concrete casting,” he says. “With 3D printing, you have a lot less waste because you’re only printing out as much material as you need and you can custom shape whole sections on the spot, which can be a big challenge.”

WinSuns 3D printed villa has several rooms and has been deemed to be up to Chinas national safety standards. Credit: 3ders.org
WinSun’s 3D-printed villa has several rooms and has been deemed to be up to China’s national safety standards.

One major concern is whether these large-scale dwellings can hold up over time against the elements. According to 3Der, Ma Rongquan, chief engineer of China Construction Bureau, inspected the building’s structural integrity and found them to be up to code, but was careful to note that state officials have yet to establish specific criteria for assessing the long-term safety of 3D printed architecture.   
And as Dini, who supports the technology, points out, there is the possibility that the use of additive manufacturing may pose some degree of risk. “The only issue is that as the layers of concrete are bonded together, they’re drying at slightly different rates and that’s not very ideal,” he explains. “So there’s maybe a higher chance of it fracturing at the contact point if there’s a strong enough force at play.” 
Regardless, Dini says he’d feel completely safe going inside any floor of either building since construction materials used today are likely to contain special additives to enhance strength and resistance. One such formulation, fiber-reinforced Ductal, has been shown in some tests to be 10 times stronger and last twice as long as regular concrete. He stressed that walls should also be tested to ensure that other properties, such as acoustics, ventilation and thermal insulations are on par with existing buildings.
“In Italy, building standards are extremely strict,” he noted. “But I can’t say I can say the same about China.”

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A ‘bionic leaf’ that turns sunlight into fuel


Excerpt from cnbc.com

By Robert Ferris



The invention could pave the way for numerous innovations—by converting solar power into biofuels, it may help solve the vexing difficulty of storing unused solar energy, which is one of the most common criticisms of solar power as a viable energy source.
The process could also help make plastics and other chemicals and substances useful to industry and research.


The current experiment builds on previous research led by Harvard engineer Daniel Nocera, who in 2011 demonstrated an "artificial leaf" device that uses solar power to generate usable energy. 

Nocera's original invention was a wafer-like electrode suspended in water. When a current runs through the electrode from a power source such as a solar panel, for example, it causes the water to break down into its two components: hydrogen and oxygen. 

Nocera's device garnered a lot of attention for opening up the possibility of using sunlight to create hydrogen fuel—once considered a possible alternative to gasoline. 

But hydrogen has not taken off as a fuel source, even as other alternative energy sources survive and grow amid historically low oil prices. Hydrogen is expensive to transport, and the costs of adopting and distributing hydrogen are high. A gas station owner could more easily switch a pump from gasoline to biofuel, for example.


Now, Nocera and a team of Harvard researchers figured out how to use the bionic leaf to make a burnable biofuel, according to a study published Monday in the journal PNAS. The biologists on the team genetically modified a strain of bacteria that consumes hydrogen and produces isopropanol—the active ingredient in rubbing alcohol. In doing so, they successfully mimicked the natural process of photosynthesis—the way plants use energy from the sun to survive and grow.

This makes two things possible that have always been serious challenges for alternative energy space—solar energy can be converted into a storable form of energy, and the hydrogen can generate a more easily used fuel.


To be sure, the bionic leaf developments are highly unlikely to replace fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas any time soon—especially as the prices of both are currently so low. But it could be a good supplemental source. 

"One idea Dan [Nocera] and I share, which might seem a little wacky, is personalized energy" that doesn't rely on the power grid, biochemist Pamela Silver, who participated in the study, told CNBC in a telephone interview. 


Typically, people's energy needs are met by central energy production facilities—they get their electricity from the power grid, which is fed by coal- or gas-burning power plants, or solar farms, for example. Silver said locally produced energy could be feasible in developing countries that lack stable energy infrastructure, or could even appeal to people who choose to live off the grid.

"Instead of having to buy and store fuel, you can have your bucket of bacteria in your backyard," Silver said. 

Besides, the experiment was an attempt at proof-of-concept—the scientists wanted to demonstrate what could be done, Silver said. Now that they have mastered this process, further possibilities can be explored.  

"No insult to chemists, but biology is the best chemist there is, so we don't even know what we can make," said Silver. "We can make drugs, materials—we are just at the tip of the iceberg." 

The team hopes to develop many different kinds of bacteria that can produce all sorts of substances. That would mean, potentially at least, setting up the bionic leaf device and then plugging in whatever kind of bacteria might be needed at the moment.

For now, they want to increase the efficiency of the device, which is already much more efficient at photosynthesizing than plants are. Then they will focus on developing other kinds of bacteria to plug into the device.

"The uber goal, which is probably 20 years out," Silver said, "is converting the commodity industry away from petroleum."

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NASA probe snaps amazing image of Ceres



    NASA's Dawn space probe has taken the sharpest-yet image of Ceres, a dwarf planet in our solar system's asteroid belt.

    Excerpt from SPACE.com

    By Mike Wall  

    NASA's Dawn spacecraft has taken the sharpest-ever photos of Ceres, just a month before slipping into orbit around the mysterious dwarf planet.

    Dawn captured the new Ceres images Wednesday (Feb. 4), when the probe was 90,000 miles (145,000 kilometers) from the dwarf planet, the largest object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

    On the night of March 5, Dawn will become the first spacecraft ever to orbit Ceres — and the first to circle two different solar system bodies beyond Earth. (Dawn orbited the protoplanet Vesta, the asteroid belt's second-largest denizen, from July 2011 through September 2012.) 

    "It's very exciting," Dawn mission director and chief engineer Marc Rayman, who's based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said of Dawn's impending arrival at Ceres. "This is a truly unique world, something that we've never seen before."


    The 590-mile-wide (950 km) Ceres was discovered by Italian astronomer Giuseppe Piazzi in 1801. It's the only dwarf planet in the asteroid belt, and contains about 30 percent of the belt's total mass. (For what it's worth, Vesta harbors about 8 percent of the asteroid belt's mass.)

    Despite Ceres' proximity (relative to other dwarf planets such as Pluto and Eris, anyway), scientists don't know much about the rocky world. But they think it contains a great deal of water, mostly in the form of ice. Indeed, Ceres may be about 30 percent water by mass, Rayman said.

    Ceres could even harbor lakes or oceans of liquid water beneath its frigid surface. Furthermore, in early 2014, researchers analyzing data gathered by Europe's Herschel Space Observatory announced that they had spotted a tiny plume of water vapor emanating from Ceres. The detection raised the possibility that internal heat drives cryovolcanism on the dwarf planet, as it does on Saturn's moon's Enceladus. (It's also possible that the "geyser" was caused by a meteorite impact, which exposed subsurface ice that quickly sublimated into space, researchers said).

    The interior of Ceres may thus possess liquid water and an energy source — two key criteria required for life as we know it to exist.
    Dawn is not equipped to search for signs of life. But the probe — which is carrying a camera, a visible and infrared mapping spectrometer and a gamma ray and neutron spectrometer — will give scientists great up-close looks at Ceres' surface, which in turn could shed light on what's happening down below. 

    For example, Dawn may see chemical signs of interactions between subsurface water, if it exists, and the surface, Rayman said.
    "That's the sort of the thing we would be looking for — surface structures or features that show up in the camera's eye, or something about the composition that's detectable by one of our multiple spectrometers that could show evidence," he told Space.com. "But if the water doesn't make it to the surface, and isn't in large enough reservoirs to show up in the gravity data, then maybe we won't find it."

    Dawn will also attempt to spot Ceres' water-vapor plume, if it still exists, by watching for sunlight scattered off water molecules above the dwarf planet. But that's going to be a very tough observation to make, Rayman said.

    "The density of the water [observed by Herschel] is less than the density of air even above the International Space Station," he said. "For a spacecraft designed to map solid surfaces of airless bodies, that is an extremely difficult measurement." 

    Merging onto the freeway

    Dawn is powered by low-thrust, highly efficient ion engines, so its arrival at Ceres will not be a nail-biting affair featuring a make-or-break engine burn, as most other probes' orbital insertions are.

    Indeed, as of Friday (Feb. 6), Dawn is closing in on Ceres at just 215 mph (346 km/h), Rayman said —and that speed will keep decreasing every day.

    "You take a gentle, curving route, and then you slowly and safely merge onto the freeway, traveling at the same speed as your destination," Rayman said. "Ion propulsion follows that longer, more gentle, more graceful route."

    Dawn won't start studying Ceres as soon as it arrives. The spacecraft will gradually work its way down to its first science orbit, getting there on April 23. Dawn will then begin its intensive observations of Ceres, from a vantage point just 8,400 miles (13,500 km) above the dwarf planet's surface.

    The science work will continue — from a series of increasingly closer-in orbits, including a low-altitude mapping orbit just 230 miles (375 km) from Ceres' surface — through June 30, 2016, when the $466 million Dawn mission is scheduled to end.
    Rayman can't wait to see what Dawn discovers.

    "After looking through telescopes at Ceres for more than 200 years, I just think it's really going to be exciting to see what this exotic, alien world looks like," he said. "We're finally going to learn about this place."

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