It is time once again to engage your brain with this week’s Science Friday! Learn how to make gigantic liquid telescopes on the moon, see Mercury as never before, give the Phoenix lander an icy send-off, and put your TV in your pocket! All this plus our gadget of the week: The Hal-5 robotic suit that will turn you into Iron Man!
Giant Liquid Telescopes on the Moon
A team of astronomers and opticians may have found a way to make “unbelievably large” telescopes on the Moon. Any liquid, if put into a shallow container and set spinning, naturally assumes a parabolic shape—the same shape needed by a telescope mirror to bring starlight to a focus. The biggest liquid-mirror telescope on Earth, the Large Zenith Telescope which spins mercury, is 6 meters across and cost less than $1 million to build — only a few percent the cost of a solid-mirror telescope of the same diameter. Since mercury is not workable for the moon, scientists are looking to ionic liquids for a lunar scope. “Ionic liquids are basically molten salts,” scientists explain. “Their evaporation rate is almost zero, so they would not vaporize in the lunar vacuum. They can also remain liquid at very low temperatures.” More info…
Concept image of the liquid lunar telescope
Mercury As Never Seen Before
The MESSENGER spacecraft made its latest flyby of Mercury last Monday, and the first of more than 1,200 high-resolution images are arriving back at Earth now. The spectacular image below of an unseen side of the planet reveals a dramatic system of globe-straddling rays which appear to emanate from a young crater. This view is distinctly unique from what MESSENGER saw during its first flyby last January. When all of these data have been digested and compared, we will have the first global perspective of Mercury. More info…
Frozen Death Looms for Phoenix Mars Lander
After more than four months on the arctic plains of the red planet, NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander’s days are finally numbered. As the sun begins to set for the frigid Martian winter, the spacecraft will lose its energy supply, freeze and eventually fall into a mechanical coma from which it will likely never wake up. But whether or not Phoenix will survive that long is uncertain and depends on how the spacecraft’s systems handle -184 F (-120 C) temps and the setting sun. Come fall, the sun starts to dip below the horizon more each day until winter, when it sets for good and doesn’t rise again until the spring. With no solar energy feeding the solar panels for months, the lander will likely not live up to its name and rise again after winter. More info…
Flexible Screens Could Lead to Foldable Computers
Researchers from Sony and the Max Planck Institute in Germany believe “Rigid television screens, bulky laptops and still image posters are to be a thing of the past”. Earlier this week, they demonstrated a flexible television screen which could result in people folding up their computer and putting it in their pocket. It is all organic, flexible and transparent with an extremely low energy requirement, while it has an almost unlimited viewing angle and high efficiency. There is no need for a backlight and response times are 10 times faster than LCDs, meaning ultra-smooth motion without blurring. Previous attempts at flexible screens (as seen in the video below) were hampered by size and resolution problems, while the image was also affected when the screen was folded.
An earlier version of Sony’s flexible display
Gadget of the Week: The HAL-5 Robotic Suit for Tony Stark Wannabes
Back in 2005, University professor Yoshiyuki Sankai designed Hal-5, a robotic suit. This was just the start of his work, which would hopefully allow people to overcome being handicap. It now looks as though HAL is finally here and ready to be mass produced by Cyberdyne staring this Friday. You will be able to rent the HAL robotic suit for a mere $2,200 per month. Sankai hopes that HAL will be able to help elderly people overcome disabilities by giving them super-strength mechanical assistance when they send brain signals to move their limbs. It looks like the suit was designed for good, but it could be used for awesome if someone decides to take this suit to the limit, and become a real life Iron Man. How cool.
The HAL-5 will make you into Iron Man
Here’s a warp-speed look at science tid-bits that didn’t quite make the cut, but nonetheless merit mention.
- Cassini’s flyby of Enceladus offers insights into solar system history
- NASA spacecraft to explore outer solar system
- London restaurant has touch sensitive tables, colorful menu projectors
- You may see holographic TV by 2020