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Sci-Fi or Reality?
A laser-powered wafer-thin spacecraft capable of reaching Alpha Centauri in 20 years may sound like the stuff of science fiction, but it's not. And while such a launch isn't imminent, the possibility of one in the future does exist, according to UC Santa Barbara physics professor Philip Lubin.
To further explore that possibility, Lubin and his team in UCSB's Experimental Cosmology Group will study photo driven propulsion -the use of lasers as a means to power a spacecraft. "We propose a system that will allow us to take the first step toward interstellar exploration using directed energy propulsion combined with miniature probes." The key to a functioning system lies in the ability to build both the photon driver and the ultra-low-mass probes. While capable of propelling any spacecraft mass, lower-mass probes go the fastest and are more suitable for interstellar missions.
The same systems can be used for many other purposes, according to Lubin, including travel inside our solar system -such as rapid transit to Mars with much larger probes -and planetary defense.
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Researchers from the University of Cambridge have developed a simple "recipe" for combining multiple materials with single functions into a single material with multiple functions: movement, recall of movement and sensing -similar to muscles in animals. These "designer" materials could be used in the robotics, automotive, aerospace and security industries.
Smart polymers were first developed several decades ago, but multiple functions have not been effectively combined in the same material, since previous efforts have found that optimising one function came at the expense of the other.
The new materials integrate the structure of two or more separate functions at the nanoscale, while keeping the individual materials physically separate. The gaps between the individual elements are so small that the final material is uniformly able to perform the functions of its component parts.
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A new computer simulation tracking dark matter particles in the extreme gravity of a black hole shows that strong, potentially observable gamma-ray light can be produced. Detecting this emission would provide astronomers with a new tool for understanding both black holes and the nature of dark matter, an elusive substance accounting for most of the mass of the universe that neither reflects, absorbs nor emits light. Jeremy Schnittman, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, developed a computer simulation to follow the orbits of hundreds of millions of dark matter particles, as well as the gamma rays produced when they collide, in the vicinity of a black hole. He found that some gamma rays escaped with energies far exceeding what had been previously regarded as theoretical limits.
To learn more, please watch the video Turning Black Holes into Dark Matter Labs, at one of the links below: