The Daily Flash -Eco, Space, Tech (5/13)

Volcanic Ash Imaged on Massive Mars Volcano

Deposits of volcanic ash colour this view of the Meridiani Planum, as seen by the Mars Express High Resolution Stereo Camera. They also give clues to the prevailing wind direction in this region of Mars. Meridiani Planum, a plain at the northern edge of the southern highlands of Mars, is half way between the volcanic Tharsis Region to the west and the low-lying Hellas Planitia impact basin to the south-east. Through a telescope, Meridiani Planum is a striking, dark feature, close to the martian equator. In the centre of the image, the floor of an impact crater almost 50 km wide is covered in dark material. This resembles volcanic ash, which is predominantly composed of minerals such as pyroxene and olivine. Poking through the dark covering are small mounds, probably made of more resistant material. The softer material around them has been eroded and blown out of the crater by north-easterly winds and now forms dark streaks on the surroundings.

Maiden voyage for first true space sail

ICARUS’S wings melted when he flew too close to the sun. Here’s hoping a similar fate doesn’t befall his namesake, the solar sail due to be unfurled by Japan’s aerospace exploration agency (JAXA) next week. If all goes to plan, it will be the first spacecraft fully propelled by sunlight. Solar sails like IKAROS, short for Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation Of the Sun, aim to move forward by harnessing the momentum of photons colliding with it. The idea may be decades old, but solar sails have remained largely untested. Several sails have been unfurled in space to test deployment, and spacecraft like NASA’s Mercury probe, Messenger, have used the pressure of sunlight to alter trajectories. But no spacecraft has used a sail as its primary means of propulsion.

NYU Students Aim to Reinvent Facebook 

Remember when Facebook really was a private club? In the days before we called anything a “social network?” When “sharing” and “connecting” wasn’t bait for the switch of “monetizing” the stuff and nonsense of our lives? Well, four NYU students do, and they are so nostalgic for those halcyon days way back in 2004 that they have set out to re-invent that wheel — for the good of mankind. Even though there is some evidence that only old fogeys are annoyed by Facebook’s latest change in the definition of “private” and “friend,” the NYU Four (as they shall henceforth be known on Epicenter) were surprised to discover that their sense of being fed up was shared by so many others. “We were shocked,” Grippi told the Times. “For some strange reason, everyone just agreed with this whole privacy thing.”

Verizon CEO Confirms a Google Tablet Is Coming to the Network

The Wall Street Journal today reported that Lowell McAdam, CEO of Verizon, announced that a Google tablet would be coming to the Red Network (so named because of its favorite color and not any communist sympathies—that we know about. I’ve got my eye on you, McAdam.).

“What do we think the next big wave of opportunities are?” Mr. McAdam said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. “We’re working on tablets together, for example. We’re looking at all the things Google has in its archives that we could put on a tablet to make it a great experience.” The iPad’s success on Verizon rival AT&T shows that a tablet connected to a wireless carrier could mean serious sales, and it’s only natural that Verizon should want a piece. But Verizon has a history of coming late to the party on new technologies. In the massively profitable consumer smartphone sector, Verizon waited for years as AT&T released the iPhone, Sprint released the Palm Pre, and T-Mobile released the first two Android devices. They’ve made great progress in the last six months or so, and a Google tablet would certainly help continue their streak of solid products like the Droid, Incredible, and Palm Pre Plus.

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