The Daily Flash -Sci, Space, Tech (2/17)

Nasacraft In NASA’s Dreams: Laser-Launched Rockets and Deep Space Cruisers

With the space shuttles soon bound for retirement homes, NASA is dreaming up the future of U.S. human space flight. Recently, NASA has divulged its interest in two new gadgets: rockets launched via lasers and reusable, manned, deep-space crafts. Now, all the agency needs is a plan to get more money from the government to actually build these things. The lasers (or possibly microwaves) would be ground-based, and would shoot through the air to energize a rocket’s heat exchanger; elevating the rocket’s fuel to over 3,100 degrees Fahrenheit would give it more thrust. “The objective is to reduce the cost of getting into space. The way this rocket works, it has a more energetic propulsive system than one where you have fuel and oxidizer that release energy,” Carnegie Mellon University’s Kevin Parkin, head of the Microwave Thermal Rocket project at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California. Although the laser-powered rocket system would be expensive to build, it would reduce launch costs in the long haul.

Oscars-012209l Can Google searches predict Oscar winners?

Lights! Camera! Search! Google has produced a new tool that attempts to use search trends to predict the Oscar winners. Niv Efron, of Google's Insights for Search team, says that the Best Picture winners from the last three years (The Hurt Locker, Slumdog Millionaire and No Country for Old Men) have all shown an upward trend in searches for at least four weeks before the awards, along with high interest in the New York region.


Ecuador-andes Short Andeans have a big cancer-fighting secret

A hormone that gives a small population in the Ecuadorian Andes their short stature may reveal secrets of thwarting cancer and diabetes. Jaime Guevara-Aguirre at the Institute of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Reproduction in Quito, Ecuador, and Valter Longo at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles studied a group of 99 people in the region for 22 years. These people all have a diminutive stature because they have Laron syndrome – an inability to make functional copies of the human growth hormone receptor. Remarkably, none of the individuals developed diabetes, and only one developed cancer (which was cured). By comparison, among 1600 relatives without the condition 5 per cent developed diabetes and 17 per cent developed cancer, suggesting that blocking the effects of the hormone might somehow protect against these diseases.

Villian-jeopardy JEOPARDY: Ken Jennings Was the Bad Guy on Watson’s Home Turf

You'd expect the trembling masses of humanity, terrified by the superior digital intellect of Watson, to have some solidarity. Not so, says formerly-impressive Jeopardy player Ken Jennings. At IBM's Watson research lab, where the robo-tourney taped, man was the enemy.


Ipadrelease2591 How Apple Is Winning the Post-PC War

A bit of semantic juggling makes Apple the biggest player in both the personal computer and mobile platform markets.A research report published today by DisplaySearch found that sales of the iPad propelled Apple past HP for the No. 1 spot in the “mobile PC” market.“While we anticipate increased competition in the tablet PC market later this year with the introduction of Android Honeycomb-based tablets, Apple’s iPad business is complementing a notebook line whose shipments widely exceed the industry average growth rate,” said Richard Shim, Senior Analyst at DisplaySearch. “Apple is currently benefiting from significant and comprehensive growth from both sectors of the mobile PC spectrum, notebooks and tablet PCs. Cannibalization seems limited at this point.”


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