Showing posts with label NASA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label NASA. Show all posts

Jul 28, 2017

Wordology, Lidar

The word is an acronym for Light Detection and Ranging. The US military and NASA invented the Lidar technology during the early 1960s for measuring distance in space. Its first commercial usage did not occur until 1995.

It uses ultraviolet, visible, or near infrared light from lasers. Radar (Radio Detection and Ranging) uses radio or electromagnetic waves.
Lidar used in cars is low powered and classed as 'eye-safe' allowing it to be used with few safety precautions.

Some refer to
Lidar as laser radar, however it is not. It is more precise than radar, because the speed of light is a constant, so a laser can make extremely precise measurements of distance by computing the time between when the device emits a laser pulse and when it detects the reflection. Sound travels about 1,000 feet (300 meters) per second and light travels about 984,000,000 feet per second (300,000,000 meters). Also, radar wavelengths suffer from atmospheric conditions, such as humidity, fog, rain, snow, and temperature, but do perform better in smokey or dusty conditions.

A laser unit fires a short pulse of light. The pulse rebounds off a point, such as the rear of the car in front and is detected by a sensor in the laser unit. A computer connected to the unit measures the time between the initial pulse and the light return and, using the speed of light, calculates the distance the light has traveled. It creates a high-resolution 3D map of the surrounding environment. The best sensors can see details of a few centimeters at distances of more than 330 feet or 100 meters.

Currently most autonomous cars use some combination of Lidar, Radar, and camera. Lidar is precise, Radar is good at motion, and cameras are good for depiction. Each technology has strengths and weaknesses, so automakers and others are trying to find the best combination of strengths at the lowest cost.

Aug 30, 2013

Boy Scouts and Astronauts

Eleven of the twelve men who walked on the moon were Boy Scouts. Boy Scouts and astronauts need similar qualities. They are dependable, responsible, attentive to detail, and respectful. It makes sense that two thirds of all current and former astronauts were also Boy Scouts.

Since 1959, there have been 312 pilots and scientists selected to be astronauts, at least 207 were involved with scouts, as Eagle Scouts, Cub Scouts, Life Scouts, etc. Of the 24 men who traveled to the moon, 20 of them were scouts. All three members of the Apollo 13 mission were scouts. NASA supports both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts as potential leaders.

Jun 21, 2013

Quantum Computing Explained

Today's computers rely on electrons to deliver information in binary bits, or yes/no, 1/0, on/off.

Laws of quantum physics allow bits to be in multiple states simultaneously so it has the potential to be millions of times more powerful than today's most powerful supercomputers.

Quantum bits, or Qubits are more versatile than standard bits because they can exist in three states instead of two. Current computers represent things as a one or zero, but a quantum computer can render a qubit as representing a one, a zero, or every fraction between one and zero at the same time.

An interesting thing about qubits is that by just looking at one, it changes its state, so scientists had to devise a way to look without the qubit knowing it was being looked at. (Long story, but fascinating)

A 30-qubit quantum computer is approximately as powerful as a 10 teraflop computer. It can solve 10 trillion floating point operations every second vs. an average computer, which performs about seven gigaflops (seven billion) per second. Quantum computers process multiple calculations at once vs. current computers, which process one at a time.

Google and NASA have a 512-qubit quantum computer housed in a 10 foot black cabinet, but do not expect to buy one for your home in the near future. The NASA Ames machine may be upgraded to a 2,048 qubit chip in the next year or two. There are 25.4 million nanometers in one inch and fingernails grow one nanometer every second.

Oct 19, 2012

Velcro Myth

Some say that Velcro was invented by NASA for the space program. Not true, Velcro was already commercially available before being used by NASA. It did receive a huge boost in popularity after being used by NASA on parts of astronaut’s space suits as well as used to allow astronaut’s to store things along the walls of their space craft. Because of this, similar to Tang, it is a common misconception that Velcro was invented by or for NASA.

Sep 6, 2012

Weird Tracks

NASA's Mars Curiosity rover does not have built-in GPS. The only way to track Curiosity's whereabouts and how far it has traveled is by following the six explorer's wheel marks.

For this reason, engineers put holes in Curiosity's treads so that every time the wheels turn, they leave a unique imprint on Mars. Orbiters photograph the print and scientists can determine how far the rover has moved.

The track pattern spells out "JPL" in Morse code through a series of "dots" and "dashes." JPL is an acronym for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the agency arm in charge of Curiosity.

Jun 5, 2012

Toilet Tales

In 2009, cosmonaut Gennady Padalka complained to a Russian newspaper that he wasn't allowed to use the bathroom on the American side of the Space Station.

As it turned out, Padalka actually blamed the closed bathroom door on the Russian government, which had started charging NASA for resources used by American astronauts in 2003.

The United States reciprocated by asking the Russians to keep out of its facilities, including the toilet, which NASA paid $250 million to develop. Padalka told the newspaper that the bathroom shutout was having a real effect on his cosmonauts' morale.

Aug 5, 2011

NASA Satellite Data

Remote Sensing Journal reports that NASA satellite data from the years 2000 through 2011 show the Earth's atmosphere is allowing far more heat to be released into space than alarmist models have predicted. Dr Roy Spencer, who works on the space agency’s temperature-monitoring satellites, claimed they showed ‘a huge discrepancy’ between the real levels of heating and forecasts by the United Nations and other groups. He used data from the satellite to dispute the notion of global warming. He says his data indicated that far less future global warming will occur than United Nations models predicted.

Related news - A federal wildlife biologist whose observation in 2004 of presumably drowned polar bears in the Arctic helped to galvanize the global warming movement has been placed on administrative leave and is being investigated for scientific misconduct, possibly over the veracity of that article.

Jul 29, 2011

NASA

Interesting that the United States Space Agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), was authorized by Congress this day in 1958 and we now witness the end of the NASA Space Program. NASA is cutting its workforce for the program from 6,700 to 1,000, who will prep the shuttles for shipment to museums. Many inventions and discoveries that touch us everyday came as byproducts from that program. NASA holds 6,300 patents.

A few of the things from NASA that you may know, such as invisible braces, scratch-resistant lenses. memory foam (like tempurpedic beds), infrared ear thermometer, athletic shoe cool insoles, long distance communications via satellite, adjustable smoke detector, lightweight cordless tools (with Black & Decker), water filters, thermal gloves and boots, LED lights, heart pump, artificial limbs, aircraft anti-icing system, enriched baby food (in over 90%), freeze drying. There are hundreds more.

Feb 18, 2011

See With Your Tongue

 An experimental device that uses the tongue instead of the eyes to "see" is here. Researchers say their BrainPort device does not replace the sense of sight, but lets the blind perceive images, making it easier for them to navigate their surroundings.

The device is comprised of an inch-long video camera mounted on a pair of sunglasses. The camera sends signals down a cable to a handheld control unit about the size of a cell phone, which converts the image into a low resolution black, white and gray picture. That picture is then recreated as a square grid of 400 electrodes, approximately the size of a postage stamp, on the lollipop-shaped stick. Each electrode sends pulses based upon the amount of light detected, with strongest pulses for white, and no signal for black.
Those who could see before they went blind describe the sensations as similar to vision -- although the resolution is not the same, they say.

The idea started with Paul Bach-y Rita, a neuroscientist at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Bach-y-Rita was convinced that the brain, not the eye, is what enables humans to see and can rewire nerve impulses from anywhere, not just the eye, to generate vision.

After 10 hours wearing the device, people have been able to find and walk down a hallway and avoid obstacles, said Aimee Arnoldussen, a neuroscientist who is leading the research. With the device, people also have distinguished a men's room sign from a women's room sign and found doorways, she said.
You don't put the device on and magically see and it isn't a substitute for a cane or a guide dog.

Related technologies: The U.S. Navy is developing a system that will allow divers to find their way through murky waters by interpreting infrared through their tongues.

NASA is creating sensors to enable astronauts to feel objects on the outside of their space suits.

The Institute for Human and Machine Cognition is working toward making vests that will alert pilots to other planes or incoming missiles by sending pulses.

Jan 13, 2010

Cultured Pork

Sounds like an oxymoron doesn't it. Scientists from Eindhoven University in The Netherlands have for the first time grown pork meat in the laboratory by extracting cells from a live pig and growing them in a petri dish.

The scientists, led by Professor of Physiology Mark Post, extracted myoblast cells from a living pig and grew them in a solution of nutrients derived from the blood of animal fetuses (although they intend to replace the solution with a synthesized alternative in the future).

Professor Post said artificially cultured meat could mean the meat of one animal could be increased to a volume equivalent to the meat of a million animals, which would reduce animal suffering and be good for the environment. As long as the final product looks and tastes like meat, Post said he is convinced people will buy it. Wow, pork with no methane. . .

At present the product is a sticky, soggy and unappetizing muscle mass, but the team is seeking ways to exercise and stretch the muscles to turn the product into meat of a more familiar consistency. Post described the current in-vitro meat product as resembling wasted muscle, but he is confident they can improve its texture. Nobody has yet tasted the cultured meat because laboratory rules prevent the scientists tasting the product themselves.

The research is partly funded by the Dutch government, but is also backed by the Dutch sausage-making firm Stegeman, which is owned by Sara Lee. The scientists (and presumably, the sausage makers) believe the meat product may be available for use in sausages within five years.

Other groups are also working on trying to produce cultured meat. NASA has funded research in the US on growing fish chunks from cells and meat from turkey cells, with the idea that the technology could have wide application in future space travel, since growing edible muscle would allow future astronauts to avoid a range of problems associated with using live animals in space. In a June, 2009 paper in the journal Tissue Engineering another group of scientists proposed new techniques that could lead to industrial production of meat grown in cultures.

The reaction of vegetarian groups has been mixed. A representative of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) said as long as the meat was not the flesh of a dead animal there would be no ethical objection. Last year PETA even offered a prize of $1 million to the first person or group who could come up with a commercially viable cultured meat product.