Written By Bobby Brown

Catapulting cargo into space is a very real possibility for the near future.

There are many different technologies being investigated by different governments and companies with the aim of reducing space launch costs significantly.

China for example is reportedly seriously looking at what is commonly referred to as a space elevator – a system that could see a container being attached to a super strong cable that is spanned between earth and a structure in geo-stationery orbit in space.

The travel would be much slower than a rocket launch, but much safer and ultimately as much as 70% cheaper.

And that’s because a large chunk of the budget, which runs into millions of dollars – goes towards carefully designed engines and the specialist rocket fuel required to power them.

Remove those, and suddenly you bring the cost of sub-orbital launches down by significant multiples.

A High-Tech Slingshot Could Be The Answer

NASA is busy testing a new way of getting things into space – by spinning them really fast and then simply throwing them straight up into the air into the exit the atmosphere.

It might sound a little cartoonish, but the concept is built on sound science being perfected by the California-based tech company SpinLaunch.

The idea is so sound that NASA has agreed for them to launch a payload later this year, as a test for potential future commercial launches.

How A Space Slingshot Works

A catapult made of wood and a ball of clay.

It uses the same kinetic energy principles as the slingshots some of us played with as kids.

First they position a payload, like say a satellite at one end of a large, carbon fiber arm that is placed inside an upright, circular vacuum chamber.

The payload – which is spun with the help of an electric motor at the center of the chamber – reaches speeds of up to 8 000km per hour.

Then it’s up to a computer to figure out exactly when to activate the release button, so that the payload shoots straight upwards, out of the vacuum chamber and through the vertical exit tube.

Due to the high velocity, the payload then tears through the Earth’s thick lower atmosphere until it gets above the stratosphere.

Some Familiar Tech Is Still Needed

Rockets aren’t entirely absent, because once in the stratosphere, a small rocket engine fires to help it into the desired orbit around the Earth.

They have done half a dozen launches so far and now they are getting ready to impress NASA enough to be given a launch contract.

Their future challenges: payload holds that can withstand the extreme stress of high speed tight circles, the sudden impact and super high temps of the release and of course the sonic boom, which you can actually hear in the video below:

An Inside Look: SpinLaunch Flight Test #7
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Written by: Bobby Brown

As the world is slowly starting to see some light at the end of the Covid tunnel, Monkeypox has emerged as a new concern for health authorities. There have been confirmed cases in a dozen countries, including Australia, the US, Canada, France, Germany and Italy with the largest numbers being recorded in Portugal, Spain, and the UK. In fact, some experts are convinced that the outbreak was triggered by risky sexual behaviour at two mass rave parties in Belgium and Spain recently.

Monkeypox not yet in SA

There haven’t been any cases reported South Africa, but given how quickly diseases spread across the world these days, and the fact that our skies are open again, it’s best we stay vigilant and keep as informed as possible. Firstly, this is not a new disease – it’s closely related to smallpox and has been around for decades, mostly focused on west and central Africa. It is zoonotic, which means humans can get it from animal bites and scratches, or preparing bush meat.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says human-to-human infection is possible, but rare – passed on through very close contact with lesions and bodily fluids, like airborne droplets from nearby coughing or sneezing. Changing contaminated clothing or bedsheets is also a source of infection. WHO experts held this briefing on the matter recently:

LIVE Q&A on monkeypox (MPX). Ask your questions to our experts!
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Monkeypox Is Not New

There have been cases reported in Europe in previous years, but the current outbreak is worrisome, because some of it is not linked to travel abroad. So just like Covid, we need to know as much as possible, to stay protected, as there is currently no proven treatment for Monkeypox, although the smallpox ring-vaccination strategy has been shown to work in the DRC. That’s when contacts of contacts are vaccinated to isolate and stop the spread, though it requires meticulous track-and-trace programs. The incubation period ranges from five to 21 days, which is the danger zone for unknowingly passing the infection on to others, as there may be mild to no symptoms.

Monkeypox Symptoms To Watch Out For

Once infected, the illness resolves itself within two to four weeks for the majority of people. Symptoms are similar to smallpox, but milder, for the most part. It includes headache, fever, body aches, chills, swollen lymph nodes, exhaustion and of course the much publicised skin rash. The red rash generally covers the entire body and results in painful, pus-filled boils that burst, crusts over and remain infectious for weeks afterwards.

It can get extremely severe and even fatal for older people, those with underlying immune deficiencies and young children. However, it is worth noting that the fatality rate is somewhere between one and 10%.

Written by: Bobby Brown

A future of pet cloning is becoming more of a reality, despite the ongoing ethical controversy around it. People who can’t stomach the idea of losing a beloved pet that’s been a unique part of the family for years, now have the option to have their pooch or cat cloned, provided they can afford it.

Your cat can be cloned using pet cloning

Pet Cloning Is Being Championed By Celebs

Idols judge Simon Cowell and legendary songbird Barbra Streisand have both reportedly gone this route. Cowell cloned his three Yorkshire terriers, while Streisand revealed that she cloned two puppies from the genetic material of her dog, after it died. It’s a far cry from the early days of Dolly the Sheep, when the whole world was in awe at the pioneering technology. There are a number of specific cloning techniques, but typically a cell nucleus from your pet is injected into a donor egg that has had its genetic material removed. The egg is then prompted to grow into an embryo, in a laboratory. That embryo is subsequently implanted in the uterus, or womb, of a surrogate mother who goes on to give birth to the clone. It’s here that animal rights activists start having ethical problems, because of the trauma of the high failure rate, and data showing that in some cases, the clones have very short lifespans.

Streisand used pet cloning to get puppies from her late dog

Pet Cloning Won’t Give You The Exact Same Pet

If successful, the clone is an identical genetic twin, separated by time, which can be years, or even decades, if you choose. But it’s only skin deep, because personality-wise, you’re not getting the same pet. In fact, some scientists say that more than 40% of a pet’s personality is circumstance, environment, experiences… in other words nurture. But that’s not stopping people from ensuring that they are at least getting the same temperament along with the exact same look.

pet cloning your dog

Cloning Your Pet Is Not Cheap

Viagen is one of the leading companies doing this, and it’s president Blake Russell says despite the costs, pet cloning is increasing in popularity. Prices range from between $30 000 for a cat, $50 000 for a dog and $85 000 for a horse. For some people, that is worth keeping their beloved fur baby around for a bit longer. And some are not even doing it immediately, because thanks to the use of very low frozen temperatures, or cryo-preservation, genetic material can be stored almost indefinitely before the cloning process takes place. So in theory, you could clone you favourite pet many years later, although I can’t see why anyone would want to do that.

Written by: Bobby Brown

Just imagine having the options to have subtitles in everyday conversations. Subtitles, or captions have become part of our movie-watching lifestyle these days. And it’s not just for foreign-language films either. While some people find it distracting, others prefer to watch movies – and even YouTube videos with the subtitles permanently on. While this is a nice-to-have option for the majority of people, for the hearing-impaired it is essential for understanding what’s going on. So just imagine the difference it would make if they had this as an option in everyday, live conversations. That is exactly what a developer at Meta is busy testing.

Deaf People Will Benefit Most From Live Subtitles In Conversation

 

Live subtitles would make life a whole lot easier for the hearing impaired, most of whom feel the extra strain in these times where masks have become ubiquitous. Masks make lip-reading impossible and also obscure facial expressions and other cues that hearing people taking for granted, like tone and cadence. Meta developer Paul Mealy recently posted a test video on his Twitter, which got the internet very excited. It’s an augmented reality tool that could be a game-changer for people who are hard of hearing. Mealy employed real-time live-captioning technology that uses Augmented Reality (AR) to display captions over the person speaking. The captions, which are displayed in the lenses of a wearable device, like smart spectacles – can even follow the speaker around and work in crowded spaces, which is brilliant. By simply focusing on the identified speaker’s voice, the algorithm will caption only their voice.Subtitles to communicate

Live Subtitles Could Become An Integral Part Of Our Future

Mealy says the prototype for the live subtitles uses directional microphones, where speech is recorded and converted to live text and attached to the person speaking via body tracking. It can work on hand-held devices, but is meant to work best with hands-free wearables, like Microsoft’s HaloLens and I’m sure any future smart specs or Virtual Reality visors. The technology is similar to another bit of software that was being tested a few years ago – the translation AR. The idea was that you would speak your own language to a foreigner, and the App would instantly translate it to the other person’s language – and vice versa. That was one of the nice-to-haves, whereas this is a wonderful and practical application of modern technology, opening up a whole new world of contacts and engagement. Mealy’s invention doesn’t have a name yet. And it’s not clear when it will become available or what it will cost, but when it does, it will undoubtedly give deaf people much more freedom to navigate hearing spaces. Click Here For The Video Of Mealy Testing His New Tech:

 

Witten by: Bobby Brown

Fire resistant gear could soon become much more effective and whole lot lighter, thanks to prawns. Prawn shells are naturally fire resistant, which is why Australian researchers focussed on them as the main ingredient in a revolutionary fire retardant. The other benefit of prawn shells is that they are extremely lightweight, making them perfect for a number of applications, but most notably as a coating for firefighting uniforms.

prawn shells make fire resistant material

New Fire Resistant Material Will Be Ultra Lightweight

Because they are coated with fire repellent, traditional firefighting uniforms are extremely heavy, not to mention breathing apparatus on the backs of rescue workers, tools and other equipment in hand, often in rough terrain, or up and down stairs and ladders, while hauling heavy hoses. The load is so burdensome that firefighters often suffer from heat fatigue, endangering their own lives, but also risking the rescue being attempted. That’s why during their annual assessments, fire fighters in full gear – weighing around 10kgs, must be able to walk at least 100m, with 25kg weights in each hand, come rain or shine. During annual training in Cape Town, the overwhelming majority of recruits fall out at the start.

fire fighters with fire resistant material

Australia Motivated to Pioneer New Fire Retardant

Being the location of regular devastating wild fires, Australia has high motivation to research effective tools and firefighting aids. Nuclear scientists at the Lucas Heights Facility came up with the new ultralight material, which they believe could end up being more effective than any other fire resistant material currently available.

fire resistant material

Aside from the prawn shells, which is used as a form of binding, the new material also contains titanium and carbon. When coated on clothing it repels flames, dispersing the heat across its surface and stopping the intense heat from penetrating. And here’s the clincher, less than a millimeter of the product is needed, meaning it is far lighter than the traditional fire retardants.

They need to do a bit more testing and find a way to mass produce this, but they expect to get it onto the market within the next two years.