Space News #3 -Antimatter Drive, Interstellar Mission and NASA Funding Far-Out

Some interesting Space related articles I recently found in the news.

Scientists Want to Fund Antimatter Drive through Kickstarter

I saw the article “Physicists launching Kickstarter to build Star Trek-style antimatter drive” almost two months ago. Physicists Steven Howe and Gerald Jackson have been pushing their idea of an antimatter drive for some time. So far though, NASA has not been willing to fund their further research. Now the scientists are planning on engaging the public for a $200,000 kickstarted project.

This is only the first step though. They have many technological issues to overcome and they readily admit that the full drive development would more likely cost closer to $100 million. The results, if achieved, would be worth it as they estimate that using an antimatter drive a space craft could reach close to 40% the speed of light.

Development of the antimatter drive is being done by Howe and Jackson’s company Hbar Technologies.

Interstellar Mission

A group of scientists and technology leaders from Silicon Valley want to send a mission (Breakthrough Starshot) to Alpha Centauri – a mere 4.37 light years ‘near’. The effort is being led by Russian philanthropist and Internet Entrepreneur Yuri Milner. Among those backing this proposal are Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and physicist Stephen Hawking.

Their idea is to launch several small satellites and propel them on their way using an Earth based lasers. Each small probe would deploy a ‘sail’ which would catch the laser light and accelerate them to 20% of the speed of light.

Don’t expect this to come about anytime soon. Not only ae there some significant technological obstacles, but the project is estimated at costing upwards of $10 billion. The time line includes 20 years to plan and implement the mission, 20 years for the probes to travel to Alpha Centauri and an additional 4+ years to received any data transmitted by the probes back to Earth.

Read more about this at  #1#2,  #3#4, #5. Article #4 has a good overview video.

NASA Funding Far-Out Concepts

All of the funding done by NASA is not the standard projects we commonly think of. NASA has identified 13 phase I projects and awarded each $100,000 for a feasibility study. Later another round of grants may award up to $500,000 for further development.

Apple Watch News #1 – No Killer App, A Year with my Watch and Finding a Business

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As I mentioned before, I really like my Apple Watch. I haven’t seen the need (yet) to write the more in-depth type of technical articles I sometimes author for OS X and iOS. I do think that some of these short topics might be of interest though.

Apple Watch Does Not Need Killer App

I liked this article (“13 awesome Apple Watch tricks that prove it doesn’t need a ‘killer app’“). I am not sure if I agree that these are ‘awesome’ tricks, but it is always useful to know more about what your Apple Watch is capable of. I have sent messages from my watch, answered my iPhone, and handled notifications.

I find now that I am at a loss when I do not have my Apple Watch on.

A Year With the Apple Watch

I have had my Apple Watch almost a year. I found this article (“A year with the Apple Watch: What works, what doesn’t, and what lies ahead?“) a very thorough review of the Apple Watch. I pretty much agree with everything this author says. If you are considering an Apple Watch, this is a good overview to read.

Finding a Business

I thought that the article “How to find nearby businesses on Apple Watch” gave a good explanation as to how to use your Apple Watch to search for a nearby location. I can see how using the “Nearby” option could be useful. Unless my iPhone is buried away and difficult to get to though, I would most likely just use it for the larger screen.

Review of “Arctic Gold”

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“Arctic Gold” eBook was published in 2015 (original paper version published in 1988) and was written by John Mann.

I received a galley of this novel for review through https://www.netgalley.com. I categorize this novel as ‘PG’ because it contains scenes of Violence. The novel starts out during World War II, but continues into the late 80s. The primary character is Mike Cox, who we first encounter as a 16 year old sailor aboard the HMS Edinburgh.

Cox enlists in the Royal Navy as soon as he is old enough. After finishing his training he is assigned as a seaman aboard the cruiser HMS Edinburgh. The Edinburgh is providing escort duty for convoys headed into Murmansk, Russia in the spring of 1942. After arriving in Murmansk, millions in gold is transferred to the ship by the Russian government as a partial payment for military goods.

The Edinburgh leaves Murmansk with another convoy, but she is sunk only two days after leaving port. Cox is one of many crewmen who survives. This begins a life long compulsion to retrieve the gold.

The story span several decades as Cox learns to be an expert diver. Along the way he falls under the control of an American who, once he learns of the gold, shares the drive to recover it. Cox finds himself in a situation beyond his control.

I liked this story of diving and World War II. It was an interesting 5.5 hour, 189 page read. I particularly like that this story is based upon a real ship carrying gold to Britain. This was not the typical Thriller. You knew what the end goal was, but you did not know how the story would turn out until the very end. I give this novel a 4 out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31181778-john-purvis).

Translator for Cats?

So the company Temptations Lab has created a collar for cats that will “translate” the cat’s meow into english. Isn’t that what we all need from technology?

Keep in mind that this was developed by a British cat treat company. As they say on their web site:

We set up The Temptations Lab in 2015 in order to inject some serious fun into cats’ lives. 

For our first project we’ve set out to use the very latest technology to get to know them better. We believe that if people understood cats better they’d see just how awesome they really are.

Studies have shown that adult cats meow when talking to humans, not to each other. We’ve analysed these cat sounds and created a program that detects a cat’s meow and matches it to a human voice. We then put this technology inside a sleek 3D printed collar which connects seamlessly to our app where you can choose your cat’s new voice

I for one, having been owned by several cats, am not sure I really would want to know what my cat was saying. This certainly would not be for every cat, but it might be fun. From my experience though, it might be a challenge to get the cat to wear the collar. You might need to mute the translator for the first few days if the “translations” were anywhere close to accurate.