engineering

Meet The Cheap, Tiny NASA Spacecraft That Will Explore Distant Worlds

Right now, the cost of studying the atmosphere of a distant planet or moon is a multi-million dollar mission. But NASA is working to make space exploration way more affordable — using cheap, lightweight CubeSats.


The Difference Between Hard And Soft Wood Has Nothing To Do With Hardness

Generally speaking, wood is often put into one of two categories — hardwood and softwood. But what exactly makes a given piece of wood qualify as either hard or soft and how did those definitions come about? It all has to do with the tree’s seeds.


China Wants To Build A 3000-Mile Railway Through The Amazon

Not content with building massive new dams, railroads, and cities inside its own borders, China is backing hugely ambitious infrastructure projects all over the world. Its latest is a 3,000-mile long railway that will cut through vast swathes of the Amazon rainforest.


This Rubber Film Generates Power As It Stretches

It might look like some kind of food wrap, but this roll of red rubber is rather more special than that: it’s a new flexible material that creates electricity as it deforms.


This Could Be The World's Most Efficient Solar System

A Swedish company claims that this small-scale concentrated solar energy system — which leans on ideas from a 19th-century Scottish clergyman — converts 34 per cent of sunlight into electricity. That could make it the most efficient solar system in the world.


Why Data Mining Is So Important

Data mining, to the uninitiated, sounds like the kind of monotonous computational activity that requires a big computer, a mass of information and little human oversight. But in fact it’s a discipline that blurs the lines between artificial intelligence, machine learning, statistics and other cutting-edge disciplines to unearth the golden nuggets that lurk within data.


This Watery Graveyard Is The Resting Place For 161 Sunken Spaceships

In a remote stretch of the Pacific Ocean southeast of New Zealand, the broken remains of space stations and robotic freighters litter the ocean floor, 4km below the waves. The world’s space agencies call this region the South Pacific Ocean Uninhabited Area. But it’s also called the Spacecraft Cemetery.


Wolfram's New AI Will Try To Identify Any Image You Give It

Artificial intelligence image recognition is already powerful, but it’s getting better week by week. Now, Wolfram Research has opened up a new website that will try to identify what’s depicted in any image you toss its way.


How Technology Can Help Cities Make Better Use Of Storm Water

More than half the world’s population lives in metropolitan centres. The built environment of a city is very different from that of rural and natural areas. When it rains over a rural landscape, much of the rainwater sinks into the ground or is evaporated or transpirated by trees, crops and other plants.


This Is How You Inspect An Exotic Spacecraft Heat Shield

When NASA’s Orion crew module re-entered Earth’s atmosphere in 2014 tests, it did so covered in 180 small squares of an advanced heat-shielding material called Avcoat. Now, NASA’s research scientists are inspecting them to find out how they worked. Yes, that does appear to be a vacuum cleaner.