One of the great tragedies of the Second World War has been remembered with Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul G Allen recovering the bell from the British battlecruiser HMS Hood, which was sunk in battle 74 years ago by Hitler’s flagship Bismarck. The brass ship's bell was recovered from a mile and a half (2.4 km) down in the Denmark Straits by a remote operated submersible (ROV) controlled from Allen's private yacht M/Y Octopus.
The International Space Station (ISS) was the scene of an historic lunch this week with the crew members of Expedition 44 dining on the first meal harvested in space. The dish, which consisted on leaves of "Outredgeous" red romaine lettuce grown in NASA's "Veggie" zero-gravity greenhouse, is part of the space agency's effort to find ways to feed tomorrow's deep-space travelers.
The world's growing population faces a constant string of tradeoffs. On the one hand, we need more rice to feed ourselves. On the other hand, control of greenhouse gases is a major priority and rice growing generates a lot of methane. It seems like a Catch 22, but a team led by the US Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) has come up with a genetically engineered strain of rice that not only produces almost no methane, but also more grains.
The Curiosity rover has now been on Mars for three years, and to mark the occasion, NASA has released two new tools designed to both educate the public and help scientists select future landing sites. The tools allow visitors to learn more about Curiosity and its mission and explore the Martian surface by climbing aboard Curiosity for a virtual tour.
Recently, NASA has been looking at CubeSats as a way of carrying out economical deep space missions. One of the first of these may be shoebox-sized satellite called the Lunar IceCube, which is designed to look for water ice and other resources on the Moon. Tentatively aimed to launch on the first Orion mission scheduled to fly by 2018, it is intended to not only uncover materials for future deep-space missions and lunar colonization, but also as a technology demonstrator for a new class of interplanetary probes.
If there's one area where the 21st century has gone backwards technologically, it's in supersonic passenger flight. With the grounding of the Concorde fleets in 2003, flying faster than the speed of sound reverted to a military monopoly, but that hasn't kept engineers from trying for a revival. Now Airbus' Marco Prampolini and Yohann Coraboeuf have been granted a US patent for an "ultra-rapid air vehicle" designed to fly at 20 km (12.4 mi) higher than conventional aircraft and over four times the speed of sound – twice the speed of Concorde.
Incandescent bulbs, LEDs, and CFLs may soon have to budge up because a new lighting technology is in town – white lasers. Using nanotechnology to create a bespoke semiconducting material, a team of scientists at Arizona State University has developed a laser that can produce white light that is brighter and more efficient than LEDs.
One truism of nuclear reactors is that you really don't want to be next to one. Unfortunately, reactor cores need to be inspected and maintained, which means teams of workers going inside the containment vessel. It's an operation that's not only hazardous, but expensive and time consuming. In an effort to make such inspections safer, cheaper, and faster, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy has developed the Stinger; a free-swimming, remote-controlled robot that replaces humans for cleaning and inspecting reactor vessels.
Ebola is one of the most frightening viruses of modern times and the recent outbreak in West Africa sparked a worldwide effort to contain it. Though it is far from under control in much of the region, there is a glimmer of hope as the World Health Organization (WHO) has announced that in trials, a vaccine called VSV-EBOV has proven to be 100 percent effective in protecting individuals.
The US Marine Corps has declared the F-35B Lightning II operational. Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, based in Yuma, Arizona, which has ten of VSTOL multi-role fighters, was today officially cleared for worldwide deployment after a five-day Operational Readiness Inspection.