Google’s mind-bending quantum computer actually works

By

googles-mind-bending-quantum-computer-actually-works-image-cultofandroidcomwp-contentuploads201512D-Wave-1000Q-lower-res1-jpg
Quantum computers will lead to advancements in artificial intelligence.
Photo: D-Wave Systems Inc.

A major breakthrough from Google’s quantum-computing team could eventually lead to artificial-intelligence systems complex enough to make sci-fi nerds lose sleep in fear of the robot apocalypse. The breakthrough sounds simple, but it has massive implications: The quantum computer the team co-operates with NASA actually works.

And not only does it work, but it can do the same process up to 100 million times faster than its predecessors.

Future spacecraft could repair its own skin

By

The International Space Station occasionally has to dodge pieces of debris floating in space.
The International Space Station occasionally has to dodge pieces of debris floating in space.
Photo: NASA

To see a satellite image of the field of space debris that floats around the earth is like looking at fleas swarming an unfortunate dog. About a half-million pieces of debris are the size of a marble, but even tiny pieces that travel more than 17,000 miles per hour could be deadly to a spacecraft with astronauts.

Researchers from the University of Michigan and NASA have developed a self-healing material that could instantly plug up a hole in the hull of a ship just milliseconds after impact.

Be the first in your family to land on Mars

By

I've got my ticket to Mars. How about you?
I've got my ticket to Mars. How about you?
Photo: NASA

There’s a good chance I will be the first Pierini to land on Mars. No, I did not win some contest that sends me on a one-way trip to the Red Planet in the name of reality TV.

But I did register my name with NASA to have it embedded on a microchip headed to Mars. Now it’s your turn.

NASA’s space shuttle to fly again – or at least pieces of it

By

NASA recently pulled the water tanks from the space shuttle Endeavor.
NASA recently pulled the water tanks from the space shuttle Endeavor.
Photo: California Science Center

If you get to a museum to see one of the shuttles that actually flew in space, your jaw may drop. Just don’t mind the guys pulling parts from it.

NASA recently sent engineers to the California Science Center in Los Angeles to dust off the mothballs of the space shuttle Endeavor and remove four water storage tanks for future use aboard the International Space Station.

NASA needs a smartwatch app for its astronauts

By

ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti worked with iPad during a recent mission on the International Space Station. NASA wants astronauts to start using smartwatches for some of their tasks.
ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti worked with iPad during a recent mission on the International Space Station. NASA wants astronauts to start using smartwatches for some of their tasks.
Photo: NASA

There’s a smartwatch app for almost everything, but very few are useful to the men and women who work in microgravity.

So NASA is asking the pubic to design a smartwatch app for its astronauts to do everything from keeping them organized during science experiments to alerting them to space debris approaching.

NASA flyby gives closer look at Pluto’s mysterious ‘heart’

By

When NASA shared this image of Pluto with its Instagram followers Tuesday, scientists called it a love letter.
When NASA shared this image of Pluto with its Instagram followers Tuesday, scientists called it a love letter.
Photo: NASA/APL/SwRI

We downgraded its status, but Pluto still showed us its heart.

A spartan but warm-toned orb with a prominent heart-shaped terrain came into clear view Tuesday morning after NASA’s New Horizons snapped a picture some 476,000 miles from its surface after nearly a decade of travel.

Pluto was still considered a planet when New Horizon’s took off in 2006 for the end of our solar system. Since then, astronomers changed its status to a dwarf planet, but that did not diminish the excitement scientists and fans of star-gazing as the probe approached Pluto and its moons.

Hubble finds football-shaped moons in the end zone of our solar system

By

An artist's rendering shows the wobbble and oblong shape of Pluto's moon, Nix.
An artist's rendering shows the wobbble and oblong shape of Pluto's moon, Nix.
Illustration: NASA

Just because Pluto lost its planetary status doesn’t mean it’s any less interesting to astronomers.

NASA on Wednesday reported two football-shaped moons that wobble so unpredictably that the sun could rise in a different direction every day from either of the moons.

The Hubble Telescope recorded the oddball orbits of the oblong moons Nix and Hydra, which wobble because they are embedded in a constantly shifting gravitational field created by dwarf planet Pluto and its largest moon, Charon. Pluto and Charon share a common center of gravity.

Screaming ‘fire!’ in a crowded Russian space capsule is useless

By

ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen, left, and Russian cosmonaut Sergei Volkov work through artificial fire aboard a Soyuz simulator.
ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen, left, and Russian cosmonaut Sergei Volkov work through artificial fire aboard a Soyuz simulator.

A first-class flight in a Soyuz space capsule is rocky, reliable and rather snug. An astronaut sits in a semi-fetal position, works the controls with a stick and feels a pretty heavy G load, especially on reentry.

So imagine if a fire breaks out on the Soyuz spacecraft. There’s no extinguisher, no exit and no help to call.

ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen narrated a video showing he and Russian cosmonaut Sergei Volkov going through a simulated fire on a capsule to train for an upcoming flight to the International Space Station.

This toilet demo shows how astronauts boldly go in space

By

Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti took time out from her work aboard the International Space Station to explain how astronauts go to the bathroom in zero gravity. Photo: ESA/YouTube
Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti took time out from her work aboard the International Space Station to explain how astronauts go to the bathroom in zero gravity. Photo: ESA/YouTube

We have a reinvigorated interest in the mysteries of space. Astronaut Scott Kelly is just beginning a record-breaking stint in zero gravity, a space probe is about to fly by Pluto and manned missions to an asteroid and Mars are in the pipeline.

There is also the ongoing science on how to go to the bathroom in space, where things tend to float.

Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti explained that mystery over the weekend, when she took time from her work on the International Space Station to give a video tour of the bathroom (see below) and delicately describe going Numbers 1 and 2 in zero gravity.

Apollo mission patches put stars in the eyes of a family

By

The Apollo 11 mission patch. Photo: NASA/Neil F. Smith/YouTube
The Apollo 11 mission patch. Photo: NASA/Neil F. Smith/YouTube

I had the kind of dad who brought his work home with him. That was exciting since he was in the business of putting men on the moon.

Each time there was a scheduled launch, my two brothers and I could always expect our dad to come home with mission patches. Robert Pierini was an engineer in the late 1960s and early ’70s with an electronics company in Milwaukee that developed the guidance system for the Apollo mission.

So when filmmaker Neil F. Smith recently posted a video to YouTube, bringing animated life to each mission emblem, I immediately felt the same rush I had as a kid when I held a patch in my hand.