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NASA VeSpR Rocket Telescope Scours Venus’ Atmosphere For Signs Of Water

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venusWhile the Cassini, Curiosity, and MESSENGER craft have been giving us extensive information about Saturn, Mars, and Mercury, respectively, it’s been a few years since our space program has been able to study Venus with much complexity. But earlier this week, NASA launched the Venus Spectral Rocket Experiment, or VeSpR, the data from which will be used to determine whether or not the planet was ever covered in water. Whatever happened to just politely asking a planet if it had any water?

The VeSpR combines a Terrier missile and a Black Brant Mk1 sounding rocket equipped with a telescope. The rocket was sent up to more than 65 miles above the Earth’ surface, where the atmosphere is thin enough that ultraviolet rays coming off of the upper parts of Venus’s atmosphere can be measured without our planet’s atmosphere getting in the way.

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Automated Chinese Concept Car Has Fishtank Built In To Prove Its Safety

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witstar conceptWhen it comes to crazy concepts for vehicles, it usually involves flying cars, leaping rovers, or Homer Simpson. The Guangzhou Auto Show in Guangzhou, China recently unveiled a car so baffling, one might need a bigger brain to understand it. And since fish is brain food, it’s perfectly appropriate that the autonomous WitStar Concept car would have a fish tank built right into the middle of it, as a way of proving the safety of the driverless vehicle. This is either a completely genius move, or one that makes no sense whatsoever. Place your bets.

As reported by CarNewsChina, where all the pictures came from, the WitStar somehow wants to prove that the car can avoid accidents, which would smash the fish tank and leave the 10 fish inside dead, and would get water and rocks all over the interior, and nobody wants that. I’m clearly not certain how the inclusion of this fish tank proves that other drivers wouldn’t just smash into this vehicle, or that weather issues wouldn’t give the automated system problems. But this is why I write for an amazing website rather than design cars in China.

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Move Over, Jacques Cousteau—This Robot Turtle Investigates Shipwrecks

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U-CATWhile drones and rovers are common in the robot-related headlines these days, robots are slowly but surely taking to the seas as well. We’ve got robotic jellyfish and robots that can change color, a la cuttlefish and octopi. Now we can add a robotic turtle to that list.

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Smart Bike Wheel Takes The Sweat Out Of Your Bike Commute

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FlyklyAs a biker commuter and general cycling enthusiast, I’m excited to see a spate of bike-related gadgets hit the scene. First we had the smart bike lock, which I really wish had been around a couple years ago (RIP, best bike ever). Then we got the awesome, if pricey (though still cheaper than a new noggin), invisible bike helmet. And because good things come in threes, there’s now a smart bike wheel that will help us get to wherever we’re going without getting sweaty.

I’ll admit that the sweat factor is somewhat of a deterrent to biking, and while helmets are obviously important, standard helmets make bike rides even warmer. In the spring and early fall, I show up to work at least 10 minutes early so I have ample time to stop sweating and to make myself look presentable. I also never use one of those old overhead projectors.

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Molecular Trains Can Self-Assemble

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DNAMaterials or robots that can self-assemble have been the subject of fascination and study for a while now. Self-assembly is a major step toward autonomy, a super-helpful attribute for high-tech equipment to be used in space, and a possible step toward the ability to replicate objects. Self-assembly also comes pretty close to describing the process by which the body’s cells move and join together. Physicists from the University of Oxford have attempted to solidify that idea to illustrate the possibility of self-assembling systems moving molecules around to catalyze chemical reactions.

The team used the idea of a train because when proteins, organelles, and other genetic material from inside cells need to move around inside a cell, they travel along strings of proteins that resemble train tracks. In their recent paper, the team details their creation of proteins that build their own tracks, move to wherever they need to go, then disassemble the tracks once they’re there. Even if this doesn’t break major scientific ground, I could see this experiment serving as a useful example to kids and dirty roommates everywhere.

In the video below, the tracks, which are the only immediately visible parts, are red. Then you can see the researchers adding the artificial protein shuttles that carry cargo, which is green. You can see the shuttles all over the tracks in a random formation, and then they all move to the center. They all disperse when the researchers add a DNA signal.

The artificial proteins developed are attached to DNA, which provides guidance and instruction as they usually do. Once they have a destination and direction, the tracks look like stars or spokes radiating from a central point. According to the team, this design was inspired by fish that change color by way of similarly shaped tracks inside their cells. Then all the artificial proteins need is a little fuel — ATP (Adenosine triphosphate), which is what powers organic cells, and then they’re off to chug along to whatever station they need to visit.

While it might be some time before researchers find practical applications for such a system, the fact that we can create artificial systems that mirror organic ones is sure to be at least conceptually useful, especially if organic systems aren’t working the way we need them too. One thing’s for sure though — you don’t want to buy this “train” set for the young ones at Christmas.

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Inside Saturn’s Rings Will Be The Most Amazing IMAX Film Ever

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SaturnsI often wish that my home was big enough to house a full-size IMAX screen and viewing room, and also that I could afford to put one in, assuming I”m not paying out the ass for this huge imaginary house. While it would be cool to watch movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey on such a screen, I’m more interested in checking out the things that I can’t just watch on my laptop. And it’s hard to consider a movie better suited for this type of viewing than filmmaker Steven van Vuuren’s almost criminally beautiful project called In Saturn’s Rings, a giant-screen film quite unlike any viewers have ever experienced.

For almost seven years, van Vuuren has been working on turning In Saturn’s Rings into a reality by putting together over 1,000,000 space photos. Yes, one million photographs. He put them together in his basement using a special photoanimation technique, and what he made looks like one of the most awe-inspiring space tours imaginable, at least for those of us who will probably never get to experience the final frontier firsthand. He cobbled the photos from a variety of space missions over the years, including ones from Hubble, Apollo, Voyager, and, of course, Cassini spacecraft.