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Comet-Chasing Spacecraft Closes In

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Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko

Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko

After waking up in January, the European Space Agency’s spacecraft Rosetta is nearing its holy grail: a comet with the somewhat cumbersome name of 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.

The journey has been a long one; Rosetta started its pursuit of the comet back in 2004. You know what they say about perseverance — apparently, that’s the way to catch a comet. Since then, it’s traveled over six billion kilometers, circled the sun five times, and gotten three essential gravity boosts to put it on the right orbital path. So, are we there yet? Not quite. Rosetta has fewer than 300 miles to go, and on August 6, the long wait will be over. Among other things, that means space enthusiasts have only two more days to enter the “are we there yet?” competition.

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IBM’s Watson Is Also A Machine In The Kitchen

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chef watsonIBM’s Watson is an impressive machine. In addition to kicking some major ass on Jeopardy, Watson has also directed its profound intelligence—or at least, ability to compile and analyze information—toward curing cancer, helping countries in Africa devise better systems for farming, education, and health care. Now, the machine’s got a new hobby: cooking. Or perhaps more accurately, creating new recipes.

Bon Appetit has partnered with IBM to test Watson’s meddle in the kitchen. It makes sense—as much as cooking can benefit from inspiration and innovation, there are unlikely combinations of foods that produce taste and texture results that those of us who aren’t chemists or molecular gastronomists might never be aware of. For those of you who watched House, remember when Dr. House took up cooking as a hobby to distract him from gobbling pills? He was amazing at it, because, well, because he’s amazing at everything, but also because of his precise scientific mind. And something tells me not even House can keep up with Watson, if only because Watson can keep all 9,000 Bon Appetit recipes it scanned while learning about culinary compounds and mixtures stored in its data banks.

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An Inventor Made A Giant Fart Machine—And Aimed It At France

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Flatuence-MachineGFR has covered a couple of Colin Furze’s inventions, like the automatic Wolverine claws, Magneto boots, and flamethrower. Up until now, I’d have to say that my favorite of all of these creations is the Cake-O-Matic, which promises to elevate any birthday experience from good to utterly ridiculous. But Furze is nothing if not ambitious, and apparently he was just getting started. His latest creation will be tough to outdo: a giant flatulence machine.

Given his wacky antics, Furze says that people comment all the time that he must be a noisy fellow, and probably a pretty bad neighbor. I personally can’t think of someone I’d rather have next door—among other talents, he can probably fix absolutely anything—but I guess some people aren’t bowled over by his record-breaking runaway baby stroller. Anyway, those comments inspired him to be as loud as possible, which for him involved designing a huge, valve-less U-shape pulsejet that looks a little bit like a giant butt trumpet (you know, minus the valves). The pulsejet is a delightfully impractical invention, as most of its energy converts into noise and heat—let’s just say NASA won’t be using this as a rocket thruster anytime soon.

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Chinese River Runs Blood Red, Are These The End-Of-Days?

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Red RiverEvery once in a while, mother nature unleashes something that comes at us straight out of a horror movie. Like that glacier in Antarctica that occasionally bleeds, or Lamprey Eels—those things are horrifying—or how about this, a river that turns into blood in less than an hour. Okay, the particular Chinese river that we’re talking about didn’t actually turn into real blood, but in just about 60 minutes it did turn a deep red that sure as hell gives it the appearance of a giant stab wound.

Last week, at approximately five in the morning local time on a Thursday, a smattering of people were up, going about the business of getting their day started in Xinmeizhou village in Cangnan County in eastern China’s Zhejiang province. On the surface, everything seemed normal, like just another day. Then people noticed the river. Within the span of a few minutes, the water started running darker than usual, and in a few more moments it turned completely red, like someone stabbed a giant from a children’s story. The 200 to 300 meter stretch of water also took on a strange smell according to the villagers.

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Breaking Bad’s Walter White Bobblehead Goes To Space

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Walter White BobbleheadWhat we choose to send into space is a fascinating representation of our culture. From professional astronauts and Mars One applicants to plants and a soda can masquerading as a time capsule to robots, every individual and object we send into the cosmos becomes a symbol for qualities we hold dear. Thus, it comes as no surprise that employees from TVtag, a social networking site and app whose users check in and unlock information about the shows they watch, recently launched a Walter White bobblehead into space.

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Microwave Propulsion Breakthrough Could Revolutionize Space Travel

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EmDrive

EmDrive

“Game changer” has become an overused buzz term. Every innovation or advancement is either a definite game changer, or at least a possible a game changer. But the fact is, the “game” (and by game, I think we’re loosely referring to all of science, if not all of life itself) changes all the time no matter what, though admittedly certain inventions, such as the internet, could be credited with catalyzing particularly significant shifts. Most often, it takes hindsight to accurately identify such innovations, so lofting that descriptor at the outset can prompt skepticism. That said, I’m always on the lookout for advancements that might indeed prove to be major breakthroughs, and NASA just verified one: a microwave-powered, propellant-less thruster.

U.S. scientist Guido Fetta devised a microwave thruster called the “Cannae Drive”—a reference to the Battle of Cannae or perhaps to Star Trek’s Scotty—that operates without propellant. After some cajoling, he got NASA to agree to give it a try, and at the recent Joint Propulsion Conference, the space agency presented the results of its validation testing, which confirms that this system, once thought to be impossible, actually works. NASA spent eight days “investigat[ing] and demonstrat[ing] viability of using classical magnetoplasmadynamics to obtain a propulsive momentum transfer via the quantum vacuum virtual plasma.”