In today’s recap, we’ve got a massive discovery that’s making waves, hot news about fusion from China, and a sad goodbye as comet 67P drifts away from the sun. Read on!
Gravity Waves Hello
In what has to be considered the top news of the week (and possibly of the year, even though it’s only February) is this Thursday’s announcement by the aLIGO team of the confirmation of (and measurement of) gravitational waves. I wrote about this at the time, but it’s worth returning to because it’s just that significant an announcement. Long story short, the team of scientists used laser interferometers stationed on opposite sides of the continental US to measure ripples in the very fabric of spacetime caused by the collision of two black holes roughly 1.3 billion years ago. If you want more of the basic details, check out this Thursdays post, but there are things I missed then too, like this awesome animation of colliding black holes released by the aLIGO team:
This BBC video that lets you hear the final “chirp” of the collision:
and also this great post over at Scientific American about just some of questions that being able to measure gravitational waves will help us answer.
In the wake of last week’s news about the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator comes another fusion announcement, this time from China. The news comes out of the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) in the city of Hefei (合肥市) in eastern China, where they’re reporting having sustained plasma at 90 million degrees fahrenheit (50 million Centigrade) for 102 seconds. That’s a fantastic achievement, and goes a long way toward the 180 million f (100 million C) we’ll need for commercial fusion, even if we’re not there quite yet. The reactor team are aiming for a thousand seconds next, according to the South China Morning Post.
BBC News is reporting that the European Space Agency has officially given up on trying to contact the little lander on the comet with the big name. Philae did remarkably well after an unfortunately rough (and bouncy) landing on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (cherry-gerry to its friends) in November 2014. Landing on its side down a deep chasm, it wasn’t able to collect enough sunlight to power itself, and was forced to perform what science it could in the little time its batteries afforded it. It managed to do about 80% of the initially-planned work — itself quite an accomplishment — and relay its data back up to the Rosetta orbiter in the 60 hours it had before shutoff. Last year, ESA heard a few chirps from the lander, raising hopes that with the new proximity to the Sun, we might hear more, but it was not to be. Now that 67P is heading out into the depths of space again and has dropped well below the temperatures the lander was ever designed to operate in (-180C at last check), the space agency has decided to focus on what can be accomplished with Rosetta before it, too, is “soft”-landed on the comet’s surface in September, ending the mission.
In case you missed it, here’s what we got up to here this week, in handy point form:
- On Monday I denied the existence of laptops in ancient Greece
- On Tuesday I listed the men who’d nearly walked on the moon
- On Wednesday I peered into a dark corner of the internet and saw Thomas the Tank Engine peering back
- On Thursday I got all excited about the discovery of gravitational waves, and
- On Friday, Lindsey talked about the creepy ways RomComs teach us to accept otherwise unacceptable behaviour
Go check them out if you haven’t already!
Best of the Rest
And here’s your weekly linkspam!
- Elon Musk said reservations for the $35K Model 3 start March 31
- Amazon released its game engine Lumberyard for free
- Scientists found that prunes may protect against radiation-induced bone loss
- Moshe Vardi says the robots are coming for your jobs, and
- A team of engineers at UC Riverside think they can make GPS accurate to an inch or so.
That’s all for this week. Remember, I only get paid in my own (and your) enthusiasm, so please like This Week In Tomorrow on Facebook, follow me on Twitter @TWITomorrow, and tell your friends about the site! Have a great week.