Solar Electric Propulsion | Photo: NASA
The Next Ion Drive
NASA has awarded rocket engine manufacturer Aerojet Rocketdyne (makers of the RS-68, the engines for the first stage of the Delta IV, and the J-2X, an engine in development for use in the future Space Launch System) a $67 million, 36-month contract to design and manufacture the next generation electric propulsion system for the upcoming Asteroid Redirect Mission. Part of NASA’s Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP) program, the thruster will improve upon the design used in the Ceres-orbiting Dawn spacecraft, turning solar power into thrust by using electricity to accelerate tiny amount of fuel to very high speeds. In theory, the technology will also be a step toward a human mission to Mars — someday. Check out NASA for more.
A Magic Leap Forward
This week Wired published the most detailed piece of writing yet on Magic Leap, a highly secretive company working on AR or MR technology — Augmented Reality or Mixed Reality — as opposed to VR. Like Microsoft’s Hololens in principle, Magic Leap’s product (whatever it looks like, whatever it’ll be called, whenever it’ll be done) will create real-seeming artificial things in your field of vision. The technology involves the use of a mysterious clear glass-like chip (not a lens, they say, don’t call it a lens) that they’re calling a “photonic lightfield chip.” The company’s founder, Rony Abovitz, says it has microstructures in it that allow it to create images that trick your brain into thinking they’re real objects in real space. That’s about all we know so far, save that they’re already working on content deals with major networks, and that they aren’t afraid to wait in order to bring their ideas to perfection before releasing them to the world. So for now we’ll just read the piece in Wired and wait.
A Little Closer to Equality
“After more than 100 years, we cannot delay, so the next bill to be redesigned must include women, who for too long have been absent from our currency.” That quote is from a letter released this week by Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, announcing, among other things, that Harriet Tubman’s portrait will grace the front of the next design of the $20 bill. While it’s not an Equal Rights Amendment or a guarantee of parental leave or federally-funded childcare, the US has announced that it’ll be moving in the right direction in one sense: whose images are on the money. In 2020, to align with the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution (that’d be the one granting women the right to vote) new $5, $10, and $20 bill designs will be released, depicting not only Tubman on the $20, but also civil rights scenes on the back of the $5, and scenes from the suffrage movement on the back of the $10. It’s a largely symbolic move in a country that seems to be actively trying to take away women’s agency (especially regarding their health) but it’s better than a kick in the teeth (or a $25 bill). You can read more at modernmoney.treasury.gov.
We had, as usual, five other stories this week that you can (and should!) check out:
- On Monday, I explained how the homeopathic “medicine” oscillococcinum contains zero atoms of its active ingredient.
- On Tuesday, I introduced some of you to the Wave Energy Prize, which sounds really cool
- On Wednesday, I explored some issues they may have sending postage-stamp-sized spaceships to Alpha Centauri
- On Thursday, I ran an update on the “EMDrive” and in no way endorsed its claims, and
- On Friday, Lindsey discussed a disturbing trend toward victim blaming at Brigham Young University
If you haven’t read them, you should check them out!
Best of the Rest
Other things happened this week. Here’s some of that:
- Suicide is at a 30-year high in the US
- The FCC’s getting expected pushback on its plan to open the “set top box” to competition
- Disney’s installed a huge Mickey-Mouse-head-shaped solar farm
- We’re narrowing down where to look for Planet Nine, and
- Someone’s starting an award for so-called “parasites”: scientists who do secondary analysis of other scientists’ data
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!
If you like our posts and want to support our site, please share it with others, on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit — anywhere you think people might want to read what we’ve written. Thanks so much for reading, and have a great week.