This week we’ve got the OSIRIS-REX flyby, this year’s IgNobel Prizes, and an electric bus that went a hell of a long way! It’s the sci-tech roundup for Sunday, September 24, 2017!
Next Stop: Bennu!
Just before 1pm Eastern on Friday, we got a brief visit from one of our robotic friends. OSIRIS-REX, launched just over a year ago, did a lap around the sun before approaching the Earth yesterday at a relative velocity of around 19,000 miles per hour. Sliding through Earth’s gravitational field at a distance of just under 11,000 miles away, it stole a tiny bit of momentum—comparatively. While it’s not much to us, it managed to provide the probe with an addition 8,451 miles per hour of velocity, which is going to be important to catch up to its destination, the asteroid Bennu, in August of next year. When it gets there, it’ll spend almost two years mapping and studying the 500 meter wide asteroid before collecting a sample and returning home in September 2023. We won’t hear much about the mission now for nearly a year, but it’ll be exciting next summer as it approaches, so stay tuned! You can read more about the flyby at Spaceflight Now, or check out the mission timeline over at asteroidmission.org.
This year’s IgNobel Prizes were recently awarded, as usual in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Awarded to real, peer-reviewed research that “makes people laugh, then think,” this year’s winners were certainly true to form. Stealing the show was the article “On the Rheology of Cats,” published in Rheology Bulletin in 2014 and answering the question no-one asked with the claim that cats behave like both liquids and solids, depending on the situation. Awards were also given out to research that demonstrated how best to hold your coffee while you walk to avoid spillage, how playing the didgeridoo can help with sleep apnea, how playing music inside a pregnant woman’s vagina has more of an effect on the fetus than music played outside, and that older men have, well, bigger ears. A more complete list (with more detail than I can provide here) is available over at AAAS Science magazine.
Electric Bus Range Record
The Catalyst E2 Max, a full-size, all-electric city bus manufactured by the US-based company Proterra, has shown it’s got more than enough juice to do the job. In a recent, much-publicized test, the 40-foot, 40-seater bus did a whopping 1102.2 miles on a single charge! Now, bear in mind the bus was probably empty and was probably coasting at continuous speeds the whole time, so wouldn’t lose as much energy to friction and braking inefficiencies, but even fully loaded the company is saying that it’ll do 350 miles on a charge, which is still pretty impressive for something 40 feet long. Add this to the fact that utility-grade solar panels have dropped in price so fast that we’re already at the 2020 targets, and you can see that there’s a whole lot of future in green energy—and in batteries. You can read about the record-setting trip at The Verge.
Best of the Rest
Since I can’t write about everything, here’s links to other people who did!
- Solar’s getting cheaper much faster than expected
- It’s still better to teach how not to rape than how not to get raped
- Verizon’s being a dick to people again (quelle surprise!)
- HP sent out another fake “security” update to DRM-ify people’s printers
- GOOP is selling (I kid you not) “psychic vampire repellent”
- The EU paid over $400,000 to learn that piracy isn’t really a problem (and then tried to hide the results)
- The guy who stopped armageddon and saved all our lives in 1983 passed away, and
- Another armageddon’s been, well, “postponed“
That’s all for today. Have a great week.
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Richard Ford Burley is a human, writer, and doctoral candidate at Boston College, as well as Deputy Managing Editor at Ledger, the first academic journal devoted to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In his spare time he writes about science, skepticism, feminism, and futurism here at This Week In Tomorrow.