Photo: MIT Hyperloop
MIT Hyperloop unveiled their design for a hyperloop pod this week at the same time as Hyperloop One (until recently Hyperloop Technologies) performed their first public test of their hyperloop propulsion system. The hyperloop is an idea Elon Musk had that he didn’t have the time and energy to actually make himself, so instead he released a white paper and told people that if they liked they idea, they could have it. And they did. MIT’s team is competing in the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition, and is one of thirty teams chosen to receive funding to test their design in mid-2016. Hyperloop One, on the other hand, is a for-profit corporation with the stated aim of building a cargo-only (at first) hyperloop from Los Angeles to Las Vegas by 2020. The basic principle is simple pods travel down a vacuum- or reduced-pressure tube at high speeds using linear induction motors for propulsion and air compressors (like an air-hockey table) for levitation, though some are experimenting with magnetic levitation as well. Hyperloop One’s test aimed for 400mph in 2 seconds, with an ultimate goal of sustained long-range speeds of 750mph. If it works — and that’s still a long way off — designers are saying this will be the hyperloop’s “kitty hawk” moment, which means it should only be a few decades before it’s commercially viable. Well, in the meantime it’s pretty cool. You can learn more about MIT’s design here, and see a video of Hyperloop One’s test here.
Mercury in Transit
Although Mercury’s current apparent retrograde motion won’t affect your life in any way, it’s still up to some pretty cool things. This week we got a great look at our celestial neighbour as it “transited,” or passed between the Earth and the Sun. The photo above was taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, combining nearly fifty images into a composite to illustrate the planet’s path on May 9. Although it looks close to the Sun — and at 430°C (800°F) on the sun-facing side it’s certainly too close for comfort — Mercury is still a long way from our home star. The average distance from Earth to the Moon is 384,400km which, by the way, is enough distance to fit every single planet in the solar system between the two (barring, of course, all the apocalyptic things that would happen if they were to suddenly move there). Mercury is roughly 58,000,000km from the Sun, over a thousand times the distance from Earth to the Moon. As this self-described “tediously accurate” map of the solar system shows, the distances between everything in the solar system are very, very big. For more on Mercury’s transit and the SDO, check out NASA.
Kepler’s been in the news twice this week! In addition to the discovery of 1287 new exoplanets, which I talked about Wednesday, a new analysis of Kepler data this week also revealed that Pluto has a pretty big neighbour. Officially designated 2007 OR10, it’s one of the most massive dwarf planets in the solar system, as you can see from the illustration above. And if you’re wondering why Ceres isn’t on the list, it’s only 950km or so across, so it’s actually the smallest of the known dwarf planets. It was first discovered in 2007 by the Kepler survey, but the data weren’t conclusive on the size. To that end, a team of researchers used data from the Herschel Space Observatory in combination with the Kepler data to pin down its size — and discovered just how big it is. 2007 OR10 is officially the largest unnamed object in the solar system, so it looks like we’re about to get another named dwarf planet. Check out NASA/JPL for more on the story.
Here’s what we got up to this week at This Week In Tomorrow:
- On Monday, we looked at some dubious claims of human-alien hybridization
- On Tuesday, I read Gwyneth Paltrow’s “Goop” issue on sex
- On Wednesday, I reported on the 1284 new exoplanets discovered by Kepler
- On Thursday, I brainstormed some simple things we could do to keep science’s reputation a little less muddied, and
- On Friday, Lindsey told Calvin Klein to stop trolling us with its attempts to be risqué (that just end up rapey)
If you missed any of them, check them out now!
Best of the Rest
And of course, as usual, there are things we couldn’t get to this week. So here’s other people telling you about them! Go visit!
- MIT’s invented a stretchy “second skin” that, among other things, hides the bags under your eyes
- Apple’s created a successor to Siri; her name is Viv
- IBM is working on designing a molecule to fight all viruses at once
- Creationist Ken Ham, surprising nobody, proves he doesn’t understand science (again)
- Philip K. Dick’s stories are getting an on-screen anthology(!), and, because the internet,
- Here’s some more Thomas the Tank Engine creepypasta. I don’t know why.
That’s all for today! 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.