Daniel Oberhaus
Daniel Oberhaus
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RECENT ARTICLES
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Nuclear ‘Power Balls’ May Make Meltdowns a Thing of the Past

Nuclear ‘Power Balls’ May Make Meltdowns a Thing of the Past

behind all nuclear power plants is the same: Convert the heat created by nuclear fission into electricity. There are several ways to do this, but in each case it involves a delicate balancing act between safety and efficiency. A nuclear reactor works best when the core is really hot, but if it gets too hot it will cause a meltdown and the environment will get poisoned and people may die and it will take billions of dollars to clean up the mess.The last time this happened was less than a decade ago, when a massive earthquake followed by a series of tsunamis caused a . But a coming online in...

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Daniel Oberhaus
5d ago
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NASA’s New Moon-Bound Space Suits Will Get a Boost From AI

NASA’s New Moon-Bound Space Suits Will Get a Boost From AI

ago, NASA unveiled its that will be worn by astronauts when they return to the moon in 2024 as part of the agency’s . The Extravehicular Mobility Unit—or xEMU—is NASA’s first major upgrade to its space suit in nearly 40 years and is designed to make life easier for astronauts who will spend a lot of time . It will allow them to bend and stretch in ways they couldn’t before, easily don and doff the suit, swap out components for a better fit, and go months without making a repair.But the biggest improvements weren’t on display at the suit’s unveiling last fall. Instead, they’re hidden away in...

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Daniel Oberhaus
6d ago
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The Rocket Motor of the Future Breathes Air Like a Jet Engine

The Rocket Motor of the Future Breathes Air Like a Jet Engine

airfield about a two-hour drive north of Los Angeles that sits on the edge of a vast expanse of desert and attracts aerospace mavericks like moths to a flame. The Mojave Air & Space Port is home to companies like Scaled Composites, the first to send a private astronaut to space, and Masten Space Systems, which is in the business of building lunar landers. It’s the proving ground for America’s most audacious space projects, and when Aaron Davis and Scott Stegman arrived at the hallowed tarmac last July, they knew they were in the right place. The two men arrived at the airfield before dawn...

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Daniel Oberhaus
Jun 26
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Why NASA Designed a New $23 Million Space Toilet

Why NASA Designed a New $23 Million Space Toilet

Station is one of the most advanced laboratories ever made. It’s home to the , “,” a , and . And later this year, it will also have the distinction of hosting the most advanced bathroom ever made. Known as the Universal Waste Management System, this high-tech porta potty was under development for six years and cost more than to build. It is scheduled to be delivered to the space station in a Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo capsule in September.Unlike the two bespoke versions currently on the space station, NASA’s new space toilet is designed to work with a variety of future crewed spacecraft....

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Daniel Oberhaus
Jun 22
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On the Moon, Astronaut Pee Will Be a Hot Commodity

On the Moon, Astronaut Pee Will Be a Hot Commodity

Donald Trump directed NASA to , the agency and its partners have been hard at work trying to make it happen. Late last month, NASA awarded contracts to three companies to develop a crewed , but getting to the moon is just the start. The agency also plans to build a before the end of the decade and use it as a .If astronauts are going to spend weeks at a time on the moon, they’re going to have to figure out how to live off the land—er, regolith. It’s too expensive to ship everything from Earth, which means they’ll have to get creative with the limited resources on the lunar surface. Moon...

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Daniel Oberhaus
May 22
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Coming Soon: A Nuclear Reactor—With a 3D-Printed Core

Coming Soon: A Nuclear Reactor—With a 3D-Printed Core

to accelerate the future of nuclear energy—so he’s turned to its past. Over the last year and a half, Terrani and a team of physicists, engineers, and computer scientists at Oak Ridge National Lab in Tennessee have designed and built the components for a gas-cooled nuclear reactor. It’s a type of reactor that’s almost as old as the nuclear age itself, but Oak Ridge’s newest atom splitter has a distinctive 21st Century twist. When it comes online in 2023, it will be the first nuclear reactor in the world with a 3D-printed core. “What we’re doing is trying to figure out a faster way to build...

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Daniel Oberhaus
May 15
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A Secret Space Plane is Carrying a Solar Experiment to Orbit

A Secret Space Plane is Carrying a Solar Experiment to Orbit

US Air Force is expected to launch its , X-37B, for a long-duration mission in low Earth orbit. The robotic orbiter looks like a smaller version of the space shuttle and has spent nearly eight of the past 10 years in space conducting classified experiments for the military. Almost nothing is known about what X-37B does up there, but ahead of its sixth launch the about its cargo.In addition to its usual suite of secret military tech, the X-37B will also host a few unclassified experiments during its upcoming sojourn in space. NASA is sending up two experiments to study the effects of...

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Daniel Oberhaus
May 14
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NASA's EmDrive Leader Has a New Interstellar Project

NASA's EmDrive Leader Has a New Interstellar Project

isn’t big enough for Harold White—but it’s a start. The 54-year-old physicist has devoted his career to researching advanced propulsion concepts that he hopes may carry humans to the outer solar system and eventually into the . Conventional rocket engines are too slow to cover these vast distances on human timescales, so White has focused on more exotic solutions like and quantum vacuum thrusters that get a boost from space-time itself.White’s research pedigree may sound like it was cribbed from a mad scientist in a pulp sci-fi novel, but most of his work was done as the leader of NASA’s...

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Daniel Oberhaus
May 8
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NASA Wants to Photograph the Surface of an Exoplanet

NASA Wants to Photograph the Surface of an Exoplanet

long ago that the only known planets in our galaxy were those orbiting our own sun. But over the past few decades, astronomers have discovered thousands of exoplanets and concluded that they outnumber the stars in our galaxy. Many of these alien worlds have , such as planet-wide oceans of lava or clouds that rain iron. Others may have . We’ll never be able to travel to these distant worlds to see for ourselves, but an audacious mission to interstellar space may allow us to admire them from afar.Last week, NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concept program its new cohort of scientists who will spend...

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Daniel Oberhaus
Apr 13
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NASA's Plan to Turn the ISS Into a Quantum Laser Lab

NASA's Plan to Turn the ISS Into a Quantum Laser Lab

physicists at the Argonne and Fermi national laboratories will exchange quantum information across 30 miles of optical fiber running beneath the suburbs of Chicago. One lab will generate a pair of entangled photons—particles that have identical states and are linked in such a way that what happens to one happens to the other—and send them to their colleagues at the other lab, who will extract the quantum information carried by these particles of light. By establishing this two-way link, the labs will become the first nodes in what the researchers hope will one day be a linking around the...

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Daniel Oberhaus
Apr 22
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A Crashed Israeli Spacecraft Spilled Tardigrades on the Moon

A Crashed Israeli Spacecraft Spilled Tardigrades on the Moon

before midnight on April 11 and everyone at the Israel Aerospace Industries mission control center in Yehud, Israel, had their eyes fixed on two large projector screens. On the left screen was a stream of data being sent back to Earth by Beresheet, its lunar lander, which was about to become the . The right screen featured a crude animation of Beresheet firing its engines as it prepared for a soft landing in the Sea of Serenity. But only seconds before the scheduled landing, the numbers on the left screen stopped. Mission control had lost contact with the spacecraft, and it crashed into the...

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Daniel Oberhaus
Aug 5
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After 50 Years of Effort, Researchers Made Silicon Emit Light

After 50 Years of Effort, Researchers Made Silicon Emit Light

ago, Gordon Moore, the cofounder of Intel, predicted that the number of transistors packed into computer chips would double every two years. This infamous prediction, known as Moore’s law, has held up pretty well. When Intel released the first microprocessor in the early 1970s, it had just over 2,000 transistors; today, the processor in an iPhone has several billion. But all things come to an end, and Moore’s law is no exception. Modern transistors, which function as a computer’s brain cells, are only a few atoms long. If they are packed too tightly, that can cause all sorts of problems:...

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Daniel Oberhaus
Apr 8
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