Starshot nanocraft technology

Starshot nanocraft technology

One newspaper headline said, there are a lot of unknowns surrounding one of the most ambitious space projects ever announced, and some whit promptly replied, that's got to be the understatement of the last 10,000 years of human existence. So just what are they talking about, on April 13 this year a Russian billionaire, Yuri Milner and Stephen Hawking announced they had about $100 billion plan to study Alpha Centauri, which if you don't know is the closest star to Earth after our own sun of course. Alpha Centauri is 4.37 light years from Earth which in layman's terms, is a hell of a long way. One of the stated goals of the mission is to find out if aliens exist in that part of the galaxy and failing that, considering it's just a tiny part of the galaxy, the second mission objective is to find out if there are any planets or moons over there that can support life as we know it.

The mission is called

Breakthrough Starshot

, what they plan on doing is sending an ultralightweight spacecraft, unmanned of course, to Alpha Centauri using a light sail, and being propelled by a 100 GW light beam. When this plan was first announced most people with any knowledge of this area of technology either said one of two things, it was mad genius or it was just plain mad. The problem is that the more you dig into the idea the more it seems to be feasible, and if nothing else they definitely have the money to give it a shot.

The main reason it is feasible is that the technology that proposing to use is beyond the theoretical stage already, in fact some prototypes are actually on the drawing boards so as someone said, it certainly stretches the imagination but doesn't break it. The light sail technology is actually being tested by quite a few research groups right now, the reason they are doing all this testing and designing is to be able to launch what are called CubeSats, which are basically very small and very light satellites that are launched into space propelled by a light beam or a laser. The technology involved in these little satellites has already been proven so the nanocraft pitched by the Starshot group is just a another logical step down that path.

That is not to say there are no questions remaining about this whole project because there are some very very big questions and similar sized obstacles for the team to get through. The biggest problem at the moment is the light beam launch system and propulsion system. It actually turns out that propulsion engineers have been a source of serious interest for a number of decades now and within the last decade breakthroughs have been made so that they now can conceive of using such technology in various applications, they are already using lasers to move orbital debris out of the path of critical satellites. This is easily done if you remember that light is an energy capable of exerting force.

Stop-start technology is spreading

Stop-start technology is spreading

The stop start system on a motor vehicle is designed to turn the engine off when the vehicle was stopped, and for it to turn back on when the driver wants to go, these systems are usually based on the driver removing their foot from the brake pedal as the signal to restart the engine. However Mercedes now admits that nearly 95% of the people who own a Mercedes with this feature disable it upon entering the car. One customer has reportedly said that he always disables it now because in one 20 min. trip soon after he got the vehicle it did at least 50 stop start cycles on that one journey, in his opinion having this feature on all the time would drive the car owner insane. He said this because the driver can actually feel the car restarting every single time.

Mercedes defended its technology saying it was a very seamless system and that has already stated customers have the option of disabling the system every time they enter the vehicle. A


company spokesman also said that while stop start technology may make people crazy, that technology is here to stay. The reason the technology is here to stay has absolutely nothing to do with what the car manufacturers customers want, it is all about car manufacturers being under intense pressure to meet the 2025 fuel economy standards and they are going to use every creative method they can to wring every last drop of fuel efficiency from conventional petrol and diesel engines.

Another most likely option that they will take is to increase transmissions from six speeds to at least nine speeds and possibly even 10 speeds. They are also most likely to switch from mechanical power steering to electrical power steering systems, nearly every manufacturer is currently engaged in trying to decrease tire rolling resistance, and also into high-pressure direct fuel injection into the cylinders. Some of the figures released by stop start technology car manufacturers are saying that cars with the technology enabled can save between 3% and 5% on their annual fuel usage. Ford also said that their cars that living large metropolitan areas with many traffic light stops of extended periods some vehicles are saving up to 10% on their fuel usage. Most owners of these vehicles who actually used the technology disagree stating they doubted they got 1 mile per gallon extra fuel usage from the vehicle.

Some car manufacturers that are going go along with this technology sooner rather than later are Buick who expect all their vehicles to be using stop start technology by 2018 and


expects at least 75% of its vehicles to be using the technology by the end of 2016. One company that is bucking the trend is


, they say their primary research suggests almost every single person who owns a vehicle equipped with stop start technology disables it, so on that basis, the company is looking elsewhere to make savings on fuel usage.

Technology transforms thought into movement

Technology transforms thought into movement

In 2010 Ian Burkhart was paralyzed after diving into a wave in shallow water, the accident left him with no use of his hands. About two years ago now scientists in Ohio equipped Burkart with a system that allows him to control his right wrist and hand with his thoughts. The briefing was held by the scientists to publicize the study published in Nature. The study describes in detail the progress made by the patient since he started using the system. It took many many months of practice but now Burkart can perform small tasks like pouring water from a bottle into a glass, grasping small objects without either dropping them or breaking them, he can even swipe a credit card through a card reader without any difficulty. The final clincher for the scientists was that Burkart can now control each of the fingers on his right hand individually.

This whole system came about because of the technology that has been developed that intercepts and decodes electrical signals issued by the brain before they reach the patient's severed or damaged spine. The sciences said they were actually only re-routing these signals around the spinal cord injury and then reinserting them into the muscles of his hand. The system operates using three parts, there are electrodes implanted into Burkart's brain, a computer interface attached to his skull and finally electrical stimulators wrapped around his forearm. The whole system was developed by a team at Ohio State University.

They said the learning curve for the patient is intense because at first even though the patient may be able to pick up something as soon as they either look away from what they're doing or think of something else they would drop it. The scientists also said that the system is actually learning along with the patient, and the system actually learns to take into account the patient's own abilities and problems. What Burkart has managed to achieve is phenomenal and potentially a massive technological breakthrough in the treatment and rehabilitation of spine injury patients. Currently Burkart is the darling of the media which everyone involved is okay with. The spokesperson for the group did however say that Burkart is just one of many paralyzed people using this or similar technology to perform daily tasks using their thoughts alone.

Much of the technology that Burkart relies on is also in use at many other research centers including the Case Western Reserve University, whose chairman of biomedical engineering, Robert Kirsch who is also executive director of the Cleveland functional electrical stimulation Center. “The brain computing interfacing that they did is kind of garden-variety” Kirsch said, “and the electrical stimulation that they've done is really old-fashioned”. Kirsch also said that other groups are obtaining better results using electrical stimulators that are actually implanted into the muscles, instead of being placed on the skin, this approach allows more precise control of the muscles but of course requires much more extensive surgery. The current goal of most of these teams is to allow patient to control more than one set of muscles at the same time, which is vital if you want to do something like walk and you have no spinal connection as a conduit for your thoughts.

The battle that Chevrolet has been waiting for

The battle that Chevrolet has been waiting for

When Tesla CEO Elon Musk finally pull the proverbial covers off the mass market Tesla model 3, Chevrolet executives probably breathed a sigh of relief, the fight for supremacy in the electric vehicle market was on. Both the Tesla model 3 and the Chevrolet Bolt EV were pretty much designed to go head-to-head for this new and emerging market of long-range electric vehicles. There are other competitors coming but for now these two heavyweights get to slug it out. Tesla said they hoped pre-orders would equal $7.5 billion in worldwide sales, they fell way short with only $180 million in worldwide pre-orders.

Let's compare the two vehicles and see if we can come up with which one of them is most likely to be the winner in the end. The first comparison has to be price and initially the Tesla 3 was supposed to cost $35,000 but Elon Musk now admits with basic options it will cost around $42,000 whereas the Chevrolet Bolt will cost $37,500 before the $7500 federal tax credit so on price alone the Bolt is cheaper vehicle. Another reason the Bolt will probably win on price is because it is equipped with more standard features than the Model 3 at the bottom end of the market.

The next thing most people would probably want to compare long-range electric vehicles on would be the range of the vehicle on a standard charge but both manufacturers are being a little cagey about the official range of each vehicle. Chevrolet will only say that the Bolt has a range of more than 200 miles per charge, Tesla say the Model 3 has a 215 mile range as a starting point. There are rumors circulating that Chevrolet has done more testing and is preparing to officially revise the Bolt's range to 240 miles on a standard charge.

Revheads always want to know how fast every car accelerates, they measure how fast it can get to 60 mph if you plant your foot flat. The Chevy Bolt EV came in with a time just under 7 seconds, the Model 3 did it in a whisker under 6 seconds, which is a time comparable with most cars all around the same size like the purely petrol powered Ford Focus.

Just what technology is being installed as standard in each of these two vehicles, actually little is known about what is actually being installed in the Model 3, Tesla seemed to be taking a leaf out of Apple's book and not giving much away for now. The two things we do know about the Model 3 is that it has a 15 inch floating display in the center of the dash and it also has Tesla's semi-autonomous driving system, called autopilot, which will be installed but you have to pay to activate it.

On the other hand you have the Chevrolet Bolt which is loaded with high-end technology, it has a 10.2 inch infotainment screen, rear mirror camera which provides an 80° digital view of the area behind the car, it has exterior cameras which you can view on the mirror as well, and Chevrolet has come up with something new, they are calling it low-energy Bluetooth, it only has a range of about 100 feet but once paired with the drivers find the car's lights will flash as soon as the phone is within range. And it doesn't end there, the Bolt also has built-in 4G LTE Wi-Fi. Chevrolet have made a app they are calling myChevrolet mobile app, which allows car owners to set their cars climate control and other tech features remotely. GM has stated that all of the above will be stock standard on the Chevy Bolt EV.

Both cars are passed the testing and protype stage, so the long range electric car is now a reality. Both manufacturers say if you want one of the first 100,000 of them it would be a good idea to get your order in soon.