Friday, May 1, 2015

Links for March/April

The most exciting stuff over the last month has probably been everything that's happened in genetic engineering via a tool called CRISPR, described in detail here.  This technique has apparently only been around for a couple of years but it's making big waves.  In the blog post where I heard about this some scientists in the comments were predicting that we'd see this used on humans soon and sure enough it seems that the rumors were right and some scientists had altered non-viable embryos.

In other genetic engineering news, some scientists have altered rice to preform photosynthesis in the more efficient way that corn does

Oh, and some people are hoping to use CRISPR to turn elephant embryos into Woolly Mammoths too.

In Mars news there are apparently belts of glaciers running around the planet.  Also this is a really pretty mineral vein formation.

And elsewhere in space, this person did a very good job of putting all the various things in the solar system to scale.

Oh, and a bunch of companies have cool videos of rockets.  Blue Origin was created by the founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, and they've finally put out their first video of the space tourism rocket they've been working on.  The capsule made it nearly to space then back to Earth safely but the booster they'd designed to be reusable had a hydraulic problem and crashed, much like SpaceX's first barge landing attempt.  More recently SpaceX's second barge landing attempt was much closer but too much lateral speed broke one of the legs and though you can see the RCS thruster trying valiantly to keep the rocket upright it was not to be.  Back to Blue Origin, they seem to be a ways from their first orbital launch but they're nearly finished with an engine, the BE-4, that the ULA is hoping to use to replace some Russian engines they've been using.

When you think of a normal car the most complicated part of it is the engine.  But for electric cards it's the batteries that are really the part that's hard to get right and that has a bunch of implications for Telsa Moters.

Hitherby Dragons is a fiction blog by Jenna Moran that I've enjoyed reading.  After a long hiatus it's started to update again.

People talk about peak oil but what we really have to worry about is peak energy because there's a straightforward way to turn water and the CO2 in air into hydrocarbons if you've got enough energy to do it.  Lets hope the price of solar panels keeps dropping.  Audi seems to be betting on that because they've been working on getting some decent diesel fuel from this process, much more useful than the methane you get is you do things the simplest possible way.

One of the cool bits of the the trailer for the new star wars movie was the little droid named BB-8 that was essentially a rolling ball with another ball balanced on it.  It's interesting because it's an actual device rather than CG, as you can see when it rolls out on stage here.  Someone put together their ideas about how they would build it.

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