Tech universe: Tuesday 7 February

By Miraz Jordan

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket blasts off from Cape Canaveral, Florida in this file photograph. The new SuperDraco engine will be used to launch a rescue vehicle for crew. Photo / AP
SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket blasts off from Cape Canaveral, Florida in this file photograph. The new SuperDraco engine will be used to launch a rescue vehicle for crew. Photo / AP

GOING UP: SpaceX's reusable SuperDraco rocket engine is intended to be able to rescue launching crews and land the vehicle on a planetary body. During a launch the Draco is simply ready as a potential rescue vehicle. If there's a problem the 8 rockets can deliver 120,000 pounds of axial thrust, available 100 milliseconds after being switched on.
On return though, it's designed to provide sufficient thrust for a powered landing, rather than a craft needing to rely on a parachute. Or what's know in sci-fi as an escape pod. Discovery News.
Video here

COMING DOWN: You know those satellites that keep crashing into the Pacific? Well, sometimes they nearly miss. Last October, the German research satellite Rosat missed Beijing with its 20 million inhabitants by 7 minutes.

It ended up in the Bay of Bengal instead.

The 2.5 ton satellite, being German, was made of heavy and durable parts so scientists expected around 60 per cent of it to make it to ground.
Had fragments hit the city they would likely have caused casualties, destroyed buildings and created deep craters, according to experts from the European Space Agency. You think? Der Spiegel

CHARGE CARS: London's home to the Olympics this year, and the city's taxis are getting ready — by going electric. Or at least a couple of them are. The cab hire firm Climatecars have picked up two Renault Fluence Z.E.s. Based in Central London the taxis will recharge courtesy of charge points from the Source London network and a point in their own HQ. Two, out of how many hundreds or thousands of cabs on London's streets? Still, I guess everything has to start somewhere.
Climatecars

SNAP AND SNACK: Mastercard's QkR mobile payment app is available for both iPhone and Android. The app lets people use QR codes, NFC tags and other technologies. For example, visitors to Hoyts in Australia may be able to scan QR codes or NFC tags on the movie seat armrest to order and pay for food items. The system could also work for other
businesses, such as restaurants. And the QR codes won't get worn, or sticky and unreadable from spilled drinks and popcorn? GigaOM.

PROTEIN SHAPE: Biologists like to know what shape proteins are, because those shapes are incredibly important in determining behaviour and function. But the huge challenge is to see the shape without destroying the protein. Scientists at the University of Zurich in
Switzerland used low energy electron beams with a wavelength of a nanometre or so to create an electron hologram. The technique produced a good image, without harming the proteins. Won't someone think of the proteins! Technology Review.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz


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