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Could We Levitate Humans With The World’s Most Powerful Acoustic Tractor Beam?

By  Chelsea Gohd, Futurism

Beam Me Up

In a sci-fi feeling first, engineers at the University of Bristol used the world’s most powerful acoustic tractor beam to demonstrate that it’s possible to stably contain objects larger than the wavelength of sound. In other words, they were able to levitate objects notably larger than what’s ever been possible before; a feat that theoretically opens up the potential of one day levitating humans.

Acoustic tractor beams use sound, or more specifically soundwaves, to hold particles in mid-air. While magnetic levitation also exists, acoustic levitation tends to work better for handling liquids and solids. It was previously believed that acoustic tractor beams were limited to levitating relatively small objects; only those approximately the same size as a wavelength of the sound. In fact, it was believed to be fundamentally impossible to levitate larger objects without losing stability, causing them to spin uncontrollably.

The concept of an acoustic tractor beam levitating a spherical object. Image Credit: University of Bristol

The study, to be published this week in Physical Review Letters, describes the new technique, which creates a tornado-like structure that is extremely loud but has a silent core. The researchers found that when they changed the direction of the rapidly fluctuating acoustic vortices that make up this structure, they could control the rate of rotation and stabilize the tractor beam. Once the beam was stabilized, the team could increase the size of the silent core at the center of this “sound tornado”, which allowed it to hold larger objects.

Dr. Asier Marzo, the lead author on the paper from Bristol’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, said that “Acoustic researchers had been frustrated by the size limit for years, so its satisfying to find a way to overcome it.”

Levitating Humans

In the demonstration detailed in the study, the engineers used ultrasonic waves at a pitch of 40kHz to make up the acoustic vortices. The structure’s silent core was able to hold a two-centimeter sphere made out of a synthetic polymer. The sphere is more than two times the size of the acoustic wavelengths, making it the largest object that’s been stably held in a tractor beam thus far.

While it might look and feel a bit like magic, the team believes harnessing the technique could have many practical applications. Bruce Drinkwater, Professor of Ultrasonics from the Department of Mechanical Engineering, who supervised the work, said he’s “particularly excited by the idea of contactless production lines where delicate objects are assembled without touching them.”

Marzo concurred, “I think it opens the door to many new applications.” Some of which might include creating medical devices, like drug capsules or micro-surgical implements.

For those who are wondering about the possibility of levitating something — or perhaps, someone — a great deal larger than a two-centimeter sphere, Dr. Mihai Caleap, a Senior Research Associate who developed the simulations, added that “In the future, with more acoustic power, it will be possible to hold even larger objects. This was only thought to be possible using lower pitches making the experiment audible and dangerous for humans.”

Of course, Dr. Caleap isn’t saying that the simulations are proof humans could be levitated with the existing technology. What the study does show is that high pitches (far above what humans can hear) can successfully be used in acoustic tractor beamsand objects larger than a sound wavelength can be stably levitated. Working with higher pitches, larger objects, and more stability, the only way for the research to go from here is up.

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Science & Technology

NTP nuclear rocket engine will take humans to Mars in just three months

Although the romance of the peaceful atom has subsided since the mid-1960s, the idea of ​​using nuclear reactors for “civilian” purposes is still regularly returned. The new nuclear rocket engine (NRM) will deliver a man to Mars much faster than is possible now.

The danger of cosmic radiation is much more serious than the risk of infection from an accident with such an engine. The most dangerous of all the constraining vectors for projects of sending people to other bodies in the solar system is cosmic radiation. Radiation from our star and galactic rays can seriously damage the health of the mission crew. Therefore, when planning flights to Mars, engineers and scientists try to reduce travel time as much as possible.

One promising way to get to the Red Planet in just three months could be a new NTP engine. Its concept was developed and submitted to NASA by Ultra Safe Nuclear Technologies ( USNC-Tech ) from Seattle, USA. The name of the unit is simply deciphered – Nuclear Thermal Propulsion ( NTP ), that is, “thermal nuclear power plant”. The novelty differs from its previously created or invented counterparts in the most secure design.

A key component of USNC’s development is mid – grade uranium fuel “pellets”. They contain 5% to 20% of the highly reactive isotope U- 235 coated with zirconium carbide ceramics. This degree of enrichment lies roughly halfway between the “civilian” nuclear power plants and the military. The proprietary ceramic coating technology makes the tablets incredibly resistant to mechanical damage and extreme temperatures.

Schematic diagram of a thermal nuclear rocket engine / © Wikipedia |  Tokono
Schematic diagram of a thermal nuclear rocket engine / © Wikipedia | Tokono

The company promises that their fuel elements are significantly superior in these parameters to those currently used at nuclear power plants. As a result, the engine will have a higher specific impulse with a lower degree of uranium enrichment than in earlier versions of NRE. In addition to the flight to Mars, among the goals of the ambitious project are other missions within the solar system. The perspectives of the concept will soon be considered by specialists from NASA and the US Department of Defense ( DoD ). Perhaps departments will even allow its commercial use by private companies.

Theoretically, NRE based on modern technologies can have a specific impulse (SR) seven times higher than that of chemical jet engines. And this is one of the key performance parameters. At the same time, unlike electric and plasma ones, the ID of a nuclear rocket engine is combined with high thrust. One of the limiting factors in the use of NRE, in addition to safety issues, are extremely high temperatures in the reactor core.

The higher the temperature of the gases flowing out of the engine, the more energy they have. And accordingly, they create traction. However, mankind has not yet come up with relatively inexpensive and safe materials that can withstand more than three thousand degrees Celsius without destruction. The solution created by USNC will operate at the limit of modern materials science (3000 ° C) and have a specific impulse twice that of the best liquid-propellant engines.

Tests of the first nuclear jet engine in 1967 / © NASA
Tests of the first nuclear jet engine in 1967 / © NASA

The official press release does not specify which working body will be used in NTP . Usually, in all NRE projects, the reactor core heats hydrogen, less often ammonia. But, since we are talking about a long-term mission, the creators could have chosen some other gas. Keeping liquid hydrogen on board for three months is no easy task. But you still need to invent something for the way back.

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Scientist Peter Scott-Morgan is set to become “the world’s first complete cyborg”

Scientist and roboticist Peter Scott Morgan, who is using an advanced version of Stephen Hawking's communication system, built by Intel. INTEL

Two years ago scientist Peter Scott-Morgan was diagnosed with motor neuron disease, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, and today he is still fighting for a new life, not just for survival.

This October, Dr. Scott-Morgan is on track to become the world’s first full-fledged cyborg, potentially giving him more years of life.

The world’s first complete cyborg

It was in 2017 that Dr. Peter Scott-Morgan (a brilliant robotics writer, scientific writer, and talented speaker) was diagnosed with degenerative motor neuron disease that ultimately paralyzed his entire body except his eyes.

The diagnosis is understandably grim, especially considering that he has only two years to live, but he has not given up the fight.

Teaming up with world-class organizations with expertise in artificial intelligence, Dr. Scott-Morgan is transforming himself into what he calls “the world’s first fully fledged cyborg.”

“And when I say ‘Cyborg’, I mean not just that some kind of payment will be implanted in me, I mean that I will become the most advanced human cybernetic organism ever created on Earth for 13.8 billion years. My body and brain will be irreversibly changed, ”says Dr. Scott-Morgan.

What does it mean to be human

According to Dr. Scott-Morgan, he will become part robot and part living organism. Moreover, the change will not be one-time, but with subsequent updates.

“I have more updates in the process than Microsoft ,” says Dr. Scott-Morgan.

AI-powered creative expression

The cyborg artist is a great example of the power of human-AI collaboration. AI uses the data that make up Peter’s digital portrait ( articles, videos, images, and social media ) and is trained to recognize key ideas, experiences, and images.

Peter will introduce a theme, AI will suggest composition, and Peter will apply images to suggest style and mood. Peter will direct the AI ​​to render a new digital image that none of them could create alone.

A unique blend of AI and human, reflects Peter’s creative and emotional self – a critical aspect of what it means to be human.

Peter 2.0

This October, Dr. Scott-Morgan will undergo what he calls the latest procedure that will transform him into “Complete Cyborg”.

October 9 he tweeted a photo of himself, writing the following:

“This is my last post as Peter 1.0. Tomorrow I will trade my vote for potentially decades of life as we complete the last medical procedure for my transition to Full Cyborg, in the month that I was told statistically I would be dead. I am not dying, I am transforming. ! Oh, how I LOVE science !!! “.

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Science & Technology

Japan has developed an inflatable scooter that weighs practically nothing

The University of Tokyo engineers have developed the Poimo inflatable electric scooter, which is created individually for each owner. It is enough to send your photo to the manufacturers – and a personal optimized model will be assembled for you.

The scooter is designed with a special program for the body size of a particular user and his specific fit. Moreover, each owner is free to make any changes to this model. If he makes any changes to the drawing, the program will automatically redesign the electric bike to maintain its strength, stability and controllability. When the model is finished and approved, it is handed over to the manufacturer.

Scooter Poimo

The scooter consists of seven separate inflatable sections that are constructed from durable fabric and sewn with straight stitch. It remains to add electronic components – in particular, a brushless motor and a lithium-ion battery. 

The finished electric scooter weighs about 9 kg and can travel at speeds up to 6 km / h (that is, slightly faster than a pedestrian). It can work for an hour on one charge.

This is how the current version of Poimo looks like in action:

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