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urthecast.pngAn intriguing new service moved a step closer this morning, as UrtheCast successfully sent their cameras into space on board a Russian Soyuz rocket - in preparation for offering near real time HD video of Earth from the International Space Station.

As reported by ex-TechDigester Duncan Geere, the plan is pretty cool: a couple of 4K HD cameras are going to be mounted on the ISS and pointed back at the earth - and then the live video feed will be made available to UrtheCast members. This is potentially a quantum leap ahead of the likes of Google Earth, whose static satellite imagery is only updated every few months or years.


There are limits on the new service though - it won't have full coverage like Google Maps, but will instead be dependant on the travel of the ISS - which moves in a wave-like formation around the centre of the earth, oscillating between 51 and -51 degrees of latitude (sorry, Scotland - but most of England and Wales should be covered).

Still - live HD video from space? It should be very impressive when it launches publicly some time next year. And UrtheCast have some interesting plans for members: for example, you'll be able to bookmark certain locations, so every time the ISS passes over you'll be able to log on and compare the changes. Similarly there will be community functions so you and other users will be able to commentate on the changing landscape.

And perhaps most excitingly, there will also be an API for software developers - so don't be surprised if real-time ISS imagery starts creeping into other apps and services too. The possibilities are, umm, out of this world.

buzz-aldrin-moon.jpgBuzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon and subject of that most-iconic of moon landing photos above, has signed on to become a member of Space Expedition Corporation's advisory board, one of the leading companies vying for dominance in the burgeoning space tourism sector.

"Having had the privilege of serving my country both in the US Air Force and during the
Gemini 12 and Apollo 11 missions, I feel that there is nothing more thrilling than Space and all the
possibilities that it offers us", said Aldrin of his latest appointment.

"For a long time it has been my personal mission through my ShareSpace Foundation to share the wonders of Space with people of all ages and to foster affordable Space travel opportunities for everybody."

From 2014, Space Expedition Corporation will be hosting daily commercial flights into space, inside two custom-built Lynx spacecraft. Taking passengers 100 kilometres high, the craft break the sound barrier within one minute, hitting mach 2.9 and reaching space in just four minutes.

Unlike rival space tourism flights from the likes of Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic, the Space Expedition Corporation flights have craft holding just a single passenger, offering a unique experience that sees the passenger sitting in the cockpit alongside the pilot.

"SXC, together with XCOR Aerospace, who designed and built the Lynx spacecraft and will perform the space flights, aims to facilitate Space flight experiences, expand human exploration and advance Space science education," added Aldrin.

"They are a great team and I am very supportive of their vision to make space flight available to all."

Aldrin will be completing the SXC's current advisory board alongside Mr. Peter Hartman (Vice Chairman Airfrance KLM) and General Dick Berlijn ret. (former Chief of Defence).

"Buzz Aldrin is a legend so adds value to what I am doing in the UK pushing ticket and sponsorships deals," said UK SXC space agent Rajeev Sood

"This will help endorse my efforts in the UK and London. It's great news to have him on board with us."

And what of rival Virgin Galactic, whose own sub-orbital space flights are to begin commercial lift off in December of this year?

"Branson has nothing like what we have to offer," replies Sood. "Ours is a completely different experience."

For more on space tourism trips with SXC, visit

centrifuge-1.JPGI'm sitting somewhere in the middle of a former RAF base in Farnborough, strapped into a tiny recreated jet fighter cockpit, on the end of a huge mechanical contraption that wouldn't look out of place in an Alien film, a disarmed joystick sitting unloved and flaccid between my legs, all the while hooked up to machines monitoring vital signs I didn't even know were necessary to my day-to-day survival, psyching myself up for a ride that makes even the most extreme theme park attractions look like a stroll in a pushchair. And I'm cursing myself for agreeing to last night's pub-crawl-and-curry outing. What the hell have I let myself in for?

I've been asked to do some mad stuff during my time at Tech Digest. I've reviewed a mobile phone while stuck for hours on a roller-coaster. I've made electro pop pioneer Jean-Michel Jarre agitatedly climb a ladder for the sake of an interview. I've spent a hellish, moneyless week in Las Vegas for the CES conference before going "a bit Nicolas Cage".

But nothing comes close to being strapped into a human centrifuge.

I'm at QinetiQ HQ (a military defence contractor whose experience with aviation physics is matched only by their ability to build death-dealing robots) as part of a press day promoting EA's Dead Space 3 game, a sci-fi horror title that's going to have its work cut out replicating the genuine fear I'm going through.centrifuge-2.JPG"Where's the link?", I hear you cry. Well, Dead Space 3 is set in space (duh) and a human centrifuge is one of the few ways to experience the sensation of "pulling" G-force while keeping your feet close to the ground, the same sensation experienced by jet fighter pilots and spacefaring astronauts.

Pulling G-force on the end of the spinning arm of the centrifuge increases the gravitational strain on your body, multiplying your weight in line with the number of G-forces experienced. It also messes with the way blood is pumped around your body, forcing its distribution down towards your feet, depriving your brain of oxygen, playing havoc with your vision and triggering a lack of consciousness somewhat affectionately known as "G-LOC".

As a first timer I'm allowed to go as high as 4.4Gs in 15 second bursts. As much as I'm going to feel like Tom Cruise in Top Gun then, for the next couple of minutes I'm going to feel just as much like a 44-stone, blind, semi-conscious version of myself. Great fun.

It's the sort of equipment usually reserved for use by highly trained military personal or bonkers test subjects. I guess I fall into the latter category.centrifuge-3.JPGThe centrifuge itself looks like a giant Meccano construction set; a 47-tonne series of overlapping metal poles roughly 15 feet high and stretching from end-to-end of a circular, sixty-foot diameter room. The 58 year old machine is fully mechanical with no transistors or software controls; a blessing considering a software error could trigger G-forces way beyond human endurance.

In the middle sits Henry Lupa, principal medical officer and chief aeromedical and aerospace medical advisor at QinetiQ, and master of ceremonies today. He's surrounded by an array of screens and monitoring equipment at the machine's centre, spinning on the spot at the fixed point of the centrifuge, totally unfazed by his dizzying day job and its uncanny likeness to a scene from Flight of the Navigator. His voice is piped into my cockpit, disarmingly calm and comforting for someone about to inflict unnatural amounts of stress on my body.

"We're going to start you off nice and easy at 2.8Gs, really quite gentle," announces Henry, as though over twice the Earth's regular gravitational pull is no big deal at all.

I nervously laugh my consent, and we're off.

Surprisingly, the centrifuge spins at what appears a relatively low speed of between 40 and 50 mph. But as you're spinning on a fixed axis, it's the length of the arm, not the speed of rotation, that's key to triggering the G-forces. And as this arm is 30 feet from the central point, it's pretty gnarly.centrifuge-4.JPG2.8Gs turns out to be a fairly comfortable ride, if you consider hitting one of the more extreme turns on a roller coaster and sustaining the effect for 15 seconds "comfortable", that is. The cockpit itself rests on a pivot, and as the centrifuge gains speed it swings outwards, effectively laying you on your side as the arm spins. When it comes to a halt you rock back into place, tricking the brain into thinking you're falling over a cliff. Here's the point where most people hurl, but my cunning "no pre-centrifuge breakfast" plan seems to have paid off. I'm ready to take it to the next level.

Henry cranks it up to 3.2Gs, and it's again not too bad a ride, all things considered. But the next run, pulling 3.6Gs, feels very different. As soon as the gondola swings outwards, my vision goes crazy, as though two yellow spotlights are swamping what I can see from my peripheral vision and moving in towards the centre. During the safety exercise that kicked off the day I was told that such symptoms were the first sign that a test subject is losing consciousness, that enough blood isn't making its way to the brain, and that to reverse the process I would need to push down hard with my legs and feet on the pedals in the cockpit, which in doing so will tighten the muscles surrounding blood vessels and send oxygenated blood shooting back towards the head.

It's at this point that I remember the words of a pal who I spoke to when I first found out about the centrifuge trip: "You know, you're more likely to crap your pants than to throw up on a centrifuge." Suddenly, the idea of tensing the lower part of my body doesn't sound like a good idea.

But with the curtain over my vision falling faster than the one over Jimmy Saville's once-illustrious career, I push down hard on the pedal at my feet. After a slight delay, my vision spreads out once again, and what feels like the weight of a sumo wrestler is applied to my body.

I'm laughing, but not sure quite why; this is probably the most uncomfortable experience of my entire life, and yet I'm giggling like a school girl who's just been DM'd a naked picture of Justin Bieber by the man-child himself over Twitter. I draw the conclusion that a love of teen pop must correlate with a lack of blood going to the brain.

"The sensors in the pressure pedals at your feet tell me you were exerting a moderate-to-high level of force there to stay conscious," says Henry. "Are you sure you want to continue?"centrifuge-5.JPG"Yeah go for it," I say, a sentence I now realise was not uttered by me, but by a version of myself whose brain had been rattled by three sharp, sudden bursts of hypoxia.

My final run begins, and we hit 4G. It's bloody horrible; the skin of my face is stretched taut against my skull, my head feels as though it's being squeezed through my neck and down between my shoulders, my vision is warping almost instantly and no amount of "moderate-to-high" force from my legs is bringing any relief.

"It's going, I'm losing it," I say like doomed pilot during the Death Star trench run. But before Henry even has the chance to stall the centrifuge, the 15 second spin is over.

4G! Not quite enough to make me the next "Iceman" - serious fighter pilot hopefuls need to maintain control during G-force periods in excess of 7 or 8Gs, sometimes even higher. But it's a fair sight better than Top Git Jeremy Clarkson managed, who bailed out before hitting 3Gs.

A fun, if reasonably unpleasant experience then, the sort of thing I'll be in no hurry to go through again any time soon, but one that I'll recount with the sort of nonchalant cool to anyone within earshot (ever, forever) that a grown man only gains after narrowly avoiding soiling himself in front of a room of his peers.

Dead Space 3 hits stores on 8 February 2013 for PS3, Xbox 360 and PC. We'll have a full review in the coming weeks, so check back soon.

We've all probably come to terms with the fact that we're never going to make it as NASA astronauts, a fact as much to do with dwindling space program budgets as it is to do with our beer bellies. But what if you could win a place on an exclusive private space flight? Would you take it?

That's the chance offered by men's fragrance brand Lynx, who looking to shoot one wannabe spaceman up into the great beyond as part of the Lynx Space Academy program.

Running in 77 countries, applicants will be whittled down to 22 potential flight candidates, with the winner coming out on top of a challenge weekend against fellow entrants before taking part in an intensive space camp training schedule in Florida.

The flights, handled by private space tourism firm Space Expedition Corporation (Space XC) in the XCOR Lynx aircraft, which takes off and lands just like a regular plane, but reaches heights of 61 km, allowing passengers to experience weightlessness and get an alien's-eye view of the Earth. Space XC will be running commercial flights into space as of 2014, around the same time that the lucky winner's flight will be scheduled for.

Lynx have managed to get some big names onboard as part of the campaign too, with the world's most famous living astronaut Buzz Aldrin on promotional duties.

"I'm thrilled that Lynx is giving the young people of today such an extraordinary opportunity to experience some of what I've encountered in space," said the Apollo 11 1969 moon landing veteran.

It's quite the prize, worth $95,000, with the company already having sold hundreds of space flights. None of these however have taken off yet with space tourists onboard, so it really is only a competition for the truly intrepid, and truly fearless. Probably best not to watch Apollo 13 before applying, too.

If the thought of burning up in the return trip through the Earth's atmosphere doesn't send a shiver down your spine, you can enter the competition by visiting Godspeed!

patrick-moore.jpgSir Patrick Moore, astronomer, broadcaster and Games Master star, passed away this weekend aged 89.

Succumbing to the ill health that had made him wheelchair bound in recent years, Moore passed away at 12:25 on Sunday 9th December at his home in Selsey, West Sussex, where he had lived for 40 years.

Moore, a self-taught star-gazer, presented the pioneering BBC programme The Sky At Night, revealing the mysteries of the universe in layman's terms to the nation for over 50 years.

But for many Tech Digest readers, Moore will probably be best known for his role in video game TV show GamesMaster. The first ever show in the UK dedicated to video games, the Channel 4 show saw Patrick Moore play the titular Games Master, a disembodied head who dished out tips, advice and challenges to contestants, between 1992 and 1998.

You'll find a clip of the first ever GamesMaster show below.

GamesMaster was apparently being considered for a new series recently. You can read about that here.

RIP Sir Patrick Moore - 4 March 1923 - 9 December 2012.

sarah-brightman-002-03.jpgTime to say goodbye to British soprano Sarah Brightman; the Phantom of the Opera star is set to take a trip into space, travelling on a Russian spaceship and flying to the International Space Station, 250 miles above Earth.

Setting off as part of a three person crew at some point between 2014 and 2015, the former wife of composer and "King Toad-Face" Andrew Lloyd Webber will be in orbit for 12 days, as part of a trip that would have cost her "tens of millions of dollars".

Fulfilling the requirements of a complex medical, Brightman (aged 52) will undergo six months of intense training following the conclusion of her 2013 world tour before heading off.

"I am more excited about this than I have been about anything I have done to date. This is beyond my wildest dreams," said Brightman during a press conference in Moscow yesterday.

The singer will become the first civilian to travel into space since 2009.

Brightman releases her new album, 'Dreamchaser', in January of next year.

nasa-curiosity.jpgNasa's Curiosity rover has successfully landed on Mars this morning.

The one-tonne mobile laboratory reached the conclusion of its mammoth 570-million-km journey at 06.32 BST (05:32 GMT), landing in a large crater near the planet's equator.

The fruits of a ten-year project, Curiosity aims to help scientists explore whether or not Mars ever supported life.

Massive cheers greeted the news of Curiosity's successful landing at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The complicated landing had been dubbed the "seven minutes of terror" by Nasa, but the eventual event went off without a hitch. There were however 13 tense minutes following the landing while the team back on Earth waited for Curiosity to relay signals from the Odyssey satellite (which orbits Mars) back to mission control.

A two year mission is planned for the $2.5 billion project, with Curiosity loaded with gear that will be able to identify organic, carbon-rich compounds in the rock of Mars's surface.

"We're on Mars again, and it's absolutely incredible," said Nasa administrator Charles Bolden.

"It doesn't get any better than this."

Here below then is one of the first images from Curiosity. Exciting stuff!

uss-enterprise.jpgWe've seen many a fan project come and go in our time as netizens, but nothing quite as ambitious, nor as bonkers, as one man's plan to have a full size working Star Trek USS Enterprise spaceship built.

A fan calling himself "BTE Dan" has founded, hoping to encourage funding into building a to-scale, fully operational version of the iconic science fiction craft.

Tired of seeing the US's space program diminish, BTE Dan believes that getting a craft as iconic as the Enterprise built would inspire a whole new wave of space exploration enthusiasts and, hopefully, government funding.

We reckon the Millennium Falcon would be a better bet (sorry Trekkies!), but according to Dan the project would need only "the US dedicate .27% of its GDP each year to the NASA Enterprise program." He's even made some suggestions as to which US departments can afford a spending cut to accommodate his plan.

As BTE Dan points out, it's not like we haven't planned bigger things in the past, highlighting the Buri Khalifa tower in Dubai:

uss_enterprise_compared_to_skyscrapers.jpgDan even reckon's he has figured out how to get the giant craft off the ground, using a "gravity wheel". The "magnetically suspended wheel rotates inside a sealed donut-shaped cavity that is formed along the interior perimeter of the saucer hull. The wheel touches no other parts of the ship as it continuously rotates at a constant rate." Naturally, it'd need electrically-powered ion drives that use on-board nuclear reactors to supply power. We've all got one of them lying around.

Admitting to having little technical experience, BTE Dan has called out to the wider community to help him achieve his goal: "If you are a professional mechanical engineer, with experience doing 3D component design including fully simulating them for stress analysis, feel free to contact me if you are interested in discussing this further."

Gotta love his ambition! "Make it so", as if we ever really needed any excuse to post this up:

CleanSpaceOne to vacuum up space debris

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cleanspaceone.jpgEven space needs a bit of a Spring-clean, and after years of boldly exploring regions of the cosmos where few humans have dared to float, we've left it in a bit of a state up there. Now a team from The Swiss Space Centre at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) are preparing a solution to the space clutter.

They're planning on launching a satellite called CleanSpaceOne, which will work a bit like a vacuum cleaner, sucking up all the debris left behind after humanity's many trips to space.

According to EPFL, "16,000 objects larger than 10cm in diameter and hundreds of millions of smaller particles are ripping around the earth at speeds of several kilometres per second," which must be a pretty terrifying prospect for any astronaut who has ever had to do a space walk.

"It has become essential to be aware of the existence of this debris and the risks that are run by its proliferation," said Claude Nicollier, an astronaut and EPFL professor.

Two models are being considered for the clean up operation: one that collects the debris and then falls back to Earth, burning up in the atmosphere in the process, and another which collects the debris and fires it away into the further reaches of space, while staying in orbit to continue the clean up operation.

"We want to offer and sell a whole family of ready-made systems, designed as sustainably as possible, that are able to de-orbit several different kinds of satellites," centre director Volker Gass said.

"Space agencies are increasingly finding it necessary to take into consideration and prepare for the elimination of the stuff they are sending into space. We want to be the pioneers in this area."

Via: Sky News

NASA ready to send latest Rover to Mars

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Despite having their budget cut to the bare bones NASA is still determined to go where no man has gone before, or in this case send a rover where no rover has gone before.

November 25th will see NASA launch their new rover mission to Mars. The new car sized robot called Curiosity will launch with an eye to land in August 2012. At 10 metres long and weighing in at 1 tonne this is the largest rover ever to go up into space as part of the mars missions.

Onboard the rover will be a 7ft mast which will carry cameras and laser firing equipment which will enable the robot to carry out a variety of tasks, or for a more personal approach it has a 7ft fitted arm to examine soil and rock samples.

It is being sent to Mars to further investigate the possibility of Mars one day being habitable. The sorts of experiments it will carry out while on the surface of the red planet will include studying soil and rock composition, gather weather information and test the radiation levels of the surface.

This experiment will lead the way to a manned mission to Mars in the future but also try to answer questions scientists have always wanted to know, the main one being whether life every existed on Mars.

NASA working on tractor beam technology

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The faithful tractor beam; securing rebel space scum and alien abductees in sci-fi flicks since 1886.

NASA are now looking to take tractor beam technology out of the realms of fiction and into the reality of their own space exploration missions, announcing that they are beginning to invest in reseach to bring the space-faring gadgetry to life.

However, this isn't the sort of tractor beam that will bring down the Millenium Falcon; instead NASA are looking into creating a beam that can manipulate single cells, molecules and other minute objects.

The plan would be to create a tractor beam capable of being fitted on rover vehicles for future missions on planet surfaces, which would allow the rover to collect samples of dusts and gasses for research back on Earth.

Lasers technology already allows beams to capture particles on nano and microscopic scales.

tatooine-discovered-20110915011955781-000.jpgStar Wars has become such an indelible part of popular culture that it's hard to imagine how bat-shit crazy some of George Lucas's ideas were when the movies were first released a long time ago in a galaxy actually. I mean, Jawas? The force?? A PLANET WITH TWO SUNS????

Well, about that last one. Apparently Lucas was on to something when he dreamed up the planet Tatooine, Luke Skywalker's home world that orbited two separate suns. NASA scientists have discovered a planet that does indeed have two different stars for neighbours, and showing their geek credentials, have been referring to it as Tatooine.


Keplar 16b, to give the planet its official name, has both an orange sun and a red sun, and is thought to be a mostly gaseous planet the size of Saturn about 200 light years away in the Cygnus constellation.

A great holiday destination for those looking to enjoy the thrills of podracing or to pick up a cheap R2 droid then. Just avoid the cantinas in the Mos Eisley district. "You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy" according to locals in the know.

In other news, the Star Wars movies landed in high-def Blu-ray format this week. Grab all six movies from Amazon for £60.

terminator.jpgScared of our inevitable annihilation at the hands of a huge network of connected supercomputers? Seen the Terminator flicks? Then you may want to stop reading.

A team of scientists from the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) is starting a new project involving a massive web of computers around the globe. Its name?


Now before you start having nightmares about an army of robot Arnies wrecking havoc across the globe, breathe a sigh of relief; SkyNet's purpose isn't the automation of our nuclear weapon controls, but to scan and record the masses of astronotmical data that may point to as-yet-undiscovered galaxies and stars.

A crowd-sourced project, computer owners across the globe are being asked to download a piece of software that sifts through some of the data while their machines aren't being used.

"As we design, develop and switch on the next generation of radio telescopes, the supercomputing resources processing this deluge of data will be in increasingly high demand," said Professor Peter Quinn, director of ICRAR in a statement.

"SkyNet aims to complement the work already being done by creating a citizen science computing resource that radio astronomers can tap into and process data in ways and for purposes that otherwise might not be possible."

As an incentive, those who help the SkyNet cause can win a visit to one of the observatories used to gather the data. There you'll discover the real threat to humanity; the impending Xenomorph alien invasion.

cinimod-studio-ufo-project-6.jpgWhen it comes to UFO's and little green men, the truth may well be out there, but the UK's Ministry of Defence doesn't have the dough to find out. Newly released government files concerning UFO sightings show that a lack of money and interest on behalf of the authorities is keeping alien lifeforms very much in the realms of the final frontier.

The sightings, spanning the years 1985 to 2007, include reports of "worm-shaped" UFOs "wriggling around in the sky" over East Dulwich in south-east London and a number of images of what looked like a "flying saucer" over the Retford town hall in Nottinghamshire. In all, 34 separate file cases have been released.

"The fascinating thing about these files is that they show that just as in society there's this huge debate about UFOs - is it really interesting, are we being visited by aliens - or is it all just nonsense?" said Nick Pope former MoD investigator between 1991 and 1994.

"We were having the same debates in the Ministry of Defence. Some people thought it was a waste of time and money, others thought it was of extreme defence significance."

To check the files on sightings, visit the National Archives website here.

Via: BBC

yuri-thumb.jpgThere are few titles more cool or crazy than that of "The First Human Being Ever To Go Into Space", but it was one given to Russian pilot Yuri Gagarin 50 years ago today. On April 12, 1961, Gagarin became the first human being to man a shuttle that left Earth's atmosphere, almost completing a full orbit of the planet in just 108 minutes.

His achievment sparked the 1960's space race that culminated with Neil Armstrong's first steps on the Moon on 21st July, 1969.

You can find out all there is to know about Gagarin's (very interesting) life by clicking here.


Awesome news from Kansas State University and their, eh, glue department - an adhesive that doesn't go brittle when it dries.

Usually, glue loses its stickiness when it loses moisture, but not anymore! This will make it so much easier to glue things in outer space.

According to PopSci, the new glue is made up of peptides, an amino acid, that become increasingly sticky when their pH reaches a level of about 9. Then these peptides form long fibrils that get tangled up in each other and the surfaces they are attached to.

It's not great for non-porous, smooth surfaces, and there are stronger glues out there. But next time you need to re-attach some heat-resistant tiles on the space shuttle, you will be a happy bunny indeed.

NASA presents first 3D images of the sun

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For the first time NASA has taken 3D images of the sun, using its Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory (STEREO) satellites.

The twin satellites, launched in 2006, were positioned on opposite sides of the sun to generate the images. Unlike the moon, which has a permanent far side, the sun rotates once about every 24.5 days. This means the whole surface is visible from earth over the course of a month, but if there is an event on the far side we would not become aware of this until at least another week later, if at all.

The STEREO satellites travelled 290 million miles to give scientists this unique view of the solar surface. From now on, solar structures and phenomena will be visible to scientists in three dimensions. This will aid their understanding of the star's physics, and improve their ability to predict space weather.


Those crazy kids over at Imperial College are at it again. Famed for their pioneering research into invisible sheds, they say they have applied the undetectable garden sanctum theory of metamaterials to produce a type of "space-time cloak." Which translates from geek speak into "Were making a cape that will produce the "illusion of a Star Trek transporter"

The leading the team of Start Trek fanatics is Professor Martin McCall. He explains how the new idea works stating:

"Light normally slows down as it enters a material, but it is theoretically possible to manipulate the light rays so that some parts speed up and others slow down...This would mean that downstream of the metamaterial there would be an interruption in beams of photons travelling through space - creating a "corridor" in which "energy, information or matter can be transported undetected...If you had someone moving along the corridor, it would appear to a distant observer as if they had relocated instantaneously, creating the illusion of a Star-Trek transporter,"

No word on when we might see this transporter, but we like to think that by 2050 our commute to work will become a breeze.

james cameron thumb.jpgOscar winning Avatar director James Cameron is planning to turn his 3D camera away from the fantasy world of Pandora and take it to the surface of the planet Mars.

After budget issues forced NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to scrap plans to put a 3D camera onboard the new Curiosity Mars rover in 2011, long-time supporter Cameron has waded in and seen that 3D imagery will indeed be beamed from Mars.

As the plan now stands, the footage will use a 34mm fixed focal length flight camera. For Avatar, Cameron and colleagues developed a lightweight 3D digital camera system, the Fusion Camera, in order to achieve the movie's ground-breaking visual style.

A tenner says there is nothing as dumb as the Nav'i to film on a real extraterrestrial planet though.

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In the first reported orbital collision ever, a US and a Russian communications satellite have accidentally collided 780km above Siberia. A "massive cloud of debris" has been produced, and NASA is tracking the hundreds of bits resulting from the crash, in the hope that they won't interfere with the ISS and the shuttle, which is due to launch later this month.

It's comprehensively answered the question of "how much stuff can we stick up there without it hitting each other?", as 6,000 satellites have been sent into orbit since the first in 1957. Only about half are still in use, with the others having become defunct over the years.

The satellites in question belong to Communications firm Iridium, based in Bethesda, Maryland, and Russia's civilian space agency, Roscosmos. The former was launched in 1997 and only weighed 560kg, so probably came off rather worse in the collision than its one-tonne Russian rival from 1993.

Place your bets in the comments below as to when the second collision will occur. The closest wins a bit of charred satellite, dug out of the tundra of Siberia.

(via BBC)

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