12th March 2019

Photo Credit: Royal Mint


Prof Stephen Hawking has been honoured on a new 50p coin inspired by his pioneering work on black holes.

The physicist died last year at the age of 76, having become one of the most renowned leaders in his field.

He joins an elite group of scientists to have appeared on coins, including Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.

Designer Edwina Ellis said: “I wanted to fit a big black hole on the tiny coin and wish he was still here chortling at the thought.”

I’ve always liked the fact that we place very important people on our money, such as Charles Darwin, James Watt, and Michael Faraday. It signifies their reverence to the entire world.

It also reminds me of a talk that Neil Degrasse Tyson made at The Tanner Humanities Center, where he spoke about what some countries place on their money, from the perspective of America not having a lot of scientific achievements on theirs.

4th May 2018

(Image: NASA)

Mallory Locklear, writing for Engadget:

Being able to generate power will be essential for long-term space travel. Powering a stay on Mars, for example, will require a lot of fuel, way more than we can pack onto a rocket. That’s why NASA, Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Department of Energy and a number of other groups have been working on a small, transportable nuclear reactor that can reliably generate power on the go. The reactor they’re developing is called Kilopower and earlier this year, they announced that they had conducted successful tests of the system. In March, the team ran the first full-power tests and during a press conference today, they reported that those tests went extremely well.

Lower power Kilopower systems, like the one kilowatt version, can power a basic toaster, while the largest version, a 10 kilowatt model, can do a bit more. Four or five of the latter could be used to power a habitat on Mars and importantly, they don’t rely on the sun, meaning they can be used on planets with less sunlight than ours, in shadowed regions and during light-blocking dust storms. “Kilopower’s compact size and robustness allows us to deliver multiple units on a single lander to the surface that provides tens of kilowatts of power,” NASA Associate Administrator Steve Jurczyk said in January.

It’s certainly not Iron Man’s Arc reactor, but this is still pretty cool!

Los Alamos National Lab made a video to explain the whole thing.

30th March 2018

China have a water problem. Their solution:

China is testing cutting-edge defence technology to develop a powerful yet relatively low-cost weather modification system to bring substantially more rain to the Tibetan plateau, Asia’s biggest freshwater reserve.

The system, which involves an enormous network of fuel-burning chambers installed high up on the Tibetan mountains, could increase rainfall in the region by up to 10 billion cubic metres a year – about 7 per cent of China’s total water consumption – according to researchers involved in the project.

I wonder if the clouds will have “Made in China” printed on the bottom of them.

Read the full post.