GeekSpeak for 2013-10-19

Submersible Car Drones On about Skydiving, Mosquitos, & Spaaace

Get vertigo as the Geeks discuss fossilized mosquitos, water on space objects, space objects in water, cars underwater and in the air, what it looks like to plummet to earth from 9 minutes up, mapping the Materhorn, and other dizzying subjects

Blood-filled mosquito is a fossil first

Jurassic Park’s iconic image of a fossilized blood-filled mosquito was thought to be fiction — until now. For the first time, researchers have identified a fossil of a female mosquito with traces of blood in its engorged abdomen. A team led by Dale Greenwalt at the US National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC reports the fossil discovery today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences1.

Although scientists have found fossils of suspected blood-sucking insects, the creatures’ feeding habits have mostly been inferred from their anatomy or the presence of blood-borne parasites in their guts. But Greenwalt’s fossilized mosquito contains molecules that provide strong evidence of blood-feeding among ancient insects back to 46 million years ago. It is a fortunate find. “The abdomen of a blood-engorged mosquito is like a balloon ready to burst. It is very fragile,” says Greenwalt.

Dead star eats water-rich asteroid

The Hubble telescope spotted the event some 150 light-years from Earth.

The researchers tell Science Magazine that the chemical signatures in the star’s atmosphere indicate the asteroid must contain a lot of water.

This makes it the first time both water and a rocky surface – key components for habitable planets – have been found together beyond our Solar System.

How Many Tiny Chelyabinsk-Class Asteroids Buzz Earth?

The meteor that exploded over the Urals region of Russia in February was a violent reminder that our planet exists in a cosmic shooting gallery. Now, astronomers are focusing on these mysterious small and possibly dangerous objects in the hope of understanding what they are made of and what kind of threat they pose in the future. However, a recent paper accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal has identified a possible ‘Achilles Heel’ of visible light surveys. Using data from NEOWISE (the near-Earth object-hunting component of NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer mission), there appears to be a bias in visible light asteroid surveys against finding small (100 meters) dark space rocks.

No, the Earth (Almost Certainly) Won’t Get Hit by an Asteroid in 2032

By now, you may have heard of asteroid 2013 TV135. There are reports going around that it has a chance of hitting us in 2032.

We’ve been through this before. Many times. Many, many times. Like those other times, this one will almost certainly miss us. If you read a report saying otherwise, make sure your skeptical sense is tingling.

Huge Chunk of Russian Meteorite Found at the Bottom of a Lake

The meteorite collector side of me can’t help thinking, “What’s this thing worth?” I’ve seen smaller pieces go for about $30/gram, though bigger pieces are cheaper per gram (my friend Geoff Notkin has a few for sale, in fact; the holidays are coming!). Even if we drop the price to $15/gram, this chunk is worth well over $8,000,000!

Elon Musk Making a Working Version of James Bond's Submersible Car

In The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), James Bond is given a Lotus Espirit S1 that doubles as a submarine. More than thirty years after that movie’s release, a contractor opened up a random Long Island storage container to find one of the automobile-submarines used in filming. He promptly put it up for auction, and Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk purchased it for a cool $866,000. But Musk isn’t planning to restore the Bond car and put it in a garage somewhere: he wants to make it run.

GeekBit: Flying Car

Stefan Klein, a designer from the Slovak Republic, has announced the first flight of his Aeromobil Version 2.5, a flying car prototype he has been developing over the last 20 years. This vehicle is a strikingly beautiful design with folding wings and a propeller in the tail.

Fall 40 Kilometers to Earth in a POV Video from Felix Baumgartner's Helmetcam

Last year, daredevil Felix Baumgartner, sponsored by Red Bull, took a balloon up to a height of 39 kilometers (24 miles) and jumped out. Protected by a pressure suit, he quickly reached a speed of over 1300 km/hr (840 miles/hr). He fell for nine minutes before reaching the ground.

Snippets of the video from his helmetcam had been released before, but now the entire jump from start to finish has been posted:

SenseFly and Drone Adventures Toss UAVs Off the Summit of Matterhorn

SenseFly is demonstrating a few cool things here. For one, as you can see at about 2:25 in the vid, the drones are doing their own 3D flight planning. To get them to create a map of an area, you can just outline it on Google Maps, and the flight planning software will take into account whatever mountains, valleys, or unusually tall people might be in the way.

The other cool bit is that they’ve got multiple drones working together to create seamless maps of much larger areas. You can apparently use up to ten (!) at once, all controlled from a single base station, and the drones are clever enough to not smash into one another, even coordinating landing times.

'Cool' invention wins first place at MADMEC

Heating or cooling certain parts of your body — such as applying a warm towel to your forehead if you feel chilly — can help maintain your perceived thermal comfort.

Using that concept, four MIT engineering students developed a thermoelectric bracelet that monitors air and skin temperature, and sends tailored pulses of hot or cold waveforms to the wrist to help maintain thermal comfort.

What's smart (and dumb) about the latest smartwatches

Here’s an article about the newer smart watches.