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Singapore researchers create manta-ray inspired underwater drone: MantaDroid

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Singaporean researchers created this underwater drone that swims like a manta ray. Flexible fins give it the ability to glide through turbulent seas and while there have been other crafts built with a similar capabilities, the MantaDroid is the first to use just one motor for each fin. It uses the water around it to help control the motion of the fin and drive the drone forward. It can move about .7 meters per second and you’ve got to check out the video to see how similar it moves to a true manta.

The Undersea Cable Network

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Everything about telecommunications feels so instantaneous and global that most of us just assume satellites are the magic network that holds it all together. Sure, they stitch together vital parts of our networks but when you need to move heaps of data around the globe, it’s going underwater. Over 400 international cables stretch more than 550,000 miles (885.139 km) across the ocean floor and carry unfathomable amounts of data. The longest cable is SEA-ME-WE3, and moves data at roughly 575 gigabytes per second between 34 countries from Germany to Australia. SubmarineCableMap.com has an interactive map that lets you dive into the specs of every cable out there and explore how they connect the far reaches of the planet. Business Insider made this cinematic view of the same data which sprinkles in some fun facts along the way.  And if you really want to get into the far corners of possibility, Gizmodo published a fun read back in 2012 about how one might theoretically be able to destroy the internet in which the cable network plays an important role.

The Women of Astronomical Nomenclature

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Mary Blagg started the effort to standardize astronomical feature names in the early 1900s and today, the work is carried on by Tenille Gaither and Rosalyn Hayward of the USGS. Together, they manage the database incredibly known as the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature.  The article is a great read about the history of naming features beyond Earth and the people who have kept everyone in sync. and then check out the Gazeteer’s website where you can browse all the named features, some of which feature great imagery like Pantheon Fossae on Mercury, the Baphyras Catena of Mars or a full maps of Uranian moons. 

Inverted economics of fishing the high seas

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Using satellite imagery and machine learning, we can now monitor global fishing fleets in near real time, including the previously opaque world of fishing on the high seas. It’s estimated that without government subsidies, over half of this $8 Billion market would be unprofitable, including all deep-sea trawling, a perennial culprit of extensive ecosystem damage. The high seas — marine waters that fall outside national jurisdiction — cover 43% of the Earth’s surface and the fishing of its depths is dominated by 5 countries: China, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Spain.  In their paper “The economics of fishing the high seas“, the authors dive into the technical details of their economic analysis and while it can get pretty dry in spots, the use of satellite imagery with advance machine learning is an incredible application of technology.

Rocket Launch Seen From 535km Above

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A Jilin-1 satellite at an altitude of 535km captured an orbital view of an OS-X1 rocket launch from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the Gobi Desert on September 7.  The OS-X1 is a suborbital research rocket developed by Chinese aerospace company OneSpace.  You can also check out the view from the ground for a full 360 mashup.

130 Years of National Geographic

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National Geographic has been publishing in-depth coverage of explorers, scientists, adventurers and more for 130 years. My collection only stretches back to the late 90’s but this short time lapse video takes you all the way back to 1888 and warps through a showcase of every cover they’ve printed right up to January 2018, interspersed with profiles of the magazine’s biggest stories.