It flies through the sky, powered by only sunlight
A tiny craft is levitating in the most delightful fashion.
In today's story, scientists are powering flying crafts through sunlight. But first, welcome to Mars Week on Inverse Daily! We're celebrating the Perseverance's expected landing on the Martian surface on Thursday, Feb 18 with a week dedicated to all things Red Planet.
We'll be keeping you up to date on the latest in science and tech, of course, but we'll make sure to give things an extra Martian flavor. For example, do you know about the astronomer who predicted water on Mars in the 1700s?
Sir William Herschel, a British astronomer, believed all planets had life at one point. Studying Mars with a telescope of his own design, in 1784 he wrote that the planet's axial tilt was 30 degrees. Modern-day science has shown him to be pretty close, with its actual axis being 25.19 degrees. Herschel also thought that the dark areas of Mars were actually oceans. While he was wrong about that, Mars was once a watery world.
Our question of the week is also Mars-based. Let's say you have a ticket to Mars. What's one thing you would have to bring to the Red Planet? Be it sentimental or practical, we want to hear about it.
Respond in our Google form, and we'll post our favorite answers next week!
Over four to eight years of the Biden administration, expect to hear a lot about climate change. The problem is only growing bigger, and politicians on both sides of the aisle have a lot to say about it.
One of the major criticisms of the much-touted push for a Green New Deal has been the cost. Some conservative green energy activists blanch at what one described as the “home-run giga-packages” included in the deal. Essentially, liberals have thrown the kitchen sink in the deal, so the argument goes, trying to shoehorn in far greater — and far more expensive — reforms than necessary.
But here's the thing, this argument is slowly losing power.
Part of that is to do with the balance of power in Washington. The other is to do with the scientific evidence. Climate change action could be a far bigger bargain than critics (not sorry) have bargained for.
What they're saying: “It costs half as much to achieve a much more difficult goal.” —Jim Williams, an associate professor at the University of San Francisco, to Inverse.
More like this:
New destination — SpaceX Crew Dragon: Photos show Axiom Space station it will help build
The International Space Station has become a mainstay of scientific research for years. But, as it ages, new space stations will emerge.
SpaceX's Crew Dragon is set to help build a successor to the International Space Station. One of the new space station's developers describes it as “a thriving home in space that benefits every human everywhere.”
The “AX-1” mission, launching no earlier than January 2022, will send four private citizens to the International Space Station using the firm's human-carrying capsule. Axiom Space, the Texas-based company organizing the mission, is using it as a means to lay the groundwork for its own space station.
But what will it look like? Axiom Space talks to Inverse.
What they're saying: “We're talking about building a thriving home in space that benefits every human everywhere,” Christian Maender, director of in-space manufacturing and research at Axiom Space, to Inverse.
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The Apollo program is the stuff of legend. It made incontrovertible history, inspired millions, and led to one of the most defining moments of the 20th century. But just because the Apollo astronauts are legends does not mean they were perfect.
On February 5, 1971, humans successfully landed on the Moon for the third time as part of the Apollo 14 mission.
Astronauts Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell spent a total of 33 and a half hours on the Moon, performing two “Moonwalks” during their stay. Fifty years later, data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter recreated what it was like to walk across the lunar surface during one of their mile-long hikes — along with a critical mistake.
What they're saying: “Navigating this terrain proved to be a difficult task, and they didn’t quite reach the crater edge.” —David Ladd, the narrator of NASA's video, describing the error.
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Coming soon ...
Inverse is more than just Inverse Daily. We've also got Musk Reads, an incredible newsletter looking at the wide-ranging world of Elon Musk's many companies, as well as how Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink and The Boring Company are affecting the industries around them. In next week's Musk Reads+, our paid edition of the newsletter, Musk Reads author Mike Brown has an interview that takes you inside Tesla. As Mike tells it:
An electric car’s most expensive component is the battery. But while the car sits in the garage motionless, this pricey piece of energy storage is left unused. Doug Alfaro, a former Tesla regional manager that helped establish the firm’s network of high-powered Superchargers, may have the answer. He’s now general manager of Wallbox in North America, which has developed a bi-directional charger called Quasar.
In an Inverse interview, Alfaro explains how the electric car’s battery can work with renewable sources like solar and wind to provide consistent clean energy even when the Sun’s not shining. Don’t miss the full interview, only in Musk Reads+.
We know far more about Covid-19 than we did a year ago. And yet there are still seemingly so many questions we have on this pandemic. Some questions have never been answered, including the now-familiar mental math we never wanted to perform: Is it safe to visit my parents? Should I risk going to a restaurant?
The situation is made more complicated by changing variables. Some are hopeful, like the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines. Others less so, like the emergence of new virus variants. What is undeniable, however, is that we're in a different world than the first time we heard the phrase “social distancing” in March 2020. It's OK to feel confused.
Experts do have advice for navigating coronavirus in 2021. Read on to know how to evaluate the risk of any event, both before vaccination and after vaccination.
What they're saying: “We should not let the question of social gatherings take our eyes off structural racism, which is such a critical driver of disparities in Covid-19.” —Stefan Baral, a physician epidemiologist and an associate professor at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, to Inverse.
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Traveling by solar power is one thing, but using sunlight itself to travel is a whole different ballgame.
We have been putting both craft and humans into space since the 1960s, but never has a spacecraft been able to sustain flight in a specific zone of Earth's atmosphere, called the mesosphere. Sandwiched between the air space occupied by planes and the upper atmosphere occupied by satellites, the mesosphere is essentially a no man's land in the liminal region between Earth and space. Until now.
A team of engineers from the University of Pennsylvania have created a tiny spacecraft which they say can levitate in the mesosphere using only sunlight.
What they're saying: “It's an exciting idea that you can just shine light on something and make it float and overcome gravity.” —Igor Bargatin, lead author on the study and associate professor of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics at the University of Pennsylvania.
More like this:
- LightSail 2 successfully soars through Space, propelled only by sunlight
- Elon Musk’s red Tesla Roadster set to complete a second orbit of the Sun
If you're looking for more, check out our recommendation for the best time travel movie on Amazon Prime.
And here are some of the answers to last week's question on your favorite fictional couples:
“The Jetsons, they gave us a view of what our world could be. Exciting inventions, and space living at it's best.” —Beth Bolan
“Fox Mulder and Dana Skully from The X-Files. I always loved the way their relationship was understated on the show. They were always FBI partners first but as the show continued their relationship evolved and so did their characters. I really appreciated Skully's skeptical nature and Mulder's wild, sometimes conspiratorial thinking.
Then to layer another level of complexity onto them, Scully always wrestled with her belief in God while Mulder remained a non-believer. In the end I think the best way to describe them is Mulder is the Cheese to Skully who is the Macaroni. The perfect pair!” —Maggie M
“Dot and Nanapush in The Beet Queen, hands down. They are so in love that Nanapush cannot be held wrongfully even in prison. He is a trickster and finds his way to her on the middle-of-nowhere South Dakota Native American reservation; she finds a way to show him her love in the quietest of ways no matter what obstacles their life on a reservation creates.
A heavyset Native American dude who carries his tricks with him and always manages to come through--sexy as hell--and a woman who runs the highway weigh station, whose quiet love reaches through any distance to find him. Louise Erdrich's work is my greatest love in all of fiction.” —Catherine Anne Dennis
“Mork and Mindy” —Tres Sax
“Don & Betty. No, Don & Megan. Or Don & Rachel. Don & Dr. Faye? No, Don & Sylvia Rosen. Don & Midge. Don & Suzanne (“Miss Farrell”). Okay, okay: Roger Sterling & Jane Siegel. No, Peggy & Ted. Peggy & Stan. I think I just miss Mad Men, a show made for Valentine’s Day!” — Ben Mantell
“Beldar and Prymate Conehead. The bedroom scene where he explains his love for her is classic.” —Bernie Podkowka
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