Humanity’s First Interstellar Space Flight is Powered by Lasers

Space provides us with endless opportunities to explore the vastness beyond our atmosphere. However, escaping the gravitational pull of Earth has proven difficult. Scientists may have come up with a solution to this problem by asking: instead of flying into space, what if we could sail there? Researchers working for the company Breakthrough Initiatives are developing a method of space travel utilizing modified solar sails to capture laser light to provide propulsion. The project, dubbed Breakthrough Starshot, is testing this method by sending a probe weighing about 1 gram to Proxima Centauri b in approximately 20 years. By contrast, traditional chemical rockets would take thousands of years to travel the same distance. To achieve this, the probe will be propelled to 20% the speed of light by a 100GW, 1km square array of lasers. The sail attached to the probe captures this laser energy and is pushed by the force it generates, like a traditional sailing ship using the wind. 

Researchers Ho-Ting Tung and Artur Davoyan wondered if similar methods could replace our current chemical and electric rockets in the future. Calculations showed that even a probe powered by a much smaller 1m square, 100kW laser array could far exceed the current record for velocity, with minimal exposure time, in the range of hours to minutes. The team landed on silicon nitride or boron nitride as the best material for the sails due to their high reflectivity and cooling capabilities. They speculate that probes like these could easily be maneuvered between earth orbits within a day, a feat not possible with traditional propulsion methods. They also calculated that the probes could travel fast enough to escape our solar system, reaching up to 5 times the speed of the New Horizons probe.  

If you want to learn more about the Starshot project, click here, to read the original article. 

Or, click here, to read about the project on Breakthrough Initiatives’ website. 

Click here, for past Lenox Laser posts about space exploration. 

Recent Study Verifies Vacuum Decay Method for Detecting Packaging Leaks

Lenox Laser was recently involved in a study dedicated to testing the viability of an ASTM standard Vacuum Decay method of detecting leaks as put forth in their Abstract:

Preface: Vacuum decay, an ASTM standard method (F2338-09) has been well known in the industry as a reliable leak detection method for flexible non-porous pouches, as described in section 3.2.3i. Because the method-study for precision and bias has not been performed yet, as stated in section 1.2.5,ii this sometimes raises questions and doubts on the method itself. This paper can help to take away these questions and/or confusion/skepticism and provide some best practices and steps for product validation. To validate the vacuum decay method on flexible pouches, the most reliable ways are using capillaries or using a micro calibrator. Other methods might be cheaper, but cannot give reliable and reproducible results. In order to calculate flow rates, the Hagen-Poiseuille formula is explained. Moreover, the assumptions and limitations of this formula are covered.

Jobse, Pim & Renema, Andro. (2021). Verifying the Vacuum Decay Method with artificial leaks on flexible pouches.

If you are interested in learning more about this study, you can request the full-text PDF here.

Do you want more information about Lenox Laser’s involvement in the CCIT process? Visit our services page.

AI Powered Typing Assistant could Improve how We Use Keyboards

For most of us typing is second nature, we don’t have to think about where to place our hands, or when and where to move our fingers along the keyboard. A team at Waterloo School of Computer Science is looking to improve upon this process with a program called Typealike. The prototype program utilizes a webcam that monitors the user’s hands as they type and adjusts elements on-screen accordingly. This allows users to set up unique gestures to perform tasks that aren’t strictly available on the keyboard itself, similar to the gestures built in on most laptop trackpads. The goal is to make things as easy and streamlined for users as possible, to improve efficiency and reduce strain.

The program has a built in learning AI that learns gestures and improves its ability to recognize them as it continues to monitor a user’s inputs. It can track explicit motions to control things like zoom or volume, but it also has the ability to monitor subtle things like a user’s fatigue to adjust screen brightness or their keyboard’s backlighting. The researchers believe that the best way to improve the program is have users interact with it and expand the database of information the AI has to learn from. The team also hopes that it can be used for medical assistance as well as for everyday use as development continues.

To read more about the prototype, click here.

Or, click here, to read past Lenox Laser blog posts covering recent innovations.

SpaceX Starship Update

SpaceX constantly astounds the world, and their most recent feat is no exception. The company’s rocket, Starship, is continuing its journey towards its maiden launch. Starship will be used as a reusable mass transportation vessel for staffed and unmanned missions to space as part of Space X’s massive rideshare program that would allow astronauts and scientists from other companies to hitch a ride into space for their respective missions. The Starship rocket is the tallest ever built in the world thus far at a staggering height of 165 feet. Starship’s booster rocket, nicknamed Super Heavy, is 229 feet tall and weighs over 3 million pounds. Several trips to Mars have also become of interest when Starship is fully functional. It is also said that should civilians be able to explore Mars one day, that the rocket could carry up to 100 people per trip.  

The FAA was expected to complete its initial review of Starship by the end of February but pushed it back to March 28th at the latest. The massive rocket is the leader of this epic vision by SpaceX founder Elon Musk, who said that one of Starship’s first missions will be to transport more Starlink satellites into orbit. It is estimated that astronaut crews could start using Starship sometime in 2025. Announcements of this massive achievement go back all the way to 2012 when the idea of the Raptor engines for Starship was first brought to light to the public. When the rocket was recently loaded onto its launchpad it took a lengthy three hours to do due to its weight and size. This was done with the aid of massive robotic arms that would hoist the rocket’s pieces into place. In this moment in time, starship is expected to reach orbit by the end of March. 

Do Our Brains Keep Us in the Past?

We don’t often think about our ability to perceive depth and color when observing the world; for us it is second nature. We also don’t realize just how much information our brain filters out to provide a stable field of view. The amount of information that our eyes take in on a day-to-day basis would overload the brain. To combat this, during periods of low movement, the brain takes segments of time and averages out the information provided by our eyes, compensating for the natural shakiness of the human body. This gives us a smooth view of the world that would otherwise overwhelm or cause vertigo. Thanks to a new study conducted by professors at Berkeley and Aberdeen Universities, we now have better insight into how our brains accomplish this. 

They asked hundreds of participants to look at close-up videos of human faces aging over time. After watching the video, the subjects were asked to approximate how old the face in the video was at the end. On average they gave a number that correlated to the face shown 15 seconds earlier in the video, not the one at the end. This concluded that subtle changes in our perception occur on roughly that amount of time, our brains average 15 second periods of time to give us a stable view. Acute changes such as an object being thrown towards us get updated more frequently, but changes that occur over longer stretches of time get simplified. 

 While this process has its benefits, it means that our brains gloss over a lot of minuscule details in trying to prevent visual clutter. This can cause us to miss important changes if they are too subtle for our brains to pick up.  

To check out the study for yourself, click here.

Or, click here, to read past Lenox Laser blogs about new research.

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