Radical space elevator idea wants to see cable from moon to the Earth

Unlike other space elevator concepts, researchers have plans for a connection between the moon and Earth’s orbit, which would be free from gravity’s clutches.

The concept of a space elevator that could take a crew from the Earth’s surface to space without needing rockets is not new. However, a combination of the immense cost and the challenges posed by Earth’s gravity have made it a non-starter.

Now, according to Futurism, researchers from Columbia University have released a paper documenting a radical twist on the space elevator concept. Instead of creating one from Earth to space, why don’t we build one from the moon to Earth’s orbit?

Astronauts looking to head into space would only need to travel to the end of the space elevator – dubbed Spaceline – reducing the costs of orbital rocket travel. Having reached the vacuum of space, a spacecraft could attach itself to a cable on the platform and then hitch a ride on a solar-powered shuttle to take it into orbit.

While it sounds like a daunting engineering challenge, the researchers said Spaceline could be built from existing materials as it would be free of the limitations posed by Earth’s gravitational pull and rotation speed. In fact, they add that the perfect site would be at the Lagrange point, where the altitude between the Earth and moon exert equal-but-opposite gravitational force.

“Think of the early Antarctic basecamps, at first there might only be three engineers up there at any one time, but unlike low Earth orbit the Lagrange point is the perfect place to build,” said Zephyr Penoyre who helped develop the concept.

Physicists propose way to build DIY wormhole

Writing in Live Science, Ohio State University astrophysicist Paul Sutter revealed a preprint paper from a team of researchers that shows a way to build an almost steady wormhole that might allow for messages to be sent through it. Unlike space wormholes in science fiction, a real wormhole that bends space and time is incredibly unstable, with even a single photon passing through it resulting in its collapse.

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But this recent paper suggests a more stable version is possible by taking two charged black holes and placing them back to back. After that, two cosmic strings would need to be threaded through both and stretched to infinity.

However, these cosmic strings – one dimensional defects in space-time – are not what you would want to come across when attempting wormhole travel.

“You never want to encounter one yourself, since they would slice you clean in half like a cosmic lightsaber, but you don’t have to worry much since we’re not even sure they exist and we’ve never seen one out there in the universe,” Sutter wrote.

Jack Ma and Elon Musk collide over future of AI

Two of the world’s biggest tech figures with very differing views on AI took to a stage this week (28 August) as part of the World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai, China. On one side of the debate was Alibaba chair Jack Ma, and on the other was CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, Elon Musk.

As reported by Bloomberg, the pair’s views are hardly synced, with Ma dismissing fears of a robot takeover versus Musk’s concern that we’re heading down a road that will see humans rendered extinct.

In one exchange, Ma said: “I’m quite optimistic and I don’t think AI is a threat. I don’t think AI is something terrible but human beings are smart enough to learn that … People like us – street smart – we’re never scared of that.”

Musk responded: “I don’t know man, that’s like famous last words … If you go back 40 years ago, 50 years ago maybe, you had Pong – that was just two rectangles and a square. Now you’ve got 40 realistic real-time simulations with millions people playing simultaneously.

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“If you assume any rate of improvement at all, I mean, these games will be indistinguishable from reality. You will not be able to tell the difference. Either that or civilisation will end.”

New fast-acting skin patch brings melanoma vaccine within reach

Researchers have presented a new microneedle skin patch that doesn’t cost much to produce but could have major ramifications for the treatment of a number of skin cancers as well as the delivery of vaccines.

MIT researchers presented their findings at a meeting of the American Chemical Society, saying this patch works fast to deliver medication to melanoma cells, having successfully been tested in mice and human skin samples.

In testing, the patch produced nine times the antibody level achieved using intramuscular injections, and 160 times the level in subcutaneous injections, which are often used for the measles vaccine.

“Our patch technology could be used to deliver vaccines to combat different infectious diseases,” said Paula T Hammond, who led the researchers. “But we are excited by the possibility that the patch is another tool in the oncologists’ arsenal against cancer, specifically melanoma.”

To make a melanoma vaccine, the researchers developed an antigen that includes a marker frequently overexpressed by melanoma cells, as well as an adjuvant, which creates a generalised danger signal for the immune system and boosts its response. From these experiments, the researchers identified the optimal microneedle structure that appears to activate immune cells directly accessible in the skin.

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