Saturday, June 26, 2021

Get Ready for Space Tourism! And maybe ballistic flight?

Virgin Galactic received regulatory approval to fly customers into space, moving the fledgling space tourism industry founded by billionaires one step closer to reality.

The Federal Aviation Administration upgraded the company’s existing license to cover customer flights, Virgin Galactic said Friday in a statement, saying the approval was the first of its kind. The company also confirmed that a May 22 test flight performed well against objectives. The approval marks another milestone for an industry that not long ago was the stuff of science fiction. Virgin Galactic, founded by entrepreneur Richard Branson, has been working toward its goal since 2004. Fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos plans his first trip in July, after auctioning a passenger seat for $28 million. The boss tweeted

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Cat Eyes for Humans

The advent of night vision radically changed warfare. Now materials science has delivered another breakthrough -- a transparent metallic film allowing a viewer to see in the dark could one day turn regular spectacles into night vision googles.

The ultra-thin film, made of a semiconductor called gallium arsenide, could also be used to develop compact and flexible infrared sensors, scientists say. The film was developed by a team of Australian and European researchers, with details published in the magazine. Advanced photonics. It works by converting infrared light, which is normally invisible to humans, into light visible to the human eye.

The study’s first author, Dr. RocĂ­o Camacho Morales of the Australian National University, said the material was hundreds of times thinner than a strand of human hair. Gallium arsenide is arranged in a crystalline structure only several hundred nanometers thick, allowing visible light to pass through.

“The way these night vision goggles work [is] they also capture infrared light, ”said Camacho Morales. “This infrared light turns into electrons and shows [digitally]. In our case, we are not doing this. “

Read more over at The Guardian

Monday, June 21, 2021

The Federal Reserve - Competitor to BitCoin?

As America's Central Bank asks for public comments on issuing its own digital currency, will we see the US become a player in the crypto-currency world? "Technological advances are driving rapid change in the global payments landscape," says a spokesperson for the U.S. federal reserve, the country's central banking system. They announced this week that they're "studying these developments" and exploring ways that the central bank "might refine its role as a core payment services provider and as the issuing authority for U.S. currency."

We read over at Engadget:

"...took a step toward developing a digital currency as it announced plans to publish a research paper on the subject," seeking public comment on its pros and cons for payments, financial inclusion, data privacy, and information security. But the Federal Reserve emphasizes that "before making any decision on whether and how to move forward with a U.S. central bank digital currency," their paper "represents the beginning of what will be a thoughtful and deliberative process" that has more than one possible outcome. "Irrespective of the conclusion we ultimately reach, we expect to play a leading role in developing international standards for central bank digital currencies, engaging actively with central banks in other jurisdictions as well as regulators and supervisors here in the United States throughout that process."

Their announcement notes America's central bank has already been exploring the benefits and risks of issuing a digital currency "for the past several years," but emphasizes they're exploring it "as a complement to, and not a replacement of" current systems. And the Reserve also state pointedly that "To date, cryptocurrencies have not served as a convenient way to make payments, given, among other factors, their swings in value," before the announcement switches its attention to stablecoins pegged to the value of a non-virtual currency. But even there, the interest seems to be as much regulatory as it is monetary. "As stablecoins' use increases, so must our attention to the appropriate regulatory and oversight framework. 

"This includes paying attention to private-sector payments innovators who are currently not within the traditional regulatory arrangements applied to banks, investment firms, and other financial intermediaries."