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    I'm Fascinated By the Tree of 40 Fruit

    I've been into the idea of grafting, attaching a branch from one tree to another similar species, since I was introduced to the technique as a kid. Sam Van Aken grafts branches from 40 species of fruit tree to make a single gorgeous tree that bears 40 different kinds of fruit. Horticulture meets art! (via kottke)

    Smithsonian Launches Kickstarter to Conserve Neil Armstrong's Spacesuit

    The Smithsonian Institution just launched a Kickstarter campaign in hopes in raising funds to conserve and digitize the spacesuit Neil Armstrong wore on Apollo 11. It's seeking $500,000 for this "Reboot the Suit" project, which isn't covered by its federal appropriations. The suit currently resides in museum storage, in fragile condition--the project would include building a climate-controlled display case to protect the suit for public display, as well as digitizing it using multiple scanning technologies (as part of the Smithsonian X 3D initiative). Half a million is a lot to raise for this project, but the campaign could be a way for the museum to get press to reach private donors. If the money isn't raised, the suit would stay in storage, which would be a bummer come 2019 and the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing.

    In Brief: Five Interesting Things Today

    After a week-long exhale from Comic-Con, we're back to a regular schedule and looking forward to upcoming events, product testing, and more projects! Here are some stories currently sitting my browser tabs that I thought were worth sharing. First, Russian billionaire Yuri Milner announced that he would be spending $100 million over the next ten years to amp out the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence. Steven Hawking's on board. I also enjoyed this NPR story about the research into the curious sound of screaming. Windows 10 comes out in a week, and Microsoft has released an invite-only beta of its Cortana app for Android--Arstechnica has tested it. Boingboing's exploration of vintage Star Wars clothing collecting strikes a chord. And the best custom LEGO build in recent memory may be David Szmandra's enormous RC construction crane. "Massive erection" indeed.

    Norman 1
    Fluid Dynamics and The Lollipop Hypothesis

    From Science Friday: "It's not just generations of children who have pondered how many licks it takes to reach the center of a lollipop. Mathematicians studying fluid dynamics at NYU's Applied Mathematics Lab designed experiments to watch how lollipops dissolve, and in doing so answered this epic childhood question."

    In Brief: After 10 Years, a New Portrait of Pluto

    As I'm sure you've heard, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft made its flyby past Pluto this morning, passing within 7,770 miles (12,500 kilometers) of the dwarf planet's surface. The trip took almost 10 years, and netted us invaluable data about our solar system, including a highest resolution color photo taken of Pluto. Yep, that's Pluto's real color. Data from New Horizons is coming back at about 1kb/s, so it's going to take a while for the next series of images to come through. NASA's New Horizons team just finished a Reddit AMA where they answered a ton of questions about the mission.

    Norman
    Photo Gallery: Adam Incognito with Astronaut Chris Hadfield

    Here are some photos I took of Adam and Commander Chris Hadfield prepping for their Comic-Con incognito walk, roaming the convention show floor, and randomly bumping into "The Martian" author Andy Weir! You can actually see the exact moment when Andy realizes that the two 2001: A Space Odyssey astronauts must be Adam and Chris!

    10 Awesome NASA Space Projects Of The Near Future

    For a while there, it was looking like America was sort of giving up on space. Economic issues here on the ground made it tough to fund all of the cool things we wanted to do, but a new combination of private investment, technological advancement and a public desire to see more of our glorious universe seems to have lit a fire under the agency’s behind. If you haven’t been keeping track, NASA has a lot of cool stuff coming up. Here’s our guide to ten cool things they hope to get off the ground soon.

    NASA’s Super Guppy–Awkward, Old, and Irreplaceable

    When it comes to airplanes, I have a soft spot for the rare and unusual. If an airplane looks like it shouldn't even be capable of flight…all the better. NASA's Super Guppy cargo plane meets all of those qualifications. I've seen it fly many times, and I was even able to explore its interior once. Yet, it never fails to leave me scratching my head in slack jawed bewilderment. It is a tremendously unique aircraft with an equally unique history.

    Flight – Lacking power-boosted controls, the Super Guppy requires a lot of pilot muscle to fly. (NASA image)

    Genesis of the Super Guppy

    The Super Guppy did not emerge from a clean drawing board. It is actually a mishmash of parts from several airplanes, along with a few custom pieces holding it all together. Some of those parts are from WWII-vintage designs. Despite its "Frankenplane" structure and relative age, the Super Guppy continues to do things that no other airplane in NASA's fleet can do. Indeed, few aircraft anywhere in the world can match this bulbous machine's ability to haul oversized cargo.

    Before dissecting the makeup of NASA's current Super Guppy, it is worth reviewing the genealogy of aircraft that spawned it. As the story goes, aircraft salesman Lee Mansdorf and his friend, Jack Conroy conceived the "Guppy" idea in 1960 as an opportunity to provide logistical support to America's fledgling space program – even though NASA wasn't looking for help.

    The nose of NASA's Super Guppy swings open to allow loading into the cargo area. (NASA image)

    The manufacturers building spacecraft components were located all over the US. The only reasonable means to get these parts from one coast to the other was via ship travelling through the Panama Canal – an expensive and risky journey that could take weeks. Mansdorf and Conroy felt that air transport would be a much better method. Although there were airplanes capable of lifting the necessary weight, none were large enough to accommodate the girth of these loads. The industrious pair felt that they had a solution.

    10 Inventions to Restore Lost Senses

    The human brain is the most complex biological machine we know of, and as a result its input mechanisms are a little more involved than a keyboard and mouse. Our five senses process a staggering amount of information during the course of our lives, and when one of them gets taken out it can be agonizing. Thankfully, scientific progress has been coming up with new and better ways to restore those senses, and today we’ll spotlight some truly astounding inventions that can bring them back.

    Earth, Fire, Wind, Water: Alternative Battery Technologies

    There are a bazillion solar-powered portable batteries on the market. But they have this little problem: they need the sun in order to work. Inventors and engineers, seeing the need for portable power generation that doesn't require daylight, have been hard at work coming up with some creative ideas for alternative energy sources. Let's call them the Earth element batteries (or just call them awesome). Now you can get a portable battery powered by wind, water, fire, and even mud. Here's the science behind how these mini-generators work.

    Fire Power

    The FlameStower is a portable device that uses temperature variations to generate electricity. It's based on a simple principle called the thermoelectric effect. To put it in the most simplified way possible: all you need is to put two materials that are effective at moving electricity next to each other and add an electricity-capturing device on one end. Then you heat one side and cool the other. Electrons move from the hot side to the cool side (because they like to be where energy is lower and heat has a higher level of energy, a concept you probably know as diffusion). As they travel into the cool side they release heat energy and voila! You have a battery. Yay physics! This method of power generation is regularly used to power devices in space, where it's easy to generate heat naturally with a decaying radioactive material while subjecting it to the extreme cold temperatures of the vacuum outside.

    The FlameStower generator works over any flame or heat source (a cook stove, a campfire, or even the stove in your kitchen). You simply put one end of it over the heat, pour some water into the cold side to keep the temperature there low, and plug in any USB device. They even have a version that can charge your gadgets using a candle. Depending on how powerful your flame is, the FlameStower can produce about 3w of power, which its makers calculate out to about two to four minutes of talk time on your phone for every one minute of charging. You can get one for $70 on their website and their candle charger, which will cost $99, is expected to be available soon.

    UrtheCast Camera Footage from the ISS

    UrtheCast, a satellite imaging startup, operates two massive Iris cameras mounted on the International Space Station to capture pretty incredible footage. Objects a meter in size are visible, and software compensates for the movement of the ISS above Earth. The company, which plans to sell its video and data to companies and the government, has promised to stream live video from its cameras to the public next month.

    10 Things You Didn’t Know About Flying

    One of the most amazing accomplishments of human civilization is our conquering of gravity to let our fragile, ridiculous bodies fly. No other earthly mammal has figured this out, and the invention of powered flight radically transformed civilization. You’re probably pretty used to the presence of airplanes in your daily life (unless you’re a mole woman reading this from your bunker), but you might be surprised at how much you don’t know about aviation. Here are ten nuggets of fascinating information from the world of flight.

    How Life Finds a Way in Earth's Extreme Environments

    "Life will find a way." That mantra isn't just true in Jurassic Park; nature's resilience is particularly noticeable in some of Earth's most extreme environments. From super-high flyers to super-deep swimmers, there's no shortage of strange evolutions on our planet that allow animals to perform some truly bizarre and nearly impossible feats in order to survive. A new exhibit at New York City's American Museum of Natural History rounds up some of the world's most extreme adaptations. Here's a look at just a few examples of the bizarre behaviors of Life At The Limits.

    Extreme Temperatures

    Frilly Leech — Even though it's own habitat almost never freezes, the frilly leech can survive 24 hours submerged in liquid nitrogen (-320f) in the lab. They can be stored up to 9 months at -130F and one was once revived after 2.5 years in the deep cold.

    Tardigrades — These tiny organisms, also known as water bears, can survive being completely dehydrated. They make proteins that revive their cells when water is introduced, coming back to life in as little as 4 minutes. They also can survive temperatures down to near-absolute-zero (-458F) and more than 302F.

    Ice Worm — Just like it's name says, this worm lives its entire lifecycle inside the glaciers of Alaska. If they get too close to the air and they feel sunlight warming the surface they burrow down deep to get away from the heat.

    Algorithm Turns Any Object into a Rubik's Cube

    Columbia University's Timothy Sun and Changxi Zheng presented this research paper and video illustrating a computational method to turn any 3D model into a Rubik's Cube-style puzzle. Presented at this year's SIGGRAPH, the software analyzes any user-supplied 3D model and inserts the proper twisty joints into the design, which can then be 3D printed into an interlocking puzzle. (h/t Gizmodo)

    Inside NASA's Virtual Reality Laboratory

    A fun video piece from Gizmodo: "We've seen how NASA recreates the vacuum of space right here on Earth, but what about the gravity of space? What about the forces of inertia? When large objects move and behave so differently, how to you train for a mission so you know what to expect when you get there?" Read the associated story, originally published last November, here.

    10 Incredible Stories Of Natural Disaster Survival

    Mother Nature nurtures humanity, but that doesn’t mean she’s averse to giving us a smack now and again. Hurricanes, earthquakes, avalanches and other natural disasters often show us just how helpless we really are in the grand scheme of things. But the human body is remarkably resilient, and sometimes we manage to brush off everything the Earth throws at us and still survive. Here are ten amazing stories of people who lived through insane natural disasters.di