What do chainmail and coffee grounds have in common?
The answer might lead to a bionic exoskeleton for humans. This innovative idea is the subject of our lead story for this Monday, August 23, 2021. Keep scrolling to read more.
Shapeshifting armor and bionic exoskeletons — Sarah Wells reports that engineers from Caltech have used 3D printing to design a new kind of chainmail that can change form under a vacuum and hold more than 50x its own weight:
It was the kind of ah-ha moment scientists only dream about when Chiara Daraio, professor of mechanical engineering and applied physics at Caltech, realized that her lab’s work on so-called “granular materials” — like rice or coffee beans — may have an ancient connection as well.
“This project came from the realization that the rings in a chainmail are, from a material perspective, very similar to coffee grains,” she explains. “They also can be jammed, under the right conditions (like vacuum packaging).”
More innovation writing:
- Why robots don’t deserve names
- The future’s most agile robots could be based on a cute backyard rodent
- Are the Boston Dynamics robots really dancing? The creepy video, explained
A weird asteroid and a glorious meteor shower — Erika K. Clarson reports that the dust grains that cause the annual Geminid meteor shower probably come from this asteroid. Still, scientists don’t know how the asteroid ejected the grains:
Each December, meteors streak across the sky as part of the massive Geminid meteor shower, with up to about 120 meteors visible per hour at the shower’s peak.
This reliable yearly show is a popular sight for stargazers, but the origin of the Geminids is shrouded in a bit of mystery.
Meteor showers like the Perseids, which show up each August, happen when Earth passes through a cloud of dust in its orbit left by a passing comet. The dust grains caught in the pull of Earth’s atmosphere burn up, causing the bright streaks we call meteors, or “shooting stars.”
Hello, fellow asteroid geeks:
- Why the asteroid Bennu has a minuscule chance of hitting Earth — NASA
- Bennu: How to watch NASA blast off from a near-Earth asteroid
- What would happen if a giant asteroid hit the Earth?
How Netflix and SpaceX are about to open up spaceflight — Mike Brown and Ashley Bardhan report on the Inspriation4 mission, the first of its kind in history. The mission also marks a milestone for CEO Elon Musk’s company, which hopes to one day help humans live across the galaxy:
SpaceX’s Inspiration4 mission, scheduled to blast off on September 15, may change spaceflight forever.
The all-civilian mission is not only the first of its kind in history. It also marks a milestone for Musk’s company, which hopes to help humans live across the galaxy one day.
This is a huge, fairly sci-fi goal, but the trailblazing Inspiration4 crew could help the general public believe in it. And a Netflix documentary certainly doesn’t hurt.
How we got here:
- SpaceX Inspiration4: Launch date, crew, mission details for the historic journey
- SpaceX’s historic all-civilian flight has just two spots left: How to join (February 23)
- SpaceX Crew Dragon: Super Bowl ad reveals how to enter space competition (February 8)
Sea snakes are attacking divers — Jenn Walter has created a dynamic card story that tells the story of the Olive sea snake, which sometimes charges at divers unprompted. But data analysis shows this is likely a misdirected courtship behavior:
All of the attacks happened between May and August — during mating season.
Most of the snakes who approached divers were males, though sometimes female snakes did it too.
Go deeper (pun fully intended):
- Ocean conservation: 6 reasons you can be optimistic about the future
- The wondrous reason scientists are racing to map the seafloor by 2030
- Life may have been forged in violent underwater volcanoes
That’s all for this Monday. Take care of yourselves and each other.
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