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Dream Jobs 2011: Laser Rocketeer Shoots for Liftoff

LaserMotive's Jordin Kare aims to propel rockets and helicopters with light

4 min read
Dream Jobs 2011: Laser Rocketeer Shoots for Liftoff
Photo: Brian Smale

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Jordin Kare

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Taking Cosmology to the Far Side of the Moon

New Chinese-European program plans to use satellites in lunar orbit to study faint signals from early universe

3 min read
crescent moon
Darwin Fan/Getty Images

A team of Chinese and European researchers are planning to use the moon as a shield to detect otherwise hard-to-observe low frequencies of the electromagnetic spectrum and open up a new window on the universe. The Discovering the Sky at the Longest Wavelengthsky at the Longest Wavelengths (DSL) mission aims to seek out faint, low frequency signals from the early cosmos using an array of ten satellites in lunar orbit. If it launches in 2025 as planned it will offer one the very first glimpses of the universe through a new lens.

Nine “sister” spacecraft will make observations of the sky while passing over the far side of the moon, using our 3,474-kilometer-diameter celestial neighbor to block out human-made and other electromagnetic interference. Data collected in this radio-pristine environment will, according to researchers, be gathered by a larger mother spacecraft and transmitted to Earth when the satellites are on the near side of the moon and in view of ground stations.

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Can Freight Train Cars Go Electric—and Self-Driving?

The startup Parallel Systems, founded by three veteran SpaceX engineers, is betting on Yes

7 min read
On an isolated stretch of railroad tracks, a freight container is supported at both ends by two autonomous four-wheeled rail vehicles

Parallel Systems’ “trains” are in fact just one freight-car long—and their cargo is, by design, the standard shipping container.

Moving freight by rail hasn’t changed a whole heck of a lot over the last several decades. And there are good reasons for this: Trains can move freight four times as efficiently as trucks can, and they can move a huge amount of it at once with minimal human supervision. The disadvantage of trains is that they’re best at long-distance hub-to-hub freight transfers, and usually, you still need to put your cargo on a truck to get it to its final destination. Plus, if you just have a little bit of cargo, you may be at the mercy of a network that prioritizes large volume rather than small.

Parallel Systems, a startup founded by a trio of former SpaceX engineers that is coming out of stealth today, hopes to change this model substantially by introducing autonomous rail vehicles that can handle standard shipping containers—the same containers that currently move freely between cargo ships, traditional rail systems, and trucks. By moving containers one at a time, Parallel Systems believes that rail can be much more agile with no loss in efficiency, helping reduce the reliance on trucking. Can they do it? Maybe—but there are some challenges.

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McMaster Engineering: Transforming Education and Fostering Research With Impact

By adding new faculty and developing innovative approaches to its curriculum, McMaster solidifies its world leading position in engineering

3 min read

The Faculty of Engineering at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., Canada is aiming to build on its ranking as one of the world's top engineering schools by expanding its recruitment of both tenure-track and teaching track positions across multiple departments. This broad initiative is expected to continue the growth of McMaster as a leading destination for innovative teaching and research.

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