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The Interplanetary Internet

NASA researchers quarrel over how to network outer space

16 min read
Illustration of planetary network.
Illustration: Bryan Christie

The era of networked space communications is slowly dawning across NASA. Up until now, sending commands to a lonely ship was simply a matter of shooting off a radio signal when its antenna came within range. A simple matter, that is, after telecommunications software written precisely for that one specific mission had been painstakingly fashioned. Afterward, that software was usually discarded. For the next mission, unique software was crafted all over again.

Here’s an idea: why doesn’t NASA put a network in the sky, with each orbiter, rover, space-borne telescope, and any other skyward-launched device working as a node? Why not internetwork space? In fact, why not use the existing Internet?

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Liquid Metal Stretchy Circuits, Built With Sound

Encase metallic droplets in plastic for elastic electronics

2 min read
Dark photograph of gloved hands holding an item that has the letters DMDL, with glowing yellow rectangles in an assortment of spots on the letters.

Liquid metal particles sheathed in polymers connect microLEDs to make an ultra-stretchable display.

Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology

A team in Korea has used sound waves to connect tiny droplets of liquid metals inside a polymer casing. The novel technique is a way to make tough, highly conductive circuits that can be flexed and stretched to five times their original size.

Making stretchable electronics for skin-based sensors and implantable medical devices requires materials that can conduct electricity like metals but deform like rubber. Conventional metals don’t cut it for this use. To make elastic conductors, researchers have looked at conductive polymers and composites of metals and polymers. But these materials lose their conductivity after being stretched and released a few times.

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"SuperGPS" Accurate to 10 Centimeters or Better

New optical-wireless hybrid makes use of existing telecommunications infrastructure

3 min read
illustration of man looking at giant smart phone with map and red "you are here" symbol
iStock

Modern life now often depends on GPS(short for Global Positioning System), but it can err on the order of meters in cities. Now a new study from a team of Dutch researchers reveals a terrestrial positioning system based on existing telecommunications networks can deliver geolocation info accurate to within 10 centimeters in metropolitan areas.

The scientists detailed their findings 16 November in the journal Nature.

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Accelerate the Future of Innovation

Download these free whitepapers to learn more about emerging technologies like 5G, 6G, and quantum computing

1 min read
Keysight
Keysight

Looking for help with technical challenges related to emerging technologies like 5G, 6G, and quantum computing?

Download these three whitepapers to help inspire and accelerate your future innovations:

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