There has been a long and sometimes painful journey from the first idea of the James Webb Space Telescope to the final arrival at Lagrange Point L2 and subsequent commissioning. With the exception of battery-smooth launches and installation sequences, things rarely went well for the telescope, which suffered from almost every imaginable bureaucratic, scientific, and engineering contempt during its development. But now let’s see what this thing can do – almost. NASA has announced that July 12 will be “Image Publishing Day,” which will serve as the public launch of the web. Relative radio silence from NASA on the web since the completion of the mirror alignment – in addition to the recent micrometroid collision, of course – suggests that the space agency was busy with the “Prothom-alo” project. So there is good reason to expect that the first pictures published from the web will be quite spectacular. Images will drop at 10:30 AM EDT, so mark your calendars and get ready to be fascinated. Hopefully.
Obviously, sitting in the middle of the ocean in a boat, even built like a luxury hotel, can be quite annoying. This is a clear confession from cruise line operator Royal Caribbean, who are really interested in getting Starlink satellite services on their cruise liner fleet. So much so that they are partnering with Sterlink and appealing to the Federal Communications Commission to expedite the process of approving Sterlink for use in moving vehicles. The FCC currently prohibits such use, which we find somewhat surprising given that Terrestrial Starlink customers will be able to pay an upcharge for “RV mode” which allows them to transfer terminals. There is a fine line between using the service at multiple stops along a route and using it while on the move, so maybe Royal Caribbean will get what they want. Personally, adding internet connectivity seems like the last thing that will actually tempt us to board a cruise liner, but hey – whatever, your boat will float.
So you arranged to buy a new car – a neat trick that is considered to be a tomblow-wide waste land like most car lots nowadays – and you were able to somehow fill the gas tank. What’s next for your journey to the poor house? Why not play a digital license plate on your new ride for just 25 25 extra per month? The company that makes these plates, Reviver, says its offers are approved for vehicles registered in California, Arizona and now Michigan, and are valid for use across state lines. These seem to be based on e-ink technology, which means you’ll get a monochromatic rendering of state license plates – which is a bit embarrassing for Arizona standard plates. The Revive claims that they have all the benefits of paying a monthly subscription fee to keep a plate, such as GPS-enabled telematics to track a stolen car. We will say that the plate itself is more likely to be stolen, and while we will not encourage it, we are waiting for the inevitable teardown because these things have hit the secondary market.
We are skeptical of the future of electric aircraft, largely based on the suspicion that battery technology could ever achieve a power-to-weight ratio that would make something as practical as an electric passenger jet. But watching this video can make us reconsider that position. The plane is built by Lilium, and the electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) plane shows its first in-flight transition. The seven-passenger aircraft, which sports 36 electrically-propelled wings at the trailing end of its wings and flaps moving forward in Canard, flew vertically but then only moved smoothly forward with the lift generated by its wings. It’s beautiful, and the plane itself is beautiful. The company claims that it will use its VTOL capability to carry a full load of 175km passengers, or if it can land without using vector thrust, it will go a little further. Such an electric aircraft could technically make “Uber Air” possible and could have a huge impact on regional passenger travel and air freight.
And finally, our friend Alberto Caballero sent a pre-printed word to a piece of paper that he’s working on, depending on how you look at things, it could just act as a nightmare. Entitled “Estimating the Outbreak of Contaminated Extraterrestrial Civilization”, the paper aims to assess the relative risk of active SETI efforts seeking to “reach and touch someone” in the galaxy. The 100% known civilizations of the galaxy are unequivocally corrupted, and at least occasionally, it would seem that galactic means children are more likely to declare themselves. But Alberto, an astronomer who is the head of the Habitable Exoplanets Hunting Project and recently visited HackChat, estimates that a Chicxulub-grade impactor attacked by a malicious alien is about 100 times less likely to hit Earth. Oops! The details behind that conclusion are interesting and it is worth reading the paper to see how he came to that conclusion.