If climbing a stairway to heaven sounds like too much hard work, then a conference of 70 scientists and engineers opening in Santa Fe, New Mexico, yesterday may offer hope of a more leisurely way into space. \nIn two days of discussions, the scientists aim to turn into a reality an ambition that has been around for at least a century: the creation of a space elevator that would deliver satellites, spacecraft and even people thousands of kilometers into space along a vertical track. \nEngineers say that recent advances in materials science -- particularly in the development of carbon nanotubes -- mean that such a system, which first gained widespread attention when the science fiction writer Arthur C Clarke described it in his 1979 novel Fountains of Paradise, is no longer pure science fiction. \nClarke -- who once said a space elevator would only be built "about 50 years after everyone stops laughing" -- was due to address the scientists at the Santa Fe conference yesterday by satellite link from his home in Sri Lanka. \nThe American space agency NASA is no longer laughing. It is putting several million US dollars into the project under its advanced concepts program. \nAt the heart of a space elevator would be a cable reaching up as far as 100,000km from the surface of the Earth. The earthbound end would be tethered to a base station, probably somewhere in the middle of the Pacific ocean. The other end would be attached to an orbiting object in space acting as a counterweight, the momentum of which would keep the cable taut and allow vehicles to climb up and down it. \nA space elevator would make rockets redundant by granting cheaper access to space. At about a third of the way along the cable -- 36,000km from Earth -- objects take a year to complete a full orbit. \nIf the cable's center of gravity remained at this height, the cable would remain vertical, as satellites placed at this height are geostationary, effectively hovering over the same spot on the ground. \nTo build a space elevator, such a geostationary satellite would be placed into orbit carrying the coiled-up cable. \nOne weighted end of the cable would then be dropped back towards Earth, while the other would be unreeled off into space. \nMechanical lifters could then climb up the cable from the ground, ferrying up satellites, space probes and eventually tourists. \nNo scientist has yet succeeded in making a material, which many expect will be made out of carbon nanotubes, strong but light enough to make the cable, but Rodney Andrews, a carbon nanotube expert from the University of Kentucky will tell the conference: "Until some of the basic science concerning how to connect nanotubes together and transfer load between them in a composite is understood it will remain elusive, but a lot of progress is being made."
Australian scientists have raised questions over the efficacy of the AstraZeneca and University of Oxford COVID-19 vaccine in establishing herd immunity, calling for a pause on its widespread rollout as the country recorded one new case of the virus yesterday. Opposition to the vaccine casts a cloud over Australia’s immunization plans, with 53 million doses of the AstraZeneca jab already on hand. “The question is really whether it is able to provide herd immunity. We are playing a long game here. We don’t know how long that will take,” Australian and New Zealand Society for Immunology president Stephen Turner said. Turner added
A racing pigeon has survived an extraordinary 13,000km Pacific Ocean crossing from the US to find a new home in Australia. Now authorities consider the bird a quarantine risk and plan to kill it. Kevin Celli-Bird yesterday said he discovered that the exhausted bird that arrived in his Melbourne backyard on Dec. 26 last year had disappeared from a race in the US state of Oregon on Oct. 29. Experts suspect the pigeon that Celli-Bird has named Joe — after US president-elect Joe Biden — hitched a ride on a cargo ship to cross the Pacific. Joe’s feat has attracted the attention
China has possibly committed “genocide” in its treatment of Uighurs and other minority Muslims in its western region of Xinjiang, the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China said in a report on Thursday. The bipartisan commission said that new evidence had last year emerged that “crimes against humanity — and possibly genocide — are occurring” in Xinjiang. It also accused China of harassing Uighurs in the US. China has been widely condemned for setting up complexes in Xinjiang that it describes as “vocational training centers” to stamp out extremism and give people new skills, which others have called concentration camps. The UN says that
The Polish Supreme Court on Friday quashed a lower court’s green light for the extradition of a businessman to China for alleged fraud, a charge he has denied, saying that he is being targeted for supporting Falun Gong. Polish authorities took Chinese-born Swedish citizen Li Zhihui, now 53, into custody in 2019 on an international warrant issued by China for alleged non-payment in a business deal, Krzysztof Kitajgrodzki, his Polish lawyer, told reporters. Following the Supreme Court ruling, the case would return to a lower appellate court for review. Kitajgrodzki told reporters that it was still not a given that his client