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Is Streaming Plasma the New Fossil Fuel?

If we have serious ambitions to live on Mars, it might be.

Is Streaming Plasma the New Fossil Fuel?


French physicists may have developed a way to blast to Mars using a 100 million times less fuel than a traditional rocket thruster. The scientific team is experimenting with the technology of the Hall thruster to potentially dramatically reduce energy and time for space exploration.

The Hall thrusters (or ion thrusters) run on streaming plasma, which allows for the dramatic difference in energy reliance. There’s one catch though — the thruster only has a lifespan of about 10,000 hours before it goes kaput, leaving scientist racing to find ways to increase the launcher’s longevity (to put it in perspective, most space missions take around 50,000 hours).

"We need to become a spacefaring society and eventually we need to move far beyond Mars — not only from our own solar system, but into other solar systems within this galaxy and other solar systems in other galaxies."  —Stephen Petranek

Hall thrusters are already used in many of the satellites orbiting Earth at this moment. In an attempt to harness their efficiency for longer space flights, the French scientists made a slight alteration to the current design that allows the anode (or gas distributor) to stay clear of the magnetic field.

They’re hoping with a few more tweaks, we could potentially get to Mars with a lot less fuel.

Science journalist Stephen Petranek says traveling to and establishing a colony on Mars is essential to the long-term survival of the human race.

Radical innovation: Unlocking the future of human invention

Ready to see the future? Nanotronics CEO Matthew Putman talks innovation and the solutions that are right under our noses.

Big Think LIVE

Innovation in manufacturing has crawled since the 1950s. That's about to speed up.

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Swedish scientist advocates eating humans to combat climate change

A scientist in Sweden makes a controversial presentation at a future of food conference.

Surprising Science
  • A behavioral scientist from Sweden thinks cannibalism of corpses will become necessary due to effects of climate change.
  • He made the controversial presentation to Swedish TV during a "Future of Food" conference in Stockholm.
  • The scientist acknowledges the many taboos this idea would have to overcome.
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Russia claims world's first COVID-19 vaccine but skepticism abounds

President Vladimir Putin announces approval of Russia's coronavirus vaccine but scientists warn it may be unsafe.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced coronavirus vaccine at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020.

Credit: Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP
Coronavirus
  • Vladimir Putin announced on Tuesday that a COVID-19 vaccine has been approved in Russia.
  • Scientists around the world are worried that the vaccine is unsafe and that Russia fast-tracked the vaccine without performing the necessary phase 3 trials.
  • To date, Russia has had nearly 900,000 registered cases of coronavirus.
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    Therapy app Talkspace mined user data for marketing insights, former employees allege

    A report from the New York Times raises questions over how the teletherapy startup Talkspace handles user data.

    Talkspace.com
    Technology & Innovation
    • In the report, several former employees said that "individual users' anonymized conversations were routinely reviewed and mined for insights."
    • Talkspace denied using user data for marketing purposes, though it acknowledged that it looks at client transcripts to improve its services.
    • It's still unclear whether teletherapy is as effective as traditional therapy.
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    Mind & Brain

    Viewing abstract art causes notable cognitive changes

    Viewing art that doesn't look like anything makes your brain take extra steps to try and get it.

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