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Hitch A Ride To The Edge Of Space With World View – On Science

October 23, 2013

Where can you get a more affordable “World View?”

The past and the future collide for conservation.

How can you get your kids grades moving on up the scale?

And who says money doesn’t grow on trees? Coming up today….On Science!

Hello and welcome to On Science. I’m Emerald Robinson.

Well, if you can’t afford a quarter of a million dollar ride on Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, then for just $75,000 there’s another option that might get you close enough. A new Arizona-based startup, called World View, announced plans for a helium balloon with a capsule that would take six passengers at a time to the edge of space. After an hour and a half ascension, passengers spend 2 hours “admiring the world from on high” – actually 100,000 feet high. And I like how they added this on their website: “while you sip your beverage of choice.” You better drink your $75k worth. Balloon passengers won’t get the perk of feeling the weightlessness of microgravity but the company says that they will get a majestic view, and “the curvature of the Earth will simply take your breath away.” What’s certain to take your breath away is the descent. After the two hour viewing, the capsule disconnects and begins a freefall that is slowed by a parafoil for landing. World View still has a lot of testing and doesn’t expect the first flights until 2016 but plans to start selling tickets next month.

Here’s a great story of the future meeting the past. The latest in 3D scanning technology is helping to preserve important heritage sites around the world. It’s like the Cloud for history. Nonprofit group CyArk has already created versions of over 100 ancient structures, ruins, and landscapes with plans for 400 more to preserve a version of them in case of “war, wear, and climate change impact.” They say there’s never going to be enough time or money to physically save these structures but they’re doing the next best thing using laser-scanning and other reality-capture technology to build nearly-accurate virtual models of these locations that can be appreciated and studied for years to come. The destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan by terrorists inspired their work, which they claim is “not an option, it’s a responsibility.”

And parents, it’s your responsibility to help your kids be smarter, so make them run! A new study out of the UK found that regular exercise leads to improved academic performance in teens – particularly with girls in science subjects. The study found that children who exercise not only performed better in English, math, and science at age 11, but continued improvement on their exams at 13 and 16. And for every 15 minutes of exercise, they saw a quarter of a grade improvement. So they said, an hour of daily exercise could theoretically lift scores by a full grade. You know maybe it’s my imagination but I feel like I’m smarter when I’m working out regularly.

Not long ago we reported on NASA’s intention to revolutionize communication from space. Well the agency has done it! NASA’s Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (or LLCD) has successfully made history, transmitting data 239,000 miles between the moon and Earth via a pulsed laser beam at a record-breaking 622 megabits per second. Hosted aboard NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, better known as LADEE, this is the first system for two-way communication using a laser instead of radio waves. The development of this laser communication system will hopefully one day enable increased image resolution and 3D video transmission from deep space. Congrats NASA on making history…again!

Well, this last story sort of contradicts the old saying “money doesn’t grow on trees.” Maybe not, but gold does! Using a special x-ray technique, researchers from Australia found traces of gold in the leaves, twigs, and bark of some trees. But don’t expect to get rich quick on leaves. You would need 500 trees to get enough gold to make a gold ring. However, there’s more wealth in what’s buried beneath. The scientists say they believe larger deposits of gold are buried beneath the ground of the trees and the trees are acting as sort of a hydraulic pump. As the tree brings up water from the ground by its roots, some dissolved gold is also being taken up and passed into the foliage. They’re just soaking up the riches! The researchers said examining foliage for gold would be a less expensive and more environmentally friendly way to determine where to dig for gold rather than the guess-and-test method of exploratory drilling. Golden leaves. Love it!

And that’s what’s happening On Science. See you tomorrow!