How about 'throwing' satellites into space?

Well, a startup has successfully tested an alternative kinetic energy launch system to throw a rocket thousands of metres into the air

  • Spinlaunch says it performed a successful test flight of its kinetic energy launch systems in New Mexico in October, hurling n three-metre-long rocket many thousands of metres into the air-without it needing any fuel
  • The test was conducted using a 90-metre-tall centrifuge test machine about one third the size of the planned final launcher-running at just 20% capacity
  • The final launcher will be able to spin a rocket, carrying a 200kg satellite payload, at up to 8,000km/h before releasing it through a launch tube-essentially throwing the rocket far into the sky. When the projectile reaches the upper atmosphere, a small rocket assembly fires to edge it into the correct orbit
  • Spinlaunch can only be used to launch unmanned craft due to the g-forces involved. A human can pass out at 3g, the centrifuge creates 10.000g
  • The designers say that reducing fuel costs is one of the key barriers to affordable spaceflight making their system an attractive alternative.
  • Chemical rockets must carry the energy needed to leave Earth with them. So a rocket such as the Satum V. that put man on the moon, actually consists of over 90% fuel tanks. The SpinLaunch system negates the need to carry huge, heavy fuel loads
  • Today, a small satellite launch costs around $7 million. Spintaunch hope to do it for under half-a-million dollars, beginning as soon as 2024

Picture Credit : Google

Vijay Prakash founder of the non-profit Global Environment Conservative Society

What prompted you to set up GECS?

GECS was founded in 2020 during the pandemic. The idea was to create awareness about the several current environmental threats. Apart from this, we have completed several projects that has strengthened our foundation. We are attempting to make changes that are crucial for the survival of humankind. We also collaborate with various organisations that share our ideology.

What do you focus on?

As of now, we are researching on climate change and carbon emission. Our researchers are put up all over the world. Apart from basic research, our organisation is open to new ideas and projects related to current environmental threats. We also conduct webinars and events to develop new strategies.

What prompted you to research particularly on climate change? Which organisations have you partnered with?

Climate change is a topic that has fascinated me from my childhood. I have always wanted to discover solutions related to environmental issues in the world. This kindled my interest regarding climate change. Some leading global organisations gave us a helping hand in finding better solutions by supporting or partnering with us. These include MUN Impact, Youth International Conclave, Greener is Cleaner, INTSOC Foundation, etc. These organisations help us in making the project or any initiative successful.

How did your internship shape your skills?

Internships have played a prominent role in my life. I began my internship before starting my organisation. That is where my pursuit of social entrepreneurship or volunteering began. It helped me discover myself. I volunteered for organisations to pursue and enhance my skills. This gave me great exposure to improve skills needed for a social entrepreneur. Even after commencing my organisation, I continue to nourish my skills with internships that are meaningful to me.

What were the challenges you faced with your start-up?

Since I'm a high schooler, time management is generally between school and the organisation. Initially, I found it difficult to manage time. But luckily, online classes gave me the support to adjust to my studies. Another challenge was that since my team members were diverse, it was quite difficult to fix a convenient time for some webinars and events. These were the two primary challenges I faced and solved with my start-up.

As a budding activist and a young entrepreneur, what are your aspirations?

Being a social activist I can impact people in various ways where they get adequate knowledge to understand and fight against the cause. Like various environmentalists. I want to make Earth a better place for humans and other species living here. This was one of the reasons to choose entrepreneurship as my vocation. Some of the major aims include sustainability, climate change, and a few other hazardous issues such as carbon emissions This made me realise who I am and identify my concerns about environmental issues

What are your hobbies and interests?

I love to spend a lot of time in yoga. This is something that keeps me calm Apart from meditation. I like swimming and horse riding as well

What is the one thing you want to change in society?

I want an impact where there are no environmental issues and also change the view of people regarding pollutants that are dangerous to the environment. I hope I bring in a change that is reasonable and impactful for the upcoming generations. I wish people abide by the sustainability goals and follow the same.

Picture Credit : Google

How is Northeast Greenland National Park affected by climate change?

On the world's largest island is located the world's largest national park. The Northeast Greenland National Park (in Greenland) spans more than nine-and-a-half lakh sq.km... which is, in fact, larger than several countries in the world! Also the northernmost national park in the world, it was set up in 1974 to govern this uninhabited region. It remains uninhabited to this day and has no permanent residents. While the place is visited only by researchers and scientists, sealers and whalers have regular access to the region. Offering spectacular scenery, this Park is significant as a biosphere reserve for a variety of tundra vegetation and wildlife. The region is said to have a very high concentration of musk ox close to about half the world's population.

Wildlife

While a majority of the birds here is migratory, the Park nurtures more than 50 species of permanent breeders. The birds that can be spotted here include geese, eiders, ducks, divers, fulmars, cormorants, plovers, sandpipers, razorbills, puns, skuas, gulls, terns, eagles, falcons, doves, ptarmigans, black ravens, snow buntings, pipits, and wheatears. The animals roaming the region include polar bears, seals, grey wolves, Arctic hares, Arctic foxes, caribou, walruses, and musk oxen.

Threats

Greenland's only national park is not without its share of concerns. Since the region does not have permanent residents, direct threats from humans hardly exist. However, climate change, considered by many to be the direct result of human activity has its impact on the region. Rising global temperature, rising sea levels, and intensification of extreme events are of great concern, and could impact the landscape and the wildlife of the region. In fact, a study by scientists last year revealed that another threat to Greenland's glaciers is lurking beneath the ice. It has been long-known that increasing air temperatures are adding to the surface melting on the island's ice sheet. But the new study discovered that warm ocean water moving beneath the vast glaciers is causing them to melt even more quickly. The study focussed on a glacier in northeast Greenland. Interestingly, a more recent study - earlier this month - stated that these very glaciers could help offset the effects of climate change.

A wonder material!

As a consequence of global warming, Greenland glaciers are retreating. But these retreating glaciers also expose ultra-fine silt deposit. "Known as glacial rock flour, the silt is crushed to nano-particles by the weight of the retreating ice sheet, which deposits roughly one billion tonnes of it on the world's largest island per year." It has been learnt that the silt could actually be used as nutrient-rich mud on agricultural lands for boosting agricultural output. And not just that. They also absorb carbon dioxide from the air in the process. It has been found that "adding 25 tonnes of glacial rock flour per hectare increased crop yield on barley fields in Denmark by 30%", and also "researchers from the University of Ghana, managed to increase maize yields by 30% using glacial rock flour to offset the impact of rain and heat on poor farmland", offering a glimpse of what is perhaps a rare benefit from global warming?

Picture Credit : Google

Why does light travel faster than sound?

We often compare light and sound because they correspond to two senses that inform us about our surroundings remotely. But from a physicist's perspective, they are very different. Light can be described by weightless little particles moving at very high speed, called photons, while sound is what we perceive from small variations in the density of the air around us. When thunder breaks, the lightning emits photons which travel almost freely towards us, at a speed that would make them reach the Moon in about a second. Lightning also disturbs the surrounding air molecules, and this is what produces sound: the disturbance in the air propagates from molecule to molecule until it reaches our ears. This makes it much slower than photons. Actually, while sound needs a medium like air or water to propagate, photons can travel in empty space, which is how the Sun's light reaches us.

Did you know?

  • Sound travels at about 330 metres per second while light travels at 2,99,792.458 km per second.
  • Because light travels faster than sound you see lightning before you hear the thunder.
  • Insects such as bees and spiders are capable of viewing ultraviolet light, while reptiles like snakes can view infrared lights.
  • Human ears are only capable of hearing frequencies of about 20 kilohertz, while the species that is known to have the highest capability of hearing, the Greater Wax Moth, can hear frequencies of around 300 kHz.
  • When travelling through water, sound moves four times faster than when it travels through air.

Picture Credit : Google

Are you aware of your dream?

Over a decade ago, a movie called Inception captivated the minds of the audience due to its unique concept of controlling and manipulating dreams. But did you know this can happen in real life too? It's called lucid dreaming.

What is a lucid dream?

Lucid dreams are dreams where you are aware that you are dreaming while asleep. Simply put, you are aware that the events happening in your dream are not real but the dream feels very vivid and real. Lucid dreaming allows you to control your dreams and dictate the narrative.

According to studies, almost half the people would have had at least one lucid dream in their lifetime. They happen only a couple of times a year.

Lucid dreams are most common during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. It is a period of deep sleep marked by eye movement, more brain activity and faster breathing. A person usually enters REM sleep approximately 90 minutes after falling asleep. It lasts for 10 minutes or so, and as you sleep, each REM period becomes longer than the previous one, finally lasting up to one hour.

Why do we get lucid dreams?

Not much is known about how and why people get lucid dreams. But scientists have some ideas. Some studies suggest that people who tend to be self-reflective are more likely to have lucid dreams, while a study in Germany, which tracked brain activity in volunteers as they slept made researchers think that lucid dreaming may be a between state where you are not fully awake but not quite asleep as well.

Can you have a lucid dream?

Many researchers suggest a few things one can try to trigger a lucid dream. These include: Reality testing where you pause at different times of the day to see whether you are dreaming. You could try to do something impossible to check if you are dreaming or not.

Researchers also suggest that you wake up after five hours of sleep, stay awake for a brief period of time and then go back to bed to try to enter a REM sleep period.

Picture Credit : Google