Tag: johns hopkins applied physics lab

Johns Hopkins APL Names Best Inventions of 2011

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The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab is sort of like a playroom for really smart people, but instead of Legos they use microminature motors and undersea acoustic technologies. This is physics in action, folks, and it’s dramatic.

Last year, 460 scientists at the APL disclosed 259 inventions — an all time high! — but only two get honored at the Invention of the Year Award Reception (yes, trophies were provided).

The top invention of 2011 was the Ultra-Compact Multitasking Motor Controller, which is — well, it’s kind of exactly what it sounds like. By “ultra-compact,” the device’s inventors (Harry Eaton and Douglas Wenstrand) mean “the size of a dime.” Which is, indeed, ultra-compact. The controller is designed to coordinate movement in a state-of-the-art prosthetic arm, which features movements so nuanced that each individual finger can move independently. Previously, most similar controllers were three times the size of this one — and it’s able to coordinate with the 10 motors within the prosthetic arm, to boot.

Johns Hopkins Voyages to the Sun

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Sending a spacecraft near the sun poses some problems. Some are obvious (it’s 2500+ degrees up there!); some are less so (“hypervelocity dust particles“). Which is probably why it’s never been done before — until now, at least.

A team of ridiculously smart scientists from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory is working with NASA on the the first-ever Solar Probe Plus, “an extraordinary mission of exploration, discovery and deep understanding.” If all goes according to plan, the craft will get as close to the sun as possible — that is, 4 million miles away — and investigate some of the crucial questions that have bedeviled sun scientists for years:  “Why is the sun’s outer atmosphere so much hotter than the sun’s visible surface, and What accelerates the solar wind that affects Earth and our solar system?”

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