Snooze (this week in Science News): January 8th

    Science news is back in 2017, and it is booming. Not only do we have the invention of 5G, which has been promised to be the next big thing, but NASA and Facebook have also made headlines this week, and not because of fake news. Let’s dive into the world of science and technology.

    NASA has a crush on a new asteroid

    Courtesy of Billy Brown / Flickr

    What’s so special about this one?

    For starters, this asteroid is completely made of metal. It is also the size of Massachusetts, according to The New York Times. NASA announced on Wednesday that a spacecraft called Psyche will be visiting an asteroid of the same name in 2023 and will reach the asteroid by 2030. Psyche used to be a part of the Asteroid Belt in between Jupiter and Mars but has recently been captured by Jupiter’s gravity and now orbits the planet and the sun at the same time, similar to our moon in relation with the Earth.

    Wait a second, why is being made of metal so important?

    Psyche is actually the only “spherical metal body in our solar system.” While humans have explored gaseous worlds, rock-based worlds and even completely frozen worlds like Pluto, they have never been to a planet that is entirely based off of metal. Visiting Psyche would give scientists information that could help them figure out what is at the center of the Earth, something that will never be able to be explored with today’s technology. Scientists believe that Psyche, a nickel-iron based asteroid, was the center of a planet early on in the solar system that was bashed into pieces.

    Qualcomm has high aspirations for 5G

    OK, so this is just like a step above from 4G right?

    Not exactly. The technology of the next era of wireless connectivity has been made by Qualcomm, a San Diego-based semiconductor company. Qualcomm CEO Stephen Mollenkopf believes this innovation will be as big as the invention of electricity. He is justifying this large claim because of 5G’s ability to make everything as fast as possible, with live stream video that can be seen from around the world delayed by just 1 millisecond. The jump from 4G to 5G will be much bigger than the jump from 3G to 4G data speeds, or at least that is what Qualcomm is telling us.

    This sounds like a big deal. When will it be out?

    The new technology, which has also been promised to start an invention revolution, will take some time to change the world. By 2035, 5G is projected to be available globally, according to Mollenkopf, and the industry could have around 22 million jobs along with supporting nearly $3.5 trillion in revenue. The Qualcomm CEO also mentioned that 5G will primarily support video streaming, which currently accounts for 55 percent of mobile data usage and is projected to be 75 percent by 2020. The first test trials using 5G will be put out for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

    Nearly a quarter of the world is on Facebook

    Courtesy of wildquist / Flickr

    How many people is that exactly?

    Statista, a portal that records statistics worldwide, recently released user usage for the world’s most popular social media website. Facebook now has 1.79 billion active users, nearly a quarter of the world's population, which is projected to hit 7.5 billion in 2017. Facebook has seen a 1,780 percent growth since 2008, when the website only had 100 million people.

    Just how big is Facebook going to get?

    Well, Mark Zuckerberg certainly has some high expectations. The Facebook CEO hopes that by 2030, there will be over 5 billion users on his website, according to USA Today. He has some pretty crazy ways to get to this goal and thinks that the most realistic one is to give basic internet access to nearly all parts of the developing world. In order to accomplish this, he plans on using drones that provide Wi-Fi while flying over areas currently without internet.

    MIT has invented something light and strong.

    Don’t we already have carbon fiber?

    Yes, and carbon was actually used to create this new substance. Scientists at MIT invented the new material, which still does not have a name, by taking a substance called graphene and making it into a 3-D object. This allowed the strength of graphene, which is a 2-D substance, to be used for 3-D objects.

    What will this help with?

    This material can now be used in anything from race cars, automobiles, ships and planes. MIT scientists envision this material significantly helping not only with strength but also with reducing the weight of transportation materials, thus increasing fuel efficiency.


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