China’s Quantum-Key Network, the Largest Ever, Is Officially Online

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China’s Quantum-Key Network, the Largest Ever, Is Officially Online

 China's Quantum-Key Network, the Largest Ever, Is Officially Online
A figure from the letter shows how the Micius satellite transfers quantum keys across vast distances.

Credit: Physical Review Letters

China has the quantum technology to perfectly encrypt useful signals over distances far vaster than anyone has ever accomplished, spanning Europe and Asia, according to a stunning new research letter.

Bits of information, or signals, pass through people’s houses, the skies overhead and the flesh of human bodies every second of every day. They’re television signals and radio, as well as private phone calls and data files.

Some of these signals are public, but most are private — encrypted with long strings of numbers known (presumably) only to the senders and receivers. Those keys are powerful enough to keep the secrets of modern society: flirty text messages, bank-account numbers and the passwords to covert databases. But they’re brittle. A sufficiently determined person, wielding a sufficiently powerful computer, could break them.

“Historically, every advance in cryptography has been defeated by advances in cracking technology,” Jian-Wei Pan, a researcher at the University of Science and Technology of China and author on this research letter, wrote in an email. “Quantum key distribution ends this battle.”

Quantum keys are long strings of numbers — keys for opening encrypted files just like the ones used in modern computers — but they’re encoded in the physical states of quantum particles. That means they are protected not only by the limits of computers but the laws of physics.

Quantum keys cannot be copied. They can encrypt transmissions between otherwise classical computers. And no one can steal them — a law of quantum mechanics states that once a subatomic particle is observed, poof, it’s altered — without alerting the sender and receiver to the dirty trick. [What’s That? Your Physics Questions Answered]

And now, according to a new letter due for publication today (Jan. 19) in the journal Physical Review Letters, quantum keys can travel via satellite, encrypting messages sent between cities thousands of miles apart.

The researchers quantum-encrypted images by encoding them as strings of numbers based on the quantum states of photons and sent them across distances of up to 4,722 miles (7,600 kilometers) between Beijing and Vienna — shattering the previous record of 251 miles (404 km), also set in China. Then, for good measure, on Sept. 29, 2017, they held a 75-minute videoconference between researchers in the two cities, also encrypted via quantum key. (This videoconference was announced previously, but the full details of the experiment were reported in this new letter.)

This long-distance quantum-key distribution is yet another achievement of the Chinese satellite Micius, which was responsible for smashing a number of quantum-networking records in 2017. Micius is a powerful photon relay and detector. Launched into low Earth orbit in 2016, it uses its fine lasers and detectors to send and receive packets of quantum information — basically, information about the quantum state of a photon — across vast stretches of space and atmosphere.

“Micius is the brightest star in the sky when it is passing over the station,” Pan wrote to Live Science. “The star is [as] green as the beacon laser [that Micius uses to aim photons at the ground]. If there is some dust in the air, you will [also] see a red light line pointing to the satellite. No sound comes from space. Maybe there are some raised by the movement of the ground station.”

Just about any time Micius does anything, it blows previous records out of the water. That’s because previous quantum networks have relied on passing photons around on the ground, using the air between buildings or fiber optic cables. And there are limits to line-of-sight on the ground, or how far a fiber-optic cable will transfer a photon without losing it.

In June 2017, Micius researchers announced that they had sent two “entangled” photons to ground stations 745 miles (1,200 km) apart. (When a pair of photons gets entangled, they affect each other even when separated by large distances.) A month later, in July, they announced that they had teleported a packet of quantum information 870 miles (1,400 km) from Tibet into orbit, meaning the quantum state of a particle had been beamed directly from a particle on the ground to its twin in space.

Both of these achievements were major steps on the road to real-world quantum-key-encrypted networks.

The new letter announces that the theory has been put into action.

Micius first encrypted two photos, a small image of the Micius satellite itself, then a photo of the early quantum physicist Erwin Schrödinger. Then it encrypted that long video call. No similar act of quantum-key distribution has ever been achieved over that kind of distance.

Already, Pan said, Micius is ready to use to encrypt more important information.

Quantum-key distribution is essentially a creative application of the so-called Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, one of the foundational principles of quantum mechanics. As Live Science has previously reported, the uncertainty principle states that it’s impossible to fully know the quantum state of a particle — and, crucially, that in observing part of that state, a detector forever wipes out the other relevant information that particle contains.

That principle turns out to be very useful for encoding information. As the Belgian cryptographer Gilles Van Assche wrote in his 2006 book “Quantum Cryptography and Secret-Key Distillation,” a sender and receiver can use the quantum states of particles to generate strings of numbers. A computer can then use those strings to encrypt some bit of information, like a video or a text, which it then sends over a classical relay like the internet connection you’re using to read this article.

But it doesn’t send the encryption key over that relay. Instead, it sends those particles across a separate quantum network, Van Assche wrote.

In the case of Micius, that means sending photons, one at a time, through the atmosphere. The receiver can then read the quantum states of those photons to determine the quantum key and use that key to decrypt the classical message. [Album: The World’s Most Beautiful Equations]

If anyone else tried to intercept that message, though, they would leave telltale signs — missing packets of the key that never made it to the sender.

Of course, no network is perfect, especially not one based on shooting information for individual photos across miles of space. As the Micius researchers wrote, the networks typically loses 1 or 2 percent of their key on a clear day. But that’s well within what Micius and the base station can work together to edit out of the key, using some fancy mathematics. Even if an attacker did intercept and wreck a much larger chunk of the transmission, whatever they didn’t catch would still be clean — shorter, but perfectly secure enough to encrypt transmissions in a pinch. [How Quantum Entanglement Works (Infographic)]

The connection between Micius and Earth isn’t perfectly secure yet, however. As the team of Chinese and Austrian authors wrote, the flaw in the network design is the satellite itself. Right now, base stations in each linked city receive different quantum keys from the satellite, which are multiplied together and then disentangled. That system works fine, as long as the communicators trust that no secret squad of nefarious astronauts has broken into Micius itself to read the quantum key at the source. The next step toward truly perfect security, they wrote, is to distribute quantum keys from satellites via entangled photons — keys the satellites would manufacture and distribute, but never themselves be able to read.

In time, the researchers wrote, they plan to launch more quantum satellites into higher orbits — satellites that will communicate with one another and with researchers on Earth in ever-more-complex webs.

This slowly spreading, ever-more-practical quantum network will first be built for China and Europe, they wrote, “and then on a global scale.”

Originally published on Live Science.


A Sonic Attack in Cuba? How an Acoustic Weapon Might Work

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A Sonic Attack in Cuba? How an Acoustic Weapon Might Work

Credit: Shutterstock

A supersecret sonic weapon being used to attack diplomats in a foreign country may sound like the start of a sci-fi novel, but that’s exactly what several U.S. diplomats in Cuba may have been exposed to, the U.S. State Department recently announced.

The physical symptoms, which the State Department would not confirm, but which some news reports have suggested included hearing loss, got so bad that some of these officials had to be recalled from their duties in Havana.

“Some U.S. government personnel who were working at our embassy in Havana, Cuba, on official duties — so they were there working on behalf of the U.S. embassy there — they’ve reported some incidents which have caused a variety of physical symptoms,” Heather Nauert, a spokeswoman for the State Department, said in a news briefing Aug. 9.

After an extensive investigation, U.S. officials determined that a secret sonic weapon was to blame. [Mind Controlled Cats?? 6 Incredible Spy Technologies]

But what exactly could that weapon be, and how could it cause hearing loss without any of the people involved noticing a painful audible sound?

While the mysterious story has a lot of holes, one possibility is that the workers were exposed to infrasound, or low-frequency sound waves that are below the audible hearing range, said Charles Liberman, a hearing loss researcher at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts Eye and Ear in Boston.

The strange symptoms emerged in the fall of 2016, when several employees at the U.S. embassy in Havana began complaining of physical symptoms. Many of the individuals were new to the embassy and some had to return to the United States because of the severity of their symptoms — the details of which have yet to be disclosed. An investigation by the U.S. government concluded that the symptoms could be attributed to a device that operated outside the audible hearing range and was used somewhere, possibly in their houses, Time magazine reported. Right now, there’s no word on whether these devices were deliberately used. [Flying Saucers to Mind Control: 22 Declassified Military & CIA Secrets]

In retaliation, the U.S. government expelled two Cuban diplomats on May 23, Nauert said.

Cuba denied any involvement in the bizarre scenario.

“Cuba has never permitted, nor will permit, that Cuban territory be used for any action against accredited diplomatic officials or their families, with no exception,” according to a statement from the Cuban government.

Another possibility is that some other hostile group (such as Russian agents) may have initiated the attack, Time reported.

There are so many details missing in this story that it’s hard to explain exactly what the device could be, Liberman said. However, sound-induced hearing loss requires that the mechanical part of the ear that senses audible sound be overloaded.

“You overstimulate the part of the ear that’s mechanically tuned to those frequencies and it falls apart,” Liberman.

If the people in the embassy didn’t hear anything, that suggests the weapon probably didn’t operate in the normal hearing range, or else it would have caused pain and been distracting, Liberman said. (Human audible hearing range is typically between 20 hertz, or cycles per second, and 20 kilohertz). If so, there’s little possibility for it to damage the mechanical parts of the ear that are tuned to those frequencies, he said.

However, it’s possible the devices somehow generate infrasound — the type of low-frequency sound given off by windmills or wind generators with the beating of the blades. Infrasound is below the human hearing range.

And yet, many people claim these machines are making them sick, and there are several lawsuits from people who live or work near wind farms, claiming they make them sick, according to Liberman.

“There is a growing controversy about people who live near these windmills who start feeling bad,” Liberman told Live Science. “They get headaches, they get dizzy, they get nausea.” [10 Odd Causes of Headaches]

For instance, a 2014 study in the journal Royal Society Open Science found that low-frequency sounds below the audible range could disrupt little whistles made by the ear, called spontaneous optoacoustic emissions, in response to noise. (How that mapped to symptoms, however, wasn’t clear.)

In this instance, one possibility is that the infrasound stimulated the part of the ear not dedicated to hearing — the vestibular system that controls balance, Liberman said. In that instance, the symptoms wouldn’t appear immediately.

“You could imagine them being very slow onset and very persistent,” Liberman said. “It might take days before you even notice any funny sensations.”

That may explain why the State Department refused to describe the symptoms experienced by their employees as including hearing loss, Liberman said.

The other type of sound humans can’t hear is ultrasound, which is above 20 khz. That’s a less likely possibility because high-frequency sound dissipates quickly with distance and in tissue such as the ear. However, high-intensity, focused ultrasound has been used for everything from breaking kidney stones to cauterizing tissues in the body.

But the fact that it doesn’t work well across long distances means it’s tough to imagine a device could get close enough to the people to work, without them suspecting, Liberman said.

What’s more, if a covert acoustic device using ultrasound produced enough energy to permeate and damage the ear from far away, it would probably heat the head up, too, Liberman said.

However, it’s theoretically possible that high-frequency ultrasound may have somehow damaged the blood vessels in the ear canal, thereby leading to damage, he said. That seems less likely, but “I’ve been in science long enough to not discount as impossible things that seem improbable,” Liberman said.

While the idea of a silent sonic weapon sounds like something out of James Bond, Inspector Gadget or the reject pile of DARPA, the idea of using sound as a weapon has a long history.

For instance, studies show that animals exposed to high-intensity, focused ultrasound can experience lung and brain damage. And a cruise line circling the pirate-infested waters off the Somali coast has taken to using a military-grade “sonic weapon” to deter would-be hijackers, the BBC reported. This long-range device, also known as a sound cannon, can cause permanent hearing loss at distances of up to 984 feet (300 meters), according to the BBC. Other companies have developed a magnetic acoustic device, commonly referred to as a sound laser, that deploys incredibly painful, focused beams of sound to deter people from an area,NPR reported. The Israeli army has also used a device known as “The Scream,” which damages the inner ear, causing nausea and dizziness,Wired reported.

Originally published on Live Science.

Butterfly Wing Optics Help to Cheaply Create Bright, Realistic Holograms

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Butterfly Wing Optics Help to Cheaply Create Bright, Realistic Holograms

University of Utah electrical and computer engineering associate professor Rajesh Menon shows off a new 2D hologram that can be displayed with just a flashlight. His team has discovered a way to create inexpensive full-color 2D and 3D holograms that are far more realistic, brighter, and can be viewed at wider angles than current holograms.

Credit: Dan Hixson/University of Utah College of Engineering

Holograms have long captured the public’s imagination. Whether it’s Star Wars fans dreaming of holographic messages and chess games, concertgoers standing in awe before a resurrected Tupac Shakur, or theholographic future envisioned in the upcoming Blade Runner 2049, the hologram concept seems to offer something for everyone.

But despite the development of modern, laser-based hologram technology since the 1960s, the only holograms most of us encounter today are the blurry security images on our credit cards or the occasional dimly lit display in a science museum.

Now a team of engineers from the University of Utah claims to have developed a game-changing technology that can cheaply create photorealistic 3D holograms that are viewable with nothing more than a flashlight. In a paper published in Scientific Reports, the researchers explain how they used complex 3D nanostructures to produce holograms with the kind of rich colors and bright display that may one day make sophisticated holograms an everyday reality.

To understand how today’s hologram technology works, it’s helpful to compare it to regular photographs. A photographic camera uses lenses and a natural light source to record the light emitted from a scene on a photographic medium. The result is a 2D image that faithfully matches the original scene from a specific angle or vantage.

RELATED: Nano-Hologram Technology Will Bring 3D Images to Phones, Tablets, and TVs

A hologram, however, is a recording of the full light field produced by an object in three dimensions. To capture that scattered light field requires a powerful light source like a laser, which is split and directed by mirrors to strike the object from all sides.

Ordinary holograms record the light field on a chemical medium similar to photographic paper, which to the naked eye looks like nothing more than a random collection of dots and lines. To actually produce the holographic image, you need to shine another laser light on or through the recorded hologram. The resulting ghost-like, floating image can then be viewed from many angles.

Conventional hologram technology has some serious limitations, according to Rajesh Menon, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Utah and lead author of the new paper. First, the holograms produced by these laser-based systems are very dim and only clearly visible in dark rooms. Second, if you want a hologram with many colors, you need to use lasers in each color, which quickly gets expensive. Then there are issues with the mass-produced sticker-style holograms used for security, which are distorted by a rainbow shimmering effect.

The new process developed by Menon and his team appears to solve all of these issues while greatly reducing the production and display costs. The magic is in the holographic recordings, which are transparent sheets of plastic embossed with a 3D nanostructure of microscopic hills and valleys. Instead of absorbing white light and only reflecting back certain wavelengths, the nanoscale topography of the hologram is engineered to manipulate and tune light so that it produces a bright, full-color 3D image from the simple beam of a flashlight.

The technology is similar to an evolutionary adaptation exhibited in certain butterfly species. Color in nature is usually a product of pigments that absorb certain wavelengths of light and reflect others. But these butterflies boost the brilliance of their iridescent wings by bouncing light across microscales instead of absorbing it. As some wavelengths are canceled out through interference, a brilliant pure blue is reflected back to the viewer.

RELATED: A Nanotech Breakthrough Could Generate True Holograms

Menon explained that his computer-generated microstructures serve a similar purpose, increasing the efficiency and brightness of the hologram by redirecting light rather than absorbing it.

“We take all the colors of light that come in and essentially displace them slightly,” he said. “Let’s say we’re creating an American flag. I want the red here, the blue there, and I want white everywhere else. I can design my structure to essentially displace the colors very efficiently.”

Since the 3D nanostructures can be stamped onto normal plastic, the holograms will be relatively affordable to reproduce, similar to the mass-production of CDs or DVDs. That could help Menon’s holograms compete in the security market. Instead of the rainbow-streaked stickers on credit cards and driver’s licenses, we could soon have photorealistic holograms that are much more difficult to forge.

While the paper only describes the production of 2D holograms, Menon says that his team has also successfully made static 3D holograms using the same technology. But he hasn’t taken his sight off the ultimate goal, which is a full-motion interactive hologram straight out of sci-fi. He said that this initial research points to a path forward, but that many engineering challenges remain.

“To create dynamic images, you need to be able to change the pattern that you’re imprinting as a function of time,” Menon said. “There are technologies that we can borrow upon to do this, but they need some improvement.”

Menon has launched a private company called PointSpectrum to continue developing the hologram technology, which he hopes will soon compete with bulky virtual reality headsets in providing immersive holographic experiences at theme parks, movie theaters, schools, and more.

Originally published on Seeker.

10 Cool Technologies You Can Thank the iPhone For

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10 Cool Technologies You Can Thank the iPhone For

iPhone Turns 10
Credit: Twin Design/Shutterstock

iPhone Turns 10

Ten years ago, the original iPhone hit stores in the U.S. for the first time and revolutionized how companies designed and built cellphones.

When then-Apple CEO Steve Jobs took the stage at the Macworld Conference & Expo in January 2007, he announced that the company would be releasing a wide-screen iPod with touch controls, a next-generation mobile phone and a breakthrough internet device.

It turned out he wasn’t launching three devices, but one. Now, a decade later, here are some of the technologies that the original iPhone and its successors have made must-haves for all modern smartphones.

Multi-touch screens

Credit: Shutterstock

Multi-touch screens

The iPhone’s most obvious contribution was to ditch the physical keyboard.

Prior to 2007, phones fell into two main camps: feature phones with a numeric keypad or “smartphones” like the Blackberry with a full QWERTY keyboard. The latter sometimes came with a touchscreen but they required a stylus to operate and weren’t really suitable for typing.

The iPhone instead featured a 3.5-inch (9 centimeters) LCD screen with multi-touch technology. Not only did this get rid of the stylus in favor of what Jobs said was the ultimate pointing device — our finger — it enabled “smart” functions like pinch-to-zoom and physics-based interaction that presented on-screen elements as real objects with weight, size and intuitive responses.

More importantly, it allowed the screen to cover the entire face of the phone, which was the basis of many of the devices’ other innovations.

Google Maps

Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty

Google Maps

It may seem strange to list Google Maps as an innovation made popular by the iPhone, but Steve Jobs was central in bringing Google’s mapping smarts to mobile devices when he asked Google to build an app for the iPhone.

It was the first smartphone to feature the app, and even though the original iPhone didn’t feature GPS, this was rectified in later versions, allowing Google to add the turn-by-turn satellite navigation capability that is now standard in smartphones.

The App Store

Credit: Shutterstock

The App Store

With only a screen to interact with, the iPhone suddenly made developing good software an imperative.

Initially, this came down to Apple’s army of engineers, but in 2008, to coincide with the launch of the iPhone 3G, the company unveiled the App Store. While third-party app stores did exist prior to this, the introduction of Apple’s offering was what really spurred the app economy that exists today.

Mobile gaming is now a $100 billion industry and most companies now have their own app. There are even multinational giants like Uber, Snap and Tinder whose entire existence can be traced back to the revolution started by the iPhone.

Fingerprint scanners

Credit: Shutterstock

Fingerprint scanners

As with many of the things Apple has popularized in smartphones, the company wasn’t the first to integrate a fingerprint scanner in its devices.

But with the introduction of Touch ID in the iPhone 5S, it overcame issues with cost, size, reliability and security that had held back the technology. The innovative tech also introduced compelling uses for the devices, such as using it to unlock the phone or to make payments.

It wasn’t long before competitors started to follow suit with their high-end devices.

Gorilla Glass

Credit: Corning; Tom’s Guide

Gorilla Glass

Making the screen such a prominent and integral aspect of the smartphone did have one obvious downside that most users experienced at some point: the smashed screen.

Apple foresaw this flaw and did their best to mitigate it by tapping the expertise of Corning. This leading American glass and ceramics company had been experimenting with toughened glasses aimed at consumer electronics since 2005, but when Apple asked them to provide a thin, toughened glass for their iPhone screens, Gorilla Glass was born. The crack- and scratch-resistant glass is now the gold standard for mobile devices.

Mobile Internet

Credit: Shutterstock

Mobile Internet

While mobile Internet had been around for some time before the iPhone was released, the experience was pretty limited.

Most phones at the time featured WAP browsers that presented a stripped-down version of the Web, but the iPhone’s MobileSafari tried to bring the full experience of the Internet to what was, at the time, a comparatively large phone screen.

The original iPhone was actually uncharacteristically behind the curve because it didn’t support 3G technology, but this was rectified the following year, and it didn’t stop the device from being a trendsetter. The introduction of web-enabled third-party apps in later iPhone editions also gave rise to the current environment of always-connected social, news and shopping networks.

Virtual assistants

Credit: Oli Scarff/Getty

Virtual assistants

With the advent of Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant and Microsoft’s Cortana, artificial intelligence-powered virtual assistants have become commonplace.

But when Apple acquired the company that made Siri, SRI International, in 2010 and then made the technology proprietary the next year, the concept was revolutionary. Initially, the service had limitations, such as how it struggled with certain accents and had little flexibility on what kinds of commands it could understand, but it wasn’t long before other mobile firms were trying to play catch up.

This is one case, however, where Apple seems to have let a leading position slide. Other companies like Google and Amazon, who have focused more heavily on AI technology, seem to have taken Apple’s idea and run with it, producing virtual assistants that are much more advanced than Siri.

All-in-one device

Credit: Shutterstock

All-in-one device

The iPhone put a mobile computer in everyone’s pocket and then let them decide what they wanted to do with it.

Prior to the iPhone’s release, the cellphone market was highly segmented. In particular, smartphones were largely seen as business-oriented devices designed to allow users to access enterprise email and calendar applications on the go. Feature phones, on the other hand, had cameras and music players and were aimed at everyday users.

Apple instead released a single model that could switch seamlessly between roles. The phone came with a camera and Apple’s iTunes music player, but also included calendar and email applications that enabled users to carry out most of the productivity tasks that traditional smartphones were designed for.


Credit: Shutterstock


In its bid to make the iPhone experience as seamless as possible, Apple included an accelerometer that enabled the phone to know when it was turned sideways so that it could automatically rotate the screen.

Since then, the sensor has become a must-have for smartphones and has spurred a host of innovative new uses for the technology. There are now hundreds of apps built specifically to take advantage of this feature, from digital spirit levels to mobile racing games that use the phone as a steering wheel.

No more headphone jack

Credit: Stephen Lam/Getty

No more headphone jack

Probably Apple’s most controversial and criticized innovation was its decision to remove the headphone jack from the iPhone 7.

Apple claimed the move was all about getting rid of a century-old technology that was holding back the inexorable march toward ever-slimmer devices in favor of the wireless future. Others pointed out it could have been a cynical move to force customers to buy expensive Bluetooth headphones from Apple or its subsidiary Beats, or opt to pay for an inexplicably expensive adapter.

Either way, the move hasn’t stopped other smartphone makers from jumping on the Apple bandwagon, and HTC, Motorola and LeEco are all following suit despite considerable user backlash.

The Best ISO-Certified Gear to See the 2017 Solar Eclipse

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The Best ISO-Certified Gear to See the 2017 Solar Eclipse

Gear Up for the Solar Eclipse!

Gear Up for the Solar Eclipse!

When the Great American Total Solar Eclipse sweeps across the U.S. on Aug. 21, you’ll need some safety-rated gear to watch it safely. Here are’s picks for the best solar-eclipse-viewing gear, including glasses, binoculars, telescopes and more!

Up First: Essential eclipse glasses

"Sun Catcher" Sunglasses (2-Pack)

“Sun Catcher” Sunglasses (2-Pack)

Enjoy the solar eclipse with a friend with these basic, affordable and ISO safety-rated solar eclipse glasses from Explore Scientific. ($2.49 from Explore Scientific)

Why we love it: These “Sun Catcher” sunglasses are just slightly more stylish than the standard paper eclipse viewers for the same low price.

Buy “Sun Catcher” Sunglasses (2-Pack) from Explore Scientific USA.

Next: Catch the sun up close

"Sun Catcher" 50-mm Telescope

“Sun Catcher” 50-mm Telescope

Explore Scientific’s “Sun Catcher” telescope allows for a safe, zoomed-in view of the total solar eclipse on a budget. This version comes with a 50-millimeter lens. ($20 on Amazon)

Why we love it: These telescopes are relatively affordable, lightweight and compact. They contain an ISO-rated safety filter that can be removed after the solar eclipse, making it useful for year-round stargazing – no eclipse necessary!

Buy “Sun Catcher” 50-mm Telescope from Explore Scientific USA.

Next: Catch even more sun!

"Sun Catcher" 70-mm Telescope

“Sun Catcher” 70-mm Telescope

This 70-mm version of Explore Scientific’s “Sun Catcher” telescope gives you an even better look at the sun during the eclipse. ($60 on Amazon).

Why we love it:These telescopes are relatively affordable, lightweight and compact. They contain an ISO-rated safety filter that can be removed after the solar eclipse, making it useful for year-round stargazing – no eclipse necessary!

Buy “Sun Catcher” 70-mm Telescope from Explore Scientific USA.

Next:A handy little telescope

iOptron Solar 60 with Electronic Eyepiece 8506

iOptron Solar 60 with Electronic Eyepiece 8506

Safely zoom in on a solar eclipse or check out the sunspots any other time with iOptron’s Solar 60 telescope. It comes with a removable solar filter, a hand controller, a 14,000-object database, an electronic eyepiece, a tripod and a carrying case. ($349 on Amazon)

Why we love it: Because this telescope is computerized, it can automatically locate objects in the sky with the touch of a button. It’s not just for watching eclipses – you can also look at stars, galaxies and planets.

Buy iOptron Solar 60 with Electronic Eyepiece 8506 on

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Top 10 Proposed Intercontinental Bridges And Tunnels

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Top 10 Proposed Intercontinental Bridges And Tunnels


The ability to drive or hop a train from Alaska to Russia, or from London to New York, is one that will fascinate many. It shouldn’t, though, because it might be possible in the future, thanks to a series of proposals to build bridges and underwater tunnels that would link continents. This doesn’t mean that we presently can’t drive from one continent to another. Turkey is located in both Europe and Asia and has three bridges and a tunnel to allow movement to and from its European and Asian regions.

Here are ten more proposed bridges and tunnels to link other continents that are identified as distinct landmasses.


10Saudi-Egypt Causeway
Asia And Africa

Saudi-Egypt Causeway

Photo credit: Google

The Saudi-Egypt causeway is a proposed bridge that would link Egypt with Saudi Arabia. It would include both road and rail networks and would be built over the Red Sea. While its exact location remains in doubt, some believe it will be built between Nabq, Egypt, and Ras Alsheikh Hamid, Saudi Arabia, which are the closest points between both countries, while making a detour at the Saudi island of Tiran.

Saudi Arabia’s king Salman bin Abdel Aziz hinted at the intention to build the bridge during a state visit to Egypt in 2013. According to Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the bridge would be named “King Salman bin Abdel Aziz Bridge,” after the king. Saudi Arabia’s plans to build the bridge, which is estimated to cost $3–4 billion, is more of politics than necessity. The kingdom simply wants to prove to its regional rival, Iran, that it maintains a strong relationship with Egypt. Besides building the bridge, Saudi will also fund Egypt’s oil needs for five years.

9Bridge Of The Horns
Asia And Africa

Bridge of the Horns

Photo credit: NASA

The Bridge of the Horns is a proposed bridge that will link Djibouti, which neighbors Somalia in the Horn of Africa, with Yemen. When completed, it will have six lanes for vehicles and a railroad for trains. Its construction was proposed by Tarek Bin Laden Construction, which is owned by the eponymous half-brother of the infamous Al-Qaeda kingpin.

Critics have criticized the construction of the 28.5-kilometer (17.7 mi) bridge, which was initially estimated to cost $70 billion, for its high cost and supposedly poor choice of location, which is an earthquake-prone zone. In 2008, Djibouti’s then–prime minister Dileita Mohamed Dileita denied his government’s involvement in the proposed bridge, saying the project “fell on them from the sky.”

However, preliminary works for the bridge’s construction have been completed, and construction is being planned. It will be funded by the Noor City Development Corporation of Dubai, which will also build two cities called Al Noor (City of Light) on both sides of the bridge. There are also plans to build an airport and an extensive road network that will lead from Yemen’s Al Noor to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. This means it would be possible to travel from Africa to Dubai by road. The Bridge of the Horns is estimated to open in 2020 at the cost of $20 billion.


8Bering Strait Tunnel
Asia And North America

Bering Strait Tunnel

Photo credit: J. Craig Thorpe

There have been several proposals to link Siberia with Alaska. The first of such proposals was made in the 1890s, when engineer Joseph Strauss proposed the construction of a railroad between Russia and Alaska. Tsar Nicholas II of Russia accepted a similar proposal in 1907, but it never came to fruition due to the outbreak of World War I. The proposal was reawakened in 2011. This time, it is a 105-kilometer (65 mi) underground tunnel that will be called the Bering Strait Tunnel.

The Bering Strait Tunnel would be a network of three tunnels: one to travel from Russia to Alaska, another to travel from Alaska to Russia, and a third in between, which will be reserved for emergencies and will have entry and exit points with the other tunnels. Each of the two main tunnels will have two railroads, one for high-speed trains and another for slower trains, as well as one or two lanes for vehicles. There will also be pipelines for water, gas, oil, and fiber-optic cables. The Bering Strait Tunnel is estimated to cost about $35 billion and would take 12 to 15 years to complete if approved for construction.

7Sicily-Tunisia Tunnel
Europe And Africa

Sicily-Tunisia Tunnel

The proposed Sicily-Tunisia tunnel would link mainland Italy with Tunisia via Sicily. The proposal involves the construction of a 3.3-kilomter (2.1 mi) bridge to link Reggio Calabria in mainland Italy with Messina in Sicily. Then, Sicily and Tunisia will be linked by a network of five underground tunnels. Four of the tunnels will have traffic moving in opposite directions, while the fifth will be reserved for emergencies.

Researchers at the Italian Agency for Alternative Energies have called on the governments of both countries to build four artificial islands between Tunisia and Sicily with the rocks excavated from the tunnels. They estimated the project to cost $28 billion.

6China-Russia-Canada-America Line
Asia And North America

China-Russia-Canada-America Line

Photo credit: Asia News

The China-Russia-Canada-America line is a proposed railroad that will run from China through Russia, Alaska, and Canada before ending in the mainland United States. Russia and Alaska will be linked by a 201-kilometer (125 mi) underwater tunnel in the Bering Strait. China claims that constructing the tunnel will not be a problem, as it already possesses the required technology, which it will use to build the Fujian-Taiwan underwater railroad that will link China with Taiwan.

Information regarding the plans was revealed by Wang Mengshu of the Chinese Academy of Engineering. No other government official has confirmed the project, and it is unclear whether China has consulted Russia, Canada, and the US regarding it. If the railroad is ever built, it would take two days to travel from China to the United States.


5Transatlantic Tunnel
Europe And North America

Transatlantic Tunnel

Photo credit:

The Transatlantic Tunnel is a proposed underwater railroad that would link New York with London, Paris, or Brussels. It was proposed by Ernst Frankel and the late Frank Davidson, who worked on the Channel Tunnel (aka the “Chunnel”) that links England with France. The Transatlantic Tunnel would be built under the surface of the Atlantic Ocean and would be anchored to the seabed by spring-loaded wires. Exactly how far below the surface the tunnel is would depend on how much the North Atlantic warms in the future and thus how many icebergs would be present.

If constructed, the tunnel would feature superfast magnetic-levitation trains that would shuttle between London and New York in just four hours. However, the project has been criticized for its high cost (almost $200 billion) as well as the problems associated with running a 5,600-kilometer-long (3,500 mi) tube across the ocean. According to the Discovery Channel’sExtreme Engineering, the Transatlantic Tunnel won’t be a reality anytime soon because the required funds and technology will not be available beforethe year 2099.

4Darien Gap Highway
North And South America

Guinness World Records recognizes the Pan-American Highway, which stretches from Prudhoe bay, Alaska, to Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, as the world’s longest road network. The highway is not a single highway but rather the interlinked highways of several North and South American countries. Yet, it is impossible to drive from North America to South America, specifically at the border between Panama and Colombia, which is covered by a thick jungle called the Darien Gap.

Previous attempts to build a highway across the gap have met brick walls in the form natives and conservationists who claim that the highway will destroy the forest. One plan to build a US-funded highway across the gap was thwarted in 1974, and another that was made in 1992 was abandoned.

Today, road travelers bypass the gap by either boarding a boat or airplane, although an expedition crossed it in a Land Rover in 1959. But this is almost impossible today thanks to the presence of criminals and drug traffickers in the vast jungle. One proposal to bypass the gap and still have a road network that will connect North and South America is the construction of an underwater tunnel between Panama and Colombia.

3Gibraltar Tunnel
Europe And Africa

Strait of Gibraltar

Photo credit: NASA

Proposals to build an underwater tunnel through the Strait of Gibraltar to link Europe with Africa have been in the works since 1930, when Spanish engineers proposed a 32-kilomter (20 mi) tunnel from Spain to North Africa. Spain and Morocco are currently working on building such a tunnel, which will be called the Gibraltar Tunnel.

The two countries’ closest points are just 14 kilometers (9 mi) apart. In fact, it is possible to see the coastline of one country from the other. But the tunnel will not pass through this narrow route because of the presence of hardened rock underneath. Rather, it will run from Cape Malabata, Morocco, to Punta Paloma, Spain, a distance of 28 kilometers (17 mi). The tunnel itself will be 40 kilometers (25 mi) long because of bends.

The tunnel is estimated to cost €6.5–13 billion, and both countries have applied for funding from the European Union. Before settling for the tunnel, both countries proposed building a bridge but abandoned the idea over concerns that it might not withstand the wind and water currents of the region.

2Intercontinental Peace Bridge
Asia And North America

Intercontinental Peace Bridge

Photo credit: Popular Mechanics

The Intercontinental Peace Bridge is a proposed 88-kilometer-long (55 mi) bridge to link Siberia and Alaska. It was proposed by award-winning structural engineer T.Y. Lin during the Cold War and would be built over the Bering Strait. Lin was so serious about the bridge that he gave President Ronald Reagan a 16-page pamphlet detailing his plans for the bridge in 1986. This move internationalized his idea and won him some fans and critics.

He renewed his proposal in 1994, when he upgraded his plans to include a pipeline network to transport oil and gas from Russia to North America. His revised proposal came after Russia turned its attention to the vast, untapped oilfields of Siberia. The Intercontinental Peace Bridge is not Lin’s only proposal to link two continents. He also proposed the construction of a bridge over the Strait of Gibraltar to link Spain and Morocco.

1Trans Global Highway

Trans Global Highway

Photo credit: Frank Didik

The Trans Global Highway is a proposed highway to link all the continents of the world. It was proposed by Frank Didik. It is not a new highway per se but rather the standardization and connection of existing highways and the construction of new highways and tunnels where necessary. If the proposal is ever realized, it would be possible to travel around the world by road.

Besides the road, the highway would have pipelines for oil, gas, water, and communication cables. Didik believes that the only hindrance to the achievement of the Trans Global Highway is the hatred among various neighboring states, which will refuse to maintain road networks to their neighboring enemies.

Oliver Taylor is a freelance writer and bathroom musician. You can reach him

Video: How removing tattoos with lasers works

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 Video: How removing tattoos with lasers works

10/30/14 9:01pm

Smarter Every Day takes an in-depth look at something super cool: removing tattoos with the help of lasers. The science behind it is fascinating, all the zapping lasers do is basically break down the bigger ink blobs inside your skin and let your body’s white blood cells and liver take care of the rest of the removal process.

But just because you can remove a tattoo with laers doesn’t mean you should start thinking tattoos aren’t permanent. It’s a helluva process.


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