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Homework help from NASA, rescue missions, top technologies and more

By Tushna Commissariat

Who doesn’t like a bit of help with their homework – not 4-year-old Lucas Whiteley from West Yorkshire in the UK.  When faced with some tough and rather complex scientific questions, the enterprising child filmed a video of himself asking the US space agency NASA for some help. And much to his delight, he got a video response courtesy of NASA engineer Ted Garbeff of the Ames Research Center in California. In the 10-minute video, Garbeff answers Whiteley’s questions including “How many stars are there?” and “Did any animals go to the Moon?” Of course, the story garnered nation-wide interest and was covered by the Huffington Post, the Telegraph and others. Take a look at Garbeff’s response video above.

On a more sombre note, but in keeping with the NASA and space theme, we came across this long-form feature article about how NASA’s missions designated STS-3xx or the “Launch On Need (LON)” rescue missions came to be, in the light of the Columbia space shuttle disaster. The article is a gripping and often emotional read that tells the story of what could have been the “rescue mission that could have been NASA’s finest hour”. The author talks about the tragedy of Columbia, but also goes into the details of the LON missions that were developed soon after to rescue any mission in need – they have never been used to date.

The World Economic Forum has released its “top 10 emerging technologies for 2014”. Among others, a number of technologies that we at Physics World have covered over the years have made an appearance. The list includes wearable electronics, nanowire lithium-ion batteries and more.

In other news this week, take a look at  the most recent comic on “PHD Comics” (created by Jorge Cham) that tells you all you need to know about the Higgs boson and take a look at this Japanese company that plans on building a solar cell farm on the Moon.

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