When it launches in 2018, the James Webb Space Telescope will let us see deeper into the universe than ever before. Its enormous eye is centered around 18 octagonal mirrors which assemble to form the largest telescope mirror ever built, but someday even the James Webb Telescope (formerly the Next-Gen Space Telescope) will outlive its usefulness — and then what will we do? The obvious answer is to launch an even more advanced telescope, one with an even bigger mirror that can focus on even more distant or difficult light. There’s just one problem: given the costs and practical barriers to launching objects into space, it’s very possible that in this case simply going bigger may be impossible.
That’s where DARPA comes in. The agency has always liked playing smarter — rather than harder — and has a stated goal of allowing its government to view any point on the planet, instantly and in real-time. That being the case, they needed to develop a way of launching surveillance satellites much more cheaply. DARPA has looked into everything from satellite miniaturization to Hyperloop style drone throwers, but a satellite’s mirror is the hardest part to launch in most cases. In a move sure to excite cash-strapped astronomers and terrify nervous libertarians, DARPA now says it could have a way around that problem, making high-fidelity space cameras much quicker and cheaper to launch.
View the video below for a quick artist’s rendering.
Called MOIRE, or Membrane Optical Imager for Real-Time Exploitation, the project looks to replace one of the heaviest and most troublesome elements in astronomy. Rather than using enormous mirrors or thick, dense lenses to reflect or refract the light into a collector, MOIRE uses membranes about as thick as kitchen plastic wrap to diffract light onto the satellite’s collector. MOIRE will launch in a compact state, its version of a mirror mounted on the front in the form of folded, concentric “petals” of this membrane. When the mission reaches its destination, these petals will unfold into huge sails, providing a focusing element larger than any mirror could realistically be. A MOIRA satellite launched at 6.5 meters in diameter, roughly the size of the James Webb mirror, could unfurl to a diameter of more than 21 meters.
That’s a big deal, since the diameter of a telescope’s focusing device determines its maximum resolution. If you want to look into the very beginnings of the universe or into its most elusive and subtle elements, you need a big mirror, or at least a mirror analog. If you want to view close-up video of a spot on Earth roughly 35,000 kilometers below, you need a big mirror, too.
These membranes aren’t just physically smaller and lighter than mirrors and lenses, they’re also flexible and easier to protect. It’s all well and good to make a seven-meter mirror milled with nanometer precision, but its quality means nothing if it comes into contact with dust, or if it shatters on the way to space. By using a flexible membrane capable of taking even violent shaking with ease, these DARPA researchers hope to address both the fuel and protection costs associated with large space mirrors. These membrane leaves would require little to none of NASA’s current egg-drop paranoia about launch packaging.
This membrane works via the process of diffraction, or the redirection of light around an obstacle. Rather than bouncing light like a mirror or bending it through different media like a lens, this membrane uses specially placed obstacles etched into its surface like the grooves on a record to redirect light rays. This makes it a thin-film version of an ancient idea, the Fresnel lens, which also lets lenses affect the path of light while remaining thin and light. Microscopically etching that idea into the surface of a membrane will, DAPRA hopes, bring the concept new life.
There’s no word on the costs of actually manufacturing the membrane, but since its primary functional element is the etching rather than the material itself, this could bring down the costs of satellite manufacturing, as well. Independent teams are already launching small satellites; what if those small satellites could carry a membrane of a size with Hubble’s mirror? More to the point, if a team of enthusiasts could do that with a few hundred thousand dollars, what could a national space agency do with a few hundred million? What could DARPA do with several billion, or its military masters with even more?
NYPD cracks down on long guns that hold more than five rounds
The New York City Police Department is taking aim at owners of shotguns and rifles capable of holding more than five rounds, demanding such guns be surrendered, altered or taken out of the city.
The demand came in the form of some 500 letters mailed out to owners of registered long guns that are in violation of a 2010 city ordinance. The first option for the letter’s recipient is to, “Immediately surrender your Rifle and/or Shotgun to your local police precinct, and notify this office of the invoice number. The firearm may be sold or permanently removed from the City of New York thereafter.”
The notices, mailed Nov. 18, also give owners the options of demonstrating the gun has been moved out of NYPD jurisdiction or modified by a licensed gunsmith to comply with the law.
Although an NYPD spokeswoman told FoxNews.com the law has been on the books since 2010, critics say this year is the first time the notices were so widely dispersed. The notice was first reported on the website TheTruthAboutGuns.com.
“These letters appear to be another example of the Nanny State. Hypothetically, it can start with a letter, and then that can lead to someone knocking on your door saying, ‘I want to see your gun.'”
– New York State Assemblyman James Tedisco
New York has the strictest gun laws in the country, and the city has even tighter restrictions. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, co-founder of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, has made it a priority of his to pull illegal handguns off the streets and directly links these guns to violent crimes. But critics say the real problem is illegal handguns in the hands of criminals, not long guns owned by law-abiding citizens.
“We think it’s an abuse of power by the NYPD,” said Tom King, the president of New York State Rifle & Pistol Association. His organization has fought with the state on various gun bills and spent $400,000 on a lawsuit challenging the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, or SAFE Act, which was signed in January by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The SAFE Act was the first law in the nation prompted by the December 2012 killing of 20 first-graders and six educators in Newtown, Conn. Its passage was seen as a victory for gun-control advocates because it expands a ban on military-style weapons, requires mental health professionals to report threats, limits magazines to seven bullets, taxes bullets and creates a registry.
Though these notices were not sent out as a direct result of the SAFE Act, New York State Assemblyman James Tedisco said the new law may embolden city police forces to send out similar letters.
Tedisco, who voted against the SAFE Act, said New York City had the five-round law in the books for about 20 years, but this is the first time he has heard complaints about the notices being sent out to gun owners.
“These letters appear to be another example of the Nanny State,” Tedisco said. “Hypothetically, it can start with a letter, and then that can lead to someone knocking on your door saying, ‘I want to see your gun.'”
When Cuomo signed the law, he searched for a moderate tone saying, “Common sense can win. You can overpower the extremists with intelligence and with reason and with common sense.”
President Obama, who has called for the transformation of U.S. gun laws after recent high-profile shootings at the Washington Navy Yard, said that “the politics are difficult.”
The Center for American Progress released a report in April linking states with ‘weak’ gun laws and a high level of gun violence.
The Second Amendment, says, “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
Gun advocates interpret that to mean individuals have the right to possess guns, while those opposed say the law is antiquated and its misinterpretation puts Americans in danger.
King said the author of these letters misfired when writing the guns could be modified.
“A gun collector who never fired a gun in his life, but has a few antiques might have to get them altered,” he said. “These are not the people law enforcement should be targeting.”
Colonel Who Vowed to Disarm Americans Works With Homeland Security
Lt. Col. Robert Bateman, the second amendment-hating Army Officer who caused controversy after vowing to “pry your gun from your cold, dead, fingers,” works closely with the Department of Homeland Security.
Earlier this week, Bateman, an active military commander, penned a piece for Esquire magazine in which he promised to push for a total ban on all firearms besides muskets, shotguns and rifles, and shut down all gun manufacturers except for those who produced weapons for the federal government and the armed forces (you will be disarmed, the state will have a monopoly on firepower).
Bateman is president and founder of Alliance Defense Marketing Associates LLC, a “global premier risk management” firm that does work for the DHS.
According to the company’s website, part of the services offered by the firm include, “Homeland Security operational initiatives.”
According to Bateman’s official LinkedIn page, he also personally specializes in “Defense/Homeland Security/Law Enforcement operational initiatives.”
Critics contend that Bateman’s revulsion for the second amendment (which he woefully misinterprets) “proves he knows nothing about the Constitution he swore an oath to defend.”
Bateman’s promise to “pry your gun from your cold, dead, fingers” was an inflammatory reference to his advocacy for making it illegal for guns on his imaginary blacklist to be inherited. “I am willing to wait until you die, hopefully of natural causes,” wrote Bateman.
Later in the article, Bateman says disarming the American people is all about encouraging “less violence and death,” although such sentiments weren’t evident when he became embroiled in an argument with a blogger which ended up with the Colonel making a thinly veiled death threat.
The argument concerned a former senior female Human Terrain Team (HTT) member who was allegedly subjected to a death threat by an active duty lieutenant at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.
After Bateman engaged in “ad hominem attacks” against Maximilian Forte, the blogger who posted the story, and was subsequently banned, he resorted to a veiled death threat of his own.
“And I apologize for the future. Not really my fault. But I am sorry nonetheless,” wrote Bateman.
“You apologize for the future. It was worth approving your message just so that others can see the veiled threat,” responded Forte.
Bateman repeated the threat in a subsequent post when he remarked, “And again, Max, truly, I am sorry for your future.”
Bateman’s thinly veiled death threats reveal him to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing, someone who claims to be all about reducing violence yet resorts to barely disguised rhetorical threats of violence against his ideological adversaries.
It seems abundantly clear that it is Bateman who has a problem with violence and is most likely a danger to himself and those around him. It is therefore Bateman, and not the American people, who should be disarmed.
Feel free to politely email Col. Bateman and let him know what you think about his views on the second amendment.