The Professor: Victorian heat sinks, new spacecraft, alien-language translators

The Professor rounds up a handful of interesting and informative gadget-related science stories from the week and presents them in an easily digestible liquid form.

Having trouble keeping your fingers, thumbs, or eyeballs on the pulse of modern science? Do you find yourself in the throes of panic due to misunderstandings in molecular goings-on? Did the latest aircar, split atom, or robotic insectoid go buzzing over your head before you had time to ready a response? Don't worry friends, The Professor is here to help. Though not an actual scientist, professor, or even a college graduate, he can help guide you through the cascading, complicated, and spasmodic visionary vistas of human invention and achievement as smoothly as a hot knife descending into softened butter.

Scientists theorize that miniaturized versions of Stirling engines (Victorian-era piston motors) could be used to cool down micro-electronics like infrared cameras or security scanners. The sugar-cube-sized devices would work by utilizing a gas-filled pump which enables waves of heat to be lifted from one end of a cylinder to the opposite side and dissipated via a copper heat sink. Unfortunately, researchers say these won't help with your lap-burning CPUs, so... sorry overclockers.

[Via New Scientist]

Read - High frequency pressure oscillator for microcryocoolers

Those coolers, however, may be put into action in outer space, perhaps on Lockeed Martin's newest babies: two unmanned commercial rockets which it hopes to put into use for cheap and easy satellite deployment. Of course, rockets tested recently at Spaceport America were only one-fifth the size of the actual crafts, and were used to demo design and handling inside our atmosphere. The hope is that the company would be able to easily transport materials to and from the weightless abyss above without lengthy launching procedures or hefty bribes to government officials.

[Via Slashdot]

Read - Spaceport launch tests future spacecraft

Likely the astronauts piloting the full-size versions of those ships will want to carry another new device on board, namely, a "Babelfish" communicator which would be able to translate alien languages into understandable speech. University of California researcher Terrence Deacon believes that language is just an attempt to describe our physical world, which limits the possibilities and paves the way for this future gadget. Sure, that all sounds like fun and games, but we doubt it will accurately translate the meaning of an Alien shooting that second, totally gross set of chompers out of its mouth.

Read - 'Babelfish' to translate alien tongues could be built