Alt-week 12.15.12: rivers on Titan, electric handcuffs and crashing into the moon

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Daniel Cooper
December 15th, 2012
In this article: Alt-Week, Cassini, Handcuffs, Moon, NASA, SETI, Titan
Alt-week 12.15.12: rivers on Titan, electric handcuffs and crashing into the moon

Alt-week takes a look at the best science and alternative tech stories from the last seven days.

Space, it's the final frontier, where no-one can hear you scream in frustration at not knowing who the villain of Star Trek: Into Darkness is, as well as where 50 percent of our stories take place this week. NASA's planning to crash satellites into the moon, someone's patented an electo-shock handcuff and there's a river on Titan that you wouldn't want to canoe-down. This is alt-week.

On a tour of Titan, the Cassini mission has found an extra-terrestrial river that runs over 400km. It's the first time humans have seen a waterway this vast on another planet, and its meander-free path hints that the moon has a tectonic plate structure similar to our own. Unfortunately, anyone considering an aquatic vacation should be warned, since Titan's hydrologic cycle doesn't use water, but ethane and methane, be prepared for a highly fragrant and flammable time.

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This innocuous-seeming pair of handcuffs won't thrill anyone accused of committing a crime. It's a patent application from Scottsdale Inventions, which has cooked up the idea of a set of 'cuffs that will deliver electric shocks or sedatives if you get unruly in the back of a prowler. Let's just hope someone at the ACLU is keeping an eye on developments -- we'd hate to get stuck with a trigger-happy guard.

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On Monday 17th, NASA is planning to crash a pair of probes into the moon -- on purpose. With dwindling fuel supplies, the agency feels that it'd better clean up after itself. As such, gravity mapping craft Ebb and Flow will be sent hurtling into the side of a mountain next to the Goldsmidt crater. Their sacrifice won't be in vain, however, as it'll give scientists valuable information on how much fuel is left over before the crash, helping them make more efficient calculations in the future.

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The "prisoners dilemma" is the lynchpin of game theory -- and now it's being applied to the question of if we should be sending out "look at us!" messages to the galaxy. Harold de Vladar, using game theory principles, has worked out that, if we want to avoid an alien invasion, we need to send fewer transmissions as the importance of alien contact increases.Unless of course they've already been listening to our TV broadcasts, in which case, they're already well-aware that we're here and watching a lot of Mad Men.

Altweek 121512 rivers on Titan, electric handcuffs and crashing into the moon

Seen any other far-out articles that you'd like considered for Alt-week? Working on a project or research that's too cool to keep to yourself? Drop us a line at alt [at] engadget [dot] com.

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