Russian cargo ship tightens up orbital parking

With today’s arrival of a Russian Progress cargo ship, the International Space Station now has three robotic spaceships and a Soyuz lifeboat parked at its ports. Two days after its launch from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome, the robotic Progress ship hooked up to the station’s Zvezda service module at 4:37 a.m. PT to deliver more than three tons of food, fuel and supplies.

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Pivotal Commware raises $17M for antennas

Pivotal Commware beam-forming

An artist’s conception illustrates different applications for Pivotal Commware’s software-defined antenna system. (Pivotal Commware Illustration)

BELLEVUE, Wash. – Chalk up another score for metamaterials technology: Bellevue-based Pivotal Commware says it’s raised $17 million in Series A funding from Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Globalstar’s parent company and other heavy-hitters.

The investment will give a boost to Pivotal’s “holographic beam forming” technology, which takes advantage of the beam-bending properties of metamaterials. The company’s software-defined antenna system facilitates easier communication with moving targets ranging from ships and planes to trains and connected cars.

One unusual angle to Pivotal’s play is that the company is already making a profit, said CEO Brian Deutsch. “The fact that we’ve had early commercial success is unique. … We’re not only post-revenue, we’re post-profit,” he told GeekWire.

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A new record for quantum entanglement

Quantum entanglement satellite experiment

A schematic shows how China’s Micius satellite could theoretically enable secure quantum communications. (SMOC Graphic)

Chinese researchers report that they’ve set a new distance record for quantum teleportation through space, the phenomenon that Albert Einstein once scoffed at as “spooky action at a distance.”

The technology isn’t yet ready for prime time, but eventually it could open the way for a new type of unbreakable encryption scheme based on the weirdness of quantum physics.

The experiment, reported today in the journal Science, involved transmitting pairs of entangled photons from China’s orbiting Micius satellite to ground stations in the mountains of the Tibetan plateau, separated by more than 745 miles (1,200 kilometers).

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Allen Frontiers Group boosts biomedicine

Molecular structure

Three Allen Distinguished Investigator projects focus on epigenetics, or how genes are turned on and off. Researchers will study how the 3-D shape of the genome and the presence of regulatory molecules impact the behavior of cells.(Molekuul.be via Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group)

Epigenetics, aging and microbial evolution: Those are the latest words in biomedical research for the Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group, backed up with $7.5 million in awards for five teams of scientists.

Each of the teams will receive $1.5 million over the next three years to boost early-stage studies that have the potential to yield medical breakthroughs.

“It’s part of Paul Allen’s growing commitment to the idea that this is the century of bioscience,” Tom Skalak, executive director of the Seattle-based Frontiers Group, told GeekWire. Allen, one of the founders of Microsoft, launched the Frontiers Group last year with a $100 million commitment.

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Time-travel novel spawns instant spin-off

Neal Stephenson

Seattle author Neal Stephenson’s latest novel is “The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.,” written with Nicole Galland. (Photo by Bob Lee / CC BY 2.0)

Seattle author Neal Stephenson’s newly published science-fiction novel, “The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.,” serves as the launch pad for a newly released literary app as well.

The free Bound app, available for iOS with an Android version coming soon, features a serial that’s spun off from the time-traveling characters created by Stephenson and his co-author, historical novelist Nicole Galland.

“The D.O.D.O. Files” is billed as an extension of the book, with episodes written by Jamie Ortiz and David N. Ishimaru. The first two episodes are available for free reading or listening, and fresh content will be added on a weekly basis.

In addition to the episodes, which take the form of emails as well as narratives, users can download excerpts from the fictional Department of Diachronic Operations’ human resources handbook, including DODO’s sexual harassment policy. (One of the banned behaviors is the “wearing of overly large codpieces or making reference to such codpieces.”)

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Jeff Bezos touts Amazon’s solar campaign

Solar panels at Amazon

Workers write messages on the solar panels installed on the roof of Amazon’s fulfillment center in Baltimore. (Amazon Photo via Twitter)

Tesla CEO Elon Musk isn’t the only tech billionaire who’s high on solar power: Today,  Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos tweeted about the latest step in his company’s campaign to install rooftop solar systems on at least 50 of its fulfillment and sortation centers by 2020.

This week it was Baltimore’s turn.

The more than 6,000 panels installed on the roof of the fulfillment center in Baltimore should produce almost 2 megawatts of power, Amazon’s Tom Chandlee told WJZ.

“We’re expecting about a 30 percent savings in our overall energy bill, which is great, because we can pass that savings on to our customers,” Shan Byrne, the Baltimore fulfillment center’s general manager, was quoted as saying.

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Kymeta picks e3 to distribute yacht antennas

Redmond, Wash.-based Kymeta says a Spanish company known as e3 Systems will be its exclusive global distribution partner for flat-panel satellite antennas designed for the yacht market. Sea trials of the antennas began on superyachts last month and will continue over the summer on both sailing vessels and motor yachts. In a statement, Håkan Olsson, Kymeta’s vice president for maritime, said “the commitment and insight that e3 has provided over the last three and a half years has been very valuable to Kymeta.”

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