“It turns out that the human body may adapt well to Borg-like accessorization,” notes this report on experiments proving that our brain can incorporate “cyborg additions” into our body schema. (Even after using a mechanical grabber, test subjects still behaved as if their arms were longer!)
But what’s even more interesting is that apparently robots can also learn to act human.
Do you really want a deadly robotic chassis being controlled by the brain of a rat? Scientists at University of Reading do. They’ve connected a biological “brain” made of rat neurons to a robot, with a two-way link.
It gets more demented: the robot is controlled via a Bluetooth connection — which means anybody with a cellphone can probably hack its little rat cortex — and the brain is kept inside a bell jar, just like Sylvia Plath’s. The rat neurons can send instructions to the robot body, but they can also get signals back. And it has a personality, say researchers.
Another rover tackles the climbing problem with sheer dexterity. With a typically charming NASA acronym, the Lemur (Limbed Excursion Mechanical Utility Robots) was designed to help build things in orbit. It can crawl along a segmented mirror and climb the walls in a rock gym.
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Able to leap small boulders in a single bound, this hopping robot doesn’t waste time on navigation. The prototype is so new it doesn’t have a catchy acronym yet, but it’s the latest in a long line of hopping robots, all designed to save the time and energy lost tiptoeing around obstacles. Most earlier hoppers landed on their heads and needed helmets to survive, which meant they couldn’t make long jumps or carry fragile equipment. This one deftly lands on its six spring-loaded feet. It can jump about a foot in the air on Earth, which would be six feet under lunar gravity. All six legs are also steerable, letting it take off and land at different angles. And it carries a small motorized gyroscope in its underbelly to keep it from tumbling mid-hop.
Named “Lucky Dragon,” the 15-meter (49-ft) long aluminum cruise boat is outfitted with a 7-meter (23-ft) tall mechanical dragon that moves its neck and wings, spits fire and water, and flashes glowing red eyes.
Like his predecessors, Amio’s speech and vision recognition software allow him to guess a person’s emotional state, but his fully anthropomorphic shape is more ideal for human-robot interactions. The strength of the software has been proven in several experiments, where the robots chose an appropriate conversation topic and behaved appropriately in response to human emotions. They could ask you what you are angry about and then make a joke to console you or make you laugh.
Mark wanders through Maker Faire in search of interesting robots. First, we meet Babbling Head (an animatronic skull that sings sea shanties), Froggo (a weird slimy kitschy creature ‘bot with a squid beak for a mouth), and Seeker Robot (GPS-autonomous RoboMagellan contestant), all creations of Eric Lundquist. Then, we stop by Bleeplabs, and listen to strange sounds emanating from a simple (but cute) analog synthesizer.
Here’s an update for those of you who, like me, eagerly await the availability of your cyberpunk implant suite – experiments with using silk as a substrate for miniaturised electronic circuits show that they can integrate with animal body tissue without any adverse effects or biological rejection. Which means we can not only make better neural interfaces, but aesthetic gadgets like LED ‘tattoos’ to live under our skin.
One of NASA’s next great adventures could take place with a raindrop-flecked camera bobbing around on extraterrestrial waves. Or at least, that’s the hope of several researchers who want to sail an unmanned, nuclear-powered capsule on Saturn’s moon Titan.
Just how much of the human body can you replace or augment: seemingly everything apart from the tadpole like remnants of the brain and spinal chord.
Bionic eyes, ears, hearts, lungs, kidneys, livers, hands, feets, legs, arms and skin are now real science rather than concept designs. For this list, we have gathered together as many real devices including commercially available products rather than concept designs or imagery that appeal based on gimmick value.
The amino acid glycine, a fundamental building block of proteins, has been found in a comet for the first time, bolstering the theory that raw ingredients of life arrived on Earth from outer space, scientists said on Monday.
Microscopic traces of glycine were discovered in a sample of particles retrieved from the tail of comet Wild 2 by the NASA spacecraft Stardust deep in the solar system some 242 million miles (390 million km) from Earth, in January 2004.
Samples of gas and dust collected on a small dish lined with a super-fluffy material called aerogel were returned to Earth two years later in a canister that detached from the spacecraft and landed by parachute in the Utah desert.
“This is another bizarre planet discovery. The situation is analogous to the way tidal friction is gradually causing the Earth’s spin to slow down, and the Moon to spiral away from the Earth,” he said. “In this case, however, the spin of the star is slower than the orbit of the planet, so the star should be spinning up, and the planet spiralling in,” he said.
WASP-18b, one of more than 300 known “exoplanets” orbiting distant stars, was discovered by a team led by Coel Hellier of Keele University, whose study is published in the journal Nature.
It is a hot, Jupiter-like planet where temperatures exceed 2,100C – high enough to create clouds of silica-based gems, according to Professor Cameron. If anyone could visit this planet, and survive, they might see a sky full of diamonds and sapphires, he said.
A barrage of comets may have delivered Earth’s oceans around 3.85 billion years ago, a new study suggests.
Scientists have long suspected that Earth and its near neighbors were walloped by tens of thousands of impactors during an ancient event known as the Late Heavy Bombardment.
This pummeling disfigured the moon, leaving behind massive craters that are still visible, preserved for millennia in the moon’s airless environment. But it’s been unclear whether the impactors were icy comets or rocky asteroids.
To heat the reactor on the Moon would need just a small amount of power, Fray said, and the reactor itself can be thermally insulated to lock heat in. The three reactors would need about 4.5 kilowatts of power, which could be supplied by solar panels or even a small nuclear reactor placed on the Moon.
The Trifid Nebula not only appears to have three lobes when observed from afar, but closer inspection reveals that it is actually made of three distinct types of nebula clouds. This image comes from the La Silla Observatory in Chile, and it shows off, in the visible spectrum, the beauty of the Trifid Nebula’s three part cosmic factory.
In 2002, several scientists claimed that bacteria high in Earth’s atmosphere came from space.
Last year, scientists said that bacteria in the upper atmosphere may actually make rain. Specifically, they said that bacteria can freeze at fairly warm temperatures, so that the “biological ice nuclei” form condensation nuclei which triggers rain.
Indeed, some scientists have speculated that bacteria cause rain as a means of transportation, so that they will “rain out” from the upper atmosphere to the surface of a planet.
Now, scientists have discovered a “hibernating” bacteria in a salt mine in Utah which they believe has been in suspended animation for 250 million years. There is evidence that this ability to hibernate for long periods of time is also useful for travel through space by the bacteria. . .
The vastest structure ever is a collection of superclusters a billion light years away extending for 5% the length of the entire observable universe.
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The great wall is a massive array of astronomical objects named after the observations which revealed them, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. An eight year project scanned over a quarter of the sky to generate full 3-D maps of almost a million galaxies. Analysis of these images revealed a huge panel of galaxies 1.37 billion light years long, and even the pedantic-sounding .07 there is six hundred and sixty billion trillion kilometers. This is science precisely measuring made-up sounding numbers.
Jonathan Fildes, BBC News: When the world’s most powerful laser facility flicks the switch on its first full-scale experiments later this month, a tiny star will be born on Earth.
The National Ignition Facility (NIF) in California aims to demonstrate the feasibility of nuclear fusion, the reaction at the heart of the Sun and a potentially abundant, clean energy source for the planet.
The warp drive, one of Star Trek’s hallmark inventions, could someday become science instead of science fiction.
Some physicists say the faster-than-light travel technology may one day enable humans to jet between stars for weekend getaways. Clearly it won’t be an easy task. The science is complex, but not strictly impossible, according to some researchers studying how to make it happen.
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One reason this idea seems credible is that scientists think it may already have happened. Some models suggest that space-time expanded at a rate faster than light speed during a period of rapid inflation shortly after the Big Bang.
“If it could do it for the Big Bang, why not for our space drives?” Millis said.
The White House has nominated Charles Bolden to be the next NASA Administrator.
A retired Marine Corps major general and former astronaut who piloted the space shuttle that carried the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit in 1990, Bolden has been considered a top candidate for the job since President Obama’s election.
Compared to the plants grown in normal soil, the Chernobyl soya produced significantly different amounts of several dozen proteins, the team found. Among those are proteins that contribute to the production of seeds, as well as proteins involved in defending cells from heavy metal and radiation damage. “One protein is known to actually protect human blood from radiation,” Hajduch says.
For this study, his team looked at just the first generation of soya grown in Chernobyl soil, but they plan to examine a second generation of seeds. After the 1986 meltdown, it took plants several generations to fully adapt to the new conditions, Hajduch says.
Determining how plants coped with life after Chernobyl could help scientists engineer radiation-resistant plants, Hajduch says. While few farmers are eager to cultivate radioactive plots on Earth, future interplanetary travellers may need to grow crops to withstand space radiation.
How this star-stuff came together to form life is still a mystery, but scientists know that certain atomic combinations were necessary. Water – two hydrogen atoms linked to one oxygen atom -was vital to the development of life on Earth, and so NASA missions now search for water on other worlds in the hopes of finding life elsewhere. Organic molecules built mostly of carbon atoms are also thought to be important, since all life on Earth is carbon-based.
The most popular theories of the origin of life say the necessary chemistry occurred at hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor or in some sunlit shallow pool. However, discoveries in the past few years have shown that many of the basic materials for life form in the cold depths of space, where life as we know it is not possible.
Dare to fall into a black hole and you would get vaporized in what is probably the most violent place in the universe. But the journey would yield some amazing sights, though you might need three eyes for the best view of what’s going on, new research suggests.
One of the biggest problems facing America’s space agency as it prepares to return to the moon is how to manage lunar dust. It gets into everything. Worse, it’s sticky, adhering to spacesuits and posing a potentially serious health hazard to future colonists.
Now, a scientist who has been studying the problem off and on over four decades thinks he may have untangled the mystery of why that dust is so sticky. Brian O’Brien, an Australian physicist who worked on the Apollo program in the 1960s, said the sun’s ultraviolet and X-ray radiation gives a positive charge to the dust, making it stick to surfaces such as spacesuits.
The baby stars at the center of the galaxy had their first pictures taken by the Spitzer Space Telescope, scientists announced at the American Astronomical Society meeting.
How stars could form at the center of the galaxy has been a mystery. Space is generally a pretty harsh environment, but the galaxy’s heart is particularly brutal. Fierce stellar winds, black holes and shock waves all make it a tough place to get your start on stellar life.
“It is amazing to me that we have found these stars,” said Solange Ramirez, head researcher at NASA’s Exoplanet Science Institute at Caltech. “The galactic center is a very interesting place. It has young stars, old stars, black holes, everything. We started mining a catalog of about 1 million sources and managed to find three young stars — stars that will help reveal the secrets at the core of the Milky Way.”
Building the electronic sensor components from scratch, Gerard Marull Paretas, Sergi Saballs Vila, Marta Gasull Morcillo and Jaume Puigmiquel Casamort managed to send their heavy duty £43 latex balloon to the edge of space and take readings of its ascent.
Created by the four students under the guidance of teacher Jordi Fanals Oriol, the budding scientists, all aged 18-19, followed the progress of their balloon using high tech sensors communicating with Google Earth.
Team leader Gerard Marull, 18, said: “We were overwhelmed at our results, especially the photographs, to send our handmade craft to the edge of space is incredible.”
Scientists have discovered that inorganic material can take on the characteristics of living organisms in space, a development that could transform views of alien life.
An international panel from the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Max Planck institute in Germany and the University of Sydney found that galactic dust could form spontaneously into helixes and double helixes and that the inorganic creations had memory and the power to reproduce themselves.
What I love about this is that it completely changes the odds on life existing outside our solar system. If planets are not needed for life to evolve, then life could be anywhere or everywhere out there for us to discover. The possibilities are truly fantastic.
What’s happening in all those nebulas and cosmic gas clouds out there that we’re not yet seeing?
A newly found primordial blob may represent the most massive object ever discovered in the early universe, researchers announced today.
The gas cloud, spotted from 12.9 billion light-years away, could signal the earliest stages of galaxy formation back when the universe was just 800 million years old.
“I have never heard about any [similar] objects that could be resolved at this distance,” said Masami Ouchi, a researcher at the Carnegie Institution in Pasadena, Calif. “It’s kind of record-breaking.”
A light-year is the distance light travels in a year, about 6 trillion miles (10 trillion kilometers). An object 12.9 billion light-years away is seen as it existed 12.9 billion years ago, and the light is just now arriving.
The cloud predates similar blobs, known as Lyman-Alpha blobs, which existed when the universe was 2 billion to 3 billion years old. Researchers named their new find Himiko, after an ancient Japanese queen with an equally murky past.
Denise Crosby, the actress who played Lt. Tasha Yar in the TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation, will be appearing at Atlantis Fantasyworld in Santa Cruz, CA on Saturday May 9! For all you Star Trek fans out there, that’s the same weekend that the new Star Trek movie comes out. Atlantis Fantasyworld, a comic bookstore which is officially registered as a Starfleet ship, has a full-on Star Trek celebration planned for May 9, including the appearance of Denise Crosby as well as a group of Klingons. Be there or be Borg!
In other Star Trek news, Star Trek: The Experience, which closed in the Las Vegas Hilton last year will be re-opening this year in a new location! CBS, who owns Star Trek: The Experience, confirmed on Feb. 29 that the Star Trek Experience will re-open at the Neonopolis mall in downtown Las Vegas (on Freemont St) this summer. Someone I know who knows someone who works in Quark’s bar told me that Quark’s and the Star Trek shops will re-open this summer sometime before the Star Trek Convention Aug 6-9, and the History of the Future museum and other attractions will open next year, in 2010! Hip Hip Hooray! Las Vegas just wasn’t the same without Quark’s.
Alan Kogut of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center says he and his colleagues have discovered a mysterious “booming noise” coming from space that’s six times more powerful than all other space radio sources combined.
Scientists mapped the Milky Way in a more detailed, three-dimensional way and found that it’s 15 percent larger in breadth. More important, it’s denser, with 50 percent more mass, which is like weight. The new findings were presented Monday at the American Astronomical Society’s convention in Long Beach, Calif.
If we ever do find extraterrestrial life in the solar system, it’s probably much more likely to look like a few cells than a walking-and-talking green man. Nonetheless, finding any kind of life beyond Earth would be extraordinary. Here are our best hopes. . .
Laboratory tests aboard NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander have identified water in a soil sample. The lander’s robotic arm delivered the sample Wednesday to an instrument that identifies vapors produced by the heating of samples.
“We have water,” said William Boynton of the University of Arizona, lead scientist for the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer, or TEGA. “We’ve seen evidence for this water ice before in observations by the Mars Odyssey orbiter and in disappearing chunks observed by Phoenix last month, but this is the first time Martian water has been touched and tasted.”
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft discovered a surprising organic brew erupting in geyser-like fashion from Saturn’s moon Enceladus during a close flyby on March 12. Scientists are stunned that this tiny moon is so active, “hot” and teeming with water vapor and organic chemicals.
We’re going back to the moon – to blow it up! NASA’s LCROSS craft has arrived at launch facilities, and at this very moment it’s being prepared for the highly scientific mission of “throwing two tons of ultraflammable fuel into the moon at nine thousand kilometers an hour”. The next time someone says science is boring, feel free to slap them.
For instance, Raymond Jeanloz, an astronomer at the University of California, Berkeley, will use the device to recreate the conditions inside Jupiter and other larger planets, where pressures can be 1000 times as great as those at the centre of the Earth.
Jeanloz will fire the lasers at an iron sample 800 micrometres in diameter. The intense heat will vaporise the metal, generating a gas jet so powerful it will send a shock wave through the iron, compressing it to over a billion times atmospheric pressure. By measuring how the metal’s crystalline structure and melting point change at these pressures, Jeanloz hopes to shed light on the formation of the hundreds of giant exoplanets that we have discovered in the last two decades. “The chemistry of these planets is completely unexplored,” says Jeanloz. “It’s never been accessible in the laboratory before.”
This should be able to detect tiny ripples in the fabric of spacetime. Interferometers work by detecting tiny differences in the paths of the two laser beams. On Earth such changes are normally due to pushing a mirror, or the optical properties of something put in the way. For LISA it will be ripples in reality altering the space the lasers shine through.
Such esoteric signals are needed to probe the very beginning of time.
In the beginning, space was filled with a liquid hovering below its normal freezing point. Super cooled liquids like this are on a hair-trigger: the merest nudge is enough to set off a runaway frenzy of freezing. That nudge might be provided by a dust-like impurity in the liquid or perhaps by a small region which by chance is a little colder than the rest. Whatever it was, something triggered the cosmic liquid, seeding a crystal that grew explosively, racing outwards.
Does this scenario ring any bells? According to Michael Grady from the University of New York College at Fredonia, it should. He is convinced that the seeding of the crystal is nothing other than the big bang, which spawned our Universe.
The bonanza of evidence suggests that dark matter might be far more complicated than we had ever imagined. For starters, the theoretician’s favourite dark-matter candidate is falling out of favour, with the latest experiments making the case for new, exotic varieties of dark matter. If they are right, we could be living next to a “hidden sector”, an unseen aspect of the cosmos that exists all around us and includes a new force of nature.
NASA has finished its first deep-space test of what could become an ‘interplanetary internet’. The new networking commands could one day be used to automatically relay information between Earth, spacecraft, and astronauts, without the need for humans to schedule transmissions at each point.
“In the game, people are going to be trying to get to the moon and then get to Mars by spending the least amount of money and using the least amount of resources, because what they’ll want to do is get into a spaceship as soon as possible,” said Sonny Kirkley, Ph.D., co-founder, Chairman and CEO of Information in Place and adjunct assistant professor, School of Informatics, Indiana University.
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“I think game technology is the only technology that does justice to not only visualizing the near future, but what we have already explored,” said Shariff. “We are talking about a game and a learning system that’s the next evolution of how human beings will see science.”
A playable demo of the NASA MMO game will be released before the end of this year. . .
Earth may be trapped in an abnormal bubble of space-time that is particularly void of matter. Scientists say this condition could account for the apparent acceleration of the universe’s expansion, for which dark energy currently is the leading explanation.
Dark energy is the name given to the hypothetical force that could be drawing all the stuff in the universe outward at an ever-increasing rate. Current thinking is that 74 percent of the universe could be made up of this exotic dark energy, with another 21 percent being dark matter, and normal matter comprising the remaining 5 percent.
Until now, there has been no good way to choose between dark energy or the void explanation, but a new study outlines a potential test of the bubble scenario.
The planethood question got more interesting this week with the naming of yet another dwarf planet, Haumea. It’s traditional to name planets after mythological deities – and Haumea, the Hawaiian goddess of childbirth and fertility, follows that formula.
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The controversy came to a head in 2005 when Brown’s team found the object now known as Eris – a world like Pluto, only bigger and farther out.
Distant clusters of galaxies are all shifting inexorably towards the same spot in the sky, beyond the boundary of what we can see, a baffling discovery by Nasa scientists that seems to challenge our understanding of the Big Bang.
A team of internationally renowned astronomers and opticians may have found a way to make “unbelievably large” telescopes on the Moon.
“It’s so simple,” says Ermanno F. Borra, physics professor at the Optics Laboratory of Laval University in Quebec, Canada. “Isaac Newton knew that any liquid, if put into a shallow container and set spinning, naturally assumes a parabolic shape—the same shape needed by a telescope mirror to bring starlight to a focus. This could be the key to making a giant lunar observatory.”
Astronomers have discovered that the nearby star Epsilon Eridani has two rocky asteroid belts and an outer icy ring, making it a triple-ring system. The inner asteroid belt is a virtual twin of the belt in our solar system, while the outer asteroid belt holds 20 times more material. Moreover, the presence of these three rings of material implies that unseen planets confine and shape them.
Australian scientists have come up with a simple solution to one of the deepest puzzles in our understanding of the cosmos — why life on Earth coincides with a momentous shift in the makeup of the universe.
Scientists studying the coded signals from the lander Phoenix on the planet’s arctic surface detected the snow falling lightly from clouds drifting across the sky some 2 1/2 miles above the spacecraft, said James Whiteway, an atmospheric scientist from York University in Canada.
“Nothing like this has ever been seen on Mars before,” he said.