Microstories - small, but interesting stuff

Discussion in 'Science & Technology' started by Sven, Oct 10, 2015.

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  1. Sven

    Sven Teh Viking dood Industry Professional Ret. Military

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    I hope the title's self explanatory, if not I'll explain: this thread is dedicated to interesting stuff that is too small to justify its own thread. It'll mostly be science and tech news, but any contributions (I'd rather they remain a-political and a-religious) are welcomed!

    The amazingly difficult landings of the U-2 Dragon Lady spy plane

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    The Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady is a beautiful spy plane that flies at high altitudes (70,000 feet in the air) to provide reconnaissance for the military. It’s also a pain in the ass to land too, requiring an actual chase car on the ground to tell the pilot how far the U-2 is from the ground. Here’s a Sploid video showcasing those delicate and difficult landings of the Dragon Lady.






    This Intricate Digital Model of a Brain Acts Like the Real Thing

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    This complex web of fibers is in fact a digital model of a small chunk of rat brain — containing 31,000 neurons, 37 million synapses and the ability to fire just like a living chunk of grey matter.

    It’s small, sure — in fact, the structure is equivalent to a piece of real brain that would measure just one third of a millimetre cubed — but it’s the biggest achievement so far of the Blue Brain project, which has been running for 10 years. The long-term goal of the project is to create an accurate digital model of the entire human brain, which could be used for all kinds of experiments.

    The chunk of digital rat brain is built up from models of 207 different types of brain cells, all created following intensive study of a small brain region by 82 different people. The team pieced together 1,000 neurons from scratch, and then used algorithms to assemble that basic building block into a more complex 31,000-neuron structure. The research is published in Cell.

    The team is able to digitally stimulate the chunk of brain and then watch how signals propagate through it. So far their experiments have shown it behaves much like the real thing, with the same types of firing and delays as occur in real, live rat.

    There’ still some way to go, of course, before a third-of-a-millimetre cube scales up to the size of a human brain — but it’s a step in the right direction.
     
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  2. Sven

    Sven Teh Viking dood Industry Professional Ret. Military

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    This one isn't specifically about a US program, more so general sciency stuff:

    This Is What Happens When You Dissolve an Antacid On the Space Station


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    Drop an antacid into water here on Earth and you’ve got yourself a glass of fizzy water. Do the same thing up on the space station, and you’ve just made yourself a disco ball.

    International Space Station crew member Terry Virts shoot this footageshowing just what happens when an antacid tablet is dissolved into a floating clump of water up on the ISS. The results are like so:

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    The demonstration is not just to show the strange fluid dynamics that you can spot on the ISS, although those are certainly on display here, it’s also about the hardware used to capture it.

    In the resupply mission earlier this year, one of the new items brought aboard was an incredibly high-resolution camera, capable of shooting in up to 6K. This was a test run for the new camera, and the detail is exceptionally sharp—you can see all the bubbles as they shoot outwards from the water they were dissolved. NASA plans to use the new camera to broadcast videos from the ISS, but it’s also going to double as a piece of lab equipment to document—in incredibly small detail—the experiments they do up there.

     
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  3. Sven

    Sven Teh Viking dood Industry Professional Ret. Military

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    This Lovely Claymation Video Will Help You Make Sense of Asteroids, Comets and Meteorites

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    What’s better than a stop motion explainer on asteroids, comets, meteors, and meteorites? Nothing. Nothing is better.

    The Royal Observatory Greenwich, home of the Prime Meridian where longitude is defined to be 0°, is tackling space rocks in this most adorable claymation-style animation. From the composition of asteroids and comets to distinguishing between meteors and meteorites (with a gap-toothed grin), this is an excellent introductory primer on the intersection of astronomy and geology.



    The video was created in support of the European Space Agency’s mission to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The lander Philae briefly woke up this summer before lapsing back out of communication, but the Rosetta orbiter is still circling the lump of ice and discovering all sorts of new science.
     
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  4. Sven

    Sven Teh Viking dood Industry Professional Ret. Military

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    This Flying Origami Crane Proves Drones Could Be Beautiful, Too

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    Drones may be known for a lot of things: large-scale forestation, sticky legal battles, crashing into things. Being good-looking isn’t one of ’em. But this new R/C that’s modeled after a paper crane shows that other flying gadgets like drones can actually be pretty, too.

    Called the Lazurite Fly, it’s an open-source device that made its debut this week at the CEATEC expo, Japan’s leading conference for emerging tech and the biggest electronics show in Asia. Designed by Japanese electronics parts maker Rohm, it weighs just over an ounce. Oh, and it’s complete eye candy.

    Engadget reports it’s got a carbon tube frame, is outfitted with two ultralight motors that power the flapping wings, and is covered in 3D-printed nylon.

    No doubt adding a camera or GPS or other add-ons would weigh it down, but it sure is nice to look at. It’s not quite a drone itself, but hopefully it sets a precedent for its UAV brethren to be less, well, ugly.

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  5. Sven

    Sven Teh Viking dood Industry Professional Ret. Military

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    Ok, this has nothing to do with anything other than I think it's funny:

    How far are we from Terminator's killing robots? DARPA has the answer

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    Movies like the Terminator series have convinced us that robots are eventually going to kill us all. That’s still eventually going to happen but we’ve got a long way to go before we build a T-1000 or even an Arnold version, because asDARPA’s 2015 Robotics Challenge shows, even the best and smartest robots right now are still so hilariously dumb that they can’t even walk right.



    We took footage of some of the best robot fails from the DARPA event and put a Benny Hill soundtrack over their falls. It’s great! It’s hilarious! But don’t laugh too hard because you know the robots will come back and kill us all in a few decades.

    ...

    Laughter aside, some of the competitors where amazing and real progress, despite the occasional fall, is being made.

    Gizmodo has a great feature on the competition:

    http://paleofuture.gizmodo.com/prelude-to-a-robot-uprising-1709913276
     
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  6. Admin

    Admin Captain Staff Member Administrator

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    Bro do you want this in the science and tech section or the members club?
     
  7. Sven

    Sven Teh Viking dood Industry Professional Ret. Military

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    Whatever makes more sense. It's mostly science and tech news, but not solely. I'll leave it up to you.
     
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  8. Admin

    Admin Captain Staff Member Administrator

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    We can keep it here.
     
  9. Sven

    Sven Teh Viking dood Industry Professional Ret. Military

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    Scientists Shove Robots Off Their Feet to Teach Them How to Fall With Grace

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    Humans love watching robots fall, whether for levity or the fleeting satisfaction of knowing we can do something better than machines. Not for long: At Georgia Tech, engineers are teaching robots to fall more gracefully.

    Over the past few years, we’ve seen humanoid robots evolve incredibly quickly, mastering climbing, carrying, and even teaching itself new tasks. But one area of human physiology that seems to stump machines most is our innate reflexes–for example, human hands have the remarkable and unconscious ability to adapt and improvise, a skill that robotic arms have had an extremely tough time learning.



    Or take falling. When a human falls, it often naturally adopts poses designed to shield our most important parts, like our skulls and internal organs. Cats are even better at this—and that’s exactly why Georgia Tech Professor Karen Liu and a PhD candidate named Sehoon Ha have spent the last year studying how mammalian brains calculate the angle and rate of a fall to make the impact less dangerous for our bodies.

    That work informed an algorithm, presented by the duo at the IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems recently, that helps a robotic “brain” figure out the angle and speed at which it’s falling—and adapts to help it stay safe. “From previous work, we knew a robot had the computational know-how to achieve a softer landing, but it didn’t have the hardware to move quickly enough like a cat,” says Liu in a release about the research.

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    A bad robot fall at the DARPA challenge.

    So instead of trying to build an algorithm that adapted the hardware instantly, Liu explains how they built one to recommend movements that slow the fall down, not stop it completely. That’s good enough to prevent the worst damage. When they shove the humanoid bot in the video above, the algorithm takes into account where it was pushed, and with how many hands, to calculate where and how hard it will fall to the ground.

    The research is just the next step in helping robots develop the natural reflexes of the human body. While it’s unsettling, at least it also indulges the world’sincreasingly popular pastime of messing with our hapless robot friends.
     
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  10. Sven

    Sven Teh Viking dood Industry Professional Ret. Military

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    Robots are making progress, but it seems they still have a hard time with even the most simple of human tasks.

    Why Is It So Hard For Robots to Pick Up Fruit?

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    Sure, this new fruit-handling robot looks cool, but what can one do with a fruit-handling robot, really? Maybe not much right now—but figuring out how to let robots pick up fruit has some interesting potential.

    Farming has become more and more automated, at almost every possible entry point. And yet, still, there are parts that humans can do in a moment and robots find incredibly tricky—one of those parts is handling some ripe fruits, vegetables and spices. Their shapes are unpredictable, they bruise or break easily, and distinguishing them from their surroundings (or their less ripe counterparts) isn’t always easy.

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    Of course, this new robot from Cambridge Consultants isn’t anywhere near a point where it could do that kind of work in the field (although the manufacturer does point to it as a potential tool in food processing plants). Eventually, though, it and robots like it might be able to inch us closer to fully robotic farms.

     
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