Mar 30, 2015

The world's first drone sheepdog

posted by Larra Morris

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Paul Brennan is a sheep farmer in Carlow, Ireland. He has embraced modern techniques for managing an old profession. Instead of a sheepdog, Brennan uses a quadcopter named Shep (of course) to herd his sheep! You can see it works rather well.
via Neatorama

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Mar 30, 2015

Ford’s new car automatically slows down when it sees a speed limit sign

posted by Larra Morris

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Traffic sign recognition is exactly what it sounds like: using a forward-facing camera, usually behind the rearview mirror, an on-board computer scans the environment for signs that might be important. Over the last few years, there have been a number of cars that automatically recognize signs and flash up alerts on a digital dashboard display.

Now, Ford is combining these two technologies to create a car that automatically slows down when you pass a traffic sign that indicates a new speed limit. If you're going over the speed limit, the S-Max will reduce the amount of fuel being delivered to the engine, smoothly slowing you down.
via Ars Technica

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Image: Ford

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Mar 30, 2015

Huge tubes under the moon’s surface could hold entire cities

posted by Larra Morris

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The key is the existence of lunar lava tubes, which are large, hollow tunnels thought to have formed during long-ago volcanic eruptions. And a new theoretical study from a team at Purdue University is not only saying that they exist, but they’re large enough to hold entire cities. Like those on Earth, lunar lava tubes are thought to form when lava flows to the surface, allowing a layer to cool and insulate the still-molten lava below it. That lava keeps flowing and when it recedes, it leaves behind an empty tube.

Definitive proof of lunar lava tubes doesn’t exist. But theoretical work, along with images that appear to show openings to the tubes, makes a pretty strong case that they're real. The next logical question to ask is: Can these tubes make the moon more inhabitable? The team from Purdue, made up of members of the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences and a civil engineering professor, says yes.
via New York Magazine

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Image: Henn Photography

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Mar 27, 2015

Festo's fantastical insectoid robots include bionic ants and butterflies

posted by Larra Morris

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About this time every year, alarmingly close to April 1, German automation company Festo announces its newest animal-inspired robots. Last year it was a kangaroo (we had to double check that it wasn’t an April Fool’s joke), and before that, a seagull, dragonfly, and floating air jellies, among other cool things. For 2015, Festo is introducing two new insectoid robots: cooperative ants and swarming butterflies.

The theme for Festo’s “Bionic Learning Network” program this year is “Join the Network,” and their flagship projects are both based around swarms of small robots that mimic the way insects work together and interact with each other.
via IEEE Spectrum

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Mar 27, 2015

This speaker blows out fires instantly with bass

posted by Larra Morris

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Engineers have experimented with using sonic waves to douse flames for years—but it took a pair of students to turn the concept into an affordable, hand-held device.

Viet Tran and Seth Robertson, who are both students at George Mason University, spent $600 of their own money to build their prototype, according to the school. The canister directs low-frequency waves to a specific point, while an over-the-shoulder pack that weighs about 20 pounds generates the waves
via Gizmodo

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Mar 27, 2015

Robobug: Scientists clad bacterium with graphene to make a working cytobot

posted by Larra Morris

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By cladding a living cell with graphene quantum dots, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) claim to have created a nanoscale biomicrorobot (or cytobot) that responds electrically to changes in its environment. This work promises to lay the foundations for future generations of bio-derived nanobots, biomicrorobotic-mechanisms, and micromechanical actuation for a wide range of applications.

The UIC team has dubbed its creation NERD (short for Nano-Electro-Robotic Device). The cytobot is built on a bacterial spore – more specifically, an endospore – which is essentially a dormant version of a bacterium.
via Gizmag

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Image: UIC

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Mar 26, 2015

NASA's Opportunity Mars Rover finishes marathon, clocks in at just over 11 years

posted by Laura Domela

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There was no tape draped across a finish line, but NASA is celebrating a win. The agency’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity completed its first Red Planet marathon Tuesday -- 26.219 miles (42.195 kilometers) – with a finish time of roughly 11 years and two months.

"This is the first time any human enterprise has exceeded the distance of a marathon on the surface of another world," said John Callas, Opportunity project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. "A first time happens only once."  

The rover team at JPL plans a marathon-length relay run at the laboratory next week to celebrate.
via NASA

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