Jun 30, 2015

Solar-powered plane takes off on potential record breaking trans-Pacific flight

posted by Larra Morris

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Solar Impulse 2, a solar-powered plane co-founded by Swiss pilot Andre Borschberg, took off today on a potentially record-breaking flight across the Pacific Ocean. The BBC reports that the single-seater left Japan's Nagoya Airfield at 18:03 GMT (a little after noon CT) and hopes to reach Hawaii in roughly five days. In total, the flight would traverse 8,200km or approximately 5,095 miles. If successful, the BBC notes the Solar Impulse team will break records for both the longest-duration solo flight and the furthest distance flown by an entirely solar-powered aircraft.

Borschberg and partner Bertrand Piccard hope that the third time is the charm for this endeavor. The plane's first attempt at takeoff in May was cut short by the forecast causing an unscheduled landing, and the second attempt (occurring last Tuesday, June 23) was postponed for similar reasons. According to the BBC report, the team hasn't aggressively publicized its take off today just incase weather conditions again cause an unexpected landing.
via Ars Technica

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Image: Solar Impulse

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Jun 30, 2015

A robot is the star of new opera

posted by Larra Morris

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Myon is a shiny white humanoid robot and the star of My Square Lady, an opera that opened this month in Berlin's Komische Oper in Germany. The operatic robot is a product of the Neurorobotics Research Laboratory at Berlin's Humboldt University and the European Union's Artificial Language Evolution on Autonomous Robot's project. Myon sings, of course, and it shuffles in stilted, mechanical motions while interacting with the rest of the carbon-based performers. No one controls Myon from backstage -- researchers and the cast worked with the robot for two years, teaching it how to sing with the orchestra, move around the stage, and react to visual and auditory cues. The opera itself is all about Myon, a robot trying to learn what it means to be human and feel emotion.
via Engadget

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Jun 30, 2015

Scientists create 3D laser holograms that are safe to touch

posted by Larra Morris

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3D laser holograms sound cool, but they're generally hot. As in, hot enough to burn your skin. But now researchers at the Digital Nature Group, a Japanese research company, say they've figured out a way to create a 3D laser hologram that is not only safe to the touch but interactive.  

These "fairy lights" holograms are composed of light pixels called voxels fired at superfast speeds. (How fast? The laser bursts last 30 to 270 femtoseconds. A femtosecond is a quadrillionth of a second.) Voxels are emitted by plasma that's created when the laser's focused energy ionizes the air. 
via Mental Floss

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Jun 29, 2015

Norway's capital city is building a highway for bees

posted by Larra Morris

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Flowers are appearing across buildings, businesses, and balconies in the Norwegian capital of Oslo, as part of a scheme designed to make life easier for the beleaguered honey bee. Oslo is in the process of developing a "bee highway" for the pollinating insects, offering them a safe route through the city complete with food sources, resting spots, and places to live.

The program is led by Bybi, an environmental group supporting urban bee populations, and has secured funding from local companies. Some of these firms have provided dedicated homes for new bee populations, kitting out rooftops and terraces with hives alongside pollen-producing plants. Bee populations, hives, and movements can be tracked on a dedicated site run by the groups behind the scheme — if your Norwegian is up to scratch.
via The Verge

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Image: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

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Jun 29, 2015

NASA's stubby 747 has a big telescope in the back that can see Pluto

posted by Larra Morris

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NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has recently begun sending back the first color images of Pluto and Charon, and they are spectacular. But prior to the probe making its close approach to Pluto on July 14th, scientists have been scouting Pluto’s atmosphere using a 98-inch telescope mounted inside a highly modified Boeing 747SP.

A combined effort between NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the aircraft is called SOFIA (registration N747NA, callsign “NASA747”), which stands for Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy. SOFIA probably isn’t the best-known 747 belonging to NASA, but it is enabling valuable scientific observations because of its unique capabilities.
via Gizmodo

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Image: NASA/Wikicommons

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Jun 29, 2015

Jaguar monitoring brainwaves to keep drivers focused

posted by Larra Morris

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If the system detects drivers are distracted or daydreaming, it would then attempt to get the driver's attention by vibrating the steering wheel or pedals. Vibrating driver controls like the steering wheel and pedals is something that Jaguar also wants to use in an attempt to avoid saturating the driver with flashes or audio signals. If a driver exceeds the speed limit, an actuator at the top of the accelerator pedal arm will create a warning that the driver needs to hit the brakes and slow down.
via Gizmag

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Jun 26, 2015

Watch how alligators make water "boil" with their infrasound mating calls

posted by Larra Morris

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During the breeding season, American alligators call for mates with a deep loud roar. It’s preceded by a pulse of infrasound that sets the water dancing.

The phenomenon might create waves that help potential mates find the gators they like best. Or it could just be an accident, a side effect of the way their scutes separate during development.
via Gizmodo

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