Jun 30, 2016

Norway built a world-record-setting bonfire last weekend

posted by Larra Morris

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Ålesund, Norway, is the site of a Midsummer Festival called Slinningsbålet that traditionally includes a bonfire. The bonfire tends to be bigger each year, and this year’s stack of pallets and kindling was 155.5 (47.4 meters) feet tall! That’s a world record. The structure is built by hand on a spit of land out in the bay, and fire department boats stand by for safety. The fire is lit at the top, which means someone has to climb all the way up, and then all the way back down in a hurry.
via Neatorama

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Image: mariehessen

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Jun 30, 2016

Letter to the 10-year-old girl who applied to the Paris Summer Innovation Fellowship

posted by Larra Morris

Eva, a 10-year-old, applied to our summer fellowship program amidst mostly computer science Phds and seasoned urban designers. A summary of her pitch: “The streets of Paris are sad. I want to build a robot that will make them happy again. I’ve already starting learning how to code on Thymio robots, but I have trouble making it work. I want to join the program so the mentors can help me.”  Here is my reply to her.

Dear Eva,

The answer is yes. You have been selected as one of Paris’ first-ever Summer Innovation Fellows among an impressive pool of candidates from all across the world: accomplished urban designers, data scientists and hardware specialists.  I love your project and agree that more should be done--through robotics or otherwise--to improve Paris’ streets and make them smile again. 

I am writing to you personally because your application inspired me. There was nothing on the website that said the program was open to 10 year olds but--as you must have noticed--nothing that said that it was not. You’ve openly told us that you had trouble making the robot work on your own and needed help. That was a brave thing to admit, and ultimately what convinced us to take on your project. Humility and the willingness to learn in order to go beyond our current limitations are at the heart and soul of innovation. 
via Kat Borlongan on Facebook

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Jun 29, 2016

Rats feel empathy for other rats, unless they're on antidepressants

posted by Larra Morris

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A 2011 study found that when a free rat came in contact with a rat trapped in a container, the free rat was empathically motivated to release the distressed rat from its cell. But a new study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, noted that a rat put in a similar scenario but given an anti-anxiety medication, was less likely to free its trapped peer.

Both studies were led in part by Peggy Mason, professor of neurobiology from the University of Chicago. In the most recent study, Mason discovered that rats given the antidepressant midazolam were less likely to free a fellow rat from a locked compartment, but would, however, open the same restrainer device when it contained chocolate instead.
via The Verge

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Jun 29, 2016

Pill-dispensing "robot" knows who you are

posted by Larra Morris

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Imagine a pill-dispensing, health-focused version of Amazon Echo, and you'll get an idea of what Pillo is designed to be. Utilizing facial and voice recognition software, the internet-connected device can reportedly recognize multiple family members on sight, giving them their daily medication while also addressing their health and wellness-related inquires.
via Gizmag

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Jun 29, 2016

5,000-year-old pay stub shows that ancient workers were paid in beer

posted by Larra Morris

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In the ancient Mesopotamian city of Uruk, residents enjoyed many benefits of modern life. The city, located in modern-day Iraq, was home to massive ziggurats that would rival any of today's modern skyscrapers for sheer monumentality. People in Uruk exchanged goods for money, played board games, and sent each other letters on clay tablets using a writing system called cuneiform. They were also paid for their labor in beer. We know this because pay stubs were incredibly common documents at the time, and one such pay stub (pictured above) is now in the possession of the British Museum.

Writing in New Scientist, Alison George explains what's written on the 5,000-year-old tablet: "We can see a human head eating from a bowl, meaning 'ration,' and a conical vessel, meaning 'beer.' Scattered around are scratches recording the amount of beer for a particular worker."
via Ars Technica

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Image: Trustees of the British Museum

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Jun 28, 2016

A section of Route 66 will become America's first public solar road

posted by Larra Morris

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A section of America’s most famous highway is going green, The Christian Science Monitor reports. The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) plans to create the nation’s first solar-powered public road by lining a portion of Route 66 with energy-generating photovoltaic pavers. The pavers will be installed near a rest stop in Conway, Missouri, where they’ll hopefully produce enough electricity to power the facilities and fund future projects.
via Mental Floss

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Jun 28, 2016

Tour de France officials will scan participants' bikes to check for cheaters

posted by Larra Morris

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Following a prominent cheating incident earlier this year, participants in the upcoming Tour de France will have to have their bikes scanned for concealed electric motors and batteries. Cycling officials plan to conduct between 3,000 and 4,000 tests, the Union Cycliste Internationale said today. This technology has been used at multiple other races, but this will be the first time it is deployed at the Tour de France.

"Technological fraud tests" rely on a tablet, case, adapter, and software to scan a bike, its wheels, frame, groupset, and other components in under a minute. The scanner creates a magnetic field and then allows the tablet to detect interruptions to that field. The UCI says those disruptions often come from a motor, magnet, or battery. If they’re detected, officials will dismantle the bike and inspect it.
via The Verge

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Image: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

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