Jul 08, 2013

Landing on asteroids could cause a zero-gravity avalanche

posted by Larra Morris

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Asteroids may not be as stable as scientists thought. A recent experiment shows that the force from a landing spacecraft might easily cause an avalanche or something resembling an extraterrestrial mudslide, as a result of shifts in the dust on the asteroid's granular surface.

Researchers compare the force chains to a stack of oranges at the supermarket. Some oranges bear weight while others come away easily, and a small shift in the stack can redistribute the force, moving the weight to different oranges and causing some to topple off the pile. Asteroids work much the same way, with only weak gravity holding together layers of loose rock and dust called regolith. The shock of a spacecraft landing could rearrange the dust in unpredictable ways — and because the gravity is so much weaker than on Earth, the results could be much less stable than the stack of oranges.
via The Verge

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Image: NASA JPL

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Jul 08, 2013

New camera system helps soccer refs make the right calls

posted by Larra Morris

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Major soccer games already get covered by 20 or so cameras; the new rig, developed by the German company GoalControl, adds 14 more, attached high above on the stadium’s gantry. The cameras shoot the goal area at 500 frames per second. Image-processing software erases the players and ref and locates the ball in 3-D space every two milliseconds. Within a second after the ball crosses the line, the GoalControl system transmits an encrypted decision to a special device strapped to the ref’s wrist; the gadget vibrates and the screen flashes—way before that one dude can even start screaming “Goooaaaalll!!!”
via Wired

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Image: Thomas Porostocky

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Jul 08, 2013

The largest building ever constructed has opened in China

posted by Larra Morris

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At what point does a building become a city? At 1.7 million square meters, the New Century Global Center lands somewhere between the two.

New Century, which has been under construction since spring of 2012 (which isn't long, for a building of this size), opened officially on July 1. The 18-story, glass-and-steel frame structure sits above a new subway station in Chengdu, a Sichuan province city of more than 14 million and one of China's fastest-growing megalopolises.
via Gizmodo

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Image: Entertainment and Travel Group

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Jul 08, 2013

New fingerprint-imaging system beats powder when it comes to metal items

posted by Larra Morris

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Instead of using a powder that sticks to fingerprint residue, they created an electrochromic polymer film that doesn’t. The film does form on metal surfaces – and changes color – when an electrical current is applied to such a surface. Because of the insulating quality of the residue, however, the film won’t form beneath it. In fact, the fingerprint ends up working like a stencil, allowing the film to appear only on the bare metal where the residue is notpresent. This creates a negative image of the fingerprint, in which the spaces between the various insulating ridges and whorls are highlighted.

Additionally, the polymer also contains fluorophore molecules that fluoresce another color when exposed to light or other sources of electromagnetic radiation. Therefor, by using both electricity and light to produce either of two different colors, forensic investigators can fine-tune their fingerprint images for optimum clarity.
via Gizmag

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Jul 08, 2013

Spider webs use electricity to attract prey, study finds

posted by Larra Morris

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In a paper published this week, Victor Manuel Ortega-Jimenez and Robert Dudley of the University of California Berkeley found that spider webs change their shape in response to the electrostatic charges of insects, and that positively-charged bugs are actually attracted to the webs. It has long been assumed that spiders change the shape of their web to catch different bugs, but until now, researchers were unsure as to how they do it.
via The Verge

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Image: FIR0002 (WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

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Jul 07, 2013

Wood nanobattery could be green option for large-scale energy storage

posted by Laura Domela

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Li-ion batteries may be ok for your smartphone, but when it comes to large-scale energy storage, the priorities suddenly shift from compactness and cycling performance (at which Li-ion batteries excel) to low cost and environmental feasibility (in which Li-ion batteries still have much room for improvement). A new "wood battery" could allow the emerging sodium-ion battery technology to fit the bill as a long-lasting, efficient and environmentally friendly battery for large-scale energy storage.
via Gizmag

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Image: A closeup of the wood fibers used by the researchers in their sodium-ion battery (Image: University of Maryland) 

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Jul 07, 2013

Altair 8800 Clone: A near-empty box filled with history

posted by Laura Domela

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Owning a piece of computer history can be expensive and not much fun. You can buy a vintage MITS Altair 8800, one of the world’s first successful desktop computers, on eBay, but a good one will cost you over US$4,000. That’s why computer enthusiast Mike Douglas developed the Altair 8800 Clone. It’s a modern, inexpensive, functional reproduction of the historic Altair 8800 computer that uses 21st century technology to recreate a bit of computer history for hobbyists and educators.
via Gizmag

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Tags : computers, retro,    0 comments  
Jul 05, 2013

Robot rodeo, y'all

posted by Laura Domela

This is what happens when police, military folks, and scientists get together to play with very expensive robots.

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It’s 10 a.m. on a Wednesday, and I’m watching a robot poke a forest camouflage backpack with a stick. Here on the southern edge of Albuquerque, N.M., in an oven-hot tract of desert, a dozen assorted cops, military guys, and national researchers, along with three sweaty journalists, have gathered to play with robots.

Welcome to the Robot Rodeo, an annual competition that is both more and less absurd than it sounds. More absurd because for five days, grown men and women with important jobs (military technician, police officer) use obscenely expensive robots (the machine in the image above costs $100,000) to defuse fake threats (a bombing attempt against the fictional “MIB headquarters,” which may or may not be a nerdulent reference to Men In Black).
via Popular Science

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Jul 05, 2013

Avoiding collisions with space debris hundreds of miles above Earth

posted by Larra Morris

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There’s a high-tech game of Frogger happening 250 miles above our heads, as the International Space Station (ISS) maneuvers around the multitude of orbiting debris left over from destroyed satellites. Ars Technica reports that here on Earth, a group of engineers across numerous different teams help keep the station safe. Drifting fragments, some as small at 10 centimeters, are constantly monitored and mapped against the space station’s trajectory. The countdown begins when the ISS control room receives a warning of nearby debris from the United States Strategic Command, generally three days prior to the chunk’s closest approach. A combination of gyroscopes and thrusters move the International Space Station out of harm's way, avoiding collisions without disrupting the space station crew’s normal routine.
via The Verge

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Jul 05, 2013

Human gestures perplex Asimo, Honda museum robot guide

posted by Larra Morris

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Honda's popular robot Asimo faced problems with gesture recognition on its first day as a museum guide at the Miraikan science museum in Tokyo.

The machine struggled to differentiate between museum-goers raising their hands to ask a question and raising their hands to take photos, Associated Press reported.

It is "working" as a tour guide at the museum for the next four weeks as a trial.

Asimo cannot respond to voice commands.
via BBC News

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