Jan 23, 2015

Hilltop panorama marks Mars Rover's 11th anniversary

posted by Laura Domela

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A panorama from one of the highest elevations that NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has reached in its 11 years on Mars includes the U.S. flag at the summit.

The view is from the top of "Cape Tribulation," a raised section of the rim of Endeavour Crater. The panorama spans the interior of the 14-mile-wide (22-kilometer-wide) crater and extends to the rim of another crater on the horizon.
via Mars Daily

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Jan 23, 2015

Fish-eating snails stun their prey with insulin

posted by Larra Morris

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A team at the University of Utah has discovered that two species of cone snail have a seemingly unique way to hunt — by releasing fish insulin into the water to slow down the metabolism of the fish they seek to eat.

According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the two fish-hunting cone snails that have evolved this unique ability areConus geographus and Conus tulipa. These snails use a specially evolved fish insulin to induce hypoglycemic shock in their prey. Instead of pursuing their meals, they wait until one swims by and then flood the surrounding waters with the insulin. That causes a suppression of glucose to the fish's vital organs (like the brain), rendering the snails' targets lethargic and easy to catch.
via The Verge

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Jan 23, 2015

Nanobot micromotors deliver medical payload in living creature for the first time

posted by Larra Morris

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Researchers working at the University of California, San Diego have claimed a world first in proving that artificial, microscopic machines can travel inside a living creature and deliver their medicinal load without any detrimental effects. Using micro-motor powered nanobots propelled by gas bubbles made from a reaction with the contents of the stomach in which they were deposited, these miniature machines have been successfully deployed in the body of a live mouse.

The picayune robots used in the research were tubular, about 20 micrometers long, 5 micrometers in diameter, and coated in zinc. Once the mouse ingested these tiny tubes and they reached the stomach, the zinc reacted with the hydrochloric acid in the digestive juices to produce bubbles of hydrogen which then propelled the nanobots along like miniature rockets.
via Gizmag

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Jan 23, 2015

Flying, walking vampire bat robot is back

posted by Larra Morris

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A few years ago, Ludovic Daler showed us a flying robot that he was working on that had the ability to “walk” by rotating its wings while on the ground. We love seeing designs like this that are completely, utterly out of the box, and Ludovic promised even more: 

We aim to make adaptive deployable wings... their shape could be adaptively modified to augment efficiency of forward flight, hover flight, and displacement on the ground.

With a little bit of inspiration from the common vampire bat (!), Ludovic has delivered with this updated robot that keeps its walking ability and now includes a foldable skeleton mechanism that lets it deploy and retract its wings.
via IEEE Spectrum

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Image: EPFL

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Jan 22, 2015

Mario teaches feelings: How an AI team added emotion to old-school games

posted by Larra Morris

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The project essentially automates a 2D platformer hero's behavior according to four "emotional" matrices: hunger, happiness, curiosity, and fear. For its demonstration video, the research team employed a modified version of Super Mario World that uses the SNES classic's sprites on custom stages—and played a piano-ditty version of the original Super Mario Bros. 1 theme for nostalgic kicks—then added a voice-recognition system so that testers could tweak Mario's emotions on the fly.

"Mario, don't feel so happy," the demonstrator said early in the video, and his happiness chart dipped accordingly. The full gamut of emotional responses wasn't explained in the video, but the narrator stated that higher "curiosity" rankings would make the auto-controlled Mario more likely to poke around every corner of a level, while higher "hunger" would drive Mario to collect more coins.

Demonstrators could also give Mario useful—or harmful—information, such as telling him that jumping on a Goomba kills it or, conversely, that running into moving turtle shells makes you stronger (gah, that is, like, so categorically untrue!). This version of Mario takes everything it's told at face value, then comes up with its own impressions of the world based on real-world successes and failures—all of which can be parroted back to a viewer if he or she asks Mario any probing questions.
via Ars Technica

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Jan 22, 2015

Alan Turing's hand-written notebook to go up for auction

posted by Laura Domela

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If the Oscar-nominated The Imitation Game left you craving a more authentic look at the brilliant-but-misunderstood British mathematician Alan Turing—and you have a seven-figure budget for discretionary spending—you might want to check out Bonhams Fine Books & Manuscripts' sale in New York on April 13.

The auction house will be selling, on behalf of an anonymous vendor, a hand-written notebook kept by Turing during the period of time covered in the movie. The 56-page manuscript dates to 1942, when Turing (among other cryptanalysts) was working on cracking the Germans' "unbreakable" enigma codes at Britain's World War II code and cypher school Bletchley Park. It's thought to be the only extensive manuscript that exists from Turing.
via Mental Floss

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Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Jan 22, 2015

A drone was flown on the floor of Congress

posted by Larra Morris

The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee conducted a hearing today on the current state of research and development in the drone industry. The goal was to discuss with industry advocates how best to safely integrate this new class of flying craft into our national airspace.

For the most part it was your typical C-SPAN fare, with a lot of lengthy soliloquies on what drones are, what they can do, and how to make flying them safer. But to give our elected officials some perspective, Colin Guinn, senior vice president of sales at 3D Robotics, gave his presentation while a Parrot Bebop drone flew beside him. "We had to get permission to fly a drone in the committee room as well," said Chairman Lamar Smith. "So the rules are still pretty strict."
via The Verge

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