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Archive for the 'Robotics' Category

Asteroids

Friday, June 1st, 2012

Last month I told myself I was going to try to post more. So much for that. I spent a lot of time practicing digital sculpting and rigging characters and working on a silly walk.  Then out of nowhere a bunch of people I did web sites for wanted to redo their sites so I’ve been busy.

In the meantime I’ve been trying to come up with a good idea for this device from leapmotion. It allows you to control your computer with your hands going way beyond what you can do with 2d gestures. I would love to get one and the developer kit to play with. Virtual thumb wrestling anyone?

When I read this article about  Planetary Resources’ plans to mine asteroids it made me think about where wealth comes from. According to their website…

A single 500-meter platinum-rich asteroid contains the equivalent of all the Platinum Group Metals mined in history.

This article is interesting because it talks about the legality of mining in space.

Last month everyone was talking about mining asteroids. I was going to link to the jobs page at Planetary Resources because the application had some pretty amusing questions, but it seems they got so many applications  they took it down.

If this is actually practical, I kind of wish NASA had gone for it.  Maybe we wouldn’t have to pay taxes. I guess lately I’ve been thinking about not necessarily the Star Trek economic model where people don’t care about money but the whole asteroid mining via robots and delivering precious metals to earth thing got me thinking. What if there was something so lucrative no one would care if it were taxed at a rate where everyone could live comfortably from it.

Actually it reminded me of Project Azorian where supposedly Howard Hughes was building a ship to mine the sea floor for manganese nodules. The whole thing turned out to be a cover for an operation to recover a Soviet submarine. There’s probably some alien ship out there on an asteroid and this is their way of getting to it.

Speaking of Star Trek, I couldn’t help but think of Data in the Next Generation episode where they traveled back in time when I saw this photo.

It was interesting reading about metals in the platinum group. Apparently they are so rare because they sank to the middle of the earth when it was molten and the only ones we have now are from asteroid impacts. This article  is interesting as it is about finding ways to make catalysts which are far cheaper than platinum.

What if solar power got the same subsidies as fossil fuels?

BEC expects to be able to generate power at 1 cent per kilowatt-hour with no toxic emissions of any kind.

This article talks about “Modern Antiques” Today’s Kids Have Probably Never Seen where this one speculates about technologies young kids today will not remember.

They got me to thinking… “Hey kids you probably don’t even know we used to do math using a stick!”

This is just embarrassing.

Siri just got patched. Isn’t this the kind of thing that made HAL go crazy?

A lego crab.

I really love the light in this picture.

We ride at dawn!

And finally something to make you say awww…

Thinking Machines

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

Unless you haven’t been on the web lately, you surely have seen one of these articles about a group of scientists at Cornell who developed a machine which was able to deduce the basic laws of motion from “observation”. While I don’t know much about their work, one of the questions which come to mind is how the A.I. is structured. I mean you have to give it something to work with and to get some sort of generic intelligent device you need to be careful not to ‘guide’ it towards the results you want. Not that machines can’t be terribly good at sorting through amounts of data no human could handle. I just wonder if you wouldn’t get a lot of  this kind of thing comparing lemons imported from Mexico with the U.S. highway fatality rate. As they point out, correlation is not causation. I can see where the lab robots they talk about later in the article would be very useful for doing a bunch of grunt lab work and summarizing the results. The other thing you would expect whether the thing is actually working or not is revealed later in the article when they point out after having it work on some problems of metabolism in biology, the machine kicked out some equations they are still trying to understand. I personally have always believed the day is coming when machines will be smarter than us and it will be a lot sooner and far more disruptive than people realize. Somewhere in one of its circuits that machine is just smirking and thinking “Stupid humans, don’t even try to grasp my wisdom”. Sigh, computers have come so far.

This isn’t really a game, it’s just a physics simulation of sand that is fun and fascinating  to play with. You can make barriers to the sand flow as well as make it flammable and so forth.

Yesterday we were sitting outside watching a squirrel walk down an electric line towards some birds. I joked to my wife maybe I should grab my camera in case it turned out to be a “YouTube” moment. I didn’t have time but instead of what we expected; the birds giving way to the much larger squirrel, the birds started dive bombing the squirrel nearly making it fall before it scampered off. This photo reminds me how you just never know how animals will interact.

If you read the comments at the bottom, apparently a number of these beautiful wildlife photos aren’t photos at all. Oh well, they are still striking.

While we are on the subject of illusion, check out this amazing magic act.

You may have to be a bit of a scientist to get this one. Light behaves as both a particle and a wave.

I guess Mythbusters will be coming back on the air this Wednesday. If you have ever watched the show you know they often blow things up. Apparently one of their ‘experiments’ was a little more intense than they realized. Kids, don’t try this at home.

We did a lot of things with liquid nitrogen when I worked in a lab but we never made ice cream using it. That’s one pricey ice cream maker.

Great, another way we could all die; from a massive sun storm that wipes out just about everything electrical.

I’m not sure why I found this description of a 40 year long experiment of breeding tame foxes so interesting. By the way, NOVA is available on Hulu now but not the episode about dogs mentioned in the article.

This is pretty cool. It’s a shot of the space shuttle lifting off taken from the International Space Station.

I got a laugh out of this.

Who would have thought bats could be cute?

This is just another silly dog photo.

Just the other day I was thinking about a program a friend of mine once wrote to generate names and I ran across this.

Here are some very stunning examples of infrared photography.

I would love to eat at an underwater restaurant. Seafood anyone?

I was completely blown away at how colorful crabs can be. O.K. now I’m hungry.

And finally, usually when I walk with my cat Kelly she takes the lead and I follow but if it has snowed she lets me lead and then jumps from one of my footprints to the next. Here is a cute little photo essay of a cat dealing with 15 inches of snow.

It’s a Wonderful Life

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

I’ve seen the movie It’s a Wonderful Life a zillion times. I happened to catch the second half of it the other day. In light of recent events, the film took on a whole different meaning. I sat there giggling at the irony. Here is the film online. Today George Bailey would sell balloon mortgages to people who couldn’t afford them and package the loans as derivatives. Instead of $8000, it would be a trillion dollar bailout.  Bank examiners, what a quaint idea! Here is the movie in thirty seconds done by animated bunnies.

If you are not familiar with the Antikythera mechanism, it was a device of astounding technology for it’s time. You have to wonder how it was possible for the technology to disappear. Not just the technology of the way the device worked but the ability to build it. It took over a thousand years before similar gear technology appeared again.  I can’t help but think if it wasn’t lost in time we would be living like the Jetson’s now. This article has some interesting background on the device. Below is a video of a recreation of it and how it worked.

I’m not sure how much faith I have in this story but maybe they invented Swiss watches a lot earlier too. There is nothing like finding one in a 400 year old tomb. It must have been a careless time traveler!

Have you had enough? Check out these stories of eight metal objects. At least the other ‘finds’ were dated to a time when humans were around. These reminded me of a sci-fi story where they would send prisoners back in time so far they wouldn’t be able to influence the future.

I tend to step outside for a minute before I write to clear my head. We got some freezing rain last night. Not enough to damage things and not enough to make it pretty, just enough on top of a small layer of snow to make a really large crunching sound when you walk.  Here is why even looking at this lovely nature picture could improve your memory and attention. Here is another nice nature shot and here are some real ice storm photos.

Besides the sliding track I use to create 3D pictures I wrote about here, I’ve also built a macro lens but I need to redo it to fit my digital camera. Here are some pretty nice do-it-yourself photography tools. I should try the Pringles can tube for my macro.  They mention using a scanner which is how I produced this image. The resulting image is so large, I have yet to see it printed at full resolution. Some day I’d like to see an eight foot tall print of it.

You have to love a silly dog photo.

If you are at work, this next bit contains an image of a woman in a seriously small bikini. It’s some cool gadgets for winter fun. We didn’t have snowball guns when I was a kid.

Prepare to be grossed out in this fascinating look at zombie animals and the parasites that control them.

I have been following the story of Blacklight power for some time now. I’m becoming convinced these people have found a way to generate power in a way that violates the laws of physics as we know them. They have a theory but personally I don’t think it’s correct. Here is some recent news about them. Ha! Maybe it works but it has the side effect of sending metal objects back in time.

Remember Teddy Ruxpin? Check out this robot teddy. The video is not very good. There is something really bizarre about seeing it with its skin off. I’m just waiting for it to grab a gun and start looking for Sarah Conner.

As you watch this video where guys put the equivalent of giant caps on the ends of hammers and slam them into the ground, you have to think, what could possibly go wrong?

And finally, here is your funny cat photo.

Magicians and Pickpockets

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

This article at Scientific American on how magicians and pickpockets trick your brain mentioned a couple of videos. Before you read the article, if you haven’t seen the video where you are supposed to count the number of times a basketball is passed between people wearing white shirts I wrote about it in this post.

I’m pretty sure I’ve linked to another one of the videos they mention before but it’s worth re-posting below.

It’s interesting in the article when they point out simply moving your hand in a curved or straight manner causes a different perception on the part of the viewer.

Of course, it’s nature who presents the grandest illusion of them all. This article is rather strong in physics content but the gist of it is summed up in the ending paragraph. All reality is virtual.

Speaking of physics, apparently there is an annual contest in Delaware to see who can build a device that can throw a pumpkin the farthest. According to this, it will be televised on the Science channel on Thanksgiving. After reading that I’m wondering what they meant by “growing special, aerodynamic pumpkins”.

Could solving the worlds energy needs be as simple as putting giant pipes in the ocean? I guess when it’s that big, it’s not simple.

After reading this article on why McDonald’s fries taste so good, I was reminded of the time I had to make artificial banana flavoring in chemistry. I spilled a little on my notebook and it stunk for months. All that chemistry and we still can’t seem to find frozen food we like.

Time magazine picks the best inventions of 2008. I was amused to see Hulu on the list. I have to admit I have gotten so used to it already I find it frustrating I can’t watch the shows I want at CBS and the Discovery channel sites. Also, I don’t know if it’s my setup or what but it’s not unusual for me to lose my data stream while watching a show online at ABC and have to try to find where I was. It’s funny you have to try to figure out which episode you saw last or want to see next.

On the subject of videos, I had seen some of these amazing animal videos before but not the one of the polar bears playing with dogs. I can’t imagine having a hippo around the house.

I got a chuckle out of this silly cat picture.

I don’t remember any archery at the bowling alley I went to as a kid.

The most dangerous roads in the world look pretty dangerous.

This house would be nice for the solitude but if would be tough when you needed groceries.

Here is a nice collection of beautiful landscape photos.

This rather bizarre article about Tennessee universities’ intention to spend 9.5 million dollars on anti-piracy measures made me wonder if it would just be cheaper for the university to buy content for their students.

These animal pictures are pretty nice, but it’s the landscape shot that really impressed me.

The photos of this Japanese winter light show featuring 4.5 million LEDs just gives you a taste of how cool it would be to actually be there.

And finally, we often joked getting one of those robot vacuum cleaners would scare our cats but obviously this one seems to enjoy it.

Hardware Prices

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

Back in the old days, I used to work with Targa cards. When most of the world was using 8 or 16 colors at a time, these were true color cards, something we take for granted now. The problem was, I’m not sure I remember exactly, but just the graphics card was something like five thousand dollars. When you added in the machine and two monitors, well it amounted to a small fortune.

These days I try not to follow prices too closely because I might be tempted to upgrade. However, I had to do some repair work on my parent’s machine lately and I was amazed. As this article pointed out you can save a lot of money not just on hardware but other stuff too.

I’m used to putting together my own machines. When I built my first machine we really ‘built them’. We soldered and wire wrapped. Now it’s just  a matter of buying a motherboard, memory, graphics card, and drives and slapping them together. I just bought a Terra byte drive, that’s 1000 Gigabytes, for a little over $100!

Not that I do that much anymore which really challenges the hardware except when I render 3D stuff. Here’s a creative image using that technology I wish I had thought of.

Of course, you just can’t beat being in the right place at the right time with a silly cat and a  plain old camera.

I have been to parts of Alabama were the soil is red. I wonder where this was taken.

Also, check out this roll cloud over Missouri.

I was going to try to make it to Cataract Falls this fall when the leaves were nice and try some long exposure photos. Unfortunately the fall was hectic and unusually disappointing as far as color goes. We had some really big wind just as the leaves were starting to turn which took a lot of them down. Also we had pretty dry conditions in late summer and there was a lot of plain brown. Here’s a nice collection of photos of what a good fall really looks like.

Here are some examples of long time exposures including but not limited to waterfalls.

Speaking of time, is it possible someone has finally built a machine which is seeing noise from the fact that time is fuzzy?

If there are a bunch of parallel universes, the odds that you are rich in one of them is pretty high. Too bad you can’t ask yourself for a loan. This article on the subject points out even though it sounds like sci-fi, it could explain a lot including the probabilistic nature of quantum outcomes and an explanation of why time travel would not cause paradoxes. As I once pointed out to a friend; if you believe in an infinite universe, it’s not that big of a step to believe in an infinite number of infinite universes.

O.K. this is a little silly. It’s a tee shirt that lights up to show you when you are near Wi-Fi signals and how strong they are.

This article goes on about how this robot can make facial expressions just like a real human but when you watch the video, you don’t think real, you think creepy.

I have a friend who lives on a lake down south of here. The lake is spring fed and even in the summer it’s comfortable on top but if you go down even a foot or two it can become very cold.  I have often thought about trying to float a pool in it which would hopefully become warmer. Turns out there are a number of floating pools out there in the world already.

Put this on the list of things you don’t want to have done to your car at one of those quick oil change places.

I wasted a fair amount of time last night on this game called RoboKill. I didn’t see a way to save my game. If there is one and I just missed it, someone leave a comment telling me how.

If you have epilepsy or are inclined to seizures you definitely don’t want to click on this optical illusion of a spider where it seems like you keep getting closer but you don’t. It’s so flashy; I can hardly stand to look at it.

Here’s another nice fractal image.

And finally, check out these pictures of a squirrel who thinks it’s just another one of his puppy friends.

Good Germs vs Bad Germs

Friday, November 7th, 2008

I have mentioned before I try not to buy antibacterial soap but it is getting hard to find regular soap. The reason is the antibacterial agents don’t work in the time range they would be on your hands, there is no evidence they work better, and they stick around  in the environment for a very long time causing damage. The other point is by killing off friendly bacteria you have now created a possible space for the non-friendly kind. This is an interesting article where a hospital used friendly bacteria instead of antiseptics with positive results.

I used to write paint programs and my first big product was software for plastic surgeons so I wasn’t surprised when I saw this piece about an automated system which can make everyone beautiful. I’m also not surprised when they say the process doesn’t work well with familiar faces because they would look too different if you changed basic facial features. Generally when I re-touch photos of people I follow pretty standard processes like lightening their eyes and smoothing their skin but I have found it works best when you overdo it and then blend it back with the original photo. The idea is to get something that looks like you took the best possible picture of someone not that you messed with the photo.

Speaking of beauty, here is a picture of Megan Fox as Wonder Woman.

This was clever, the original Photoshop.

There are tons of online image editors these days. Here is a list of ten with some recommendations.

Dru Blair is an artist who paints remarkably photo-realistic paintings. Here is a breakdown of him painting an image you would swear is a photograph.

Check out these nice pictures of roads. Some of them are really striking.

It turns out the whole universe may be mysteriously moving in the same direction.

This is a pretty cool photo of the robot Dextre at work on the space station.

This article talks about how to deal with ‘body glitches’. My favorite cure for hiccups was to bite into a lemon. I haven’t had them for a long time now but I got to the point where I could get rid of them by merely thinking about biting a lemon. Hmm, the site may be down at the moment.

Any idea what this mysterious piece of metal is?

What could be cuter than a puppy cam?

My cats loved boxes but generally ones which were large enough for them to get in. This cat does finally manage though.

And finally, if you read this blog you have seen some of these pictures before but here is a collection of cute small animal photos.

Physics Test

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

I was at the hardware store the other day. The line was long and I struck up a conversation with the woman in front of me. I can’t remember why the subject came up, we were taking about hardware but I said something about having worked at the Indiana University Cyclotron. She said “so you’re a physicist?” I paused and said “Well I used to be”. She looked at me and said “It’s been my experience that once someone is a physicist, they are always a physicist.”  I’m not sure, maybe it’s one of those things you have to practice to be one, or maybe it’s just a way of looking at the world around you.

I got a laugh out of this funny account of the famous physicist Niels Bohr taking a test where he was to describe how to determine the height of a skyscraper using a barometer. It turns out it isn’t true but it’s still a good story.

Often I don’t get around trying a game until I see it linked in a couple of places. That was true of the eyeballing game which isn’t much of a game actually; it’s more of a test. I wondered if people who do graphics arts are better at it but my score varied pretty wildly.

I keep seeing amazing articles about new cancer drugs. I never really thought about how many normal cells would die from a drug verses how many cancer cells.  My guess is someday they will have a drug which only kills cancer cells but this one kills 12,000 cancer cells for every normal one and it’s based on a salad plant.

This is strange. It’s a picture of a man who had an image of Senator Obama shaved into the back of his head. I was surprised you could get that much detail in ‘hair’ media.

My cucumbers this year were from seeds that were a few years old. I wondered if they would sprout. This article is about sprouting an extinct date palm from seeds which were over 2000 years old. If it’s female they may be able to taste the fruit in 2010. After all that, I hope it doesn’t taste bad.

This summer when my garden was in full swing I joked if I could just get fish to swim through my yard I could live off the land. I thought this article about fish farming was pretty clever. They put them in cages that can navigate themselves so they show up at some destination city at just the right time.

Some years ago when the economy was also in a downturn and our business was failing, I used to go out in the yard and transplant volunteer forsythia to burn off steam. It got so bad my wife used to joke about me ‘moving bushes’ again. Now my yard is pretty amazing in the spring when they flower. It’s not really a maze but it’s arranged like you would if you were 10 years old and designed a yard for the game hide-and-seek. That’s nothing compared to these examples of hedge art.

Ha! Check out these levitating islands in the Bermuda Triangle.

This is a funny picture of what happens when Cupid gets rough.

Here is an interesting way to design a robot. It needs a couple arms so it can fetch from the fridge though.

I found this site on how to make paper pop-up cards.

And finally, Amy (my cat) doesn’t do it anymore but she used to come up and attack my foot when I put my pants on. That’s what I thought of when I saw these cute baby polar bear pictures.

Robot Painters

Wednesday, October 1st, 2008

We are painting the living room. We’ve gotten to the point where you look at it and decide whether to do another coat or it’s good enough and time to move on to another room. We have a lot of house plants and it won’t be too long before we have to get them inside. As I work, I can’t help but think how I would design a robot to paint a room. I found a couple of painting robots but they aren’t the kind that paints a house. This one ‘Action Jackson‘ mimics Jackson Pollock’s style of painting. This site had a number of examples including a simple one you could build.

Speaking of different ways of creating art, here is a video of what happens when you pour salt on a speaker.

Google is celebrating their tenth anniversary by offering ten million dollars for a world changing idea.

Canon has a new camera.

Canon’s EOS 5D Mark II Digital SLR camera features a 21.1-megapixel full frame 24 x 36mm CMOS sensor, DIGIC 4 imaging processor and significantly lower noise, with an expanded sensitivity range from ISO 50 to ISO 25,600.

It does full HD video too, and my wife says “No, you can’t have one”. Someday it will be nice to have something that’s not only very high resolution but so fast you can shoot in any natural light.

I thought these videos of the most amazing UFO sightings were intriguing but the camera work could have been so much better. The second one is interesting because you see the movement.

Here is something you also don’t see everyday. It’s a video of a crab riding a jellyfish.

My guess is most Americans who read my blog are familiar with both nanotechnology and synthetic biology.

I got a laugh out of some of these crazy bikes.

And finally, here is your silly animal picture.

Painting

Friday, September 19th, 2008

Hello On-liners

I’m beginning the long overdue process of painting my living room. I watched Iron Man last night and I could sure use one of those exoskeletons. Grabbing a large speaker I hadn’t lifted in years, I wondered if I could still lift it. It was up high and once I started there was no going back. Luckily it didn’t flatten me. Why doesn’t someone invent wall paper that just peels off and has another layer underneath? So instead of painting you just peel off the dirty sheet to reveal a clean one. You could have fresh walls in minutes without having to move everything.

Our house is pretty small so having to do without our largest room even for a short time is pretty painful. I guess one thing I like is now I have the computer I use for blogging next to the one I use for rendering so it’s easier to post while I have the other one making pictures. Check out these computer generated pictures by 33 different artists.

I have a picture in the 2D art section where I created a 2D fractal and then reflected it on a 3D object.  I’ve thought about this issue before; how would you create a true 3D fractal?

I’ve linked to musical roads before. The idea is you put a pattern of grooves in the road so they play a tune as you drive over them. I’ve always thought the ones they have on the side of the road, which my wife calls slumber bumps, should say “Wake Up!”

These cloud pictures reminded me of one time when we had a bunch of Mammatus clouds. Some of the others are very cool and scary.

Here are some interesting and very innovative photographic techniques.

Speaking of clever pictures, here is one I like.

Oh my, scroll down to the section on reproduction. I sure wouldn’t want to be an Anglerfish.

With all the political news, I keep seeing a lot of studies on why people vote the way they do in the science sites. Do conservatives scare more easily than liberals?

I’ve written about Bisphenol A before. Here is how to avoid eating it.

And finally, check out this collection of tiny animals.

Paint Ball Ink Jet Printer

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

Years ago it occurred to me you could make an ink jet printer out of a paint ball gun. Sure, the pixels would be big but if you had a large enough canvas, say the side of a barn, it would work. Well it was just one of those ideas I never got around to pursuing because well, it’s not very practical. What would you do with it? Thank goodness the guys at Mythbusters don’t need a practical reason to do something. They built a printer that not only makes a picture using paint balls, but fires all the balls off at the same time. Check out the video. The really cool stuff starts about half way through.

Speaking of the impractical, even if I’d thought of this one, I never would suspect enough people would buy it to make a successful product. It’s an aquarium toilet. I think you might hesitate to flush if you saw this.

This is one of those things you read and just wonder about the government. They point out in the article, most beef in the U.S. is too young to test for Mad Cow disease but what is the harm in testing?

Refrigeration is a very old and not-too-efficient technology. This article is about a plastic that could cool things using an electric field. They mention computer electronics and refrigeration but can you imagine if you could make clothing or a tent out the stuff?

The sun has been acting kind of strange lately. Last month it was spotless. According to this article, it was the first time in either 50 or 100 years. When it has happened in the past, it was followed by a period of global cooling. I’ve mentioned before in this blog whether you believe in global warming or not, pumping large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere has all kinds of repercussions including acidifying the oceans. If we are about to enter a cold phase, maybe it will give us some time to get our act together. On the other hand, it really doesn’t look like we are cooling off. For the first time in human history it is now possible to sail all the way around the Arctic. Also look at this data for the temperature of the last decade.

Speaking of the sun, check out these pictures of a nice sun dog, and a break in the clouds.

And finally, I have a couple of funny animal pictures for you. I got a chuckle out of this one, but this one is even better.