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Archive for the 'Robotics' Category


Thursday, August 14th, 2008

Every once in a while I read an article that makes me think yeah, we are living in the future. That is the way I felt about this article on a robot with a biological brain. It does make you wonder if in the future, we will have household robots with biological brains that are useful but somewhat unpredictable in their behavior. I suppose it’s not that different than owning a pet.

Offshore drilling is one of those things you would not think would divide up neatly upon party lines. I would think if you live on the ocean or have a vacation home there you would probably be against it. Also if your living depends on tourism or fishing you would be against it as well. Perhaps the government shouldn’t determine our energy policy but there is no real way to avoid its role. When you see evolving technologies such as this one where they have genetically altered bacteria to produce fuel which is compatible with existing pipelines and could be used in gasoline engines, you really wonder if the development can’t be accelerated.

This guy has an interesting view of the future. I can see a lot of those things happening but maybe on a longer time-line. It takes so long for new medical treatments to be approved, if you’re my age you probably won’t have nanobots swimming around your bloodstream. The replicator is a common subject for science fiction. I’m pretty sure someday they will exist but I’m thinking later than 2025.

Here is a follow up on the post I made yesterday on Bigfoot. Turns out one of the guys has been involved in Bigfoot hoaxes before.

This video of a huge propane explosion has some language some might find offensive. Unfortunately when the main blast hits, the person holding the camera understandably moves the shot off center. It’s a pretty dramatic scene though with a very visible shock wave.

This is kind of sad and funny. It’s a coffee cup with the bill of rights printed on it. Add hot coffee and watch your civil liberties disappear.

Smoke pictures are something I have never got around to trying along with high speed water drops. The best ones are at the bottom and aren’t real pictures but computer effects.

And finally, check out these cute guinea pigs.

That DNS Bug

Monday, July 28th, 2008

If you haven’t heard, there is a nasty flaw in the internet that can redirect you to a page which may look like the place you thought you were going but isn’t. Here is an article at Wired and here is a follow up article. I don’t think I’ll be browsing to any financial institutions for a while. If you read the article, there was supposed to be a month for service providers to patch their software before the details of the exploit were released. Unfortunately the details were leaked.

Here is an interesting article about an aging study done at Stanford.

Some tortoises lay eggs at the age of 100, he points out. There are whales that live to be 200, and clams that make it past 400. Those species use the same building blocks for their DNA, proteins and fats as humans, mice and nematode worms. The chemistry of the wear-and-tear process, including damage from oxygen free-radicals, should be the same in all cells, which makes it hard to explain why species have dramatically different life spans.

I guess I wouldn’t mind being young again but without all the restlessness and drama. I suppose one goes with the other.

I’ve linked to video of non-Newtonian fluids before but this one is really creepy. It looks like cornstarch and water which is what is most commonly used. In this case, someone is holding down a pan which is placed on a vibrating surface. When they poke a hole in the fluid, it looks like a scene from the remake of The Thing.

Here is a funny article from the New York Times. A passenger whose last name was Gay was supposed to give up his seat on a plane but there was a misunderstanding.

I had heard some of these stories before. I knew penicillin was discovered by accident and how microwaves were invented. I had not heard the one about Saccharin but it amazes me any chemist would not wash his hands before eating. Here is an interesting article about serendipity.

This is a pretty elaborate piece of art. I noticed while it is scrolling by, the perspective changes slightly making me wonder how it is done.

Speaking of art, someone clipped a picture of the Mona Lisa into their yard. I have a vague memory of coming home from vacation when i was a kid and the neighbor had used a lawnmower to write something in our long grass.

They call it the world’s highest swing but actually at first it looks more like bungee jumping. I didn’t listen to the sound but when I showed it to my wife, she did, and there is some adult language, so turn off the sound if you need to. I noticed most of the people didn’t jump but were pushed off. I suppose if you were running it you wouldn’t want people to hesitate. I’m pretty sure I’d have to be pushed too. Here is the link.

This is another collection of high speed photographs. I’ve never really tried doing this and it doesn’t seem like it would be difficult. I guess I do have some pictures of my nephew playing with a garden hose where the water looks cool.

Speaking of photography, here are more aurora pictures, rock balancing pictures, and a really creepy thing on a guy’s arm.

As a guy who took enough math classes I probably could of had a degree in that too, I’m embarrassed to admit I have played the lottery. This is an interesting study on why people play the lottery, and in particular, poor people.

This is bizarre. It’s a robotic elephant. I wonder what kind of mileage it gets?

And finally, check out tigers are just cute big cats.

Put On Your Thinking Cap

Monday, July 21st, 2008

It’s time to put on your thinking caps. Amazingly, exposing your brain to infra-red light could reverse the effects of aging. I think I needed one of those today.

T Boone Pickens is an oil man who is building a huge wind farm in Texas. As he points out on his website we are sending 700 billion dollars a year to other countries for oil. His suggestion is we replaced the portion of electricity generated using natural gas with renewable resources and then burn the natural gas in transportation.

I had never heard of Shelby Super Cars. They claim to have the world’s fastest production car. Now they are getting into electric vehicles. I read this on their website today.

Other automakers have sacrificed aesthetics and performance in exchange for hybrid power plants, but the Ultimate Aero EV will deliver a pollution-free, engineering marvel with an exotic Supercar exterior. The drive train under development will feature a revolutionary power source allowing for extended time between charging intervals with the possibility of several years between charging.

I’m not sure what they are saying. It’s a hybrid so presumably there is some kind of fuel. Then again, I knew right after I spent money on a new gasoline powered car, someone would make it obsolete.

As long as I’m talking about fuels here is another article about a breakthrough in converting biomass into biofuel.

This is one of those sites that explains science in the context of everyday life.

It’s not available yet, but they have created a robot that can take a whole bunch of pictures and then knit them into a huge panorama shot.

I got a chuckle out of this.

And finally, check out this talented dog.

Will it Blend?

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

Blendtec is a company which has a viral marketing campaign where they produce videos in which they throw things in a blender. By things, I mean things you would not normally put in there. Think iphones, golf balls, and bic lighters. Will it blend?

Here is a strange list of home remedies for various ailments. I’m not sure any of them sound worth trying.

When I first saw this article about monkeys using a robot arm to feed themselves, I figured it was monkey torture. However, after reading it, it sounds like the monkeys enjoy it. What happens when they figure out how to use it on their keepers?

I used to think if we don’t figure out how to harness fusion, we are all doomed. Lately though, I’m thinking solar is going to save us. That sun is a big fusion reactor and the energy density is actually quite high. Then again, it looks like fusion might be doable after all. Here is a system which could generate power for as little as 0.2 cents per kilowatt hour. That’s about 1/45th what I’m paying.

Here are some pictures of the world’s deepest swimming pool. It’s used for dive training and yeah, it’s pretty deep.

O.K. this is a little silly. It’s a pot with an LED display that lets you know how your plants are feeling.

It’s hard to believe there are still people out there who have had no contact with civilization. Here are some pictures and a story about one such tribe.

And finally, check out this really strange story, with pictures and video, of a possum that came out of a man’s toilet.

More 3D

Monday, May 26th, 2008

For those of you who can see 3D images using the cross-view technique here is a site that has some nice ones. I thought the light painting one was interesting. I’ve always wanted to shoot a 3D lightning picture, but it would be challenging (not to mention dangerous). If you want to learn to cross view, there is also a tutorial link there or you can read mine.

I’ve been writing about exoskeletons lately, here’s an exoskeleton motorcycle.

Years back Pons and Fleischmann announced they had achieved fusion at room temperature. The trouble was they hadn’t. There are few technologies which could have such an enormous impact on the world. Now a Japanese researcher has made the same claim. We’ll see.

The Forkinswift is an electric car built from used forklift parts (electric motor, etc.), used golf cart batteries (and a golf cart PWM motor controller) and a pair of near-dead “host” cars.

Turns out one of the things killing coral around the world is sunscreen. I watched Man vs Wild on Friday and ironically he used goo from a coral as sunscreen.

120 square feet of living space for $1500? I don’t really consider a bathroom and kitchen optional, but I suppose you could join a bunch of them together.

Speaking of bathrooms, check out the view from this one.

Here are tips for Green lawn care. As i get older I’m thinking the just get rid of the grass option is maybe the best. I keep wondering why I grow the stuff. I can’t eat it and it’s a pain to take care of.

I was reading about all the new lakes created from landslides as a result of the Chinese earthquake. Here is a series of satellite images showing one forming.

Here are some funny pictures made from food. I like the watermelon one the best.

Optimus Prime from the Transformers movie sculpted out of junk sounded kind of lame but after I clicked on it, I was impressed.

And finally, you know I always finish with a cute animal shot.

Seeing from London to New York

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

Anyone for nano football? There would only be one good seat for watching robots smaller than a grain of salt face off in competition, in front of the microscope.

Speaking of robots, I found some video of the hopping robot I mentioned the other day.

This is really strange. An artist created a “Telectroscope” between London and New York. People can look through it and see people on the other side. I can think of a number of ways it could be done, but a tunnel isn’t one of them.

Here are six ‘uniquely’ human traits now found in animals. I thought the morality one was interesting.

I have said before I’m surprised there aren’t any beneficial viruses because it would make sense for a virus to protect the host therefore protecting itself. Now Asian researchers have created a self assembling artificial virus they intend to use for good causes.

I wrote about one of these before, but here is a list of color changing products.

My guess is aliens wouldn’t use radio to communicate for a lot of reasons. Here is an article suggesting they might use neutrinos.

This article points out the acid currents upwelling on the Pacific coast are from excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from fifty years ago. It’s only going to get worse.

Here are 13 of the best places to see the Northern Lights.

Check out these elaborate pieces of art created using eggs.

The surrealistic artwork of Jim Warren.

And finally, I got a chuckle out of this image of modest cats sunbathing.

More Illusions

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

Arthur Shapiro has a web site devoted to optical illusions I’ve linked to before. This week he has an interesting one, but he also has this link on his page which takes you to the winners of the best illusions of the year.

You may already have read this AP article about a lost parrot. The parrot refused to talk to the police but later gave his owner’s name and address to a vet. Perhaps it was on advice from his attorney.

I thought this piece about a student who isolated the microorganisms that degrades plastic bags was interesting. When you read about his technique, which sounded pretty straight forward, you wonder why someone didn’t try it before.

I got a chuckle out of this link a friend sent me for a “handy free utility“.

Here are 15 Living Walls, Vertical Gardens & Sky Farms. I thought the best stuff was on the last page.

This false cucumber is both clever and creepy at the same time.

Jupiter has a new red spot.

I like these strange rope people sculptures.

Apparently you can control jet lag by changing when you eat.

Here is a robot which walks like a human. Check out the futuristic stylish head they put on it.

Here is a list of strange animals. I guess I knew the Mayfly didn’t live long but I didn’t know the adult has no mouth and can’t eat.

And finally, here are more cute puppy photos.

Going Way Too Fast

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

Jet-Powered Bicycle Makes 50 MPH Feel Waaaaay Too Fast

When I was 15 I rode my bicycle from Ohio to Maine. It was with an organized group. We had a truck carrying our personal gear and cooking our meals. We rode about 100 miles a day. I remember feeling like I just couldn’t eat enough. Outside of Battleborough Vermont, we spent most of a morning working our way up a mountain. When we reached the top, we went down in pairs. I think terminal velocity on a bicycle is somewhere in the upper 50 mph range. By going down in pairs though, you can get in the slipstream of your partner. By leap-frogging each other you can get near 60 mph. It was about 9 miles as I recall and I remember passing cars. I also remember getting the feeling I was on a fragile machine that probably wasn’t designed to go that fast. It was quite a thrill!

Here is an interview with a blind skateboarder.

I almost didn’t check out this link because I thought I had already seen it, but this is a different climbing robot. Amazingly enough, this one clings to the wall using electrostatic force.

Here is a grasshopper sized hopping robot.

This is a story about a guy who built his own electric car which costs him $7 dollars for every 300 miles he drives.

I’m always finding those really useful bits of information for my readers. Here are 9 ways to open a beer bottle without an opener.

Here is the best picture of a dandelion I have ever seen.

These pictures of Mars are so stunning; some of them look computer generated.

I never realized one of the reasons there is no cure for the common cold was because there was no animal model to test drugs on. It turns out a smallpox drug might do the trick.

I’m not sure if this is the same process I wrote about before or it’s a new cheap way to capture carbon emissions from smokestacks. Solar energy technology is advancing rapidly but in the meantime, China is building a new coal fired plant every week.

Next time you tell a bad joke at the office, finish it with this instant rimshot.

Here is a list of 30 web-based image editing applications.

And finally, check out this cute video of a whistling puppy.


Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

I was a little disappointed after reading Beaver-like robots face off in annual MIT contest. Not that the robots weren’t doing interesting things, just not the one thing I find most interesting about beavers, dam building.

Years back, my wife and I were backpacking in the Tea Lake Falls area of the Adirondacks. We came across an area where a lot of the trees were down or damaged. My first thought was a bunch of boy scouts with axes had decided to act like Paul Bunyan. Then we spotted the dam. It was huge and complex. I sat there scratching my head, wondering how a bunch of animals could have built such a thing. Later that evening, as we camped, we came to realize what we at first thought might be very large fish jumping in the water were actually beavers smacking their tails to warn other beavers we were there. When it happened, it was enough to give you a good jump in the otherwise still night.

So why do beavers build dams? According to this, it’s because they like it quiet. I suspect it’s to improve their habitat as well. This article points out that reason too. Also, I ran across this page about beavers in general.

We used to have a family of beavers living in the creek between our neighbors and the farm field on the other side. They would come into the neighbor’s yard at dusk and eat apples. The farmer was not too keen on the dam building and ended up killing them after almost tipping his tractor into the creek. Here is a funny article at Snopes where the state of Michigan threatened to fine beavers $10,000 a day for unauthorized dam building.

Here is an interesting collection of photos of strange and beautiful lakes of the world.

Here is the world’s smallest helicopter, (you can ride on).

This is another one of those physics simulation pages where you can interact with the models and change parameters.

This story has been circulating the web lately. It’s about a woman who accessed her stolen Mac computer and took pictures of the thieves.

I got a chuckle out of this specialty plate.

Now, that’s a big cow!

And finally, another silly cat picture.

More Exoskeletons

Tuesday, May 6th, 2008

I’ve heard the production of beef is a major source of greenhouse gases. I just finished off a veggie burger for lunch. No I’m not vegetarian, I just happen to like them. How to Fight Global Warming at Dinner.

I linked to a video of an exoskeleton recently. Here are some more.

Check out this video of Superconducting Maglev Train Models.

I thought this was kind of interesting, it’s pictures of a bike lift in Norway.

What would happen if you put an ostrich egg in a microwave? I imagine you have a pretty good idea. Did you know they are the largest single cell on the planet?

Finally, it’s a short post today. I’m off to vote. Here is an incredible picture of lightning over a volcano.