Monthly Archives: June 2012

First Robot & Frank Trailer Sketches Man-Bot Bond | Underwire | Wired.com

An new robot befriends an old thief with amusing results in the new trailer for Robot & Frank. The film, which is set in the near future and debuted to a warm reception at Sundance in January, takes the Siri concept a step further by picturing a world in which a human-size automaton blandly breaks the law if that pleases its master.

Written by graphic novelist-turned-screenwriter Christopher Ford, the indie film picked up a 2012 Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize awarded to science-themed pictures. Co-starring James Marsden, Liv Tyler and Susan Sarandon, Robot & Frank marks the debut of TV commercial director Jake Schreier, whose previous credits include a spot for the IPhone 4.

Robot & Frank opens August 24.

via First Robot & Frank Trailer Sketches Man-Bot Bond | Underwire | Wired.com.

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Are We Failing To Prepare Children For Leadership In the US? – Slashdot

Vulcan195 writes “Would you let your 3-yr play with a real saw? You would if you were a parent in Switzerland. Suzanne Lucas (a US mom residing in Switzerland) writes about the contrasts between the US and Swiss ways of instilling wisdom. She writes: ‘Every Friday, whether rain, shine, snow, or heat, my 3-yr old goes into the forest for four hours with 10 other school children. In addition to playing with saws and files, they roast their own hot dogs over an open fire. If a child drops a hot dog, the teacher picks it up, brushes the dirt off, and hands it back.’ She suggests that such kids grow up and lead the ones who were coddled (e.g. US kids) during their early years.”

via Are We Failing To Prepare Children For Leadership In the US? – Slashdot.

Hackaday

The folks at Null Space Labs bought a 40W CO2 laser tube in order to build their own laser cutter. Unfortunately nobody really wants to build a laser cutter; they just want to play with a laser cutter. So they ended up biting the bullet and ordering a $4000 model from China. That’s it hovering in midair. This is the story of acquiring the unit and playing around with it once it arrived.

Check out those orange cones in the picture. Hackerspace members put them out to keep the parking spots clear so no damage was caused in the event of an accident. But since they’re located in Los Angeles some of the road warriors didn’t really care and just moved the cones anyway. Luckily the crane hoist to the third floor (they removed one of the windows) ended up going rather well.

So what do you do with a…

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Data from NASA’s Voyager 1 point to interstellar future

 Data from NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft indicate that the venerable deep-space explorer has encountered a region in space where the intensity of charged particles from beyond our solar system has markedly increased. Voyager scientists looking at this rapid rise draw closer to an inevitable but historic conclusion — that humanity’s first emissary to interstellar space is on the edge of our solar system.

“The laws of physics say that someday Voyager will become the first human-made object to enter interstellar space, but we still do not know exactly when that someday will be,” said Ed Stone, Voyager project scientist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. “The latest data indicate that we are clearly in a new region where things are changing more quickly. It is very exciting. We are approaching the solar system’s frontier.”

The data making the 16-hour-38 minute, 11.1-billion-mile (17.8-billion-kilometer), journey from Voyager 1 to antennas of NASA’s Deep Space Network on Earth detail the number of charged particles measured by the two High Energy telescopes aboard the 34-year-old spacecraft. These energetic particles were generated when stars in our cosmic neighborhood went supernova.

“From January 2009 to January 2012, there had been a gradual increase of about 25 percent in the amount of galactic cosmic rays Voyager was encountering,” said Stone. “More recently, we have seen very rapid escalation in that part of the energy spectrum. Beginning on May 7, the cosmic ray hits have increased five percent in a week and nine percent in a month.”

This marked increase is one of a triad of data sets which need to make significant swings of the needle to indicate a new era in space exploration. The second important measure from the spacecraft’s two telescopes is the intensity of energetic particles generated inside the heliosphere, the bubble of charged particles the sun blows around itself. While there has been a slow decline in the measurements of these energetic particles, they have not dropped off precipitously, which could be expected when Voyager breaks through the solar boundary.

The final data set that Voyager scientists believe will reveal a major change is the measurement in the direction of the magnetic field lines surrounding the spacecraft. While Voyager is still within the heliosphere, these field lines run east-west. When it passes into interstellar space, the team expects Voyager will find that the magnetic field lines orient in a more north-south direction. Such analysis will take weeks, and the Voyager team is currently crunching the numbers of its latest data set.

“When the Voyagers launched in 1977, the space age was all of 20 years old,” said Stone. “Many of us on the team dreamed of reaching interstellar space, but we really had no way of knowing how long a journey it would be — or if these two vehicles that we invested so much time and energy in would operate long enough to reach it.”

Launched in 1977, Voyager 1 and 2 are in good health. Voyager 2 is more than 9.1 billion miles (14.7 billion kilometers) away from the sun. Both are operating as part of the Voyager Interstellar Mission, an extended mission to explore the solar system outside the neighborhood of the outer planets and beyond. NASA’s Voyagers are the two most distant active representatives of humanity and its desire to explore.

The Voyager spacecraft were built by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., which continues to operate both. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology. The Voyager missions are a part of the NASA Heliophysics System Observatory, sponsored by the Heliophysics Division of the Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

For more information about the Voyager spacecraft, visit:http://www.nasa.gov/voyager .

Data from NASA’s Voyager 1 point to interstellar future.

Glucose Fuel Cell

MIT engineers have developed a fuel cell that runs on the same sugar that powers human cells: glucose. This glucose fuel cell could be used to drive highly efficient brain implants of the future, which could help paralyzed patients move their arms and legs again.

 

The fuel cell, described in the June 12 edition of the journal PLoS ONE, strips electrons from glucose molecules to create a small electric current. The researchers, led by Rahul Sarpeshkar, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, fabricated the fuel cell on a silicon chip, allowing it to be integrated with other circuits that would be needed for a brain implant.

The idea of a glucose fuel cell is not new: In the 1970s, scientists showed they could power a pacemaker with a glucose fuel cell, but the idea was abandoned in favor of lithium-ion batteries, which could provide significantly more power per unit area than glucose fuel cells. These glucose fuel cells also utilized enzymes that proved to be impractical for long-term implantation in the body, since they eventually ceased to function efficiently.

The new twist to the MIT fuel cell described in PLoS ONE is that it is fabricated from silicon, using the same technology used to make semiconductor electronic chips. The fuel cell has no biological components: It consists of a platinum catalyst that strips electrons from glucose, mimicking the activity of cellular enzymes that break down glucose to generate ATP, the cell’s energy currency. (Platinum has a proven record of long-term biocompatibility within the body.) So far, the fuel cell can generate up to hundreds of microwatts — enough to power an ultra-low-power and clinically useful neural implant.

“It will be a few more years into the future before you see people with spinal-cord injuries receive such implantable systems in the context of standard medical care, but those are the sorts of devices you could envision powering from a glucose-based fuel cell,” says Benjamin Rapoport, a former graduate student in the Sarpeshkar lab and the first author on the new MIT study.

Rapoport calculated that in theory, the glucose fuel cell could get all the sugar it needs from the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that bathes the brain and protects it from banging into the skull. There are very few cells in the CSF, so it’s highly unlikely that an implant located there would provoke an immune response. There is also significant glucose in the CSF, which does not generally get used by the body. Since only a small fraction of the available power is utilized by the glucose fuel cell, the impact on the brain’s function would likely be small.

Karim Oweiss, an associate professor of electrical engineering, computer science and neuroscience at Michigan State University, says the work is a good step toward developing implantable medical devices that don’t require external power sources.

“It’s a proof of concept that they can generate enough power to meet the requirements,” says Oweiss, adding that the next step will be to demonstrate that it can work in a living animal.

A team of researchers at Brown University, Massachusetts General Hospital and other institutions recently demonstrated that paralyzed patients could use a brain-machine interface to move a robotic arm; those implants have to be plugged into a wall outlet.

Mimicking biology with microelectronics

Sarpeshkar’s group is a leader in the field of ultra-low-power electronics, having pioneered such designs for cochlear implants and brain implants. “The glucose fuel cell, when combined with such ultra-low-power electronics, can enable brain implants or other implants to be completely self-powered,” says Sarpeshkar, author of the book “Ultra Low Power Bioelectronics.” This book discusses how the combination of ultra-low-power and energy-harvesting design can enable self-powered devices for medical, bio-inspired and portable applications.

Sarpeshkar’s group has worked on all aspects of implantable brain-machine interfaces and neural prosthetics, including recording from nerves, stimulating nerves, decoding nerve signals and communicating wirelessly with implants. One such neural prosthetic is designed to record electrical activity from hundreds of neurons in the brain’s motor cortex, which is responsible for controlling movement. That data is amplified and converted into a digital signal so that computers — or in the Sarpeshkar team’s work, brain-implanted microchips — can analyze it and determine which patterns of brain activity produce movement.

The fabrication of the glucose fuel cell was done in collaboration with Jakub Kedzierski at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory. “This collaboration with Lincoln Lab helped make a long-term goal of mine — to create glucose-powered bioelectronics — a reality,” Sarpeshkar says. Although he has just begun working on bringing ultra-low-power and medical technology to market, he cautions that glucose-powered implantable medical devices are still many years away.

 

This article is reprinted from Science Daily http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120613133150.htm

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