April 2007 Archives
"[Robots] are really interesting to a diverse group of people," says Nourbakhsh, whose research has revealed that when kids are given programming tasks that involve robots, girls are no less interested than boys, and everyone is more likely to stick with the curriculum. "If there's a [software] bug," he adds, "the robot may veer off the desk and then I'll have to dive for it. That inspires people more than a bug on a computer screen that causes a red line to be off by two pixels. In collaboration with Rich Legrand, president of Austin-based robotics parts manufacturer Charmed Labs, Nourbakhsh wants to take DIY robotics to the next level, by offering the public an entire suite of tools to build their own droids from parts readily available at a hardware store—no soldering or programming required. The heart of Nourbakhsh's project, dubbed the Telepresence Robot Kit (TeRK), is the Qwerk, a box just over five inches square and an inch thick. Into this tiny, Linux-powered frame Legrand and his team of engineers have packed a 200 megahertz ARM processor—the same chip that runs Nokia N-Series Smartphones and the Nintendo DS—32 megabytes of SDRAM and eight megabytes of flash memory. It can connect to the outside world via WiFi, USB 2.0, 16 servo controllers and a host of other inputs and outputs.
"It was amazing ... I could have gone on and on," Hawking, 65, said after riding for two hours on a modified jet that flew a rollercoaster trajectory to create the impression of microgravity. "Space, here I come" he said at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The British professor, who has spent most of his career studying black holes and gravity, hopes the flight will be a prelude to a 2009 voyage into space. "I have long wanted to go into space," said Hawking, who is almost entirely paralyzed. "A zero gravity flight is the first step to space travel," he said at a news conference near the runway. "I hope many people will follow in my path." Four doctors and two nurses were with Hawking on the flight aboard G-Force One, also known as the vomit comet.
The announcement was greeted with enthusiasm by many U.S. astronomers.
"This appears to be the very first detection of a whole new habitable world, with liquid water and the possibility of life. It's a huge milestone in astronomy," Alan P. Boss, an astronomer withthe Carnegie Institution in Washington, said in a phone call to The Chronicle from Sweden, where he is attending a meeting. The lead author of the discovery report, Stephane Udry of the Geneva Observatory in Switzerland, said the planet's sun is named Gliese 581, one of the galaxy's extremely common "red dwarfs." It lies in the constellation Libra, the Scales, about 20.5 light-years away from Earth -- a relatively close neighbor compared with other exoplanets that have been detected thousands of light-years away.
The white and powdery mineral at London's Natural History Museum has been named instead jadarite after the Serb region where it was found, museum mineralogist Chris Stanley said. In the 2006 movie "Superman Returns", the superhero's arch enemy Lex Luthor steals a kryptonite rock fragment from the Metropolis Museum. On the case are written the words "sodium lithium boron silicate hydroxide with fluorine." Stanley said he searched the web using the mineral's chemical formula -- sodium lithium boron silicate hydroxide -- and was "amazed" to discover the same scientific name used in the film. "The new mineral does not contain fluorine and is white rather than green, but in all other respects the chemistry matches that for the rock containing kryptonite," Stanley said.
KUALA LUMPUR--One of the world's most endangered animals, the Sumatran rhinoceros, has been filmed in the wild for the first time in a coup that could help save it from extinction, wildlife campaigners said Tuesday.
“One of the most exciting aspects of the discovery is the new questions it poses,” said study leader Philipp Kronberg of Los Alamos National Laboratories in New Mexico. “For example, what kind of mechanism could create a cloud of such enormous dimensions that does not coincide with any single galaxy or galaxy cluster? Is that same mechanism connected to the mysterious source of ultra high energy cosmic rays that come from beyond our galaxy?”
The plasma cloud is located about 300 million light years away near the Coma Cluster and is spread across a vast region of space thought to contain several galaxies with supermassive black holes, or active galactic nuclei (AGN), embedded at their centers.
Mikaela said that at three, she already had a keen interest in science. She recalled enjoying the times her mother would take her to the UP Botanical Garden and point out to her the different plant families. “We also grew mongo seedlings and conducted small experiments. I was fascinated with how nature and science worked even back then,” she said.
Randles often credits the Greek geometer Pythagoras for insisting on harmony in music. What role does Pythagoras play here? Recall the study of waves in basic physics. Those with the shortest wavelengths are for invisible light (such as X-rays, microwaves and ultraviolet rays), followed by relatively short color waves (such as the rainbow). Longer wavelengths are for sound waves. According to Randles, the note "do" (from do re mi) has a particular frequency, measured in hertz. To ensure that music sounds good, the notes should follow a certain ratio, discovered by Pythagoras millennia ago. This ratio should be familiar to musicians: 1/1, 2/1, 3/2, 4/3, 5/4, 6/5, and so forth.
When the researchers compared those amino acid sequences to those of similar proteins in several contemporary animals, they found that the T-rex sequence had similarities to those of chickens, and to a lesser extent frogs and newts. That finding bolsters a recent and controversial proposal that birds and dinosaurs are evolutionarily related, and change that hypothesis to a theory, the researchers said. "Most people believe that birds evolved from dinosaurs, but that's all based on the architecture of the bones," said John Asara, who is director of mass spectrometry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical School. "This allows you to get the chance to say ‘Wait, they really are related because their sequences are related.' We didn't get enough sequences to definitively say that, but what sequences we got support that idea."Meanwhile, if, like me, you've wondered how the heck T-rex could have gotten up again if it fell down, considering how itty-bitty its arms were, an expert shares the answer in Scientific American. Here's an excerpt:
It is now clear that T. rex's hands could not reach its mouth. The elbow could not be extended much beyond a 90-degree angle. The arms were very strong (perhaps capable of curling nearly 400 pounds) but had a very limited range of motion, both side-to-side and up-and-down. The wrists were considerably weaker and do not seem suited for supporting large mechanical loads. Like those of their albertosaur "cousins," the small T. rex arms were often broken during life. This fact suggests that they were poorly suited for whatever the dinosaurs were trying to use them for and, more importantly, that these animals could go without using their arms for periods of up to a month.