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China’s Yutu Rover Hits The Surface Of The Moon

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YutuToday, China became the latest country to touch down on the surface of the Moon. The China National Space Agency landed a Chang’e-3 lander on our local satellite, and deployed a rover with the adorable name Yutu, to check out the scene.

Yutu has been unleashed for a three-month jaunt to explore the Bay of Rainbows, a region primarily made up of plains of dark basaltic lava. On most maps of the lunar surface, the Bay is known by its Latin name, Sinus Iridium, and forms the dark spots visible from Earth. The Bay is one of the northwestern finger of the Mare Imbrium, and is partially surrounded to the northeast and southwest by the Montes Jura mountain range.

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Bees Can Sniff Out Cancer

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BeesMuch has been made of the troubling decline of bee populations. The problem is something called “colony collapse disorder,” which basically means that huge numbers of bee colonies are dying — at least 30% of hives on average over the past decade, and close to 40 or 50% in the past year or so. The other problem is that we’re not quite sure why this is happening — as in the case of the mysteriously dying starfish, the potential causes of colony collapse disorder could be environmental, and could include everything from climate change to pesticide use to other factors we haven’t identified yet. The European Commission has banned the use of a specific type of insecticide proven to be particularly harmful to honeybees, but it’s unclear how much that will help. While it might seem that bees are painful nuisances, they’re crucial to our global agriculture. According to an article in Yale University’s Environment 360 publication, “One of every three bites of food eaten worldwide depends on pollinators, especially bees, for a successful harvest.” And, just in case you haven’t been convinced of the importance of bees, there’s now another reason we want to keep them around: they can detect cancer.

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Google Buys Boston Dynamics And Gets One Step Closer To World Domination

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Wild CatGoogle keeps up their steady march toward becoming an empire. Sure, there’s the search engine, gmail, Google Street View, and Google Glass, but I’m not even talking about that stuff. I’m talking about the fact that the monolithic company uses deep learning, is developing AI, wants to cure death, and hired futurist and singularity guru Ray Kurzweil as their director of engineering. Now, they’ve done something else that adds to that already impressive and somewhat frightening list: they bought Boston Dynamics.

What’s the big deal? You might be wondering. The big deal is that Boston Dynamics sits atop the robotics industry when it comes to make a certain type of robot—the kind that could chase you down, knock you over, scare the living shit out of you, and then save your life. A group of MIT engineers founded the company in 1992, with the goal to focus on mobility and maneuverability to make robots able to navigate almost any terrain and perform a variety of practical functions. One example is the Wildcat, which could be used for disaster relief or military operations, or in bringing nightmares to fruition. The Wildcat, like many other Boston Dynamic robots, was funded by DARPA.

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Monkey Business: Iran Sends Primate Into Space

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Iran monkeyIran made the news today, but thankfully not for their nuclear program or economic sanctions. Today Middle Eastern nation announced that it successfully launched a monkey into space for the second time, and that the monkey has returned home safe and sound. Phew. I’d hate to think of that monkey trying to fly a Soyuz capsule.

According to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), Iran launched Fargam, a monkey named for the Farsi word for “auspicious,” into space to celebrate the country’s Research Week. Fargam took a 75-mile ride into space and came back within 15 minutes. And he didn’t have to pay $250,000 for a seat.

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Meet Valkyrie, NASA’s Superhero Robot

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ValkyrieWe’ve done lots of posts here on GFR about NASA, many of which bemoan the state and the budget of the beleaguered agency. Now NASA has something that just may solve all of its problems — a superhero robot.

Valkyrie, who shares a name with female characters from Norse mythology who decide which soldiers die and which live, but who looks more like Iron Man, has the stature of a superhero at 6 feet tall and 275 pounds — it even sports a glowing NASA logo on its front. Engineers at the Johnson Space Center in Houston built Valkyrie in just nine months as part of this month’s DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials. This means Valkyrie will have to prove its disaster-thwarting meddle by driving vehicles, clearing debris, cutting through obstructions, climbing ladders, turning valves and knobs, and other physical tasks that any life-saving superhero needs to be able to perform.

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The Future Of Crime Fighting Includes Radio Waves That Stop Cars

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RCWho can forget (if you were around back then) OJ Simpson’s famous high-speed chase? Actually, it was more of a low-speed chase, given the congestion of Los Angeles’ Interstate 405 and the fear that Simpson would commit suicide rather than submit to authorities. Anyway, I remember watching OJ in that white Bronco, and scores of police cars and helicopters chasing him. But what if the police had been able to push a button to disable Simpson’s car, ending the chase before it even began?

Police in France, Germany, and Spain have requested that SAVELEC (Safe Control of Noncooperative Vehicles Through Electromagnetic Means) develop such a device, and the UK electronics firm E2V has already tested one. The technology would allow police to use radio waves to incapacitate cars’ control computers, which would bring targeted vehicles to a sudden stop.