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Scientists Create First Untethered Soft Robot

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new-untethered-soft-robot-620x350Soft robots aren’t new—DARPA, for example, developed a small one capable of changing color to camouflage itself (see video below). As impressive as that is, the biggest drawback is the tether, which is pretty much a power cord. Now, researchers from Harvard have figured out a way to, as they put it, “cut the cord” and develop a soft robot that can walk without a tether.

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Saturn’s F Ring Gives Birth To Short-Lived Moons

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saturn-ringsSaturn made news a few months ago when astronomers spotted what they believed was a new moon being born in the planet’s A Ring. As it turns out, the event was rare not because it featured the birth of a new moon, but because of its placement. Saturn’s F Ring, it’s outermost one, gives birth to moons fairly regularly, but those events are easy to miss because the moons die almost as quickly they appear.

To look at, the F Ring isn’t as bright as most of the inner ones, it’s made of chunky ice and is thinner than the others. But it does illustrate a principle called the Roche limit, which is the boundary beyond which moons can form and stay intact. Inside the Roche limit, gravity pulls at the newly formed moons on opposite sides with such force that it can tear them apart, particularly when they’re not particularly massive.

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The Theory Of Everything Brought Stephen Hawking To Tears

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the theory of everythingWatching a biopic of yourself must be a strange experience. Seeing what is ostensibly your story, played out by actors and actresses, all of whom are much better looking than you are in reality, seeing key events form your life rendered dramatically, that all sounds quite surreal. Do you get sucked up into the story like every other audience member (ideally anyway), or do you sit there mutter “that’s not how it happened” to yourself for two hours? In most of these cases, the subjects in these films are long dead, so this is a moot point, but sometimes they’re still with us, as is the case with the new Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything. If you wondered how the renowned physicist responded to this film, the answer is, he was moved to tears.

James Marsh’s (Man on Wire) film recently premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it earned a ton of praise, specifically for Eddie Redmayne (Jupiter Ascending) in the lead role as Hawking. Based on a memoir of the same name by Jane Hawking (played by Felicity Jones), Stephen’s wife, the film depicts the life of the two from their early days at Cambridge through Stephen’s deteriorating health and some of his most important work.

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Woman Has Lived For 24 Years Without A Cerebellum

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cerebellum

There’s a dark spot (i.e. nothing) where her cerebellum should be

We’ve met some people who you might describe as brainless, but you never thought that was literally possible—until now. A Chinese woman who walked into the PLA General Hospital of Jinan Military Area Command complaining that she was nauseous and dizzy was recently diagnosed with an unusual condition: the complete lack of a cerebellum.

The cerebellum is pretty damn important when it comes to maintaining a functioning brain, as well as the body as a whole. It governs motor control, particularly when it comes to sensory input and balance, as well as one’s ability to focus, understand and speak language, and feel pleasure and fear. The cerebellum isn’t particularly big—it takes up about 10% of the brain’s space, but it contains dense stores of tissue, as well as 50% of the total neurons.

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Massive Solar Storm May Cause Tech Weirdness And Northern Lights

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cmeThe Space Weather Prediction Center says we may be in for a geomagnetic storm or two this weekend. Well, okay. I guess that means no galoshes, then?

Here’s the scoop: there were some coronal mass ejections on Thursday night and Friday, as accurately forecast by the Space Weather Prediction Center. Coronal mass ejections, which are similar to solar flares, are when the sun spews a bunch of plasma, wind, and electromagnetic radiation out into the solar system. The second CME was particularly intense—an “X-class” ejection, which is the highest/strongest class. By the time they reach Earth (i.e. right about now), we’ll experience the effects of the solar storm.

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Algorithm Could Help Clean Up Space Trash Safely And Effectively

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sphereFor a terrestrial civilization, we sure have made a whole bunch of space trash, including approximately “22,000 objects larger than the size of a softball,” and a bunch smaller than that, most of which come from old satellites (can we start a cosmic recycling program for these?) If you’ve seen Gravity you know how dangerous space trash can be, it can also essentially multiply as it continues colliding. The problem is that it’s not clear whose responsibility it is to clean this mess up, given that waste collection and disposal services don’t exactly make it out that far. It’s also dangerous to collect this trash, as objects can move quick and crazy in space. Researchers at MIT have now developed an algorithm to help crews anticipate the movement of space junk so they can more easily snatch it up.

The technique was recently tested at the ISS where astronauts used SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold Engage and Reorient Experimental Satellite) satellites, which are devices for testing various technologies in zero gravity. The SPHERES are pretty ingenious—they behave like satellites, so they’re the perfect proving ground, and they’re also small enough to actually be tested inside the ISS, which is what they did here. Astronauts equipped a SPHERE with a couple of linked cameras that filmed another satellite that was spinning around in the air.