Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, has died at the age of 82. His family broke the news that the astronaut, who had undergone heart bypass surgery earlier this month, passed away today, Saturday, August 25, 2012. According to his family, Armstrong died from post-surgery complications.
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The promise of a self-aware robot is almost a reality. Justin Hart and Brian Scassellati, PhD students from Yale University, are working on software to help robots recognize themselves in mirrors.
The robot is named Nico, and the pair are in the final stages of software recognition development. At the moment, Nico can only recognize its arm in a mirror, but Hart and Scassellati are optimistic that their robot will be ready for the final full “mirror test.” The final test is to mark Nico’s face with an odorless, non-tactile dye, place Nico in front of a mirror, and observe if it notices the dye.
The mirror test was developed in 1970 to see if certain animals were intelligent. To date, only a few non-human species have successfully passed this test, including some primates, elephants, and dolphins. Not even human babies can pass this test until they are 18 months old.
Hart and Scassellati plan to “teach” the robot to recognize its torso and head, along with shapes, colors, and textures. Hart said in an interview, “What excites me is that the robot has learned a model of itself, and is using it to interpret information from the mirror.”
In 2007, robots were developed to imitate movements and tasks in a mirror by classifying pixels of itself and other robots. Nico is different from these robots because it recognizes appearance and not motion, which is why having Nico pass the mirror test is so crucial to their research. Hart closed by saying, “This is an important step but it is not the endgame of artificial intelligence, it is just a step along the way.”
Hopefully Hart and Scassellati will also teach Nico about Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics…
Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski is returning to television, partnering with Will Smith’s Overbrook Entertainment and Georgeville Television to create a new pandemic thriller drama for ABC. JMS has been keeping busy in recent years, working on the screenplays for Thor, Underworld: Awakening, and the Academy Award-nominated Changeling. Assuming the unnamed drama gets picked up, this will be one of Joe’s first gigs on a TV series since he ran Showtime’s Jeremiah.
There aren’t many details at this point, with Deadline merely describing the show as a “high-octane pandemic thriller that combines closed-ended procedural and serialized elements.” I’m guessing that’s TV speak for “it’ll have self-contained episodes, but also an ongoing arc of some sort.” Straczynski knows from serialization, having shepherded Babylon 5 through five seasons while hewing – more or less – to a pre-planned arc.
A few more possible details can be gleaned from the show’s entry on IMDb Pro. Listed under the title Epidemic, the is said to follow “a group of virus hunters working for the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta as they track epidemics around the world.”
Legos are great, Stargate is great, and now these two great tastes can finally taste great together. Sort of. There is in fact now a set of stackable building blocks with various Stargate themes, but it just so happens that they’re not technically Lego brand. A toy company called Best-Block, which makes a version of Lego-style bricks, has the official Stargate license and has been manufacturing a variety of different sets.
The Stargate SG-1 Earth set alone contains 900 pieces and only retails for around forty bucks. There’s also Stargate Atlantis Daedelus (230 pieces), Stargate SG-1 Death Glider Attack (250 pieces, including Anubis, a death glider, and a tower), and Jaffa Vs. SG-1 (750 pieces) sets.
On the front of the Best-Block boxes they say, “works with other brands,” and they look like you’ll be able to integrate your actual Legos into the mix. You can mount your Sphinx and pyramid models and let all your other little Lego dudes get in on the action. Imagine what you could do if you bring out your Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter collections. Think of the nerdy crossover possibilities.
From the look of things, the Stargate Best-Blocks only seem to be available via the Sears Canada website, which apparently won’t deliver to the U.S.. Doesn’t that whole set of circumstances seem a little strange? I’ll bet you could track them down if you dedicate yourself to the search. Surely you’ll be able to find them on eBay, or through some vendor on Amazon, before too long.
Lando Calrissian is one smooth-talking bastard. With a sharp delivery, impeccable style, a definite gift for persuasion, and flexible scruples, it isn’t hard to imagine him as the kind of ambulance-chasing lawyer you usually see in late-night commercials on basic cable. Check out this fan video that visualizes this exact scenario.
There’s a cool little science fiction flick called Robot & Frank currently in limited release around the country. “Frank” is Frank Langella, a retired jewel thief who receives a robotic butler as a gift from his son. While the well-meaning son is just trying to make his father’s twilight years easier, Frank has other ideas for the ‘bot. He decides to pull one last heist, with the robot as his partner.
We picked Robot & Frank as our science fiction pick of the week, and it got us thinking. What if you didn’t stop with just one robot assistant? What if you decided to take a page from Ocean’s 11‘s Danny Ocean and form an entire team of artificial criminal badasses to, say, rob a casino? The only question is, who should we recruit for “Asimov’s Eleven?”
Bender Bending Rodriguez (Futurama)