at MIT have designed an autonomous robot with "socially
aware navigation," that can keep pace with foot traffic
while observing these general codes of pedestrian
Over the Edge
Roundup of Strange Science for the Month
with the Rules of Pedestrian Road
- Just as drivers observe the rules of the road, most pedestrians
follow certain social codes when navigating a hallway or
a crowded thoroughfare: Keep to the right, pass on the left,
maintain a respectable berth, etc. Now engineers at MIT
have designed an autonomous robot with "socially aware navigation,"
that can keep pace with foot traffic while observing these
general codes of pedestrian conduct. "Socially aware navigation
is a central capability for mobile robots operating in environments
that require frequent interactions with pedestrians," says
Yu Fan "Steven" Chen, who led the work as a former MIT graduate
student and is the lead author of the study. "For instance,
small robots could operate on sidewalks for package and
food delivery. Similarly, personal mobility devices could
transport people in large, crowded spaces, such as shopping
malls, airports, and hospitals."
Suggests that the Sun is Indeed a Typical Solar Type Star--
resolving an ongoing controversy about whether the star
at the center of our Solar System exhibits the same cyclic
behavior as other nearby, solar-type stars. The results
also advance scientists' understanding of how stars generate
their magnetic fields. The Sun's activity -- including changes
in the number of sunspots, levels of radiation and ejection
of material - varies on an eleven-year cycle, driven by
changes in its magnetic field. Understanding this cycle
is one of the biggest outstanding problems in solar physics,
in part because it does not appear to match magnetic cycles
observed on other solar-type stars -- leading some to suggest
the Sun is fundamentally different. Here, by carrying out
a series of simulations of stellar magnetic fields, Antoine
Strugarek and colleagues show that the Sun's magnetic cycle
depends on its rotation rate and luminosity. This relationship
can be expressed in terms of the so-called Rossby number;
they show that the magnetic cycle of the Sun is inversely
proportional to this number. Comparing the results of their
simulations with available observations of cyclic activity
in a sample of nearby solar-type stars, the authors further
find that the cycle periods of the Sun and other solar-type
stars all follow the same relationship with the Rossby number.
The results demonstrate that the Sun is indeed a solar-type
Age Box My Help Trace Ancient Food Supply - A Bronze
Age wooden container found in an ice patch at 2,650m in
the Swiss Alps could help archaeologists shed new light
on the spread and exploitation of cereal grains following
a chance discovery. The team of archaeologists were expecting
to find a milk residue left behind in the container -- perhaps
from a porridge-type meal wolfed down by a hunter or herder
making their way through a snowy Alpine pass. But instead
they discovered lipid-based biomarkers for whole wheat or
rye grain, called alkylresorcinols. The team say the discovery
of these biomarkers in the residue could be used as a new
tool to help archaeologists map and trace the development
of early farming in Eurasia. Dr André Colonese, from BioArCh,
Department of Archaeology, University of York, said : "We
didn't find any evidence of milk, but we found these phenolic
lipids, which have never been reported before in an archaeological
artefact, but are abundant in the bran of wheat and rye
cereals and considered biomarkers of wholegrain intake in
nutritional studies. This is an extraordinary discovery
if you consider that of all domesticated plants, wheat is
the most widely grown crop in the world and the most important
food grain source for humans, lying at the core of many
contemporary culinary traditions."
David and Goliath - The gravitational dance between
two galaxies in our local neighborhood has led to intriguing
visual features in both as witnessed in this new NASA/ESA
Hubble Space Telescope image. The tiny NGC 1510 and its
colossal neighbor NGC 1512 are at the beginning of a lengthy
merger, a crucial process in galaxy evolution. Despite its
diminutive size, NGC 1510 has had a significant effect on
NGC 1512's structure and amount of star formation. Galaxies
come in a range of shapes and sizes, and astronomers use
this fact to classify them based on their appearance. NGC
1512, the large galaxy to the left in this image, is classified
as a barred spiral, named after the bar composed of stars,
gas and dust slicing through its centre. The tiny NGC 1510
to the right, on the other hand, is a dwarf galaxy. Despite
their very different sizes, each galaxy affects the other
through gravity, causing slow changes in their appearances.
The bar in NGC 1512 acts as a cosmic funnel, channeling
the raw materials required for star formation from the outer
ring into the heart of the galaxy. This pipeline of gas
and dust in NGC 1512 fuels intense star birth in the bright,
blue, shimmering inner disc known as a circumnuclear starburst
ring, which spans 2400 light-years. Both the bar and the
starburst ring are thought to be at least in part the result
of the cosmic scuffle between the two galaxies -- a merger
that has been going on for 400 million years.
light-activated catalyst grabs CO2 to make ingredients for
fuel - Scientists have developed a light-activated material
that can chemically convert carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide
without generating unwanted byproducts. The achievement
marks a significant step forward in developing technology
that could help generate fuel and other energy-rich products
using a solar-powered catalyst while mitigating levels of
a potent greenhouse gas. When exposed to visible light,
the material, a "spongy" nickel organic crystalline structure,
converted the carbon dioxide (CO2) in a reaction chamber
exclusively into carbon monoxide (CO) gas, which can be
further turned into liquid fuels, solvents, and other useful
products. An international research team led by scientists
at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National
Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and Nanyang Technological University
(NTU) in Singapore published the work July 28 in the journal
Science Advances. "We show a near 100 percent selectivity
of CO production, with no detection of competing gas products
like hydrogen or methane," said Haimei Zheng, staff scientist
in Berkeley Lab's Materials Sciences Division and co-corresponding
author of the study. "That's a big deal. In carbon dioxide
reduction, you want to come away with one product, not a
mix of different things."
Quote of the Month - “The
good thing about science is that it's true whether or not
you believe in it.” - Neil deGrasse Tyson
New at the Museum:
Universal Monsters -
The year was 1923 and the film was "The Hunchback
of Notre Dame." The movie, based on the classic book
by Victor Hugo, was made by a studio named Universal and
would be the first of a series of films that for more than
the next three decades would, in equal measure, horrify
and delight filmgoers. Full
Picture of the Month - What
is this this?
WOW in SETI - What do you know about the WOW signal,
and have scientists found any possible source (other than
aliens)? Could it have even been faked? Or is it more likely
to be a genuine signal from aliens? If that's the case,
why haven't we heard any more? - Jonathan .
This signal (called the "WOW" signal because that's what
the scientist who first saw the data wrote on the printout)
was observed by the "Big Ear" radio telescope at Ohio State
University on August 15, 1977. The Big Ear was part of a
SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) project
run by the college for almost 30 years. The signal was the
closest thing to an alien contact that the project - or
anybody else involved in SETI - has ever found.
are several things that make the signal so interesting.
The first is the strength. It is extremely high: The most
powerful signal ever received from space from an unknown
source. Second is its duration. Almost exactly 72 seconds.
This is significant because the Big Ear was a fixed radio
antenna which swept the sky as the earth turned and 72 seconds
was exactly the length of time it would take for the antenna
to sweep by a pinpoint source in space. Also the growth
and decay pattern of the signal is exactly what one would
expect for a fixed celestial source, making it unlikely
it was an earthbound transmitter. Third is its frequency:
It is very near the frequency of hydrogen and very concentrated.
"line" is considered to be by most scientists the logical
frequency to choose if you where trying to broadcast to
another civilization. The fact that that signal did not
extend much above or below that frequency is a strong indication
that the broadcast was artificial, as natural sources a
rarely so concentrated.
intriguing aspect of this signal is that is that it was
only observed from one of the Big Ear's two "horns" but
not the other. They scanned the same section of sky about
two minutes apart, so in that short period something, or
somebody, stopped the transmission.
fascinating as the signal was, it has never been found again
despite many researchers revisiting that location in the
sky using, in many cases, much more sensitive equipment.
This both deepens the mystery and makes it almost impossible
to hope for a solution. The follow up surveys have almost
eliminated the possibly of some weird natural source. However,
the lack of any additional signals also makes it seem very
unlikely that aliens are trying to contact us. Most scientists
believe that they definitely would try more than once (although
we ourselves have only sent a sent an outbound signal once).
The only way we may have missed their additional signals,
if they exist, is if they are being repeated at very long
intervals (at least 14 hours apart).
science, unless something is repeatable, it doesn't count
for much. Some have suggested that the signal may have been
a man-made space probe that the SETI team wasn't aware of,
but there is no way of proving that one way or another.
So, the mystery continues. We can only hope that if E.T.
was trying to contact us, he tries to phone again, soon.
a question? Click here to
send it to us.
High Flight Almost Ended in Disaster - On September
5th of 1862, an ascent was made by balloon to a height of
7 miles by metereologist James Glaisher and his pilot Henry
Tracey Coxwell. The flight was nearly a disaster when because
of the height Glaisher fainted (for this reason the altitude
obtained is only estimated based on earlier measurements).
Coxwell saved both the men's lives by taking the balloon
down immediately. At the time it held the record for the
highest manned balloon flight.
Orionids Meteor Shower - On the night of October 21st
be sure and look for the The Orionids meteor shower. This
shower is the result of debris left behind by Halley's Comet.
The shower's radiant (where the shooting stars appear to
come from) will be located above Orion's bright reddish
star Betelgeuse. Viewing conditions should be ideal as there
will be a new moon.
Photo May Not Cast Light On Earhart Mystery - The History
channel documentary on Amelia Earhart suggests she might
have survived her plane coming down and eventually died
in a Japanese camp. The evidence for this is a blurry photo
at experts on the documentary said they believe shows Earhart
and her navigator Fred Noonan in the Marshall Islands sometime
after her plane disappeared. The problem, it looks like
the photo might have been taken 2 years before the aviator
went missing. The photograph was discovered by former US
Treasury Agent Les Kinney in the National Archives, supposedly
shows Earhart and Noonan among a group of people on a dock
on Jaluit Atoll. Earhart has her face to the back of the
photo, but the hairstyle in the picture is very similar
to what she was known to have worn at the time. Noonan is
facing the camera and some features seem similar to known
photos of him, but it isn't clear that it is a perfect match.
It has long been suggested by some that the pair were captured
by the Japanese before they war and treated as spies. A
blogger named Kota Yamano, however, says that the photo
also appears in a Japanese coffee-table book from 1935 which
was published two years before Earhart went missing, a fact
he discovery after just 30 minutes of research on the internet.
The History Channel theory also conflicts with other theories,
such as promoted by The International Group for Historic
Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) that her plane crash landed near
on Gardner Island, a remote atoll in the southwestern Pacific,
and died a castaway.
and Meep are on a well deserved vacation. In their place
we feature highlights from their past adventures.
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