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Science & Technology

Researchers building RoboCop policeman

Via: CNET

You’ve double-parked your car to pick something up when a robot rolls up and threatens to give you a ticket. You might laugh, but the thing’s talking with a human voice.

Researchers at Florida International University’s Discovery Lab are working with a member of the U.S. Navy Reserves to build telepresence robots that could patrol while being controlled by disabled police officers and military vets. In a sense, they would be hybrid man-machine cops, like RoboCop.

Lieutenant Commander Jeremy Robins has given $20,000 to the lab and borrowed two robots valued at nearly $500,000 from the Florida Institute for Human & Machine Cognition (IHMC) to realize his vision of bringing some of the thousands of disabled cops and soldiers in the U.S. back to the workforce.

They would work as patrol officers, operating wheeled telepresence robots and doing everything from responding to 911 calls and writing parking tickets to ensuring the security of nuclear facilities. The cybercops would have to be rugged enough to work outdoors, but what would they look like?

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Beluga whale ‘makes human-like sounds’

While dolphins have been taught to mimic the pattern and durations of sounds in human speech, no animal has spontaneously tried such mimicry.

But researchers heard a nine-year-old whale named NOC make sounds octaves below normal, in clipped bursts.

The researchers outline in Current Biology just how NOC did it.

But the first mystery was figuring out where the sound was coming from. The whales are known as “canaries of the sea” for their high-pitched chirps, and while a number of anecdotal reports of whales making human-like speech, none had ever been recorded.

When a diver at the National Marine Mammal Foundation in California surfaced saying, “Who told me to get out?” the researchers there knew they had another example on their hands.

Once they identified NOC as the culprit, they made the first-ever recordings of the behaviour.


Venus: Death of a Planet

Why did Earth thrive and our sister planet, Venus, died? From the fires of a sun’s birth… twin planets emerged. Then their paths diverged. Nature draped one world in the greens and blues of life. While enveloping the other in acid clouds… high heat… and volcanic flows. Why did Venus take such a disastrous turn?


Scientists Identify the Edge of a Massive Black Hole for the First Time

Via:Smithsonian.com

Image by NASA and ESA

The point of no return has been discovered at last. Fifty million light-years from Earth, in the heart of the Messier 87 galaxy, a black hole that is six billion times more massive than the Sun has provided scientists with the first measurement of what is known as an “event horizon,” the point beyond which matter is forever lost to the black hole.

“Once objects fall through the event horizon, they’re lost forever,” says Shep Doeleman, a research associate at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and lead author on the paper published in Science Express.

Black holes are the densest objects in the universe. “There’s such intense gravity there that it’s not just matter that can cross the event horizon and get sucked into the black hole but even a photon of light,” says co-author Jonathan Weintroub, also at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. “There’s a bit of a paradox in claiming that we’ve measured a black hole, because black holes are black. We measure light, or in our case, radiowaves” from around the black hole, not the black hole itself.

The black hole in question is one of the two biggest in the sky, according to a September 2011 paper titled, “The size of the jet launching region in M87,” which outlined how measurements of the event horizon could be taken.

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Secrets of the squid from Hell revealed

Via:Cosmos

PARIS: The secret life of a mysterious creature that feeds on the decaying dead in the unlit depths of the ocean has been revealed.

The squid is so weird that it is known as a ‘phylogenetic relic’. It has the honour of occupying a taxonomic category all of its own, combining features of octopuses and squids in a unique evolutionary formula that has survived for millions of years.

Writing in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, a pair of scientists in California report on 30 years of chance encounters with vampire squids by robot submarine explorers, laboratory experiments and dissections.

Lone species

Vampyroteuthis infernalis – the ‘Squid from Hell’ – is the only species in the order Vampyromorpha, where it was placed in 1903.

The 13-centimetre (five-inch) cephalopod lives in temperate and tropical oceans, inhabiting waters at depths between roughly 600 and 900 metres (2,000–3,000 feet), a niche habitat where at the lowest levels there is just enough oxygen to support life.

It uses huge 2.5-centimetre (one-inch) eyes to detect the slightest gleam of movement, and deploys dark-blue bioluminescence to cloak its jelly-like body from predators below when it drifts at higher depths.

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Rollin McCraty Science of the Heart

Recent discoveries have shown that the heart generates a mysterious and powerful electromagnetic field. In this video, Rollin McCraty, Ph.D, Executive VP and Director of Research for the Institute of HeartMath, explores the scientific basis for understanding the amazing ways that we are connected.


Plans to send a boat to Titan proposed

Via:The Independent

Image From NASA

Plans to send an interplanetary pedalo to Saturn’s largest moon Titan have been unveiled by scientists.

The robot craft would land in one of the moon’s lakes and sail around propelled by paddles.

Other versions of the probe are fitted with screws or wheels.

Titan is the nearest thing the Solar System has to Pandora, the Earth-like moon featured in the film Avatar.

Like Earth it has a thick atmosphere and large bodies of liquid on its surface – only Titan’s chilly seas consist of lighter fluid chemicals instead of water.

The hydrocarbon lakes, seas and rivers cover much of the moon’s northern hemisphere.

Their existence was confirmed by the European Space Agency’s Huygens lander which visited Titan as part of the Cassini mission in 2005.

Huygens landed on solid ground but was designed to float for short periods.

The new plans, presented at the European Planetary Science Congress in Madrid, envisage dropping a boat-like probe in the middle of Ligeia Mare, the largest lake near Titan’s north pole.

The craft would then set sail for the coast, taking scientific measurements on the way.

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“There Is No Such Thing As Time”

Via:Popsci

Astrophysicist Adam Frank’s new book mixes cosmology with humanity. How does our understanding of the universe and cosmic time inform our daily lives? Especially if time is an illusion?

The Hubble Ultra Deep Field

The “rebels” who fight the Big Bang theory are mostly attempting to grapple with the concept of time. They are philosophers as much as cosmologists, unsatisfied with the Big Bang, unimpressed with string theory and unconvinced of the multiverse. Julian Barbour, British physicist, author, and major proponent of the idea of timeless physics, is one of those rebels–so thoroughly a rebel that he has spurned the world of academics.

Julian Barbour’s solution to the problem of time in physics and cosmology is as simply stated as it is radical: there is no such thing as time.

“If you try to get your hands on time, it’s always slipping through your fingers,” says Barbour. “People are sure time is there, but they can’t get hold of it. My feeling is that they can’t get hold of it because it isn’t there at all.” Barbour speaks with a disarming English charm that belies an iron resolve and confidence in his science. His extreme perspective comes from years of looking into the heart of both classical and quantum physics. Isaac Newton thought of time as a river flowing at the same rate everywhere. Einstein changed this picture by unifying space and time into a single 4-D entity. But even Einstein failed to challenge the concept of time as a measure of change. In Barbour’s view, the question must be turned on its head. It is change that provides the illusion of time. Channeling the ghost of Parmenides, Barbour sees each individual moment as a whole, complete and existing in its own right. He calls these moments “Nows.”

“As we live, we seem to move through a succession of Nows,” says Barbour, “and the question is, what are they?” For Barbour each Now is an arrangement of everything in the universe. “We have the strong impression that things have definite positions relative to each other. I aim to abstract away everything we cannot see (directly or indirectly) and simply keep this idea of many different things coexisting at once. There are simply the Nows, nothing more, nothing less.”

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Sounds of Space: “Chorus” radio waves within Earth’s magnetosphere

The audio ‘Chorus’ in this video was recorded on Sept. 5, 2012, by RBSP’s Electric and Magnetic Field Instrument Suite and Integrated Science (EMFISIS).

For more info about the auroral chorus phenomena visit: captaincynic.com

Audio Credit: University of Iowa
Visualisation Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

 


Acoustic levitation

It’s not a magic trick and it’s not sleight of hand – scientists really are using levitation to improve the drug development process, eventually yielding more effective pharmaceuticals with fewer side effects.

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory have discovered a way to use sound waves to levitate individual droplets of solutions containing different pharmaceuticals. While the connection between levitation and drug development may not be immediately apparent, a special relationship emerges at the molecular level.

At the molecular level, pharmaceutical structures fall into one of two categories: amorphous or crystalline. Amorphous drugs typically are more efficiently taken up by the body than their crystalline cousins; this is because amorphous drugs are both more highly soluble and have a higher bioavailability, suggesting that a lower dose can produce the desired effect.

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Arctic hunt finds mammoth remains

Via:BBC

A Russian-led expedition has found what it says are well preserved mammoth remains in Siberia but has downplayed reports that the material could be used to clone the ancient beast.

The skin and bone were recovered from a tunnel dug into the permafrost in the Ust-Yansk area of the Yakutia region on Russia’s Arctic coast.

The team hopes to find intact DNA that can be used to reproduce the creature.

But a member of the group told Reuters news agency this was doubtful.

“We are counting on our region’s permafrost to have kept some cells alive. But it is unlikely,” said Semyon Grigoryev, a professor at North-East Federal University (NEFU).

Most of the scientific community is highly sceptical that any mammoth cloning project could succeed. Genetic material still present in ancient remains would be so degraded as to make the task impracticable, experts say.

Mammoths first appeared in the Pliocene Epoch, 4.8 million years ago.

What caused their widespread disappearance at the end of the last Ice Age remains unclear; but climate change, overkill by human hunters, or a combination of both could have been to blame.

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Dark Energy Is Real, Say Astronomers

Via:Science Daily

Image created by NASA and ESA

After a two-year study led by Tommaso Giannantonio and Robert Crittenden, scientists conclude that the likelihood of its existence stands at 99.996 per cent. Their findings are published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Professor Bob Nichol, a member of the Portsmouth team, said: “Dark energy is one of the great scientific mysteries of our time, so it isn’t surprising that so many researchers question its existence.

“But with our new work we’re more confident than ever that this exotic component of the Universe is real — even if we still have no idea what it consists of.”

Over a decade ago, astronomers observing the brightness of distant supernovae realised that the expansion of the Universe appeared to be accelerating. The acceleration is attributed to the repulsive force associated with dark energy now thought to make up 73 per cent of the content of the cosmos. The researchers who made this discovery received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2011, but the existence of dark energy remains a topic of hot debate.

Many other techniques have been used to confirm the reality of dark energy but they are either indirect probes of the accelerating Universe or susceptible to their own uncertainties. Clear evidence for dark energy comes from the Integrated Sachs Wolfe effect named after Rainer Sachs and Arthur Wolfe.

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Pentagon unveils mule-drone

A new four legged robot called Alpha-dog has been tested by Boston Dynamics for Pentagon. It could give U.S. troops a leg up in terrain too rough even for military vehicles. It also capable to carry all the gear soldiers and Marines might need in combat, but as RT’s Meghan Lopez explains the device is not perfect.


Scientists Invent Method to Create Memories in Brains

by Jesus Diaz / Gizmodo

I find this extremely hard to believe, but according to new research published in Nature Neuroscience, scientists have invented a method to induce memories in brains for the first time in history.

Total Recall—here we come.

The study—published by Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine’s Professor of Neurosciences and Physiology/Biophysics Ben Strowbridge, PhD, and MD/PhD student Robert A. Hyde—shows a method to store different types of short-term memories, which they have successfully tested in brain tissue stored in vitro.

Titled “Mnemonic Representations of Transient Stimuli and Temporal Sequences in Rodent Hippocampus In Vitro”, their paper describes how they used a piece of mouse brain tissue to form the necessary circuits to record a short-term declarative memory. This type of memory can be something like names, places and events.

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Secret Insect Spy Drones

The US military have designed spy drones so small that they are starting to look like tiny insects.