CSAR DiscRotor -- DARPA/Boeing Retractable-Blade Helicopter

Boeing Develops Helicopter-Airplane Hybrid for DARPA

As part of a DARPA initiative, Boeing is developing a search-and-rescue aircraft that combines a helicopter's hovering capabilities with an airplane's long flight range. According to Aviation Week, Boeing will test a 20-percent scale model of the disc-rotor aircraft, called the CSAR DiscRotor, in a wind tunnel sometime next year.

The aircraft takes off vertically like a helicopter, with telescoping rotor blades extended, then converts to fixed-wing forward flight by retrating the blades into the disc, which is then stopped. The aircraft the flies on its swept wing and dual ducted propellers.

DARPA - Tactical Technology Office (TTO)

The goal of the DiscRotor Compound Helicopter program is to design and demonstrate the enabling technologies required to develop a new type of compound helicopter capable of high-efficiency hover, high-speed flight, and seamless transition between these flight states.
An aircraft capable of long range high speed (300-400 kts) and vertical take-off and landing (VTOL)/hover will satisfy an ongoing military interest, bridging the gap in helicopter escort and insertion missions by providing survivability, mobility, and responsiveness for troop and cargo insertion.

High-Speed VTOL Goes for a Spin

Developing a mechanism that will reliability and repeatably retract and extend the blades under flight loads (including centripetal forces) is the central technical challenge of the DiscRotor program,

The DiscRotor has an integrated propulsion system using two turboshaft engines fitted with fans so they can also generate forward thrust. Shaft power goes to the main gearbox to power the rotor and a pair of wing-mounted, cross-shafted ducted propellers that provide the majority of the thrust in fixed-wing mode.


Assassin Bugs, Predators That Trick Their Prey

Assassin Bug

Assassin bugs are appropriately named because of their habit of lying in ambush for their insect prey. With speed and accuracy, this bug uses its long "beak" to stab the victim and then inject it with a lethal toxin that dissolves the victim's tissue, then it sucks up the liquefied tissues through its long beak

Collected from: Assassin Bug

YouTube - Assassin Bug vs. Bat

Think there's nothing scarier than a vampire bat? How about the bug that sucks it's blood?

Assassin Bugs - Assassin Bugs, the Insect World's Most Cunning Killers

Bee Assassins

Bee killers use a clever method of catching their favorite prey, bees.

Masked Hunters

Also called the masked bed bug hunter, this assassin bug nymph will disguise itself by picking up debris, from dust to dead bugs, and sticking the trash all over its body.

Ambush Bugs

Ambush bugs site motionless on flowers, waiting for a bee or butterfly to land. When one does, the ambush bug pounces quickly, grabbing the prey in its strong front legs.

Assassin Bug Eats Spiders After Feigning Capture | Wired Science | Wired.com

The assassin bug slowly approaches the spider on its web, using its forelegs to pluck the silk threads in a manner that simulates the vibrations of a fly struggling after being caught. Wignall studied the behavior of the bugs, and found that the response of the spider to the predator was the same as its response to when a vinegar fly or aphid was caught in the web.

Once the spider is close enough, the assassin bug lashes out, and eats the poor unsuspecting arachnid. Most of the time, anyway — Wignall also observed a few occasions of spiders counter-attacking the bugs and killing and eating them instead.

This video shows an assassin bug luring, striking and killing a spider. This research was published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B in the paper: Assassin bug uses aggressive mimicry to lure spider prey by Anne E. Wignall and Phillip W. Taylor. The doi link for the article is http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2010.2060


Dream Recording

New brain machine reads minds

Scientists connect activity of neurons to computer and show how a person can fade images in and out by thinking about them

A new advance in brain-machine interfaces could enable scientists to one day decode what a person is thinking simply by monitoring brain cell activity. 

The finding, detailed in the Oct. 27 issue of the journal Nature, could also help researchers understand how the brain performs its myriad visual tricks, such as recognizing someone in a crowd.

BBC News - Dream recording device 'possible' researcher claims

A US researcher has said he plans to electronically record and interpret dreams.

Dr Cerf makes his bold claim based on an initial study that he says suggests that the activity of individual brain cells, or neurons, are associated with specific objects or concepts.

He found, for example, that when a volunteer was thinking of Marilyn Monroe, a particular neuron lit up.

By showing volunteers a series of images, Dr Cerf and his colleagues were able to identify neurons for a wide range of objects and concepts - which they used to build up a database for each patient. These included Bill and Hilary Clinton, the Eiffel Tower and celebrities.

So by observing which brain cell lit up and when, Dr Cerf says he was effectively able to "read the subjects' minds".


Bees Solve Travelling Salesman Problem

Fox News - Fair & Balanced

Tiny Bee Brains Beat Computers at Complex Math Problems - FoxNews.com

While they seem to wander leisurely from flower to flower foraging for pollen, bees are actually solving complex mathematical problems that take computers days to computer, studies found.

Researchers at Queen Mark, the University of London, and Royal Holloway have discovered that in their meandering, bees find the shortest possible route between the flowers they randomly discover. By doing so, the honey-lovin' insects are essentially solving the "Traveling Salesman Problem" -- despite having brains the size of a pinhead.

The classic mathematical problem, first formulated in 1930, involves a traveling salesman who must find the most efficient itinerary that allows him to visit all locations on his route. It is one of the most intensively studied problems in optimization.

Tiny brained bees solve a complex mathematical problem

The Travelling Salesman must find the shortest route that allows him to visit all locations on his route. Computers solve it by comparing the length of all possible routes and choosing the shortest. However, bees solve it without computer assistance using a brain the size of grass seed.

 Dr Nigel Raine, from the School of Biological Sciences at Royal Holloway explains: "Foraging bees solve travelling salesman problems every day. They visit flowers at multiple locations and, because bees use lots of energy to fly, they find a route which keeps flying to a minimum.”

The team used computer controlled artificial flowers to test whether bees would follow a route defined by the order in which they discovered the flowers or if they would find the shortest route. After exploring the location of the flowers, bees quickly learned to fly the shortest route.


Helios Solar Energy Research Center (SERC) -- “Artificial Photosynthesis”

Black Is the New Green | Alternative Energy | DISCOVER Magazine

Scientists are learning to mimic nature to produce clean energy, by re-creating photosynthesis in the lab.

Lilac Amirav is breaking a sweat trying to do what nature has been doing effortlessly for some 3 billion years.
 Amirav’s goal is to tweak this process to better suit the energy needs of a world population that by 2050 is expected to reach 9 billion, a growing percentage of which will want to drive their own cars. She and her colleagues at Helios, a joint project of U.C. Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, want to build an artificial leaf that drips ethanol, or some other alcohol, which you could pump right into your gas tank.

Berkeley Lab

The Solar Energy Research Center (SERC) is one of three Helios projects in which researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) are working to develop fuels from sunlight.

The goal of Helios SERC is to produce carbon-neutral transportation fuels using solar energy as the source of stored energy

Collected from: Berkeley Lab

New Nano-sized Photocatalyst for Artificial Photosynthesis; Step Toward Production of Carbon-Neutral Transportation Fuels

Artificial photosynthesis for the production of liquid fuels is a potential source for renewable and carbon-neutral of transportation energy. The basic concept is to integrate light-harvesting systems that can capture solar photons and catalytic systems that can oxidize water, then to combine this water oxidation half reaction with a carbon dioxide reduction step in an artificial-leaf type system to produce a liquid hydrocarbon, such as methanol (CH3OH), that can be stored, transported, and used for transportation or other applications.

Researchers with the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have now found that nano-sized crystals of cobalt oxide can effectively carry out the critical photosynthetic reaction of splitting water molecules. Heinz Frei, a chemist with Berkeley Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division, and his postdoctoral fellow Feng Jiao reported the results of their study in the journal Angewandte Chemie, in a paper entitled: “Nanostructured Cobalt Oxide Clusters in Mesoporous Silica as Efficient Oxygen-Evolving Catalysts.”

YouTube - Turning Sunlight into Liquid Fuels

An aqueous solution contains silica particles that have been embedded with photooxidizing cobalt oxide nanocrystals plus a sensitizer to allow the water-splitting reaction to be driven by visible light. When laser light hits the solution it turns blue as the sensitizer absorbs light. Bubbles soon begin to form as oxygen gas is released from the spilt water molecules. http://newscenter.lbl.gov/press-relea...


Hydrocynus Goliath Tigerfish, a 'Giant Piranha'

the Goliath tigerfish

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Hydrocynus goliath is also referred to as the Goliath tigerfish. It is a predator with large teeth which is found in Africa. It is part of the genus Hydrocynus. It is considered to be a tigerfish.

Collected from: the Goliath tigerfish

Stand back, he bites: British fisherman grapples with ferocious 'giant piranha'... which has been known to eat CROCODILES

British angler Jeremy Wade looks understandably anxious as he grapples with this ferocious-looking 'giant piranha'.

Commenting on the goliath tigerfish, Wade said: 'This fish is no tench. It is, for all intents and purposes, a giant piranha. It is quite a beast.

Collected from: 'giant piranha'

Evolution of Aquatic Biota: Tigerfishes and others - FPDCotteri

spects of fieldwork in the Bas Congo river were filmed for 
National Geographic documentary, which highlights the Goliath Tigerfish, Hydrocynus goliath. This documentary also highlights the unique hydrology and remarkable fish fauna of the Bas Congo. See recent studies by Markert et al. BMC Evolutionary Biology 2010, 10:149, and results of velocity mapping that reveal the unique bathymetry and hydrodynamics of the 150m deep channel of the Bulu reach of the Bas Congo (Jackson et al. 2009) and video 


Hipmunk -- Find Your Flight with a Visual Interface

What is Hipmunk?

Hipmunk is a new flight search site that makes it easy to find the right flight with its unique interface.

How is your approach different from other flight search sites?

Other sites make you click through dozens of pages of results to get a feel for the interesting flights. Hipmunk shows you all the interesting results on one page. Hipmunk focuses on helping you find the right flight as quickly as possible—not bombarding you with distractions like ads.

techcrunch logo

Reddit Co-Founder Dips Back Into Y Combinator With Travel Startup Hipmunk

Hipmunk only displays flights that you’ll actually want to take, and it displays them in a user interface that shows you exactly how much you’ll pay and how long you’ll be traveling. When you see the results (see screenshot for example), you’ll never want to see flight results in any other format. It’s one of those that’s so obvious why didn’t I think of that moments. And all results are on one long page, making sorting and comparing much easier.

One-Way Trip to the Red Planet -- Martian Colonization Missions

Cosmic Log - Going to Mars ... on a one-way trip

Will the first explorers to visit Mars come back to Earth? Or does it actually make more sense to leave them there? The idea of sending the Red Planet's first settlers on one-way trips has been kicking around for years, and now two researchers have published a paper in the Journal of Cosmology laying out how such missions could play out between now and 2035.

Journal of Cosmology

Journal of Cosmology, 2010, Vol 12, In Press
JournalofCosmology.com, October-November, 2010
The Human Mission to Mars. Colonizing the Red Planet

To Boldly Go: A One-Way Human Mission to Mars
Dirk Schulze-Makuch, Ph.D.1, and Paul Davies, Ph.D.2,
1School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Washington State University
2Beyond Center, Arizona State University
Collected from: Journal of Cosmology

Professors urge one-way Martian colonization missions

Mars is by far the most promising for sustained colonization and development, the authors conclude, because it is similar in many respects to Earth and, crucially, possesses a moderate surface gravity, an atmosphere, abundant water and carbon dioxide, together with a range of essential minerals. It is the Earth's second closest planetary neighbor (after Venus) and a trip to Mars takes about six months using the most favorable launch option and current chemical rocket technology.

"We envision that Mars exploration would begin and proceed for a long time on the basis of outbound journeys only," said Schulze-Makuch. "One approach could be to send four astronauts initially, two on each of two space craft, each with a lander and sufficient supplies, to stake a single outpost on Mars. A one-way human mission to Mars would be the first step in establishing a permanent human presence on the planet."

SPACE.com -- Mars or Bust! One-Way Trip to the Red Planet Could Kick-start Colonization

But would anyone actually want to sign up for a one-way ticket to Mars? Apparently so.

"Informal surveys conducted after lectures and conference presentations on our proposal, have repeatedly shown that many people are willing to volunteer for a one-way mission, both for reasons of scientific curiosity and in a spirit of adventure and human destiny," the researchers said.


Mood on Twitter May Be Stock Predictor

Monitoring how Twitter users are feeling can predict the stock market three days in advance | Mail Online

The general mood among Twitter users can predict the rise and fall of the stock market almost a week in advance, a new study has found.

A computer scientist in the US has discovered that the correlation between the Dow Jones and the collective public mood was almost 90 per cent accurate.

Analyzing almost 10 million tweets, research finds public mood can predict Dow days in advance: IU News Room: Indiana University

Using two mood-tracking tools to analyze the text content of the large-scale collection of Twitter feeds, Associate Professor Johan Bollen and Ph.D. candidate Huina Mao were able to measure variations in public mood and then compare them to closing stock market values.

One tool, OpinionFinder, analyzed the tweets to provide a positive or negative daily time series of public mood. The second tool, Google-Profile of Mood States (GPOMS), measured the mood of tweets in six dimensions: calm, alert, sure, vital, kind, and happy. Together, the two tools provided the researchers with seven public mood time series that could then be set against a similar daily time series of Dow Jones closing values.

A graph of Dow Jones Industrial Average values (center, blue) and tweets identified with a "calm" mood during a time series (bottom, red) running three days prior are overlaid in the top graph to show gray areas of significant overlap.


Hartley 2 The Green Comet

Here Comes Comet Hartley 2!

Comet 103P/Hartley 2, a small periodic comet, was discovered in 1986 by Malcolm Hartley, an Australian astronomer. It orbits the sun about every 6.5 years, and on Oct. 20, the comet will make its closest approach to Earth since its discovery. In this case, "close" means 11 million miles, or 17.7 million kilometers. A moonless sky will make for promising viewing conditions in the northeastern skies, especially just before dawn.

Comet Hartley 2's nuclear diameter is estimated at 0.75-0.99 of one mile -- 1.2-1.6 kilometers -- and it's believed to have enough mass to make approximately 100 more apparitions, or appearances, near Earth. The 2010 appearance also marks one of the closest approaches of any comet in the last few centuries.

Why is the comet green? Answer: Hartley 2's green color comes from the gases that make up its Jupiter-sized atmosphere. Jets spewing from the comet's nucleus contain cyanogen (CN: a poisonous gas found in many comets) and diatomic carbon (C2). Both substances glow green when illuminated by sunlight in the near-vacuum of space.

103P/Hartley - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

2010 approach

The comet will pass within 0.12 AU of the Earth on October 20, 2010,[6] only eight days before coming to perihelion (closest approach to the Sun) on October 28, 2010.[1] During this passage, the comet may be visible to the naked eye at apparent magnitude 5,[7] in the constellation Auriga, near its open clusters, if an observer knows where to look and is viewing from a dark sky location. Binoculars should make it an easy target.

Comet 103P Hartley from as seen from a four inch telescope, October 6th, 2010.
The comet passed near the position of NGC 281 in Cassiopeia on October 1. On the night of October 7 at New Moon, the comet is expected to pass near the Double Cluster in the sky and near the open cluster NGC 1528 by October 14, both in Perseus. In early November the comet will be visible around midnight without interference from the Moon.[8]

Comet 103P passing within 0.12AU of Earth on October 20, 2010.[6]


The Breaking Curveball Illusion

Futurity.org – No breaking curveball? Say it ain’t so

No pitcher can make a curveball “break” or a fastball “rise.” What hitters—and fans—think they see is simply an illusion, new research shows.

Led by Arthur Shapiro of American University and Zhong-Lin Lu of the University of Southern California, the researchers explain the illusion of the curveball’s break in a publicly available study in the journal PLoS ONE.

The study comes a year after the same group won the prize for best illusion at the Vision Sciences annual meeting with a demonstration of how an object falling in a straight line can seem to change direction. That demonstration led to debates among baseball fans over the existence of the break in curveballs, breaking balls, and sliders.

YouTube - Baseball Science: Break in Curveball Too Good To Be True

USC College Professor of Psychology Zhong-Lin Lu proposed that the "break" in a curveball that fools some batters is a visual illusion. "Curveballs do curve," Lu says, but in a conversation with USC Pitching Coach Tom House, he explains why a perception of a sudden drop or other change in trajectory is a trick of the eye. This study was published in the scientific journal PLoS ONE. To read the whole story, please go to: http://uscnews.usc.edu/science_techno... Video by Mira Zimet and Zane Fried.

Breaking Curveball Too Good to Be True - USC News

The PLoS ONE study explains the illusion and relates the perceived size of the break to the shifting of the batter’s eye between central and peripheral vision.

“If the batter takes his eye off the ball by 10 degrees, the size of the break is about one foot,” Lu said.

He explained that batters tend to switch from central to peripheral vision when the ball is about 20 feet away, or two-thirds of the way to home plate.
The eye’s peripheral vision lacks the ability to separate the motions of the spinning ball, Lu said. In particular, it gets confused by the combination of the ball’s velocity and spin.

The result is a gap between the ball’s trajectory and the path as perceived by the batter.

The gap is small when the batter switches to peripheral vision, but gets larger as the ball travels the last 20 feet to home plate.

As the ball arrives at the plate, the batter switches back to central vision and sees it in a different spot than expected.

That perception of an abrupt change is the “break” in the curveball that frustrates batters.

“Depending on how much and when the batter’s eyes shift while tracking the ball, you can actually get a sizable break,” Lu said. “The difference between central and peripheral vision is key to understanding the break of the curveball.”


MechaniCards: Mailable Kinetic Sculptures

YouTube - Introducing MechaniCards™

Mailable kinetic sculptures, made by Bradley N. Litwin. They're made primarily of paperboard, with few bits of wood and plastic.

Mechanicards mailable scultptures by Brad Litwin

MechaniCards™ are miniature, hand-operated, kinetic sculptures, designed and produced in limited edition by Bradley N. Litwin. Each one is hand made, numbered and signed by the artist. They are constructed primarily from paperboard, with a few bits of wood, metal, or plastic. They make excellent gifts, and are suitable for mailing, as truly unique greeting cards. Each piece comes with complete instructions and display recommendations. They are also available as do-it-yourself construction kits.

Bradley N. Litwin is a Philadelphia based, multi-discipline artist, born in 1955. Primarily self-trained, his career as an artist has taken a serpentine path through craft, manufacturing, multimedia production, music, and the fine arts. Through it all, he has been making machinery of one kind or another for over thirty-five years.
Collected from: Brad Litwin - Bio


NELL: Never-Ending Language Learning -- A Computer System that Learns to Read The Web

Smarter Than You Think - Aiming to Learn as We Do, A Machine Teaches Itself - NYTimes.com

Since the start of the year, a team of researchers at Carnegie Mellon University — supported by grants from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and Google, and tapping into a research supercomputing cluster provided by Yahoo — has been fine-tuning a computer system that is trying to master semantics by learning more like a human. Its beating hardware heart is a sleek, silver-gray computer — calculating 24 hours a day, seven days a week — that resides in a basement computer center at the university, in Pittsburgh. The computer was primed by the researchers with some basic knowledge in various categories and set loose on the Web with a mission to teach itself.

The Never-Ending Language Learning system, or NELL, has made an impressive showing so far. NELL scans hundreds of millions of Web pages for text patterns that it uses to learn facts, 390,000 to date, with an estimated accuracy of 87 percent. These facts are grouped into semantic categories — cities, companies, sports teams, actors, universities, plants and 274 others. The category facts are things like “San Francisco is a city” and “sunflower is a plant.”

  Can computers learn to read? We think so. "Read the Web" is a research project that attempts to create a computer system that learns over time to read the web. Since January 2010, our computer system called NELL (Never-Ending Language Learner) has been running continuously, attempting to perform two tasks each day:
  • First, it attempts to "read," or extract facts from text found in hundreds of millions of web pages (e.g., playsInstrument(George_Harrison, guitar)).
  • Second, it attempts to improve its reading competence, so that tomorrow it can extract more facts from the web, more accurately.
As of October 2010, NELL has acquired a knowledge base of nearly 440,000 beliefs that it has read from various web pages. It is not perfect, but NELL is learning. You can track NELL's progress, browse and download its knowledge base, and read more about our technical approach.