BlueBiped, a Human-like Walking Robot Powered by its Own Weight

The Sano Lab. at the Nagoya Institute of Technology have developed a passive walking robot, designed to walk using only its own weight, without any motors, sensors, computers or electricity. To begin walking all this robot requires is a push.

BlueBiped: A human-like walking robot that requires no power source | ExtremeTech

Without making this accomplishment any less awesome, these robot legs — called BlueBiped, and made by researchers at the Nagoya Institute of Technology in Japan — are basically just an imitation of human physiology. There are thighs and lower legs made out of aluminium that are the same length as their human counterparts, and ankles and  knee joints for articulation, but… that’s it. No sensors, no computers, no “musculature” — the legs are completely passive, you just give them a push… and they carry on walking. As long as there’s a slight downwards slope, anyway — there has to be some source of energy, after all, and in this case it’s gravity.
Last year, BlueBiped successfully walked for 13 hours continuously — 100,000 consecutive steps, 9 miles (15km) — without human intervention. Now the researchers seem to be thinking of actual, commercial applications for BlueBiped. They have tested a modified version that can be worn like an exoskeleton, which apparently can help people walk. In the video, “sports equipment” is also mentioned, though we’re not sure what that means — robot tennis instructors, perhaps?

An earlier prototype of the BlueBiped legbot walked its way into the Guinness Book of Records last year for strutting 13 hours continuously, making 100,000 consecutive steps over the equivalent of nine miles -- all without human intervention. Now, with the help of System Instruments, the team plans to develop a commercial version.

There are two big ideas on the horizon: one is to transform the BlueBiped into some kind of exoskeleton to help people who have trouble walking. Another idea is to make the robot help out with sports equipment. Could be handy on the golf range, as long as it's all downhill. The team wants to release a commercial version within the next couple of years.


The Largest Woodpecker in the World

Study analyzes only known footage of the largest woodpecker that ever lived

The imperial woodpecker perched on a tree. (Credit: William L. Rhein)
ScienceDaily (Oct. 26, 2011) — The imperial woodpecker -- the largest woodpecker that ever lived --probably went extinct in the late 20th century in the high mountains of Mexico, without anyone ever capturing photos or film of the 2-foot-tall, flamboyantly crested bird. Or so scientists thought -- until a biologist from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology tracked down a 16-mm film shot in 1956 by a dentist from Pennsylvania.

The footage, which captures the last confirmed sighting of an imperial woodpecker in the wild, has now been restored and used to learn more about the species' behavior and its habitat -- determined by tracking down the exact filming location during a 2010 expedition.

In the 85-second color film, which is available for viewing online, a female imperial woodpecker hitches up, forages on the trunks of large Durango pines and then launches into flight.

The film was shot by dentist William Rhein, who filmed the bird with a hand-held movie camera from the back of a mule while camping in a remote location in the Sierra Madre Occidental in Durango state. In a 1997 interview with Lammertink, Rhein, who died in 1999, commented that the woodpecker was "like a great big turkey flying in front of me."

This illustration of the imperial woodpecker was painted by graduate student Evaristo Hernández-Fernández, a Bartels Science Illustration intern, and is the cover image of the latest issue of The Auk.


Rotundus' GroundBot a Spherical Surveillance Robot

BLDGBLOG: Eye Roller

The GroundBot system by Swedish firm Rotundus is a remote-controlled, all-weather polycarbonate sphere that "can trundle through snow, mud and sand as it supplies a live feed via a pair of cameras," Wired UK explains. "Its operator sees the image in 3D on a screen."

Security rolls out thanks to the Rotundus GroundBot (Wired UK)

The GroundBot is steered via a pendulum housed inside a hollow sphere, which swings outwards on its axle, pushing the robot in the desired direction. A cluster of accelerometers, gyros, GPS and a magnetometer keeps the GroundBot on track as it rolls along at speeds of up to 10kph. But this isn't just a moving camera. "Future developments include the GroundBot recognizing objects and reporting obstacles it encounters to an operator," says Rotundus CEO Johan Bäcke.

The GroundBot is undergoing trials with Saab and the Swedish Defence Forces; if successful, it could be, um, rolled out and put to use in airports and other locations in need of surveillance. And then the snoozing security guard might be consigned to history.


What are the advantages?

• Weighing just 25 kg, GroundBot™ won’t get stuck in sand, mud or snow.
• All cameras/sensors and mechanics are protected inside the sealed sphere.
• GroundBot™ is efficient and can run up to 10 km/h (6 mph) - without making a sound.

• GroundBot™ can operate for 8-16 hours depending on mission profile

Read more

Where can GroundBot™ be used?

GroundBot™ helps increase security and cuts costs at places such as –

• Airports
• Harbors
• Power plants
• Warehouses
• Perimeter protection
• Border security

Read more

Source: Rotundus


Quantum Levitation Demonstration and Explanation

Looks like magic: quantum levitation – Light Years - CNN.com Blogs

It looks like something out of a magic show, where the magician is able to defy gravity and float or levitate an object in midair with no apparent explanation. Check out this really cool video which is not a Vegas show, but an example of something called quantum levitation:

It’s not magic at all, but a very cool demonstration from the Association of Science-Technology Centers. It’s a demo from Tel-Aviv University on what happens when a superconductor gets trapped in a magnetic field. What you’re witnessing is something similar to the Meissner Effect.

Meissner effect - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Meissner effect is the expulsion of a magnetic field from a superconductor during its transition to the superconducting state. [...] The samples, in the presence of an applied magnetic field, were cooled below what is called their superconducting transition temperature. Below the transition temperature the samples canceled nearly all magnetic fields inside. They detected this effect only indirectly; because the magnetic flux is conserved by a superconductor, when the interior field decreased the exterior field increased. The experiment demonstrated for the first time that superconductors were more than just perfect conductors and provided a uniquely defining property of the superconducting state.
Diagram of the Meissner effect. Magnetic field lines, represented as arrows, are excluded from a superconductor when it is below its critical temperature.



Our mission
We are dedicated to teach and educate young and adults of superconductivity through the unique and counter-intuitive phenomena of ‘quantum trapping’ and ‘quantum levitation’.

The physics behind

Superconductivity and magnetic field do not like each other. When possible, the superconductor will expel all the magnetic field from inside. This is the Meissner effect. In our case, since the superconductor is extremely thin, the magnetic field DOES penetrates. However, it does that in discrete quantities (this is quantum physics after all! ) called flux tubes.

Inside each magnetic flux tube superconductivity is locally destroyed. The superconductor will try to keep the magnetic tubes pinned in weak areas (e.g. grain boundaries). Any spatial movement of the superconductor will cause the flux tubes to move. In order to prevent that the superconductor remains “trapped” in midair.


The Lytro Light Field Camera

The Lytro Camera ($400-$500) is an all-new type of shooter called a Light Field Camera that captures the color, intensity and vector direction of the rays of light — 11 million of them, in the case of the Lytro — and then uses powerful software to substitute for the internal pieces of regular cameras and also add incredible new capabilities, like the ability to focus the photo after you've taken it.

Source: Lytro Camera

Form follows function.
The Lytro Light Field Camera boasts an 8X optical zoom lens with a constant f/2 aperture, capturing maximum light across the entire zoom range.

Intelligent design.
Extruded anodized aluminum structural skin. Center of gravity shutter button. Intuitive multi-touch screen. And less than eight ounces. What does it all mean? A meticulously designed camera that's lightweight yet solid, built for stability, and easy to use.

Speed, indeed.
Light field technology translates to faster snaps. Without an auto-focus motor, the Lytro's instant shutter means you don't lose time focusing. Plus, with instant power on, you can capture the perfect moment – not the moment after.

Elegant omissions.

What's missing? Nothing you'll miss. No auto-focus, no shutter lag, no unnecessary modes, dials, or settings. And no flash, because Lytro can handle many low light settings. So, no obstacles to the perfect shot.

Source: Lytro


Barco's RP-360 a Breakthrough in Flight Simulator Technology

Flight simulator gives 360-degree immersion | TG Daily

Belgian company Barco has unveiled what's probably the most advanced flight-training simulator in the world, a fully immersive, 360 degree system using rear projection.

The RP-360 is designed to give pilots the most realistic view possible, and can be hooked up to other simulators so that several pilots can carry out mission training together.

It's claimed to be the first flight sim to give the pilot a completely uninterrupted 360-degree view, and can be used to simulate a number of different fighter jets.

Barco's RP-360 is a rear-projected spherical display system for full 360° immersive training. The system performance produces the most accurate image quality on the market today.

Barco | Dome displays | 360° immersive dome setup for flight training | RP-360 dome

At a glance

• 13 or 14 projectors
• 25:1 system contrast
• Resolution better than 4 arcmin/OLP
• 10ftL brightness
• can fit in rooms down to 14ft high
It features the following dedicated technologies for multi-channel setups:

DynaColor: automatic color calibration across channels
Linked constant light output: brightness equalization across channels
Edge blending: creates one seamless composite image
Warping: precise geometry correction for curved surfaces
Smearing reduction: handles fast-moving imagery effortlessly


Self-Replicating Nanoscale Patterns Promising for Fabrication of New Materials

Scientists Build Self-Replicating Molecule : Discovery News

New York University researchers led by Paul Chaikin have found a way to use synthetic DNA to make molecules that reproduce themselves. The technique gives scientists a tool to create different combinations on the DNA that aren't necessarily available in nature. That opens up billions of possibilities for building completely new materials and even molecular machines. Chaikin and his colleaques reported their results in this week's journal Nature.

NYU scientists have developed artificial structures that can self-replicate, a process that has the potential to yield new types of materials. These structures consist of triple helix molecules containing three DNA double helices. Image courtesy of Nature.

“This is the first step in the process of creating artificial self-replicating materials of an arbitrary composition,” said Paul Chaikin, a professor in NYU’s Department of Physics and one of the study’s co-authors. “The next challenge is to create a process in which self-replication occurs not only for a few generations, but long enough to show exponential growth.”

“While our replication method requires multiple chemical and thermal processing cycles, we have demonstrated that it is possible to replicate not just molecules like cellular DNA or RNA, but discrete structures that could in principle assume many different shapes, have many different functional features, and be associated with many different types of chemical species,” added Nadrian Seeman, a professor in NYU’s Department of Chemistry and a co-author of the study.

DNA tiles
The researchers used artificial structures of DNA - so-called DNA tiles - dissolved in water to demonstrate the new process. These tiles are several tens of nanometres in size and consist of compactly folded  DNA strands, from which four loose ends with a specific sequence of the bases A, C, G and T protrude. Like a barcode, these sticky ends determine the identity of a tile and ensure that tiles with complementary ends attach to each other: A always adheres to T, and C to G. When joined, the ends of the two tiles together form the characteristic double helix structure.

The researchers arranged seven tiles with two different identities (for example indicated with the letters X and Y) to form the ‘word’ X-Y-Y-X-Y-X-Y. Subsequently, tiles with complementary sticky ends, X' and Y', spontaneously attached themselves in the right order to this initial structure (X'-Y'-Y'-X'-Y'-X'-Y'). The sticky ends only stick at a lower temperature and so the 'daughter word' was separated from the initial structure by briefly increasing the temperature. After this the researchers repeated the process with the remaining separate tiles until these formed 'granddaughters' with exactly the same XY sequence of letters


Titanium on the Moon

Subtly shaded map of Moon reveals Titanium treasure troves | School of Earth and Space Exploration

A map of the Moon combining observations in visible and ultraviolet wavelengths shows a treasure trove of areas rich in Titanium ores. Not only is titanium a valuable element, it is key to helping scientists unravel the mysteries of the Moon’s interior. Arizona State University’s Mark Robinson and Brett Denevi of Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory will be presenting the results from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission today at the joint meeting of the European Planetary Science Congress and the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences.

“Looking up at the Moon, its surface appears painted with shades of gray – at least to the human eye. But with the right instruments, the Moon can appear colorful,” said Robinson, a professor in ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “The maria appear reddish in some places and blue in others. Although subtle, these color variations tell us important things about the chemistry and evolution of the lunar surface. They indicate the titanium and iron abundance, as well as the maturity of a lunar soil.”

LROC WAC mosaic showing the boundary between Mare Serenitatis and Mare Tranquillitatis. The relative blue colour of the Tranquillitatis mare is due to higher abundances of the titanium bearing mineral ilmenite. Enhanced colour formed as 689 nm filter image in red, 415 nm in green, and 321 nm in blue [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].

Full resolution WAC three colour composite (566 nm filter image in red, 360 nm in green, and 321 nm in blue) highlighting region with varying mare compositions and enigmatic small volcanic structures known as “domes” [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) Wide Angle Camera (WAC) is imaging the surface in seven different wavelengths at a resolution of between 100 and 400 meters per pixel (328 and 1312 feet per pixel). Specific minerals reflect or absorb strongly certain parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, so the wavelengths detected by LROC WAC help scientists better understand the chemical composition of the lunar surface.

Malin Space Science Systems - Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC)

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) instruments. [...] one of the two narrow angle cameras with a 88.9 mm (3.5 inch) Swiss Army Knife (and a hammer) for scale.

[...] the wide angle camera system, with the same pocket knife for scale.

The Moon Is Bursting With Precious Titanium : Discovery News

  • New maps show rich abundances of titanium in the solidified lava flows on the moon.
  • The element is mostly found in a mineral that also contains iron and oxygen.
  • Titanium deposits, which could be mined for future use, also reveal history of moon’s volcanic eruptions.


El Camino del Rey -- The Most Dangerous Hike in the World

Photos & Guide to El Camino Del Rey, El Chorro, Spain
  • Some say its the most dangerous hike in the world, El Camino Del Rey (also known as El Caminito Del Rey) ...

  • The path was originally constructed in 1905 for workers of a hydro eletric damn set up in the cliffs of El Choro. Since then, the path has deteriorated and is now only for the adventurous. The government of Spain allocated 7 million euros for the restoration of El Camino Del Rey in 2006, however its clear that this has not been spent yet.
 The climb starts like this, get the worst part over with

 Crossing another missing section via the 3″ beam

El Caminito Del Rey To Be Restored
  • €9 million over 4 years to fund the restoration

    The announced restoration of the landmark El Caminito Del Rey was decided yesterday, with one of its major obstacles being the funding. The full council of Malaga approved a multi-year economic plan to fund the works between 2011 and 2015. The investment amounts to 9,076,880 euros, which will be contributed equally by the provincial body and the Junta de Andalucia at a rate of 907,688.05 per year for each institution.
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Caminito del Rey - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


MBA Polymers: We can recycle plastic

MBA Polymers - YouTube

  • MBA Polymers is a recognized global leader in the production of sustainable high-value plastics recovered from complex resource streams and end-of-life durable goods such as appliances, business machines and automobiles. The company is not only the technological leader in this developing area, but also the first global company to provide such services and materials.
MBA Polymers, Plastic Recycling
  • Company based in Richmond, California, United States has started a revolution in recycling the millions of tons of waste plastic you incinerate or put into landfill.
    MBA Polymers takes complex shredder residue, low value material, and produces a high-value commodity by sorting out the non-plastic byproducts, such as wood, rubber, metals, fabrics, and separating the plastic by type and grade. This complicated separation of shredded plastics has very low cost, less environmental impact, and is cheaper to purchase than virgin. The proprietary process and technology includes upgrading, compounding, and extruding to a pellet form, at a fraction of the energy and resources to create virgin plastic. Final product that is high quality with stable volumes, resold directly back into the durable goods industry for electronic and auto components, information technology and home media equipment, and domestic appliance applications. 
Mike Biddle: We can recycle plastic | Video on TED.com
Plastic recycling - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Welcome to MBA Polymers—Smarter Plastics


The SeaTwirl Floating Vertical Wind Turbine

SeaTwirl Turbine Could be the Most Cost-Effective Wind Energy Generator Yet | Inhabitat - Green Design Will Save the World
  • Swedish eco-designers, Ehrnberg Solutions AB, have just completed their most successful prototype of the floating SeaTwirl vertical wind turbine. The device captures and harvests offshore wind, without having to convert the energy as it is being stored. SeaTwirl is the first of its kind with only two moving parts, and it uses only sea water as a roller bearing, omitting the need for a gearbox or transmission.
SeaTwirl - YouTube
SeaTwirl Prototype III - Sea Trial - YouTube