Mar 27, 2015

Festo's fantastical insectoid robots include bionic ants and butterflies

posted by Larra Morris

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About this time every year, alarmingly close to April 1, German automation company Festo announces its newest animal-inspired robots. Last year it was a kangaroo (we had to double check that it wasn’t an April Fool’s joke), and before that, a seagull, dragonfly, and floating air jellies, among other cool things. For 2015, Festo is introducing two new insectoid robots: cooperative ants and swarming butterflies.

The theme for Festo’s “Bionic Learning Network” program this year is “Join the Network,” and their flagship projects are both based around swarms of small robots that mimic the way insects work together and interact with each other.
via IEEE Spectrum

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Mar 27, 2015

This speaker blows out fires instantly with bass

posted by Larra Morris

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Engineers have experimented with using sonic waves to douse flames for years—but it took a pair of students to turn the concept into an affordable, hand-held device.

Viet Tran and Seth Robertson, who are both students at George Mason University, spent $600 of their own money to build their prototype, according to the school. The canister directs low-frequency waves to a specific point, while an over-the-shoulder pack that weighs about 20 pounds generates the waves
via Gizmodo

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Mar 27, 2015

Robobug: Scientists clad bacterium with graphene to make a working cytobot

posted by Larra Morris

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By cladding a living cell with graphene quantum dots, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) claim to have created a nanoscale biomicrorobot (or cytobot) that responds electrically to changes in its environment. This work promises to lay the foundations for future generations of bio-derived nanobots, biomicrorobotic-mechanisms, and micromechanical actuation for a wide range of applications.

The UIC team has dubbed its creation NERD (short for Nano-Electro-Robotic Device). The cytobot is built on a bacterial spore – more specifically, an endospore – which is essentially a dormant version of a bacterium.
via Gizmag

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Image: UIC

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Mar 26, 2015

NASA's Opportunity Mars Rover finishes marathon, clocks in at just over 11 years

posted by Laura Domela

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There was no tape draped across a finish line, but NASA is celebrating a win. The agency’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity completed its first Red Planet marathon Tuesday -- 26.219 miles (42.195 kilometers) – with a finish time of roughly 11 years and two months.

"This is the first time any human enterprise has exceeded the distance of a marathon on the surface of another world," said John Callas, Opportunity project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. "A first time happens only once."  

The rover team at JPL plans a marathon-length relay run at the laboratory next week to celebrate.
via NASA

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Mar 26, 2015

Clever app reveals a snapshot of your location—in the past

posted by Larra Morris

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The makers of the augmented reality app Pivot want to create a time portal—on your phone.

The app aims to bring glimpses of history to your smartphone screen, using images tied to wherever you happen to be. Users receive notifications when they’re near a “pivot” point; raising the phone brings up an image of that place as it appeared from that vantage point decades ago.
via Wired

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Image: Pivot

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Mar 26, 2015

Art that only appears when it rains

posted by Larra Morris

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When it rains in Seattle, the local artists make the best of the lousy weather and turn it into cool street art. Artist Peregrine Church—with the help of Xack Fischer and Forest Tresside—uses stencils and waterproof spray to create secret artwork on sidewalks; all it takes is some rain for the images to appear. 

As Tanvi Misra wrote in CityLab, Church wanted to make something that would brighten pedestrians' days despite the gloomy weather. "It’s going to rain anyway," Church said on his website. "Why not do something fun with it?"

The spray he uses is non-toxic and biodegradable so the works are environmentally safe and not slippery. Because the art is not commercial and only temporary, it is considered perfectly legal. 
via Mental Floss

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Images: Peregrine Church

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Mar 25, 2015

Cross stitch embroideries of microbes and viruses by Alicia Watkins

posted by Larra Morris

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Back in 2014 we first posted about the charming cross stitch embroideries of dangerous microbes and viruses created by artist Alicia Watkins. In the intervening months Watkins has created quite a few more quaint pathogens, including malaria protozoa and anthrax bacterium.
via Laughing Squid

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Images: Alicia Watkins

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