Archive for June, 2014

First Class Luxury

Traveling in the twenty first century has changed drastically from the past where a wheeled wagon would take you across the country. Today you have first class luxury available in buses, trains and air crafts. However at Etihad Airway they are taking first class luxury to a whole new level.

The airline from the United Arab Emirates has developed a luxury residence for travelers on their A380 Airbus. The consists of three rooms, these are the private bathroom, private bedroom, and a private living room. Each A380 Airbus on the airline has one residence available on board.

This on board luxury residence takes up about 125 square feet of area and is reminiscent of a hotel suite. There is a large screen LED TV for you to view in the living room. The upholstery is pure leather, the kind you find in Ferrari cars! What’s more you have a private butler attending to you for your entire flight duration. Can you get any more pampered?

What all would you add to a luxury area if you were to design one. Remember that flights need to manage weight so you will have to specifically use light weight materials to build up what you design. Think of this as a challenge to come up with the best scientifically designed first class luxury area!

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Rosetta Readies to Land on Comet

Comets have been feared since ancient times as harbingers of doom. There is little evidence to suggest that they have any effect on our human civilization as they zoom through space. In fact not much was known about comets and even today their secrets have yet to be explored. This is exactly what a space probe named Rosetta is going to do.

The Rosetta orbiter was launched into space to analyse and observe the nucleus and environment of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2004. It has highly complex metal ceramic sensors integrated into two mass spectrometers which are used to measure gas particles in the vicinity of the comet. This data will allow researchers to trace the nature of the comet along with the processes that occur inside one.

Developed by Empa Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, Rosetta will be the first probe to collect data on a comet not only as it passes by, but also by landing on its nucleus. Rosetta will reach the comet sometime in the month of August 2014. It is taking preliminary readings of the data being generated by the comet but real measurements will only begin once it hits the orbit of the comet. It will be interesting to keep track of this science project.


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The Atlantic Razor Clam Inspired RoboClam

In the field of robotics imitating nature is often considered the best way to proceed. In keeping with this tradition the researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a RoboClam that is inspired by the Atlantic razor clam which is a large species of mollusc found on the North American coast.

The razor clam has the ability to quickly dig into the wet sand and hide itself from predators. The RoboClam also is a digging robot that can burrow itself in the wet sand. While the razor clam can go 2 cm into the ground, the robotic imitation can go 70 cm. This action is accomplished by quickly opening and closing the shells of the clam so that the surrounding soil becomes fluid and allows the clam to dig in quickly.

Professor Amos Winter, of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, is the leader of the research. As per him there are many applications where a small, lightweight, low-power, reversible anchor would be very valuable. At the moment they are working on a science project with an underwater robotics company called Bluefin Robotics.  They produce vehicles that need to remain stationary in a current, and could therefore benefit from a small anchor said Winter. It will be interesting to see what the partnership produces.

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Your New Robotic Doctor

On one hand we are worried about robots taking over the world and on the other they are being seen as a boon in the field of medicine. There is a new kind of specialist at the Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego. They are the brand new fleet of telemedicine robots  that are being deployed by doctors to examine patients remotely.

It is an advanced teleconferencing system on wheels that can be accessed by doctors on their laptop, tablet or smartphone. It allows them to examine the patient in far greater detail than they could before. Dr. Anthony Magit, director of Rady Children’s telemedicine program said that the response to telemedicine technology has been very favorable.

Patients realize they are seeing specialists who might not be accessible to them in their own location, so they feel they are getting cutting edge, high-technology care from top experts, said Dr Magit. It also allows the doctors to consult on cases in a timely manner even when they are physically absent.

Would you like to be examined by a telemedicine robot rather than a doctor? How would you design a robot that could do more than just tell the doctor what the problem with the patient was? Think about interesting science projects that you could develop on this theme.

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Danger from Autonomous Robotic Systems

When the film Terminator first spoke of Judgement Day when the robots would take over the planet using Skynet, it was at best a fantasy that seemed many years away. Guess what? Not any more. The autonomous robotic systems that are being designed and used today can actually be seen as a potential threat.

Today these systems need to be able to take instant decisions in situations without getting human input. This has made it possible for robots to act in a manner that they consider best. If these systems are not designed with care we could end up in a situation where the autonomous robotic system decides that its self protection is more important than human life.

It could get more resources to improve itself by manipulation, cyber theft and domination. It may decide to improve its own efficiency by using resources differently from what its creators intended it to. There may also be a problem when it decides to remove design constraints because they are holding back the system development.

Is it beginning to sound more and more like Skynet taking over the world? It should worry you because unless the autonomous robotic systems are designed with care, any of these above situations could prove detrimental to humans around the system. How would you approach this science project?

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