Archive for March, 2015

Crowd Patterns : Random or Predictable?

Predicting how a random crowd will move through an area was always thought to be difficult, however the American Physical Society claims that its all a matter of statistical physics. Gaming in virtual reality can be difficult when you don’t get the crowds around you just right, and now a new law exits to show how pedestrians interact in a crowd.

It is based on the fact that most people will pick the shortest distance to walk along with avoiding any possible collisions with anyone on the way. People do this intuitively, but in the virtual reality world of gaming the programers have to create this effect using software programs.

By applying this statistical physics law they will be able to create a simulation where crowds move in the game much as they would move in real life. As the simulations were worked upon by researchers certain crowd patterns appeared. These patterns, such as the one where a person avoids collision from on comers with greater distance than those who are walking in the same direction, help predict crowd behavior with more accuracy than previous models.

Ioannis Karamouzas of the University of Minnesota who was involved in the scientific study of crowd patterns said that the universality of the law was really surprising, and understanding this can lead to safer building designs and shed some light into the anticipatory nature of human interactions,

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New View of Old Scrolls

The damaged Herculaneum scrolls are an ancient piece of history that can not be viewed unfurled. However now with everyone may be able to read these 2000 year old scrolls that were carbonized in the Mount Vesuvius volcanic eruption of A.D. 79, with a little help from the University of Kentucky Department of Computer Science.

Professor Brent Seales is now working on a software that would help you see the writing on the scrolls as through they were unrolled. The combination of digital imaging techniques and breakthrough technology will ensure that they way we look at history is never the same again.

Each of the Herculaneum scrolls is 20 to 30 feet in length with estimated 3,000 words on it. In terms of volume that will be like the entire works of Shakespeare and then some. They were discovered as charred clumps in the Villa of the Papyri in the ancient Italian city of Herculaneum beginning in 1752. Its been a long time but till this virtual unrolling was made possible by technology, there was just no way to read them.

This science project members hopes that by the time they are done they would have created a software tool and a set of scans of scrolls that together will transform the hopelessly damaged Herculaneum collection into new literary discoveries.

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Sit on Earth, Work on Mars

With every new bit of technology that comes out of NASA’s stables it becomes more and more obvious that we now have amazing tools at our disposal to learn more about our solar system. The last science project to catch the eye is a software called OnSight.

OnSight a new technology that has been developed in collaboration between NASA and Microsoft at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasedena. This will enable scientists to work virtually on Mars by using wearable technology which has been named Microsoft HoloLens. Jeff Norris who is JPL’s OnSight project manager said that it will enhance the ways in which we explore Mars and share that journey of exploration with the world.

It uses holographic computing along with visual information overlays to give a person sitting on earth the feel of what the Mars rover is actually seeing on Mars.Dave Lavery, program executive for the Mars Science Laboratory mission at NASA Headquarters in Washington said that OnSight gives our rover scientists the ability to walk around and explore Mars right from their offices.

It fundamentally changes our perception of Mars, and how we understand the Mars environment surrounding the rover, said Dave. This is one science project that Mars enthusiasts across the board will be paying attention to for the next few years.


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Size of the Milky Way

Our home galaxy, the Milky Way, is a beautiful spiral galaxy which seems to be larger than what was earlier imagined. Scientists at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute or RPI seem to think that the Milky Way is at least fifty time larger than what we thought based on new findings that reveal that the galactic disk is contoured into several concentric ripples.

Professor Heidi Jo Newberg was leader of the team of scientists that revisited astronomical data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. This was the study published in 2002 which established the presence of a bulging ring of stars beyond the known plane of the Milky Way.

Heidi Newberg said that based on the study they have found that they see at least four ripples in the disk of the Milky Way. While they can only look at part of the galaxy with this data, they assume that this pattern is going to be found throughout the disk. This means that the size of the Milky Way which was so far based on what could be seen in space, is now a faulty estimation of its actual size.

While further scientific studies will be required to check just how large the Milky Way actually is and the number of stars that truly exist in it, it is safe to say that it is larger than the size what we previously thought it was.


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Enceladus Shows Signs of Hydrothermal Activity

Enceladus is a moon of Saturn which the Cassini spacecraft has recently sent back information of. The scientists at NASA have seen signs of present-day hydrothermal activity on the moon which leads them to consider that Enceladus may be harboring suitable environments for living organisms. Naturally this would be miniscule sized life and not full blown intellectual life as present on Earth.

So what is hydrothermal activity? When seawater goes through a rocky crust and then comes out infused with minerals the heat produced is referred to as hydrothermal activity. This is a regular occurrence in the oceans of Earth. Sean Hsu, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Colorado at Boulder says that we can use these tiny grains of rock, spewed into space by geysers, to tell us about conditions on, and beneath the ocean floor of an icy moon.

John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington says that the locations in our solar system where extreme environments occur in which life might exist may bring us closer to answering the question: are we alone in the universe? Perhaps this science project will help us find alien life in our own solar system.

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