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article archives at abelard's news and comment zonetopic archives - science and technology:
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I-2006: 04 15 17 30 | II-2006 : 04 25 |
III-2006: 02 04 06 07 09 11 16 20 24 25 28

 

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mechanical lobster robots

Robot mechnical lobsters. Image credit: US Navy
Robot mechnical lobsters. Image credit: US Navy

“Although they are far from ready to be deployed as marine pollution fighters or mine detectors, Grasso's robotic lobsters have demonstrated that the concept is valid and worthy of further investment of research funding and effort. His first robot, called RoboLobster, successfully tracked plumes from more than 32 feet in laboratory conditions, where the flow of the turbulence and plumes could be controlled." [Quoted from http://www.ehponline.org/members/]

Robot lmechnical lobster. Image credit: US Navy
Robot mechnical lobster. Image credit: US Navy

“[...] nature has done all the work and figured out that the lobster's design is perfect for operating in heavy surf. The lobster is able to maneuver inside the surf zone where the water is very rough," she said. "We want to know, How does it do that and keep from being knocked around?" [Quoted from abcnews.go.com]

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/science0602.php#robolobster_280306


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design and technology - saving 10 ounces on a bike frame

SLT lightweight bike. Image credit: PezCycling News.
SLT lightweight bike. Image credit: PezCycling News

“The detail in this case - was weight. BMC weighed the SLT (55cm) frame in at 1260 grams (2.74 lbs). And while the Phonak boys were equipped to bring the bike in at UCI minimums by using various ultra-light parts, the rest of the bike- buying public was apparently more vocal about wanting a frame that could be part of an even lighter bike. "Make it lighter!" was the cry heard at BMC hq in Grenchen Switzerland.

“BMC says the new SLC01 frame weighs in at 960 grams (2.11 lbs), and that, my non-conversion savvy friends, is almost 2/3 of a pound lighter (that’s 10 whole fat ounces!) than the SLT01.”

“ [...] the 51cm test bike at 16.8 pounds with Shimano pedals and 2 cages. Price: $3650 US - frame/ fork/ headset”

The vital importance of ounces
Pushing 10 ounces for 100 miles is like pushing 1000 ounces for 1 mile! That’s 62.5 lbs, more that half a hundredweight, or over 28 kgs. [28.35 grams =1 ounce]

related material
interesting light-weight concept - a low consumption, high performance, cheap car

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/science0602.php#bike_frame_250306

red feathers in parrots and other bird colouring

“However, through a complex series of HPLC studies of the red feathers in 44 species of parrots (of more than 350 total species, 80% of which have red plumage), McGraw and co-researcher Mary Nogare found a unique set of five molecules responsible for the red coloring in the feathers, called polyneal lipochromes, or psittacofulvins. The extraction of these tightly bound pigments in the feathers was non-trivial and was mostly responsible for McGraw's successful discoveries”

“ An independent study cited by McGraw suggests that the red pigments in parrots can act as anti-oxidants to quench free radicals and potentially protect cells and tissues within the parrots from oxidative damage-it can make them healthy. So the next logical question posed by McGraw was how the coloring in birds acted on their social behavior. Is the coloring just a function of the bird's health or can it be used as a sexual trait? In this study, McGraw looked at the relationship of coloring in barn swallows.”

“[...] experimentally altered their mates' appearance to make his feathers more colorful," says McGraw in a recently published study for Science. This was the first time that female birds were found to make mating decisions based on the changing qualities of their mate.”

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/science0602.php#red_parrots_230306

interesting light-weight concept - a low consumption, high performance, cheap car

A concept car, but the company, Loremo, actually seem to intend to build it. The car is half the weight of a conventional car.

Light-weight concept car from Loremo. Image credit: Loremo
Light-weight concept car from Loremo. Image credit: Loremo

  Loremo LS Loremo GT
Engine 2-cylinder turbodiesel 3-cylinder turbodiesel
Output 15 kW / 20 HP 36 kW / 50 HP
Max. speed 160 km/h 220 km/h
Acceleration 20 sec. (0-100km/h) 9 sec. (0-100km/h)
Transmission 5-gear manual transmission
Drive midship/rear wheel drive
Consumption 1.5 ltr / 100 km
189 miles / imp.gal
158 miles / US gal
2.7 ltr / 100 km
105 miles / imp.gal
88 miles / US gal
Fuel range 1,300 km (20-ltr-tank) 800 km (20-ltr-tank)
Weight 450 kg 470 kg
Drag Cw=0,20; Cw×A=0,22 m²
Seats 2+2
Dimensions 384cm x 136cm x 110cm (l x w x h) 384cm x 136cm x 110cm (l x w x h)
Price < 11,000 Euro < 15,000 Euro

safety

“Its great crumple zone and its stiff passenger cell make Loremo more than safe.

“Loremo's linear cell structure meets all static requirements to crash safety and driving dynamics. This structure weighs only 95 kg and consists of only few sheets metal parts and can thus be produced at very low cost.”

Video showing a 50 km/h collision with a static barrier having a 40 % overlap. The dashboard is deformed by approximately 150 mm only.

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/science0602.php#light_car_200306

now murdoch says fossil media is dying

“It is difficult, indeed dangerous, to underestimate the huge changes this revolution will bring or the power of developing technologies to build and destroy - not just companies but whole countries.”

marker at abelard.org

“Most tellingly, the company spent $400m on MySpace.com, the social networking phenomenon that has proved hugely popular with 35m regular users on both sides of the Atlantic. Mr Murdoch has undergone a Damascene conversion, admitting he hugely underestimated the power of the web. He said last night: "It is a creative, destructive technology that is still in its infancy, yet breaking and remaking everything in its path. We are all on a journey, not just the privileged few, and technology will take us to a destination that is defined by the limits of our creativity, our confidence and our courage." ”

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/science0602.php#murdoch_160306



pack-carrying robot

March 2008 update: Now BigDog can overcome slippery ice, deep snow, run (sort of), and it can even jump!
An impressive show.

[3:23 min video]

marker at abelard.org

BigDog robot. Image credit: Boston Dynamics BigDog robot carrying four backpacks. Image credit: Boston Dynamics

Designed in conjunction with US army requirements.

“So far, BigDog has trotted at 3.3 mph, climbed a 35 degree slope and carried a 120 lb load. Gasoline engine driven, hydraulic actuation.”

Be aware the linked page above is company puff.

“The project is sponsored by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), who want the robotic pack mule to assist soldiers in terrain too tough for vehicles. Ground-based soldiers often need to carry 40 kilograms of equipment.

“Raibert says the latest version of BigDog can handle slopes of 35° – a steeper gradient than one in two. The hydraulics are driven by a two-stroke single-cylinder petrol engine, and it can carry over 40 kg, about 30% of its bodyweight. The robot can follow a simple path on its own, or can be remotely controlled.” [Quoted from newscientist.com]

Link to video download - BigDog in action! [big - 21.94 Mb - windows media file]

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/science0602.php#big_dog_110306

charge your batteries anywhere there is sunlight
And it rolls up when out of use.

Two uses for roll-up solar panel. Image credit: brunton.com
Two uses for roll-up solar panel. Image credit: brunton.com

Forget battery chargers, forget using the lighter plug, forget accumulators, generators and heavy batteries. Use the sun, then roll up your solar panel for easy transport and storage.

Flexible Solar Panels
  • Amorphous solar cells for effective low-light performance
  • Reverse flow protection
  • Tefzel® fluoropolymer construction for extreme durability
  • Waterproof
  • UV transparent
  • Link multiple like-units together for even more output
  • Rolls and stores in convenient storage tube
  • Includes vehicle outlet cable & multi-linking cable
  • One-year warranty
SolarRoll 14 MSRP: $399
* 12"x57" open
* 17 oz
* Max output: 14 watts (15.4 Volts / 900 mA)
*for running satellite phones and charging laptops
SolarRoll 9 MSRP: $279
* 12"x40" open
* 10.6 oz
* Max output: 9 watts (15.4 Volts / 600 mA)
* for running cell phones and charging digital and video cameras
SolarRoll 4.5 MSRP: $169
* 12"x22" open
* 6.4 oz
* Max output: 4.5 watts (15.4 Volts / 300 mA)
* for charging small electronics like cell phones and PDA’s
the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/science0602.php#solar_panel_090306

new anti-vibration technology from nikon cameras - it looks ordinary but it isn’t

The new Nikon Coolpix P4 camera has a 8 megapixels image sensor and includes advanced anti-vibration technology:

“VR Normal compensates for the minor movements that can happen all too easily during handheld shooting, while VR Active compensates for more pronounced movements – so you can even achieve rock-steady results while shooting from a moving vehicle, for example. Allowing photographers to shoot without blurring in lower light and keeping subjects clear during pan shooting, [...]”

This page from Nikon, which leads to further pages of examples, shows before and after using the vibration reduction setting. [It may take longer than usual to download.]

The P4 camera has a large number of shooting modes. It comes with a useless 23MB SD storage card, so there will be an additional cost of buying a 512Mb or larger card.

The P3 version, for $50 more, includes wifi connection capability. I am not sure why you want to pay $50 for that, and amazon.com seems already to have knocked $50 off the pre-release price. Yer pays yer money....

The VR technology first appeared in the much more expensive 8800 model, where it does not look like the technology had been fully developed.

The response of the 8800 SLR version of the anti-vibration technology is reported as being a little too sluggish for me to enthuse upon the larger outlay of approximately $900 for the 8800. However, reports are that it takes damn fine pictures.

Nikon claim that the technology is equivalent to shooting at three stops faster, thus much improved pictures can be expected in low light, at motion scenes, telescoping and macros, and if granny has a bit of hand tremble.

I have a P4 on order to test out, so this report will be updated in a few weeks. The technology sounds as if it is very useful and interesting.

Nikon P4 camera, from amazon.com, USA $399.95, to be be released on April 20, 2006.
Nikon P3 camera, from amazon.com, USA $399.95, to be be released on April 20, 2006.
Nikon P8800 camera, from amazon.com, USA $899.99.

Nikon P4 camera, from amazon.co.uk, UK £329.99, available “within 1 to 2 weeks”.
Nikon P8800 camera, from amazon.co.uk, UK: used.

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/science0602.php#nikon_p4_070306

now this is what i call a ‘telescope’!
Gloriana - just what I always wanted - and only $400.


SkyScout star identifier. Image credit: celestron.com

“The SkyScout is a revolutionary handheld device that uses advanced GPS technology [and compass] with point and click convenience to instantly identify thousands of stars, planets, constellations and more.

“Identify
Simply point the SkyScout at any star in the sky and click the "target" button.
The SkyScout will instantly tell you what object you are looking at.

“Locate
To locate a star or planet, select the object's name from the menu and follow the directional arrows through the viewfinder.
SkyScout tells you when you are on target.”

“[...] optional “Sky Tour” audio presentations that provide hours of entertainment on a variety of topics”

marker at abelard.org

“Celestial Database
6000 Stars, 1,500 Double & Variable Stars, all 88 constellations, over 100 deep space objects including Galaxies, Nebulae & Star Clusters, extra space for custom user objects, over 200 audio descriptions of the most popular celestial objects”

marker at abelard.org

From amazon.com $399.99, to be officially released on May 29, 2006.

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/science0602.php#star_scout_060306
 

jupiter now has red spot junior - xavier


Red spots on Jupiter. Image credit: Christopher Go

This growing red spot on Jupiter, officially called “Oval BA” [Red Junior], was photographed by an amateur astronomer. Like the much bigger Great Red Spot, Oval BA is a whirling storm, created in 1997 to 2000 as three smaller storms progressively merged. This is also thought to be the way the Great Red Spot appeared over three centuries ago.


Storm spots on Jupiter merging to make one larger spot, Oval BA. Image credit: NASA Hubble.
16 Jul. 1998 DE merged with BC to form BE.
14 Oct 1999 FA closes up on BE.
By 2 Sept 2000, FA merged with BE to become BA.

The new storm spot appeared between 1997 to 2000. To begin with, it was white but recently it has started changing colour, now being a very similar red hue as its larger neighbour.

“Why red?

“Curiously, no one knows precisely why the Great Red Spot itself is red. A favorite idea is that the storm dredges material from deep beneath Jupiter's cloudtops and lifts it to high altitudes where solar ultraviolet radiation--via some unknown chemical reaction—produces the familiar brick color.

“ "The Great Red Spot is the most powerful storm on Jupiter, indeed, in the whole solar system," says Orton [an astronomer at JPL who specialised in studies of planetaryy storms]. The top of the storm rises 8 km above surrounding clouds. "It takes a powerful storm to lift material so high," he adds.”

 

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/science0602.php#red_spot_jr_040306

look who lives in the great bear! - xavier

Pinwheel galaxy. Image credit: NASA and ESA
Credit: NASA and ESA

Zoomable high-definition image. This allows you to really zoom in and to ‘move’ around the galaxy image.

“This new Hubble image reveals the gigantic Pinwheel galaxy, one of the best known examples of “grand design spirals”, and its supergiant star-forming regions in unprecedented detail. The image is the largest and most detailed photo of a spiral galaxy ever released.”

This new face-on image of the pinwheel galaxy is a 51-image composite.

Some data on this galaxy:

  • distance from Earth: 25 million light-years
  • in the Ursa Major constellation
  • diameter: 170,000 million light years - twice that of the Milky Way, our local galaxy
  • contains about a trillion stars
  • of which, 100 billion are like our sun - similar heat radiation and lifespan.

Remember, our star, the Sun, is 8 light-minutes away.

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/science0602.php#pinwheel_galaxy_020306

dna - another step

Step by step, the present DNA records will allow ever more people to be identified without ever giving sample DNA.

“Jobling picked men from the UK's 47-million-strong electoral register. He says there are about 39,000 surnames shared by 42% of British people for which male name-holders have a 20% chance of being directly related through common ancestry.

“A database could be set up with the Y chromosome profiles for all 39,000 names, says John Wetton from the UK's Forensic Science Service. "Then evidence from a crime scene may point to a surname and give police a vital bit of intelligence - a one in five chance," he says.”

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/science0602.php#dna_id_250206

bigger than pluto - our sun gets another planet

“Astronomers first spotted Xena, known more formally as UB 313, in 2003, but the discovery was not made public until July 2005. By then they realised it was amazingly distant - at times, about three times as far from the Sun as Pluto is. ”

“The amount of millimetre radiation suggested Xena is about 3000 kilometres wide - 30% wider than Pluto.”

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/science0602.php#xena_040206
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