MIT's Cheetah Robot Now Second Fastest Legged Robot
The MIT Cheetah now runs at a speed of 22 km/h (13.67 mph). The robot was developed by the MIT Biomimetic Robotics Lab. Boston Dynamics built a much faster and creepier Cheetah robot for DARPA (see here), but MIT's Cheetah robot runs more efficiently. Neither of the robots yet run tether free.
Automaton says the MIT Cheetah has a cost of transport (COT) of .52. COT is described as power consumption divided by weight times velocity. This is lower than Asimo's COT of 2 and BigDog's COT of 15. Automaton says MIT has plans to reduce the Cheetah bot's efficiency down to .33.
This video shows MIT Cheetah running at 22 km/h and its gait transition from trot to gallop. Take a look:
Scientists Reveal Metamorphosis Inside Living Chrysalis With Time-Lapse CT Scanning
Scientists have observed the metamorphosis inside a living chrysalis using time-lapse CT scanning technology. The scientists studied the pupae of a Vanessa cardui, which is also known as the Painted Lady or Cosmopolitan butterfly. The image above shows scans of the chrysalis at day 16 of development.
Russell Garwood of the University of Manchester, told The Scientist, "It's basically the first time a CT has been used to look at the development of a single individual."
The animation below shows how the metamorphosis progressed each day over a 16-day period. Take a look:
The research was published here in the Journal of The Royal Society.
French Developers Building Robotic Penguin Butlers Called robuPINGU5
Automaton reports that French developers are building this robotic penguin, named roboPINGU. The robotic penguin is part of project called Robadom, which aims to usher in a new generation of butler robots. Butler bots that resemble penguins sounds like a fine idea. So far, roboPINGU only moves its head around and opens and closes its beak. Hopefully, it won't be long before it serves drinks and carries trays of delicious hors d'oeuvres. Take a look:
NASA: 40 Kilogram Meteoroid Hit Moon in March Creating Very Bright Explosion
NASA reports that the moon was impacted by a 40-kilogram meteoroid on March 17. The boulder was 0.3 to 0.4 meters wide. The explosion packed a punch equivalent to 5 tons of TNT and was as bright as a 4th magnitude star. It was ten times brighter than any previous explosion observed on the moon. NASA says a crater 20 meter-wide was probably created upon impact. NASA also says the Earth-Moon system was impacted by a meteor event on March 17. Take a look:
Facial Imaging Technology From Fujitsu Measures Your Pulse in Real Time
Fujitsu has developed a facial imaging technology that can measure your pulse in real-time. Fujitsu says the device is accurate to about 3 beats per minute. People sit in front of a mirrored display which has a video camera attached to its side. The display shows the user's blood pressure reading on top of the screen. The technology measures the amount of light absorbed by a person's face to calculate their pulse. Engadget reports that Fujitsu Laboratories Limited has also developed the technology for tablets and smartphones. Take a look:
Scientists Study 2.7 Billion Year-Old-Water from Canadian Shield
A team of scientists from the University of Toronto and Manchester University in the United Kingdom have gone three kilometers beneath the surface of the Canadian Shield to find 2.7 billion-year-old water for study. The scientists are able to calculate the age of the water by the noble gas isotopes from radiogenic reactions in the rock.
The discovery was published here in Nature. The image above shows U of T postdoctoral researcher K. Voglesanger measuring geochemistry of the deep fluids
Barbara Sherwood Lollar, a geochemist in U of T's Department of Earth Sciences, said in a statement, "The saline waters bubbling out of fractures in the rocks are not unlike the black smoker fluids found at deep sea hydrothermal vents. The water is the product of geochemical reactions with the rock and contains dissolved hydrogen, as well as noble gases - helium, neon, argon and particularly xenon - that have been trapped since early in Earth's history."
Lollar also says, "These are like trapped time capsules. They may tell us about the atmosphere 2.7 billion years ago, and about the fluids that formed the valuable ore deposits that are the foundation of Canada's mineral wealth."
This video shows sparkling water bubbles burbling up a borehole from 3 kilometers below the surface in the mine. Take a look:
An international team of researchers from the University of Vienna (Austria), the University of Surrey (UK) and the IFW Dresden (Germany) have grown carbon nanomustaches. The idea of nanomustaches is odd, but scientists say the knowledge gained from understanding the growth of the nanomustaches could provide a basis for the controlled production of advanced carbon materials with designed geometries.
The scientists pressurized a gas consisting of carbon and iron atoms at an elevated temperature until two arms of carbon atoms spontaneously started growing out of an iron core. When the iron core was small enough, the two carbon arms started spiraling at their ends so that the whole nanostructure resembled a twirled moustache.
Dr. Hidetsugu Shiozawa, lead author of the paper and researcher at the Faculty of Physics at the University of Vienna, said in a statement, "The encouraging insights we gained from our experiments provide a very good starting point for the controlled production of extraordinary new materials with designed nanostructures."
The researchers cut their nanomaterial into extremely thin slices and used transmission electron microscopy to get a closer look at the slices. The distribution of the structural imperfections allowed the scientists to look back in time and extract further information about the formation of the nanomaterial. The scientists want to understand even more about the mechanism behind the formation pattern of the nanomoustaches and plan to grow more dimensional and more complex nanostructures in future experiments.
The research was published here in the journal, Scientific Reports.
Cloning Breakthrough: Researchers Convert Human Skin Cells into Embryonic Stem Cells
Scientists at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) and the Oregon National Primate Research Center (ONPRC) announced they have reprogrammed human skin cells to become embryonic skin cells. The image above shows a donor egg cytoplasm containing a skin cell nucleus.
The scientists say the technique they used is a variation of somatic cell nuclear transfer, or SCNT. SCNT involves transplanting the nucleus of one cell, containing an individual's DNA, into an egg cell that has had its genetic material removed. The unfertilized egg cell then develops and eventually produces stem cells.
BBC Newsreports that an embryo was developed to the blastocyst stage, which is around 150 cells.Previous unsuccessful attempts by several labs showed that human egg cells appear to be more fragile than eggs from other species and therefore harder to clone. To solve this problem, the OHSU group studied various alternative approaches first developed in monkey cells and were able to develop a successful method.
Dr. Shoukhrat Mitalipov, Ph.D., a senior scientist at ONPRC, and leader of the research, said in a statement, "A thorough examination of the stem cells derived through this technique demonstrated their ability to convert just like normal embryonic stem cells, into several different cell types, including nerve cells, liver cells and heart cells. Furthermore, because these reprogrammed cells can be generated with nuclear genetic material from a patient, there is no concern of transplant rejection. While there is much work to be done in developing safe and effective stem cell treatments, we believe this is a significant step forward in developing the cells that could be used in regenerative medicine."
Two New Species of Water Mites Discovered in South Korea and the Russian Far East
Two new species of water mites, Torrenticola kimichungi and Monatractides abei, have been discovered in South Korea and the Russian Far East. The image above shows one of the newly discovered water mite species Torrenticola kimichungi.
The water mites were collected by using a hand-pump and hand netting. The pumped samples were filtered through the netting and then fixed in 70 % ethanol for further examination in the laboratory under a stereo microscope.
Vladimir Pesic, Department of Biology, University of Montenegro, lead author of the study, said in a statement, "Water mites are a diverse and widespread but still neglected group of freshwater fauna. In natural streams, species diversity of water mites is generally rather high and may reach, or occasionally even exceed, 50 species at single collecting site, often most of these are torrenticolid mites. Torrenticolid mites avoid habitats with silty substrata and intermittent flow, and their study can give valuable information on the ecological characteristics of the areas with an unstable surface water regime."
The study was published here in the journal Zookeys.
A new species of green palm pitviper of the genus Bothriechis has been found in a cloud forest reserve in northern Honduras. The new species, Bothriechis guifarroi, had been previously confused with other Honduran palm pitvipers. Genetic analysis revealed that the closest relatives of the new species are found over 600 km to the south, in the mountains of Costa Rica. The study was published here in Zookeys.
The new species was discovered by scientists during expeditions in 2010 aimed at studying the fauna of Texiguat Wildlife Refuge. The new species was named in honor of Mario Guifarro of Olancho. Guifarro was a former hunter and gold miner who became an outspoken conservationist when he saw the vast rainforests in eastern Honduras being destroyed and converted to cattle ranches.
Dr. Josiah Townsend, lead author of the study from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, said in a statement, "The description of Bothriechis guifarroi has important implications for Central American biogeography as well as conservation. We recommend that B. guifarroi be immediately classified as Critically Endangered due to its limited known area of occurrence and the potential for anthropogenic damage to its habitat. We also consider that this species warrants immediate consideration for protection under CITES, given its striking appearance and high potential for exploitation in the pet trade."
Astronomers Discover Exolanet Using Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity
A team of astronomers at Tel Aviv University and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) have announced the discovery an exoplanet using a new method that relies on Einstein's special theory of relativity. "Einstein's planet," formally known as Kepler-76b, is described as a "hot Jupiter" that orbits its star every 1.5 days. Kepler-76b has a temperature of about 3,600 degrees Fahrenheit. Its diameter is about 25% larger than Jupiter and it weighs twice as much. It orbits a type F star about 2,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus.
The new planet finding method looks for three small effects that occur simultaneously as a planet orbits the star. Einstein's "beaming" effect causes the star to brighten as it moves toward us and dim as it moves away. Kepler-76b was identified by the BEER algorithm, which stands for relativistic BEaming, Ellipsoidal, and Reflection/emission modulations. The BEER algoritihm was developed by Professor Tsevi Mazeh and his student, Simchon Faigler, at Tel Aviv University, Israel.
David Latham of the CfA, said in a statement, "We are looking for very subtle effects. We needed high quality measurements of stellar brightnesses, accurate to a few parts per million."
Space.com reports that the new planet finding method works best for discovering large Jupiter-sized worlds and does not currently work for finding Earth-sized planets.
This video shows a moving wave of ice threatening homes in the Mille Lacs Lake area of Minnesota. The homeowners watch helplessly as the ice creeps towards their homes. You can hear one of the homeowners shout that the ice has just busted through a door in the first video. NBC Newsreports that several homes were damaged by the ice. NBC News meteorologist says the ice surge was moving at a rate of two feet per minute. It doesn't look quite that fast in the video, but it is obvious the ice is moving. The original 6.5 minute video posted by a resident can be found here. Take a look:
Large Swamp Rats Called Nutria Consuming Louisiana's Wetlands
The Weather Channel reports that large swamp rats, called nutria (Myocastor coypus), are "eating Louisiana." This is technically correct as the semi-aquatic rats are devouring plants in Louisiana's wetlands, which augments soil erosion. The National Geographic says Nutria, also known as coypu, can be 17 to 25 inches tall (43 to 64 cm) and weigh as much as 15 to 22 pounds (7 to 10 kg). The big rats were brought to Louisiana from South America in the 1930s by entrepreneurs who hoped to profit from selling nutria fur.
This photo shows the size of Nutria droppings.
Chris Metzier, the filmaker behind the upcoming documentary, Rodents of Unusual Size, told Take Part in an interview that the nutria help to erode 40 square miles per soil per year. This is bad because those wetlands help protect the coast from the surge generated by hurricanes. Take a look:
Researchers Say Elephant's Tomb in Carmona May Have Been Temple to God Mithras
Researchers believe Elephant's Tomb in the Roman necropolis of Carmona was not always used for burials. The Carmona necropolis in Spain is a collection of funeral structures from between the 1st century B.C. and the 2nd century A.D. One of these is known as the Elephant's Tomb because a statue in the shape of an elephant was found in the interior of the structure. The researchers found four stages during which the building was renovated and used in different ways.
The researchers say the original structure of the building and a window through which the sun shines in during the equinoxes suggests that it was a temple of Mithraism, an unofficial religion in the Roman Empire. The authors believe that the sun would have illuminated a statue of the tauroctony, the statue of Mithras slaying the bull (which has been lost).
Inmaculada Carrasco, one of the authors of the study, says in the announcement, "In some stages, it was used for burial purposes, but its shape and an archaeoastronomical analysis suggest that it was originally designed and built to contain a Mithraeum [temple to Mithras]. From our analysis of the window, we have deduced that it was positioned so that the rays of the sun reached the centre of the chamber during the equinoxes, in the spring and autumn, three hours after sunrise."
Here is a video showing how the sun would have lit up the statue during the equinoxes. Take a look:
Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania's Kodlab have developed RHex, an impressive six legged leaping robot. The versatile little robot is able to jump, flip itself over, do blackflips and climb up obstacles using its C-shaped legs and flat body. Aaron M. Johnson and D. E. Koditschek of the University of Pennsylvania presented the robot at ICRA 2013. Their research paper can be found here. Take a look: