Technology

Meet the new Atlas robot and see how well it reacts to bullying

Boston Dynamics continues to blow us away with its amazingly lifelike robots and such is the case with the newest version of the Atlas robot. Atlas is a humanoid robot made by Boston Dynamics (the makers of the ever-popular BigDog military robot). Atlas can walk on two legs and use its “arms” to lift, carry, and climb (and maybe one day, fight back against robot bullies).  Atlas is even sophisticated enough to adjust and navigate through tight, cluttered places. Atlas features 28 hydraulically-actuated degrees of freedom and a sensor head with cameras and a laser range finer (LIDAR). It stands 5 feet 9 inches and weighs 180 pounds (compared to its 330-pound predecessor, that’s lightweight). There are several Atlas robots being manufactured. Check out the…
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Space

Amazing gravitational waves discovery – what they are and why they’re so important

In 1916, Albert Einstein predicted that any event that disturbs spacetime will produce ripples that spread throughout the entire Universe. He called these ripples gravitational waves. This week, one hundred years after Einstein’s prediction, scientists revealed they had finally detected gravitational waves. The discovery being called the greatest scientific advance this century.  Here’s how they did it and why the discovery is such a big deal. What’s all this mumbo-jumbo about gravitational waves and spacetime? In scientific geek-speak, gravitational waves are disturbances in the fabric of spacetime. If you drag your finger through a bowl of water, you will notice waves follow the path of your finger and ripple outward towards the edge of the bowl. Einstein predicted that the same thing happens when a heavy object…
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Physics and math

Get the thought that all tiny particles in our universe are shaped like little round balls out of your head!

Scientists have worked for a very long time trying to figure out a theory called quantum field theory. Quantum field theory is a body of laws that describe how the tiny little particles all around us interact – particles tinier than atoms, protons, electrons, and neutrons. We’re talking super tiny particles with names like baryons, quarks, muons, and likely many more that we don’t know about yet. Whatever the particle, we tend to think of these objects as little dots, spheres, or tiny circles. Even the models in books illustrate these particles as tiny little balls. Turns out that scientists thought of them that way too – and when they looked at these in a different perspective, suddenly their work in quantum field theory became…
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Space

The Mars Curiosity rover happily whiling away its time working in the sand

This past week, NASA's Curiosity rover spent quite a bit of its time happily playing in the sand – on Mars.  In December 2016, Curiosity reached a new frontier on Mars – the Bagnold Dunes.  The dunes are located on the northwestern flank of Mount Sharp (officially given the rather geeky name, Aeolis Mons), a mountain at the center of the Gale Crater, and feature a landscape unlike anything Curiosity has come across before.  In fact, in some photos, the sandy dunes and mountainous Mars terrain in the background look quite earthly.   Here is Curiosity earlier in the year.  You can see the dunes in the distance as Curiosity makes it way toward them.   The dune to the left of Curiosity is Namib…
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Space

China’s Yuto rover sends back remarkable hi-def, full color pictures from Moon

China's Chang'e 3 lander and its little companion rover, Yutu, have sent back a set of truly remarkable pictures of the Moon's surface – all in full color and hi-def resolution!  These are the first photos taken from the surface of the moon in nearly 40 years. On December 23, 2013, the Chang'e 3 lander sent back this four-segment mosaic of Yutu (which means "Jade Rabbit" in Chinese) as it set off to study the Moon.   Chang'e 3 landed in a lava-filled crater, Mare Imbrium, the largest basin on the moon's near side.  In 2014, Chang'e 3 sent back this mosiac showing Yutu's seemingly willy-nilly tracks as it trekked across the surface of moon.   Here's what the rocks on the moon look like up…
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Geology

This is what Niagara Falls looks like when all the water is shut off

Would you believe the millions of gallons of water that rush over Niagara Falls can be turned off? It’s happened before and is about to happen again. All the water from the American side of Niagara Falls (the American Falls) will be rerouted in order to allow repairs to infrastructure. When that happens, we’ll see the bone-dry cliff where the water previously roared. The last time the falls were shutoff was 1969 (see photo above and pictorial gallery below). The Army Corps of Engineers stopped the flow in order to see how the rushing water was eroding the falls. To do this, the 60,000 gallon-per second flow was diverted to Horseshoe Falls and the Robert Moses generating plant upriver. Now the parks department once again wants to…
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Space

Did you know China has a telescope on the Moon?

Did you know China has a telescope on the Moon? The 15-centimeter telescope was delivered to the moon aboard the Chang’e 3 lunar lander which landed on the moon in December 2013.  In the photo above, the small arrow points to the Chang'e 3 rover and the big arrow points to the Chang'e 3 lander and telescope base. If you’ve looked through a telescope before, you know that because of the earth’s rotation, the stars do not stay fixed in the viewfinder for very long. Since the moon rotates 27 times more slowly than Earth, the scope is much easier to stay fixed on stars.  The scope sees in ultraviolet light too, a big advantage for any telescope outside of the earth’s atmosphere. The telescope is remote…
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Geology

World’s largest canyon discovered under Antarctic ice sheet – dwarfs Grand Canyon in size

We know little about lies beneath the vast expanse of ice in Antarctica but researchers this week announced two new findings that boggle the mind – analysis of satellite imagery reveals that underneath Princess Elizabeth Land in East Antarctica, lies a hidden world  containing a canyon as deep and twice as long as the Grand Canyon and a massive subglacial lake estimated to be about 775 square miles in area. Scientists first spotted signs of the canyon using satellite imagery. They then used radio-echo waves sent through the ice to confirm that a canyon did indeed exist, unseen, several miles beneath the ice. The canyon is believed to be over 600 miles long and in places, more than half-a-mile deep.   Researchers think the landscape underneath the ice sheet was…
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Space

Inversion layer creates picture that blurs the line between Earth and Space

A wonderfully beautiful picture taken on the outskirts of the Atacma Desert shows a Geminids meteor falling in a perfectly dark sky above the apparently daylight landscape surrounding the La Silla Observatory (Chile). The picture, appearing to show a night sky in the daytime, is difficult to believe is not two separate images. Alas, the image’s unusual characteristic is possible because of an "inversion layer" located slightly above the 7,900 foot observatory. An “inversion” is an unusual deviation from the normal atmospheric properties that vary with altitude. Normally the air within the lower atmosphere (called the troposphere) near the surface of the Earth is warmer than the air above it. This occurs because the lower atmosphere is heated from solar radiation striking the Earth’s surface.…
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Biology

The miracle of science – new experimental cancer therapy clears baby girl of "incurable" leukemia after only two months

Take a good, hard look at the beautiful little lady above – she may have just made history.  One-year-old Layla Richards was suffering from incurable leukemia (a form of cancer).  Her parents were told there were no options left to save their baby.  Chemotherapy failed.  So did bone-marrow transplants.  Finally, doctors tried a new form of experimental therapy – they gave Layla "genetically-altered immune cells" that attack the leukemia cells while leaving all of Layla's normal cells alone (doctors gave the treatment the unruly name "TALEN gene-edited allogeneic CAR-T therapy").  After two months, Layla was cancer free.  She is now back at her home with her parents. Doctors explained, "As this was the first time that the treatment had been used, we didn’t know if…
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