This week on Science Friday, learn to control robots with your brain, follow in Galileo’s 400-year-old footsteps, fight the Borg and bone-loss at the same time, witness crystal clear sound come out of a .25mm-thick vibrating sheet, learn why you should fear our future robot overlords, and see a snapshot of the forefathers of modern physics. All this and more (including an Internet Rabbit).
How to Control Robots With Your Brain
Step 1: Go to Japan. Step 2: Acquire your very own Brain Machine Interface (BMI). Step 3: Control robots with your brain. That’s right, Japanese scientists have done it again! The new amazing and just a bit unnerving technology uses electroencephalography (EEG) and near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) to allow a human to control a robot, in the test case the Honda ASIMO, using mere thought. There is not button pressing or movement of any kind required. The technology offers up to 90 percent control accuracy without the use of physical implants, a huge milestone in human-to-robot interface that the research group hopes will yield new advances in robotics and artificial intelligence. See the thing in action at National Geographic.
And you always thought "Spock’s Brain" was just so silly
100 Hours of Astronomy
Four hundred years ago this year, Galileo Galilei first used the newly-invented telescope to peer at the heavens with a level of detail that had not previously been possible. With that simple act, he flung open a window on a new era in our understanding of the cosmos and our place within it. In a global re-enactment of Galileo’s achievement, hundreds of thousands of telescopes across the Earth will turn this Saturday night, April 4, in unison to the night sky to gaze at the Moon and Saturn. The entire program, which goes from April 2nd-5th, will feature a whole host of astronomy events, many of which will be broadcast live on their website. You can also keep track of the events by following them on Twitter.
Celebrate during the International Year of Astronomy!
Resistance is Not Futile for Osteoporosis Patients, Space Studies Show
Results of a space experiment published online in The FASEB Journal have yielded a giant leap for science that could translate into an important step for mankind in the ongoing battle against osteoporosis. In the report, a team of Italian scientists show for the first time that a lack of resistance (i.e., gravity) activates bone-destroying cells. This outcome helps explain more completely why bedridden patients and astronauts experience bone loss and provides an entirely new drug target for stopping the process.
Relinquish your calcified skeletal components!
New Flat and Flexible Speakers
A groundbreaking new loudspeaker — less than 0.25mm thick — has been developed by University of Warwick engineers. It’s flat, flexible, could be hung on a wall like a picture, and its particular method of sound generation could make public announcements in places like passenger terminals clearer, crisper, and easier to hear. All speakers work by converting an electric signal into sound. Usually, the signal is used to generate a varying magnetic field, which in turn vibrates a mechanical cone, so producing the sound. The new flat speaker technology is a carefully designed assembly of thin, conducting and insulating, materials resulting in the development of a flexible laminate, which when excited by an electrical signal will vibrate and produce sound.
This new technology has incredible application potential
Computer Program Self-Discovers Laws of Physics
In just over a day, a powerful computer program accomplished a feat that took physicists centuries to complete: extrapolating the laws of motion from a pendulum’s swings. Developed by Cornell researchers, the program deduced the natural laws without a shred of knowledge about physics or geometry. The program started with near-random combinations of basic mathematical processes — addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and a few algebraic operators.
Initially, the equations generated by the program failed to explain the data, but some failures were slightly less wrong than others. Using a genetic algorithm, the program modified the most promising failures, tested them again, chose the best, and repeated the process until a set of equations evolved to describe the systems. Turns out, some of these equations were very familiar: the law of conservation of momentum, and Newton’s second law of motion. The research is being heralded as a potential breakthrough for science in the Petabyte Age, where computers try to find regularities in massive data sets that are too big and complex for the human mind.
More about incredibly intelligent computers: ADAM, touted as the first robot scientist, has discovered a new gene. Read the story.
Some say computers will one day be man’s equal. I say the future will have robot slaves like Rosie from the Jetsons.
Pic of the Week: Solvay Conference, 1927
This photo is from the 1927 Solvay conference on quantum mechanics, which was held just in the middle of the quantum revolution when many of the key ideas were being worked out over the course of a few years. Here is an amazing gathering of some of the brightest scientific minds to ever grace the planet Earth. Einstein is in the middle as well as several others you will probably recognize (at least by name), many of whom have given us Trek science (Heisenberg compensators, anyone?). Click on the image for a larger version.
From back to front, left to right: A. Piccard, E. Henriot, P. Ehrenfest, Ed. Herzen, Th. De Donder, E. Schrödinger, E. Verschaffelt, W. Pauli, W. Heisenberg, R.H. Fowler, L. Brillouin, P. Debye, M. Knudsen, W.L. Bragg, H.A. Kramers, P.A.M. Dirac, A.H. Compton, L. de Broglie, M. Born, N. Bohr, I. Langmuir, M. Planck, M. Curie, H.A. Lorentz, A. Einstein, P. Langevin, Ch. E. Guye, C.T.R. Wilson, O.W. Richardson
Gadget of the Week: Nabaztag, the internet-connected rabbit
Nabaztag is the one and only multipurpose, internet-connected rabbit. It sits quietly on your desk or bookshelf and speaks up to let you know that a new e-mail has arrived, to update you on stocks, weather, or news, or to transmit a message sent from your friends. He can even recognize RFID-tagged items, so any object can now be connected to the internet and can trigger your Nabaztag to perform various tasks. He really can do a lot, and he’s just so darn cute. According to Nabaztag’s creators, “Soon, every Thing will be connected to the Internet. It might be a good idea to start with a Rabbit.” Nabaztag retails for $99.00US. Check out the video below to see him in action and visit Nabaztag’s website. Also, check out these fun and informative videos: How does he work?, What can I do with him?, and A day in the life of Nabaztag.
Not enough science for you? Here’s a warp-speed look at some more science tid-bits that are worth a look.