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Science, Space & Robotics Posts - Page 1

Air Force's mysterious X-37B will have another test flight next month

The United States Air Force's X-37B space plane will launch on United Launch Alliance's Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral on May 20, it has been confirmed. The original launch date was May 6, but a payload problem forced officials to push the launch back two weeks.

 

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Exact details about the spacecraft, its payload and what it will be doing are classified - but it looks like the X-37B will help give engineers a better glimpse of an "experimental propulsion system."

 

"We are excited about our fourth X-37B mission," said Randy Walden, director of the US Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, in a statement. "With the demonstrated success of the first three missions, we're able to shift our focus from initial checkouts of the vehicle to testing of experimental payloads."

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Korean researchers create wearable thermoelectric generator tech

KAIST researchers in South Korea are working on creating a thermoelectric generator that can be used to help power wearable electronics. The team developed a glass fabric TE generator that is able to produce electricity based on heat created by the human body.

 

 

"Our technology presents an easy and simple way of fabricating an extremely flexible, light, and high-performance TE generator," said Byung Jin Cho, head of the KAIST research team, in a statement to the media. "We expect that this technology will find further applications in scale-up systems such as automobiles, factories, aircrafts, and vessels where we see abundant thermal energy being wasted."

 

There have been organic and inorganic material TE generators manufactured in the past, while Cho's team is interested in a new concept that is able to be flexible yet not lose much thermal energy. KAIST's design utilizes a self-sustaining structure that is able to accurately trap inorganic TE materials in between upper and lower substrates.

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Scientists: 75 percent of very hot days due to global warming

A new scientific report finds three out of four extremely hot days are caused by humans and greenhouse gases - and it's an important metric considering there is more talk regarding climate change.

 

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Researchers took a look at one-tenth of one percent of hot days, picking the hottest and most extreme days - and used 25 computer models to find that these extreme weather days occurred once in three years, assuming there were no greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans. However, when the current level of greenhouse gases is included, the number jumps to four days.

 

"This new study helps get the actual probability or odds of human influence," said Jonathan Overpeck, climate scientist at the University of Arizona, in a statement published by the AP. "This is key: If you don't like hot temperature extremes that we're getting, you now know how you can reduce the odds of such events by reducing greenhouse gas emissions."

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Drones will be used by London police to monitor airports

Airports in London will use drones as part of airport security, after an 18-month study by the National Counter Terrorism Policing Headquarters discovered drones may end up being "transformative."

 

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A one-year trial was successful at Gatwick airport, and now drones will be deployed for use at Heathrow, Luton, Stansted and City. Drones and related technology will be issued to police agencies over the next 18 months, according to officials.

 

Even with police interested in drone flights, with the same officials responsible for complaints related to drone misuse, privacy experts are worried about this latest development.

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JAXA space agency wants to head to the moon in 2018

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) wants to launch an unmanned spacecraft to the moon in 2018, in an important first step towards a possible manned mission to the same target. Even if a manned launch doesn't occur, JAXA hopes to use collected data for a possible mission to Mars.

 

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JAXA previously reached the moon's orbit in 2008 with the SELENE spacecraft, helping collect information about the lunar surface. The space agency hopes the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) will launch onboard the Epsilon rocket, which is a solid-fuel rocket with only one live launch.

 

"This is an initial step and a lot of procedures are still ahead before the plan is formally approved," said a JAXA spokesperson in front of the media. A mission to the moon could cost anywhere from $83.4 million up to $125 million, and the Japanese government is working on a proper project roadmap.

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Tesla will unveil its home battery product on April 30

Tesla is hosting an even on April 30, where we have just been made aware that the company will be revealing its home battery, as well as a "very large" utility-oriented battery.

 

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We don't know much else other than that little bit of info, but we should see a home battery unveiled that will take in the power from your solar panels, and keep it to use for when the sun isn't shining, or at night. We don't know how Tesla will change things up, how much the cost will be, or anything outside of this news, but it is incredibly exciting to be just over a week from finding out.

Humanoid robot deployed in Tokyo department store to help shoppers

Aiko Chihira, a humanoid robot developed by Toshiba, is now helping visitors of the Mitsukoshi department store in Tokyo - a first step towards Toshiba's goal of having humanoids assist in a number of day-to-day scenarios for citizens.

 

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The humanoid has 43 servomotors and a custom algorithm that gives it the ability to communicate in Japanese sign language. Toshiba hopes a software development kit (SDK) will give third-party developers the chance to create even more interactive functionality for Aiko Chihira.

 

"It would be good if we can have her provide guidance, or recommend various things in Chinese," said Hitoshi Tokuda, manager of new business development at Toshiba, in a statement published by Reuters. "People can be looking around and think, 'Oh if Aiko is around, she can speak Chinese.' That's what I hope will happen."

Continue reading 'Humanoid robot deployed in Tokyo department store to help shoppers' (full post)

Legality of fully autonomous weapons proves rather complicated

The growing use of semi-autonomous weapon systems have many military experts and researchers wondering about the future of fully autonomous technology.

 

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The Human Rights Watch defines a fully autonomous weapon as one that is able to identify, select and engage targets with no human interaction - which could revolutionize warfare, but poses great challenges.

 

"If these machines did come into existence, there would be no way to hold anyone accountable if they violated international law," warned Bonnie Docherty, Harvard Law School lecturer and senior researcher of the Human Rights Watch, in a statement to the MIT Technology Review. "The programmer, the manufacturer, the commander, and the operator would all escape liability under existing law."

Continue reading 'Legality of fully autonomous weapons proves rather complicated' (full post)

NASA says private space efforts to reach Mars will need support

There is a next-generation space race brewing, as government space agencies and private companies set their sights on the Red Planet of Mars.

 

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Even though the private sector has greatly aided NASA, which is without a space shuttle - and has fought in recent years for every penny in its budget - there doesn't seem to be a realistic way to reach Mars without support from NASA: "No commercial company without the support of NASA and government is going to get to Mars," said Charles Bolden, NASA administrator, in a recent statement published by Engadget.

 

NASA would like to send a manned mission to Mars, especially after recent findings offer insight that large bodies of water once existed on its surface. NASA's biggest ambition is to reach Mars, with researchers interested in trying to land there sometime in the 2030s - and learn what happened on the planet while it was possibly habitable in its history.

Researchers, Houston Zoo give Smaug the Komodo dragon an orthosis

The Houston Zoo and Baylor College of Medicine teamed up to help Smaug, a 16-year-old Komodo dragon, use his right foot more effectively. The custom spring-loaded and rubberized orthosis is made of a flexible material that can be easily taken off and off by zoo caretakers.

 

 

The 7-foot, 200-pound animal struggled because he was unable to use his muscles to pull his right foot forward properly, and would land awkwardly - essentially causing him to roll his wrist underneath of his heavy weight with each foot step.

 

"About a year ago, we noticed that Smaug wasn't using his right, front foot normally and that occasionally he was flipping it underneath and walking on the top of his toes," said Dr. Lauren Howard, associate veterinarian of the Houston Zoo. "So that started the last year-and-a-half of our diagnostic investigation into what was going on with him. We're still trying to determine why he's not holding his foot the right way, but in the meantime our goal is to keep him holding his foot upward so he doesn't continue to walk on the tops of his toes."

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