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Science, Space & Robotics Posts - Page 13

NASA chief scientist expects signs of alien life by 2025

NASA chief scientist Ellen Stofan said the first signs of alien life could be discovered by 2025, and additional evidence will be revealed in 20 to 30 years.

 

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Even if humans aren't alone in the universe, don't expect aliens from Hollywood films, as it's more likely researchers will find "little microbes."

 

"I think we're going to have strong indications of life beyond Earth within a decade, and I think we're going to have definitive evidence within 20 to 30 years," Stofan recently said during a panel discussion. "We know where to look. We know how to look. In most cases we have the technology, and we're on a path to implementing it. And so I think we're definitely on the road."

Continue reading 'NASA chief scientist expects signs of alien life by 2025' (full post)

FAA grants USAA insurance company's request for drone research

The USAA has been granted approval by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to use drones in an effort to accelerate insurance claims after natural disasters. The FAA also will allow the USAA and its drone partner to develop best practices for safe commercial drone flights.

 

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The USAA will use small drones, manufactured by PrecisionHawk, with trained pilot and air crew using line-of-sight and making sure no aircraft fly higher than 400 feet in altitude. USAA officials and PrecisionHawk will work together to develop safety and privacy standards, while also working on best practices for drone flights.

 

"Our members have grown accustomed to seeing us pave the way for innovative solutions that streamline the claims process," said Alan Krapf, president of the USAA Property and Casualty Insurance Group. "We're proud to be among the first insurers approved to test this technology. It's our responsibility to explore every option to improve our members' experience."

Scientists claim HIV spreads in similar fashion to computer viruses

Network security experts and HIV medical specialists have teamed up at the University College London (UCL) to find that HIV travels through the bloodstream and into cells in a similar fashion as a computer worm infecting new systems.

 

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Researchers discovered computer worms and HIV both use "hybrid spreading," and has allowed medical researchers to more accurately identify a patient's progression from HIV to AIDS. Hybrid spreading is an extremely accurate method to track - and predict - HIV's progression, highlighting the demand for fast medical treatment.

 

"I was involved in a study looking in general at spreading of worms across the Internet and then I realized the parallel," said Professor Benny Chain, infection and immunity division researcher at UCL, in a statement to The Guardian. "They have to consistently find another computer to infect outside. They can either look locally in their own networks, their own computers, or you could remotely transmit out a worm to every computer on the Internet. HIV also uses two ways of spreading within the body."

SoftBank CEO: Robots will be smarter than humans in 'near future'

Softbank founder Masayoshi Son recently gave a speech in front of 561 new employees in Japan, when he said that machines will be smarter than humans in the "near future." He didn't give an estimate as to when that would happen, but Japanese companies are well known for their support of robotics and artificial intelligence.

 

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SoftBank will start selling humanoid robots to consumers beginning this summer, with the robot said to be able to sense human emotion.

 

"You may think that computers and robots are mechanical while human brain cells are capable of expressing subtle emotions," son told The Wall Street Journal last year. "But I believe there will come a time when computers will perform intellectual activities, collecting all manner of information to process, assess and provide wisdom."

Continue reading 'SoftBank CEO: Robots will be smarter than humans in 'near future'' (full post)

F-35 head continues to defend his program, amid major budget issues

Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, head of the chaotic and expensive F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program, has consistently heard criticism and complaints. Bogdan says the F-35 program is better than what the public perceives, despite schedule delays, technical and design issues, and huge cost problems.

 

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Lockheed Martin, the F-35 JSF manufacturer, and Pratt & Whitney, the F-35 engine maker, are fighting for support - and urging the Pentagon not to slash budgets.

 

The cost of production has more than doubled, and the problem doesn't seem to be getting any better. Once the kinks are worked out, the F-35A for the Air Force will cost upwards of $110 million each, an F-35B for the USMC will be $134 million, and the Navy F-35C has a $129 million price tag.

Continue reading 'F-35 head continues to defend his program, amid major budget issues' (full post)

Following latest air disaster, some wonder about pilotless planes

Airlines might not be thinking about pilotless airplanes for commercial use, but the technology seems to be there to make it happen. Following the recent tragedy of Germanwings, in which the co-pilot allegedly steered the plane into a mountain, has helped add fuel to the fire of autonomous flight.

 

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Even though flying has become significantly safer in recent years, human error leads to around 80 percent of plane crashes, according to Mary Cummings, former US Air Force pilot and current engineering professor and director of the Duke University Humans and Autonomy Lab. In addition, planes already are fairly autonomous, with human pilots actually only flying a few minutes per flight.

 

Realistically, many air passengers probably aren't ready to fly on a pilotless flight, with reliance on human pilots - sharing their fate in the air - along with a pilot available in case the autonomous system fails. It's a discussion that we may get to enjoy hearing about more in the future, especially after major air crash events.

Swedish ferry operator Stena Line testing methanol ship

Stena Line, a Swedish ferry operator, is running one of its fleet using methanol, after converting to the more environmentally friendly fuel.

 

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The dual fuel technology uses methanol for the main fuel, but has traditional marine gas oil if needed. The Remontova shipyard in Poland is where the Stena Germanica ferry was converted, with a complete cost of 22 million euros.

 

"Stena Line is steering a sustainable and particularly environmentally friendly course," said Dr. Dirk Claus, managing director of Seehafen Kiel GmbH & Co., in a press statement. "We are proud that the route between Kiel and Gothenburg was chosen and that we are part of this outstanding pilot project."

Continue reading 'Swedish ferry operator Stena Line testing methanol ship' (full post)

US military wants dormant drones that can launch from ocean bottom

Drones could one day be launched from the bottom of the ocean, remotely activated for operation even after being in hibernation for years. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) expects to help the US military launch faster surveillance or attack missions anywhere in the world.

 

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The drones wouldn't require fuel, as they would be powered with energy generated by ocean currents. Ocean drones would be difficult to manufacture, however, because researchers would need to figure out how to activate the drone, how to help the drone breach the surface, and making sure the drone is protected in salt water for large periods.

 

"Today, the US Navy puts capability on the ocean floor using very capable but fairly expensive submarine platforms," said Steven Walker, DARPA deputy director, when speaking about the program. "What we'd like to do in this program is preposition capability on the ocean floor and have it be available to be triggered [in] real time, when you need it."

Amazon is testing drones north of the border, avoiding FAA headaches

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is causing problems for companies trying to test commercial drones, but can find less bureaucratic headaches in Canada.

 

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Amazon is now using land within 2,000 feet of the US-Canada border for its drone tests. The drones are working on basic flight features that include the following: obstacle avoidance, self-landing efforts, what happens if a drone loses connection, and other easier tasks.

 

Amazon hopes to be able to deliver packages that weigh up to five pounds in just 30 minutes or less after an order is processed. However, the FAA is dragging its feet in regards to legislation so they can fast track testing - making outdoor flight tests extremely difficult.

Continue reading 'Amazon is testing drones north of the border, avoiding FAA headaches' (full post)

Activists say it's time for US to start promoting 'smart' weapon tech

Activists believe the Obama Administration and city leaders across the country should begin ordering "smart guns" for police officers. If nothing else, some type of custom lock should be in place so people struggling for an officer's weapon are unable to fire it even if they get control of the sidearm.

 

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"Look at the situation where the cop in Ferguson last summer shot Michael Brown not long after he was allegedly trying to grab the officer's gun as he sat in the patrol car," said Joel Mosbacher, from the Metro Industrial Areas Foundation community organization, in a statement published by The Guardian. "And the homeless guy who was shot dead in Los Angeles earlier this month, where you could hear the cop saying he thought he was going to take his gun."

 

Advocates are careful not to recommend full smart guns - or locking mechanisms - for all handguns and rifles sold in the United States. Instead, they hope to see these solutions embraced by police agencies, so officers are the only ones capable of firing weapons.

Continue reading 'Activists say it's time for US to start promoting 'smart' weapon tech' (full post)

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