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Science, Space & Robotics Posts - Page 20

NASA suspends ties with Russian space program, except at space station

The US space agency NASA plans to temporarily suspend space-related ties with Russia, except for the multi-national International Space Station (ISS), as both sides continue to fight for political bargaining chips.

 

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Following the retirement of NASA's space shuttle fleet, the US space agency has relied on Russia to ferry astronauts and supplies into space - and back to Earth again - much to the growing dismay of US lawmakers. The US will still meet with Russia when other partnering space programs are present, as both nations have invested a tremendous amount into the ISS, and will keep the orbiting space station operational and safe.

 

"This suspension includes NASA travel to Russia and visits by Russian Government representatives to NASA facilities, bilateral meetings, email, and teleconferences or video conferences," said Michael O'Brien, NASA associate administrator for international and interagency relations, during a public notice.

Continue reading 'NASA suspends ties with Russian space program, except at space station' (full post)

US Navy testing seafaring robotic firefighters for use on ships

The U.S. Navy's Office of Naval Research (ONR) hopes its Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot (SAFFiR) will exceed expectations, a program developed by Virginia Tech, University of Pennsylvania, and University of California and UCLA researchers, specifically to help assist with onboard emergencies.

 

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The robots have a vision system designed to help search for survivors, along with the ability to turn water valves, balance, locate and position fire hoses, and shoot water on fires.

 

"People can only stand relatively short periods of time directly fighting the fire because of the heat, the radiation, the smoke and the steam," said Thomas McKenna, ONR Warfighter Performance Department, in a statement. "A firefighter during a shipboard fire may only be able to be exposed for 15 minutes. The idea is to get around those human limitations."

Continue reading 'US Navy testing seafaring robotic firefighters for use on ships' (full post)

UFO, or most likely a military aircraft, spotted flying over Texas

Well, it looks like the military is having some fun above the skies of Texas, where defense technology blog Ares is reporting on a mysterious, unidentified flying object flying over the skies of Amarillo, Texas, back on March 10.

 

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Bill Sweetman, Aviation Week's defense experts is perplexed, but he is convinced it's real. "Three of us here-myself, Graham Warwick and Guy Norris-concur that the photos show something real. Guy and I have known Steve Douglass for a long time, and know that the reason that he sees (and monitors by radio) unusual things is that he spends time looking for them. Here is Steve's account of one of his better radio intercepts. This is more than a random image.

 

The photos tell us more about what the mysterious stranger isn't than what it is. The size is very hard to determine, for example, although the image size at contrailing height suggests that it is bigger than an X-47B. However, the basic shape-while it resembles Boeing's Blended Wing Body studies or the Swift Killer Bee/Northrop Grumman Bat unmanned air system-is different from anything known to have flown at full size, lacking the notched trailing edge of Northrop Grumman's full-size designs".

Continue reading 'UFO, or most likely a military aircraft, spotted flying over Texas' (full post)

Mayim Bialik: Interest in STEM 'must be nurtured' in high school

Mayim Bialik isn't just a leading cast member of the hit CBS show "The Big Bang Theory," she's also a neuroscientist and strong advocate for helping develop science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) interest in the United States. Bialik plays the role of "Amy Farrah Fowler," a neurobiologist, enjoying her time studying animals as part of her research.

 

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Bialik continues to strengthen her leadership in driving interest in US STEM programs, especially for women trying to break into the field.

 

"Right now, research shows that more than half of high school freshmen who declare interest in STEM-related fields lose interest by the time they graduate," Bialik recently told TweakTown. "For female students, the problem continues into college. One-third of women who enter STEM bachelor's degree programs switch their major to a non-STEM field by the time they graduate,"

 

There has been a large effort to try and generate interest in STEM fields for women, though it has been a continued uphill battle.

 

"Girls' interest in STEM must be nurtured in high school and beyond so it is maintained throughout their education and professional lives. One of the best ways to do that is by introducing them to real-life role models who can show them how to succeed in STEM-related careers. Young women can then envision themselves as part of the STEM fields and develop a sense that STEM offers challenging but realizable opportunities."

Continue reading 'Mayim Bialik: Interest in STEM 'must be nurtured' in high school' (full post)

Google passes on government funding for military robot competition

It's no secret that Google has been swooping in and buying robotic companies left and right, and one of those acquisitions is making headlines today. Schaft Robotics, a company Google bought last year has made it to the finals of a DARPA sponsored robotics competition, and today Google announced that it would not accept funding for the competition that the US government had previously offered.

 

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In a statement released by the DARPA last Friday, the government says that Google has switched to Track D of the program which means it will be fully funding the program from its own bank account, and no government funding will be accepted. The DARPA Robotics Challenge or DRC is a competition that challenges companies to create a robot that can handle disaster zone task such as navigating heavy debris, opening a door, climbing a ladder, and even turning off gas and water valves.

 

Google's Schaft Robot will be competing in the finals which are scheduled to be held some time between December 2014 and June of 2015. Google's other robotics company, Boston Dynamics, will also be competing in the event with its bipedal robot, Petman. This is one competition I would love to watch live, and I hope to get that chance during the next round!

NASA confirms another cooling issue aboard the ISS

Back in December, the ISS had a significant problem with its cooling system. The issue required a couple spacewalks to repair. It appears that whatever the problem with the ISS coolant loop is, the issue has returned.

 

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NASA has confirmed that a coolant loop problem has again reared its head aboard the orbiting space station. NASA says that on Wednesday one of the two coolant loops on the space station shut down. A NASA spokesperson said that at no time was the crew aboard the ISS in any danger.

 

As a result of the coolant issue, some non-essential equipment aboard ISS modules was shut down. Some of the equipment was also changed over to use the other coolant loop. NASA believes that the coolant issue is linked to a valve problem, which was the same sort of issue that caused the coolant problems late last year. Presumably, a space walk will be needed to fix the coolant system, but no announcement has been made at this time.

Continue reading 'NASA confirms another cooling issue aboard the ISS' (full post)

Red Bull Stratos capsule and spacesuit goes to Smithsonian

Back in 2012, Red Bull sponsored a daredevil named Felix Baumgartner and his quest to skydive from the edge of space. Felix jumped from a special capsule wearing a space suit at an altitude of around 120,000 feet. The mission was a success and Felix made it to the ground unscathed.

 

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In the process, he became the first person to break the speed of sound without an aircraft. What scientist learned during the freefall will also help them to design systems that may make high-altitude escape more survivable for astronauts and pilots in the future.

 

Recently Red Bull announced that the space suit worn by Baumgartner and the Stratos capsule would become part of the permanent collection at The Smithsonian. The artifacts will be part of the Red Bull Stratos: Mission to the Edge of Space exhibit.

Continue reading 'Red Bull Stratos capsule and spacesuit goes to Smithsonian' (full post)

Drone carries GoPro into active volcano and records epic video

There are all sorts of aircraft that are considered drones. In many instances when someone says drone, what they really mean is remote controlled. Such is the case with a drone that you can buy on Amazon ready to fly called the DJI Phantom.

 

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The drone is a quadcopter and has an attachment that can be used for carrying a GoPro camera. A geek took advantage of its camera carrying capability to send the Phantom and a GoPro into the caldera of an active volcano.

 

I would have though with lava spewing and hot gasses boiling forth that the drone would fail from the heat quickly. As it turns out the drone and its camera survived unscathed. That is despite the lava and gas it had to dodge repeatedly.

Continue reading 'Drone carries GoPro into active volcano and records epic video' (full post)

Bill Gates says that people will be put out of jobs because of robots

The future is filled with technology, and especially robots and artificial intelligence, something that Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates recently talked about. Gates spoke at the American Enterprise Institute think tank in Washington, DC, where he said that both governments and businesses need to prepare for a world where people will be fighting for jobs with robots.

 

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Gates said: "Software substitution, whether it's for drivers or waiters or nurses... it's progressing. Technology over time will reduce demand for jobs, particularly at the lower-end of skill set... 20 years from now, labor demand for lots of skill sets will be substantially lower. I don't think people have that in their mental model."

 

The Microsoft co-founder even talked about what governments would do to prevent social unrest because of the mass unemployment, where he said they should basically get on their knees and beg big businesses to keep employing human beings instead of robots. This could lead to a future without payroll tax and corporate income taxes, while keeping the minimum wage low enough that businesses continue to employ people cheaply, versus using an automated, never-sleeping, non-demanding robot.

 

Most people think that robots will just replace the lower-end of the job scale, such as "low-skilled" workers, but it will effect virtually all industries. Even high-paying, and high-skilled jobs like accountants, commercial pilots, astronauts, police officers, and much more could be replaced with AI-based robots.

Facebook's facial recognition is 'nearing human-level performance'

Facebook has said that it has developed facial recognition technology that is capable of telling the difference of two people in side-by-side photos, a technology that is so good, that it is getting very close to replicating human abilities.

 

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The social network has dubbed it DeepFace, and according to the company it's 97.25% accurate, which is a shave from the 97.5% accuracy that humans score on average, in the same standardized test. In order to do that, the technology maps out 3D facial features, after which is makes a flat model that is filtered by color to characterize specific facial elements.

 

Facebook says it has also taken 4.4 million labeled faces from 4,030 different people on its network to help its system learn. DeepFace won't end up on Facebook right away, instead the social networko is releasing it ahead of presenting it at the IEEE Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition this June, so that it can get some feedback from the research community.

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