Though the earthquake that struck Japan's eastern coast earlier today has left the country with massive destruction and hundreds of deaths, modern technology (and Japan's impressive level of readiness) are helping the country track survivors and dampen the damage as much as possible. In the future, our ability to cope with natural disasters will only increase, due in large part to the particular talent earthquake-vulnerable areas--especially Japan (and to a lesser extent, California)--have for robotics.
Predicting earthquakes is still a remarkably fruitless effort--seismologists are not reliably able to predict even a particular month in which an earthquake will occur, let alone a day. So the work done to mitigate the damage done by earthquakes is often in post-quake search-and-rescue tactics. Interestingly, two of the most earthquake-prone places in the world are also two of the world's hotbeds of robotics engineering. Japan is situated along the so-called Pacific Rim of Fire, at the point where the Pacific and Eurasian tectonic plates collide. The country is continually at risk of massive earthquakes, and as a technological world power, is uniquely capable of creating technological salves for 'quakes.
By Bjorn CareyPosted 12.10.2010 at 10:03 am 25 Comments
It’s never happened, and NASA feels confident that it never will. For one thing, astronauts generally don’t float free. Outside the ISS, they’re always attached to the spacecraft with a braided steel tether, which has a tensile strength of 1,100 pounds. If it’s a two-person spacewalk, oftentimes the astronauts are also hooked to each other.
NASA's latest mission doesn't have anything to do with spacecraft or satellites. The space agency is helping thousands of baby sea turtles make their successful pilgrimage to the ocean. Biologists are digging up some 700 turtle nests on northern Gulf beaches affected by the BP oil spill, from Panama City to Apalachicola, Florida, and relocating them to NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) on Florida's Space Coast.
Advanced electric drive, autonomous navigation and other technological advances will revolutionize the way we drive. PopSci presents stunning visions for the future of the automobile
By Nick Kaloterakis and Bob Sauls (Illustrations); Research by Jon Alain GuzikPosted 04.29.2010 at 2:00 pm 8 Comments
In this month's Future of the Car issue, we've envisioned three ambitious concepts for vehicles of the future, based on insights and other concepts from some of the brightest automotive designers and engineers in the industry. You can see the others here.
"Modular mission" flexibility—the ability to rapidly revamp for a new task by simply swapping out gear—is already in the cards for future Navy warships. The same idea is at work in this all-purpose rescue vehicle, which is inspired by the Rescue X concept created for Ford by the German designer Robert Engelmann.
MIT's robotics whizzes have created a new flying drone that can navigate unknown indoor areas all by itself. The tiny helicopter manages its explorations by using an onboard laser scanner to map out walls and windows.
The researchers started with a quad-rotor helicopter developed by Ascending Technologies GmbH, and outfitted the micro aerial vehicle with sensors and instruments galore. Their laser scanner setup combines with a mapping algorithm to help compensate for the lack of GPS navigation in most indoor areas.
The rescue robot with a teddy head has gone through nine different prototypes on its way to becoming a rugged battlefield medic for the U.S. military. Now new prototypes of BEAR can lift a quarter of a ton, while balancing gracefully on their treads.
Vecna Robotics hopes that BEAR (Battlefield Extraction-Assist Robot) can eventually find and rescue humans in any number of hazardous situations, ranging from bullet-torn battlefields to chemical accident sites and earthquake-damaged buildings.
A team of coal miners is working hundreds of feet underground when an explosion rocks the tunnel. They scramble for an exit, but those are all blocked. The air fills with dust and gas. There's no escape ... so the survivors inflate a portable panic room, complete with an oxygen supply and air filters, and wait for help. At least that's how Jim Reuther, a senior research scientist at the R&D giant Battelle, hopes the situation pans out.