This mechanized pack animal will follow soldiers wherever duty calls them. Click here to download an incredible video (WMV format) of the BigDog in action.
By Preston LernerPosted 03.07.2006 at 2:00 am 6 Comments
Meet BigDog, a mechanical mutt that does more than snare Frisbees and irrigate fire hydrants. It totes hundreds of pounds of gear so soldiers won't have to, and it will never spook under fire. Developed by Boston Dynamics with funding from the U.S. military, the BigDog prototype is arguably the world's most ambitious legged robot.
Simulated dark energy. Courtesy of Andrey Kravtsov
Physics has a big problem: 75 percent of the universe is in the form of what is called dark energy. As the name implies, scientists have no idea what dark energy is. They do know, however, that its working as a giant cosmic antigravitational force, pushing the universe apart at the seams. Since its discovery in 1998 by two competing research teams, cosmologists and particle physicists have struggled to come up with an explanation of what could possibly be creating this force, to little avail (the most common estimate, which involves the existence of as-yet-undetected exotic particles, is off by a factor of 10120).
A new paper by three Italian physicists proclaims, rather boldly, to have solved the dark-energy problem, perhaps the most perplexing question in modern physics. Their solution? Neutrinos, ephemeral but numerous particles left over from the big bang. There are three types, or flavors, of neutrinos, and the flavor of a neutrino can change through a process called mixing. According to the researchers, this mixing of neutrinos throughout the universe creates just enough energy to explain away dark energy. As they put it:
. . . the neutrino mixing phenomenon appears to provide an explanation, till now unsuspected, of the vacuum dark energy component. Our discussion leads to the conclusion that there is no further need to search for exotic candidates (e.g. scalar particles) for the dark energy component . . . [emphasis mine]
In other words: Dont worry, everyone, weve solved the biggest problem in physics; no need to continue looking for alternative explanations. Clearly, whether or not they have solved the dark-energy problem—and the jury on this one has barely started to convene—telling everyone that they can quit looking for other explanations seems wildly brazen and premature. Perhaps we should wait for some experimental confirmation of your calculations first, eh, gentlemen? —Michael Moyer
Jupiters famed Great Red Spot, the strongest storm in the solar system, has a doppelganger. First formed in 2000, this newest storm, officially called Oval BA and about half the size of the Great Red Spot, has changed color. As late as November 2005, the storm was white. Now Oval BA is the same ruddy hue as the original megastorm. Scientists dont know exactly why the storms are red—some hypothesize that solar ultraviolet radiation causes a chemical reaction that generates the red color—but many believe that an intensifying red color means that the storm itself is growing much stronger. —Martha Harbison
Driving in northern New Jersey on Sunday, I came upon this Kia Sedona minivan. Its driver was clearly very unhappy with the mileage he was getting in the thing and was advertising it on the rear windshield and side glass. I tried taking a shot of it with my Treo cellphone camera, but the results were disappointing. Anyway, the back glass says Kia says 12 mpg is normal! The side windows say Kia Gas Hog. He had evidently tried to sort out with Kia why he wasnt getting the 17 city, 25 highway that's advertised for the vehicle, to no avail. I wanted to chat with him to see what his experience has been and whether his driving style might be a factor, but he got on the highway right after I took this shot. Its a pity, though—people dont buy Kias because they look awesome and handle like sports cars. They buy them because theyre supposed to be economical, both to purchase and operate. Now hes stuck with a bland minivan that gets the gas mileage of a Lamborghini. —Eric Adams
The awards for the other people in Hollywood who matter: engineers
By Jen TrolioPosted 03.06.2006 at 2:00 am 0 Comments
For one night a year, the brightest stars in Hollywood aren´t spoiled starlets or megalomanaical directors. They are the scientists and engineers who create the technology that underlies all of modern filmmaking. On February 18, the Academy presented the 78th Annual Scientific and Engineering Awards to these worthy inventors. Here, a look at the winners.
Winners: Laurie Frost, Peter Hannan and Richard Loncraine, Shepperton Film Studios
Sure, the Oscars made for juicy Sunday-night entertainmentâ€”but where, amid the glittering gowns and flash bulbs, were the geeks? Here's our rundown of the honors the Academy forgot to hand out...
By Gregory MonePosted 03.06.2006 at 2:00 am 0 Comments
Last night´s festivities featured the usual rambling acceptance speeches, Harry Winston jewels, outrageously toned celebrity bodies and soaring orchestral background music, but it left us wondering the same thing we wonder every year: Where was the science?
Maybe movie theaters are just being too polite. No matter how many times the friendly animated popcorn tells the audience to turn off its cellphones and pagers, few movies can go their entire length without someones Big Pimpin ringtone blowing up in everyones face.
Instead of depending on the chides of talking concessions, theaters can now gain full control over the usage of cellphones with nothing more than a quick nanotech paint job. Taking sub-microscopic pipes called nanotubes and filling them with copper, a company called NaturalNano has developed a paint that is able to passively block specific radio frequencies. When teamed with a special filtering device that monitors RF signals from the outside world and transmits some or all of them into the blocked area, the paint provides a cost-effective way to fully control the radio traffic coming in and out of any room.
The possibilities are endless. Concert halls could choose to allow cellphone usage only during intermissions, schools could prevent students from cheating using text messages—all the while allowing emergency signals to pass through unaffected—and movies could be enjoyed sans Jay-Z interludes.
Guess the talking popcorn should start looking for a new gig. —John Mahoney
With one simple add-on card, you can turn your laptop into a digital video recorder.
By Mike HaneyPosted 03.03.2006 at 2:00 am 2 Comments
Make a Laptop DVR Cost: $110 Time: 30 minutes Easy | | | | | Hard
How It Works:
Use the CD to install on your laptop the software and drivers for the Instant TV card. Restart, and plug in the card.
Connect to a video source (cable box or jack, TiVo) using either the S-video plugs or composite (red, white and yellow) plugs.
Open the Ulead InstaMedia software (the CD will also install a program called Instant TV, but it's clunky). Select "Settings." Choose your connection type, then choose the recording quality you want (a medium setting is fine for laptop playback).
Sit back and watch TV. Hit "Timer Record" or use titantv.com to schedule a recording.
Scientists invent the Cyberhand, a brain-controlled robotoic hand with fingers that can actually feel
By Billy BakerPosted 03.03.2006 at 2:00 am 1 Comment
Last October we reported on the first mind-controlled bionic limb, a multimillion-dollar prosthetic arm built by scientists at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago [â€A Toast to the Bionic Manâ€]. Now a team of European scientists led by Paolo Dario, a professor of biomedical robotics at the Scuola Superiore Sant´Anna in Pisa, Italy, has unveiled the first brain-controlled prosthetic hand.