Smart Ducklings, Umbrella Drones, And A Cheetos-Eating Robot

Our favorite science images of the week

A view of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

Inside NASA's Vehicle Assembly Building

NASA published this photo of the interior of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The pictured platforms will provide access to the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft for Exploration Mission 1. NASA's in the process of sprucing up the VAB in preparation for Mars missions. Built in 1966, the VAB is the tallest single-story building in the world. It sprawls over eight acres of land and stands 525 feet tall.NASA/Kim Shiflett


On the evening of July 12th, crowds flooded the streets to watch 2016's July "Manhattanhenge," a bi-annual event in which the sun aligns perfectly with the grid of Manhattan's buildings. The event, popularized by astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, draws massive crowds into busy streets all over the city. Manhattanhenge is considered a good way to get people interested in astronomy, though it may also be a good way to get run over.Ryan F. Mandelbaum
Macro view of a Mantis Shrimp.

Eye-Rolling Shrimp

Mantis shrimp roll their eyes to see better, researchers have discovered. Mantis Shrimp, in addition to having the pound-for-pound most powerful punch, can see circular polarized light. This new research reveals that they achieve this super-vision by rolling their eyes.Wikimedia Commons
A drone made from an umbrella flies.

Umbrella Drones Float Like Jellyfish

A swarm of umbrella drones that look and move like jellyfish is the project of Alan Kwan, a student in MIT's "ACT" (Art, Culture, and Technology) program. Kwan wanted to provide viewers with a surreal experience by giving a typical inanimate object, an umbrella, the movement of an animate one, a jellyfish.Courtesy of Alan Kwan
NAO Robot Assists Doctor

MIT Robot Gives Nurses A Second Opinion

Researchers at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory have trained a small robot to be a second opinion for hospital care and scheduling. It can make recommendations on everything from where to move a patient, which nurse to assign to a C-section, to even being able to evaluate the movements of patients in a labor ward and then come up with "good" and "bad" suggestions for where to move them and which nurses to assign them to. It's recommendations, both good and bad, were headed 90 percent of the time.Screenshot by author, from YouTube
A gif of a robot with filament muscles eats Cheetos.

Muscular Robot Munches On Cheetos

This robotic skeleton has muscles made from soft pneumatic filaments that connect its joints together and allow it to stretch or contract like real muscles. It was created by scientists at the Tokyo Institute of Technology with the hopes that it would move less like a robot and more "creature-ish."Suzumori Endo Lab, Tokyo Institute of Technology
Composite Hubble image of the Crab Nebula

Hubble Image Of The Crab Nebula

NASA released this beautiful composite image taken by the Hubble telescope of the Crab Nebula, 6,500 light years away from Earth. At the center of the image are two bright dots; the one on the right is a neutron star.NASA/ESA
A duckling looks at several different colored balloons.

Duckling Smarts

The ability to identify logical relationships between objects, hold onto that knowledge, and then apply it to new objects, is often thought to be a uniquely human skill. But lately a number of species have been shown to share that ability--and we can now add ducks to the list. And not just ducks, but ducklings. Zoologists at the University of Oxford designed the study using objects of varying shapes and colors. The ducklings showed that they could think abstractly.Antone Martinho
DEKA arm, a prosthetic limb designed by the inventor of the segway

Segway Inventor's New Prosthetic Arm

Segway inventor Dean Kamen has teamed up with DARPA to create a super-advanced prosthetic arm. The arm, called the "Luke arm" (named for the lifelike replacement Luke Skywalker received at the end of The Empire Strikes Back) was designed to give amputees near-natural control of the limb.Mobius Bionics/Business Wire
An artist depiction of of the accretion disk around a black hole as the orbit of the material changes orientation around the central object.

Wobble, Wobble

In the 1980s, astronomers discovered that objects falling into black holes in our galaxy throw off flickering X-rays before they vanish. Why this happened was a mystery. A discovery by the European Space Agency's orbiting X-ray observatory, XMM-Newton (aided by NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) mission) has proved the existence of a "gravitational vortex" around a black hole, which solves the flickering mystery. The image above is an artist depiction of of the accretion disk around a black hole as the orbit of the material changes orientation around the central object.ESA/ATG medialab