Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

by Amina Khan

One day, gardeners might not just hear the buzz of bees among their flowers, but the whirr of robots, too. Scientists in Japan say they’ve managed to turn an unassuming drone into a remote-controlled pollinator by attaching horsehairs coated with a special, sticky gel to its underbelly.

The system, described in the journal Chem, is nowhere near ready to be sent to agricultural fields, but it could help pave the way to developing automated pollination techniques at a time when bee colonies are suffering precipitous declines.

In flowering plants, sex often involves a threesome. Flowers looking to get the pollen from their male parts into another bloom’s female parts need an envoy to carry it from one to the other. Those third players are animals known as pollinators — a diverse group of critters that includes bees, butterflies, birds and bats, among others.

Animal pollinators are needed for the reproduction of 90% of flowering plants and one third of human food crops, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. Chief among those are bees — but many bee populations in the United States have been in steep decline in recent decades, likely due to a combination of factors, including agricultural chemicals, invasive species and climate change. Just last month, the rusty patched bumblebee became the first wild bee in the United States to be listed as an endangered species (although the Trump administration just put a halt on that designation).

Thus, the decline of bees isn’t just worrisome because it could disrupt ecosystems, but also because it could disrupt agriculture and the economy. People have been trying to come up with replacement techniques, the study authors say, but none of them are especially effective yet — and some might do more harm than good.

“One pollination technique requires the physical transfer of pollen with an artist’s brush or cotton swab from male to female flowers,” the authors wrote. “Unfortunately, this requires much time and effort. Another approach uses a spray machine, such as a gun barrel and pneumatic ejector. However, this machine pollination has a low pollination success rate because it is likely to cause severe denaturing of pollens and flower pistils as a result of strong mechanical contact as the pollens bursts out of the machine.”

Scientists have thought about using drones, but they haven’t figured out how to make free-flying robot insects that can rely on their own power source without being attached to a wire.

“It’s very tough work,” said senior author Eijiro Miyako, a chemist at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Japan.

Miyako’s particular contribution to the field involves a gel, one he’d considered a mistake 10 years before. The scientist had been attempting to make fluids that could be used to conduct electricity, and one attempt left him with a gel that was as sticky as hair wax. Clearly this wouldn’t do, and so Miyako stuck it in a storage cabinet in an uncapped bottle. When it was rediscovered a decade later, it looked exactly the same – the gel hadn’t dried up or degraded at all.

“I was so surprised, because it still had a very high viscosity,” Miyako said.

The chemist noticed that when dropped, the gel absorbed an impressive amount of dust from the floor. Miyako realized this material could be very useful for picking up pollen grains. He took ants, slathered the ionic gel on some of them and let both the gelled and ungelled insects wander through a box of tulips. Those ants with the gel were far more likely to end up with a dusting of pollen than those that were free of the sticky substance.

The next step was to see if this worked with mechanical movers, as well. He and his colleagues chose a four-propeller drone whose retail value was $100, and attached horsehairs to its smooth surface to mimic a bee’s fuzzy body. They coated those horsehairs in the gel, and then maneuvered the drones over Japanese lilies, where they would pick up the pollen from one flower and then deposit the pollen at another bloom, thus fertilizing it.

The scientists looked at the hairs under a scanning electron microscope and counted up the pollen grains attached to the surface. They found that the robots whose horsehairs had been coated with the gel had on the order of 10 times more pollen than those hairs that had not been coated with the gel.

“A certain amount of practice with remote control of the artificial pollinator is necessary,” the study authors noted.

Miyako does not think such drones would replace bees altogether, but could simply help bees with their pollinating duties.

“In combination is the best way,” he said.

There’s a lot of work to be done before that’s a reality, however. Small drones will need to become more maneuverable and energy efficient, as well as smarter, he said — with better GPS and artificial intelligence, programmed to travel in highly effective search-and-pollinate patterns.

http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-robot-bees-20170209-story.html#pt0-805728

by Lorenzo Tanos

The mind-controlled robotic arm of Pennsylvania man Nathan Copeland hasn’t just gotten the sense of touch. It’s also got to shake the hand of the U.S. President himself, Barack Obama.

Copeland, 30, was part of a groundbreaking research project involving researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. In this experiment, Copeland’s brain was implanted with microscopic electrodes — a report from the Washington Post describes the tiny particles as being “smaller than a grain of sand.” With the particles implanted into the cortex of the man’s brain, they then interacted with his robotic arm. This allowed Copeland to gain some feeling in his paralyzed right hand’s fingers, as the process worked around the spinal cord damage that robbed him of the sense of touch.

More than a decade had passed since Copeland, then a college student in his teens, had suffered his injuries in a car accident. The wreck had resulted in tetraplegia, or the paralysis of both arms and legs, though it didn’t completely rob the Western Pennsylvania resident of the ability to move his shoulders. He then volunteered in 2011 for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center project, a broader research initiative with the goal of helping paralyzed individuals feel again. The Washington Post describes this process as something “even more difficult” than helping these people move again.

For Nathan Copeland, the robotic arm experiment has proven to be a success, as he’s regained the ability to feel most of his fingers. He told the Washington Post on Wednesday that the type of feeling does differ at times, but he can “tell most of the fingers with definite precision.” Likewise, UPMC biomedical engineer Robert Gaunt told the publication that he felt “relieved” that the project allowed Copeland to feel parts of the hand that had no feeling for the past 10 years.

Prior to this experiment, mind-controlled robotic arm capabilities were already quite impressive, but lacking one key ingredient – the sense of touch. These prosthetics allowed people to move objects around, but since the individuals using the arms didn’t have working peripheral nerve systems, they couldn’t feel the sense of touch, and movements with the robotic limbs were typically mechanical in nature. But that’s not the case with Nathan Copeland, according to UPMC’s Gaunt.

“With Nathan, he can control a prosthetic arm, do a handshake, fist bump, move objects around,” Gaunt observed. “And in this (study), he can experience sensations from his own hand. Now we want to put those two things together so that when he reaches out to grasp an object, he can feel it. … He can pick something up that’s soft and not squash it or drop it.”

But it wasn’t just ordinary handshakes that Copeland was sharing on Thursday. On that day, he had exchanged a handshake and fist bump with President Barack Obama, who was in Pittsburgh for a White House Frontiers Conference. And Obama appeared to be suitably impressed with what Gaunt and his team had achieved, as it allowed Copeland’s robotic arm and hand to have “pretty impressive” precision.

“When I’m moving the hand, it is also sending signals to Nathan so he is feeling me touching or moving his arm,” said Obama.

Unfortunately, Copeland won’t be able to go home with his specialized prosthesis. In a report from the Associated Press, he said that the experiment mainly amounts to having “done some cool stuff with some cool people.” But he nonetheless remains hopeful, as he believes that his experience with the robotic arm will mark some key advances in the quest to make paralyzed people regain their natural sense of touch.

Read more at http://www.inquisitr.com/3599638/paralyzed-mans-robotic-arm-gets-to-feel-again-shakes-obamas-hand/#xVzFDHGXukJWBV05.99


Joshua Neally had only been driving his Tesla Model X for a week when he found himself suffering a medical emergency.

Joshua Neally says he suffered a pulmonary embolism late last month while behind the wheel of the Tesla Model X, which features auto-driving technology, that he had purchased a week earlier.

“It was kinda getting scary. I called my wife and just said, ‘something’s wrong,’ and I couldn’t breathe, I was gasping, kind of hyperventilating,” the attorney from Springfield, Missouri, told KY3 News. “I just knew I had to get there, to the ER.”

Instead of pulling over to call 911 and wait for an ambulance, the 37-year-old father said he was able to direct his car to the nearest hospital.

Neally told Slate he doesn’t remember much after that. He said he’s fully aware, however, that the blockage in his lungs could have killed him or caused him to pass out behind the wheel.

Roughly one-third of people with an untreated or undiagnosed pulmonary embolism don’t survive, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Neally’s health scare occurred about three months after a Tesla driver in Florida was killed when his self-driving car crashed into a semi truck. The incident inspired a federal investigation into the company’s auto-piloting technology.

Neally knows about that accident, but is still grateful for his experience with the vehicle.

“It’s not going to be perfect, there’s no technology that’s perfect, but I think the measure is that it’s better and safer,” he said.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/tesla-drives-man-to-hospital_us_57a8aee8e4b0b770b1a38886

Thanks to Michael Lutter for bringing this to the It’s Interesting community.

By Lee Roop

Scientists in England have made an object disappear using a composite material of nano-sized particles to change the way its surface appears.

It’s not the invisibility cloak from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels, but reports on the research say it moves the world one step closer.

Here’s the way it worked. Researchers coated a curved surface with a nanocomposite medium with seven distinct layers, each with a different electrical property depending on position. The effect was to “cloak” an object allowing it to appear flat to electromagnetic waves.


The picture at left shows the cloak not in use where the presence of the object along the path of the traveling wave drastically changes its electric field configuration. At right, where the cloak is in action and the nanocomposite has been applied, there is a reduction in the amount of shadowing seen immediately after the object, as well as a noticeable improvement in the reconstruction of wave fronts. (Queen Mary University of London)

“The design is based on transformation optics, a concept behind the invisibility cloak,” said professor and study co-author Yang Hao of Queen Mary University of London’s School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science.

Scientists see an early use of the coating in changing how antennas are tethered to a platform. It could allow antennas of different shapes and sizes to be attached to a platform without being detectable.

The underlying design approach could be applied to control any kind of electromagnetic surface waves, researchers said.

http://www.al.com/news/huntsville/index.ssf/2016/07/scientists_move_one_step_close.html

Every day, modern society creates more than a billion gigabytes of new data. To store all this data, it is increasingly important that each single bit occupies as little space as possible. A team of scientists at the Kavli Institute of Nanoscience at Delft University managed to bring this reduction to the ultimate limit: they built a memory of 1 kilobyte (8,000 bits), where each bit is represented by the position of one single chlorine atom.

“In theory, this storage density would allow all books ever created by humans to be written on a single post stamp”, says lead-scientist Sander Otte.

They reached a storage density of 500 Terabits per square inch (Tbpsi), 500 times better than the best commercial hard disk currently available. His team reports on this memory in Nature Nanotechnology on Monday July 18.

Feynman

In 1959, physicist Richard Feynman challenged his colleagues to engineer the world at the smallest possible scale. In his famous lecture There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom, he speculated that if we had a platform allowing us to arrange individual atoms in an exact orderly pattern, it would be possible to store one piece of information per atom. To honor the visionary Feynman, Otte and his team now coded a section of Feynman’s lecture on an area 100 nanometers wide.


Sliding puzzle

The team used a scanning tunneling microscope (STM), in which a sharp needle probes the atoms of a surface, one by one. With these probes scientists cannot only see the atoms but they can also use them to push the atoms around. “You could compare it to a sliding puzzle”, Otte explains. “Every bit consists of two positions on a surface of copper atoms, and one chlorine atom that we can slide back and forth between these two positions. If the chlorine atom is in the top position, there is a hole beneath it — we call this a 1. If the hole is in the top position and the chlorine atom is therefore on the bottom, then the bit is a 0.” Because the chlorine atoms are surrounded by other chlorine atoms, except near the holes, they keep each other in place. That is why this method with holes is much more stable than methods with loose atoms and more suitable for data storage.

Codes

The researchers from Delft organized their memory in blocks of 8 bytes (64 bits). Each block has a marker, made of the same type of ‘holes’ as the raster of chlorine atoms. Inspired by the pixelated square barcodes (QR codes) often used to scan tickets for airplanes and concerts, these markers work like miniature QR codes that carry information about the precise location of the block on the copper layer. The code will also indicate if a block is damaged, for instance due to some local contaminant or an error in the surface. This allows the memory to be scaled up easily to very big sizes, even if the copper surface is not entirely perfect.

Datacenters

The new approach offers excellent prospects in terms of stability and scalability. Still, this type of memory should not be expected in datacenters soon. Otte: “In its current form the memory can operate only in very clean vacuum conditions and at liquid nitrogen temperature (77 K), so the actual storage of data on an atomic scale is still some way off. But through this achievement we have certainly come a big step closer”.

This research was made possible through support from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NOW/FOM). Scientists of the International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory (INL) in Portugal performed calculations on the behavior of the chlorine atoms.

For more information, please contact dr. Sander Otte, Kavli Institute of Nanoscience, TU Delft: A.F.Otte@tudelft.nl, +31 15 278 8998

http://www.tudelft.nl/en/current/latest-news/article/detail/kleinste-harddisk-ooit-schrijft-informatie-atoom-voor-atoom/

Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the It’s Interesting community.


The statue by Sophie Ryder had to be moved because people on their phones were bumping into it.

By Sophie Jamieson

A massive 20ft statue of two clasped hands had to be relocated after people texting on their mobile phones kept walking into it.

The sculpture, called ‘The Kiss’, was only put in place last weekend, but within days those in charge of the exhibition noticed walkers on the path were bumping their heads as they walked through the archway underneath.

Artist Sophie Ryder, who designed the sculpture, posted a video of it being moved by a crane on her Facebook page.

The artwork was positioned on a path leading up to Salisbury Cathedral in Wiltshire.

Made from galvanised steel wire, The Kiss had a 6ft 4in gap underneath the two hands that pedestrians could walk through.

But Ms Ryder said people glued to their phones had not seen it coming.

She said on social media: “We had to move ‘the kiss’ because people were walking through texting and said they bumped their heads! Oh well!!”

Her fans voiced their surprise that people could fail to notice the “ginormous” sculpture.

Cindy Billingsley commented: “Oh good grief- they should be looking at the beautiful art instead of texting- so they deserve what they get if they are not watching where they are going.”

Patricia Cunningham said: “If [sic] may have knocked some sense into their heads! We can but hope.”

Another fan, Lisa Wallis-Adams, wrote: “We saw your art in Salisbury at the weekend. We absolutely loved your rabbits and didn’t walk into any of them! Sorry some people are complete numpties.”

Sculptor Sophie Ryder studied at the Royal Academy of Arts and is known for creations of giant mythical figures, like minotaurs.

The sculpture is part of an exhibition that also features Ryder’s large “lady hares” and minotaurs, positioned on the lawn outside the cathedral. The exhibition runs until 3 July.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/12164922/Massive-sculpture-relocated-because-people-busy-texting-kept-walking-into-it.html

low mag

mag 3

Ever wonder how they ID’d the Boston bombers in a few days? This may help you to understand what the government is looking at. This photo was taken in Vancouver, Canada and shows about 700,000 people.

Hard to disappear in a crowd. Pick on a small part of the crowd click a couple of times — wait – then, click a few more times and see how clear each individual face will become each time. Or use the wheel on your mouse.

This picture was taken with a 70,000 x 30,000 pixel camera (2100 Mega Pixels.) These cameras are not sold to the public and are being installed in strategic locations. The camera can identify a face among a multitude of People.

Place your computer’s cursor in the mass of people and double-click a couple times. It is not so easy to hide in a crowd anymore.

http://www.gigapixel.com/mobile/?id=79995

Thanks to Pete Cuomo for bringing this to the It’s Interesting community.


Paraplegic Adam Fritz works out with Kristen Johnson, a spinal cord injury recovery specialist, at the Project Walk facility in Claremont, California on September 24. A brain-to-computer technology that can translate thoughts into leg movements has enabled Fritz, paralyzed from the waist down by a spinal cord injury, to become the first such patient to walk without the use of robotics.

It’s a technology that sounds lifted from the latest Marvel movie—a brain-computer interface functional electrical stimulation (BCI-FES) system that enables paralyzed users to walk again. But thanks to neurologists, biomedical engineers and other scientists at the University of California, Irvine, it’s very much a reality, though admittedly with only one successful test subject so far.

The team, led by Zoran Nenadic and An H. Do, built a device that translates brain waves into electrical signals than can bypass the damaged region of a paraplegic’s spine and go directly to the muscles, stimulating them to move. To test it, they recruited 28-year-old Adam Fritz, who had lost the use of his legs five years earlier in a motorcycle accident.

Fritz first had to learn how exactly he’d been telling his legs to move for all those years before his accident. The research team fitted him with an electroencephalogram (EEG) cap that read his brain waves as he visualized moving an avatar in a virtual reality environment. After hours training on the video game, he eventually figured out how to signal “walk.”

The next step was to transfer that newfound skill to his legs. The scientists wired up the EEG device so that it would send electrical signals to the muscles in Fritz’s leg. And then, along with physical therapy to strengthen his legs, he would practice walking—his legs suspended a few inches off the ground—using only his brain (and, of course, the device). On his 20th visit, Fritz was finally able to walk using a harness that supported his body weight and prevented him from falling. After a little more practice, he walked using just the BCI-FES system. After 30 trials run over a period of 19 weeks, he could successfully walk through a 12-foot-long course.

As encouraging as the trial sounds, there are experts who suggest the design has limitations. “It appears that the brain EEG signal only contributed a walk or stop command,” says Dr. Chet Moritz, an associate professor of rehab medicine, physiology and biophysics at the University of Washington. “This binary signal could easily be provided by the user using a sip-puff straw, eye-blink device or many other more reliable means of communicating a simple ‘switch.’”

Moritz believes it’s unlikely that an EEG alone would be reliable enough to extract any more specific input from the brain while the test subject is walking. In other words, it might not be able to do much more beyond beginning and ending a simple motion like moving your legs forward—not so helpful in stepping over curbs or turning a corner in a hallway.

The UC Irvine team hopes to improve the capability of its technology. A simplified version of the system has the potential to work as a means of noninvasive rehabilitation for a wide range of paralytic conditions, from less severe spinal cord injuries to stroke and multiple sclerosis.

“Once we’ve confirmed the usability of this noninvasive system, we can look into invasive means, such as brain implants,” said Nenadic in a statement announcing the project’s success. “We hope that an implant could achieve an even greater level of prosthesis control because brain waves are recorded with higher quality. In addition, such an implant could deliver sensation back to the brain, enabling the user to feel their legs.

http://www.newsweek.com/paralyzed-man-walks-again-using-only-his-mind-379531

The frame on the $500 Yerka bicycle forms a steadfast lock around any tree, pole, or bike rack. To steal it, thieves would need to saw through the frame itself, rendering the bike worthless.

google

Google’s new image-recognition program misfired badly this week by identifying two black people as gorillas, delivering a mortifying reminder that even the most intelligent machines still have lot to learn about human sensitivity.

The blunder surfaced in a smartphone screen shot posted online Sunday by a New York man on his Twitter account, @jackyalcine. The images showed the recently released Google Photos app had sorted a picture of two black people into a category labeled as “gorillas.”

The accountholder used a profanity while expressing his dismay about the app likening his friend to an ape, a comparison widely regarded as a racial slur when applied to a black person.

“We’re appalled and genuinely sorry that this happened,” Google spokeswoman Katie Watson said. “We are taking immediate action to prevent this type of result from appearing.”

A tweet to @jackyalcine requesting an interview hadn’t received a response several hours after it was sent Thursday.

Despite Google’s apology, the gaffe threatens to cast the Internet company in an unflattering light at a time when it and its Silicon Valley peers have already been fending off accusations of discriminatory hiring practices. Those perceptions have been fed by the composition of most technology companies’ workforces, which mostly consist of whites and Asians with a paltry few blacks and Hispanics sprinkled in.

The mix-up also surfaced amid rising U.S. racial tensions that have been fueled by recent police killings of blacks and last month’s murder of nine black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina.

Google’s error underscores the pitfalls of relying on machines to handle tedious tasks that people have typically handled in the past. In this case, the Google Photo app released in late May uses recognition software to analyze images in pictures to sort them into a variety of categories, including places, names, activities and animals.

When the app came out, Google executives warned it probably wouldn’t get everything right — a point that has now been hammered home. Besides mistaking humans for gorillas, the app also has been mocked for labeling some people as seals and some dogs as horses.

“There is still clearly a lot of work to do with automatic image labeling,” Watson conceded.

Some commentators in social media, though, wondered if the flaws in Google’s automatic-recognition software may have stemmed on its reliance on white and Asian engineers who might not be sensitive to labels that would offend black people. About 94 percent of Google’s technology workers are white or Asian and just 1 percent is black, according to the company’s latest diversity disclosures.

Google isn’t the only company still trying to work out the bugs in its image-recognition technology.

Shortly after Yahoo’s Flickr introduced an automated service for tagging photos in May, it fielded complaints about identifying black people as “apes” and “animals.” Flickr also mistakenly identified a Nazi concentration camp as a “jungle gym.”

Google reacted swiftly to the mess created by its machines, long before the media began writing about it.

Less than two hours after @jackyalcine posted his outrage over the gorilla label, one of Google’s top engineers had posted a response seeking access to his account to determine what went wrong. Yonatan Zunger, chief architect of Google’s social products, later tweeted: “Sheesh. High on my list of bugs you never want to see happen. Shudder.”

http://bigstory.ap.org/urn:publicid:ap.org:b31f3b75b35a4797bb5db3a987a62eb2