A viral video showing an army of little orange robots sorting out packages in a warehouse in eastern China is the latest example of how machines are increasingly taking over menial factory work on the mainland.

The behind-the-scenes footage of the self-charging robot army in a sorting centre of Chinese delivery powerhouse Shentong (STO) Express was shared on People’s Daily’s social media accounts on Sunday.

The video showed dozens of round orange Hikvision robots – each the size of a seat cushion – swivelling across the floor of the large warehouse in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province.

A worker was seen feeding each robot with a package before the machines carried the parcels away to different areas around the sorting centre, then flipping their lids to deposit them into chutes beneath the floor.

The robots identified the destination of each package by scanning a code on the parcel, thus minimising sorting mistakes, according to the video.

The machines can sort up to 200,000 packages a day and are self-charging, meaning they can operate around the clock.

An STO Express spokesman told the South China Morning Post on Monday that the robots had helped the company save half the costs it typically required to use human workers.

They also improved efficiency by around 30 per cent and maximised sorting accuracy, he said.

“We use these robots in two of our centres in Hangzhou right now,” the spokesman said. “We want to start using these across the country, especially in our bigger centres.”

Although the machines could run around the clock, they were presently used only for about six or seven hours each time from 6pm, he said.

Manufacturers across China have been increasingly replacing human workers with machines.

The output of industrial robots in the country grew 30.4 per cent last year.

In the country’s latest five-year plan, the central government set a target aiming for annual production of these robots to reach 100,000 by 2020.

Apple’s supplier Foxconn last year replaced 60,000 factory workers with robots, according to a Chinese government official in Kunshan, eastern Jiangsu province.

The Taiwanese smartphone maker has several factories across China.

http://www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/2086662/chinese-firm-cuts-costs-hiring-army-robots-sort-out-200000

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

By Deepa Padmanaban

A striking new species of crab has been found living in tree-holes high above the ground. The animal, which fits in the palm of a human hand, has a deep bluish black body that stands out against the tree bark that it prowls for worms and seeds to eat.

Scientists discovered the crab—named Kani maranjandu—in the lush forests of the Western Ghats in south India. It’s an entirely new genus and species named after the Kani, the tribal community that noticed the crabs, and maranjandu, the local colloquial term for tree crab.

The forest-dwelling Kani first reported sightings of “long-legged crabs” on trees in 2014. A. Biju Kumar, a professor of aquatic biology at the University of Kerala, was at that time leading a project to survey the Western Ghats of Kerala for freshwater crabs. After months of tracking the tree crabs with the help of the tribesmen, Kumar and his student Smrithy Raj recently managed to catch a couple of these elusive crabs.

In the Journal of Crustacean Biology, the scientists describe Kani maranjandu as having a distinct hard outer shell or carapace that is broad, swollen, and convex. Most conspicuously, the legs are extremely long, with slender, curved, sharp ends that help them get a good grip on the tree, making them effective climbers.

The crabs live in water-filled hollows of tall evergreen and deciduous trees. The Kani tribesmen detect their presence by looking for air bubbles coming out of the hollows. Outside the hollows, the crabs move rapidly on tree trunks, using their pincer-bearing thick front legs to propel themselves.

The crabs are shy creatures, retreating deep inside the hollows when approached. The younger ones take shelter in the canopy of the trees, up to about 30 feet. That’s unusual for crabs, which don’t normally climb more than a few feet into trees.

“This lifestyle of tree living indicates that, since they cannot disperse widely through the sea, their range tends to be limited to a very narrow area,” says Tohru Naruse, an expert on crab biodiversity at Japan’s University of the Ryukyus. He not involved in the discovery.

This geographical restriction could mean that any impact on their habitat could put the species at greater risk.

Biju Kumar also stresses the importance of the crab’s habitat: the large trees and forest ecosystem of the Western Ghats. The crabs’ existence hinges on rainwater collected in tree hollows, and the crabs have been observed to change trees if the hollows dry up. The broad, swollen carapace is an adaptation that helps them hold water in their gill chambers.

“It also suggests that the tree-climbing behavior and morphology of Kani maranjandu, and possibly other related, undiscovered species, has evolved where they are distributed,” adds Naruse.

For Peter K.L. Ng, a National University of Singapore biologist who helped classify Kani maranjandu, the species’ most alluring feature is how it illustrates crab evolution. “The exciting thing for me is that these crabs, regardless of where they have been found, and how they are related (or unrelated) to each other, they have nevertheless evolved to use specialized habitats to enhance their survival—in this case, tree-holes and climbing,” he says.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/04/new-crab-species-india-weird-wild-animals/

Rudyard Kipling’s Mowgli came alive in the jungles of Katraniyaghat in Bahraich district, 200 km from Lucknow, when local policemen rescued an eight-year-old girl from a troop of monkeys recently.

The cops had to face resistance from the simians before they could rescue the girl.

Mowgli, the man-cub protagonist of Kipling’s ‘The Jungle Book’ was reared by wolves’ pack in ‘Seeonee hills’, now in MP.

The girl was spotted when a police party of Motinagar range in Bahariach headed by sub-inspector Suresh Yadav was on routine night patrol in the woods of Katarniyaghat.

“We spotted her playing among apes. As we tried to go near the girl, the monkeys surrounded her and some of them pounced on us,” says sub-inspector Yadav. Even the girl also resisted the cops and screeched at them.

The girl, without clothes, was significantly comfortable among the apes. She, however, was finally taken out by the police party and immediately admitted to the district hospital.

There is no lead about the family or parents of the girl who can neither talk nor can comprehend any language.

“She behaves like an ape and screams loudly if doctors try to reach out to her,” says Dr DK Singh, chief medical superintendent, Bahraich District Hospital adding that her behaviour is making her treatment difficult.

However, he says that the girl, who has been in the hospital for over two months now, is showing definite improvement in her medical condition.

The girl’s presence in the district hospital has evoked curiosity among the locals.

“As she sees anyone looking at her even from a distance, she starts growling,” says Shiraz, who is one among those visiting the strange patient in the district hospital regularly.

“When she was brought to the hospital, she had wounds all over her body. Her nails and hair were unkempt like monkeys,” says superintendent of police (City) Dinesh Tripathi.

“From her behaviour, it appears that she had been with the monkeys since birth. I visit her personally time-to-time,” Tripathi adds.

Sharing other details, Dr Singh says that the girl even walks, eats and sits like monkeys.

“Sometimes she walks on feet and suddenly comes down on all four,” says the doctor. Even while eating, the girl spreads the eatables on bed and doesn’t use hands to put them in her mouth. “She uses her mouth to pick the eatables,” says a nurse of Bahraich district hospital.

“The treatment is proving to be a difficult task for the doctors as she does not understand anything and makes noises and faces like monkeys, and attacks the doctors when they approach her,” says a junior doctor.

According to the hospital staff attending to her, the girl gets scared on seeing human beings and gets violent very often on seeing people looking at her.

http://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2017/apr/06/jungle-book-redux-as-eight-year-old-found-living-amongst-monkeys-in-uttar-pradesh-1590649.html

By Rebecca Morelle
Science Correspondent, BBC News

Scientists have worked out how a thin strip of land that once connected ancient Britain to Europe was destroyed.

The researchers believe a large lake overflowed 450,000 years ago, damaging the land link, then a later flood fully opened the Dover Strait.

The scars of these events can be found on the seabed of the English Channel.

The study is published in the journal Nature Communications.

Professor Sanjeev Gupta, who led the study, from Imperial College London, said: “This was really one of the defining events for north west Europe – and certainly the defining event in Britain’s history.

“This chance geological event, if it hadn’t happened, would have meant Britain was always connected to the continent.

More than half a million years ago, in the midst of an Ice Age, a land bridge connected Dover in the South of England to Calais in northern France.

Immediately to the north of it, was a huge glacial lake, which had formed at the edge of an ice sheet that covered much of Europe.

The researchers believe that this lake started to overflow, sending vast amounts of water crashing over the land bridge.

The evidence for this was found at the bottom of the English Channel.

Decades ago, engineers who were surveying the seabed for the Channel Tunnel, discovered a series of mysterious large underwater holes.

Now further scrutiny has revealed that they were most likely caused by the lake overspill.

Prof Gupta said: “These holes are now in-filled with sediment, but what’s interesting is that they are not linear features like canyons or valleys – they are isolated depressions.

“And they occur in a line – a whole series of them stretching between Dover and Calais. And they are huge, 100m-deep carved into the bedrock and hundreds of metres to several kilometres in diameter.

“So we interpret these as giant plunge pools. We think there was basically lake water plunging over this rock ridge in the Dover Strait through a whole series of waterfalls, which then eroded and carved out these depressions.

“It’s difficult to explain them by any other mechanism.”

The researchers believe the lake started to overflow about 450,000 years ago, which would have seriously weakened the land bridge.

But they think a second catastrophic flood that took place about 150,000 years ago would have destroyed it altogether.

“We see this huge valley carved through the strait, about eight to 10km wide… and it has a lot of features that are suggestive of flood erosion,” said Prof Gupta.

Co-author Jenny Collier, also from Imperial College London, said it was not clear what caused either of these events.

She said: “Perhaps part of the ice sheet broke off, collapsing into the lake, causing a surge that carved a path for the water to cascade off the chalk ridge.

“In terms of the catastrophic failure of the ridge, maybe an earth tremor, which is still characteristic of this region today, further weakened the ridge.

“This may have caused the chalk ridge to collapse, releasing the megaflood that we have found evidence for in our studies.”

The researchers would now like to work out more precise timings of the “geological Brexit”.

This would mean drilling into the bottom of the Dover Strait and analysing the age of the sediment.
“But that would be a huge undertaking,” admitted Prof Gupta.

“The English Channel is the world’s busiest shipping lane and it has huge tidal currents. It will be hugely challenging.”

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-39494740


When people are feeling playful, they giggle and laugh, making others around them want to laugh and play too. Now, researchers have found that the particularly playful kea parrot from New Zealand has a ‘play call’ with a similarly powerful influence. When other kea hear that call, it puts them into a playful mood.

The findings make kea the first known non-mammal to have such an “emotionally contagious” vocalization, the researchers say. Earlier studies had made similar findings for chimpanzees and rats.

“We were able to use a playback of these calls to show that it animates kea that were not playing to do so,” says Raoul Schwing of the Messerli Research Institute in Austria. “The fact that at least some of these birds started playing spontaneously when no other birds had been playing suggests that, similar to human laughter, it had an emotional effect on the birds that heard it, putting them in a playful state.”

Schwing and his colleagues got interested in this particular call after carefully analyzing the kea’s full vocal repertoire. It was clear to them that the play call was used in connection with the birds’ play behavior. That made them curious to know how kea in the wild would respond to the recorded calls.

To find out, the researchers played recordings of play calls to groups of wild kea for a period of five minutes. The researchers also played other kea calls and the calls of a South Island robin as controls. When the birds heard the play calls, it led them to play more and play longer in comparison to the other sounds.

“Upon hearing the play call, many birds did not join in play that was already underway, but instead started playing with other non-playing birds, or in the case of solitary play, with an object or by performing aerial acrobatics,” the researchers write. “These instances suggest that kea weren’t ‘invited’ to play, but this specific call induced playfulness, supporting the hypothesis that play vocalizations can act as a positive emotional contagion.”

While it might be a bit anthropomorphic, they continue, the kea play calls can be compared to a form of infectious laughter. The researchers say that they now plan to explore the effects of play and play calls on kea social groups more generally.

For the rest of us, the findings come as an intriguing reminder: “If animals can laugh,” Schwing says, “we are not so different from them.”

Journal Reference:
1.Raoul Schwing, Ximena J. Nelson, Amelia Wein, Stuart Parsons. Positive emotional contagion in a New Zealand parrot. Current Biology, 2017; 27 (6): R213 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.02.020

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170320122838.htm

Neil Freeman redrew the state borders to get a visual sense of what it would take for the electoral college votes to match the popular vote. That is to say, for each state to be weighted evenly.

“The largest state is 66 times as populous as the smallest,” Freeman explains on his site, “and has 18 times as many electoral votes.”

His map is based on 2010 Census data, which records a population of 308,745,538 for the United States. Divided up among 50 states, that’s a population of a little over six million people per state. The names of new states are mostly taken from geographical features.

The electoral college is a time-honored, logical system for picking the chief executive of the United States. However, the American body politic has also grown accustomed to paying close attention to the popular vote. This is only rarely a problem, since the electoral college and the popular vote have only disagreed three times in 200 years. However, it’s obvious that reforms are needed.

The fundamental problem of the electoral college is that the states of the United States are too disparate in size and influence. The largest state is 66 times as populous as the smallest and has 18 times as many electoral votes. This increases the chance for Electoral College results that don’t match the popular vote. To remedy this issue, the Electoral Reform Map redivides the fifty United States into 50 states of equal population. The 2010 Census records a population of 308,745,538 for the United States, which this map divides into 50 states, each with a population of about 6,175,000.

Advantages of this proposal
◦Preserves the historic structure and function of the Electoral College.
◦Ends the over-representation of small states and under-representation of large states in presidential voting and in the US Senate by eliminating small and large states.
◦Political boundaries more closely follow economic patterns, since many states are more centered on one or two metro areas.
◦Ends varying representation in the House. Currently, the population of House districts ranges from 528,000 to 924,000. After this reform, every House seat would represent districts of the same size. (Since the current size of the House isn’t divisible by 50, the numbers of seats should be increased to 450 or 500.)
◦States could be redistricted after each census – just like House seats are distributed now.

Disadvantages
◦Some county names are duplicated in new states.
◦Some local governments would experience a shift in state laws and procedures.

Methodology

The map began with an algorithm that grouped counties based on proximity, urban area, and commuting patterns. The algorithm was seeded with the fifty largest cities. After that, manual changes took into account compact shapes, equal populations, metro areas divided by state lines, and drainage basins. In certain areas, divisions are based on census tract lines.

The District of Columbia is included into the state of Washington, with the Mall, major monuments and Federal buildings set off as the seat of the federal government.

The capitals of the states are existing states capitals where possible, otherwise large or central cities have been chosen. The suggested names of the new states are taken mainly from geographical features:
◦mountain ranges or peaks, or caves – Adirondack, Allegheny, Blue Ridge, Chinati, Mammoth, Mesabi, Ozark, Pocono, Rainier, Shasta, Shenandoah and Shiprock
◦rivers – Atchafalaya, Menominee, Maumee, Nodaway, Sangamon, Scioto, Susquehanna, Trinity and Willimantic
◦historical or ecological regions – Big Thicket, Firelands and Tidewater
◦bays, capes, lakes and aquifers – Casco, Tampa Bay, Canaveral, Mendocino, Ogallala, Salt Lake and Throgs Neck
◦songs – Gary, Muskogee and Temecula
◦cities – Atlanta, Chicago, Columbia, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Newark, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Washington
◦plants – Tule and Yerba Buena
◦people – King and Orange

The words used for names for the name are drawn from many languages, including many American Indian languages. While some etymologies are unclear, the root languages for the state names include Abenaki (Casco), Algonquian (Nodaway, Pocono, Willimantic), Apache (Chinati), Calusa (Tampa), Choctaw (Atchafalaya), English, French (Detroit, Ozark, Rainier), Greek (Philadelphia), Iroquoian (Shenandoah), Lakota (Ogallala), Latin (Columbia), Luiseño (Temecula), Mayaimi (Miami), Mamaceqtaw (Menominee), Miami-Illinois (Chicago), Mohawk (Adirondack), Muscogee (Muskogee), Nahuatl (Tule), Odawa (Maumee), Ojibwe (Mesabi), Potawatomi (Sangamon), Susquehannock (Susquehanna) and Wyandot (Scioto).

By Vanessa Bates Ramirez

3D printing is being used to produce more and more novel items: tools, art, even rudimentary human organs. What all those items have in common, though, is that they’re small. The next phase of 3D printing is to move on to things that are big. Really big. Like, as big as a house.

In a small town in western Russia called Stupino, a 3D printed house just went up in the middle of winter and in a day’s time.

Pieces of houses and bridges have been 3D printed in warehouses or labs then transported to their permanent locations to be assembled, but the Stupino house was printed entirely on-site by a company called Apis Cor. They used a crane-sized, mobile 3D printer and a specially-developed mortar mix and covered the whole operation with a heated tent.

The 38-square-meter (409-square-foot) house is circular, with three right-angled protrusions allowing for additional space and division of the area inside. Counter-intuitively, the house’s roof is completely flat. Russia’s not known for mild, snow-free winters. Made of welded polymer membranes and insulated with solid plates, the roof was designed to withstand heavy snow loads.

Apis Cor teamed up with partners for the house’s finishing details, like insulation, windows, and paint. Samsung even provided high-tech appliances and a TV with a concave-curved screen to match the curve of the interior wall.

According to the company, the house’s total building cost came to $10,134, or approximately $275 per square meter, which equates to about $25 per square foot. A recent estimate put the average cost of building a 2,000 square foot home in the US at about $150 per square foot.

The homes of the future?

Since these houses are affordable and fast to build, is it only a matter of time before we’re all living in 3D printed concrete circles?

Probably not—or, at least, not until whole apartment buildings can be 3D printed. The Stupino house would be harder (though not impossible) to plop down in the middle of a city than in the Russian countryside.

While cities like Dubai are aiming to build more 3D printed houses, what many have envisioned for the homes of the future are environmentally-friendly, data-integrated ‘smart buildings,’ often clad with solar panels and including floors designated for growing food.

Large-scale 3D printing does have some very practical applications, though. Take disaster relief: when a hurricane or earthquake destroys infrastructure and leaves thousands of people without shelter, 3D printers like Apis Cor’s could be used to quickly rebuild bridges, roads, and homes.

Also, given their low cost and high speed, 3D printed houses could become a practical option for subsidized housing projects.

In the US, tiny houses have been all the rage among millennials lately—what if that tiny house could be custom-printed to your specifications in less than a week, and it cost even less than you’d budgeted?

Since software and machines are doing most of the work, there’s less margin for human error—gone are the days of “the subcontractor misread the blueprint, and now we have three closets and no bathrooms!”

While houses made by robots are good news for people looking to buy a basic, low-cost house, they could be bad news for people employed in the construction industry. Machines have been pouring concrete for decades, but technologies like Apis Cor’s giant printer will take a few more human workers out of the equation.

Nonetheless, the company states that part of their mission is “to change the construction industry so that millions of people will have an opportunity to improve their living conditions.”

https://singularityhub.com/2017/03/05/watch-this-house-get-3d-printed-in-24-hours/?utm_source=Singularity+Hub+Newsletter&utm_campaign=12834f7547-Hub_Daily_Newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_f0cf60cdae-12834f7547-58158129