This 4th of July weekend, you might, either at its beginning or its end, find yourself wishing your car could fly.
Thanks to a new FAA decision, this wish might seem slightly less Peter Pan and slightly more Peter Perfect.
It seems that the soaring minds behind the Terrafugia Transition have secured a remarkable weight exemption from the FAA, allowing it to carry such vital necessities as crumple zones, airbags, and a structural cage on its revolutionary flying car.
No, the airbags won't help much in the air. But road safety is just as vital for this dual-purpose flying … Read more
Even origami--that centuries-old art of folding paper into delicate shapes--isn't safe from the cold, metal hand of robotics. Thanks to scientists at Harvard and MIT, programmable electronic sheets can now fold themselves into a cute little boat or plane that virtually any origami aficionado could appreciate.
Why would the brilliant minds at two of the nation's top universities concern themselves with the likes of origami? The technology behind the self-folding sheets, they say, could lead to all sorts of shape-shifting devices, including "smart" cups that adjust themselves based on the amount of liquid needed, or Swiss Army knife-type devices that could transform themselves into tools like wrenches and tripods.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) helped fund the research, which suggests the multitasking material could hold promise for military applications where space--and free hands--are limited.
The researchers, who detail their work this week in an online issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, constructed the thin and flexible sheets from a composite of rigid tiles and elastomer joints.
Their material, which they call "programmable matter by folding," is studded with thin foil actuators. The sheets are made up of interconnected triangular sections with universal crease patterns; triggering the right actuator groups in sequence leads the sheets to fold themselves into a given shape. … Read more
This is Oscar. The cute little feline from Jersey in the U.K. had an accident about nine months ago when a combine harvester ran him over while he napped in a field, severing the bottom part of his two back legs.
But Oscar is plucky. His local vet, Peter Haworth, consulted another vet, Noel Fitzpatrick of Surrey, England, who has an advanced practice. They discussed Oscar's case via phone and e-mail, and after viewing X-rays and photos, they reasoned that Oscar was a good candidate for a cutting-edge new procedure Fitzpatrick had been developing: bionic cat legs.
If you live either in the central or western regions of the United States, get up early on Saturday. It'll be worth the extra effort, and you can always take a nap later.
With the exception of the East Coast, a partial lunar eclipse will be visible starting around 3:17 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time, and will reach its peak about 80 minutes later. As Earth's long shadow falls across the Moon, the part in the shadow will turn dark. It will look as though a chunk were missing from the Moon.
Can robots tell us about our distant past? German researchers think they can help us understand how we evolved language skills. Engineers at the Neurorobotics Research Laboratory at Humboldt University in Berlin are creating humanoids that will be able to form their own language to communicate.
Crafted by industrial design firm Frackenpohl Poulheim and manufactured with the help of plastics company Bayer MaterialScience, Myon is part of a European project called Artificial Language Evolution on Autonomous Robots, or ALEAR.
The project aims to get robots to "self-organize rich conceptual frameworks and communication systems with similar features as those found … Read more
Two men who led one element of Amazon.com's successful cloud-computing services have launched their own a start-up called Nimbula to focus on a private version of the technology.
Cloud computing takes several forms, but Amazon Web Services generally delivers building blocks available over the Internet that developers can use to construct their own higher-level services. Nimbula, in contrast, focuses more on a "private cloud" approach geared for companies building their own computing services based on a similar but in-house approach.… Read more
Summer vacations for a class of California seventh graders might pale in comparison to the class trip they recently took to Mars.
At least that's what astronomers might say after the class' discovery of an opening into a cave on the Red Planet.
The science class from Evergreen Middle School in Cottonwood, Calif., found the opening while working on a research project with the Mars Space Flight Facility run out of Arizona State University in Tempe.
"The students developed a research project focused on finding the most common locations of lava tubes on Mars," said their teacher, … Read more
As the BP oil spill enters its 63rd day, word comes that the worst-case scenario of the amount of oil gushing from the damaged well, has climbed to 100,000 barrels a day. Initially, BP put the daily tally from the Deepwater Horizon at around 1,000 barrels.
Journalists have reported on the spread of the spill in print and video. As the anecdotal evidence of a mounting environmental disaster accumulates, the challenge of quantifying the enormity of the problem is made that much harder by the piecemeal nature of this developing story.
But now, several hundred miles above the … Read more
Hitachi is showing off an improved version of its Emiew humanoid robot that's better at understanding what you say and rolling over all the junk on the floor of your apartment. Those two functions may or may not be related.
According to Hitachi, Emiew 2 can now distinguish voices in a noisy setting and roll over cables and floor tiles of different heights while maintaining its balance (see the vid below).
Equipped with a 14-channel microphone system in its head, Emiew is also able to cancel out noise generated by its own innards to hear people better.
Japanese researchers are probing the mechanics of insect flight by creating artificial butterflies. The above video shows a wooden contraption gracefully flapping its wings in high-speed footage.
Hiroto Tanaka of Harvard University and Isao Shimoyama of the University of Tokyo made the ornithopter out of balsa wood, polyurethane, and polymer film. It has the same mass and form as a swallowtail butterfly, including the planar shape of its wings.
The wings are powered by a crank mechanism. A rubber band is wound up to make the wings flap vertically at a frequency of 10Hz. It seems to fly for only … Read more