You might wonder where Mr. Whiskerpuffs goes after he's let out the back door. You may imagine that he lounges around in the sun and swats at butterflies in the neighbor's yard. He may actually be holding down a 5-acre territory.
A master's thesis study, led by former University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign graduate student Jeff Horn, tracked 42 feral and pet cats as they collectively roamed more than 6,000 acres over the course of two years.
Radio telemetry and movement sensors gave the researchers a pile of interesting data. The largest range for a single cat belonged to a feral male that claimed 1,351 acres of room to roam. Pet cats tended to keep things much closer to home.
One unsurprising (at least to cat owners) finding was that the pet cats were lazy little fluffballs. They were asleep or in a low-activity mode for 97 percent of the time. The feral cats didn't have such cushy situations. They were in high activity mode for 14 percent of the time. It takes extra effort to make a living when you don't have a bowl of Friskies waiting at home.… Read more
Here's news Indiana Jones would dig: 17 lost pyramids and thousands of ancient tombs and other structures have been revealed in an infrared satellite survey of Egypt.
University of Alabama at Birmingham Egyptologist Sarah Parcak and colleagues used NASA and commercial satellites orbiting 430 miles above Egypt to show mud-brick structures under the surface. The stunning findings include more than 1,000 tombs and 3,100 settlements.
"This hints at the possibilities of discoveries to come," Parcak was quoted as saying by her university. "I am excited for my generation and the generations to come. There is enough to be excavated for 50 generations to come."
Preliminary excavations by a French team have confirmed the presence of at least two possible pyramids. The findings at Saqqara (Sakkara) could be one of the most important sites in Egypt. … Read more
NASA has just released some fascinating and mesmerizing footage shot by cameras attached to the booster rockets that lifted space shuttle Endeavour into orbit earlier this month.
Of course, there's been a lot of amazing film from space over the years (some of which I've recently encountered for the first time, thanks to a Netflix stream of a Discovery Channel documentary I missed when it originally aired).
There's Ed White's stunning spacewalk, the first-ever by an American. And the strangely moving footage shot from the Eagle as it lifted off from the moon to carry Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin back to the Columbia command module, which in turn would carry them and Michael Collins back home to Earth. In that last sequence, we see the American flag blasted by exhaust from the Eagle's ascent engine and shuddering crazily as it's left behind. (You can catch glimpses of both White's spacewalk and the Eagle's moon departure here--the former at 0:26; the latter at 0:31.)
In comparison to much of the known imagery, this newly released footage is rather mundane: No lone humans tottering vulnerably about in space, impossibly far from their home planet; no state symbols standing humbly yet grandiosely above a newly footprinted lunar surface; no tragic fireballs on liftoff or re-entry, declaring immutably the loss of all hands. And yet this footage has its own power, and it rewards the patient.
In some ways, it's reminiscent of the film that circulated on the Net awhile back of a father and son's project to send a small balloon into space equipped with an HD video camera and a GPS device. Of course, cameras attached to giant rockets that burn 11,000 pounds of fuel per second tend to leave the Earth much more quickly than do balloons. And there are a lot more fireworks to be seen as well. Still, the footage goes on and on, with the spacecraft climbing higher and higher and the clouds below growing tinier and tinier, and this helps give a powerful impression of the vastness, and loneliness, of space.
And the impression is underlined when the shuttle separates from the solid rocket boosters and their tagalong cameras, leaving them alone to tumble back down to Earth. The familiar-looking spacecraft arcs away; the roaring of the rockets dies out, leaving only silence; and the camera spins away from the blue of the oceans to face the blackness of space.
Regardless of the mundanity of much of the footage, the odd angles produced by the mounting of the cameras do make for some surprising images, and the ambient sound produces a weird effect as well. For though the sound drops out after the separation of the boosters, in some of the sections here, it reappears in a ghostly way as the boosters fall toward re-entry.… Read more
If books are dying a slow death, libraries are also living on borrowed time. But that didn't stop the University of Chicago from sinking $81 million into the new Joe and Rika Mansueto Library, which ironically doesn't have any books on display.
The entire book collection is stored underground in a five-story chamber that can hold some 35,000 metal bins. If you want to actually crack open a dead tree and read its paper pages, you'll have to ask a robot to fetch it for you from the vault.
The five underground robot cranes, apparently made by Dematic, retrieve the storage bins in minutes. As the vid below explains, a human librarian opens the bin and gets your bar-coded book. Then you're free to read the tome in the light-filled egg-shaped Grand Reading Room, which is otherwise devoid of books. Welcome to the automated library.
The robotized storage system makes lots of sense in terms of book preservation and efficiency; since books are packed by size instead of subject the vault apparently is seven times more efficient than conventional shelf storage.
The library, named after donor Morningstar CEO Joe Mansueto and his wife, is also meant to reflect how most research is done today--looking up text online, using Google Books, as well as consulting physical books. … Read more
opinion Today, May 25, marks the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's famous speech urging Americans to reach for the moon. With the U.S. space program in desperate need of new direction and genuine inspiration after years of neglect from Washington, we could use a 2011 equivalent of that oration.
One of Kennedy's finest speeches--and arguably one of the greatest in presidential history--it called on the U.S. space program to achieve what many thought to be impossible:
"I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth," Kennedy said in addressing a joint session of Congress and a national television audience. "No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important in the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish."
Kennedy's call was more than a boastful assignment. It was a daring attempt to inspire national morale in the face of a Soviet Union seemingly winning the Cold War. The Russians had Sputnik--the world's first artificial satellite--in orbit, and the growing fear among many Americans was that superior Soviet space science meant greater military might and more lethal missile technology.
But the speech was also one of history's greatest examples of an American leader trying to inspire and rally citizens toward an incredible achievement. It's a sentiment lost not only on the 21st century space program, but on modern American politics as a whole. No one--from the White House to Capitol Hill to the campaign trail--challenges us to achieve at the very highest levels of scientific and inventive endeavor these days. … Read more
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla.--A version of the Bush administration's Orion moon capsule, written off by the Obama administration and then resurrected as a space station lifeboat, will be developed instead for use in future manned flights to deep space targets beyond Earth orbit, the agency announced today.
Douglas Cooke, associate administrator of NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, told reporters the Orion concept, described by former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin as "Apollo on steroids," is the most capable spacecraft currently on the drawing board for meeting the Obama administration's "flexible path" approach to deep space exploration.
"This is the Orion-based concept that was designed for deep space missions and had the appropriate accommodations and design requirements for that type of mission," he said. "We did look at alternatives in some of the systems designs we're seeing in the various concepts that are being proposed, for instance, for commercial (vehicles)...And after studying those, we found the design approach we've got is really the best for this type of mission beyond low-Earth orbit."
Developed by Lockheed Martin, the solar-powered Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, or MPCV, would carry four astronauts on missions lasting up to three weeks, much longer when attached to a larger interplanetary habitation module of some sort. The capsule would have a pressurized volume of 690 cubic feet, weigh approximately 23 tons at launch and end its missions with splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.
Using an advanced abort system and a high-performance heat shield, the MPCV is expected to be 10 times safer than the space shuttle.
But Cooke said he does not yet know what it will cost to develop the MPCV, when the first manned or unmanned test fight might launch, how much individual vehicles will cost, what rocket will be used to launch them or where they might end up going. To date, he said, NASA has spent more than $5 billion on the Orion concept.
"When? Basically, we are still working on our integrated architecture; that includes the space launch system, along with ground systems and other supporting projects in order to put together integrated cost and schedule," he said. "So at this point, we don't have a specific date, although we are working diligently to understand earliest possible test dates within the approach that we are working to lay out."
In 2004, the Bush administration ordered NASA to complete the International Space Station and retire the space shuttle by the end of fiscal 2010, and to channel the savings into development of new rockets and spacecraft designed to support long-duration outposts on the moon by the early 2020s. Since then, the final shuttle flight has slipped to this July.
During Griffin's tenure, NASA came up with the Constellation program to implement the president's directive. The Orion capsule was intended to carry astronauts to and from the moon and to service the International Space Station as required. Two rockets were envisioned, the Ares I to launch Orion capsules into Earth orbit, and a huge heavy-lift Ares V to boost lunar landers and attached Orion spacecraft to the moon.… Read more
NASA today announced its plans for its next-generation deep space crew exploration vehicle.
President Barack Obama last year pulled the plug on the space agency's long-planned and multibillion dollar Constellation program. That system, which was expected to replace the Space Shuttle after its retirement this year, was thought to be central to bringing humans back to the moon, and possibly even to Mars.
But today, the space agency unveiled its plans for what it called the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV), a new spacecraft based on the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle that was related to the Constellation program.
Researchers have used a single laser to transmit data at 26 terabits per second over an optical fiber cable, a data-transmission breakthrough that promises to come in useful for cloud computing and 3D TV transmissions.
The transmission is biggest volume of data ever carried by a laser beam, according to the group of scientists, led by Germany's Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. With the demonstration, which sent the equivalent of 200,000 high-resolution images across 50 kilometers in one second, the researchers said they had broken their own record of 10Tbps, set in 2010.
Recently, engineers at the University of Pennsylvania gave PR2 some literacy skills. As seen in the video below, it can roam the halls of campus reading out posters on doors and walls.
Menglong Zhu and colleagues at the university's GRASP robotics lab tinkered with a Kinect-equipped PR2 dubbed "Graspy" and taught it to recognize printed text on paper and signs as well as handwriting on whiteboard.
First, it locates text on a nearby surface (including the floor and labels on household products). Then it performs text recognition using Tesseract OCR software, and reads the words aloud.
Graspy can handle various fonts and text colors, but its reading isn't smooth or perfect, missing the digits "50" on one poster--perhaps because they were stylized.
The skill isn't earth-shattering, and indeed humanoid robots have been reading text and even musical scores for years. Still, it's cute to see Graspy exploring its new ability to read just like a child does. … Read more