Many years ago, there was a cricket match between the West Indies and England. (Cricket's a little like baseball, only takes longer and often no one wins.)
The radio commentators were talking about a bowler (pitcher) called Michael Holding. The batsman (hitter) was Peter Willey. One of the commentators then said, quite naturally: "The bowler's Holding, the batsman's Willey."
After a nanosecond of silence, the whole commentating crew was reduced to monstrous giggles. They couldn't stop. There was nothing they could do. Because, well, one of them had suggested that the bowler was holding … Read more
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla.--An electrical glitch with the shuttle Endeavour's hydraulic power system forced NASA managers to scrub today's planned launch on a space station assembly mission, disappointing thousands of spectators and spoiling a visit by President Obama and his family.
It also was a disappointment to commander Mark Kelly's wife, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who flew to Florida on Wednesday to watch the launch. Giffords has been recovering after being shot in the head during a shooting in January.
"But as we always say in this business, we will not fly this machine until it's ready," said Launch Director Mike Leinbach. "And today, it was not ready to go."
NASA managers do not yet know what it will take to resolve the problem, but they are hopeful a faulty thermostat in a heater circuit is to blame. If so, the shuttle could be ready for another launch attempt as early as Monday at 2:33:56 p.m. EDT.
But if the problem requires a cockpit fuse panel swap out, or installation of a replacement electrical box in the shuttle's aft engine compartment, Endeavour's launch on its 25th and final mission likely will be delayed until May 9 or 10, after the planned May 6 launch of an Atlas rocket carrying a missile early-warning satellite.… Read more
A spaceship isn't much use if it doesn't have the juice to go somewhere. And if you're an astronaut bouncing around destinations like the moon, random asteroids, Lagrange points, and Mars, you'll probably need an interstellar gas station.
Cryogenic propellants used in rocket engines are usually made of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. Both liquids reside in enormous insulated containers and are pumped through an expansion chamber, then mixed and ignited in the combustion chamber. The result is an incredible amount of power per gallon of cryogenic proellant, up to 40 percent higher than other rocket fuels.
However, there are many challenges to creating a gas station in the stars. The primary objectives of the study are to address key elements including a fail-safe way to transfer the propellants from a storage container to a ship. The difficulty is high since hydrogen tends to leak (it's the smallest element), and can eventually deteriorate the container it's stored in. … Read more
DNA molecules are not merely carriers of information. They are also highly stable and programmable, which is why researchers have been working so feverishly on a design strategy called DNA origami.
And now a team at MIT is developing a program that makes the game playable by more than just a select few.
DNA origami--constructing specific 2D and 3D shapes out of DNA strands--could prove to be a highly effective means of developing nanoscale tools, such as synthetic photocells that perform artificial photosynthesis and highly targeted drugs (think of sending a cancer drug to hunt down a specific tumor).
The result is that today a small number of brilliant and highly specialized minds are bent over a nanoscale game of origami, playing with various sequences to try to build specific shapes for specific tasks. Imagine a room of highly sophisticated gamers playing with building blocks in a world without Tetris; if they had the game, they'd be able to work faster.… Read more
Scott McNealy, who co-founded and led Sun Microsystems for many years before its sale to Oracle last year, is once again engaging in the technology world.
Fittingly for the one-man sound bite factory, McNealy has taken to Twitter, dishing up snarky remarks and relishing the fact that not being CEO of a company means he doesn't have to be politically correct. And he's involved in business again, too, as chairman of stealth start-up WayIn.
McNealy isn't dishing on WayIn, but some details are bubbling up.
If you've tried every potion available to stop your hair loss, you might consider getting a robot to harvest your remaining locks for hair transplant surgery.
The FDA has given clearance to the Artas System, a machine that uses "image-guided robotics to enhance the quality of hair follicle harvesting," according to maker Restoration Robotics.
First the patient sits in the Artas chair, and his hair is cut to about 1 millimeter. A camera-equipped robotic arm under the control of a doctor then initiates "small dermal punches" while harvesting individual follicles.
The follicles are later manually transplanted. They develop blood supplies and gradually produce their own hair over months. No sutures or bandages were required in the prototype (PDF) of Artas, and the company expected to improve extraction rates to 750 to 1,000 follicular units per hour. … Read more
Korean children, already fast becoming a robot-friendly lot, have a new companion in Kibot, a monkey-faced bot that can read fairy tales, sing songs, take pictures, and make video calls via a display embedded in its tummy.
Wireless operator KT Telecom started delivering the multitasking monkey today for 485,000 won ($447), plus wireless packages that can be purchased in 12- or 14-month installments.
"It's really cute," said my 9-year-old friend Stella, a co-worker's daughter who visited CNET's offices today. "I would get one if it was in blue." (No luck; for now, it only comes in pink and gray).
Kibot (short for "kid's robot") isn't just for kids, however. Parents can also remotely control the 8-inch-tall wheeled robot via mobile phone and, using Wi-Fi, monitor their children (a feature that made Stella a tad apprehensive).
"If I was sleeping, it wouldn't be that comfortable if I knew someone was watching me," she said. "It would be freaky."
Big brother (or father) concerns aside, Stella thinks the robot playmate--which is aimed at kids younger than she is, 3 to 7--would be a hoot to have around.
She was especially excited by the video chat function, which lets kids make calls via the 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera simply by touching an RFID card bearing the picture of a familiar face (Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, and so on) to the device. … Read more
Sometimes people send me things. Mainly these are people in Hong Kong and Nigeria desperate to make me happy once I give them my bank account details.
However, occasionally they offer boundless fruit for lyricism. So when I was sent a link from a site called Motorshout, I was moved to hitherto unknown sensations. For the headline read: "Bourbon-powered Junk Car by Mickey Nilsson."
I followed the thread that led me to a site called AutoEvolution. Clearly the whole car world was itching to discuss the remarkable invention of Mr. Nilsson, who was apparently inspired by the movie &… Read more
Most of us don't have to worry about getting a concussion on a daily basis. But plenty do (think hockey and football players, infantrymen, etc.), and without quick diagnosis, can risk long-term brain damage if they go back into the field too soon.
Using a simple radar system--the kind police use to measure the speed of vehicles--the researchers found that they were able to pick up on differences between normal walking patterns and those impaired by alcohol, which has been found to have a similar effect on walking as concussion impairment.
To be clear, this preliminary study is just that, preliminary, with a sample size too small to offer information that is more than anecdotal. But the findings have given the researchers enough data to want to test their approach further.… Read more
TOKYO--Japan's robotics response to the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has been disappointing so far, but a 5-ton rescue robot developed after the 1995 Kobe earthquake may see some action at the facility soon.
Created by Fukuoka-based Tmsuk in 2007, the T-53 Enryu (PDF) is a hulking, 9-foot-tall machine on treads with a bulldozer attachment and giant arms to move debris.
Enryu (or "Rescue Dragon") is expected to clear highly radioactive rubble at the plant to provide machines and people better access, but it may need to be shielded with lead to protect it from … Read more