In the biggest development to rock the popular-science world since Pluto got demoted, 10 elements will see their atomic weights changed on the periodic table.
With the news, oversize posters and textbook inserts around the world (not to mention the tiny periodic table I've been carrying around in my wallet since the ninth grade) are about to become outdated.
The reason for the change is that atomic weights are not always as concrete as most general-chemistry students are taught, according to the University of Calgary, which made the announcement, and the snappily named International Union of Pure and Applied … Read more
A Russian Soyuz rocket carrying three crew members bound for the International Space Station blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan today, kicking off a two-day flight to catch up and dock with the orbital lab complex.
With Russian commander Dmitry "Dima" Kondratyev at the controls, the booster's first-stage engines roared to life on time and the rocket lifted off at 2:09:25 p.m. EST (1:09 a.m. Thursday local time), quickly climbing away from the same pad used by Yuri Gagarin at the dawn of the space age 50 years ago next April.
Live television shots from inside the cabin showed Kondratyev in the capsule's center seat, flanked by Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli on his left and NASA astronaut Catherine "Cady" Coleman on his right. All three appeared relaxed and in good spirits as the rocket streaked toward space.
Nine-and-a-half minutes later, the Soyuz TMA-20 capsule separated from the rocket's third stage and slipped into its planned preliminary orbit. Solar arrays and antennas deployed a few moments later and Russian flight controllers said the spacecraft was healthy and on course for a docking with the International Space Station around 3:12 p.m. Friday.
"Everything's good on our side. Congratulations on the successful orbital insertion," chief flight director Vladimir Solovyov radioed after engineers assessed telemetry. "Everything looks good, everything pressurized as it was supposed to, and the telemetry is nominal."… Read more
China will soon overtake Japan as the world's second heaviest spender on research and development, according to a report from the Battelle Memorial Institute.
A nonprofit group that conducts scientific research, Battelle published its findings today as part of an article in its R&D Magazine. The article and its full supplementary report (PDF) looked at global R&D spending in general and across six specific segments--Information Technology, Electronics, Life Sciences, Aerospace/Defense/Security, Energy, and Advanced Materials.
Next year, China is expected to spend $153.7 billion on R&D, a big jump from $141.… Read more
We've seen running bipedal robots before, but they tend to move like, well, robots. Ryuma Niiyama of MIT's Robot Locomotion Group wants to build a bot that runs as much like a human as possible, right down to the black nylon running shorts.
The robot, aptly named Athlete, sports an artificial musculoskeletal system that mirrors human muscles in the leg, hip, lower abdomen, and booty and has a springy elastic blade foot like those seen on prosthetic running legs. Niiyama's goal is a flexible, agile robot with less of a mechanical gait and more of a Usain Bolt-type stride.
Athlete has seven sets of actuator-driven artificial muscles in each leg, plus touch sensors on each foot and an inertial measurement unit on the torso for detecting the body's orientation. It does not, as far as we know, take steroids.
But the champion sprinters of the world shouldn't worry just yet. With the aid of a harness hung from the ceiling, Athlete can currently take up to five steps at about 3.9 feet per second, but then it falls down. Hey, robots get muscle cramps too. … Read more
The Phantom Ray UAV got some air time today, with a little help from a jumbo jet.
Boeing's futuristic unmanned aerial vehicle took a 50-minute flight today riding piggyback on a NASA Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, a modified 747 designed to ferry space shuttles from one terrestrial site to another. The aerospace giant had said earlier in the year that the Phantom Ray was on track to make its first flight, but this may not be exactly what it had in mind.
The first flight of the Phantom Ray, which is designed to fly autonomously, is now scheduled for "… Read more
commentary It's been eight years in the making so far, and has gone through any number of delays and problems, but Boeing's 787 Dreamliner is still one of the most-anticipated commercial airplanes in history. And with the plane's testing program under way for almost exactly a year, it is edging closer and closer to carrying its first passengers.
Now, fans of the innovative plane--it is made from 50 percent composite material and is expected to offer carriers up to 20 percent savings on fuel--can get a fix unlike any offered before. With Edgar Turner's new book, &… Read more
Australian researchers are getting ready to conduct human trials next year of a smart chip, which, when implanted in the spinal cord, can measure and stop pain signals from traveling to the brain.
The technology, targeting chronic pain, was developed in Sydney by National ICT Australia (NICTA) over the last two years by experts in biomedical, electrical, and mechanical engineering, as well as textile technology and software applications.
The smart chip is put into a biocompatible device, which is a little smaller than the head of a match. A couple of the devices are sewn into a 1.22mm-wide micro-lead … Read more
Strawberry fields will forever be changed by robots that can automatically identify and pick ripe berries, according to Japanese researchers.
Developed by the minds at an organization aptly abbreviated IAM-BRAIN (that's the Institute of Agricultural Machinery's Bio-oriented Technology Research Advancement Institution), the machines can harvest more than 60 percent of a strawberry crop.
Even though each machine takes nine seconds to pick a strawberry, they can cut harvesting time from 500 hours to 300 hours for a 1,000-square-meter field (about a quarter-acre), BRAIN's Shigehiko Hayashi explains in the video below.
The robots can also pick strawberries at night. There's more video of the machine at work here, on BRAIN's Japanese page.
The berry bot has a stereo camera system that images the strawberries in 3D. Image-processing algorithms gauge their ripeness, and if a berry is at least 80 percent red, the machine neatly snips it at the stem and deposits it in a bin.
Japanese farmers are field-testing experimental versions of the robots and testing is expected to be complete by the end of the year. … Read more
China is turning out to be the new Japan, judging by all the cool tech stuff it's turning out, including, now, robot waiters. Sign of the times? At China's new Dalu Rebot (sic) restaurant in Jinan, patrons are greeted by two robot receptionists and attended by six robo-waiters (and no, they don't accept tips).
The brains behind the robot restaurant is the Shandong Dalu Science and Technology Company, which plans to roll out more robo-servers for the eatery, which can accommodate 100 diners at the same time. … Read more
If you like big and green, NASA's Ames Research Center will soon have something for you: the world's largest and greenest airship.
The space agency announced today that the Mountain View, Calif., research center's Moffett Field will soon play host to a mammoth 265-foot-long and 65-foot-diameter airship from Kellyton, Ala.'s E-Green Technologies. The Bullet Class 580 will be developed and tested at Ames in 24,000 square feet of Ames' famous Hangar 2.
The new airship, which has a planned first flight date of early 2011, is expected to run on algae-based biofuel, and fly at … Read more