Jan 27, 2015

The subterranean theme park 390ft down in a Transylvanian salt mine

posted by Larra Morris

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For hundreds of years, workers broke and hauled salt out of the Salina Turda mine in Romania. That stopped in the 20th century. Since 1992, the huge chambers left behind have been a tourist attraction, which became a full-fledged theme park in 2010. The features include a 65-foot-tall Ferris wheel, an amphitheater, bowling alleys, a miniature golf course, and a lake where you can ride a boat, all contained in the huge underground chambers.
via Neatorama

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Image: Cristian Bortes

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Jan 26, 2015

Researcher develops jazz music-playing robots that can improvise with a human musician

posted by Larra Morris

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Musician and researcher Mason Bretan plays jazz with a backup band of four robots in what at first glance appears to be a clever application of dancing robots and pre-recorded tracks, but is actually something much more remarkable. While two of the robots do indeed play prerecorded percussion, the other two are actually improvising along with Bretan’s playing. And all of them are swaying and dancing in response to the music. The largest robot, named Shimon, improvises on a marimba–a complex task that require the robot to pre-position its arms in anticipation of the next note. You can see Bretan and his robo-band in action in the six-minute improvisational piece, “What You Say.” Bretan developed the robots as part of his PhD research at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
via Laughing Squid

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Jan 26, 2015

How a game of Monopoly put 15 criminals behind bars

posted by Larra Morris

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On August 8, 1963, a Royal Mail train puffed toward London carrying £2.6 million in cash. It was the dead of night, and the old tattered bank notes were destined for a government furnace, where they’d be permanently taken out of circulation. But 15 crooks hiding in the darkness had different plans. Wielding crowbars, the thieves held up the train. The criminals worked quickly, tossing 120 sacks of dough off the train and onto a getaway truck. When the heist was complete, the men fled with their convoy to a nearby farmhouse and did what any group of bored bandits would do to celebrate the largest cash heist in history: They playedMonopoly.

Days later, the criminals had to abandon the farmhouse to evade police, who’d picked up their trail. When Scotland Yard got to the hideout, they found 20 empty mailbags, sleeping bags, and bank note wrappers—and a Monopoly board covered in fingerprints. (Apparently, they’d been playing with real money.) Those prints, along with more found on a ketchup bottle, led to some arrests the very next day. Eventually, all 15 robbers landed in the slammer, learning that “get out of jail free” cards are decidedly hard to find in the real world.
via Mental Floss

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Image: JESSE HARP

 
 
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Jan 23, 2015

Hilltop panorama marks Mars Rover's 11th anniversary

posted by Laura Domela

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A panorama from one of the highest elevations that NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has reached in its 11 years on Mars includes the U.S. flag at the summit.

The view is from the top of "Cape Tribulation," a raised section of the rim of Endeavour Crater. The panorama spans the interior of the 14-mile-wide (22-kilometer-wide) crater and extends to the rim of another crater on the horizon.
via Mars Daily

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Jan 23, 2015

Fish-eating snails stun their prey with insulin

posted by Larra Morris

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A team at the University of Utah has discovered that two species of cone snail have a seemingly unique way to hunt — by releasing fish insulin into the water to slow down the metabolism of the fish they seek to eat.

According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the two fish-hunting cone snails that have evolved this unique ability areConus geographus and Conus tulipa. These snails use a specially evolved fish insulin to induce hypoglycemic shock in their prey. Instead of pursuing their meals, they wait until one swims by and then flood the surrounding waters with the insulin. That causes a suppression of glucose to the fish's vital organs (like the brain), rendering the snails' targets lethargic and easy to catch.
via The Verge

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Jan 23, 2015

Nanobot micromotors deliver medical payload in living creature for the first time

posted by Larra Morris

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Researchers working at the University of California, San Diego have claimed a world first in proving that artificial, microscopic machines can travel inside a living creature and deliver their medicinal load without any detrimental effects. Using micro-motor powered nanobots propelled by gas bubbles made from a reaction with the contents of the stomach in which they were deposited, these miniature machines have been successfully deployed in the body of a live mouse.

The picayune robots used in the research were tubular, about 20 micrometers long, 5 micrometers in diameter, and coated in zinc. Once the mouse ingested these tiny tubes and they reached the stomach, the zinc reacted with the hydrochloric acid in the digestive juices to produce bubbles of hydrogen which then propelled the nanobots along like miniature rockets.
via Gizmag

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Jan 23, 2015

Flying, walking vampire bat robot is back

posted by Larra Morris

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A few years ago, Ludovic Daler showed us a flying robot that he was working on that had the ability to “walk” by rotating its wings while on the ground. We love seeing designs like this that are completely, utterly out of the box, and Ludovic promised even more: 

We aim to make adaptive deployable wings... their shape could be adaptively modified to augment efficiency of forward flight, hover flight, and displacement on the ground.

With a little bit of inspiration from the common vampire bat (!), Ludovic has delivered with this updated robot that keeps its walking ability and now includes a foldable skeleton mechanism that lets it deploy and retract its wings.
via IEEE Spectrum

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Image: EPFL

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