October 21, 2013

Asteroid Gave Earth A Close Call Last Week – On Science

How close did an NEO venture last week?

Musk is taking the plunge with his new toy.

What game system is bringing yoga to the blind?

And crack candy kills. That’s today…On Science!

Welcome to today’s On Science. I’m your host Emerald Robinson.

I don’t know about you but I prefer to learn about NEO’s after they are a safe distance from Earth. NASA recently announced that asteroid 2013 TV135 came within a hair of hitting us last week. Well, “within a hair” is a relative term at 4.1 million miles away from us. But in the grand scheme of the vastness of space that’s pretty close. NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program detected the 1,300-mile-wide rock and says it has 0.002% chance of striking Earth when it returns in 2032. The program manager said “to put in another way, that puts the current probability of no impact in 2032 at about 99.998%.” Way to have a glass half-full attitude NASA!

Known for his space ambitions, the main-man of SpaceX is taking a dive under the sea. Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, Tesla Motors, SolarCity and PayPal recently purchased the iconic Lotus Esprit submarine car featured in the 1977 film “The Spy Who Loved Me” at an auction for $866,000. But in true Musk fashion, he has bigger plans for the car than adding it to his cool collection. Musk plans to slap his electronic drive train on the car and convert it into a real car that can operate on both land and underwater. Oh, the things you can do when you’re a genius billionaire. Musk said that he remembered as a kid watching James Bond drive the Lotus off the pier and into the water, but was disappointed to learn that in reality, it doesn’t really convert into an underwater car. So he’s fixing that! Oh a boy and his very expensive toys.

And here’s one toy that’s changing the way the blind can move. Yoga may be all the rage for some, but the classes, which depend on yogi’s watching an instructor to learn how to properly perform positions have been impossible for the visually impaired. A team from the University of Washington has set out to correct that using the Microsoft Kinect. The new software program called Eyes-Free Yoga uses the Kinect to track body movements and verbally give feedback for six poses in real-time to help the person successfully find the pose. For example, it might say “rotate your shoulders left.” To create the program, the head researcher practiced yoga herself, often doing it wrong to tweak the software. They also employed 16 blind people to test it out on with success! The team said they wanted to encourage visually impaired people to try exercise on a broader scale.” I need the program myself, yoga instructors have given up on me.

MIT’s looking for a shortcut in astronaut training. Astronauts, as one would imagine, go through extensive training to get ready for their venture into space. A lot of this training is in the use of robotics; specifically they must learn to operate the robotic arm located on the ISS. MIT researchers have developed cognitive spatial tests that they say allow the stars to shine, predicting which astronaut candidates will perform better in the more extensive course. Astronaut spatial skills are broken down into two categories: object rotation (ability to imagine what the object looks like rotated) and perspective taking (imagining how it looks from different viewpoints). They say these initial spatial tests could be used to place high-scorers on a shortened, accelerated training track, while low-scorers do a more in-depth course. If you’ve seen Gravity, then you know how important these two skills were to Sandra Bullock.

We all know someone, a mother, a son, a friend, a co-worker, someone who is addicted to Candy Crush Saga. The Daily Mail reports that Candy Crush Saga maker, King, rakes in a whopping $650,000 a day from candy addicts buying premium features like unlocking new levels. They also reported that women 25 to 55 have the sweetest tooth when it comes to the game. However, its addictive powers do not discriminate, as 40% of gamers are male. One woman says she calls the game “crack candy” because she imagines it’s like trying to break a crack habit. I just say “no” to crack candy.

And that’s what’s up today On Science. Remember just say no.

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