March 19, 2013
iPhone App For Your Quadcopter Drone Released By ESA – The Daily Orbit
ESA is calling for help in training drones.
Lazarus is rising from the dead—again.
We’ve got the low-down on LIDAR—what’s that you say?
And a little galactic crime solving on today’s Daily Orbit!
Hello and welcome to the Daily Orbit. I’m Emerald Robinson.
Give me just a minute…I’m landing my drone on the ISS. Target achieved! How cool is this? A new free app called AstroDrone from the European Space Agency turns your iPhone-controlled “home drone” into a spacecraft and better yet—you’re part of the scientific process. The ESA says that this crowd-sourcing project will gather data to teach robots to navigate their environments much more autonomously. And owners of the Parrot AR.Drone quadcopter, recently featured on an episode of “King of the Nerds,” get to have some fun with their personal robots while helping to obtain real-life data to train ESA’s algorithms in large amounts that would practically be impossible any other way according to the agency as they attempt to land their drone on a graphical representation of the International Space Station. ESA says that the Parrot is a good drone for their project as it is a robot that people really do have at home and play games with.
“Lazarus come forth.” Well, that’s not what I was expecting. But that is what a group of scientists are expecting from The Lazarus Project. A team of scientists are using sophisticated cloning techniques to revive and reactivate the genome of an extinct Australian frog by implanting a “dead” cell nucleus into a fresh egg from another frog species. This particular bizarre frog would swallow its eggs, brood its young in its stomach and give birth through its mouth. Yuck! But it became extinct in 1983. The project is using cell nuclei recovered from tissues harvested in the 70s and kept in a freezer since then. Although they haven’t released the results of the study yet, researchers say they’ve reactivated dead cells into living ones and revived the extinct frogs genome in the process and they are “watching Lazarus arise from the dead, step by exciting step.”
And here’s an exciting step into a relatively new technology. Mobile LIDAR, only a few years old, promises to change the way we see, study and record the world around us, even though almost no one knows anything about it right now. But a new report is hoping to garner some good publicity for the technology that sends out pulses of light, up to one million times a second, that bounce back from whatever they hit forming a highly detailed and precise map of the landscape, providing a remarkable 3D view of the nearby terrain. Mobile LIDAR can gather more data in an hour than a team of surveyors could in a month and could be used for transportation, hydrology, construction and most exciting to me—virtual tourism. And if some of you students out there are looking for a potential career, the emerging field of “geomatics” has more jobs available than people to fill them and can start at $100k per year or more! Maybe I should think about a career in geomatics!
What do you get when you mix white with brown? Well, in brown bears and polar bear case, you still get brown but with some polar bear DNA. And the presence of such DNA in Alaskan brown bears had previously puzzled scientists. But new research looking at the mitochondrial DNA, inherited directly from the mother, tells the story. The new research suggests at the end of the last Ice Age when glaciers receded, a group of polar bears were stranded on Alaska’s ABC islands. Eventually male brown bears swam across from the mainland, mated with female polar bears, and voila! The entire ABC Island’s population is turned into brown bears. And that’s the story of the brown polar bear. Well, of course the research was a little more scientific sounding than all that.
“It was a cold dark night, there was a star that met it’s end and I had to find out how before the case grew colder than the polar ice caps.” Just like a crime scene, astronomers say that with a supernova the most recent remnants provide the greatest chance to discern the characteristics of the original star and its demise. NASA recently announced that it found one of the 20 youngest supernova remnants in the galaxy. G306.3.09 is likely less than 2,500 years old. Only one or two supernova explosions occur in the Milky Way each century and this supernova is sending a shockwave at about 1.5 million mph and shows the presence of iron, neon, silicon, and sulfur reminding us of the role supernovae play in seeding the galaxy with heavy elements produced in the heart of massive stars. RIP G306.3-0.9.
Well, that does it for today’s Daily Orbit!