August 14, 2013
Parkour-Inspired Robot – Meet RHex – The Daily Orbit
Parkour’s moving from the parks to robotics.
What has new research glowing?
The eyes don’t lie when it comes to stroke risk.
And more shocking news on today’s Daily Orbit!!
Hello and welcome to the Daily Orbit. I’m Emerald Robinson.
Parkour isn’t only the latest craze with young hipsters, it’s also inspiring robots. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania are working on an all-terrain robot intended for military reconnaissance, rescue and supply missions. RHex, affectionately dubbed “parkour robot,” has an edge on its human parkour counterparts, even though researchers have been using human free-runners to discover new ways for the robot to manipulate itself over obstacles. The goal was to create a robot that could traverse off-road terrain as well as animals do. Soon to come is the light version, XRL. Constructed from carbon fibers, it will be able to do “double jumps, flips, pull-ups” and even launch itself vertically. I would put my money on RHex over the current reigning World Parkour Champ—who by the way is Gabe Nunez if you didn’t know.
Ever look at the weather app on your smartphone and realize it definitely isn’t representative of what the weather is actually like around you? Well, researchers are developing an app that could change that…using your smartphone battery. These batteries already have a built-in temperature gauge to protect the device from overheating. Researchers are looking at how these battery thermometers could provide information about the temperature surrounding a user’s phone in any given spot, which could then be compiled with other users’ phone data to create an overall more accurate picture of what a city’s weather is. They say this app would be most helpful in cities like London where it’s cloudy in one area of the city but sunny and bright in another.
And here’s more “bright” research. Could glow-in-the-dark bunnies lead to better drugs? Researchers in Hawaii and Turkey say yes. Get this…they are crossing jellyfish DNA with cuddly bunnies to create glow-in-the-dark rabbits that shine a fluorescent green in a dark room. Kind of reminds me of the toy glowworm I had as a kid. But this is no child’s play! Researchers shot the fluorescent protein from jellyfish DNA into rabbit embryos and transplanted them into the mother to gestate. Researchers say the point of this experiment was to prove that gene manipulation worked well in rabbits—a technique that could be used to produce medicines in animals, rather than in expensive factories. Well, that’s a positively glowing idea.
It’s all in the eyes isn’t just true with emotions, but with health too. In the past we’ve talked about how the eyes don’t lie and now researchers are saying they’re telling the truth about stroke risk. They found that affordable, non-invasive retinal imaging could show which patients are most likely to develop a stroke. The imaging is used to see if and how a patient suffers from hypertensive retinopathy – damage in the blood vessels in the retina caused by high blood pressure. Their observations revealed that patients with mild hypertensive retinopathy had a 35% higher risk of stroke, and in severe cases that risk went up another 137%. They say it’s too early to make clinical practice changes but it could potentially help in the future.
And in space news, Japanese researchers have measured the expansion velocity of a supernova shockwave for the first time. Previously it’s been difficult to do so because of the necessary wide area for observation and slow existing equipment. Having precise measurements of these shockwaves is important because they have a strong impact on the composition and physical state of surrounding interstellar materials. Looking at the supernova remnantW44, about 10,000 light years away in the constellation Aquila, they also found molecular gas with an extremely high velocity of more than 100 kilometers per second. The origin of this super-high-velocity molecular gas remains unclear, but researchers plan to continue their observations to try and figure out this mysterious component. Well that’s quite a shocker!
And that’s all for your Daily Orbit.