May 6, 2013
Seasonal Changes Seen On Saturn – The Daily Orbit
Has a hundred year old mystery been solved?
Mind over robots?
RoboBees have lifted off!
And honoring Tesla, on today’s Daily Orbit!
Hello and welcome to the Daily Orbit. I’m Emerald Robinson.
Well Saturn is making headlines again this week, as researchers say they finally understand how the gas giant’s magnetosphere changes with the seasons. Why is this interesting? Scientists say this provides an important clue in understanding the planet’s radio signal, which was once thought to be able to give an accurate measurement to the length of a Saturn day. The new results could also help scientists better understand variations in the Earth’s magnetosphere and the Van Allen radiation belts, which both affect things like spaceflight and cell service. Hey, I’m all about research that keeps my cell service in tact!
A blast lit up the sky in 1908, the force of which was a thousand times greater than the Hiroshima bomb and took out 80 million trees in an 800 square mile area. This has been known as the Tunguska Event. No one really knew the culprit—until now that is. One scientist in Russia says that among rock samples he took from that area more than 20 years ago, three rocks are not “earthly” in origin. He claims they are characteristic of meteorites with evidence of melting and regmalypts, impressions typically caused by ablation as a rock falls through the atmosphere. He concludes a comet or asteroid collided with Earth that day. He named his three rocks “dental crown”, “whale” and “boat.” Which is which? You be the judge!
And one of the most famous scientists of the twentieth century is being honored by what better than a science learning center and museum. Friends of Science East, Inc. partnered with the online comic Matthew Inman of TheOatmeal.com, to raise enough money via crowdsourcing to purchase Wardenclyffe—the site in Shoreham, New York, where scientist and inventor Nikola Tesla planned to build his wireless communications and energy transmission tower in the early 1900s. Due to financial woes, Tesla’s dream was never realized. Known for his contributions to radio and electricity, Tesla’s eccentricity earned him a “mad scientist” title. However, supporters of Tesla dream to restore the Wardenclyffe site laboratory and continue on Tesla’s legacy. They say they’ll need $10 million to complete the project and are calling on science lovers for contributions.
And as a robotics enthusiast himself, Tesla would have loved this next story! Engineers at Harvard have had their own robotic dreams come true—creating a flying insect robot known as RoboBee! The team has been working more than a decade on this robot that is half the size of a paperclip, weighs less than a tenth a gram, and can flap its wings 120 times per second. The bug-bot currently has to be tethered to an energy source to fly, and high energy-density fuel cells must be developed before the RoboBees will be able to fly with much independence. Researchers say these tiny flying robots could one day help with environmental monitoring and crop pollination. And I loved what one engineer had to say—“it’s about the excitement of pushing the limits of what we think we can, the limits of human ingenuity.” Well, said Mr. Scientist!
And here’s another one the mad scientist would have loved—manipulating robots with your mind. Students at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology are making all kinds of advancements in robotics. One Master’s student says he can control a robot with movements of his eyes, eyebrows, and other parts of his face by hooking himself up to an EEG machine where electrodes read the activity of the brain and send a message to the robot to move in a pre-defined way. Another team is working on controlling a robot with arm movements alone, attempting to train it to imitate human movements using the Kinect camera. And one supervisor at the University has developed a three-fingered grasper to improve robots’ effectiveness in the manufacturing industry. So much Mr. Tesla would have loved!!!
Well that does it for the Daily Orbit! I feel like we should all do the Robot!