‘Lights-Out’ Manufacturing Hits Main Street

By Carl Engelking | October 20, 2017 2:42 pm
lights-out

(Credit: Universal Robots)

Robots toiling day and night assembling widgets and thingamabobs in pitch-black warehouses isn’t some mustache-twirling industrialist tycoon’s fantasy. It’s here, it’s the future of manufacturing, and it’s not just the multinational conglomerates that stand to benefit from the robot labor revolution. Main Street will, too.

Voodoo Manufacturing, a small 3D printing farm in Brooklyn—OK, so not quite mom and pop “Main Street”— was running up against a problem every small business wants: They were growing too quickly to keep up. Voodoo prints designs, products and anything else on demand for their customers 24 hours a day, and they can get the job done within a day. “Harvesting” was one of the biggest logjams in their assembly process, which involves taking the finished product out of a printer and replenishing the printing plate for a new job. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, top posts
MORE ABOUT: robots

Scaring Babies for Science

By Bill Andrews | October 20, 2017 1:05 pm
babies

(Credit: Shutterstock)

“Snakes, why’d it have to be snakes?” so sayeth Indiana Jones, and so, apparently, say babies too.

In a study published Wednesday in Frontiers in Psychology, European neuroscientists determined that our instinctive fears of snakes and spiders are so primal, even babies become alarmed at the sight of them. How’d they figured it out? Well, they scared some babies. For science! Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mind & Brain, top posts
MORE ABOUT: psychology, Senses

New Zealand Songbirds Attack Rivals That Sing Pretty Songs

By Nathaniel Scharping | October 20, 2017 11:27 am
A New Zealand tui (Credit: Auckland Photo News)

A New Zealand tui (Credit: Auckland Photo News)

Birds are territorial creatures, and they’ll passionately defend their chosen area from unwanted intrusions. For some songbirds, it doesn’t even take a physical breach to draw their ire — if you’re a lovely singer, they’ll attack.

New Zealand’s tui songbirds certainly aren’t doing the “jealous performer” stereotype any good. Males of the species will fend off rival males encroaching on their territory, and they’re especially aggressive toward those with more intricate, some might say prettier, songs. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: animals

The Orionid Meteor Shower Peaks This Weekend

By Michael E. Bakich | October 20, 2017 10:36 am

Zodiacal

If you’re out enjoying the predawn darkness Saturday, you’ll likely see a number of bright streaks peppering the sky.

These are Orionid meteors, which belong to an annual shower that peaks before dawn. Observers under a dark sky could see up to 20 meteors per hour shortly before twilight begins, when the constellation Orion the Hunter climbs highest in the south. (The meteors appear to radiate from a point in northern Orion.) With the Moon absent from the morning sky, viewing conditions could hardly be better this year. The Orionids will remain visible until Oct. 26. And keep this in mind when you spot a meteor: There’s a 75 percent chance it’s a remnant of Halley’s comet. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts

A Giant Cave on the Moon Could Host Lunar Settlers

By Nathaniel Scharping | October 19, 2017 2:17 pm
A pit on the moon's surface. (Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University)

A pit on the moon’s surface. (Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University)

Turn-of-the-century science fiction posited the existence of aliens living deep beneath the surface of the moon.

Someday, those subterranean creatures could very well be us.

New data from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has uncovered a 30-mile-long tunnel under the moon’s surface, likely the relic of long-ago lava flows. Though the existence of lava tubes isn’t something new, this latest find appears to be both mostly intact and sufficiently large enough to potentially serve as a habitat for future lunar settlers. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts

Psychopaths Aren’t the Best Hedge Fund Managers After All

By Lacy Schley | October 19, 2017 1:58 pm
american-psycho

(American Psycho screengrab)

Pretty much everyone agrees investing, whether it’s your own money or a company’s, is wise. And hiring someone to manage that investment portfolio could get you the most bang for your buck. So, who to choose? Probably someone who would do whatever it took — no matter how many friends they’d lose or people they’d leave dead and bloodied and dying along the way — to get the job done, right? In other words, a psychopath or a narcissist. (Or, if you’re Derek Zoolander, an investigatory journalist.)

But a new study in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin suggests hedge fund managers who score high on the so-called Dark Triad personality traits of psychopathy, narcissism and Machiavellianism aren’t quite as good at investing as their colleagues. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mind & Brain, top posts
MORE ABOUT: psychology

Dogs Attempt To Communicate With Us Through Facial Expressions

By Gemma Tarlach | October 19, 2017 8:00 am
Is this dog so in love with you, hoping for another treat, or just thinking how delicious your nose looks? New research suggests dogs' facial expressions are a form of communication. (Credit Lars Curfs/Wikimedia Commons)

Is this dog soooo in love with you, asking for another treat, or just panting from the heat and slurping up its own drool? New research suggests dogs’ facial expressions are an attempt at communicating with us. (Credit Lars Curfs/Wikimedia Commons)

Hey dog owners, you’re not imagining it: Researchers think your pooch may be trying to say something with a pout or pleading eyes.

Everyone who lives with dogs may be rolling their eyes right about now and saying “Of course Boopsie/Rex/Potato is smiling/frowning/expressing wide-eyed existential dread,” but heaps of anecdotal evidence don’t mean much in terms of scientific cred. A study out today, however, is a big step toward confirming that dogs use facial expressions in an attempt to communicate with humans.
Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: animals

To Find Nectar, Bees Follow Blue Halos

By Nathaniel Scharping | October 18, 2017 1:23 pm
A daisy showing the faint blue halo that helps pollinators find their way to nectar. (Credit: Edwige Moyroud)

A daisy showing the faint blue halo that helps pollinators find their way to nectar. (Credit: Edwige Moyroud)

Subtle halos on flowers function as bright blue landing pads for bees.

Tiny ridges on flowers, visible only at the nanoscale, serve to reflect blue and ultraviolet light that draws in pollinators. To bees, it appears as a ring around the flower’s center, and lets them and other insects immediately differentiate between a nourishing plant and a dead end. The trait seems to have appeared many times throughout the evolution of flowers, and likely dates back to the emergence of pollinators some 100 million years ago. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: animals, evolution, plants

The AI That Dominated Humans in Go Is Already Obsolete

By Carl Engelking | October 18, 2017 1:19 pm
(Credit: Shutterstock)

(Credit: Shutterstock)

Remember AlphaGo? You know, the artificial intelligence that in 2016 soundly defeated the finest players humanity could muster in the ancient Chinese strategy game of Go; thus forcing us to relinquish the last vestige of board game superiority flesh-and-blood held over machines?

Remember that?

Well, here’s something to chew on: Google’s AI research arm DeepMind, the same benevolent creator that spawned AlphaGo, has already rendered that gluteus maximus-spanking version obsolete. In a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature, researchers describe a swifter, leaner, autodidact AI that defeated AlphaGo 100 games to zero. Zilch. Nada. Nothing.

Appropriately, this new AI prodigy is named AlphaGo Zero, and its secret to superiority is truly fascinating. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, top posts

How Volcanoes Starved Ancient Egypt

By Nathaniel Scharping | October 17, 2017 4:05 pm
Mount Sinabung, Indonesia. (Credit: Yosh Ginsu/Unsplash)

Mount Sinabung, Indonesia. (Credit: Yosh Ginsu/Unsplash)

Ancient Egypt was the most powerful civilization in the world for a time. The monuments built by laborers to honor pharaohs stand to this day, testament to the vast resources at their command.

But the architectural excess hid a crippling weakness. Egypt sits in the middle of a vast desert. To support a population that numbered in the millions, large-scale agriculture was vital, and for that you need water, and therefore, the Nile. The river was so important to the Egyptians that they still celebrate a two-week long festival during the yearly floods. It was thought to be fed by the tears of Isis. Even small fluctuations in flood levels could bring famine or catastrophe.

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Living World, top posts
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