The United States is challenging every entrepreneur, engineer, developer and inventor to create the first military robot. The individual or team that creates a humanoid robot capable of walking on two legs and performing various tasks — driving vehicles and using tools — will be awarded $2 million by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The humanoid army isn’t intended for the battlefield, however; the military is interested in using robots for disaster-response scenarios in which robots will be able to assist service members in high-risk situations. “Robots undoubtedly capture the imagination, but that alone does not justify an investment in robotics,” said DARPA Acting Director, Kaigham J. Gabriel. “For robots to be useful to DoD they need to offer gains in either physical protection or productivity. The most successful and useful robots would do both via natural interaction with humans in shared environments.” The Robotics Challenge will begin in October 2012 and run through December 2014. Read on for DARPA’s press release. More →
A recent study showed that social networks like Twitter and Facebook are potentially more addictive than cigarettes or alcohol, and now we may have an idea why. A group of scientists from MIT in Massachusetts, IULM University in Milan and two other laboratories in Italy found that people showed physical and psychophysiological responses while using Facebook similar to those exhibited by people while playing a musical instrument or engaging in other creative activities. Beyond wanting to use Facebook for obvious reasons such as keeping up with friends and sharing photos, people may actually be seeking out the chemical responses they experience while browsing social networks. Read on for more. More →
Recently, China unveiled the Tianhe-1A supercomputer at the Annual Meeting of National High Performance Computing in Beijing. The Tianhe-1A has a staggering 14,336 Intel Xeon processors and 7,168 NVIDIA Tesla GPUs. What happens when you pump 4.04 megawatts of electricity through all that silicon? Well, LINPACK clocks the machine’s performance at 2.507 petaflops; the U.S. based Cray XT5 Jaguar, which did hold the top supercomputing spot, is benchmarked at 1.75 petaflops. The Tianhe, which cost $88 million to build, will be used for large scale scientific experiments and computations. More →
Mac OS engineers, architects, and designers can rejoice; AutoCAD, the popular 3D visualization package is now available for the Mac once again. AutoCAD left the Mac platform 18 years ago and has since been a Windows PC exclusive. To put things in perspective, AutoCAD is to engineers what Photoshop is to designers. This news, however, didn’t come as much of a shocker. Last month, Autodesk, the developers of AutoCAD released its free AutoCAD WS app for the iPad and iPhone.
The transition from the Windows to the Mac variant is supposedly a smooth one. The GUI’s are near identical on both platforms, and AutoCAD’s .dwg files from Windows are fully supported on the Mac. AutoCAD on the Mac will additionally support Cover Flow for browsing designs, multi-touch, and Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad support. Nifty, eh?
Students and educators can now download their copy for free, as for the rest of you — after a free 30-day trial — be prepared to shell out $3975. More →
Only in America can a man with the mental prowess to discover what was to be only the third form of pure-carbon molecule known to man, also lack the creativity to come up with a better name than buckminsterfullerene or “buckyballs”. Well, Harry Kroto might have been British but he and his team made the discovery here in America while conducting research at Rice University. That’s right, it’s all coming back to you from science class in elementary school. Kroto and his team went on to win a Nobel Prize for their discovery; an award that may very well be in the cards for the team behind what will likely become one of the biggest manufacturing breakthroughs of our time – buckypaper. The name isn’t getting any less ridiculous of course, but the implications are pretty intense. Imagine the possibilities: A material that is 10 times lighter than steel but potentially 500 times stronger. What’s more, buckypaper conducts electricity like copper or silicon and disperses heat like brass. Wade Adams, a Rice University Scientist, calls it the Holy Grail of nanotechnology and we can’t say we disagree. Buckypaper is comprised of cylindrical carbon molecules about 50,000 times thinner than a human hair and has enormous potential in the manufacturing processes of aircraft, automobiles, computers, consumer electronics and beyond. Of course for the time being, buckypaper research at Florida State University is being funded in part by Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control so where know exactly where this technology will likely be first applied. Duh. For the time being, buckpaper is far to difficult and expensive to manufacture on a large scale but such is the story in the early stages of any similar breakthrough. Look for buckypaper to make a serious impact in the future as its uses trickle down from inevitable military applications to more wide-spread technologies.