Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Greatest Image Ever: Hubble Ultra-Deep Field

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Hubble Ultra-Deep Field: The deepest image of the Universe ever taken

The Greatest Image Ever: Hubble Ultra-Deep Field

In March 2004, the greatest image ever taken was announced: Astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute today unveiled the deepest portrait of the visible universe ever achieved by humankind. Called the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF), the million-second-long exposure reveals the first galaxies to emerge from the so-called "dark ages," the time shortly after the big bang when the first stars reheated the cold, dark universe. The new image should offer new insights into what types of objects reheated the universe long ago.

This historic new view is actually two separate images taken by Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) and the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-object Spectrometer (NICMOS). Both images reveal galaxies that are too faint to be seen by ground-based telescopes, or even in Hubble's previous faraway looks, called the Hubble Deep Fields (HDFs), taken in 1995 and 1998.

Hubble Ultra-Deep Field Flythrough Credit: NASA, ESA and F. Summers (STScI)


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Robots Become More Autonomous, Lines Blur Between Military & Civilian Applications

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The Talon by QinetiQ: One Tough Robot

Iraq and Afghanistan Wars Spur Military Robot Development Three robot developers, iRobot, QinetiQ, and AeroVironment are noted in the video below The first robot shown is a QinetiQ Raider / Engineer, which is "a tele-operated, gas-powered system based upon the 4WD Polaris vehicle, capable of supporting varied missions to include route clearance". The PackBot is "One of the most successful battle-tested robots in the world, the iRobot PackBot performs bomb disposal and other dangerous missions for warfighters and first responders". The QinetiQ Dragon Runner, a Micro Unmanned Ground Vehicle (MUGV), "is a lightweight, compact, multi-mission remote platform developed for supporting small unit, dismounted operations". A larger version of the Dragon Runner is the Talon. AeroVironment has been covered in previous posts regarding their Hummingbird Spybot and Wasp Micro Air Vehicle.

Autonomy Is the Goal Remote control robots are helpful and reduce risk, but robot autonomy increases capabilities and options. These systems are now at the threshold of artificial intelligence, i.e., "thinking for themselves". The iRobot PackBot can determine it is disabled, tipped over, and right itself. The robot "recovers itself". The iRobot Ava is touted for its "autonomous navigation for independent, proactive point-to-point navigation". That is, Ava maps its "world" via sensor arrays (laser, sonar, and 2D/3Dimaging) and then navigate independently in a "dynamic, crowded environment".

Robots March Home from War Ten years of war have given robot developers a chance to refine and improve their bots. Now the robots are finding all sorts of new jobs on the home front.

Ava by iRobot: Mobile Robotics Platform with Autonomous Navigation


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

String Theory the Only Game in Town? Michio Kaku Thinks So!

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Reality Theory

Michio Kaku talks about the search for the Higgs Boson at CERN, the so-called and hyped "God Particle", in the video below. Kaku says the search has been reduced, with 95% certainty, to a narrow range of the mass spectrum in the CERN large hadron collider. What are the implications of finding the Higgs boson? The discovery, perhaps in 2012, would complete the standard model of physics. If the Higgs boson does not exist, then a revamp of the standard model could be necessary.

The Standard Model: A Theory Only a Mother Could Love Michio Kaku calls the standard model a "ragtag bunch of subatomic particles" and there must be a "higher theory". This higher theory must include gravity, which is missing in the standard model. The standard model describes only 4% of the matter and energy content of the Universe! A huge chunk of the Universe is missing: dark matter (23%) and dark energy (73%).

String Theory is the Answer Kaku believes String Theory is the only current possibility to be a true Theory of Everything, incorporating the Standard Model. dark matter, and dark energy. The next step, after presumably finding the Higgs boson, would be to find dark matter at the CERN large hadron collider. Kaku notes that would go a long way in proving or disproving String Theory.

Simulation Argument On this website, I have explored that the only logical explanation of physics and ultimately the Universe is the simulation argument, that the Universe is a virtual reality, a programmed reality. Obviously the Standard Model is inadequate and I argue, along with many others, that String Theory essentially kicks the can down the road, explaining nothing. However, Michio Kaku is correct, currently String Theory is the only testable theory with any promise, at this stage in our testing capabilities. Hence that is where the testing will focus, until technology and future discoveries alter the path. As Werner Heisenberg said, "What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning".

CERN: Large Hadron Collider Update

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world's largest particle accelerator, is currently shut down for annual maintenance. In February CERN will decide whether to run the LHC at a total energy of 8 TeV this year, instead of 7 TeV as in 2011. Higher energy should increase the chances of finding heavy particles. By early March, all the magnets around the 27-kilometre accelerator will have been cooled down to their operating temperatures of -271.3°C, ready to guide beams of particles through the LHC.

The LHC will resume colliding protons in late March. The goal is to deliver about 1600 trillion proton-proton collisions (16 "inverse femtobarns" of data) to the experiments, compared to the 500 trillion collisions delivered in 2011. More collisions will help the LHC experiments to improve the precision of their measurements and push searches for new physics further.

Michio Kaku: String Theory Is The Only Game In Town Dr. Kaku addresses the question of whether the so-called Higgs-Boson, or God particle has been overhyped, and what its discovery would mean for physics.


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Universe Expanding at Increasing Rate: Dark Energy and Gravity Conflict

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WMAP Full Sky 7 Years

The detailed, all-sky picture of the infant universe created from seven years of WMAP data. The image reveals 13.7 billion year old temperature fluctuations (shown as color differences) that correspond to the seeds that grew to become the galaxies. The signal from the our Galaxy was subtracted using the multi-frequency data. This image shows a temperature range of ± 200 microKelvin. Credit: NASA / WMAP Science Team

The Expanding Universe In 1998, astrophysicists discovered a baffling phenomenon: the Universe is expanding at an ever-faster rate. Either an enigmatic force called dark energy is to blame or a reworking of gravitational theory is in order. In this new Science Bulletins video, watch a Fermilab team assemble the Dark Energy Camera, a device that could finally solve this space-stretching mystery.

Content of the Universe

WMAP data reveals that its contents include 4.6% atoms, the building blocks of stars and planets. Dark matter comprises 23% of the universe. This matter, different from atoms, does not emit or absorb light. It has only been detected indirectly by its gravity. 72% of the universe, is composed of "dark energy", that acts as a sort of anti-gravity. This energy, distinct from dark matter, is responsible for the present-day acceleration of the universal expansion. WMAP data is accurate to two digits, so the total of these numbers is not 100%. This reflects the current limits of WMAP's ability to define Dark Matter and Dark Energy. Credit: NASA / WMAP Science Team


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

CES 2012 Robots: Sketching, Singing, Dancing, Helping

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Pleo the Pet Baby Dinosaur

CES 2012 The 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas displayed robots of various shapes, sizes, and capabilities. Below are some video highlights. These robots have a benign disposition compared to the robots in the prior post, Petman and AlphaDog Robots: Man and Dog of the Future. The Robots of CES Robots rolling, flying, dancing and cuddling at International CES 2012.

The robots of CES from James Temple on Vimeo.

CES 2012: Dancing Robot Steals the Show A dancing robot by the TP-Link section of the 2012 International CES stole the show on Tuesday. This video was taken by the International Business Times.

iRobot at CES Robots Interacting with the iPad.

Paro is a robotic seal designed to offer therapy to people in a hospital or long-term care.


Saturday, June 2, 2012

Petman and AlphaDog Robots: Man and Dog of the Future

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Strange Days Indeed An anthropomorphic robot (Petman) and a legged squad support system (AlphaDog) by Boston Dynamics generate worst-case science fiction scenarios. First for military deployment, then law enforcement, then all sorts of mayhem is possible as artificial intelligence increases with this duo. A combination of the Terminator and the War of the Worlds coming to our lives as we become progressively less relevant. AlphaDog is the descendant of BigDog, which was reviewed in a previous post, LittleDog & BigDog Robots, USC & DARPA show latest versions & abilities.

PETMAN PETMAN is an anthropomorphic robot developed by Boston Dynamics for testing special clothing used by US military personnel. PETMAN balances itself as it walks, squats and does calisthenics. PETMAN simulates human physiology by controlling temperature, humidity and sweating inside the clothing to provide realistic test conditions. PETMAN development is lead by Boston Dynamics, working in partnership with Measurement Technologies Northwest, Oak Ridge National Lab and MRIGlobal. The work is being done for the DoD CBDP. For more information about PETMAN visit us at

Meet the Future: Petman

AlphaDog Proto The AlphaDog Proto is a lab prototype for the Legged Squad Support System, a robot being developed by Boston Dynamics with funding from DARPA and the US Marine Corps. When fully developed the system will carry 400 lbs of payload on 20-mile missions in rough terrain. The first version of the complete robot will be ready in 2012. This video shows early results from the lab where we are developing the control systems and locomotion platform. This lab prototype is powered remotely. AlphaDog will draw power from an internal combustion engine, which we designed to be 10x quieter than BigDog. The field version of AlphaDog will have a sensor head packed with terrain sensors. Boston Dynamics leads a development team that includes AAI Corp, Bell Helicopter, CMU/NREC, FEV, JPL and Woodward HRT. For more information visit us at

Meet the Future: AlphaDog

Worst-Case Scenario: Petman of the Future in a Bad Mood

Worst-Case Scenario: AlphaDog of the Future in a Bad Mood


Seeking Alpha