65. Stumble-proof Robots by Facebook, Developments in Passively Cooling Materials, VR Shown to Produce Unique Brain Waves
65. Stumble-proof Robots by Facebook, Developments in Passively Cooling Materials, VR Shown to Produce Unique Brain Waves
Stumble-proof robot adapts to challenging terrain in real time | TechCrunch (01:33)
- Researchers from Facebook AI, UC Berkeley, and Carnegie Mellon University, have created a new model for robotic locomotion that adapts in real-time to any terrain it encounters, changing its gait on the fly to keep moving when it hits sand, rocks, stairs, and other sudden changes.
- Called Rapid Motor Adaptation
- Unlike other robots (i.e. Spot) who only correct their issue after they have fallen, this idea is trying to correct that from happening in the first place.
- It came from the fact that humans and other animals are able to quickly, effectively, and unconsciously change the way they walk to fit different circumstances.
- Senior researcher Jitendra Malik on the project phrases it in a way to understand:
- “Say you learn to walk and for the first time you go to the beach. Your foot sinks in, and to pull it out you have to apply more force. It feels weird, but in a few steps you’ll be walking naturally just as you do on hard ground. What’s the secret there? … What’s happening is your body responds to the differing physical conditions by sensing the differing consequences of those conditions on the body itself.”
- The system was trained entirely in simulation, in a virtual version of the real world where the robot’s small brain (on-board computer) learned to maximize forward motion with minimum energy.
- In a human-like way, the robot avoided falling by immediately observing and responding to data coming from sensors.
- No visual input for the sensing.
- Ultimately the system ends up having two parts: a main, always-running algorithm actually controlling the robot’s gait, and an adaptive algorithm running in parallel that monitors changes to the robot’s internal readings.
- According to a news release, it was successful.
- 70% walking down stairs
- 80% navigating a cement pile and a pile of pebbles
- Could this idea lead to more adaptive algorithms in the future? That is something the researchers suggested.
- The next step for the researchers is to build an internal library of the improvised gaits as a sort of “medium-term” memory, or using vision to predict the necessity of initiating a new style of locomotion.
Rare ‘hypernova’ explosion detected on fringes of the Milky Way for the first time | Space.com (07:35)
- Scientists have found evidence of a rare, gargantuan stellar explosion, dating to the earliest days of the universe — less than a billion years after the Big Bang.
- Known as a “magneto-rotational hypernova”
- 10 times brighter and more energetic than a typical supernova
- A supernova is an occurrence when a star runs out of burning nuclear fuel and the gravitational force causes everything to collapse to a small size.
- The collapse happens so quickly that it causes a large shockwave.
- According to a study in Nature, stars that explode with this much energy must be massive (dozens of times the size of the sun), contain heavy elements, spin rapidly, and contain a powerful magnetic field.
- Researchers at the Australian National University in Canberra have found a distant star on the fringes of the Milky Way, called SMSS J200322.54-114203.3 (J2 for short).
- The chemical composition, based on the wavelengths of light the star emits, contains a bizarre chemical cocktail that can only be explained by this elusive type of explosion.
- Were hypernovas an important method of star formation in the early universe? We don’t know yet.
- Study co-author Chiaki Kobayashi, talks about the significance of this finding:
- “We now find the observational evidence for the first time directly indicating that there was a different kind of hypernova producing all stable elements in the periodic table at once — a core-collapse explosion of a fast-spinning, strongly-magnetized massive star … It is the only thing that explains the results.”
New fabric passively cools whatever it’s covering—including you | Ars Technica (11:37)
- A team of researchers based in China created a vest that keeps its users about 3º C cooler than they would be otherwise.
- Whenever out in the sunlight absorption of some photons will occur, which will get converted into heat. Along with the heat from the metabolism, it will radiate away in the infrared.
- That process doesn’t do much “cooling” though.
- The key thing that these researchers are utilizing for passive cooling is called the atmospheric window.
- The area of the infrared spectrum that none of the gasses found in our atmosphere can absorb.
- A material for cooling would look to reflect most of the incoming light, keeping stray photons from heating the object it covers.
- With our growing ability to structure multiple materials on small scales, it’s possible to find combinations of materials that do the passive cooling trick.
- Researchers created a material utilizing the following materials:
- Titanium dioxide powder for reflection of heat
- A polymer, polylactic acid, which emits in the mid-infrared allowing the material to radiate out the heat it does collect via the atmospheric window.
- Coated with another polymer, polytetrafluoroethylene, which also reflects UV light efficiently, and repels water.
- Through testing, the researchers showed that the fabric reflected well over 90 percent of incoming sunlight.
- While measuring a student’s temperature with an infrared camera, they found that the half that was covered in their structured material was typically about 3º C cooler than the one that wasn’t.
A Sunscreen for Pavement Could Help Keep Cities Cool | Gizmodo (16:17)
- Pavement Technology Inc. created a spray-on treatment for pavement, called A.R.A.-1 Ti, which it says can lower its temperature.
- Developed in collaboration with Louisiana State University researchers.
- Exact makeup is a trade secret
- Based on titanium dioxide, a compound used in many sunscreens, white paints, and pharmaceuticals.
- Marketed as a “road rejuvenator,” the Ohio-based firm says the substance can also revitalize aging asphalt by making it stronger.
- The spray is also meant to dissolve car exhaust pollution, including nitrogen oxide and volatile organic compounds.
- Using a chemical process called photocatalysis, titanium dioxide creates energized electrons that break down toxins in the air.
- The company claims 1 mile of this sprayed pavement would have the same effect as 20 acres of trees.
- In an ENR report last year, Orlando International Airport in Florida used the spray and found it cut nitrogen oxide pollution essentially in half for the area.
- Having a solution like this to help cool things down could have major public health benefits and save people money on cooling costs.
MRI can cut overdiagnosis in prostate-cancer screening by half | MedicalXPress (22:30)
- A new study by researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden indicates that screening by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and targeted biopsies could potentially cut overdiagnoses by half.
- Yearly, approximately 1.4 million men get a prostate cancer diagnosis and 375,000 men die from the disease.
- Organized screenings can result in earlier detection and thereby reduce the risk.
- According to Martin Eklund, one of the researchers on the study, current screening methods result in unnecessary biopsies and the detection of numerous minor low-risk tumors.
- The results of the study show that this new process using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and targeted biopsies can half the misdiagnoses while detecting just as many clinically significant tumors.
- The process is referred to as STHLM3MRI.
- Tobias Nordström, the associate professor leading this study, concludes that “Nationwide screening for breast and cervical cancer among women has been available in the Western world for some time. We are finally able to show that men can also reduce their risk of malignant cancer through nationwide prostate-cancer screening that utilizes modern methods.”
Square is going to make a hardware wallet for bitcoin | The Verge (26:13)
- According to a Tweet from Square’s hardware lead, Jesse Dorogusker, they are planning to make a hardware wallet for bitcoin
- “We have decided to build a hardware wallet and service to make bitcoin custody more mainstream. We’ll continue to ask and answer questions in the open. This community’s response to our thread about this project has been awesome – encouraging, generous, collaborative, & inspiring.”
- Simply put, to protect your crypto coin, such as bitcoin, hardware wallets are computers that are stripped down of all logic except for a small screen, a button or two, and the simple action of storing keys and signing transactions.
- It remains to be seen if Square’s future hardware wallet could compete with other already out in the market hardware wallets, such as Ledger and TREZOR.
- What would they have to do to stand out?
- Good comment from Angela (@angieunexpected) on Twitter:
- “Make it simple, give options, and [mitigate] the risk/complication to self-custody. Allow node operation from the wallet-true freedom!”
Musk’s Boring Company bids to build transit tunnel in Florida | Reuters & Interesting Engineering (30:47)
- Elon Musk’s tunneling enterprise, Boring Company, has submitted a bid to build an underground transit system between downtown and the beach in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
- This was even confirmed by Fort Lauderdale’s Mayor Dean Trantalis on Twitter:
- “Fort Lauderdale formally accepted tonight a proposal from [Elon Musk’s] [Boring Company] to build an underground transit system between downtown and the beach. Other firms have 45 days to submit competing proposals. This could be a truly innovative way to reduce traffic congestion.”
- Dubbed the Las Olas Loop, after the current road that connects downtown to the beach.
- As reported by CNN, the city planners estimate this ride to cost between $5-8 per person, as against an Uber that costs $10.
- This comes after the success In June, where the Boring Company opened its first commercial tunnel project in Las Vegas to transport visitors through the city’s Convention Center using human-driven Tesla vehicles.
How Virtual Reality Unveiled a Unique Brain Wave That Could Boost Learning | SingularityHub (34:52)
- In a new study in Nature Neuroscience, researchers discovered that rats produced a unique brain wave while moving around in VR, which could impact how we learn, remember, and even treat memory disorders such as Alzheimer’s.
- For multiple brain areas to come together electrical waves, carrying a tremendous amount of information, oscillate over different regions.
- Triggering a specific wave could be the key to dampening cognitive damage for people with dementia & Alzheimer’s.
- Previous research has shown that gamma oscillations reduce the number of amyloid plaques found in the brain.
- Amyloid plaques are an Alzheimer’s-related pathogenic marker.
- What waves are we looking at in this study? Theta waves.
- Theta waves work with other brain waves to help us recall personal memories
- They are slow waves that trigger a state in the brain that’s prone to a flow of ideas.
- VR opens up a whole world of experiences, in a virtual space, that could “retrain” the hippocampus.
- To monitor these rats the team implanted a hyperdrive of near or over 1,000 electrodes, each much smaller than the width of a human hair, into both sides of their hippocampus to monitor for electrical activity.
- Used to determine how they react to VR vs. the normal world.
- As the rats ran in VR their theta waves increased compared to those running in the real world.
- Also undulated a peculiar pattern, one half as slow as normal theta waves, dubbed by the researchers as ETA bands.
- Shown for the first time in research, it seems that VR caused processing in the hippocampus to occur differently than it does in our everyday lives.
- What does this all mean? The researchers think that “virtual reality can be used to boost or control brain rhythms and to alter neural dynamics, wiring and plasticity.”
- Allowing us to learn and memorize more in VR.