Designing an Artificial Hand with ‘Smart Metal Wires’

Photo Credit: Oliver Dietze

Photo Credit: Oliver Dietze

Engineers at Saarland University and the Center for Mechatronics and Automation Technology (ZeMA) have taken a leaf out of nature’s book by equipping an artificial hand with muscles made from shape-memory wire. The new technology enables the fabrication of flexible and lightweight robot hands for industrial applications and novel prosthetic devices. Read More →

Scientists Detect Nitrogen Molecules on Comet

Gases and dust rise from Chury's surface as the comet is nearing its perihelion. Photo: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

Gases and dust rise from Chury’s surface as the comet is nearing its perihelion. Photo: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

ESA’s comet probe Rosetta has for the first time ever measured nitrogen gas at a comet, providing clues to the early stages of the formation of our solar system. The findings of the study, which was led by researchers at the University of Bern, have now been published in the journal Science [citation below]. Read More →

Let’s Explore the Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT

The term Internet of Things (IoT) is thrown around quite a bit these days so I thought I’d write a general introductory-level post today. Let’s start with defining the term. Engineers would argue that the IoT refers to a network of physical objects that are embedded with electronics in order to exchange data with manufacturers, operators or other connected devices. While each of these devices has a unique identity, it also is able to operate within the existing infrastructure provided by the Internet. Read More →

Anomalies in the Standard Model of Cosmology

Dark Energy Research

Researchers, including physicists from Heidelberg University, have gained new insights into dark energy and the theory of gravitation by analyzing data from the Planck satellite mission of the European Space Agency (ESA). Their results demonstrate that the standard model of cosmology remains an excellent description of the universe. Yet when the Planck data is combined with other astronomical observations, several deviations emerge. Read More →

Sending a Rocket Through the Northern Lights

ICI-4 - a space weather mission. Illustration: Trond Abrahamsen, Andøya Space Center

ICI-4 – a space weather mission. Illustration: Trond Abrahamsen, Andøya Space Center

The combination of American electron clouds and Norwegian northern lights spells trouble for navigation and communication in the Northern regions. The ICI4 rocket will provide knowledge that can help us predict the weather in space.

Follow the scientists live-blogging the attempt to launch the rocket on facebook.com/ici4rocket and twitter: #ICI4 Read More →

Let’s Explore the World of Human Microbiomes

Human Microbiomes

The microbiome is a myriad community of microbes, classified genetically, living in and on the human body, whereas, ‘microbiota’ is a description of the organisms themselves. However, the terms were originally synonymous and are still sometimes used interchangeably. It is due to this genetic information that the microbiome is often referred to as ‘the second genome project’. Read More →

Are We Inside a ‘Galactic Transport System’?

Wormhole simulation - Credits Davide and Paolo Salucci.

Wormhole simulation – Credits Davide and Paolo Salucci.

In theory, the Milky Way could be a “galactic transport system”

Based on the latest evidence and theories our galaxy could be a huge wormhole (or space-time tunnel such as the one depicted in the recent film Interstellar) and, if that were true, it would be “stable and navigable”. This is the hypothesis put forward in a study published in Annals of Physics and conducted with the participation of SISSA in Trieste [citation below]. Read More →

Using Robots to Monitor Deep-Sea Ecosystems

Autosub6000 AUV

Autosub6000 AUV

Scientists at the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) have used advanced photographic tools in an unmanned Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) to make major advancements in estimating deep-sea ecosystem diversity at ‘landscape’ scales. Read More →

Developmental Brain Plasticity in Humans

brain plasticity

Human development and plastic have little in common, yet they are both malleable. Developmental plasticity in humans refers to the ability to adapt to information, environmental or physical changes. When you learn new things, compensate for physical problems or speak a foreign language fluently, you are relying on your brain’s innate plasticity, which is most apparent during childhood. Read More →

First Steps for Hector the Robot Stick Insect

Elastic joints and six legs that function like those of a stick insect: Hector is the only walking robot of its kind in the whole world. Photo: Bielefeld University

Elastic joints and six legs that function like those of a stick insect: Hector is the only walking robot of its kind in the whole world. Photo: Bielefeld University

A research team at Bielefeld University has succeeded in teaching the only robot of its kind in the world how to walk. Its first steps have been recorded in a video (see below). The robot is called Hector, and its construction is modelled on a stick insect. Inspired by the insect, Hector has passive elastic joints and an ultralight exoskeleton. What makes it unique is that it is also equipped with a great number of sensors and it functions according to a biologically inspired decentralized reactive control concept: the Walknet. Read More →