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Google Acquires Boston Dynamics

regular_guy Serious Business (104 comments)

Wow, this is getting a bit scary. I didn't expect Google to go ahead and snatch up a company like Boston Dynamics. If they pick up Hanson robotics I'm going to be incredibly excited/freaked out for what they might create.

about 9 months ago
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Open Source Beehives Designed To Help Save Honeybee Colonies

regular_guy Interesting process (172 comments)

At first I was thinking about the design, and while I'm no expert I was immediately concerned about the "bee space" along some of the angled portions inside the hive, though it being a top bar design I'm not certain that's so much an issue. I do wonder about the sensor apparatus, as a key issue would be the ability to monitor sections of the hive much like the work done by Meitalovs et. al ("Automatic microclimate controlled beehive observation system.") It's been a bugger for me just to put any kind of sensor in a hive without it being covered in propolis, so I'd be interested to see what they plan on doing with the Arduino-based Smart Citizen Kit. But it seems like good intentions on these guys' parts, so kudos to them!

about 9 months ago
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Andy Rubin Is Heading a Secret Robotics Project At Google

regular_guy Near-future revolutions aside.. (162 comments)

I hope that the automation systems they'll also consider is waste management and disposal. Sure everything can go into an incinerator if you'd like, but disassembling old electronics en-masse would be more suitable than mechanical/chemical separations if we'll still need the eight 9's of purity we want in the next generation of electronics. The ethics of robots harvesting old robots may need to be considered though when robots' rights start coming into play....

about 10 months ago
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Perceiving Robotic Industrial Arm Inches Toward Autonomy

regular_guy Re:wonder if this can be used for sorting recyclin (22 comments)

Zen Robotics is doing this now with C&D (Construction and Demolition) Debris. http://www.zenrobotics.com/ , http://singularityhub.com/2011/05/16/robots-take-over-recycling-video/

There is work being done by a bunch of people in the EU, mainly due to the great legislation regarding waste reduction. There's a great little book I picked up a bit ago outlining some of the processes in automated waste recovery (Comprehensive Information Chain for Automated Disassembly of Obsolete Technical Appliances ) . I had gone into grad school to work on this area, and it turns out it's been going on for the past 30 years or more.

The biggest issue is cost, where it's still cheaper for manual labor than to automate the system. If you're interested in some papers I have a whole boatload regarding automation in electronic waste.

about a year and a half ago
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Tracking Whole Colonies Shows Ants Make Career Moves

regular_guy Re:Specializations (47 comments)

Not always the case. A study had shown that foragers can switch back to nurses due to switching gene sets (http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn22273-worker-bees-reboot-brain-genes-to-suit-the-task.html) . So while the nursing bees often keep the role for 2-3 weeks, there is a possibility of seeing older nursing bees due to this switch-back in roles.

about a year and a half ago
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Scientists Study Getting an Unwanted Tune Out of Your Head

regular_guy Anecdotal Evidence (219 comments)

Though I don't listen to pop music, I've found it often to be quite invasive. But I have easily gotten it out of my head by actually singing it, might be some sort of internal thought process that needs to be executed. But again, just some guy's anecdote.

about a year and a half ago
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Tesla Motors Battles the New York Times

regular_guy CEO Switchout (700 comments)

You're driving it wrong.

about a year and a half ago
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HydroICE Project Developing a Solar-Powered Combustion Engine

regular_guy Hot oil won't last long (144 comments)

While the engine may ideally just vaporize the water with hot oil, the reactions involved would eventually degrade the oil. Additionally, the separations processes are often 50% of the whole system's energy requirements, I just wouldn't see the viability of such a system. Now a heat exchanger for hot oil/water vaporization would wake a lot more sense, but it seems they want to generate a funding buzz with an internal engine spin.

about 2 years ago
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Our Weather Satellites Are Dying

regular_guy Re:NBC / weather channel / comcast has deep pocket (193 comments)

As AC pointed out below, this cost likely includes the design, build, launch and maintenance for the satellite. Before Space-x The launch alone could have been a tenth or more of that total $13B, as most weather satellites are around 3000 kg (http://noaasis.noaa.gov/NOAASIS/ml/genlsatl.html), but with Space-X's projected costs per payload ($850/lb from Delta Heavy's $8600/lb) (http://www.nss.org/articles/falconheavy.html) this cost likely can now be in the single $M range.

While economies of scale would likely get those drones into the range of cost you suggested, it certainly wouldn't take into account the cost to maintain and monitor such a system. The congressional research service (CRS) (http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/homesec/RS21698.pdf) identified that for operation (facilities, maintenance) it can be at least 100% or more of the cost of the drone, So that would have to drop the number of drones available to 140,000. Secondly, all drones, by FAA mandate, are required to be a operated by a licensed pilot. I would imagine the training and licensing involved for this would not be cheap, as last estimated the number of pilots was ~598K in 2009, with only ~320K certified with instrument ratings http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pilot_certification_in_the_United_States), and It's likely commercial air pilots would have to have a pretty big incentive to go (http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Commercial_Pilot/Salary) but keeping it on the low scale, that would have to be $50K per pilot per drone, making even a yearly cost of operation at $7B (140,000 drones * $50K/pilot). That doesn't go into operation times either, as drones are listed to operate from 10-48 hrs (CRS reference). So turn-around times for getting those drones back up would end up having even less drones available at any time for weather surveillance.

However, looking at a combination of mini-satellites might be the best option, as redundancy and low cost could take this project down by a large amount (~300K per satellite) (http://www.hawaii.edu/offices/op/innovation/taylor.pdf) . While it might end up with similar issues as stated above, there would be significantly less satellites needed based on the larger surface area covered from their height (50 km for possible best drone (http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2012/02/24/high-altitude-surveillance-drones-coming-to-a-sky-near-you/)) and 870 km for satellite (http://noaasis.noaa.gov/NOAASIS/ml/genlsatl.html). But this might not be available just yet for our weather measurement needs.

In Summary, it may seem like a huge amount of money, but you need to consider all aspects of the project, not just the non-recurring costs.

about 2 years ago
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Florida Accused of Concealing Worst Tuberculosis Outbreak In 20 Years

regular_guy Consumption (409 comments)

Looks like their thoughts on consumption didn't have much... gumption? IGMC

more than 2 years ago
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Researchers Spray-Paint Batteries Onto Almost Any Surface

regular_guy Hasn't this been done before? (92 comments)

I'm actually surprised to see this coming out from Rice, wasn't this stuff being done 20 years ago by another Rice group? Maybe additional substrates this time? Looks like a review of their references may be necessary.

more than 2 years ago
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Space Junk Forced Astronauts Into ISS Escape Capsules

regular_guy Would Lockheed's Orion be any use? (87 comments)

Does anyone know if Lockheed's Orion Multi Purpose Crew Vehicle will actually replace or be a backup for Soyuz? It's wikipedia page states

"Features the development of a new crew exploration vehicle (CEV), the completion of the International Space Station (ISS), and an early retirement of the shuttle orbiter. Orbiter retirement would be made as soon as the ISS U.S. Core is completed (perhaps only 6 or 7 flights) and the smallest number of additional flights necessary to satisfy our international partners’ ISS requirements. Money saved by early orbiter retirement would be used to accelerate the CEV development schedule to minimize or eliminate any hiatus in U.S. capability to reach and return from LEO."

Does anyone know if this "U.S. Core" is something different all-together?

more than 2 years ago
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Solving Climate Change By Bioengineering Humans?

regular_guy Re:Not going way too far enough! (363 comments)

While it's a little off-topic, I think these insights could be useful instead of geo-engineering other planets. For that matter James Blish has precedence with his Seedling Stars Thanks for the info, now off to find that novella!

more than 2 years ago
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Ask Slashdot: Good, Forgotten Fantasy & Science Fiction Novels?

regular_guy Re:Look at old awards and nominations (1244 comments)

I made it my goal two years ago to read all the Hugo and Retro-Hugos, but soon I started looking at the BASF list and Seiun Awards (Japanese Nebula Award), it just keeps on going! At the moment I've only 10 books to go for the Hugos, but then you start to look at the runner ups and think... hmmmm.... But I agree those lists are great places to start. I always have a simple database in my phone to check up on what i have/haven't read when i'm at a used book store ( the used bookstore near Monroeville mall outside of Pittsburgh and Strange Maine, Portland were some serious treasure troves!)

more than 2 years ago
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Test-Tube Burgers Coming Soon

regular_guy Re:Growing meat... (276 comments)

Fetal Bovine Serum. This is still the medium that's used for the growth of such vat burgers. I haven't found any articles that explicitly state the growth medium for these tissues, but I have often seen this as the medium for various cell growth. I'd like to see improvements on the actual growth medium not being tied to the meat industry, otherwise it seems like another addition to the inefficiency chain before that steak gets eaten.

more than 2 years ago
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A Paper Alloy To Replace Plastic Cases

regular_guy Re:Umm, solving the wrong problem? (182 comments)

wvmarle, are you in the e-scrap waste business? I'm inquiring because I'm currently doing research on the capability of a fully automated dissassembly plant and was wondering if you had any robotics implemented in your processes or if manual labor may be involved instead for breakdown of parts.

more than 2 years ago
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A Paper Alloy To Replace Plastic Cases

regular_guy Separation Costs can dictate a lot (182 comments)

You're right to point out the serious issues of trying to recycle mixed polymer plastics. While we're all familiar with downcycling, your post reminded me about the costs of separation processes, and I thought i might drag up my old book. From Humphrey and Keller's Separation Process Technology "Plants commonly have from 40% to 70% of both capital and operating costs in separations."

Polymer blends provide desired properties from their individual components, but the amount of energy that would be required to break those down and at a desired purity (not considering the minute amount of catalyst often consumed in the polymerization process as well as flame retardants and other additives fuzzyfuzzyfungus pointed out ) just makes it too costly to break down the polymer blend into the purity levels that companies want in their raw materials.

more than 2 years ago
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Businesses Now Driving "Bring Your Own Device" Trend

regular_guy Extrapolating isn't always good (232 comments)

The article discusses health care as the main industry that's important to have 24hr information connection, and by utilizing mobile devices that information and connectivity can be available 24/7. This is then generalized, saying because it works there all companies should utilize this opportunity to get a high ROI on employee efficiency. While we've all seen these posts before, what other industries require 24 hr access from all employees? I know managers and the like in most all businesses often are required to be on-call, but this seems to be addressing the lesser employees, as in the manager contacts his/her subordinate, making the subordinate more or less be on-call. Does anyone have such circumstances (besides power plants/industry and manufacturing)? Is it often outlined in your contracts?

more than 2 years ago

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