January 2008

Swarms of robots that use electromagnetic forces to cling together and assume different shapes are being developed by US researchers.The grand goal is to create swarms of microscopic robots capable of morphing into virtually any form by clinging together.

Seth Goldstein, who leads the research project at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, in the US, admits this is still a distant prospect.

However, his team is using simulations to develop control strategies for futuristic shape-shifting, or “claytronic”, robots, which they are testing on small groups of more primitive, pocket-sized machines.

These prototype robots use electromagnetic forces to manoeuvre themselves, communicate, and even share power.

Full article here. There’s nothing that’ll give me a sounder night’s sleep tonight than to know that some of our finest scientific minds are working on swarms of shape-shifting micro-robots. In fact, I can’t figure out why modern science hasn’t made swarms of shape-shifting micro-robots a greater priority already! We should have had a NASA program to build swarms of shape-shifting micro-robots YEARS AGO!!!


A team of Japanese boffins may have accidentally struck gold in the fight against global warming: they believe they have devised a way to neutralise the perilous belches of 1.5 billion cows.

Junichi Takahashi’s discovery could, he says, dramatically reduce the environmental damage caused by the world’s cattle herds, whose collective belching is thought to account for 5 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the team from Obihiro University of Agriculture, a few simple food additives, costing about 50p each day per cow, could remove virtually all methane from a herd’s daily output of greenhouse gas-enriched belches.

Full article here.  Send me the list of food additives, please, so I can pass it on to my Uncle Gil.  And hurry.

We have good news for the ones that were already imagining Armageddon-like scenarios. The visiting Asteroid 2007 TU24 will travel relatively close to Earth tonight, but it will not hit our planet. However, the space object will offer a rare opportunity for both scientists and amateurs.

Asteroid 2007 TU24 is a relatively small asteroid, as it is somewhere between 500 feet (150 meters) and 2,000 feet (610 meters) long and it has been first seen in October 2007. Space scientists said that on Tuesday night at 3:33 a.m., it would pass Earth outside the Moon’s orbit at a distance of about 334,000 miles (537,500 km). So, there is no chance Asteroid 2007 TU24 could hit our planet.

Asteroid 2007 TU24 is just one of an estimated number of 7,000 so-called near-Earth objects. Space objects similar to TU24 frequently pass near our planet, but such advance notice as with TU24 is quite rare. Still, astronomers don’t know anything about it, as Mike Nolan, head of radar astronomy at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico admitted in a statement.

“We have good images of a couple dozen objects like this, and for about one in 10, we see something we’ve never seen before. […] We really haven’t sampled the population enough to know what’s out there,” Mike Nolan also said.

Via eNews 2.0.

WASHINGTON: A large US spy satellite has lost power and could hit the earth in late February or March.

“Appropriate government agencies are monitoring the situation,” Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for National Security Council, said. “Numerous satellites over the years have come out of orbit and fallen harmlessly. We are looking at potential options to mitigate any possible damage this satellite may cause.”

US officials were unable to manoeuvre the satellite, and Mr Johndroe declined to say whether it would be possible to shoot it down before it plummeted through the Earth’s atmosphere.

At the Pentagon, Lieutenant-Colonel Karen Finn of the air force confirmed that military officials believed the satellite could hit the Earth soon, but added that more analysis would be needed to determine exactly when and where.

John Pike, the director of the defence research group GlobalSecurity.org, estimated that the spacecraft weighed about 9.072 tonnes and was the size of a small bus.

Full article here.

Iran is the world’s fourth-largest producer of oil. But its government imposed gasoline rationing last year in hopes of trimming extensive government subsidies. That has created a booming black market across the country — feeding Iranians’ discontent with the economic policies of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In the capital Tehran and other cities, the black market thrives around gasoline stations and mostly at night as drivers looking to buy fuel approach others who have high gasoline quotas, such as taxis or vans.

But in this city on the Persian Gulf, the boulevard officially named Pasdaran Avenue after Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards operates as an open-air black market in broad daylight. Its new nickname is meant as a sneer by Iranians, bitter at the irony that their country, a leading member of the world oil cartel OPEC, has resorted to rationing.

“Every taxi driver and anyone who needs gas knows where OPEC Street is,” said Jabbar Dehqani, a 27-year-old with a stand of gasoline jugs on the roadside. “I’m happy — the number of my customers is increasing day by day.”

Iran produces 4.2 million barrels of crude oil each day and sells 2.5 million barrels of it to other countries, making it OPEC’s second-largest producer. But because the country lacks adequate refineries, it must spend more than $3 billion a year to import gasoline for domestic consumption.

There are more than 7 million private cars in Iran eligible for the subsidized gasoline, which the government makes available in limited quantities under the fuel rationing system.

The new system began in May with a 25 percent hike in the subsidized price of gas, from roughly 30 cents a gallon to 38 cents a gallon. Then in June came the actual rationing, aimed at reducing demand and thus easing government subsidies that cost billions each year.

Full article here.

Peak oil, the point in time at which the maximum global petroleum production rate is reached, will arrive sooner than most observers expect and bring about an economic crisis that will be much greater than the one that is currently taking place in the world markets, according to author David Strahan. Speaking at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, Strahan said peak oil may arrive as early as 2017, but no later than 2020. He noted that oil production is falling in 60 of the world’s 98 oil producing countries, and that aggregate oil production in the OECD peaked in 1997 and has been in decline ever since. Once peak oil is reached, prices for petroleum could double as other sources of energy will not be sufficient to meet demand, thus bring about an economic crisis, he claims.

Via AMEInfo.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, fellow Iowans.

I won’t be back until after the Caucuses this year, as I am traveling back from the East coast.  As you participate in the Caucuses this week, however, I urge you to think about the following:  don’t cast your support for someone whose mind and heart are not worthy.  Don’t vote for a candidate’s likelihood of winning in November, and don’t vote for his or her war chest.  Don’t vote for the party’s choice, and don’t make any safe votes, either.

Step out, people of Iowa, and vote for a vision of tomorrow … not for a mere candidate.  A candidate is, after all, just a human being, like you and me.

Best of luck to all of you on January 3.

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