Courtesy MashableLaw enforcement authorities aren't giving out specific information, but robotic experts are chiming in with their thoughts on how robots played a role in capturing the Boston Marathon bombers. Here's a pretty interesting online article theorizing the use of robots in the case. The link includes a video that shows how these robots do their jobs. While TV reports Friday night said that a robotic arm was used to pull the tarp off the boat where the second suspect was hiding, those reports, have now been called incorrect.
What do you think about using robots to handle dangerous tasks involving terrorism and crime?
I feel like there should be some whacky music or pun-filled intro a la America's Funniest Videos, but we'll let this video just stand on its own.
People from all walks of life are fascinated by weather and make routine measurements. The “Cooperative Network” operated by the National Weather Service (or NWS) is a network of several thousand volunteers from across the country that routinely make and report weather observations. This Coop has operated continuously since 1890. The group includes about 9,000 weather observes who systematically measure high and low temperatures, rainfall and snow accumulation every day. These observations are archived at the National Climatic Data Center and are a large part of the historical weather record of the country.
Another group, the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow networks, or CoCoRaHS, includes 15,000 volunteers who help measure and report precipitation type and amounts every day. Observations of precipitation by a large group of volunteers are critical to understanding storms as precipitation varies widely from place to place even in a single storm. Such observations are useful for assessing flooding hazards and rapid snow melting. You can join CoCoRaHS at http://www.cocorahs.org.
There are also tens of thousands of citizens that serve as NWS severe weather spotters. The NWS relies on these storm spotters, along with radars, satellites and other data to supply observations that help in NWS’ decision making process of issuing and verifying severe weather warnings. The NWS is always looking for volunteers to help get the word out about severe storms. You can find out more about this group and sign up for classes and become a trained spotter at http://www.crh.noaa.gov/mkx/?n=spotters. It is a good class to take as we approach severe weather season.
So, if you enjoy making weather observations, join one of these groups and be one of the nation's weather observers!
Courtesy VictorgrigasStart talking about giant cloning projects, and the conversation is going to quickly turn to Jurassic Park, the film that "what iffed" the cloning of dinosaurs. It was all for fun, if beyond hypothetical.
But giants of another kind, trees, are being cloned in an effort to help turn the balance of deteriorating conditions here on Earth. California's iconic, and incredibly tall, redwood trees are getting the cloning treatment. You can read the full details about the project here. And today, Earth Day 2013, the project is going global as clones of these redwoods are being planted in Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, Ireland, Canada, Germany and the U.S.
Why clone just behemoth trees? The guys running the project surmise where better to find the strongest, hardiest genetic codes to withstand the coming climate pressures than in these huge redwoods, many which have lived for over 4,000 years.
The current crop of plantings come from the DNA of giant trees cut down about a century ago. Even though the bulk of the trees are just stumps today, those stumps are very much alive. They have live shoots emerging from the stumps, which the researchers can extract DNA from to serve as the basis for their cloning work.
The new plantings have a long way to go. They're only about 18 inches tall right now. The big challenge, the researchers say, is to find people and resources to nurture this little trees into viable, independent growers.
Redwoods are considered best suited to absorb massive volumes of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas primarily responsible for climate change.
What do you think? Is this a good application for cloning? Can these huge trees make a difference with climate change over the long haul? Should we be tinkering around with this kind of science?
Happy Earth Day. Most of us think we know Earth pretty well. After all, it's where we spend all of our time (unless we are astronauts!). But here are 15 fun facts about our planetary orb on this day we celebrate it. Maybe this further understanding might just make us want to take care of our planet a little bit better.
Ever wondered how astronauts brush their teeth in a zero gravity environment? Or rinse out a wet rag? Or even make a peanut butter and honey sandwich (with a tortilla)? Wonder no more. Canadian astronaut and ISS Commander Chris Hadfield has created several videos that show how astronauts tackle these usually mundane tasks in space. Here are three:
I had an interesting discussion related to the many and dramatic ways a person would perish when exposed to the vacuum of space recently. We discussed the many dramatic and horrific things that would happen. Blood boiling, eyes popping out... Turns out to be a lot less dramatic. Here is what NASA has to say about what happens to the body when exposed to the vacuum of space.
If you don't try to hold your breath, exposure to space for half a minute or so is unlikely to produce permanent injury. Holding your breath is likely to damage your lungs, something scuba divers have to watch out for when ascending, and you'll have eardrum trouble if your Eustachian tubes are badly plugged up, but theory predicts -- and experiments confirm -- that otherwise, exposure to vacuum causes no immediate injury. You do not explode. Your blood does not boil. You do not freeze. You do not instantly lose consciousness.
Various minor problems (sunburn, possibly "the bends", certainly some [mild, reversible, painless] swelling of skin and underlying tissue) start after ten seconds or so. At some point you lose consciousness from lack of oxygen. Injuries accumulate. After perhaps one or two minutes, you're dying. The limits are not really known.
You do not explode and your blood does not boil because of the containing effect of your skin and circulatory system. You do not instantly freeze because, although the space environment is typically very cold, heat does not transfer away from a body quickly. Loss of consciousness occurs only after the body has depleted the supply of oxygen in the blood. If your skin is exposed to direct sunlight without any protection from its intense ultraviolet radiation, you can get a very bad sunburn.
At NASA's Manned Spacecraft Center (now renamed Johnson Space Center) we had a test subject accidentally exposed to a near vacuum (less than 1 psi) in an incident involving a leaking space suit in a vacuum chamber back in '65. He remained conscious for about 14 seconds, which is about the time it takes for O2 deprived blood to go from the lungs to the brain. The suit probably did not reach a hard vacuum, and we began repressurizing the chamber within 15 seconds. The subject regained consciousness at around 15,000 feet equivalent altitude. The subject later reported that he could feel and hear the air leaking out, and his last conscious memory was of the water on his tongue beginning to boil.
So, bad things clearly happen. Just not the very dramatic bad things I, and lots of others, had previously imagined.
Courtesy ThorWith several of the past springs being hot flooding years, we geared up our flood cam to chronicle the rise of the Mississippi River outside the windows of SMM. But this spring's gradual melting hasn't created much in flooding conditions. It turns out, however, we now have interesting time lapse captures of the "ebb and melt" of our late snows these past three weeks. You can check it out here. That is, I guess, if you really want to look at more snow!!!
Courtesy Mark RyanDo you like fossils? Do you like to draw or take photographs? Then you should know that the 4th annual National Fossil Day Art and Photography Contest is now accepting submissions. The contest runs until next autumn (submissions must be postmarked by October 4th) when judges will select the winning entries. It's all part of the many celebrations of fossils that take place across the country on and around the official National Fossil Day on October 16, 2013. The celebration is a combined effort by the National Park Service along with several federal and state agencies, and earth science related organizations.
There are four age categories: ages 5-8, 9-13, 14-18, and for us old-timers, 19 and up. You can find all the information you need here on the official National Fossil Day contest site.
This year's contest theme is: "Your nomination for our National Fossil". Maybe you think it's should be a dinosaur, or a trilobite, or one of the famous fossil fish found in the Green River shales of the western USA? Whatever you think, get out your pencils, pens, paints, or cameras and make your case for our national fossil.
By the way, Minnesota is one of 10 states in the union lacking an official state fossil. That needs to be remedied. Do you have a favorite fossil found in Minnesota? Maybe you found one yourself at one of the fossil collecting sites around the Twin Cities. If so, let us know in the comments.
Courtesy Stougard/Wikimedia CommonsIf you don't have a lot of time, don't go to the BBC Future site. I made this mistake at bedtime recently--it was one of those "Oh, I'll just read a story or two" moments--and finally managed to extricate myself after two hours of reading link after link of their science and tech stories, too sleepy to continue but too fascinated to quit. So it seems appropriate that one of the links that caught my attention was
this one, from BBC Future's weekly Best of the Web feature.
To be fair, the essay here isn't scientific research, and it doesn't cite any sources. But it brings up some interesting ideas. Is "natural" sleep necessarily the best? If we can take a drug that does the same thing for our brains and bodies as sleeping, is there any reason we shouldn't? What if the sleep replacement wasn't a drug, but rather an external device?
Perhaps most importantly, what would you do if you didn't have to sleep? I obviously know what I'd be doing I'd be doing...