President Obama is scheduled to announce a campaign to enlist companies and nonprofit groups to spend money, time and volunteer effort to encourage students, especially in middle and high school, to pursue science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The campaign - "Educate to Innovate" will primarily focus on informal education opportunities such as after-school activities, mentoring opportunities with scientists and researchers, plus quality science and math promotion television. So far, Elmo and Big Bird have signed up and the MacArthur Foundation is sweetening the pot to encourage video game designers to create educational gaming software. In addition to Sesame Street and many professional science societies signing on, big media outlets and stepping in also, donating money, equipment, and television time.
Is it me or does this sound like President Obama tried to scoop the upcoming edition of Diversity in Science Carnival -
Broad Impacts II: Programs to promote STEM Diversity among K-12 students and general audiences?
Well, maybe not a scoop, but that sure is great timing. You all know how much I love theme-related carnivals. I'll take Obama's move as his official endorsement of the awesomeness of the science outreach and overall interest in participating in the upcoming DiS Carnival. When the official announcement comes out, I'll assume that White House is submitting that post to the upcoming carnival. I know they have their hands full so I'll submit it for them.
Read the entire news story published in the Science section of the New York Times. White House Plans Campaign to Promote Science and Math Education, November 22, 2009.
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Robots: They’re Indispensable Now.
Buying AA batteries for the toy robots in your gift bags?
Enjoy the fun. But don’t imagine that the serious version is a plaything.
At least, not on the battlefield.
Milbots are flying, rolling, and walking for us in Iraq and Afghanistan. Humans still do most of the fighting and, sorry to say, take most of the hits.
But that may change.
The hellish beings in this video from 2008, give some idea of how advanced robotics has become. Watch how they handle themselves on ice.
These robots have got the “I’m alive” thing down but, at least, they aren’t killing anybody. To see the lethal stuff, you have to look at the things we’re buying from companies like IRobot and Foster Miller.
Foster Miller’s selection of military robots includes a shrunk-down “Man-Portable Talon” which makes for easy (if you happen to a very fit soldier) transport over Afghan mountains.
On my last visit to the company, I stepped quickly out of the path of one of its rolling weapons, remembering that these aren’t consumer products. Maybe (since they kill people) they aren’t as polite as elevator doors.
For some perspective, I called a friendly embedded systems developer in New Hampshire. (Embedded systems are the computers that’re buried inside things – including robots. They do the thinking and control the movements.)
A little bashful about using her name so we’ll call her Betsy.
Could one of these fighting machines get away from its handlers and just take off after someone?
She snorted.These robots would be helpless without a human ‘driving’ them.
You DAMN well don’t want to be in front of one when it’s pissed but they don’t have a pigeon’s worth of real brains. A bigger danger is that there’s a screw-up and the robot does something dangerous.
Don’t forget, these machines are working in battlefield conditions.
What about the chances of this hardware falling into the wrong hands?That depends on which ‘wrong hands’ you’re referring to. The guys we’re currently ‘not getting along with’ like asymmetric warfare.
Simple weapons. Make it up as you go along
I don’t think they have the infrastructure to manage this kind of weapon. But, in time, I have no doubt that they will find ways to acquire some robotic systems, maybe from states like Iran or North Korea.
That’s one of the reasons we can’t allow our technology to stagnate.
No ScienceAintSoBadRating on this one.
One of the commenters to my last post, an attempt to explain why the hacked climatology emails do not constitute a scientific scandal, came up with a darn fine idea:
If you think that global warming rests on a few temperature data sets and models, you are very wrong. If you don't understand this then you don't know enough to have an opinion on the subject, and you most likely will be treated just like any other ineducable troll.Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...
Grab a climate textbook and do some reading...it will help if you have some physics background too. Yeah, science takes effort...
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This video shows honeybees at work, and suddenly discovering a pot of honey on a picnic table. What do they do? This video follows the secret life of these bees.
Ever get that feeling that things in the lab are disorganized and that as soon as you leave the lab, all your hard work will leave with you? You’re not alone. The founders of BioData were also confounded by their lab experience and came up with a laboratory management tool for maintaining organization, collaboration and [...]
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Recently, researchers at IBM used a supercomputer to map the cortex of a cat’s brain in high enough detail to run a simulation of what happens inside a feline mind in response to stimuli. Human brains are next in line as the team works to create[...]
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MIT artist in residence Joe Davis has, as well as one of the coolest titles it's possible to have, an iPhone which was Aceriboically connected to three distant stars. Take a couple of goes at pronouncing that if you must, it's worth it: Aceribo is an immense three-hundred meter radio telescope, and if you've ever seen GoldenEye you don't have to imagine how cool that looks - you've already seen it. Joe MacGyver (an honorary surname we're awarding him for this effort) wired his phone to the main transmitters via an old TV connector to transmit the genetic code of the RuBisCo protein to GJ83.1, Teagarden's star, and Kappa Ceti. Which kicks the hell out of your contacts, "Anne", "Paul" and "Work."
The problem is in the conversion: they translated our well-know G A Ts and Cs into two-digit binary codes based on molecular weight, so far so funky, but then the artist in Joe decided to turn those codes into extracts from the edict of Apollo engraved at the entrance of the temple at Delphi. Which we're sure is fascinating art but suddenly turns an earnest effort at interstellar communication something only an alien D'han B'Rrow-en would understand (and even then only after a bottle of exo-absinthe and a serious blow to whatever it has instead of a head). This, by the way, is where the iPhone came in, reading out the converted text file using the standard "Speak" application.
It's still in awesome event, and the basic fact that it's an obviously intentional message isn't ruined by the deliberately convoluted communications convention. The only downer involved was the opposition of some Aceribo staff - they were forced against the idea simply because it threatened their already endangered funding. We live in a world where the attitude towards contacting extraterrestrials ranges from mockery to outright hostility, and the politicians in charge of spending range from flunking high-school science to mounting all-out attacks on reason itself. So even if it's an impenetrable riddle to all but John Davis himself, we'll take any transmission we can get.
The RuBisCo Stars Story
In his famous lecture, "Life in the Universe," Stephen Hawking observed that what we normally think of as 'life' is based on chains of carbon atoms, with a few other atoms, such as nitrogen or phosphorous. We can imagine that one might have life with some other chemical basis, such as silicon, "but carbon seems the most favorable case, because it has the richest chemistry."
Some scientists are already looking beyond the Large Hadron Collider and onto the next generation of ultimega-atom-smasher. That's because scientists actually plan things and can concentrate for longer than four seconds, unlike the mass media which reports on them. One potential particle pulverising system is a muon collider: the latest concept in the cutting edge that parts particles.
It might seems spoiled to be calling for another multimillion dollar megacollider when the latest one hasn't even started, but the LHC is no Deep Thought: they aren't going to turn it on and have the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything (eventually) tumble out. Whatever the results of the proton-pounding experiments underneath the Franco-Swiss border there are whole swathes of the high-energy particle spectrum still out of reach - and which we want to look at next will be determined by the LHC.
The muon collider concept combines exciting potential with challenging problems. Muons are only a ninth of the mass of protons and so can be accelerated to higher energies with current hardware (in fact, because they're made of fewer subatomic bits they can reach higher effective energies even with less powerful equipment). They're two hundred times heavier than electrons, but because they're less prone to radiate away energy via synchrotron radiation when being bent around curves by magnetic fields, they can be kept in rings at energy levels where electrons would require vast linear accelerators.
The challenges are just as cool: a muon's stable lifetime is only two point two microseconds, and when faced with the problem "they only hang around for a couple millionths of a second" the designers said "let's just accelerate them to close to the speed of light" - that way they hang around long enough (in our frame) due to relativistic time dilation. If that sounds improbable, it's already happened to you a bunch of times while reading this sentence: muons created by cosmic ray impacts classically couldn't survive long enough to reach the surface, it's only time dilation extending their life from our reference frame that lets them stream into the surface of the Earth, bubble chambers, and your body right now.
There are still extraordinarily significant challenges to overcome: how do you streams muons into the accelerator from the reactions that cause them, who wants to pay for something this big, and will they be able to overcome other accelerator strategies to get that funding? Only time, and awesome science, will tell.
Muon Accelerator http://www.nature.com.myaccess.library.utoronto.ca/news/2009/091118/full/462260a.html