Imagine if an army of completely flat-faced cubes could roll around and even jump on their own, joining with one another to form a variety of large-scale structures. Well, that’s exactly what a team of robotics researchers at MIT are trying to turn into a reality – and they’ve already developed the cubes that could do it. Known as M-Blocks, the devices were created by MIT’s John Romanishin, Daniela Rus and Kyle Gilpin. Along with electronics that allow them to orient themselves relative to one another, each cube also contains a motor-driven flywheel, that spins at speeds of up to 20,000 rpm. When that flywheel suddenly brakes, the transfered momentum sends the cube flying in the direction that the wheel was spinning. Because the cubes additionally have magnets on each of their faces, they stick to one another when they make contact, until the flywheel in one sends it on its way again. In order to make sure that the magnets of any two cubes meet north-pole-to-south-pole, the magnets themselves are cylindrical, and mounted in such a way that they can roll in place. If the magnets on two cubes are brought together north-to-north or south-to-south, the resulting repellant force will cause them to turn until their north and south poles are facing one another – at which point they’ll join together. (via Self-propelled robotic cubes can form into structures)
Scientists in Stockholm are due to present the most exhaustive and authoritative state of climate science to date. Follow our live news and reaction as the UN’s climate science panel publishes the first part of its fifth assessment report Image: Julien Behal/PA
Climate change report: live reaction to IPCC conclusions | On Friday, scientists in Stockholm are due to present the most exhaustive and authoritative state of climate science to date | Guardian
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- Scientists are more certain than ever that humanity is to blame for rising temperatures. The head of the UN WMO said"it is extremely likely that changes in our climate system in the past half century are due to human influence." The report says: “Human influence on the climate system is clear. This is evident from the increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, positive radiative forcing, observed warming, and understanding of the climate system.”
- We’re likely to go over rises of 2°C by 2100, the threshold of warming that governments have pledged to hold temperatures to and beyond which dangerous consequences including drought, floods and storms are expected. “What is very clear is we are not” on the path to keeping temperatures below 2C, said Thomas Stocker, one of the co-chairs of today’s report. Global temperatures are likely to rise by 0.3C to 4.8C by the end of the century, the report said.
- Sea level rises are coming. “Global mean sea level will continue to rise during the 21st century,” says today’s report, by a further 26-82cm by 2100, but Stocker said ”there is no consensus in the scientific community over very high sea level rises.”
- Scientists said that claims that the rate of temperature rises in the last 15 years has slowed did not affect the big picture and temperatures are going up in the longterm. Climate trends “should not be calculated for periods of less than 30 years,”said Stocker.
- The amount of carbon the world can burn without heading for dangerous levels of warming is far less than the amount of fossil fuels left in the ground. “The IPCC carbon budget to stay below 2C is 800-880 gigaton carbon. 531 GTC had already emitted by 2011. So we have 350GTC left, which is much less than the carbon stored in fossil fuel reserves.”Further reading:
- IPCC | Headline Statements from the Summary for Policymakers
- BBC | Are ideas to cool the planet realistic?
- Guardian | Global warming likely to breach 2C threshold, climate scientists conclude
- Guardian | Climate change will hit poor countries hardest, study shows
- Planetary ‘Runaway Greenhouse’ Climates More Easily Triggered than Previously Thought
- A Radical Approach to the Climate Crisis
- Climate research nearly unanimous on human causes
GOOD NEWS, MOTHERFUCKERS: THERE’S WATER ON MARS. Curiosity has determined that Martian soil is about 2% water by weight. That means future explorers could extract about 2 pints of water from every cubic foot of dirt. That’s hella rad!
BAD NEWS, MOTHERFUCKERS: There’s also perchlorate in Martian soil. Perchlorate is bad for people, presenting another challenge for manned Mars missions.
The Women Who Mapped the Universe And Still Couldn’t Get Any Respect
In 1881, Edward Charles Pickering, director of the Harvard Observatory, had a problem: the volume of data coming into his observatory was exceeding his staff’s ability to analyze it. He also had doubts about his staff’s competence–especially that of his assistant, who Pickering dubbed inefficient at cataloging. So he did what any scientist of the latter 19th century would have done: he fired his male assistant and replaced him with his maid, Williamina Fleming. Fleming proved so adept at computing and copying that she would work at Harvard for 34 years–eventually managing a large staff of assistants.
So began an era in Harvard Observatory history where women—more than 80 during Pickering’s tenure, from 1877 to his death in 1919— worked for the director, computing and cataloging data. Some of these women would produce significant work on their own; some would even earn a certain level of fame among followers of female scientists. But the majority are remembered not individually but collectively, by the moniker Pickering’s Harem.
The Ocean Array Plan. Devised by 19yo Boyan Slat, this passive system, if installed, could clean up both The Great Pacific Garbage Patch & The North Atlantic Garbage Patch. Sort of like an anchored Roomba for the ocean…
"Although extensive feasibility studies are currently being conducted, it has been estimated that through the selling of plastic retrieved over the five years, the money would surpass the initial cost to execute the project. In other words, it may even be potentially profitable. Because the main deterrent to implement large scale cleanup projects is due to the financial cost, this solution could perhaps pave ways for future innovations of global cleanup to also be invented.”
This is huge.