Sep 03, 2015

Starfish-killing robot close to trials on Great Barrier Reef

posted by Larra Morris

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An autonomous starfish-killing robot is close to being ready for trials on the Great Barrier Reef, researchers say.

Crown-of-thorns starfish have have been described as a significant threat to coral.

The Cotsbot robot, which has a vision system, is designed to seek out starfish and give them a lethal injection.

After it eradicates the bulk of starfish in a given area, human divers can move in and mop up the survivors.

Field trials of the robot have begun in Moreton Bay in Brisbane to refine its navigation system, Queensland University of of Technology researcher Matthew Dunbabin told the BBC.
via BBC News

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Sep 03, 2015

3D printing resurrects Iron-Age Irish musical instruments

posted by Larra Morris

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A PhD student at the Australian National University recently used a 3D printer to duplicate an Irish artifact previously known as the "Conical Spearbutt of Navan," thought to be a tool and weapon. Billy Ó Foghlú's replica was able to prove that the ancient spearbutt was, in fact, an ancient mouthpiece -- likely to an iron-age horn.

While bronze-age and iron-age musical instruments, specifically horns, have been found throughout Europe and Scandinavia, the lack of mouthpieces had led historians to believe that Ireland went through a "musical dark age." Ó Foghlú used the exact measurements of the artifact to produce a 3D copy which he then used with his own horn. He said it produced a "richer, more velvety tone," and feels that the lack of recovered instruments in the area is due not to a supposed dark age, but because the instruments were "ritually dismantled and laid down as offerings when their owner died."
via Engadget

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Sep 03, 2015

How a gene sequencing machine saved the chocolate bar

posted by Larra Morris

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Cacao, the primary ingredient in chocolate bars, is a slow-growing plant: a cacao tree only produces enough pods to make about a pound of chocolate a year. In part because output is so low, and the process of growing the trees so slow, scientists knew that if the blight wasn’t stopped soon, there would be widespread ramifications. Not only would the price of chocolate shoot up, but the livelihoods of the 6.5 million farmers who tend the cacao trees would be at risk. Though scientists were working to breed fungus-resistant trees, the process was slow-going. They had to wait for the trees to mature fully before they could test them for resistance—a process which took years. 

That’s where the Roche 454 GS FLX + DNA Gene Sequencer comes in. By 2008, gene sequencing was becoming a more and more accessible scientific tool, but back then, it took time—a lot of it—to sequence an organism's genome. The Human Genome Project, for example, took years; the Roche could complete the same process in a matter of days. Unfortunately, the Roche machines were prohibitively expensive. So the Mars candy company stepped in, and agreed to fund a project sequencing the entire cacao genome. With access to the full thing, instead of waiting years for trees to mature, scientists could identify fungus-resistant genes in advance and begin growing healthy trees right away. 
via Mental Floss

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Sep 02, 2015

A smarter desk for tomorrow's schools

posted by Larra Morris

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Designed to enhance future teaching environments, the Future Desk is easy to move and can be assembled in different group formations for discussion. The touch panel and interactive screen that forms the desk surface allows students to receive information from the teacher instantly.
via Yanko Design

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Sep 02, 2015

This library lets you check out people instead of books

posted by Larra Morris

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The “Human Library” originated in Denmark in the year 2000 as part of a youth organization called “Stop the Violence.” The idea is straightforward: library guests can choose which volunteer they’d like to “check out” based on titles the human books assign themselves. Past titles have included “Olympic Athlete,” “Biking Agoraphobic,” “Fat Woman,” and “A Questioning Christian.” Visitors then sit down with their books for half an hour or so to listen to them share their personal stories.

The project is meant to combat prejudice by giving people a chance to connect with someone they may have never had a chance to speak with otherwise. No two accounts are exactly alike, and guests have the unique opportunity to ask questions and interact with the stories as they listen to them.
via Mental Floss

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Sep 02, 2015

Robotic needle can be steered through tissue

posted by Larra Morris

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A robot-assisted system developed at the University of Twente promises to make medical procedures that use needles more precise. The system allows flexible needles to be steered in real time to their target, which negates issues with tissue and organs deforming from the contact pressure or from any unforeseen obstacles that lie between the needle and its target.
via Gizmag

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Image: University of Twente 

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Sep 01, 2015

Algorithm turns any picture into the work of a famous artist

posted by Larra Morris

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A group of German researchers have created an algorithm that basically amounts to the most amazing Instagram filter ever conceived: a convolutional neural network that can convert any photograph into a work of fine art. The process takes an hour (sorry, it's notactually coming to a smartphone near you), and the math behind it is horrendously complicated, but the results speak for themselves.
via Engadget

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