Recently DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) held a robot Olympics in sunny Miami. At stake is not only pride, but also one million dollars in additional research funding for any team that makes it through this first round. The winning team after the second round will earn another two million. The robots are competing in several events which mimic tasks that humans might have to do in emergency situations, such as climbing ladders or turning valves. During the accident at Fukushima several valves could have been operated to significantly reduce the severity of the accident. Unfortunately, due to radiation levels, human operators couldn’t reach them. It’s hoped that these robots, or ones similar to them will be able to perform tasks where and when humans are unable to, preventing or at least reducing potential disasters.
It might be here to save my life, but this one looks way too much like Godzilla for my personal comfort.
Today is the 45th anniversary of the beautiful earthrise photo taken by the astronauts on Apollo 8. To commemorate this event, NASA’s Goddard Space Center has put together a computer generated recreation using photographs from the command module, the audio record of mission, as well as new data provided by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). It’s very interesting to listen to these events unfold (and more than a little humorous listen to Jim Lovell trying to find color film) and to hear the wonder in the voices of the astronauts.
I always like it when NASA takes the time to remember these cool little moments in the history of space exploration.
Yesterday Mikhail Kalashnikov, the inventor of the infamous AK-47 assault rifle died at the age of 94. No matter what your thoughts may be about guns and warfare, it is an undisputed fact that the AK-47 has been one of the most influential pieces of technology of the second half of the 20th century. The AK-47 has become synonymous with rebellions and insurgencies, cementing it’s place in the American collective memory during the Vietnam War. While the gun itself was more of a group effort and a conglomeration of several designs, Kalashnikov was likely chosen by Stalin because he best fit the image that the Soviets wanted to project. Regardless of how much of the design actually came from him, Kalashnikov became almost as much of a symbol as the rifle which carries his name.
Driving home the point of the rifle’s influence, the flags of Mozambique and Hezbollah and the coat of arms for Zimbabwe and East Timor all feature the AK-47