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Jun 19, 2017

Video Friday: Valkyrie on Rough Terrain, Harvard Arthropods, and Flying Wheeled Robot

Posted by in category: robotics/AI

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your Automaton bloggers. We’ll also be posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next two months; here’s what we have so far (send us your events!):

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Jun 19, 2017

Didier Coeurnelle – Life Extension and Existential Risks

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, cryonics, existential risks, government, life extension, transhumanism

Another LEAF interview from the International Longevity and Cryopreservation Summit in Madrid with Didier Coeurnelle of Heales.


LEAF director Elena Milova was recently at the International Longevity and Cryopreservation Summit in Madrid. During the conference she caught up with life extension advocate Didier Coeurnelle.

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Jun 19, 2017

Self-Replicating 3D Printers Could Build Moon Bases, Fight Global Warming

Posted by in categories: 3D printing, engineering, satellites, sustainability

A 3D printer that could re-create itself from lunar material is in development at a university in Canada.

The technology could one day enable humans to 3D-print lunar bases, as well as conduct in-space manufacturing of satellites and solar shields on the moon that could help fight global warming, according to Alex Ellery, an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Carleton University in Ottawa, who is leading the project.

“I believe that self-replicating machines will be transformative for space exploration because it effectively bypasses launch costs,” Ellery told Space.com. [How Moon Bases and Lunar Colonies Work (Infographic)].

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Jun 18, 2017

Why Did an Enormous Chunk of West Antarctica Suddenly Start Melting?

Posted by in categories: climatology, futurism

The researchers think this unseasonably warm air was due primarily to the powerful 2015–2016 El Niño. As they write in their paper, the El Niño climate pattern, which starts with high sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific, tends to promote the advection of high pressure air masses over this part of Antarctica. But they’re not sure—after all, the comparably-strong 1997–98 El Niño event didn’t cause widespread melting in West Antarctica. And although the data points to a correlation between El Niño and melty ice in West Antarctica, that doesn’t necessarily imply causation.


300,000 square miles is nearly twice the area of California. It’s difficult to visualize a space that vast, but go ahead and give it a try. Now, imagine this California plus-sized chunk of land is covered in thousands of feet of ice. Then, all of a sudden, that frozen fortress becomes a wading pool.

In January 2016, over the course of just a few weeks, a 300,000 square mile chunk of the West Antarctic ice sheet started turning to slush, in one of the largest melt-outs ever recorded. Scientists with the ARM West Antarctic Radiation Experiment (AWARE), who reported the epic defrost in Nature Communications last week, believe it was related to the 2015–2016 El Niño. Troublingly, they think massive melts like this could be a harbinger of the future—but more research is needed before we can be sure.

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Jun 18, 2017

Meet the Gömböc: The World’s Only Artificial Self-righting Shape

Posted by in category: futurism

It’s nearly impossible to knock it over.

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Jun 18, 2017

China Shatters “Spooky Action at a Distance” Record, Preps for Quantum Internet

Posted by in categories: cybercrime/malcode, internet, quantum physics, space

Results from the Micius satellite test quantum entanglement, pointing the way toward hack-proof global communications—and a new space race.

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Jun 18, 2017

Behind The Scenes at AeroFarms

Posted by in categories: food, sustainability

This large-scale farm is in the middle of a big city! The future of farming is here. (via AeroFarms)

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Jun 18, 2017

The key to better wireless charging lies in quantum mechanics

Posted by in categories: mobile phones, quantum physics

Wireless charging is a great idea in theory: You can just place your device on a charging mat without having to mess with any wires. But it still doesn’t solve the main hassle of charging in the first place, which is the requirement to leave your device in one place. But now, scientists may have found the answer to that problem using principles from quantum mechanics.

Currently, wireless, or inductive, charging uses an electromagnetic field to transmit energy over very short distances. That’s why your phone, or whatever device you’re charging wirelessly, must remain near a wireless pad in order to actually charge. But Shanhui Fan and his team at Stanford University have published an article in Nature that details a wireless charging system that works even when the charger and device are a meter apart. You can also move around the device while it’s being charged without interrupting the power transfer.

It works by using a principle of quantum mechanics called parity-time symmetry to create a charger with a self-adjusting power flow. A connected amplifier automatically controls the flow of power between the transmitter and receiver. As a device moves further away from the charger, the power levels adjust automatically to ensure an even and uninterrupted flow of current.

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Jun 18, 2017

This Artificially Intelligent Robot Composes and Performs Its Own Music

Posted by in categories: information science, media & arts, robotics/AI

Shimon—a four-armed marimba playing robot—has been around for years, but its developers at Georgia Tech have recently taken this futuristic musical machine to the next level. Using deep learning, the robot can now study large datasets from well-known musicians, and then produce and perform its own original compositions.

Shimon was originally developed by Gil Weinberg, director of Georgia Tech’s Center for Music Technology. Under its original programming, the robot was capable of improvising music as it played alongside human performers, using an “interestingness” algorithm to make sure it wasn’t just copying its bandmates. But now, thanks to the efforts of Ph.D. student Mason Bretan, Shimon has become an accomplished composer, capable of autonomously generating the melodic and harmonic structure of a song. And you know what? Shimon’s songs are actually quite good!

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Jun 18, 2017

Building the Public Goods of the Twenty-First Century

Posted by in categories: information science, internet

Meanwhile there was a Big New Development. The Internet and digital technology came of age. And here’s the thing. Digital artefacts – whether they’re an algorithm, a website, an app or a coding language – are always and everywhere potential public goods. Once produced digital artefacts are essentially costless to replicate which raises the question of whether they can or should be made freely available to all.


Digital public goods in the age of the data revolution.

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