Friday, May 18, 2007

Friday Links

For your reading pleasure.

First off, Cliff Eyler sent in a tremendous link to a Washington Post article about Clementine, an autonomous robot that is exploring the giant El Zacatón sinkhole in Mexico. Here are a few excerpts:
Once the 3,300-pound vehicle, designed by Texas-based Stone Aerospace Inc., is lowered into the sinkhole, it "feels" changes in temperature, "sees" shifts in topography with 56 sonar sensors and "sips" water samples. Those are taken to a laboratory on the surface for further study.

...At the end of each day, the vehicle must navigate back to the surface in much the same way a person lost in the woods searches for a route out -- except that Clementine has no map or trail. It creates its own.

Using supercomputers built by scientists at Carnegie Mellon University, the robot works off 500 three-dimensional maps that it is constantly sketching, said robotics professor David Wettergreen.

By the way, that sinkhole is described as being 367 feet wide and at least 1,000 feet deep. And this is all being done in preparation for eventual exploration of Europa.

It's a terrific read, and here's the link.

In case you missed it, here's a link to a video of what is nothing short of an astonishing soccer goal. Thanks to Daniel Gothe for identifying the move as the Rabona, and as you watch the video, watch his feet very carefully. And if you think it's easy, just watch David Dunn of Birmingham City try it here.

Sirius sent in a link to an article about fruit flies and free will. Seemingly, they have some. It's a fascinating article, and you can read it here.

Pete Thistle sent in a link to one of the most infamous spy stories ever: the great seal bug. Here's an excerpt:
In 1946, Soviet school children presented a two foot wooden replica of the Great Seal of the United States to Ambassador Averell Harriman.

The Ambassador hung the seal in his office in Spaso House (Ambassador's residence). During George F. Kennan's ambassadorship in 1952, a routine security check discovered that the seal contained a microphone and a resonant cavity which could be stimulated from an outside radio signal.

Here's a link to the full story, and it's an excellent read.

Chris Meadowcroft sent in an interesting link to a new delivery system for the rotavirus vaccine which could potentially thousands of lives in developing nations. It's a quick-dissolve strip, and you can read about it here.

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