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Monday, June 27, 2011

Science News

A few science-specific stories:

A Cymbal In Very Slow Motion
1,000 FPS.

(via Business Insider)

Japanese Robot Torso Hugs You Back
Only Japan...

"Japanese robotics engineers have a penchant for recreating human interactions with robots--whether that's talking to disembodied robot baby heads, carrying the elderly, or eliciting trust with glowing ears. But the Sense-Roid is on a different level--when you hug its mannequin-like shape, it hugs you back.

Created by a student at the aptly named University of Electro-Communications in Japan, the Sense-Roid is essentially a sewer's dress form--a mannequin torso, in other words--that wears a very particular jacket or vest. The user also wears a jacket, and when the two articles of clothing connect, they being to inflate with air and vibrate in ways meant to simulate a real hug.

In fact, the Sense-Roid mimics the pressure from the user's hug, so in a way, hugging it is like hugging yourself. It detects the precise nature of the hug with micro switch sensors, then reciprocates in real-time. There are no known plans to make the Sense-Roid any more than a prototype.


Japanese PossessedHand Electric Wristband Moves Your Fingers For You
They're one of the world's largest economies, so I know they're not incompetent...

"Researchers at Tokyo University, along with some help from Sony, created a device that straps onto your arm, sort of like a blood pressure cuff, and sends electrical signals to your fingers that can move them in precise ways. It's called, of course, the PossessedHand.

The PossessedHand uses an Arduino microcontroller, the low-cost tool of choice for DIYers, and 28 electrode pads that are applied externally. There have been other devices that do this sort of thing, but they've often been pretty clumsy, needing electrodes to be inserted into the skin (ouch!). The PossessedHand is entirely external and painless, and, according to PhysOrg, "is said to feel more like a gentle hand massage." The signals are also not unpleasantly strong, apparently feeling more like a nudge to move rather than a forceful automatic movement of the fingers and wrist.

The uses for such a device are pretty clear, especially as you can preprogram strings of signals. It could be used in music education, to teach the proper finger movements and placings, or it could translate spoken language into sign language, which your hand performs automatically. There are potential medical uses as well; teaching stroke victims how to use their hands again, that kind of thing. It's not a prosthesis, really, but it could prove useful to a totally new set of people. And it's definitely more useful than Daito Manabe's face-electroshocking hobby.

More Stunning Evidence Of Apple's Design Superiority
More math than science... but close enough!

"Apple is legendary for its attention to design and detail, and how much that plays a role in its success.

Here is a brilliant example with the iCloud logo: the elements in the logo follow the Golden Ratio.

The Golden Ratio is a number that often occurs in nature and proportions using the Golden Ratio are thought to be more aesthetically pleasing. Artists have been using the Golden Ratio since antiquity and most Renaissance artists used it.

Another small, stunning detail that most people will miss but makes a subtle difference.
(Business Insider)

New Alloy Can Convert Heat Directly Into Electricity
I remember being horrified when I found out how inefficient powerplants are.
Rather than generating electricity directly, they generate electricity by creating heat, which creates steam, which turns turbines.
Maybe this will help to avoid disappointing the next generation of budding engineers.

"A new alloy with unique properties can convert heat directly into electricity, according to researchers at the University of Minnesota. The alloy, a multiferroic composite of nickel, cobalt, manganese and tin, can be either non-magnetic and highly magnetic, depending on its temperature.

Multiferroic materials possess both magnetism and ferroelectricity, or a permanent electric polarization. Materials with both of these properties are very rare; check out this explainer from the National Institute of Standards and Technology if you’re interested in the electron orbital arrangements that cause these phenomena.

In this case, the new alloy — Ni45Co5Mn40Sn10 — undergoes a reversible phase transformation, in which one type of solid turns into another type of solid when the temperature changes, according to a news release from the University of Minnesota. Specifically, the alloy goes from being non-magnetic to highly magnetized. The temperature only needs to be raised a small amount for this to happen.

When the warmed alloy is placed near a permanent magnet, like a rare-earth magnet, the alloy’s magnetic force increases suddenly and dramatically. This produces a current in a surrounding coil, according to the researchers, led by aerospace engineering professor Richard James.

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