News

Is long-term Mars living possible?

This week's Question: A recent study created by the Arizona-based Paragon Space Development Corporation says its life support system could help humans survive on Mars. The proposed Environmental Control and Life Support System, the company says, could extract water from Mars’ rocky material and convert some of the water to breathable oxygen. The habitat would be built by autonomous rovers. The study was commissioned by Mars One, a Dutch company that proposes to send colonists on a one-way trip to Mars. What do you think? Is long-term Mars living possible?

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Simulations Reveal Near-Frictionless Material

Scientists from Argonne National Laboratory used simulations to identify and improve a new mechanism for reducing friction. The resulting hybrid material exhibited superlubricity at the macroscale.

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NASA System Would Enable Unmanned Aircraft to Fly in US Airspace

NASA, working with government and industry partners, is testing a system that would make it possible for unmanned aircraft to fly routine operations in United States airspace. The tests engage the core air traffic infrastructure and supporting software components through a live and virtual environment to demonstrate how an autonomous aircraft interacts with air traffic controllers and other air traffic.

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Will robots be suitable emotional companions?

This week's Question: In June, Softbank sold its first 1,000 Pepper robots in less than a minute. Using cameras, touch sensors, an accelerometer, and other sensors in its neural network, Pepper has the ability to read (and develop its own) emotions. According to the company's Web site, the social companion is able to converse, recognize emotions, and move autonomously. Softbank recently announced that the technology will be available for sale beginning August 1st, at the rate of 1,000 per month. What do you think? Will robots be suitable emotional companions?

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New Nanowires Absorb Light

Harvard University scientists have created nanowires with new useful properties. The wire not only absorbs light at specific wavelengths, but also light from other parts of the spectrum. The technology could have applications in areas ranging from consumer electronics to solar panels.

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Kimberly Hambuchen, Deputy Project Manager, Human Robotics System Project, Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX

Kimberly Hambuchen, Deputy Project Manager, Human Robotics System Project, Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX Kim Hambuchen is currently building user interfaces for Vakyrie, a six-foot-two, 286-pound humanoid robot. The two-legged Valkyrie builds on NASA’s Robonaut, a robotic assistant currently onboard the International Space Station.

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Will robo-cabs lower gas emissions?

This week's Question: In last week's Nature Climate Change journal, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researchers reported that, by 2030, traveling by driverless electric taxi could lower greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 90% compared with the same length ride in a privately owned gas-powered car today. Almost half of the savings is attributable to “right-sizing,” where the size of the taxi deployed is tailored to each trip’s occupancy needs. According to a report by the Rand Corp., all manufacturers working on cars that can drive themselves plan to release vehicles with semi-autonomous features by 2017. What do you think? Will robo-cabs lower gas emissions?

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