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Converting from Hydraulic Cylinders to Electric Actuators
Automating Optimization and Design Tasks Across Disciplines
Vibration Tables Shake Up Aerospace and Car Testing
Supercomputer Cooling System Uses Refrigerant to Replace Water
Computer Chips Calculate and Store in an Integrated Unit
Electron-to-Photon Communication for Quantum Computing
Mechanoresponsive Healing Polymers
Variable Permeability Magnetometer Systems and Methods for Aerospace Applications
Evaluation Standard for Robotic Research

Do the Benefits of Automation Outweigh the Drawbacks?

The Automate 2013 trade show kicked off last week in Chicago, and some have used the occasion to debate the benefits of automation, as robotic technology is increasingly being used in new industries like food processing and consumer electronics. Many express concern that a growing reliance on robotics will have worrying implications for workers, while others have said that factory automation will, in fact, strengthen the workforce. The International Federation of Robotics (IFR) said that factory automation will create up to 3.5 million jobs around the world by 2020, adding that automation is a way for the US to compete with industries around the globe.

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Would You Wear a Pair of "Smart Glasses?"

At this year's Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas, Vuzix Smart Glasses won top honors in the Wireless Handset Accessories category. The technology, worn like ordinary glasses, features a built-in electronic display, allowing users to check email, watch movies, record video in real time, and load apps that communicate with smartphones or tablets. Google also has recently begun Project Glass, an initiative to develop an augmented reality head-mounted display (HMD).

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Should NASA Consider Capturing a Small Asteroid or Comet for Mining Purposes?

This week's Question comes from INSIDER reader Ed Xavier Gonzalez: Should NASA Consider Capturing a Small Asteroid or Comet for Mining Purposes?

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Will We Discover "Earth's Twin" This Year?

NASA's Kepler Space Telescope has found more than 2,300 potential planets since its March 2009 launch. Although astronomers have found a number of exoplanets that share one or two key traits with our planet, including size or inferred surface temperature, a true "alien Earth" has yet to be discovered. Scientists have claimed that Earth's twin will be discovered at some point in 2013.

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If You Could Afford the $750 Million Ticket, Would You Take the Trip?

This week's Question: Using existing hardware as well as specifically designed spacesuits and landers, a new space company called Golden Spike hopes to offer private trips to the Moon before 2020.

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Will Curiosity Identify Signs of Life on the Red Planet?

When John Grotzinger, project scientist for the Mars Curiosity rover, stated that a recent discovery could be "earthshaking ... one for the history books," many speculated that the rover had discovered organic material, which could indicate life on Mars. NASA has since said that these kinds of rumors are incorrect.

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Will We Be a "Spacefaring Nation?"

NASA's Chief Technologist Mason Peck delivered the keynote address, "Technology and the Future," at the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Fall Symposium in Hampton, Virginia. The speech showed that Peck envisions a "spacefaring nation" where our relationship with spacecraft, space hardware, or data from space is as strong as our current relationship with the Internet, smartphones, and personal computers. He believes that the new relationship could boil down to "killer apps," space tourism, or space medicine. Identification of this type of app is "close," according to Peck. Will our relationship with spacecraft soon be as strong as today's technologies like the Internet and smartphones?

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Will Drones Beam Wi-fi from the Skies?

If a future hurricane causes power outages, regulators say they could float wireless antennas from balloons or drones to solve problems with telecommunications networks. The Federal Communications Commission is exploring the use of such airborne technology to restore communications after disasters. Beaming 3G or Wi-Fi signals may be especially helpful for first responders after a hurricane. There are still questions, however, of how the technology would be implemented. Commercial wireless providers have never used such technology to serve customers after a disaster. Drones, too, would need to comply with federal aviation regulations, and floating wireless equipment could interfere with signals at cell phone towers.

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Will That Be Our Best Idea?

A new asteroid-deflecting idea proposes that paintballs shot into space could prevent a dangerous asteroid from colliding with Earth. The initial force from the paintballs would veer the asteroid slightly off course. The paint resulting from the splattered pellets would more than double the asteroid's sunlight reflectivity. The increase of photons bouncing off the rock's surface would enhance solar radiation pressure and bump it further off course. The strategy, unveiled in October, won the 2012 Move an Asteroid Technical Paper Competition, sponsored by the United Nations' Space Generation Advisory Council.

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Will We See a Greater Use of 'Beaming' Avatar Technology?

Researchers successfully tested a beaming technology that allowed humans and a rat to interact through virtual reality avatars. Using digital representations of themselves, the researchers enabled the rat to interact with a rat-sized robot controlled by a human participant in a different location. Similarly, the "virtual" human participant interacted with a human-sized avatar controlled by the movements of the distant rat. The researchers say that the ability to digitally transport a representation of a person to a distant place could help scientists study behavior in new ways.

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