Robot tanks on patrol but not allowed to shoot…yet!

In 1985 the US pulled the plug on a computer-controlled anti-aircraft tank after a series of debacles in which its electronic brain locked guns onto a stand packed with top generals reviewing the device. Mercifully it didn’t fire, but did subsequently attack a portable toilet instead of a target drone.

The M247 Sergeant York…may have been an embarrassing failure, but digital technology and artificial intelligence (AI) have changed the game since then.

Today defence contractors around the world are competing to introduce small unmanned tracked vehicles into military service.

Interesting article even if the BBC reporters had to repeat the mantra of “a human must always be in the loop to decide on the use of lethal force”. That will last until the day someone in the field decides they can’t wait for an assigned officer – and turns an armed robot loose to do what it’s intended to do. Provide deadly force on its own.

Yo-yo crystals from a new kind of material

The crystals are formed from two concave discs attached to a central axle. From the side, the discs look like flowers with clearly defined petals. These flowers have a slight spiralling arrangement, meaning that the yo-yos have a chiral structure. Despite their complex shape, they are single crystals – confirmed by x-ray crystallography…

The yo-yo crystals are made from achiral components – they’re grown from a solution of copper nitrate and a pyridine-based organic ligand. The mixture forms a continuous network, with four ligands making a propeller-like shape around each metal centre. The material initially forms achiral, cylindrical crystals. However, after aging these cylinders for two days, they spiral out forming the green yo-yo-like precipitate…

The crystal structures belong to the highly unusual P622 space group. The Cambridge Crystallographic database, which recently logged its one millionth structure, only contains seven other examples of P622 structures.

Way cool…

NC town rejects solar panels — fear they “suck energy from the sun”

Members of the public in Woodland, North Carolina, expressed their fear and mistrust at the proposal to allow Strata Solar Company to build a solar farm off Highway 258.

During the Woodland Town Council meeting, one local man, Bobby Mann, said solar farms would suck up all the energy from the sun and businesses would not go to Woodland, the Roanoke-Chowan News Herald reported.

Jane Mann, a retired science teacher, said she was concerned the panels would prevent plants in the area from photosynthesizing, stopping them from growing…

She also questioned the high number of cancer deaths in the area, saying no one could tell her solar panels didn’t cause cancer.

Yes, there are plenty of folks throughout the whole United States as ignorant, backwards and foolish as the citizens of Woodland, North Carolina. Still, the Solid South remains a leading candidate for out-of-date, out-of-time, out-of-the-running for the advancement of any business or project that’s progressed beyond a 19th Century skillset.

Region by region, switch to renewable energy continues

Tri-State Generation and Transmission, the power supplier for Southwest Colorado, announced Wednesday it plans to build solar arrays in the region as part of a larger plan to replace coal-fired power plants in Colorado and New Mexico.

Tri-State announced last week it plans to close the Escalante Station near Prewitt, New Mexico, by the end of 2020 and the Craig Station and Colowyo Mine in northwest Colorado by 2030. The move will eliminate Tri-State’s coal emissions in both states.

To help replace the power produced by those plants, Tri-State plans to build eight new solar and wind projects by 2024, enough to power more than 800,000 homes, Tri-State CEO Duane Highley said. The projects will increase the percentage of renewable power consumed by Tri-State customers from about 33% to 50% by 2024.

The transition is expected to drive lower rates for customers because the price of renewable power has fallen by 85% in 10 years and is cheaper than any form of fossil fuel, he said. He described the savings as a “green-energy dividend” that will also allow Tri-State to pay off its coal-power plants on an accelerated timetable…

Way too much good sense at play here for the clown show in Congress and the White House. Can you imagine for-real leadership away from polluting 19th Century technology and into renewable energy sources coming from either of the two old parties?

Scientists Find the Oldest Material on Earth — it ain’t from here!


Click to enlargeMurchison Meteorite

Earth formed alongside the rest of the solar system roughly 4.6 billion years ago. The oldest rocks we’ve found to date are about 4.03 billion years old, but the oldest earth minerals ever discovered were actually found in lunar samples and date to about 4.1 billion years.

Now, scientists believe they’ve discovered the oldest material ever found on Earth: microscopic specs of dust pulled from meteorite dated at 7.5 billion years old, according to research published January 13 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences…

The meteorite in which the grains were found is one of the most well-studied meteorites on Earth. The 220-pound Murchison meteorite plummeted to Victoria, Australia on September 28, 1969. (There were witnesses, too—a rare treat for studied meteorites.) It’s a type of meteorite called a carbonaceous chondrite…

The scientists took a small sample of the extraterrestrial rock and crushed it into a fine powder for analysis. They then turned it into a paste, which, according to the BBC, smells like rotten peanut butter. The grains were then dissolved out and dated using an isotope of the element neon, Ne-21.

RTFA. A milestone.

Confirming my wife’s theory there are 5 – not 4 – basic elements to the universe. Air, earth, fire, water…and peanut butter.

First living robots created from frog stem cells


XenobotDouglas Blackiston

Researchers in the US have created the first living machines by assembling cells from African clawed frogs into tiny robots that move around under their own steam…

These are entirely new lifeforms. They have never before existed on Earth,” said Michael Levin, the director of the Allen Discovery Center at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. “They are living, programmable organisms.”…

Roboticists tend to favour metal and plastic for their strength and durability, but Levin and his colleagues see benefits in making robots from biological tissues. When damaged, living robots can heal their wounds, and once their task is done they fall apart, just as natural organisms decay when they die.

Their unique features mean that future versions of the robots might be deployed to clean up microplastic pollution in the oceans, locate and digest toxic materials, deliver drugs in the body or remove plaque from artery walls…

Wow! A dramatic start to an entirely new genre of bio-engineering.

Yes, there’s a chunk of space at the end of the article dedicated to ethical considerations – which may be relevant in a few decades. I’ll leave the navel-gazing to academics. They’ll have enough to deal with – certainly, in the GOUSA, with religious nutters.

Manchester City coach has bent or broken £460,000 worth of cars since taking over the team in 2016

Illustrating the financial might of the Premier League, it’s unusual to see a player rock up to work in anything other than a Lamborghini, Bentley, Mercedes or the like.

Managers also pocket an eye-watering wage of their own, the largest of which is the staggering £385,000 taken home by Pep Guardiola each and every week…

In their book Pep’s City: The Making Of A Superteam, Lu Martin and Pol Ballus write: “Today he’s behind the wheel of his black Mercedes…”He has a reputation from his Barcelona days of being a hapless driver and this is his fourth car he has owned since coming to Manchester…“His wing mirrors don’t survive for long and he’s also managed to fill a diesel Range Rover with petrol and mangle a silver Bentley.”

To be fair, the United Kingdom is the first country in which Guardiola has played or managed that drives on the left side of the road…It would take some time to adjust, but surely four years is long enough…But really, there’s no excuse for filling up a £150,000 Range Rover with the wrong type of fuel.

Say, Amen!

Boeing email re 737 MAX: “I’ll be shocked if the FAA passes this turd.”


737 MAX fuselages waiting to become finished airplanes

Boeing has been forced to publicly apologise after internal communications suggested employees were aware of issues with its now grounded 737 Max plane before disaster struck.

Boeing on Thursday published over 100-pages of internal communications as part of the US Federal Aviation Authority and Congress’s investigations into issues with the 737 Max.

The planes have been grounded globally last March following two fatal crashes that killed all passengers…

“This airplane is designed by clowns, who in turn are supervised by monkeys,” a chat message from April 2017 reads. Another message from the same exchange describes working on the plane as “patch[ing] the leaky boat.”

This is such a shit show,” one employee wrote to another on a chat system in mid-2018.

“Totally,” a colleague replied, “I’ll be shocked if the FAA passes this turd.”

Building crap – or just doing a crappy job of building something – means the same thing to the families of all the folks who died as passengers in 737 MAX crashes.