Month: August 2019

House attached to balloons flies sets world record w Video

first_img300 weather balloons lift a 2,000-pound house into the air. Image credit: National Geographic. ( — How hard can it be to lift a house with helium balloons? A National Geographic team of scientists, engineers, and balloon pilots has demonstrated how to achieve such a feat, which was filmed for a new TV series called “How Hard Can It Be?” They conclude that, although it’s very difficult, it’s not impossible. Citation: House attached to balloons flies, sets world record (w/ Video) (2011, March 8) retrieved 18 August 2019 from It took the team about two weeks to plan, build, and lift the house into the air using balloons. They needed about 300 weather balloons, each of which inflated to a height of 8 feet, in order to lift the 2,000-pound, 16×16-foot yellow house. Lifting off early in the morning outside of Los Angeles, the house floated for about an hour and reached an altitude of 10,000 feet. According to the National Geographic Channel, the floating house set a world record for the “largest balloon cluster flight” ever attempted. The entire aircraft of house and balloons was about 100 feet tall. Briefs: Famed Pompeii house to reopen This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.center_img More information: National Geographic Channnelvia: CNet Crave © 2010 Behind-the-scenes footage of the flying balloon house. Video credit: National Geographic. The concept of a house being lifted into the air by balloons may sound familiar to young movie-goers who have seen Pixar’s latest animated feature called “Up.” In the movie, an old man and a boy go on a ride when the house they’re in is lifted into the sky by balloons tied to the house’s roof.Just like in the movie, there were a few people inside the real-life house while it was flying. More details about the “balloon house” will appear in “How Hard Can It Be?”, which is scheduled to debut next fall. Explore furtherlast_img read more

Largest spider fossil found in China

first_img Explore further © 2010 ( — According to Paul Selden, the director of the Paleontological Institute at the University of Kansas, he and his team members have discovered the largest spider fossil. The fossil was discovered within ancient volcanic ash located in Inner Mongolia in the Daohugoa fossil beds. The new spider, named Nephila Jurassica, is around two inches long and dates back to Middle Jurassic around 165 million years ago. Published in Biology Letters, Selden and his team say this spider would have lived in a more tropical climate than the one it was discovered in, suggesting the area has undergone great climate change. They believe the spider originated on Pangaea (the supercontinent). The Nephila jurassica, like modern day golden orb-weavers, would have lived within its orb web, probably in the clearing of a forest or close to source of water. Until this discovery, the oldest known Nephila genus fossil was 34 million years old, making this fossil and the origin of the Nephila spiders much older than originally thought. While it is the largest spider fossil ever found, it is not the oldest. Other spider fossils found have been as old as 310 million years (Eocteniza silvicola and Protoctenzia Britannica), but they were not the Nephila genus.The spider’s spinnerets, or silk spinning organs, were visible on the fossil spider’s legs, suggesting that it, like its modern day orb-weavers, were capable of spinning large, durable webs capable of trapping a variety of insects. The larger Nephila spiders of today, growing as large as four or five inches, are able to spin webs strong enough to trap small birds and bats. This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. Scientists discover largest orb-weaving spider More information: A golden orb-weaver spider (Araneae: Nephilidae: Nephila) from the Middle Jurassic of China, Biol. Lett. Published online before print April 20, 2011, doi:10.1098/rsbl.2011.0228AbstractNephila are large, conspicuous weavers of orb webs composed of golden silk, in tropical and subtropical regions. Nephilids have a sparse fossil record, the oldest described hitherto being Cretaraneus vilaltae from the Cretaceous of Spain. Five species from Neogene Dominican amber and one from the Eocene of Florissant, CO, USA, have been referred to the extant genus Nephila. Here, we report the largest known fossil spider, Nephila jurassica sp. nov., from Middle Jurassic (approx. 165 Ma) strata of Daohugou, Inner Mongolia, China. The new species extends the fossil record of the family by approximately 35 Ma and of the genus Nephila by approximately 130 Ma, making it the longest ranging spider genus known. Nephilidae originated somewhere on Pangaea, possibly the North China block, followed by dispersal almost worldwide before the break-up of the supercontinent later in the Mesozoic. The find suggests that the palaeoclimate was warm and humid at this time. This giant fossil orb-weaver provides evidence of predation on medium to large insects, well known from the Daohugou beds, and would have played an important role in the evolution of these insects. Citation: Largest spider fossil found in China (2011, April 21) retrieved 18 August 2019 from Nephila jurassica sp. nov. holotype, scale bar, 5 mm. Image credit: Biology Letters, doi:10.1098/rsbl.2011.0228last_img read more

Archeologists find what might be the smallest Mesozoic dinosaur

first_img © 2010 Because modern birds are technically descendants of dinosaurs; ones that survived the cataclysmic event that killed off most forms of life on Earth some 65 million years ago, this new find will have to exist with a footnote, as there are clearly birds around today that are smaller; also there is the Anchiornis found in China, whose size is still being debated.The researchers estimate the full length of the Ashdown maniraptoran was 16-40 cm (derived from a centrum length of 7.1 mm) or about the size of a loaf of bread. They believe also, based on discovered bones of other similar dinosaurs that this one likely had a short tail, long neck and legs and forelimbs with claws, and probably sported feathers as well; likely making it closely related to birds. They also believe it probably weighed close to 200 grams, or about as much as three or four modern chicken eggs.Dinosaurs are loosely defined as a group of vertebrate animals that roamed the earth from about 230 million years ago, till their decimation, some 65 million years ago. The newly discovered Ashdown maniraptoran is believed to have come from the Lower Cretaceous period, making it some 100 to 145 million years old. This new find provides more evidence that dinosaurs from this period were similar to those in the rest of Europe and even in North America, as it’s believed there were land bridges in existence during that time.The author’s as well as many others in the field are hopeful more sample bones from Ashdown maniraptoran will be discovered, particularly a head, as that would give more clues as to what the small dinosaur ate and would of course give a better view of what it actually looked like. If that happens, a new scientific name will have to be chosen for it; one likely taking into account its diminutive nature. Origin of birds confirmed by exceptional new dinosaur fossils Citation: Archeologists find what might be the smallest Mesozoic dinosaur (2011, June 13) retrieved 18 August 2019 from Explore furthercenter_img More information: A tiny maniraptoran dinosaur in the Lower Cretaceous Hastings Group: Evidence from a new vertebrate-bearing locality in south-east England, Cretaceous Research, Volume 32, Issue 4, August 2011, Pages 464-471. doi:10.1016/j.cretres.2011.03.001AbstractIn contrast to the Barremian Wessex Formation on the Isle of Wight, the remains of small theropods are rare in the Berriasian–Valanginian Hastings Group of the English mainland. Both units are part of the dinosaur-rich Wealden Supergroup (Berriasian–Aptian) of southern Britain. Here we report the cervical vertebra of a small dinosaur from the Pevensey Pit at Ashdown Brickworks, a site located northwest of Bexhill, East Sussex. The pit yields a rich assemblage of vertebrate fossils from the Valanginian Wadhurst Clay Formation of the Hastings Group. The new specimen, a near-complete but water-worn posterior cervical vertebra, is tiny (total centrum length = 7.1 mm) but evidently from an adult theropod. Its large hypapophysis, X-shaped neural arch and amphicoelous centrum suggest referral to Maniraptora, and the subparallel anterior and posterior articular surfaces imply that it does not belong to a deinonychosaur. The X-shaped neural arch recalls a similar condition seen in oviraptorosaurs while the high neural canal/articular surface ratio (0.70) is bird-like. The specimen is significant in representing the first maniraptoran to be reported from the Hastings Group but is otherwise indeterminate. By comparing the specimen to better known maniraptorans and estimating the proportions of the animal to which it belongs, we suggest that the total skeletal length of this maniraptoran was somewhere between 16 and 40 cm. It may therefore have been among the smallest of known Mesozoic dinosaurs. This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. ( — Paleontologists digging in the south of England have unearthed what might be the smallest dinosaur ever discovered; at just a foot long and weighing only a couple hundred grams, the Ashdown maniraptoran, was apparently an omnivore, at least partially feathered and walked on two legs. In a paper published on Cretaceous Research, colleagues and coauthors Darren Naish and Steven Sweetman describe the remains as the posterior cervical vertebra of a small dinosaur found in the Pevensey Pit at Ashdown Brickworks, in East Sussex.last_img read more

Study shows chimps capable of insightful reasoning ability

first_img The research team conducted nearly the same experiment three times; the first was at a research center in Germany, and was a complete failure in that none of the chimps figured out how to get the floating peanut. When the experiment was done again in a facility in Africa, however, the results were quite different; five of the 24 chimp volunteers successfully filled the tube and ate the peanut. Also, interestingly, one actually resorted to urinating into the tube, which also worked.In the third experiment, instead of testing apes, human children were given nearly the same test; though instead of having to spit water from their mouths, they were allowed a water pitcher which they could use to pour the water into the tube. In this study, three age groups were tested, 4, 6, and eight year olds. Not surprisingly, the youngest group fared quite poorly, while the oldest group outperformed the chimps by a wide margin.In addition to testing chimpanzees and children, the researchers also included other primates in their studies. In the first they tested gorillas in the same way as the chimps, but none of the gorillas were able to solve the riddle. In the second experiment, they included orangutans, which were actually the basis for their experiments as other researchers had shown they were remarkably adept at figuring out the floating peanut problem. Unfortunately, when tested in this study, none of them were able to secure the peanut, leading the researchers to believe that other factors were at work.And finally, the researchers went back to the first group in Germany and retested the chimps that had failed the first time around, only this time, they installed a second water dispenser, and lo and behold, some of the chimps were then able to get the peanut. This, the researchers suggested meant that the chimps had become so fixated on the original water dispensers as simple thirst quenching devices, that they had become unable to think of using them in any other way; thus, when a new dispenser was added, they were able to see it as an open source sort of tool.The whole point of the study was to see if primates are capable of the kind of higher level learning known as insight; or in other words, of having that aha moment where an idea sort of pops into the head as possible solution to a problem. As it turns out, it appears some primates other than humans are indeed capable of such thinking, which means, we might have to take a harder look at what higher actually intelligence means. Citation: Study shows chimps capable of insightful reasoning ability (2011, June 10) retrieved 18 August 2019 from Common chimpanzee in the Leipzig Zoo. Image credit: Thomas Lersch, via Wikipedia. © 2010 Explore further ( — A new study conducted by researchers from the Max Planck Institute in Germany, with results published in PLoS ONE, shows that some apes are capable of using insightful reasoning to achieve goals. When presented with a peanut floating in a tube a quarter filled with water, some chimpanzees were able to figure out that they could raise the water level, and hence the peanut, by filling their mouths with water from a nearby dispenser, then spitting it into the tube. Doing so enough times, raised the floating peanut to such a level that they were eventually able to retrieve and eat it. More information: Hanus D, Mendes N, Tennie C, Call J (2011) Comparing the Performances of Apes (Gorilla gorilla, Pan troglodytes, Pongo pygmaeus) and Human Children (Homo sapiens) in the Floating Peanut Task. PLoS ONE 6(6): e19555. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0019555AbstractRecently, Mendes et al. described the use of a liquid tool (water) in captive orangutans. Here, we tested chimpanzees and gorillas for the first time with the same “floating peanut task.” None of the subjects solved the task. In order to better understand the cognitive demands of the task, we further tested other populations of chimpanzees and orangutans with the variation of the peanut initially floating or not. Twenty percent of the chimpanzees but none of the orangutans were successful. Additional controls revealed that successful subjects added water only if it was necessary to obtain the nut. Another experiment was conducted to investigate the reason for the differences in performance between the unsuccessful (Experiment 1) and the successful (Experiment 2) chimpanzee populations. We found suggestive evidence for the view that functional fixedness might have impaired the chimpanzees’ strategies in the first experiment. Finally, we tested how human children of different age classes perform in an analogous experimental setting. Within the oldest group (8 years), 58 percent of the children solved the problem, whereas in the youngest group (4 years), only 8 percent were able to find the solution. Peanut allergies overstated, study finds This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.last_img read more

Royal College of Art student make a 3D printer that focuses the

first_imgThis new 3D model gets is based on current designs of 3D printing technology with only two substitutions. The traditionally used resin or plastic powder has been replaced by the sand and the laser has been replaced by focused solar rays. The system, which is fully automated, then automatically creates a glass object out of the 3D designs, which represents a significant upgrade to the technology. People who are interested in seeing the design first hand are able to see it while it is on show at the Royal College of Art graduate exhibition. © 2010 More information: Explore further Waiting for a replacement part for your domestic appliance? Print your own The device, named the Solar Sinter, is based on a previous design known as the Sun-Cutter, which was able to cut two-dimensional shapes into thin sheets of plywood. Because of the imprecision of the tool it was only able to make relatively rough cuts, and there was a great deal of variation in functionality based on changes in the cloud cover. ( — 3D printing has been around for a few years. If you hooked it up to a solar panel you could make it work with the sun, but still would not be as cool as doing it the way that Markus Kayser, a MA student at the Royal College of Art, has gone about it. He has create a 3D printing machine that is able to focus the rays of the sun through a glass ball with enough intensity that it can create a beam that is able to heat silica sand to its melting point. Silica sand is often used in manufacturing process of heat resistant products for its high melting point. Citation: Royal College of Art student make a 3D printer that focuses the light of the sun (2011, June 27) retrieved 18 August 2019 from This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.last_img read more

Mogees project delivers haptic symphony w video

first_img Human-computer music performances use system that links music and musical gestures (w/ Video) The Mogees is a project that stems from the department of computing at Goldsmiths, University of London, where researcher Bruno Zamborlin collaborates with a team at IRCAM in Paris to experiment with new methods for “gestural interaction” in coming up with novel ways of making sounds. The project has released a video that, besides delighting every four year old on the planet, opens the minds of researchers. The video shows the use of a contact microphone and audio processing software to construct a gesture-recognizing touch interface from assorted surfaces—a tree trunk, a balloon, a glass panel at a bus stage, and an inflated balloon. Also, different gestures control different sounds. Explore further A surface, for example, can be played with any tool such as hands and Mogees will always try to find a correspondent sound to it. It can also be applied to other sound sources such as voice or acoustic/electric instruments.Zamborlin began the project because he liked the idea of being able to touch a real surface when creating electronic music. “Touching real surfaces allows users to experience haptic feedback on what they do and enhancing their relationship with the device.” Researcher and developer Norbert Schnell is named as part of the Mogees effort, and the project also makes reference to its use of the “MuBu environment for MaxMSP.”Max is a visual programming language for music and multimedia; electronic musicians use it for unique sound-making tools. The program is highly modular with most routines in the form of shared libraries. MuBu is a sound description buffer for real-time interactive audio processing. This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. ( — Creative sound-making is as fluid and changing as it implies, incorporating everything from troupes that bang on every hard surface imaginable to creators of electronic music, to musicians who craft their notes to reflect real conversation, to the new phenomenon, the Mogees.center_img Wooden panels sound like a bicycle bell; playing on a balloon makes sounds like a crystal hanging ornament in the wind. Other surfaces reveal sounds, by slapping or brushing, hitting, or finger tapping, that include tribal string pianos in the heat of a musical narrative. The Mogees project turns any surface into a gestural musical interface, using the button-like silver microphone and audio processing software. But just how does it work? ExtremeTech carries the more lucid of attempted explanations: The contact microphone has multiple microphones, creating a stereo image of a sound that’s made. A PC cable connection picks up the finger vibrations for analysis and converts them into gestures. A visual programming language (MaxMSP) turns the gestures into sounds.“Mogees is an interactive gestural-based surface for realtime audio mosaicing,” is the somewhat intimidating definition appearing on the Department of Computing site at Goldsmiths. A helpful explanation, however, also contributes toward understanding what is going on.“When the performer touches the surface, Mogees analyses the incoming audio signal and continuously looks for its closest segment within the sound database. These segments are played one after the other over time: this technique is called concatenative synthesis.” More information: Citation: Mogees project delivers haptic symphony (w/ video) (2012, January 5) retrieved 18 August 2019 from © 2011 PhysOrg.comlast_img read more

New robot Cheetah breaks landspeed record

first_img MIT student builds self-balancing electric unicycle ( — Up till now researchers at Boston Dynamics have demonstrated four legged robots that appear meant to carry heavy loads as they tromp through and over rough terrain (e.g. Alpha Dog and Petman, LS3). Now it appears they’ve taken a different approach in looking to build robots that can move fast. And apparently, they mean really fast. In the demo video they show off their new robot named Cheetah breaking the unofficial land speed record by galloping at eighteen miles per hour on a treadmill. Cheetah looks very much like the animal it was named for, even arching it’s back as it picks up speed. But clearly with such a name, the team is aiming much higher. Citation: New robot ‘Cheetah’ breaks land-speed record (2012, March 6) retrieved 18 August 2019 from © 2011 More information: Press releasecenter_img Explore further This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. The research is sponsored by DARPA, which means the hope is that a robot that can run really fast in the real world could be used for unspecified military purposes, such as chasing down the enemy. But that is still a ways off. Cheetah is still tethered in place by hydraulic tubing and a boom to keep it on the straight and narrow.Dr. Alfred Rizzi, technical lead on the project put out a press release in conjunction with the video and says that while eighteen miles per hour is pretty good, they are hoping for much more. In fact, he says he doesn’t see any reason why they couldn’t get the robot to run up to fifty miles per hour, which is what is possible on the specially designed treadmill. He adds that the purpose of the project is to see how far they can push this kind of technology. In the real world, the limit for a cheetah is in the neighborhood of seventy miles per hour, which is more than twice as fast as the current world champion human.The Cheetah project falls under the Maximum Mobility and Manipulation program run by the US Defense Department that seeks to discover new ways for using robots in military applications. In the press release, the team also says they believe they’ll have Cheetah running un-tethered before the year is out. With a goal of finding the limits to such robots, it’s not hard to imagine one day a demo of a much more refined version of Cheetah that could conceivably leave its biologically restrained namesake in the dust.last_img read more

Study uncovers secret to speedy burrowing by razor clams

first_img What happens the team writes, is that the clam pushes down into the sand just a few centimeters using a soft foot on its bottom end. Then, it constricts valves inside its shell, causing a sudden vacuum to exist in the sand around the foot. That vacuum is then filled almost instantly with water rushing in from the surrounding saturated sand, making the sand just below the foot more mushy. This allows the clam to push down a little farther, at which point it constricts again. Performing this ritual over and over allows the clam to burrow itself down into the sand at a pretty fair clip. Citation: Study uncovers secret to speedy burrowing by razor clams (2012, May 25) retrieved 18 August 2019 from American jack knife clam on the beach at Wimereux, France. Image: Wikipedia. ( — If you look at a razor burrowing clam sitting in a bucket, you’d never guess that it could burrow itself down into the soil, much less do it with any speed. Razor clams look like fat straws, or sawed off tusks; not very exciting. But set one down in the water, and it can burrow down into the sand to about two and a half feet deep in just a couple of minutes. Pretty impressive stuff, especially considering, as a team of researchers has found, that the muscle the clams use for burrowing just isn’t strong enough to accomplish the deed. To manage the speedy descent the team found, the razor burrowing clam causes changes to the sand below it as it descends. They have written a paper on their findings which has been published in the Journal of Experimental Biology. Explore further Journal information: Journal of Experimental Biology Androgenetic species of clam utilizes rare gene capture This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. © 2012 Phys.Org More information: Localized fluidization burrowing mechanics of Ensis directus, Journal of Experimental Biology, doi: 10.1242/​jeb.058172AbstractMuscle measurements of Ensis directus, the Atlantic razor clam, indicate that the organism only has sufficient strength to burrow a few centimeters into the soil, yet razor clams burrow to over 70 cm. In this paper, we show that the animal uses the motions of its valves to locally fluidize the surrounding soil and reduce burrowing drag. Substrate deformations were measured using particle image velocimetry (PIV) in a novel visualization system that enabled us to see through the soil and watch E. directus burrow in situ. PIV data, supported by soil and fluid mechanics theory, show that contraction of the valves of E. directus locally fluidizes the surrounding soil. Particle and fluid mixtures can be modeled as a Newtonian fluid with an effective viscosity based on the local void fraction. Using these models, we demonstrate that E. directus is strong enough to reach full burrow depth in fluidized soil, but not in static soil. Furthermore, we show that the method of localized fluidization reduces the amount of energy required to reach burrow depth by an order of magnitude compared with penetrating static soil, and leads to a burrowing energy that scales linearly with depth rather than with depth squared. An american jacknife mussel digging itself into the sand. To find all this out, the research team built an environment in their lab that would allow for careful study of the actions of the burrowing clam. They constructed a waterproof tank into which they dumped clear glass beads to serve as sand, added water and then filmed the action as volunteer clams burrowed themselves into the imitation sand. Watching in slow motion they discovered that the clams essentially turned the area below them into quicksand, allowing for a relatively swift descent.The results found by the team not only help explain how the clam is able to burrow so quickly but might also help researchers in other areas, namely, those working on trying to figure out how to get undersea robots to tether themselves to the seafloor.last_img read more