Sunday, January 27, 2013

AtlasProto Robot Walking the Gauntlet & Improving Abilities

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The latest update from Boston Dynamics increases the creepiness, which seems inexorable, with Atlas the anthropomorphic robot. Regardless of assurances otherwise, this will not ultimately end well for humans.

AtlasProto: Walking the Gauntlet

Atlas is an anthropomorphic robot developed by Boston Dynamics with funding from DARPA. AtlasProto, shown here, is a testbed for developing control systems and software for rough terrain.

Several Atlas robots will participate in the DARPA Robotics Challenge next year. The video shows AtlasProto using its legs and arms to climb onto a platform, jump down, cross the 'snake pit', and climb steep stairs. For more information visit

Inevitability on some time frame...


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Valles Marineris: Grandest Canyon in the Solar System

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Planet Mars: Valles Marineris

(European Space Agency; 22 October 2012) Earth’s Grand Canyon inspires awe for anyone who casts eyes upon the vast river-cut valley, but it would seem nothing more than a scratch next to the cavernous scar of Valles Marineris that marks the face of Mars.

Stretching over 4000 km long and 200 km wide, and with a dizzying depth of 10 km, it is some ten times longer and five times deeper than Earth’s Grand Canyon, a size that earns it the status of the largest canyon in the Solar System.

Seen here in new light and online for the first time, this bird’s-eye view of Valles Marineris was created from data captured during 20 individual orbits of ESA’s Mars Express. It is presented in near-true colour and with four times vertical exaggeration.

A wide variety of geological features can be seen, reflecting the complex geological history of the region. The canyon’s formation is likely intimately linked with the formation of the neighbouring Tharsis bulge, which is out of shot and to the left of this image and home to the largest volcano in the Solar System, Olympus Mons.

The volcanic activity is revealed by the nature of the rocks in the walls of the canyon and the surrounding plains, which were built by successive lava flows. As the Tharsis bulge swelled with magma during the planet’s first billion years, the surrounding crust was stretched, ripping apart and eventually collapsing into the gigantic troughs of Valles Marineris.

Intricate fault patterns have also developed due to the imposing extensional forces; the most recent are particularly evident in the middle portion of the image and along the lower boundary of the frame.

Landslides have also played a role in shaping the scene, especially in the northern-most troughs, where material has recently slumped down the steep walls. Mass wasting has also created delicate erosion of the highest part of the walls. Strong water flows may have reshaped Valles Marineris after it was formed, deepening the canyon. Mineralogical information collected by orbiting spacecraft, including Mars Express, shows that the terrain here was altered by water hundreds of millions of years ago.

Grandest Canyon

"Flight Into Mariner Valley" takes you on a virtual tour of Mars' Valles Marineris, narrated by Arizona State University planetary geologist Phil Christensen.

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Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Ultimate Map: How Big Is The Universe?

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Universe Time Line

Our Universe consists of galaxies and galaxy clusters expanding at an accelerating rate in all directions connected by a cosmic web of gravity. Is there a boundary to the Universe and therefore to an ultimate map of the Universe? Is the Universe infinite in all directions?

Would a map of the Universe be the ultimate map created by humanity? Time will tell, but Anthony Aguirre has an even bigger idea. What if there are other Universes, even an infinity of Universes? Could these Universes ultimately be mapped in relation to our Universe and others? That would truly be the ultimate, and never-ending, map!

How Big Is The Universe? (BBC)

It is one of the most baffling questions that scientists can ask: how big is the Universe that we live in?

Horizon follows the cosmologists who are creating the most ambitious map in history - a map of everything in existence....

See more about the video here.

Temperature Map of the Measurable Universe: WMAP Full Sky 7 Years


Saturday, January 12, 2013

Future of Humanity: Singularity or Decline?

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Is Humanity on a Countdown to the Singularity?

What is the future of humanity - the technological singularity or a decline? Either way, the futurists and pundits give us 20+ years for one or the other to occur. Will the singularity occur and Homo sapiens either evolves or becomes obsolete? Will technological progress save Homo sapiens before depletion of the Earth's natural resources? Evolution, obsolescence, and/or collapse?

Could a third scenario, neither a singularity or decline, occur? Technology mitigates, delays, or even eliminates ecosystem collapse and humanity continues onwards.

Perhaps both a singularity and a decline is a more likely scenario. A human remnant or elite, even a breakaway civilization, continues with advanced technology towards and arriving at the singularity while the masses die off. That would indeed be a Brave New World...

Singularity or Decline? Is a new, more prosperous age beyond a technological Singularity on the horizon? Or does human civilization now face an inevitable decline? This video by futurist Christopher Barnatt discusses the great debate at the heart of future studies.

Is Humanity on a Countdown to Decline?


Saturday, January 5, 2013

Hubble eXtreme Deep Field Team: Observing the Evolving Universe

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Hubble eXtreme Deep Field: a new, improved portrait of mankind's deepest-ever view of the Universe

Original Announcement => Farthest View Ever of the Universe: Hubble eXtreme Deep Field

Hubble Space Telescope: Deepest View Ever of the Universe

This is an extraordinary accomplishment and webinar. The public was invited to participate in a "Meet the Hubble eXtreme Deep Field Observing Team" webinar, where three key astronomers of the XDF observing team described how they assembled the landmark image and explained what it tells us about the evolving universe. The webinar begins at 4:00 in video below.

Ray Villard (STScI) introduced and moderated the panel. The team present were Garth Illingworth, Dan McGee, and Pascal Oesch, all from University of California Santa Cruz. Each presented background and procedures on the eXtreme Deep Field image. Some notable concepts, facts, and quotes are below the video.

Hubble eXtreme Deep Field: Some Notable Concepts, Facts, Quotes

Ultimately the search is for the first galaxies. XDF is key to understanding the origins of galaxies, the search for the first galaxies, when and how did galaxies form and grow, how the Milky Way and Andromeda formed.

Hubble is a time machine: XDF sees galaxies forming 13.2 billion years ago, 450 million years after the Big Bang, and sees back in time through 96% of the life of the Universe.

Galaxies earlier than 800 million years after the Big Bang can only be seen in infrared light. XDF reveals these galaxies unseen in deepest visible-light Hubble Utra Deep Field images.

Hubble is at its limit of detection, for finding any earlier galaxies (400 million years after the Big Bang). The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will discover the first galaxies and probably the first stars. The gain in efficiency and resolution will be a factor of 100 with the JWST and will be "astonishingly powerful". The project is working towards a 2018 launch date.

The Universe is basically the same in any direction, is symmetric. No asymmetries have been detected.

XDF is full of galaxies and there might be even more fainter galaxies beyond the image that cannot be currently seen. There are more galaxies, and fainter galaxies, in the image than expected beforehand. The Universe is full of tiny, little galaxies in the early times that are building up.

The numbers of galaxies, in redshift 12 to 15, is estimated to decrease. The number of galaxies probably increased around redshift 10. Beyond the redshift is the cosmic glow, the cosmic microwave background, from the Big Bang.

Very small gravitational lensing effect in XDF. Galaxy clusters and very large galaxies were avoided which cause this effect. There is tiny "weak lensing" effect in image.

The age of the galaxy images, particularly using powerful microwave telescopes, has been determined independently. Beyond the scope of the XDF to determine.

XDF is not designed to search for or detect dark energy or dark matter. Supernova searches originally detected dark energy. Galaxy cluster and weak lensing large-scale observations originally detected dark matter.

Deep in the XDF image, the early galaxies are smaller with more intense light and much closer together. The Universe was a tenth (1/10) if its size now. Presumably these galaxies would build up to larger current galaxies such as the Milky Way and Andromeda. The early galaxies are the seeds from which current galaxies evolved. These early galaxies grew, collided, merged in a very dynamic and dramatic process.

The cosmic microwave background was about 400,000 years after the Big Bang, very soon afterwards. The limit of the XDF is 400 million years after the Big Bang. Perhaps first galaxies formed about 150 to 200 million years after the Big Bang. Perhaps the first stars came together about 100 - 150 million years after the Big Bang. Before that were the Dark Ages. The first stars and galaxies ended the Dark Ages.

The earliest galaxies observed are moving away from each other as the Universe expands, increasingly separating from each other. A small fraction of these galaxies were pulled towards each other by gravity, if close enough. The example of the expanding balloon with dots on it...

XDF and Hubble cannot detect individual stars within the early galaxies. The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) probably will not be able to either and therefore will not be able to detect the individual "first stars". The JWST will probably be able to detect early supernova, however.

XDF is really about galaxies and not about the formation of the Universe itself. A major change in the Universe occurred from about a few hundred million years to 900 million years after the Big Bang. The change from neutral hydrogen to ionized hydrogen in the Universe and within the XDF time frame was most likely caused by the galaxies. XDF will not add significantly to cosmology, however.


Seeking Alpha