Science and Technology
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In a demonstration held at Honda's research facility in Tokyo, Asimo performed a variety of human tasks to demonstrate the technological developments made since the robot was last upgraded in 2005. The new Asimo has improved hands, allowing individual movement of each finger, which was proudly shown off as the humanoid opened a Thermos bottle and gracefully poured juice into a paper cup. As well as being able to walk over bumps, Asimo can also jog faster, beating his previous top speed of just under 4mph with a new record of 5.7mph. Demonstrating new levels of intelligence, the childlike robot was also able to distinguish the voices of three people spoken at once, using face recognition and sound analysis. The technological showcase went some way to answer critics of the project, first unveiled in 2000, who argue that Asimo has little practical use and is nothing more than a vanity project for the Japanese car manufacturer.
Most bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics such as penicillin, discovered decades ago. However, such drugs are useless against viral infections, including influenza, the common cold, and deadly hemorrhagic fevers such as Ebola. Now, in a development that could transform how viral infections are treated, a team of researchers at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory has designed a drug that can identify cells that have been infected by any type of virus, then kill those cells to terminate the infection. The microscope images above show that DRACO successfully treats viral infections. In the left set of four photos, rhinovirus (the common cold virus) kills untreated human cells (lower left), whereas DRACO has no toxicity in uninfected cells (upper right) and cures an infected cell population (lower right).
Getting into space is one of the harder tasks to be taken on by humanity. The present cost of inserting a kilogram (2.2 lb) of cargo by rocket into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) is about US$10,000. A manned launch to LEO costs about $100,000 per kilogram of passenger. But who says we have to reach orbit by means of rocket propulsion alone? Instead, imagine sitting back in a comfortable magnetic levitation (maglev) train and taking a train ride into orbit.
The new planet is more dense than anything observed before, and is made almost entirely of carbon. Because the molecules are so tightly packed together, researchers calculate that it must be crystalline in nature, making it effectively diamond. The study was led by Professor Matthew Bailes of Swinburne University of Technology in Australia and published in the journal Science.
Cleverbot wins Machine Intelligence Prize Cambridge, 15th December 2010