Episode 2: 11th-17th September 2011

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We sometimes get things appearing out of left field that proves to be thought provoking beyond its original purpose. And so it was with this video clip of David Byrne (lead singer of Talking Heads for those old enough to remember back that far) that a friend sent to me. In this 16 minute clip David discusses how music has been influenced by architecture. More specifically how musicians were influenced to write music that suited the building or environment they were going to be playing it in. He explores how this has been true from the time of classical music in earlier centuries, through to modern times. The Influence of Buildings | The Science of Architecture The Influence of Buildings | The Science of Architecture
Where’s my Robot? [Part 1] | Ariadne Robots have been a promise and a fear for the last century. Up till now robots have been used for what have been called the 3 D’s — Dull, Dirty and Dangerous work. Things like building cars, vacuuming, mining, chopping up carcasses, search & rescue, and joining the armed forces. But there are also robotic footballers, pool sharks, penguins, spiders (yay!) Where’s my Robot? [Part 1] | Ariadne
Where’s my Robot? [Part 2] | Ariadne Where’s my Robot? [Part 2] | Ariadne Part 1 looked at trends in Robotics. Here I consider some of the challenges, as well as provide more information on military robots. Challenges What is needed for robots to be valued and respected members of our world? As a non-specialist I see five main requirements:
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Other interesting things

- A sophisticated underground animal world existed 240 million years ago in Morocco. - Tunnels, chambers and other structures related to the early burrows suggest they provided escape from predators and weather extremes. - Stout, four-legged clawed animals likely built the Middle Triassic Era burrows, which pre-date dinosaurs. Long before dinosaurs, something was digging intricate homes and roads underground. While life on Earth 240 million years ago flourished in the seas and on land, the underground worlds discovered in Morocco are the oldest examples of such communal subterranean structures from a low-latitude area. The burrows, described in the latest issue of the journal Palaios, are the world's second-oldest known communal burrows. Pre-Dino Subterranean World Discovered Pre-Dino Subterranean World Discovered
If there’s a bright center to the Universe, astronomers have found the planet it’s farthest from. Called Kepler-16b, it’s a Saturn-like world which has the distinction of being the first discovered to orbit both Sun-like stars in a binary system. OK, Star Wars references aside, this is pretty cool. Astronomers discover a wretched hive of scum and villainy Astronomers discover a wretched hive of scum and villainy
PHD Comics Movie is coming, providing an inside view of science Earlier this year, graduate students suddenly found themselves deprived of a major source of procrastination when updates of the Piled Higher and Deeper (PHD) Comics suddenly reduced to trickles. The hiatus led to a widespread speculation that Jorge Cham, the creator of the comics, fell victim to (*gasp*) procrastinitis after advocating for the habit over many years through his worldwide speech tour titled "the Power of Procrastination." PhD Comics is a humorous and point-blank accurate take on the everyday struggles scientists face in grad school that are often hard to explain to people on the outside—like our parents. The comics earned their worldwide popularity soon after Jorge started writing them in 1997 for this exact reason—they finally gave us a way to laugh at ourselves for banging our heads against the lab benches and computer monitors. PHD Comics Movie is coming, providing an inside view of science
If you ask someone to guess the number of sweets in a jar, the odds that they’ll land upon the right number are low – fairground raffles rely on that inaccuracy. But if you ask many people to take guesses, something odd happens. Even though their individual answers can be wildly off, the average of their varied guesses tends to be surprisingly accurate. Knowledgeable individuals protect the wisdom of crowds | Not Exactly Rocket Science Knowledgeable individuals protect the wisdom of crowds | Not Exactly Rocket Science
Science Magazine: Sign In Science Magazine: Sign In Jellyfishes have functionally replaced several overexploited commercial stocks of planktivorous fishes. This is paradoxical, because they use a primitive prey capture mechanism requiring direct contact with the prey, whereas fishes use more efficient visual detection. We have compiled published data to show that, in spite of their primitive life-style, jellyfishes More Jellyfishes have functionally replaced several overexploited commercial stocks of planktivorous fishes.
If you've given any thought to the benefits of solar power, you've probably realized at least two things: You need to live in a sunny climate and, most importantly, you need to have your solar panels facing south. Without these things, the conventional wisdom goes, you're not going to get much benefit from a solar array. A west-facing roof in Seattle? Forget about it. But wait. Where Can You Put Solar Panels? Almost Anywhere You Want Where Can You Put Solar Panels? Almost Anywhere You Want
Polio in India: going, going, gone? Polio in India: going, going, gone? India, ravaged by polio like no other place on the planet, has seen only a single case this year, back in January. Although the global polio eradication effort is neither celebrating nor relenting, it may have already succeeded in eliminating polio from India. New detection of polio in India "would not be a surprise," cautions Oliver Rosenbauer, communications officer at World Health Organization, "and in fact, everyone is operating on the assumption that the likelihood of residual transmission still occurring somewhere is not unsubstantial." However, the greatest risk for such transmission may have passed.
One Per Cent: Stealth tank morphs to transmit QR codes Niall Firth, technology editor (Image: BAE Systems) They're more commonly seen on the side of drinks cans or on adverts to direct you to company websites. But now QR codes - the fuzzy squares of data that can be scanned with a smartphone - could be projected into the sides of tanks to send covert information, using only heat. Defence firm BAE Systems has developed a technology called Adaptiv, which uses hexagonal tiles that can change temperature to hide or even disguise a tank's infra-red signature.
Coffee binging ‘genetic’ “With caffeine impacting gene expression, we believe that caffeine then influences chemical pathways in the body." Image: salihguleriStockphoto As part of an international study, researchers from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) have identified a gene that plays a role in influencing how much coffee people drink. Dr Enda Byrne from QIMR said that coffee is the most popular beverage in the world and the study has shown there is a small genetic variant in the population that determines how people react to coffee and therefore explains why some people will consume coffee at higher levels and why others won’t drink it at all
Glowing transgenic cats could boost AIDS research - health - 11 September 2011 Three cats genetically modified to resist feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) have opened up new avenues for AIDS research. The research could also help veterinarians combat the virus, which kills millions of feral cats each year and also infects big cats, including lions. Prosaically named TgCat1, TgCat2 and TgCat3, the GM cats – now a year old – glow ghostly green under ultraviolet light because they have been given the green fluorescent protein (GFP) gene originating from jellyfish. The GM cats also carry an extra monkey gene, called TRIMCyp, which protects rhesus macaques from infection by feline immunodeficiency virus or FIV – responsible for cat AIDS. By giving the gene to the cats, the team hopes to offer the animals protection from FIV.
Nasa unveils most powerful rocket Last updated 06:40 15/09/2011 Nasa has unveiled plans for a mammoth deep-space rocket to carry astronauts to the moon, Mars and other destinations beyond the International Space Station. The rocket project would cost US$10 billion (NZ$12.2b) through until 2017, when the first test flight of the Space Launch System is scheduled to take place from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Another US$6 billion (NZ$7.32b) is allotted to building the Orion deep-space crew capsule, a holdover from the defunct Constellation moon exploration initiative canceled by the Obama administration. Nasa already has spent US$5 billion (NZ$6.1b) on Orion.
Last updated 10:54 16/09/2011 Australia and New Zealand have submitted an official bid to host the world's most powerful radio telescope, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). The SKA project would see up to 3000 individual radio telescopes spread across both countries, collecting spatial information from an area of a million square metres. It will allow scientists to look at radio waves throughout much of the universe, searching for things such as Earth-like planets, studying black holes and potentially looking back in time to see how the universe formed. Australian Innovation Minister Senator Kim Carr and New Zealand Economic Development Minister David Carter said hosting the telescope, which costs about $3 billion, would put both countries at the forefront of international science. "This is an amazing opportunity for Kiwis to be involved in a world-leading project that pushes the boundaries of scientific discovery," Carter said. Downunder bid for powerful radio telescope