Popcorn Powered Robots

Robots have always been a futuristic phenomenon, and their production is conventionally viewed as technological and scientific advancements. There are many popular applications where Robots have proven their efficiency and productivity, like in healthcare, manufacturing, military and more. However, traditionally the importance has been placed on what tasks robots can do for us; like drive our cars, clean our floors or even give us extra limbs. But what can power their abilities.

Remember when we were engrossed in devouring popcorns while enjoying the theatrical experience at the movies? Steve Ceron came up with a genius idea of using the same popcorns we eat for a much bigger purpose at Cornell’s Collective Embodied Intelligence Lab.

With his team of researchers, Ceron drafted a paper explaining how simple robots can be powered by Popcorn without electricity or hydraulics, at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation. Yes, it’s true! In this ultra-modern era, it has become commonplace that we come across strange yet astounding developments in the sci-fi field and a popcorn robot is exactly that. The engineers from Cornell University demonstrated their hypothesis. Inside a silicon beam that was fastened with toasted wire, they put 36 kernels. An electrical current was dispersed through the metal chord, warming up the kernels which eventually started popping due to the heat, moving the silicon.

Popcorn has distinct features that include being readily available, cheap, and having the ability to expand in terms of the shape and size when heated. This invention could potentially be a stepping stone towards overall soft robots, but could also be utilized for a wider use. Ceron suggests that this invention’s long-term benefits are manifold; ranging from its ability to complete basic transportation, to serving as an inexpensive building block through which biodegradable structures can be made. He asserts that it can even function as a viable alternative to spray foam.

To claim popcorn robots will take over the world is not a coherent argument to make at this point. While they can hold objects and lift relatively lighter weights by expanding, there are certain limitations to achieving tasks beyond their ability. The engineers accomplished this by creating a claw where its “fingers” or insides were lined with raw kernels and a heating wire. As soon as the kernels burst open, they wield tension on the sleeve, holding them in a process that is similar to tense muscles. Given that the production is exceptionally cheap, deploying many of these robots will pave the way for a wide range of applications across various fields.

One can claim that the future looks bright, fluffy and delightful as researchers are now integrating food into Science and increasing the scope for similar innovations.

Energy from Black Holes

Commonly known as a space phenomenon that sucks everything into a central singularity, black holes can emit radiation. Even though a typical perception paints an uncongenial representation of black holes, relativity’s general theory gives an extraordinary prediction. The theory of Einstein envisages black holes as an efficient and enormous source of untapped energy.

Unarguably, the most enigmatic celestial object, black holes, are now believed to be energy powerhouses. For several decades, astrologists and scientists have contributed to decrypting the mystery of black holes. Roger Penrose discovered that the development of black holes is a prediction of the theory of relativity. Stephen Hawking theorized the entire phenomenon “Hawking Radiation.”

Energy and space colonization

Populating space might be the highest frontier that humans have ventured on. The vision of large, manned habitats on the moon and or elsewhere in the solar system has so far been science fiction. However, new research hints towards the realization of the ultimate fantasy of every astrophysicist. According to a study at Colombia University and Universidad Adolfo Ibanez in Chile, the energy from black holes could be extracted through the charged plasma particles. These particles could be harvested right before the event horizon to extract that energy.

Luca Comisso, the research scientist at Colombia University, proposed the acceleration of plasma particles to negative energy, resulting in the possible extraction of black hole energy. The theory makes black holes the endless source of energy for possible colonization in deep space. The discovery makes it easier for astronomers to formulate accurate estimations and theories regarding the spin and emissions of black holes.

As far as the theory goes, human habitats in space seem like a reality. Asenjo, the coauthor of the study, postulated that energy extraction is possible because of the high relative velocity between captured and escaping plasma particle streams. Plasma energization is known to produce maximum efficiency due to the black holes “leak energy”. Leak energy is an accumulation of negatively charged particles in black holes reducing energy. Comisso’s theory is subjected to the polarity of the plasma shot against the spin of the black hole and not with the spin of the black hole.

Can the future have a celestial realization?

The discovery of black hole energy might just help us claim life in space. Researchers always believed that humans need watery bodies to survive and live; but the potential of black hole energy is changing the dynamics of life in space.

Human-made Biomass outweighs everything

Recent reports have revealed the massive impact of human beings on planet earth, as man-made products surpass all that exists in the world confirming the creation of a new geologic epoch called the Anthropocene.

Human Beings often hid behind the “we are just specks” in a greater galaxy when it came to the impact of their doings on the planet. However, a recent paper by Nature has revealed that global humanmade stuff now outweighs all living biomass.

From roads, smartphones, buildings, chairs, telephones to bricks, blocks and bottles, have now dominated most of the Earth. According to the stats, the humanmade mass totals up to 1.1 million metric tons. This amount means that biomass created by men now dominates most of the Earth, a result caused by modern development to urban society.

Plastic alone acquires more space than marine and terrestrial animals, statistically, double the weight. Whereas buildings and other infrastructure have surpassed shrubs and trees. In simpler words, the material created by man has become the dominant force in 2020 and will continue to do so. Thus, human beings may not be just a trivial speck anymore. Now that we are the principal force, it shows the power that we hold. With this power, human beings also become responsible for the resulting consequences.

“We cannot hide behind the feeling that we’re just a small species, one out of many,” says study co-author Ron Milo.

Human-made biomass from 1900 – Present

Scientists say that this increase was bound to happen at some time. However, the process of expansion of humanmade products sped up after 1900. In 1900, the Earth made up only 3% of the humanmade biomass, which means that the materials have doubled up within the gap of 20 years. The scientists say that most of the construction is in infrastructure, concrete, and asphalt used between World War II and the oil crisis of 1973. That was the time when first-world countries were actively building new estate.

In 2020, we are living in a reality that is much closer to Anthropocene. A new geological epoch where the humans are the dominant force, and that actions of every living person is driving the changes.

“It is an indication that, indeed, the transition happened and the name is appropriate,” Milo says

What it means for the future

The increase of humanmade biomass is not unexpected. However, the decrease of the total biomass on Earth is a cause for concert. The research shows that total biomass on Earth has declined about 1100 billion tons since the year 1900. This decline could be attributed to deforestation and extinction. In this case, the increase in manufactured products made by man is somewhat problematic for human health. If the speed with which mass is increased in 2020 persists, the humanmade products will increase three times more by 2040, eventually turning into waste and a threat to human life.

How does a Graphene battery compare to Lithium-ion battery

Tech-savvies believe that we’d genuinely be futuristic when we have easy access to Graphene batteries. A battery may sound like a simple thing to many, but Graphene batteries could change the game forever.

Scientists say that Graphene batteries will genuinely create a futuristic society where your devices can run up to days and weeks without charging.

A Graphene Battery in a nutshell

Packed together in a honeycomb structure, graphene is a carbon atom composition that has a thick two-dimensional atomic layer. The 2D structure of this composition allows graphene to be highly flexible, stalwart, and light in weight, as well as offer exceptional electrical and thermal conductivity that is even better than that of copper – an element that is known to be most conducive.

Graphene battery vs your regular battery 

The battery that we use in our portable devices is made with lithium-ion, also known as Li-ion. A lithium-ion battery has a similar structure to a graphene battery. Both the batteries have two conductive plates coated in an electrolyte solution, but the characteristics of both batteries differ on a considerable margin.

As mentioned earlier, graphene’s electrical and heat conductivity is higher than the most conducive element copper. Thus, it’s conductivity surpasses that of Lithium-ion as well. As a result, a device can be charged a lot faster as current travels more quickly. This high conductivity also extends the life span of a battery as they cool down faster.

A regular battery’s charging rate doesn’t remain consistent throughout its lifetime. A lithium-ion battery starts faster, tires out, and then delivers slower current, reducing the rate of charging. On the other hand, a Graphene battery offers linear charging rates, which means that this type of battery doesn’t tire out.

“Graphene batteries can make batteries charge faster and dissipate heat more effectively. This has big implications. It means power tools don’t overheat as quickly. It means home appliances serve families better, and for longer. And it eventually means [electric cars] can charge faster.” Chip Breitenkamp, VP of business development at the graphene battery company said.

Most importantly, Graphene batteries are safe. The incidents of smartphones burning up, overheating, and damage due to overcharging are overly familiar. Users can avoid these unfortunate events by opting for Graphene Batteries instead. There’s virtually no chance of overheating Graphene batteries as they are more robust than lithium-ion ones.

A Rare Commodity – Water Makes It To WSJ Futures Commodity

Water is all set to join the expensive commodities on earth like gold and oil on Wallstreet futures commodity. In an unexpected turn of events, water now sits next to the rare-valued items. 

 

Wallstreet futures commodity is a separate section where people in the relevant fields can bet on the price and worth of an item in the future. Earlier, rarities such as gold, copper, and diamonds acquired several spots. However, with water running scarce in many parts of the world, the Wallstreet Journal has added this to their futures commodity. 

 

This addition will allow the farmers, investors, and municipalities to bet on the worth of water in future. As water becomes a rare commodity for many, investors took this opportunity to bet on it by adding it to futures rare materials. CME Group launched the contract, which is tied to $1.1 B of California spot water market, according to Bloomsburg. 

 

The contracts were laid out in September, whereas the trading began on December 7. During the month of September, when the contract was initially laid out, California was experiencing high temperatures, long drought and scarcity of water. The deficiency of water in a developed country only hinted at more dangers to come across the world. 

 

Netizens are raging over Wallstreet journals’ addition of water into their betting services, as it may have a significant impact on prices of water in future. For example, in dry areas where water may be expensive during summers, people can offset the cost on futures commodity to reset the rates of water. However, this can work the other way around as well in order to reduce rates of water.

 

Patrick Wolf, the lead product developer with Nasdaq Global indexes, told CNN that this could be used for a good cause as well, as the contract will bring transparency to market pricing whenever water became scarce. 

 

“California has long periods of dry conditions followed by short periods of very wet conditions. And that affects the price a lot,” Patrick Wolf said. 

 

A report revealed by food and agriculture organization confirmed that around 1.2 B people in the world are experiencing a high level of water shortage. Another report confirmed the scarcity by revealing that the availability of freshwater resources per person has decreased by more than 20% in the past twenty years. 

 

“Climate change, droughts, population growth, and pollution are likely to make water scarcity issues and pricing a hot topic for years to come,” RBC Capital Markets managing director and analyst Deane Dray told Bloomsberg

 

Despite the rage and anger, it is a moment of truth of human beings. Water is becoming increasingly scarce in different parts of the world due to repetitive droughts, dry weather due to global warming, and heat. As the earth is ageing, the impact of human activities is speeding up the process of natural damage to the Earth, resulting in droughts and bad weather conditions.

 

Touching the VR world with gloves on

The world of virtual reality is becoming more real each day. Most recently, researchers from Cornell University have created a glove that makes touching through VR a reality.

Technological developments in 2020 are firing on all cylinders. There is something new coming up each day, but nobody thought that virtual reality could get any more real than it already is.

Researchers disagree. They are making VR more immersive.

With new developments in VR, you could actually pick up an object and feel it in your hands. Thanks to Cornell University researchers who have designed a sensor that tracks the movement of your hands. The primary purpose of this development is to make virtual reality more tactical and immersive as users can slide on this glove, and feel the objects.

Fibre-optic sensors on Cornell Researchers’ Glove

Many scientists and researchers have been trying to add a physical experience to a somewhat robotic world. All of their experiments included either haptic sensors or mechanical wires. This one particular creation of Cornell researchers has stretchable fibre optic sensors that sit on top of your hand like a spider web.

Silica-based distributed fibre-optic sensor (DFOS) systems are a renowned tool for sensing stress, pressure, vibration, warmth, and moisture. This glove has a stretchable fibre-optic sensor that extends to the length of your fingers, with tips lit up with LED lights. The current framework is pretty simple with bands wrapped around fingers, a battery attached on the wrist, Bluetooth and some basic circuits.

Sensors on these gloves bend with the movement of fingers, making the whole experience as closer to reality as it can get. It may sound impressive, but this feature is not the hero of the show. It is the fibre optics that allow the user to feel the force, pressure, and stress caused by the movements.

Right now, sensing is done mostly by vision. We hardly ever measure touch in real life. This skin is a way to allow ourselves and machines to measure tactile interactions in a way that we currently use the cameras in our phones. It’s using vision to measure touch. This is the most convenient and practical way to do it in a scalable way.” Lead researcher Rob Shepherd said.

A VR glove may sound fun, but it can serve a much essential purpose. Researchers believe that fibre optic glove will make soft robots more efficient. Machines and robots can contribute more than ever to the advancement of the world through VR.

The creators are currently developing the product further and analyzing how it can help in the world of medicine, physical therapy, and sports.