Disney is looking to implement drones into its theme parks

Disney is looking to implement drones into its theme parks

Disney has a long history of using advanced animatronics and high technology for its shows and theme’s park, but some of the entertainment company’s new patents mean anything, Disney could be taking things to the next level by using drones as floating TV screens and animatronic puppet masters. Each patent outlines uses for swarms of small, synchronized quadcopters or multicopters, which could either enhance or fully replace the company’s existing light shows, fireworks displays, and parade balloons.

The first two patents outline different methods for producing light shows, the first of which uses large, flexible screens that are lifted into the air by small, remote-controlled craft. These screens would be large projection surfaces that are made out of mesh that would allow wind to flow through them. Or drones to produce their own images using loosely woven strips of LEDs. The drones would be able to detect each other and work together in unison, according to a central program.

The second method would use swarms of small drones that are each equipped with a light and act as “floating pixels”. These drones would be able to change the color of their lights as needed which would enable an operator to program them to make picture or abstract displays that look like fireworks. While this certainly isn’t the first time that a company has tried something like this, Disney is trying to add enough specificity to warrant a patent.

Read more about the story at Market Watch.

North Carolina researchers are developing remote controlled cyborg moths

North Carolina researchers are developing remote controlled cyborg moths

Researchers from North Carolina State University have published a study which shows how their goal to create cyborg moths, also called “biobot” moths, have progressed. It is hoped that these biobots will be able to be controlled electronically, such as remotely adjusting the flight muscles for the cyborg moths.

“In the big picture, we want to know whether we can control the movement of moths for use in applications such as search and rescue operations,” said Doctor Alper Bozkurt, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State and co-author of the study. “The idea would be to attach sensors to moths in order to create a flexible, aerial sensor network that can identify survivors or public health hazards in the wake of a disaster.”

The study details the techniques that the research team has developed for affixing a series of electrodes to the thorax of a moth pupa, at a stage in the insect’s life cycle where it is metamorphosing into an adult moth. Doctor Bozkurt, working alongside Doctor Amit Lal of Cornell University, used electromyographic signals to understand exactly how the moth’s muscles were used mid-flight, with different electrical signals responsible for coordinating different sets of muscles.

“By watching how the moth uses its wings to steer while in flight, and matching those movements with their corresponding electromyographic signals, we’re getting a much better understanding of how moths maneuver through the air,” Bozkurt said. “We’re optimistic that this information will help us develop technologies to remotely control the movements of moths in flight. That’s essential to the overarching goal of creating biobots that can be part of a cyberphysical sensor network.”

Read more about the story at Discovery.


Scientists have confirmed the presence of life beneath Antarctica

Scientists have confirmed the presence of life beneath Antarctica

Half a mile beneath the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, deep within and underground lake, scientists have discovered a diverse ecosystem of mineral-eating, single-celled organisms that managed to survive, and thrive, despite the fact that they have never seen the light of the sun.

There were earlier claims of similar microbes that were drawn from a different Antarctic lake, said the authors of the new study published in Nature, but these claims were controversial due to the fact that the samples had been contaminated, a problem which was avoided with these most recent samples thanks to especially careful drilling techniques.

“It’s the real deal,” said Peter Doran, an Earth scientist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who was not involved in the study. “There was news that they found life early this year, but a bunch of us were waiting for the peer reviewed paper to come out before we jumped for joy.”

This finding has concluded an effort that spanned a few years to confirm the presence of life below the coldest, driest continent on Earth. The scientific community considers the implications of this study nothing short of profound, potentially reshaping how medications are made and even human understanding of how life survives in other extreme environments, be they in Earth or in outer space.

“Our report in Nature is indeed the first time the presence of life has been confirmed beneath the Antarctic ice sheet,” says John Priscu, chief scientist for Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling, or WISSARD, which made the discovery. “There’s unknown organisms, pharmaceuticals we can search out, food preservatives, things of that nature. There’s a lot of stuff down there, a lot of biological material we never knew about.”

Read more about the story at Smithsonian.

Neanderthals co-existed with humans for far longer than expected

Neanderthals co-existed with humans for far longer than expected

Modern humans and our heavy-browed relatives, the Neanderthals, co-existed in Europe for around ten times longer than was previously though, a new study suggests. The most comprehensive dating of Neanderthal bones and tools that has ever been carried out has come to the conclusion that the two species lived s-de-by-side for up to 5,000 years.

Using new carbon dating techniques and advanced mathematical models, researchers have examined around two-hundred samples that were found scattered at forty sites all across Europe, from the Iberian Peninsula to Western Russia. The researchers concluded with a reasonable degree of certainty that pockets of Neanderthal culture survived until between 41,030 and 39,260 years ago.

“We believe we now have the first robust timeline that sheds new light on some of the key questions around the possible interactions between Neanderthals and modern humans,” said Thomas Higham, an archaeologist at the University of Oxford who led the study. “I think we can set aside the idea of a rapid extinction of Neanderthals caused solely by the arrival of modern humans. Instead we can see a more complex process in which there is a much longer overlap between the two populations where there could have been exchanges of ideas and culture.”

This new information puts the disappearance of Neanderthals earlier than was previously thought, but it also supports that idea that they live alongside humans, who arrived in Europe between 43,000 and 45,000 years ago. While these is evidence that modern humans contain some surviving Neanderthal genes in their DNA, which suggests that at least some interbreeding took place, scientists still aren’t sure how extensive the contact between the two species was, or the reasons behind the disappearance of the Neanderthals.

“These new results confirm a long-suspected chronological overlap between the last Neanderthals and the first modern humans in Europe,” said Jean-Jacques Hublin, director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, who wasn’t involved in the study.

Read more about the story at National Geographic.



Sea plankton has been discovered on the surface of the ISS

Sea plankton has been discovered on the surface of the ISS

Scientists who were examining samples that were take taken from the exterior of the International Space Station (ISS) have made a rather unexpected discovery, according to Russian space officials. Apparently traces of marine plankton and various other microbes were found growing on the surface of the space station’s illuminators. Even more astonishing is that they may have been leaving there for several years.

The discovery was made after ISS cosmonauts took samples from the space station’s exterior during a routine spacewalk around the satellite. The samples were later analyzed by high-precision equipment, where scientists were able to confirm that these organisms are capable of living in space despite being in an environment that is harsher than nearly any on Earth. What’s most intriguing, however, is that some of the studies demonstrated that the organisms could even develop in the vacuum of space.

“Results of the experiment are absolutely unique,” chief of the Russian ISS orbital mission Vladimir Solovyev told ITAR-TASS. “Plankton in such phases of development is found on the surface of the ocean. It isn’t characteristic to Baikonur,” Solovyev explained, referring to the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan where crew and cargo are launched for the ISS. “It turns out that there are some rising air currents, which settle on the surface of the station.”

Read more about the story at CNET.


AT&T has decked out the AT&T Stadium with some awesome features

AT&T has decked out the AT&T Stadium with some awesome features

As the Dallas Cowboys prepare for their first pre-season game, AT&T has released some information regarding the improvements that the company has made to the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, home of the Cowboys.

One of the most noticeable improvements that the company has made is the 130-foot LED display that consists of 40 mirrored displays. The digital display is interactive and will allow fans, who are using the designated mobile app, to see their photos on the big screen.

The Dallas Cowboys have also been working with AT&T for the past year to double the stadium’s cellular and Wi-Fi networks so that fans will be able to upload their photos and videos to social media and make purchases more quickly. The cellular network in the stadium alone is enough to connect a small town.

Officials have said that the new app and touch-screen video boards will bring unprecedented interactivity to fans, allowing them to fill the stadium with pulsing lights in order to help cheer their team on, as well as allowing them to take a more active role in what happens on the field.

“When we set out to design and build AT&T Stadium, we knew we had an opportunity to do something special,” said Charlotte Jones Anderson, the Cowboys’ executive vice president and chief brand officer. “This venue was meant to be a destination. We really wanted to build an architectural icon that would be recognized and respected around the world for its modern architecture, its contemporary design, its capacity, its engineering and its technology. What we really wanted to do was represent innovation.”

Read more about the story at Techno Buffalo.





Google is coating its underwater cables with Kevlar to fend of sharks

Google is coating its underwater cables with Kevlar to fend of sharks

You wouldn’t think that sharks would be a threat to underwater fiber-optic cables, but Google believes that it’s a serious concern, serious enough that the tech company will be wrapping the wires of its Trans-Pacific cable system in a Kevlar-like material to prevent them from being damaged by sharks, a spokesperson for the company recently disclosed.

For unknown reasons, sharks have the tendency to bite fiber-optic cables far more than old-fashioned coaxial copper wires. According to a report by United Nations Environment Program and the International Cable Protection Committee, sharks can see electromagnetic fields and it’s possible that sharks are “encouraged by electromagnetic fields from a suspended cable strumming in currents”.

According to their report: “Fish, including sharks, have a long history of biting cables as identified from teeth embedded in cable sheathings. Barracuda, shallow- and deep-water sharks and others have been identified as causes of cable failure. Bites tend to penetrate the cable insulation, allowing the power conductor to ground with seawater. Attacks on telegraph cables took place mainly on the continental shelf and continued into the coaxial era until 1964. Thereafter, attacks occurred at greater depths, presumably in response to the burial of coaxial and fiber- optic cables on the shelf and slope. Coaxial and fiber-optic cables have attracted the attention of sharks and other fish. The best-documented case comes from the Canary Islands, where the first deep-ocean fiber-optic cable failed on four occasions as a result of shark attacks in water depths of 3,478 to 6,234 feet.”

Read more about the story at The Huffington Post.

This will be the first satellite to private high-resolution images to the public

This will be the first satellite to private high-resolution images to the public

Back in June, the United States government relaxed its previously strict regulations on high-definition satellite imaging, which enabled mapping services such as Google Maps to greatly improve the quality of their images.

DigitalGlobe was the leader in the charge to change the United States ruling due in large part to its upcoming Worldview-3 satellite, which will be the first satellite to provide high-resolution photos of our planet to the public.

Both Google and Microsoft are DigitalGlobe customers, and therefore will likely benefit from this advanced space imaging. The level of detail that the Worldview-3 satellite will provide is quite stunning, as it will capture sub-50cm resolution, allowing clear views of “manholes and mailboxes”.

The Worldview-3 is going to offer the highest commercially available resolution of any satellite system out there. Combining that with the power of our constellation, which gives multiple visits per day over multiple hours of the day, means the ability to monitor what’s going on and enabling our defense and intelligence customers to make decisions on the basis of fact than the basis of fear,” said Walter Scott, founder and CTO of DigitalGlobe.

The Worldview-3 will be operating around 383 miles above Earth, which makes the level of detail it can provide all the more impressive. The insanely high resolution will, according to the company, allow the satellite to see through smoke and even identify moisture content and other materials.

Read more about the story at Engadget.

9-year-old Florida boy wins a fight with an alligator

9-year-old Florida boy wins a fight with an alligator

A nine-year-old boy from Saint Cloud, Florida is recovering in the hospital after having been attacked by a 9-foot, 400-pound alligator while swimming in East Lake Tohopekaliga. It was an experience that James Barney Jr. described as, unsurprisingly, the scariest moment of his life.

Barney was swimming in the lake when he felt something big brush up against him. Shortly after, he felt a strong tug which then turned into a sharp pain on his backside. Barney quickly realized that he had been bitten by a large alligator. What was the young boy’s reaction? He beat the crap out of the alligator and then pried its jaws open with his hands.

“First I thought someone was just playing with me and I didn’t know what happened. I reached down to go grab it and I felt its jaw, I felt its teeth,” Barney said. “I just immediately hit it and I let it go a little so I pry its jaw open”.

Upon freeing himself from the alligator’s jaws, Barney cried for help and was quickly pulled out by people nearby. One of his friends then called 911 to report the attack and call for medical assistance. Barney suffered three superficial bites as well as about 30 teeth and claw marks on his back, stomach, and legs.

Doctor Ross Morgan, a pediatric surgeon at the Arnold Palmer Hospital who treated Barney, said the alligator’s teeth marks could be clearly seen on the boy’s back when he was brought into the emergency room. “He’s got quite a few bites as if the alligator bit him several times,” Morgan said. “It looked like it was trying to get a hold on him.”

Read more about the story at The Guardian.

US Army looks to 3D printing to make military rations more convenient

US Army looks to 3D printing to make military rations more convenient

Scientists at the Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center (NSRDEC) in Massachusetts are currently researching ways that the United States Army could utilize 3D printers to create meals and rations for American soldiers.

“It could reduce costs because it could eventually be used to print food on demand,” food technologist Mary Scerra tells Army Technology Magazine. “For example, you would like a sandwich, where I would like ravioli. You would print what you want and eliminate wasted food.”

Research into 3D-printed food isn’t exactly new, scientists have been working on ways to feed astronauts using 3D-printing techniques, but the technology does have a few unique benefits for deployed soldiers.

For starters, meals could be custom made for individuals in order to ensure that they receive the specific nutrients that their body needs. Soldiers who are suffering from a particular deficiency would be able to have a meal that is made specifically for their body.

Researchers are also investigating how the technology could also be used to increase the shelf life of rations, which currently have a life span of about three years. Equipping soldiers with 3D printers could also potentially reduce the cost of importing food into combat zones.

“The technologies may or may not originate at NSRDEC, but we will advance them as needed to make them suitable for military field feeding needs,’ said food technologist Lauren Oleksyk. “We will do what we can to make them suitable for both military and commercial applications.”

There is, as of yet, no specific dates to suggest when 3D printers could actually be used by soldiers. If this technology ever does makes its way to the battlefield, it would make military meals much more convenient, but probably won’t do much to make the meals more palatable. Scientists have described the 3D-printed food as a “nutrient-dense, shelf-stable product”. Doesn’t sound very appetizing.

Read more about the story at Motherboard.