A robot that walks like an ostrich designed to “be the standard for legged autonomy”

Cassie is a two-legged robot that walks like an ostrich. It was developed by Agility Robotics.

From Quartz:

The legs are only the beginning. Eventually, Cassie will get arms and sensors to help it better interact with the world, and to help it get up if it topples over. Cassie’s descendants—equipped perhaps with torsos and other body parts that make them a bit less terrifying—could be employed on delivery runs, search-and-rescue missions, or even as prosthetic limbs. Shelton says Agility wants Cassie to “be the standard for legged autonomy.”

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US-born NASA scientist was detained at the border until he unlocked his phone

Sidd Bikkannavar, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), still doesn't know why he was detained by US Customs and Border Patrol and compelled under duress to give agent's the access PIN to his NASA-owned mobile phone.

From The Verge:

Seemingly, Bikkannavar’s reentry into the country should not have raised any flags. Not only is he a natural-born US citizen, but he’s also enrolled in Global Entry — a program through CBP that allows individuals who have undergone background checks to have expedited entry into the country. He hasn’t visited the countries listed in the immigration ban and he has worked at JPL — a major center at a US federal agency — for 10 years. There, he works on “wavefront sensing and control,” a type of optics technology that will be used on the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope.


The officer also presented Bikkannavar with a document titled “Inspection of Electronic Devices” and explained that CBP had authority to search his phone. Bikkannavar did not want to hand over the device, because it was given to him by JPL and is technically NASA property. He even showed the officer the JPL barcode on the back of phone. Nonetheless, CBP asked for the phone and the access PIN. “I was cautiously telling him I wasn’t allowed to give it out, because I didn’t want to seem like I was not cooperating,” says Bikkannavar. “I told him I’m not really allowed to give the passcode; I have to protect access.

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PocketCHIP handheld Linux computer

Donald Bell of the Maker Project Lab checks out the PocketCHIP handheld Linux computer. It cost $69 and has a keyboard and color display. It's mainly for creating and playing games. Looks pretty cool! Read the rest

The Lotus Box - an extraordinary and surprising puzzle

How do you remove the hidden coin from the Lotus Box? Fleb knows!

Finding a copy of "The Lotus Box" will be difficult, as not many were made. Your best bet is to find a collector who has one they're willing to part with, or contact a specialty puzzle shop. I bought mine at Eureka Puzzles in Brookline, MA.

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Asking Alexa 50 questions

This entertaining video is a good way to learn what the Amazon Echo can do. Read the rest

RIP J.S.G. Boggs (1955-2017) - an artist who drew his own money

Artist J.S.G. Boggs died on January 22. He drew money and convinced people to accept it in exchange for products. He sold the receipts as his works of art. He didn't sell the bills themselves.

James Stephen George Boggs (born 1955) is an American artist, best known for his hand-drawn, one-sided depictions of U.S. banknotes (known as "Boggs notes") and his various "Boggs bills" he draws for use in his performances.

He spends his "Boggs notes" only for their face value. If he draws a $100 bill, he exchanges it for $100 worth of goods. He then sells any change he gets, the receipt, and sometimes the goods he purchased as his "artwork". If an art collector wants a Boggs note, he must track it down himself. Boggs will tell a collector where he spent the note, but he does not sell them directly.

[via] Read the rest

"Very Unfair!" Trump's tweets turned into emo song

From Tara at Dangerous Minds: "The folks at Super Deluxe noticed that Donald Trump’s tweets are super emo and turned his Twitter meltdowns into a perfectly shitastic emo song." Read the rest

Man knows it's not smart to crack an 80-foot bullwhip, does it anyway

Bryan Ropar of World of Science and Engineering says, "Well, that is by far one of the stupidest things I've ever done on my life." Read the rest

Curated list of good newsletters

I've been enjoying newsletters more than ever. This old-school form of communication has made a comeback, probably in response to the way Facebook controls the content you see. With a newsletter, there's no middleman filtering out the content.

A relatively new newsletter publishing service called Revue has launched a directory of its favorite newsletters. The newsletters they have selected are not necessarily published using Revue, which is a good move on their part. I'm happy they have included my own newsletter, Recomendo (a weekly newsletter that gives you 6 brief personal recommendations of cool stuff).

Here are some newsletters I really like: Quartz Daily Brief, 5-bullet Friday, The Intercept, WTF Just Happened Today?, Tofugu Thursday, and The Journal.

What newsletters do you subscribe to that you are excited to see appear in your email inbox? Read the rest

String of 100 LEDs for $11

These LED string lights are an easy way to add outdoor lighting. I just bought my third set. They are cheap - $11 for a 30-foot string of 100 lights. It includes a remote control to adjust the brightness or make the lights blink. They are strung onto what looks like very thin copper wire. At night, you can't really see the wire, just the lights. Read the rest

What a new house in Tokyo looks like

Life Where I'm From has a tour of a 4LDK (4 bedroom, living room, dining room, kitchen) in Tokyo. Cost is about $480,000. I love that magnetic door stopper, and the high tech toilet. Read the rest

Why humanity destroyed itself

The problem is in the architecture of the human brain. Read the rest

Breitbart interviews Sean Spicer: "Oh no, we're live now."

New York Magazine shared Breitbart's interview with White House press secretary Sean Spicer. It's glorious.

So much went wrong. There’s the uncomfortable silence at the open, the grade-school-level production values, and the nauseous look on reporter Charlie Sperling’s face. But those things are obvious. The real joy here are the Easter eggs, such as two of the four White House TVs playing President Trump’s most detested “fake news” channel, CNN.

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Google X engineer writes a bot that turns Trump's tweets into money for Planned Parenthood

Max Braun is the software lead for robotics at Google X. In his spare time he's written a bot that buys and shorts stocks based on Trump's tweets about publicly traded companies. The gains go to the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Resources Defense Council, and Planned Parenthood.

From his Medium post:

What if you wrote some code that constantly monitors Trump’s feed and analyzes each tweet for mentions of publicly traded companies? Then, you’d immediately trade the affected stocks based on the detected sentiment: buy if positive and short if negative. The whole thing could be 100% automated.

I just finished writing a bot which does exactly that. For your convenience, it also tweets out a summary as @Trump2Cash each time it springs into action.

Overall, the algorithm seems to succeed more often than not: The simulated fund has an annualized return of about 59% since inception. There are limits to the simulation and the underlying data, so take it all with a grain of salt.

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Use water beads to suspend things in a jar

Water beads look like fun. The clear ones almost disappear when submerged in water. Here's a gif of a guy who suspended a figurine in a jar using water beads:

Making Floating Glass Dolls

Amazon sells water beads by the pound for $7.60, which is enough to make 6 gallons of soaked beads. Read the rest

Children's science book instructs students to suffocate a kitten

Our Green World: Environment Studies is a children's textbook used in India. Some schools have removed one of the pages from the book because it has an experiment requiring students to kill a "small kitten."

From BBC:

The passage in Our Green World: Environment Studies is meant to demonstrate that air is essential for life. It reads: "Put a small kitten in each box. Close the boxes. After some time open the boxes. What do you see? The kitten inside the box without holes has died."

The book's publisher has promised it will not appear in the next edition, according to the Indian Express.

Parvesh Gupta of PP Publications said: "A parent had called us a couple of months ago and asked us to remove the text from the book because it was harmful for children. We recalled books from our distribution channel and will come out with a revised book next year."

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Pennsylvania senator to Trump: Come after me, you shit-gibbon

Earlier this week the president revealed that he supports civil asset forfeiture (of course he does) when he told a sheriff that he would "destroy" a state senator fighting to rein in civil asset forfeiture. Another state senator who opposes civil asset forfeiture, Daylin Leach of Pennsylvania, dared the president to try to destroy him, by tweeting: "Hey @realDonaldTrump I oppose civil asset forfeiture too! Why don't you try to destroy my career you fascist, loofa-faced, shit-gibbon!" Read the rest

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