Students at Missouri's Truman State University got a cool lesson in in a class about Leonardo da Vinci: a chance to turn his sketch for a self-supporting bridge into a working version. Read the rest
Why do shoelaces suddenly become untied? Mechanical engineer Oliver O'Reilly and his UC Berkeley colleagues have just published a scientific paper exploring this mystery of the ages. According to O'Reilly, understanding how simple knots work, and then don't, could lead to better knots for surgery, protect undersea optical networking cables from breaking, and enable more realistic animations of hair in computer graphics. From Nature:
The scientists expected that the knots would come undone slowly. But their slow-motion footage — focused on the shoelaces of a runner on a treadmill — showed that the knots rapidly failed within one or two strides. To figure out why, O’Reilly and his colleagues used an accelerometer on the tongue of a shoe to measure the forces acting on a knot. They found that when walking, the combined impact and acceleration on a shoelace totals a whopping 7 gs — about as much as an Apollo spacecraft on reentry to Earth’s atmosphere.
Further experiments demonstrated that simply stomping up and down wasn’t enough for a knot to fail; neither was swinging it back and forth. It took the interlaced effects of the two forces to undo the knot: the repeated impacts loosened it while the changes of direction pulled on the laces.
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For robots to make our lives easier, they'll need to work together. But how do we teach them teamwork? University of Southern California engineer Nora Ayanian studies how groups of robots, including flying drones, can be better collaborators and what the machines can teach humans about collaboration. Mark Frauenfelder and I interviewed Nora about robot collaboration in this episode of For Future Reference
, a new podcast from Institute for the Future:
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This nifty little device is used in a lot of larger greenhouses. Transplanting delicate seedlings used to be done by hand on long conveyor belts. One facility said it took 35 workers to do as much as the machine. Read the rest
Heavy rains on the west coast have caused rockslides like this behemoth blocking an Oregon highway south of Eugene. Oregon DOT set up a camera as they blasted it into manageable chunks.
Spoiler: it went way better than Oregon's exploding whale...
PS: here's the "blowed up real good" reference if you're scratching your head.
• 200-ton rock blown up on Oregon highway (The Oregonian) Read the rest
Behold, the Blue Marlin, a "semi-submersible heavy lift ship" that is capable of hoisting and transplanting other, full-sized ships (that is ships as big or bigger than a US Destroyer-class vessel) all around the oceans.
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When I saw the state of the Hyundai these guys found in the bush, I thought the clip was going to be a joke. Then they fix it with their axes. Mad props to Aboriginal Australian mechanics and Korean engineers. Read the rest
Fifty years ago, American Airlines' flight from New York to Los Angeles took 5 hours and 43 minutes. The same flight is 6 hours and 27 minutes today. Wendover Productions examines why planes don't fly faster in this interesting video. Read the rest
Self-driving cars can mean a number of different things, so the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration adopted a zero-to-5 scale of the types of automation created by SAE International, with level zero being non-autonomous. Generally: Read the rest
Maybe the 11Foot8 bridge or the 10Foot6 bridge could invest in these nifty signs to stop inattentive drivers from using a bridge to give their trucks a moon roof. Read the rest
Donald Trump has issued an executive order calling for a 1,000-mile-long wall on the US-Mexican border. The order allows for six months to survey all 1,000 miles before the groundbreaking.
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Hyperloop One engineers demonstrate the power of maglev using spinning arrays atop a copper plate. Despite weighing over 100 pounds, the gadget floats and could hold considerably more weight. Read the rest
A team of roboticists from Caltech and Urbana-Champaign have built a biomimetic "bat bot" that uses nine joints to deform a foot-wide wing membrane to achieve breathtaking aerial maneuvers.
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Running materials through a modified 3D printer to create sealed compartments can yield forms that change shape when inflated. MIT's Tangible Media Group demonstrates. Read the rest
Fort Bourtange is a 16th-century star fort that is now a museum. This drone footage captures the scope of the spectacular engineering feat. Read the rest
These three different egg-breaking and separating machines have slightly different tasks, but they are all equally hypnotic. Read the rest
Biomimicry in robotics has led to robots that can climb, fly, and swim better. Now researchers have developed hair-like filaments for robots that allow them to have more fine-grained senses of touch, sensing even forces as delicate as coming in contact with a piece of tissue. Read the rest