Handle is an impressive robot

According to the information on the YouTube website that had the video below, this impressive robot was made by Boston Dynamics:

Handle is a research robot that stands 6.5 ft tall, travels at 9 mph and jumps 4 feet vertically. It uses electric power to operate both electric and hydraulic actuators, with a range of about 15 miles on one battery charge. Handle uses many of the same dynamics, balance and mobile manipulation principles found in the quadruped and biped robots we build, but with only about 10 actuated joints, it is significantly less complex. Wheels are efficient on flat surfaces while legs can go almost anywhere: by combining wheels and legs Handle can have the best of both worlds.

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The great scientist you never heard of

The myth that Columbus proved that the world was round is not something that I encountered in my education in Sri Lanka. It seems to be a largely American creation, likely for all the reasons that cartomancer and jkrideau list. My first experience with hearing it was when one of the undergraduates in my class casually inserted it as an element in the argument he was making about something else, if it was the most obvious thing in the world. I stepped in to question him and was astounded in the ensuing discussion to find that quite a few members of the class believed the same thing. They said that they had learned it in elementary school.
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Measuring the circumference of the Earth, over 2000 years ago

One of the things that really annoy me is when some people say that it was Columbus who proved that the world was round. Not only did the peoples of the Mediterranean region know that it was round nearly two thousand years before that, one of them Eratosthenes of Cyrene (c. 276 BCE – c. 195/194 BCE) did a remarkably accurate job of calculating the circumference of the Earth.
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Film review: Arrival (2016)

I just watched this critically acclaimed film and have to admit that I was highly disappointed. The central plot line is something that really appealed to me, as to how the world might react if spaceships were to suddenly arrive on Earth. What would the extra-terrestrials look like? What might their intentions be towards us? How could we communicate to find out? What science and technology do they have that enables them to overcome the massive barriers to interplanetary, let alone interstellar, travel that we face? This is a topic that is a staple of science-fiction writers, in classics like Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End.
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If it tastes good, it is good

A couple of recent posts on tea (see here and here) generated lively discussions about the many myths surrounding how to make a good cup of tea. I have also in the past mentioned that there are a lot of similar myths surrounding wine, compounded in that case by an order of magnitude greater level of pretentious vocabulary surrounding the topic. One thing I have noticed is that people who fancy themselves as connoisseurs of tea or wine or anything else refuse to be swayed by studies that suggest that the fine distinctions they claim to detect have no objective basis. Persuading them otherwise seems to be harder than persuading religious believers that there is no god.
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A quick primer on the basic forces in physics

There was an interesting question posed by Marcus Ranum about the nature of the WIMPs (Weakly Interacting Massive Particles) that are being looked for as the constituents of dark matter, and which are proving to be so elusive. He wondered why their presence could not be detected via gravity since it was to explain the gravitational effects of galaxies that they were postulated in the first place. I thought the question merited a quick primer for those interested in understanding it in a little more depth.
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Dark matter continues to be elusive

A month ago, I had a post about how the search for dark matter was proving to be frustrating with one negative result after another, prompting increased speculation that an alternative theory might be necessary. The hope had been that experiments using more sensitive detectors might prove successful. But the LUX (Large Underground Xenon) experiment in a deep underground mine in South Dakota failed to find evidence of dark matter in the form of WIMPs (Weakly Interacting Massive Particles), the theoretically favored dark matter candidate. The abstract of the paper published on January 11, 2017 in Physical Review Letters says:
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“I’m not a robot”

Most of us are familiar with the CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) test that one sometimes has to complete to prove to some website that you are a human and not a bot seeking to impersonate one. Naturally this created the usual arms race between CAPTCHA and CAPTCHA-solving technology resulting in some of tests becoming quite tricky with the lettering highly distorted and with a cluttered background, presumably to fool computers. I have often failed it and had to redo the test.
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Evolution in almost real time

I thought I had shown the fascinating video below before but a search of my blog did not find it, suggesting that I meant to and forgot. It shows how in just eleven days bacteria can evolve to become resistant to high levels of antibiotics. As a visual demonstration of evolution it is dramatic. It is also frightening in that it shows how we need to be careful about the use of antibiotics since unnecessary use can help speed up the appearance of resistant strains of bacteria.
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