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Watch a Robot Shaped Like Pasta Escape a Maze – CNET

A robot that looks like a piece of rotini pasta can propel itself through a maze without humans helping it. 

Researchers from North Carolina State University and the University of Pennsylvania developed these “soft robots” that can find their way around complex environments and detailed their findings in a paper published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The new design for the robots is important because it could assist in gathering thermal energy from natural environments by rolling on the ground. 

The pasta-shaped bots don’t rely on computer signals to dictate their movements. Instead, they use a kind of robot muscle memory called physical intelligence, which means that “structural design and smart materials are what allow the soft robot to navigate various situations, as opposed to computational intelligence,” said Jie Yin, NC State associate professor and one of the paper’s authors.

Watch below as a soft robot twists around the walls of a maze to freedom.

The robots are made from liquid crystal elastomers, a plastic-like material with heat-sensitive properties that are key to the robot’s movement. The material the robots are made from is shaped like a ribbon, then twisted into a pasta shape. 

First, the robot is placed on a surface that’s heated to at least 55 degrees Celsius (131 degrees Fahrenheit). This temperature is generally hotter than the air around it. Once the robot touches the surface, it contracts. The part of the robot that’s not touching the surface doesn’t contract. This imbalance causes the robot to roll. If the surface grows hotter, the robot rolls faster. 

Yin said this method of auto propulsion has been done before, using smooth-sided rods. But using that shape has a drawback: the rod gets stuck in place and just spins around. “The soft robot we’ve made in a twisted ribbon shape is capable of negotiating these obstacles with no human or computer intervention whatsoever,” Yin said.

The researchers solved the problem of moving around obstacles by creating a spiral shape. If the end of the robot hits an object, the robot just rotates around it. If the middle of the robot comes in contact with an object, it “snaps” in a rapid release of stored energy that makes the robot jump and reorient before it lands.

In this way, the robot functions like a robot vacuum used in homes, Yin said, “except the soft robot we’ve created draws energy from its environment and operates without any computer programming.”

Why is this design important? According to Yin, it could provide insight into how we can make soft robots that can harvest heat energy from natural environments and navigate complex areas like the surface of harsh deserts. 

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‘Two years was like a death sentence for me’: Zimbabwean drug mule recalls her time in an Indian prison – New Zimbabwe.com

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By Lenin Ndebele I News24.com

  • An appetite for fast money and a life of luxury lures women into the drug mule trade.
  • While jailed abroad, some take up work to raise money for their flights back home.
  • They hide their drug mule operations from close family member for security reasons.

Despite Asia’s tough stance on drug trafficking, some African women risk it all for the money.

News24 caught up with a former Zimbabwean drug mule who found herself jailed in India in 2015 after security officials at Cochin International Airport in the city of Kochi flagged her luggage.

Cynthia Mpunga, 42, ended up spending two years in jail because of ephedrine contraband. Even though it is an over-the-counter drug in some countries, it’s illegal in India.

On that fateful day, she was moving a consignment that had a street value of aboutUS$1.4 million.

She would have received a whopping US$450 for her troubles, besides accommodation, flights, food and other benefits.

She said:

My family back home was worried. They thought I was held in a dungeon where, probably, there was no one I could speak to in English [while] living in a confined cell. All the scary things you can imagine were on their minds.

When she was taken into custody, she went through a court process while in prison.

“Two years was like a death sentence for me, but when I got into prison, I saw life differently. I took up jobs while inside. I used to clean, and with basic sewing experience, I also did some work with fabrics.

“Like other prisoners doing jobs, I earned a decent stipend. That money was deposited into our accounts monthly. One could withdraw and buy whatever you desired to use after your jail time,” she said.

When the two years were over, all she could think of was her daughter, who was only two years old when she was arrested.

The case of Lesedi Molapisi, 30, a Botswana woman who is awaiting trial after she was arrested in Bangladesh for possession of drugs, brought back memories for Mpunga.

Mpunga was drawn into the industry by a South African woman who she didn’t want to name for security reasons.

She said:

The idea of travelling the world and earning money that even some professionals don’t take home was enticing. The routine looked pretty simple because, in some cases, you are assured that there’s someone on the lookout for you.

She had been to India five times in the space of three months before, and that aroused suspicions. Officials usually go through previous passport stamps.

“The money was good, and the more jobs, the better, but one forgets that it’s a red flag. Like they say, high risks, high returns. That’s what was on my mind,” she added.

For security reasons, drug mules keep their jobs a secret. They usually hide their travel documents from their families and their itineraries.

“You hide such things from your husband or loved ones. They shouldn’t even see your passport, and when travelling, you don’t disclose [things],” she added.

For Mpunga, her arrest in India was the second time she had to be detained for a drug offence in the same year.

The first time was earlier in the year in Botswana at Sir Seretse Khama International Airport. She had arrived in Gaborone from India, via Kenya.

She said:

My luggage was 20kg of an illicit substance. I spent two months in jail there and later paid a P10 000 fine, and I was released.

She was also banned from entering Botswana for 10 years.

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Entertainment news

FIRE-3: Updated stellar evolution models, yields, & microphysics and fitting functions for applications in galaxy simulations – Oxford Academic

Philip F Hopkins, Andrew Wetzel, Coral Wheeler, Robyn Sanderson, Michael Y Grudić, Omid Sameie, Michael Boylan-Kolchin, Matthew Orr, Xiangcheng Ma, Claude-André Faucher-Giguère, Dušan Kereš, Eliot Quataert, Kung-Yi Su, Jorge Moreno, Robert Feldmann, James S Bullock, Sarah R Loebman, Daniel Anglés-Alcázar, Jonathan Stern, Lina Necib, Caleb R Choban, Christopher C Hayward, FIRE-3: Updated stellar evolution models, yields, & microphysics and fitting functions for applications in galaxy simulations, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 2022;, stac3489, https://doi.org/10.1093/mnras/stac3489

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NASA’s Viking 1 may have landed at the site of an ancient Martian megatsunami – ABC17News.com

By Ashley Strickland, CNN

When NASA’s Viking 1 lander made history as the first spacecraft to touch down on Mars on July 20, 1976, it sent back images of a landscape no one was expecting.

Those first images taken from the ground there showed a surprisingly boulder-strewn surface in the red planet’s northern equatorial region, rather than the smooth plains and flood channels expected based on images of the area taken from space.

The mystery of the Viking landing site has long puzzled scientists, who believe an ocean once existed there.

Now, new research suggests that the lander touched down where a Martian megatsunami deposited materials 3.4 billion years ago, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports.

The catastrophic event likely occurred when an asteroid slammed into the shallow Martian ocean — similar to the Chicxulub asteroid impact that wiped out dinosaurs on Earth 66 million years ago, according to researchers.

Solving an ancient riddle

Five years before the Viking I landing, NASA’s Mariner 9 spacecraft had orbited Mars, spotting the first landscapes on another planet that suggested evidence of ancient flood channels there.

The interest in the potential for life on the red planet prompted scientists to select its northern equatorial region, Chryse Planitia, as the first Martian landing site for Viking I.

“The lander was designed to seek evidence of extant life on the Martian surface, so to select a suitable landing site, the engineers and scientists at the time faced the arduous task of using some of the planet’s earliest acquired images, accompanied by Earth-based radar probing of the planet’s surface,” said lead study author Alexis Rodriguez, senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, via email.

“The landing site selection needed to fulfill a critical requirement — the presence of extensive evidence of former surface water. On Earth, life always requires the presence of water to exist.”

At first, scientists thought the rocky surface might be a thick layer of debris left behind due to space rocks crashing into Mars and creating craters, or broken pieces of lava.

But there weren’t enough craters nearby, and lava fragments proved rare on the ground at the site.

“Our investigation provides a new solution — that a megatsunami washed ashore, emplacing sediments on which, about 3.4 billion years later, the Viking 1 lander touched down,” Rodriguez said.

The researchers believe the tsunami occurred when an asteroid or comet hit the planet’s northern ocean. But finding a resulting impact crater has been difficult.

Rodriguez and his team studied maps of the Martian surface created from different missions and analyzed a newly identified crater that seemed to be the likely point of impact.

The crater is 68 miles (nearly 110 kilometers) across in part of the northern lowlands — an area once likely covered in ocean. Researchers simulated collisions in this region using modeling to determine what impact was necessary to create what’s known as the Pohl crater.

It was possible in two different scenarios, one caused by a 5.6-mile (9-kilometer) asteroid meeting strong ground resistance and releasing 13 million megatons of TNT energy, or a 1.8-mile (2.9-kilometer) asteroid plowing into softer ground and releasing 0.5 million megatons of TNT energy.

For perspective, the most powerful nuclear bomb ever tested, Tsar Bomba, created 57 megatons of TNT energy.

During simulations, both impacts created a crater with Pohl’s dimensions — as well as a megatsunami that reached 932 miles (1,500 kilometers) from the impact site.

The 1.8-mile asteroid generated a tsunami that measured 820 feet (250 meters) tall once it reached land.

The results were similar to those of the Chicxulub impact on Earth, which created a crater that was initially 62 miles (100 kilometers) across and triggered a towering tsunami that traveled around the world.

Future exploration

The impact likely sent water vapor up into the atmosphere, which would have affected the Martian climate and potentially created snow or rain in the fallout. Vast amounts of water from the shallow ocean, as well as sediments, would have been displaced, Rodriguez said, although most of the water returned to the ocean soon after the megatsunami reached its peak.

“The seismic shaking associated with the impact would have been so intense that it could have dislodged sea floor materials into the megatsunami,” said study coauthor Darrel Robertson at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley, in a statement.

It’s also possible that the megatsunami reached the location of the 1997 landing site for the Pathfinder, south of where Viking 1 landed, and even contributed to the formation of an inland sea.

If so, then the two landers touched down at the site of ancient marine environments.

“The ocean is thought to have been groundwater-fed from aquifers that likely formed much earlier in Martian history — over 3.7 billion years ago — when the planet was ‘Earth-like’ with rivers, lakes, seas, and a primordial ocean,” Rodriguez said.

Next, the team wants to investigate Pohl crater as a potential landing site for a future rover, since the location might contain evidence of ancient life.

“Right after its formation, the crater would have generated submarine hydrothermal systems lasting tens of thousands of years, providing energy and nutrient-rich environments,” Rodriguez said, referring to the heat generated by the asteroid impact.

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

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