World’s First Dynamically Balanced Walking Robot

Walking robotCheck out this Youtube video of the world’s first dynamically balanced walking robot. The company is Anybots and they’ve brought forth Dexter and Monty. These guys are robots just under 6 feet tall and weigh in between 135-160 pounds.

The neat thing about the two is that they are dynamically balanced. Sure Asimo from Honda is also balanced, but his movements are programmed. If you push on him he’ll tip over. Not Dexter and Monty. They actually walk on their own by balancing themselves and falling forward as they take each tentative step. If you push on them they’ll step back and regain their balance so they don’t fall over.

Just like humans.

Here’s much more information on the theory and practice behind these bots, that Youtube video of the walk, a short video of Dexter Jumping and a choice quote from the web site after comparing to Asimo:

Dynamically balancing—the way we walk—is much harder. It looks fairly smooth when we do it, but it’s really a controlled fall. At any given moment you have to think (or at least, your body does) about which direction you’re falling, and put your foot down in exactly the right place to push you in the direction you want to go. Practice makes it seem easy to us, but it’s a very hard problem to solve

[Found on Neatorama]

U.S. Updating Its Nuke Warhead Designs

The military and the Energy Department chose a new design that was developed by the Lawrence Livermore National Lab, the other competing design came from the Los Alamos National Lab. These are the two premier nuclear weapons labs in the government and have had their proposals scrutinized over the past year.

This new design is supposed to eventually replace the aging existing arsenal of weapons, they should be safer and more robust which should increase their reliability compared to the current designs which are a maintenance nightmare when they’re expected to last decades (assuming nuclear war doesn’t break out in the interim).

It’s estimated that as the old warheads are replaced with the newer models, the total number of nukes will likely be reduced from 6,000 today to about 2,000 in the year 2012.

If you’re curious about the ‘why’ of the program you should read this 2 pager from the DOE ‘Reliable Replacement Warhead Program‘ (PDF).

Read the USA Today article on the event as well.

Credit For Getting Creative?

Ever take a test in school, have no clue what the answer is and wonder “should i just leave it blank or take a shot in the dark and hope for the best”?

Well, there’s a third option, it’s write in something you know is going to be wrong, but be clever about the response and hope you might get a point or two from the teacher for ‘creativity’.

Clayton Cramer has some real doozies to show you, i’ve copied two below to give you a taste. Check it out.

Find X Ramp - Elephant

Was the Death Star Attack an Inside Job?

Websurdity has an excellent summary of the uncomfortable questions about the Death Star attack that led to its destruction. Of course the premise is that Luke Skywalker was *not* responsible for blowing up the death star but he had a lot of help, from the inside.

A couple of choice questions posed in the inquiry:

– Why was the rebel pilot who supposedly destroyed the Death Star reported to be on the Death Star days, maybe hours, prior to its destruction? Why was he allowed to escape, and why were several individuals dressed in Stormtrooper uniforms seen helping him?

– Why did Lord Vader decide to break all protocols and personally pilot a lightly armored TIE Fighter? Conveniently, this placed Lord Vader outside of the Death Star when it was destroyed.

    Good stuff.

    LEGO Millennium Falcon

    Okay, so who doesn’t like LEGOs?  If you raised your hand, begone with you!!  No, seriously…I’m kidding 🙂  Well, how about Star Wars?  Yes?  So lets put the two together!  Thats what LEGO has done, producing some very complex and intuitave Star Wars LEGO models that when viewed, spark memories of those stalwart heroes from that galaxy far far away.  By far, the most impressive model yet is the Millennium Falcon, the starship of the famed Han Solo. 

     LEGO Millennium Falcon

    This massive model, when built, is nearly 3ft long, with over 5,000 pieces (some designed specifically for this model) and very closely approximates all the classic details from the YT-1300 Corellian Freighter in the movie.

    Even though I gave all my LEGOs away a long time ago, I still dabble with my son’s collection once in a while.  Seeing this monument to LEGO creation makes me want to reach for my pocket book….but I fall short, once I realize the $500 pricetag ;(  So, no giant spaceship for me!  But I can still dream….

    KTM Reveals “Light-Weight” Concept Car

    Wait….what?  KTM made a car?  When I think of KTM, I conjure up memories of blasting through tight berms and pulling off a trick tabletop over a set of doubles on my old KTM 250 motorcycle at the local dirt track 😉  Well it seems those days continue, but with a new devision that has developed a snazzy new prototype car called “X-Bow“.

    KTM X-Bow Prototype

    KTM jumps into the performance car genre with both feet by revealing this stylish roadster.  Although it sports only a lightweight 700 kilos, it makes it up with its radical sleek design, a powerful 220hp Audi engine, and a finely engineered carbon-fibre frame.

    At first glance, it seems a bit ungraceful, not having the standard full sleek frame one is used to with a performance vehicle.  Yet, after reviewing its specs, and given the full 360 degree view, it kinda grew on me.  I’ll see how it does…KTM says only 100 will be produced through 2007, and see if there is a demand for their new creation.


    Anti-Sniper Detection System

    Troops in patrol in Iraq are prone to sniper attacks that appear to come from nowhere and leaves almost no chance to return fire. It’s a vexing problem, but as this LiveScience article shows us, it’s a solvable problem.

    Here’s the theory:

    The sniper’s rifle bullet is en route travelling faster than sound, leaving a shockwave in its wake, expanding outward in a cone shape, while the bullet races ahead. In conjunction with this, the bullet’s supersonic flight is creating its own shockwave of air particles being pushed aside, this is different from the muzzle sound your ears are picking up.

    With microphones set up in the surrounding area, the mics pic up the various shockwaves at different times and from there it’s a ‘simple’ matter of a proprietary algorithm to determine the source location of the rifle bullet.

    The challenges with this?

    A few challenges would be interference from natural sounds, reverb from surrounding buildings, the system monitoring for sniper locations may need to reside on a moving Humvee.

    A system to do all of this exists today called ‘Boomerang’, was developed by BBN Technologies, has 100 of these units deployed to the field and the DoD has an outstanding order for 1000 more.

    Other uses for this technology?

    Possibly to identify guns based on sounds heard through 9-1-1 calls, or the National Parks Service may be able to leverage these to monitor natural areas and study trends of animals.

    Apple Gets Nervous About Windows Mobile?

    Here’s a good summary on MSMobiles of an incident recently involving Apple and a WM enthusiast. This fellow developed an interface that mimic’ed the iPhone but deployed it to his Elton M600 Pocket PC, showing off the same gesturing capabilities and pretty icons as seen at the Apple convention last month.

    Then he posts a video to Youtube and that’s when all hell breaks loose, the Apple attorneys came down on the poor fellow, reasons why i’ll leave to your imagination. Here’s his personal site with blog posts discussing the what’s what and who’s who the smack-down and follow-up with the Apple letter that includes his hand drawn UI on paper in place of the software UI that he calls the PaperPhoneUI. Confused yet? Is Hiring posted a job description for a Senior Systems Engineer position at their site in the San Francisco area. The JD is on craigslist here, below is the ‘General Functions’ descriptions, go to the link for the full details on qualifications (PHP, MySQL, Apache, Unix,) and responsibilities (servers, servers, servers).

    GENERAL FUNCTIONS: is a user driven social content website. We are looking for an experienced Senior Systems Engineer, with a background in managing Linux server clusters at high volume Web sites.

    To succeed in this position at digg, you’ll need to have be very adaptable to performing multiple disparate tasks and ample curiosity about how our code impacts our systems and how to constantly improve the stability and performance of our server environment. A very focused and relaxed attitude is essential. We have a small, self-driven team without much bureaucracy. If you can deal with a loose organization structure with high expectations of performance, then we’d like to talk to you.

    Contact for details.

    Tux-shaped PC Gains Dynamic Web Server Stack

    Italian embedded software specialist Kdev is shipping a linux based firmware for a RISC based single board computer with a Tux shaped case.

    Read for the specs and more information as well as the ‘full frontal view‘ of Tux. 🙄

    Here’s the Kdev site with more technical specs of the SBC, seems to include a full featured Apache embedded WebServer with PHP 5 (along with some of your favorite php scripts), SQLite and more. The cost is well over US$200 for the SBC and case.

    Below is a pic of the Acme Fox board and the case.

    Kdev Acme Fox board

    Tux' Rear

    Video Tour Of The Linux Kernel

    Want to see a video tour of the linux kernel? Well, after you see it you’ll agree that it’s not actually a tour, it’s simply a 3D rendering of how some of the feature modules link to other modules within and outside a few features.

    What you’ll probably see pretty quickly is that while it has the potential to show you the simplicity of the Linux core operating system, the video doesn’t go far enough towards showing how the various features are dependent or interdependent.

    I’ve seen a similar (but 2D) rendering of IIS & Apache that is used as a reason to show how complex the dependencies are and (supposedly) results in a less stable feature – pics below.

    Anyway, the reason i’m posting this and linking to the Youtube video is because it’s mildly interesting, yet I’d really like to see more more detail on the linux kernel.

    Apache Apache


    Fact or Fiction: Living People Outnumber the Dead?

    Since the 1970’s there has been a ‘fact’ or statement thrown around, without evidence, to highlight the overpopulation issues many urban areas and some nations face. This myth stated that the number of people alive on the planet today outnumber the combined total of all dead people aggregated throughout mankind’s history.

    Since the planet is sustaining approximately 6.5 billion people today, then this would mean that in the previous 50,000 years less than 6.5 billion people have ever lived and died. That seems reasonable, right?

    Not true, says demographer Carl Haub. According to his research, slightly over 106 billion people had ever been born, significantly more than the 6.5 billion alive today.

    [Found via]

    Things to Say When You’re Losing a Technical Argument

    So you’re having a technical argument with a colleague and you’re getting that feeling you’re on the losing end of it, maybe you know you’re right or even if you know you’re wrong but hate to lose?

    When you’re back is against the wall, here are 77 statements from an old list on ‘Pigdog Journal’ you can pull out of your pocket to save yourself, but you should be careful, these are generally desperations tactics.

    Copied below are some of my favorites from the list, I’ve been known to use a few from that bigger list 🙂

    • That won’t scale.
    • Trying to build a team behind that technology would be a staffing nightmare.
    • I was reading about that on BugTraq yesterday.
    • Have you LOOKED at the number of I/O requests that will create?
    • Can you generate some USE CASES that would justify the change?
    • Well, that’s great if you have an AI running the thing.
    • Well, I guess we could start the QA cycles again from square one. That would require a press release, though.
    • This really doesn’t jibe with our core competency.
    • No, no, no. We’re really working on an N-TIER architecture, here.

    [Found on Digg]

    Megapode Watch – Tell Time Or Calculate Fuel Consumption

    Talk about a geek’s watch, this is just over the top.


    Ikepod’s new Megapode watch is also a circular sliderule.

    This titanium beauty provides the time, the day, chronograph function a unique circular slide rule for complicated calculations. According to the manufacturer’s site: “This is a watch that can compute fuel consumption for an aircraft or a waypoint for a pilot who needs to calculate range/distance.

    Yet Another Math Joke?

    A mathematician and a physicist agree to a psychological experiment.

    The mathematician is put in a chair in a large empty room and a beautiful naked woman is placed on a bed at the other end of the room.The psychologist explains, “You are to remain in your chair. Every five minutes, I will move your chair to a position halfway between its current location and the woman on the bed.” The mathematician looks at the psychologist in disgust. “What? I’m not going to go through this. You know I’ll never reach the bed!” And he gets up and storms out.

    The psychologist makes a note on his clipboard and ushers the physicist in. He explains the situation, and the physicist’s eyes light up and he starts drooling. The psychologist is a bit confused. “Don’t you realize that you’ll never reach her?” The physicist smiles and replied, “Of course! But I’ll get close enough for all practical purposes!”

    WordPress 2.1.1 may contain nasty surprise


    Breaking news on the web right now as Matt over at WordPress is reporting some serious issues with packages of WordPress 2.1.1 downloaded over the past 3-4 days. According to a blog post, a malicious intruder gained access to the servers and modified the files being made available for download. How exactly this happened is still unknown.

    The long-and-short of the situation is this: if you downloaded and installed the most recent version of WordPress from in the last few days, you weren’t downloading the official release– you were downloading a modified version that likely includes some sort of back-door.

    Although only a subset of in-the-wild copies of 2.1.1 contain the vulnerability, the development team has declared the entire release “dangerous,” and highly suggest all users upgrade to 2.1.2.

    Battlefield 2142: Northern Strike

    Northern Strike 

    Electronic Arts today released more information regarding Northern Strike, a booster pack for Battlefield 2142 in the works at EA Digital Illusions (DICE) studio in Stockholm, Sweden, and slated for release on March 16th. Battlefield 2142: Northern Strike features three new maps, including the infamous WWII battle scene at the Bridge at Remagen, an Alpine Titan docking harbour in Port Bavaria and a claustrophobic showdown in the Liberation of Leipzig. The booster pack also features new vehicles including the EU’s heavily armed IFV Goliath and the PAC’s hovering light IFV Hachimoto in addition to new unlocks, new badges and ribbons, new gameplay and more.

    It’s time for some butt kickin’ EU or PAC style, baby!  I’ve already got my preorder for this ready to go when it goes live on the 16th.  Meet me on the battlefield….If you dare.

    Shutdown Day

    Can you go without using your computer, PDA, or IM device for a whole day?  I know it would be tough for me, as it would be for a great many people.  This March 24th, Denis Bystrov and Michael Taylor encourage all of us to shutdown our computers and go do something else for a day.  Go to a park, watch a movie, visit relatives, whatever it takes to get you to take in some fresh air for a while.

    Quoted by Michael Taylor, Shutdown Day co-founder:
    “I certainly could not and would not want to live without my computer. However, I am often drawn into spending hours chatting on MSN, simply because my friends are online instead of socialising face to face. I am often too busy to cook a proper dinner, because I want to see the latest news on, the latest YouTube video or to see who has commented on my MySpace. I know parents who are so addicted to the computer they spend little time with their children and I also know children who do not spend time with their parents because they are always using the computer.

    We are not preaching to anyone to turn off their computers, just suggesting that people might like to take part in this experiment, and see what happens. See if people think differently after a day without their computer…”

    So walk away from your computer!  Or not 😉  Tell us here in the comments section if you plan to participate!

    Snails Save Energy by Re-Using Mucus Trails

    Now come on, is there even a need to continue on with the article when it’s basically summed up in a title like this one? 🙂

    OK, before i punt you to the article on LiveScience, Biologists in Britain studied marine snails and confirmed the long-held assumption that to conserve energy, snails play follow the leader by laying down a less mucous on top of older trails laid by others ahead of him (or her i suppose). They confirmed the assumption by measuring the thickness of the original trails to the reused trails.

    So, what would a snail do with that extra energy? Believe it or not, for making baby snails.

    Here’s the LiveScience article. You can thank me later.

    Oh, and since I have you in the mood for snail stories, reread the (short) Radioactive snails story originally published on Geeknews last October.