Category Archives: science

Donald E. Knuth talks about New The Art of Computer Programming Book Chapter

Donald E. Knuth Talks about SAT SolversIn his latest talk about SAT solvers at the Johannes Kepler University Linz (JKU), Computer Science pioneer Donald E. Knuth gave a deep and quite emotional insight about his life-long, epic work on the book ‘The Art of Computer Programming’. The Art of Computer Programming, aka TAOCP  represents the one and only global reference on algorithms, their analysis and computer programming in general and is the standard work for all computer scientists worldwide.

Donald E. Knuth talked about his recent chapter within TAOCP on SAT solvers and how fascinating these satisfiability problems as well as the derived problem and number patterns are. Knuth invited the audiance to ask all kind of questions, which span detailed explanaitations on his love for TEX as well as for his CWEB language, to quite personal topics, such as Prof. Knuth’s love for organ music and that he might also write down his own organ composition. During his trip through Austria, Prof. Knuth also had the chance to play on famous local organs, such as the organ within the monastry of St. Florian where Anton Bruckner was playing in 1850.

To summarize, Prof. Knuth gave a fascinating and very inspiring talk about his actual work and it seems as if there will be a lot of topics and chapters within the coming years!

He also shared an interesting advice with his audience: “If you are not fascinated and interested in what you are doing, then you are the only person to blame for!”

 

e-Ink Displays – Underestimated Technology for Rough Industrial and Outdoor Interfaces

e-ink display in rough outdoor usage scenario

e-ink display in rough outdoor usage scenario, image source: http://www.eink.com

Since the first commercial appearance of e-Ink Displays around the year 2008, a large collection of cheap e-book readers, such as the Sony PRS505 or Amazon’s Kindle, were successfully introduced on the consumer market. As the e-Ink technology became mature in this field of application, millions of e-book readers are in active use today and the amount of sold e-books is nearly the same level as of traditional books.

E-Ink technology was first mentioned in 1997 based on research started at the MIT Media Lab. Joseph Jacobson and Barrett Comiskey are listed as inventors on the original patent filed in 1996.
E-Ink displays offer some great advantages over alternative display technology, such as extremely low power usage, incredible high contrast and the ability to preserve the static image for an unlimited amount of time without the use of any energy at all. E-Ink displays on the other hand do not offer much multimedia capabilities as they are mostly operating on grayscale, or very simple single color modes. Also their slow reaction times prevent e-Ink displays to show any videos.

Beside the widespread use of e-Ink displays in e-Ink ebook (or even as prototypical Smartphone display) reading devices, their use within industrial applications and rough production or outdoor scenarios is still underestimated. As e-Ink displays offer perfect contrast and preserve the displayed image over an unlimited amount of time, these displays could be the perfect choice for machine interfaces.
Following examples show the use of e-Ink displays in various interesting applications, such as static information on pillboxes, showing information directly on a mountain bike or even to directly show information on a snowboard.

e-Ink display on a pill box

e-Ink display on a pill box, image source: http://www.eink.com

e-ink display on a snowboard

e-ink display on a snowboard: image source: http://www.eink.com

Watch a short film explaining the basic concepts of e-Ink technology:

Book – The Human Face of Big Data

Did you ever wondered what the Big Data Hype means to us in reality? Information and communication technology, advanced network bandwidth and intelligent data analysis and prognosis enable fantastic insights into our modern society. No matter if you are collecting data within urban areas, such as the different ways Pizza delivery is taking in Manhattan on a Friday afternoon or analyzing the crop in large agricultural facilities. Within the book The Human Face of Big Data, the authors Rick Smolan and Jennifer Erwitt present the human and society dimension of this new hype on analysing and prognosis of all kind of information.

The Human Face of Big Data captures, in glorious photographs and moving essays, an extraordinary revolution sweeping, almost invisibly, through business, academia, government, healthcare, and everyday life. It’s already enabling us to provide a healthier life for our children. To provide our seniors with independence while keeping them safe. To help us conserve precious resources like water and energy. To alert us to tiny changes in our health, weeks or years before we develop a life-threatening illness. To peer into our own individual genetic makeup. To create new forms of life.  And soon, as many predict, to re-engineer our own species. And we’ve barely scratched the surface . . .

The Human Face of Big Data

Aquaponics Innovation and DIY Greenhouse Technology

Pierre Beauchamp, a young and successfull innovator and evangelist for greenhouse and aquaponics, who’s goal is to bring fresh and natural food production into urban environments. When Pierre Beauchamp was 15 years old he created an amazing aquaponics operation in a greenhouse in his families property in Auburn, Calif.

DIY Aquaponics Innovation by Pierre Beauchamp, source: Makezine.com

DIY Aquaponics Innovation by Pierre Beauchamp, source: Makezine.com

His aquaponics and greenhouse systems are so called closed loop systems that join plant production in combination with fresh water fish production. These aquaponics and greenhouse closed loop systems are great sources for fresh food production in future urban environments. Pierre Beauchamp was awarded the 2012 Sea World / Busch Gardens Environmental Excellence Award and the Global Green International-Citizen Entrepreneur Award.

Swarm of Robots that team up with Air-Drones and solve Problems

“Spatially Targeted Communication and Self-Assembly,” a work by Nithin Mathews, Anders Lyhne Christensen, Rehan O’Grady, and Marco Dorigo, from Universite Libre de Bruxelles and Instituto Universitario de Lisboa, was presented at IROS 2012 in Vilamoura, Portugal. The video shows their research on swarm robots that team up even with a flying AR-Drone, in order to fulfill combined tasks together. A really nice aspect is that the drones working together as a group are highlighted by using different light colors. As the ground drones are not able to scan large areas, they are directly cooperating with the flying AR-drone to get a detailed overview on the sourounding area. You can find details on this work on Spacially Targeted Communication and Self-Assembly within their recent paper.

Udacity – 21st Century University

udacity

image taken from udacity.com

Adult education and lifelong learning is changing a lot within the last years. Traditional universities and lecturers often do not accept the fact that time and technology has changed and that the next generation of scholars will learn differently than the generations before. One famous lecturer that recently talked about this change is Peter Norvig, one of the leading Artificial Intelligence experts worldwide.

The American computer scientist and Artificial Intelligence expert startet a virtual class along with his college Sebastian Thrun on artificial intelligence. His class was visited by 175 students from Stanford and more than 100,000 via an interactive webcast. Peter Norvig is talking about the fact that we are teaching knowledge in classes with the same methods today as we did hundreds years ago. So he argues that today we have the possibility to change the way we are teaching and that we could produce a lot more positive educational effects with our modern infrastructures.

In order to use the economics of the Internet, Udacity was founded to connect some of the greatest teachers to hundreds of thousands of students all over the world. Udacity emphasises to offer high quality Web delivered lectures all over the world, no matter if you are sitting in UK or in Africa. So far Udacity offers a good number of mostly technical courses by different quite well known teachers.

Udacity was founded by three roboticists who believed much of the educational value of their university classes could be offered online. A few weeks later, over 160,000 students in more than 190 countries enrolled in our first class, “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence.”

 

udacity, 21st century university

image taken from udacity.com, 21st century university

Honda’s All Direction Personal Mobility Device

In these days Honda is promoting and touring with it’s revolutionary new electric mobility vehicle, that is able to move in all directions and balances on one wheel. Honda unveiled the U3-X personal mobility device already in 2009 and is promoting it ever since acompanied by their humanoid robot Honda ASIMO. The U3-X is a compact experimental device that fits comfortably between the rider’s legs, to provide free movement in all directions just as in human walking – forward, backward, side-to-side, and diagonally. Honda will continue research and development of the device including experiments in a real-world environment to verify the practicality of the device.

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image source: world.honda.com

U3-X

image source: world.honda.com

NASA’s Curiosity Rover tests Robotic Arm on Mars

The following image from NASA’s Curiosity rover was taken by the left mast camera (Mastcam).  It shows an image of the camera on the rover’s robotic arm, the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), during the 30th Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s mission on Mars. MAHLI is one of the various tools that sit on the end of Curiosities robotic arm and is used to explore the near surrounding on Mars. After several days traveling and driving on Mars NASA’s rover Curiosity starts to test these tools on it’s robotic arm. NASA is spending several days preparing for full use of the tools on its arm.

“We will be putting the arm through a range of motions and placing it at important ‘teach points’ that were established during Earth testing, such as the positions for putting sample material into the inlet ports for analytical instruments,” said Daniel Limonadi of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., lead systems engineer for Curiosity’s surface sampling and science system. “These activities are important to get a better understanding for how the arm functions after the long cruise to Mars and in the different temperature and gravity of Mars, compared to earlier testing on Earth.”

Camera on Curiosity's Arm as Seen by Camera on Mast

The image below shows the exact location of the arm on NASA’s Curiosity rover, in addition to the arm’s turret, which holds two instruments and three tools. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech:

Curiosity's Robotic Arm

Help GeoGebra crowd source for the iPad

Remember my recent post on GeoGebra, the innovative and open source mathematics learning software that has attracted a global community of school teachers? GeoGebra is the best interactive software for explaining and teaching mathematic examples. And the best thing is that you can get and distribute GeoGebra for free.

Now the creators of GeoGebra started a Kickstarter pledge for porting this cool piece of software to the iPad platform.

We want to make GeoGebra available for the iPad. An html5 version of the software is already available and partly working on tablets without Java. But this is not enough, we want a real iPad Application. A GeoGebra app free to download for everybody from the Apple AppStore.

The reason why we want to keep the iPad application free is because GeoGebra itself is free and keeping it so we want it to be available for everyone. If we reach the desired 10,000 dollars, we can support the development.

I think the team around GeoGebra really deserves a huge crowd of backers for their enthusiasm to bring maths and MINT topics to children wordwide!
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Color-changing pneumatic moving silicon-based robot creature

This color changing and amorphic creature was invented by DARPA researchers with the goal to create a low-cost silicon based moving bot. The creature uses air and fluid to control its movement and color changes. By using different fluid colors this bot is able to change its color depending on the underlying surrounding. The researches say that this silicon based robot is able to move around 40 meters per hour, or up to 67 meters without the fluids.

One of the actual challenges of this development is to also integrate the power source as well as all mechanisms for producing air and liquid pressure. At this stage of development these parts are controlled from external.