My picks, 2015-7

These are the latest articles and videos I found most interesting.

  1. Why I make robots the size of a grain of rice
  2. What Ever Happened to Nuclear Weapons?
  3. Crazy Engineering: Mars Helicopter
  4. Interstellar Voyaging – An Evolutionary Transition
  5. 11 Years and Counting – Opportunity on Mars
  6. The World’s Smallest Movie
  7. Radio Wave Lightning Tracking
  8. Greenland’s Ice Layers Mapped in 3D
  9. How to become a better person

Why I make robots the size of a grain of rice

Sarah Bergbreiter

By studying the movement and bodies of insects such as ants, Sarah Bergbreiter and her team build incredibly robust, super teeny, mechanical versions of creepy crawlies … and then they add rockets. See their jaw-dropping developments in micro-robotics, and hear about three ways we might use these little helpers in the future.

What Ever Happened to Nuclear Weapons?

Michael Büker

Politics and Physics of a Problem That’s Not Going Away

An overview of 70 years of nuclear weapons, focusing on some of the underlying physics, the international politics that surround the topic, modern technology for nuclear weapons detection and monitoring, and what everyone can do to help nuclear disarmament.

With the end of the Cold War, the sense of imminent danger from nuclear weapons quickly faded. But the weapons never went away: Today, half the world’s population lives in countries with nuclear weapons. Roughly 15,000 nuclear warheads, each powerful enough to destroy a city, are in the hands of nine countries.

The most important international treaty on nuclear weapons states that only five countries can ‘legally’ have them. But over the last 50 years, eight other countries have come into their posession, four of which are established nuclear powers today. How did that happen?

Moreover, nuclear tests of different kinds are banned by a multitude of international treaties. An impressive global measurement network of hundreds of seismic, hydroacoustic, infrasound and radionuclide measurement stations has been set up to detect nuclear tests. However, a treaty to finally ban all sorts of nuclear explosions, signed by 183 countries, is on the brink of failing. What is up with that?

This talk aims to provide a broad physical, technical and historical overview of the topic of nuclear weapons, and explain where international politics and verification technology stand today.

Crazy Engineering: Mars Helicopter

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Video Friday: Mars Helicopter, 100 Dancing Robots, and Putin’s Combat Cyborg

JPL engineers are working on a small helicopter that could ‘scout’ a trail for future Mars rovers, but getting a chopper that could fly in the Martian atmosphere is tricky.

Interstellar Voyaging – An Evolutionary Transition

Cameron Smith

Dr. Cameron Smith (Portland State University) delivers the third lecture of the 2014/15 Perimeter Institute Public Lecture Series, in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. Held at Perimeter Institute and webcast live worldwide on Dec 3, 2014, Smith’s lecture explores the biological and cultural challenges associated with multigenerational interstellar space travel.

11 Years and Counting – Opportunity on Mars

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

The Mars Opportunity rover has driven 25.9 miles (41.7 kilometers) since it landed in the Meridiani Planum region of Mars on Jan. 25, 2004 (Universal Time, which was Jan. 24, PST). That is farther than any other off-Earth surface vehicle has driven. The rover’s work on Mars was initially planned for three months. During that prime mission and for more than a decade of bonus performance in extended missions, Opportunity has returned compelling evidence about wet environments on ancient Mars.

The World’s Smallest Movie

Head Squeeze

Researchers at IBM have made the world’s smallest movie. And its cast? A few thousand atoms, names unknown. But quite apart from breaking film-making records, what else can the world’s smallest stop-motion movie tell us? Possibly quite a lot about the future of data storage and memory capacity.

Radio Wave Lightning Tracking

Duke Engineering

Steve Cummer, professor of electrical and computer engineering, along with postdoctoral associate researcher Fanchao Lyu, have devised a ground sensor system and data processing system that can track the sources of radio wave emissions with more precision than ever before.

Greenland’s Ice Layers Mapped in 3D


Peering into the thousands of frozen layers inside Greenland’s ice sheet is like looking back in time. Each layer provides a record of not only snowfall and melting events, but what the Earth’s climate was like at the dawn of civilization, or during the last ice age, or during an ancient period of warmth similar to the one we are experiencing today. Using radar data from NASA’s Operation IceBridge, scientists have built the first-ever comprehensive map of the layers deep inside the ice sheet.

How to become a better person

The School of Life

It sounds normal to say one’s out to become a fitter person; but it sounds weird to say one would like to be a nicer or better person. It shouldn’t – so here is a guide to 10 virtues of a nice person.

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