Science and technology micro-summaries for June 21, 2019

in #rsslog3 years ago

A robotic fish that can swim continuously for 36 hours; An "Office" key may be coming to keyboards near you; Scientific research shouldn't be hidden behind paywalls; Intelligence beyond the brain and body; Boaty McBoatface's first scientific discovery...


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Links and micro-summaries from my 1000+ daily headlines. I filter them so you don't have to.

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  1. Robot Fish Powered by Synthetic Blood Just Keeps Swimming - Researchers from Cornell and the University of Pennsylvania published a paper in Nature describing their robotic fish. The robot uses synthetic blood that doubles as hydraulic fluid and an artificial circulatory system to continue swimming (slowly) for up to 36 hours. At 322 watt-hours per liter, the fluid has about half the capacity of Tesla's 676 watt-hours per liter lithium ion batteries. Although the batteries provide more energy, they require motors to operate, the hydraulic mechanism from the fluid pumping through the robotic fish makes this form of motion more efficient. The "bottom line" is that, "combining actuation, force transmission, and energy storage has significant advantages for this particular robot."

    Here is a video:

  • Microsoft considering a dedicated Office key for keyboards - The idea is in testing right now. Microsoft is considering replacing the Windows key on the right hand side of the keyboard with an Office key, which would provide additional shortcuts for Microsoft's Office applications. The Windows key has been a staple of many keyboards for about 25 years, and Microsoft will not certify any keyboards that don't have it. OS news votes "no".

  • Scientific Research Shouldn't Sit behind a Paywall - UC Berkeley cellular biologist, and Nobel prize winner, Randy Schekman argues that the taxpayers who fund scientific research should have access to read it. The article also makes the point that subscription-based journals take advantage of free labor in the form of unpaid peer review, while simultaneously charging exhorbitant fees to the reviewers' employers for access to the published works. This argument has been going on for decades, and it led to the launch of open access web sites like PloS and PubMed, but a great deal of publicly funded scientific research is still captured by journals that fence the public out. Schekman hints at taking the argument a step further, implying that the entire for-profit model is problematic for scientific publications.

  • Questioning the Cranial Paradigm - Previously covered in Interesting Links: June 13, 2019 and Interesting Links: June 1, 2019 , this is another talk in the edge.org Possible Minds series. In the video and written transcript, Carolyn Jones extends Dyson's idea that human intelligence is analog, arguing that functions outside of the brain should also be considered intelligent, and perhaps even conscious. An example that she gives is the human immune system, which distinguishes "self" from "non-self", makes decisions, learns, and has memory. She goes on to suggest that maybe "mind does not completely stop at the skin", but that humans invite and cultivate helpful/symbiotic bacteria in the body. As with earlier links in the series, her talk is followed by discussion with people like Stephen Wolfram, Rodney Brooks, Alison Gopnik, David Chalmers, and others.

  • STEEM Boaty McBoatface Gets Its First Important Discovery - After an Internet naming contest in 2016, the Natural Environment Research Council assigned the name, Boaty McBoatface to a research submarine. In 2017, the submarine identified the existence of an unknown mechanism by which surface winds are able to influence turbulence under the sea surface. These results were published in PNAS on Tuesday, June 18. (Steeem author, @kralizec, will receive 5% of the rewards from this post.)


  • In order to help make Steem the go to place for timely information on diverse topics, I invite you to discuss any of these links in the comments and/or your own response post.

    For example, feel free to comment on any or all of these discussion topics:


    • Can you think of any practical future uses for an automaton that is modeled after the robotic fish?

    • What do you think of the proposal to replace the right-hand Windows key with an Office key that would give you more keyboard shortcuts inside Microsoft's Office applications?

    • Do you agree with Schekman that taxpayers should be able to access the research that is funded with their tax dollars? How about the stronger argument that the for-profit model is inappropriate for scientific publications?

    • What are your thoughts on the Jones argument that the concept of mind extends beyond the brain, and maybe even beyond the body?

    • Go comment on the post by @kralizec.


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