Po’Daddy Chilli

This one is easy:

1 can beans – Black or whatever you have. Don’t bother draining them. Why would you? Bean can juice is delicious! And full of that umami meatiness. Also, draining takes more effort and means more washing up afterward. I stock up on canned beans when I see them on sale. Often less than $1/can. Dried beans are cheaper, and when I think of it I’ll soak about a cup of them a day in advance. Once they’re soaked, though, you should use them within a day or they’ll start to rot.

1 can tomatoes – Diced is best for this. So you get reasonably-sized chunks of tomato. But anything would work. Size of can doesn’t really matter.

1 Tablespoon chili powder – … Read the rest

On the choice of grasp type and location when handing over an object

The human hand is capable of performing countless grasps and gestures that are the basis for social activities. However, which grasps contribute the most to the manipulation skills needed during collaborative tasks, and thus which grasps should be included in a robot companion, is still an open issue. Here, we investigated grasp choice and hand placement on objects during a handover when subsequent tasks are performed by the receiver and when in-hand and bimanual manipulation are not allowed. Our findings suggest that, in this scenario, human passers favor precision grasps during such handovers. Passers also tend to grasp the purposive part of objects and leave “handles” unobstructed to the receivers. Intuitively, this choice allows receivers to comfortably perform subsequent tasks with the objects. In practice, many … Read the rest

Toward adaptive robotic sampling of phytoplankton in the coastal ocean

Currents, wind, bathymetry, and freshwater runoff are some of the factors that make coastal waters heterogeneous, patchy, and scientifically interesting—where it is challenging to resolve the spatiotemporal variation within the water column. We present methods and results from field experiments using an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) with embedded algorithms that focus sampling on features in three dimensions. This was achieved by combining Gaussian process (GP) modeling with onboard robotic autonomy, allowing volumetric measurements to be made at fine scales. Special focus was given to the patchiness of phytoplankton biomass, measured as chlorophyll a (Chla), an important factor for understanding biogeochemical processes, such as primary productivity, in the coastal ocean. During multiple field tests in Runde, Norway, the method was successfully used to identify, map, and track … Read the rest

AntBot: A six-legged walking robot able to home like desert ants in outdoor environments

Autonomous outdoor navigation requires reliable multisensory fusion strategies. Desert ants travel widely every day, showing unrivaled navigation performance using only a few thousand neurons. In the desert, pheromones are instantly destroyed by the extreme heat. To navigate safely in this hostile environment, desert ants assess their heading from the polarized pattern of skylight and judge the distance traveled based on both a stride-counting method and the optic flow, i.e., the rate at which the ground moves across the eye. This process is called path integration (PI). Although many methods of endowing mobile robots with outdoor localization have been developed recently, most of them are still prone to considerable drift and uncertainty. We tested several ant-inspired solutions to outdoor homing navigation problems on a legged robot using … Read the rest

Developable mechanisms on developable surfaces

The trend toward smaller mechanism footprints and volumes, while maintaining the ability to perform complex tasks, presents the opportunity for exploration of hypercompact mechanical systems integrated with curved surfaces. Developable surfaces are shapes that a flat sheet can take without tearing or stretching, and they represent a wide range of manufactured surfaces. This work introduces “developable mechanisms” as devices that emerge from or conform to developable surfaces. They are made possible by aligning hinge axes with developable surface ruling lines to enable mobility. Because rigid-link motion depends on the relative orientation of hinge axes and not link geometry, links can take the shape of the corresponding developable surface. Mechanisms are classified by their associated surface type, and these relationships are defined and demonstrated by example. Developable … Read the rest

The Celebrity Tortoise Breakup That Rocked the World

In 2011, after nearly a century together, Galápagos tortoises Bibi and Poldi called it quits. We still don’t know why.


Why do relationships end? The question plagues experts and laypeople alike. Circumstances change. The spark goes away. An attribute that once intrigued you is suddenly repellant.

Literary scholars comb through Gone With the Wind. Music fans analyze Roy Orbison. But animal lovers have their own rich and mysterious text: the story of Bibi and Poldi, the Galápagos tortoises that were together for 90-odd years and then, suddenly, weren’t.

Bibi and Poldi, who live at the Reptilienzoo Happ in Klagenfurt, on the southern border of Austria, were a perfect match. Poldi is handsome and sociable, with bright eyes and a fondness for neck scratches. Bibi … Read the rest

Small Teams of Scientists Have Fresher Ideas

It took $1.1 billion and a 1,000-strong team to prove Einstein right about gravitational waves. In 2016, the scientists behind the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or LIGO, announced that they had finally detected these ripples in the fabric of space and time, formed by colliding black holes. “LIGO was a masterpiece of 21st century engineering and science,” says James Evans, a sociologist at the University of Chicago who studies the history of science. “But it was perhaps the most conservative experiment in history. It tested a 100-year-old hypothesis.”

“Big science,” of which LIGO is a prime example, is becoming more common. Funding agencies are channeling more money toward ever larger teams working on grand projects such as cataloging the diversity of our cells or sequencing Read the rest

A Visit to the Museum of Broken Relationships

A unique collection focused on what happens after love dies.

One of the most unusual museums in Croatia is the Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb. The collection traces its origins to a real-life breakup, between that of its co-founders, Olinka Vištica and Dražen Grubišić, in 2006. Unsure what to do with a special wind-up toy they’d acquired as a couple, the two searched for somewhere to store what they considered to be a symbol of their time together. When they realized that no such place existed, the Museum of Broken Relationships was born.

Today the museum accepts items from around the world. Since every artifact is crowdsourced, Dražen says they are often surprised by what shows up at their door. Among the collection are typical … Read the rest