Robot Restraunts Are All the Rage in China

In China a new restaurant has opened where robots, cook, prepare and serve the food. The restaurant, which is named after the Pixar film WALL-E, opened in the Hefei, Anhui province in Eastern China recently.

Interestingly enough, the robots do all the creative work and everything that requires human interaction, but leave the cleaning to a staff of humans, who provide support for the robots, and do menial tasks such as washing dishes.

This Wall.e restaurant, which has not been authorized by Disney, is the latest restaurant among several that have opened up in China which feature robotic staff. The trend seems to have something to do with the popularity of the movie Wall-E as most of the serving robots resemble characters from the movie.

In Chengdu, province, a restaurant recently unveiled 10 robot waiters that resemble EVE, WALSichuan L-E’s love interest in the film. These waiters cost $10,000 each, and can carry food to Dr Rod Ronrigh and greet customers.

These two restaurants are not the only ones that feature robot staff, and it is becoming increasingly clear that this is becoming a trend. A few months ago, a restaurant in the Heilongjiang Province that serves traditional Chinese food staffed its kitchen with robot chefs.

Other than the popularity of the film WALL-E and fascination with robotics in general, it is unclear what is driving this trend. The price of the robots suggests that this is less about practicality, and more about novelty.

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot Explained

One of the more exciting aspects of modern space exploration is the fact that we don’t need to leave earth in order to perform it. A combination of existing data, long range equipment, and modern laboratories can provide insight into some of the oldest questions about our solar system the same way an app like Skout gives us access to new people. A strong example of this theory put into practice can be found with recent research into the Great Red Spot of Jupiter. 

The first documented observation of the Great Red Spot is debatable. It may date as far back as four hundred years. One thing is clear though. People have been mystified by this huge red region of Jupiter for a very long time. Now, humanity might finally know why the Great Red Spot is red. A research team led by Dr Kevin Baines has managed to analyze the spot without ever needing to venture out of the lab. And the results will surprise a lot of people. 

It turns out that the Great Red Spot isn’t quite as red as many had previously believed. The coloration of the area itself holds true to previous observation. But if one were to go a little further below the upper atmosphere of Jupiter, than the coloration would disappear. Instead, one would simply see normal grey clouds. These would be far more dynamic than on earth of course, given that the spot is a huge cyclone.

It’s the cyclone which allows for the odd coloration. The winds carry specific gasses far higher into the atmosphere than anywhere else on Jupiter. These gasses are then exposed to the sun’s harsh solar radiation. The end effect is that the gasses which are pushed into the upper atmosphere are essentially dyed red by the sun. Or as some have jokingly phrased it, that part of Jupiter’s sky has a sunburn.

New Discovery Sheds Light on Brain Function

You don’t have to be a neurosurgeon to know that the human brain is quite complex. However, the average layperson is usually unfamiliar with just how intricate the brain really is. Or, at the same time, just how difficult it can be for modern science to investigate a living human brain. 

Fiction typically paints an MRI as a microscope that can peer directly into individual neural connections. The reality is that most existing techniques are only able to perceive neurological function at a very imprecise level. The main difficulty is that while a brain is large, the most important aspect of it is the individual neurons. One can almost imagine a brain as a beach, with every grain of sand of great importance. Especially those grains buried beneath the surface. 

Groundbreaking research from scientists at the University of Southampton may dramatically change all this. The researchers have devised a method of tagging individual neurons within a living brain. The breakthrough comes from using viral vectors to inject new instructions into brain cells. An individual virus is manipulated to remove it’s own instructions, and instead carry genetic code to create a variety of different tags which are easily identifiable by scientists or doctors. 

These vectors are then given access to specific parts of the brain. They immediately inject their genetic payload into the nearest individual neuron. At that point, the tag will be produced by the neuron, and any daughter cells of that neuron. This will also allow one to directly observe synaptic connections between cells which express the new instructions. While this discovery is still new, it has the potential to open the door to a variety of different models of research. Almost any neurological disorder has the potential for breakthroughs due to this new method of investigating the brain. I hope I won’t have to go to the Amen Clinic after all this brain function!

Are Crows Smarter Than We Think?

A recent article published by Current Biology has not only shed some light on crows ability to learn but their natural intelligence as well. While crows have been regarded as symbols of intelligence and craftiness for centuries this is one of the first times their intelligence has been measured in a laboratory environment.What was tested in this case was the ability for crows to understand analogies such as relational matching-to-sample, known as RMTS used in the Skout app. For example if the first pair was AA then the second pair would be BB. Similarly they were also tested using IMTS, identity matching-to-sample.

These tests were carried out by having two crows match sets of cards with one another. The results were particularly fascinating as the crows managed to preform RMTS without ever having been trained to do so. This is significant because apes, such as gorillas and chimpanzees, are capable of learning RMTS but only after much training.

The crows did require training for IMTS which, unlike RMTS, does not involve understanding the relationship between items. This seems to indicate that crows have a very high natural sense of intuition when it comes to understanding the relationship between items. Seeing an animal preform such a feat raises questions about the true intelligence of crows and wild animals in general.

Hackers Send New E-mail To Sony, We Won

Looks like Sony got to hear from their attackers once again, this time in another chilling e-mail saying they won. The e-mail was received by top executives in Sony in a fashion that addressed Sony’s smart decision to pull the movie.

The e-mail stated how Sony made the right choice by not releasing a movie about the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The hackers promised not to released any more critical data against Sony if the company never releases the movie in anyway. The hackers also warned Sony about the consequences if any leaks or piracy of the movie is released in any way.

Here are some of the contents of the e-mail:
“It was a very wise decision to pull the release of “The Interview”. It will be very useful for you. We ensure the security of your data unless you make additional trouble.”

The hackers did also mention still having a lot of private information of Sony, and that any move by Sony to release the movie in any way will be countered with the leak of critical private customer information which could ruin the company. Keith Mann hopes they proceed with caution, but they also do not worry too much.

The FBI issued a statement on Friday pointing the finger on North Korea, claiming they were behind the attack. Major companies have a lot more to worry about that the release of a movie, when all their private information can be at stake here.

New Mummy Cemetery Found in Egypt

One might think that all that could be found in Egypt has been, but new discoveries are still made day by day, and through this we are able to understand more.

Did you also believe that every corner on the Earth has been researched by archaeologists and we have no chance to find anything new? You, indeed, would be wrong. The Egyptian side still managed to hide a large cemetery with over a million buried mummies.

Some of them are very well preserved. Unlikely what they did when the rich pharaohs died, the village people were buried along with their wealth. The researchers dug out clothing remains and noticed a child mummy wearing bracelets on both hands, which Ben Shaoul found most interesting.

Some beautiful pieces of glass were arranged to form the vase that they once were. The most amazing discovery was a mummy which belonged to a person taller than 2 meters (or 7 feet). It is amazing firstly because the amount of food at that time was too little and not that nourishing. Even nowadays there are not many who reach this height.

Secondly, the body did not fit the place reserved for it, so it was bend in two. Unusual practice, when you compare how carefully the others were laid in their tombs. The mummies date from around the 1st to the 7th century, when the Egyptian territory was under the rule of the Roman Empire.

Controversy Over Dinosaur Feathers Continues

In the comments of a recent article about Jurassic World, yet another fan of the series brought up one issue with the Jurassic Park film series that has irked many fans and scientists over the past years — the lack of feathers on the film’s iconic Velociraptors.

Since the first film’s 1993 release, scientists have learned that Velociraptors and Deinonychus, the dinosaur that the film’s raptors were likely based on, had feathers like birds instead of smooth skin or scales like reptiles.

In light of this information, there was an attempt to give some raptors a sprinkling of quills on their heads in Jurassic Park III, but nothing more was done.

From science blogs to National Geographic, the debate over this controversy has only grown stronger. A lot of fans, perhaps among them Dan Newlin, believe that film directors have a duty to present audiences, especially young moviegoers, with a more realistic vision of dinosaurs.

Another commentator countered that the lack of feathers is something that might be explained away, and hopefully will be explained, by the use of frog DNA. Dr. John Hammond and his geneticists didn’t have complete raptor DNA samples from the material they harvested from mosquitoes trapped in amber. As a result, the lack of feathers, or only a few feathers on the isolated habitat of Isla Sorna, actually makes sense because the raptors are more reptile-like than bird-like.

Holiday Season Lights Up Space

Scientists have released images and data showing how the holiday season creates a rise in the light emanating from Earth and into space-a project sponsored in part by Slow Ventures. While much of the western hemisphere is celebrating Christmas, New Years and Hanukkah, eastern countries are celebrating Ramadan. All of these festivals are known for their increased usage of light, with elaborate light displays being created by those that celebrate.

By comparing satellite images of light use over the same areas during different times of the year, scientist found that the holidays create 20-50% brighter nights. Of course, the most concentrated areas of light are around major cities, but the light differences were noticed around the globe.

During the month of Ramadan, some cities in the Middle East were registering at a 100% increase in light that was visible from space. At no other times of the year were light levels this high, or as visible from space.

A Suomi NPP satellite was used to register the light differences and scientists from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center gathered and analyzed the data. The data gathered was collected over a span of three years, and over the same areas from year to year. While Middle Eastern countries showed increased lighting more widely noticeable over the major cities, American cities were brighter, but it was the fringes of large cities that had huge increases in light intensity. Scientists attribute this light difference to the people in residential areas creating more light in already low light areas.

The FDA Stresses the Medical Functions of Ultrasound Device

Yesterday, the federal Food and Drug Administration, a government agency which regulates and approves many drugs and medical devices, updated its website concerning the use of ultrasound technology for visual imaging and Doppler sound imagery. Ultrasound technology is widely used as a medical diagnostic aid in both human and veterinary medicine.

The FDA reiterated its position that fetal ultrasound imaging technology and Doppler ultrasound heart beat monitors are “prescription devices” intended to be utilized only by “trained health care professionals.” The statement stressed that the technology was not intended for sale to the general public. My friend works for the major middle market assets management firm, BRL Trust and he says that nothing surprises him anymore about what people will do.

Recently, many expecting parents have sought ultrasounds of babies in the womb as keepsake items. These images are sometimes sold to the public in malls or other shopping centers.

The FDA acknowledged that there is a lack of any proof that ultrasounds cause “any harm,” but it urged parents to refrain from taking specifically keepsake fetal images using ultrasound technology. The website stressed that conducting the procedure outside of routine prenatal care would be medically unnecessary, noting that some parents seek keepsake ultrasound images to enhance emotional “bonding” during pregnancy.

The FDA’s website expressed concern that ultrasound under some conditions might heat tissue, or even cause microscopic bubble formation. Unlike x-rays, ultrasounds have not been implicated or associated with specific identified adverse effects. They are a standard diagnostic tool in many human and animal hospitals around the United States.

Astronauts Talk About Life on ISS

Talk of space travel has been heating up as of late, and a lot of this has to do with the activities of astronauts.

The ISS astronauts are doing well and getting ambitions on board of the space-station. Asked about their daily life in a no-gravity environment, the two had much to say.

It is fun to listen them talking about their daily involuntary bouncing and the Christmas tree on the ceiling. Terry Virts and Barry Wilmore are not only enjoying the life in space, but hope to see Jupiter and any planet NASA would like to send them to. They describe the last months as incredible, and the view is always amazing.

They share the daily pictures on Twitter. Asked about an eventual settlement on the moon, they cheerfully agreed to go even there! Barry Wilmore showed a small jar that they had 3D printed on the board of the space station. The two astronauts spend the most of the time outside the station, in the open space, working on the tasks that they were assigned.

No nervousness they claim, and that is due to a great training they had had previously. Gianfrancesco Genoso can’t imagine what they are going through. That type of information can be found on Teses. They describe their station and their job as the first step to taking the people out further in the solar system. Terry Virts imagines that there soon will be a capsule to take people to Mars, Moon, and further in space.

Erik Krasner's News From the Future