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  • Reviews & Previews

    Our fascination with robots goes all the way back to antiquity

    Gods and RobotsAdrienne MayorPrinceton Univ., $29.95

    Artificial intelligence and robotics are hot scientific fields today. But even in the brave new world of AI, there’s nothing new under the sun, writes classics and science history scholar Adrienne Mayor in Gods and Robots.

    In a breezy and thought-provoking account, Mayor describes how ancient Greek, Roman, Indian and Chinese...

    01/20/2019 - 08:00 Archaeology, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence
  • News in Brief

    These robots can follow how-to diagrams

    Robots imbued with a certain kind of common sense may soon be able to follow instructional diagrams to build things.

    When studying pictures for assembling IKEA furniture or LEGO villages, humans are naturally good at inferring how to get from A to B. Robots, on the other hand, normally have to be painstakingly programmed with exact instructions for how to move. “Even when you try to...

    01/16/2019 - 14:00 Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Technology
  • Letters to the Editor

    Readers ask about electrons’ roundness, a science board game and more

    Beer today, gone tomorrow

    Rising temperatures and more frequent droughts could cut barley crop yields worldwide by the end of the century, leading to beer shortages and high prices, Jennifer Leman reported in “Add beer to the list of foods threatened by climate change” (SN: 11/10/18, p. 5).

    Online reader Jean Beaulieu was hopeful that scientists will figure out an easy way to grow...

    01/08/2019 - 07:00 Particle Physics, Climate, Robotics
  • News

    How Twitter bots get people to spread fake news

    To spread misinformation like wildfire, bots will strike a match on social media but then urge people to fan the flames.

    Automated Twitter accounts, called bots, helped spread bogus articles during and after the 2016 U.S. presidential election by making the content appear popular enough that human users would trust it and share it more widely, researchers report online November 20 in...

    11/20/2018 - 11:00 Robotics, Science & Society
  • News in Brief

    A new robot decides how and when to transform to get the job done

    A robot made of several smaller robotic pieces can autonomously transform its body into shapes best suited for a particular task. 

    The bot primarily consists of wheeled, cubic “modules” that link up with one another using magnets, forming a small assortment of body types reminiscent of cars or snakes. The brains of the operation reside in a specialized module equipped with cameras and a...

    10/31/2018 - 14:00 Robotics, Technology
  • News in Brief

    A new palm-sized drone is mini, but mighty

    A new type of mini drone can pull a lot more than its own weight.

    The drone latches onto a surface and uses a cable to reel in objects up to 40 times its mass, researchers report. This feat is a marked improvement over other flying robots, which generally can’t tote objects heavier than about their own weight (SN: 2/7/15, p. 18). The new palm-sized flyer, described October 24 in Science...

    10/24/2018 - 14:00 Robotics, Technology
  • Teaser

    Self-driving cars see better with cameras that mimic mantis shrimp vision

    To help self-driving cars drive safely, scientists are looking to an unlikely place: the sea.

    A new type of camera inspired by the eyes of mantis shrimps could help autonomous vehicles better gauge their surroundings, researchers report October 11 in Optica. The camera — which detects polarized light, or light waves vibrating on a single plane —  has roughly half a million sensors that...

    10/12/2018 - 07:00 Robotics, Animals
  • News

    Fiberglass-spinning robots could be construction workers of the future

    Much like a silkworm uses a single thread to swaddle itself in a cocoon, a new kind of robot spins a single strand of material around its body to build custom-shaped fiberglass structures.

    The new robots could create customized construction materials on-site, unlike other industrious bots that assemble premade building blocks (SN: 3/22/14, p. 8). Fleets of the fiberglass-spinning bots...

    09/26/2018 - 14:00 Robotics, Technology
  • News

    High-tech ‘skins’ turn everyday objects into robots

    A new type of soft robot gets its power from the skin it’s in.

    Robotic skin that bends, stretches and contracts can wrap around inanimate objects like stuffed animals, foam tubes or balloons to create flexible, lightweight robots. Removable, reusable sheets of this artificial skin, described online September 19 in Science Robotics, could also be used to build grippers or wearable devices...

    09/19/2018 - 14:00 Materials, Robotics, Technology
  • News in Brief

    This flying robot could reveal secrets of the aerial world of insects

    A new winged robot helps explain why airborne insects are so doggone hard to swat.

    Scientists have wondered how these tiny pilots pull off such rapid twists and turns, but researchers haven’t been able to test all their ideas by monitoring real insects or using tethered robots. Now, a free-flying, insect-inspired robot, described in the Sept. 14 Science, gives researchers an alternative...

    09/13/2018 - 14:00 Robotics, Animals