Ultimate Helicopter Parenting

A father decided to build a drone helicopter to follow his child to the bus stop rather than walking him there in person.

“Last winter, I fantasized about sitting at my computer while a camera-equipped drone followed him overhead.” That is the revelation of a
 father who provides a detailed account of building an Arduino-based gyrocopter that could follow his son, in grade school, who he normally walks 400 meters down a hill to the bus stop each morning. He chose a quadcopter design for its maneuverability and ability to hover. He did not buy a kit but instead got his parts separate. His project involved a central frame to hold the electronics, aluminum to support motors and propellers, and legs to cushion landings, a main control board and sensors, batteries, power distribution board, power controllers for the motors, radio receiver for standard remote-control flying, and an RF modem for computerized control.

A father attempts DIY drone buddy to watch his kid

Physics Phriday: Ice on Mercury?

Scientists think that the MESSENGER probe that is orbiting Mercury has found water ice at the poles.  This is surprising because Mercury is only 0.38 AU from the Sun. (Recall that 1 AU is how far the Earth is from the Sun)  However, there are some parts of the planet that are always in the shade (like the bottoms of some craters).  The surface temperature can range from 100 Kelvin at night to 700 Kelvin during the day.


The MESSENGER probe orbiting Mercury.

Saturn’s North Pole

These pictures of Saturn’s north pole were taken yesterday by the Cassini spacecraft. (Side note: my dad worked on the cameras for this spacecraft.)

Notice the hexagon of clouds around the north pole and the rings in the background.  Clouds don’t usually form hexagons, and this hexagon is stable.  We first saw it in 1980 when the Voyager 1 spacecraft flew by (another project my dad worked on).  Here’s a good explanation of how the hexagon is formed and maintained.

Saturn's north polar hexagon and rings (raw image)

The next picture is a close up of the center vortex of the previous picture.

Raw image of Saturn's north polar vortex

PETMAN Prototype Robot

Here’s a new robot from the people who brought you the BigDog robot.  This one is designed to test military clothing in hazardous situations, but it certainly looks like an early Cylon model. The movement and ability to correct for missteps is very impressive.

Here’s the BigDog, for those who missed it.

Quantum Levitation

There’s a pretty bizarre looking video making it’s way around the internet.  It shows a superconducting magnet doing some things that look impossible.

Here’s an article that explains it a bit.  They say it’s not hard to understand, and they try to explain it simply, but some parts will go over your heads at this point.  If there’s something you don’t understand, look it up.  That’s the best way to learn.

2011 Ig Nobel Prizes

The 2011 Ig Nobel prize winners were announced last night by the Improbable Research group.  Here are the winners in each category.

(Current and past winners can be found here)

PHYSIOLOGY PRIZE: Anna Wilkinson (of the UK), Natalie Sebanz (of NETHERLANDS, HUNGARY, and AUSTRIA), Isabella Mandl (of AUSTRIA) and Ludwig Huber (of AUSTRIA) for their study ‘No Evidence of Contagious Yawning in the Red-Footed Tortoise.”

CHEMISTRY PRIZE: Makoto Imai, Naoki Urushihata, Hideki Tanemura, Yukinobu Tajima, Hideaki Goto, Koichiro Mizoguchi and Junichi Murakami of JAPAN, for determining the ideal density of airborne wasabi (pungent horseradish) to awaken sleeping people in case of a fire or other emergency, and for applying this knowledge to invent the wasabi alarm.

MEDICINE PRIZE: Mirjam Tuk (of THE NETHERLANDS and the UK), Debra Trampe (of THE NETHERLANDS) and Luk Warlop (of BELGIUM). and jointly to Matthew Lewis, Peter Snyder and Robert Feldman (of the USA), Robert Pietrzak, David Darby, and Paul Maruff (of AUSTRALIA) for demonstrating that people make better decisions about some kinds of things — but worse decisions about other kinds of things‚ when they have a strong urge to urinate.

PSYCHOLOGY PRIZE: Karl Halvor Teigen of the University of Oslo, NORWAY, for trying to understand why, in everyday life, people sigh.

LITERATURE PRIZE: John Perry of Stanford University, USA, for his Theory of Structured Procrastination, which says: To be a high achiever, always work on something important, using it as a way to avoid doing something that’s even more important.

BIOLOGY PRIZE: Darryl Gwynne (of CANADA and AUSTRALIA and the USA) and David Rentz (of AUSTRALIA and the USA) for discovering that a certain kind of beetle mates with a certain kind of Australian beer bottle

PHYSICS PRIZE: Philippe Perrin, Cyril Perrot, Dominique Deviterne and Bruno Ragaru (of FRANCE), and Herman Kingma (of THE NETHERLANDS), for determining why discus throwers become dizzy, and why hammer throwers don’t.

MATHEMATICS PRIZE: Dorothy Martin of the USA (who predicted the world would end in 1954), Pat Robertson of the USA (who predicted the world would end in 1982), Elizabeth Clare Prophet of the USA (who predicted the world would end in 1990), Lee Jang Rim of KOREA (who predicted the world would end in 1992), Credonia Mwerinde of UGANDA (who predicted the world would end in 1999), and Harold Camping of the USA (who predicted the world would end on September 6, 1994 and later predicted that the world will end on October 21, 2011), for teaching the world to be careful when making mathematical assumptions and calculations.

PEACE PRIZE: Arturas Zuokas, the mayor of Vilnius, LITHUANIA, for demonstrating that the problem of illegally parked luxury cars can be solved by running them over with an armored tank.

PUBLIC SAFETY PRIZE: John Senders of the University of Toronto, CANADA, for conducting a series of safety experiments in which a person drives an automobile on a major highway while a visor repeatedly flaps down over his face, blinding him.