NASA’s Integrated System for Autonomous and Adaptive Caretaking, or ISAAC, is advancing new technology for robots to take care of spacecraft. Researchers recently demonstrated the tech aboard the International Space Station using Astrobee, NASA’s free-flying robotic assistants.
Credits: NASA/Ames Research Center

Topics: International Space Station, NASA, Space Exploration, Spaceflight

In April 2021, Bumble, one of the free-flying Astrobee robots aboard the International Space Station, was put to the test to investigate a simulated anomaly. In the simulation, the station’s life support systems detected a high concentration of carbon dioxide. A similar situation, in reality, could be very dangerous for the seven people who are living and working aboard the microgravity laboratory.

During the test, the small, cube-shaped robot adeptly navigated the station to find the location designated as a “vent” used for cabin air circulation, and used computer vision to automatically detect the foreign object blocking the vent – an “astronaut sock,” represented by a printed image of a sock. Then, Bumble called for help to clear the blockage. For its next test, Bumble completed a survey of Bay 6 of the space station’s Japanese Exploration Module, building a high-resolution multi-sensor 3D map. During this journey, Bumble found itself bumping into and untangling itself from stray cables, and coping with simulated space-to-ground communication interruptions. It ultimately persevered and completed its mission objectives, with a little timely help from ground operators.

This simulated fault scenario marked the end of the first phase of testing for software designed to enable autonomous operations of a spacecraft’s operating and robotic systems. The software’s name is ISAAC – the Integrated System for Autonomous and Adaptive Caretaking.

“ISAAC is far more than just a management tool for our robotics and spacecraft systems,” said Trey Smith, the project manager for ISAAC at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. “Our long-term vision is that it can transform a spacecraft into an autonomous robotic system itself.”

NASA’s future Artemis missions to the Moon and beyond will take humans farther than they ever have before – and a host of robotic and mechanical systems will go with them. On the space station, much closer to home, astronauts have been able to stay full time, surpassing 20 years of continuous human presence – something that won’t be possible in deep space for some time. How can future spacecraft operate smoothly without that consistent human touch? ISAAC aims to deliver technologies to enable remote and autonomous caretaking during long periods of time when the astronauts are not aboard to perform maintenance, logistics management, and utilization tasks, as well as when communicating with ground controllers is limited or simply unavailable.

Meet ISAAC, Integrating Robots with the Space Stations of the Future, Frank Tavares, NASA’s Ames Research Center

Critical Thinking…

Damien G Jackaman, Facebook

Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, COVID-19, Existentialism, Fascism, Human Rights

A statement by Michael Scriven & Richard Paul, presented at the 8th Annual International Conference on Critical Thinking and Education Reform, Summer 1987.

Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action. In its exemplary form, it is based on universal intellectual values that transcend subject matter divisions: clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness.

The Foundation For Critical Thinking: Defining Critical Thinking

Matthew Taylor Coleman, 40, is charged with two counts of foreign murder of a United States national in the slaying of his 2-year-old son and 10-month-old daughter. He is accused of shooting them with a spearfishing gun on Monday in Rosarito — a beach community 30 minutes south of Tijuana, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Coleman runs the Lovewater Surf Co., a surfing school based in Santa Barbara, and is an alumnus of Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, according to the company’s website.

Coleman told FBI agents he killed his children by shooting a spear into their chests, explaining that he had been “enlightened by QAnon and Illuminati conspiracy theories” and “believed he was saving the world from monsters,” according to an affidavit in support of the complaint.

Santa Barbara surfer dad ‘enlightened by QAnon’ to kill his kids, feds say, Wendy Fry, San Diego Union-Tribune

Then, there was this: A fraternity brother sent me a Messenger video: “The Vaccine Itself is Dangerous! Please listen.” The word vaccine was spelled with “V (o_9) cc,” or an emoji. That makes it legit, right?

My response: “I’ve had the vaccine, and so has my family. I’m not magnetic, I don’t have a chip inside of me (except Sun Chip Garden Salsa). As a doctoral student, I have to take and pass EIGHT safely classes annually, specifically now centered on COVID-19 to work in my research facility. I’m not going to listen to this brother, respectfully.”

His qualifier for the videographer? She was a young lady he met in passing, whom he found to be very attractive. “No sir I’m not taking anyone’s word and I’m not taking anyone’s vaccine, my brother from another mother. And, if your job requires it, I think they’re infringing on your civil liberties. But I say this again my brother, know exactly what you have put in your body.”

I pointed out he didn’t know the ingredients of what he eats in a restaurant. He retorted he did, and it was a fellow frat that revealed his recipe secrets. He, of course, left out the fact that there are other restaurants ON THE PLANET he’s probably patronized, and every chef in every restaurant is not going to be that forthcoming.

Me: “Do you have a stop sign or a speed limit on your street? Ever heard of ‘no shirt, no shoes, no service?’ How did those things NOT violate your ‘civil liberties?’ The only people I encounter that know nothing about civil liberties, or civics are libertarians. Fun fact: there aren’t any countries that follow libertarian philosophy. There might be a good reason why.”

That was the end of it. I blocked him. I guess I’ll see him at the convention (maybe).

From medical professionals being threatened by parents that somehow think “freedom” (rhymes with “free dumb”) is more important than keeping their kids from being intubated or dying, to my fraternity brother accepting info from a pretty passing face, as a nation, we’re bereft not only in civics but critical thinking. We’re at the end of a fifty-year campaign of gaslighting that started with the 1971 Powell memo. Summarized excellently by Thom Hartmann, it’s a corporate reaction to Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring,” DDT, and avoiding environmental catastrophe, leading to cigarettes-not-causing-lung-cancer disinformation, continued with fossil fuel industry obfuscations on climate change since the 1970s; launched 10 years later by Ronald Reagan with his famous “government is the problem” inauguration speech, culminating in the current “American Carnage” we’re all living through. We’ve gotten used to lying to ourselves: our nation’s full history with all its brutality, mistakes, scars, and being lied to. We’re all primed to likely take advice from a pretty stranger passing in a stairwell that you might want to date or a social media post that conforms and confirms your internal biases.

The abject stupidity of this moment is by design; it does not lead to a stable republic.

“One of the things taken out of the curriculum was civics,” Zappa went on to explain. “Civics was a class that used to be required before you could graduate from high school. You were taught what was in the U.S. Constitution. And after all the student rebellions in the Sixties, civics was banished from the student curriculum and was replaced by something called social studies. Here we live in a country that has a fabulous constitution and all these guarantees, a contract between the citizens and the government – nobody knows what’s in it. And so, if you don’t know what your rights are, how can you stand up for them? And furthermore, if you don’t know what’s in the document, how can you care if someone is shredding it?”

Notes From the Dangerous Kitchen,” a review and a quote from Frank Zappa, Critics at Large

Cooling Computer Chips…

An electron microscopy image of a gallium nitride-boron arsenide heterostructure interface at atomic resolution. Courtesy: The H-Lab/UCLA

Topics: Materials Science, Nanotechnology, Semiconductor Technology

A novel semiconducting material with high thermal conductivity can be integrated into high-power computer chips to cool them down and so improve their performance. The material, boron arsenide, is better at removing heat than the best thermal-management devices available today, according to the US-based researchers who developed it.

The size of computer chips has been shrinking over the years and has now reached the nanoscale, meaning that billions of transistors can be squeezed onto a single computer chip. This increased density of chips has enabled faster, more powerful computers, but it also generates localized hot spots on the chips. If this extra heat is not dealt with properly during operation, computer processors begin to overheat. This slows them down and makes them inefficient.

Defect-free boron arsenide

Researchers led by Yongjie Hu at the University of California, Los Angeles, recently developed a new thermal-management material that is much more efficient at drawing out and dissipating heat than other known metals or semiconducting materials such as diamond and silicon carbide. This new material is known as defect-free boron arsenide (BAs), and Hu and colleagues have now succeeded in interfacing it with computer chips containing wide-bandgap high-electron-mobility gallium nitride (GaN) transistors for the first time.

Using thermal transport measurements, the researchers found that processors interfaced with BAs and running at near maximum capacity had much lower hot-spot temperatures than other heat-management materials at the same transistor power density. During the experiment, the temperature of the BAs-containing devices increased from room temperature to roughly 360 K, compared to around 410 K and 440 K, respectively, for diamond and silicon carbide.

New semiconductor cools computer chips, Isabelle Dumé, Physics World

On Fire…

Topics: Climate Change, Existentialism, Global Warming

The hundreds of climate experts who compiled the mammoth new climate report released today by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had to work under unprecedented pandemic conditions. At vast meetings forced online, scientists wrestled with how to convey the extent of the global crisis and the urgent need to act. It was uncanny to see “the echoes of one crisis in another,” says Claudia Tebaldi, a climate scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and one of the authors of the report.

The report paints an alarming picture but emphasizes there is still time for swift action to mitigate the worst of the projected impacts of climate change. Current average warming is now estimated at 1.1°C compared to preindustrial records, a revision based on improved methods and data that adds 0.1°C to previous estimates. Under every emissions scenario explored by the report, average warming of 1.5°C—a major target of the Paris climate accord—will very likely be reached within the next 20 years.

That timetable “underscores a sense of urgency for immediate and decisive action by every country, especially the major economies,” says Jane Lubchenco, deputy director for climate and the environment at the White House ​Office of Science and Technology Policy. “This is a critical decade for keeping the 1.5°C target within reach.” And the projections mean countries should come to the United Nations Climate Change Conference, scheduled for November, with the most “aggressive, ambitious” targets possible, she says.

Climate change ‘unequivocal’ and ‘unprecedented,’ says new U.N. report, Cathleen O’Grady, Science Magazine

Stop-Motion Efficiency…

A team of researchers created a new method to capture ultrafast atomic motions inside the tiny switches that control the flow of current in electronic circuits. Pictured here are Aditya Sood (left) and Aaron Lindenberg (right). Courtesy: Greg Stewart/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Topics: Applied Physics, Electrical Engineering, Nanotechnology, Semiconductor Technology

A new ultrafast imaging technique that captures the motion of atoms in nanoscale electronic devices has revealed the existence of a short-lived electronic state that could make it possible to develop faster and more energy-efficient computers. The imaging technique, which involves switching the devices on and off while taking snapshots of them with an electron diffraction camera, could also help researchers probe the limits of electronic switching.

“In general, we know very little about the intermediate phases materials pass through during electronic switching operations,” explains Aditya Sood, a postdoctoral research at the US Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and lead author of a paper in Science about the new method. “Our technique allows for a new way to visualize this process and therefore address what is arguably one of the most important questions at the heart of computing – that is, what are the fundamental limits of electronic switches in terms of speed and energy consumption?”

Ultrafast electron diffraction camera

Sood and colleagues at SLACStanford UniversityHewlett Packard LabsPennsylvania State University and Purdue University chose to study devices made from vanadium dioxide (VO2) because the material is known to transition between insulating and electrically conducting states near room temperature. It thus shows promise as a switch, but the exact pathway underlying electric field-induced switching in VOhas long been a mystery, Sood tells Physics World.

To take snapshots of VO2’s atomic structure, the team used periodic voltage pulses to switch an electronic device made from the material on and off. The researchers synchronized the timing of these voltage pulses with the high-energy electron pulses produced by SLAC’s ultrafast electron diffraction (UED) camera. “Each time a voltage pulse excited the sample, it was followed by an electron pulse with a delay that we could tune,” Sood explains. “By repeating this process many times and changing the delay each time, we created a stop-motion movie of the atoms moving in response to the voltage pulse.”

This is the first time that anyone has used UED, which detects tiny atomic movements in a material by scattering a high-energy beam of electrons off a sample, to observe an electronic device during operation. “We started thinking about this subject three years ago and soon realized that existing techniques were simply not fast enough,” says Aaron Lindenberg, a professor of materials science and engineering at Stanford and the study’s senior author. “So we decided to construct our own.”

‘Stop-motion movie of atoms’ reveals short-lived state in nanoscale switch, Isabelle Dumé, Physics World


Image Source: Link below

Topics: Particle Physics, Quantum Computer, Quantum Mechanics, Theoretical Physics

Flatland: “The book used the fictional two-dimensional world of Flatland to comment on the hierarchy of Victorian culture, but the novella’s more enduring contribution is its examination of dimensions.” Source: Wikipedia

After decades of exploration in nature’s smallest domains, physicists have finally found evidence that anyons exist. First predicted by theorists in the early 1980s, these particle-like objects only arise in realms confined to two dimensions, and then only under certain circumstances — like at temperatures near absolute zero and in the presence of a strong magnetic field.

Physicists are excited about anyons not only because their discovery confirms decades of theoretical work, but also for practical reasons. For example: Anyons are at the heart of an effort by Microsoft to build a working quantum computer.

This year brought two solid confirmations of the quasiparticles. The first arrived in April, in a paper featured on the cover of Science, from a group of researchers at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris. Using an approach proposed four years ago, physicists sent an electron gas through a teeny-tiny particle collider to tease out weird behaviors — especially fractional electric charges — that only arise if anyons are around. The second confirmation came in July, when a group at Purdue University in Indiana used an experimental setup on an etched chip that screened out interactions that might obscure the anyon behavior.

MIT physicist Frank Wilczek, who predicted and named anyons in the early 1980s, credits the first paper as the discovery but says the second lets the quasiparticles shine. “It’s gorgeous work that makes the field blossom,” he says. Anyons aren’t like ordinary elementary particles; scientists will never be able to isolate one from the system where it forms. They’re quasiparticles, which means they have measurable properties like a particle — such as a location, maybe even a mass — but they’re only observable as a result of the collective behavior of other, conventional particles. (Think of the intricate geometric shapes made by group behavior in nature, such as flocks of birds flying in formation or schools of fish swimming as one.)

The known universe contains only two varieties of elementary particles. One is the family of fermions, which includes electrons, as well as protons, neutrons, and the quarks that form them. Fermions keep to themselves: No two can exist in the same quantum state at the same time. If these particles didn’t have this property, all matter could simply collapse to a single point. It’s because of fermions that solid matter exists.

The rest of the particles in the universe are bosons, a group that includes particles like photons (the messengers of light and radiation) and gluons (which “glue” quarks together). Unlike fermions, two or more bosons can exist in the same state at the same time. They tend to clump together. It’s because of this clumping that we have lasers, which are streams of photons all occupying the same quantum state.

Physicists prove the existence of two-dimensional particles called ‘anyons’, Stephen Omes, Astronomy (December 2020)

Reckoning, or Ragnarok…

Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, COVID-19, Existentialism, Fascism, Human Rights

I read Mary Trump’s book “Too Much, and Never Enough,” feeling a chill when in the epilogue she predicted: “my uncle is going to get a lot of people killed.” Realize, when those words were typed on presumably her laptop, she, and all of us were not wearing masks, washing hands, or standing six feet from each other in public places. Our garden-variety doomsday centered on mushroom clouds, and nuclear codes. I have preordered “Reckoning.”

The fetishization of guns in America, the violence in popular entertainment, online and streaming, the rationalization of every gory and gruesome mass killing has left the public numb, and conditioned to death on a massive scale. It is no wonder we’re so nonchalant about the Coronavirus: “they probably had to die of something” — this is systemic sadism.

Governor Asa Hutchinson in Arkansas looked so nonplussed at the lectern as he tried to explain to his constituents that he had been wrong to sign an anti-mask executive order, that he was beyond just “owning the libs.” With the Delta variant, and Delta plus up to bat in South Korea, conditions on the ground had decisively changed. The fact that they were shouting the latest conspiracy theories gleaned from the Internet shouldn’t have surprised him: he was the source of their original gaslighting. Alabama Governor Kay Ivey admitted the unvaccinated are making the pandemic more prolonged, and worse, without a shred of guilt at her previous anti-mask stance, or irony. Leave it to Death Santis to double-down, despite falling poll numbers. His go-to stance: attack Biden, pivot to brown migrants on the border; hope for racism. He’s really using that Harvard law degree.

You can’t have reparations without a reckoning.

According to Jacqueline Battalora, MD, JD, in “Birth of a White Nation: The Invention of White People and Its Relevance Today,” white people became an official thing in America in 1681. Dr. Gerald Horne makes similar points in his book “Race to Revolution: The U.S. and Cuba during Slavery and Jim Crow.” Prior to this legislative fiat, Europeans knew each other by their home nations, in essence, their tribes. The European continent was soaked in the blood, not of Moors, but other Europeans. America organized American society as “us,” and “them,” the civilized, and the savages, the “correct” ethos to enslave the kidnapped, and genocide the native. It’s the perfect crime that has turned a profit for a small family of the wealthy for four centuries, the “vast sucking sound,” to coin a phrase from Ross Perot. All they have to do is keep us at each other’s throats. We now have the pejorative “RINOs,” and “DINOs,” when an earlier descriptor labeled such politicians “moderates.” There are litmus tests of loyalty to tribes driven by cults of personality, but tribesmen didn’t make laws, moderates did. It’s how things got done, or euphemistically “how the sausage got made.”

We need to teach beyond the poetry of “Manifest Destiny,” that the expansion and founding of the United States were for a created class: American oligarchs. They initially just didn’t want to pay taxes to their benefactor, England. Thomas Paine clarified and made the reasons to break away from Europe profound, and noble, but his progressive ideas like equal education for men, and women, a progressive income tax, welfare for the poor, and the canard that could unravel the budding dominant world economy: he opposed slavery. It’s probably why you haven’t heard a thing about him.

Without a reckoning, there can be no healing, no atonement, or reconciliation. Without a reckoning of January 6, there can be no justice, and the “rule of law” is meaningless. Without a reckoning, that attempted coup was practice for the next. There can be no reckoning without accurate history. Eighteen states have passed interposition, and nullification laws to keep black, indigenous people of color (BIPOC) from exercising the voting franchise, in addition to overturning elections whose outcomes they don’t like. If Republicans don’t want to be called fascists, they should stop acting like them.

A reckoning will enable the next reconstruction since the first one after the Civil War was interrupted by white supremacy; the second – 1964 Civil Rights Act, 1965 Voting Rights Act, 1968 Fair Housing Act – by a relentless, fifty-year right-wing backlash. History told right tends to make readers uncomfortable, but information can and should change the reader or student for the better. Showing our flaws, and blemishes should make us strive to do better, not hide our past that can easily be sourced within a few clicks, hypocrisy laid bare.

The future is mist and mystery. It doesn’t exist, except for the decisions we make today. One of those is what the fictional Vulcans of Star Trek called O’thia: reality-truth. For us to build the future, we have to reckon with our past, our real past, where we’re not always the heroes of a mythologized story we’ve gaslighted over four centuries.

Reckoning: the action or process of calculating or estimating something; the moment of truth.

Ragnarok: the final destruction of the world in the conflict between the Aesir and the powers of Hel led by Loki, the god of lies and chaos — also called Twilight of the Gods.

Without true reckoning, there is only Ragnarok.

Breaking Physics…

Topics: Quantum Computer, Quantum Mechanics, Thermodynamics

In what could prove to be a momentous accomplishment for fundamental physics and quantum physics, scientists say they’ve finally figured out how to manufacture a scientific oddity called a time crystal.

Time crystals harness a quirk of physics in which they remain ever-changing yet dynamically stable. In other words, they don’t give off energy as they change conformation, making them an apparent violation of the natural law that all things gradually turn towards entropy and disorder.

Now, it seems like it’s possible for these things to exist after all, Quanta Magazine reports. At least, that’s according to what a massive team of researchers from Stanford, Princeton, and elsewhere working with Google’s quantum computing labs claimed in preprint research shared online last week. Aside from being an incredible scientific discovery in abstract — time crystals represent a new, bizarre phase of matter — the discovery could have profound implications for the finnicky world of quantum computing.

“The consequence is amazing: You evade the second law of thermodynamics,” study coauthor and Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems director Roderich Moessner told Quanta.

Google Claims To Create Time Crystals Inside Quantum Computer, Dan Robitzski, Futurism

Flirting by Starlight…

Image Source: Link below

Topics: Astrophysics, Electromagnetic Radiation, Entanglement, SETI

When we gaze up at the night sky, we might be accidentally eavesdropping on an alien conversation.

At least, that’s according to Imperial College London quantum physicist Terry Rudolph, who last week published preprint research theorizing that an advanced extraterrestrial civilization might alter the light coming off stars in order to communicate across great distance, almost like a series of interstellar smoke signals.

The physics of the ordeal get a bit dense — which is probably reasonable if aliens are rapidly communicating across star systems — but the basic idea is to use entangled photons from different stars to transmit messages that appear to be random twinkling to any nosy onlookers.

Roaming Charges

The idea, Rudolph notes, is technically possible as far as the physics are concerned, but pure speculation when it comes to any discussion of alien technology. But as he writes in the paper, any entangled communication among stars “can be rendered in principle indiscernible to those of us excluded from the conversation.”

So if there were a mega-advanced civilization out there colonizing the Milky Way galaxy, communication along the lines of what Rudolph has proposed could explain why we haven’t found any evidence of life beyond Earth.

Scientists Claim That Aliens May Be Communicating Via Starlight, Dan Robitzski, Futurism

The Weirdest Matter…

This simulation shows how a fracton-filled material would be expected to scatter a beam of neutrons.
H. Yan et al., Physical Review Letters

Topics: Condensed Matter Physics, Quantum Mechanics, Theoretical Physics

Your desk is made up of individual, distinct atoms, but from far away its surface appears smooth. This simple idea is at the core of all our models of the physical world. We can describe what’s happening overall without getting bogged down in the complicated interactions between every atom and electron.

So when a new theoretical state of matter was discovered whose microscopic features stubbornly persist at all scales, many physicists refused to believe in its existence.

“When I first heard about fractons, I said there’s no way this could be true, because it completely defies my prejudice of how systems behave,” said Nathan Seiberg, a theoretical physicist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. “But I was wrong. I realized I had been living in denial.”

The theoretical possibility of fractons surprised physicists in 2011. Recently, these strange states of matter have been leading physicists toward new theoretical frameworks that could help them tackle some of the grittiest problems in fundamental physics.

Fractons are quasiparticles — particle-like entities that emerge out of complicated interactions between many elementary particles inside a material. But fractons are bizarre even compared to other exotic quasiparticles, because they are totally immobile or able to move only in a limited way. There’s nothing in their environment that stops fractons from moving; rather it’s an inherent property of theirs. It means fractons’ microscopic structure influences their behavior over long distances.

“That’s totally shocking. For me it is the weirdest phase of matter,” said Xie Chen, a condensed matter theorist at the California Institute of Technology.

The ‘Weirdest’ Matter, Made of Partial Particles, Defies Description, Thomas Lewton, Quanta Magazine