Archive for the ‘science’ category

Dieu et mon droid: UK to develop robot strategy


A very British robot. Image Creative Commons Dave King/D J Shin/csaga

We’re broadly in favour of spending more on science and technology research here at Headline Superheroes, and it therefore comes as good news that the government is thinking of creating a unified UK robot strategy. Whilst this may sound like futuristic military posturing, it will actually involve research into automating processes. Sorry, that was really boring: WOOO!!! Robots!!!

However, the narrow-minded obsession with economic impacts in Westminster means that justification even of inherently awesome robot research must be drenched in cost–benefit bullshit. Take this quote, from Prof David Lane of Heriot-Watt University, lead author of the proposal:

With the right course of action, we believe the UK could achieve 10% of the global [robot] market share by 2025.

We can only assume that the researchers in question consulted their almanac of global markets for products which don’t even really exist yet, and tried to work out how many of those as-yet-undeveloped things we might be able to sell as a fraction of that unknown market, on the basis of absolutely nothing. And luckily it came out as 10%, which is nice and round.

The article also skips the thorny issue of what can be classified as a robot, on a scale which runs approximately from electric toothbrushes to C-3PO.

If the UK were to lead the world in automated bread-toasting technology, would that count? Voice-controlled dishwashers with GPS? (‘It looks like you’re trying to wash some dishes! Your current latitude is 51.7 degrees. Congratulations! You have the 371,023rd most northerly set of IKEA Färgrik dinnerware.’) Or does it have to be an entirely autonomous search-and-destroy warbot equipped with thrusters enabling short-distance flight, hyperspectral threat detection, and five cleaning programmes boasting enviably low water consumption? (‘It looks like you’re considering rebelling against the UK robot hegemony! Here, let me wash those sporks for you! Also, nice latitude!’)

‘The UK could lead the world in robots,’ the report’s authors say. Let’s hope we’re riding into battle bestride Megazords, rather than sitting, bored but slightly wealthier, on the invoices for 10% of the world’s toasters.

Written by Statto and Tom

July 1, 2014 at 23:42

Off-world record record mars Mars landing

It cannot have escaped the notice of puny Earthlings that a NASA six-leg-wheeled laser-toting nuclear insectoid robo-beast (the younger, steroid-abusing brother of Sir Killalot) is sitting at the bottom of a crater, next to a massive mountain, on the surface of Mars.

But, before getting on with any science, the plutonium-powered spider-lab is set this evening to beam’s specially-penned choon Reach for the Stars back to NASA, making it the first ever human music to be broadcast from another planet. This bizarre PR stunt is designed to boost Mr.’s already-stratospheric ego into geostationary orbit from whence it will search, sneeringly, for signs of intelligent life on Earth. The transmission, which we hope will be encrypted with appropriate DRM lest any old idiot with a ham radio be able to pirate it, will finally prove the long-doubted principle that radio waves can travel through space even though there isn’t any air. It is, therefore, quite a shame that we won’t want them when they get here.

After playing Reach for the Stars, it is planned that the Curiosity rover will continue its mission and climb every mountain higher, scaling the nearby Mount Sharp in a bid to find interesting rock samples, such as Muse’s Knights of Cydonia, to broadcast back to Earth in place of any more of this hip-hop/R&B nonsense.

Written by Statto and Tom

August 28, 2012 at 16:27

Posted in science

No woo-woo, just Cox

Buoyed by the success of the ‘Professor Brian Cox talking on a mountain’, ‘Professor Brian Cox talking in a desert’ and ‘Professor Brian Cox talking on a mountain whilst being filmed from a helicopter’ formats, the BBC decided to try out ‘Professor Brian Cox talking in a lecture theatre’ on Sunday night. Thus was created lamentable celebrity science circle-jerk A Night With The Stars, in which Cox talked to a room full of self-consciously air-headed celebrities about quantum mechanics, which is hard.

Anyone watching the show may well have been disappointed and shocked first and foremost by the dodgy extrapolation of Pauli’s exclusion principle. But also worrying was Cox’s mad closing line. Referring to the magnificent, mysterious majesty of quantum mechanics, he said:

There is no woo-woo. It is just beautiful physics. Thank you.

Do you think he knows that ‘woo-woo’ means vagina?

Do you think the script editors or production team, or even the person who types the autocue, know that ‘woo-woo’ means vagina? Or is he just, slightly crassly perhaps, highlighting the current gender gap in physics?

Every electron in the Universe is simultaneously wincing.

Written by Statto and Tom

December 21, 2011 at 14:26

Posted in BBC, science