Another Email of Awesome Awesomness!

Two confused looking cute little stop-motion animation style Raccoon scientists at work in their lab.

What a week! I’m RATHER excited about heading to this S.T.E.A.M, Sci Fi and Comic Books geekfest called TriCon KW up in Kitchener Waterloo this weekend! I’m just doing a talk, but plan to roam the vendor aisles looking for cool stuff and fellow nerds! A BIG source of my excitement is that I’m finally getting to meet YouTube engineering marvel The Hacksmith! James will be joining me on-stage and I can’t wait to geek-out with him about his extremely cool maker builds! If you’re in the hood, come by, check out the event and join us for a chat on Sunday!

YouTube engineer The Hacksmith poses with his homemade IronMan robot suit

Now to TechBanditry!

What with wretched Valentine’s Day and jet-setting Jane leaving for her fancy Berlin Film Festival today, I’ve decided to move TechBandits to my lonely Thursday this week…plus, by then we’ll have even more to discuss!

Two stop-motion animation style brave raccoon scientists in a homemade ufo...they're not going anywhere.


What’s with all these crazy floating invaders all of a sudden and what does it all mean!? Apparently we've been using $400,000 sidewinder missiles to shoot these things down.  It's also possible that we may have missed the UFO the first time and lost a missile into lake Huron!  There's a heck of a lot of debate about what is going on and why, right now!

a whimsical raccoon astronaut on a desert moon.

Moon dust solar space shield

Speaking of Crazy…how about this idea: Using moon dust as a solar space shield. A few scientists are proposing, as an admittedly “out-there” idea, to fire 10 billion kilograms of moondust out into space, from the surface of the moon, using what is basically a tshirt cannon! The idea is the moon dust would diffuse sunlight and rid the Earth of about 6 days of sun a year…of course we’ll have to keep dusting as the particles wouldn’t stay where they’re supposed to for long. The whole project seems a bit unlikely. But even the MOST viable idea right now is still pretty radical; Geoengineering the planet by injecting aerosols into the stratosphere. The idea is to reflect sunlight back out into space and thus cool down the planet (like what happens with the ash from a volcano eruption). I’m just a lowly TV scientist but I have seen this movie before… there’s a few things that can go horribly wrong here, don’t you think?

Cute stop-motion bat looks quizzically at a silly hi-tech listening device

But wait! Here’s another crazy idea! A translator for animals, insects and plants!? Back in the 80’s, science hippies thought it would be cool to teach sign language to chimps and gorillas like Koko  (it just feels kind of creepy and wrong seeing the poor creature now, doesn’t it?!) Today’s scientists are taking a different, more data-driven tack. Using deep learning AI and “deep listening” with the help of fancy new tiny cameras, sensors and trackers, they are amassing huge amounts of information about how animals, like bats, insects, like bees and even plants, slime sensing tomatoes, "communicate". The AI looks for patterns in movement, sounds, scents and secretions (yuck!) and turns that into a “language” that we can understand. They’ve got so good at watching bees, for example, that they’ve created a robobee that waggle-bee-dances to communicate the location of nectar. This buzzy dance machine actually managed to convince some real bees to go check out the nectar planted by scientists. Not so crazy now, is it!?

A great (nice and short) read for you!

I wanted to share a fascinating article I found on prosthetics by Britt H. Youngan author who actually uses them. The Bionic-Hand arms race points out a gradually changing perspective on design and engineering of prosthetics over the years. Specifically, this engineer-centric...not user-centric...approach that tends to result in really cool futuristic, newsworthy, "replacement" robotic hands and arms. Britt goes on to suggest that the best designs, from the user’s perspective, aren’t always the sexiest, most challengingly complex engineered solutions. My favourite quote was the robotics and machine learning expert Ad Spiers saying “In the anime Gundam, there are so many close-ups of gigantic robot hands grabbing things like massive guns. But why does it need to be a human hand? Why doesn’t the robot just have a gun for a hand?”. The article was was a refreshing perspective change for me...and gave me some insight into my engineering bias towards this area of design and development…fantastic read!

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