Technology

Real-Life Robots: Are We There Yet?

The topic of robots has been around for decades, and it has been present not only in scientific circles, but it has also been explored in popular culture, like movies and literature, and even cartoons. Scientists have been working on creating robots for many years now, and the robot enthusiasts among us are still waiting for the day they start selling them in shops for home use. That day still seems intangible, but no doubt science has made some significant progress and actually created robots that are pretty impressive. They may not be very intelligent yet, or crafty enough to be able to repair your watch, for example (thanks Patrick), but they still have some functions you’ll find pretty useful. We’ll introduce you to the more interesting ones and promise you’ll be blown away.

  • Meet Sophia. She’s a humanoid robot that’s capable of holding a simple conversation and is able to display around 40 different facial expressions. Sophia uses artificial intelligence, visual data processing, voice, and facial recognition, and she can imitate human gestures. She was developed by a Hong Kong-based company called Hanson Robotics and launched in February 2016, and their aim was to create a robot to be a suitable companion for the elderly at nursing homes.
  • Aeolus is the dream robot for everyone who detests household chores, aka everyone. This robot is designed to be able to autonomously help around the house with various chores. It is a truly multitalented robot – it can use the vacuum cleaner, mop the floors, and stack the shelves. It is equipped with sensory technologies to be able to differentiate between all the family members, as well as objects in the home. It also has built-in Amazon Alexa and Google Home so that you can talk to it.
  • And then there’s Pepper, another humanoid-like robot. Pepper is special in that he can sense basic human emotions and can exhibit his own feelings. He is designed to be able to interact with humans through his touchscreen where you can choose the language you want to interact in – there are 15. Pepper was manufactured in Japan by SoftBank Robotics and launched in June, 2014. He is placed as an assistant in offices, banks, airports, and restaurants around the world with the purpose of helping customers.

These robots are only a fraction of what scientists are vigorously working on, but we have to say we are truly impressed. What do you think, what’s next? Are we living in the future yet?

Be Glad You Aren’t an Astronaut

Everyone loves the modern high-style looks of Kohler products, but you can’t own one on a shoestring budget. For me, it is Toto all the way. It is one eighth the price. You still get reliability and durability with every model. I haven’t experienced any mishaps. Getting quality, even at a low cost, keeps the plumber at bay. Saving money is what it is all about. There is a reason why it is a popular and widely-recognized industry leader brand. Let me give you an image. It is a sleek, elongated design with a superior flushing system that draws water into the bowl quickly. Then it forces it out at a glance. Picture the fittings, the chrome-plated trip lever, and the luxury seat that are all included.

I am going on and on about my fabulous toilet for a reason. I was sitting around thinking about the challenges astronauts face with hygiene and toileting when in space as compared to a typical Toto like the ones on this web page in most bathrooms. Yes, I am a huge fan of the technology. I am even interested in the most mundane solutions to normal human problems. Anything to keep our guys comfortable and content. In case you don’t know, they fasten themselves to the appliance so they won’t float away. Then, simply put, there is a device akin to a vacuum that sucks waste away after which they are vacuum dried. Very efficient and cleverly designed! Want to know more details?

While the Space Shuttle has toilets, and not too foreign ones at that in terms of appearance and function, it doesn’t have a wash basin or shower. There is one to a customer so to speak (for both men and women). I think the astronaut toilet looks western style and is placed behind a partition. No other privacy is offered. I suppose they get used to others hearing them go. I also imagine that noise is camouflaged by the sounds from the air conditioning fan and various motors. However, be glad that you are not circling the planet. Every consideration is given to hygiene, but it isn’t what we get in the comforts of our homes.

I am also interested in astronomy and the origins of space. Forgive me for the fun science contained in this blog. There is so much to learn and share. I wanted to write about my passion so I can convey what motivates me to do research to others. I hope my enthusiasm comes through in my words. I can read about most any subject if the author has heart. As for me, I look for subjects that are arcane but relevant. I know a bit about the astronauts’ personalities (did you catch the TV series?) and now it is time to get a glimpse of their individual experiences in space. What is their typical day like? How do they cope with the suction toilet? Weren’t you all dying to know? Ha!

Whatever’s Handy

Fun science makes us tick. This is my motto. I hope you find it apropos for someone who loves exploring space or robotics and the like. I know there are many enthusiasts out there so I hope this blog catches them. It caught you. Join in a realm that will tickle your fancy. The realm of science is unpredictable. You can be as inventive as you like. There is always room for new ideas. Take my new low-tech telescope. I was tinkering around like a madmen late at night and it came to be that I could built such a gadget out of materials that are just lying around. I might need to buy a few parts such as an adjustable lens. I can also take apart an old worn out telescope to fashion my new one.

Science is my passion so let’s see what I get. I started scrounging around to see what I had in my make shift lab in the garage. I have wire cutters and a saw that will handle assorted thicknesses of metal. I can use a vise to bend it to make a round shape. I have all kinds of things that could work for a cap. I also want it to be battery operated if I want a light. This would make it really special. If I come up with a prototype, I can give the instructions and a diagram to kids for at home projects. Hopefully, this will stimulate their imagination to try to make things out of the debris of life.

As I was getting to the end of the project, I had a few parts to glue on for finishing touches. Kind of like ornamentation. This will give the device an old-fashioned handmade look. I looked everywhere in the garage and kitchen and found no epoxy. I was not about to quit at the last minute. I suddenly remembered that a friend was in my bathroom a week or two ago putting on false eyelashes. She had left a tube of her eyelash extension glue. I said to myself, why not try it. It is akin to an adhesive or cement. Let’s give it a go. The result was very positive and the finished product was perfect.

I putter around for days on this project and don’t even stop to rest or eat. It’s all I can talk about. A few false starts have given me pause about whether or not I can pull this off or should shift to another idea. No, I will stick it out. It is not a complicated thing. There is no motor or mechanical mechanism. You can shift the lens range by turning the bottom side. I can make the telescope out of metal, my preference, or plastic. It depends on what works best from a functional and appearance point of view. No, I am not going to manufacture it: everyone wants high tech these days. It is for my own benefit and amusement. I will show it to everyone, however, and get some honest feedback.

Home Water Science

There is talk that our water at home is hard and full of unwanted chemicals like chlorine, lead, iron, mercury, and more. It corrodes metal so why not our stomachs when we drink it. You know it doesn’t taste that good. It also attacks our skin while showering or bathing making it squeaky and itchy. As for the hair, let’s talk about dry and limp. It is time to learn more about the science of home water. You could be one of the 85% of Americans that has hard water.

Why is water hard? Aquifers and underground sources that supply collect dissolved minerals from rock. Your water thus could contain calcium, magnesium carbonate, and manganese among other chemicals. The results are undesirable. The severity of hardness is measured by grains (of mineral) per gallon (GPG) or, in some cases, by parts per million of mineral (PPM). One GPG equals 17.1 PPM. Because of recrystallization and scale that hard water produces, you need a tankless hot water heating system to avoid the corrosion of the old-style receptacles. You get costlier utility bills, clogged plumbing, and reduced water flow. This applies to dishwashers, clothes washing machines, coffee makers, and other water heating appliances. Water heaters are up to 30% less effective when plagued with hard water scale.

Just from an aesthetic perspective, hard water makes shampoos, detergents, and soaps less effective and sudsy. They simply don’t clean as well. You also have to use up more water in the rinsing phase. If you didn’t know where bathroom scum comes from, now you know! The answer people like to hear is a soft water filtering system as it has many benefits to the skin and hair. The typical type is a whole-house water softener unit that works by means of ion-exchange. You sign up for the service and the company installs two tanks: one with special resin beads and the other filled with brine. Water is softened by substituting sodium (salt) for hard minerals.

An alternative is a salt-free system that regenerates with a potassium-chloride salt substitute for the sodium. It is a type of descaler that doesn’t reduce hard water minerals as much as it prevents them from being deposited as scale to the surfaces of pipes and appliances. This option seems less effective from my viewpoint and is valuable mostly for those prohibited from salt intake. The dual tank concept seems therefore the best choice for water softening. With this method, you also avoid downtime since while one is regenerating, you have the other so there is no break in service. There is also a controversial magnetic version that utilizes a plug-in device that clips onto an incoming pipe. It sets up a magnetic field that changes the electromagnetic properties of calcium-carbonate minerals so they are repelled by pipes and each other. Not enough is known yet to recommend this option.

Your dual-tank water center is usually installed where it can serve the main inbound water line to the entire house. It also needs a drain for backwashing and of course electrical power if it is not gas driven. Selection of the right size is crucial if a family resides in the home and usage will be considerable.  Size is measured by the number of grains of hardness that can be removed from water between regenerations. You want to go with one that lasts for about three days between recharges.

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