futurism.com / Hubble Has Released a Photo of the ‘Final Frontier’

In honour of the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, the Hubble Space Telescope has released an image boldly going where no one has gone before.

Peering through a cluster of galaxies to the very edge of the observable Universe to see the First Galaxies themselves.

The Frontier Field (in honour of Star Trek’s mission to explore the Final Frontier) is a region of the sky no bigger than a dollar coin seen from 100m away. Yet in that region 4 billion light years distant Hubble sees hundreds of galaxies that form Abell S1063, a galaxy cluster, one of the largest objects in our Universe.

While finding a galaxy cluster would usually be the scientific highlight of the story it’s what this cluster allows us to see that’s even more exciting.

The streaks or arcs of light you see in the image are optical illusions of even more distant galaxies warped by gravitational lensing.

The image of these background galaxies are brought into ‘focus’ by the mass of the galaxy cluster. This makes the already incredible Hubble Space Telescope effectively 20 times mores powerful seeing further into the distant universe.

Since it takes light time to reach us from these distant objects we then see them as they were, just a few hundred million years after the Big Bang. These galaxies are newborns, when the entire universe was barely a teenager relative to its current age.

Gravitational lensing is an effect of General Relativity predicted by Einstein in which that massive objects like stars or galaxies would bend light around them focusing it like a lens. You can test the physics of gravitational lensing at home with a wine glass.

Simply take a sheet of paper and draw a coin-sized dot on it and fill it in, then place a wine glass over it. By looking directly down the stem of the glass the dot will turn into a ring, and looking to the side will see it distorted into streaks and arcs much like the cluster image.

Gravitational lensing allows us to not only see further behind the objects it also allows us to weigh the ‘lensing’ galaxies themselves as the bending of the light depends on the mass of the object (much as a thicker wine stem of lenses in your glasses will bend the light more).

This reveals that most of the material of the galaxy is in fact invisible, composed of a new form of mass called Dark Matter. While lensing allows us to map the Dark Matter to confirm its nature will require finding it in the lab. Australia has a key role to play in this search with SABRE, the world’s first dark matter detector in the Southern Hemisphere.

As we look deeper into the Universe we are seeing it as it was when the light first left. These distant galaxies revealed by the natural lens of the cluster date back to the first few hundred million years after the Big Bang. In astronomy exploring how the very first galaxies formed is the Final Frontier…

The post Hubble Has Released a Photo of the ‘Final Frontier’ appeared first on Futurism.

Continue Reading…


HK Weather / July 31, 2016 at 10:30PM / Thunderstorm Warning issued (22:30 HKT 31/07/2016)

Hong Kong Weather Summary
#hongkong #weather
July 31, 2016 at 10:30PM
Thunderstorm Warning was issued at 22:30 HKT (31 Jul 2016)


futurism.com / Why Robots Need to be Able to Say ‘No’

Should you always do what other people tell you to do? Clearly not. Everyone knows that. So should future robots always obey our commands? At first glance, you might think they should, simply because they are machines and that’s what they are designed to do. But then think of all the times you would not mindlessly carry out others’ instructions – and put robots into those situations.

Just consider:

  • An elder-care robot tasked by a forgetful owner to wash the “dirty clothes,” even though the clothes had just come out of the washer
  • A preschooler who orders the daycare robot to throw a ball out the window
  • A student commanding her robot tutor to do all the homework instead doing it herself
  • A household robot instructed by its busy and distracted owner to run the garbage disposal even though spoons and knives are stuck in it.

There are plenty of benign cases where robots receive commands that ideally should not be carried out because they lead to unwanted outcomes. But not all cases will be that innocuous, even if their commands initially appear to be.

Consider a robot car instructed to back up while the dog is sleeping in the driveway behind it, or a kitchen aid robot instructed to lift a knife and walk forward when positioned behind a human chef. The commands are simple, but the outcomes are significantly worse.

How can we humans avoid such harmful results of robot obedience? If driving around the dog were not possible, the car would have to refuse to drive at all. And similarly, if avoiding stabbing the chef were not possible, the robot would have to either stop walking forward or not pick up the knife in the first place.

In either case, it is essential for both autonomous machines to detect the potential harm their actions could cause and to react to it by either attempting to avoid it, or if harm cannot be avoided, by refusing to carry out the human instruction. How do we teach robots when it’s OK to say no?

How can robots know what will happen next?

In our lab, we have started to develop robotic controls that make simple inferences based on human commands. These will determine whether the robot should carry them out as instructed or reject them because they violate an ethical principle the robot is programmed to obey.

Telling robots how and when – and why – to disobey is far easier said than done. Figuring out what harm or problems might result from an action is not simply a matter of looking at direct outcomes. A ball thrown out a window could end up in the yard, with no harm done. But the ball could end up on a busy street, never to be seen again, or even causing a driver to swerve and crash. Context makes all the difference.

It is difficult for today’s robots to determine when it is okay to throw a ball – such as to a child playing catch – and when it’s not – such as out the window or in the garbage. Even harder is if the child is trying to trick the robot, pretending to play a ball game but then ducking, letting the ball disappear through the open window.

Explaining morality and law to robots

Understanding those dangers involves a significant amount of background knowledge (including the prospect that playing ball in front of an open window could send the ball through the window). It requires the robot not only to consider action outcomes by themselves, but also to contemplate the intentions of the humans giving the instructions.

To handle these complications of human instructions – benevolent or not – robots need to be able to explicitly reason through consequences of actions and compare outcomes to established social and moral principles that prescribe what is and is not desirable or legal. As seen above, our robot has a general rule that says, “If you are instructed to perform an action and it is possible that performing the action could cause harm, then you are allowed to not perform it.” Making the relationship between obligations and permissions explicit allows the robot to reason through the possible consequences of an instruction and whether they are acceptable.

In general, robots should never perform illegal actions, nor should they perform legal actions that are not desirable. Hence, they will need representations of laws, moral norms and even etiquette in order to be able to determine whether the outcomes of an instructed action, or even the action itself, might be in violation of those principles.

While our programs are still a long way from what we will need to allow robots to handle the examples above, our current system already proves an essential point: robots must be able to disobey in order to obey.

The post Why Robots Need to be Able to Say ‘No’ appeared first on Futurism.

Continue Reading…

futurism.com / Watch a Lightning-fast Robot Arm Build a House in Just Two Days

The Flash

Yet another breakthrough in the era of the robot—Barry Allen, watch out! Australian company, Fastbrick Robotics, has created The Flash of the construction industry with a brick-laying and gluing speed of 1000 bricks per hour.

The company released a time-lapse video of its machine, the Hadrian X, showcasing its brick-laying capabilities. As seen from the video, the machine finished building the entire shell of a house in an astonishing two days, effectively increasing its user’s construction efficiency.

Still with Precision

Moreover, by following a 3D computer aided design of the house structure, the machine precisely handles all the automatic loading cutting, routing and placement of all the bricks, with an accuracy of less than 0.5 mm, according to the company.

Having a vision of making improvements in the areas of speed, accuracy, safety, and waste, the company is now set to awe the construction world. This reduction in the construction time will allow for greater flexibility and time/cost savings to builders and their respective customers.


The post Watch a Lightning-fast Robot Arm Build a House in Just Two Days appeared first on Futurism.

Continue Reading…

HK Weather / July 31, 2016 at 10:10PM / Standby Signal, No. 1 issued (22:10 HKT 31/07/2016)

Hong Kong Weather Summary
#hongkong #weather
July 31, 2016 at 10:10PM
Standby Signal, No. 1 was issued at 22:10 HKT (31 Jul 2016)


futurism.com / Australia Moves to Update Location; Shifted 1.5 Meters in Just 22 Years

Shifts in tectonic plates cause Australia to move around 7 centimeters every year, to the north and a little to the east. This shift has caused the country, which sits on the fastest moving continental plate on Earth, to accumulate a 1.5-meter misalignment since their geographical records were last updated in 1994.

Geoscientists say that if it goes unchecked, map locations, such as that of the Sydney Opera House, will be off the mark by nearly two meters by 2020.

Because of this, government agency Geoscience Australia is revising its longitude and latitude to match their new location accurately and fix the discrepancy with global satellite navigation systems. The country’s national coordinate system Geocentric Datum of Australia will be adjusted and synchronized with international records.

The correction will help keep location data accurate for satellites, as well as services and new technology that rely on geolocation such as self-driving cars and drones.


The post Australia Moves to Update Location; Shifted 1.5 Meters in Just 22 Years appeared first on Futurism.

Continue Reading…

futurism.com / Researchers Saw the Same Star Go Supernova…Twice!


An international team of astronomers observed what appeared to be a two-explosion outburst from a superluminous supernova (SLSN) event—something that has never been seen before and was previously thought to be impossible.

The Gran Telescopio Canarias in Spain caught sight of the celestial object known as DES14X3taz first going from bright to dim, suggesting an explosion, and then doing it again a few days later, insinuating a second explosion. This is the first time an SLSN was observed from the time it happened until the time it died out.

“What we have managed to observe, which is completely new, is that before the major explosion, there is a shorter, less luminous outburst, which we can pick out because it is followed by a dip in the light curve, and which lasts just a few days,” team leader Mathew Smith from the University of Southampton in the UK.

Supernovae are very violent explosions that occur when stars “overeat,” or when a star reaches the end of its lifetime and runs out of nuclear fuel, causing mass to flow into its core until it collapses under its own gravitational force.

SLSNs, on the other hand, are much bigger supernovae that have peak luminosities up to ten times greater than an average Type IA supernova, and can keep burning bright for up to six months. Very little is known about the physical nature of these recently discovered supernovae, since only 12 have ever been witnessed so far.

Image Credit: NASA

 Pieces of the Puzzle

The team believes the double-explosion is likely caused by a magnetar, a neutron star that is so highly magnetic that it can disassemble your very molecular structure if you were to get 1,000km within its range.

The study will help build our incomplete model of how SLSNs form, operate, and die, and researchers are looking into whether the two-explosion supernova is unique to this specific incident or a common occurrence in SLSNs.

“From our data, we have tried to determine if this is a characteristic unique to this object, or whether it is a common feature of all superluminous supernovae, but has not been observed before, which is perfectly possible given their unpredictable nature,” Smith said.


The post Researchers Saw the Same Star Go Supernova…Twice! appeared first on Futurism.

Continue Reading…