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Virtual Immersion Goes Beyond the Surface with Underwater Drones

Christine Spiten is the 27 year old co-founder and chief global strategist of Blueye Robotics, a company making underwater drones that connect with your smartphone, tablet, laptop or a pair of goggles to explore the marine environment 150 meters underwater. In an interview for Sea Technology with Spiten just a few hours after she emerged from an underwater adventure in the fjords of Trondheim Norway, where Blueye Robotics is based, I asked her about the company’s debut model, the Pioneer.

We also discussed future development plans and Spiten’s ideas about democratizing access to the ocean to make underwater inspection—whether the hull of a ship, an aquaculture farm, for search-and-rescue, or just for fun—an everyday activity without the need for expensive, heavy equipment or professional crews of divers.

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X-Ray Vision: Berkeley’s High-Speed Electrons Fuel Atomic-Scale Science

BERKELEY, California—A group of eager writers attending the World Conference of Science Journalists 2017 stood on an upper platform at Berkeley’s Advanced Light Source (ALS) research lab. Under their feet, electrons raced at nearly the speed of light. Overhead, an iconic domed ceiling—the same ceiling under which Nobel laureate and nuclear scientist Ernest Lawrence invented the cyclotron—endowed a jumbled space full of laboratory pipes and instruments with the airy feel of a giant atrium.

As the journalists enjoyed their visit to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory on 29 October, magnets steered groups of electrons around a giant circle, 200 meters in circumference, and released light at 40 different openings. “Think of the electrons as cars with their headlights on,” said physicist Roger Falcone, director of ALS. “As they drive around, flashes of light come out each of those ports.”

Peering into molecules  

At the ends of each of the 40 light beams—in a range of wavelengths spanning the electromagnetic spectrum from infrared to both soft and hard X-rays—instruments perform experiments that depend on this constant flow of electrons. The relentless light penetrates materials and allows scientists to study the atoms and molecules inside. Each beam can be tuned to a different wavelength to reveal a particular element or molecule. Scientists use the beams to study everything from how the crystallographic structure of a new polymer reflects light rays to how a bacterium breathes in the absence of oxygen.

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Astronomy Team Brings Data to “Instrument: One Antarctic Night”

From discovering the rings of Supernova 1987A during his time at the European Southern Observatory (Garching‚ Germany) to pioneering supernova spectropolarimetry in Texas‚ Lifan Wang has followed his passion for cosmology around the world. Wang is the director of the Chinese Center for Antarctic Astronomy  (CCAA) responsible for design and deployment of two robotic telescopes to Antarctica – the Chinese Small Telescope ARray (CSTAR) and three Antarctic Survey Telescopes (AST3). Working remotely‚ Wang and collaborators obtained hundreds of thousands of observations of the night sky above the South Pole.

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Robotic Telescopes Enable Advanced Antarctic Observations

Antarctica is more like interstellar space than any other place on earth. It is extremely cold‚ dry‚ calm‚ and extra dark with clear seeing to great cosmic distances. As a result‚ a telescope just a few meters tall near the South Pole can make observations as good as larger telescopes at more temperate locations and study the same objects that space satellites can study [1]‚ but at lower cost without sending telescopes into orbit [2]. But installing a telescope in Antarctica is not easy. It requires the use of a giant ice-breaker ship‚ track-wheeled tractors pulling huge storage containers‚ and a crew of woolen boot- and parka-clad “expedition astronomers” [3]. In 2005 a Chinese expedition became the first to reach the peak of the Antarctic ice cap‚ the highest point on the Antarctic Plateau 4093 meters above sea level. It was called Dome Argus‚ now known as Dome A.

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Data Processing: A Discovery Pipeline

The computer scientists working on INSTRUMENT: One Antarctic  Night view programming as an art form. They are also versed in the language of statistics‚ and they provide a valuable translation for the team. Theirs is the task of designing a data engine that allows for both graphic rendering and interaction‚ handling hundreds of thousands of data files to create an immersive art + science experience.

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Data Sounds: The Music of Statistics

INSTRUMENT: One Antarctic Night is a suite of data instruments that use data from hundreds of thousands of stars captured by robotic telescopes in Antarctica. The interactive‚ and immersive aesthetic data experience will provide visitors the opportunity to explore characteristics of the stars seen above the South Pole through responsive sound‚ movement‚ graphics and visualization. To create sound for INSTRUMENT‚ the team is developing new paradigms‚ working in a blended space between practices of data sonification and computer-assisted composition to create a conversation between traditional practices‚ contemporary digital music and working with new mediums‚ new methods‚ and new theories.

The interaction system they are creating will represent the diversity of the dataset with diversity in sound. For instance‚ as they collect statistical metadata about the stars‚ the INSTRUMENT team
determines how to use those statistics to drive the system’s audio‚with human interaction as a medium.

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The Data Wranglers: Cataloging the Night Sky

INSTRUMENT: One Antarctic Night obtained more than one million data files and optical data images of the night sky over the South Pole‚ and the team is building an interactive‚ immersive art + science experience that allows people to interact with star data through sound‚ movement‚ and visuals. To make the data readable‚ the team must map parameters of the data onto various parts of interaction. That means the more data they can obtain about each star‚ the richer the context for the sonification and experience design.

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The Father of Artificial Intelligence: Remembering Marvin Minsky

Marvin Minsky, computing pioneer, cognitive scientist, and a founding father of artificial intelligence known for his relentless ambition and forward thinking, died in late January of this year at age 88, leaving a legacy.

Minsky lived his life on the cutting edge of computer technology, trailblazing the path to discovery and embracing humor in his quest to elucidate the mysteries of the human brain in order to make better machines.

He worked alongside collaborators who were also revolutionizing their fields…

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Augmenting NASA’s Mars Simulation for the Health of Astronauts

Eight-thousand, two-hundred feet above sea level on the northern slope of Mauna Loa in a place surrounded by the barren, lava-rock landscape of an abandoned quarry, six scientists are living in isolation for 365 days in a roughly 1,000 sq. ft. dome.

That’s tight quarters. That’s a year stuck in a space not much larger than a racquetball court.

The domed habitat is called HI-SEAS, the Hawai’I Space Exploration Analog and Simulation…

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A Delicate Dance between East and West

This BBC report live from Kirkenes in the High North of Norway talks about Russia-NATO relations, hundreds of refugees on bicycle entering Norway, the firing of an editor reporting on cross-border relations, and points to an uncertain but hopeful future for Arctic border life in a place called a test of east-west relations.

BBC Assignment on Kirkenes

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UNT library opens creative “Factory” with 3-D printing, scanning, robotics, Google Glass

“The Factory has eight printers for standard printing needs and a large format printer; a Raspberry Pi, a computer no larger than a credit card that plugs into a television and keyboard and can be used for spreadsheets, word processing, gaming and playing high-definition video; Arduino, a tool used to create computers that take input from a variety of switches or sensors and control lights, motors and other physical outputs; cameras and photographic equipment; and Google Glass, an optical device that can be used to record videos and photographs from a first person perspective…”

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Masters of the Universe and other characters from the heart of Texas in July

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In blistering Texas summer heat, the Mayborn Tribe gathers each summer in north Texas to talk about the craft, learn from each other and soak up the spirit of nonfiction writing.

This year’s event was centered around Narratives on the Cutting Edge, Writing about Science, Technology, Medicine and Innovation. Last year’s event dealt with digging into the past to bring historical narratives to life.
Both were rich themes with space to explore, share insight and dig into the down-and-dirty of nonfiction. In the middle of three days of mayhem, there’s a suit-and-tie (or boots and jeans, depending on how Texan you are) Literary Lights Dinner and Mayborn awards program, just a few ticks from rivaling the Pulitzers.

The Mayborn contest has categories in newspaper, essay, manuscript, and
reported narrative, hand-crafted trophies, $12,000 in cash prizes, competitors from nearly every major American newspaper and winners from as far away as New Zealand. This year’s Literary Lights included a live auction of signed first-editions of Larry McMurtry’s books and an online auction of tens of other signed first-editions of Mayborn speakers-past as a celebration of the tenth anniversary 2014 Mayborn Litearary Nonfiction Conference. Continue reading

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“You can’t breathe in air with 7,000 micrograms of sulfur dioxide.”

[Image: The nickel smelting plant in Nikel, Russia located just over the Norwegian border produces pollution that has been a problem for northern Norwegians for decades and is nearly six times the amount of pollution produced in all of Norway. Photo by Amelia Jaycen.]

Russia’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology on Tuesday told representatives of “MMC” Norilsk Nickel of the planned decommissioning some of Nikel plant rundown facilities by 2016 and reorganization of metallurgical production at the Monchegorsk plant, which must be upgraded and modernized, the ministry said in a press release yesterday. Monchegorsk is owned by the same company and located some two-hour drive south of Murmansk on the Kola Peninsula.

The program involves modernization and renovation of all stages of processing and consolidation of smelting and refining capacity to a more modern venue including technological upgrading and expansion of refinery at Monchegorsk during 2016-2017. Capital investments in the program total more than 50 billion rubles, the release says.

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Barents Summer School brings researchers face-to-face with local leaders

[Image: Students and local leaders in the Barents Summer School in Kirkenes, Norway. Credit: Amelia Jaycen]

Twenty-four Ph.D. students including Norwegian, Russian, Finnish and Swedish students, some of them representing the Sami population, and one student from Hong Kong gathered to establish international collaborative relationships and learn about conducting epidemiological research: Studies of disease patterns, causes and effects over time.

The one-week course centered around human health issues in the cross-border Barents region. Students who attended are researchers in a variety of subjects ranging from suicides among indigenous populations to the effects of pollution on infants born to exposed mothers.

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Minister of fisheries goes king crab fishing on Fish Nation tour

[Images & slideshow by Amelia Jaycen]

Minister of Fisheries Elisabeth Aspaker went on her first king crab fishing trip in Bugøynes Saturday for the conclusion of Fish Nation, a five-week seafood tour up the Norwegian coast to celebrate the rich variety of fish products available in Norway. At each stop along the way from Oslo to Kirkenes, Bergen-based chef and owner of Lysverket restaurant Christopher Haatuft studied and prepared local seafood while the Fish Nation team interviewed local fishermen and documented the towns, people, food and recipes.

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Thin Line Film Fest expands with 100 films, music, photo contest coming soon

[Image: Josh Butler outside the Campu Theater marquee. Photo by Amelia Jaycen]

When Josh Butler took an energetic leap of faith toward his dream, he didn’t exactly land on his feet. It was more like a really bummed film junkie who landed in bankruptcy court. Staring at the floor he shook his head, “Why! Why did we just have to have limos for all the filmmakers?”

Making the great Texas film festival was going to take more than spastic enthusiasm, but Butler learned his lesson: Don’t spend money you don’t have. The festival and the nonprofit he created to run it, Texas Filmmakers Association, survived intact while he swallowed a $40,000 debt. But since that 2007 Thin Line Film Fest left him broke, the festival has nearly doubled its revenue each year.

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