Robot Designers Strive to Match Animals

first_imgRobots built on these principles could be used to venture into dangerous places, rove the planet Mars, perform aerial reconnaissance and many other things.  The resulting control technologies might also find their way into improved prosthetic devices and materials.    By funding efforts to imitate the feats of animals to the tune of millions of dollars, and by setting up research departments based on “bioinspiration,” scientists and engineers are tacitly admitting that the design specs in the living world are of such high quality they deserve to be imitated.In all the biomimetics stories we have reported over the years, the researchers generally express awe and amazement at what animals and plants can do.  They don’t say, “what a sloppy design; we human designers can do much better.”  Instead, the attitude is usually a humble spirit of wonder at how easy “nature” conquers difficult tasks.  References to evolution in such articles are typically very short and stupid, like “clever solutions that emerged in the course of evolution” (12/16/2009).    There’s nothing like imitation to teach a person the difficulty in a task.  A music critic can disdain a performance until he or she tries to compose or perform a piece.  A baseball fan can lambaste a pitcher from the stands till he tries to pitch a 90mph fastball against a skilled batter.  It’s easier to complain about the food than to cook it.  Biomimetics has opened up a whole new crowd of potential intelligent design advocates, by having them go to the lab and try to duplicate the feats nature performs so effortlessly.  This might be good therapy for atheists.  Have them go into the lab and try to build a living cell from scratch with their own dirt.(Visited 31 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0 Engineers feel great satisfaction when their robots can match just some of the feats of animals.  What does that say about the design of the animals?It’s a bird, it’s a plane:  The first “hummingbird robot” was unveiled by Japanese researcher Hiroshi Liu (Chiba University) in a press release published by PhysOrg.  The hand-sized device flaps its wings 30 times per second and can turn up, down, right or left, and fly a figure eight.  Its researchers, who spent the equivalent of $2.1 million dollars developing it, hope to use it to locate victims in trapped buildings or find criminals.  It’s clear they found nature inspiring: “First, we need to learn about effective mechanism from natural life forms, but we want to develop something to go beyond nature eventually,” Liu said.  See also our report about efforts to mimic hummingbird flight at the University of Buffalo (12/16/2009, bullet 2).    The real bird still has some superior capabilities.  It can hover in place and see.  The robot designers hope to mimic hovering ability and add a camera in the next 15 months.  If they can get it to lay eggs and hatch baby robots, they’ll really be onto something.It’s a roach, it’s a rescuer:  Disgust is the reaction of most people to cockroaches.  Robot designers, though, stand in awe of them.  According to Science Daily, researchers at Oregon State are taking “bioinspiration” from the despised bugs in an effort to mimic their abilities.  “Cockroaches are incredible,” said John Schmitt, a professor of mechanical engineering at OSU.  “They can run fast, turn on a dime, move easily over rough terrain, and react to perturbations faster than a nerve impulse can travel.”    This raises a question of how their movements are controlled.  According to Schmitt, “cockroaches don’t even have to think about running – they just do it, with muscle action that is instinctive and doesn’t require reflex control.”  Something, though, must be coordinating the motions of its six legs.  Whatever happens, the robot designers would like to imitate that trick.  The technology might find application in “military operations, law enforcement or space exploration” (but hopefully not in restaurant kitchens).     Schmitt had more to say about the wonder of cockroach scurrying.  “A cockroach doesn’t think much about running, it just runs.  And it only slows down about 20 percent when going over blocks that are three times higher than its hips.  That’s just remarkable, and an indication that their stability has to do with how they are built, rather than how they react.”Guinea henny penny.  The previous article on Science Daily jumped from cockroaches to chickens.  The article had this to say about guinea hens:The OSU researchers are trying to identify some of the basic biological and mechanical principles that allow certain animals to run so well and effortlessly.  A guinea hen, for instance, can change the length and angle of its spring-like legs to almost automatically adjust to an unexpected change in a ground surface as much as 40 percent of its hip height.  That would be like a human running at full speed, stepping into a 16-inch-deep hole and never missing a beat.last_img read more

Take a stand during 16 Days of Activism

first_imgMonday, November 25, 2019The annual 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children, known as the 16 Days campaign, is expected to be launched in Lephalale, in Limpopo, this morning.President Cyril Ramaphosa will launch the campaign with a visit to the Victim Support Centre at Witpoort Police Station.The visit to the police station will be followed by an event at the Ga-Seleka Community Hall, expected to be led by the Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.The objectives of the 16 Days of Activism campaign include expanding the call on men and boys to take a stand against all forms of abuse and the killing of women and children and promoting a multi-sectoral, collective action and responsibility in the fight to eradicate violence against women and children.It is also an opportunity to update the public on the National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (GBVF) and foster partnership for its implementation.All South Africans are during this time mobilised to commit to ending gender-based violence and femicide by signing the National Pledge on GBVF.This year’s campaign is themed “Enough is Enough: 365 days to end Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (GBVF)”.If you need help, the Gender-Based Violence Command Centre (GBVCC) is the toll free number to call to speak to a social worker for assistance and counselling. Contact 0800 428 428 (0800 GBV GBV). Callers can also request a social worker from the Command Centre to contact them by dialling *120*7867# (free) from any cell phone. – read more

Cape to Cairo trade agreement to open African borders

first_imgThe new Tripartite Free Trade Agreement will open up borders between 26 African countries, stretching down the east of the continent from Libya and Egypt in the north to South Africa in the south.• Bongiwe GambuSouth Africa national media coordinatorSouthern African Development CommunityDirector: International and Media LiaisonGovernment Communications+ 27 12 314 2148+ 27 82 714 rLucille DavieTrade efficiency inside Africa is set for a major boost when three regional economic communities sign an agreement in June to establish a massively enlarged free trade area encompassing 26 countries in southern and eastern Africa – roughly half of the member states of the African Union.The Tripartite Free Trade Area or FTA will have a combined population of about 600-million people and a gross domestic product of some $1-trillion. The aim is to boost intra-regional trade, increase investment and promote the development of cross-regional infrastructure, according to the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC).The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), commonly referred to as Comesa-EAC-SADC, first mooted the agreement back in October 2008. Since then, there has been “significant progress” towards realising “this dream of opening up borders to literally half of the continent, spanning the entire southern and eastern regions of Africa – from Cape to Cairo”, reports SARDC.The chairperson of the Tripartite Task Force, Rwandan-born Dr Richard Sezibera, expects negotiations to be complete in time for the signing. “Considerable progress has been made and negotiations have intensified to ensure that we clinch the Tripartite Free Trade Agreement by June 2014,” he said at a tripartite meeting in November, in Arusha in Tanzania.The goal of a continent-wide free trade area was first set 23 years ago, with the signing of the African Economic Community Treaty in 1991. Regional trade arrangements such as the Tripartite FTA are seen as important steps towards this goal, according to SARDC. The vision of the Organisation of African Unity, formed in 1963 and now called the African Union, was always one of a united and integrated continent.Single customs unionThe FTA is being established in three phases. The preparatory phase, which included national tariffs, trade data and measures, customs procedures and simplification of customs documentation, transit procedures, non-tariff barriers, and other barriers to trade, is now complete.Phase one includes the easy movement of business people within the region, while phase two will cover trade in services and intellectual property rights, competition policy and trade development, and competitiveness. A single FTA is expected to be in place by 2016, with the three sub-regions creating a single customs union.“Removal of trade barriers such as huge export and import fees would enable countries to increase their earnings, penetrate new markets and contribute towards their national development,” said SARDC.The three regionsComesa was established in 1982 as a preferential trade area, with the aim of taking advantage of a large market to share the region’s common heritage, and to allow greater social and economic co-operation, with the objective of creating an economic community. The overall aim was to establish a common market, and in late 1993 the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa was signed, and ratified a year later.The EAC is the regional intergovernmental organisation of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, with its headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania. It came into being in mid-2000, ratified by the original three partners – Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Rwanda and Burundi joined the community in 2007. Its vision is a “prosperous, competitive, secure, stable and politically united east Africa”. Its mission is to widen and deepen economic, political, social and cultural integration in order to improve the quality of life of the people of east Africa through increased competitiveness, value-added production, trade and investments.The main objectives of SADC, which came about in 1980, are to achieve development, peace and security, economic growth, to alleviate poverty, enhance the standard and quality of life of the peoples of southern Africa, and support the socially disadvantaged through regional integration, based on democratic principles and equitable and sustainable development. SADC members are Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.The AU consists of 54 countries: Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comores, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Republic of Arab Saharawi, Republic of the Congo, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.last_img read more

Producers with trees and vines have an additional option in expensing planting costs for tax purposes

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest The following contains edited material from the “National Income Tax Workbook 2016” Land Grant University Tax Education Foundation Inc.Fruit and nut growers have few options in the way they expense planting and preparatory costs. New regulations that are a part of the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act (signed into law on Dec. 18, 2015) allow for taxpayers to use bonus depreciation to partially expense these costs in the year of planting even if the taxpayer might not have been allowed to under the Alternative Depreciation Schedule (ADS) due to opting out of Uniform Capitalization (UNICAP) rules.Generally, the UNICAP rules require farmers to capitalize the preproductive period costs if the plants have a preproductive period of more than 2 years. Pre­productive period costs are the costs of raising plants after they are planted and before they are placed in service.Plants are treated as placed in service when they produce a crop that has a value in excess of the cost of harvesting it. Therefore, the placed-in-service date can vary from one grower to another and from one block of a grower’s plants to another. For tax purposes however, the determination that a plant has a preproductive period of more than two years is based on the national average preproductive period for that plant. Therefore, whether a plant is subject to capitalization of preproductive expenses does not vary from one grower to another or from one block of plants to another.However, farmers (other than corporations, partnerships, and tax shelters that are required to use accrual accounting) can elect out of the UNI­CAP rules. The election out of the UNICAP rules allows farmers to deduct preproductive period costs in the year they are incurred.Preproductive period costs are the costs of cultivating, maintaining, or developing the plant during the preproductive period. Pre­productive period costs include, but are not lim­ited to, management, irrigation, pruning, soil and water conservation (including costs the taxpayer has elected to deduct under I.R.C.§ 175), fertil­izing (including costs the taxpayer has elected to deduct under I.R.C.§ 180), frost protection, spray­ing, harvesting, storage and handling, upkeep, electricity, tax depreciation and repairs on build­ings and equipment used in raising the plants, farm overhead, taxes (except state and federal income taxes), and interest required to be capital­ized under Internal Revenue Code Section (I.R.C.§) 263A(f).Even if the plants are not subject to the UNICAP rules either because their preproductive period is 2 years or less or because the farmer elected out of the UNICAP rules, the farmer must still capi­talize the preparatory costs (costs incurred so that the plant’s growing process may begin) for the plants, such as the costs of seeds, seedlings, plants, supplies, labor, and equipment.Section 143 of the PATH Act adds a new option for some farmers to deduct bonus depreciation. The new option is in addition to the bonus depre­ciation rules that were in place before the PATH Act.New I.R.C. § 168(k)(5) allows farmers to elect to deduct 50% of the cost of planting or grafting specified plants. Farmers make the election and claim the deduction in the year the plants are planted (or grafted to a plant that has already been planted). To qualify, the plants must be planted or grafted after Dec. 31, 2015, and before Jan. 1, 2020, and must be:A tree or vine that bears fruits or nuts, orAny other plant that will have more than one yield of fruits or nuts and that generally has a preproductive period of more than two years from the time of planting or grafting to the time at which it begins bearing fruits or nuts.The farmer must reduce the basis of the plant by the allowable bonus depreciation, and he or she may not claim any additional bonus depre­ciation on the plant in the year it is placed in service. When the plant is placed in service, the farmer may claim the section 179 deduction and/or Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS) depreciation on the remaining basis. General Bonus Depreciation rulesProperty does not have to qualify for the general bonus depreciation to be eligible for the special elective bonus depreciation for plants that bear fruit or nuts. Therefore, it does not have to meet the following requirements:The recovery period for the property is 20 years or less.The original use of the property commenced with the taxpayer.In addition, property that must be depreciated under ADS is eligible property. Benefits of the new legislationThe new legislation not only allows farmers who elect out of the UNICAP rules to claim bonus depreciation they previously could not claim, it also allows farmers (whether or not they elect out of the UNICAP rules) to claim the bonus depre­ciation in the year the plants are planted instead of the year the plants are placed in service.Deducting the bonus depreciation in an ear­lier year has two benefits. As with any deduction allowed in an earlier year, it allows the taxpayer to reap the benefit of the deduction in an earlier year, which postpones paying taxes in most cases. Deducting bonus depreciation in an earlier year also allows farmers to avoid the phaseout of the bonus depreciation for plants that were planted before 2018 but will not be placed in service until 2018 or a later year.last_img read more

Production Tip: How to Calibrate Your Monitors on Set

first_imgIn the fast-paced world of digital filmmaking, it can be easy to underestimate the value of a properly calibrated monitor on set.Cover image via Cienpies Design.Whether we like to admit it or not, relying on your monitor more than your scope at one point or another during a shoot is more likely than we might care to admit. Although it’s essential to use your scopes and other tools to expose properly, there is still a lot of value and peace of mind that comes with having a monitor that displays true.Calibrating your monitor can save you time in post-production — and on set with your director and clients. Nothing is worse than major inconsistencies in color or image between a variety of monitors — and wasting time explaining to the less technically savvy not to worry about it. You can ensure that what you’re seeing is what you’re getting on your screens with this straightforward calibration technique.CalibrationThere are two approaches to calibration. You can use an external tool (the more expensive option), or you can do it manually with color bars. This article will focus on using color bars.Before you start your calibration, there are a couple things to keep in mind. Ambient light affects the contrast and overall look of your monitor (and thus your calibration accuracy), so ideally, find a location for your director’s monitor that’s shielded from ambient light throughout the day. (This is also why you tend to see the DIT on set in their own tent.)Before you calibrate a computer, you’ll want to turn it on and let it warm up for a few minutes. Then, follow these steps.1. After your monitor is warmed up and connected to your camera, you need to send the HD NTSC Color Bars from the camera to your monitor. Some monitors will have the option built into their menus, but it’s typically best to send the color bars yourself when you can.(Side note: if you’re shooting on an HDSLR and don’t want to miss out on the fun, check out this video by Richard Harrington on how to get color bars on your cameras.)2. Adjust your “Brightness,” “Contrast” (also called “Picture”), and “Phase” to their midpoint or factory settings. On Panasonic monitors, for example, you usually see this indicated by the tally marks on the screen changing color (blue) or becoming bold to indicate that you’ve reached the “middle.” Sometimes, there is also a factory reset option in the menu.4. I tend to start loosely with contrast and bounce between contrast and brightness until I’ve landed in a good place. For most of the calibration, you’ll be looking at the 100% White Chip (labeled A above) and the PLUGES Bars (labeled B above), which are the three bars of different gradation beneath the red bar (left is 3.5 IRE, middle is 7.5 IRE, and right is 11.5 IRE, just for reference).If it makes it easier to see, you can also bring the “Chroma” all the way down to make the screen black and white so you can focus on the change in the bars.Focusing on the 100% white chip, increase your contrast level until the white chip no longer seems to get brighter. Once you’ve hit that point, pull back a couple notches. Also make sure your 100% white chip is not bleeding into its surrounding bars.5. Next, you are going to adjust the PLUGE bars (labeled B above) to find your brightness. You’ll want to adjust the brightness until the left two PLUGE bars disappear into the 0% black field (to their left) and the far right PLUGE bar sits just a step above that 0% black. I tend to bring it down until I cannot see that right bar, then nudge it up until I catch a hint of it. (Reference the figure below.)6. Now jump back and tweak your contrast to make sure your 100% White Chip didn’t start to bleed. You’ll jump back and forth between the contrast and brightness until you’ve found a satisfactory level between these two goals.7. The last adjustment is your chroma. To check this, you’ll need to switch your monitor into its “Blue Only” feature. If your monitor doesn’t have a “Blue Only” feature (dig around: sometimes it’s difficult to find), you can complete this step by switching your monitor into its monochrome setting.Basically, you want all the longer, alternating blue bars to be one continuous bar. If the chroma is incorrect, you will see a small band of a different shade of blue at the bottom of these bars (see below). Adjust your chroma until those bars disappear into the larger bars.Incorrect:Correct:8. After this, go back and double-check your brightness and contrast with the PLUGE bars and 100% white chip, and then you should be good to go!Looking for more video production resources? Check out these articles.A Cheat Sheet for Social Media Video Aspect Ratios5 Reasons You Should Purchase a “Nifty Fifty” 50mm LensHow New Low Light Cameras Are Simplifying the Long TakeWhat are Contrast Ratios, and How Do You Use Them?Everything You Need to Know About Stabilizing a Shotlast_img read more