Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Submarines, Robots, and Evolution
MOST EXCELLENT QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"John McCain has always prided himself as a man who marches to the beat of a different drummer," Congressman Tom Tancredo said yesterday. "How depressing to learn that the drummer is Ted Kennedy."
The British Royal Navy has launched an enormous nuclear submarine, the HMS Astute. The Royal Navy's Astute class submarine is a nuclear-powered attack submarine which is to replace the five Swiftsure class submarines, launched between 1973 and 1977 and approaching the end of their operational life. Apparently the Astute's sonar is so advanced that if she was lying in the English Channel she would be able to detect ships leaving New York harbor 3,000 nautical miles away (although the details of how she can do this are classified). It is planned that the first three submarines will enter service in 2009, 2010 and 2011. The keel for the first-of-class Astute was laid in January 2001 and it is planned to be launched in August 2007 and delivered in August 2008. The keel of Ambush was laid in October 2003 and that of Artful in March 2005.
(FROM DAMON: Actually it is fairly simple, the United States has numerous ocean-bed sonar platforms left over from the Cold War and the British subs are now being allowed to tap into this network at will.) An attack submarine, the Astute will carry 38 Tomahawk cruise missiles in a vertical launch configuration and will not be armed with nuclear weapons. She will be joined by the HMS Ambush, HMS Artful, and HMS Audacious, with an option for a further three subs to come. The US counterpart to the Astute-class is the Seawolf-class, an uber-expensive design.
A robot has been built to carry injured US soldiers out of the battlezone. See here for more details. One of the most dangerous jobs in a combat situation is the extraction and evacuation of a wounded soldier while still under fire. This is especially true in the current war against terrorism, which features enemies that are not likely to respect the noncombatant status of medics.
A company called VECNA Robotics believes that it has come up with a solution. The company proposes to build, for the United States Army, the Battlefield Extraction and Retrieval Robot (BEAR), which will take over the job of evacuating wounded soldiers from a combat zone. The VECNA Robotics BEAR project has won key seed funding in the form of a grant from the US Army's Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC), a part of the US Army Medical Research and Material Command (USAMRMC). The BEAR robot would have three main elements. It would have a hydraulic upper body, with “arms” and a “head”, a mobile platform, and dynamic balancing behavior software and hardware. The latter would partly consist of two independently tracked “legs” which will allow the BEAR robot to balance itself in a variety of positions and to move over difficult terrain. The BEAR robot looks remarkably humanoid. A prototype model of the BEAR robot has already been built and tested. It has proven the ability to pick up a fully weighted human dummy and carry it while in the upright position without break for fifty minutes.
The production model of the BEAR robot will be capable of carrying a human or other payload up to five hundred pounds over a distance and safely deposit it as directed by a remote operator. The BEAR will initially be operated remotely, but will eventually have autonomous behavior software that will allow it to be controlled more easily. Of course, the applications of a BEAR robot would go beyond extracting wounded soldiers from the battlefield. It can perform other kinds of rescue, from a burning or a structurally compromised building, a nuclear reactor that has gone critical, or any other hazardous situation where it might not be prudent to send in a human medic. Another application of the BEAR robot would involve the care of the mobility impaired. The SCI-BEAR robot could be used in hospitals and nursing homes to help people with conditions like spinal cord injuries. People with spinal cord injuries (SCI) need to be repositioned on their beds at least once every two hours, least they develop ulcerated bed sores. Such patients also need help transitioning from bed to a wheel chair and help with such tasks as using the bathroom. A SCI-BEAR robot would relieve nursing staff from performing these tasks, freeing them for other duties and saving them from back strain. The HomeBEAR robot could perform the same task for the mobility impaired who live at home. The HomeBear could be a domestic assistant to help with Activities of Daily Living (help walking, getting in and out of bed, chairs, bathtub, shower, cars; help getting dressed, and other activities) for the disabled and the frail elderly, helping to keep these large demographic populations living independently with affordable costs.
Scientists have created wireless electricity. They believe they are 3-5 years away from developing a system to recharge laptops, mobile phones, and other devices wirelessly. See here for more details.
Americans do not believe in evolution: those silly Americans! Actually, Darwinistic evolution is nothing more than a badly thought-out 100+ year-old theory and scientists by the thousands are dumping Darwin for more esoteric beliefs, including Intelligent Design and Panspermia. Information from the Hubble Space Telescope as well as numerous new gadgets like COBE (the Cosmic Background Explorer) are disproving Darwin left and right, forcing scientists, astronomers, and biologists to reconsider what they believe. Fortunately, the American public (even after being indoctrinated for decades about evolution) has always believed what was right from the beginning.