January 24th, 2008


German Robotic Firefighting Bugs?

As it is something inspired by and to help protect nature, and definitely a WTF item, I present:

Scientists in Germany at the University of Madgeburg-Stendal are hard at work on an autonomous, pill-bug-like robot to be used to fight forest fires. It's got legs like the little insect, and if the going gets too hot, it can retract them into its body. They'll then be protected by the ceramic casing, which can withstand heat of up to 2,300 degrees.

Trucking along at 12 to 19 mph the bugbots could cover wide areas by being able to get close to the heat without getting burned. In fact, a team of merely 30 of the robots could cover an area as large as 4,400 square miles. OLE would put to use biosensors and infrared to detect fires in their early stages, potentially saving lives and trees. OLE is designed after the pill bug, an insect from the centipede family which can roll up in a ball. Just like the bug, OLE can retract its legs leaving only its fire-resistant shell if it senses danger. With smoke jumping being one of the more dangerous professions out there, it'd be nice to see our forest fire fighters helped out and kept safe by some friendly robots. Unfortunately, there's no date set for when these will actually be made a reality.
aye aye captain
  • drhoz

Blink Once If You Can Hear Me

In responce to tetrabinary's post about the mutant piggy,and the quote from the article "and local vets are nonplussed as to the origin of the genetic mutation."

THey must have been pretty ignorant vets then, because that sort of defect is caused by overexpression of the Sonic Hedgehog genes. Shh is one of three proteins in the mammalian hedgehog family, the others being desert hedgehog and Indian hedgehog.

Zebrafish have two further homologues: echidna hedgehog and tiggywinkle hedgehog

They were discovered (in fruit flies - the hedghog genes are very widespread) by Eric Wieschaus and Christiane Nusslein-Volhard in 1978, and quite justly earned them a Nobel Prize. It plays a key role in regulating anatomy - for example, the growth of digits on limbs and organisation of the brain.

According to Wiki and the journal Nature, some clinicians and scientists criticise giving genes frivolous or quirky names, calling it inappropriate that patients with "a serious illness or disability are told that they or their child have a mutation in a gene such as Sonic hedgehog." These people have no sense of humour.

This new piggie reminds me of Ditto - a pig, like this one, with one and a half heads. One effect of having too much Sonic Hedgehog is hyperteloism - your face gets wider, and wider, and wider, until in extreme cases you're born with two noses. There's at least one human case that severe (If I find the photo again I'll let you know) . Amazingly, i can't find any pictures of Ditto online. He had two ears, three eyes, and two snouts, and sadly died after eating with one head at the same time his other head was breathing.

In the absence of any photos of Ditto the Pig...

I give you The Two-Faced Calf of Rural Retreat, Virginia. ( A fairly serious case of Hyperteloism , but the calf was still doing fine last I heard - altho that was a while back )

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Now all we need is the gene mario brothers. No doubt it'll have something to do with mushrooms.