Atlas, The Next Generation

February 24th, 2016 | Robot

Atlas, The Next Generation

Boston Dynamics has released an updated model of the Atlas Robot, and it’s impressive! The robot is untethered and can navigate a diverse, snowy terrain with relative ease. Once they get some good artificial intelligence algorithms loaded on this machine, it will be force to be reckoned with. It can even stand back up when it gets knocked down by evil humans!

Google owns Boston Dynamics, and I am sure they have some exciting plans in store for the ATLAS. Stay tuned!


Direction-Space! by Maria Gruzdeva

February 7th, 2016 | Space

Direction_Space Soviet Space Program 1

Direction-Space! is a project by Russian-born photographer, Maria Gruzdeva. The photographs depict relics from the Soviet-era space industry in all their 20th century glory. Two iconic sites, Star City and Baikonur (previously blogged here), are featured prominently in the images.

A blurb from the artist:

“Direction–Space! series explore the reality of the space community at first hand, investigating the physical and psychological space as well as the routine and lives of its residents and their habitat. Generation of cosmonauts have trained in these surroundings and because of the reticence and insularity of this world the physical space and its spirit have been preserved. The series reveals these traces of history, power and ghost-like presence left behind. It is this space that holds the weight of the past and shapes the reality of people who live and work there currently. Direction–Space! offers a new insight into the subject central to the Cold War history of the Soviet Union and raises questions over attitudes and perceptions that have been formed over the past decades.”

And without further ado, here’s a sample of the fascinating collection:

Direction_Space Soviet Space Program 2
Direction_Space Soviet Space Program 6 Direction_Space Soviet Space Program 5 Direction_Space Soviet Space Program 4 Direction_Space Soviet Space Program 3

If you are interested in the history of the Soviet space program, she put the collection of images in a book:

Direction_Space Soviet Space Program 7

You can pick it up from Amazon here, Direction-Space!.


Living in the International Space Station

January 18th, 2016 | Space

living in the international space station

Sunita Williams guides us through life on the International Space Station in this 30-minute video, which was filmed back in 2012 as part of mission 32/33. It’s really fascinating to observe the adaptations that must be made to live in a gravity-free environment… from the bathroom operations to exercise needed to maintain bone density. Human life really isn’t made for life in space, but these researchers are actively searching for the best methods to make it function. Current work on the ISS will undoubtedly pave the way to our journey to Mars and beyond.


SpaceX Lands the Falcon 9

December 22nd, 2015 | Space

SpaceX Lands the Falcon 9

The energy in this video is all you need to feel to understand the importance of SpaceX’s recent landing of the Falcon 9 rocket from orbit. It’s truly history in the making.

If you were curious about the difference between this launch and the recent launch by Blue Origin, take a quick look at this quick video describing sub-orbital and orbital flight:

Blue Origin went up about 62 miles, and then came straight back down to Earth. SpaceX went all the way into orbit (>100 miles up) and many miles across the surface of the Earth, reaching about 3,500 miles per hour, then the rocket did a crazy flip and returned back to the exact launch spot where it started.

It’s an impressive technological feat and the impact will be wide-reaching. This is going to reduce the cost of putting satellites into orbit so much that global satellite WiFi has become a real possibility. However, the next crucial step is to see if the booster that was returned to the launch site can actually be used again for further launches. The materials have to stand up to repeated use, and that is not easy. Nonetheless, it was a great day for space technology.


The Monty Hall Problem

December 2nd, 2015 | Brain

The Monty Hall Problem - 3 doors

The Monty Hall Problem is a famous statistical brain teaser that has caused never-ending debate over the past 30 or 40 years. It is based on the old TV gameshow “Let’s Make A Deal,” which was hosted by Monty Hall, and it goes something like this:

There are 3 doors. Behind 1 door is a fancy car, and behind the other two doors are goats. You first make a choice of one of the three doors. Then Monty Hall open up one of the remaining doors with a goat behind it and then asks you if you want to switch your guess to the remaining door or keep with your originally guessed door. So the question is: should you switch?

The answer is not very intuitive and sort of messes with most people’s basic understanding of statistics.

Here’s the quick answer: YOU SHOULD ALWAYS SWITCH!

Here’s the longer explanation:

The door you originally picked has a 1/3 chance of having the car both before and after Monty gets involved. When Monty picks one of the remaining doors to open with a goat behind it, that doesn’t change the statistics of the scenario. Crazy, right!?

So that means there is a 2/3 chance that the two doors you did not pick have the car. From those two, Monty eliminates a bad door. The remaining unpicked door still has a 2/3 chance of having the car, even though you are staring at just two unopened doors. That’s higher than 1/3, so you switch.

Most people forget the the host knows where the goats are. If you pick door 1, you have a 33% chance of getting it correct and a 66% chance of being wrong. Essentially what you’re being offered at the 2nd part is that if there is a car behind either of the doors you didn’t pick you win. Which is 66%.

Here’s the 3 possible scenarios that can be played to make it even more clear:
You pick door 1. The car is behind door 1. The host opens a door with a goat behind it (either door 2 or 3, since they both have goats).

You switch, you lose.
You stay put,you win.


You pick door 1. The car is behind door 2. The host opens a door with a goat behind it (thus has to be door 3, since the car is behind 2, and you’ve chosen door 1)

You switch, you win.
You stay put, you lose.

You pick door 1. The car is behind door 3. The host opens a door with a goat behind it (thus has to be door 2, since the car is behind 3, and you’ve chosen door 1)

You switch, you win.
You stay put, you lose.

Switching = 66% success rate
Sticking = 33% success rate

If you are still not convinced, you can play around the the odds at this online simulation



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