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Dr. Red Whittaker 's Tartan Racing was the cleanest of the teams in the NQE.

The finalists for Saturday’s landmark DARPA Urban Challenge were announced here today and the biggest surprise was that the final field was trimmed to just 11 starters, a decision taken by Grand Marshall and DARPA director Dr Tony Tether in the interests of securing a winner. “It’d be a great shame if one of the robots took out another robot,” said Tether as the final 11 contestants were announced. Most pointedly, Tether also introduced Team Tartan as the team that would be the Number One seed “if we were to give a ranking to the number one", before presenting the plate to Dr William “Red” Whittaker of Team Tartan (pictured).  Read More

NASA's Cassini discovers potential liquid water on Enceladus

March 11, 2006 NASA's Cassini spacecraft may have found evidence of liquid water reservoirs that erupt in Yellowstone-like geysers on Saturn's moon Enceladus. The rare occurrence of liquid water so near the surface raises many new questions about the mysterious moon. "We realize that this is a radical conclusion -- that we may have evidence for liquid water within a body so small and so cold," said Dr. Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team leader at Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo. "However, if we are right, we have significantly broadened the diversity of solar system environments where we might possibly have conditions suitable for living organisms." High-resolution Cassini images show icy jets and towering plumes ejecting large quantities of particles at high speed. Scientists examined several models to explain the process. They ruled out the idea that the particles are produced by or blown off the moon's surface by vapor created when warm water ice converts to a gas. Instead, scientists have found evidence for a much more exciting possibility -- the jets might be erupting from near-surface pockets of liquid water above 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit), like cold versions of the Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone.  Read More

The solar system no longer has nine planets

February 8, 2006 Since 1930 when American Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto, schoolchildren have been taught that Planet Earth is one of nine planets which orbit the sun, and that Pluto is the outermost planet in the solar system. Then last July 30, an American team found a more distant and quite large object circling the sun some 15 billion kilometers beyond earth. Dubbed UB313, an enormous debate has erupted over whether it should be classified as the tenth planet. More fuel was added to the debate last week when a group lead by Bonn astrophysicists determined that this putative planet is bigger than Pluto. By measuring its thermal emission, the scientists were able to determine a diameter of about 3000 km, which makes it 700 km larger than Pluto and thereby marks it as the largest solar system object found since the discovery of Neptune in 1846. For the last six months, many astronomers have argued that UB313 should be classified as a Kuiper belt object (KBO) but Pluto is also in the Kuiper belt, and the revelations about its size will weigh heavily when the special 19-member panel set up by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) determines exactly what constitutes a planet. Either way, the official planetary count will no longer be nine as a decision against UB313 will demote Pluto to the status of a KBO.  Read More

Field finalised for DARPA Grand Challenge

October 6, 2005 The DARPA Grand Challenge National Qualification Event (NQE) Is finished and 23 robotic vehicles have been selected to compete in the Grand Challenge final event this coming Saturday, October 8, in the Mojave Desert near Primm, Nevada. The finalists will traverse a rugged desert course that features lakebeds, narrow desert roads, tight turns, tunnels, gateways and treacherous mountain passes. The actual course will not be revealed to teams until two hours before the event begins at approximately 6:30 a.m. (PDT). The team whose vehicle traverses the entire course the fastest in under ten hours will win US $2 million. Dan Christian attended the NQE and filed this report. Dan will also be reporting for Gizmag from what promises to be one of the most significant automotive races in history.  Read More

Computers to become more like friends

That computer on your desk is just your helper. But soon it may become a very close friend. Now it sends your e-mails, links you to the Web, does your computations, and pays your bills. Soon it could warn you when you're talking too much at a meeting, if scientists at Sandia National Laboratories' Advanced Concepts Group have their way. Or it could alert others in your group to be attentive when you have something important to say.  Read More

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