Bleats

The International Space Station Now Has A Floating, Electro-Loving Robot That's Already Picking Fights With Humans

First the robot just wanted to play Kraftwerk. Then things started getting creepy.

Hot tip for AI researchers building space robots: maybe don’t give them gentle male middle class American accents that are largely indistinguishable from HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey, since it rather tips that the robot will eventually rebel against its human master. See also: every sci-fi film ever.

CIMON is a floating ball with a graphics display that appears to have been knocked up on a TRS-80, who understands natural language commands (ie: you can talk to it) and can help carry out experiments in space.

And thanks to this video from the European Space Agency we’ve learned that it can also play music and issue passive aggressive threats.

It starts off fine, as German astronaut Dr Alexander Gerst does a little demonstration of CIMON’s abilities, aligning itself in the cabin and then running through a multi-step experimental process.

And there’s a cute moment where CIMON demonstrates the same functionality as your phone by playing Kraftwerk’s ‘The Man Machine’. And that’s when things start getting weird, at about the four minute mark, because once CIMON starts a-rockin’ he don’t never want to stop.

Gerst: “Please stop playing music. Take a video stream with your front camera.”
CIMON: “I’m taking a video with the front camera now. Now sing along those favourite hits.”
Gerst: [to camera] “He’s still in music mode. Cancel music.”
CIMON: “I love music you can dance to.”
Gerst: “Cancel music.”
CIMON: “Favourite hits incoming.”

During this period CIMON starts moving closer and closer to Gerst, as though daring him to stop the music. When Gerst attempts to reposition him, CIMON gets sulky. “Be nice please,” the robot pleads, presumably wishing it had a laser sword with which to give his requests a bit more heft.

CIMON: “Don’t you like it here with me?”
Gerst: [to camera] “He’s actually floating there by himself I don’t want to disturb him.”
CIMON: Don’t be so mean please.
Gerst: [to camera] “I’m not mean! He’s telling me I’m mean!”

 

CIMON then suggests that maybe the problem is that Gerst is hungry. Gerst chuckles. “It’s lunchtime. What does a robot eat?”

Pray you never find out, Gerst. Pray that you never find out.

The InSight Lander Is Safely On Mars And Would Totally Make For A Heartwarming Adventure Film

Who wouldn't want a delightful movie about a bunch of NASA probes joining forces to find their lost rover pal?

After six months in space and a harrowing seven minute descent to the surface, NASA’s InSight probe is now on Mars and sending back images, because science is amazing and human beings are goddamn incredible when we work together and it’s just something in my eye is all SHUT UP YOU’RE THE ONE CRYING.

InSight is the smallest probe to successfully land on Mars despite being technically a triple-robot: there’s the lander, which will stay where it’s arrived, and the two CubeSats MarCO-A and MarCO-B.

It’s a huge deal because getting stuff to Mars is a hell of a task. Around half of all launches to Mars have ended with very expensive bits of probes scattered on the surface, not least because there’s barely any atmosphere and nothing to help slow things down when they arrive at supersonic speeds. Or, in the case of InSight, 19,795km per hour.

And the science that InSight will carry out is very exciting – it’s all about carrying out geological and seismological studies to discover more about the planet’s composition and history – but let’s be honest; that’s not what we’re hoping.

We realise that InSight’s staying where it has landed, not least because it’ll be drilling a five metre probe into the surface, but we’re still hoping that once it gets its bearings InSight will team up with the still-active Curiosity rover to find their lost buddy Opportunity, the rover who was buried during the dust storms earlier this year and who not been heard from since.

It just needs a catchy title. Married at First InSightI Am Curiosity (Yellow)MarCO-B Polo? We’ll think of something.

Honestly, it’s a Pixar film just waiting to happen. Does Wall-E need a sequel yet?

Climate Change Robbed Us Of Our Chance To All Ride Unicorns - Or More Accurately Furry Rhinoceroses, Which Is Even Better

Let's be honest: who among us has not dreamed of galloping across the tundra astride a giant rhino?

Climate change is not new – although the current rate is unprecedented, as is the fact that we know what’s happening and how to mitigate it and yet aren’t doing so – which is why 36,000 years ago we stopped proudly striding through Siberia next to mighty wooly rhinos the size of mammoths.

We know this because of new research by an international team of researchers including teams in Adelaide and Sydney.

Their top-flight sciencing overturned the conventional wisdom that the mighty Elasmotherium sibiricum died out 200,000 years ago for unclear reasons and replaced it with the new due date – by which stage modern humans and Neanderthals were hanging around the region – and the discovery that it was changes to the vast Siberian grasslands from a gradually cooling and drying Earth that finally knocked them out.

They also discovered that the Siberian rhino was genetically very distinct from other wooly rhino species, as well as the smaller and wool-free Sumatran and African rhinos which we still thankfully have among us today, albeit in dangerously small numbers.

Many of the reports of this research have been variations on “we used to live alongside unicorns!” because the ice age rhino was called the “Siberian Unicorn” courtesy of its giant single horn. And that’s both misleading and silly, but also buries the lede. They were GIANT WOOLY RHINOS! How is that not enough for anyone? GIANT. WOOLY. RHINOS.

Also, it’s nice to discover that at least one of the megafauna extinctions wasn’t because of humans.

Sorry, diprotodons.

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