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How long can a bird stay aloft? The answer might surprise you.

Christian Science Monitor | Science

A 10-hour flight can leave humans longing for solid ground beneath their feet, but for some birds that might not be the case – even after months, not hours, on the wing. The common swift, Apus apus, spends 10 months of the year aloft, according to research published Thursday in the journal Current Biology. This new study makes the bird a record-setter. Previous research had pointed to the Alpine swift, Tachymarptis melba, as being able to fly non-stop for some 200 days, 100 days less than the common swift. So this new research "extends the range that we know birds can fly," Niels Rattenborg, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Germany who was not involved in the study, tells The Christian Science Monitor.


It's a bird! It's a plane! It's Microsoft using artificial intelligence to teach a machine to stay aloft

#artificialintelligence

Paying attention to the "rise of the machines" increasingly means scanning the skies for things other than conventional aircraft or birds. But what if the line between the two begins to blur and autonomous planes can somehow be taught to mimic nature? That's the hope of researchers from Microsoft who are using artificial intelligence to keep a sailplane aloft without the help of a motor. The researchers have found that through a complex set of AI algorithms, they can get their 16 1/2-foot, 12 1/2-pound aircraft to soar much like a hawk would, by identifying things like air temperature and wind direction to locate thermals -- invisible columns of air that rise due to heat. "Birds do this seamlessly, and all they're doing is harnessing nature. And they do it with a peanut-sized brain," Ashish Kapoor, a principal researcher at Microsoft, said in the report.


It's a bird! It's a plane! It's Microsoft using artificial intelligence to teach a machine to stay aloft

#artificialintelligence

Paying attention to the "rise of the machines" increasingly means scanning the skies for things other than conventional aircraft or birds. But what if the line between the two begins to blur and autonomous planes can somehow be taught to mimic nature? The researchers have found that through a complex set of AI algorithms, they can get their 16 1/2-foot, 12 1/2-pound aircraft to soar much like a hawk would, by identifying things like air temperature and wind direction to locate thermals -- invisible columns of air that rise due to heat. "Birds do this seamlessly, and all they're doing is harnessing nature. And they do it with a peanut-sized brain," Ashish Kapoor, a principal researcher at Microsoft, said in the report.


Kilauea summit blows ash aloft anew as more lava flows into Pacific

The Japan Times

HONOLULU – A small explosion at the summit of Hawaii's erupting Kilauea Volcano on Sunday sent ash spewing into the air, creating a driving hazard for roads on parts of the Big Island, the U.S. Geological Survey said. Lava fountains from a fissure in the volcano reached as high as 180 feet (55 meters) from Saturday night into Sunday, pushing flows of molten rock into the ocean, it said. "Seismic activity at the crater continues with gas explosions and ash eruptions under 10,000 feet (3,050 meters). While the eruption is never predictable, conditions appear stable for the moment," Richard Rapoza, a spokesman for Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, said in an email. The eruption, which entered its 39th day on Sunday, stands as the most destructive in the United States since at least the violent 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington state that reduced hundreds of square miles (km) to wasteland and killed nearly 60 people, according to geologist Scott Rowland, a volcanologist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.


Hotel guests, this robot is at your service

#artificialintelligence

Aloft Hotel spokeswoman Ashley Chapman said the robot's performance of mundane tasks frees staff more time to interact with people. Detroit -- In "Star Wars," R2-D2 and C-3PO were involved in nothing less than vanquishing an evil empire. Aloft Hotels, which has a location in downtown Detroit, introduced its newest employee Tuesday -- Botlr. The three-foot robot, which looks like R2-D2 sans arms and legs, brings amenities to guests in the hotel lobby or right to their rooms. Moving on wheels, the machine has an enclosed bin that can hold anything from toothpaste to bottled water to whatever else the guest might desire.