New Scientist


Why aren't we testing whether planes can survive a drone crash?

New Scientist

It's the nightmare scenario: a consumer drone flying into a jet engine. But no one has actually done the tests that could reveal what would happen and inform safety. That's strange, given the increasing risk of such an incident. We need to know if it could cause an aircraft engine to explode in what is known as an "uncontained failure", with hot, fast-spinning engine parts being shed in all directions, potentially piercing wings, fuel tanks and even the cabin.


?utm_campaign=RSS%7CNSNS&utm_source=NSNS&utm_medium=RSS&utm_content=news&campaign_id=RSS%7CNSNS-news

New Scientist

I'm in the cockpit of a Typhoon fighter jet. It's a scene inside an Oculus Rift headset at the new Training and Simulation Integration Facility belonging to defence company BAE Systems. It seems that to make the next great fighter jet, you start by working out what ideas you can pinch from the big consumer tech companies. The burning question on my mind, though, is how the company can even consider replacing cockpit controls with a view of the landscape.


Monkeys can be tricked into thinking all objects are familiar

New Scientist

In particular, a region of the temporal lobe called the perirhinal cortex has been linked with object recognition, memory and even helping primates recognise familiar faces. Then the team began stimulating different parts of the perirhinal cortex during the recognition tests. When they stimulated the entire perirhinal cortex with light, the monkeys categorised all objects as old – regardless of whether they really were. However, stimulating different parts of the perirhinal cortex in turn had varying effects: the front biased the monkeys to see everything as familiar, while the rear sometimes caused them to identify more objects as new.


Weird creatures are spreading polluting plastic through the sea

New Scientist

To find out what happens to the plastic, Katija and Choy studied larvaceans: filter-feeding animals that are distantly related to vertebrates. Previous studies by Katija have shown these abundant animals filter immense amounts of seawater each year. The pair used a remotely operated vehicle to squirt tiny plastic pellets near individual giant larvaceans and watched what happened. Both the discarded houses and fecal pellets sink to the sea floor, but may be eaten by other animals on the way down.


Self-healing jelly bot regenerates when stabbed – just add heat

New Scientist

Roboticists have long aimed to use soft flexible materials, but these have a propensity to break making them unfit for purpose. A new technique can create soft robots that heal themselves when things go wrong. When you add heat, they reorganise to stick back together without leaving any weak spots," says Bram Vanderborght, who led the research. In the future, Vanderborght and his colleagues want to make the self-healing properties automatic, either by altering the material or by making robots that can apply heat themselves.


We can program robots not to get all up in our personal space

New Scientist

FOR robots to coexist amicably with us, they need to learn about personal space. Harmish Khambhaita and Rachid Alami at the University of Toulouse in France wanted to programme a robot to mimic human manners like stepping around one another, yielding to groups and respecting personal space. "The robot mimics our manners – it has to reason what a human would like to do, and react" To fix this, the team wrote new software combining the steps, so the robot constantly adjusts its planned path (arxiv.org/abs/1708.01267). This article appeared in print under the headline "Polite robots learn to keep out of our way"


Twitch gamers live-stream their vital signs to keep fans hooked

New Scientist

Roughly 10 million people tune in every day to watch the more than 2 million people who stream their games on platforms like the Amazon-owned Twitch. To keep viewers hooked, gamers dip into an evolving bag of tricks, for example, sharing performance statistics, playing music and displaying live chat comments in a frame that surrounds the view of the game itself. The team observed them as they viewed a single gamer, first during a 1-hour session without the biometric data in the video stream, and then 1 hour with. In a survey, 70 per cent said they felt more connected when they could view the player's physiological state.


Smart cameras spot when hospital staff don't wash their hands

New Scientist

Using a combination of depth cameras and computer-vision algorithms, a research team has tracked people around two hospital wards and automatically identified when they used gel dispensers. In the initial study, during a busy Friday lunch time they collected images from cameras installed overlooking corridors, patient rooms and alcohol-based gel dispensers, among other places. Of the 170 people they recorded entering a patient's room, only 30 people correctly used the gel dispensers. The team then used 80 per cent of the images to train their algorithms to detect healthcare staff, track them as they move from one spot to another across different cameras, and monitor their hand hygiene behaviour.


AI artist conjures up convincing fake worlds from memories

New Scientist

Chen says the technique could eventually create game worlds that truly resemble the real world. The AI was trained on 3000 images of German streets, so when it comes across part of the image labelled "car" it draws on its existing knowledge to generate a car in that part of the image. That's easier said than done, however, as each component in the training images needs to be labelled by hand, and creating a data set with that level of detail is extremely labour-intensive. But when it comes to building worlds in virtual reality, that dreamlike nature might not be such a bad thing, says Snavely.


Ships fooled in GPS spoofing attack suggest Russian cyberweapon

New Scientist

Reports of satellite navigation problems in the Black Sea suggest that Russia may be testing a new system for spoofing GPS, New Scientist has learned. "Jamming just causes the receiver to die, spoofing causes the receiver to lie," says consultant David Last, former president of the UK's Royal Institute of Navigation. Over the past year, GPS spoofing has been causing chaos for the receivers on phone apps in central Moscow to misbehave. Last says that the Black Sea incident suggests a new device capable of causing widespread disruption, for example, if used in the ongoing dispute with Ukraine.