Mars attacked by robot ants from Earth

8 11 2008

via io9

Yes, those planets are the right way round.

Maybe they are just going to turn the red planet into a big 1950s space horror theme park. Personally I’d much rather a Total Recall theme.

I-SWARM is an EU brainchild that has tiny robots working together to accomplish tasks. Not only will they be small and versatile, but they will adapt to new scenarios, and use a mega-Voltron form to accomplish difficult tasks.

Sounds great. If they don’t kill us all. Autonomous robots capable of “anything” are not exactly going to calm down technophobic doomsayers.

They are microbots, not nanobots, so we are hopefully avoiding the grey goo scenario. Maybe apocalypse by M&Ms?

Anyway, I’m not against them on techno-grounds. I’d just rather it wasn’t ants. Robotic spiders are awesome though.



18 09 2008

I’m all a bit confused about this discovery.

It’s a new species of ant, found in Brazil, so they naturally are going around calling it “the ant from Mars“.

The ant is so strange and un-ant-like they are placing it in a new sub-family of ants. I’m not even sure if I should be actually calling it an ant (It’s a maybe-ant). The maybe-ant sub-family split off very early from other ant families in terms of evolutionary divergence – which has lead people to draw similarities between the situation of monotremes and other mammals. So, it’s also being dubbed the insect platypus. It does not have anything nearly as cool as a five-pronged schlong, poison spurs or even a duck-bill. It just has a shit pair of legs at the back.

That’s right. It’s a cripple. Nature quotes an entomologist as saying the maybe-ant “doesn’t even look like it could walk at all”. It’s also blind. Has a “delicate” mouth. And has pigmentation issues.* It probably hasn’t been discovered before because it has just been wallowing in self-pity for its entire existence.

The closest living relatives of ants are bees and wasps. The maybe-ant doesn’t quite share many characteristics with its other airborne cousins. Much like platypuses don’t really resemble modern day birds or lizards much either. Further examination may however show some similarities.

*Update: I could add that it is spineless too, but I think that’s just rubbing it in.

Look what they’ve found on Mars

29 06 2008

Esoteric claims of Statue’s of Jesus, Space-Allah Graffiti, and even that pesky half-human half-feline giant head on Mars can now be calmly put back inside the crazy box for slow new days – we now have something real and backed by data – WATER on Mars (NASA, Wikinews, Independent).

This is interesting from both exobiology and terraforming angles. Liquid water would be potentially capable of sustaining life as we know it. Water sources, liquid or otherwise, would be a key to any human colonisation effort of our frosty red nature.

Mars is very cold, only reaching around 20 °C at its Summer high. Liquid (fresh)water is only thought to be a possibility in some select tropical regions. So it is not a big surprise that the water being discovered, is actually pellets of ice.

The “ice” has been visualised as white patches unearthed by the Phoenix lander. Scientists were not sure if it might be salt, but then it appeared to disappear after being exposed – the quote de jour being “Salt can’t do that”. The disappearing act is being explained as sublimation, ice turning into water vapour, the way carbon dioxide “dry ice” does. The Martian environment, temperature and pressure, would cause water to behave in such a way.

Dihydrogen monoxide reports follow on from other news that Mars soil is potentially fertile and good for growing asparagus. So, maybe its not all good news.

Photo credit: Dillwp on Flickrcc asa