Vision: An essential ingredient for autonomy

In last week’s column, I used two case studies, robotic vacuum cleaners and drones, to illustrate the perhaps surprising power consumption savings that can be obtained by adding computer vision capabilities to a system design. In focusing on power savings, however, I wanted to make sure that a bigger-picture point wasn’t lost—the necessity of vision processing for robust autonomy.

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NASA’s satellites see Fantala intensifying as it moves west

Three different NASA satellites caught images of the storm as it rapidly intensifies and moves west. Currently there are no threatened landmasses in its wake, but it this storm is packing quite a punch. The MODIS and AIRS instruments that fly aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite provided visible and infrared data on the storm while the RapidScat instrument that flies aboard the International Space Station looked at the speeds of the surface winds. …read more

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Radical route for the synthesis of chiral molecules

The research group of Prof. Paolo Melchiorre at ICIQ has developed a new methodology for the selective formation of chiral molecules. The work, that has been published in Nature, combines two strategies which require very mild reaction conditions—enantioselective iminium ion chemistry and photoredox catalysis—to set quaternary carbon stereocentres with high enantioselectivity. …read more

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Dwarf dark galaxy hidden in ALMA gravitational lens image

Subtle distortions hidden in ALMA’s stunning image of the gravitational lens SDP.81 are telltale signs that a dwarf dark galaxy is lurking in the halo of a much larger galaxy nearly 4 billion light-years away. This discovery paves the way for ALMA to find many more such objects and could help astronomers address important questions on the nature of dark matter. …read more

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Stories of Extreme Sleepwalkers

Can you drive while you are asleep?

Can you drive while you are asleep?

About 1 to 15 percent of the general population has experienced somnambulism, also known as sleepwalking. The condition is more prevalent in childhood, but onset or persistence in adulthood is also common. The term “sleepwalking” is a misnomer, as somnambulists can perform extremely complex behaviors while asleep, including leaving the house and even driving.

Somnambulism typically occurs when a person is passing from deep sleep to a lighter stage. It is hereditary, but can also result from inconsistent or insufficient sleep, as well as from taking certain medications.

Researchers in Germany documented two extreme cases of sleep-related complex behavior. In each case, the patient was taking a popular medication for insomnia. They both recalled taking one 10-mg tablet before passing out. They later had no memory of what happened during the several days that followed.

In Case No. 1, witnesses reported the patient driving as if under the influence of alcohol. He left the traffic lane, touched a parked car and hit a traffic sign. He was found asleep at the wheel, and kept falling asleep during police interactions. He did not begin to remember what had happened …read more

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