Six tiny microbots weighing 3.5 ounces pull a 3,900-pound car

Slow but steady does it.

John Markoff at the New York Times:

A group of researchers at the Biomimetics and Dexterous Manipulation Laboratory at Stanford University has been exploring the limits of friction in the design of tiny robots that have the ability to pull thousands of times their weight, wander like gecko lizards on vertical surfaces or mimic bats.

[Modeled After Ants, Teams of Tiny Robots Can Move 2-Ton Car / John Markoff / The New York Times]

Golly, swearing is good for you

Research shows cursing helps you endure pain, but people who swear habitually experience less relief. Other research shows swearing helps strengthen social bonds and group morale. But swearing also has social drawbacks.

So swear, and swear often. But don’t overdo it, you fucking cunt.

A Strategic Guide to Swearing / Stephanie Hayes / The Atlantic

389px-swear_jar_2

Photo: Anna Frodesiak / Wikimedia Commons

Researchers extract audio from potato chip bag and other vibrating objects in video recordings

Salt and vinegar chipsResearchers at MIT, Microsoft, and Adobe have developed an algorithm that can reconstruct an audio signal from minute vibrations of objects in a video recording, including recovering intelligible speech from the vibrations of a potato-chip bag photographed 15 feet away through soundproof glass.

The researchers also successfully extracted audio from video of aluminum foil, the surface of a glass of water, and the leaves of a potted plant.

I wonder whether the technique might become sensitive enough to capture sound from old silent movies, newsreels, and home movies.

Extracting audio from visual information: Algorithm recovers speech from the vibrations of a potato-chip bag filmed through soundproof glass

Photo: Salt-and-Vinegar, by Gerolsteiner91. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons

Why you don’t remember much that happened before you were seven years old

Small children do form memories, but they go through a phenomenon called “childhood amnesia” when they’re older. The reason is a complicated mix of biology, psychology, and culture.

I’m the youngest by far of five children. My mother was 35 when she conceived me in 1951, so chagrined by this chronological indiscretion that she tried to hide the pregnancy from her sister. My mortified oldest brother didn’t want to tell his high-school friends that a new baby was on the way, but it was a small town. Word spread.

My mother’s age and my late arrival in the family felt burdensome to me too, especially when I started school in 1957 and met my classmates’ mothers. They were still having babies! Still piling their children into cars and heading off to picnics at the river or hikes into the lava-capped, wild flower-rampant plateau outside town. They still had to mediate hair-pulling and toy-snatching. But by the time I started first grade, my siblings were gone, the oldest three to college and the youngest to a residential school four hours away, and we went from a very noisy household to a very quiet one.

My family has told me stories about those years before everything changed. How my oldest brother nicknamed me ‘Ubangi’ because my hair grew in tight fat curls close to my head. How my other brother liked to ambush me around corners with a toy crocodile because it never failed to make me shriek in terror. How my oldest sister carried me around like a kangaroo with her joey. But I can offer very few stories of my own from those early years.

Where do children’s earliest memories go?

My family lived in Brooklyn from when I was 1 or 2 years old until I was eight years old. I have vivid memories of the last two or so years of that time. They were formative years for me. I remember it happily, with friends on the same block within walking distance, and adults looking out for everybody. It was very different from suburban Long Island, where I spent the remainder of my childhood, all my teen years, and the first couple of years of my adulthood.

My brothers, a few years younger than me, don’t remember living in Brooklyn at all.

When did human beings start wearing clothes?

Interesting discussion on Reddit. Two answers:

Bone needles and scraped skins found in archeological digs suggest we started wearing clothes 100,000 to 500,000 years ago.

Body lice suggest a date of 100,000 years ago. Unlike other primates, human beings have different, but related, kinds of lice: One for the head, and one for the body. Head lice live in hair, and body lice live in clothes. The lice diverged about 100,000 years ago.

What do we know about when humans started wearing clothes? When? Where first?

A hundred thousand years of evolution — and now people can’t wait to get home from work so they can take off their pants.