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Light Friday: A First-Person Trip Across Mars : IMT Industry Market Trends

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Published on Monday, 17 October 2011 Written by Super User

Reinventing the Modern Warehouse Model
A start-up facility in Massachusetts is attempting to reinvent the traditional model of the warehouse by having inventory items come to the workers instead of having the workers retrieve the items themselves, ostensibly fulfilling orders faster.

The demonstration facility for Kiva Systems features a robotic system that relies on automated units to quickly move stocked goods and fill orders. Computers track the robots and the inventory, while resource-allocation algorithms maximize the efficiency of their movements.

"Two dozen squat machines, like orange suitcases on wheels, scurry on the floor. They park underneath the man-high racks and start pirouetting; the spinning is part of the mechanism that jacks the racks off the ground," IEEE Spectrum explains. "One robot hauls shelves with 12-packs of Mountain Dew; another carries bottles of Redken shampoo. They move along straight lines and make 90-degree turns, maneuvering just 15 centimeters from each other. It's a bit like Pac-Man."

Oh, and the robots also learn, making the system more efficient as time goes on. Here's a video highlighting the impressive coordination of these mechanical laborers:

What Causes Super-volcano Eruptions?
A super-volcano eruption is one of the most powerful natural disasters that can occur on Earth, capable of devastating entire continents and initiating ice ages. Geologists have long wondered what triggers these massive events, and a new scientific model may have the answer.

While there are only a few known super-volcanoes, including one beneath Yellowstone National Park, their eruptions are estimated to be 1,000 times more powerful than any standard volcanic eruption in recorded history, according to science and sci-fi blog io9. Scientists estimate that these types of eruptions only occur about once every 100,000 years — the last one occurred 26,500 years ago — but the lack of direct physical evidence has made it difficult for scientists to pinpoint the cause.

However, researchers at Oregon State University recently developed a model that could explain the phenomenon, claiming that super-eruptions have more to do with what happens above a volcano's magma chamber than within it.

In a paper submitted to the Geological Society of America, the researchers explain that a ring of rocks first accumulates around a magma chamber, causing pressure to build for tens of thousands of years. The building pressure forces the magma chamber's roof to lift, but eventually faults from above cause it to collapse and trigger an eruption. The new eruption model is unique in that it identifies triggers from above, rather than within, the magma chamber, explaining why there are no precursor eruptions in a super-eruption event.

"It takes a 'perfect storm' of conditions to grow an eruptible magma chamber of this size which is one reason super-volcano eruptions have occurred infrequently throughout history," the Daily Mail reports. "The magma reservoirs feeding the eruptions could be as large as 10,000- to 15,000-square cubic kilometers, and the chamber requires repeated intrusions of magma from below to heat the surrounding rock and make it malleable. It is that increase in ductility that allows the chamber to grow without magma evacuation in a more conventional manner."

A 13-Mile Journey on Mars
Most of us will never get the chance to experience travelling across the surface of Mars, but a new video from NASA puts us close, showing in first-hand detail what it's like traversing the red planet.

The video is compiled from 309 images taken by the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity during its trip from Victoria crater to Endeavour crater between September 2008 and August 2011. The three-minute clip provides a from-the-surface perspective of the three-year, 13-mile journey, and it includes a soundtrack.

"The sound represents the vibrations of the rover while moving on the surface of Mars," Paolo Bellutta, a rover planner at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement. "When the sound is louder, the rover was moving on bedrock. When the sound is softer, the rover was moving on sand."

Have a great weekend, folks.

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