Big week in Science

The big discussions in the house the week.

The Nobel Prize prize for physics was awarded to Andrew Geim and Konstantin Novoselov for their ‘groundbreaking experiments regarding the two dimensional material graphene‘.  

A very small, weird net

This rocks as Andrew Geim is a CHEMIST, yeah that’s right A CHEMIST won a Nobel for PHYSICS. Obviously this has put some physicists noses out of joint. As reported by Bob O’Hare over on his joint blog This Scientific Life 

“Graphene is incredibly strong and light, which makes it ideal material to make hammocks for cats. Despite the merit of this work, the award has been roundly criticised by the physics community.

“I’m outraged” said Prof. Jon Nibus of the Clapham institute of Middle-Energy Physics. “This is a physics prize -we shouldn’t give it to a bloody chemist. They’ll only get it wet”.

We’ve been big fans of Dr Geim ever since he won his Ig Noble back in 2001, interestingly enough that was for physics as well. His paper was ‘of flying frogs and levitation‘, part of his everything is magnetic series.

The_weapon in particular impressed and now wants to try and get a paper published so that he can win an Ig Nobel. Dr Geim also co-authored a paper in PhyisicaB with his cat Trisha titled ‘Detection of Earth Rotation with a diamagneticly levitating gyroscope‘.   
The other BIG news in science – We have exterminated another disease from the face of the world. Rinderpest has joined Smallpox as only existing in secure laboratories for scientists to walk past and taunt. “Na Na we wiped you out..” 
Rinderpest, German for ‘Cattle Plague’ doesn’t affect humans, but kills water buffleo, yaks and other animals relied on throughout Asia and Africa. The disease is related to measles and has an 80% mortality rate. A program to eliminate Rinderpest was announced in 1994 and the last case identified in Kenya in 2001. Official celebrations will be held in 2012 but I can’t wait.
But its not all champagne and fast cars for scientists this week.

“Puny HUMAN”

The ever vigilant Flinthart has alerted me to this case of species treachery.  Borut Povse at the University of Ljubljana (they even have a University was news to me) 
 has persuaded six male colleagues to let a powerful industrial robot repeatedly strike them on the arm, to assess human-robot pain thresholds. Each volunteer was struck 18 times at different impact energies, the arm fitted with either a blunt and a sharper tool. Povse claims “Even robots designed to Asimov’s laws can collide with people. We are trying to make sure that when they do, the collision is not too powerful,” PovÅ¡e says. “We are taking the first steps to defining the limits of the speed and acceleration of robots, and the ideal size and shape of the tools they use, so they can safely interact with humans.” …


The boys over at Topless Robot summed this up best for me

“You want to keep robots from colliding with humans? Put a fucking sensor on them that tells them when something is close so they don’t run into it. It’s not hard; we have them on fucking cars now so people don’t back up onto children. All you’re doing is making a robot designed to inflict pain on humans. I love forward to these assholes’ next experiment, which is to teach a robot not to murder humans by building a robot that does nothing but murder humans all day.”

So by my count that’s two wins and a giant leap backwards towards the inevitable Robot uprising.