Thursday, February 24, 2011

NASA's Robonaut 2 - Sophisticated Automaton, Evidence of Nerdery

NASA is currently counting down to space shuttle Discovery's final launch, but this notable last is also a first.  The crew aboard Discovery includes the world's first humanoid robot destined to be an active member of the ISS crew: the Robonaut 2.  That's right.  It's R-2.

But this R-2 is much more dexterous and only slightly less adorable than the Star Wars version.  And if NASA's images of the earth-bound Robonaut are any indication, space is about to get a little dorkier.  Here are some of my favorite images from the R-2's website and Flickr photostream:

Gotta beef up before launch, that torso-only spacesuit leaves 
little to the imagination. 

R-2, you're so vain.  I bet you think that article is about you.
(note: it is)

Yeah, being an advanced robot is alright.  But check out this sweet smartphone.
 (note: R-2 maintains its own Twitter feed)
An earlier version of the Robonaut. His hatred for the Jedi is
only mildly assuaged by his shiny new ears.   
If you don't come down from there, we're blasting off without you.
(note: the chariot is for mobility on earth, only the torso is going to space.)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Nerd Wordles

If you haven't seen Wordles yet, it's definitely worth checking out.  It's a free web graphic creator that turns text into art. The interface is easy to use, and the results are fun and fascinating, whether you're probing trends in your dream journal or in the Wall Street Journal.

The idea is simple:  You provide the text, and the program creates an image that mashes all the words together based on how commonly they are used.  The larger the word appears in the graphic, the more often it showed up in the text.

Here are some wonderfully nerdy Wordles that I created.  You can see more under my Wordle creator pseudonym: Salamandarzu.

From Einstein's "The Meaning of Relativity," which is made up of three lectures Einstein gave at Princeton in 1921.

Wordle: Einstein: The Meaning of Relativity

From the transcript of the pilot episode of Star Trek Enterprise, "Broken Bow," which originally aired September 26, 2001.  In this episode, the crew first makes contact with the Klingons.

Wordle: Star Trek Enterprise, pilot episode

From a transcript of Richard Feynman's lecture, "There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom," presented to the annual meeting of the American Physical Society in 1959.  In this presentation, Feynman envisioned future progress at the nano-scale.

Wordle: There's Plenty of Room at the Botton

From the text of "The Hacker Manifesto," also known as "The Conscience of the Hacker," sometimes called the cornerstone of the ethical hacking movement.  It was written by a hacker who called himself "The Mentor," and was originally published in in 1986.

Wordle: The Hacker Manifesto, by the Mentor

The transcript of the final episode of Carl Sagan's Cosmos, entitled "Who Speaks for Earth." The episode originally aired in 1980.

(This image is housed on my blog ,
because I can't rotate it on Wordle.)