Autonomy and Robotics

Small Payloads to the Stars

April 3, 2014

Making things smaller seems more and more to be a key to feasibility for long-haul spaceflight. Recently I went through solar sail ideas from the 1950s as the concept made its way into the scientific journals after an interesting debut to the public in Astounding Science Fiction. We also discussed Sundiver missions taking advantage of […]

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Keeping the Probe Alive

March 20, 2013

Talking about issues of long-term maintenance and repair, as we have been for the past two days, raises the question of what we mean by ‘self-healing.’ As some commenters have noted, the recent Caltech work on computer chips that can recover from damage isn’t really healing at all. Caltech’s researchers zap the chip with a […]

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Autonomy and the Interstellar Probe

March 19, 2013

Yesterday’s thoughts on self-repairing chips, as demonstrated by recent work at Caltech, inevitably called Project Daedalus to mind. The span between the creation of the Daedalus design in the 1970s and today covers the development of the personal computer and the emergence of global networking, so it’s understandable that the way we view autonomy has […]

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Self-Healing Circuits for Deep Space

March 18, 2013

Computer failures can happen any time, but it’s been so long since I’ve had a hard disk failure that I rarely worry about such problems. Part of my relaxed stance has to do with backups, which I always keep in triplicate, so when I discovered Friday afternoon that one of my hard disks had failed […]

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Data Storage: The DNA Option

January 28, 2013

One of the benefits of constantly proliferating information is that we’re getting better and better at storing lots of stuff in small spaces. I love the fact that when I travel, I can carry hundreds of books with me on my Kindle, and to those who say you can only read one book at a […]

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Robotics: Pushing the Envelope

September 5, 2012

“My increasingly sophisticated laptops are starting to develop personalities of their own,” says Charles Lineweaver (Australian National University), as interviewed by Peter Spinks in The Age. It’s a whimsical remark in the context of a discussion on robotics in space missions, but I think many of us can relate to it. We all tend to […]

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Remembering the Early Robotic Explorers

August 29, 2012

Reflecting back on the history of robotic space missions, Larry Klaes offers a look at the early missions to Venus and Mars, harbingers of the far more complex probes we would later send into the Solar System. The Pioneers, Veneras and Mariners were, in their day, on the forefront of planetary research, blazing the trail […]

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Robotics: Anticipating Asimov

June 21, 2012

My friend David Warlick and I were having a conversation yesterday about what educators should be doing to anticipate the technological changes ahead. Dave is a specialist in using technology in the classroom and lectures all over the world on the subject. I found myself saying that as we moved into a time of increasingly […]

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A Machine-Driven Way to the Stars

September 27, 2011

Are humans ever likely to go to the stars? The answer may well be yes, but probably not if we’re referring to flesh-and-blood humans aboard a starship. That’s the intriguing conclusion of Keith Wiley (University of Washington), who brings his background in very large computing clusters and massively parallel image data processing to bear on […]

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Artificial Intelligence Among the Stars

May 5, 2010

Talk of a ‘singularity’ in which artificial intelligence reaches such levels that it moves beyond human capability and comprehension plays inevitably into the realm of interstellar studies. Some have speculated, as Paul Davies does in The Eerie Silence, that any civilization we make contact with will likely be made up of intelligent machines, the natural […]

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