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Robotics

Submission + - Researchers Build Super Robust Robot Hand (ieee.org)

An anonymous reader writes: IEEE Spectrum reports (http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/humanoids/dlr-super-robust-robot-hand) that researchers at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) have built an anthropomorphic robot hand "that can endure collisions with hard objects and even strikes from a hammer without breaking into pieces." The key innovation is that the hand uses antagonistic actuation and spring mechanisms to vary its stiffness, allowing it to absorb shocks and also move its fingers more rapidly than in traditional robot hand designs. To test the device's robustness, the researchers have hit it with a hammer, metal bar, and baseball bat.

Submission + - Airborne prions prove lethal in mice studies (wired.com)

sgunhouse writes: Wired has a story up on the lethality of airborne prions. It should be noted that prions (which cause "mad cow disease" and similar disorders) are not normally airborne and take a long time to kill the infected animal, but so far are 100% lethal if something else doesn't kill the animal first. So they are not likely to be useful as a biological weapon (my first thought when reading their headline), but another safety precaution to consider.
Hardware

Submission + - Torture testing USB drives (choice.com.au)

An anonymous reader writes: You drop them on the floor, loose them in the wash, and if you're really lax let them get run over. But just how durable are USB drives, and do the ones that claim to be 'rugged' really live up to it? Australian consumer organisation CHOICE decided to find out, and torture tested 18 popular USB drives putting them through wash cycles, oven tests and, yes, even running them over with a car (see video). The results were surprising, with some normal USB keys turning out to be more durable than the supposed 'rugged' variety! See the story (http://www.choice.com.au/reviews-and-tests/technology/computers-and-accessories/storage/usb-flashdrive-review-and-compare.aspx) to find out which ones survived.

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