Xenobots are the world’s first AI-designed biological robots that can self-repair and self-replicate.
The year was 1948 when Hungarian-American mathematician John von Neumann proposed the idea of an autonomous robot capable of using raw materials to reproduce itself. Today, Neumann’s vision is finally realized with one major twist: the self-replicating robot isn’t made of aluminum, plastics, spur gears or sprockets. The parent robot and its babies, a new lineage of organism called Xenobots, are entirely biological. “It was exciting to see that we could [make] this Von Neumann machine, but using cells instead of robot parts,” says co-author Sam Kriegman, computer scientist at the Wyss Institute at Harvard and co-author of the Xenobots paper published today in PNAS.
“People have philosophized about this forever,” says Joshua Bongard, senior author and computer scientist at the University of Vermont. “But now you can actually do experiments to create biological machines, or machines that make biology, which in turn make machines.”
It’s okay to be confused. The researchers liberally refer to Xenobots as “machines” even though Xenobots don’t contain a single mechanical component. Science may be moving faster than our framework for talking and even thinking about this new category of machine life. “I think it challenges us to see that there may not be a clear dividing line between machine and organism,” says Bongard.
The self-replicating Xenobot was first “conceived” by an artificial intelligence (AI) program working on UVM’s supercomputer. The AI ran an evolutionary algorithm capable of testing billions of biological body shapes in a simulation. The goal was to discover which configuration of cells is capable of self-replication. The AI rendered a winning design: a cluster of cells shaped like Pac-Man from the 1980s arcade game.
Biologist Douglas Blackiston took the AI’s blueprint and used microcautery electrodes and surgical forceps to hand-sculpt the Xenobots, creatures made up of clusters of 4,000-5,000 frog cells swimming in a petri dish. Random frog cells added to the dish give the parent Xenobots raw material to make babies inside their Pac-Man-shaped mouths. The Xenobabies grow into parent Xenobots. By adding frog cells, self-replication continues generation after generation.
Sculpting a bespoke shape out of stem cells is the “programming” that instructs cell clusters to develop a certain way. Shaping a cluster of frog cells in this specific configuration programs them to become a new self-replicating life form. “This is an AI designing life, or designing a robot, whatever you want to call it,” says Blackiston. “These are things that are not under the purview of [natural] selection.”
New Definitions For Intelligence
Robots made of traditional robot parts that perform quite well in controlled environments often fail in the real world. “Once you move through the world, it’s unpredictable, things are messy,” says Kriegman, who was delighted by the possibility of using robotics materials that have biological intelligence built in. “Doug came up with the notion of building robots out of biological stuff,” says Kriegman. “You get this intelligence for free. And we were off to the races.”
When asked if Xenobots are intelligent, Blackiston has reservations. Of the two computer scientists and two biologists on the research team, Blackiston is more comfortable calling Xenobots programmed engineered organisms with intelligence happening at the design and programming level but not in the actual Xenobot. “My opinion is that they’re not intelligent,” says Blackiston. Though he agrees with the rest of the team that their work challenges scientific definitions. “[Definitions] are being driven into extinction because of these technologies,” says Bongard. “Xenobots are a product of AI and AI itself is helping to drive to extinction our standard definitions of intelligence.”
Definitions aside, Blackiston thinks society will have to grapple with many of the applications for, and implications of, this new technology—like the question of artificial intelligence designing replacement parts for humans. “What if an AI tinkers around and figures out it can design a better heart than the one that evolution has given us?” Asks Blackiston, who thinks it’s possible AI could give us blueprints to create superior organs to our current models. “I think we’re going to see these questions popping up all over the medical and environmental space in the next 10-15 years.”
Blackiston surgically shaping the first generation of AI-designed Xenobot:
Xenobots collect frog cells and shaping them into Xenobabies:
Boeing and NASA complete the first Starliner Space Station flight test – Aviation24.be
Uncrewed flight paves the way to crew missions
Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft landed at the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico at 5:49 p.m. Central Time. The safe return to Earth brings a close to the successful end-to-end uncrewed orbital flight test that was flown to demonstrate the quality and performance of the transportation system prior to crewed flights.
“We have had an excellent flight test of a complex system that we expected to learn from along the way and we have,” said Mark Nappi, vice president and program manager, Boeing Commercial Crew Program. “Thank you to the NASA and Boeing teammates who have put so much of themselves into Starliner.”
The flight test completed today began May 19 with a launch from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. Capabilities the Starliner demonstrated included:
- End-to-end performance of the Atlas V rocket and Starliner spacecraft through launch, ascent, on-orbit, re-entry and landing;
- Starliner’s autonomous software and the on-orbit operation of its avionics system, docking system, communications/telemetry systems, environmental control systems, solar arrays, electrical power systems, and propulsion systems;
- Ability to hold docking attitude, receive commands from the space station crew, and command holds and retreats during final station approach;
- Battery charging, hatch open and close, establishing joint ventilation with the station, file transfer and cargo transfer.
When Starliner completes its next flight, Boeing will have fulfilled NASA’s goal of having two commercial vehicles to transport astronauts safely, reliably and sustainably to the station from American soil.
“With the completion of OFT-2, we will incorporate lessons learned and continue working to prepare for the crewed flight test and NASA certification,” Nappi added.
WHITE SANDS, NEW MEXICO, May 25, 2022
NASA skywatcher says a brand-new 'meteor storm' from a shattered comet might blaze across night skies next week – Yahoo Canada Finance
A meteor shower could light up skies over North America at the tail end of Memorial Day weekend.
The shower could become a rare “meteor storm,” with at least 1,000 meteors each hour, experts say.
The best time to catch the possible storm is around 1 a.m. ET on Tuesday, May 31.
North America might be treated to a starry spectacle late Monday night into Tuesday morning, as the Earth passes through the remnants of a defunct comet. Experts say the meteor shower, known as the Tau Herculids, has the potential to become a rare “meteor storm” — producing an onslaught of at least 1,000 shooting stars per hour.
Or, it could be a dud.
The comet is known as 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 (SW3 for short) and named after the two German astronomers — Arnold Schwassmann and Arno Arthur Wachmann — who discovered it in 1930. SW3 is breaking into dozens of pieces as it zips around the sun every 5.4 years, NASA said in a statement.
Like all meteor showers, experts say that when Earth passes through those comet crumbs, they’ll burn up in our atmosphere and create a scattering of shooting stars.
The best meteor showers involve hundreds of meteors per hour — but most are in the single figures. Next week’s sky show could reach thousands of meteors per hour, making it a “meteor storm” as opposed to a shower, according to experts.
“This is going to be an all-or-nothing event,” Bill Cooke from NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office, said in a statement, adding that visibility will depend on the speed of the comet. “If the debris from SW3 was traveling more than 220 miles per hour when it separated from the comet, we might see a nice meteor shower. If the debris had slower ejection speeds, then nothing will make it to Earth and there will be no meteors from this comet,” Cooke said.
The last “meteor storm” to grace the heavens was the Leonid meteor storm of 1966, which lasted several hours — meteors fell at rates as high as 40 per second.
“People who watched the 1966 Leonid shower said they felt they had to clutch the ground, so strong was the impression of Earth moving through space,” according to EarthSky.
The Tau Herculids meteor shower is named after the star Tau Herculis, because from Earth, the meteors appear as though they are radiating from Tau Herculis. Experts expect next week’s event to be much shorter than the hours-long Leonid shower.
Fortunately, the stellar light show will occur on a moonless night, making it easier to view. According to the American Meteor Society, the best window to see the cosmic display is from 12:45 to 1:17 a.m. ET on Tuesday, May, 31.
Though the light display should be visible from North and South America, stargazers in the Southwestern US and Mexico will have the best view, as that’s where the meteor shower will be highest in the night sky.
“We believe that this event has a chance of being something spectacular,” the society explained on its website. “When viewing events such as these, one should expect nothing extraordinary to happen, but certainly hope for the best!”
Read the original article on Business Insider
Curtiss-Wright Congratulates Nasa and Boeing on Successful Boeing Oft-2 Mission to the International Space Station – Space Ref
From: Curtiss-Wright Corporation
Posted: Friday, May 27, 2022
The flight, NASA’s second uncrewed flight for Starliner, was launched to the ISS on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The OFT-2 mission demonstrates the end-to-end capabilities of the Starliner spacecraft and Atlas V rocket from launch to docking to a return to Earth in the desert of the western United States.
“As a proud supplier to NASA’s Orbital Flight Test-2 mission to the International Space Station, we congratulate NASA and Boeing on the successful Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft mission,” said Chris Wiltsey, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Defense Solutions division. “We are pleased that our proven and trusted space data acquisition technology are utilized to help capture the critical data required to support the development of this historic space vehicle. It’s an honor to be part of the team helping to usher in the next generation of American space travel and preparing to launch NASA astronauts on missions to deep space. With Curtiss-Wright’s long legacy as an aviation and aerospace innovator, starting with the Wright Brothers and Glenn Curtiss, we are especially excited to participate in this important and exciting program that will return Americans to the moon and later on to Mars.”
The uncrewed mission will provide valuable data toward NASA certifying Boeing’s crew transportation system for regular flights with astronauts to and from the space station. During the mission, the spacecraft delivered more than 400 pounds of NASA cargo and crew supplies to the space station and returned to Earth with more than 550 pounds of cargo, including reusable Nitrogen Oxygen Recharge System (NORS) tanks that provide breathable air to station crew members.
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with industry through a public-private partnership to provide safe, reliable, and cost-effective transportation to and from the International Space Station, which will allow for additional research time and will increase the opportunity for discovery aboard humanity’s testbed for exploration. The space station remains the springboard to space exploration, including future missions to the Moon and eventually to Mars.
About Curtiss-Wright’s Space Solutions
Curtiss-Wright is the leading provider of data acquisition products for Space Commercial-off-the-Shelf (COTS) and radiation tolerant COTS applications. By combining COTS savings with innovative radiation tolerant strategies, Curtiss-Wright enables trusted systems to be built that meet the needs of the mission at a significantly lower cost. The use of Curtiss-Wright’s radiation tolerant Smart Backplane™ design enables system developers to meet their mission assurance requirements without the high NRE and costs associated with radiation hardened designs. Additionally, custom data acquisition modules can help reduce weight by removing the need for separate avionics boxes, while the ability to turn modules on and off enables power budgets to be managed more efficiently. Curtiss-Wright’s Space COTS approach is proven on multiple Space applications including EASA Vega-C, NASA Orion SLS & CRV, Boeing CST-100, Blue Horizon’s New Shepard, SpaceX Falcon 9 and Dragon, ESA IXV, ULA Delta V and Rocketlab Electron.
About Curtiss-Wright Corporation
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