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Planet Earth

This Robotic Pollinator Is Like a Huge Bee With Wheels and an Arm

You like eating, yes? Apples, oranges, berries? For these foods we can thank bees and their extraordinary pollinating powers. Unfortunately, to show our appreciation, humans are killing off bees in staggering numbers—destroying their habitats and poisoning them with pesticides. And at the same time, our population is skyrocketing, which means if we can’t get our act together, we have to somehow feed more people with fewer pollinators.

Well, living pollinators, that is. In a greenhouse at West Virginia University, a machine called the BrambleBee is learning to roll around pollinating blackberry bushes, knocking their flowers around (blackberry flowers self-pollinate, so bees or robots just have to jostle them to spread around the pollen). It’s no replacement for bees, but in a world with too many humans and not enough pollinators, robots like this could help feed our kind.

The BrambleBee works not unlike a self-driving car. First it uses lidar, spraying lasers to build a 3-D map of the greenhouse so it can find its way around. For the moment, it looks for QR codes as a stand-in for flowers, but the researchers are close to getting it to snap photos of actual flowers. After traipsing through the rows, it then plans its next pass to reach as many flowers with its arm as possible. Next, once it’s positioned itself in front of a plant, another camera on that arm will make an even higher-resolution 3-D map of the crop.

If BrambleBee determines a flower is ready for pollination, it will use a small 3-D printed brush of flexible polyurethane bristles on the end of its arm to gently stroke the blossom. This transfers pollen from the male reproductive organs, called anthers, to the pistils, where pollination commences. The robot will even remember what flowers it already hit, so it can make multiple runs as the plants mature in the greenhouse.

Is it more expensive than helping bees do their thing? Certainly. Does it get insects fed? Certainly not. But BrambleBee can provide something bees can’t: data. “Imagine you recognize a blackberry from the stage of a bud all the way to a fruit, then you can tell how many blackberries to expect and what their quality is,” says West Virginia University roboticist Yu Gu, who developed the system. And if BrambleBee can manage a manipulation as delicate as pollination, theoretically it could tend to the plants in other ways, like using a different instrument to cut away unhealthy flowers.

Yu Gu/West Virginia University

But, again, this machine is nowhere near a replacement for bees. Over 20,000 species of bees fly the Earth, with unique bodies and strategies for collecting pollen. “One human-engineered robot cannot improve on bees’ almost 100 million years’ worth of evolutionary ingenuity,” says University of Minnesota entomologist Marla Spivak. “We need to figure out how to protect bees, not replace them.”

Plus, BrambleBee’s stature means it’s no good for tree crops like almonds. And plants that don’t self-pollinate are going to be trickier. Humanity still needs bees, and policy changes and research to try to save them.

And you’d have to put out a lot of pollinating robots to make a big impact. “I think it’s very hard to imagine a future where robotic pollinators play a significant role in supporting food production to compensate for bee declines,” says Harvard biologist James Crall, who studies colony dynamics by gluing QR codes to bees and tracking them with a camera. “In addition to honey bees, there are thousands of bee species across the globe that are crucial to supporting both crop yields and maintaining biodiversity.”

But just as beekeepers rent out their hives to farmers to kickstart pollination, so too might robots like BrambleBee travel between farms to lend a hand, or labor full-time in greenhouses. Maybe BrambleBee could work alongside bees with less disruption compared to, say, tiny pollinating drones that might end up injuring bees.

So yes, humanity must save the bees. But to feed our species, perhaps the farm of the future could use a robotic hand or two.

Read More On This At Science Latest

Planet Earth

How to create a “heaven on earth” for all mankind?

We ask ourselves this question and tried to answer it. Of course, by “paradise” we do not mean “paradise booths” somewhere in the mythical nooks of the past, but a very real place – our home called planet Earth.

Moreover, this is our only home at the moment, since the prospects for the colonization of other planets of the solar system for us are still rather dreams, and very far from being realized.

Two main problems for humanity

Do you know what we like about people? The fact that even being in difficult living conditions, they do not limit their interests only to how to earn a living for themselves – no, they are interested in more global issues: political, social, philosophical or scientific in nature. But what worries them the most?

In our opinion, most people on our planet are preoccupied with two main problems:

1) Security (in every sense of the word, including economic)

2) Happiness (in the broadest sense of the word)

While these problems may seem very different at first glance, they actually boil down to caring for your own well-being.

In this context, it is quite easy to understand why humans do not live in paradise on Earth.

There are many problems that are prevalent all over the world today, such as wars and crime (with all the associated problems), as well as various health problems, both physical and mental.

It seems obvious that no one wants to live in a world where they are constantly under the threat of violent crimes, wars or other disasters, and it is also clear that many people want to find love and happiness not only, and not so much for themselves, but rather for those who are very dear to them.

Hence, the most obvious way to create a paradise on earth would be to increase safety for all people and increase the possibilities for human relationships.

When it comes to security, there are a number of obvious things that can be done. For example, many people are concerned about pollution and environmental degradation, as well as related issues such as global warming and overpopulation.

There is an obvious solution to this in the form of cleaner energy sources (such as solar energy) and more efficient modes of transportation (including space travel). This would help reduce fears about climate change at least partially.

Another issue that is widely discussed is the possibility of a nuclear war between large countries. This could potentially lead to the extinction of all of humanity, if it happened at the moment, given the advances in technology and weapons compared to previous generations.

In addition to these issues, there are a number of other issues that seem to be at least somewhat predominant, such as privacy, economic insecurity and social inequality.

What we can do?

If we digress from philosophical reasoning and look at the real situation that has developed in the world over the past ten years, we can see that the world has ceased to live by the rules.

If earlier, there were official and unofficial rules of “behavior of states in international relations”, now these “gentlemen’s agreements” are completely ignored.

One possible solution to this could be the creation of a “world government” that would control all aspects of human life (including economy and technology). However, this will almost certainly have some negative consequences.

World government: pros and cons

Pros : One government of all human civilization, by definition, will save us from wars, economic inequality, social inequality and the likelihood of global destruction in the event of a nuclear war. In fact, on planet Earth, there will be one huge country in which the entire population of the planet will live.

Cons : There is a risk that people will come to power who will turn the good goal of “heaven on earth” into the possibility of establishing a dictatorship in which all the disadvantages of the previous type of government will remain, when “everyone was for himself”, but already without the opportunity to defend their interests as it was when there was a system of scattered but sovereign states.

How, then, to create a paradise on earth for everyone?

1) Develop future technologies that will help us save the planet and stop global climate change.

2) To develop medicine in the direction of increasing the life expectancy of a person, which will entail an increase in the quality of life, and an increase in “happiness” for each individual citizen.

3) To achieve maximum protection of people from any threats . The safety of citizens in all spheres of life should become a priority for the state.

4) Revive the system of “international rules”, which must be observed by all countries, without exception.

5) Limit the proliferation of nuclear weapons in order to increase the overall level of the sense of security of all mankind, and save it even from hypothetically possible mutual destruction in the event of a conflict with the use of nuclear weapons.

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Planet Earth

Ways to have fun celebrating Halloween in the pandemic

Roughly 74% of American millennials and young parents think Halloween is more important this year than ever. They gather in online groups where they exchange tips and suggestions on the safest way to have fun on All Saints’ Day in a pandemic.

7 ways to have fun celebrating Halloween in a pandemic

The Los Angeles Times selected seven of the most successful ideas, and shared them with readers.

This year, when most of the candy lovers are staying at home, decorating their home is more important than ever. The more tinsel, the better. You can hang out flashlights, buy a fog machine, or make a stuffed animal out of old clothes. Carve some pumpkins and have an online contest among family members, asking them to vote for the best neighborhood crafts.

Of course, the bravest children will come under your door shouting “wallet or life”, but it is impossible to communicate directly with little ghouls who are always short on candy. It is better to arrange sweets in bags in advance and put them outside the door. You can wave your hand at them from the balcony or out the window if you want to see how happy they will be with the treat.

The candies can be hung from strings on a fence or from trees. Children will quickly figure out how to rip them off.

If your child really wants to go outside, and the level of infection in the region does not allow this, you can distract him by looking for sweets at home. Turn off the lights, take flashlights, and run with him in search of candy. For teenagers, you can do a whole quest with tips and tasks.

Plastic eggs, which many use for Easter gifts, can be pasted over with glowing scary faces and muzzles. Then fill them with candy and hide them inside or outside the house. You can decorate them with stickers glowing in the dark, then it will be more interesting to look for surprises in the dark.

It’s not recommended to have ghosts in the house, of course, but you can watch movies about them on Halloween. An impromptu cinema can be arranged both in the house and in the yard. Then the neighbors can join the session. To keep your distance, you should buy hula hoops. Then everyone will be accommodated on the same lawn in front of the house, but the risk of infection will be avoided.

The most important thing is to get a good mood on Halloween. Therefore, without further ado, you can put vacuum-packed sweets under the door of your neighbor, call and run away with all your blades. This will amuse you and your neighbors, who will spend half the night wondering whether to eat the offering or throw a potentially infectious bag in the trash.

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Planet Earth

The activation of volcanoes in Iceland and Russia concern scientists: “This is an anomaly”

Almost all volcanic eruptions of the past, leading to a cooling of the climate, coincide in time with low solar activity. 

Alarmingly, the Sun is currently passing through its deepest solar minimum in 100+ years and looking into the future, NASA found that the next cycle (25) could be “the weakest in the last 200 years” – a return to minimum conditions Dalton. 

The Dalton Minimum (1790-1830) was a period of historically low solar activity that also included the famine-inducing eruption of Mt. Tambor, in 1815.

The eruption of Tambora was one of the most powerful on Earth in the last 2000 years, and it exacerbated the cooling of the Earth, already occurring due to low solar activity. This unfortunate combination led to one of the harshest climates of the modern era – 1816 is also known as the “year without summer”.

ICELAND

Of today’s waking volcanoes, those in Iceland are perhaps the most worrying. It is this highly volcanic region that is likely to be home to the next “big” (repeat of the 536 AD eruption that destroyed the Roman Republic), which will plunge the Earth into a new volcanic winter.

The high frequency of volcanic eruptions allows scientists to detect patterns (precursors). And if these patterns are repeated every time a volcano erupts, then scientists can be more confident in their predictions.

Grimsvötn is Iceland’s most frequently erupting volcano, with approximately 65 known eruptions over the past 800 years. Icelandic scientists are closely following Grimsvotn after its 2011 eruption 

Recently, researchers have seen various signals indicating that the volcano is preparing to erupt again, and have raised the threat level.

The volcano swells as new magma moves into the channel system below it. The increase in thermal activity has led to the melting of more ice, and earthquakes have also become more frequent in recent years.

The time intervals between the eruptions of Grimsvotn are different, writes Dave McGarvey, a volcanologist at Lancaster University. For example, before the larger eruption of 2011, there were smaller eruptions in 2004, 1998, and 1983. Intermittently from four to 15 years. It is important to note that given the next eruption, Grimsvotn appears to have a pattern of infrequent large eruptions that occur every 150-200 years (e.g. 2011, 1873, 1619), with smaller and more frequent eruptions occurring approximately every ten years in between. 

If the previous model of Grimsvotn, consisting of occasional large eruptions with more numerous smaller eruptions occurring in between, continues in the future, then the next eruption should be small (considering that there was a large eruption in 2011). 

Nevertheless, the word “must” is important here, McGarvey stresses, – Iceland’s volcanoes are complex natural systems, and their patterns do not always correspond exactly to reality.

Katla is another Icelandic volcano on the verge of erupting, according to the Icelandic Meteorological Bureau (IMO). Since January of this year, researchers have recorded an upturn in and around Katla, and in recent months have recorded an increase in sulfur dioxide levels close to the site of two previous eruptions.

The previous major eruption of Katla occurred in 1918. This year is within the Hundred Years Low, the previous multi-decade period of low solar activity.

Icelandic authorities are well aware of the dangers posed by the next Katla eruption, and a delegation of volcanologists meets regularly with the Icelandic parliament to discuss how to respond in the event of an eruption.

RUSSIA

Scientists are also concerned about the unusual behavior of Klyuchevskaya Sopka Volcano (also known as Klyuchevskaya Volcano) located on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia.

As a rule, a year passes between the eruptions of Klyuchevskoy volcano, but recently this period of calm has been reduced to two months – on October 5, 2020, night cameras recorded the outpouring of lava from the crater of the volcano’s summit.

According to Yuri Demyanchuk, head of the Klyuchevskoy volcanic station IViS, all of this indicates an impending new larger eruption. 

Klyuchevsky’s uncharacteristic behavior can lead to paroxysmal explosions (unpredictable, dangerous explosions).

“The last activation was in 2013, before that – in 1994. But so far we have not observed such an intensity of tremor to speak of an impending paroxysmal activity, ”the expert explains. – “This is an anomaly.”

Seismic and volcanic activity is associated with changes in the Sun.

Volcanic eruptions are one of the key factors pushing the Earth towards the next stage of global cooling. Volcanic ash (particulate matter) ejected more than 10 km away – and therefore into the stratosphere – obscures sunlight and lowers Earth’s temperature. Smaller particles of an eruption can linger in the upper atmosphere for years or even decades.

The recent outburst of volcanoes around the world is believed to be related to low solar activity, coronal holes, a waning magnetosphere, and an influx of cosmic rays penetrating silica-rich magma.

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