Japanese engineers on Sunday flew an experimental airplane, with pilot Tomohiro Kamiya aboard, which was powered entirely by AA batteries -- the first time a manned plane has been powered exclusively by dry-cell batteries. It needed 160 of them. Now I have this picture of graduate students of the Tokyo Institute of Technology and interns at Matsushita Electrical Industrial spending all day Saturday popping open boxes of Duracells and trying to figure out which end gets the minus. And you just know they were going to try to do it with disposables because of the higher initial cost of rechargeables, too.
Meanwhile, Singapore has won the World Robo-Soccer 2006 Championship. The Socrates team of robots built by Nanyang Polytechnic -- each robot is a small box, with colored stripes to tell participants apart -- beat twenty teams from fourteen countries for the championship. This is Nanyang Poly's second World Championship of robot soccer in a row. Their highest score was 22 to zero. What's got me baffled is the statement in the Channel 5 report that the robots are controlled by human beings, but that once the match starts the robots are autonomous. There is ``no interference from human emotions'' according to the report, but according to Engineering professor Leong Kum Cheong, ``they are still controlled by human beings, run by human beings, and at that level it often does get emotional because everyone gets very passionate about the game.'' Robo-Soccer organizers hope to have a team that can take on the FIFA World Cup champions by 2050.
In other autonomous robot news the Central Line has received the first of its three-car automated trains for the Circle Line MRT, which is still at the point where they think they've recovered from the Nicoll Highway Collapse and they believe it'll open on time. I noticed they've gone from saying that the depot at Kim Chuan will be the ``first'' underground depot to being ``the world's largest underground depot''. So either somebody's opening things we haven't heard about or somebody's dug up counterexamples that force them to qualify the claim further.
Trivia: The (explosive-bolt) hatch on Gus Grissom's Mercury capsule weighed 69 pounds, compared to the 23 pounds of Alan Shepherd's. Source: ``Spacecraft and Flight Plan for the Mercury-Redstone 4 Flight,'' Jerome B Hammack, Results of the Second US Manned Suborbital Space Flight.
Currently Reading: An Empire of Wealth, John Steele Gordon. It's a history of the United States's economic development.