Best of Last Week – Chinese humanoid robot, Pentagon tests drone swarm and bilingualism found to save brain resources

January 16, 2017 by Bob Yirka recap
The humanoid robot 'Jia Jia' was created by a team of engineers from the University of Science and Technology of China

(ScienceX)—It was a big week for space news, as a team with members from Calvin College, the Apache Point Observatory and the University of Wyoming predicted an explosion that will change the night sky in 2022—they believe two binary stars will collide, causing a single very bright star to exist for a period of time. Also, a pair of researchers with New Mexico State University reported on work they had done with simulations that suggested Planet Nine may have been a rogue—if, indeed, the planet actually exists. And Eden Girma, an undergraduate at Harvard University, presented her findings at this year's American Astronomical Society meeting describing how the Milky Way's black hole is spewing out planet-size 'spitballs.' Also, a team at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center described Hubble gazing into a black hole of puzzling lightness—their calculations regarding the mass of galaxy RX J1140.1+0307 aren't adding up.

It was a good week for technology development as well, as a Chinese humanoid robot turned on the charm in Shanghai. A team of engineers with the University of Science and Technology in China unveiled a robot they have called Jia Jia. They describe it has China's first human-like robot, one that is in the form of a female Chinese person. Jia Jia, they report, can hold a conversation while making lifelike facial expressions. Government officials reported that the Pentagon had successfully tested a micro-drone swarm—the swarm consisted of 103 micro-drones that were launched from fighter jets. They were not preprogrammed, but instead were taught how to collectively make decisions regarding swarming behavior. And a father-son team described how they believe their liquid metal 3-D printing technique could revolutionize how things are made—because it does not introduce weakened spots due to poor melting.

In other news, a team of physicists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology reported that they had found a way to "squeeze light" to cool a microscopic drum below the quantum limit—a feat that was thought impossible. And a team at the University of Vermont reported that they found an association between eating hot peppers and decreased mortality.

And finally, if you are looking for ways to keep your brain working in top condition as you age, you may be interested in a study conducted by a team at the University of Montreal—they found that bilingualism may preserve brain resources as you age—all you have to do is start learning a new language.

Explore further: Hubble gazes into a black hole of puzzling lightness