Gongol.com Archives: June 2010
Brian Gongol

June 1, 2010

Science and Technology Japan is sending robots to the Moon -- almost immediately
They're planning to send robots to the Moon in the next five years, with plans for a permanent robotic outpost there within ten. It's ambitious, but Japan has firmly entrenched itself as the world leader in robotics (and wisely; with its low birth rate, the country needs labor that its people cannot supply). Undoubtedly, the project is being driven at least in part by a desire to kick-start that robotics industry into some additional innovation, which would probably help Japan economically. Whether the cost/benefit ratio is satisfactory for a project like this is for them to decide, but for $2.2 billion, there are a lot of dumber ways to spend money.

Weather and Disasters Giant, freaky sinkhole drops three-story building 180' below ground
It happened in Guatemala City after a tropical storm passed through and overwhelmed the city's stormwater-management system

Science and Technology Two different roads ahead for the self-driving car of 2020
There seems to be a growing consensus that we'll be able to buy self-driving cars within about a decade, but there are two different ways these cars could come about. The first is for each car to adapt more and more of itself to the surrounding conditions -- like the cars that can already parallel-park themselves and the ones that have collision-avoidance tools built-in. The other route is for cars to become interactive with one another, sharing information about conditions in real time with one another, managed through a sort of central switching system. While the first method is going to require an enormous amount of processing capacity within each vehicle, the second will require striking a difficult balance between the benefits to be gained from real-time data-sharing and the lack of privacy such a system would require. Moreover, the centrally-switched system would have to prove itself remarkably robust against virus or hacker attack, and that's not really been a strong point for the governments which are likely to have to manage the systems to make them work.

Water News A quiet spring turns rapidly into a noisy summer