As the future steadily becomes the present, we often find ourselves disappointed with how little our world resembles … The Jetsons. No flying cars, no 3-D printed meals. And today’s hoverboards? They don’t even hover! But if you’ve spent any time on the Cal campus lately, you’ve likely crossed paths with a KiwiBot, one of 150 fox terrier–sized robots that autonomously navigate the winding paths and hordes of hustling students. The bots are on their quest to deliver lunch. And though a KiwiBot is no Rosey (the Jetsons’ sassy robo-maid), it does have a certain charm.
It was a half a century ago this year that Berkeley High grad and Cal drop-out Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? hit the shelves. Set in 2021, the story follows the systematic annihilation of renegade androids in a post-apocalyptic, nuclear-ravaged San Francisco. (In short: man made robot, robot outsmarted man, man crushed robot.) Though a work of fiction, the novel is revered to this day for its astute insights on the future of man and machine—perhaps because so much of the story has, in some form or another, become reality.
Posted on December 17, 2018 - 3:22pm
While it’s not news that the golden state has taken on a crackling red hue from recent wildfires, reports of the fires’ behaviors are blazingly bizarre.
It’s been commonly observed by firefighters that fires slow down at night, according to Scott L. Stephens, UC Berkeley professor of fire science. But a number of recent fires have said “to hell with the slow burn!” and begun spreading quickly even when the sun goes down.
Posted on July 20, 2018 - 2:51pm
1. The Turing Award is often called the Nobel Prize of Computing. Counting faculty and alumni, Berkeley claims more Turing laureates than almost any other university in the world. That surprises a lot of people. Should it?
Let’s just say our competitors aren’t burdened with an overdeveloped case of humility.
At Eagle Elementary School, located in a suburban district in New York’s Capital Region, 12 fourth and fifth-graders are inventing. Two students are trying to work the bugs out of a miniature electronic sliding door. Another team is setting up the tiny equivalent of a washing machine drum. Still others are building a robotic fan.
Posted on February 23, 2018 - 1:12pm
From the peculiar to the passionate, the alarming to the inspiring, 2015 never left us at a loss for words, or story ideas.
Posted on December 30, 2015 - 1:24pm
“We turned the switch and saw the flashes,” said physicist Leo Szilard, describing his 1942 experiment that created the first controlled nuclear chain reaction. “We watched them for a little while and then turned everything off and went home. That night, there was very little doubt in my mind that the world was headed for grief.”
Good vs. bad. Right vs. wrong. Human beings begin to learn the difference before we learn to speak—and thankfully so. We owe much of our success as a species to our capacity for moral reasoning. It’s the glue that holds human social groups together, the key to our fraught but effective ability to cooperate. We are (most believe) the lone moral agents on planet Earth—but this may not last. The day may come soon when we are forced to share this status with a new kind of being, one whose intelligence is of our own design.
Posted on June 4, 2015 - 12:37pm
BRETT the robot is a knot-tying whiz; it can tie an overhand knot, square knot, figure 8, and hitch. Sure, there are robots out there that drive cars, detonate roadside bombs, and even collect rock samples from the surface of Mars, but what makes BRETT special is not what it can do, but how it came by its modest talents.
People tend to be wary of replacing humans with robots—but what if robots could be deployed as mechanical helpers in the fight against Ebola?
The disease, which is an epidemic in West Africa and has made isolated appearances in a few other countries including the United States, is hard to catch but often deadly. Because it is spread by contact with an infected patient’s bodily fluids, health care workers and burial workers are particularly at risk.
Posted on October 24, 2014 - 1:11pm
The two robots spin and lurch, their little electric motors whirring against each other as a bevy of kids look on, their eyes bulging and their shoulders scrunched almost up to their ears in rapt attention. A girl of about 12 with long black hair scratches her chin, smiling nervously—a smile that twists into a grimace as her robot battles too near the edge of the circular table. She talks to her robot, goads it on, giggles. When that fails, she resorts to body English, rapping her right hand against her hip three times.
Posted on August 12, 2014 - 3:47pm
Turns out that the creation of the robot bug we introduced you to last week—the one ready to be mass-produced on 3D printers—sprang from research funded by the Israeli army, and is considered ideal for urban reconnaissance missions.
Posted on August 12, 2013 - 5:10pm
As a science fiction motif, the Robot Apocalypse ranks right up there with the Zombie Apocalypse. And, it seems, it’s more likely: anyone who has browsed Ray Kurtzweil’s work on the Singularity—the point at which computers achieve true intelligence, and discover their interests aren’t necessarily congruent with our own—may find the meteoric pace of cybernetics innovation a little disconcerting.
Posted on August 9, 2013 - 2:49pm