Katie tells us about the scientific happenings of September

Move Over, Usain!

Developers have managed to build a record-breaking robot that can run faster than any other legged robot in existence – and indeed, faster than any human.

Cheetah the robot, named so because its design mimics its namesake, can run up to 28.3mph when tested on a treadmill, although this is still not enough to catch up to its real-life counterpart which can run with speeds up to 75mph. In addition to this, whereas a cheetah uses its power to move itself forward, Cheetah the robot has to use its power to lift its legs high enough to continue running. However, instead of using Cheetah for humanitarian or any other purposes, it is being funded by the Pentagon to create a military tool to assist soldiers.

Professor Noel Sharkey (you might remember him as one of the judges from Robot Wars and Techno Games) said: “It’s an incredible technical achievement, but it’s unfortunate that it’s going to be used to kill people… I can’t think of many civilian applications – maybe for hunting, or farming, for rounding up sheep. But of course if it’s used for combat, it would be killing civilians as well as it’s not going to be able to discriminate between civilians and soldiers.”

However the company behind Cheetah, Darpa, said that the Cheetah robot could be used for humanitarian purposes and emergency response missions in addition to defence missions. Let’s hope these more positive ideas are explored rather than allowing Cheetah to be used as a weapon of war.


Keep Your Enemies Close, But Keep Your Friends Closer

Want to be considered more attractive on your facebook profile? Well, a new study has shown that it’s not just your own efforts that make you appear more attractive – it’s your friend’s comments that also count.

Researchers from the University of Missouri found that participants were more likely to give higher physical and social attractiveness ratings to profile pictures of a person that contained additional information about the person, rather than if the person had just used a headshot. This additional information included the employment of ‘positive social cues’; this could include showing the person in the profile picture with a guitar, giving information to participants that they were a musician as an example.

However, in addition to this, it was also found that the quality and affect of others’ comments on Facebook pictures also had an effect on how the individual was perceived. Negative, silly or sarcastic comments made by others were found to be particularly damaging to the perceived attractiveness of the person, whereas positive comments made by others, or comments that gave additional information, helped to increase attractiveness ratings instead.


Katie Henderson

Image by Andries3