Popcorn-Driven Robotic Actuators

Mad, Tasty Science.

You can think of unpopped kernels of popcorn as little nuggets of stored mechanical energy, and that energy can be unleashed and transformed into force and motion when the kernel is heated. This is a very useful property, even if it's something that you can only do once, and the fact that popcorn is super cheap and not only biodegradable but also edible are just bonuses.

The "pop" in popcorn happens when enough heat is applied to vaporize the moisture inside the kernel. Over 900 kPa of internal pressure causes the yummy goo inside of the kernel to explode out through the shell, expand, and then dry. Relative to the size of the original kernel, the volume of a popped piece of popcorn has increased by a factor of at least five, although it can be much more, depending on the way the kernel was heated. Because of this variability, the first step in this research was to properly characterize the popcorn, and to do this the researchers, from Cornell's Collective Embodied Intelligence Lab, picked up some Amish Country brand popcorn (chosen for lack of additives or postharvest treatment) in white, medium yellow, and extra small white. They heated each type using hot oil, hot air, microwaves, and direct heating with a nichrome resistance wire. The extra small white kernels, which were the cheapest at US $4.80 per kilogram, also averaged the highest expansion ratio, exploding to 15.7 times their original size when popped in a microwave.

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Man Wins "Why Trump Shouldn't Go to Prison" Essay Contest

The man, Brett Kavanaugh, received his award for the winning essay at a ceremony at the White House on Monday night.

Kavanaugh's essay, which was distributed to the press shortly after he was announced as the winner, reads as follows: "Donald J. Trump should never go to prison because he is the President of the United States and the President of the United States is a very important person in the country. It would look bad if visitors from foreign countries came to the United States and asked, 'Where is your President?' and we had to say, 'He is in prison,' which in my opinion is another reason Donald J. Trump should not go to prison. For these reasons, if I am ever in a position to keep Donald J. Trump from going to prison, I will do that (keep him from going to prison)."

Shaking Kavanaugh's hand, Trump heaped praise on him for his "very, very beautiful" essay, calling it "maybe the best essay that has ever been written."

"I did not personally read it, but Ivanka read it aloud to me, and I thought it was fantastic," Trump said.

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Facebook's not-at-all-dystopian facial recognition patent application for brick-and-mortar surveillance:

A customer recognition system intelligently detects and notifies a merchant when a customer is in need of assistance based on the customer's facial expression.

The customer recognition system can also identify a product associated with the customer need.

The customer recognition system identifies a user profile associated with a customer shopping at a merchant location, determines a trust level for the customer based on user profile information, and based on the trust level, causes a secured product display to provide a customer access to a secured product. [...]

I think this part says, "our cameras can automate Shopping While Black":

In some embodiments, the customer recognition system 101 determines a trust level based on social networking activity data. For example, the customer recognition system 101 can analyze a customer's social networking activity to identify user behavior that indicates trust. The social networking information can also include the number of followers or "friends" of the customer, characteristics of "friends" of customer, characteristics of followers of the customer, the types of characteristics of user groups, and other social networking information that may indicate a level of trust or confidence in a customer.

The whole thing sounds like it was written by some manbaby who is having a tantrum that mom won't go shopping for him:

Moreover, with conventional brick-and-mortar merchants, when a consumer is seeking a sales associate for assistance, the consumer often leaves the proximity of the product. As a result of leaving the proximity of the product, the likelihood of the consumer buying the product significantly decreases. In other cases, although the consumer may find an associate, the consumer may discover the associate is busy or otherwise engaged and cannot help. Furthermore, upon finding an associate, the consumer often learns that the particular associate is not knowledgeable in the relevant product area. Overall, the effort required for the consumer to obtain assistance within a conventional brick-and-mortar merchant is often inefficient and frustrating. In turn, the inability for conventional brick-and-mortar merchants to provide efficient and timely consumer support frequently results in a loss of sales for the merchant and increased dissatisfaction of consumers.

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This Valerian sequel looks even worse.

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