More good stuff on the open frontiers in space, education, and technology – 12-7-13

Today, twelve articles on education, space, and technology (including Amazon thinking about how to use drones to deliver packages).


12-3 – Via Meadia – Private Sector Warming to MOOCs – Mr. Mead points out that massive open on-line courses

…are fighting against a relatively small but well-entrenched group of university professors with considerable clout in their industry and a vested interest in the status quo. 

At the same time, a growing number of private companies are using MOOCs for training. Innovation is moving MOOCs forward, with private companies providing the short-term growth opportunity.

12-6 – Via Meadia – MOOCs to Shake up High Schools, Too – MOOCs gaining interest at secondary level, to help students prepare for AP tests.


12-2 – Space Flight Now – Long March rocket blasts off with Chinese lunar rover – China successfully launched a Long March rocket to carry a rover to the moon. On 12-14, the rover will make the first soft landing on the moon since 1976, according to the article.  The lander will have autonomous software allowing it to change landing spots to avoid rocks or steep terrain. Future plans for Chinese space travel include returning moon rock to earth by 2020 with a space station about the same time.

I don’t know what to make of this, particularly since the Chinese military runs their space program. But then, trying to sort out what’s going on around us is the reason I’m writing this blog.

12-2 – CBS News – SpaceX retargets commercial comsat launch – Now scheduled for the evening of the 3rd. Launch was scrubbed on 11-25 and again on 11-28. Significance of this launch is their first time going to geosynchronous orbit, which apparently is where the big money is.

12-4 – Wall Street Journal – SpaceX Rocket Successfully Launches Its First Commercial Satellite and

12-4 – USA Today – Successful commercial launch of rocket blazes firm’s new trail. First launch into geosync orbit by SpaceX is a big deal. See separate post here on these two articles.


11-28 – RT – US Army equipping soldiers with fleet of bird-like drones – The Army bought 36 small drones, which can be operated by one person. The drones have flapping wings and a more bird-like shape to those wings. The idea is to look less like a drone and therefore less likely to draw fire. Good video in the article. Nice camera on board.

11-29 – Daily Mail –  The incredible tongue piercing which allows patients paralyzed from the neck down to control their wheelchairs – A stud in the tongue combined with a sensor outside the jaw provides a sensitive, easily controllable way to operate a wheelchair for someone paralyzed below the neck. A less visible and likely more useable controller than the traditional sip and puff straw. Very cool. Full steam ahead on the research!

12-2 – USA Today – Amazon testing delivery by drone, CEO Bezos says – Amazon is developing the technology and logistics to deliver products by drone. Goal would be a 30 minute delivery after order is placed. May be 3 or 4 year before a fleet of octocopters takes to the sky.

12-3 – The Verge – UPS researching its own delivery drones to compete with Amazon’s Prime Air – UPS is reportedly working on several possible ways to use drones. Options are something like Prime Air for delivery to customers, or moving materials around in warehouses Fedex is publicly thinking about drone aircraft to move parcels from city to city.

12-3 Quartz – It’s not just Amazon: UPS and Fedex are working on their own drone delivery systems Picture this idea from the article, which i’ll paraphrase instead of quote: 

The self-driving UPS or Fedex truck pulls into a neighborhood, opens the roof, launches a gaggle of preloaded drones, with delivery to the appropriate doorsteps or delivery kiosks in a few minutes. After recovering all the drones, the truck self-drives back to the warehouse (while the drones recharge, of course).  At the warehouse, pop open the roof and the drones can fly off to self-reload.

Could cover an entire metropolitan area that way.

With very few staff.

12-4 – Singularity Hub – Robot Serves up 360 Hamburgers Per Hour – Momentum Machines has a robot that will grill your burger to order, slice the tomatoes when the burger is done, and wrap it up. Can even run it without servers and cashiers if you want. Next step will be to add custom mix of meats; your choice of pork, bison, beef, turkey and portion of each.

Keep this in mind as you read of demands for minimum wage of $10 or $15 an hour. Going from $7.50 to $15 makes machines like this ever more economical.

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