ALBUQUERQUE, Aug. 22 (UPI) -- A lifelike, less-costly robotic hand has been developed that can be used to disarm improvised explosive devices, researchers at a U.S. research laboratory said.
The hand, created at the Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico, addresses challenges that have prevented widespread adoption of other robotic hands, including cost, durability and dexterity, its developers said.
"Current iterations of robotic hands can cost more than $250,000," Sandia senior manager Philip Heermann said.
"We need the flexibility and capability of a robotic hand to save human lives, and it needs to be priced for wide distribution to troops."
The Sandia Hand is modular, so different kinds of fingers can be quickly plugged into the hand frame, offering the ability to include other tools such as flashlights, screwdrivers or cameras, the developers said in a release Wednesday.
The fingers are designed to fall off if the hand accidentally collides with a wall or another object.
"Rather than breaking the hand, this configuration allows the user to recover very quickly, and fingers can easily be put back in their sockets," principal investigator Curt Salisbury said.
"In addition, if a finger pops off, the robot can actually pick it up with the remaining fingers, move into position and re-socket the finger by itself."
The robot hand is controlled by an operator wearing a glove.
The Sandia Hand project is funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
India probes cyberthreats against workers
NEW DELHI, Aug. 22 (UPI) -- India says it is seeking help to identify the sources of doctored images on the Web and false text messages that drove people from various Indian cities.
Doctored images of violence on Web sites and spam text messages spreading rumors of attacks by Muslims on people from the northeastern state of Assam caused the mass exodus of tens of thousands of Assamese migrant workers from some southern and western cities in India during the last week, China's Xinhua News Agency reported.
"Madam, do not get out of your house," one of the spam text messages read. "There is a lot of trouble. People from your caste are being beaten. Seven women have been killed in Yelahanka [a suburb of Bangalore]."
Indian officials said legal requests for assistance were being sent to the United States and Saudi Arabia since the computer servers of the Web sites carrying the photographs are located there.
Text messages spreading rumors of violence began arriving Aug. 15 warning of attacks by Muslims, purportedly in retaliation for recent violence in Assam against Muslim settlers from Bangladesh.
Muslim leaders denied any plans by the Muslim community for attacks.
The Indian government has imposed a temporary ban on bulk text messages and has closed down about 250 Web sites it said were encouraging people to flee.
Lax security of work laptops creates risks
CHICAGO, Aug. 22 (UPI) -- U.S. workers may be incurring risks by failing to secure office laptops, sharing passwords or clicking on links from unknown sources, a study found.
A Harris Interactive study conducted for CareerBuilder.com found 61 percent of workers given company laptops said they have critical, sensitive information stored on them.
A significant percentage of workers said their laptops currently held a variety of personal files in addition to office-related data and documents, CareerBuilder reported Tuesday.
Asked to identify sensitive information stored on their office laptops, 48 percent of people polled said it was company information, 27 percent identified client information, while personal financial and other information both were cited by 18 percent of workers.
Fifty-seven percent said they don't have a laptop security device and 52 percent said they don't lock their computer when away from their desk. And 25 percent routinely leave their laptop unsecured overnight, the study found.
"Laptops and mobile devices are quickly becoming the preferred technologies for many businesses," Eric Presley, chief technology officer at CareerBuilder, said. "It's important for employers and workers alike to take precautions to reduce vulnerabilities and keep company information secure."
This survey was conducted online among 3,892 U.S. workers ages 18 and over between May 14 and June 4, with a sampling error of plus or minus 1.57 percentage points.
Sun's plasma loops studied in laboratory
PASADENA, Calif., Aug. 22 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say reproducing solar plasma loops in the lab is helping them understand solar physics and the sun's effects on Earth.
Large solar flares, consisting of plasma that erupts from the sun's surface, can cause widespread damage, both in space to satellites and on Earth to communications and power grids, researchers at the California Institute of Technology said.
Plasma loops on the sun's surface, thought to be precursors to solar flares, are being created here on earth in controlled laboratory experiments, a Caltech release reported.
"We're studying how these solar loops work, which contributes to the knowledge of space weather," Caltech physics Professor Paul Bellan said.
"It takes some time for the plasma to get to Earth from the sun, so it's possible that with more research, we could have up to a two-day warning period for massive solar flares."
The experiments, using a pulse-powered, magnetized plasma gun inside a vacuum chamber, have shown magnetic forces control the behavior of the arching loops of plasma, or hot, ionized gas.
The small plasma arcs "happen in just a flash of light inside the chamber," researcher Eve Stenson said. "We use high-speed cameras with optical filters to capture the behavior of the plasmas."
The researchers said their nest step is to test how two loops interact with each other.
"We want to see if they can merge and form one big loop," Bellan said. "Some people believe that this is how larger plasma loops on the sun are formed."
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