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Warner Bros.

Could Man Actually Build Pacific Rim's Giant Robots?

Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

By Keith Wagstaff

Today, Guillermo del Toro’s epic new monsters-versus-robots movie Pacific Rim hits theaters. The summer sci-fi flick is already getting great reviews, scoring 82 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and even getting a thumbs-up from Mr. Kanye West:

The premise, more or less, is that giant monsters invade earth and humans build equally giant robots to engage them in hand-to-claw combat. If you grew up watching TV shows like Neon Genesis Evangelion or Robotech, the idea of kicking butt in a massive robot suit has been a dream of yours for a long time. But could humans ever actually build something like the mechanized Jaegers in Pacific Rim?

First, you have to accept the premise that instead of pouring resources into building a super-powerful missile, mankind's greatest scientists would instead build oversized robots. The featurette below suggests each Jaeger is about 250 feet tall from head to toe. Rhett Allain at Wired—who has answered such pressing questions as "How strong is a hobbit?"—puts the likely mass of the Jaeger at 9.6 x 10^6 kilograms, just above 21 million pounds.

That is, obviously, far bigger than any vehicle humans have ever built, save for aircraft carriers, which have the advantage of floating in seawater. A 25-story-tall robot would be far too heavy to function even at a basic level, writes George Dvorsky in io9:

Assuming strong, lightweight materials could be developed, the sheer enormity of its moving appendages would still cause tremendous strain on its mechanical parts. Managing all the various dynamics involved, including the robot's velocity, acceleration, momentum, heat dissipation, and internal torque, would likely be completely untenable. Even if such a thing could be built, it would likely have to move at an agonizingly impractical slow pace. [io9]

Suffice it to say, they couldn't run or jump or do anything they can do in Pacific Rim. In fact, as Dvorsky notes, with current technology they would probably collapse in on themselves or blow over in high winds.

Luckily for humanity, the movie's humongous monsters, known in Japanese pop culture as kaiju, probably couldn't exist either, due to the fact that their skeletons, muscles, and internal organs wouldn't be able to handle that much weight.

"The epic battle between giant robot and giant monster?" writes Movieline's Ross A. Lincoln. "In real life it's going to involve a fragile robot sunk waist-deep in the ground, punching slowly and feebly at a heart attack-suffering reptile reduced to the humiliation of using a skyscraper-sized mobility scooter just to forage for food."

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Why Can Parrots Talk and Other Birds Can't?
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If you've ever seen a pirate movie (or had the privilege of listening to this avian-fronted metal band), you're aware that parrots have the gift of human-sounding gab. Their brains—not their beaks—might be behind the birds' ability to produce mock-human voices, the Sci Show's latest video explains below.

While parrots do have articulate tongues, they also appear to be hardwired to mimic other species, and to create new vocalizations. The only other birds that are capable of vocal learning are hummingbirds and songbirds. While examining the brains of these avians, researchers noted that their brains contain clusters of neurons, which they've dubbed song nuclei. Since other birds don't possess song nuclei, they think that these structures probably play a key role in vocal learning.

Parrots might be better at mimicry than hummingbirds and songbirds thanks to a variation in these neurons: a special shell layer that surrounds each one. Birds with larger shell regions appear to be better at imitating other creatures, although it's still unclear why.

Learn more about parrot speech below (after you're done jamming out to Hatebeak).

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