Researchers in Singapore Deploy Robot Swans to Test Water Quality

NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero

There's something peculiar about the new swans floating around reservoirs in Singapore. They drift across the water like normal birds, but upon closer inspection, onlookers will find they're not birds at all: They're cleverly disguised robots designed to test the quality of the city's water.

As Dezeen reports, the high-tech waterfowl, dubbed NUSwan (New Smart Water Assessment Network), are the work of researchers at the National University of Singapore [PDF]. The team invented the devices as a way to tackle the challenges of maintaining an urban water source. "Water bodies are exposed to varying sources of pollutants from urban run-offs and industries," they write in a statement. "Several methods and protocols in monitoring pollutants are already in place. However, the boundaries of extensive assessment for the water bodies are limited by labor intensive and resource exhaustive methods."

By building water assessment technology into a plastic swan, they're able to analyze the quality of the reservoirs cheaply and discreetly. Sensors on the robots' undersides measure factors like dissolved oxygen and chlorophyll levels. The swans wirelessly transmit whatever data they collect to the command center on land, and based on what they send, human pilots can remotely tweak the robots' performance in real time. The hope is that the simple, adaptable technology will allow researchers to take smarter samples and better understand the impact of the reservoir's micro-ecosystem on water quality.

Man placing robotic swan in water.
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero

This isn't the first time humans have used robots disguised as animals as tools for studying nature. Check out this clip from the BBC series Spy in the Wild for an idea of just how realistic these robots can get.

[h/t Dezeen]

Trulia Now Makes Browsing Neighborhoods as Easy as Browsing Homes

iStock
iStock

An online real estate listing can tell you the number of bedrooms, the square footage, and the price of a property, but until you arrive in person, it's hard to know if the location will be a good fit for you. Trulia is looking to tackle that problem with a new Neighborhoods feature, as Fast Company reports, letting you virtually explore your potential home's surroundings before you show up for the tour.

Trulia, a listings site owned by Zillow, already offers all the standard information you would get from any other real estate service. Now, the new Trulia Neighborhoods feature also makes it possible to research various neighborhoods within the app the same way you would research individual houses and apartments.

The Neighborhoods feature includes a slideshow of annotated images of each neighborhood captured by Trulia's team of photographers and videographers. It also has some objective data about the area, like maps of local businesses, as well as first-hand reports from residents. In the "What the Locals Say" section, for instance, you might find that 90 percent of people reported that a neighborhood is quiet, while just 50 percent said it's easy to find parking there. This part also includes personal testimonies from individual users that you can browse by topic, such as "community" or "dog owners." Neighborhoods also allows you to easily access data on schools, safety, and commute times.

Trulia Neighborhoods isn't available for every market yet. For now, you can only take advantage of it if you're house-hunting in one of 300 neighborhoods across five U.S. cities—San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Austin, and Chicago. Trulia plans to expand the feature to more than 1100 neighborhoods by the end of 2018.

[h/t Fast Company]

Watch the Museum of London's Fatberg Sweat and Grow Mold in Real Time

Daniel Leal-Olivas, AFP/Getty Images
Daniel Leal-Olivas, AFP/Getty Images

Unlike most other museums exhibits, the fatberg sample at the Museum of London is constantly changing. The chunk of congealed grease and garbage changes color, sweats, and even produces broods of freshly hatched flies. Now, The Guardian reports that you can stay up-to-date on the fatberg's ever-shifting status by livestreaming it into your home.

On August 14, the Museum of London debuted its live FatCam on its website. The dried-out fat glob in the video is one of the last remaining samples of the Whitechapel fatberg, a 143-ton mass consisting of oil poured down sink drains and city litter that was discovered in London's sewer system in September 2017.

From February 9 to July 1, 2018, the museum displayed the unique artifact under three layers of cases for visitors to see. The object proved difficult to preserve, and curators weren't entirely sure it would make it to the end of its exhibition, let alone survive to see another showing.

The fatberg has since been quarantined in the museum's archives. Rather than alter the fatberg to keep it around as long as possible, the museum has decided to broadcast its gradual demise to the world.

In the month since the sample has been taken off display and placed in a special case, drastic changes have been documented. Yellow pustules have surfaced on the fatberg's exterior—a sign of what conservators have determined is the toxic mold aspergillus. The object likely grew the spores when it was on display and only now have they become visible.

Dangerous mold and other organisms living within the crevices of the fat mounds are some of the reasons why the sample is no longer available to view in person. For a safer and slightly less disgusting view of the fatberg, check out the live stream below.

[h/t The Guardian]

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