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With Electroadhesion, Robotic Fingers Are Getting Closer to the Real Thing

If sci-fi has taught us anything, it's that humans are no match for brute robot strength. But what about those tasks that require a tender touch? Scientists at Switzerland's École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) research institute have developed robot fingers made of rubber and stretchable electrodes that, according to the above video from the school, are capable of grabbing "almost any shaped object," including a flat piece of paper or an egg.

"This is the first time that electroadhesion and soft robotics have been combined together to grasp objects," EPFL doctoral student Jun Shintake said in a release. Electroadhesion is what causes a balloon to stick to an wall after being rubbed on your head. The research behind the technology was recently published in Advanced Materials.

When a voltage is applied to the electrode fingers, they bend toward an object in a similar fashion to the muscles in our fingers, albeit with very different hardware. The electrodes can conform to a given shape—offering a level of adaptability not normally seen in the robot world.

Even with the gentle handling, the robotic device is still impressively strong. The electroadhesion force gives the fingers the ability to lift objects that are 80 times the weight of the gripper. The technology could one day be used in food handling, grabbing debris in space, and even in prosthetic hands.

[h/t Gizmodo]

Images via YouTube.

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26 Facts About LEGO Bricks

Since it first added plastic, interlocking bricks to its lineup, the Danish toy company LEGO (from the words Leg Godt for “play well”) has inspired builders of all ages to bring their most imaginative designs to life. Sets have ranged in size from scenes that can be assembled in a few minutes to 5000-piece behemoths depicting famous landmarks. And tinkerers aren’t limited to the sets they find in stores. One of the largest LEGO creations was a life-sized home in the UK that required 3.2 million tiny bricks to construct.

In this episode of the List Show, John Green lays out 26 playful facts about one of the world’s most beloved toy brands. To hear about the LEGO black market, the vault containing every LEGO set ever released, and more, check out the video above then subscribe to our YouTube channel to stay up-to-date with the latest flossy content.

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Of Buckeyes and Butternuts: 29 States With Weird Nicknames for Their Residents
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Tracing a word’s origin and evolution can yield fascinating historical insights—and the weird nicknames used in some states to describe their residents are no exception. In the Mental Floss video above, host John Green explains the probable etymologies of 29 monikers that describe inhabitants of certain states across the country.

Some of these nicknames, like “Hoosiers” and “Arkies” (which denote residents of Indiana and Arkansas, respectively) may have slightly offensive connotations, while others—including "Buckeyes," "Jayhawks," "Butternuts," and "Tar Heels"—evoke the military histories of Ohio, Kansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina. And a few, like “Muskrats” and “Sourdoughs,” are even inspired by early foods eaten in Delaware and Alaska. ("Goober-grabber" sounds goofier, but it at least refers to peanuts, which are a common crop in Georgia, as well as North Carolina and Arkansas.)

Learn more fascinating facts about states' nicknames for their residents by watching the video above.

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