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From the Dept. of Awesome: A UT Dallas Researcher Has Designed a Robotic Jellyfish

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Before I get to the lame joke that's required by my job description, here's something really cool:

Researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas and Virginia Tech have designed and built a robotic jellyfish powered by dissolved gasses.

No, really, they have. They have video of it swimming in a tank and everything. What's that? What's so impressive about that? It's a robot freakin' jellyfish, that's what. Anything with robot is, per se, de facto, et cetera, awesome -- at least to a certain persons of a certain type. Men mostly. Prone to facial hair, comfortable shoes and clothes that have the word "relaxed" somewhere on the label. We use the word "cool" too.

Fine. Roll your eyes. Listen, Wilonsky's not here anymore, and some of us just don't care about old buildings. Progress, excelsior and all that.

Back to the Robojelly:

"We've created an underwater robot that doesn't need batteries or electricity," Dr. Yonas Tadesse, lead author of a recent paper about the creation and an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at UT Dallas, said in a press release. "It feeds off hydrogen and oxygen gasses, and the only waste released as it travels is more water."Researchers say Robojelly swims thanks to "nano-platinum catalyst-coated multi-wall carbon nanotube (MWCNT) sheets, wrapped on the surface of nickel-titanium (NiTi) shape memory alloy." When hydrogen and oxygen molecules are injected on the surface of the artificial muscle, heat and water vapor are generated. In the presence of platinum, hydrogen and oxygen naturally combine to form water molecules. Heat from that process changes the shape of the nickel-titanium alloy, making the whole bell-shaped structure pulse like a jellyfish.

Nanotubes. Catalysts. Shape-memory alloys. Yes, yes, yes. It's like porn for the geek set.

One goal of the researchers is the potential development of self-sustaining autonomous robots that could be networked and used for underwater surveillance. The work fits into a broader stream of science, the goal of which is to create materials that mimic biological systems -- a pretty tough target. Think about it: Which is the more complex, highly evolved creature, a Ford Mustang or Mother Nature's mustang? (Hint: Muscle cars don't breed baby muscle cars, even if they have inspired plenty of breeding among other species, especially on prom night.)

Still not impressed? Snarkily wondering if next they'll invent bioengineered pee to soothe Robojelly stings? You obviously are not among that select group of sci-fi fans who hear about things like robot jellyfish and immediately start Googling to see if there's a Tumblr devoted to the subject. (Some geeks have the same reaction, but do it with fewer bong hits and more studying. They're called scientists.)

OK, finally, I promised you a joke, so here goes:

A better name for an entirely robotic imitation of invertebrate life that sucks gas and flaps about randomly in the currents: the Romney Fish.

Thanks, everyone. Good night!

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