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And Now: The Hamster-Powered Strandbeest

A new spin on Theo Jansen’s Strandbeesten should leave even the artist himself smiling. Starting with a make-your-own-Strandbeest kit from Gakken (an educational toy company), I-Wei Huang, an animator and steampunk hobbyist, put his own unique and furry twist on the design.

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Inflatable Space Stations

Plans to develop an inflatable space station may soon be given the green light, FoxNews reports. A deputy administrator at NASA recently visited the Bigelow Aerospace facility in Las Vegas to discuss future additions to the International Space Station.

NASA has endorsed the concept of inflatable habitats and Bigelow Aerospace has already built, tested, and launched prototypes, hoping to have the first fully-developed space station in orbit by 2015. One of the main advantages to these new modules is cost reduction, as the lightweight yet impact-resistant material of the inflatable shells would allow them to be larger and less expensive than heavier structures.

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Meet Leland Melvin: Engineer and Astronaut

Many kids dream about flying into space one day, and countless others picture themselves being drafted onto a professional sports team. Amazingly, Leland Melvin has accomplished both.

Before earning a master’s degree in materials science and engineering from the University of Virginia, Melvin was chosen as an 11th round draft pick for the Detroit Lions. Unfortunately injuries prevented him from pursuing an NFL career, but this did not deter him from chasing even more ambitious goals.

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Yuki-taro: the Cutest Snowplow Ever

So far, 2011 has been full of winter storms and a whole lot of snow. And as a massive blizzard that just slammed the Midwest U.S. moves eastward, Japan might have a cute and innovative solution for scooping up all the snow.

Not only can shoveling be too strenuous for some people, such as the sick or elderly, but it can also leave massive piles of snow in roads or sidewalks.

Instead, winter storm victims could enlist the help of the self-guided robot Yuki-taro, which eats up snow and then excretes little snow-bricks.

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New Reactor Turns Sunlight into
Hydrogen Fuel

Every hour, the sun beams down more energy than the whole planet consumes in a year. Although solar cell technology has advanced considerably in recent years, many challenges related to reliably capturing and storing the sun’s energy still remain.

Sossina Haile, a professor of Materials Science and Chemical Engineering at CalTech, is developing a new approach to solar power. Using cerium oxide (or ceria), a metal most commonly found in self-cleaning ovens, Haile and her research team have created a prototype reactor that has the power to transform sunbeams into clean fuel.

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