Got up just a bit early this morning; just woke up and couldn't get back to sleep. The dogs were just as eager for their morning walk; they don't seem to care what time it happens.
We walked out into a clear, cold night. The stars were bright overhead, with Orion high in the southern sky and the waning moon hanging low in the east. Despite the moonshine (bright enough to walk in, and to leave shadows), the Milky Way was clearly visible.
Also visible were some meteors, “shooting stars”. There's no predicted meteor shower on this date, so these were just randomly occurring – probably the remnants of a small comet or asteriod collision debris. Over the course of around five minutes I counted 14 meteors; one of them a very bright one with a visible smoky trail in the moonlight.
Just as we turned around to head back into the house, a pack of coyotes starting their eerie howling on the hill opposite us, roughly 400 yards (meters) from where we stood. The three field spaniels took little notice – just a couple glances toward the hill, and then they went back to their important work of snuffling up every wisp of odor along our track. Race, the border collie, went on full alert. He stood up straight and tall, hackles up, directly facing that distant hill and his distant relatives making such a racket. For 30 seconds or so I couldn't budge him – it was as if he had turned to stone and I was trying to move a ten ton sculpture. But then with no warning he decided that there was no immediate danger, and went back to playing with a pine cone – dropping it on the ground in front of me so I would kick it for him to chase.
When I'm playing with the dogs like this, I often wish it was as easy to motivate and lead people as it is to lead my dogs. I can easily get Race to go anywhere I want him to go – I just have to throw a pine cone in that general direction. The field spaniels would follow me into the fires of hell if I promised them a dog biscuit. Employees are ever so much more difficult...
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Mechanically, this is a very simple robot: just a “wagon” that can traverse back and forth. I was impressed when I saw it balance the inverted pendulum, though I can easily imagine how it could do so. But then I saw it balance the double inverted pendulum – and that just looks like magic. I wouldn't have guessed it was even possible (for human or robot)!