Life-size robo-dinosaur and ostrich backpack hint at how first birds got off the ground

Life-size robo-dinosaur and ostrich backpack hint at how first birds got off the ground

8:17pm, 2nd May, 2019
Everyone knows birds descended from dinosaurs, but exactly how that happened is the subject of much study and debate. To help clear things up, these researchers went all out and just straight up built a robotic dinosaur to test their theory: that these proto-birds flapped their “wings” well before they ever flew. Now, this isn’t some hyper-controversial position or anything. It’s pretty reasonable when you think about it: natural selection tends to emphasize existing features rather than invent them from scratch. If these critters had, say, moved from being quadrupedal to being bipedal and had some extra limbs up front, it would make sense that over a few million years those limbs would evolve into something useful. But when did it start, and how? To investigate, Jing-Shan Zhao of Tsinghua University in Beijing looked into an animal called Caudipteryx, a ground-dwelling animal with “feathered forelimbs that could be considered “proto-wings.” Based on the well-preserved fossil record of this bird-dino crossover, the researchers estimated a number of physiological metrics, such as the creature’s top speed and the rhythm with which it would run. From this they could estimate forces on other parts of the body — just as someone studying a human jogger would be able to say that such and such a joint is under this or that amount of stress. What they found was that, in theory, these “natural frequencies” and biophysics of the Caudipteryx’s body would cause its little baby wings to flap up and down in a way suggestive of actual flight. Of course they wouldn’t provide any lift, but this natural rhythm and movement may have been the seed which grew over generations into something greater. To give this theory a bit of practical punch, the researchers then constructed a pair of unusual mechanical items: a pair of replica Caudipteryx wings for a juvenile ostrich to wear, and a robotic dinosaur that imitated the original’s gait. A bit fanciful, sure — but why shouldn’t science get a little crazy now and then? In the case of the ostrich backpack, they literally just built a replica of the dino-wings and attached it to the bird, then had the bird run. Sensors on board the device verified what the researchers observed: that the wings flapped naturally as a result of the body’s motion and vibrations from the feet impacting the ground. The robot is a life-size reconstruction based on a complete fossil of the animal, made of 3D-printed parts, to which the ostrich’s fantasy wings could also be affixed. The researchers’ theoretical model predicted that the flapping would be most pronounced as the speed of the bird approached 2.31 meters per second — and that’s just what they observed in the stationary model imitating gaits corresponding to various running speeds. You can see another gif . As the researchers summarize: These analyses suggest that the impetus of the evolution of powered flight in the theropod lineage that lead to Aves may have been an entirely natural phenomenon produced by bipedal motion in the presence of feathered forelimbs. Just how legit is this? Well, I’m not a paleontologist. And an ostrich isn’t a Caudipteryx. And the robot isn’t exactly convincing to look at. We’ll let the scholarly community pass judgment on this paper and its evidence (don’t worry, it’s been peer-reviewed), but I think it’s fantastic that the researchers took this route to test their theory. A few years ago this kind of thing would have been far more difficult to do, and although it seems a little silly when you watch it (especially in gif form), there’s a lot to be said for this kind of real-life tinkering when so much of science is occurring in computer simulations. The paper was .
Regulators ground Boeing 737 MAX jets in Europe despite reassurances from FAA

Regulators ground Boeing 737 MAX jets in Europe despite reassurances from FAA

2:34pm, 12th March, 2019
The first Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet delivered to Ethiopian Airlines takes off in July 2018. (Boeing Photo) Update for noon PT March 12: The European Union Aviation Safety Agency has suspended all flight operations of Boeing 737 MAX jets in EU countries in the wake of , even though the Federal Aviation Administration insisted the model was airworthy. EASA said it issued its own airworthiness directive “as a precautionary measure,” and suspended all 737-8 and 737-9 flights into, out of or within the European Union. The suspension follows this morning’s decision by the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority to suspend operations and ban 737 MAX jets from flying over British airspace until further notice. “EASA is continuously analyzing the data as it becomes available,” the European Union’s safety agency . “The accident investigation is currently ongoing, and it is too early to draw any conclusions as to the cause of the accident.” A growing number of nations are suspending 737 MAX operations, in light of the fact that the 737 MAX 8 has been involved in two fatal accidents in the past five months. Sunday’s crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 near Addis Ababa killed all 157 people aboard, while the crash of a Lion Air 737-8 in Indonesia killed 189 last October. Both accidents occurred just minutes after takeoff, and involved a catastrophic nose dive. Preliminary results from the Lion Air investigation suggest that , and the Ethiopian pilots reportedly told flight controllers before the crash that But investigators say it’s too early to connect the two crashes. On Monday, the FAA saying that 737 MAX 8 jets remained airworthy, and no U.S. carriers have discontinued using the planes. But the European suspension is likely to raise the pressure on the FAA to take action or at least provide additional information. Airlines in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Norway, Oman, Singapore, South Korea and other locales have also grounded 737 MAX jets, either in response to regulatory orders or on their own. Sens. , D-Mass., and , R-Utah, joined California Democrat Dianne Feinstein in calling for suspension of U.S. flights. Boeing is cooperating with investigators in Ethiopia. , the company said “we understand that regulatory agencies and customers have made decisions that they believe are most appropriate for their home markets,” but noted that the FAA “is not mandating any further action at this time.” Boeing shares slumped more than 6 percent in afternoon trading, after a 5 percent drop on Monday. Previously: The Federal Aviation Administration responded to concerns over Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets by reassuring airlines that the planes were airworthy, despite the fact that the model was involved in two catastrophic fatal accidents in the past five months. , just minutes after the takeoff of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, heading from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia to Nairobi in Kenya. In its the FAA acknowledged on Monday that many reports have pointed out similarities to the , in which 189 people dled. “However, this investigation has just begun and to date we have not been provided data to draw any conclusions or take any actions,” the notification said. Airlines in China, Ethiopia, Indonesia and several other countries grounded their 737 MAX 8 jets, pending verification that the planes are safe. It’s not yet clear what effect the FAA’s confirmation of airworthiness will have on those suspensions in service. The FAA has dispatched experts to assist Ethiopian investigators on the ground, Experts from the National Transportation Safety Board, GE Aviation, Boeing and Kenya’s civil aviation agency are on the case as well. “All data will be closely examined, and the FAA will take appropriate action if the data indicates the need to do so,” the FAA said. focused on an automatic control system known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS. The system is meant as a safeguard to keep the plane from stalling under extreme aerodynamic conditions, but there were some signs that the system on the Lion Air 737-8 was receiving spurious data from an angle-of-attack sensor. Monday’s notification reviewed actions taken by the FAA to ensure that Boeing’s prescribed safety procedures were adequate. The FAA also noted that some actions are still in process. For instance, Boeing is working on design changes to the MCAS system that will result in less reliance on “procedures associated with required pilot memory items.” “The FAA anticipates mandating these design changes by AD [airworthiness directive] no later than April 2019,” the agency said. Boeing will also update its training requirements and flight crew manuals to reflect the design changes for 737-8 and 737-9 models, The FAA said. touching upon the design changes and revisions in training procedures, as well as the recommended cockpit procedures for dealing with MCAS problems. “It is important to note that the FAA is not mandating any further action at this time,” Boeing said in the statement. The Ethiopian plane’s two “black boxes” — the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder — have been recovered from crash debris, but it’s not yet clear how much data can be retrieved. One witness that smoke was coming from the rear of the plane before it hit the ground. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., urged the FAA to “until their safe use has been confirmed.” The FAA didn’t indicate it would take that step, but promised to take if it identifies an issue that affects safety. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao echoed that view: “I want travelers to be assured that we are taking this seriously and monitoring latest developments.” Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg, meanwhile, voiced confidence in the 737 MAX line, which is produced at the company’s factory in Renton, Wash. “We are confident in the safety of the 737 MAX and in the work of the men and women who design and build it,” . “Since its certification and entry into service, the MAX family has completed hundreds of thousands of flights safely.” He acknowledged that dealing with Sunday’s tragedy was “especially challenging” because it came so soon after the Lion Air crash. “While difficult, I encourage everyone to stay focused on the important work we do,” Muilenburg wrote. CEO to employees: Since its certification and entry into service, the MAX family has completed hundreds of thousands of flights safely. We are confident in the safety of the 737 MAX and in the work of the men and women who design and build it. — Kris Van Cleave (@krisvancleave) This is an updated version of a report that was first published at 5:32 p.m. PT March 11.
Regulators ground Boeing 737 MAX jets in Europe despite FAA’s reassurances

Regulators ground Boeing 737 MAX jets in Europe despite FAA’s reassurances

2:03pm, 12th March, 2019
The first Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet delivered to Ethiopian Airlines takes off in July 2018. (Boeing Photo) Update for noon PT March 12: The European Union Aviation Safety Agency has suspended all flight operations of Boeing 737 MAX jets in EU countries in the wake of , even though the Federal Aviation Administration insisted the model was airworthy. EASA said it issued its own airworthiness directive “as a precautionary measure,” and suspended all 737-8 and 737-9 flights into, out of or within the European Union. The suspension follows this morning’s decision by the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority to suspend operations and ban 737 MAX jets from flying over British airspace until further notice. “EASA is continuously analyzing the data as it becomes available,” the European Union’s safety agency . “The accident investigation is currently ongoing, and it is too early to draw any conclusions as to the cause of the accident.” A growing number of nations are suspending 737 MAX operations, in light of the fact that the 737 MAX 8 has been involved in two fatal accidents in the past five months. Sunday’s crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 near Addis Ababa killed all 157 people aboard, while the crash of a Lion Air 737-8 in Indonesia killed 189 last October. Both accidents occurred just minutes after takeoff, and involved a catastrophic nose dive. Preliminary results from the Lion Air investigation suggest that , and the Ethiopian pilots reportedly told flight controllers before the crash that But investigators say it’s too early to connect the two crashes. On Monday, the FAA saying that 737 MAX 8 jets remained airworthy, and no U.S. carriers have discontinued using the planes. But the European suspension is likely to raise the pressure on the FAA to take action or at least provide additional information. Airlines in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Norway, Oman, Singapore, South Korea and other locales have also grounded 737 MAX jets, either in response to regulatory orders or on their own. Sens. , D-Mass., and , R-Utah, joined California Democrat Dianne Feinstein in calling for suspension of U.S. flights. Boeing is cooperating with investigators in Ethiopia. , the company reviewed the safety measures that were put in place in the wake of last October’s crash and noted that “the FAA is not mandating any further action at this time.” Boeing shares slumped more than 6 percent in afternoon trading, after a 5 percent drop on Monday. Previously: The Federal Aviation Administration responded to concerns over Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets by reassuring airlines that the planes were airworthy, despite the fact that the model was involved in two catastrophic fatal accidents in the past five months. , just minutes after the takeoff of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, heading from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia to Nairobi in Kenya. In its the FAA acknowledged on Monday that many reports have pointed out similarities to the , in which 189 people dled. “However, this investigation has just begun and to date we have not been provided data to draw any conclusions or take any actions,” the notification said. Airlines in China, Ethiopia, Indonesia and several other countries grounded their 737 MAX 8 jets, pending verification that the planes are safe. It’s not yet clear what effect the FAA’s confirmation of airworthiness will have on those suspensions in service. The FAA has dispatched experts to assist Ethiopian investigators on the ground, Experts from the National Transportation Safety Board, GE Aviation, Boeing and Kenya’s civil aviation agency are on the case as well. “All data will be closely examined, and the FAA will take appropriate action if the data indicates the need to do so,” the FAA said. focused on an automatic control system known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS. The system is meant as a safeguard to keep the plane from stalling under extreme aerodynamic conditions, but there were some signs that the system on the Lion Air 737-8 was receiving spurious data from an angle-of-attack sensor. Monday’s notification reviewed actions taken by the FAA to ensure that Boeing’s prescribed safety procedures were adequate. The FAA also noted that some actions are still in process. For instance, Boeing is working on design changes to the MCAS system that will result in less reliance on “procedures associated with required pilot memory items.” “The FAA anticipates mandating these design changes by AD [airworthiness directive] no later than April 2019,” the agency said. Boeing will also update its training requirements and flight crew manuals to reflect the design changes for 737-8 and 737-9 models, The FAA said. touching upon the design changes and revisions in training procedures, as well as the recommended cockpit procedures for dealing with MCAS problems. “It is important to note that the FAA is not mandating any further action at this time,” Boeing said in the statement. The Ethiopian plane’s two “black boxes” — the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder — have been recovered from crash debris, but it’s not yet clear how much data can be retrieved. One witness that smoke was coming from the rear of the plane before it hit the ground. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., urged the FAA to “until their safe use has been confirmed.” The FAA didn’t indicate it would take that step, but promised to take if it identifies an issue that affects safety. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao echoed that view: “I want travelers to be assured that we are taking this seriously and monitoring latest developments.” Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg, meanwhile, voiced confidence in the 737 MAX line, which is produced at the company’s factory in Renton, Wash. “We are confident in the safety of the 737 MAX and in the work of the men and women who design and build it,” . “Since its certification and entry into service, the MAX family has completed hundreds of thousands of flights safely.” He acknowledged that dealing with Sunday’s tragedy was “especially challenging” because it came so soon after the Lion Air crash. “While difficult, I encourage everyone to stay focused on the important work we do,” Muilenburg wrote. CEO to employees: Since its certification and entry into service, the MAX family has completed hundreds of thousands of flights safely. We are confident in the safety of the 737 MAX and in the work of the men and women who design and build it. — Kris Van Cleave (@krisvancleave) This is an updated version of a report that was first published at 5:32 p.m. PT March 11.
Britain and other nations ground Boeing 737 MAX jets despite FAA’s reassurances

Britain and other nations ground Boeing 737 MAX jets despite FAA’s reassurances

10:57am, 12th March, 2019
The first Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet delivered to Ethiopian Airlines takes off in July 2018. (Boeing Photo) Update for 8:25 a.m. PT March 12: Britain and other nations grounded more Boeing 737 MAX jets today in the wake of , even though the Federal Aviation Administration insisted the model was airworthy. The U.K. Civil Aviation Authority took the further step of banning 737 MAX jets from flying over British airspace until further notice. because “we do not currently have sufficient information” from the crashed plane’s flight data recorder. Airlines in more than a dozen countries have suspended 737 MAX operations, in light of the fact that the 737 MAX 8 has been involved in two fatal accidents in the past five months. Sunday’s crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 near Addis Ababa killed all 157 people aboard, while the crash of a Lion Air 737-8 in Indonesia killed 189. Both accidents occurred just minutes after takeoff, and involved a catastrophic nose dive. Preliminary results from the Lion Air investigation suggest that , and the Ethiopian pilots reportedly told flight controllers before the crash that But investigators say it’s too early to connect the two crashes. On Monday, the FAA saying that 737 MAX 8 jets remained airworthy, and no U.S. carriers have discontinued using the planes. But British aviation authorities said they would be guided by the European Aviation Safety Agency as well as industry regulators around the globe. Airlines in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Norway, Oman, Singapore, South Korea and other locales grounded the jets as well, either in response to regulatory orders or on their own. Sens. , D-Mass., and , R-Utah, joined California Democrat Dianne Feinstein in calling for suspension of U.S. flights. Boeing is cooperating with investigators in Ethiopia. , the company reviewed the safety measures that were put in place in the wake of last October’s crash and noted that “the FAA is not mandating any further action at this time.” Boeing shares slumped more than 6 percent in morning trading, after a 5 percent drop on Monday. Previously: The Federal Aviation Administration responded to concerns over Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets by reassuring airlines that the planes were airworthy, despite the fact that the model was involved in two catastrophic fatal accidents in the past five months. , just minutes after the takeoff of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, heading from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia to Nairobi in Kenya. In its the FAA acknowledged on Monday that many reports have pointed out similarities to the , in which 189 people dled. “However, this investigation has just begun and to date we have not been provided data to draw any conclusions or take any actions,” the notification said. Airlines in China, Ethiopia, Indonesia and several other countries grounded their 737 MAX 8 jets, pending verification that the planes are safe. It’s not yet clear what effect the FAA’s confirmation of airworthiness will have on those suspensions in service. The FAA has dispatched experts to assist Ethiopian investigators on the ground, Experts from the National Transportation Safety Board, GE Aviation, Boeing and Kenya’s civil aviation agency are on the case as well. “All data will be closely examined, and the FAA will take appropriate action if the data indicates the need to do so,” the FAA said. focused on an automatic control system known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS. The system is meant as a safeguard to keep the plane from stalling under extreme aerodynamic conditions, but there were some signs that the system on the Lion Air 737-8 was receiving spurious data from an angle-of-attack sensor. Monday’s notification reviewed actions taken by the FAA to ensure that Boeing’s prescribed safety procedures were adequate. The FAA also noted that some actions are still in process. For instance, Boeing is working on design changes to the MCAS system that will result in less reliance on “procedures associated with required pilot memory items.” “The FAA anticipates mandating these design changes by AD [airworthiness directive] no later than April 2019,” the agency said. Boeing will also update its training requirements and flight crew manuals to reflect the design changes for 737-8 and 737-9 models, The FAA said. touching upon the design changes and revisions in training procedures, as well as the recommended cockpit procedures for dealing with MCAS problems. “It is important to note that the FAA is not mandating any further action at this time,” Boeing said in the statement. The Ethiopian plane’s two “black boxes” — the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder — have been recovered from crash debris, but it’s not yet clear how much data can be retrieved. One witness that smoke was coming from the rear of the plane before it hit the ground. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., urged the FAA to “until their safe use has been confirmed.” The FAA didn’t indicate it would take that step, but promised to take if it identifies an issue that affects safety. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao echoed that view: “I want travelers to be assured that we are taking this seriously and monitoring latest developments.” Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg, meanwhile, voiced confidence in the 737 MAX line, which is produced at the company’s factory in Renton, Wash. “We are confident in the safety of the 737 MAX and in the work of the men and women who design and build it,” . “Since its certification and entry into service, the MAX family has completed hundreds of thousands of flights safely.” He acknowledged that dealing with Sunday’s tragedy was “especially challenging” because it came so soon after the Lion Air crash. “While difficult, I encourage everyone to stay focused on the important work we do,” Muilenburg wrote. CEO to employees: Since its certification and entry into service, the MAX family has completed hundreds of thousands of flights safely. We are confident in the safety of the 737 MAX and in the work of the men and women who design and build it. — Kris Van Cleave (@krisvancleave) This is an updated version of a report that was first published at 5:32 p.m. PT March 11.