MIT researchers create a robo-cheetah that runs and jumps off-leash

MIT robo-cheetah
The MIT cheetah-bot in Killian Court on MIT's campus.

Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT

You probably wouldn't mistake it for a real cheetah, but MIT scientists have gone a long way in making this assembly of gears, motors and batteries bound across the grass like one.

This robo-cheetah weighs about as much as its namesake and can jump over obstacles as it keeps running at up to 10 miles (15 km) per hour. The real trick isn't just in the specially-designed electric motors, but in the math that exerts just the right amount of force in the split-second that the feet hit the ground and bound into the air again. The researchers modeled the movement on real cheetahs, which can accelerate quickly to 60 miles (96 km) an hour.

What's the robo-cheetah good for? Well, it could lead to nimble robots or even a new type of all-terrain transportation. Maybe that's why the work was funded by the US military's DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Check out the video on MIT's site.

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Bankers prepare for a run on Scotland's banks if the independence vote passes

Britain's main banks have been quietly stockpiling cash in Scotland. Some Scots are nervous about an economic crash if their country separates from Britain and the banks want to be ready if masses of people try to withdraw money after the vote.

The Independent reports that, so far, there's no sign of increased cash withdrawals. And it notes that the Bank of England has pledged to honor all accounts for at least 18 months if the independence vote passes.

Still, it's easy to understand that Scots might panic. After all, former US Federal Reserve chair Alan Greenspan has said that the economic impact of a "yes" vote would be "surprisingly negative for Scotland." The German Deutsche Bank also voiced fears of a depression if Scotland secedes. A rival German bank just said such fears are exaggerated. But who wants to take chances?

James Bond liked his coffee strong and sexy

It's time to update James Bond's drink repertoire with a new order: Brewed, not shaken. In the pages of a classic Bond novel, PRI's The World found that 007 preferred his coffee made with a Chemex — that's a brewing device manufactured near The World's newsroom in Massachusetts. So we went to the source to see Bond's brewer in action and cooked up a video guide on how to do it yourself.

It turns out that the Chemex's inventor had a lot more in common with Bond than you might think. He also designed cocktail shakers and was a devotee of fast cars, good drink and, of course, women. No wonder the British spy used his products. Oh, and did we mention the hourglass-shaped Chemex is, well, pretty sexy.

India is set to join an elite club of Martian explorers

Indians are feeling pretty proud right now about their space program. In a week, the country's Mars Orbiter Mission is expected to start orbiting the red planet, after about a year's journey. It will do so just a few days after NASA's MAVEN mission arrives there. India spent about $70 million on the probe compared to the more than $600 million that NASA has spent on MAVEN.

The Hindustan Times says the main objective of the mission is to "develop the technologies required for design, planning, management and operations of an interplanetary mission." India also wanted to be the first Asian country to reach Mars. The newspaper points out that China tried a Mars mission and failed in 2011.

Only Russia, the US, Europe and Russia have succeeded in sending probes there. Of course, the program has its critics, who argue that a country that has trouble feeding its people should not be wasting money on space travel.

This American is profiting from the Western embargo on trade to Russia

Western countries have slapped embargoes on Russia as punishment for Moscow's intervention in Ukraine. And that can have its upside — at least if you're a foreigner in Russia producing now hard-to-find, European-style cheeses there. 

PRI's The World spoke to American Jay Close about the unusual story that led him to become a cheesemaker in Russia and his newfound stardom. The mayor of his small town has asked him to ramp up production to make up for the absence of French and Italian cheeses, and the media has showered him with attention.

The only thing he's not getting, it seems, is enough sleep. With only six cows to feed Russia's elite, his life is simple these days: “Make cheese. That's all I got to remember. Never leave the house again, never leave the farm.”

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Weather around the world

Mexico started cleaning up and clearing out tourists from the hurricane-ravaged area of Baja California on Tuesday. Thousands of travelers are being airlifted out from the resort areas around Los Cabos. Category 3 Hurricane Odile, which struck on Sunday, was the strongest storm ever recorded to hit that part of Mexico's coast. And while it did lots of damage, remarkably, there are no reported fatalities. The Guardian has a slideshow of what happened there.
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