Robobee – A “Robotic Insect” Adept in Hovering and Perching

Robobee pic


Interested in robotics, Westbury, NY, resident Valerie Varnuska finds the diverse ways in which robots move and communicate fascinating. Valerie Varnuska follows robotic competitions and has been amazed at the improvements to the robotic hand over the years. Many of the latest advances are in the area of extremely small robots, including a “robotic insect” called the Robobee.

Developed by the Harvard University Microrobotics Laboratory, the Robobee is the size of a small coin. It is designed to excel at reconnaissance activities such as disaster relief and environmental monitoring. For example, the insect-like drones can potentially carry sensors that will provide response units with real-time alerts when forest fires or floods occur.

A distinct innovation of the Robobee is that it has the ability to perch. This saves significant energy over hovering, which drains the batteries of micro-robots. In response to the considerable challenges of creating a “perching” movement, Harvard scientists have come up with an electrostatically charged “landing patch,” which allows the Robobee to adhere, or be set free to fly, with a simple on-off switch.


Understanding Star Light

Star Light pic

Star Light

A nature lover based in Westbury, NY, Valerie Varnuska is interested in astronomy and the general beauty of the night sky. While in Arizona, for example, Valerie Varnuska had the opportunity to observe a particularly vivid night sky alive with hundreds of stars.

Most people understand that the stars they see twinkling back at them on a moonless night are almost unfathomably distant from Earth, but they may not comprehend that, upon viewing the stars, they are actually looking “back in time.” If a a star is 50,000 light-years from Earth, it would take light from that star 50,000 years to reach Earth since light travels at a constant speed. Therefore, when people gaze up at that star, the light that enters their eyes and creates the image is 50,000 years old, making the image itself reflective of conditions 50 millennia in the past.

This information has profound scientific implications. Physicists and astronomers can use this insight to examine the conditions of the universe in the very remote past by searching out light from stars and galaxies originating billions of years ago. Though light from a remote region of the universe is quite faint, scientists can use modern telescopes to amplify it, giving them an impression of the state of affairs that existed long before the Earth or even its sun existed.

The Super Chief – Elegant Los Angeles to Chicago Pullman Train of Yore

The Super Chief pic

The Super Chief

Valerie Varnuska is a Westbury, NY, resident with a passion for the beauty and history embodied in classic trains and cars. Valerie Varnuska enjoys old trains and the way they evoke a bygone era of American history. One of the urban communities most affected by the advent of the automobile was Los Angeles, a former train transportation hub that lost many of its lines in the latter half of the 20th century.

From the 1930s to the 1960s, the iconic Super Chief embodied elegant rail travel for Southern Californians, with the Santa Fe Railroad-run Pullman sleeping car train making daily trips from Chicago to Los Angeles. The deluxe streamliner was known as an “exclusive” commuter special that incorporated a diner and three lounges, including an observation car and the Pleasure Dome Lounge car. In addition to Pullman porters and conductors, there was a full staff of cooks, waiters, and attendants on board, and five-star meals were served.

The “Super” featured an all-star Hollywood passenger list that included Elizabeth Taylor and Frank Sinatra and the train was enshrined in cinema in “Three For Bedroom C,” the hit 1952 Warner Brothers movie that starred Gloria Swanson. Faced with steadily declining ridership, the Santa Fe flagship was ultimately taken over by Amtrak in 1971.