RE: [rp-ml] Slow growth

From: Yasser Hosni <>
Date: Tue Apr 29 2008 - 17:26:43 EEST

Dear Friends:
I always maintain the "Nature" is the source for all "creative and design" activities. In my opinion, that the "desert crawling Robot" is already exist, however, it is in a different form (not robotically.) The deserts in Saudi Arabia is such a "Robot" -- that is why I prefer to call it "Lab" or "converters" rather than Robot. Slowly, over thousands and probably millions of years it converted the form of energy which exist there at the time (trees, sun, water, ..etc) into oi, and probably the elements that Adrian would like to extract now. Similarly a plant or a tree is a "Slow converter". One even may argue that the human being is a converter. There are those who would argue that creating such "things" may upset the balance created by nature, however, nature has its own ways of upsetting the "upseter" -- don't know if there is such a word..

Now to the idea of Robot and adopting the fact that "matter can not be created or vanished" and the laws of entropy, the robot will consume equivalent energy to whatever it will create/ extract from the sand. It is the talent of the "inventor" to design it in a way to serve/ extract the immediate form needed.

Interesting thread.


Yasser Hosni, Ph.D., PE.
President, Int. Assoc for Mgt. of Technology (IAMOT)
Industrial Engineering and Management Systems
University of Central Florida
4000 Central Florida Blvd.
Orlando, FL 32816
Tel (407) 823-5817
Fax (407) 823-3413

>>> "Marshall Burns" <> 4/29/2008 8:44 AM >>>

Hi Brock, Adrian, Stewart,

        Yes, this is really interesting stuff. Several years ago I talked
with some robotics folks at UC Berkeley about a proposed project on what we
called "synthetic termites." Termites are amazing critters. They chew up
wood and, coordinating the work of thousands of them simultaneously, spew
clumps of it semi-digested in patterns to build structures that are awesome
for both their size and complexity. African termite mounds can be up to 30
feet tall. The walls are semi-permeable, so that the mound functions as a
huge, communal lung, extracting oxygen from passing wind and exhaling carbon
dioxide. The structures have rooms to accommodate the queen and thousands of
drones. The termite mound is a marvel of natural fabrication.

        There's a guy from this RP community at a UK university whose name
escapes me at the moment who did a project in an African desert some years
ago where they encapsulated and physically sliced a termite mound to
digitize its structure.

        The idea of coordinating the actions of thousands or millions of
autonomous microrobots to pick up tiny pieces of some raw material and
deposit it in patterns to build up predetermined structures is one of the
ultimate concepts in digital fabrication. I look forward to seeing some
people pick up and implement this idea.

Marshall Burns <<< Warning: Severely outdated site,
                                    but with some cool old stuff.

-----Original Message-----
From: [] On Behalf
Of Brock Hinzmann
Sent: Tuesday, April 29, 2008 01:53
To: Adrian Bowyer
Subject: Re: [rp-ml] Slow growth

Dear Adrian,

Yours is not an inconceivable application of existing and relatively
near-term technologies. A number of robot art projects exist that do
essentially what you propose. I only wish I had a paying client to put
it all together.

First of all, your idea to combine it with Marshall's Moon concept is
brilliant. A robot that has all of the time in the world to trek across
a planet (Mars and Venus also come to mind), powered by very low levels
of solar radiation, able to work slowly, tediously, but predictably, in
a space and time that no human would or could tolerate, has tremendous
economical advantages. We can also imagine applications here on Earth.

I have even seen concepts where a living plant shifts its weight in
response to the position of the sun, in order to create enough pressure
for a pedal, like a footfall on a bicycle, to move a robot forward. We
are talking really slow progress here, a foot a day, but a robot doesn't

If we are talking about preparing a far-off planet for some eventual
human occupation, then we may not care about slowly the robots work to
prepare an infrastructure, such as a solar-powered communications
network, as long as it progresses at a predictable rate. If the space
agencies could send robots well in advance, such a network could have a
variety of scientific research and environmental evaluation applications
that would be valuable, whether or not a human team is eventually sent
to live there.

Vast sections of Earth, deserts, outbacks, etc., could serve as testing
grounds of more immediate value. While many of these might be of social
benefit, the money to pay for them is limited. I have had some thoughts
recently that alternative financing methods are possible, such as
environmentally-concerned individuals willing to pay money to support
poor remote rural individuals to install and monitor [robots, in this
case, and] networks or the use of carbon credits or other alternative
currency/money systems to trade service for service or other values.
Perhaps Adrian has other contacts in the open-source world that are more
creative than I am in this regard.

Brock Hinzmann
Technology Navigator

Adrian Bowyer wrote:
> Quoting Stewart Dickson <>:
>> Back in the old days, Marshall Burns wrote essays proposing SLS
>> machines which ran on sand.
>> A new way to build a pyramid.
>> If it would work on Mars, it would work in Africa.
> I have thought for some time that it would be fun to build a robot
> that crawled very very slowly across sand, digging it up, refining it,
> extracting trace elements, and using the results to make PV cells
> inefficiently and badly.
> These it would leave connected up in a trail behind it as it moved
> forward a few meters per day. The cells would provide all the power
> it needed, of course.
> But what on Earth could we do with all the spare power that would be
> available after it had been left to wander about in a desert for a few
> years? There must be some use for it...
> Best wishes
> Adrian
> Dr Adrian Bowyer
Received on Tue Apr 29 15:35:07 2008

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