August 15, 2014

Harvard researchers have created a swarm of 1,024 small robots that work together as a team to form shapes or move, herd-like, toward a light source.

These three-legged robots, called Kilobots, weigh as much as three nickels and cost just $14 a piece to make. Other researchers have been working with swarms in hopes of one day having an army of tiny robots that can go into rubble after an earthquake to find victims, or squeeze into other areas where humans can't go, but those swarms have topped out at 100.

"Building 1,000 robots is hard," James McLurkin, director of the Multi-Robot Systems Lab at Rice University, told The Boston Globe. "Getting 1,000 robots to work together reliably is, how they'd say it in Boston? 'Wicked hard.'" McLurkin did not take part in this study, and called it a work of "engineering majesty."

In a study published Thursday in Science, the Harvard researchers explained that they designed software that allowed the robots to use information from each other in order to act; for instance, when the robots were instructed to build a shape, they would follow the edge of the group and measure their distance from a robot acting as a marker.

Because of the sheer size of the swarm, parties were held to assemble the robots, and it can take a good amount of time to charge and activate them. But this is only the beginning, and researchers are already trying to figure out how to make the robots even smaller. --Catherine Garcia

8:44 a.m. ET

As Germans kicked off their annual Carnival celebration Monday with huge parades, Donald Trump was right there with them — well, his head was at least. The city of Düsseldorf's parade featured a massive papier mâché bust of the Republican presidential candidate atop a float.

The float depicts Trump crying over his recent defeat in the Iowa caucuses while simultaneously yelling at the Statue of Liberty, who is sticking her tongue out at him. Trump's campaign slogan is reimagined and painted on his infamous hair: "Make fascism great again."

Trump wasn't the only one lampooned atop a float. Caricatures of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and even the company Amazon also rode through the streets Monday. Becca Stanek

7:57 a.m. ET
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

On Monday in Dallas, U.S. District Judge David Godbey ruled that Texas cannot block the federal government from settling Syrian refugees in the state, thwarting for a second time a lawsuit filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and a promise made by Gov. Greg Abbott (pictured). "The court does not deny that the Syrian refugees pose some risk. That would be foolish," Godbey wrote. "In our country, however, it is the federal executive that is charged with assessing and mitigating that risk, not the states and not the courts." Texas failed to show that the refugee resettlement poses a "substantial threat of irreparable injury," he added.

The federal government placed 215 Syrian refugees in Texas in 2015 and another 10 in Houston this year. Since Obama took office in 2009, Texas has sued the administration 39 times, by The Associated Press' count. Texas is evaluating its options in its Syrian refugee suit, but has a separate motion still outstanding seeking to temporarily bar the Obama administration from settling Syrian refugees in the state, citing a missed filing deadline. Peter Weber

6:55 a.m. ET

Monday night's debut of Full Frontal, Samantha Bee's late-night comedy show on TBS, included a melancholy look at Jeb Bush's sagging presidential campaign. "Is this the end for our nation's dream of a third Bush presidency?" Bee asked, sardonically, after playing that clip of Bush pleading for his small audience to clap for him. To answer that question, Bee said, she had sent her "foreign exchange producer" to New Hampshire to check on in Bush.

What that looks like in practice is an artsy documentary short narrated by somebody affecting a German accent. Bush "should totally be winning but instead is getting his ass handed to him by an oddly tinted compilation of psychiatric symptoms and by a man who seems like he would lecture a starving kitten on personal responsibility and then deport that kitten and his family," the narrator said, referring to Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, respectively. Jokes aside, the camera team actually talked with voters, reporters, and, eventually, Bush, creating a gloomy portrait of "a Jeb in winter." Which will be especially funny if Bush takes second in Tuesday's New Hampshire primary. You can watch below, but be warned, there is one instance of the f-word and somewhat disturbing imagery of a crocodile eating a turtle. Peter Weber

5:54 a.m. ET
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Donald Trump is widely expected to win the Republican primary in New Hampshire on Tuesday, despite the probable majority of Republicans who want to vote against him. Oddly, a lot of those anti-Trump votes could actually help pad Trump's delegate lead, Domenico Montanaro explains at NPR News. That's because with any candidate who doesn't earn at least 10 percent of the vote, their would-be delegates go to the primary winner. There are eight Republican candidates in the race (not counting Jim Gilmore), and four of them are vying furiously for the "establishment" vote. Not all those "establishment lane" candidates will reach the 10 percent threshold.

To illustrate his point, Montanaro takes a recent average of polls and awards New Hampshire's 20 delegates accordingly. Based on proportional allocation, Trump would earn six delegates (31 percent), Marco Rubio would win three (16 percent), and John Kasich and Ted Cruz would each take two (12 percent). The four remaining candidates would collectively earn 22 percent of the vote, or about four delegates, but because none of them met the 10 percent threshold, those four delegates would go to Trump, raising his delegate count to 10.

The icing on the cake for the anti-Trump establishment, Monatanaro writes, is that those 10 delegates "are bound to vote for Trump at the Republican National Convention in July, because of changes to the Republican National Committee's rules." You can read more about the establishment-voter dilemma at NPR News. Peter Weber

4:41 a.m. ET

Fox News star Bill O'Reilly was on Stephen Colbert's Late Show on Monday night, and Colbert asked him about Tuesday's primary election in New Hampshire. Prompted by Colbert, O'Reilly said that he didn't think Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) killed his presidential campaign with his repetitive debate performance Saturday night. "Anyone can have a bad debate performance," O'Reilly said. "You just don't know." Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders will win the Republican and Democratic primaries, he predicted, though things get murky on the GOP side after that.

Colbert asked about the secret to Trump's success, and O'Reilly had some thoughts on the subject. "Trump hit history at the right time, because people are angry," he said "Trump and Sanders are really the same guy, they just change their facial expressions." "I've never seen them in the same room at the same time," Colbert offered. O'Reilly elaborated: "Trump and Sanders are the same guy, because both are tapping into anger, the anger of the voters, who feels they're getting hosed." He said the right doesn't like the open border and ISIS, and then did a terrible Bernie Sanders impression. "I'm sorry, did you just have a stroke right now?" Colbert asked.

O'Reilly tried the same joke after Colbert's superior Sanders impression, then he returned to his theme: "At this time in history, people want an avenger, they don't want a politician. They want somebody who's going to come in and blow the whole system up." That's good and bad, O'Reilly said, because, on the plus side, it gets people involved in politics. "What's bad is that both Trump and Sanders say stuff that's impossible, that could never happen."

After a commercial break, Colbert and O'Reilly politely sparred about Ronald Reagan before returning to Trump and Sanders. "Straight talk is what we need," O'Reilly said. "Which is why Sanders and Trump are doing so well — you don't have to like them, but you know where they stand." O'Reilly said that he, too, is a straight-talker, a problem-solver not an ideologue. "You're not a problem-solver, you're a cable news superhero." Colbert said. "I'll take that as a compliment," O'Reilly laughed. "Sure, why not?" Colbert said, then tipped his hat at his Colbert Report character: "How about you're a great model to do an impression of for 10 years." Watch below. Peter Weber

3:49 a.m. ET

On Tuesday morning, two regional commuter trains in southern Germany collided head-on between the Bavarian towns of Rosenheim and Holzkirchen, killing at least two people and injuring about 100, police spokesman Stefan Sonntag told The Associated Press. "This is the biggest accident we have had in years in this region, and we have many emergency doctors, ambulances, and helicopters on the scene," he added.

One of the engine and some cars are reportedly off the track, and Sonntag said the confusion is so great at the scene that further fatalities are certainly possible.

UPDATE: Police have raised the confirmed death toll to 8 people. Peter Weber

3:12 a.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

On Monday night, hours before the polls started opening in the New Hampshire primary, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) walked through the Puritan Backroom diner in Manchester, seeking votes. Instead, he got some pretty awkward conversation about homosexuality, The New York Times' Michael Barbaro reports. First, Rubio placed his hand on the shoulder of Timothy Kierstead, 50, seated with his mother and husband. "Why do you want to put me back in the closet?" Kierstead asked. Rubio said he didn't, but that he believes "marriage is between one man and one woman." Rubio patted Kierstead's shoulder, told him, "I respect your view," and walked away. "Typical politician," Kierstead replied loudly. "Walk away."

Elsewhere in the diner, Rubio was asked about former fellow GOP presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) by a 92-year-old woman. "He's a bachelor, right?" the woman asked Rubio, who replied, "He is." The woman followed up: "Is he gay." Rubio chuckled, Barbaro recounts, then answered "No." Peter Weber

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