Making logic gates out of crabs

Building logic gates out of silicon is old hat, as is building them from discrete transistors, 555 chips, LEGO, and even gears. [Yukio-Pegio Gunji] and [Yuta Nishiyama] from Kobe University, along with [Andrew Adamatzky] from the aptly named Unconventional Computing Centre at the University of the West of England decided they needed a new way to build logic gates using crabs (PDF warning). Yes, the team successfully built functional logic gates using Mictyris guinotae, a species of soldier crab native to the South Seas.

The colonies of soldier crabs that inhabit the lagoons of Pacific atolls display a unique swarming behavior in their native habitat. When in a swarm of hundreds of individuals, the front of the swarm is driven by random turbulence in the group, while the back end of the swarm simply follows the leaders. Somehow, this is a successful evolutionary strategy, but it can also be exploited to build logic gates using only crabs.

The team constructed a Y-shaped maze for a pair of crabs to act as an OR gate. When two soldier crabs are placed at the top of the ‘Y’, they move forward until they meet and exit the maze through the output. This idea can be expanded to a slightly more complex AND gate, functionally identical to the electron-powered AND gate in a 7408 logic chip.

While the team has only made OR and AND gates – nothing functionally complete yet – there’s no reason to believe this crab-based system of computation couldn’t be expanded to a (very) basic calculator.

Massively parallel computer costs $99

Even though dual, quad, and octo-core CPUs have been around for a while, it’s a far cry from truly massive parallel computing platforms. The chip manufacturer Adapteva is looking to put dozens of CPUs in a small package with their Parallella project. As a bonus, they’re looking for funding on Kickstarter, and plan to open source their 16 and 64-core CPUs after funding is complete.

The Parallella computer is based on the ARM architecture, and will be able to run Ubuntu with 1 Gig of RAM, a dual-core ARM A9 CPU, Ethernet, USB, and HDMI output. What makes the Parallella special is it’s Epiphany Multicore Accelerator – a coprocessor containing up to 64 parallel cores.

Adapteva is turning to Kickstarter for their Parallella computer to get the funding to take their Epiphany multicore daughterboard and shrink it down into a single chip. Once that’s complete, Adapteva will start shipping an ARM-powered Linux supercomputer that’s about the size of a credit card, or a Raspberry Pi under the new system of dev board measurements.

With any luck, the Parallella multicore computer will be available for $99, much less than a comparable x86 multicore computer. It’ll certainly be interesting to see what the Parallella can do in the future.

Doorbell to Internet bridge also useful for other home automation

This wireless doorbell hack can send a text message when someone rings. Adding the hardware to the chime unit turned out to be quite simple. It shows potential for a slew of other applications.

[Martin] started the project with a breakout board he had designed for an RFM12B wireless transceiver board. This board is popular because of its low-cost, small size, and ease of operation. [Martin's] breakout is barely larger than the RFM module itself, and merely adds an ATtiny84 to the mix. In the case of this doorbell project he uses a pin interrupt to detect when the doorbell’s LED is illuminated. This wakes the chip from sleep and sends a message back to the receiver that something has happened.

The receiver can do anything it wants with that data. In this case it uses an email-to-SMS service to send [Martin] a text message. But the home automation applications are vast for this simple hardware. We have a water heater that is not near a floor drain so we use a simple leak detector to sound an alarm if there is ever a problem (the water heater sits in a shallow tray). That works if we’re home at the time. Using [Martin's] solution could extend that alarm’s reach worldwide.

[via Hacked Gadgets]