August 23, 2014

The other day I was visiting a client and discussing a project involving the application of a robotic system to an existing work cell.  The process is somewhat complex and we all questioned which employee would manage the operation of the cell including the system.  The system is a SCARA type.  SCARA is an acronym for Selective Compliance Assembly Robot Arm or Selective Compliance Articulated Robot Arm.

In 1981, Sankyo SeikiPentel and NEC presented a completely new concept for assembly robots. The robot was developed under the guidance of Hiroshi Makino, a professor at the University of Yamanashi and was called the Selective Compliance Assembly Robot Arm or SCARA.

SCARA’s are generally faster and cleaner than comparable Cartesian (X, Y, Z) robotic systems.  Their single pedestal mount requires a small footprint and provides an easy, unhindered form of mounting. On the other hand, SCARA’s can be more expensive than comparable Cartesian systems and the controlling software requires inverse kinematics for linear interpolated moves. This software typically comes with the SCARA however and is usually transparent to the end-user.   The SCARA system used in this work cell had the capability of one hundred programs with 100 data points per program.  It was programmed by virtue of a “teach pendant” and “jog” switch controlling the placement of the robotic arm over the material.

Several names were mentioned as to who might ultimately, after training, be capable of taking on this task.  When one individual was named, the retort was; “not James, he is only half smart.  That got me to thinking about “smarts”.  How smart is smart?   At what point do we say smart is smart enough?


The concept of IQ or intelligence quotient was developed by either the German psychologist and philosopher Wilhelm Stern in 1912 or by Lewis Terman in 1916.  This is depending on which of several sources you consult.   Intelligence testing was initially accomplished on a large scale before either of these dates. In 1904 psychologist Alfred Binet was commissioned by the French government to create a testing system to differentiate intellectually normal children from those who were inferior.

From Binet’s work the IQ scale called the “Binet Scale,” (and later the “Simon-Binet Scale”) was developed. Sometime later, “intelligence quotient,” or “IQ,” entered our vocabulary.  Lewis M. Terman revised the Simon-Binet IQ Scale, and in 1916 published the Stanford Revision of the Binet-Simon Scale of Intelligence (also known as the Stanford-Binet).

Intelligence tests are one of the most popular types of psychological tests in use today. On the majority of modern IQ tests, the average (or mean) score is set at 100 with a standard deviation of 15 so that scores conform to a normal distribution curve.  This means that 68 percent of scores fall within one standard deviation of the mean (that is, between 85 and 115), and 95 percent of scores fall within two standard deviations (between 70 and 130).  This may be shown from the following bell-shaped curve:

Bell-Shaped Curve Showing IQ

Why is the average score set to 100?  Psychometritians, individuals who study the biology of the brain, utilize a process known as standardization in order to make it possible to compare and interpret the meaning of IQ scores. This process is accomplished by administering the test to a representative sample and using these scores to establish standards, usually referred to as norms, by which all individual scores can be compared. Since the average score is 100, experts can quickly assess individual test scores against the average to determine where these scores fall on the normal distribution.

The following scale resulted for classifying IQ scores:
IQ Scale

Over 140 – Genius or almost genius
120 – 140 – Very superior intelligence
110 – 119 – Superior intelligence
90 – 109 – Average or normal intelligence
80 – 89 – Dullness
70 – 79 – Borderline deficiency in intelligence
Under 70 – Feeble-mindedness

Normal Distribution of IQ Scores

From the curve above, we see the following:

50% of IQ scores fall between 90 and 110
68% of IQ scores fall between 85 and 115
95% of IQ scores fall between 70 and 130
99.5% of IQ scores fall between 60 and 140

Low IQ & Mental Retardation

An IQ under 70 is considered as “mental retardation” or limited mental ability. 5% of the population falls below 70 on IQ tests. The severity of the mental retardation is commonly broken into 4 levels:

50-70 – Mild mental retardation (85%)
35-50 – Moderate mental retardation (10%)
20-35 – Severe mental retardation (4%)
IQ < 20 – Profound mental retardation (1%)

High IQ & Genius IQ

Genius or near-genius IQ is considered to start around 140 to 145. Less than 1/4 of 1 percent fall into this category. Here are some common designations on the IQ scale:

115-124 – Above average
125-134 – Gifted
135-144 – Very gifted
145-164 – Genius
165-179 – High genius
180-200 – Highest genius

We are told “Big Al” had an IQ over 160 which would definitely qualify him as being one the most intelligent people on the planet.

Big Al and IQ

Looking at demographics, we see the following:

How Smart is Smart

As you can see, the percentage of individuals considered to be genius is quite small. 0.50 percent to be exact.  OK, who are these people?

  1. Stephen Hawking

Dr. Hawking is a man of Science, a theoretical physicist and cosmologist.  Hawking has never failed to astonish everyone with his IQ level of 160. He was born in Oxford, England and has proven himself to be a remarkably intelligent person.   Hawking is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a lifetime member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States.  Hawking was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge between 1979 and 2009. Hawking has a motor neuron disease related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a condition that has progressed over the years. He is almost entirely paralyzed and communicates through a speech generating device. Even with this condition, he maintains a very active schedule demonstrating significant mental ability.

  1. Andrew Wiles

Sir Andrew John Wiles is a remarkably intelligent individual.  Sir Andrew is a British mathematician, a member of the Royal Society, and a research professor at Oxford University.  His specialty is numbers theory.  He proved Fermat’s last theorem and for this effort, he was awarded a special silver plaque.    It is reported that he has an IQ of 170.

  1. Paul Gardner Allen

Paul Gardner Allen is an American business magnate, investor and philanthropist, best known as the co-founder of The Microsoft Corporation. As of March 2013, he was estimated to be the 53rd-richest person in the world, with an estimated wealth of $15 billion. His IQ is reported to be 170. He is considered to be the most influential person in his field and known to be a good decision maker.

  1. Judit Polgar

Born in Hungary in 1976, Judit Polgár is a chess grandmaster. She is by far the strongest female chess player in history. In 1991, Polgár achieved the title of Grandmaster at the age of 15 years and 4 months, the youngest person to do so until then. Polgar is not only a chess master but a certified brainiac with a recorded IQ of 170. She lived a childhood filled with extensive chess training given by her father. She defeated nine former and current world champions including Garry Kasparov, Boris Spassky, and Anatoly Karpov.  Quite amazing.

  1. Garry Kasparov

Garry Kasparov has totally amazed the world with his outstanding IQ of more than 190. He is a Russian chess Grandmaster, former World Chess Champion, writer, and political activist, considered by many to be the greatest chess player of all time. From 1986 until his retirement in 2005, Kasparov was ranked world No. 1 for 225 months.  Kasparov became the youngest ever undisputed World Chess Champion in 1985 at age 22 by defeating then-champion Anatoly Karpov.   He held the official FIDE world title until 1993, when a dispute with FIDE led him to set up a rival organization, the Professional Chess Association. In 1997 he became the first world champion to lose a match to a computer under standard time controls, when he lost to the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue in a highly publicized match. He continued to hold the “Classical” World Chess Championship until his defeat by Vladimir Kramnik in 2000.

  1. Rick Rosner

Gifted with an amazing IQ of 192.  Richard G. “Rick” Rosner (born May 2, 1960) is an American television writer and media figure known for his high intelligence test scores and his unusual career. There are reports that he has achieved some of the highest scores ever recorded on IQ tests designed to measure exceptional intelligence. He has become known for taking part in activities not usually associated with geniuses.

  1. Kim Ung-Yong

With a verified IQ of 210, Korean civil engineer Ung Yong is considered to be one of the smartest people on the planet.  He was born March 7, 1963 and was definitely a child prodigy .  He started speaking at the age of 6 months and was able to read Japanese, Korean, German, English and many other languages by his third birthday. When he was four years old, his father said he had memorized about 2000 words in both English and German.  He was writing poetry in Korean and Chinese and wrote two very short books of essays and poems (less than 20 pages). Kim was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records under “Highest IQ“; the book gave the boy’s score as about 210. [Guinness retired the “Highest IQ” category in 1990 after concluding IQ tests were too unreliable to designate a single record holder.


  1. Christopher Hirata

Christopher Hirata’s  IQ is approximately 225 which is phenomenal. He was genius from childhood. At the age of 16, he was working with NASA with the Mars mission.  At the age of 22, he obtained a PhD from Princeton University.  Hirata is teaching astrophysics at the California Institute of Technology.

  1. Marilyn vos Savant

Marilyn Vos Savant is said to have an IQ of 228. She is an American magazine columnist, author, lecturer, and playwright who rose to fame as a result of the listing in the Guinness Book of World Records under “Highest IQ.” Since 1986 she has written “Ask Marilyn,” a Parade magazine Sunday column where she solves puzzles and answers questions on various subjects.

1.Terence Tao

Terence Tao is an Australian mathematician working in harmonic analysis, partial differential equations, additive combinatorics, ergodic Ramsey theory, random matrix theory, and analytic number theory.  He currently holds the James and Carol Collins chair in mathematics at the University of California, Los Angeles where he became the youngest ever promoted to full professor at the age of 24 years. He was a co-recipient of the 2006 Fields Medal and the 2014 Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics.

Tao was a child prodigy, one of the subjects in the longitudinal research on exceptionally gifted children by education researcher Miraca Gross. His father told the press that at the age of two, during a family gathering, Tao attempted to teach a 5-year-old child arithmetic and English. According to Smithsonian Online Magazine, Tao could carry out basic arithmetic by the age of two. When asked by his father how he knew numbers and letters, he said he learned them from Sesame Street.

OK, now before you go running to jump from the nearest bridge, consider the statement below:

Persistence—President Calvin Coolidge said it better than anyone I have ever heard. “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.   Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.  The slogan “Press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” 

I personally think Calvin really knew what he was talking about.  Most of us get it done by persistence!! ‘Nuff” said.

“Two men look out of the same prison bars; one sees mud and the other stars.”

For centuries and centuries men have looked up—seen the stars, wondered about their creation and pondered traveling to distant planets and star systems.    The action of the two prisoners above indicates interest by one and no interest from the other in “all things celestial”.  The real truth is, just about everyone in every country is fascinated with the cosmos.    Events leading up to the creation lie in the stars.  No doubt about it.

One significant effort to unwrap the truth was undertaken by the ESA (European Space Agency) in launching the Herschel Space Observatory on May 14, 2009.  The Herschel Space Observatory is named after Sir William Herschel and is the fourth Cornerstone mission in the European Space Agency’s Horizon 2000 program.  Ten countries, including the United States, participated in its design and implementation.  Sir William and his sister, Caroline collaborated in discovering the infrared spectrum in 1800 and the planet Uranus.   That spectrum extends beyond visible light into the region that we today call “infrared.”   The far-infrared and sub-millimeter wavelengths at which Herschel observations are made are considerably longer than the familiar rainbow of colors that the human eye can perceive. Yet, this is a critically important portion of the spectrum to scientists because it is the frequency range at which a large part of the universe radiates.  Much of the universe consists of gas and dust far too cold to radiate in visible light or at shorter wavelengths such as x-rays. However, even at temperatures well below the most frigid spot on earth, they do radiate at far-infrared and sub-millimeter wavelengths.

Stars and other cosmic objects not hot enough to shine at optical wavelengths are often hidden behind vast dust clouds that absorb visible light and reradiate that light in the far-infrared and sub-millimeter.

There is a great deal to see at these wavelengths, and much of it has been virtually unexplored. Earthbound telescopes are largely unable to observe this portion of the spectrum because most of this light is absorbed by moisture in the atmosphere before it can reach the ground. Previous space-based infrared telescopes have had neither the sensitivity of Herschel’s large mirror, nor the ability of Herschel’s three detectors to do such a comprehensive job of sensing this important part of the spectrum.

Two-thirds of Herschel’s observation time has been made available to the world scientific community, with the remainder reserved for the spacecraft’s science and instrument teams.   The flood of data from Herschel makes it impractical for multiple websites to provide up-to-date or reasonably complete information about all of the observations that have been carried out and published in scientific journals.

Well—we knew it was coming but, it is still sad to see the end of a mission. Controllers for the Herschel space telescope sent final commands today to put the observatory into a heliocentric parking orbit. Commands were sent at 12:25 GMT on June 17, 2013, marking the official end of operations for Herschel.   But expect more news from this spacecraft’s observations, as there is still a treasure trove of data that that will keep astronomers busy for many years to come.  Additionally, maneuvers done by the spacecraft allowed engineers to test control techniques that can’t normally be tested in-flight.   Herschel’s science mission had already ended in April when the liquid helium that cooled the observatory’s instruments ran out.

Herschel will now be parked indefinitely in a heliocentric orbit, as a way of “disposing” of the spacecraft. It should be stable for hundreds of years, but perhaps scientists will figure out another use for it in the future. One original idea for disposing of the spacecraft was to have it impact the moon, a la the LCROSS mission that slammed into the Moon in 2009, and it would kick up volatiles at one of the lunar poles for observation by another spacecraft, such as the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. But that idea has been nixed in favor of the parking orbit.

Some of the maneuvers that were tested before the spacecraft was put into its final orbit were some in-orbit validations and analysis of hardware and software.

On May 13-14, engineers commanded Herschel to fire its thrusters for a record 7-hours and 45-minutes. This ensured the satellite was boosted away from its operational orbit around the L2 Sun–Earth Lagrange Point and into a heliocentric orbit, further out and slower than earth’s orbit. This depleted most of the fuel, and the final thruster command today used up all of the remaining fuel. Today’s final command was the last step in a complex series of flight control activities and thruster maneuvers designed to take Herschel into a safe disposal orbit around the sun; additionally all its systems were turned off.

“Herschel has not only been an immensely successful scientific mission, it has also served as a valuable flight operations test platform in its final weeks of flight. This will help us increase the robustness and flexibility of future missions operations,” said Paolo Ferri, ESA’s Head of Mission Operations. “Europe really received excellent value from this magnificent satellite.”

Let’s now take a look at the results from the years of observation.  Hope you enjoy just a very few of the pictures beamed back to Earth.  I welcome your comments.











images (2)


November 25, 2012

The following information was taken from EarthSky.org, The University of Colorado and Discover Magazine.

We earthlings have always had a very real fascination with the planet Mars.  My first recollection was from reading a book by Edgar Rice Burrows: “Princess of Mars”.  Great book and one that was recently made into a movie.  As usual, the hero was dashing and the princess was beautiful.  Could it have been any other way?

There, of course were others—many others.  These go back at least sixty years and maybe longer.

Reality is, Mars is a very well-worn planet and one that has a past.    It is a beaten and battered planet. This is according to a research team that recently finished counting and cataloging a staggering 635,000 Martian impact craters.   Astronomers have been peering for centuries at the craters created by cosmic buckshot pounding its surface over billions of years.   From here on Earth we certainly don’t see the evidence of those impacts.  All looks placid, quiet and very smooth.  We definitely must look much closer to get a picture of what 635,000 + craters can do to the surface of any planet.

Just how beat up is it?

Really beat up, according to a University of Colorado Boulder research team that recently finished counting, outlining and cataloging the impact craters existing on the surface of the red planet.  Each crater is roughly a kilometer or more in diameter.  As the largest single database ever compiled of impacts on a planet or moon in our solar system, the new information will be of help in dating the ages of particular regions of Mars, reported CU-Boulder postdoctoral researcher Stuart Robbins, who led the effort. The new crater atlas also should help researchers better understand the history of water volcanism on Mars through time, as well as the planet’s potential for past habitability by primitive life.

A paper on the subject by Robbins and CU-Boulder faculty member Brian Hynek appeared in June 2012 in the Journal of Geophysical Research – Planets, a publication of the American Geophysical Union. A companion study by the two CU researchers was published in a recent issue of the same journal. The study was funded by NASA’s Mars Data Analysis Program.

Hynek, a LASP research associate and assistant professor in the geological sciences department, said knowing more about the history and extent of Martian cratering has implications for better understanding the potential for past life on Mars. He said:

Many of the large impact craters generated hydrothermal systems that could have created unique, locally habitable environments that lasted for thousands or millions of years, assuming there was water in the planet’s crust at the time. But large impacts also have the ability to wipe out life forms, as evident from Earth’s dinosaur-killing Chicxulub impact 65 million years ago.

“Having a better handle on the size and distribution of Martian impact craters also has implications for future, manned missions to the planet, said Hynek. NASA wants to know where the craters are and their particular features both from a safety and research standpoint.   He said:

Craters act as a ‘poor man’s drill’ that provide new information about the subsurface of Mars.

Cataloging craters like the one above for Mars and our own moon is helping scientists understand the time line hundreds of million years after the inner solar system formed, including an event about 3.9 billion years ago known as the “Late Heavy Bombardment” in which asteroids as large as Kansas rained down on Earth. Hynek said:

Although Earth has lost most of its geologic record due to tectonic plate movements and erosion, understanding the impact crater history on the moon and Mars can help us reconstruct our early days.

The photo above shows the Melas Chasma on Mars, which reaches a depth of 5.6 miles; it is part of the staggering Valles Marineris rift valley, which stretches almost 2,500 miles across the surface of the red planet.  For comparison’s sake, our earthly Grand Canyon is 1.1 miles deep and 277 miles long.  This Chasm was undoubtedly created by an impact from a falling asteroid.   This remarkable image was taken by the High Resolution Stereo Camera on the European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter. In addition to giving us something neat to gawk at, the image also reveals evidence of Mar’s watery past.

Part of the canyon wall collapsed in multiple landslides in the distant past, with debris fanning out into the valley below.  Scientists analyzing the texture of the rocks deposited by the landslides say they were transported by liquid water, water/ ice, or mud.    Our own Curiosity Rover is giving us tremendous quantities of new information relative to the Marian surface.   Rover is looking for the following:

  •  Water or evidence of there having been water
  • Minerals that lie on the surface and subsurface
  • Any trace of an atmosphere
  • LIFE —  large or small

I suspect we will find Mars to be a planet in which life was thriving at one time in the very distant past.  Let’s just hope this is not predictive of what we may find at some future time here on Earth.  At any rate, Mars continues to be a planet of significant mystery.



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