Our Changing World for Thursday 4 September 2008
On This Programme
Robots have been used since the 1960s in production lines, mainly in car manufacturing factories, where they assemble and check components under the watchful eye of humans.
However, for the last decade or so, there's been growing interest in developing robots that can do more than that. Some perform service tasks, such as robotic vacuum cleaners, while others assist with tasks that require precision, such as the Da Vinci robot which helps surgeons during operations. To find out more about the types of robots that are currently on the drawing board of researchers, Veronika Meduna meets robotics professor Gurvinder Singh Virk at Massey University. This month, his team has launched the Massey Robot Society - or MARS - for high school students who want to get involved in a robotics project.
Every year farmers the world over prepare their soil for planting by tilling it. They do this to kill weeds, mix in fertilizer and shape the soil for seeding - and they also release carbon into the atmosphere, disrupt and kill essential microbes, and reduce soil moisture. But what if this wasn't necessary? This is precisely the stance of John Baker who has researched no tillage systems for 30 years at Massey University, published over 150 papers on the subject and co-written six books including "No Tillage Seeding In Conservation Agriculture" (CABI, Oxford 2006) which was commissioned by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Amelia Nurse meets with him at his business, Baker No Tillage, to talk about what this technology means for sustainable farming.
Chemist Michael Braungart is a strong proponent of the idea that, given the right mindset, every product can be designed to be taken apart and re-made into new products over and over again. He's the co-author of a book about design called Cradle to Cradle, and he sat down with Dacia Herbulock to explain what the concept of cradle-to-cradle is all about and how consumers and companies could set out to eliminate the whole concept of waste.
Veronika Meduna talks to teacher and author Bernard Beckett about his latest books on science fiction and non-fiction.