Newsbytes: Power Outage, Gentle Bot, Nobel Peace Prize, “Bulb Bandit”

By Staff Writers Heather Gan & Evie Sun

Local — Bay Area Rains Cause Power Outage

The Bay Area faced heavy downpours on Saturday, December 10. The rain caused a widespread power outage, serious Bay Area Rapid Transit delays, upended trees, flooded roads, and car accidents. Starting around 1:45 p.m., more than 41,000 PG&E customers lost their power for a few hours. In addition, a train was stranded in San Francisco due to a power disruption between the Glen Park and Balboa stations. PG&E believes that problems at an Oakland substation and difficulties with a circuit breaker at a Berkeley substation are partially responsible for the massive power outages.

National — “Gentle Bot” Allows for Human Touch

Robotics researchers at Cornell University have created a prosthetic hand that mimics human touch. The robot, named the “Gentle Bot,” can sense the shape and texture of delicate items. On Monday, December 12, the researchers published a paper that detailed their process of creating the robot.  The mechanical hand contains light signals that run through waveguides inside the fingers. The waveguides change the light signals when the hand touches an object, which provides the “Gentle Bot” with information on the object it is touching. Currently, the Cornell researchers are still finding ways to link the mechanical hand to the human brain so that it can operate naturally.

International — Colombian President Accepts Nobel Peace Prize

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10 in Oslo, Norway for his efforts in stopping the longest-running war in the Americas. Santos negotiated an agreement to end 50 years of fighting with the leftist rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which Colombia’s Congress approved.  However, 50.2 percent of Colombians voted against it, claiming the agreement excused the atrocities committed by the FARC, such as high-profile kidnappings and massacres. However, Santos decided to not hold another referendum to ratify reforms, and after signing the peace deal, fighting has now stopped for 150 days.

Quirky — “Bulb Bandit” Caught on Video

After discovering that 150 colorful Christmas bulbs went missing, Margaret Rican from Seattle caught the thief on video, which turned out to be a squirrel. While it may seem that the “bulb bandit” is getting ready for the holiday season, the squirrel most likely mistook bulbs for food. According to John Koprowski, a squirrel expert and professor of wildlife conservation and management at the University of Arizona, this behavior is common since the bulbs resemble acorns and fruits. However, squirrels tend to overprepare for the winter so making the mistake of storing bulbs for food in winter won’t affect them much.


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