Total Tennis Goes to Japan
Bringing up Monkey
Nature in a Box
When the world's craziest contest goes international, can
Japanese and American students play on the same team? Also,
how can monkey mothers make monkey babies happy? The man who
brings nature into the basement--then makes it work. A good
night's sleep: can we do without it but still get through
the day? And the machine that's supposed to make pizza. All
coming up on Scientific American Frontiers.
GTE brings you more than the power of telecommunications,
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you the power of a new world in Scientific American Frontiers.
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FLOWERS Hi. I'm Woodie Flowers, host of Scientific American
Frontiers. This is one of the current generation of sport
and utility vehicles. I think they are marvelous. As you can
see, they are powerful and tough. They are also quite comfortable
and reasonably economical to operate. Really good engineering.
This one is called "Navajo." Must be designed for the American
wilderness, right? Well, look at the name tag. It's Japanese.
Have they done it again? Beaten us at our own game? Well,
not exactly. Sometimes things are not the way they seem. But
I'm getting ahead of myself. We'll get back to this in a little
TOTAL TENNIS GOES TO JAPAN
For years, a popular course at the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology has asked students to build their own game-playing
machines from a kit of parts. This year, for the first time,
the MIT idea has been exported to the Tokyo Institute of Technology.
Japanese students received an identical kit and the same engineering
challenge. At both universities the students had just six
weeks to build their creations. Then at MIT there was a tournament
to see who could pull the tennis balls down from a mountain
and deposit the largest number in a trough on the game table.
The excitement is contagious. And when the Tokyo Tech students
staged their contest, it was clear that this cross-cultural
transplant worked. But there's more to come. The top ten from
Tokyo Tech will meet the top ten from MIT in a world series
of engineering design in Tokyo. The American students take
with them the machines they built and the engineering savvy
they've gained. But that doesn't feel like much as they set
out for the engineering capital of the world. In Tokyo they're
welcomed like celebrities. After all, the Japanese students
think MIT is the engineering capital of the world. Each team
has just six days to design their machines. And on this modified
table, the contest will be tougher. The tennis balls start
out on a higher mountain. And they have to wind up in a raised
area the same color as each starting square. But all that's
just engineering. The real challenge is communications, because
teams will consist of one American student and one Japanese.
Susie draws Toshibiro's name. They can shake hands, but can
they talk? For Irene and Daiki, just learning each other's
names is a hint that communicating is not going to be easy.
How can the teams design machines together when they have
barely a few words in common? The joint contest organizer,
MIT Professor Harry West, has a suggestion.
WEST Therefore we would encourage you to make full use of
the pens and paper and other material that you have for communicating
to try to communicate graphically.
It looks like this scheme can work. Chris and Naoto are doing
plenty of scribbling and nodding. But when Susie tries to
get across her strategy, it seems there's no communication
at all. Toshihiro just doesn't get it. And the awkwardness
continues at the party that night. Like all college kids,
they know how to eat and drink. But the American students
are flustered when the evening takes a more Japanese turn.
Until the traditional welcome dance begins. And then something
does start to happen. The American boys, with Greg and Chris
in the lead, take the first clumsy steps to join the Japanese
dancing circle. Maybe rock and roll would have worked too,
but in any case, the barriers between the two groups begin
to come down. While nobody had known quite what to expect,
the first day ends on an encouraging note. And the new camaraderie
carries over to the next morning. Irene and Daiki are working
together in earnest on a joint strategy.
When it starts my big machine goes to the mountain, and then
her small machine which is on top of mine gets off, beats
the stack, and collects balls.
In the original contests the students all set their sights
on winning. Now they're recognizing that the goal of this
international match is different.
Whoever wins, I don't think that is really the point. I think
just the fact that you can produce something by working with
someone and having no language in common, it's a great accomplishment.
But some of the American students are puzzled about how to
work together. Chris, for instance, is confused because Naoto
seems so unassertive.
WEST I think the Japanese students seem to want to, to really
blend and really try to cooperate more, rather than taking
a strong leadership role.
In Japan students learn to cooperate. It's one of the factors
behind Japan's economic success. And it's especially important
WEST Design is in many ways the process of negotiation. And
clearly the Japanese students are very good at doing that
because they have this natural sense of trying to get together
and form a consensus. And for the American students, at least
to begin with, it's a little bit more of a challenge.
Time away from the shop obviously helps. And the bright lights
of Tokyo by night have a lot to offer. But it turns out that
Chris and Naoto have exactly the same idea of a good time.
Will they be able to bring this more comfortable companionship
back into the engineering shop? Already, the few days allotted
for constructing the machines are almost over. And something
new is happening: the students have discovered they have a
common language after all--the language of engineering. We
don't have a clue what Toshibiro is actually saying, but it's
perfectly clear to his fellow engineers.
WEST It's a universal language because the strength of steel
is the same here as it is in the United States. The fundamental
physics which describes the behavior of an electric motor
is the same here as it is in the United States. So the students
have this very large background that is common. All the physics
and engineering and mathematics that they have learned. That
makes it a truly international subject.
A scramble to test their creations and fine tune their strategies.
And suddenly it's the last day before the contest. To showcase
the different machines, Harry West schedules a warm-up event.
Each team gets to play a demonstration round, without any
opponents. Daiki's big transporter neatly delivers Irene's
harvester right to the top of the mountain. Remember, what
counts is getting balls into the raised trough. This may be
the most brilliant design of the lot--a tank with incredibly
flexible joints. It can sweep off almost all the tennis balls,
and then bulldoze a lot of them at once up into the trough.
Decked out in matching headbands, Chris and Naoto have put
together a true joint strategy. While Chris's huge contraption
lumbers into position, Naoto scales the side of the mountain.
This is real teamwork--and although it takes Chris a long
time to maneuver his big machine to the other side of the
table, the payoff is worth the wait.
WEST I think the teams that have been most successful have
been those where the two members have sat on the same bench
all the time. They've gone out drinking in the evenings together
and there's been a sense of common understanding of what needs
to be done.
A former Tokyo Olympic stadium, the imposing site of the joint
contest main event. And inside, an extravaganza that will
be broadcast by Japanese TV. The elaborate display shows just
how highly engineering is esteemed in Japan. With all the
pomp that Americans normally reserve for sports heroes, each
team is formally presented to the audience in the hall and
at home. And although they're only teenagers, these young
engineers rise to the occasion with poise and dignity. For
Chris and Naoto, the first match starts just the way they
planned it. But then Chris's machine is shoved away from the
center of the mountain, revealing a conspicuous design flaw:
now he's not perfectly lined up, so the balls aren't making
it into the trough. Their opponents, the green team, are winning,
4 balls to 2. Time is running out, and Chris is jammed. But
Naoto has a brainstorm--drives up the other side of the small
mountain, and pushes green's balls into the red trough. Victory
at the last minute--with an improvised strategy. It looks
like it's going to be a great contest. But when Irene and
Daiki come up, things don't go so well. They never get a chance
to execute their strategy. Their opponents have one machine
just for defense, and it bulldozes Irene's harvester into
a corner. That's enough to take Daiki and Irene out of the
contest. And it turns out this obstruction strategy knocks
out team after team, including Chris and Naoto, and Susie
and Toshihiro. All too soon, it's time for the finals. The
flexible tank makes the first move. But this smaller machine
is quicker where it counts. And then again the match turns
into a defensive battle. The flexible machine is pinned, and
since red has balls in already, that's all it takes to win.
But winning the tournament is not what this week has been
about. It's been about getting along in spite of barriers,
about taking pride--"nerd pride," as the button says--in learning
to work together as engineering partners. And about discovering
many new ways to communicate and cooperate. As the future
top engineers of the United States and Japan, these students
have been building some of the most important bridges they'll
ever work on. And that, says Harry West, is the point.
WEST It's very important for American engineers to learn to
cooperate and to be able to work, to work together with Japanese
engineers, because a lot of them are going to be doing that
in the future. It's part of their job. We are going to have
to learn to cooperate with other countries as well, for instance,
Germany and France. The future is international. And we either
recognize that or the rest of the world will just pass us
FLOWERS I think Harry West is absolutely right. The future
is international. And it's already here. Take a closer look
at this apparently Japanese vehicle. Although it has a Mazda
nameplate and a few parts made in Japan, the engine was built
in Germany, the transmission is from France, the wheels are
from New Zealand, and it was designed by Ford and assembled
in their plant in Kentucky. The auto industry is global nowadays,
and a lot of other industries are heading that way. The kind
of partnerships that we just saw formed by the students in
Tokyo are already a necessity.
BRINGING UP MONKEY
The challenges of life. We all handle them in our own way.
Some of us boldly. Some, a little more timidly. Where do we
get out personalities? Some of our relatives seem to have
personalities too. Did these young rhesus monkeys learn to
be boisterous? Or are they stuck with behavior inherited from
their parents as firmly as they're stuck with their own tails?
Trying to find the answer is psychologist Steve Suomi, who
studies a colony of 30 monkeys set up for the purpose. When
Steve started his research ten years ago, he soon found out
there are two kinds of young monkeys. This six month old is
typical of the bold, daring type. Whereas, this one's showing
clear signs of a shy and timid personality. So's this one.
He just won't leave Mom alone. In fact, Steve Suomi says,
different baby personalities go along with different kinds
of relationships between mothers and babies: The boldest babies
have a particular kind of Mom.
SUOMI Okay, here we have an infant that's unusually bold.
Well away from it's mother, and he's interacting with these
older monkeys. He's playing like crazy. But for him to keep
this up, he has to make sure his mother is still around. So
he will be going back to his mother just for a brief period
of time, just to see that she's there. And then, satisfied,
he'll go back out and start the play bout again. And this
is how a mother gives her infant security. That is, she is
available when the infant is frightened or needs some comfort.
But she doesn't interfere when he goes out to explore.
Now here's the other extreme--a clinging baby, which goes
along with a mother who's very nervous. She likes to keep
her baby well out of harm's way.
RASMUSSEN I'll record his initial status as zero. He's awake.
This is a newborn, just six days old. The personalities of
their monkeys, right from birth, have been checked out by
Steve's research team.
RASMUSSEN There he goes. Good. And definite, oh, look at this.
Almost, give him definitely a one, and a reach and follow.
At this age an infant hasn't really had time to learn how
to behave. So if they can detect any personality, it must
RASMUSSEN Okay. There they go!
They give standard development tests, like the ones human
infants might get. And all the time, they're sizing up personality.
This one obviously takes life as it comes. Nothing much seems
to bother him. And as he grows up, he'll probably stay that
RASMUSSEN Cuddliness. How does he react to you?
Do you need to ask? No, he's cuddly. Just definitely give
him a high score for that.
His mother is the relaxed-but-available kind, and he'll be
a typical bold-and-daring baby. The discovery of such early
and lasting behavior patterns has convinced the researchers
that monkey personality probably isn't learned from parents--it
comes down in the genes. Kathlyn Rasmussen.
RASMUSSEN We're beginning to see differences even as early
as the first week of life in terms of some infants are just
much more irritable. This one is particularly calm.
Here's another newborn. No, he's not sick. He's just very,
very nervous. He's reacting to the stress of separation from
his mother, who is of the nervous protective type. In fact,
the stress is so overwhelming for him that Mary Schneider
will find it had to administer the tests. The researchers
call this type of behavior "reactive." It'll lead to the timid
baby type who isn't happy exploring on his own. That's how
this little fellow will turn out.
SCHNEIDER So this little monkey that's reactive, if we came
back tomorrow and went through this test again, he would also
be reactive. If we came back in two weeks, he would still
So behavior is inherited. But can it ever change? Can monkeys
and humans learn something different? That's what this experiment
is about. Mary has picked out a very reactive newborn, to
be adopted and raised by the opposite kind of mother--the
relaxed type. The first hurdle, though, is getting the foster
mother to accept the baby. She might not. Now here's the foster
mother. Mary will be closely watching the first encounter
for any signs of trouble. It's a good start. She seems perfectly
happy with her new baby.
SCHNEIDER This is a mother that has immediately taken this
infant up and will accept this infant and provide a very nurturing
climate. She's got the baby's head positioned so that the
baby's head is close to the nipple for, for nursing. Cradling
it. Doing all the right things. A good mom.
Two months later. Adopted baby and foster mother are getting
alone fine. But is there any change in the baby? Has his mother
somehow taught him her more relaxed approach to life? It seems
she has. Now he's showing all the signs of being a bold young
monkey, happy to play on his own. Not what you'd expect from
his nervous reactive behavior as a newborn. Even more convincing
evidence that the foster mother has changed the baby's behavior
comes from this exploration test being set up by Kathlyn Rasmussen.
The baby's living group will be enticed from its familiar
cage with a trail of food. This new situation makes them all
a little nervous. For the adopted baby, it'll be the first
trip out of the cage. That's especially stressful. Still,
bananas are a powerful inducement, so they head down the tunnel.
Throughout this high stress time, the baby has been clinging
firmly to his foster mother. Suddenly there's a squabble,
prompting the whole group to scramble back to the security
of the cage. But jut a few minutes later, the bananas reassert
their power, and amazingly enough, the adopted baby is striding
out boldly on his own. It's too much, even for his relaxed
foster mother, so she tries to hold him back. But he's having
none of it. It's a typical bold behavior patter. Transformation
from timid newborn seems complete.
SUOMI With their foster mothers' backing, these patterns seem
to hold as they grow older. So that, even though they may
have a genetic risk for being shy or timid, they've learned
how to cope with the challenges that they encounter larger
through interactions with their nurturing foster mother.
Four months later we're back with the development tests, with
the same baby who started life as a nervous-reactive newborn,
and then calmed down with a relaxed foster mother. But now,
separated from his foster mother for the tests, he's not at
SCHNEIDER This is an infant who has been with the foster mother,
who is being nurturing, and he has done quite well with his
foster mother. Now he is under conditions that challenge and
he has reverted back to being a very highly reactive individual.
He's upset. He's distraught. He's vocalizing.
In extreme situations, the baby's genes win out. He was born
nervous and reactive, and that'll always make it harder for
his type to cope with a tough world.
SUOMI Highly reactive infants that grow up in benign environments
won't have any problems at all. Highly reactive infants that
grow in, up in environments full of stress and challenge,
will need help if they want to make it through in a successful
FLOWERS What Steve Suomi's research suggests is that a parent's
behavior toward their child has a real effect--within limits--on
that child's attitude about life. Does that mean that we want
to take all of our very nervous and timid human babies and
pair them up with carefully chosen, highly nurturing foster
parents? Of course not. The thing that differentiate humans
from rhesus monkeys is that we are not stuck in our behavior
patterns. We can actually change if we want to. And I think
the research shows something very simple: That ideal parents
are always there when you need them.
IN A BOX
A research vessel heads out into Chesapeake Bay. At the wheel,
Walter Adey, who's devoted his life to a single question:
how does nature work? Right here at least, the answer is,
not very well.
ADEY It's going to take a great effort over many years to
stabilize the Bay. And an even greater effort to bring it
back to, to good condition.
Adey's team is going fishing. MAN We're going to bring it
over the port side.
But not for the Bay's famous oysters or striped bass so sadly
depleted nowadays. MAN Grab it along here. We can't see how
far we can get.
NARRATION What they're looking for, most people would think
of as just a water weed.
MAN Well here's a ...
But to Adey and Matt Finn, it's a vital part of the Chesapeake,
a basic building block of the Bay's ecosystem. Here's another
building block, almost literally.
ADEY The idea is to prevail without, without wrecking the
How would you like to take a piece of marshland back from
the shore? Water weeds and mud. That's what Walter Adey collects.
Is he crazy? No, he's an enthusiast. He brings his trophies
here to the basement of the Smithsonian in Washington where
he reassembles them into a miniature Chesapeake Bay. Walter
Adey builds model ecosystems.
ADEY This little tube here is the river actually flowing into
our relatively small model. And it's sized such that that
flow is about equivalent for the volume of this system for
the river flow into the Bay.
NARRATION Back out on the Bay, it's time for a little night
fishing, for the creatures that rise to the surface during
darkness. The collecting tube comes in filled with many different
kinds, from a few tiny shrimp a quarter-inch long, to thousands
of microscopic plankton that just turn the water a little
cloudy. They'll all go back to the basement--some as fish
MAN Go back ....
Now Adey's team has got to find the fish that'll eat the plankton.
And here they are--mummychogs, minnows, silversides. They're
too small to be of interest to any fisherman, but the Bay's
full of them. They're yet another vital part of the ecosystem.
The model has eight tanks with different levels of salt in
the water. Like going down the Bay from river to ocean. This
is the fully salt water tank where the waves wash over a plant
and animal community that's typical of the lowest reaches
of the Bay. Some creatures can choose where to settle in the
model. They seek out the same habitat they'd use in the wild.
Others are less mobile, but they'll thrive only in the section
where they like the conditions. This turtle sticks to fresh
water. Of course, it rains in the Chesapeake. That has to
be reproduced, for the right length of time. So do the wind,
the waves, seasonal temperatures, even varying day lengths
throughout the year. And inside these boxes there's a special
feature. Clear plastic gates open up connections between the
tanks. It allows water to flow through the system, like in
the real Bay. But Walter Adey has discovered it's not just
water that moves around--living things do too. He's traced
the mummychogs moving through the tanks in response to seasonal
changes in salinity. Nature is doing its thing--right here
in the basement.
ADEY It operates itself. It doesn't really require us at all.
In fact, as you might guess, when you think of the ill effects
we are having on so much of our environment, it's really much
better left alone to do its own thing.
This is not Walter Adey's basement. We're 1200 miles further
south in Florida's Everglades. Like the Chesapeake, it's a
unique collection of plants and animals coexisting in a complex
ecosystem. From the familiar cattails to the birds, fishes,
plankton, different bacteria in the marsh mud, there may be
more than a thousand life forms here, although nobody knows
for sure. On the fringes of the Everglades are mangroves perfectly
adapted to the salty waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Inland,
the water gets fresher, the plants and animals are different.
It's these kinds of varying conditions that in nature always
sustain an abundance of species. That's what fascinates Walter
Adey. He's made the Everglades another model ecosystem. It
may be pouring in these Everglades, but outside it's a beautiful
day at this Smithsonian greenhouse. The Everglades model begins
like the Chesapeake, with ocean waves lapping up on the beach.
But it soon becomes much more elaborate. It's really a portrait
of southern Florida in miniature.
ADEY Now we move into the mangrove areas. And here we have
a winding tidal channel and first red mangroves. Very dense
communities of red mangroves. The fish populations begin to
shift from the coastal fish into the estuarine fish, the waters
take on a rather reddish color as we get the tannins that
are washed off of the freshwater Everglades.
The model moves on through a series of zones of gradually
changing vegetation. A fifty-mile trip in a hundred feet.
And then, suddenly, there's a barrier--Florida's Tamiami Highway.
ADEY Once we cross over the trail, over the highway, then
we're into full freshwater and all of the primary characteristics
that we normally think of as being the Florida Everglades--small
pools, freshwater pools, rich in water hyacinths, water soldier.
Very large cattails, and freshwater streams that are just
disappearing to the north into the prairie and hammock communities
of South Florida.
Adey's models are a kind of shorthand: They contain fewer
species than the real world. But they can serve a vital function.
ADEY These models are so compact that it's very easy to demonstrate
to people how an ecosystem works, what creates problems for
the ecosystem, and how it's possible to actually live with
it and do what we want to do as humans while the system continues
Here in Washington you can watch democracy in action, or see
great paintings. But soon Walter Adey will show us how the
world works. His next project? A new Chesapeake model right
here on the Mall, for all to see.
ADEY In terms of living with our global environment, everybody,
every person, or most every person, needs to know what an
ecosystem is, how it functions, and what the ways are in which
the public affects these ecosystems. Otherwise we'd have no
hope of making real change.
FLOWERS Oh, where did those fifteen minutes go? When you're
sailing single-handed, you've got to do everything yourself.
You've got to handle the boat, keep a lookout, navigate, cook.
How can you do it? One thing that practically all lone long-distance
sailors do is cut way back on their sleep. And the best way
to do that seems to be take this precious sleep time and spread
it out into little catnaps. That's what most successful ocean
racers do. So when you know you can only get a little sleep,
you break it up into tiny pieces. Does that make sense? Now
there's a sleep study that aims to figure that out.
Meet Francesco Jost. He's Swiss, he's an artist--and he's
a guinea pig. For the next seven weeks he's going to try sleeping
for just six half-hour naps per day. Why would he want to
JOST It's difficult to explain. I want to be more productive.
And do a job in greater depth. Many times when I produce a
painting, I don't really have a lot of time to reflect. Here
I will have a lot of time to reflect.
Running the experiment at a Boston sleep research institute
will be Claudio Stampi. Of course, sleep researchers have
to sleep, too, so Francesco's brain waves will be recorded
24 hours a day.
STAMPI Buona notte. Chiao.
The first thing to do is measure Francesco's brain waves during
a normal 8-hour night's sleep to compare with what happens
when he goes on the reduced schedule. Like most people, Francesco
sleeps in cycles. First light sleep with small, rapid brain
waves. Then deep or slow wave sleep takes over. And finally
we reach "rapid eye movement" or REM sleep when we usually
dream. Cycles are repeated through the night, each lasting
at least 90 minutes. So one key question is: What type of
sleep will Francesco's body choose if he never sleeps longer
than 30 minutes?
STAMPI Probably what will happen is that the body will automatically
prefer to concentrate on the sleep stages or the sleep parts
that are most important and most necessary. And maybe by this
experiment we will be able to select and filter out what are
the physiological aspects of sleep that are more necessary.
As the 49-day experiment gets under way, Francesco takes advantage
of the extra work time. By Day 12 he's getting used to the
schedule: Three and a half hours work, a half hour sleep.
Throughout each day he has to record in his computer how he
thinks he's doing. So far, everything is on the plus side:
He can concentrate, he feels alert. There are regular performance
tests too. Here he has to subtract 9 from 691. The right answer
is 682. Now it's 8 from 682. Should be 674. Some stakes, but
overall he's doing almost as well as before the experiment
STAMPI I was surprised myself to see that the decreasing performance
was so modest. Francesco was able to adapt to this schedule
reasonably well in terms of performance.
But what about his type of sleep? Is he getting the three
different kinds? He's been asked to note down his dreams and
he's still doing so. So he's probably getting REM Sleep, the
type that goes with dreams, but normally comes at the end
of a 90-minute cycle. Claudio searches Francesco's brain wave
records for the telltale signs of REM sleep. And he finds
them. On the top the fast brain waves typical of REM sleep.
In the middle the sudden busts of rapid eye movements. And
below the characteristic low muscle activity. Francesco's
REM sleep is normal. What's not normal is how quickly it starts.
STAMPI A few minutes after sleep onset, REM sleep starts.
Whereas, in a normal night's sleep, the REM takes at least
90 minutes, two hours sometimes, or maybe sometimes even three
hours to appear initially. So the whole architecture of sleep
Now look at the next nap Francesco took after the REM sleep
one. It's mostly deep sleep, characterized by these big slow
brain waves. Francesco seems to be making an extraordinary
adaptation to get the three different sleep types. Although
his sleep quantity has been cut by more than half, the composition
STAMPI Percentages of sleep stages in the nightly schedule
are very similar to baseline normal night's sleep percentages,
which suggests that all sleep stages may be equally important
in the function of sleep.
It's now Day 33 of the experiment. Francesco is spending a
week at the beach. Both mood and performance are slightly
below normal--but they're stable. This really seems to be
I am really surprised that I can live like this, that I can
adjust to this new schedule without having more difficulties
The experiment's now two-thirds done, and Claudio springs
STAMPI Hello Francesco, how are you?
I am fine.
For one night only, Francesco's allowed to sleep all he wants.
Claudio wants to know if a sudden sleep bonus can affect performance,
but he'd kept quiet about the idea so as not to affect Francesco's
mood during the first thirty days. Francesco sleeps for ten
hours. But once he's back on his reduced schedule, his mood
and performance improve dramatically--and stay that way--even
exceeding his pre-experiment scores! Claudio isn't sure why
Francesco benefited so much, but he thinks sleep bonuses could
have practical applications.
STAMPI This suggests that if a person is under an emergency,
and the emergency is very prolonged and has the possibility
of taking one day off and sleeping as much as a person wants,
this will be positive, would give good results. And then,
after that the person can start again a multiple-napping schedule,
more refreshed than he was before.
Day 48. Just one day to go. During the last week Francesco's
been living at the sleep lab. He's under constant observation
because experiments running this long are extremely rare.
Anything might happen. But the real problem is nothing's happening.
He often finds it a little tough to, well...really get moving
after his half-hour nap periods.
STAMPI Francesco, it is time to wake up. No signs. Still sleeping.
Francesco's girlfriend Magda has a turn.
STAMPI He has been two months sleeping only three hours per
day so he has built a tremendous sleep pressure. Now his sleep
pressure manifests mostly in a difficulty to wake up rather
than sleepiness when he's awake.
So although Francesco's been showing sleep pressure for some
time, once he wakes up, he does just fine on his test scores.
Right now, though, it looks like he'll be scoring a zero.
Magda gets him to at least sit at the computer--but somehow
the questions just don't make sense. And finally, he figures,
if they really want me to stick with the computer, there's
only one way to do it. It took half an hour but he's finally
awake, and amazingly enough his test scores are right on.
He answers "No" to the question "Do you feel tired?" and "Yes,"
he can concentrate. After nearly two months with only three
hours sleep a day, it's an extraordinary performance. Could
anybody do it?
STAMPI Francesco's a normal person, a normal young person,
and he's very representative, if you wish, of the human species,
adult human species. So it is possible to suspect that individuals
like Francesco would be able to adapt to this, relatively
easily, to this multiple napping pattern.
Multiple naps seem to work, although, left to itself, the
body might prevent their use through sleep pressure. They'll
pursue this and other questions at the lab. Francesco will
be coming back as a subject, although, considering his feelings
right now, it's a little hard to see why!
I am free! I am happy that I won't have to take any more tests.
And I will be able to go out now and live normally. I am ready
for a little vacation.
FLOWERS Some cheese. A few green peppers. And finally, the
anchovies. Making pizza. It's the kind of thing that really
needs a human touch. Right? Well maybe not for much longer.
Take a look at this.
Sandy Blatt is going out for pizza. But that's not so easy.
But that's not so easy. He was paralyzed in an accident ten
years ago, and he's here today not to order a pizza, but to
make one himself. At Fox's pizza in Pittsburgh, Sandy is helping
to unveil Pizzabot, a system that could help re-employ the
disabled. At its heart is a voice-activated robot arm, programmed
to do the manual work. It's a concept Sandy thinks has real
BLATT I'm disabled from the neck down. I'm not disabled from
the neck up. So I have the mental capacities I have, wherewithal
to go back to work. The technology allows me to use that mental
ability and get the assistance from what I call my extended
arms, my extended hands.
The project started six months ago at Carnegie Mellon University,
with the help of Sandy and automation expert K.G. Englehardt.
Their aim--take this off-the-shelf robot arm normally used
in factories and create a low-cost, functioning prototype.
BLATT It's going to be the workhorse. We're going to have
it in the front window just like the old pizza shops where
the guys stood in the front window and flipped the pizza up
in the air, although we haven't quite configured how to do
Instead, they start out with pre-packaged dough. The first
trick, spread the sauce on the crust. They start out with
a low-tech ladle. Cutting edge it's not. But that's the point.
The simpler the tools, the lower the cost. Next, the spices.
Even a simple shaking motion isn't easy to duplicate. Manipulating
the toppings is the big job. The human hand makes it look
easy, but it's actually a complex maneuver.
ENGLEHARDT Now this is the part that is really, really giving
you some trouble. We're shaking cheese on here. We will show
And trying to sprinkle cheese is a nightmare.
ENGLEHARDT Again, you know, you see it, this is not going
to work. You are just going to just dump it all on one spot,
I'm afraid, and not be able to ...
BLATT It's not running it fast enough and the cheese is never
going to come out consistently.
A test, fully loaded, reveals another problem. The weight
of cheese affects the grip of the jaws.
BLATT I'm to come back and dump most of it on the way over.
And it's going to miss.
ENGLEHARDT That's exactly the problem, right there.
Solving these kinds of problems is a question of reprogramming
and lots of it. Firm up the grip, adjust positions, change
speeds. Try it out. Re-adjust positions, and so on.
ENGLEHARDT It needs to go all the way over.
BLATT That's it.
ENGLEHARDT That's it! Perfect. The angle of the approach is
different. See, it picks it up here and it holds it carefully.
And now you're getting a better...
The robot system has got to succeed every time.
ENGLEHARDT We've got to work towards reliability, that is,
it's got to be able to do the chores consistently that we
detailed for it to do. One of the most important chores is
of course the manipulation task as we've been looking at today.
The other progress that we need to make is the voice interface
portion that really allows hands-off interfacing with the
Here, "hands off" means ordering just by talking. Using computerized
voice recognition, the robot can be trained to respond to
BLATT And mushrooms. Onions.
And it talks back too. Just to confirm the order.
BLATT Skip the onions.
Hold the onions?
BLATT That's right. Go ahead. That's good. That's it.
Pizza with mushrooms, sausage.
A month has passed. They are trying the arm with real ingredients.
Surprisingly, getting a machine to follow human speech is
not as hard a mastering simple physical motions. To spread
the sauce, a flat scraper is being tested. Time to reprogram.
ENGLEHARDT Well now, see, that works too All right, now ....
The scraper could work, but an extra tool really complicates
the process. They go back to the ladle, and try using it for
double-duty--ladle and spreader. Getting the cheese on evenly
is still a problem.
ENGLEHARDT It works but not well.
What K.G. is after is a motion that mimics how human fingers
sift cheese. How about this tool?
ENGLEHARDT It's almost like it's straining.
Somewhere between motion and sticky cheese, it's not working
out. It's just weeks to go to the premier, and still nothing
seems to work perfectly.
BLATT Bring that down a little lower.
Everything turns out to be just a bit more complicated than
at first sight.
ENGLEHARDT Now this is a problem! Ah, no!
Demonstration day. With the prototype set up for the day in
the local shop, Sandy's ready to make some pizza. But first,
he reminds the computer what his voice sounds like.
BLATT Hamburger. Hamburger. Hamburger Make Medium. Always.
Sausage. Make it.
You have ordered a medium pizza with sausage.
First pizza, coming up. The ladle's been lengthened into a
scoop, and its edge makes a pretty good spreader. The scoop's
a multi-purpose tool. For the sticky cheese, there's a delicate
shaking motion. The only other tool they need is a spice shaker.
They've even got a handle on the rather unwieldy olives. Finally,
for this order, a heavy load of sausage bits. One misstep
here could ruin the pie. Not perfect, but not bad. Now, it's
into the oven. Sorry, they'll work on that later. It looks
like a winner, and though this is just a trial run, the first
pizza robot franchise could open its doors within a year.
ENGLEHARDT Here is your first robot pizza in the world.
For the design team, it's been an important first step in
lending a hand where it's needed.
BLATT The bottom line is being able to put anybody to work
who wants to go to work. Actually the bottom line is the fact
that the pizza tastes great.
FLOWERS Like some of my research, the pizza robot involves
high-tech devices applied to human rehabilitation. And therefore,
it triggers questions about cost, especially since health
care resources are so limited. The thing I like about the
robot pizza idea is that it avoids that resource question
entirely, because it's meant to be a commercial venture. If
they can make it work, everybody wins-the company makes money,
we get pizzas, and Sandy gets a job. hope they are outrageously
Hey Woodie. A large pepperoni, no anchovies.
FLOWERS Coming up! That's all for this edition of Scientific
American Frontiers. See you next time.