Why A’s reluctance to bring back Jonathan Lucroy isn’t a bad thing

first_imgLAS VEGAS — Bringing back Jonathan Lucroy would make a lot of sense for the A’s, but that may not be the direction general manager David Forst is heading.According to The Chronicle, the A’s and Lucroy remain at odds in contract negotiations. Both parties are open to a one-year deal, but the A’s are reportedly offering under $5 million, which falls below the number Lucroy is seeking. The chances of Lucroy returning took another hit Tuesday afternoon after the A’s offseason of what is expected …last_img

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Robot may be “game changer” for crop growers, breeders

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest A semiautonomous robot may soon be roaming agricultural fields gathering and transmitting real-time data about the growth and development of crops, information that crop breeders — and eventually farmers — can use to identify the genetic traits in plants likely to produce the greatest yields.A team of scientists from the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology at the University of Illinois is developing the robot in partnership with researchers from Cornell University and Signetron Inc.Inspired by the autonomous rovers used to search collapsed buildings and other dangerous environments, the agricultural robot is propelled on continuous tracks, or miniature tank treads, which enable it to navigate through dry or muddy fields. Researchers guide it using GPS and a laptop computer.Traveling between the crop rows, the robot uses hyperspectral, high-definition and thermal cameras, weather monitors and pulsed laser scanners to capture phenotypic information — such as the stem diameter, height and leaf area of each plant — and assess environmental conditions, such as the temperature and moisture content of the soil.The robot stores the data in its onboard computer and transmits it in real time to the grower’s computer. Scientists use the data to create a 3-D reconstruction of each plant, develop predictive models for the plant’s growth and development, and estimate the biomass yield for each plant and the entire plot.“Immediate access to the data is very important for crop breeders in the U.S.,” said Girish Chowdhary University of Illinois agricultural and biological engineering professor. “It’s very important for them to see and visualize the data. If the data are available to the breeder quickly, then they can make actionable decisions” that enhance production.Although the researchers currently are using the robot to assess fields of energy sorghum, a crop used in biofuel production, they say the robot would perform equally well with other tall-growing row crops such as corn and wheat, and possibly with soybeans before the plant canopy closes.The robot is a “game changer” for both crop scientists and farmers, automating the labor-intensive phenotyping processes of farming and crop development, said Stephen P. Long, the director of the project and the Gutgsell Endowed University Professor of Crop Sciences and Plant Biology at Illinois.“For producers, it’s going to accelerate the rate at which we can improve the genetic material. We can now select material much more rapidly and select many more plants as well, so we can eventually deliver to the farmer a far more productive bioenergy crop,” Long said.“One of the big advances of the last few years is that we can now determine the complete DNA blueprint of each plant. But how do we use that? What we need is to be able to describe a plant as it grows. You could do that perhaps with an army of people, but now the robot can do all of that for you. We can combine the phenotypic information about how the plant’s performing with the genetic blueprint and identify the combination of genes we need to get the best plant possible,” Long said.Chowdhary, whose research focus is field robotics, is modifying the robot’s current design to reduce its width so it can maneuver more easily between crop rows. He also plans to install a sensor system for detecting and avoiding obstacles.To reduce the production costs associated with the robot’s current metal and track construction, Chowdhary’s team is exploring the feasibility of producing some of the components via 3-D printing.“We are targeting a cost to the breeder of $5,000 to $10,000, which means we will have to get the manufacturing cost significantly below that,” Chowdhary said. “An agricultural robot that costs just $5,000 is a totally new concept. Agricultural equipment today typically costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. Bringing the cost of our robot below $5,000 will be in itself a significant achievement for our team.”Unlike the robots used in factories, agricultural robots must be weather resistant, Chowdary said. The underlying technologies — the algorithms, the mechanical design and the human-robot interaction devices that provide robustness — are useful in many other industries, including defense, surveillance and scientific exploration.The team expects to have a prototype built within two years and begin manufacturing thereafter, with the goal of having the robot on the market by 2021.The robot project is funded with a $3.1 million grant from the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy’s Transportation Energy Resources from Renewable Agriculture program, a unit within the U.S. Dept. of Energy.last_img read more

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The Art of the Freeze Frame

first_imgLearn how to use the simple effect of the freeze frame to hold your image on screen and in the minds of your viewer.Top Image: The Wolf of Wall Street via Paramount PicturesWhat Is a Freeze Frame?A freeze frame halts the perceived movement in your image, effectively converting it to a still shot reminiscent of a photograph. Freeze frames are self-reflexive, so they call attention to the filmmaking process and to the filmmaker, but they are invaluable in adding emphasis, covering up for lack of footage, or creating a note of ambiguity.Thelma and Louise via MGMIn the days of shooting with film, the selected shot was optically reprinted to achieve the effect. With digital technologies, freezing your image has become as easy as tapping a few keys — so the real question becomes how and when should you use the freeze frame?Ways to Use ItFreeze frames can be used at the beginning and throughout your movie. It’s all a matter of setting the stylistic tone of your work. For example, you may want to give your title card a little extra punch as Soderbergh did in his 1998 film, Out of Sight (via Universal).Soderbergh continues his playful use of the freeze frame during the opening act of Out of Sight as a transitional device and as a way to introduce a new character (another great place to use freeze frames early in a film, especially if you are running voice over on your soundtrack). In his film, Election, Alexander Payne uses freeze frames during his character introductions for a comedic effect.Election via ParamountMartin Scorsese uses the freeze frame to great effect in films like Goodfellas, The Departed, and The Aviator, as you can see in this video compilation of Scorsese’s editing techniques. Justin Morrow includes freeze frames as one of Martin Scorsese’s influential editing techniques in this article.Freeze Frame as an EndingIt seems that the most common —and memorable — use of the freeze frame is at the end of films. Employed in this manner, the freeze frame can be a way to avoid showing gruesome details of a character’s demise and instead leave your viewers with a note of romance and ambiguity. Though many of these endings are the stuff of legend, this is your official spoiler alert.Instead of seeing the titular characters from Thelma and Louise (via MGM), plummet to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, we are left with their car hanging in mid-air, seemingly defying gravity as the two characters hang above a chasm representative of their situation both as outlaws and as rebellious women in a male-dominated world.Another famous use of the freeze frame as a substitute for a bloody finale can be found in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (via 20th Century Fox). When the two main characters are trapped and outgunned, they confront their fate head on.The freeze frame can present an opportunity to halt — and highlight — the atrocity of violence, as seen in the final frame of Gallipoli (1981). The splotch of blood on the main character’s chest echoes a shot early in the film when the same character races through the red ribbon of a finish line.Gallipoli via ParamountOne of the most famous freeze frame endings occurs in François Truffaut’s French New Wave classic, The 400 Blows. Although the final freeze frame does not suggest a violent death for the main character, Antoine Doinel, the image creates uncertainty, ambiguity, and concern for the life of Antoine.The 400 Blows via mk2 It’s not uncommon to use a freeze frame of the main character as a backdrop for conveying story information that happens after the plot of the film. Animal House (1978) uses this technique to a comic end, but the approach can have a more serious tone, as evidenced by the final freeze frame in Bloodsport (1988).Bloodsport via CannonWhile we’re considering Jean-Claude Van Damme’s involvement in the freeze frame ending, let’s not forget this classic pose from Street Fighter (1994).Street Fighter via ColumbiaThe freeze frame isn’t immune to parody, as made evident in the ending of Police Squad! (via Paramount and ABC).The freeze frame ending gives a moment of pause and consideration for your audience. Everything that preceded the final, frozen instant can take on additional dramatic weight and helps in the transformation of a seemingly ordinary film ending into a mythic one.Death Proof via The Weinstein CompanyWhat are some of your favorite freeze-frame moments? Please share in the comments below.last_img read more

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