Robot combat involving a flame-enabled robot (left) and a "shredder" robot (right).
Robot combat involving a flame-enabled robot (left) and a "shredder" robot (right).

Killer Bots! with BattleBots’ Ray Billings

Kai Schreiber, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Free Audio
  • Ad-Free Audio

This episode is audio-only

About This Episode

Programmed…to kill! On this episode, Neil deGrasse Tyson and co-hosts Chuck Nice and Gary O’Reilly sit down with BattleBots’ Ray Billings to discuss combat robots, his killer robot Tombstone, and how to create robotics for competition. 

How do you build a winning robot? What sort of physics thinking goes into designing an effective robot? We break down Ray’s ideation of his champion robot and what makes its horizontal spinner so destructive. Is a horizontal spinner more effective than a vertical spinner? Learn about potential energy and kinetic energy as we explore the interactions of battling robots. What is a duty cycle? Are some types of weapons more effective than others? 

How much does the driver impact the outcome of the fight? How do you manage weak spots in your designs? Are there some designs that will never be successful in the arena? We discuss the give and take in modifying the robots for their competitors. How do you adapt against a robot designed specifically to defeat you? We discuss the role of autonomous features on combat bots and if they really help. Are there different strategies for different robot weight divisions?

How can combat robots be used to educate? Discover how robots can help unlock creativity and a love for engineering in young and old minds alike. Are there any practical applications for the methods used in combat robotics? Use in the army? Has Ray had any men in black come to take Tombstone? Will we have wars with only robots? Are there robots that don’t kill and only disarm? All that, plus, we explore robots on Mars and if there should be a Mars Rover battle royale. 

Thanks to our Patrons Angie, Bruno Faria, EMILY RIVERA, Jocelyn Sailas, Kellie J. LeDonne, Ben Hansen, and Brooks Dart for supporting us this week.

NOTE: StarTalk+ Patrons can watch or listen to this entire episode commercial-free.

About the prints that flank Neil in this video:
“Black Swan” & “White Swan” limited edition serigraph prints by Coast Salish artist Jane Kwatleematt Marston. For more information about this artist and her work, visit Inuit Gallery of Vancouver.

In This Episode

Get the most out of StarTalk!

Ad-Free Audio Downloads
Ad-Free Video Episodes
Stickers & Mugs
Live Streams with Neil
Priority Cosmic Queries
Early-Access Videos
Learn the Meaning of Life
...and much more

Episode Topics