Category Archives: Futurology

Futurology ~ Dark Photon, space Atomic Clock, Quantum silicone, AI pigs, lab meat, concussion test, free transport, new seafood, human skulls


Calved iceberg A-68, revealing the extent of its size (it’s over 4x bigger than London). The iceberg is about 192m thick, of which 30m , or about 10 storeys, rests above the surface (Image NASA/John Sonntag via Gizmodo)

Dark Photon portal to the Dark Universe — It appears the universe is full of dark matter – around six times more of it than there is regular matter. It has obvious visible effects, such as the way it bends light from distant galaxies. Despite dedicated searches, no signs of a dark matter particle explaining these effects have turned up.
Perhaps instead physicists will be able to find some dark force, a portal into the dark world. Such a ‘dark photon’ would be dark matter’s equivalent of a photon, in the way that dark matter particles interact with one another. Scientists are searching for such a particle. It hasn’t turned up yet, based on new results from the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva Switzerland. But the search isn’t over – and a lot of physicists are really excited about it.
~ We all mutter ‘matter matters’.

Atomic Clock for space — The so-called Deep Space Atomic Clock (DSAC) is far smaller than Earth-bound atomic clocks, yet far more precise than the handful of other space-bound atomic clocks, and it’s more resilient against the stresses of space travel than any clock ever made. According to a NASA statement, it’s expected to lose no more than 2 nanoseconds (2 billionths of a second) over the course of a day. That comes to about 7 millionths of a second over the course of a decade. n an email to Live Science, Andrew Good, a Jet Propulsion Laboratory representative, said the first DSAC will hitch a ride on the second Falcon Heavy launch, scheduled for June.
~ Seems like a long way to go to tell the time, though. 

Chip-based Quantum Computer passes test — Researchers from two teams now working with Intel have reported advances in a new quantum computing architecture, called spin qubits, in a pair of papers out today. They’re obviously not the full-purpose quantum computers of the future. But they’ve got a major selling point over other quantum computing designs. The qubits have been made in silicon chips, similar to what’s used in classical computer processes.
~ Thus offering the possibility of scaling up fairly rapidly.

Artificial Intelligence and Chinese pigs — Alibaba’s Cloud Unit has signed an agreement on with the Tequ Group, a Chinese food-and-agriculture conglomerate that raises about 10 million pigs each year, to deploy facial and voice recognition on Tequ’s pig farms. The company will offer software to Tequ that it will deploy on its farms with its own hardware. Using image recognition, the software will identify each pig based on a mark placed on its body, to correspond with a file for each pig in a database which records and tracks characteristics such as the pig’s breed type, age, and weight.
~ All the way to your plate? But this may all be in vain, for …

Lab-Grown meat is inevitable — That’s in a Wired story that’s paywalled, though.

Concussion blood test — The US Food and Drug Administration has approved a long-awaited blood test to detect concussions in people and more quickly identify those with possible brain injuries.
The test, called the Banyan Brain Trauma Indicator, is also expected to reduce the number of people exposed to radiation through CT scans, or computed tomography scans, that detect brain tissue damage or intracranial lesions. If the blood test is adopted widely, it could eliminate the need for CT scans in at least a third of those with suspected brain injuries, the agency predicted.
~ Still not making rugby any more attractive. 

Germany considers free public transport to combat air pollution — Car nation Germany has surprised neighbours with a radical proposal to reduce road traffic and air pollution by making public transport free, as Berlin scrambles to meet EU air pollution targets and avoid big fines.
The move comes just over two years after Volkswagen’s devastating ‘dieselgate’ emissions cheating scandal unleashed a wave of anger at the auto industry, a keystone of German prosperity.
~ Good luck with the pollution generated by your neighbours, then. 

Massive iceberg split reveals mysterious seafloor — An international team of scientists is about to embark on a mission to explore the newly exposed marine ecosystem underneath – one that’s been hidden for over 100,000 years.
Iceberg A-68, as it’s called, calved from Antarctica’s Larsen C Ice Shelf on 12 July 2017. Weighing about a trillion tonnes and featuring a surface area of 5800 square kilometres, the iceberg is about the size of Delaware, or about four times bigger than London, England. It’s been drifting away from the area for months now, slowly disintegrating into smaller and smaller bits (and spawning treacherous many icebergs in the process). For thousands of years, this chunk of ice rested above the seafloor, but with it gone, scientists are eager to explore the mysterious world underneath.
~ I predict it will be wet and cold. (It’s OK, don’t thank me.)

Swedish researchers found 8000-year-old mounted skulls — Researchers in Sweden have uncovered evidence of a behaviour never seen before in ancient hunter-gatherers: the mounting of decapitated heads onto stakes. The grim discovery challenges our understanding of European Mesolithic culture and how these early humans handled their dead.
Displaying decapitated heads on wooden stakes is something you might expect from the Middle Ages, but as a new paper published in the journal Antiquity shows, it’s a practice that goes back much further in time. The discovery is the first evidence of this behaviour among Mesolithic hunter-gatherers, who had not so far been known for dramatic displays of this sort. The researchers who found the skulls are at a loss to explain why these ancient Europeans would have mounted them on posts, but the reason may not be as sinister as it appears.
~ I suspect it was still hard to get a head in those days. 

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Futurology ~ Old star and space, pocket DNA, lighten for climate, meat processor lab meat, rewriting ancient history


Australian rocks are forcing a rethink of Earth’s origins

Oldest Milky Way star — A team of Spanish scientists spotted the star J0815+4729 with a pair of telescopes and determined its age based on the amount of heavier elements it contained. The star was born perhaps 300 million years after the Big Bang, or 13.5 billion years ago – that makes it one of the oldest ever spotted.
~ Our Sun, by comparison, is a youthful 4.6 billion years old.

Lots of planets — Researchers at the University of Oklahoma looking at a galaxy 3.8 billion light years away spotted evidence of planets. More specifically, they think there should be at least 2000 objects, ranging from moon- to Jupiter-sized, per main-sequence star in the galaxy, based on how the galaxy’s gravity warped the objects behind it. This is not direct evidence, mind you; no one has spotted any actual planets.
~ But it’s evidence nonetheless.

Satellite comes back to life — A $US150 million NASA satellite which died from systems failure just five years after its launch has somehow reactivated and is still broadcasting. IMAGE was launched in 2000 and declared lost in 2005. It is still transmitting data beyond simple telemetry, indicating that some of its six onboard instruments may still be active. It’s possible the satellite turned back on during a period of time in which Earth’s orbit eclipsed its onboard solar panels, drained its batteries and forced a reset of IMAGE’s systems.
~ Reanimator …

Old NASA films saved by space enthusiast inform new parachute design — They contained the only surviving footage of the August 1972 qualification test for Viking’s parachute, the contraption responsible for safely decelerating the program’s landers through the Martian atmosphere. Because that atmosphere is 99% thinner than Earth’s, Viking’s engineers knew their spacecraft would be plummeting at supersonic speeds as they neared the planet’s surface. The engineers had thus built a novel parachute that could endure such punishing conditions: a 204-square-metre (2200-square-foot) expanse of white polyester with braided nylon suspension lines.
~ Cloth and rope is unpredictable at extremely high speeds in alien atmospheres. 

Pocket-sized DNA Reader — A few years back, a company called Oxford Nanopore announced it was developing a radically different way of sequencing DNA. Its approach involved taking single strands of the double helix and stuffing them through a protein pore. With a small bit of current flowing across the pore, the four bases of DNA each created a distinct (if tiny) change in the voltage as it passed through which could be used to read the DNA one base at a time as it wiggled through the pore. It’s still not perfect, but provides unique information.
~ Now they just need to update their software. 

White paint fights climate change — What do spraying sulphate aerosols into the atmosphere, fertilising the ocean with iron and building giant mirrors in space have in common? They are all large-scale climate engineering plans aimed at keeping our planet cool. They are also risky, have questionable effectiveness and are likely to alter climate systems in unexpected ways – they could make everything worse, instead of better.
Painting cities white, however, has just been proven to work. In research led by Sonia Seneviratne of ETH Zurich with researchers from UNSW, University of Tasmania, CSIRO and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in the US, modifications like lightening the colour of buildings, roads and other infrastructure in high population areas reduced temperatures by 2 to 3°C.
~ When we re-roofed, we chose a light colour advisedly. 

World’s second largest meat processor invests in lab-grown meat — Tyson Foods, the world’s second largest processor and marketer of chicken, beef, and pork, announced it has invested in Silicon Valley startup Memphis Meats, a company that makes lab-grown meat using animal cells. The investment amount was not disclosed, but it follows a slew of other high-profile backers including Cargill Inc, Bill Gates and Richard Branson.
~ It amuses me that people say ‘yuck’ to this and then you see all the processed foods in their cupboards. 

Jawbone recites human migration — Archaeologists in Israel have uncovered the partial jawbone from what appears to be a modern human. Dated to between 175,000 to 200,000 years old, the fossil is 50,000 years older than any other human fossil found in the region, suggesting humans left Africa far earlier than previously thought.
The fossil was found in Israel’s Misilya Cave, one of several prehistoric cave sites on Mount Carmel. Multiple dating techniques put its age at between 175,000 to 200,000 years old: the fossil resets the date for when modern humans (Homo sapiens) first left Africa, leaving their continent of origin for the Middle East.

3.5 Billion-year-old fossils challenge ideas about earth’s start — In the arid, sun-soaked northwest corner of Australia, along the Tropic of Capricorn, the oldest face of Earth is exposed to the sky. Drive through the northern outback for a while, south of Port Hedlund on the coast, and you will come upon hills softened by time. They are part of a region called the Pilbara Craton, which formed about 3.5 billion years ago, when Earth was in its youth. According to John Valley, a geochemist at the University of Wisconsin, the fossils imply that life diversified remarkably early after the planet’s tumultuous beginning.
~ The fossils add to a wave of discoveries that point to a new story of ancient Earth.

Futurology ~ Trappist, Einstein’s Sun, Titan, space pooh, Norway electric, antifungal, genes, holograms, Australia-USA


The piece of Australia around Georgetown once belonged to the North American landmass (Image from Apple Maps)

Trappist may have two Earth-likes — It’s been less than a year since astronomers detected seven planets around TRAPPIST-1, a remarkable star system located 39 light years from Earth. New research suggests life could take root on at least two of these planets, thanks to a fortuitous orbital quirk. But other scientists aren’t so sure, saying TRAPPIST-1 still has much going against it in terms of its ability to foster life.
~ I am a great fan of fortuitous orbital quirks.

Another Einstein theory proven: the sun is losing mass — Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun, has a history of helping us study gravity. Albert Einstein demonstrated that Newton’s laws of motion break down when dealing with very large masses. He created his theory of general relativity to account for this: gravity is a manifestation of the warping of spacetime caused by massive bodies such as the Sun. Mercury’s orbit shows this warping most clearly – and, indeed, before Einstein’s work, scientists were long puzzled by its strangeness, even attributing it to gravitational effects from a made-up planet called Vulcan. Now, a team of researchers in the US are using new measurements of Mercury’s orbit to learn more about the Sun – and more about Einstein’s theory itself.
~ The genius who keeps on giving. 

Titan adds a third Earth-like feature — Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, is remarkable in that it features a dense atmosphere and stable liquid at the surface. The only other place in the solar system with these particular characteristics is, you guessed it, Earth. Thanks to a pair of new studies, we can add a third trait to this list of shared characteristics: a global sea level.
~ Well, haha, Titan, ours is on the rise! What’s yours doing?

Space pooh food — A Penn State researcher team has shown it is possible to rapidly break down solid and liquid waste to grow food with a series of microbial reactors, while simultaneously minimising pathogen growth. They reported their findings in the journal Life Sciences in Space Research.
To test their idea, the researchers used an artificial solid and liquid waste that’s commonly used in waste management tests. They created an enclosed, cylindrical system, four feet long by four inches in diameter, in which select microbes came into contact with the waste. The microbes broke down waste using anaerobic digestion, a process similar to the way humans digest food. The team found that methane was readily produced during anaerobic digestion of human waste and could be used to grow a different microbe, Methylococcus capsulatus, which is used as animal feed today. The team concluded that such microbial growth could be used to produce a nutritious food for deep space flight
~ Every week, I swear, there’s another reason not to venture into space. 

Electric flights for Norway — Norway’s public operator of air transport plans to make all short-haul flights in the country entirely electric by 2040. State-owned Avinor, which operates most of Norway’s civil airports, is aiming to be the ‘first in the world’ to switch to electric air transport.
In a 2017 report, Avinor announced that in cooperation with the Norwegian Sports Aviation Association and major airlines, it had set up a development project for electric aircraft. Avinor said it had called for Norway to be established as a test arena and innovation center for the development of electric aircraft. Avinor intends to reduce aircraft greenhouse gas emissions in the short term by phasing in biofuels in the coming years, and then build on these reductions by phasing in electric planes.
~ Yesway! Electric at home paid for by exporting gas elsewhere. 

New antifungal provides hope in the fight against Superbugs —
Microscopic yeast has been wreaking havoc in hospitals around the world, creeping into catheters, ventilator tubes, and IV lines and causing deadly invasive infections. C. auris is particularly problematic because it loves hospitals, has developed resistance to a wide range of antifungals and once it infects a patient, doctors have limited treatment options.
But in a recent Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy study, researchers confirmed a new drug compound kills drug-resistant C. auris, both in the laboratory and in a mouse model that mimics human infection. The drug works through a novel mechanism: unlike other antifungals that poke holes in yeast cell membranes or inhibit sterol synthesis, the new drug blocks how necessary proteins attach to the yeast cell wall. This means C. auris yeast can’t grow properly and has a harder time forming drug-resistant communities that are a stubborn source of hospital outbreaks.
~ The drug is first in a new class of antifungals which could help stave off drug resistance.

Parent’s not-passed-on genes may still effect you — Children resemble their parents in health, wealth, and well-being. Is parent-child similarity in traits and behaviours due to nature (the genes that children inherit from their parents) or nurture (the environment that parents provide for their children)? Answering this enduring question can directly inform our efforts to reduce social inequality and disease burden. Kong et al used genetic data from trios of parents and offspring to address this question in an intriguing way. By measuring parents’ and children’s genes, they provide evidence that inherited family environments influence children’s educational success, a phenomenon termed genetic nurture.
~ Doesn’t explain my super clever kids, then!

Cheap holograms — Holograms are a mainstay of almost any science fiction film set in the not-too-distant future and beyond. But the capabilities of our real-life versions still fall drastically short. They generally require an extensive set-up, can only be seen correctly from certain angles and often require special viewing headgear. But new research published in Nature might represent one of the greater leaps forward to date: a way to create a three-dimensional, solid- and clean-looking image that can exist in the same space as other objects and even move.
~ Don’t tell me, it’s called An Actual Object?

1.7-billion-year-old chunk of north America found sticking to Australia — Geologists matching rocks from opposite sides of the globe have found that part of Australia was once attached to North America 1.7 billion years ago. Researchers from Curtin University in Australia examined rocks from the Georgetown region of northern Queensland. The rocks (sandstone sedimentary rocks that formed in a shallow sea) had signatures that were unknown in Australia but strongly resembled rocks in present-day Canada. The researchers, who described their findings online January 17th in the journal Geology, concluded the Georgetown area broke away from North America 1.7 billion years ago. Then, 100 million years later, this landmass collided with what is now northern Australia, at the Mount Isa region.
Nuna then broke apart some 300 million years later, with the Georgetown area stuck to Australia as the North American landmass drifted away.
~ Trump might build a wall around it and take it back. 

Futurology ~ Pulsar nav, Magnetohydrodynamic Drive, air power, cancer test, snow Jandals, 3D printed drugs, NZ burrowing bat, iridescent dino


We used to think of dinosaurs in beige …

Pulsars to navigate space — Last week, Keith Gendreau and a team of NASA researchers announced they had finally proven that pulsars can function as a cosmic positioning system. Gendreau and his team performed the demonstration quietly last November, when the Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer (a pulsar-measuring instrument the size of a washing machine, currently aboard the International Space Station) spent a weekend observing the electromagnetic emissions of five pulsars. With the help of an enhancement known as the Station Explorer for X-ray Timing and Navigation Technology (aka Sextant), Nicer was able to determine the station’s position in Earth’s orbit to within roughly three miles – while it was traveling in excess of 27,358kph (17,000mph).
~ Space is quite big, so not an unreasonable margin of error. 

The Magnetohydrodynamic Drive is real and you can build one — In the old movie The Hunt for Red October, the Russians built a so-called ‘caterpillar drive’ using hydro-magneto power instead of the traditional propeller. This new drive is way quieter than the traditional type, so quiet it could sneak up on the United States and blow it up. Here is the cool part: this magnetohydrodynamic drive, which turns water into a sort of rotor, is real. In fact, it’s pretty simple to build. All you really need is a battery, a magnet and some wires. Oh, also this will have to operate in salt water, so you might need some salt. Here is the basic setup.
~ Sure, the water gets pushed, but you can do it much better with a propeller.

Battery sucks power from the air — The Cota Forever Battery has the same size, form factor and power output of a traditional AA battery, but it can be inserted into a battery-powered device to instantly and easily make it compatible with Cota wireless power transmitters. Imagine never have to change the batteries in your TV remotes ever again, or not having to stay on top of countless IOT devices in your home that are constantly demanding a charge.
~ Yes, imagine all the strenuous effort this will save. An sucks power from the air? That’s how I’ve always thought about Coronation Street.

Blood test for cancer — The new test, developed at Johns Hopkins University, looks for signs of eight common types of cancer in just a blood sample and may prove inexpensive enough for doctors to give during a routine physical. Although the test isn’t commercially available yet, it will be used to screen 50,000 retirement-age women with no history of cancer as part of a $50 million, five-year study with the Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania, a spokesperson with the insurer said.
~ Gadzooks, let’s hope it works. 

Snow Jandals — Snowshoes have been around for 5700 years, but this year Boulder, Colorado–based Crescent Moon has made the world’s first all-foam version (left – click it for a bigger view). Velcro bindings keep your shoes strapped to a teardrop-­shaped platform made from two layers of ethylene-vinyl acetate, or EVA, the same stuff used to fashion flip-flops. The snowshoes might look low-tech, but the combination of cleats and tire-like treads provide ample traction, especially on hardpack trails.
~ No more sinking feeling.  

3D print your own drugs — Someday soon, you might be making your own medicines at home. That’s because researchers have tailored a 3D printer to synthesize pharmaceuticals and other chemicals from simple, widely available starting compounds fed into a series of water bottle-size reactors. The work, they say, could digitize chemistry, allowing users to synthesize almost any compound anywhere in the world.
~ Yeah, can’t see any problems emerging from that. Grand plan. 

New Zealand’s burrowing bat — All but three land mammal species living on New Zealand were brought by modern humans, beginning around 800 years ago – and all three of those native mammal species are bats. But a newly discovered bat fossil suggests there may be more species hiding in the isle’s ancient rock. A team of researchers from Australia, New Zealand and the US announced that they have discovered evidence of an extinct bat species called Vulcanops jennyworthyae. The bat itself is weird: it was big and probably burrowed in the ground. But it also reveals a stranger evolutionary history of mammals on the island.
~ The 20 million-year-old bat teeth were pretty large, suggesting the bat was omnivorous and weighed around 40 grams.

English fossil palace — Turns out building blocks of Buckingham Palace (and a whole bunch of other buildings around the world) are made of 200 million year old microbes. Oolitic limestone is almost completely made of millimetre-sized spheres of carbonate called ooids, made from concentric layers of mineralised microbes.
~ Apt, since it houses fossilised royalty. 

Dino-bird had iridescent plumage — Caihong juji, a tiny, Jurassic-era dinosaur that lived 161 million years ago in what is now China was feathered theropod with an iridescent, rainbow coloured ring of feathers around its neck.
A nearly complete skeleton of Caihong juji – a name that means “rainbow with the big crest” in Mandarin – was discovered by a farmer in China’s Hebei Province in 2014. Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin and Shenyang Normal University have been taking a close look at it, releasing their findings in Nature Communications. Palaeontologist Dongyu Hu, the lead author of the new study, says the newly discovered dinosaur contained a curious mix of ancient and modern features, including iridescent plumage seen in some living ʻbirds.
~ But scientists speculating on what that plumage may have been for is wildly speculative, imo. 

Futurology ~ Star factory, comet spin, Mars ice, blacker back, gold, Blackbeard’s reading, ancient tool trove


The blue is water … on Mars

Star factory — Our Milky Way galaxy isn’t alone in this corner of space — it’s orbited by a few smaller dwarf galaxies, including the Large Magellanic Cloud. Inside that cloud is 30 Doradus (or the Tarantula Nebula), a “starburst” where stars are formed at a much higher rate than the surrounding area. And 30 Doradus has too many massive stars.
~ Unless they are pumped-up faux wannabes like on those reality TV programs. 

Comet slows its spin — Scientists across the world observed comet 41P when it approached Earth in 2017. It was close enough and bright enough to see with binoculars. One team of scientists, from the University of Maryland, watched the comet’s rotation rate drop rapidly, from one rotation every 20 hours to one every 46 hours. This is larger than any change in comet rotation measured yet, and it could help scientists learn more about how comets evolve over time.
~ What does that do to its gravity?

Scientists have discovered eight cliffs of nearly pure water ice on Mars — Some stand nearly 100 meters tall. The discovery points to large stores of underground ice buried only a meter or two below the surface at surprisingly low Martian latitudes, in regions where ice had not yet been detected. Each cliff seems to be the naked face of a glacier, tantalising scientists with the promise of a layer-cake record of past martian climates and space enthusiasts with a potential resource for future human bases.
~ Still not selling it.

Blacker black — Blackbirds aren’t actually all that black. Their feathers absorb most of the visible light that hits them, but still reflect between 3 and 5% of it. For really black plumage, you need to travel to Papua New Guinea and track down the birds of paradise. Although these birds are best known for their gaudy, kaleidoscopic colours, some species also sport profoundly black feathers. The feathers ruthlessly swallow light and, with it, all hints of edge or contour. By analysing museum specimens, Dakota McCoy, from Harvard University, has discovered exactly how the birds achieve such deep blacks. It’s all in their feathers’ microscopic structure.
~ And it’s hard to get out of your nostrils. 

Gold hits proton: surpass ensues — Surprise has popped up in the data of a decommissioned experiment at America’s largest atom smasher. Brookhaven National Lab physicist Alexander Bazilevsky and RIKEN physicist Itaru Nakagawa hitting a proton against a gold nucleus, approximately. Out on Long Island, New York, is the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, or RHIC, at Brookhaven National Laboratory. It is the world’s second-largest proton or atom collider (after the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland), and has made discoveries about the kind of matter that probably existed in the split second after the Big Bang. Neutrons seemed to shoot out in the wrong direction after collisions between protons and gold or aluminium atoms. Now, they need to figure out the physics to describe what they actually saw.
~ Fun times at Long Island. 

Blackbeard’s reading matter — Old-timey pirates are typically portrayed as stupid, unrefined thugs whose only interests involved plundering captured ships and forcing enemies to walk the plank. The recent discovery of legible text on paper pulled from the cannon of Blackbeard’s flagship paints a strikingly different picture of these misunderstood sailors. Specifically, Blackbeard kept a copy of Edward Cooke’s A Voyage to the South Sea, and Round the World, Perform’d in the Years 1708, 1709, 1710 and 1711, detailing the British naval officer’s participation in a global expedition aboard the ships Duke and Dutchess.
~ Cooke’s account inspired Dafoe’s Robinson Crusoe

Prehistoric picnic spot in Israel yields hundreds of tools — The ‘mega-site,’ located in Jaljulia near the town of Kfar Saba, was discovered in November 2016 by developers who were surveying the area in preparation for urban development. Over the past year, a collaborative effort by the Israel Antiquities Authority and Tel Aviv University has uncovered thousands of artifacts at the one-hectare site, an area frequented by Paleolithic hunter-gatherers some 500,000 years ago.
Digging to a depth of 5 metres, the archaeologists uncovered layer after layer of tools and animals bones. At least six distinct sub-sites have been found within the excavation area.
~ Such a good picnic spot loads of people lost their tools …

Futurology ~ Space, robots, ancient Americans, dinosaur eggs and what’s coming


Alien megastructure is ‘just dust — An analysis by more than 200 astronomers has been published that shows the mysterious dimming of star KIC 8462852 – nicknamed Tabby’s star – is not being produced by an alien megastructure. The evidence points most strongly to a giant cloud of dust occasionally obscuring the star, reports The Guardian.
~ Well to me, that’s a relief. But hey, surely a cloud of dust should have been their first call, not ‘alien megastructure’?!

The border of earth and space — A new NASA mission, the first to hitch a ride on a commercial communications satellite, will examine Earth’s upper atmosphere to see how the boundary between Earth and space changes over time. GOLD stands for Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk, and the mission will focus on the temperature and makeup of Earth’s highest atmospheric layers.
~ Another mission, another future iteration of space junk. 

Smart bot could build homes on Mars — Built by the German space agency DLR, humanoid bots are being groomed to build the first Martian habitat for humans. Engineers have been refining Justin’s physical abilities for a decade; the mech can handle tools, shoot and upload photos, catch flying objects, and navigate obstacles.
Now, thanks to new AI upgrades, Justin can think for itself.
~ Here’s a better idea – the smart Alec can build a house for itself on Mars.

Soft robot may actually be useful — A burgeoning field called soft robotics promises to bring more “natural” movements to the machines. And today, a pair of papers in Science and Science Robotics detail a clever new variety of robotic “muscle,” a series of oil-fueled pouches activated with electricity. This actuator (aka the bit that moves a robot) is as strong and efficient as human muscle, but can pull off more contractions per second. Which could make for a prosthesis that moves more naturally, perhaps—or maybe farther down the road, soft yet strong robots that help you around the house without accidentally terminating you.
~ And I honestly do prefer not being accidentally terminated. 

Ancient Americans we didn’t know about — She died 11,500 years ago at the tender age of six weeks in what is now the interior of Alaska. Dubbed ‘Sunrise Girl-child’by the local indigenous people, the remains of the Ice Age infant, uncovered at an archaeological dig in 2013, contained traces of DNA, allowing scientists to perform a full genomic analysis. Incredibly, this baby girl belonged to a previously unknown population of ancient Native Americans – a discovery that’s changing what we know about the continent’s first people.
All Native Americans can trace their ancestry back to a single migration event that happened at the tail-end of the last Ice Age. The evidence, gleaned from the full genomic profile of the six-week-old girl and the partial genomic remains of another infant, suggests the continent’s first settlers arrived in a single migratory wave around 20,900 years ago. But this population then split into two groups: one group that would go on to become the ancestors of all Native North Americans, and another would venture no further than Alaska. This is a previously unknown population of ancient North Americans now dubbed the Ancient Beringians.
~ Then they got ‘back-migrated’. 

Ancient dinosaur eggs perfectly preserved — Chinese construction workers digging on Christmas day found a gift that was wrapped 130 million years ago in the form of 30 incredibly preserved dinosaur eggs. The discovery was made in the city of Ganzhou at the future site of a new middle school, but work on the new facility had to be put on hold after the ancient eggs were discovered.
~ Here’s the plan, then: grind them into snake oil medicine. 

But wait, Gizmodo has more: All The Wild Stuff We’re Going To Do In Space And Physics In 2018.

Futurology ~ NASA’s new missions, Germans paid to use power, Crispr future, raunchy Neanderthals


Titan (lower left) in a size comparison with Earth and our Moon. In reality, it’s a bit further away ..

NASA has announced two new potential robotic missions — One is to the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, since scientists think comets contain materials from our early solar system, such as ancient ice, rock, and even complex carbon-based molecules. The other heads to Saturn’s moon Titan. Titan is the second-largest moon in the solar system, larger even than planet Mercury, and has a dense atmosphere. These missions are the finalists from 12 proposals submitted to the New Frontiers program back in April. Only one of them will move forward and launch in the mid-2020s. 
~ I’m for Titan, which may even host life and structures formed from vinyl cyanide.

Consumers in Germany were paid to use electricity this holiday season — The cost of electricity in Germany has decreased so dramatically in the past few days that major consumers have actually been paid to use power from the grid. While “negative pricing” is not an everyday occurrence in the country, it does occur from time to time, and did this past holiday weekend.
~ Merry Christmas! Let’s put another roast on. 

Crispr humans may be on the way — This was the year that prediction felt like it was starting to come true. US scientists used the CRISPR gene editing technique to treat a common genetic heart disease in a human embryo. Many more diseases were successfully treated in mice using CRISPR. Hell, a particularly enthusiastic biohacker even spontaneously injected himself with muscle-growth genes while giving a talk at a conference.
But if 2017 was the year that the potential of CRISPR began to come into focus, 2018 may be the year that potential begins to be realised.
Next year, the first human trials of CRISPR-based treatments in the US and Europe are slated to begin.
~ Crispr humans won’t need ironing. 

But Crispr’s days are numbered — In less than five years, the gene-editing technology known as Crispr revolutionized the face and pace of modern biology. Since its ability to find, remove, and replace genetic material was first reported in 2012, scientists have published more than 5000 papers mentioning Crispr. Biomedical researchers are embracing it to create better models of disease. And countless companies have spun up to commercialise new drugs, therapies, foods, chemicals, and materials based on the technology. But Crispr Classic is somewhat clunky, unreliable, and a bit dangerous: it can’t bind to just any place in the genome. It sometimes cuts in the wrong places and it has no off-switch. So scientists are working to tweak the technology.
~ Bring on the crisper Crispr!

Naughty Neanderthals — Qiaomei Fu is a leader among a cadre of scientists applying modern, next-generation gene-sequencing techniques to the study of ancient humans. The geneticist at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) in Beijing, she has so far unearthed a prehistory shaped by dramatic displacement, migration — and interspecies action.
Qiaomei Fu is regarded as one of the young stars of genetic anthropology, and has published a string of studies shedding light on our ancestors’ raunchy pasts. It seems that sex between modern humans and Neanderthals went on for longer than we’d previously thought. Fu has now founded her own lab in China.
~ Some people find them attractive to this day. 

Futurology ~ Weird from space, ISS, WWII ships research, oil and gas, brains and light, Mixed Reality, robot sweat, de-extinction


Magic Leap finally revealed a prototype of its Mixed Reality glasses

Weird space visitor has organic insulation — Oumuamua is the cigar-shaped object – about 400 meters long and only 40 meters in the other dimensions – that originated from somewhere else in the Galaxy and visited our Solar system while moving at nearly 20,9214 kilometres per hour (about 130,000mph). Scientists do not know where Oumuamua came from or what it is made of. It is not shaped like commonly seen asteroids, and unlike comets it does not leave a trail behind it, not even when it flies past the Sun. In fact, Oumuamua seems to be wrapped in a strange organic coat made of carbon-rich gunk that it likely picked up on its long travels through space…
~ Right, it wrapped itself. It’s Christmas after all. 

The space station is the best thing we ever did — The International Space Station is one of the few nonstellar things up there that we can see from down here without instruments. It’s a prefab home the size of a football field, 462 tons and more than $100 billion worth of pressurised roomlike modules and gleaming solar arrays, orbiting 250 miles above the surface of the Earth. Its flight path is available online, and you can find out when it will make a nighttime pass over your backyard. Right on schedule, you’ll spot an unblinking white light that’s moving at 28,163kph (17,500 mph).
~ Agreed, it’s pretty awesome. 

Physicists recycled WWII ships and artillery to unlock the mysteries of the universe — A million Russian artillery shells helped scientists discover the Higgs boson. All over the world, remnants of World War II weapons are built into the most mysterious experiments in physics.
~ Ploughshares, anyone? 

Oil, gas production gone by 2040 — In France, anyway. France’s parliament has approved a law banning all exploration and production of oil and natural gas by 2040 within the country and its overseas territories. Under that law that passed a final vote, existing drilling permits will not be renewed and no new exploration licenses will be granted. The French government claims the ban is a world first. However, it is largely symbolic since oil and gas produced in France accounts for just 1% of domestic consumption.
~ Still, could be worse. You know, planet-wide apocalypse or something. No pressure. 

Light, genes and brains — Along with his MIT neuroscientist colleague Dheeraj Roy and others, Susumu Tonegawa is upending basic assumptions in brain science. Early this year, he reported that memory storage and retrieval happen on two different brain circuits, not on the same one as was long thought. His team also showed that memories of an event form at the same time in the brain’s short-term and long-term storage areas, rather than moving to long-term storage later on. Most recently (and tantalisingly), his lab demonstrated what could someday be a way to bring currently irretrievable memories back into conscious awareness.
~ Hopefully, they also wrote it down somewhere. 

Magic Leap into Mixed Reality — After raising US$1.9 billion dollars, Magic Leap finally showed off it’s “mixed-reality” goggles. Was the wait worth it? Rolling Stone got a look: “The revelation, the first real look at what the secretive, multi-billion dollar company has been working on all these years is the first step toward the 2018 release of the company’s first consumer product. It also adds some insight into why major companies like Google and Alibaba have invested hundreds of millions of dollars into Magic Leap, and why some researchers believe the creation could be as significant as the birth of the Internet.”

Robot sweats while it does press-ups — In Science Robotics, researchers from the University of Tokyo showed off a humanoid that is strikingly lifelike not just in how it looks, but how it moves. The machine is a radical departure from the stiff, bumbling humanoids that have so far done a whole lot of falling on their faces.
~ It ‘sweats’ by circulating water through its frame to dissipate heat when it’s active. 

De-extinction — For the past few years science writer Britt Wray has been delving into the strange field of ‘de-extinction,’ travelling the world to meet with scientists working to bring back species ranging from the aurochs to the thylacine to the woolly mammoth. One of the most promising efforts is Revive & Restore, which hopes to create a living passenger pigeon by the year 2022.
~ Perhaps she could start planning ahead, for us?

Futurology ~ star collision, Europa plates, Voyager’s old thrusters, spacesuit, Type 2 diabetes, spider beanie, meteorite bronze age


Fancy hanging off the side of your building in this?

Two stars collided — On August 17th, astronomers bore witness to the titanic collision of two neutron stars, the densest things in the universe besides black holes. In the collision’s wake, astronomers answered multiple major questions that have dominated their field for a generation. And there was more, and there is much more yet to come from this discovery…  but now what?
~ Do scientists even have the right instrumentation to follow these discoveries up? 

Europa’s icy plate tectonics — According to new research published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, Europa has what it takes to support plate tectonics. Using computer models, a team lead by Brown University planetary scientist Brandon Johnson was able to demonstrate the physical feasibility of icy plates driving deep into the icy interior in a processes similar to what’s seen on Earth. This same process could be delivering important minerals to the ocean below, heightening the moon’s status a potentially habitable world.
~ Jupiter’s moon Europa features a ‘warm’ subterranean ocean covered in ice, leading to decades of speculation it might harbour life. 

Voyager 1 just fired up its backup thrusters for the first time in 37 years — Voyager 1, the probe which became the first man-made object to leave the solar system in 2012, has been away from home for a long, long time – approximately 40 years. It’s still been beaming back reams of data. (It’s so lonely.) Now it’s nearly 21 billion kilometeres from Earth. Last week, NASA said it had successfully dusted off the spacecraft’s long-dormant backup thrusters for the first time in 37 years.
~ And, in its off time, 1 has been sending extremely ill-advised texts to possible distant alien civilisations. 

Spacesuit’s Take Me Home button — Imagine, unlike in the film Gravity, a struggling astronaut presses an emergency button which automatically takes her back to the International Space Station or another space-based habitat. Such a system is currently under development at Draper Labs, and it could soon become a standard feature on spacesuits.
~ There goes my Space Life Preserver plan. 

Type 2 diabetes might be reversible — For those suffering from type 2 diabetes, there is good news. Nearly half of the participants in a watershed trial of a new diabetes treatment were able to reverse their affliction. The method is quite simple: an all liquid diet that causes participants to lose a lot of weight, followed by a carefully controlled diet of real solid foods. Four times a day, a sachet of powder is stirred in water to make a soup or shake. They contain about 200 calories, but also the right balance of nutrients. If the patient can keep away from other foods long enough, there is a chance of reversing type 2 diabetes completely.
~ Jenny Craig must be sharpening her pencil. 

Personal urban retreat — A transparent capsule on a roof high above the city may offer a temporary escape in urban environments, while also allowing us to reconnect with our environment. The capsule nestles in the density of the city, but escapes it due to its high position. The shape embraces the buildings since it lies partly on the roof and the facade. Like a mountain retreat, it offers a quiet space to breathe with a new viewpoint.
~ I reckon people would just fill them up with junk as extra storage. 

Artificial spider silk beanie — Best Made Company’s Cap of Courage is a US$198 striped beanie that’s made by combining Bolt’s Microsilk and Rambouillet wool. The run of 100 caps is a proof of concept to show that the elusive science behind crafting synthetic spider’s silk is no longer elusive. It’s partly a product of proteins that mimic spider silk grown in yeast.
~ At least it’s not brewed from dead flies, so the courage part comes from paying that much for a hat, presumably. 

Almost all Bronze Age iron artefacts were made from meteorite iron — According to a new study, it’s possible that all iron-based weapons and tools of the Bronze Age were forged using metal salvaged from meteorites. The finding has given experts a better insight into how these tools were created before humans worked out how to produce iron from its ore.
~ The surprise for me is that iron was smelted at all in the Bronze Age, before the beginning of the official Iron Age.

Futurology ~ Space weirdness, Quantum Machines, bilingual AI, soft robots, NASA tyres, glacier danger, coal to clean


NASA’s new tyres are virtually indestructible

Asteroid in close pass — (3200) Phaethon is a rock 5km in diameter with an oblong orbit that intersects Earth. It’s scheduled to make a nearby approach on December 16th. You’ll probably hear more fear-mongering shouting about it until then, but it isn’t a rock to worry about in our lifetimes.
~  It will pass a fifth of the distance from Earth to Mars at its closest. Mars is not exactly close. 

Chinese Monkey King satellite has made some odd discoveries — China’s Dark Matter Particle Explorer satellite (DAMPE or Wukong in China) is reporting the results of a year-and-a-half of space-staring, measuring the mysterious, high-energy electrons blasting Earth from space. The experiment has directly detected something that some similar experiments have hinted at, but others haven’t: a sudden drop-off in the electrons hitting the satellite. Whatever is going on, it’s weird.
~ But the Earth is still round. 

Space bacteria — Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov took routine samples from the outside of the International Space Station during a spacewalk. These samples were analysed and found to contain bacteria that must have come from somewhere other than Earth or the ISS itself. “Bacteria that had not been there during the launch of the ISS module were found on the swabs,” Shkaplerov told TASS Russian News Agency. “So they have flown from somewhere in space and settled on the outside hull.”
The Independent wrote “Finding bacteria that came from somewhere other than Earth would be one of the biggest breakthroughs in the history of science – but much more must be done before such a claim is made.”

Two new Quantum Machines have made actual science discoveries — Two teams of scientists are announcing that their quantum simulators – advanced quantum computers with very specialised scientific purposes – have made some real scientific discoveries.
~ I know I shouldn’t feel sorry for all those trapped atoms, but I do.

Bilingual AI without a dictionary — Two new papers show that neural networks can learn to translate with no parallel texts – a surprising advance that could make documents in many languages more accessible.
The two new papers focus on unsupervised machine learning. To start, each constructs bilingual dictionaries without the aid of a human teacher telling them when their guesses are right. That’s possible because languages have strong similarities in the ways words cluster around one another. The words for table and chair, for example, are frequently used together in all languages, so if a computer maps out these co-occurrences like a giant road atlas with words for cities, the maps for different languages will resemble each other, just with different names.
~ A computer can figure out the best way to overlay one atlas on another and voila! You have a bilingual dictionary.

Soft robots acquire origami skeletons — Robots are going soft. Literally soft, controlled with liquid or air instead of traditional motors. Soft robotics is hot at the moment. But without the rigidity and powerful motors of your typical robot, soft robots have been weak  until researchers at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and Harvard’s Wyss Institute developed a new kind of soft robotic muscle inspired by origami and awesomeness. It’s essentially a bag filled with air, inside of which is an origami structure that functions as a skeleton. By pumping air in and out, the researchers can get the muscle to lift 1000 times its own weight.
~ Could this also be used inside buildings to prevent collapse during earthquakes? 

NASA’s tough titanium tyres — Stretch a Slinky toy too far, and eventually the metal coil will be warped so much it won’t be able to return to its original spring shape. That’s a problem also faced by the metal spring tyres designed to roll across the Moon, and other planets our rovers are exploring. But NASA has created an alternative, made from titanium, that can tackle any terrain and always return to its original tyre shape.
~ A tyre that can last for years with minimal maintenance is important when sending rovers to the other planets in our Solar System.

The glaciers of Pine Island Bay could drown us; they are two of the largest and fastest-melting in Antarctica — A Rolling Stone feature earlier this year dubbed Thwaites ‘The Doomsday Glacier.’ Together, they act as a plug holding back enough ice to pour over three metres (11 feet) of sea-level rise into the world’s oceans, an amount that would submerge every coastal city on the planet. For that reason, finding out how fast these glaciers will collapse is one of the most important scientific questions in the world today.
~ Marine ice-cliff instability is a feedback loop that could kickstart the disintegration of the entire West Antarctic ice sheet in turn effecting hundreds of millions of people worldwide. 

Dirty coal to clean energy in Germany — The path from dirty coal to clean energy isn’t easy. Bottrop’s Prosper-Haniel coal mine is a symbol of the challenges and opportunities facing Germany – and coal-producing states everywhere.
Around the world, as governments shift away from the coal that fueled two ages of industrial revolution, more and more mines are falling silent. If there’s an afterlife for retired coal mines, one that could put them to work for the next revolution in energy, it will have to come soon. One use for retired coal mines is as giant batteries for clean energy. To turn a coal mine into a battery, all you need is gravity.
~ Plus a lot of money.

Futurology ~ weird asteroid, exotic particle, weather tech, Musk hits deadline, robot salad, microbial kill-switches, ancient dogs on the leash


This artist’s impression shows the first interstellar asteroid: `Oumuamua. This unique object was discovered on 19 October 2017 by the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope in Hawai`i. Subsequent observations from ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile and other observatories around the world show that it was travelling through space for millions of years before its chance encounter with our star system. `Oumuamua seems to be a dark red highly-elongated metallic or rocky object, about 400 metres long, and is unlike anything normally found in the Solar System.

Oumuamua also has a weird shape — A few weeks ago an interstellar asteroid, now named Oumuamua, was discovered passing through our solar system. Being the first interstellar asteroid to ever be observed, a flurry of observations soon followed. An article in Nature revealed Oumuamua is more bizarre than originally thought, since it it is elongated, with a 10:1 aspect ratio, and rapidly rotating. This conclusion is based upon comparisons of its time-dependent light curve to those from 20,000 known asteroids.
~ Bye.

Two teams simultaneously unearthed evidence of an exotic new particle — A few months ago, physicists observed a new subatomic particle – essentially an awkwardly-named, crazy cousin of the proton. Its mere existence has energised teams of particle physicists to dream up new ideas about how matter forms, arranges itself and exists. Now, a pair of new research papers using different theoretical methods have independently unearthed another, crazier particle predicted by the laws of physics
~ So here I join in the general excitement that, uh, doubly-b tetraquark could exist. Woot. 

Latest weather-tech in space — A fastidiously clean scanning machine named VIIRS has been launched into Earth orbit on a Delta II rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, just one instrument outfitting a next-generation weather satellite. The Visible Infrared Radiometer Suite is a washing machine-sized sensor, built to capture light and other waves that bounce off the surface of Earth. It collects those reflections, turning them into data about our planet, the oceans, land and vegetation cover, ice caps, volcanic plumes, and global temperatures—allowing accurate weather forecasts, wildfire and fishing fleet tracking, and climate monitoring.
~ I have one in the laundry, although this one actually does the washing, no matter what the weather is doing.

Musk makes it right on time with Australian battery project — Elon Musk will get paid for building the world’s largest lithium ion battery in South Australia, with testing on the 100-megawatt project about to begin ahead of next week’s December 1 deadline to build it in 100 days, or it’s free.
State premier Jay Weatherill has announced that regulatory testing at the site, which is paired with French energy business Neoen’s Hornsdale wind farm, 230km north of the capital, Adelaide, will begin within days.
~ Gosh, doesn’t Elon just look so pleased and happy?

Robot salad — A startup called Iron Ox is taking the first steps toward roboticizing greenhouse farming, which has so far stubbornly resisted automation. In the very near future, then, the salad on your table may come from the hand of a robot.
~ Er, the robot has hands, then? Better make the thumbs green. 

UCLA researchers use solar to create and store hydrogen — UCLA researchers have designed a device that can use solar energy to inexpensively and efficiently create and store energy, which could be used to power electronic devices, and to create hydrogen fuel for eco-friendly cars.
The device could make hydrogen cars affordable for many more consumers because it produces hydrogen using nickel, iron and cobalt – elements that are much more abundant and less expensive than the platinum and other precious metals that are currently used to produce hydrogen fuel.
~ Making electricity and fuel with the same device is a real breakthrough. 

Microbial kill-switches — Scientists at Harvard have developed a pair of new kill switches that can be used to thwart bioengineered microbes that go rogue. Researchers have been testing the use of bioengineered microbes for a variety of purposes, from the diagnosis of disease in the human body to the neutering of mosquitoes. But there remain concerns about releasing manipulated microbes into nature. Could their augmented genes have unintended consequences? Could they morph and proliferate?
~ Somehow I’m not convinced this is safer.  

Ancient dogs were already on the leash 8000 years ago — A new analysis of ancient rock art demonstrates that humans hunted with dogs on the Arabian Peninsula over 8000 years ago – and it looks like those dogs wore leashes.
There are a lot of questions around the origin of dog domestication, such as when, where and how it happened. But a newly analysed set of panels depicts scenes of leashed dogs hunting alongside humans. Not only would this be the “earliest evidence of dogs on the Arabian Peninsula,” according to the study published recently in the Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, but it’s also the “earliest evidence of leashes“.
~ Or maybe it was the dogs that had humans on the leashes … also, did the men really hunt with erections? That seems a little counterproductive if you ask me. 

Futurology ~ Earth-like, antimatter bombardment, cute lil lander, 2040 Museum mag, Quantum computing, human DNA hacked, robots and aged DNA


Museum has already published its 2040 edition.

Earth-sized world just 11 light years away — Astronomers have discovered a planet 35% more massive than Earth in orbit around a red dwarf star just 11 light years from the Sun. Ross 128 b likely exists at the edge of the small, relatively faint star’s habitable zone even though it is 20 times closer to its star than the Earth is to the Sun. The study in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics finds the best estimate for its surface temperature is between -60 degrees Celsius and 20 degrees Celsius.
Proxima Centauri b is closer at less than 4.3 light years away from Earth and in the star system closest to our Sun. Even so, due to a variety of factors, Ross 128 b is tied for fourth on a list of potentially most habitable exoplanets, with an Earth Similarity Index value of 0.86.
~ Meanwhile, we are hell-bent on making our own Earth less Earthlike. 

Mystery of Earth being bombarded by antimatter — New observations of nearby pulsars – lighthouse-like neutron stars beaming energy – seem to have deepened a mystery that’s been bugging scientists for around a decade. The Earth is being hit with too much antimatter from outer space, and no one is sure why.
~ Veritably antimatter-spattered, we are. 

Moon Express MX-1E Lander is heading for the moon or bust — After multiple extensions and a couple of flameouts, five teams are racing toward the March 2018 launch deadline, and the cutest contender might be the MX-1E, an R2-D2–shaped lander designed by space startup Moon Express.
~ The MX-1E fits inside a launch vehicle from partnering with the New Zealand company Rocket Lab.

Museum magazine publishes 2040 issue — The Alliance of American Museums has just published an ambitious Nov/Dec 2040 issue of Museum, the Alliance’s magazine. The columns, reviews, articles, awards, and even the ads describe activities from a 2040 perspective, based on a multi-faceted consensus scenario.
Besides virtual reality centers (and carbon-neutral cities), it envisions de-extinction biologists who resurrect lost species. It also predicts a 2040 with orbiting storehouses to preserve historic artifacts (as well as genetic materials) as part of a collaboration with both NASA and a new American military branch called the US Space Corps. And of course, by 2040 musuems have transformed into hybrid institutions like “museum schools” and “well-being and cognitive health centers” that are both run by museums.
~ Future retro-futurism …

Should we be excited about Quantum Computers? They’re fragile, and need to be kept at temperatures close to absolute zero. Quantum computers aren’t much like the desktop PCs we’re all so familiar with – they’re a whole new kind of machine, capable of calculations so complex, it’s like upgrading from black-and-white to a full colour spectrum. Gizmodo goes further.
~ Solves things so complex we don’t even have the minds to boggle at their complexity. 

Scientists edit DNA within the human body — For the first time, scientists have edited the DNA inside of a patient’s body, in an attempt to cure a genetic disorder by permanently changing the human genome. The news represents a major landmark in science.
~ Now it has been edited, it’s called ‘human DNB’.

Robots advance, dance and enhance — Boston Dynamics’ ATLAS Robot is now a backflipping cyborg supersoldier [you know how we all need that] and wait till you see the firm’s new Robodog, and we’re already robotising our workers – but these are human workers with bionic enhancements working at Ford.
~ Where’s Waldo?

Super-old people get their DNA analysed — Scientists looking for clues to healthy longevity in people in their 90s and 100s haven’t turned up a whole lot. It is thought that the DNA of the very old may be a good place to look, but people over 110 are one in five million in the United States. The New York Times has chronicled one scientific quest to collect their DNA.
~ So forget good health and sobriety, let’s find a magic bullet instead. 

Futurology ~ space adventures, tech strides and uncovering the past


Saturn’s moon Enceladus has had warm water for potentially billions of years

In space news, an incredible gravitational technique has revealed the oldest spiral galaxy on record so far. Thanks to gravity’s light-bending properties, scientists have spotted a confounding thing in the distance that appears to be the oldest spiral yet. And a remarkable ‘new’ Supernova has also been discovered. Warm water has existed on Saturn’s moon Enceladus for potentially billions of years – with surprising frequency, this ice-covered moon spurts a plume of water into space in a sign that a global ocean should lie beneath.
Australia wants a spaceport in Arnhem Land . The Arnhem Space Centre will be built on the Dhupuma Plateau on the Gulkala escarpment in north east Arnhem Land. The land has been leased to Gumatj Corporation which plans to sublease part of it to Equatorial Launch Australia Pty Ltd. The site is particularly useful for rocket launches as the closer launches get to the equator, the more these launches can make use of the Earth’s rotation by launching east.

In tech news, ‘Quark Fusion’ Produces Eight Times More Energy Than Nuclear Fusion: This new source of energy, according to researchers Marek Karliner and Jonathan Rosner, comes from the fusion of subatomic particles known as quarks. These particles are usually produced as a result of colliding atoms that move at high speeds within the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), where these component parts split from their parent atoms. It doesn’t stop there, however, as these disassociated quarks also tend to collide with one another and fuse into particles called baryons. It is this fusion of quarks that Karliner and Rosner focused on, as they found that this fusion is capable of producing energy even greater than what’s produced in hydrogen fusion.
IBM raises the bar with a 50-Qubit Quantum Computer, but the announcement does not mean quantum computing is ready for common use. The system IBM has developed is still extremely finicky and challenging to use. Nonetheless, 50 qubits is a significant landmark in progress toward practical quantum computers.
Rocket man … Richard Browning, test pilot for the British tech company Gravity Industries and ‘real life Iron Man’ just set the Guinness World Record for fastest jetpack flight.
Browning made three attempts with the jetpack on before hitting 51.53kph (32.02mph) while flying over a lake near Lagoona Park in Reading, England recently. His last attempt even caused him to go for a dip in the water, but Browning explained that failure is just what happens “when you’re trying to push boundaries.”
Bacterial mosquitoes released: The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved the use of a common bacterium to kill wild mosquitoes that transmit viruses such as dengue, yellow fever and Zika. On November 3rd, the agency told biotechnology start-up MosquitoMate it could release the bacterium Wolbachia pipientis into the environment as a tool against the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus).
Pioneering hospital robot: Tug can’t talk philosophy with you, and Tug can’t do your laundry. But Tug is a pioneer because in hospitals around the world, this robot is helping nurses and doctors care for patients by autonomously delivering food and drugs, shouldering the burden of time-consuming mundanity. And now, it’s rolling more and more into hotels, so get ready to see more of Tug.
The US Airforces wants lasers on its fighter jets by 2021. The Force’s scientific research wing is giving Lockheed Martin $US26.3 million “for the design, development, and production of a high power fibre laser” which it expects to start testing on a tactical fighter jet in four years.

Retrofuturism: using tech to further uncover the past — Art restoration experts need to strip old varnish off old paintings and reapply it when a painting becomes unsightly. In a Twitter video posted by Philip Mould, the art dealer and Fake or Fortune? host showed just how dramatic this transformation can be.
Why were male wooly mammoths more often trapped than female? While conducting an analysis of woolly mammoth DNA, European researchers noticed something a little strange. A disproportionate number of male mammoths were found preserved in traps, such as holes and bogs. The explanation, say the researchers, can be be tied to the behaviour of their distant relatives, modern elephant.