Category Archives: Futurology

Futurology ~ Life planet, Enceladus life, 3D printed Mars dust, airless tyres, sound dryer, Wozniak future, car-jet, frog flu, Wilma Flintstone


If we could 3D-print tools from Martian dust, it might help colony plans

Another new planet that might favour life — t seems like every week, there’s a new contender for Coolest Planet Where There Are Definitely Aliens. For those of us who want to believe, this is an emotionally exhausting cycle, as we’re built up and let down time and again. At the risk of screwing with our fragile hearts even more, it’s worth mentioning that a recently discovered exoplanet 39 light-years from Earth might actually give the current favourites Proxima b and the TRAPPIST-1 system a run for their money.
~ Not that long ago, we thought Earth was pretty good. 

Life on Enceladus — According to NASA, molecular hydrogen has been found in Enceladus’ subterranean ocean, which bolsters the idea that the icy moon could host extraterrestrial microbes. Despite Enceladus’ frigid exterior, this ocean is thought to be extremely warm at the bottom – roughly 90C.
~ This is exciting because it makes fairly-close-to-us aliens possible. 

3D-printed Mars dust — We’ve had a hard time coming up with reasons as to why everyone needs a 3D printer here on Earth, but on Mars the machines could be used to manufacture tools, spare parts, even entire structures, habitats and vehicles, given there’s no hardware stores for astronauts to visit if we eventually send humans on the 54.6 million km journey.
But 3D printers don’t make things out of thin air. so scientists at Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering have developed a way to turn extraterrestrial materials, like Lunar and Martian dust, into a 3D printing material.
~ Besides, Mars doesn’t even have thin air. 

Bridgestone’s airless tyres — They use a series of rigid plastic resin spokes (above) to help a wheel keep its shape as it rolls, instead of an inflatable inner tube that can puncture and leak. Military vehicles and ATVs have been some of the first vehicles to adopt the unorthodox design, but Bridgestone will soon be making a version of its airless tyres for use on bicycles.
~ And if they take off, airless-tyred cars could become more fuel efficient too because they don’t change shape. 

Clothes dryers uses sound — Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee have developed a dryer that could make doing laundry much quicker. The ultrasonic dryer is expected to be up to five times more energy-efficient than most conventional dryers and able dry a large load of clothes in about half the time. Instead of using heat the way most dryers do, the ultrasonic dryer relies on high-frequency vibrations. Devices called green transducers convert electricity into vibrations, shaking the water from clothes.
~ But will you need ear muffs?

Wozniak on the future — Woz predicted portable laptops back in 1982, and now says that by 2075, we could also see new cities built from scratch in the deserts, with people wearing special suits to protect them from the heat. AI will be ubiquitous in all cities, as consumers interact with smart walls to communicate, and to shop, while home medical devices will allow self-diagnosis and doctor-free prescriptions. Now he projects further ahead …
~ Yeah, Woz, but only for the very rich like you. 

Lilium the Flying Car — You wouldn’t think the Lilium Jet could fly. It looks more like a computer mouse than an aircraft, and its 36 small propellers run on electricity, not jet fuel. But this funky airplane (above) just proved it can take to the sky, and might finally be the flying car we’ve been waiting for. There will be years of flight testing, but the German startup has backing from the European Space Agency and millions in funding.
~ I like it. 

South Indian frog flu cure — From the slimy backs of a South Indian frog comes a new way to blast influenza viruses. A compound in the frog’s mucus, long known to have germ-killing properties, can latch onto flu virus particles and cause them to burst apart, researchers report in Immunity.
~ Let’s hope those Immunity reporters carry on reporting with impunity. 

Wilma Flintstone and the Palaeolithic — Recreations of Palaeolithic people at the museum usually look like the typical pop culture caveman. Famed Otzi the Iceman, for example, has the face of someone who’d be fun to disembowel a moose with, but whose conversation might be just a little gauche. A new facial reconstruction of a Stone Age woman who lived in Thailand roughly 13,600 years presents the pleasant and probably more accurate visage.
~ Certainly pretty good for someone 13,600 years old. 

Futurology ~ Dwarf Planet Club, Jupiter, solar storm, big asteroid, solar moisture sucker, 3D-printed Boeing, landmine bacteria


2014 JO25 will whizz by Earth from roughly 1.8 million km away

New dwarf in our Solar System — When we think of dwarf planets, the first thing that comes to mind is obviously the injustice of Pluto getting demoted to one. But the truth is, these little guys (there are six currently recognised within our solar system) deserve just as much love as their mightier planetary cousins. And a new study suggests the dwarf planet club could get another member, in the form of a very small, distant object located roughly 92 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun called Planetary body 2014 UZ224, also known as DeeDee (for ‘distant dwarf’).
~ SevenDwarfs …

Huge cold spot on Jupiter — Using the Very Large Telescope array, an international team of astronomers has discovered a previously undetected cold spot on Jupiter. Measuring 14,000km wide and 12,000km across, the mysterious spot is bigger than the Earth itself. Intriguingly, the weather anomaly is likely being generated by Jupiter’s spectacular Northern Lights.
~ And it keeps regenerating itself. 

Every once in a while our Sun gives off a tremendous belch of high energy particles — Called a coronal mass ejection (CME), these episodes can vary in intensity, but they can produce bursts of electrical charge when they interact with our upper atmosphere in a geomagnetic storm. In a strange twist, new research shows that geomagnetic storms can produce the opposite effect, stripping the upper atmosphere of electrons for hundreds of kilometres. Which, if you like electronic gadgets, may be a problem.
~ Apparently, a tin-foil hat does not help. 

Massive asteroid passing soon — Later this month, a huge asteroid (main picture, above) that’s about 650m in length will get close enough to Earth for our viewing pleasure. Even though it won’t do any damage, this is a damn big slice of space garbage.
~ And it looks like a huge potato. 

Wringing water from the desert sky — A new spongelike device uses sunlight to suck water vapor from air, even in low humidity. The device can produce nearly 3 liters of water daily for every kilogram of water-absorbing material thanks to metal organic frameworks, or MOFs. Researchers say future versions will be even better.
~ The crucial part, to do any good, will be price and ability to deploy. 

3D printed parts save Boeing money — Boeing has hired Norsk Titanium AS to print titanium parts for its 787 Dreamliner, paving the way to cost savings of $2 million to $3 million for each plane. The 3D-printed metal parts will replace pieces made with more expensive traditional manufacturing, thus making the 787 more profitable.
~ One day maybe they’ll carry printers for literally on-the-fly parts manufacture.

Glowing bacteria finds landmines — More than 100 million landmines lay hidden in the ground around the world, but glowing bacteria may help us find them, according to a new study. The approach relies on small quantities of vapor released from the common explosive TNT, then a laser to remotely detect and quantify fluorescing bacteria from 20 meters away, mapping the location of the landmines.
~ A real glow of satisfaction. 

Futurology ~ ancient blob, little exoplanet, Google AI, brain bleeds, rooms as screens, NZ stoat editing, seawater sieve, Berners-Lee on the DubDubDub


Little 55 Cancri e may have an atmosphere, but is not very Earth-like at all

Ancient stellar blob could change our understanding of how galaxies form — Only a billion or so years after the universe formed, a galaxy far more massive than our own blazed into existence. Just half a billion years later – less than the amount of time it took life to emerge and evolve into humans on Earth – the galaxy was a dead disc, no longer forming stars. No one quite believed it really existed because it’s a challenge to formation ideas.
~ Not to mine, as I have yet to form my formation ideas. 

Little exoplanet still has atmosphere — An international team of astronomers has detected traces of an atmosphere using a ground-based telescope around an exoplanet located 39 light-years away. This exoplanet is not much larger than our own, making it the most Earth-like planet known to harbour an atmosphere.
~ Although it’s way to hot for humans. 

Google Ai chip ameliorated data centres — Google has what is surely the largest computer network on Earth, a system that comprises custom-built, warehouse-sized data centers spanning 15 locations in four continents. But about six years ago, as the company embraced a new form of voice recognition on Android phones, its engineers worried this network wasn’t nearly big enough. If each of the world’s Android phones used the new Google voice search for just three minutes a day, these engineers realized, the company would need twice as many data centres. So Google built its own computer chip specifically for running deep neural networks.
~ Smart.

Headset can tell if your brain is bleeding — A new head-worn device that scans the brain’s electrical patterns to uncover bleeding after head injuries has shown tremendous promise in clinical trials, presenting an inexpensive way for physicians to make a potentially life-saving diagnosis.
~ Plus it’s appealing to Star Trek geeks. 

Lightform transforms whole rooms into screens — Projection mapping, also known as projected augmented reality, uses video projectors to cast light onto irregular surfaces like buildings, faces, and, yes, living rooms. For decades, this technology was too expensive and technically complex for the average person to use, but with Lightform, the company’s eponymous first product, Sodhi and his partners are automating the entire process. The company plans to begin taking preorders on the device this summer, price TBD.
~ Rich people rejoice. Again. 

Repurposing old equipment for physics experiments — An old MRI machine took a several-week boat journey around the world last week. Scientists are going to gut it, replace the bed, and try to understand the secrets of the universe with it as when some physicists at the CERN experiment ISOLDE realised they’d have to drop a million and a quarter just to build their own magnet, they started to look for alternatives.
~ CERN runs more than just the Large Haydron Collider. 

New Zealand to gene-edit stoats — The stoat was brought here on purpose, introduced in the 19th century to control another pest introduced by settlers, the rabbit. It was, in essence, a Russian nesting doll of ecological disasters – one bad decision supplanting yet another. But using a gene drive, scientists may be able to override natural selection during reproduction, which could alter the genetic makeup of large populations of animals in a relatively short period of time.
~ ‘Tiny island nation’!? New Zealand is bigger than England, Scotland and Wales combined, so if New Zealand is what Gizmodo calls a ‘tiny island nation, then so is the UK. Hah!

Graphene sieve can filter the salt out of seawater — A UK-based team of researchers has created a graphene-based sieve capable of removing salt from seawater. The sought-after development could aid the millions of people without ready access to clean drinking water.
~ I wonder if it would work on KFC?

Tim Berners Lee, inventor of the internet, wants to overhaul it — Lee just got the Turing Prize. On the better web Berners-Lee envisions, users control where their data is stored and how it’s accessed.
~ I want him to overhaul it as well. (I interviewed him once: nice bloke.)

Futurology ~ Physics turducken, Saturn’s weirdness, sunspots, transmitting taste, faster memory, human cell computing


Saturn’s north pole as never seen before

A year for new theories, so why not combine them? It’s been a year of it, so why not combine all of the craziest physics ideas into one: a physics turducken? What if we, say, try to spot the dark matter radiating off of black holes through their gravitational waves? It’s all about axions.
~ And I thought that was an insurance company.

Saturn’s crazy north pole — Some incredible new shots of the atmospheric vortex at the center of Saturn’s north polar hexagon were captured by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft last week. The images were snapped during the latest of Cassini’s ring-grazing orbits, which have so far yielded stunning glimpses of Saturn’s rings, and its delightfully pasta-shaped moons.
~ Saturn is our system’s chameleon. And Saturn’s weirdest moon is full of electric sand!

New observations improve sunspot forecasting — From 2010 to 2013, McIntosh and his team used a trio of satellites to observe the entire solar surface at once for the first time. They watched as bright magnetic spots moved around the Sun, making the first real observation of a behaviour lots of scientists have expected to see its surface. The so-called Rossby waves the team observed will hopefully give us a useful new tool to predict solar weather — energetic particles blasting the Earth from magnetic events on the Sun — with several days or more advance notice.
~ Sunspot spotters …

Transmitting lemonade over the internet — In an experiment that involved 13 tasters, the subjects’ taste buds were stimulated using electricity from receiving electrodes; LED lights mimicked a lemony color. Some were convinced that the water they were drinking was, in fact, almost as sour as lemonade.
~ The amazing thing about the internet is how mush it can convince people of insane things. Just look at Trump, Marine Le Pen and Brexit. 

Magical new memory — Computer memory, that is. Intel is hoping to eradicate the speed vs price compromise with its new Intel Optane Memory. According to Intel, installing this single memory stick in your computer could supercharge even the slowest hard drive and give you the SSD’s best feature: Speed.
~ I’m ready. 

Human cells to compute — Cellular computing is more than just a convenient metaphor. In the last couple of decades, biologists have been working to hack the cells’ algorithm in an effort to control their processes. They’ve upended nature’s role as life’s software engineer, incrementally editing a cell’s algorithm – its DNA – over generations. In a paper published in Nature Biotechnology, researchers programmed human cells to obey 109 different sets of logical instructions …
~ I imagine hacking that process!

Futurology ~ Black Hole speedster, Indian Mars success, Quantum chemistry, artificial sun, robot solves uncertainty


India sent a spaceship to Mars for much less than it cost to make the movie The Martian

Enormous black hole streaking through space — Astronomers have spotted quasar 3C 186 thirty six thousand light years away from the center of its galaxy, seemingly trying to escape.
This quasar seems to be rushing away at around 2000 kilometers per second (4.5 million miles per hour) instead.
~ That’s inconceivably fast. Let’s hope it’s trajectory is mathematically away

A rocket to Mars cost less to get there than making the film The Martian — Ipsita Agarwal via Backchannel retells the story of how India’s underfunded space organization, ISRO, managed to send a rocket to Mars for much less than it cost to make the movie The Martian, starring Matt Damon. “While NASA’s Mars probe, Maven, cost US$651 million, the budget for this mission was US$74 million,” Agarwal writes.
~ Well if you think that’s bad, imagine how much it would cost to send Matt Damon to Mars.

Quantum Computing might finally have a use: chemistry — Simulations of molecules and chemical reactions to aid research into things like new materials, drugs, or industrial catalysts are not new, and account for a significant proportion of the workload of the world’s supercomputers. Yet the payoffs are limited because even the most powerful supercomputers cannot perfectly re-create all the complex quantum behaviors of atoms and electrons in even relatively small molecules, says Alan Aspuru-Guzik, a chemistry professor at Harvard. He’s looking forward to the day simulations on quantum computers can accelerate his research group’s efforts to find new light-emitting molecules for displays, for example, and batteries suitable for grid-scale energy storage.
~ And even less lab explosions. 

AI is better at lip reading — Scientists at Oxford say they’ve invented an artificial intelligence system that can lip-read better than humans. The system, which has been trained on thousands of hours of BBC News programs, has been developed in collaboration with Google’s DeepMind AI division.
Watch, Attend and Spell, as the system has been called, can now watch silent speech and get about 50% of the words correct. That may not sound too impressive — but when the researchers supplied the same clips to professional lip-readers, they got only 12% of words right.
~ Well, I still reckon it’s going to be hard to get people to write words on their lips. 

Massive artificial sun — An enormous machine looks like an insect’s eye uses 149 lamps to simulate sunlight, making it a handy tool for testing things like solar panels or generating clean energy. Scientists threw the switch on the world’s largest artificial sun on Thursday, which happened to be the birthday of the fellow who designed it, who had tears in his eyes.
~ Please point it at England. Oh, wait, Brexit …

Robot solves uncertainty — A human wearing a headset stands in front of a Brown University robot, which sits on a table with six objects in front of it. The human points at, say, a bowl, and asks, “Can I have that bowl?” A Microsoft Kinect atop the robot’s head tracks the movement of the hand to determine which object the subject means and combines that data with the vocal command. But two bowls are sitting right next to each other, and Iorek can’t differentiate which one the human wants. So it hovers an arm over the bowl it thinks the human wants and asks: “This one?” If the subject says no, the robot determines that its master seeks the other. That may seem like a simple interaction, something a child could do. But this is huge for a robot because the system solves a nasty problem: uncertainty.
~ OK, it can have my damn job, then. 

Futurology ~ Speedster star, Black Hole origins, TRAPPIST system, iPhone 8 AR, AI suicides, crazy-tough water bear


Scientists have a new theory as to how Black Holes might form

Star orbits Black Hole at 1% the speed of light — Astronomers have spotted a star whizzing around a vast black hole at about 2.5 times the distance between Earth and the Moon, and it takes only half an hour to complete one orbit. To put that into perspective, it takes roughly 28 days for our Moon to do a single lap around our relatively tiny planet at speeds of 3683 km (2288 miles) per hour.
~ Now that’s one cosmic Mazurka!

Wild new hypothesis for Black Hole formation — New research from an international team of scientists might have some answers to at least one of the critical questions, like how supermassive black holes, which range in size from millions to billions of solar masses, apparently formed very quickly in the early universe.
~ Looks like a massive Vape.

TRAPPIST 1 view — Last month, the solar system lost its collective chill when NASA announced the discovery of a seven-planet system called TRAPPIST-1, just 39 light-years from our Sun. The system is particularly exciting, not only because of its proximity to our planet, but because it has three planets within the habitable zone, where liquid water (and potentially life) could be supported. And on Wednesday, March 8th, NASA finally released its first-ever glimpse at the TRAPPIST-1 system (above left)…
~ Er, anyone else wishing for a few more pixels? 

Alien life jumping between Trappist planets — A new study from Manasvi Lingam and Avi Loeb at Harvard University makes the question of life in TRAPPIST-1 even more compelling: the researchers suggest that the TRAPPIST-1 planets are close enough to each other that microbes could travel from one world to another, via rocks.
~ I’ve jumped – or at least stumbled – between Trappists before. And rock was involved, so it sounds plausible to my finely-honed scientific sensibilities!

‘iPhone 8’ could herald start of Apple’s augmented reality ambitions — Computer simulations, and the means to visualize them, could be in the palm of your hand in new and potentially revolutionary ways later this year, if rumours about Apple’s forthcoming “iPhone 8” bear fruit.
~ Well, I dunno, if you start listening to that Tim Cook fellow, you can come up with almost any theory as to what Apple might produce. 

Facebook fighting suicides — Earlier this month, Facebook began turning some of those AI tools to a more noble goal: stopping people from taking their own lives. Admittedly, this isn’t entirely altruistic. Having people broadcast their suicides from Facebook Live isn’t good for the brand.
~ Well, here’s a tip: stop those bloody ads appearing!

Secret of the tcrazy-tough water bear is a protein — There’s no toughness like that of the water bear (or tardigrade), which looks like a cannon wearing a pair of wrinkled khakis. This microscopic critter can survive boiling water, alcohol, some of the lowest temperatures in the universe and blasts of radiation that would kill a human. Now researchers claim they’ve found an exclusively tardigradean protein that the creature produces, forming it into a glass bead.
~ Ah, well, now that you say it, it seems obvious!

Futurology ~ Mars spuds, lost spacecraft, Waze ways, FM everythings, super oil sponge


Spuds can grow on Mars — The International Potato Center (CIP) has launched a series of experiments to discover if potatoes can grow under Mars’ atmospheric conditions, as well as under extreme conditions on Earth. The CIP placed a potato inside a “specially constructed CubeSat contained environment” that simulates Mars temperature, air pressure, oxygen and carbon dioxide levels. They then used sensors and live-streaming cameras to record the soil and monitor the status of the potato. Preliminary results are positive as cameras inside the container show sprouts.
~ For sure, for sure. I bet they didn’t simulate the radiation load, though. 

NASA found a lost spacecraft — NASA has been having some real success locating wayward spacecraft, including its STEREO-B solar observer. The agency has now done it again, locating an Indian spacecraft that lost contact with the Earth nearly eight years ago.
~ Seriously, people, just stick a Tile on it. 

Waze and other traffic-dodging apps prompt cities to game algorithms — Waze and others are causing traffic planners to try to figure out how to gain back control of traffic systems. Navigation apps like Apple Maps, Google Maps and Waze started telling drivers to hop off the freeway at Fremont’s Mission Boulevard, cut through residential streets and then hop back on the highway where things were clearer – much to the distress of the people who lived there. Changes may simply reroute commuters into other neighbourhoods.
~ You’re not actually ‘stuck in traffic’. You are traffic. 

New tech turns any object into an FM transmitter — A research team from the University of Washington has introduced a technique called “backscattering” which uses ambient low-power radio signals to broadcast messages from random objects to smartphones in the local vicinity.The researchers hope the development could help support various smart city applications, and picture a future where anything from a poster at a bus stop to a road sign can transmit audio updates and information to passers-by.
~ Whereas I picture a future where every damn thing is beaming adverts at me. 

New sponge soaks up oil and can do so hundreds of times — Seth Darling and his colleagues at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois have created a new material that can absorb up to 90 times its own weight in spilled oil, then be squeezed out like a sponge and reused. Most commercial products used for soaking up oil, called “sorbents,” act like a paper towel and are only good for a single use. (Once typical sorbents are used, they get incinerated along with the oil.)
~ Notice the absence of ‘ab’ in ‘sorbents’. So is that the ‘scence’ of ab now? And nobody tell Kevin Costner’s brother. 

Futurology ~ Trappist, turbulent Jupiter, Venus probe, new Supersolid, DNA storage, robots to enrich the rich


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Trappist looking more attractive — A few days ago,  the citizens of Earth were introduced (technically, re-introduced) to a star system 39 light years away hosting seven Earth-sized exoplanets, three of which lie squarely in the habitable zone. As if that wasn’t exciting enough, researchers are now suggesting that a fourth of the TRAPPIST-1 planets might be habitable, too. Although we might have to stretch our imaginations a bit.
~ Every time Trump opens his mouth, it looks more attractive to me. Besides, Trappists make great beer. 

Turbulent Jupiter — Things may be pretty whacky here on Earth, but they’re nothing compared to the gigantic storm twice as wide as our own planet raging on Jupiter. The area just west of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is both dazzling and chaotic, filled with swirling clouds of mystery. Now, thanks to NASA’s Juno spacecraft – and a very skilled citizen scientist – we have the most high-res image of this region ever.
~ Get ready for more dramatic photos thanks to Juno. 

Venus probe cameras — Following an unexpected energy surge, Japan’s space agency has hit the pause button on two of the five cameras aboard its Venus-orbiting Akatsuki spacecraft. It’s a bad sign for the troubled orbiter, which has been exposed to more radiation than anticipated.
~ Just don’t tell the energy industry. 

New Supersolid — American and Swiss researchers have created a strange new ‘supersolid‘ in two different ways. It’s not something you can hold in your hand: these are highly-engineered materials that exist in ultracold vacuum chambers. But there’s been a sort of race to create supersolids, which will help us understand the nature of matter itself.
~ I thought there were only two states of matter: Does and Doesn’t. 

Researchers have now encoded an 1895 French film, a computer virus and a $50 Amazon gift card in DNA —  In 2011, Harvard University geneticist George Church pioneered the use of DNA for electronic data storage, encoding his own book, some images, and a Javascript program in the molecules. A year later, researchers European Bioinformatics Institute improved the method, and uploaded all of Shakespeare’s sonnets, a clip of Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech, a PDF of the paper from James Watson and Francis Crick that detailed the structure of DNA, and a photo of their institute into a tiny speck of DNA. In July, a team from Microsoft and University of Washington also managed to store a record 200 megabytes of data in DNA.
Yaniv Erlich and Dina Zielinski from the New York Genome Center and Columbia University respectively have a new method, dubbed ‘DNA Fountain‘.
~ But where the hell do you plug it in? 

Robots to enrich the rich — Despite a steady stream of alarming headlines about clever computers gobbling up our jobs, the economic data suggests that automation isn’t happening on a large scale. The bad news is that if it does, it will produce a level of inequality that will make present-day America look like an egalitarian utopia by comparison. The real threat posed by robots isn’t that they will become evil and kill us all, which is what keeps Elon Musk up at night – it’s that they will amplify economic disparities to such an extreme that life will become, quite literally, unlivable for the vast majority.
~ Hardly a surprise, surely?

 

Futurology ~ EVE Online exoplanets, genetic hacksaw, 3D laser display, biodegradable med-drone, maths improvement, catastrophic equality


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The hunt for the next exoplanet could be in the hands of EVE Online Players — NASA confirmed it has spotted seven exoplanets that have Earth-like qualities orbiting TRAPPIST-1, and the makers of the popular massively multiplayer game EVE Online announced a crowdsourcing effort to get players to identify exoplanets while they explore virtual space.
~ Virtually virtuous. 

Scientists create genetic hacksaw — When folks talk about the gene-editing tool CRISPR, they’re usually talking about CRISPR-Cas9, a combination of DNA and enzymes that together act like scissors to cut and paste genes. CRISPR-Cas9 has already been hailed a potential game changer in the fight against cancer, crop pathogens, and environmental problems.
But some researchers think a lesser-known flavour of the technology might be the answer to the world’s growing superbug problem. Meet CRISPR-Cas3.
~ It’s actually a small enzyme really good at precisely targeting specific sequences of DNA.

A new 3D display uses lasers and bubbles to create images you can walk around — Researchers really want to make good three-dimensional displays but it’s so much harder than you might think—most attempts so far have been literally smoke (light projected and scattered on some medium) and mirrors (optical illusions).
But a Japanese team has released an interesting but rudimentary proof-of-concept for their own so-called ‘volumetric display’, using lasers projected in a liquid column. Ultimately, the team hopes to create an updatable 3D projection visible from all angles to put on display in a museum or aquarium.
~ Or, how about this … Beer! 

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Drone delivers medicine then biodegrades — The idea behind the Aerial Platform Supporting Autonomous Resupply Actions drone is a cardboard glider that carries almost a kilogram (about two pounds) of cargo.
Star Simpson’s team designed and built Apsara with funding from Darpa, which challenged them to develop a single-use delivery vehicle for emergency scenarios. But with a twist: the drones had to not only carry a small payload and land where you told them, once on the ground, they had to disappear.
~ It’s made from cardboard and paper tape. Now, imagine if you could eat it as well …

Ten tips to improve your maths — Mental maths isn’t as difficult as it might sound, and you may be surprised at how easy it is to make seemingly impossible calculations using nothing but your beautiful brain. You just need to remember a few simple rules.
~ The writer clearly hasn’t met me.

Catastrophes improve equality —  Throughout history, only massive, violent shocks that upended the established order proved powerful enough to flatten disparities in income and wealth. They appeared in four different guises: mass-mobilization warfare, violent and transformative revolutions, state collapse and catastrophic epidemics. Hundreds of millions perished in their wake, and by the time these crises had passed, the gap between rich and poor had shrunk.
~ Call me old fashioned, but it seems wildly unfair to me that the greedy rich alone don’t suffer from the catastrophes largely caused by their own greed. Why do the poor have to suffer so dramatically to get some kind of equality back? 

Futurology ~ Super Earth, Planet 9, NASA space pooh, exploration bots, Spanner, AI’s killer instinct, Trump crazinesses, ancient Chinese beer, Woolly Mammoth


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60 new planets include a Super Earth — An international team of astronomers has found 60 new planets orbiting stars close to Earth’s solar system, including a rocky “super Earth.” The experts also found evidence of an additional 54 planets, bringing the potential discovery of new worlds to 114. One, called Gliese 411b (that’s an artist’s impression, above), has been generating plenty of attention. Described as a “hot super Earth with a rocky surface,” Gliese 411b is located in the fourth-nearest star system to the Sun, making it the third-nearest planetary system to the Sun.
~ But Gliese411b is actually too hot for us to live on. 

Planet 9 has a new team — Since Pluto was infamously demoted to a dwarf planet in 2006, some astronomers have turned their attention to finding the true Planet 9, a hypothetical, Neptune-sized world that orbits the Sun at least a few hundred times further out than Earth. While there’s no shortage of ideas about what Planet 9 could look like – or what it may have experienced throughout its life – so far, no one has been able to spot this elusive world.
~ Go Team 9!

NASA’s space pooh competition — NASA needs a new method that can handle an emergency situation in which an astronaut may have to go longer periods in a poop-filled suit. Crowdsourcing site HeroX handled the duties of pulling together all of the submissions for NASA’s judges and it was a record-setting campaign. Since October, more than 5000 ideas were floated by 20,000 people working as individuals or teams.
~ I can think of many other human problems massed teams could be focussing on. 

Exploration robot competition — Nearly two dozen teams are racing to develop robots that can investigate, map, and conduct science at extreme depths, and under serious time constraints. They’re also competing for $7 million in prize money.
~ And am I the only one bothered by the competition sponsor being Shell? 

Google’s remarkable Spanner is now open — Before Spanner, machines couldn’t keep databases consistent without constant and heavy communication, and communication across the globe took much too long. But Google’s Spanner works because those engineers found a way to harness time. And now Google is offering this technology to the rest of the world as a cloud computing service.
~ And once Trump’s minions find out how to harness this, we’re really screwed. 

AI proves to have a killer instinct — And before you get too comfortable, researchers at DeepMind have been working with two games to test whether neural networks are more likely to understand motivations to compete or cooperate. But the dueling agents were, at times, likely to light each other up with ray gun blasts to get ahead.
~ This is true binary, surely: on or off …

And in Trump crazinesses — Some voting errors and glitches may be coming from outer space, according to scientists who discussed this cosmic conundrum today at the annual meeting of American Association for the Advancement of the Sciences in Boston. Although this does not mean that aliens influenced the US 2016 election. which I’d welcome as an explanation, at this point.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signalled he wanted to help avoid the nuclear apocalypse during his first phone call with President Donald Trump, and Trump fumbled it because he had no idea what the most important treaty between America and Russia was.
But at least IBM backs him: IBM CEO Ginni Rometty has taken some major heat from her employees for continuing to advise President Trump, and that seems likely to continue in the near future. Rometty just sent out a new internal memo defending her collaboration with the Trump regime, and like every IBM statement to come before it, the whole thing is pretty weak. Well, hey, this is the company that controlled the information flow for the Holocaust after all.
And the White House has blocked the listing of US bumble bees as endangered species …
~ Remember, actual human beings voted for this living US parody of a Banana Republic despot.

5000-year-old Chinese beer brought back to life — Stanford University students have recreated a Chinese beer using a recipe that dates back 5000 years. The beer “looked like porridge and tasted sweeter and fruitier than the clear, bitter beers of today,” said Li Liu, a professor in Chinese archaeology.
~ Sounds yum.

Wooly mammoth may yet return — The woolly mammoth vanished from the Earth 4000 years ago, but now scientists say they are on the brink of resurrecting the ancient beast in a revised form, through an ambitious feat of genetic engineering.
~ I’m imagining a future of very big woollen jumpers.