Category Archives: Futurology

Futurology ~ 69 moons, two-headed space worm, quantum received, space chainmail, CRISPR controversies, 11-dimension brain maths, 100 earthlings, ancient message


NASA has worked out how to 3D=print stainless steel chainmail

Jupiter now has 69 moons — In addition to being the biggest, oldest planet in the solar system, it turns out Jupe has been hiding two moons from us all these years. Recently, a group of astronomers spotted the pair of wayward satellites, bringing the number of Jupiter’s known moons to 69. They are very small — perhaps only one or two kilometres across.
~ Well, we still like our single moon, so there. 

Space gives a flatworm two heads — Researchers at Tufts University sent flatworms to the International Space Station (ISS). Microgravity seems to have impacted the creepy-crawlies, even turning one worm into a double-headed, googly-eyed monster.
~ These worms can regenerate themselves when bisected.

Chinese satellite relays a quantum signal — One night at the end of last year, a green dot appeared on the horizon near the Chinese-Myanmar border. “It was like a very bright green star,” says physicist Chao-Yang Lu. Lu, a professor at the University of Science and Technology of China, saw it from an observing station on the outskirts of the Chinese city of Lijiang. The team made up of researchers from multiple science institutions in China locked their telescope onto the green laser in search of the real prize within: delicate, single infrared photons produced by a special crystal on the satellite. Filtering out the green light, they latched on to their quarry, a quantum signal the likes of which has never been sent.
~ What will they do with it? Give it to a mechanic?

Designers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have developed a foldable fabric that could pull triple duty during outer space missions — Researchers at JPL spent the last two years developing a metallic space fabric made of interlocking stainless steel squares. It looks like chain mail, but unlike the ancient armor, NASA’s fabric isn’t welded together. Instead a 3-D printer extrudes stainless steel as a continuous sheet of material with different properties on each side.

CRISPR controversies thanks to unintended side effects — Researchers found that when they had used CRISPR to cure blindness in mice, it had resulted in not just a few but more than a thousand, unintended off-target effects. But the technique has already been used in two human trials in China, and next year one is slated to kick off in the US. Their finding kicked off a battle for CRISPR’s honour, with some researchers speaking out to question the study’s methods while others piped up to agree that CRISPR is not yet ready for people.
~ Dang, there goes that promise.

11-dimension brain maths — Kathryn Hess, a researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, is one of the world’s leading thinkers in the field of algebraic topology – in super simplified terms, the mathematics of rubbery shapes. It uses algebra to attack the following question: If given two geometric objects, can you deform one to another without making any cuts?
~ The answer, when it comes to bagels and coffee mugs, is yes – they both have one hole.

If our world was just 100 people — Under the hypothetical scenario of the world’s population being just 100 people, 14 would understand Mandarin and only 13 would understand English. A whopping 40 people don’t have access to a toilet. And one person is starving. When it’s put that way, it doesn’t sound too unreasonable.
RealLifeLore is one of the most dependable YouTube channels around. If you just want to a big ol’ data dump accompanied by infographics, it has few rivals. The channel’s latest dive into the numbers that define our planet gives us a look at how the world’s population is divided up on numerous topics.
~ Then you realise that means 70 million people are starving. That’s shameful.

Secret message found on ancient pot — Those who live vicariously through Indiana Jones will be glad to know that a team of Israeli archaeologists has uncovered a cryptic message left on a 3000-year-old pottery shard. The ink-on-clay piece of pottery, called an ostracon, was originally discovered in the 1960s, in a city west of the Dead Sea called Tel Arad. Now, using new technology in multispectral imaging, researchers at Tel Aviv University have been able to illuminate text that’s been hiding on the ostracon all these years.
~ And guess what? The hidden inscription begins with a request for wine …

 

Futurology ~ Proving Einstein, hot planet, Lunar film, Apple and tech, copper mask, Sapiens rewrite, Pangea


A graphic designer built a film from thousands NASA stills

Astronomers prove to Einstein that stars can warp light  — Astronomers have observed for the first time ever a distant star warp the light of another star, “making it seem as though the object changed its position in the sky,” reports The Verge. The discovery is especially noteworthy as Albert Einstein didn’t think such an observation would be possible.
~ I don’t think it’s possible to prove anything to Einstein. 

Super hot world — An international team of astronomers has discovered a planet like Jupiter zipping around its host star every day and a half, boiling at temperatures hotter than most stars and sporting a giant, glowing gas tail like a comet.
~ Should we call it ‘Satan’?

Moon landing ‘film’ — Lunar was created by designer Christian Stangl animating thousands of still photos taken from NASA’s Apollo archives.
~ Lovely. 

Apple, Virtual Reality, power hardware and more — Forget the HomePod or the latest version of iOS. The big news out of WWDC was related to something that Apple, and most consumers, don’t really care about: Virtual Reality. In between Kaby Lake refreshes and Siri voice demos, Tim Cook announced a wide range of software and hardware changes that will finally bring VR to macOS, and that’s pretty damn surprising because Tim Cook himself is on record as giving exactly zero damns about VR.
Is that why Apple really built this ‘bonkers’ iMac? Apple intends it for machine learning, VR, and real-time 3-D rendering. In  his WWDC address, software chief Craig Federighi casually launched Apple into one of the tech industry’s fiercest competitions – the contest to help developers build the next generation of AI-powered applications.
~ Mac lovers cry ‘thank goodness!’ in unison. 

Ancient copper mask changes perceptions — A square-shaped copper mask pulled from a tomb in the southern Andes is resetting our notions of where and when sophisticated metallurgy first appeared in pre-Hispanic South America.
Archaeological evidence suggests that metallurgy in pre-Columbian America first appeared in the Andes, with Peru being the likely point of origin. But as a new study published in Antiquity shows a 3000-year-old mask in the Argentinean southern Andes suggests more than one region was involved in the development of this important tech.
~ Logic usually dictates against single origin points. 

Moroccan fossils rewrite Sapiens history — Fossils discovered in Morocco are the oldest known remains of Homo sapiens, scientists reported on Wednesday. Dating back roughly 300,000 years, the bones indicate that mankind evolved earlier than had been known, experts say, and open a new window on our origins.
The new fossils suggest our species evolved across Africa. “We did not evolve from a single cradle of mankind somewhere in East Africa,” said Phillipp Gunz, a paleoanthropologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Liepzig, Germany.
~ I’m surprised it’s surprising.

Pangea’s breakup and human evolution — 200 million years ago, every Earth continent and island was combined in the supercontinent ‘Pangea’. Rocks alone seem to show that the breakup happened 180 million years ago, but a team of Australian scientists thinks you should be able to see the split and continuing shifts written into the history of how animals have evolved.
New methods in biogeography put many in favour of dispersal as the prime factor. “The authors of this paper are trying to return to the previous ideas and re-emphasise the role of the rupture of continent in some organisms’ distribution,” said Katinas.
~ See? Dispersal again. 

Futurology ~ Jupiter jaunt, solar plane, resolution x3, wooden towers, ancient contraceptives and pyramid DNA


By Jupiter! Juno’s first major information dump revealed some incredible insights into our big ol’ friend, Jupiter. A few close approaches from the NASA spacecraft show that the gas giant has extremely chaotic storms and can generate aurorae in ways Earth can’t, among other oddities. In short, Jupiter is the Wild West of the solar system, and an incredible view of its rings proves just how true that is.
Jupiter is immense and this video is spectacular. The fifth planet from the sun has a diameter of 143,231 kilometres (89,000 miles) and could easily envelop every other planet (and Pluto). The gas giant also has 2.5 times the mass of all those planets combined. Even its enormous storms boggle the mind: the Great Red Spot is big enough to contain the Earth.
~ Suddenly Mars seems more attractive. 

Solar plane to circumnavigate the Earth — A Russian tycoon and his Renova Group plan a record-breaking effort to send a plane around the world nonstop using only the power of the sun. If all goes well, a single pilot will fly for five days straight at altitudes of up to 10 miles, about a third higher than commercial airliners.
~ If he flew at a lower altitude, wouldn’t it be a shorter trip?

New tech could triple screen resolutions — A research team at the University of Central Florida has developed a new surface that allows the tuning of individual subpixels on a display. The breakthrough might mean the potential display resolutions on LCD TVs could triple, virtually overnight.
~ All hail embossed nanosurfaces.

 

Wooden skyscraper — Chicago’s John Hancock Center was built in 1965 and required 5 million pounds of aluminium. Five years later, engineers constructed the Sears Tower, a 1,400 foot skyscraper that used more than 176 million pounds of steel. An ambitious new proposal promises to introduce a new material to Chicago’s skyline, and to skyscrapers around the world: wood.
Architects are exploring a new kind of high-rise structure built entirely from timber. The River Beech Tower is a spindly, beechwood building whose 80 stories cut a blonde silhouette against Chicago’s dark, glassy horizon.
~ Do they have borer over there?

Ancient Chinese contraception proves ‘perfect’ — Researchers at UC Berkeley found a birth control that was hormone-free, 100% natural, resulted in no side effects, didn’t harm either eggs nor sperm, could be used in the long-term or short-term, and, perhaps the best part of all, could be used either before or after conception, and it came from ancient Chinese folk medicine
Two plant compounds block fertilization at very, very low concentrations – about 10 times lower than levels of levonorgestrel in Plan B – they could be a new generation of emergency contraceptive.
~ They work as swim encumbrance. Seriously!

Ancient Egyptian DNA reveals … They left behind intricate coffins, massive pyramids and gorgeous hieroglyphs, a pictorial writing code cracked in 1799. But there was one persistent hole in ancient Egyptian identity: their chromosomes. A study led by researchers at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and the University of Tubingen in Germany managed to plug some of those genetic gaps.
Ancient Egyptians were closely related to people who lived along the eastern Mediterranean and shared genetic material with residents of the Turkish peninsula at the time and Europe.
The major finding was that “for 1300 years, we see complete genetic continuity.” Despite repeated conquests of Egypt, by Alexander the Great, Greeks, Romans, Arabs and Assyrians and more, ancient Egyptians showed little genetic change.
~ They also didn’t find much sub-Saharan African ancestry.

Futurology ~ Trappist, Juno Jupiter, cell detail, computer metal, hypersonic military plane, obesity microbiome


Now that TRAPPIST-1 is the trendiest star system in the galaxy — astronomers and nerds alike are clamouring to learn more about it. The seven-planet system contains three planets in the habitable zone, which means they could hypothetically support liquid water, and even life. The TRAPPIST-1 planets orbit around their ultracool dwarf star very closely, which could be good or bad for finding life, depending on who you ask.
By using data from NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, a team of researchers was able to ascertain the predictable frequency at which the innermost six planets orbit their star, a pattern called resonance. The planets’ gravitational tugs on each other keeps the entire system stable.
~ And what about that great beer, hey?

Juno’s flight to Jupiter has been about as dramatic as a sci-fi thriller can get — Last October, Juno’s engine system malfunctioned, causing NASA to delay the orbiter’s planned approach into a 14-day “science orbit”. This February, NASA decided to forego the science orbit engine burn entirely, keeping the spacecraft in its much longer 53.5 day orbit. But we’re finally getting some detailed news, because Juno has a suite of instruments for measuring microwaves, infrared waves, radio waves, visible light, Jupiter’s magnetic field and other particles.
~ Juno Jupiter like NASA? No. 

Cell detail — A team of American scientists made what might be the most complex video of a cell in action yet. It’s all based on a real monkey cell, analyzed with a series of proteins, dyes and a special kind of microscope. Oother microscopes have made videos of cells moving, or pairs of cell parts, called organelles, interacting, but this is the first time so many compartments in live cells have been analysed.
~ Easy sell. 

RATT, Poison and Mötley Crüe no more — Slick, sweaty men licking their guitars while wearing tight leather pants and acid washed jeans, wagging their hair-sprayed manes and rocking out harder than any of us so-called millennials could even imagine. But lately metal band names have been lame.
Luckily (or not) optics researcher Janelle Shane, who has created new paint colours, recipes and even Pokemon using artificial intelligence, has once again solved one of our biggest problems using neural networks. HellBlazer from Metal-Archives.com supplied her with a list of 100,000 existing metal bands names to train an artificial intelligence network with.
~ What frightens me more is the fact there are 100,000 existing metal bands. 

Boing to make hypersonic plane for  military — The Department of Defense has selected Boeing to make a new hypersonic spaceplane that can be reused frequently over a short period of time to deliver multiple satellites into orbit.  Boeing’s design concept is called the Phantom Express and will move forward as part of the agency’s Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) program.
~ The main aim is something cheap to run, at only US$5 million per mission. Hey, how’s about that bicycle drive, then? Those astronauts are pretty fit. 

New obesity surgery about the gut microbiomes — A mounting body of evidence suggests that it may be possible to get all the weight-dropping effects of the procedure without going under the knife at all. It turns out gastric bypass not only restructures the topology of the human gut, but profoundly changes which microbes can survive and thrive in it.
It turns out the procedure doesn’t merely shift a patient’s microbial profile from an obese to a healthy one, it actually creates an entirely new ecosystem.
~ So, how to do that without heavy invasive surgery? 

Futurology ~ Space walk, radio cocoon, AI power, smart t-shirt, flexible speaker, old recording tech renewed, 3D-printed ovaries


Amazing space-walk footage — On March 24, ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet was joined by NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough on a spacewalk outside the International Space Station. The outing was fairly routine, but this footage captured by Pesquet gives all of us stuck here on Earth an amazing first-person look of what it’s like to be an astronaut looking down on our planet.
~ And if it doesn’t leave you speechless, you can’ talk. 

Humans accidentally created a protective bubble around Earth  — This is by using very low frequency (VLF) radio transmissions to contact submarines in the ocean. It sounds nuts, but according to recent research published in Space Science Reviews, underwater communication through VLF channels has an outer space dimension. This video explainer, released by NASA on Wednesday, visualizes how radio waves wafting into space interact with the particles surrounding Earth, and influence their motion.
~ Yes. Nuts. 

Games show off the power of AI — The Artificial Intelligence Experiments Program is a collection of interactive AI projects designed to show off the creative capacity of machines – like AI Duet, a piano that automatically harmonises with notes the user plays, and Bird Sounds, a visual map that groups bird calls based on their frequency. Some are fun, even absurd, while others explain machine learning. Ultimately, each strives to make AI more accessible to all.
~ Impressive.

T-shirt monitors breathing — The smart T shirt works without any wires, electrodes, or sensors attached to the user’s body, explains Younes Messaddeq, the professor who led the team that developed the technology. “The T shirt is really comfortable and doesn’t inhibit the subject’s natural movements. Our tests show that the data captured by the shirt is reliable, whether the user is lying down, sitting, standing, or moving around.”
~ I also monitor my breathing in real time while wearing a t-shirt without sensors or electrodes. 

Flexible speaker breakthrough — Following the development of a heat-powered graphene chip that could replace the speaker in your phone, scientists at Michigan State University have developed a paper-thin, flexible electronic panel that could turn fabrics into speakers, among other applications.
~ But how’s the bass? Speaking or which …

Rebuilding and using old recording tech — Portable machines toured the country in the 1920s, visiting rural communities like Poor Valley, West Virginia, and introducing musicians like the Carter Family to new audiences. This remarkable technology forever changed how people discover and share music, yet it was almost lost to history until music legend T Bone Burnett and a few friends decided to bring it back.
~ Awesome!

3D-printed ovaries — A team of bioengineers has reported a possible fix: 3-D printed ovaries. Their proof of concept, published in Nature Communications, only works on mice so far, but they could end up replacing the uterus-flanking, chestnut-sized organs in humans, too.
~ And watch your child grow. 

Futurology ~ Cosmic guffaw, Io lava waves, scary-smart homes, intelligent intersections, touchpaint, laser-etcher, talking browser, synthetic bone


New cosmic radio burst stumps scientists — Fast radio bursts are split-second intergalactic blips of radio waves we’ve detected over the last decade. You’d think that if we pointed our telescopes and other space cameras in the direction these bursts came from, we’d spot something else, too. But no.
Scientists spotted the newest burst (and the 22nd ever), FRB 150215, on 15 February 2015 with the Parkes Telescope in Australia. FRB 150215 was strange for lots of reasons. But despite what may have been the most well-coordinated follow-up effort yet with all sorts of equipment, scientists still don’t know the cause of it, or similar FRBs spotted on different occasions.
~ It was a cosmic guffaw that so-called sentient beings could vote in an idiot to rule the world’s most powerful, thus dangerous, country. 

Massive lava waves on Jupiter’s moon Io — Io is the closest thing we have to Hell in our Solar System, a Jovian moon that features hundreds of active volcanoes and expansive lakes filled with lava. New observations suggests that the largest of these lakes, Loki Patera, produces enormous waves that repeatedly flow around the molten surface.
~ Sounds like fun – as the crust breaks apart, it’s possible that magma spurts upward in fire mountains.

Scary-smart homes — To set up a connected home, you’ve got two options: buy a bunch of smart gadgets that may or may not communicate with other smart gadgets. Or you can retrofit all of your appliances with sensor tags, creating a slapdash network. The first is expensive. The second is a hassle.
Before long, though, you might have a third choice: one simple device that plugs into an electrical outlet and connects everything in the room.
~ Are you listening, Stephen King?

Intelligent intersections — Clemson researcher Ali Reza Fayazi has provided a tantalizing glimpse at that future, a proof-of-concept study showing that a fully autonomous four-way traffic intersection is a hundred times more efficient at letting traffic flow than the intersections you and I currently navigate. Because cars don’t sit idling at the lights, Fayazi calculated it would also deliver a 19 percent fuel saving.
~ Give this bloke a medal! 

Touchscreen paint — Touchscreen smartphones and tablets are so intuitive that even babies can easily learn how to use them. So why can’t any object work like a touchscreen? Everything from guitars to jelly might soon be able to, thanks to scientists at Carnegie Mellon University who came up with a way to use conductive spray paint to make almost any object touch-friendly.
~ Could lend a new spin to graffiti. 

Laser-etch colour printer — A new laser printer can etch microscopic patterns onto sheets of plastic. Researchers at the Technical University of Denmark have taken inspiration from creatures like butterflies and peacocks, whose wings and feathers create bright, iridescent colours not through light-absorbing pigments, but by bending and scattering light at the molecular level, creating what’s known as structural colour.
~ It works by modulating the surface to control how light is reflected. 

Annoyingly browser-based voice synthesiser — Neil Thapen’s Pink Trombone is a browser-based speech synthesiser that lets you manipulate a simulated mouth, throat, tongue, and nasal cavity to create a remarkably realistic – and equally annoying – human voice [Main picture, above].
~ Aaaah … aah … Great to troll your co-workers with.

Synthetic bone implant — Engineers at the University of California San Diego have developed a synthetic bone implant with functional marrow able to produce its own blood cells. So far, researchers revealed in a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week, they have successfully tested the engineered bone tissues in mice. But one day, those biomimetic bone tissues could provide new bone marrow for human patients in need of transplants, too.
~ We Can Build You. 

Futurology ~ Galactic gas, Cassini outdoes itself, Saturn sound, Wanaka super-energetic, jetting robot, Mexican cancer bra, fast camera, speech reproducer, dino-chicken


Galactic hot-gas wave — An international team of scientists has found a giant wave of hot gas chugging along through the Perseus galaxy cluster, located about 250 million light years away. By combining data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory with radio observations and computer simulations, the researchers have attempted to demystify the strange phenomenon, and in doing so, have created one hell of a visual (above).
~ And Futurology’s first GIF. Yay!

Cassini’s Grand Finale mission — Each time the NASA-led spacecraft drops a new batch of raw images, we jump to our computers and frantically scroll through to find the best. The raw photos from Cassini’s second dive into the gap between Saturn and its rings are now available – and honestly, they might even be better than the first round.
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Cassini’s mission into the “big empty” was the “sounds” it picked up from particles – or lack thereof – in the gap. According to NASA, Cassini’s Radio and Plasma Wave Science (RPWS) instrument “detected the hits of hundreds of ring particles per second” vaporising into electrically-excited gas when it was just outside Saturn’s main rings, but within the gap, it detected very few. But you can listen to that here.
~ Or put your radio between stations for a very similar effect. 

Wanaka, NZ and the hunt for super-energetic particles — On April 25, 10:50 am local time, a white helium balloon ascended from Wanaka, New Zealand, and lifted Angela Olinto’s hopes into the stratosphere. The football stadium-size NASA balloon, now floating 20 miles above the Earth, carries a one-ton detector that Olinto helped design and see off the ground. Every moonless night for the next few months, it will peer out at the dark curve of the Earth, hunting for the fluorescent streaks of mystery particles called “ultrahigh-energy cosmic rays” crashing into the sky. Olinto hopes this will be the key to finally figuring out the particles’ origin.
~ Olinto, born in Brazil, is a professor of astrophysics at the University of Chicago.

ISS jetting robot — Astrobee by name, is a cubic bot outfitted with 12 thrusters spitting blasts of air. It glides cautiously across the granite, sounding not unlike a muted jet engine. To find its way around, the robot uses an array of sensors, from a camera that builds a 3-D map like Microsoft’s Kinect system
~ We’re the Jetsons …

Mexican student’s cancer-detecting bra — An 18-year-old student from Mexico has won the top prize at the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA) for his invention of a bra that can help in the early detection of breast cancer. Equipped with around 200 biosensors, the bra maps the surface of the breast and is able to monitor changes in temperature, shape and weight.
~ After beating 13 other student entrepreneurs from around the globe, Rios Cantu took home an impressive US$20,000. Cantu was inspired by his mother’s ongoing battle with the disease. 

Camera shoots 5 trillion images per second Everything’s cooler in slow motion, but high frame-rate photography is an essential tool for scientists studying phenomena that occur in the blink of an eye. Researchers at Lund University have just revealed the fastest high-speed camera ever developed that can capture the equivalent of an astonishing five trillion frames every second, fast enough to visualise the movement of light.
~ I didn’t think you could fit that many trillions in a little second. 

AI speech generator can fake any voice — Using a powerful new algorithm, a Montreal-based AI startup has developed a voice generator that can mimic virtually any person’s voice, and even add an emotional punch when necessary. The system isn’t perfect, but it heralds a future when voices, like photos, can be easily faked. You can listen to some here, including Trump, Obama, Clinton …
~ It can read any text with a predefined emotion or intonation. The funny thing is, all the effort to even get close to this shows us how remarkable our own voices really are. 

Music damaged ears could get new parts grown for them — A team of scientists at Indiana University is using pluripotent stem cells, cells from the body that can be turned back into blank slate cells. The researchers were able to use these cells to create functioning pieces of the inner ear, chock full of hair cells and neurons. True stem cell hearing loss treatment is a long way off, but the result is, as far as they can tell, the first time anyone’s created hair cells from human pluripotent stem cells. So, a step in that direction.
~ Yay! What?

Meet Jianianhualong tengi, a distinctly chicken-like dinosaur that lived 125 million years ago during the Cretaceous period — This newly discovered species of dinosaur now represents the earliest known common ancestor of birds and closely related bird-like dinos, with a feathering pattern associated with aerodynamics (above). Its discovery is offering new insights into the evolution of feathers and flight.
~ My only thought is ‘one helluvan omelette’. 

 
Read more at https://www.gizmodo.com.au/2017/05/this-new-dinosaur-looked-an-awful-lot-like-a-chicken/#rHJWIjxEpYGK2vVR.99

 
Read more at https://www.gizmodo.com.au/2017/05/scientists-want-to-grow-your-music-blasted-eardrums-some-new-parts/#jX4uJ3z6ySIUxJMe.99

Futurology ~ Cassini, NASA chainmail, artificial womb, iWalk, plastic-eatin’ bug, speeding cheap drives, DNA treatment, mass-producing organs, seniors’ VR future, mastodon threatens history


NASA’s 3D-printed chainmail — The biggest improvement NASA has made in its 21st century version of chain mail, developed by a team led by Raul Polit Casillas at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, is how it’s manufactured. Instead of a medieval blacksmith spending weeks painstakingly connecting tiny loops of metal, one by one, the material shown above and below is 3D printed by a machine, which means it could be produced as needed on the space station, or on other off-Earth habitats, depending on where we travel in the coming decades.
~ Have at you, space varlet!

Cassini’s latter images — A Deep Space Network receiver picked up a signal from NASA’s Cassini orbiter as it emerged from its first trip through the gap between Saturn and the gas giant’s rings. In the ensuing data came pictures of the planet’s north pole and cloud tops from only 3000 kilometres away, our closest look yet at the upper part of Saturn’s atmosphere, where the pressure is about the same as it is at sea level on Earth, revealing ‘stringy’ clouds and odd lights. So what were we seeing?
~ In September, Cassini’s ‘final’ descent’ – let’s hope its crash isn’t seen as an act of war. 

Artificial womb birthed sheep, humans next? Inside what look like oversized ziplock bags strewn with tubes of blood and fluid, eight fetal lambs continued to develop much like they would have inside their mothers. Over four weeks, their lungs and brains grew, they sprouted wool, opened their eyes, wriggled around, and learned to swallow, according to a new study that takes the first step toward an artificial womb. One day, this device could help to bring premature human babies to term outside the uterus.
~ Can you keep them in the freezer till you want them? 

The iWalk2.0 hands-free crutch is a ‘high-tech peg-leg’ — The single ‘leg crutch’ straps to your leg and provides a built-in shelf upon which you rest your injured foot. It promised a way to walk around normally, arms completely unencumbered.
~ Basically, this is a high-tech peg-leg which gets you mobile again.

Plastic-munching caterpillar — In a chance discovery, a research team from Europe has learned a common insect larva is capable of breaking down the plastic found in shopping bags and other polyethylene-based products. This trash-munching caterpillar could inspire scientists to develop a new chemical process to tackle the growing problem of plastic waste.
~ So is its poo non-biodegradable? 

Optane memory speeds cheap hard drives — The primary reason your cheap laptop loudly chugs along at glacial speeds is because of the hard drive. Cheap laptops use cheap hard disk drives, which are much slower than the solid state drives found in better computers. But Intel’s new Optane Memory changes that. This little US$70 chip makes a cheap hard disk drive run as fast as a solid state drive by using a brand new type of memory.
~ Finally, something usefully revolutionary in the tech world!

DNA-based test much quicker at finding cancer — In the latest trial, reported in the journal Nature, 100 patients with non-small cell lung cancer were followed from diagnosis through surgery and chemotherapy, having blood tests every six to eight weeks. By analysing the patchwork of genetic faults in cells across each tumor, scientists created personalized genomic templates for each patient. This was then compared to the DNA floating in their blood, to assess whether a fraction of it matched that seen in their tumour.
~ Promising. 

Medical researchers have been able to create certain kinds of living cells with 3D printers for more than a decade — Some companies are getting closer to mass production of higher-order tissues (bone, cartilage, organs) and other individually tailored items, including implants.
~ I still want that small, three-fingered, two-thumbed hand in the middle of my chest so I can eat  a sandwich while holding a large iPad with both hands. 

Seniors’ future in VR — A four-years home-bound 78-year-old senior just made a transatlantic voyage while seated upright in his bed. He visited Stonehenge, a favorite vacation site of his; the streets of London’s Russell Square, near his old apartment and the stretch of Broadway where he lived and worked for so many years. Back and forth the man moved his head, his eyes obscured by the Gear VR headset he wore.
~ The bedridden man represents a population that has been forgotten by the VR industry: seniors.

US mastodon find threatens human history narrative — Workers building a new freeway in San Diego in 1993 made a fantastic discovery: a  backhoe operator scraped up a fossil, and scientists soon unearthed a full collection of bones, teeth, and tusks from a mastodon. The mastodons died out some 11,000 years ago.
But the dig site turned out to be even more revelatory and soon had archaeologists swooping in to study a number of stone tools scattered around the bones, evidence of human activity. After years of debate over the dating technology used on the mastodon, a group of researchers now believes that they can date it and the human tools to 130,000 years ago – more than 100,000 years earlier than the earliest humans are supposed to have made it to North America.
~ I would expect this idea could be confirmed with DNA studies. 

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.