Category Archives: Futurology

Futurology 17 ~ All from nothing after all to ghosts

Picture from the internet telepathy story at Gizmodo
Picture from the internet telepathy story at Gizmodo. On the right – telepathy breakthrough. On the left, mum at the hairdresser watching custard on YouTube. 

All from nothing after all — One of the great theories of modern cosmology is that the universe began in a ‘Big Bang’, but the mathematical mechanism by which this occurred has been lacking. Cosmologists at the Wuhan Institute have published a proof that the Big Bang could indeed have occurred spontaneously because of quantum fluctuations.
~ I’ve often wondered when the Wheeler-DeWitt equation would provide the equation. No I haven’t.

Largest Kepler object is Triton — Out beyond Neptune, the last of our Solar System’s gas giants, the icy graveyard of failed planetesimals lurks: the Kuiper Belt. Among these mixes of ice, snow, dust and rock are a number of worlds — possibly a few hundred — massive enough to pull themselves into hydrostatic equilibrium. The most famous among them are Pluto, the first one ever discovered, and Eris, of comparable size but undoubtedly more massive. But there’s an even larger, more massive object from the Kuiper Belt than either of these, yet you never hear about it: it’s Triton, the largest moon of Neptune – a true Kuiper Belt object.
~ Better buckle up, then. 

Geoengineering could be used to prevent catastrophic climate effects caused by giant eruptions — New research suggests it may be possible to counteract the effects through deliberate emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, dampening the abrupt impact of a massive eruption. Such measures could stave off the perpetual winters that follow these eruptions.
~ I don’t even enjoy the non perpetual winters, personally.

How many parallel processes run in human brains —fMRI data has revealed just how parallel gray matter is. The analysis is complex, but the outcome is simple to state. Georgiou says independent component analysis reveals that about 50 independent processes are at work in human brains performing the complex visuo-motor tasks of indicating the presence of green and red boxes. However, the brain uses fewer processes when carrying out simple tasks, like visual recognition.
~ Or voting.

Telepathy over the Internet is getting real — Researchers at the University of Washington have successfully demonstrated a brain-to-brain interface in a six-person study. This is the second such study, but with more people, more confidence, and enough success to presume that telepathy might just leap out of the realm of sci-fi.
~ I can often tell what’s on a website just by looking at it. 

Robot makes people feel like a ghost is nearby— In 2006, cognitive neuroscientist Olaf Blanke of the University of Geneva in Switzerland was testing a patient’s brain functions before her epilepsy surgery when he noticed something strange. Every time he electrically stimulated the region of her brain responsible for integrating different sensory signals from the body, the patient would look behind her back as if a person was there, even when she knew full well that no one was.
Now, with the help of robots, Blanke and colleagues have not only found a neurological explanation for this illusion, but also tricked healthy people into sensing ‘ghosts‘.
~ Next the ghost of HG Wells will make you feel robots are imminent… Meanwhile ‘mediums’ will carry on tricking themselves and others they can really see ghosts. 

Futurology 16 ~

Perhaps one could practice for colonisation by staying in a line-up of porter-loos.
Perhaps one could practice for colonisation by staying in one of a line-up of porter-loos.

Life on Mars — Motherboard just released its latest documentary, and it asks a very simple question: When will humans live on Mars? The answer is sort of “It’s complicated“, but for now we need better technology to make life on Mars feasible for extended periods of time. Regardless, the peek into the burgeoning space tourism industry is fascinating and getting into the nitty gritty of what it would actually take to colonise Mars is definitely worth 25 minutes of your time.
~ The better question might be ‘Why would humans want to?’

Universal Basic Income will save us from the Robot Uprising — Robots are poised to eliminate millions of jobs over the coming decades. We have to address the coming epidemic of “technological unemployment” if we’re to avoid crippling levels of poverty and societal collapse. Here’s how a guaranteed basic income will help — and why it’s absolutely inevitable.
~ Apart from being 100% morally defensible, of course. 

Sydney saves big time with LEDs — The 4100 LED lights installed since March of 2012 have lowered Sydney’s energy costs by more than a third; public lighting itself accounts for more than a third of the entire energy bill – the dollar saving: $370,000.
~ They generate less heat, too.

Tech brain reading — A group of neuroscientists has figured out how to decode a limited set of words ‘spoken’ by our inner voices from looking at brain activity alone.
~ Now I’m really in trouble. We;ll have to learn inner sign language.

Brick facade is actually snap-on insulation — Dutch company Energiesprond has come up with a way to make houses carbon neutral with easy, snap-on insulation and solar panels. It doesn’t hurt that houses come out looking quite handsome too.
~ The result is also quieter inside.

Solar energy as cheap as fossil by 2016 — A new study on solar energy from Deutsche Bank bears very good news. Thanks to technology and innovation, solar energy will be jusold warmingt as cheap as energy from fossil fuels by 2016. That’s basically tomorrow, and it’s awesome.
~ Meanwhile we’re paying the Sun what, exactly?

Three historic pulses of global warming — A new study shows that the increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide that contributed to the end of the last ice age more than 10,000 years ago did not occur gradually but rather was characterized by three abrupt pulses.
~ Conspiracy theorists, time to get busy.

Futurology 15 ~ Mars comet, inhabitants, tractor beam, gamer tanks, engineering cells, high Ice age, tattooed cannabis smoker mummy

You can fit all the planets in the Solar System back to back into the distance from the Earth to the moon — about 384,400kms
You can fit all the planets in the Solar System back to back into the distance from the Earth to the moon

Good fit— All the planets in the Solar System can fit back to back into the distance from the Earth to the moon — about 384,400km — with 8030kms to spare. Seeing it visualised (above) really gives you a good idea of how much empty space is out there.
~ And with another million kms, the sun fits too. 

Mars Orbiters survive unprecedented encounter with comet Siding Spring— Last week, comet Siding Spring hurled past Mars at half the distance between the Earth and moon, bringing a massive cloud of dust along with it. To protect its space-based assets, space agencies employed precautionary measures, and they appear to have worked.
~ They did this by tweaking their orbits.

Mission to Mars suits women — A mission to Mars should have an all-female crew, says Kate Green, who participated in a simulated expedition. Over five weeks, the female crew members expended less than half the calories of the men and at mealtimes, the women ate smaller portions. Less food means a lighter spacecraft payload and reduced fuel.
~ And how about the food for the rest of their lonely and stranded lives?

Aussie tractor beam — Laser physicists from Australia built a reversible tractor beam capable of retrieving tiny particles. It’s nowhere near as strong as the beams portrayed in scifi, but it’s the first long-distance optical tractor beam capable of moving particles one fifth of a millimetre in diameter a distance of up to 20cm.
~ Scale it up a few thousand times and it might be useful. Or you could just pick something up with your hands.

Old paper may have had clues to Dark Matter — A paper from an experiment conducted 32 years ago may shed light on the nature of dark matter, the mysterious stuff whose gravity appears to keep the galaxies from flying apart.
~ I am happy or the subject to remain Dark.

British military seeking gamers to pilot tanks — The British branch of the global defense firm General Dynamics is working on a futuristic state-of-the-art smart-tank to replace the British Army’s ageing armoured vehicles, for 2020. The Scout SV will be the first fully-digitised armored fighting vehicle built for the British Army, and is far bigger and more durable than any of its existing tanks, now at least 20 years old. So they’re looking for the type of people who play Xbox games: “tech-savvy people who are able to take in a lot of information and process it in the proper way”.
~ The gamer’s ultimate justification has arrived.

Engineered cells to fight cancer — Researchers from Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital have successfully cultivated stem cells that will kill brain cancer cells in mice without damaging healthy cells.
~ Mice get all the breaks.

Buildings to sweat for cooling — Our reliance on air conditioning, however magical an innovation, has become a serious environmental burden. So researchers in Barcelona have designed a material they say can naturally cool rooms by about 5C using a moisture-absorbing polymer that “sweats” much like our own bodies.
~ Welcome to my hydroceramic home.That smell is deodorant.

ATLAS getting faster and faster at simple human tasks — ATLAS Is Getting Faster and Faster At Simple Human Tasks
Oh, sure, we all pointed and laughed at ATLAS when it was first revealed, stumbling over simple obstacles. But deep down we knew that, like our original iPods, it would quickly evolve into something far more capable. Just over a year later, ATLAS is already tackling simple obstacles with ease.
~ Ah, the fascination with making things do what we do easily. 

Highest Ice Age settlement — Researchers working in the Peruvian Andes have found an ice age camp located 14,760 feet (4,500 meters) above sea level. It’s so high the archaeologists were surprised ancient humans could survive up there.
~ I’m even surprised archaeologists can survive up there.

2500 year old mummy smoked dope and was covered in tattoos — In 1993, Russian scientist Natalia Polosmak discovered the remains of a 25-year-old woman covered in tattoos who came to be known as the Ukok Princess. An MRI has now revealed the young woman was suffering from breast cancer, a bone marrow infection at the time of her death, and scientists have stated she most likely used cannabis to treat herself.
~ Somehow I suspect the tats weren’t a rose, and anchor and ‘Mum’.

Futurology 14 ~ Mimas, Saturn, ancient comet, Mars, Solar Civ, Sun, Tesla, Ebola, life-raft, Cheerios, ash, Titanic

Comets from the Oort cloud are both ancient and rare. This one will bathe Mars in its light tail
Comets from the Oort cloud are both ancient and rare. This one will bathe Mars in its light tail

Mimas might have a subterranean ocean — It’s not the prettiest thing in the solar system, but Mimas — a pockmarked moon in orbit around Saturn — exhibits an odd wobble. A team of astronomers reckon there are two possible explanations: a subterranean ocean or it has an irregularly shaped core. Another Saturn moon looks frighteningly like a wasp nest
~ I vote we call the underground sea ‘Marcel M’.

Ancient comet will bathe Mars in light — Our Monday, something historical will happen: An ancient rare comet will arrive to Mars after millions of years travelling at 53km/s from the Oort cloud. It will look like you can see at this link, passing to within just a third of the distance from Earth to the moon and engulfing the Red Planet in its large tail.
~ Mars Bath.

Dark Matter sends a signal for the Sun — Astronomers from Leicester University have detected a strange signal in the X-ray spectrum that appears to be a signature of ‘axions’ — a hypothetical dark matter particle. It could take years to confirm, but this may be the first direct detection and identification of dark matter.
~ Scientists think it exists but they can’t prove it. It’s like the National Party’s conscience.

White House seeks advice on ‘Bootstrapping A Solar System Civilisation’ — The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy is planning ahead — way ahead. The agency wants you to email ideas for how “the Administration, the private sector, philanthropists, the research community and storytellers” can develop “massless” space exploration and a robust civilization beyond Earth.
~ It will end up ‘Let the market run it’, no doubt.

Mystery space ship lands on Earth after record time away — America’s spy space drone the X-37B has landed safely after a record-setting orbit of 675 days. The fact that this spacecraft has been in orbit for almost two years and has returned to Earth intact is an amazing technological feat, apparently.
~ It’s amazing? The Moon stays up there all by itself. 

Tesla S has iPhone 6 supplier internals — Well, sort of: the Tesla Model S gets attention because it’s an EV that can go from from 0 to 96kph in 4.2 seconds and can travel 265 miles on a single charge. But, a teardown of the vehicle by IHS Technology has also revealed that Elon Musk went for two 1.4Ghz, quad-core NVIDIA Tegra processors. IHS called the Tesla’s head unit the most sophisticated it’s ever seen, with 1000 more components than any it has previously analysed.
~ Now for the drivers …

Ebola robots — US robotics researchers from around the country are collaborating to build autonomous vehicles that could deliver food and medicine, and telepresence robots that could safely decontaminate equipment and help bury victims of Ebola.
~ Minimise contact – and then remote-sterilise the robots, too. 

Tipping rescue raft makes it easier to pull people from the water — Water rescues can be particularly tricky because you’re on the exact opposite of stable ground while you’re trying to pull someone to safety. But getting enough leverage to pull a heavy body out of the water looks a little easier with this clever inflatable raft that can be tipped backwards for easier access to the water, without that whole sinking issue.
~ And it’s back-packable.

Cheerios inside bags grow new Antifungals — Scientists grew a soil fungus for four weeks in a bag full of Cheerios and discovered a new compound that can block biofilm formation by an infectious yeast. The chemists claim that Cheerios are by far the best in the cereal aisle at growing chemically productive fungi.
~ So why am I not surprised?

Cigarette ash water filters — Among the long, long list of reasons why we shouldn’t smoke lies cigarette ash: it’s an unsavoury chemical cocktail that also happens to be a major eyesore around any popular smoking spot. But thanks to a team of chemists, we could use that same cocktail of horrific chemical to make water clean.
~ And it tastes like …?

A single breakthrough could cut costs on solar energy by 25% — Costs on solar are coming down steeply, and now they’re about to get even cheaper. A group of chemists at Ohio State University has invented a solar panel that stores energy without an external battery. The self-contained tuner/capacitor panels are already being licensed to industry.
~ We welcome the forthcoming Epic of Solarmesh.

New pictures of Titanic launch have emerged — There’s a new exhibition at an Irish museum showcasing previously unpublished sepia-tinged photos of the ill-fated Titanic as it’s being launched to sea. The goose-bump inducing images show the luxury liner as it’s going down the Belfast shipyard’s slipway, along with excited spectators cheering on.
~ 117 prints in all! 

Futurology 13 ~ From robo-linguist, cure for Diabetes to more Antikythera finds

So far In the android can only pass along simple greetings in Japanese sign language
So far In the android can only pass along simple greetings in Japanese sign language

Toshiba’s eerie Sign Language Robot will silently stare into your soul — Proving its engineers are just as capable as anyone at developing a creepy human-like robot that embraces the Uncanny Valley, Toshiba has developed an android that specialises in sign language, thanks to a pair of highly articulated hands. One day, the company hopes it could serve as an artificial receptionist, but it’s probably going to need to learn to talk first.
~ Creepy but potentially useful. 

Print a super-thin touchscreen display on just about anything — PrintScreen is a system for printing displays on nearly any kind of material: wood, Mylar, marble, leather, metal, paper. And what’s more, these super cheap, super fast displays are touch sensitive. They can be double-sided. You can roll ’em, fold ’em …
~ But you need to know when to hold ’em. 

Computer fits together like Lego — Kano is a new kind of computer company, a startup that’s totally devoted to teaching a new generation about the craft of silicon. Its first product, a Raspberry Pi-based system so easy a child could build it, makes it easy to build a PC practically from scratch.
~ And not sponsored by Shell. 

Have scientists developed a viable cure for Type 1 Diabetes? In what’s being called one of the most important advances to date in the field, researchers at Harvard have used stem cells to create insulin-producing beta cells in large quantities. Human transplantation trials could only be a few years away.
~ Well, take your time why don’t you.

Cars take up this much more space than bikes
Cars take up this much more space than bikes

Possibly the World’s silliest (and most creative) protest against cars — In Latvia, a group of bicycle enthusiasts decided to show the city of Riga what it would be like if every bicycle turned into a car. So they built these amazing contraptions to remind everyone that cars are what cause traffic jams.
~ As long as the bike couriers don’t start doing it. 

City growth explosions visualised — Cities are growing larger, and that over half the human population lives in a city. But when you see these maps charting the growth of megacities since the early 1900s … well, it’s stunning. It’s especially incredible when you realise most cities exploded in size over the past 50 years.
~ And get used to it – that’s what National wants for Auckland. 

Archaeologists make more stunning discoveries on Antikythera shipwreck — The international team of divers and archaeologists investigating the site of an ancient Greek ship that sank more than 2000 years ago off the remote island of Antikythera have not been disappointed.
The site is bigger than they thought, and contains a treasure trove of artefacts. This is where the Antikythera Mechanism came from decades ago, which seems to be a highly complex geared calculation device of some sort. The wreck is so deep they’re using a diving exosuit with rebreather technology to get to it.
~ Plus the ship is perhaps 50 metres long – a monster for the era.

Futurology 12 ~ Seafloor, gravity, antiparticle, solar, coal, water-torch, Ebola

Blackout Buddy H2O’s shelf-stable magnesium-oxide battery remains inert until water kickstarts the chemical reaction that provides electricity to the three white LED bulbs
Blackout Buddy H2O’s shelf-stable magnesium-oxide battery remains inert until water kickstarts the chemical reaction that provides electricity to the three white LED bulbs

More accurate seafloor maps thanks to satellites — Using data from satellites that measure variations in Earth’s gravitational field, researchers have found a new and more accurate way to map the sea floor. The improved resolution has already allowed them to identify previously hidden features including thousands of extinct volcanoes more than 1000 meters tall, as well as piece together some lingering uncertainties in Earth’s ancient history.
~ It’s triumph of multiple pings. 

So much ice gone,  Earth’s gravity has been affected — The European Space Agency has been measuring gravity for four years, mapping variations and recording the changes those variations have undergone. Its data indicates “a significant decrease [in gravity] in the region of Antarctica where land ice is melting fastest.
~ They thought that only happened in oil barons’ Pina Coladas.

A particle that’s also its own antiparticle — In 1937, an Italian physicist predicted the existence of a single, stable particle that could be both matter and antimatter. Nearly 80 years later, a Princeton University research team has actually found it.
~ They should call it the Mussolini Particle — both the agent of change and its now  destruction.

Ultrasmall organic laser — Researchers have made the tiniest organic laser reported so far: an 8-micrometer-long, 440-nanometer-wide device which looks like a suspended bridge riddled with holes. It’s carved into a silicon chip coated with an organic dye. Integrated into microprocessors, such tiny lasers could one day speed up computers by shuttling data using light rather than electrons.
~ The light at the end of the chipset.

Mesh solar cell is also a battery —Researchers at Ohio State have announced a breakthrough in solar energy technology that stands to revolutionise the industry. It’s a mesh solar cell that also stores electricity. The new hybrid device runs on light and oxygen, storing electricity with the help of a simple chemical reaction. The best part is that it brings down the cost of a standard solar cell by 25%.
~ Cheaper is better, so we’re less subject to the power monopolies.

World’s first clean coal commercial plant just opened In Canada — Canada has switched on its Boundary Dam Carbon-Dioxide Capture and Storage (CCS) Project. In is now the only country on Earth with a commercial-scale, coal-fired power plant capable of harvesting its own CO2 and sulfur dioxide emissions.
~ Coal that eats itself.

Tiny emergency torch glows for 72 hours after you add water — Batteries have a limited shelf life, so any torch you’ve been saving for an emergency might not actually work when you need it. But these tiny emergency lights from Eton simply need you to add water to keep them lit for three full days. They cost US$10 each (main picture).
~ Water torch – yeah! 

Ebola vaccine delay may be due to an Intellectual Property dispute — For the past six weeks, about 800 to 1000 doses of an experimental ebola vaccine have been sitting in a Canadian laboratory instead of being dispensed to West Africa. The delay, it would now appear, may be on account of an intellectual property spat.
~ I am SO disgusted by this!

Futurology 11 ~ Space water, Indian Mars, laser hair, Dystopian clothes and more

Laser your hair bike – perhaps while you cycle and listen to music!
Laser your hair back on – perhaps while you cycle and listen to music!

Water 120 light years away — Astronomers have detected water vapor in the atmosphere of a planet that orbits a star far beyond our solar system. Observations of the Neptune-sized planet, which lies 120 light years from Earth in the constellation of Cygnus, revealed its atmosphere was mostly hydrogen with around 25% made up from water vapour.
~ Astronauts, please fill your water bottles here. 

Indian snapshots from Mars — India’s Mangalyaan spacecraft is doing what anyone with that view outside of its window might do: posting a series of quick snapshots back for all its friends at home.
~ Instagram.

Leaf might let us colonise space — Royal College of Art graduate Julian Melchiorri has developed a ‘man-made biological leaf’ made from chloroplasts and a silk product. It produces oxygen the same way a real plant does. As Melchiorri explains in the video, that could be a boon for space exploration.
~ Mm, but teamed with what type of salad dressing?

Clearer, cheaper smartphone screens — The most advanced LED screens look amazing compared to what was on the market even a couple of years ago. But a Princeton engineer found a cheap new way of making LEDs not only brighter and more efficient but also five times as clear, and they’ll last longer. (Professor Stephen Chou is renowned for his 2012 nanotechnology breakthrough that increased solar cell efficiency by 175%.)
~ Once those patents go through … iPhone 7, 1% cheaper than 6.

Dystopian clothes that shield iPhones — British company The Affair has created a number of science fiction-themed fashion lines, but their latest is all modeled on what people wore in George Orwell’s 1984, and comes with a shielded phone pocket made from material that can effectively pull you off the grid. They block Cell, WiFi, GPS and RFID signals to ~100 dB, plus NFC signals. There are a few days left to contribute to The Affair’s Kickstarter, which will get you the outfits of your choice.
~ Now minus 20% more. The tagline is ‘Become Invisible to Big Brother’.

Shinkin’ Arctic ice in one simple graphic — NASA’s Greg Shirah made a great grid graphic using images of the north pole sea ice extent from the National Snow and Ice Data Center. From left to right you go from 1979 to 2014. From top to bottom you can see the months. You can see how the spots are smaller every year. Zoom in and scroll.
~ Someone seriously once told me that global warming was a ;left wing conspiracy’. He failed to elucidate what the left would possibly gain from such a conspiracy.

Recyclable cardboard furniture — If you’re not going to be living too long in a place, decking out your temporary abode in recyclable cardboard furniture makes sense. It’s cheaper than real furniture, you don’t have to bring it next time you move, and with modular TapeFlips sets you can actually build exactly the pieces you need.

2000x the sun — IBM Research and Swiss company Airlight Energy announced a parabolic dish that increases the sun’s radiation by 2,000 times while also producing fresh water and air conditioning. It can generate 12 kilowatts of electrical power and 20 kilowatts of heat on a sunny day — enough to power several average homes.
~ Build your own sunspot.

Hair-growing laser helmet — Apira Science’s iGrow Hair Growth system is now available over-the-counter. The funky looking device (main picture, above) uses lasers and LEDs to illuminate the scalp with red light, which according to the manufacturer is supposed to work.
~ Seems an unproven and light-headed idea to me.

3D printing to restore a Frank Lloyd Wright building — The largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in the world is at Florida Southern University. Depending on how you count, there are 7 to 12 buildings, the most distinctive of which is Annie Pfeiffer Chapel. Time has taken its toll on the chapel’s one-of-a-kind concrete blocks, but it’s the 21st century, and we now have a modern solution to fix them: 3D printing.
Mesick Cohen Wilson Baker Architects (MCWB) was brought on to restore the buildings, and funded by the Florida Division of Historical Resources and $the National Park Service’s Save America’s Treasures Program, rather than print concrete blocks, the architects printed plastic moulds to cast the concrete.
~ New for old. 

How much a European city has changed in 100 years — A video shows the 100 year difference at Alkmaar in the Netherlands.
~ Interesting video, but all I can think of is ‘mmm, cheese’.

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Futurology 10 ~ Rosetta, ant-radio, nanobeads, UFO, solar, exo-pants, DNA advances

A photo of an Earth-origin spaceship over 400 million kilometres away from Earth
A photo of an Earth-origin spaceship over 400 million kilometres away from Earth

Spaceship flying 402.3 million kilometres away from Earth — Above is a photo of a spaceship flying 402.3 million kilometres away from Earth. It’s Rosetta, floating in the black vacuum of space, photographed by its Philae daughtership, a lander that will soon arrive to the object on the background, the comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
~ Let’s hope it leaves no space-stone unturned.

And now it knows where to land — Site J is the area chosen for its unique scientific potential and minimum risk to the lander. Choosing a landing site was not easy. Comet Churymov-Gerasimenko’s strange, rubber ducky-like shape has presented a host of operational challenges.
~ You’d think the Churymov-Gerasimenkians would have rolled out the red carpet, after all that trouble.

Ant-sized radios — Radios made of silicon and measuring a few millimeters each have been developed by researchers at Stanford University. You can fit dozens of them on a penny and the good news is that they’re dirt cheap to manufacture.
~ I had no idea ants listened to the radio. at least they can carry these ones instead of just having to live inside them.

Nanobeads to sweep your blood — Scientists at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have created what is essentially an artificial spleen. The device made of wire and plastic may not resemble the fleshy organ in our bodies, but its series of blood channels mimics the microarchitecture of spleens.
Blood passing through these channels encounters magnetic nanobeads coated with a protein called mannose-binding lectin (MBL), a natural immune protein that binds to the surfaces of bacteria, viruses, fungi, pathogen, and toxins.
~ So far only labtest animals are getting the benefits. 

The 1960s TV Series UFO predicted today’s cutting-edge military tech — This classic TV show created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson had its share of late-’60s, early-’70s schlock, such as military officers whose mini-skirt uniforms included purple wigs. But U.F.O also had strong characters, nuanced plots and extremely cool technology that, in retrospect, was decades ahead of its time.
~ And the cars!

Solar tech enhances oil recovery — Glasspoint Solar Inc installs aluminium mirrors near oil fields to concentrate solar radiation on insulated tubes containing water. The steam generated from heating the water is injected into oil fields to recover heavy crude oil. Royal Dutch Shell has invested heavily into this.
~ Cynical or what?!

Exoskeleton pants — Exoskeletons that give you superhuman strength sound incredibly awesome but also look incredibly awkward and bulky and uncomfortable. So what about a soft exoskeleton that you wear like a pair of pants?
Harvard researchers recently won a DARPA grant of up to $US2.9 million to develop the Soft Exosuit – so far, it’s created a proof-of-concept suit that resembles black leggings, threaded with cables and attached to a bulky battery pack at the waist.
~ Also excellent for extended dancing sessions. 

Europeans came from three ancestry groupings — A recent study by researchers at Harvard Medical School and the University of Tübingen in Germany has found that present day Europeans are descendants of three different groups of people: a near-eastern farmer group, an indigenous hunter-gatherer group, and an ancient North Eurasian group from Siberia.
~ In my case it was mum, dad and, er …

And if that’s interesting … Check out this story about what they can gather from your DNA these days.
~ Modern-day hunting and gathering. 

Futurology 08 ~ Space apps, ozone, Atom sound, Retina, Info Theory, bikes speed traffic, smart rescue, bone armour, Stonehenge revelations

The area around Stonehenge was busier than previously guessed
The area around Stonehenge was busier than previously guessed (click to enlarge)

10 apps that are the next best thing to being in space — Most of us won’t ever visit space. But space has been brought to us, in the form of images and data collected for years by spacecraft, satellites and telescopes. Here are the 10 best online, interactive apps that allow you to explore space from your computer. Grab your mouse, Ensign — you have the helm.
~ And all without the vacuum.

Political hot air helps ozone — Finally, some good news about our troubled atmosphere: A UN study shows that the ozone layer is displaying early signs of thickening after years of depletion. It’s on the road to recovery — an achievement scientists say is due to political will.
~ Someone tell National. 

Scientists capture the sound made by a single atom — Researchers at Columbia University and Sweden’s Chalmers University of Technology say that they have, for the first time, “captured” the sound a single atom makes when it is excited — a single “phonon,” as it were.
~ And there’s me thinking ‘Kanyé West for some reason’.

CERN tests first artificial retina capable of looking for high energy particles — Pattern recognition is one of the few areas where humans regularly outperform even the most powerful computers. But surprisingly, our brains only do part of the work. The most basic pattern recognition — edge detection, line detection and the detection of certain shapes — is performed by the complex circuitry of neurones in the retina. Now a team at CERN has built and tested an artificial retina capable of identifying particle tracks in the debris from particle collisions.
~ Every home should have one. 

Information Theory places new limits on origin of life — Most research into the origin of life focuses on the messy business of chemistry, on the nature of self-replicating molecules and on the behavior of autocatalytic reactions. Now one theorist says the properties of information also place important limits on how life must have evolved, without getting bogged down in the biochemical details.
~ I always figured death was a fairly incontrovertible limit.

Bike lanes speed New York traffic — Although narrower streets can slow traffic, that doesn’t seem to have happened here — perhaps because traffic in this area was crawling at around 20kph to begin with. Just one major improvement to intersection design helped them handle more, while also letting bikes travel more safely: a pocket lane for left-hand turns: a devoted turning lane at most intersections that takes the place of the parking lane, which gets cars out of the way of moving traffic when they’re making a left.
~ Left turn helps society. Now there’s a surprise.

Rural areas in the US may soon get high-speed wi-fi over unused tv bands —If you live out in the less densely inhabited regions, chances are good that high-speed internet in your area is pretty hard — if not impossible — to come by. That could soon change thanks to a team from Rice University who hacked currently unused, Ultra High Frequency (UHF) TV spectrum into a high-speed, wireless internet pipeline.
~ Listen up, Kiwi farmers, there is hope.

Australians design smart rescue boat — A new ‘smart’ search and rescue boat could soon be patrolling your local shores, all by itself. ‘Bruce’ was developed by a team of six students from Australia’s Queensland University of Technology for Google’s upcoming Maritime RobotX Challenge, which will be held in Singapore late next month.
~ That is smart.

US Army’s laser war truck can now see (and shoot) through fog — The problem with the current iterations of combat laser prototypes is they can easily be foiled by suspended condensation: smoke, fog and other obscurants deflect and diffract the beam as it’s en-route to its target. The HEL MD, however, proved earlier this year that the solution is simple: Just increase the power of the laser enough to burn through everything — including incoming mortar rounds.
~ That’s progress, right?

Bone armour — Archaeologists working near Omsk in Siberia have discovered a complete suit of bone armour. Found in near perfect condition, the unique armour dates back to the Bronze Age.
A suit of armour like this, which was buried at a depth of 1.5 meters and found without its unknown owner, has never been seen before in the Omsk region. Further analysis is required, but preliminary estimates place it between 3500 to 3900 years old. The artefact was found near the Irtysh River at a site of a sanatorium where there are plans to build a five star hotel.
~ That’s rather GoT.

Unreal Stonehenge finds — Using powerful ground-penetrating radar, investigators working around Stonehenge have detected a trove of previously unknown burial mounds, chapels, shrines, pits — and most remarkable of all — a massive megalithic monument made up of more than 50 giant stones buried along a 1082-foot-long c-shaped enclosure by using a magnetometer, a ground-penetrating radar (GPR), and a 3D laser scanner (main picture).
~ And guess what they were used for? You may as well, that’s what everyone else is doing. 

Futurology 07 ~ bigger Galaxy, Sun, Cubesat, flush, sustainable airport, pizza, hormone living, Paleo-Eskimos

Mexico's planned mega-airport may well be the most sustainable
Mexico’s planned mega-airport may well be the most sustainable

Our galaxy got biggened — Our galactic supercluster is 100 times bigger in volume and mass than previously thought. Using an innovative mapping technique, astronomers have charted an enormous region they’re now calling Laniakea. The new study, which better defines the dividing line between superclusters, offers a completely new look at our galaxy’s surroundings.
~ Laniakeans unite!

Scientists and the mystery of the Sun’s 11-year cycle — Every 11 years or so, our sun suddenly becomes a much busier place, with sunspots, flares, and all manner of activity bursting from its surface. But, although the results are clear enough, no one was quite sure why. Now, researchers think they’ve finally found an answer to this 4-centuries old scientific mystery.
~ Multiple cycles overlapping. 

Space Station’s ‘Cubesat Cannon’ has gone rogue — Last night (Thursday), two more of Planet Lab’s shoebox-sized Earth imaging satellites launched themselves from aboard the International Space Station, the latest in a series of technical mysteries involving a commercially owned CubeSat deployer located outside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module.
~ It was Judith Collins and a smear campaign. 

What happens when you flush — The flushing toilet is a remarkable piece of technology that keeps our cities sanitary. But what happens when you say goodbye to your creations and flush the thing?
Really, rather a lot. This video runs through the daily business of shifting excretions. You might need a strong stomach, there are 10 minutes to watch!
~ Did that bring you back to earth?

Mexican mega-airport will source its own energy and water — Cities all over the world have been scrambling to build mega-airports to lure tourism dollars and modernise their images. Mexico City’s gigantic new airport proposal might well be the “most sustainable” in the world (pictured above).
~ Shame it’s transport purpose won’t be as sustainable. 

Six brilliant ideas to attack environmental problems — Buckminster Fuller was a designer, futurist and humanitarian. Each year, the Buckminster Fuller Institute honours the visionary’s legacy with a competition showcasing ingenious solutions for global problems.
The international competition aims to acknowledge design work that solve issues at the “system scale” — ideas easily replicated and widely implementable. Gizmodo talks about six notable finalists from this year’s entries.
~ I like the living structural membranes. 

Scientists empirically work out the best cheese for pizza — You already know the answer, right? A paper appearing in the Journal of Food Science was titled “Quantification of Pizza Baking Properties of Different Cheeses, and Their Correlation with Cheese Functionality.” It aimed to ‘answer the century-long culinary quandary‘ blah blah blah and yes, surprise surprise, the answer was mozzarella.
~ When in doubt, get a scientist to prove the bleedin’ obvious.

Woman lives ‘perfectly’ by hormones — Female hormones are always regarded as “extreme” and “unpredictable.” But what if you could outwit them by treating your body like a predictable baby-making vessel, prone to moves so obvious it may as well be the hormonal equivalent of a Hollywood ending?
One woman tried. And she succeeded.
Beverly Turner tried out something called the Hormone Horoscope for a month, and the results seemed eerily effective for her.
~ And no, it’s nothing I’d suggest to my partner for fear of toe-treading.

DNA reveals history of vanished ‘Paleo-Eskimos’ — The earliest people in the North American Arctic remained isolated from others in the region for over 4000 years before vanishing [only] around 700 years ago, new analysis shows. The study also reveals that today’s Inuit and Native Americans of the Arctic are genetically distinct from the region’s first settlers, who they ‘replaced’ around 700 years ago.
~ They, unfortunately. paleod by comparison to the Thule people.

Futurology 06 ~ Mars, microbes, Microsoft & Peak Meat

Researchers discovered a microscopic oval object within the Nakhla Mars meteorite, which fell to Earth in Egypt in 1911
Researchers discovered a microscopic oval object within the Nakhla Mars meteorite, which fell to Earth in Egypt in 1911

Astronomers discover a planetary impact outside our own Solar System — In a study published in the latest issue of Science, astronomers led by graduate student Huan Meng, of the University of Arizona in Tucson, announced the discovery of remains of a mammoth planetary collision.
~ Space likes safe drivers too.

Weird microscopic structure found In martian meteorite — Scientists have found a strange structure resembling a microbial cell inside a Martian meteorite, but they’re not claiming that it’s evidence of Red Planet life (pictured above).
~ Interplanetary coincidence is all?

NASA sets a 2018 launch date for the rocket that will take us to mars — Three years after its unveiling, NASA managers have approved the development of the rocket that will carry astronauts into deep space. Called the Space Launch System (SLS), the heavy-lift rocket will be the most powerful ever built, and is designed to launch the next generation of space explorers to deep-space worlds well beyond Earth’s moon.
~ I’ve told you before, I’m not going!

NASA will reformat Mars rover from 200 million kilometres away — NASA’s Opportunity rover is still trundling across the surface of Mars, more than 11 years after its 90-day mission began. But its software is getting bogged down, so NASA’s doing a full system backup, memory wipe and reboot. It’s just like your routine computer clean-up, just from the next planet over.
~ Security Update.

Every internet-connected device on a map — This map was made on August 2 by John Matherly, the founder of Shodan, a search engine for internet-connected devices. Matherly, who calls himself an internet cartographer, collected the data to put it together by sending ping requests to every IP address on the internet, and storing the positive responses. A ping is a network utility that sends an echo-request message (known as a packet) to an IP address — the internet’s version of “hey, are you there?”
~ I can see your device from here.

Microsoft defies court order, will not give emails to US government — Despite a federal court order directing Microsoft to turn overseas-held email data to federal authorities, the software giant said Friday it will continue to withhold that information as it waits for the case to wind through the appeals process. The judge has now ordered both Microsoft and federal prosecutors to advise her how to proceed by next Friday, September 5.
~ Every now and again Microsoft does good things. 

Ebola’s initial outbreak pinpointed — One of the big mysteries in the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is where the virus came from in the first place — and whether it’s changed in any significant ways. … Researchers have revealed they have sequenced the genomes of Ebola from 78 patients in Sierra Leone who contracted the disease in May and June. Those sequences revealed some 300 mutations specific to this outbreak. Among their findings, the researchers discovered the current viral strains come from a related strain that left Central Africa within the past ten years.
Using genetic sequences from current and previous outbreaks, the researchers mapped out a family tree that puts a common ancestor of the recent West African outbreak some place in Central Africa roughly around 2004.
~ Awesome work. The world salutes you. 

Peak meat — We may be about to hit ‘peak meat’? Globally, meat production has skyrocketed since the ’60s. But though our appetite for meat shows no signs of slowing, our ability to devote huge swaths of land, water, and feed to its production may be hitting its limits.
~ Don’t look at me, I haven’t touched the stuff in 25 years.

Futurology 05 ~ Dawn of time star, Mars, fiery reentry, cybermoths, solar, chair-you-wear, white beetle, land-mines

Cygnus-class resupply ship Janice Voss entering the Earth’s atmosphere on August 17 by Alexander Gerst

Cygnus-class resupply ship Janice Voss entering the Earth’s atmosphere on August 17 by Alexander Gerst

Star that exploded at the dawn of time — To probe the dawn of time, astronomers usually peer far away; but now they’ve made a notable discovery close to home. An ancient star a mere thousand light-years from Earth bears chemical elements that may have been forged by the death of a star that was both extremely massive and one of the first to arise after the big bang. If confirmed, the finding means that some of the universe’s first stars were so massive they died in exceptionally violent explosions that altered the growth of early galaxies.
~ Big, big bangs.

Modular hive home for Mars — In June, JPL and MakerBot were teamed up to host a competition for designing a futuristic Mars base. The competition is now over, and the top three designs have been chosen. First place went to Noah Hornberger, who designed a base with hexagonal rooms and shielding made of depleted uranium.
~ A honey of a house maybe, but I still don’t want to go. And what the hell is a ‘Mud Room’?

Mars rover’s wheel damage — The folks in charge of the Mars rover Curiosity have been trying to solve an increasingly urgent problem: what to do about unexpected wheel damage.
~ It’s a wheel challenge all right. 

Crystal-clear picture of a spaceship burning up on reentry — German astronaut Alexander Gerst took the above crystal clear photo of the Cygnus-class resupply ship Janice Voss entering the Earth’s atmosphere on August 17.
~ Alas poor Janice. 

Crystal-clear solar cells — A team of researchers from Michigan State University has developed a completely transparent, luminescent solar concentrator. Whereas most traditional solar panels collect light energy from the sun using dark silicon cells and converted into electricity using the photovoltaic effect, solar concentrators actually focus sunlight onto a heat engine that produces electricity.
~ Transparent energy, that’s the dream.

Bionic pants is chair you wear — For some people, for example assembly line workers, not having a chair to sit in can actually pose a health hazard. That’s why Noonee developed the Chairless Chair, a chair you wear.
~ Also perfect for quick toilet stops. I just had to show the picture for that one! (below).

Quick sit-down meeting, anyone?
Quick sit-down meeting, anyone?

Remote-controlled cyborg moths — Research being conducted at North Carolina State University is aimed at converting moths into biobots.
~ Everything looking fine, then a flame appears. 

While we’re talking about animal abuse, thermal solar plants have been incinerating birds — Federal investigators in California have requested that BrightSource — owner of thermal solar plants — halt the construction of more (and bigger) plants until their impact on wildlife has been further investigated.
The Ivanpah plant has more than 300,000 mirrors, each the size of a garage door. They focus and concentrate solar energy from their entire surfaces upward onto three boiler towers – the solar energy heats the water inside the towers to produce steam, which turns turbines that generate enough electricity for 140,000 homes. But the concentrated solar energy chars and incinerates the feathers of passing birds.
~ Ouch.

FarmBot: an open source automated farming machine — Farming has been stuck in a bit of a rut compared to other industries. Businesses across the globe have been innovating for decades, while farming has been using techniques handed down over centuries. The FarmBot Foundation is creating a machine, similar to a CNC mill and/or 3D printer, which is capable of being run by sophisticated software and equipped with tools including seed injectors, plows, burners, robotic arms (for harvesting), cutters, shredders, tillers, discers, watering nozzles, sensors and more.
~ Ee ai ee ai … oh no.

The whitest beetle — One species of beetle looks like it’s been given a lick with a paintbrush — but in fact, the Cyphochilus is covered in paper-thin scales that are brilliant white, and reflect more light than anything of a similar thickness that can be made by humans.
~ And super lightweight, due to ingenious design.

Sick plants could lead to hidden landlines — Land mines are explosive, of course, but also leak toxins into the soil that make plants sick. That’s unfortunate for the plants but fortunate for us if we can figure out how to look for sick plants as indicators of land mines. Aeroplanes equipped with a low-cost sensor that captures non-visible light might be the answer.
~ Or drones. of course.