Category Archives: Futurology

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. 

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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.

Futurology 04 ~ Space, the robots are winning, sponge-bone & ancient skeletons


Harvard's swarm of Kilobots
Harvard’s swarm of Kilobots

NASA scientists find the first interstellar space particles —NASA has identified for the first time seven rare, microscopic interstellar dust particles . They date to the beginnings of the solar system. The particles have been identified amongst samples obtained by NASA’s Stardust spacecraft, which returned to Earth back in 2006.
~ At least they were looking in the right place. 

Origami Solar Panels — Brian Trease, a mechanical engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is working with researchers at Brigham Young University to construct a solar array that uses origami principles for deployment. Such devices could one day beam power down to Earth — and folding them into a small size could minimise launch and assembly costs.
~ And if it doesn’t work, there’ll be a job opening for an Astronautical Origami Unfolder.

Super computer windfarm for Mexico — It’s being built by Spanish company Iberdrola, and will be located on a 2.4km high spot in Puebla state, one of the windiest parts of Mexico. The supercomputer used a simulation system called SEDAR (a Spanish acronym for “high resolution wind power simulator”) that calculates airflow and solves complex problems like where turbines should be situated.
~ Honestly, they can’t work out where’s windy themselves?

A thousand tiny robots swarming into shapes like intelligent insects — Since the first crude automatons running on clockwork mechanisms, mankind has been working to build the perfect artificial copy of ourselves for centuries. Researchers at Harvard University, inspired by the idea that one day life can be recreated using countless tiny robots, have been developing and building their Kilobots for years now. The Kilobots started off with just twenty-five units all working together to accomplish a task, then a hundred, and now a thousand (pictured above).
~ Sounds frighteningly close to ‘killerbots’ to me. 

Very fast camera — Japanese researchers have recently designed a motion picture camera capable of capturing 4.4 trillion frames per second, making it the fastest camera in the world. The technique that allows for such speed is called STAMP (sequentially timed all-optical mapping photography). The research paper, published in the journal Nature Photonics, has the full details.

Robots have already taken over — If you think it’s just a joke that robots are going to replace humans, it’s not. It’s going to happen. In fact, CGP Grey explains in ‘Humans Need Not Apply’ how it’s already happening around us right now. You might not notice it but you will after you watch how we’re following historical patterns towards obscurity.
In reality, as CGP Grey shows us, real change happens when last decade’s shiny and fancy and new and expensive stuff becomes cheaper and faster.

Limits to smaller, faster computing — In a [paywalled] review article in this week’s issue of the journal Nature (described in a National Science Foundation press release), Igor Markov of the University of Michigan/Google reviews limiting factors in the development of computing systems to help determine what is achievable, in principle and in practice, using today’s and emerging technologies. “Understanding these important limits,” says Markov, “will help us to bet on the right new techniques and technologies.”
Luckily Ars Technica does a great job of expanding on the various limitations that Markov describes, and the ways in which engineering can push back against them.

 

Corsair's super DRAM4
Corsair’s super new DDR4

Super futuristic DDR4 RAM — A new chipset and memory combination will blow away anything that came before it. DDR4 is the brand new memory standard, soon to replace the now seven-year-old DDR3 as the overclocker’s RAM of choice. Corsair’s new DDR4 RAM, along with other brands’ and the next-gen motherboards that support it, will go on sale at the end of this month.
~ And it looks pretty super!

Sponge could help fill gaps where bone can’t regrow itself — Your bones are masterful self-healers, but certain injuries and defects can leave a gap too wide for new bone cells to fill in. Texas A&M’s Dr Melissa Grunlan and team have come up with a solution, a biodegradable polymer sponge that supports new bone cell growth, then disappears as it’s replaced by solid bone.
~ I still want a third hand with three fingers and two thumbs in the middle of my chest that reaches my mouth so I can eat a sandwich while I do something else, personally. Grow me one of them, Dr Grunlan!

Historians rediscover Einstein’s forgotten model of the universe — In 1931, after a 3- month visit to the US, Albert Einstein penned a paper that attempted to show how his theory of general relativity could account for some of the latest scientific evidence.
Einstein had met Edwin Hubble during his trip and so was aware of the latter’s data indicating that the universe must be expanding. The resulting model, now translated into English, is of a universe that expands and then contracts with a singularity at each end. He wrote the paper in only 4 days, and this model was ultimately superseded by the Einstein-de Sitter model published the following year.
~ Er, yeah, I’ll read it later.

How a 1920s feminist imagined our futuristic high-tech world —Josephine Daskam Bacon was an author known for her adventure serials that featured female protagonists. But in 1929, she took a break from her regular fiction and slipped on futurist goggles for an article in Century magazine titled ‘In Nineteen Seventy-Nine’.
Bacon imagined just how much progress women will have made fifty years hence — and whether her granddaughter would be able to “have it all” as some people here in the future might say.
~ Here’s a comment from Bacon: “No, the most the aeroplanes can do is to ease the traffic a little, and spread the accidents over a wider surface.”

Wyoming cave yields loads of interesting bones — Scientists excavating an ancient Wyoming sinkhole containing a rare trove of fossils of Ice Age mammals. It contains hundreds of bones of such prehistoric animals as American cheetahs, a paleontologist said on Friday.
The extensive excavation that began late last month uncovered roughly 200 large bones of animals like horses that roamed North America from 12,000 to 23,000 years ago and an uncounted number of microfossils of creatures such as birds, lizards and snakes.
~ I too have some interesting bones. My favourite wraps all around my brain. 

 

Futurology 03 ~ North Korea’s futures buildings, advances, new data


North Korea's view of the future
North Korea’s view of the future

North Korea’s view of the architectural future — North Korea’s architecture is truly fascinating, influenced by the need to rebuild Pyongyang in the wake of the Korean War and the nation’s relative isolation. What happens when an architect who has never been outside North Korea designs futuristic buildings to accommodate tourists visiting their country? This (and above).
~ Kinda cutesy though. 

The experimental ebola serum is being grown inside tobacco plants — For years, scientists have been looking for cheaper and faster ways to make vaccines, including tinkering with what sounds like an unlikely source: tobacco plants. In fact, the highly experimental serum given to the two American Ebola patients was created using this novel technique. Here’s how it works.
~ ‘Smoking drugs’! Finally a good use for tobacco.

Simply layering solar cells could make them as cheap as natural gas — Usually the focus is exotic solutions to making solar power more efficient: new materials, complex tracking systems or unusual physical phenomena. But what about just stacking them on top of each other? A startup called Semprius is doing just that, figuring it could make solar as cost-effective as natural gas.
~ Experimental units are already nearly twice as efficient. 

IBM’s new brain-like chip squeezes one million neurons onto a stamp —Big Blue has married neuroscience and supercomputing to create a new computer chip that’s the size of a postage stamp but boasts one million neurons and uses as little electricity as a hearing aid (about 70 milliwatts). It’s called TrueNorth.
~ SuperClever.

A second Caribbean to Pacific canal — A Chinese telecom billionaire has joined forces with Nicaragua’s famously anti-American president to construct a waterway between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean to rival the Panama Canal. The massive engineering undertaking would literally slice through Nicaragua and be large enough to accommodate the supertankers that are the hallmark of fleets around the world today.
~ But what will the hat look like?

Software adds 3D to 2D photos — A group of students from Carnegie Mellon University and the University of California, Berkeley have developed free software which uses regular 2D images and combines them with free 3D models of objects to create unbelievable video results. The group of four students created the software (currently for Mac OS X only, and freely downloadable) that allows users to perform 3D manipulations, such as rotations, translations, scaling, deformation, and 3D copy-paste, to objects in photographs.
~ Pretty cool. 

3D printed falcons protect airports — A Dutch company has created 3D-printed robot birds of prey that can soar and swoop like the real thing, scaring away pesky real birds away from airports and fields.
~ And who wouldn’t want one?

Our ancestors may have left Africa even earlier than previously believed — The prevailing view maintains modern humans left the continent 60,000 years ago, but fossils recovered in Asia have given rise to the theory that a human exodus may have reached China as early as 100,000 years ago.
~ Genetics suggests earlier migrations.

Futurology 02 ~ Weird binary star, impossible engine


Roger Shawyer's 'impossible' space engineRoger Shawyer’s ‘impossible’ space engine

Bizarre binary — There are some strange things in our galaxy, but a double star system with misaligned protoplanetary disks around 450 light-years from Earth has to be one of the weirdest. It has the potential to explain why some exoplanet orbits can be wildly eccentric.
Using data from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile, astronomers have managed a detailed look into the binary star system HK Tauri.
~ And they’re less than 500 million years old – almost new!

Impossible Engine could change space travel — Roger Shawyerhad been laughed at by physicists for his EmDrive, which goes against classical mechanics. But the fact is that the quantum vacuum plasma thruster works and scientists can’t explain why.
~ Well, don’t ask me, then!

Glider to the edge of space — In an ambitious attempt to break every wing-borne sustained flight height record for a manned aircraft, the Perlan ll project intends to construct and fly a glider higher than any sailplane has gone before. Riding on the colossal stratospheric air waves generated over mountains, the team plans to fly its craft to more than 27,000 metres to shatter its own existing glider altitude record of 15,400m set by Perlan l in 2008.
~ Effortless heights.

Map shows the world’s most important cities over time — A map shows how the world’s most important cities changed over time.
Art historian Maximilian Schich put together the pretty visualisation that records humanity’s cultural history over 2600 years. The blue and red dots (below) are the birthplaces and deaths for over 120,000 people who were ‘notable enough’ to have their births and deaths recorded.
~ Eurocentric but still bewitching.

Cities plotted over 2600 years
Cities plotted over 2600 years

Zoo that’s better for the animals because they don’t see the human voyeurs — Danish architects at Bjarke Ingels Group think they have designed a better zoo, in which humans are usually hidden from the prisoners I mean animals by grass shelters and mirrored pods.
~ It would work for me. 

Old amber haul gives up its secrets — In the late 1950s, an entomologist named Milton Sanderson collected over 72kgs of 20-million-year-old amber in the Dominican Republic. Now, 50 years later, that amber is finally giving up its secrets, including a fascinating insect named for David Attenborough.
They’ve already found mating flies, stingless bees, gall midges, Azteca ants, wasps, bark beetles, mites, spiders, plant parts, and a mammal hair, and even a new species of pygmy grasshopper ‘Electrotettix attenboroughi’, which has just been described in the journal ZooKeys.
~ Sounds like an insect for Asterix. 

Futurology 01 ~ Solar storm, visiting asteroid, wet storage & more


Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko
Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko

Solar storm missed this teacup — On July 23, 2012, the sun unleashed two massive clouds of plasma that barely missed a catastrophic encounter with the Earth’s atmosphere. These plasma clouds, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), comprised a solar storm thought to be the most powerful in at least 150 years. “If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,” physicist Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado tells NASA. Fortunately, the blast site of the CMEs was not directed at Earth. Had this event occurred a week earlier when the point of eruption was Earth-facing, a potentially disastrous outcome would have unfolded.
It probably would have caused widespread power blackouts, disabling everything that plugs into a wall socket.
~ We can achieve all that ourselves, of course, with wars.

Closer look at a visiting asteroid — Last week, as the Rosetta spacecraft came within 1400 kilometres of its destination comet, Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, which it’s supposed to land on! It sent back images of what appeared to be a whirling rubber ducky in space. Now, using the same data, researchers have created a 3D model of the object (above).
~ Good luck with that landing.

A Terabyte in a  tablespoon — Researchers from the University of Michigan and New York University demonstrated how plastic nanoparticles, deposited in a liquid, can form a one-bit cluster — and that’s the essential building block for information storage. It’s called “wet computing,” and the technique mimics other biological processes found in nature, like DNA in living cells.
~ Giving the phrase ‘data leak’ a whole new world of possibilities.

 

Gorgeous icons (look at the bin!)
Gorgeous icons (look at the bin!)

The future — I’m looking at it. Yeah, I have installed the Yosemite Beta on my MacBook Pro.

US Army to 3D print warheads — In its latest bid to kill more people, more efficiently, and at less cost, the army is planning to print warhead components, according to the latest issue of Army Technology. “3D printing of warheads will allow us to have better design control and utilize geometries and patterns that previously could not be produced or manufactured,” James Zunino, a researcher at the Armament Research, Engineering and Design Center said.
~ Doesn’t that just warm your heart?

Smart design means no glasses or contacts needed — Researchers at Berkeley, MIT, and Microsoft have developed a prototype that could one day make glasses or contacts obsolete — at least when you’re looking at your phone or computer.
~ But the frame remains the same. 

Australian students break international solar car record — The Sunswift solar car team from UNSW Australia broke an international world speed record for the fastest long-range electric vehicle, averaging a speed of 107kph over 500km from a single charge with their car, eVe.
~ Outlook for them: sunny.

 

French plastic house, 1969
French plastic house, 1969

Retro-futurist plastic homes — In the mid-twentieth century, back when colonising the solar system seemed imminent, people decided to save money by building homes out of plastic. You can see the results here. Some are mind-bogglingly awesome, and some are just mind-boggling.
~ How many still stand? But now our house interiors are most all plastic, anyway. 

Dinosaurs were really just big angry birds — A new study published in Science (abstract) suggests that most dinosaurs were covered with feathers. This conclusion was drawn after the discovery of fossils belonging to a 1.5-meter-long, two-legged dinosaur called Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus. The fossils greatly broaden the number of families of dinosaurs sporting feathers — downy, ribboned, and thin ones in this case — indicating that plumes evolved from the scales that covered earlier reptiles, probably as insulation.”
~ Why did the dinosaur cross the road? To get to the anachronism.

Futurology 0: laser lunar


Large lunar cave could work for Moon colony
Large lunar cave could work for Moon colony

Scientists use world’s largest laser to recreate Jupiter’s core — It is not pleasant inside the core of Jupiter (or any other planet) but gaining a better understanding of what’s going on in there is key for understanding how these planets form. That’s why a team of scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory recently used diamonds and lasers to recreate those very conditions.
—By gum.

Curiosity shoots laser at Mars rock— One of the visually cooler duties Curiosity rover has up on Mars is firing its lasers at rocks it encounters in its path. Here’s the first footage it’s ever sent back of just how that process works.
—Beaming beams back

Lunar cave looks likely for base — A large hole on the Moon’s surface formed when the ground above a lava tube collapsed. NASA believes pits like this widen underground and contain tunnels —which would be very handy for the first wave of lunar colonists.
—Sorry, I’m busy that day the call for colonists goes out. New Zealand feels like living on the Moon already anyway.

While we’re on the Moon — Forty years after touching down near the Sea of Tranquility, the trails of disturbed regolith created by the Apollo 11 astronauts are still clearly visible in photographs taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Scientists used those and other images to create this amazing virtual model of the landing site.
— You’d think they might have smoothed out a new landing strip while they were there.

And … Relive the Moon Landings, even if you weren’t alive in 1969 — Moonwalk One is a snippet of immersive history from the day humans first stepped on the moon. Take the time to be lost in history with the stories, fears, excitement, and celebration of people who were there, and dream of a future in space, because Moonwalk One is a documentary on the Apollo 11 moon landings originally produced in 1970. Remastered in 2007, NASA just uploaded it for everyone yesterday.
—And wonder at how they did it with such anaemic computing power

Carbon fibre forests — Carbon fibre is one of the strongest and most resilient materials on the market, used in everything from car frames to body armour. It’s also incredibly expensive to make, but one plant biologist says that in fifty years, we’ll be growing it on trees.
—The fruit will be hard to peel, though

Hoodie designed from speaker fabric allows sound right through — Originally designed for home or recording studio use, over-the-ear headphones became a popular choice for music aficionados on-the-go. Betabrand’s new Audio Engineer’s Hoodie uses speaker fabric on the hood so headphones can be worn over it.
—Hear hear

Lunar hole in Siberia — By now, you’ve likely seen the mysterious, yawning hole that appeared in Russia’s remote Yamal peninsula, a place whose name literally means “the end of the world.” Now scientists have investigated the hole and new pictures and video show interior detail of the Siberian hole.
—No, I don’t want to join its colony either.

Spray it, bake it ...
Spray it, bake it …

Aerosol cake — Just when you thought that mankind’s genius could stretch no further, a solid year of research has given birth to a new apex in cake innovation. Friends, say hello to Spray Cake, the Harvard-bred cake batter in a can.
—Sometimes it’s clearer than other times the cook is nothing but an aerosol.

Inca bear feet — In Peru, archaeologists excavating the tomb of a nobleman from a pre-Inca civilization have found ornamental metal pieces fashioned to look like paws with claws. The paws may have been part of a ritual costume used in ceremonial combat. The loser would be sacrificed, while the winner would get the costume.
—Archaeological paws for thought