Tag Archives: future

Futurology ~ A word about the future, strange in the Solar System, NZ AI baby, cars and wheels, molecular robots, tooth vaccine, Aboriginal migration


A New Zealand company has constructed an artificial intelligence baby that plays the piano

A note about this once-a-weekend blogpost, which I call Futurology (another entry in a succession of words I have tried to invent over the last three decades). I started this as there was a lack of Apple news on weekends and I’d discover all sorts of non-Apple-related links in my week of web crawling. I start out in space, but I don’t stay there: the column moves on to interesting inventions, and when theres revelatory news about the past, back in time, so don’t be put off by a picture of an asteroid or something, glance down to see if there’s anything else that interests you!

Is it an asteroid? A comet? Both? Observations by the Hubble Space Telescope are revealing new details about a strange binary asteroid that’s performing double-duty as a comet. It’s the first time scientists have ever seen such a thing.
Back in 2006, Spacewatch discovered an asteroid named 300163 (2006 VW139). Astronomers using the Pan-STARRS telescope detected some comet-like activity coming from the object in 2011, so it was also given a comet designation of 288P. But things have changed again. When the object made its closest approach to the Sun last year, a German-led team of scientists used the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope to make observations, revealing not one but two asteroids. Which means it’s a binary system.
~ Well, I’ve committed that catchy name to memory!

Disturbing New Zealand AI baby plays the piano — A New Zealand company called Soul Machines has built a disturbingly lifelike virtual baby powered by artificial intelligence software. BabyX, the virtual creation of Mark Sagar and his researchers, looks impossibly real.. The work is built off the research of Mark Sagar, the company’s CEO, who is on a quest to mimic human consciousness in a machine. Sagar used to work at Weta creating lifelike faces for films like King Kong and Avatar and is now building these very realistic looking virtual avatars and pumping them full of code that not only handles things like speech but that also replicates the nervous system and brain function.
~ And your AI baby future is Aryan … 

Electric cars of the future — This year’s Frankfurt show, the largest of its kind in the world, was packed with designs that preview all those new models coming over the next few years. If you want to see where the auto industry’s headed over the next decade and beyond, just take a whirl through the gallery above, and get ready for a real shock.
~ EVs still aren’t making an impact, but they all soon. 

3-wheeler retro-futurist car — The proposed specs on the NOBE, with a design is clearly based on a late ’50s to early ’60s-era European automotive design vocabulary, are that its electric, making a maximum 45kW, or 60 horsepower –  pretty substantial for something like this. That 60hp seems to be spread over three motors each making 20hp.
~ It has a novel charging method, too. 

Wheels and tyres that adjust to conditions — Continental has a tyre concept that can adjust itself to suit the weather conditions and your driving intentions. The Continental ContiAdapt is a smart wheel which can change between four different pre-set widths to suit wet, uneven, slippery and normal road conditions. “Micro-compressors” in each wheel expand or contract the variable width rim to suit the driving conditions – normal road conditions call for a small contact patch and high tyre pressure, where a larger contact patch and lower pressure means more grip for slippery conditions.
~ So rich people in the best cars can feel even safer, no doubt.

Molecular robot builds molecules — Scientists at The University of Manchester in the UK have created the world’s first “molecular robot” that is capable of performing basic tasks including building other molecules. The tiny robots, which are a millionth of a millimeter in size, can be programmed to move and build molecular cargo, using a tiny robotic arm. Each individual robot is capable of manipulating a single molecule and is made up of just 150 carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen atoms.
~ Anyone seen that molecular robot? 

Chinese vaccine against tooth cavities — Scientists at Wuhan Institute of Virology, Chinese Academy of Sciences developed low side effects and high protective efficiency using flagellin-rPAc fusion protein KFD2-rPAc, a promising vaccine candidate to banish tooth decay. In rat challenge models, KFD2-rPAc induces a robust rPAc-specific IgA response, and confers efficient prophylactic and therapeutic efficiency as does KF-rPAc, while the flagellin-specific inflammatory antibody responses are highly reduced.
~ Hope it fixes rat-breath at the same time!

Australian migrations via Aboriginal artefacts — Decades after collection, hair samples long filed away in small manila envelopes have become a source of DNA for Ray Tobler and Alan Cooper. Specialists in ancient DNA at the University of Adelaide, they wanted to know how humans first migrated across this continent, thousands of years ago.
~ Yes, thousands of years before white invaders ‘discovered’ Australia. 

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Futurology ~ Goth Jupiter, future tech, lasers, fertile bacteria, supercomputer engineering, hydrogen buses, Voynich manuscript


The Voynich Manuscript has finally been deciphered. No clues from the drawing, then…

Hubble observes ‘Goth Jupiter’ — Over a thousand light years away, there’s a planet that isn’t conforming to your so-called rules. The planet reflects at most 6.4% of the light that hits it. WASP-12b is already a highly-studied planet, according to a Hubble release. The planet has a radius twice Jupiter’s and is incredibly close to WASP-12a, with a year lasting around a single Earth day. Its 2600°C surface stretches like an egg from its nearby sun.
~ Bit hard to get real science from it, surely, at that distance. 

What future tech do you think we’ll actually have in the future? A recent survey conducted by IT training firm CBT Nuggets revealed a little about what we think will and won’t happen in the future. For example, nearly a third of those surveyed didn’t think printable food would ever be possible – but a company managed to do just that by using edible ingredients instead of traditional plastics in 2014.
~ Indeed, even Kitchen Things in NZ sells a pancake printer.

Speaking of which, I always thought we’d have more lasers in this era — This clip from Pete’s Shredder shows an engraver at work, carving out Roy Lichtenstein’s 1964 piece “Ohhh…Alright…” onto anodised aluminium. The speed at which the beams work tricks your brain into thinking the video is sped up. It’s not. You’re watching the engraving in real-time.
~ Gatling-laser-art.

Designer bacteria could fertile itself — Peanuts, peas, and many types of beans are climate-friendly because they basically make their own fertiliser. But most of the world’s biggest food crops – corn, wheat, rice – aren’t so hospitable to nitrogen-fixers. Which is why they require so much artificial fertiliser to grow. So if we could redesign those to fertilise themselves
~ It should be a logical next step. After all, most plants already root themselves. [LOL –Antipodean-only joke,]

Astonishing engineering behind supercomputer — Summit, a supercomputer nearing completion at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, opens for business next year. Then it will be the United States’ most powerful supercomputer and perhaps the most powerful in the world. Modelling the astounding number of variables that affect climate change, for instance, is no task for desktop computers in labs. Some goes for genomics work and drug discovery and materials science. If it’s wildly complex, it’ll soon course through Summit’s water-cooled circuits.
~ It sounds like it will generate so much heat, it will be contributing to global warming while it tries to solve it. 

The OneStep 2 is the first camera from Polaroid Originals — This new brand under the Polaroid umbrella is dedicated to revamping the company’s classic cameras for the digital age. The US$99 OneStep 2 takes after the original in plenty of ways, with a compact, molded plastic body in black or white. The viewfinder is tucked into the left-hand corner just above the exposure knob; the red shutter button is on the right. A redesigned rainbow logo runs across the bottom of the camera, paying homage to the original’s striped decal.
~ It even has a film-pack!

Tesla remotely extended the range of its cars for Hurricane Irma — Tesla unlocked its range-limited vehicles for Florida customers, extending the range of their vehicles to facilitate an easier evacuation from the storm.
As a Tesla spokesperson confirmed to Electrek, Florida owners of Model S and Model X 60 and 60D vehicles temporarily received the full mileage capability of the vehicles’ 75 kWh battery packs. The estimated 338km range of the 60 and 60D has been unlocked to achieve approximately 30 more miles.
~ Sounds like an invitation to hack your own Tesla to improve it, if you ask me. 

Australian hydrogen buses — South Australia’s always been on the front foot when it comes to renewable energy – even Tesla has given it the thumbs-up. On Friday, the state government revealed its Hydrogen Roadmap, which “sets out clear pathways to capitalise on South Australia’s competitive advantages” and will “accelerate the State’s transition to a clean, safe and sustainable producer, consumer and exporter of hydrogen”.
One of the key objectives is to get a small fleet of six buses sorted for Adelaide Metro, which will be powered by hydrogen fuel cells. The government is currently asking for tenders for production and delivery of the vehicles.
~ Hydrogen vehicles have been promised sine the 1950s. 

Last week, the cryptic Voynich manuscript, filled with strange glyphs and diagrams, has left the halls of head-scratchers — Yes folks, thanks to historian Nicholas Gibbs, we finally have a pretty definitive explanation of the purpose of the former literary enigma. Gibbs’ explanation is the first to explain nearly all aspects. In some ways, it was written in an ancient code – if you consider abbreviations and shorthand a form of encryption. Turns out the Voynich manuscript isn’t a reference for magic spells, alien communication or an ancient tabletop role-playing game. In fact, it’s mostly plagiarised medical knowledge, much of it related to herbs.
~ Oh. Boring! Dang.

Futurology ~ TRAPPIST, self-extinguishing civilisations, NZ Milky Way, bacteria balloons, algae steroids, Wind and solar health, out-tanking EV, Penguin code, forever-glider


Artist’s rendering of the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system. (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Everyone’s favourite alien system is a cranky old grump — Trappist-1, the ultracool dwarf star system which was first announced back in February, has garnered a lot of interest because it harbours seven Earth-size planets. At least three of those planets are within the habitable zone that can support liquid water and potentially, life. As we’re all clamouring to understand this alien system, a duo of researchers has figured out some pretty salient information about its star’s age. They estimate it’s between 5.4 and 9.8 billion years old. Our Sun, by comparison, is only about 4.5 billion years old.
~ But has it retired yet? Anything living on these might be very ancient and hardy. Besides …

Astrophysicist believes technologically-advanced species extinguish themselves — Why haven’t we heard from intelligent life elsewhere in the universe? Retired astrophysicist Daniel Whitmire explains that using the principle of mediocracy (a statistical notion that says, in the absence of more data, that your one data point is likely to be ‘average’), that not only are we the first intelligent life on Earth but that we will likely be the only (and thus the last) intelligent life on this planet…
Unfortunately that isn’t the worst of it. Coupled with the Great Silence, it implies the reason we haven’t heard from anyone is that intelligent life, when it happens anywhere else in the universe, doesn’t last and when it does it flames out quickly and takes the biosphere with it (preventing any other intelligent life from reappearing. Sorry dolphins!).
~ Luckily, it usually appears that we’re far from ‘advanced’

Unintended experiment tracks a solar flare to the edges of the System — On 14 October 2014, our Sun let out a great big burp, a coronal mass ejection that swept through the Solar System at an incredibly fortuitous angle, because several spacecraft (and one intrepid Martian rover) detected the solar blast, resulting in an unprecedented experiment that stretched all the way from Venus to outer reaches of the Solar System.
~ Data was combined from a  variety of probes and satellites, and even Mars rovers.  

Milky Way from New Zealand — Christchurch’s Paul Wilson constructed a 113-megapixel photograph that captures the galaxy shimmering above a tumbling shoreline and reflected in the dark water of a dark part of the South Island.
~ Wow!

NASA launching bacteria balloons — These enormous balloons are part of a project aptly named the Eclipse Ballooning Project, and will be used to run several experiments, one of which could help researchers preparing for a mission to Mars. Of 75 balloons, over 30 of them will carry small samples of an extremely resilient strain of bacteria called Paenibacillus xerothermodurans over 24,384m above Earth. The P. xerothermodurans samples will be attached to thin, aluminium “coupons” and attached to the outside of the balloons. According to the researchers, Earth’s stratosphere is similar to the surface atmosphere on Mars, so they will be able to get some idea of how bacteria might behave there.
~ Sounds mental. 

Our life came from algae on steroids — What was life really like here on planet Earth before animals were big enough to leave fossils behind? How did living things turn from dinky capsules of genetic material into the intelligent, complex organisms that do things like fart and type curse words into posts on the internet? Scientists think they have found the answer… in algae steroids.
~ This supposition is based on the increasing diversity of organic compounds found in rock samples. Metallica, anyone?

Wind and solar health benefits surpass all subsidies — A paper in Nature Energy suggests the benefits we receive from moving to renewables like wind and solar that reduce air pollution exceed the cost of the subsidies required to make them competitive with traditional fossil fuels. Berkeley environmental engineer Dev Millstein and his colleagues estimate that between 3000 and 12,700 premature deaths have been averted because of air quality benefits over the last decade or so, creating a total economic benefit between $30 billion and $113 billion. The benefits from wind work out to be more than US7 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is more than unsubsidized wind energy generally costs.
~ So, Big Coal and Big Oil, how do you come back to that? Start paying your lobbyists even more immediately, I guess. 

Electric off-roader out-torques a tank — A Utah startup has just released the specs on the Nikola Zero, a four-seat UTV (utility task vehicle, or what you may know as a side-by-side) guaranteed to make you grin like a lunatic if you ever drive one. The less crazy version produces 415 horsepower and 3,675 foot-pounds of torque. But most people will probably take leave of their senses and go for the thoroughly crazy version, good for 555 horsepower and 4,900 foot-pounds of torque.
~ So this begs the question: did Nikola Tesla have a middle name for another electric vehicle startup? 

Scientists crack penguin undersea code — When Gentoo penguins swim into the open ocean to hunt for food, they often produce wierd buzzing sounds that marine biologists assume is a form of communication. By strapping cameras to the backs of these aquatic birds, scientists have finally figured out the purpose of these odd vocalisations.
~ ‘Hey, I have this weird thing strapped to me, can you help me get it off?’

Smart forever-glider — After learning a clever trick from birds, a sailplane featuring run-of-the-mill RC technology includes artificial intelligence that researchers are developing to pilot it. Using data from sensors that monitor air temperature, wind direction, altitude and other metrics (in addition to speed and location data from GPS), the AI pilot can detect when the sailplane is suddenly gaining altitude, indicating it has located a rising thermal, as birds do.
~ And us humans re generating more and more of these, thanks to our generous efforts to warm the planet. 

Futurology ~ Einstein’s test, Trappist music, big Dawn, moon cellphone, accelerator gold mine, ancient deep, Sahara Solar for EU, app injects AR, NZ Tesla salt power, squishy robot future, ancient skull


Another Einstein theory passes another test — A team of scientists used 20 years of data from several telescopes to watch how three stars orbited the centre of our own Milky Way Galaxy, Sagittarius A*. They have created a general relativity theory test in a mass regime that isn’t well-tested today. The theory checks out, yet again, for Albert Einstein’s expanded theory of motion and gravity, the theory of general relativity.
~ For now.

Program allows you to make songs with the sounds of planets orbiting the ultracool dwarf star TRAPPIST-1 — The player is part of a bigger program, aptly called System Sounds, which is the brainchild of a group of astronomers who have been studying the “resonant chain” of the TRAPPIST-1 star’s seven Earth-sized exoplanets, which were announced to the world back in February. A resonant chain describes how the alien planets’ gravitational tugs work together to keep them all in stable and circular orbits around each other and their host star.
TRAPPIST-1 represents the longest resonant chain “that has ever been discovered in a planetary system“.
~ Team with Belgian beer. Mmm. 

Massive spacecraft reporting back on asteroids — Dawn is 19.8 metres (65 feet) from tip to tip and it has an ion drive! But Dawn also has a serious job to do. Launched in 2007, it has been investigating Ceres and Vesta, two mysterious protoplanets in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. These are smallish, truly ancient bodies, remnants of the early solar system (protoplanets are bodies that formed early on, some of which turned into actual planets like Earth) with plenty of secrets to tell – secrets that Dawn has been unravelling.
~ Ion drives start slow, but after 10 years Dawn is travelling at 40,233kph (25,000 miles per hour). 

Cellphone tower for the moon — The German company Part Time Scientists, which originally competed for the Google Lunar X Prize race to the moon, plans to send a lander with a rover in late 2018 to visit the landing site of Apollo 17 (NASA’s final Apollo mission to the moon, in 1972.) Instead of using a complex dedicated telecommunication system to relay data from the rover to Earth, the company plans to rely on LTE technology – the same system used on Earth for mobile phone communications – because the German startup is preparing to set up the first telecommunication infrastructure on the lunar surface.
~ Boy, aliens are going to love this. 

Particle accelerator in gold mine searches the stars — It took more than the 10 minutes to get down, the accelerator was sent so deep,  with the elevator slowed to a crawl to protect Caspar’s delicate, antique belt and pulley as it descended from the ground floor to the “4850 Level”— this is 1478 metres (4850 feet) underground, where the dirt floors are studded with metal tracks and a light breeze blows. The Caspar team wants to learn how stars a little older than the sun synthesize heavy elements.
~ Well, isn’t that the burning question on everybody’s lips?

Ancient deep-sea creature discoveries — Last month, scientists aboard the NOAA ship Okeanos Explorer visited a poorly-explored deep sea area about 1500km west of Hawaii. From giant sea spiders and rare snailfish through to comb jellies and glass-like corals, these are some of the weirdest critters we’ve seen in a while.
~ Clearly they haven’t watched the New Zealand parliament live feed. 

Sahara solar could help power the EU — In the global race to ditch fossil fuel reliance for more renewable energy sources, Europe is already making some impressive strides. That is likely to ramp up considerably thanks to a new European Union plan to build a large solar plant in the Sahara desert with the ability to generate enough power to keep much of Europe juiced up.
~ Endangering 12 lizards and three scorpions. 

Gaming company turning Starcraft into an AI lab — The new release of the StarCraft II API on the Blizzard side includes a Linux package made to run in the cloud, and with support for Mac (and that other platform). It also has support for offline AI vs. AI matches, and those anonymized game replays from actual human players for training up agents, which is starting out at 65,000 complete matches, and will grow to over 500,000 over the course of the next few weeks. StarCraft II is such a useful environment for AI research basically because of how complex and varied the games can be, with multiple open routes to victory for each individual match.
~ So one day, super intelligence can win a pointless game of something. 

iOS app injects the internet internet into real life — Mirage is an iOS app that’s the first to marry augmented reality’s hidden-world appeal with social media’s shareable, re-mixable content. And in doing so, it’s making AR not simply a technology of curiosity, but one of connection.
~ You know, it’s ‘augmenting’ reality. 

New Zealand salt gets Tesla power — A 250kW Tesla Powerpack system has been integrated with a a 660kW wind turbine at a a salt manufacturing factory at the top of New Zealand’s South Island. The first project of its kind in Australasia, it’s about to be switched on.
Vector Energy Solutions is the company working with Dominion Salt to integrate the battery storage system, which aims to meet 75% of the site’s energy needs on-site, rather than from the national grid. The system will be fully functional before the end of the year, Vector reckons.
~ Sustainable salt …

Squishy robot future — Many researchers advancing the field of robotics are actually engineering simpler bots designed to reliably perform very basic tasks. So instead of one day facing a terrifying future filled with terminators, these squishy rolling doughnuts might be our biggest threat. Yoichi Masuda and Masato Ishikawa detail their work on these bots in a paper, Development of a Deformation-driven Rolling Robot with a Soft Outer Shell, published for the 2017 IEEE International Conference on Advanced Intelligent Mechatronics. The researchers have designed this robot to function like the simplest of machines: the wheel, in this case made from a soft material that’s squished and stretched by a set of four wires connected to an inner core.
~ Easy to pack and carry, as well. 

13-million-year old skull tantalises — The unexpected discovery of a 13 million-year-old infant ape skull in Kenya is offering a tantalising glimpse of a new species that lived well before humans and apes embarked upon their very different evolutionary paths.
~ It’s a remarkable discovery as a complete skull this old has never been found before. 

Futurology ~ Titan/fluke life, space mining, neutrino smack, 330TB tape, 3D metal printing, waste-gobbling maggots, robo-time, Tardigrades continue to mystify, toothy-mass extinction


Potential building block of lie life discovered in Titan’s atmosphere — Saturn’s moon Titan is a world of contrast; both eerily familiar and strikingly alien. Its calm seas and enormous sand dunes might remind you of Earth, until you learn that what’s flowing across Titan’s surface is not water, but liquid hydrocarbons. Titan’s nitrogen-rich atmosphere seems to have some of the ingredients for biology, but any life forms evolved to thrive at temperatures of -178°C would be practically unrecognisable.
~ What if they introduce themselves in a civil manner? 

New theory suggest life wasn’t a fluke — Biophysicist Jeremy England made waves in 2013 with a new theory that cast the origin of life as an inevitable outcome of thermodynamics. His equations suggested that under certain conditions, groups of atoms will naturally restructure themselves so as to burn more and more energy, facilitating the incessant dispersal of energy and the rise of entropy or disorder in the universe. Now he’s testing his theory in computer simulations.
~ The rise of exceptional structures sure seems understandable.

Luxembourg passed space mining law — Last week Luxembourg’s parliament unanimously passed an asteroid mining law (which goes into effect Tuesday) that gives companies ownership of what they extract from the celestial bodies…
~ Well, if you can’t be a world power …

Gnarlier space junk — There’s plenty out there already, but thousands and thousands of satellites are set to launch to low-Earth orbit before 2025, adding greatly to the problem.
~ Smallsat revolution indeed …

Neutrino smacks into atom — In a study published last week in Science, Juan Collar’s group observed a new type of neutrino interaction: a neutrino bumping into an atomic nucleus, a process known as coherent elastic scattering.
~ An important matter. 

330TB on a tiny tape cartridge — Sony developed a new type of tape that has a higher density of magnetic recording sites, and IBM Research worked on new heads and signal processing tech to actually read and extract data from those nanometre-long patches of magnetism. Sony’s new tape is underpinned by two novel technologies: an improved built-in lubricant layer, which keeps it running smoothly through the machine, and a new type of magnetic layer.
The new cartridges, when they’re eventually commercialised, will be significantly more expensive because of the tape’s complex manufacturing process.
~ ‘Data is king’, Sony sputters. 

New microbe thanks to beer — In May 2014, a group of scientists took a field trip to a small brewery in an old warehouse in Seattle, Washington – and came away with a microbe scientists have never seen before. In so-called wild beer, the team identified a yeast belonging to the genus Pichia, which turned out to be a hybrid of a known species called P. membranifaciens and another Pichia species completely new to science. Other Pichia species are known to spoil a beer, but the new hybrid seems to smell better.
~ Well if I patented it, it would be microbe, but if you did: yorcrobe.

Australian electric highway — Australia is taking the electric car revolution one step further by announcing an A$4 million super-long electric highway, or a series of fast-charging electric vehicle stations. Queensland’s Electric Super Highway will be almost 2000 kilometres long, stretching from the Gold Coast on the state’s southern border to Cairns in the far north. 18 charging stations will span the highway, and all will allow vehicles charge in 30 minutes.
~ And there’s an entrepreneurial opportunity right there, as what will you do in the 30 minutes?

3D metal printing is about to go mainstream — Massachussetts company Desktop Metal is preparing to turn manufacturing on its head, with a 3D metal printing system that’s so much faster, safer and cheaper than existing systems that it’s going to compete with traditional mass manufacturing processes… Plenty of design studios and even home users run desktop printers, but the only affordable printing materials are cheap ABS plastics. And at the other end of the market, while organizations like NASA and Boeing are getting valuable use out of laser-melted metal printing, it’s a very slow and expensive process that doesn’t seem to scale well.
Desktop Metal is an engineering-driven startup whose founders include several MIT professors, and Emanuel Sachs, who has patents in 3D printing dating back to the dawn of the field in 1989.
~ Exciting!

Waste-gobling maggots — Aiming to reinvent the toilet, sanitation company The BioCycle is using black soldier maggots to convert waste into products like biodiesel. Meanwhile, ­EnviroFlightfeeds leftovers from brewing and ethanol production to larvae, whose poop makes a lovely food for prawns.
~ ‘Black soldier maggots’? Good lord!

Men to lose the most jobs to robots — They’re coming, in ever increasing numbers, for a certain kind of work. For farm and factory labor. For construction. For haulage. In other words, blue-collar jobs traditionally done by men.
~ Hobby time!

Companion robots — Kuri’s creators call it a “companion robot,” but this is no Furby. Kuri belongs to a new class of machines that actually are intelligent, and actually make useful assistants at home. They help disabled people with routine daily tasks, and soon they’ll remind the elderly to take their medication. Kuri’s more of an all-purpose companion, a member of your family that also happens to play music and take video.

Lake robot fights toxic algae bloom —  The Environmental Sample Processor ESPniagara sits on the floor of Lake Erie’s western basin, where it collects algae from the surrounding water, analyzes microcystin (a small, circular liver-toxic protein), and uploads results for researchers at the end of every test.

Tardigrade still fascinates — You’re probably aware that nature’s most badass animal is undoubtedly the tiny tardigrade, or water bear. They might be small, but unlike your weak butt, they can live a life without water, withstand temperatures from -328 to 304 degrees Fahrenheit, and even survive the depths of space. How did evolution make such a strange creature, and who are its relatives?
~ But the name that sounds like something issued to me at high school. 

Terrifying ocean predator changes the history of mass extinction — Two hundred and fifty-two million years ago, the Earth was in a really bad place. At the boundary of the Permian and Triassic periods, our biosphere experienced its most dramatic mass extinction event (so far), one so utterly complete that it has been solemnly termed the Great Dying. Precious little was spared, and it’s generally been thought that it took many millions of years for life to stand back up again. But a recently-discovered fossil dating to just after the Great Dying is helping to erode our vision of a slow post-extinction recovery, showing that ecosystems recovered very quickly, were thriving – and were full of teeth.
Rows upon rows of razor-edged teeth.
~ And you were wondering why our human antecedents left the oceans …

 

Kuiper Belt object, lighter proton, Trappist tides, gravity affect, squishy heart, science song, Indian solar rail, Galaxy mag online, sturdy Tardigrades


NASA captures impossible glimpse Of Kuiper Belt object billions of kilometres away — In about a year and a half from now, the New Horizons Spacecraft will whiz past a distant Kuiper Belt object named 2014 MU69. This rocky relic of the ancient Solar System, located about 6.4 billion kilometres away, just passed in front of a distant star, resulting in one of the more extraordinary eclipses ever captured by scientists.
~ Nice catch.

The Proton is lighter than we thought — You can’t weigh the universe’s smallest particles on a bathroom scale. But in a clever new experiment, physicists have found one such particle – the proton – is lighter than previously thought. The researchers found the mass to be 1.007276466583 atomic mass units. That’s roughly 30 billionths of a percent lower than the average value from past experiments: a seemingly tiny difference that is actually significant by three standard deviations. The result both creates and clears up mysteries, and could help explain the universe as we know it.
~ 4.

Massive tides could boost TRAPPIST-1’s prospects for life — Earlier this year, Earthlings rejoiced when scientists announced the discovery of three rocky exoplanets in the habitable zone of TRAPPIST-1, an ‘ultracool dwarf’ star located just 39 light years away. Soon after, astronomers brought us back to Earth, pointing out that it might be hard for life to survive on a world in such a tight orbit around such a dim star. But the debate has now taken yet another delicious twist, this time, in favour of aliens.
~ For Earthlings really now how to party, ultra cool dwarf. 

Scientists measure gravity effect entity particles for the first time — Humans will probably never explore the area around a black hole, at least while you’re alive. That’s mostly because most black holes are too far away, and even if we could travel to them, it’s unlikely we’d survive their gravitational pull. That means that if we want to study the wacky effects extreme gravity might have, we need to get creative — which is exactly what an international team of physicists has just done.
~ Quick, make more Well semimetal. 

Squishy artificial heart — Researchers in Europe have created a soft artificial heart that mimics the real thing. It still isn’t ready for prime time, but the approach, in which the developers used silicone and 3D-printing, could revolutionise the way patients with heart disease are treated.
~ Are, don’t it just melt your heart! (Yikes!)\

Science picks ‘best’ song — Is there one song, or one kind of song, that’s generally more enjoyable? Recently, author Tom Cox tweeted some musings on the philosophy behind what makes the “best song ever”. A significant portion of the internet, however, argued that he was full of crap because the best song of all time is Toto’s classic 1982 hit, Africa.
~ I still shudder in pure revulsion whenever I hear even one note of any Beegees’ disco-era material. What say you, science? 

India to save thousands of litres of fuel with solar carriages — India’s massive diesel-guzzling railway network is getting serious about its experiments with solar. On July 14th, Indian Railways rolled out its first train with rooftop solar panels that power the lights, fans, and information display systems inside passenger coaches. The train will still be pulled by a diesel-powered locomotive, but a set of 16 solar panels atop each coach will replace the diesel generators that typically power these appliances.
~ I guess people will be dissuaded more from riding on the roofs, then. 

Galaxy online — Galaxy magazine was a pulpy, science fiction paradise from 1950 to 1980, publishing some of the most important futuristic voices of the 20th century — to say nothing of the amazing cover illustrations. And you can read hundreds of issues from its heyday online, all thanks to Archive.org.
~ Yay!

Tardigrades would be tardy survivors — Microscopic tardigrades, also known as “water bears”, are the toughest animals on the planet, capable of withstanding intense radiation, extreme temperatures, and even the vacuum of space. In a fascinating new study, researchers have shown that tardigrades are poised to survive literally anything that nature throws at them — and that of the animals alive today, they will be the last ones standing before the Sun annihilates the Earth billions of years from now.
~ I’m still not sure I’m jealous, though. 

Futurology ~ Jupiter’s spot close up, laser-sat, moon rocks, teleportation, battery and staircase power, Multi elevator, DNA storage, Living Drug, Ötzi’s axe


Jupiter’s red spot — It’s actually a storm with a diameter larger than Earth’s. It has been the planet’s most conspicuous feature for centuries, yet scientists don’t fully understand what created the storm, or how it’s been swirling around for so long.
And while they haven’t figured that part out yet, NASA’s Juno spacecraft has brought them closer than they’ve ever been before – literally. Last Monday, Juno skimmed just 9012 kilometres (5600 miles) above the storm clouds, and snapped some pictures as it went. It’s taken the data a few days to get back to Juno’s Earthbound science team, but the images are finally here.
~ Edvard Munch, anyone?

Laser-beaming satellites could enable space communications — A  laser beam of infrared light and invisible to the human eye has been beamed from Tokyo. By the time it had traveled through hundreds of miles of outer space and atmosphere, the light was harmless: it had spread out like a spotlight, about as wide as 10 soccer fields. Some of that light made its way into the end of a telescope, where it bounced off mirrors and flew through lenses and filters onto a photon-measuring detector. Some day Masahide Sasaki hopes, that light could be more than invisible wavelengths hitting a telescope—it could be encoded with information, leading to communication with Mars.
~ Yeah … I still don’t want to go to Mars. You can’t even grow spuds there

Wanna buy a Moon rock? Moon Express, founded in 2010 to win the Google Lunar XPRIZE, says it is self-funded to begin bringing kilograms of lunar rocks back to Earth within about three years. The privately held company released plans for a single, modular spacecraft that can be combined to form successively larger and more capable vehicles. Ultimately the company plans to establish a lunar outpost in 2020 and set up commercial operations on the Moon.
~ Gosh, yes, everyone wants one of those. 

Object actually teleported — The Micius team has created the first satellite-to-ground quantum network, in the process smashing the record for the longest distance over which entanglement has been measured. And they’ve used this quantum network to teleport the first object from the ground to orbit. Teleportation has become a standard operation in quantum optics labs around the world. The technique relies on the strange phenomenon of entanglement. This occurs when two quantum objects, such as photons, form at the same instant and point in space and so share the same existence. In technical terms, they are described by the same wave function.
~ Work needed. Nothing like expecting Captain Kirk and just getting his fingernail. 

Hyperloop tested and it worked — Hyperloop One announced last week that it successfully tested a full hyperloop. The step into the future occurred in May at the company’s Nevada test track, where engineers watched a magnetically levitating test sled fire through a tube in near-vacuum, reaching 112kph (70mph) in just over five seconds.
That is but a fraction of the 1126kph (700mph) or so Hyperloop One promises, but what matters here is all the elements required to make hyperloop work, worked: propulsion, braking, and the levitation and vacuum systems that all but eliminate friction and air resistance so that pod shoots through the tube at maximum speed with minimal energy.
~ Hyperscoop!

Big Australian battery — The awarding of a 129 MWh battery contract to Tesla is big news for South Australia, as it will be able to instantly provide power to the grid when needed, as well as taking out any fluctuations in generating capacity from surrounding wind farms and PV installations. The battery will be able to supply close to 10% of the state’s energy needs for almost an hour. Why? Storage has long been the missing link for renewable energy.
~ What’s next, Tesla battery hens?

Brilliant staircase design stores extra energy to make it easier to climb later — Thanks to engineers at Georgia Tech and Emory University, stairs might one day do all the hard work for you. These energy-recycling stairs store energy when you descend, and then release it to make the ascent easier on the way back up.
~ Or, you know, just do some work you lazy so-and-sos. 

Sideways elevator — After three years of work, ThyssenKrupp is testing the Multi elevator in a German tower and finalising the safety certification. This crazy contraption zooms up, down, left, right, and diagonally. ThyssenKrupp just sold the first Multi to a residential building under construction in Berlin, and expects to sell them to other developers soon.
~ The best comment goes to the company’s CEO Patrick Bass: “There were some doubts”. 

DNA storage — E. coli might best be known for giving street food connoisseurs occasional bouts of gastric regret. But the humble microbial workhorse, with its easy-to-edit genome, has given humankind so much more — insulin, antibiotics, cancer drugs, biofuels, synthetic rubber, and now: a place to keep your selfies safe for the next millennium.
~ Sorry, grandchildren, I could have passed on my cold sore immunity but instead, check out this picture of me and Nanna by the Eifel Tower!

‘Living drug’ fights cancer — A new kind of cancer treatment uses genetically engineered cells from a patient’s immune system to attack their cancer. It has easily cleared a crucial hurdle  when a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee unanimously recommended that the agency approve this ‘living drug’ approach for children and young adults who are fighting a common form of leukaemia.
~ Something we can use so soon? Awesome. 

New York’s genetically engineered insects — Diamondback moths may be a mere half-inch in length, but their voracious appetite for Brussels sprouts, kale and cauliflower make them a major pain for farmers. This week, the US Department of Agriculture approved moths genetically engineered to contain a special gene that makes them gradually die off. A field trial slated to take place in a small area of upstate New York will become the first wild release of an insect modified using genetic engineering in the US.
~ Let there be rejoicing in the kale fields. 

Ötzi the Iceman ‘s long-distance axe — A recent analysis of the metal found in the Neolithic hunter’s copper axe suggests a point of origin in Southern Tuscany, which is far from where Ötzi’s frozen body was found. This suggests a long-distance trade route might have existed between central Italy and the Alps some 5300 years ago.
~ This Copper Age corpse is the gift that keeps on giving.

Futurology ~ many failed stars, Titan landing, particle find, leaping’ bot, b-i-g battery, Ada Lovelace maths, mens’ clocks, anti-aging pill, ancient Chinese giants


Our galaxy’s failed stars — New research suggests our galaxy contains as many as 100 billion brown dwarfs, a type of celestial object that didn’t have quite what it takes to become a full-fledged star. The finding shows just how ubiquitous brown dwarfs really are, and how many false starts are involved in the formation of new stars.
~ Well it’s all a matter of degree, isn’t it? I mean, even bit part players on Shortland Street are referred to as ‘stars’ these days. 

Saturn’s smoon Titan has a good landing sport — Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, is a giant nightmare beach. While its electrically charged sand wouldn’t make for a relaxing holiday, new research suggests the planet might not be as hostile to robotic visitors as we think. Although its lakes are full of ultra-cold liquid methane and ethane, they could be placid enough for future space probe to land on. Still not great for swimming, though.
~ I’ll worry about that once it gets added to Apple Maps. 

Particle find reignites old controversy — Scientists at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland have discovered an exciting new particle – or rather, an exciting combination of particles. It doesn’t have quite the same impact that the Higgs Boson (the one people called the God Particle) did five years ago. But it does have people talking, and many folks are thinking about a controversial set of results from an older experiment.
~ For me, that would be the time I tried to make a cocktail from red wine and brandy. Eeeuwch!

One-legged robot has incredible leap — A  little robot from the University of California Berkeley is putting on a jumping clinic. Salto is a bot that not only leaps four times higher than its height (higher than humans could ever manage) but strings together multiple jumps and bounds off walls in the process. Oh, and it’s only got one leg.
~ And why, you may ask? To get over rubble, which defeats wheeled robots. 

Tesla is building the world’s largest lithium-ion battery in South Australia — The installation is 60% larger than any other large-scale battery energy storage system on the planet. In partnership with the SA government and French renewables company Neoen, alongside the third stage of the Hornsdale Wind Farm, the PowerPack battery farm will top 100 megawatts capacity and provide 129 megawatt-hours of energy generation to the region to load-balance the state’s renewable energy generation and to allow emergency back-up power if a shortfall in energy production is predicted.
~ Home storage and release batteries are the real answer to the solar power conundrum, though. 

Myths of Ada Lovelace’s maths exploded — Two mathematics historians investigated the Lovelace-Byron family archives (which are available online) to confirm the early mathematical prowess of Ada Lovelace for two scholarly journals. The work challenges widespread claims that Lovelace’s mathematical abilities were more “poetical” than practical, or indeed that her knowledge was so limited that Babbage himself was likely to have been the author of the paper that bears her name. The authors pinpoint Lovelace’s keen eye for detail, fascination with big questions, and flair for deep insights, which enabled her to challenge some deep assumptions in her teacher’s work. Her ambition, in time, to do significant mathematical research was entirely credible, though sadly curtailed by her ill-health and early death
~ So there, widespread claimers!

Men and the Biological Clock — A new study reveals a couple’s chances of having a baby fall with the man’s age. Laura Dodge, who led the research at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School in Boston, said that couples should bear the findings in mind when planning a family. “When making this decision, they should also be considering the man’s age,” she said. Scientists have long known that a woman’s chances of conceiving naturally drop sharply from the age of 35, but fertility research has focused so much on women that male factors are less well understood.
~ How is this surprising? 

Cheap pill promises anti-aging impact — Nir Barzilai knows the science of aging. He is the director of the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx. He plans a cheap, generic, demonstrably safe pharmaceutical that has already shown, in a host of preliminary studies, that it may be able to help stave off many of the worst parts of growing old.
~ Otherwise it’s the rich who won’t age, while dispensing with the rest of us in favour of robots.

Ancient Chinese giants — Researchers in China recently uncovered the skeletal remains of an unusually tall group of individuals who lived in China’s Shandong province some 5000 years ago. With some reaching heights well over 1.8m, these Neolithic humans were a sign of things to come.
~ Well, maybe they just had great diets. Anglo-Saxons, for example, were often this height – English selections diminish quite dramatically with the growth of towns after that period. 

 

 

Read more at https://www.gizmodo.com.au/2017/07/archaeologists-unearth-grave-of-giants-in-china/#8trioP2PispF2ybf.99

Futurology ~ 10 more Earths, Mars-sized mystery, visit Uranus, Bright Nights, human Genome rethink, long bog sword, ancient prosthetic toe


Lovely, lopsided Uranus …”

10 more planets humans may be able to ruin — Researchers from NASA’s Kepler space telescope team announced we might get to bring our garbage party to another planet — OK, a bunch of them.  The Kepler team has apparently identified 219 new planet candidates, 10 of which are roughly Earth-size and within their star’s habitable zone, the orbit zone around a star that could support liquid water and possibly life. This latest update to the Kepler catalogue brings the total number of planet candidates identified by the space-based telescope to 4034.
~ Well gosh, that’s heartening. Maybe they should have Keplered them to themselves? 

Mystery Mars-sized planet — It’s been about 11 years since Pluto was demoted to dwarf planet status, leaving a 2370km-sized void in our hearts. Since then, the hunt for Planet X – aptly renamed Planet 9 – has grown into an international movement to find such an object in the Kuiper Belt beyond Neptune’s orbit. Now, scientists Kat Volk and Renu Malhotra from the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory are upping the ante: they suggest a completely different, tenth planetary-mass object is hiding somewhere in the Kuiper Belt as well.
~ Sigh. Or, you know, they’re just making suff up. It’s pretty dark out there. 

Uranus is the loneliest thing in the solar system — It hasn’t had contact with anyone in over 30 years, since NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft whizzed by it on 24th January 1986. Thankfully, some good folks at NASA and elsewhere are advocating for missions to Uranus and its Ice Giant companion, Neptune, which could take place at some point in the next few decades.
~ If only I could think of a pun. 

Satellites solve ‘bright nights’ — When Roman philosophers such as Pliny the Elder witnessed moonless nights glow bright like the day, it made an impression. Others since then have been awestruck by these ‘bright nights’ too.
Scientists from York University in Toronto have since observed what they call “enhanced airglow events” where elements in the night sky release photons. They know what’s causing airglow in their satellite data. But now they think they have figured out what enhances the glow, which may have caused the brighter nights documented throughout history.
~ Let me guess: was it light?

Study forces scientists to rethink human genome — As genetic sequencing has gotten cheaper and computerised data analysis has gotten better, more and more researchers have turned to what are known as genome-wide association studies in hopes of sussing out which individual genes are associated with particular disorders. If you have a whole lot of people with a disease, you should be able to tell what genetic traits those people have in common that might be responsible. This thinking has resulted in an entire catalogue of hundreds of research studies that has shed light on the genetic origins of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Crohn’s disease and prostate cancer, while helping fuel the rise of personalised medicine.
But now, a group of Stanford University geneticists writing in the journal Cell posit that such large studies are actually likely to produce genetic variants with little bearing on the disease in question — essentially false positives that confuse the results.
~ ‘False positives’ really is cruel irony. 

Stunning medieval longsword discovered in Polish bog — Late last month, an excavator operator was working at a peat bog in the Polish municipality of Mircze when he accidentally stumbled upon a glorious specimen of 14th century craftsmanship. The remarkably well-preserved longsword is a unique find for the area, and its discovery has prompted an archaeological expedition hoping to find more artefacts in the (location undisclosed) bog.
~ For the love of peat!

Study sheds new light on incredible 3000-year-old prosthetic toe — It’s called the Greville Chester Great Toe, and it’s one of the earliest prosthetic devices known to scientists. The Iron Age prosthetic was discovered by archaeologists 17 years ago in a plundered tomb that was carved into an older burial chamber known as Sheikh ´Abd el-Qurna, an acropolis just west of Luxor, Egypt. A team of researchers from the University of Basel and the University of Zurich are currently reexamining the device, and the archaeological site itself, using state-of-the-art techniques — and they’re learning some extraordinary new things about it.
~ Come on, if they could make a massive pyramid, a toe doesn’t seem that much of a stretch. 

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 ~ 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 ~ 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.