Tag Archives: Futurology

Futurology ~ lasering missiles, carbon-sucking AC, desalination, breakthrough, endlessly recyclable plastic, beetle fire detectors, cancer nanomedicine, arsenic breathers, undersea archaeology


Scientists plan to drop grabs to find archaeological artefacts from a small sample range under the sea

US Air Force lasers missiles — The Force reckons it successfully used a ground-based surrogate for its laser weapons project, the Self-Protect High-Energy Laser Demonstrator (SHiELD), to shoot down multiple air-launched missiles during a test at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
~ A ground-based surrogate’? You mean the Air Force pretended to shoot down missiles with a laser? What did they use, a laser pointer? 

AC to suck carbon out of the sky — Researchers with the Institute for Micro Process Engineering in Germany have dreamt up a world where air conditioners don’t make climate change worse, but rather suck carbon out of the air.
~ It’s always seemed bizarre to me that you would help warm the planet just to cool down your own little apartment. 

Game-changing way to desalinate water — Temperature Swing Solvent Extraction is designed to purify hypersaline brines (water that contains a high concentration of salts, making it up to seven times as salty as seawater). This kind of waste water is produced by industrial processes and during oil and gas production, and it poses a major pollution risk to groundwater. The game changing part is this can occur at much lower temperatures than previous methods allowed.
~ I wonder if they considered just adding pepper for a cordon bleu solution? 

Endlessly Recyclable Plastic — A team from Berkeley Lab, California  has developed a method to create a new type of plastic that can be broken down at the molecular level to create new plastic without any deterioration in quality.
~ Erp …

Beetles detect oil fires — Pyrophilous jewel beetles approach forest fires and there is considerable evidence these beetles can detect fires from great distances of more than 60 km. Melanophila beetles are equipped with infrared receptors so they are also attracted by hot surfaces: it can be concluded that these infrared receptors are used for fire detection.
~ Fire Service, get your beetles out! 

Nanomeds slip through the cracks to fight cancer — Scientists in Japan have devised a nanoparticle carrier for siRNA that can access hard-to-reach tumours, such as those of the pancreas and the brain. Due to their small size of less than 20 nanometers, the YBCs are able to squeeze into hard-to-reach tumours.
~ Well, it’s working for mice so far, anyway. 

Arsenic breathers deep n the sea — Arsenic is toxic to almost all life forms, but now researchers at the University of Washington have discovered that some microbes in the Pacific Ocean not only tolerate the stuff, but actively breathe it. The discovery has implications for how life may adapt to a changing climate, as well as where we might find it on other planets.
~ Poisson breathing poison: well I never. 

Fishing for stone age settlers — Lost at the bottom of the North Sea almost eight millennia ago, a vast land area between England and southern Scandinavia which was home to thousands of stone age settlers is about to be rediscovered. The area was submerged when thousands of cubic miles of sub-Arctic ice started to melt and sea levels began to rise.
~ North Sea fishing crews have discovered archaeological artefacts in their nets.

Futurology ~ Solar plutonium, water worlds, protein data, AIDS end, pinhol-lographics, one-step biodegradables, four-legged beast


New research describes the remains of a gigantic, four-legged mammalian carnivore that terrorised Africa some 22 million years ago.

Scientists locate neutron star collision that could have created our solar system’s plutonium — in 2017, observatories around the world observed a high-energy collision between a pair of dense objects, each slightly more massive than the Sun but only the size of a city. A similar collision closer to home could have been responsible for producing some of the heaviest elements in our own solar system – and scientists think they know when it happened.
Using measurements of what’s left of these elements in ancient meteorites, a pair of researchers worked backward to locate the neutron star merger that produced some of them.
~ The abundances of these elements spiked approximately 80 million years before the solar system formed.

Water worlds could have very deep oceans — Scientists have good reason to believe that so-called water worlds – exoplanets with surfaces covered entirely by a single gigantic ocean – are common in the galaxy. But new computer simulations suggests that not only are water worlds prevalent, they’re also teeming with water – and at mind-boggling scales. Imagine oceans hundreds, and even thousands, of kilometres deep.
~ That’s no reason for Kev to make a movie, though. Water worlds are still hypothetical.

Data on protein — By 2020, researchers estimate that the world’s digital archive will weigh in at around 44 trillion gigabytes. That’s an astounding amount of data that isn’t necessarily being stored in the safest of places. Most storage mediums naturally degrade over time (if they’re not hacked or accidentally destroyed) and the cloud isn’t as reliable as companies want us to believe.
So researchers at Harvard University have turned to some unique chemistry they believe could safely archive the world’s data for millions of years — without requiring any power. Chemists at Harvard University took inspiration from nature and came up with a way to store data using oligopeptides: molecules made up of amino acids that are considerably smaller and easier to work with than DNA.
~ Getting pumped? Shake it, baby. 

An end to AIDS may be within sight —A landmark study found men whose HIV infection was fully suppressed by antiretroviral drugs had no chance of infecting their partner. The findings support the message of the international U=U campaign that an undetectable viral load makes HIV untransmittable.
~ A major step forward. 

Pinholes aid holographic transmission — Researchers in South Korea have designed an ultrathin display that can project dynamic, multi-colored, 3D holographic images.
~ This suggests holographic displays could be projected from thin devices like  cell phones.

One-step method for biodegradable plastics — Researchers in Japan and the Netherlands have devised a one-stop method to produce plant-derived plastics. Bio-based plastics are emerging as a next generation material and are expected to replace petroleum-derived plastics. A plant-derived polyester, called polyethylene furanoate (PEF), is a promising polymer derived from plants that can replace the current favourite of the plastic industry, polyethylene terephthalate (PET).
~ Pfft.

Astonishing Densiovan fossil — The archaeology world has been abuzz with news of the first Denisovan fossil found outside Siberia. The 160,000-year-old jawbone was uncovered by a Buddhist monk in a Chinese cave nearly 40 years ago.
Now that it has finally been studied, it’s known it belonged to a young Denisovan individual who occupied the cave some 160,000 years ago.
~ Home Sapiens date back 200,000 years. 

New research describes the remains of a gigantic, four-legged mammalian carnivore that terrorised Africa 22 million years ago — Simbakubwa kutokaafrika, which translated from Swahili means ‘big lion coming from Africa.’ But this was no feline: it belonged to an extinct group of mammals known as hyaenodonts, which have no close relation to any species of mammalian carnivore living today. Larger than a polar bear, and with a head as big as a rhino’s, Simbakubwa spent its time as an apex predator in Eastern Africa around 22 million years ago, eventually going extinct under mysterious circumstances.
~ Honestly, record keeping back then was all over the place. 

Futurology ~ Wormhole travel, AI invents game, better water filter, human monkeys, reanimated pigs, U2 archaeology


AI has invented a sport for us, and it’s called Speedgate. Um, gee, thanks AI.

Travel through wormholes is possible, but slow — A Harvard physicist has shown that wormholes can exist: tunnels in curved space-time, connecting two distant places, through which travel is possible.
But it’s probably not useful for humans to travel through, said Daniel Jafferis, from Harvard University, the author of the study written in collaboration with Ping Gao, also from Harvard and Aron Wall from Stanford University: it takes longer to get through these wormholes than to go directly.
~ Well, you know, maybe it’s more scenic. 

AI invents a sport — The game, Speedgate, combines elements of several existing sports including Rugby, Soccer, and Handball, and can be customised to suit large or small fields. Players pass a ball (a size four Rugby training ball is currently used until the official Speedgate ball hits the market) to teammates by tossing, kicking, or punting it. The full rules and regulations for Speedgate are available on a website.
~ And it easily looks as crazy as all the human-invented ones. 

Nanowires improve water filtration — Combining nanowires with natural plant fibres, a team of scientists in China has found a way to purify water efficiently using water purification filter paper made from ultralong hydroxyapatite nanowires combined with natural plant fibres.
~ And when it breaks down, will add it to the plastic apocalypse?

Human genes ‘improve’ monkeys — A research group in China has introduced a human gene regulating brain development into monkeys, resulting in transgenic nonhuman primates that exhibited improved working memory and shorter reaction times.
~ Now how about we reintroduce them into humans? 

Pigs reanimated — In a study that raises profound questions about the line between life and death, researchers have restored some cellular activity to brains removed from slaughtered pigs.
~ It should help work out what kinds of brain functions could be restored after, say, a stroke. 

Declassified U2 spy pix show hidden archaeological sites — Inspired by a Chinese researcher who used the U2 images to view historical aerial imagery of his hometown, Emily Hammer and Jason Ur decided to see if the copious amounts of declassified data had any scientific worth. Much of the landscape in Europe, the Middle East, and central eastern Asia has changed since the Cold War, making these aerial records both historically and archaeologically important.
~ For example, they found the historical Aleppo from before the massive destruction wrought in the ongoing civil war; ancient stone animal-trapping ‘kites’; Marsh Arab settlements; ancient waterworks. 

Futurology ~ Better encryption, better batteries, better pesto, post menopause, better movement, Pole trees, new Mammoths, 4-legged whale


Remnants of a previously unknown, 42.6-million-year-old quadrupedal whale has been discovered along the coast of Peru

Un-decryptable — set of computer scientists has taken a major step toward this goal with the release today of EverCrypt, a set of digital cryptography tools. The researchers were able to prove ( in the sense that you can prove the Pythagorean theorem) that their approach to online security is completely invulnerable to the main types of hacking attacks that have felled other programs in the past.
~ But did they only achieve this by very strictly limiting the operational parameters? 

Better solid-state batteries — Scientists in Japan have developed a complex hydride lithium superionic conductor that could result in all-solid-state batteries with the highest energy density to date.
All-solid-state batteries incorporating a lithium metal anode have the potential to address the energy density issues of conventional lithium-ion batteries. But until now, their use in practical cells has been limited by the high resistance of lithium ion transfer within anode materials.
~This should open up new fields in solid electrolyte materials.

Better pesto — Machine learning has been used to create basil plants that are extra-delicious. The effort reflects a broader trend that involves using data science and machine learning to improve agriculture.
~ I’ll wait till the machine learning learns to harvest my basil and make the pesto.

Bone loss mechanisms in post-menopausal women — Japanese researchers have found that blood serum levels of Sema3A decrease in premenopausal women as they get older and drop even further once women reach menopause, linked to oestrogen loss, and this appears to be the mechanism for weakened bones.
~ See how I didn’t use ‘Osteoporosis breakthrough’?

Even an hour of walking a week can help older adults with ailing knees — Researchers looked at data from an earlier project studying thousands of middle-aged and elderly Americans with knee osteoarthritis, the Osteoarthritis Initiative, which began in 2004. Exercise helps prevent conditions of knee osteoarthritis and improve symptoms, reduces pain, and slows down the disease’s progression.
~ I’ve always been of fan of ‘more movement, less worrying about food’.

‘New’ Californian mammoths — Mammut pacificus, a new species of mastodon specific to a small segment of the North American West, is the first new mastodon species to be recognised in 50 years.
~ There have been known examples, just not recognised as distinctive.

Four-legged Peruvian whale — The discovery of a fossilised, 42-million-year-old, four-legged whale is shedding new light on the evolution and geographical spread of these aquatic mammals.
~ The ancestors of modern whales and dolphins evolved from a small, four-limbed hoofed animal that lived in south Asia around 50 million years ago during the Eocene.

Trees almost at the Pole — Using sedimentary records and plant fossils, researchers have found that temperatures near the South Pole were about 20C higher than now in the Pliocene epoch, from 5.3m to 2.6m years ago. Then, a variety of beech and possibly conifer trees grew at Oliver Bluffs, 300 miles from the South Pole.
~ So plants may colonise that area again, at current rates. 

Futurology ~ CERN antimatter, ancient flare, twisted graphene, tiny Bluetooth, tiny circuits, silk microelectronics, old brains new cells, no hangover, self-heal plastic, online AI


South Korean scientists have invented a method to fabricate silk-based microelectronics

Popping corks at CERN — Scientists have announced the observation of “CP violation in a D0 meson” at CERN, a discovery that will appear in physics textbooks for years to come. So?
The universe is full of regular matter. There’s also antimatter, which exists even here on Earth, but there’s much less of it. This new observation is important on its own, but it also takes physicists another step closer to explaining where all the antimatter has disappeared to.
~ D0, a Meson, a CP violation, Ray, a …

Kazakhstan meteorite hid evidence of ancient solar super flare — Scientists found evidence of an ancient solar “superflare” hidden in a meteorite first found in Kazakhstan in 1962. Meteorites can be useful for telling the story the Solar System’s history through the elements they contain. By analysing the Efremovka meteorite, a pair of researchers determined a superflare that occurred around 500,000 years after the Sun’s birth could have emitted as many x-rays as the largest solar flare each second, but for perhaps an entire year.
~ On the bright, well very bright, side: free X-Rays.

Twisted graphene is exciting stuff — Carbon sheets only a single atom thick, called graphene, take on a pair of important physical properties when they are twisted at just the right ‘magic’ angle relative to one another.
If the atmosphere this month at the world’s largest physics conference was any indication, twisted graphene has now spawned an entirely new field of physics research.
~ But is it recyclable? 

Teeny-tiny Bluetooth transmitters — Battery-powered and energy-harvesting millimeter-scale sensors are meant to last for years without needing replacement, but their radios can’t muster the energy needed to communicate using even the lowest energy version of Bluetooth, called Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). But now engineers at the University of Michigan have built the first millimetre-scale stand-alone device that speaks BLE. Consuming just 0.6 milliwatts during transmission, it would broadcast for 11 years using a typical 5.8-millimeter coin battery.
~ Teeny-tiny trackers, in other words. 

Silk-based microelectronics — A research group from South Korea has invented a method to fabricate silk-based microelectronics. They published their method in ACS Advanced Materials & Interfaces. Read more from Asian Scientist Magazine at: https://www.asianscientist.com/2019/03/in-the-lab/silk-fibroin-pattern-microelectronics/

Old human brains still make new cells — Humans can make fresh brain cells well into their 90s, but the production of new neurons falls in those with Alzheimer’s, even when the disease has recently taken hold, scientists have found. The findings may help doctors to diagnose Alzheimer’s at an earlier stage.
~ OK, brain, make me some new ones right now. 

Booze without the bad effects — Alcarelle, a synthetic alcohol that should provide the relaxing and socially lubricating qualities of alcohol without the hangovers, health issues and the risk of getting paralytic, is starting to look like a possibility.
~ Cheers to that.

Gene editing record — Using a modified version of CRISPR, a team of geneticists has successfully triggered 13,200 genetic changes to a single human cell. That’s a new record, and by a long shot. This sweeping new editing process could eventually be used to strip DNA of useless or dangerous genetic information – or create entirely new kinds of life.
~ Oh, wait, will we get singe-cell humans? Lol. 

Corn-starch plastic heals itself with a blast of heat — Researchers from the Leibniz Institute for New Materials in Saarbrücken, Germany, and from the nearby Saarland University, turned to corn starch to help develop a new lacquer coating that can bounce back from minor damage.
~ Boom-shacka-lacquer, oh yeah!

Five AI experiences you can try now in a browser — It can be hard to get your head around exactly what AI does and how it can be deployed though, which is why we present to you these five fun online experiments — all you need is a web browser and a few minutes to see some of the party tricks AI is already capable of.
~ Hmm, yeah. 

Futurology ~ 83 Black Holes, space superbugs, invisibility, blue wake-up, animal magnetism, Irish dirt


Bacteria in some Irish dirt killed four of the top six organisms that are resistant to antibiotics, including MRSA

Loads of ‘new’ super-massive Black Holes — A team of international astronomers has been hunting for ancient, supermassive black holes and discovered 83 previously unknown quasars.
~ OK, just try not to upset them.

New tools against superbugs in space — For years, scientists have sounded the alarm about a potential nightmare for astronauts on the International Space Station: antibiotic-resistant superbugs that could be even more dangerous in space than they are on Earth. This week, research say they’ve found a way to better prevent such hardy bacteria from growing on surfaces of the ISS.
The magical property is called AGXX, a mix of silver and ruthenium. Its developers claim AGXX can more effectively kill off bacteria and other microbes like fungi than conventional silver, while having a lower risk of depositing silver in the environment. The chemical makeup of AGXX even allows the coating to self-regenerate, ensuring that its effects last longer.
~ Did you think the secret was Janola? Or magical Irish dirt? (See below.)

Kevlar invisibility cloak — Chinese researchers fabricated an aerogel film made of DuPont Kevlar fibres. By itself, the aerogel turned out to be a good thermal insulator, but the researchers enhanced its capabilities by coating its fibres with polyethylene glycol (PEG) and a protective waterproof layer.
~ It’s actually invisible to heat detectors rather than eye sight.

Wake-up blue — A team of scientists in South Korea has demonstrated that blue-enriched light can effectively help people overcome morning drowsiness.
~ Seems obvious to me: if you shouldn’t have blue light at night coz it keeps you awake, then …

Humans feel the magnetic field — A new study from researchers at the California Institute of Technology suggests that humans can sense the Earth’s magnetic field, although the strength of the response varied hugely among participants.
~ ItAnimal magnetism, indeed. 

Magical Irish dirt kills bacteria — Old timers insisted that the dirt in the vicinity of a nearly 1500-year-old church in County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland, an area once occupied by the Druids, had almost miraculous curative powers. So microbiologist Gerry Quinn and his team decided to focus on the Irish soil, they narrowed their search to a specific type of bacteria, called Streptomyces, because other strains of this bacteria have led to the development of 75% of existing antibiotics.
~ This is important as in the United States at least 23,000 people die every year from an antibiotic resistant infection.

Futurology ~ Mercury closest, sound discoveries, nano-threading, new gripper, burry still video, Stonehenge pork, Greenland solar storm, Woolly Mammoth mice


Scientists have devised a shape that blocks all sound.

Planetary reshuffle — A team of scientists has just demonstrated that Mercury, not Venus, is the closest planet to Earth on average. The researchers presented their results this week in an article in the magazine Physics Today. They explained that other methods of calculating which planet is ‘the closest’ has been oversimplifying the matter.
~ Further, Mercury is the closest neighbour, on average, to each of the other seven planets in the solar system!

Sound waves carry mass — Surprising new research shows there are still secrets waiting to be found, hidden in plain sight—or, at least in this case, within earshot.
In a paper published in Physical Review Letters, a group of scientists theorised that sound waves possess mass, meaning sounds would be directly affected by gravity. They suggest phonons, particle-like collective excitations responsible for transporting sound waves across a medium, might exhibit a tiny amount of mass in a gravitational field.
~ So, you really can get a sound stuck in your head!

Shape blocks almost all sound — A team of Boston University researchers recently stuck a loudspeaker into one end of a PVC pipe. They cranked it up loud. What did they hear? Nothing.
The pipe was actually left open save for a small, 3D-printed ring placed around the rim. That ring cut 94% of the sound blasting from the speaker: enough to make it inaudible to the human ear.
The implications for architecture and interior design are remarkable, because these metamaterials could be applied to the built environment in many different ways. For instance, they could be stacked to build soundproof ,yet transparent, walls.
~ It’s an ‘acoustic meta material’.

Nano-threading plants to modify DNA — Modifying the genetics of a plant requires getting DNA into its cells. That’s fairly easy to do with animal cells, but with plants it’s a different matter thanks to their cell-membrane walls. UC Berkeley researcher Markita Landry found a way to do it using carbon nanotubes: tiny long stiff tubes of carbon.
~ So can we now modify plants to pick and cook themselves?. 

Origami inspires better grippers — Robotic hands have a tough time getting a grip on pliable objects as rigid pincers aren’t designed for precision grasping. Now researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and Harvard describe a novel gripper design that’s capable of lifting items in a range of weights, shapes, and sizes.
The team’s hollow, cone-shaped gripper comprises three parts — a 3D-printed, 16-piece silicone rubber skeleton with a gripper-to-mount connector encased by an airtight skin — that together collapse in on objects as opposed to clutching them.
~ Collapso-Grab!

Blurry still images become video frames — Researchers from Switzerland’s École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne’s (EPFL) Engineering Mechanics of Soft Interfaces Laboratory worked with another team from Harvard University’s SMRLab to develop a way to analyse blurry photos and generate step-by- step frames representing detailed slices of the original motion that previously appeared to be frozen in time.
~ And this tech could be coming to smartphones soon.

Ancient British pork-rests at Stonehenge — Prehistoric Britons travelled impressive distances to attend celebrations at monumental sites like Stonehenge, according to new research. Incredibly, many of them brought their pigs along with them for the journey – an impressive feat considering some participants came from hundreds of miles away. They brought their locally raised pigs with them, which were then slaughtered and served at these mass gatherings.
~ Scientists have realised they can analyse pig bones as proxies for human bones to reconstruct human movements. 

Greenland ice preserves solar stem relics — Traces of an enormous solar storm that battered the atmosphere and showered Earth in radioactive particles more than 2500 years ago (in 660 BC) have been discovered under the Greenland ice sheet.
~ That explains those ancient complaints about bad cell phone reception.

Mammoth cells ‘reawakened’ in mice — Cells from a woolly mammoth that died more than 28,000 years ago have been partially reactivated inside mouse egg cells.
~ So, learn to fear the massive woolly mouse!

Futurology ~ New products and processes, lasers, smarter glass, robot homes, three HIV cures, vaccine benefits, new Orca, elixir of immortality,ancient tattoos


A rare photo of a newly-identified ‘type D’ species of Orca between South America and Antarctica shows the whales’ blunt heads and tiny white eye patches. (JP Sylvestre)

Laser passes through fog or white paint — It’s not quite seeing through walls, but scientists are working to engineer light beams so they can pass through an opaque medium without scattering, according to a new paper.
~ It’s all about tailoring light beams. 

Robot-built house produces more power than it needs — The world’s first home designed, planned, and built with mainly digital processes just opened its doors in Switzerland. Developed by eight ETH Zurich professors, DFAB House is a pilot project showcasing futuristic building technologies that may someday work their way into our homes. It’s topped with a solar array that generates 1.5 times more energy than the unit needs (intelligent control eliminates the risk of load peaks), and it has waste heat recovery systems – one recycles heat from shower trays back into the boiler.
~ I like that one of the processes uses wood rather than concrete.

Smarter windows — Windows that filter out atmospheric particulate matter (PM) while allowing indoor light intensity to be adjusted could soon be a reality with the invention of a silver (Ag)-nylon mesh by scientists in China. The invention allows the light intensity of commercial buildings to be tuned to maintain thermal comfort.
~ So, pollute like crazy as your windows will keep your home safe? 

Welding metal to glass — Researchers at Edinburgh, Scotland’s Heriot-Watt University have developed a process called “ultrafast laser microwelding,” which uses very, very short pulses of infrared laser light to fuse two dissimilar materials together. The Heriot-Watt system tested the method on quartz, borosilicate glass, sapphire and aluminium, titanium and stainless steel. Being able to directly weld panels of glass and aluminium could open up many interesting possibilities for auto design and manufacturing.
~ Goodness’s gracious, tiny balls of lightning.

Third person ‘cured’ of HIV — A man in the UK has been free of HIV since his cancer treatment, and now a similar case has been reported by researchers who treated a patient in Germany. Together, they add to evidence that it may be possible to cure HIV.
~ This has been such a long time coming. 

Unintended benefits of vaccines — A new study shows that vaccination with a weakened strain of salmonella not only protects against typhoid fever but also seems to rev up the immune system to fight off other problems, like influenza and yeast infection.
~ More strength to the anti-anti-vaxxers.

‘New’ orca — Scientists have found a mysterious type of killer whale they’ve been searching for for years. It lives in parts of the ocean near Antarctica.
The notion there might be some unusual kind of killer whale emerged in 1955 when photos from New Zealand showed a bunch of whales stranded on a beach. This was a very different-looking group of killer whales, with blunter noses and smaller white eye-patches.
~ This is probably the largest animal to have remained unidentified by biologists.

Chinese elixir of immortality is 2000 years old —A yellowish liquid found in a bronze pot dating back some 2,000 years is not wine, as Chinese archaeologists initially thought. It’s actually an “elixir of immortality” concocted during ancient times. It’s most likely a mixture of potassium nitrate and alunite.
~ Lucky it lasted so long …

American tattoo kit 2000 years old — A 2000-year-old wooden implement with black-tipped cactus spines is now the oldest example of a tattoo tool in western North America, a discovery that’s shedding important new light on this ancient practice. The 10cm-long device was, created over 1400 years prior to the arrival of European colonists.
~ Incredibly, the relic might have never been discovered had it not been for an inventory check.

Tongan tattoo tools 2700 years old — Tattooing goes back millennia and spans cultures, as evidenced by mummified remains, yet many details of the body modification’s origins have been shrouded in mystery. Now an ancient bone tattoo kit from the Pacific island nation of Tonga is providing researchers with more than an inkling into the rich history of Polynesian body art.
~ Two of the tools were made of bird bone and two are ‘probably’ of human bone.

Futurology ~ Building blocks of life, self-learning robo-hand, meat physics, room superconductor, uranium soaker, youngster reactor, 10x zoom, all-season fabric, Stonehenge


Freaky 8-letter DNA could be the stuff aliens are made of — Conventional DNA is comprised of the familiar A, C, G and T base pairs, but a newly created genetic system is packed with eight, thus doubling the number of letters normally found in self-replicating molecules. Intriguingly, the new system model, dubbed ‘hachimoji’, could resemble the building blocks of extraterrestrial life.
~ Gah! I always thought DNA was a 3-letter thing! The main point is, our accepted model of DNA-RNA may not be the only model that works.

NASA explores the building blocks of live in ancientEarth recreation — NASA researchers showed that systems with specific kinds of iron dissolved in water, which could have been common on the early Earth seafloor, could have assisted in the creation of the molecules that turned into life. Understanding these reactions could be important in understanding the emergence of life on our own planet – or even the potential for alien life beneath the ice of certain moons around Saturn and Jupiter.
~ Another triumph by the beaker people. 

New robot hand learns how to hold and manipulate — In a split second before you reach to pick up an object, your brain pre-calculates all the movements needed to safely reach and grasp it securely. This subconscious approach results from years of childhood development and learning, and now robotics researchers are using the method for their own creations.
Festo’s new BionicSoftHand is not only remarkably dextrous, but using AI, it figures out how to properly hold and manipulate an object before it makes any actual movements.
~ Self learning robots means even faster automation. 

Meatball collider — A team of particle physicists wanted “to unveil the deepest secrets of the Universe — and of Swedish cuisine”. So they built a Swedish meatball collider.
The MEAL, or MEatball AcceLerator collaboration, could answer important questions such as why we’re made of meatballs, rather than anti-meatballs, or whether we can create dark meatballs. The proof-of-concept experiment was a success.
~ But what about the critical question? What spices did they use …

US Nav scientist maybe invents room temperature superconductor — A scientist working for the US Navy has filed for a patent on a room-temperature superconductor, representing a potential paradigm shift in energy transmission and computer systems.
~ Cool!

New material soaks up uranium from seawater — The world’s oceans contain some 4 billion metric tons of dissolved uranium. That’s roughly 1000 times as much as all known terrestrial sources combined, and enough to fuel the global nuclear power industry for centuries. But the oceans are so vast, and uranium’s concentration in seawater so low, extracting it remains a formidable challenge. H2BHT’s high selectivity and uranium uptake capacity, coupled with molecular insights from the team’s analyses, may lead to improved methods for recovering uranium from seawater.
~ Coz the world needs more nuclear power. 

14-year-old creates nuclear reactor — An American 14-year-old has reportedly become the world’s youngest known person to create a successful nuclear reaction. The Open Source Fusor Research Consortium, a hobbyist group, has recognised the achievement by Jackson Oswalt, from Memphis, Tennessee, when he was aged 12 in January 2018.
~ Coz, you know, most youngsters have ‘playrooms’ capable of this.

10x lossless camera zoom — OPPO has been showing off  a 10x lossless zoom smartphone camera. This involves a triple-lens setup at the rear and includes a 48MP main camera, a periscope telephoto camera and a 120-degree ultra wide-angle camera.
~ 48MP camera in a smartphone?!

All-season fabric heats and cools — A simple piece of fabric, developed by researchers at the University of Maryland, could help someday replace your seasonal wardrobes with clothing that keeps you either warm or cool all year round. Basically, the gaps between fibres expand when it’s hot, and contract to keep heat in when it’s cold.
~ Perhaps it can even, one day, be used as home insulation. 

Stonehenge rocks debunked? A team of 12 geologists and archaeologists from across the United Kingdom unveiled research this month that traces some of the prehistoric monument’s smaller stones to two quarries in western Wales. The team also found evidence of prehistoric tools, stone wedges and digging activity in those quarries, tracing them to around 3000 BC, the era when Stonehenge’s first stage was constructed.
~ This is rock-solid evidence.

Futurology ~ Universal origin, Arctic crater, new magnet, important obscure car, smart sneakers, connection cutting, cow Tinder, Planetary Health Plate, new Sauropod


The Primula debuted the now nearly ubiquitous transverse front engine/front wheel drive design

Origin of the Universe — NASA has announced it will create a new telescope mission, the Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization and Ices Explorer. Luckily we can call it SPHEREx for short. It’ll look at how our universe has changed, and how common the ingredients of life are in the Milky Way.
~ Maps it.

Another Arctic crater, 35kms across — NASA glaciologists used topographical maps, satellite images, and radar scans to analyse an area of the Arctic and found a flat, bowl-shaped depression in the bedrock. This was surrounded by an elevated edge and characteristic central peaks, which form on the crater floor after an impact. The crater has eroded significantly over time, causing the team to estimate it was created somewhere between a hundred thousand years and a hundred million years ago.
~ Those big white bits of Earth must be easier to aim at. 

A new kind of magnet — It has been theorised for decades, and now may have been experimentally proven to exist. It could eventually lead to better data storage devices. In a normal magnet, the magnetic moments of individual grains align with each other to generate a magnetic field. In contrast, in the new “singlet-based” magnet, magnetic moments are temporary in nature, popping in and out of existence.
~ I like singlets, especially in this weather, but they singularly fail to make me more of an attractant. 

The most important car you’ve never heard of — According to Gizmodo, the Autobianchi Primula (main picture, above) is perhaps the most technically influential car ever, because the fundamental theory and design of that car dictated the template that most modern cars use today. Fiat built almost 75,000 Primulas between 1964 and 1970.
~ And now, I have heard of it. But to me it looks rather distressingly like an Austin 1100. 

Smart sneakers not dumb — The right shoe of every pair of UnderArmour HOVR shoes contains a chip that connects with the Map My Run app (also owned by Under Armour). With it, you can keep track of metrics like distance, pace, splits, cadence, and stride length.
~ You know you want ‘personal gait coaching’!

Cutting connection — Internet entrepreneur Arianna Huffington sees a bright future for a new kind of technology — the kind that helps individuals disconnect from the damage done by the internet’s first generation. And it can’t come soon enough, she says, as the next generation of technology may pose an ever greater threat to our lives and jobs.
~ So the next big thing in tech might be tech that lets us disconnect from tech …

Tinder for cows — UK farming start-up Hectare has launched its own equivalent for livestock. It’s called ‘Tudder‘. The app features data profiles of animals from 42,000 UK farms in an effort to help farmers find the perfect breeding partner for their cattle.
~ Cud-dle time.

The planetary health plate — This is a diet put together by scientists as a general guide for how to feed a projected 10 billion humans in 2050 while also keeping the planet from keeling over. It consists largely of vegetables and whole grains.
~ This has pretty much been my diet for the last 30 years. What are you doing? 

‘New’ dinosaur — Living 140 million years ago in the early Lower Cretaceous, the newly discovered herbivore Bajadasaurus pronuspinax had a thing for growing spikes. It was part of the Sauropod family, but looked a little like a small Brontosaurus crossed with a porcupine.
~ OK, then. 

Futurology ~ Galaxy hidden, Mars water wells, light-based 3D prints, online kidney stones, better weather, body heat power, ancient dino feather


A new way to harvest electricity from body heat could inspire new wearable devices that never need to be plugged in

Hidden galaxy discovered next door — While inspecting a known globular cluster, a team of astronomers began to notice that some of its stars didn’t seem to belong. Investigating further, they realised the anomalous stars were part of a nearby galaxy previously unknown to us.
~ OK, it’s a previously unknown dwarf spheroidal galaxy.

Mars could support wells — A science paper available for download [pdf] cites evidence from about two dozen deep impact craters located from the equator to 37 degrees north latitude that Mars has a ground ice table at an elevation that also corresponds to other shoreline features. This suggests a deep groundwater water table (as ice), though it would be almost entirely underground.
~ Bet that tastes just delicious. 

Light-based 3D printer — A research team from the University of California, Berkeley, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has created a printer that shines light onto specific spots in a rotating resin which solidifies when exposed to a certain light level. This forms the entire item all in one go, rather that forming items by laying down one layer of material at a time, like most 3D printers.
~ Prints take from from 30 seconds to a few minutes, compared to hours.

Hydrogel gets stronger under stress — A research group in Japan has found a method to develop stronger, longer-lasting materials using a strategy inspired by the process responsible for muscle growth. The team led by Professor Gong Jian Ping of Hokkaido University, Japan, developed what they call double-network hydrogels made from 85% water and two types of polymer networks—one rigid and brittle, the other soft and stretchable, mimicking the way muscle strengthens as it’s worked.
~ So beware when future robots start working out. 

Online service predicts kidney stones — A calculator devised by researchers called the Recurrence Of Kidney Stone (ROKS) model was originally developed and released to the public by the Mayo Clinic in 2014, as both an online tool and smartphone app. But the original version could only predict someone’s likelihood of getting a second stone following their first episode.
Now the researchers have detailed the creation of an upgraded ROKS capable of predicting later episodes that need medical care no matter how many stones someone has already had.
~ Start me up …

A modern five-day forecast is as accurate as a one-day forecast was in 1980 — Over the past few decades, scientists have gotten significantly, even staggeringly, better at predicting the weather. Modern 72-hour predictions of hurricane tracks are more accurate than 24-hour forecasts were 40 years ago.

Body heat power — Researchers from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, have developed a new method of harvesting electricity from body heat to power wearable devices. The new, wearable thermoelectric generator is sourced from non-toxic and non-allergenic substances, making it a viable candidate for wearable technology. The substrate on which the generator is built is plain old cotton fabric.
~ Well, pants to that. 

Dinosaur feather — Using advanced imaging technology, scientists have shown that a fossilised feather uncovered in the 19th century likely didn’t belong to the bird-like Archaeopteryx as conventionally believed. The 150-million-year-old fossilized feather was uncovered in 1861 within Late Jurassic limestones from the Solnhofen area of southern Germany. The diversity of bird-like Jurassic dinosaurs is likely greater than we’ve appreciated, and there are likely more fossils of unknown species still waiting to be discovered.
~ Probably will cause quite a flap, then. 

Futurology ~ Earth Moon rock, brains talking, plastic replacements, stethoscope AI, thin air chargers, Neanderthal revelations, lost Homo species


Scientists have converted brain patterns into intelligible speech.

Old Earth rock brought back from the Moon — A re-analysis of lunar materials collected during the Apollo 14 mission has resulted in a rather astonishing conclusion: One of the rocks brought back appears to contain a small chunk of Earth dating back some four billion years. Incredibly, it’s now amongst the oldest terrestrial rocks known to exist.
~ Ah, that Felsite Clasp!

Neuroscientists translate brainwaves into speech — Using brain-scanning technology, artificial intelligence, and speech synthesisers, scientists have converted brain patterns into intelligible verbal speech — an advance that could eventually give voice to those without.
~ Don’t think it, don’t think it … ah, damn!

What can we use to replace plastics? The true scourge of single-use plastics is our sheer over-reliance on them. But scientists, engineers and designers are shifting their focus to ecologically friendly alternatives that create circular, low-waste ecosystems – liquid wood, algae insulation, and polymer substitutes made from fermented plant starch such as corn or potatoes, for example.
~ Mushrooms, pee , rock and slag … hoorah!

Stethoscopes boosted with artificial intelligence — The Johns Hopkins device is an electronic stethoscope that improves on digital devices currently on the market. The upgrades start with its hardware: the chest piece is packed with transducer arrays to achieve a uniform sensitivity over the entire active area.
~ So listen closely.

Super-thin sheets could charge phones — Scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have created super-thin, bendy materials that absorb wireless internet and other electromagnetic waves in the air and turn them into electricity. They can be made large enough to capture useful amounts of energy.
~ So your wifi might suffer coz everyone’s charging their devices? 

More Neanderthal revelations — In the past, Neanderthal humans were believed to be largely close-distance hunters. A new paper in the journal Nature, based on actual outdoor tests with multiple test subjects throwing two wooden spears closely mimicking ancient spears found in various places at a target, surmises that spear-throwing Neanderthals may in fact have been able to kill animals at distances of 18 metres (60 feet) or even greater.
~ So duck!

Denisovans and Neanderthals shared cave — A pair of new studies traces the history of archaic human occupation at the site, showing who lived there and when – including a possible era during which the two now-extinct species hung out together.
~ Well, it may have been a time-share.

Lost human ancestor found with an algorithm —  Buried deep within the DNA of Asian individuals is a genetic clue pointing to the existence of an unknown human ancestor. Remarkably, it wasn’t a human who reached this startling conjecture, but rather an artificially intelligent algorithm. Welcome to archaeology in the 21st century.
~ The mystery hominid is likely a hybrid species of Neanderthals and Denisovans: Neandersovan? Denisthal?

Futurology ~ weird orbits, moon added life, deep ice life, carbon dioxide fix, chatting cells, Alzheimers cause and cure


An artist’s impression of what Planet 9 might look like. (Don’t you love these? ‘Yes, I’ll knock something up. Ah, a planet, now what shape should that be …?’)

Weird orbits don’t require Planet 9 — The weirdly clustered orbits of some far-flung bodies in our solar system can be explained without invoking a big, undiscovered ‘Planet Nine,’ a new study suggests. The shepherding gravitational pull could come from many fellow trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs) rather than a single massive world.
~ Nein, Nine, nein!

Collision that created our moon may have added life — Scientists are claiming the cosmic collision that made the moon left a host of elements behind on Earth that were crucial for life to emerge.
The impact, 4.4 billion years ago, is thought to have occurred when an itinerant planet the size of Mars slammed into the fledgling Earth, scattering a shower of rocks into space. The debris later coalesced into the moon. Beyond an act that shaped the sky, the smash-up transferred essential elements to the Earth’s surface, meaning that most of the carbon and nitrogen that makes up our bodies probably came from the passing planet.
~ Um, thanks?

Ice deep under the Antarctic — Scientists have found the bodies of tardigrades, algae, diatoms and small crustaceans in a body of water buried beneath over a kilometre of Antarctic ice, according to a news report from Nature. The carcasses originated from either 10,000 or 120,000 years ago during warming periods, after which ice smothered the lake again.
~ All tardigrades are sure to be rejoicing. Or rejuicing, maybe. 

New system absorbs carbon dioxide and produces electricity and useable hydrogen — Researchers at Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) and Georgia Tech have developed a new system that absorbs carbon dioxide while producing electricity and useable hydrogen fuel.
The new device, which the team calls a Hybrid Na-CO2 System, is basically a big liquid battery.
~ We need to stop producing carbon dioxide, but also clean up what we have already produced. 

Cheaper artificial compound eyes — Scientists in China have found a low-cost way to create lenses mimicking the compound eyes of insects. Dr Wang Wenjun and colleagues at Xi’an Jiaotong University fired a laser through a double layer of acrylic glass, focusing on the lower layer. The laser caused the lower layer to swell, creating a convex dome shape.
~ I see.

Artificial cells the can communicate with each other — Scientists around the world are working on creating artificial, cell-like systems that mimic the behavior of living organisms. Friedrich Simmel and Aurore Dupin, researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), have for the first time created artificial cell assemblies that can communicate with each other. The cells, separated by fatty membranes, exchange small chemical signalling molecules to trigger more complex reactions, such as the production of RNA and other proteins.
~ Ah, the rise of the micromanipulators!

Porphyromonas gingivalis, the key bacteria in chronic gum disease, may be causing Alzheimer’s — Gum disease affects around a third of all people. But the good news is that a drug that blocks the main toxins of P. gingivalis is entering major clinical trials this year, and research published Wednesday shows it might stop and even reverse Alzheimer’s.
~ Just gonna clean my teeth …