Tag Archives: Futurology

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 …

Futurology ~ Quad system, Titan puddles, dark-side pano, better rice, dark retro predictions, dino-tree, longest aircraft, fat-fooling cancer, moving really helps


Quadruple star system — Astronomers using the ALMA telescope have discovered an oddly tilted planet-forming disk within a double binary star system, a configuration that up until this point only existed in theory. The star system is 146 light-years from Earth, and is called HD 98800. New research published in Nature Astronomy reveals this system features an exceptionally strange protoplanetary disk.
~ Yes, but everything about space is strange to me. 

Wet Footprint Effect shows rain on Titan — Scientists have found evidence of seasons on the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan. Cassini’s observations of the long-overdue rain finally came in on June 7, 2016, signalling the start of Titan’s north polar summer.
~ And so ends the moon drought.

China posts Moon dark-side panorama — The Moon’s far side near its southern pole is a dead, dim place littered with pits and rocks, as the first panoramic image taken by China’s Change’ 4 lander confirms.
~ That lander sure uses a lot of tin foil! Maybe Musk is missing a trick, here?

Bioengineering increases rice yield by 27% — A new bioengineering approach for boosting photosynthesis in rice plants could increase grain yield by up to 27%, according to a study in Molecular Plant. The approach, called GOC bypass, enriches plant cells with CO2 that would otherwise be lost through a metabolic process called photorespiration.
~ Then won’t you need more water for it? Ah, that’s why we’re increasing the water yield from the frozen north and south!

“The world will just melt and the world will become one vast atomic explosion” — Some of the most interesting predictions for the future don’t come from expert futurists or well-financed think tanks, they come from average kids. Gizmodo has a video from the 1960s that features kids talking about their own vision for tomorrow. And it’s depressing as hell.
~ Gosh, I do hate it when the world melts.

Arborists are bringing the Dinosaur of Trees back to life — Arborists are cloning saplings from the stumps of the world’s largest, strongest, and longest-lived trees, felled for timber more than a century ago, to create redwood “super groves” to help fight climate change.
Already, super saplings from the project are thriving in groves in Canada, England, Wales, France, New Zealand, and Australia – not places where coastal redwoods grow naturally.
These trees are champions when it comes to eco-technology; they filter air, soil, and water and are capable of removing record amounts of carbon dioxide emissions, the leading cause of accelerating climate change, from the atmosphere.
~ Can we wait long enough? 

Longest aircraft, the Airlander 10, gets go-ahead — The world’s longest aircraft is set to go into full production with the model designed to take its first passengers. Bedford firm Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) has been given Production Organisation Approval from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). The prototype £32m Airlander 10, a combined plane and airship, has been formally retired following successful final testing.
~ Longest. Not fastest.

Researchers report breakthrough in ice-repelling materials —
Researchers from the University of Houston have reported a new theory in physics called stress localisation which they used to create a durable silicone polymer coating capable of repelling ice from any surface.
Icy weather is blamed for multibillion dollar losses every year in the United States, including delays and damage related to air travel, infrastructure and power generation and transmission facilities. Finding effective, durable and environmentally stable de-icing materials has been stymied by the stubborn tenacity with which ice adheres to the materials on which it forms.
~ Cold comfort indeed. 

Fat to fool cancer cells — Researchers from the University of Basel in Switzerland have discovered they can prevent the formation of metastases by fooling breast cancer cells into fat cells. The proof-of-concept study was published in the journal Cancer Cell.
~ Now that’s ‘good fat’!

Movement mitigates Alzheimers — Moving more might help to keep people’s brains sharp as they age – even in the face of dementia. Scientists have found older adults fared better when it came to cognitive tasks if they clocked up higher levels of daily activity on a wrist-based tracker – something the researchers said picked up everything from exercising to mundane tasks like chopping onions.
~ I’ve always thought just moving more is better all round for everything, over fad diets and some medications. 

Futurology ~ Space radio, black hole eats, deep Pacific still cooling, CES exoskeletons, blue-teeth manuscripts


Samsung has been showing off a line of exoskeleton concepts at CES

Radio busts from space — Canadian scientists detected 13 new fast radio bursts from outer space. The mysterious, split-second, high-energy pulses reach us from unknown origins billions of light-years away. Intriguingly, one of these newly documented bursts is a repeater, becoming just the second-known repeating fast radio burst among the 60 documented so far.
~ Seven were lowest radio frequencies measured so far.

Black Hole spotted ‘eating stuff’ — A telescope on the International Space Station made an incredible high-resolution measurement of the x-rays resulting from a black hole sucking up matter that could have important implications for astronomers’ understanding of these mysterious objects.
Black holes are regions of space so massive and compact that beyond a certain point, called the event horizon, no matter or energy (including visible light) can escape their gravitational pull.
~ Scientists measured these light echoes to and incredible half-millisecond.

Deep Pacific cooling down — Most of the world’s waters may be warming as a result of climate change, but a new study shows that the deepest parts of the Pacific Ocean still appear to be cooling down hundreds of years after the period in history known as the Little Ice Age.
~ There has been a lag of a few centuries in terms of temperature change in the deep Pacific, as surface waters warm up as a result of climate change.

Samsung showing off exoskeleton concepts at CES — The GEMS-H (Gait Enhancing and Motivating System) is designed to hug your hips and upper thighs like a comfortable pair of slacks (main picture, above), and then a module strapped to each leg helps you walk. Once you strap the thing on, it’s easy to forget that the exoskeleton is even there since it’s so light, and the robotic elements of it are understated.
~ I’m picturing the overweight jogging past me the way they zoom past on electric bikes while I’m puffing on my single-speed! I must admit I prefer the vision of Ripley slugging it out while wearing a ‘waldo’ in Alien

Blue pigment in 1000-year-old teeth links women to the production of medieval manuscripts — Traces of a rare and expensive blue pigment, called ultramarine, have been detected in the teeth of a woman who died in Germany nearly 1000 years ago. The discovery suggests women played a more prominent role in the production of manuscripts during the medieval period, and that ultramarine was more available in Europe than previously assumed.
~ It’s another history made secret, like all those Viking woman warriors identified a few years ago. Women didn’t get to write their own historical narratives.  

Futurology ~ Asteroid water, Earth crust, quantum-brains, 3D-printed batteries, anti-malarial gold, truck-bot, Moore’s Lawless, predictions, 1200-year-old climate fix


Scientists in South Korea and the US have used 3D printing to manufacture batteries of various shapes and sizes

AKARI finds signs of water in asteroids — A Japanese research team has used the infrared camera aboard the AKARI satellite to detect the presence of hydrated materials inside C-type asteroids.  Using the infrared camera of the AKARI satellite, a Japanese research team has detected the existence of water in the form of hydrated minerals in a number of asteroids. They reported their findings in the Publications of the Astronomical Society of Japan.
~ Makes the concept of interstellar life a little more possible. 

A huge part of Earth’s crust is missing, and now scientists may know why — The Grand Canyon is a gigantic geological library, with rocky layers that tell much of the story of Earth’s history. Curiously though, a sizeable layer representing anywhere from 250 million years to 1.2 billion years is missing. Known as the Great Unconformity, this massive temporal gap can be found not just in this famous crevasse, but in places all over the world. Using multiple lines of evidence, an international team of geoscientists reckons the thief was Snowball Earth, a hypothesised time when much, if not all, of the planet was covered in ice.
~ Cold comfort.

Quantum-computing brains — The unprecedented power of brain suggests that it may process information quantum-mechanically. Pavlo Mikheenko, a superconductivity researcher at the University of Oslo, has published a paper (PDF at that link) in the Journal of Superconductivity and Novel Magnetism suggesting that microtubule structures in pig neurons exhibit evidence of superconductivity that could represent a mechanism for quantum computing performed by the brain to achieve the brain’s phenomenal information processing power.
~ This was predicted as a possibility in 1972; now there may be proof. 

Breaking the battery mould with 3D printing — Scientists in South Korea and the US have used 3D printing to manufacture batteries of various shapes and sizes. Flexible, wireless electronic devices are rapidly emerging, and many have gone on to become commercial products. However, the batteries contained in these devices are either spherical or rectangular structures, which results in inefficient use of space. Enter 3D printers … scientists use an electrospinning process to uniformly coat electrochemically-active polyaniline.
~ Batteries can thus be printed for small-scale wearable electronic devices.

Anti-malarial drug breakthrough — A team of researchers from the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore, has developed a class of gold-containing molecules that impair the malaria parasite’s metabolic function, leading to parasite death. Their findings are published in the journal Dalton Transactions.
~ Malaria has been developing drug resistance at a frightening rate. 

Aussie train may be world’s biggest robot — Mining corporation Rio Tinto says that an autonomous rail system called AutoHaul that it’s been developing in the remote Pilbara region of Australia for several years is now entirely operational, an accomplishment the company says makes the system the “world’s largest robot.”
~ They have the power and money to delete jobs thanks to voracious mining. Er, yay? 

Chip makers are circumventing Moore’s Law — Silicon’s time may have come.
~ Death Valley …

Pundits predict — What’s coming In 2019? Global thinkers make big, bold predictions in NPR.
~ Some of them are just scary. 

Climate change is affecting Peru, but there’s a 1200-year-old fix — Instead of looking for modern solutions to improve access to water, the villagers turned to an old one: centuries-old hydraulic systems that dot the Nor Yauyos Cochas Landscape Reserve, a state-protected natural area seven hours east of Lima. These ancient systems have been used to help irrigate the reserve’s pastures and provide nutrient-rich soil for hundreds of years.
~ Ancient smarts.

Futurology ~ 10 breakthroughs, frozen river monitors, self-cloning rice, AI-sorted cancer, nano-machines, waste-heat power, surprising plant fossils


10 breakthrough technologies of 2018 — From 3D metal printing (above) to genetic fortune telling, here’s Technology Review’s picks.

Machines spy on Antarctica’s hidden lakes — First installed in 2007, the array of eight ice-monitoring rigs is scattered across West Antarctica’s Mercer and Whillans ice streams. They have been faithfully tracking the region’s lakes by collecting data on the motion of the overlying ice for more than a decade. Likely the longest-running GPS experiment on an Antarctic ice stream, the stations have helped reveal how quickly these lakes can fill and drain and what that means for the ebb and flow of the frozen rivers riding atop them.
~ Surely ‘a frozen river’ is just ‘ice’?

Hybrid rice can clone itself — After more than 20 years of theorising, scientists have tweaked a hybrid variety of rice so that some of the plants produce cloned seeds wit no plant sex necessary. The feat, described in Nature, is encouraging for efforts to feed an increasingly crowded world. Crossing two good varieties of grain can make one fabulous one, combining the best versions of genes to give crops desirable traits such as higher yields. But such hybrid grain marvels often don’t pass along those coveted genetic qualities to all seeds during reproduction.
~ What’s next?

AI sorts cancer cells — A team of researchers in Japan have devised an artificial intelligence (AI) system that can identify different types of cancer cells using microscopy images. Their method can also be used to determine whether the cancer cells are sensitive to radiotherapy.
~ Speeding up diagnoses.

Tiny nanomatierals get shrunk — A team of MIT and Harvard scientists has devised a new way of constructing nanomaterials — tiny machines or structures on the order of just a billionth of a meter. They call it Implosion Fabrication (ImpFab) and they do it by building the materials they want and then literally shrinking them down to the nanoscale. The findings appear today in the journal Science, and may pave the way for next-gen materials, sensors and devices.
~ Thus shrinking the shrunk. 

Cheap, flexible conversion of waste-heat into power — A research group in Japan has developed an inexpensive, large-scale and flexible thermoelectric generator (FlexTEG) that has high mechanical reliability and can convert heat into electricity efficiently.
Thermoelectric conversion is one of the most attractive techniques for converting low-temperature (150°C or lower) waste heat into electric power. However, widespread adoption of this technology has been hampered by a lack of suitable packaging techniques for thermoelectric generation modules that can operate in the 100-150°C range.
~ No heat left behind!

Last great extinction spared more plants than had been thought — A collection of roughly 255-million-year-old fossils suggests that three major plant groups existed earlier than previously thought, and made it through a mass extinction that wiped out more than 90% of Earth’s marine species and roughly 70% of land vertebrates.
~ Some new fossil plants were so well preserved that scientists could use acid to remove rock and extract a plant’s waxy sheath!

Futurology ~ Farout, Mars ice crater, best quantum, Norwegian buildings generate, dino-feathers


A composite picture of the Korolev crater in the northern lowlands of Mars, made from images taken by the Mars Express High Resolution Stereo Camera overlaid on a digital terrain model. Photograph: Björn Schreiner/FU Berlin/DLR/ESA

Farout is really far out — For the first time, an object in our solar system has been found more than 100 times farther than Earth is from the sun.
The International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center announced the discovery Monday, calling the object 2018 VG18. But the researchers who found it are calling it ‘Farout.’
They believe the spherical object is a dwarf planet more than 310 miles in diameter, with a pinkish hue. That colour has been associated with objects that are rich in ice, and given its distance from the sun, that isn’t hard to believe. Its slow orbit probably takes more than 1000 years to make one trip around the sun.
~ It sounds cold. 

Mars crater filled with ice — The stunning Korolev crater in the northern lowlands of Mars is filled with ice all year round owing to a trapped layer of cold Martian air that keeps the water frozen.
The 80-km-wide (50-mile-wide) crater (main picture, above) contains as much water ice as Great Bear Lake in northern Canada, and in the centre of the crater the ice is more than 1.6kms (one mile) thick.
~ Whiskey on that?

Best quantum computer yet? A startup based in Maryland has released and tested an impressive new quantum computer that demonstrates the power of an occasionally overlooked quantum computing architecture.
~ Yeah, that’s true, I had overlooked that. 

Norway Is Entering a New Era of Climate-Conscious Architecture — The country now has a suite of buildings that generate more energy than they use. Powerhouse Brattørkaia is an ‘energy positive’ building that will open to the public next year in Norway.
The European Union has a target of making all new buildings zero-energy by 2020, but in Norway, carbon neutrality isn’t enough.
A consortium in Oslo made up of architects, engineers, environmentalists, and designers is creating energy-positive buildings in a country with some of the coldest and darkest winters on Earth. “If you can make it in Norway, you can make it anywhere,” says Peter Bernhard, a consultant with Asplan Viak, a Powerhouse alliance member.
~ Well, if anyone’s going to be climate conscious!

Dinosaur feathers — Feathers were common among dinosaurs, but scientists aren’t certain if the fur-like coverings of pterosaurs – a group of flying reptiles – were of the same sort seen on dinos and birds or something completely different. The discovery of two exquisite fossils in China now suggests pterosaurs were very much covered in feathers, potentially pushing back the origin of this critically important evolutionary feature by 70 million years.
~ Wonder if they were as brightly coloured as parakeets? 

Futurology ~ Mission to Bennu, tiny Big Bangs, 100 years-ago visions, Incan recreation, stalagmite dating key


What kids a 100 years ago hoped we’d be like now

Mission to Bennu may help defend Earth, and there may be water there — Bennu is a 487.68m-wide asteroid that orbits the Sun relatively close to the Earth. NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission won’t just take pretty pictures of the asteroid Bennu, it will also help scientists learn whether the rock will one day threaten Earth. OSIRIS-REx spacecraft also detected evidence of water on its target just a week after arriving.
~ To wetly threaten Planet Earth … 

Quark soup droplets expand like Big Bangs — Stars and galaxies didn’t form right away. Scientists think that matter was initially a near-perfect fluid of quarks, the smallest known component of atoms. They have found evidence of these fluids in high-energy particle collider experiments. Now, evidence continues to mount that these liquids can form in unexpected ways, yielding tiny droplets that flow outwards explosively, like liquid Big Bangs in miniature.
~ Sounds like messy dining, though. 

Experimental gene therapy stops mice getting fat — Researchers at Flinders University knocked out a gene known as RCAN1 in mice, hypothesising this would increase “non-shivering thermogenesis,” which “expends calories as heat rather than storing them as fat” – the mice were fed a high-calorie diet and did not gain weight. In particular, the modified mice did not store fat around their middles (a phenomenon associated with many health risks, including cardiac problems) and their resting muscles burned more calories.
~ Despite that, I don’t think I can bring myself to eat those skinny, gene-altered mice. 

What did Minnesota kids from the year 1904 think would happen by the year 1919, or even 2019? They imagined fancy airships in the sky, “automobiles for everything,” and wondrous house-cleaning robots. They even imagined trips to Mars by the year 1919. Seriously.
~ I already have a wondrous house-cleaning robot. Me. 

Incan temple virtually recreated — The 1500-year-old Pumapunku temple in western Bolivia is considered a crowning achievement of Mesoamerican architecture, yet no one really knew what the original structure actually looked like. Until now.
The stonework of the temple is considered so precise that ancient alien enthusiasts claim it was made by lasers and other extraterrestrial technologies.
~ The technique can now be used on other sites. 

Two Chinese stalagmites enrich radiocarbon dating — Owing to the discovery of two stalagmites in a Chinese cave containing a seamless chronological atmospheric record dating back to the last Ice Age, radiocarbon dating will now be better.
An unbroken, high-resolution record of atmospheric carbon-12 and carbon-14 was found in a pair of stalagmites located within Hulu Cave near Nanjing, China, according to new research published in Science.
~ Now we can calibrate back a lot further. 

Futurology ~ Bennu’s NASA visitor, shiny on Mars, cancer test, bee vaccine, coal mine farms, Californian solar, transplanted uterus, ancient Black Death


The Curiosity Rover found something super-smooth and shiny on the surface of Mars

NASA’s asteroid-sampling spacecraft has arrived at its target — NASA’s OSIRIS-REx has arrived at its target asteroid, Bennu, an important step on its mission to collect a sample from an asteroid and return it to Earth. OSIRIS-REx launched on September 8, 2016 from Cape Canaveral. It carries five data-taking instruments, and scientists hope to learn more about the Solar System’s origins and even what resources an asteroid might hold. The arrival marks the end of a two-year journey to Bennu, and the start of a 1.5-year study period.
~ We have only scratched the surface of the asteroid surface scratching. 

Curiosity Rover finds something really shiny — An unusually smooth and reflective Martian rock has caught the attention of NASA scientists, prompting an investigation by the Curiosity Rover. With the spectacularly successful landing of the InSight probe on Mars earlier this week, our attention has understandably been diverted away from Curiosity, which has been exploring the Red Planet since 2012.
~ Attack! Attack! No, wait … Profit! Profit!

Cancer test takes ten minutes — Scientists have developed a universal cancer test that can detect traces of the disease in a patient’s bloodstream. The cheap and simple test uses a colour-changing fluid to reveal the presence of malignant cells anywhere in the body and provides results in less than 10 minutes. The test has a sensitivity of about 90%, meaning it would detect about 90 in 100 cases of cancer.
~ And it came from the fact that DNA sticks to metal in different ways. 

Vaccine for bees — Bees may soon get an ally in their fight against bacterial disease — one of the most serious threats the pollinators face — in the form of an edible vaccine. That’s the promise held out by researchers in Finland, who say they’ve made the first-ever vaccine for insects, aimed at helping struggling honeybee populations.
~ Go bees! Go bees!

Plant motors to the light —  when a Pink Flamingo Peace Lily routed to a robotic planter on wheels detects light nearby, it signals the robot to move closer. Set between two desk lamps (which have a kinetic life of their own, thanks to the Pixar Animation Studios opening sequence starring Luxo), the researchers show how quickly the plant responds by switching them on and off again. As Sareen puts it, “The agency of such movements rests with the plant.”
~ No longer a secret agency. 

Repurposed coal mines could be the future of farming — Academics at the University of Nottingham see in them the potential future of food. They’ve patented a new system revolving around what they call “deep farming”: turning old coal mines into fully functioning farms.
Deep farms would have advantages that current land-based farms lack, including a controlled climate uninfluenced by weather and no need for expensive farming equipment. They wouldn’t need to be built in coal mines, but the scientists see them as a perfect starting point.
~ I think real progress will be made when we turn non-abandoned coal mines into underground farms. 

All new Californian homes to have solar panels — Solar panels will be a required feature on new houses in California, after the state’s Building Standards Commission gave final approval to a housing rule that’s the first of its kind in the United States. Set to take effect in 2020, the new standard includes an exemption for houses that are often shaded from the sun. It also includes incentives for people to add a high-capacity battery to their home’s electrical system, to store the sun’s energy.
~ Coz the sun always shines in California. 

Scientists gets more outrage for gene-edited twins — Ever since a Chinese scientist rocked the world by claiming he had created gene-edited twin girls, international outrage has only intensified. Francis Collins, director of the US National Institutes of Health called it a deeply unfortunate, misguided misadventure of the most dramatic sort. “It was shocking at the time. A week later, it’s still shocking.”
~ Well, that was frank, Francis. He will be chastised, no doubt.

Woman gives birth with transplanted uterus — A team of doctors in Brazil have announced a medical first that could someday help countless women unable to have children because of a damaged or absent uterus. In a case report published Tuesday in the Lancet, they claim to have successfully helped a woman give birth using a transplanted uterus from a deceased donor.
~ Thank goodness the donor was deceased. 

More ancient Black Death — Long before the two deadliest pandemics in history (the Plague of Justinian and the Black Plague) an ancient strain of the bacterium responsible for these scourges, Yersinia pestis, may have already wreaked havoc among Neolithic European communities over 5000 years ago, according to a controversial new study.
New research published in Cell describes a newly identified strain of Yersinia pestis, the bacterium that causes plague. The DNA of the new strain was extracted from a woman who lived in a Neolithic farming community about 4900 years ago in what is now Sweden.

Futurology ~ Universe expansion, 3D prints and Mars, genetically-altered twins, music innovations, chromatic aberration, plastic in oceans


3D-printing with fake Moon dust may solve the lack of raw materials for a potential Mars colony

Expanding universe mystery — An important discrepancy in measurements of the universe’s acceleration has theorists wondering whether we’ve gotten something fundamentally wrong in our understanding of the history of the universe.
One currently unexplained cosmological mystery is the ‘Hubble tension,’ where various measurements of the universe’s expansion seem to disagree. As the story surrounding this tension gets murkier, others have begun to come up with new ideas, but these attempts to explain away the difference without new physics don’t seem to hold up to scrutiny.
~ Yes, none of it holds up to mine. 

3D-printed moon dust for Mars — Mars is lacking in the vast supply of natural resources we rely on here on Earth, and astronauts attempting to colonise, or even just visit, the red planet can only bring a limited supply of materials with them. The results of the European Space Agency’s latest 3D-printing experiments (main picture, above) prove it isn’t impossible, though. If there’s one thing Mars isn’t lacking, it’s dust. As a stand in for genuine Mars ingredients, researchers have turned to a simulated version of lunar soil, also known as lunar regolith. The ESA 3D-printed a sample of various parts using a light-sensitive binding agent mixed with the regolith (silicon, aluminium, calcium, and iron oxides that have been ground to a very fine dust).
~ Print me an Earth-bound ship!

Genetically-altered twins spark outrage — Twin girls born earlier in November had their DNA altered to prevent them from contracting HIV, according to an Associated Press report. If confirmed, the births would signify the first gene-edited babies in human history — a stunning development that’s sparking an outcry from scientists and ethicists.
~ He doesn’t appear to have been kidding. ‘Don’t worry, kids! We’re just going to infect you with HIV and see what happens …’

5 tech innovations that have changed music — Music is one of the fundamental appreciations that sets humans apart from every other living thing we’re currently aware of.
Beyond the artistry we connect with on an emotional level, there is a whole industry filled with gadgets, instruments and software that transforms the production and consumption of music. Read about five innovations that have revolutionised music in the last couple of decades.
~ Who needs musical ability when you have all this?

Harvard scientists solve age-old lens problem — Chromatic aberration is just a fact of life when it comes to photography. A combination of high-quality gear – lenses in particular – and user skill can minimise the tell-tale purple fringe. But what if a simple layer on your lens could all but eliminate CA? Enter a team of researchers from Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), who have accomplished exactly this.
~ But it will take ages to reach consumers. 

It’s all going to Apocalypticon in a handcart, but here are 5 innovations that can help save the oceans from plastic — The science and tech communities have also been collaborating with governments and big business on innovative solutions to stop the eight million tonnes of plastic that is dumped into oceans every year.
~ Humans work hard to solve ridiculous but terrible problems created by … yeah, humans. 

Futurology ~ Sibling sun, Earth sucking water, quiet supersonic, no-moving-parts plane, total-body image, Keto diet, new/old microbes, Byzantine art sleuth


Lockheed Martin has officially begun production of its experimental jet capable of flying at supersonic speeds without creating loud supersonic booms

Sun’s long-lost sibling — A nearby star, HD 186302, was almost certainly born from the same cloud of gas the Sun was 4.6 billion years ago. Astronomers have found it has an almost identical chemical composition as the Sun, is on a similar orbit around the Milky Way, and has the same age (within uncertainties). Interestingly, it’s only 184 light years away, implying statistically many more such stars are waiting to be discovered.
~ Hear that, Elon Musk? Maybe it’s time for you to leave us. 

The Earth is sucking up water — The Earth around the Mariana Trench, which contains the deepest point on the planet, could be slurping up at least four times more water than previously estimated, according to new research.
~ This fact does my head in. 

‘Experimental’ Lockheed jet enters production — Lockheed Martin’s X-59 Quiet Supersonic Technology aircraft (main picture, above) is officially in “the manufacturing phase,” bringing the company “one step closer to enabling supersonic travel for passengers around the world.” The experimental jet was awarded a contract from NASA earlier this year as it is capable of flying at supersonic speeds without creating loud supersonic booms. Currently, commercial supersonic aircraft are banned from flying over land because of the noise and potential damage the booms may cause.
~ So, it creates quiet supersonic booms? Looks like there’s room for two passengers – and they’ll have to lie down. 

Solid plane flies without moving parts — The first ever ‘solid state’ plane, with no moving parts in its propulsion system, has successfully flown for a distance of 60 metres, proving that heavier-than-air flight is possible without jets or propellers. The flight represents a breakthrough in ‘ionic wind’ technology, which uses a powerful electric field to generate charged nitrogen ions, which are then expelled from the back of the aircraft, generating thrust. Steven Barrett, an aeronautics professor at MIT and the lead author of the study published in the journal Nature, said the inspiration for the project came straight from the science fiction of his childhood.
~ Shh! Don’t tell them about paper darts, kites, gliders and balloons! (And they say Americans don’t understand iony!)

First full-body human scans — EXPLORER, the world’s first medical imaging scanner that can capture a 3-D picture of the whole human body at once, has produced its first scans. The brainchild of UC Davis scientists Simon Cherry and Ramsey Badawi, EXPLORER is a combined positron emission tomography (PET) and X-ray computed tomography (CT) scanner that can image the entire body at the same time.
Because the machine captures radiation far more efficiently than other scanners, EXPLORER can produce an image in as little as one second and, over time, produce movies that can track specially tagged drugs as they move around the entire body.
~ I hate it when my drugs get tagged. When is the Council going to do something!?

High-fat, low-carb Keto diet gets critiqued by scientists — Diet fads often make the lofty claim that adjusting food habits one way or another will produce the dieter’s desired results. More specifically: eat this, not that, and watch the kilos fall off. But diets are hard to sustain, and diet debunking is constantly calling into question what and how much we should be eating.
In a review published this week in Science, scientists from diverse backgrounds and research focuses came together to address whether a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet or vice versa was the better option for maintaining good health, as well as whether the specific kinds of fat and carbs mattered.
~ All I know is that too much of any one thing will never be good for you, and the darker the fruit or vegetable, the better it is for you. 

Entirely new and bizarre microbes — Canadian scientists have identified microscopic creatures that are so unlike anything seen before, they had to create an entirely new branch on the evolutionary tree of life to slot them in. A new paper published in Nature offers the first genetic analysis of hemimastigotes: a rare and poorly understood group of single-celled microorganisms. Biologists have known about these wee beasties for well over a century, but only now can hemimastigotes be officially slotted into the evolutionary tree of life, a process more formally known as phylogeny. And by doing so, scientists have stumbled upon a completely new branch on the tree of life – one dating back billions of years.
~ They were collected from soil found along the Bluff Wilderness Trail in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Dutch art sleuth finds missing Byzantine mosaic — Art sleuth Arthur Brand, famous in the art world for tracking down works of art thought to be lost or destroyed has delivered one of his greatest finds yet: a 1600-year-old Byzantine-era mosaic of Saint Marks stolen from a Cyprus church after the Turkish invasion in 1974. It was in the possession of a British family, who bought the mosaic in good faith more than four decades ago. They were horrified when they found out that it was, in fact, a priceless art treasure, looted from the Kanakaria Church after the Turkish invasion, and they agreed to its return.
~ Nice job, Art!