Tag Archives: news

Futurology ~ Trappist, Juno Jupiter, cell detail, computer metal, hypersonic military plane, obesity microbiome


Now that TRAPPIST-1 is the trendiest star system in the galaxy — astronomers and nerds alike are clamouring to learn more about it. The seven-planet system contains three planets in the habitable zone, which means they could hypothetically support liquid water, and even life. The TRAPPIST-1 planets orbit around their ultracool dwarf star very closely, which could be good or bad for finding life, depending on who you ask.
By using data from NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, a team of researchers was able to ascertain the predictable frequency at which the innermost six planets orbit their star, a pattern called resonance. The planets’ gravitational tugs on each other keeps the entire system stable.
~ And what about that great beer, hey?

Juno’s flight to Jupiter has been about as dramatic as a sci-fi thriller can get — Last October, Juno’s engine system malfunctioned, causing NASA to delay the orbiter’s planned approach into a 14-day “science orbit”. This February, NASA decided to forego the science orbit engine burn entirely, keeping the spacecraft in its much longer 53.5 day orbit. But we’re finally getting some detailed news, because Juno has a suite of instruments for measuring microwaves, infrared waves, radio waves, visible light, Jupiter’s magnetic field and other particles.
~ Juno Jupiter like NASA? No. 

Cell detail — A team of American scientists made what might be the most complex video of a cell in action yet. It’s all based on a real monkey cell, analyzed with a series of proteins, dyes and a special kind of microscope. Oother microscopes have made videos of cells moving, or pairs of cell parts, called organelles, interacting, but this is the first time so many compartments in live cells have been analysed.
~ Easy sell. 

RATT, Poison and Mötley Crüe no more — Slick, sweaty men licking their guitars while wearing tight leather pants and acid washed jeans, wagging their hair-sprayed manes and rocking out harder than any of us so-called millennials could even imagine. But lately metal band names have been lame.
Luckily (or not) optics researcher Janelle Shane, who has created new paint colours, recipes and even Pokemon using artificial intelligence, has once again solved one of our biggest problems using neural networks. HellBlazer from Metal-Archives.com supplied her with a list of 100,000 existing metal bands names to train an artificial intelligence network with.
~ What frightens me more is the fact there are 100,000 existing metal bands. 

Boing to make hypersonic plane for  military — The Department of Defense has selected Boeing to make a new hypersonic spaceplane that can be reused frequently over a short period of time to deliver multiple satellites into orbit.  Boeing’s design concept is called the Phantom Express and will move forward as part of the agency’s Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) program.
~ The main aim is something cheap to run, at only US$5 million per mission. Hey, how’s about that bicycle drive, then? Those astronauts are pretty fit. 

New obesity surgery about the gut microbiomes — A mounting body of evidence suggests that it may be possible to get all the weight-dropping effects of the procedure without going under the knife at all. It turns out gastric bypass not only restructures the topology of the human gut, but profoundly changes which microbes can survive and thrive in it.
It turns out the procedure doesn’t merely shift a patient’s microbial profile from an obese to a healthy one, it actually creates an entirely new ecosystem.
~ So, how to do that without heavy invasive surgery? 

Futurology ~ Space walk, radio cocoon, AI power, smart t-shirt, flexible speaker, old recording tech renewed, 3D-printed ovaries


Amazing space-walk footage — On March 24, ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet was joined by NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough on a spacewalk outside the International Space Station. The outing was fairly routine, but this footage captured by Pesquet gives all of us stuck here on Earth an amazing first-person look of what it’s like to be an astronaut looking down on our planet.
~ And if it doesn’t leave you speechless, you can’ talk. 

Humans accidentally created a protective bubble around Earth  — This is by using very low frequency (VLF) radio transmissions to contact submarines in the ocean. It sounds nuts, but according to recent research published in Space Science Reviews, underwater communication through VLF channels has an outer space dimension. This video explainer, released by NASA on Wednesday, visualizes how radio waves wafting into space interact with the particles surrounding Earth, and influence their motion.
~ Yes. Nuts. 

Games show off the power of AI — The Artificial Intelligence Experiments Program is a collection of interactive AI projects designed to show off the creative capacity of machines – like AI Duet, a piano that automatically harmonises with notes the user plays, and Bird Sounds, a visual map that groups bird calls based on their frequency. Some are fun, even absurd, while others explain machine learning. Ultimately, each strives to make AI more accessible to all.
~ Impressive.

T-shirt monitors breathing — The smart T shirt works without any wires, electrodes, or sensors attached to the user’s body, explains Younes Messaddeq, the professor who led the team that developed the technology. “The T shirt is really comfortable and doesn’t inhibit the subject’s natural movements. Our tests show that the data captured by the shirt is reliable, whether the user is lying down, sitting, standing, or moving around.”
~ I also monitor my breathing in real time while wearing a t-shirt without sensors or electrodes. 

Flexible speaker breakthrough — Following the development of a heat-powered graphene chip that could replace the speaker in your phone, scientists at Michigan State University have developed a paper-thin, flexible electronic panel that could turn fabrics into speakers, among other applications.
~ But how’s the bass? Speaking or which …

Rebuilding and using old recording tech — Portable machines toured the country in the 1920s, visiting rural communities like Poor Valley, West Virginia, and introducing musicians like the Carter Family to new audiences. This remarkable technology forever changed how people discover and share music, yet it was almost lost to history until music legend T Bone Burnett and a few friends decided to bring it back.
~ Awesome!

3D-printed ovaries — A team of bioengineers has reported a possible fix: 3-D printed ovaries. Their proof of concept, published in Nature Communications, only works on mice so far, but they could end up replacing the uterus-flanking, chestnut-sized organs in humans, too.
~ And watch your child grow. 

Futurology ~ Galactic gas, Cassini outdoes itself, Saturn sound, Wanaka super-energetic, jetting robot, Mexican cancer bra, fast camera, speech reproducer, dino-chicken


Galactic hot-gas wave — An international team of scientists has found a giant wave of hot gas chugging along through the Perseus galaxy cluster, located about 250 million light years away. By combining data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory with radio observations and computer simulations, the researchers have attempted to demystify the strange phenomenon, and in doing so, have created one hell of a visual (above).
~ And Futurology’s first GIF. Yay!

Cassini’s Grand Finale mission — Each time the NASA-led spacecraft drops a new batch of raw images, we jump to our computers and frantically scroll through to find the best. The raw photos from Cassini’s second dive into the gap between Saturn and its rings are now available – and honestly, they might even be better than the first round.
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Cassini’s mission into the “big empty” was the “sounds” it picked up from particles – or lack thereof – in the gap. According to NASA, Cassini’s Radio and Plasma Wave Science (RPWS) instrument “detected the hits of hundreds of ring particles per second” vaporising into electrically-excited gas when it was just outside Saturn’s main rings, but within the gap, it detected very few. But you can listen to that here.
~ Or put your radio between stations for a very similar effect. 

Wanaka, NZ and the hunt for super-energetic particles — On April 25, 10:50 am local time, a white helium balloon ascended from Wanaka, New Zealand, and lifted Angela Olinto’s hopes into the stratosphere. The football stadium-size NASA balloon, now floating 20 miles above the Earth, carries a one-ton detector that Olinto helped design and see off the ground. Every moonless night for the next few months, it will peer out at the dark curve of the Earth, hunting for the fluorescent streaks of mystery particles called “ultrahigh-energy cosmic rays” crashing into the sky. Olinto hopes this will be the key to finally figuring out the particles’ origin.
~ Olinto, born in Brazil, is a professor of astrophysics at the University of Chicago.

ISS jetting robot — Astrobee by name, is a cubic bot outfitted with 12 thrusters spitting blasts of air. It glides cautiously across the granite, sounding not unlike a muted jet engine. To find its way around, the robot uses an array of sensors, from a camera that builds a 3-D map like Microsoft’s Kinect system
~ We’re the Jetsons …

Mexican student’s cancer-detecting bra — An 18-year-old student from Mexico has won the top prize at the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA) for his invention of a bra that can help in the early detection of breast cancer. Equipped with around 200 biosensors, the bra maps the surface of the breast and is able to monitor changes in temperature, shape and weight.
~ After beating 13 other student entrepreneurs from around the globe, Rios Cantu took home an impressive US$20,000. Cantu was inspired by his mother’s ongoing battle with the disease. 

Camera shoots 5 trillion images per second Everything’s cooler in slow motion, but high frame-rate photography is an essential tool for scientists studying phenomena that occur in the blink of an eye. Researchers at Lund University have just revealed the fastest high-speed camera ever developed that can capture the equivalent of an astonishing five trillion frames every second, fast enough to visualise the movement of light.
~ I didn’t think you could fit that many trillions in a little second. 

AI speech generator can fake any voice — Using a powerful new algorithm, a Montreal-based AI startup has developed a voice generator that can mimic virtually any person’s voice, and even add an emotional punch when necessary. The system isn’t perfect, but it heralds a future when voices, like photos, can be easily faked. You can listen to some here, including Trump, Obama, Clinton …
~ It can read any text with a predefined emotion or intonation. The funny thing is, all the effort to even get close to this shows us how remarkable our own voices really are. 

Music damaged ears could get new parts grown for them — A team of scientists at Indiana University is using pluripotent stem cells, cells from the body that can be turned back into blank slate cells. The researchers were able to use these cells to create functioning pieces of the inner ear, chock full of hair cells and neurons. True stem cell hearing loss treatment is a long way off, but the result is, as far as they can tell, the first time anyone’s created hair cells from human pluripotent stem cells. So, a step in that direction.
~ Yay! What?

Meet Jianianhualong tengi, a distinctly chicken-like dinosaur that lived 125 million years ago during the Cretaceous period — This newly discovered species of dinosaur now represents the earliest known common ancestor of birds and closely related bird-like dinos, with a feathering pattern associated with aerodynamics (above). Its discovery is offering new insights into the evolution of feathers and flight.
~ My only thought is ‘one helluvan omelette’. 

 
Read more at https://www.gizmodo.com.au/2017/05/this-new-dinosaur-looked-an-awful-lot-like-a-chicken/#rHJWIjxEpYGK2vVR.99

 
Read more at https://www.gizmodo.com.au/2017/05/scientists-want-to-grow-your-music-blasted-eardrums-some-new-parts/#jX4uJ3z6ySIUxJMe.99

Futurology ~ Cassini, NASA chainmail, artificial womb, iWalk, plastic-eatin’ bug, speeding cheap drives, DNA treatment, mass-producing organs, seniors’ VR future, mastodon threatens history


NASA’s 3D-printed chainmail — The biggest improvement NASA has made in its 21st century version of chain mail, developed by a team led by Raul Polit Casillas at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, is how it’s manufactured. Instead of a medieval blacksmith spending weeks painstakingly connecting tiny loops of metal, one by one, the material shown above and below is 3D printed by a machine, which means it could be produced as needed on the space station, or on other off-Earth habitats, depending on where we travel in the coming decades.
~ Have at you, space varlet!

Cassini’s latter images — A Deep Space Network receiver picked up a signal from NASA’s Cassini orbiter as it emerged from its first trip through the gap between Saturn and the gas giant’s rings. In the ensuing data came pictures of the planet’s north pole and cloud tops from only 3000 kilometres away, our closest look yet at the upper part of Saturn’s atmosphere, where the pressure is about the same as it is at sea level on Earth, revealing ‘stringy’ clouds and odd lights. So what were we seeing?
~ In September, Cassini’s ‘final’ descent’ – let’s hope its crash isn’t seen as an act of war. 

Artificial womb birthed sheep, humans next? Inside what look like oversized ziplock bags strewn with tubes of blood and fluid, eight fetal lambs continued to develop much like they would have inside their mothers. Over four weeks, their lungs and brains grew, they sprouted wool, opened their eyes, wriggled around, and learned to swallow, according to a new study that takes the first step toward an artificial womb. One day, this device could help to bring premature human babies to term outside the uterus.
~ Can you keep them in the freezer till you want them? 

The iWalk2.0 hands-free crutch is a ‘high-tech peg-leg’ — The single ‘leg crutch’ straps to your leg and provides a built-in shelf upon which you rest your injured foot. It promised a way to walk around normally, arms completely unencumbered.
~ Basically, this is a high-tech peg-leg which gets you mobile again.

Plastic-munching caterpillar — In a chance discovery, a research team from Europe has learned a common insect larva is capable of breaking down the plastic found in shopping bags and other polyethylene-based products. This trash-munching caterpillar could inspire scientists to develop a new chemical process to tackle the growing problem of plastic waste.
~ So is its poo non-biodegradable? 

Optane memory speeds cheap hard drives — The primary reason your cheap laptop loudly chugs along at glacial speeds is because of the hard drive. Cheap laptops use cheap hard disk drives, which are much slower than the solid state drives found in better computers. But Intel’s new Optane Memory changes that. This little US$70 chip makes a cheap hard disk drive run as fast as a solid state drive by using a brand new type of memory.
~ Finally, something usefully revolutionary in the tech world!

DNA-based test much quicker at finding cancer — In the latest trial, reported in the journal Nature, 100 patients with non-small cell lung cancer were followed from diagnosis through surgery and chemotherapy, having blood tests every six to eight weeks. By analysing the patchwork of genetic faults in cells across each tumor, scientists created personalized genomic templates for each patient. This was then compared to the DNA floating in their blood, to assess whether a fraction of it matched that seen in their tumour.
~ Promising. 

Medical researchers have been able to create certain kinds of living cells with 3D printers for more than a decade — Some companies are getting closer to mass production of higher-order tissues (bone, cartilage, organs) and other individually tailored items, including implants.
~ I still want that small, three-fingered, two-thumbed hand in the middle of my chest so I can eat  a sandwich while holding a large iPad with both hands. 

Seniors’ future in VR — A four-years home-bound 78-year-old senior just made a transatlantic voyage while seated upright in his bed. He visited Stonehenge, a favorite vacation site of his; the streets of London’s Russell Square, near his old apartment and the stretch of Broadway where he lived and worked for so many years. Back and forth the man moved his head, his eyes obscured by the Gear VR headset he wore.
~ The bedridden man represents a population that has been forgotten by the VR industry: seniors.

US mastodon find threatens human history narrative — Workers building a new freeway in San Diego in 1993 made a fantastic discovery: a  backhoe operator scraped up a fossil, and scientists soon unearthed a full collection of bones, teeth, and tusks from a mastodon. The mastodons died out some 11,000 years ago.
But the dig site turned out to be even more revelatory and soon had archaeologists swooping in to study a number of stone tools scattered around the bones, evidence of human activity. After years of debate over the dating technology used on the mastodon, a group of researchers now believes that they can date it and the human tools to 130,000 years ago – more than 100,000 years earlier than the earliest humans are supposed to have made it to North America.
~ I would expect this idea could be confirmed with DNA studies. 

Futurology ~ Dwarf Planet Club, Jupiter, solar storm, big asteroid, solar moisture sucker, 3D-printed Boeing, landmine bacteria


2014 JO25 will whizz by Earth from roughly 1.8 million km away

New dwarf in our Solar System — When we think of dwarf planets, the first thing that comes to mind is obviously the injustice of Pluto getting demoted to one. But the truth is, these little guys (there are six currently recognised within our solar system) deserve just as much love as their mightier planetary cousins. And a new study suggests the dwarf planet club could get another member, in the form of a very small, distant object located roughly 92 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun called Planetary body 2014 UZ224, also known as DeeDee (for ‘distant dwarf’).
~ SevenDwarfs …

Huge cold spot on Jupiter — Using the Very Large Telescope array, an international team of astronomers has discovered a previously undetected cold spot on Jupiter. Measuring 14,000km wide and 12,000km across, the mysterious spot is bigger than the Earth itself. Intriguingly, the weather anomaly is likely being generated by Jupiter’s spectacular Northern Lights.
~ And it keeps regenerating itself. 

Every once in a while our Sun gives off a tremendous belch of high energy particles — Called a coronal mass ejection (CME), these episodes can vary in intensity, but they can produce bursts of electrical charge when they interact with our upper atmosphere in a geomagnetic storm. In a strange twist, new research shows that geomagnetic storms can produce the opposite effect, stripping the upper atmosphere of electrons for hundreds of kilometres. Which, if you like electronic gadgets, may be a problem.
~ Apparently, a tin-foil hat does not help. 

Massive asteroid passing soon — Later this month, a huge asteroid (main picture, above) that’s about 650m in length will get close enough to Earth for our viewing pleasure. Even though it won’t do any damage, this is a damn big slice of space garbage.
~ And it looks like a huge potato. 

Wringing water from the desert sky — A new spongelike device uses sunlight to suck water vapor from air, even in low humidity. The device can produce nearly 3 liters of water daily for every kilogram of water-absorbing material thanks to metal organic frameworks, or MOFs. Researchers say future versions will be even better.
~ The crucial part, to do any good, will be price and ability to deploy. 

3D printed parts save Boeing money — Boeing has hired Norsk Titanium AS to print titanium parts for its 787 Dreamliner, paving the way to cost savings of $2 million to $3 million for each plane. The 3D-printed metal parts will replace pieces made with more expensive traditional manufacturing, thus making the 787 more profitable.
~ One day maybe they’ll carry printers for literally on-the-fly parts manufacture.

Glowing bacteria finds landmines — More than 100 million landmines lay hidden in the ground around the world, but glowing bacteria may help us find them, according to a new study. The approach relies on small quantities of vapor released from the common explosive TNT, then a laser to remotely detect and quantify fluorescing bacteria from 20 meters away, mapping the location of the landmines.
~ A real glow of satisfaction. 

Tuesday Talk ~ Glimmers of Mac hope


(Image from Apple’s NZ Compare page)

In a rather shocking announcement, and despite reputedly brisk sales of the new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, Apple has dropped to fifth place in Laptop Magazine’s annual ranking of laptops. It held top place in that ranking until this year since 2010, which was pretty incredible in a ranking that compared PC (ie, non-Apple) laptops. For the rankings, Laptop Magazine considers the best combination of quality products, cutting-edge innovation, helpful support, sleek designs and strong value.
Actually, I think Laptop Magazine made some good points, at least about the processors and ports. The most particular ‘ouch’ might be LM’s comment “the 13-inch [MacBook] Air feels like leftovers that have been left out on the counter for over two years, complete with a 5th Generation Intel Core chip. (We’re now on 7th Gen, people.)”

(Image from Apple NZ’s Mac page)

This underscores a valid criticism of the whole Mac line, which Macworld scathingly calls “a showcase of old technology“. This includes the Pro which was a cutting edge professional powerhouse at launch for about six months and then never really updated again, for years, while the PC world romped away with ever more powerful and ever more affordable alternatives. For professionals, at a certain point, price trumps brand loyalty. Many professionals passed this point already three years ago.
But the hopeful bit came a few days back, when Apple’s Phil Schiller talked about an updated Mac Pro available now, but more importantly a more expandable, wholly-new Pro that will come out next year and other new Macs that will be more imminent.
As for the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, I really want one and I have the money. My MacBook Pro is 5 years old and staggering under it’s workload (it gets used a lot), but I was teased Kaby Lake Intel CPUs and I decided I’d hold out for them, since it’s already available. But Apple decided to hold with the previous Intel Skylake CPUs …
So I’m still waiting.
Maybe Apple doesn’t need money from Mac sales since it makes so much from not paying tax? I don’t know.
But this all rather begs the question, why does Apple, with all its power and money, wait for things to get so bad before doing anything about it? And not just in one instance (the Pro), but in many? (MacBook air, mini) while releasing an anaemic, over-priced machine without a niche (MacBook)?
Since, as Marty Edwards points out, Apple could just decide to conquer the PC world completely if it actually wanted to.
So to me, Schiller’s reassuring statements didn’t actually answer many questions, and I won’t be reassured until I actually see progress.

Futurology ~ ancient blob, little exoplanet, Google AI, brain bleeds, rooms as screens, NZ stoat editing, seawater sieve, Berners-Lee on the DubDubDub


Little 55 Cancri e may have an atmosphere, but is not very Earth-like at all

Ancient stellar blob could change our understanding of how galaxies form — Only a billion or so years after the universe formed, a galaxy far more massive than our own blazed into existence. Just half a billion years later – less than the amount of time it took life to emerge and evolve into humans on Earth – the galaxy was a dead disc, no longer forming stars. No one quite believed it really existed because it’s a challenge to formation ideas.
~ Not to mine, as I have yet to form my formation ideas. 

Little exoplanet still has atmosphere — An international team of astronomers has detected traces of an atmosphere using a ground-based telescope around an exoplanet located 39 light-years away. This exoplanet is not much larger than our own, making it the most Earth-like planet known to harbour an atmosphere.
~ Although it’s way to hot for humans. 

Google Ai chip ameliorated data centres — Google has what is surely the largest computer network on Earth, a system that comprises custom-built, warehouse-sized data centers spanning 15 locations in four continents. But about six years ago, as the company embraced a new form of voice recognition on Android phones, its engineers worried this network wasn’t nearly big enough. If each of the world’s Android phones used the new Google voice search for just three minutes a day, these engineers realized, the company would need twice as many data centres. So Google built its own computer chip specifically for running deep neural networks.
~ Smart.

Headset can tell if your brain is bleeding — A new head-worn device that scans the brain’s electrical patterns to uncover bleeding after head injuries has shown tremendous promise in clinical trials, presenting an inexpensive way for physicians to make a potentially life-saving diagnosis.
~ Plus it’s appealing to Star Trek geeks. 

Lightform transforms whole rooms into screens — Projection mapping, also known as projected augmented reality, uses video projectors to cast light onto irregular surfaces like buildings, faces, and, yes, living rooms. For decades, this technology was too expensive and technically complex for the average person to use, but with Lightform, the company’s eponymous first product, Sodhi and his partners are automating the entire process. The company plans to begin taking preorders on the device this summer, price TBD.
~ Rich people rejoice. Again. 

Repurposing old equipment for physics experiments — An old MRI machine took a several-week boat journey around the world last week. Scientists are going to gut it, replace the bed, and try to understand the secrets of the universe with it as when some physicists at the CERN experiment ISOLDE realised they’d have to drop a million and a quarter just to build their own magnet, they started to look for alternatives.
~ CERN runs more than just the Large Haydron Collider. 

New Zealand to gene-edit stoats — The stoat was brought here on purpose, introduced in the 19th century to control another pest introduced by settlers, the rabbit. It was, in essence, a Russian nesting doll of ecological disasters – one bad decision supplanting yet another. But using a gene drive, scientists may be able to override natural selection during reproduction, which could alter the genetic makeup of large populations of animals in a relatively short period of time.
~ ‘Tiny island nation’!? New Zealand is bigger than England, Scotland and Wales combined, so if New Zealand is what Gizmodo calls a ‘tiny island nation, then so is the UK. Hah!

Graphene sieve can filter the salt out of seawater — A UK-based team of researchers has created a graphene-based sieve capable of removing salt from seawater. The sought-after development could aid the millions of people without ready access to clean drinking water.
~ I wonder if it would work on KFC?

Tim Berners Lee, inventor of the internet, wants to overhaul it — Lee just got the Turing Prize. On the better web Berners-Lee envisions, users control where their data is stored and how it’s accessed.
~ I want him to overhaul it as well. (I interviewed him once: nice bloke.)

Futurology ~ Black Hole speedster, Indian Mars success, Quantum chemistry, artificial sun, robot solves uncertainty


India sent a spaceship to Mars for much less than it cost to make the movie The Martian

Enormous black hole streaking through space — Astronomers have spotted quasar 3C 186 thirty six thousand light years away from the center of its galaxy, seemingly trying to escape.
This quasar seems to be rushing away at around 2000 kilometers per second (4.5 million miles per hour) instead.
~ That’s inconceivably fast. Let’s hope it’s trajectory is mathematically away

A rocket to Mars cost less to get there than making the film The Martian — Ipsita Agarwal via Backchannel retells the story of how India’s underfunded space organization, ISRO, managed to send a rocket to Mars for much less than it cost to make the movie The Martian, starring Matt Damon. “While NASA’s Mars probe, Maven, cost US$651 million, the budget for this mission was US$74 million,” Agarwal writes.
~ Well if you think that’s bad, imagine how much it would cost to send Matt Damon to Mars.

Quantum Computing might finally have a use: chemistry — Simulations of molecules and chemical reactions to aid research into things like new materials, drugs, or industrial catalysts are not new, and account for a significant proportion of the workload of the world’s supercomputers. Yet the payoffs are limited because even the most powerful supercomputers cannot perfectly re-create all the complex quantum behaviors of atoms and electrons in even relatively small molecules, says Alan Aspuru-Guzik, a chemistry professor at Harvard. He’s looking forward to the day simulations on quantum computers can accelerate his research group’s efforts to find new light-emitting molecules for displays, for example, and batteries suitable for grid-scale energy storage.
~ And even less lab explosions. 

AI is better at lip reading — Scientists at Oxford say they’ve invented an artificial intelligence system that can lip-read better than humans. The system, which has been trained on thousands of hours of BBC News programs, has been developed in collaboration with Google’s DeepMind AI division.
Watch, Attend and Spell, as the system has been called, can now watch silent speech and get about 50% of the words correct. That may not sound too impressive — but when the researchers supplied the same clips to professional lip-readers, they got only 12% of words right.
~ Well, I still reckon it’s going to be hard to get people to write words on their lips. 

Massive artificial sun — An enormous machine looks like an insect’s eye uses 149 lamps to simulate sunlight, making it a handy tool for testing things like solar panels or generating clean energy. Scientists threw the switch on the world’s largest artificial sun on Thursday, which happened to be the birthday of the fellow who designed it, who had tears in his eyes.
~ Please point it at England. Oh, wait, Brexit …

Robot solves uncertainty — A human wearing a headset stands in front of a Brown University robot, which sits on a table with six objects in front of it. The human points at, say, a bowl, and asks, “Can I have that bowl?” A Microsoft Kinect atop the robot’s head tracks the movement of the hand to determine which object the subject means and combines that data with the vocal command. But two bowls are sitting right next to each other, and Iorek can’t differentiate which one the human wants. So it hovers an arm over the bowl it thinks the human wants and asks: “This one?” If the subject says no, the robot determines that its master seeks the other. That may seem like a simple interaction, something a child could do. But this is huge for a robot because the system solves a nasty problem: uncertainty.
~ OK, it can have my damn job, then. 

Futurology ~ Mars spuds, lost spacecraft, Waze ways, FM everythings, super oil sponge


Spuds can grow on Mars — The International Potato Center (CIP) has launched a series of experiments to discover if potatoes can grow under Mars’ atmospheric conditions, as well as under extreme conditions on Earth. The CIP placed a potato inside a “specially constructed CubeSat contained environment” that simulates Mars temperature, air pressure, oxygen and carbon dioxide levels. They then used sensors and live-streaming cameras to record the soil and monitor the status of the potato. Preliminary results are positive as cameras inside the container show sprouts.
~ For sure, for sure. I bet they didn’t simulate the radiation load, though. 

NASA found a lost spacecraft — NASA has been having some real success locating wayward spacecraft, including its STEREO-B solar observer. The agency has now done it again, locating an Indian spacecraft that lost contact with the Earth nearly eight years ago.
~ Seriously, people, just stick a Tile on it. 

Waze and other traffic-dodging apps prompt cities to game algorithms — Waze and others are causing traffic planners to try to figure out how to gain back control of traffic systems. Navigation apps like Apple Maps, Google Maps and Waze started telling drivers to hop off the freeway at Fremont’s Mission Boulevard, cut through residential streets and then hop back on the highway where things were clearer – much to the distress of the people who lived there. Changes may simply reroute commuters into other neighbourhoods.
~ You’re not actually ‘stuck in traffic’. You are traffic. 

New tech turns any object into an FM transmitter — A research team from the University of Washington has introduced a technique called “backscattering” which uses ambient low-power radio signals to broadcast messages from random objects to smartphones in the local vicinity.The researchers hope the development could help support various smart city applications, and picture a future where anything from a poster at a bus stop to a road sign can transmit audio updates and information to passers-by.
~ Whereas I picture a future where every damn thing is beaming adverts at me. 

New sponge soaks up oil and can do so hundreds of times — Seth Darling and his colleagues at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois have created a new material that can absorb up to 90 times its own weight in spilled oil, then be squeezed out like a sponge and reused. Most commercial products used for soaking up oil, called “sorbents,” act like a paper towel and are only good for a single use. (Once typical sorbents are used, they get incinerated along with the oil.)
~ Notice the absence of ‘ab’ in ‘sorbents’. So is that the ‘scence’ of ab now? And nobody tell Kevin Costner’s brother.