Download it from this link—> Issue89July17
Jupiter’s red spot — It’s actually a storm with a diameter larger than Earth’s. It has been the planet’s most conspicuous feature for centuries, yet scientists don’t fully understand what created the storm, or how it’s been swirling around for so long.
And while they haven’t figured that part out yet, NASA’s Juno spacecraft has brought them closer than they’ve ever been before – literally. Last Monday, Juno skimmed just 9012 kilometres (5600 miles) above the storm clouds, and snapped some pictures as it went. It’s taken the data a few days to get back to Juno’s Earthbound science team, but the images are finally here.
~ Edvard Munch, anyone?
Laser-beaming satellites could enable space communications — A laser beam of infrared light and invisible to the human eye has been beamed from Tokyo. By the time it had traveled through hundreds of miles of outer space and atmosphere, the light was harmless: it had spread out like a spotlight, about as wide as 10 soccer fields. Some of that light made its way into the end of a telescope, where it bounced off mirrors and flew through lenses and filters onto a photon-measuring detector. Some day Masahide Sasaki hopes, that light could be more than invisible wavelengths hitting a telescope—it could be encoded with information, leading to communication with Mars.
~ Yeah … I still don’t want to go to Mars. You can’t even grow spuds there.
Wanna buy a Moon rock? Moon Express, founded in 2010 to win the Google Lunar XPRIZE, says it is self-funded to begin bringing kilograms of lunar rocks back to Earth within about three years. The privately held company released plans for a single, modular spacecraft that can be combined to form successively larger and more capable vehicles. Ultimately the company plans to establish a lunar outpost in 2020 and set up commercial operations on the Moon.
~ Gosh, yes, everyone wants one of those.
Object actually teleported — The Micius team has created the first satellite-to-ground quantum network, in the process smashing the record for the longest distance over which entanglement has been measured. And they’ve used this quantum network to teleport the first object from the ground to orbit. Teleportation has become a standard operation in quantum optics labs around the world. The technique relies on the strange phenomenon of entanglement. This occurs when two quantum objects, such as photons, form at the same instant and point in space and so share the same existence. In technical terms, they are described by the same wave function.
~ Work needed. Nothing like expecting Captain Kirk and just getting his fingernail.
Hyperloop tested and it worked — Hyperloop One announced last week that it successfully tested a full hyperloop. The step into the future occurred in May at the company’s Nevada test track, where engineers watched a magnetically levitating test sled fire through a tube in near-vacuum, reaching 112kph (70mph) in just over five seconds.
That is but a fraction of the 1126kph (700mph) or so Hyperloop One promises, but what matters here is all the elements required to make hyperloop work, worked: propulsion, braking, and the levitation and vacuum systems that all but eliminate friction and air resistance so that pod shoots through the tube at maximum speed with minimal energy.
Big Australian battery — The awarding of a 129 MWh battery contract to Tesla is big news for South Australia, as it will be able to instantly provide power to the grid when needed, as well as taking out any fluctuations in generating capacity from surrounding wind farms and PV installations. The battery will be able to supply close to 10% of the state’s energy needs for almost an hour. Why? Storage has long been the missing link for renewable energy.
~ What’s next, Tesla battery hens?
Brilliant staircase design stores extra energy to make it easier to climb later — Thanks to engineers at Georgia Tech and Emory University, stairs might one day do all the hard work for you. These energy-recycling stairs store energy when you descend, and then release it to make the ascent easier on the way back up.
~ Or, you know, just do some work you lazy so-and-sos.
Sideways elevator — After three years of work, ThyssenKrupp is testing the Multi elevator in a German tower and finalising the safety certification. This crazy contraption zooms up, down, left, right, and diagonally. ThyssenKrupp just sold the first Multi to a residential building under construction in Berlin, and expects to sell them to other developers soon.
~ The best comment goes to the company’s CEO Patrick Bass: “There were some doubts”.
DNA storage — E. coli might best be known for giving street food connoisseurs occasional bouts of gastric regret. But the humble microbial workhorse, with its easy-to-edit genome, has given humankind so much more — insulin, antibiotics, cancer drugs, biofuels, synthetic rubber, and now: a place to keep your selfies safe for the next millennium.
~ Sorry, grandchildren, I could have passed on my cold sore immunity but instead, check out this picture of me and Nanna by the Eifel Tower!
‘Living drug’ fights cancer — A new kind of cancer treatment uses genetically engineered cells from a patient’s immune system to attack their cancer. It has easily cleared a crucial hurdle when a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee unanimously recommended that the agency approve this ‘living drug’ approach for children and young adults who are fighting a common form of leukaemia.
~ Something we can use so soon? Awesome.
New York’s genetically engineered insects — Diamondback moths may be a mere half-inch in length, but their voracious appetite for Brussels sprouts, kale and cauliflower make them a major pain for farmers. This week, the US Department of Agriculture approved moths genetically engineered to contain a special gene that makes them gradually die off. A field trial slated to take place in a small area of upstate New York will become the first wild release of an insect modified using genetic engineering in the US.
~ Let there be rejoicing in the kale fields.
Ötzi the Iceman ‘s long-distance axe — A recent analysis of the metal found in the Neolithic hunter’s copper axe suggests a point of origin in Southern Tuscany, which is far from where Ötzi’s frozen body was found. This suggests a long-distance trade route might have existed between central Italy and the Alps some 5300 years ago.
~ This Copper Age corpse is the gift that keeps on giving.
Orion’s second biggest star in (sort of) detail — Pretty much everyone has heard of the Orion constellation and has probably seen it (you can even see it from New York, despite the light pollution). It’s hard not to like it. And if you spend some time studying its behaviour and meaning, you’ll only appreciate its intricacies even more. Orion’s second brightest and biggest star, Betelgeuse, has been photographed by the Atacama Large Millimetre Array in Northern Chile. Not only is it one of the crispest images of a stellar surface yet, but it can tell scientists a lot about the massive star’s future.
~ Or is it just an out-of-focus lemon?
Gecko-inspired space-junk gripper — Up in space, gripping objects takes on a whole new absurdity. Suction cups are right out, given they don’t work in a vacuum. And extreme temperature fluctuations rule out any sort of sticky adhesive. Then there’s geckos and their clever tiny feet – a new kind of robotic gripper for space emulates them, Stanford University and NASA JPL researchers report.
~ Or, we just train real geckos and put them in cute little space suits.
Urine-generated power can kill salmonella — Scientists have understood that microbial fuel cells (MFC) can generate electricity from urine and other forms of waste for a while now. But new research shows the process can also kill bacteria and a new approach to sewage could be the result. The researchers imagine a self-sustaining system that would be of huge benefit to the developing world.
~ Your’e in with urine, because you can get hydrogen easily from it, you see.
And then there’s the fattened algae — Because fat is essentially oil, fatty algae could be the world’s most successful fuel crop. Ajjawi and his colleagues spent nearly a decade tweaking an algae genome so it produces more than twice as much fat than wild versions of the same species, and they recently described their efforts in an article.
~ But will it smell like fish?
Vegan mayonnaise company to grow ‘meat’ — The maker of vegan mayonnaise has been working on getting lab-made meat onto dinner tables everywhere. Hampton Creek, which built its name on plant-based condiments and vegan-friendly cookie doughs, has revealed that, for the last year, it has been secretly developing the technology necessary for producing lab-made meat and seafood, or as the industry likes to call it, ‘clean meat.’
~ I prefer to think of it as protein – as a vegetarian for nearly 30 years, I don’t need ‘pretend’ meat.
Cool pavements reflect well for Los Angeles — During the recent heatwave various officials swooped down on streets coated with an experimental light-gray sealer that makes old asphalt into “cool street”. And it works, with average temperature differences between coated streets and adjacent old asphalt around 10F (about 12°C). At a large parking lot, the temperature reduction was over 20F. If the material holds up and continues to meet other criteria, LA plans to use it on more pavement rehab projects, which could eventually make a difference in the heat island effect. The CoolSeal coating costs US$25-40K/mile, and lasts 5-7 years.
~ Not exactly a long-term or cost effective solution, then.
New probiotic beer boosts immunity — A new patent has been filed for an innovative brewing technique that incorporates a live strain of good bacteria into the brewing process. Researchers at NUS (National University of Singapore) have created a probiotic sour beer that may boost immunity and improve gut health.
~ Ah yeah, we’re all dying to drink boozy yogurt, right?
Disposable bottles may have curtailed ancient American populations — Pitch black water bottles were made by indigenous tribes who coated large, woven bulbs with the tar-like substance bitumen. Scientists have known about these bottles for years, but what they hadn’t considered was whether these plastic bottles contributed to the declining health in some old societies, like the Native American tribes that once lived off the coast of California. Skeletons dating back thousands of years evidence a mysterious physical decline. A new study, published today in the journal Environmental Health, measured the toxicity of making plastic from oily bitumen, and of storing liquid in the bottles.
~ Gosh, and it looks and sounds so delicious …
MagBytes 88 looks at Apple’s new products, has news, tips and tricks and more. It’s available to download now from the link on this page.
Here’s the link: ——>MagBytes Issue 88 June 2017
(As always, other issues of MagBytes are available from the MagByes Newsletter link over there on the right.)
10 more planets humans may be able to ruin — Researchers from NASA’s Kepler space telescope team announced we might get to bring our garbage party to another planet — OK, a bunch of them. The Kepler team has apparently identified 219 new planet candidates, 10 of which are roughly Earth-size and within their star’s habitable zone, the orbit zone around a star that could support liquid water and possibly life. This latest update to the Kepler catalogue brings the total number of planet candidates identified by the space-based telescope to 4034.
~ Well gosh, that’s heartening. Maybe they should have Keplered them to themselves?
Mystery Mars-sized planet — It’s been about 11 years since Pluto was demoted to dwarf planet status, leaving a 2370km-sized void in our hearts. Since then, the hunt for Planet X – aptly renamed Planet 9 – has grown into an international movement to find such an object in the Kuiper Belt beyond Neptune’s orbit. Now, scientists Kat Volk and Renu Malhotra from the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory are upping the ante: they suggest a completely different, tenth planetary-mass object is hiding somewhere in the Kuiper Belt as well.
~ Sigh. Or, you know, they’re just making suff up. It’s pretty dark out there.
Uranus is the loneliest thing in the solar system — It hasn’t had contact with anyone in over 30 years, since NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft whizzed by it on 24th January 1986. Thankfully, some good folks at NASA and elsewhere are advocating for missions to Uranus and its Ice Giant companion, Neptune, which could take place at some point in the next few decades.
~ If only I could think of a pun.
Satellites solve ‘bright nights’ — When Roman philosophers such as Pliny the Elder witnessed moonless nights glow bright like the day, it made an impression. Others since then have been awestruck by these ‘bright nights’ too.
Scientists from York University in Toronto have since observed what they call “enhanced airglow events” where elements in the night sky release photons. They know what’s causing airglow in their satellite data. But now they think they have figured out what enhances the glow, which may have caused the brighter nights documented throughout history.
~ Let me guess: was it light?
Study forces scientists to rethink human genome — As genetic sequencing has gotten cheaper and computerised data analysis has gotten better, more and more researchers have turned to what are known as genome-wide association studies in hopes of sussing out which individual genes are associated with particular disorders. If you have a whole lot of people with a disease, you should be able to tell what genetic traits those people have in common that might be responsible. This thinking has resulted in an entire catalogue of hundreds of research studies that has shed light on the genetic origins of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Crohn’s disease and prostate cancer, while helping fuel the rise of personalised medicine.
But now, a group of Stanford University geneticists writing in the journal Cell posit that such large studies are actually likely to produce genetic variants with little bearing on the disease in question — essentially false positives that confuse the results.
~ ‘False positives’ really is cruel irony.
Stunning medieval longsword discovered in Polish bog — Late last month, an excavator operator was working at a peat bog in the Polish municipality of Mircze when he accidentally stumbled upon a glorious specimen of 14th century craftsmanship. The remarkably well-preserved longsword is a unique find for the area, and its discovery has prompted an archaeological expedition hoping to find more artefacts in the (location undisclosed) bog.
~ For the love of peat!
Study sheds new light on incredible 3000-year-old prosthetic toe — It’s called the Greville Chester Great Toe, and it’s one of the earliest prosthetic devices known to scientists. The Iron Age prosthetic was discovered by archaeologists 17 years ago in a plundered tomb that was carved into an older burial chamber known as Sheikh ´Abd el-Qurna, an acropolis just west of Luxor, Egypt. A team of researchers from the University of Basel and the University of Zurich are currently reexamining the device, and the archaeological site itself, using state-of-the-art techniques — and they’re learning some extraordinary new things about it.
~ Come on, if they could make a massive pyramid, a toe doesn’t seem that much of a stretch.
Astronomers prove to Einstein that stars can warp light — Astronomers have observed for the first time ever a distant star warp the light of another star, “making it seem as though the object changed its position in the sky,” reports The Verge. The discovery is especially noteworthy as Albert Einstein didn’t think such an observation would be possible.
~ I don’t think it’s possible to prove anything to Einstein.
Super hot world — An international team of astronomers has discovered a planet like Jupiter zipping around its host star every day and a half, boiling at temperatures hotter than most stars and sporting a giant, glowing gas tail like a comet.
~ Should we call it ‘Satan’?
Moon landing ‘film’ — Lunar was created by designer Christian Stangl animating thousands of still photos taken from NASA’s Apollo archives.
Apple, Virtual Reality, power hardware and more — Forget the HomePod or the latest version of iOS. The big news out of WWDC was related to something that Apple, and most consumers, don’t really care about: Virtual Reality. In between Kaby Lake refreshes and Siri voice demos, Tim Cook announced a wide range of software and hardware changes that will finally bring VR to macOS, and that’s pretty damn surprising because Tim Cook himself is on record as giving exactly zero damns about VR.
Is that why Apple really built this ‘bonkers’ iMac? Apple intends it for machine learning, VR, and real-time 3-D rendering. In his WWDC address, software chief Craig Federighi casually launched Apple into one of the tech industry’s fiercest competitions – the contest to help developers build the next generation of AI-powered applications.
~ Mac lovers cry ‘thank goodness!’ in unison.
Ancient copper mask changes perceptions — A square-shaped copper mask pulled from a tomb in the southern Andes is resetting our notions of where and when sophisticated metallurgy first appeared in pre-Hispanic South America.
Archaeological evidence suggests that metallurgy in pre-Columbian America first appeared in the Andes, with Peru being the likely point of origin. But as a new study published in Antiquity shows a 3000-year-old mask in the Argentinean southern Andes suggests more than one region was involved in the development of this important tech.
~ Logic usually dictates against single origin points.
Moroccan fossils rewrite Sapiens history — Fossils discovered in Morocco are the oldest known remains of Homo sapiens, scientists reported on Wednesday. Dating back roughly 300,000 years, the bones indicate that mankind evolved earlier than had been known, experts say, and open a new window on our origins.
The new fossils suggest our species evolved across Africa. “We did not evolve from a single cradle of mankind somewhere in East Africa,” said Phillipp Gunz, a paleoanthropologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Liepzig, Germany.
~ I’m surprised it’s surprising.
Pangea’s breakup and human evolution — 200 million years ago, every Earth continent and island was combined in the supercontinent ‘Pangea’. Rocks alone seem to show that the breakup happened 180 million years ago, but a team of Australian scientists thinks you should be able to see the split and continuing shifts written into the history of how animals have evolved.
New methods in biogeography put many in favour of dispersal as the prime factor. “The authors of this paper are trying to return to the previous ideas and re-emphasise the role of the rupture of continent in some organisms’ distribution,” said Katinas.
~ See? Dispersal again.
Mystery red light flickering in the White House — Internet-fuelled conspiracy theories have plagued US politics over the last year and made voters on both sides of the aisle appear to be reactionary maniacs. But conspiracy theories can also be fun. And the entirely benign saga of red lights flashing in the windows of the second-floor residence of the White House (below) is about as fun as these things get.
~ It’s flashing SOS …
Putin hints at Russian hacking of the US election — President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said “patriotically minded” private Russian hackers could have been involved in cyberattacks last year to help the presidential campaign of Donald J Trump. Putin continued to deny any state role, but his comments to reporters in Saint Petersburg were a departure from the Kremlin’s previous position: that Russia had played no role whatsoever in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and that, after Mr. Trump’s victory, the country had become the victim of anti-Russia hysteria among crestfallen Democrats.
~ Which hints to me that Putin has realised that investigators will soon prove links.
Australian scientists react to more Trump narrow-minded idiocy — Climate experts at The Australian National University have weighed in on what the potential global fallout would be if Trump does pull the pin. For example, Associate Professor Nerilie Abram from ANU Research School of Earth Sciences: “There is no doubt in the science. The greenhouse gases that we are putting into Earth’s atmosphere are changing our climate.”
~ Ah, what do scientists know?
North Korea creates ‘iPad’ — Ryonghung, a North Korean technology company, recently announced a new tablet. It looks a lot like the weird, firewalled computers the country has produced in the past, with the addition of one curious new feature: The name. It’s called… the iPad.
Windows 10 tracks “too much” — Are we surprised?
Android unleashed — As an engineer at the Apple spinoff General Magic, he built some of the world’s first internet-connected portable devices. As CEO at Danger, he created the Sidekick, a smartphone that defined the category before anyone had invented the term. And then, of course, Rubin created Android, the operating system found in more than two billion phones, televisions, cars, and watches. And he has new plans … and should you want to ditch your secure, powerful iPhone for a bug-ridden, mixed-up, non-standardised and insecure platform of wannabe copyism, here’s your guide.
Tech-created inequality can be solved … by tech — The inequality of badly-run or corrupt states is boosted by the power of technology, but it’s also easier than ever to destabilise these states, thanks to technology. The question is: which future will prevail?” As technology – specifically, networked technology – makes it easier for opposition movements to form and mobilize, even under conditions of surveillance, and to topple badly run, corrupt states.
Private security company used counter-terrorist tactics against Standing Rock — A shadowy international mercenary and security firm known as TigerSwan targeted the movement opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline with military-style counterterrorism measures, reports The Intercept, decrying “the fusion of public and private intelligence operations.”
Finally, something positive: how to spring clean to make your devices less vulnerable — This is from Wired.
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?
Download from this link —> MagBytes 87 for May 2017
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.