Tag Archives: progress

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Futurology ~ Betelgeuse, gecko space gripper, urine and algae power, vegan mayo meat, cool pavements, probiotic beer, bad bitumen bottles


This orange blob shows the nearby star Betelgeuse, as seen by the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimetre Array (ALMA)

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 …

Futurology ~ EVE Online exoplanets, genetic hacksaw, 3D laser display, biodegradable med-drone, maths improvement, catastrophic equality


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The hunt for the next exoplanet could be in the hands of EVE Online Players — NASA confirmed it has spotted seven exoplanets that have Earth-like qualities orbiting TRAPPIST-1, and the makers of the popular massively multiplayer game EVE Online announced a crowdsourcing effort to get players to identify exoplanets while they explore virtual space.
~ Virtually virtuous. 

Scientists create genetic hacksaw — When folks talk about the gene-editing tool CRISPR, they’re usually talking about CRISPR-Cas9, a combination of DNA and enzymes that together act like scissors to cut and paste genes. CRISPR-Cas9 has already been hailed a potential game changer in the fight against cancer, crop pathogens, and environmental problems.
But some researchers think a lesser-known flavour of the technology might be the answer to the world’s growing superbug problem. Meet CRISPR-Cas3.
~ It’s actually a small enzyme really good at precisely targeting specific sequences of DNA.

A new 3D display uses lasers and bubbles to create images you can walk around — Researchers really want to make good three-dimensional displays but it’s so much harder than you might think—most attempts so far have been literally smoke (light projected and scattered on some medium) and mirrors (optical illusions).
But a Japanese team has released an interesting but rudimentary proof-of-concept for their own so-called ‘volumetric display’, using lasers projected in a liquid column. Ultimately, the team hopes to create an updatable 3D projection visible from all angles to put on display in a museum or aquarium.
~ Or, how about this … Beer! 

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Drone delivers medicine then biodegrades — The idea behind the Aerial Platform Supporting Autonomous Resupply Actions drone is a cardboard glider that carries almost a kilogram (about two pounds) of cargo.
Star Simpson’s team designed and built Apsara with funding from Darpa, which challenged them to develop a single-use delivery vehicle for emergency scenarios. But with a twist: the drones had to not only carry a small payload and land where you told them, once on the ground, they had to disappear.
~ It’s made from cardboard and paper tape. Now, imagine if you could eat it as well …

Ten tips to improve your maths — Mental maths isn’t as difficult as it might sound, and you may be surprised at how easy it is to make seemingly impossible calculations using nothing but your beautiful brain. You just need to remember a few simple rules.
~ The writer clearly hasn’t met me.

Catastrophes improve equality —  Throughout history, only massive, violent shocks that upended the established order proved powerful enough to flatten disparities in income and wealth. They appeared in four different guises: mass-mobilization warfare, violent and transformative revolutions, state collapse and catastrophic epidemics. Hundreds of millions perished in their wake, and by the time these crises had passed, the gap between rich and poor had shrunk.
~ Call me old fashioned, but it seems wildly unfair to me that the greedy rich alone don’t suffer from the catastrophes largely caused by their own greed. Why do the poor have to suffer so dramatically to get some kind of equality back?