Tag Archives: technology

Futurology 11 ~ Space water, Indian Mars, laser hair, Dystopian clothes and more


Laser your hair bike – perhaps while you cycle and listen to music!
Laser your hair back on – perhaps while you cycle and listen to music!

Water 120 light years away — Astronomers have detected water vapor in the atmosphere of a planet that orbits a star far beyond our solar system. Observations of the Neptune-sized planet, which lies 120 light years from Earth in the constellation of Cygnus, revealed its atmosphere was mostly hydrogen with around 25% made up from water vapour.
~ Astronauts, please fill your water bottles here. 

Indian snapshots from Mars — India’s Mangalyaan spacecraft is doing what anyone with that view outside of its window might do: posting a series of quick snapshots back for all its friends at home.
~ Instagram.

Leaf might let us colonise space — Royal College of Art graduate Julian Melchiorri has developed a ‘man-made biological leaf’ made from chloroplasts and a silk product. It produces oxygen the same way a real plant does. As Melchiorri explains in the video, that could be a boon for space exploration.
~ Mm, but teamed with what type of salad dressing?

Clearer, cheaper smartphone screens — The most advanced LED screens look amazing compared to what was on the market even a couple of years ago. But a Princeton engineer found a cheap new way of making LEDs not only brighter and more efficient but also five times as clear, and they’ll last longer. (Professor Stephen Chou is renowned for his 2012 nanotechnology breakthrough that increased solar cell efficiency by 175%.)
~ Once those patents go through … iPhone 7, 1% cheaper than 6.

Dystopian clothes that shield iPhones — British company The Affair has created a number of science fiction-themed fashion lines, but their latest is all modeled on what people wore in George Orwell’s 1984, and comes with a shielded phone pocket made from material that can effectively pull you off the grid. They block Cell, WiFi, GPS and RFID signals to ~100 dB, plus NFC signals. There are a few days left to contribute to The Affair’s Kickstarter, which will get you the outfits of your choice.
~ Now minus 20% more. The tagline is ‘Become Invisible to Big Brother’.

Shinkin’ Arctic ice in one simple graphic — NASA’s Greg Shirah made a great grid graphic using images of the north pole sea ice extent from the National Snow and Ice Data Center. From left to right you go from 1979 to 2014. From top to bottom you can see the months. You can see how the spots are smaller every year. Zoom in and scroll.
~ Someone seriously once told me that global warming was a ;left wing conspiracy’. He failed to elucidate what the left would possibly gain from such a conspiracy.

Recyclable cardboard furniture — If you’re not going to be living too long in a place, decking out your temporary abode in recyclable cardboard furniture makes sense. It’s cheaper than real furniture, you don’t have to bring it next time you move, and with modular TapeFlips sets you can actually build exactly the pieces you need.

2000x the sun — IBM Research and Swiss company Airlight Energy announced a parabolic dish that increases the sun’s radiation by 2,000 times while also producing fresh water and air conditioning. It can generate 12 kilowatts of electrical power and 20 kilowatts of heat on a sunny day — enough to power several average homes.
~ Build your own sunspot.

Hair-growing laser helmet — Apira Science’s iGrow Hair Growth system is now available over-the-counter. The funky looking device (main picture, above) uses lasers and LEDs to illuminate the scalp with red light, which according to the manufacturer is supposed to work.
~ Seems an unproven and light-headed idea to me.

3D printing to restore a Frank Lloyd Wright building — The largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in the world is at Florida Southern University. Depending on how you count, there are 7 to 12 buildings, the most distinctive of which is Annie Pfeiffer Chapel. Time has taken its toll on the chapel’s one-of-a-kind concrete blocks, but it’s the 21st century, and we now have a modern solution to fix them: 3D printing.
Mesick Cohen Wilson Baker Architects (MCWB) was brought on to restore the buildings, and funded by the Florida Division of Historical Resources and $the National Park Service’s Save America’s Treasures Program, rather than print concrete blocks, the architects printed plastic moulds to cast the concrete.
~ New for old. 

How much a European city has changed in 100 years — A video shows the 100 year difference at Alkmaar in the Netherlands.
~ Interesting video, but all I can think of is ‘mmm, cheese’.

Futurology 10 ~ Rosetta, ant-radio, nanobeads, UFO, solar, exo-pants, DNA advances


A photo of an Earth-origin spaceship over 400 million kilometres away from Earth
A photo of an Earth-origin spaceship over 400 million kilometres away from Earth

Spaceship flying 402.3 million kilometres away from Earth — Above is a photo of a spaceship flying 402.3 million kilometres away from Earth. It’s Rosetta, floating in the black vacuum of space, photographed by its Philae daughtership, a lander that will soon arrive to the object on the background, the comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
~ Let’s hope it leaves no space-stone unturned.

And now it knows where to land — Site J is the area chosen for its unique scientific potential and minimum risk to the lander. Choosing a landing site was not easy. Comet Churymov-Gerasimenko’s strange, rubber ducky-like shape has presented a host of operational challenges.
~ You’d think the Churymov-Gerasimenkians would have rolled out the red carpet, after all that trouble.

Ant-sized radios — Radios made of silicon and measuring a few millimeters each have been developed by researchers at Stanford University. You can fit dozens of them on a penny and the good news is that they’re dirt cheap to manufacture.
~ I had no idea ants listened to the radio. at least they can carry these ones instead of just having to live inside them.

Nanobeads to sweep your blood — Scientists at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have created what is essentially an artificial spleen. The device made of wire and plastic may not resemble the fleshy organ in our bodies, but its series of blood channels mimics the microarchitecture of spleens.
Blood passing through these channels encounters magnetic nanobeads coated with a protein called mannose-binding lectin (MBL), a natural immune protein that binds to the surfaces of bacteria, viruses, fungi, pathogen, and toxins.
~ So far only labtest animals are getting the benefits. 

The 1960s TV Series UFO predicted today’s cutting-edge military tech — This classic TV show created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson had its share of late-’60s, early-’70s schlock, such as military officers whose mini-skirt uniforms included purple wigs. But U.F.O also had strong characters, nuanced plots and extremely cool technology that, in retrospect, was decades ahead of its time.
~ And the cars!

Solar tech enhances oil recovery — Glasspoint Solar Inc installs aluminium mirrors near oil fields to concentrate solar radiation on insulated tubes containing water. The steam generated from heating the water is injected into oil fields to recover heavy crude oil. Royal Dutch Shell has invested heavily into this.
~ Cynical or what?!

Exoskeleton pants — Exoskeletons that give you superhuman strength sound incredibly awesome but also look incredibly awkward and bulky and uncomfortable. So what about a soft exoskeleton that you wear like a pair of pants?
Harvard researchers recently won a DARPA grant of up to $US2.9 million to develop the Soft Exosuit – so far, it’s created a proof-of-concept suit that resembles black leggings, threaded with cables and attached to a bulky battery pack at the waist.
~ Also excellent for extended dancing sessions. 

Europeans came from three ancestry groupings — A recent study by researchers at Harvard Medical School and the University of Tübingen in Germany has found that present day Europeans are descendants of three different groups of people: a near-eastern farmer group, an indigenous hunter-gatherer group, and an ancient North Eurasian group from Siberia.
~ In my case it was mum, dad and, er …

And if that’s interesting … Check out this story about what they can gather from your DNA these days.
~ Modern-day hunting and gathering. 

Futurology 04 ~ Space, the robots are winning, sponge-bone & ancient skeletons


Harvard's swarm of Kilobots
Harvard’s swarm of Kilobots

NASA scientists find the first interstellar space particles —NASA has identified for the first time seven rare, microscopic interstellar dust particles . They date to the beginnings of the solar system. The particles have been identified amongst samples obtained by NASA’s Stardust spacecraft, which returned to Earth back in 2006.
~ At least they were looking in the right place. 

Origami Solar Panels — Brian Trease, a mechanical engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is working with researchers at Brigham Young University to construct a solar array that uses origami principles for deployment. Such devices could one day beam power down to Earth — and folding them into a small size could minimise launch and assembly costs.
~ And if it doesn’t work, there’ll be a job opening for an Astronautical Origami Unfolder.

Super computer windfarm for Mexico — It’s being built by Spanish company Iberdrola, and will be located on a 2.4km high spot in Puebla state, one of the windiest parts of Mexico. The supercomputer used a simulation system called SEDAR (a Spanish acronym for “high resolution wind power simulator”) that calculates airflow and solves complex problems like where turbines should be situated.
~ Honestly, they can’t work out where’s windy themselves?

A thousand tiny robots swarming into shapes like intelligent insects — Since the first crude automatons running on clockwork mechanisms, mankind has been working to build the perfect artificial copy of ourselves for centuries. Researchers at Harvard University, inspired by the idea that one day life can be recreated using countless tiny robots, have been developing and building their Kilobots for years now. The Kilobots started off with just twenty-five units all working together to accomplish a task, then a hundred, and now a thousand (pictured above).
~ Sounds frighteningly close to ‘killerbots’ to me. 

Very fast camera — Japanese researchers have recently designed a motion picture camera capable of capturing 4.4 trillion frames per second, making it the fastest camera in the world. The technique that allows for such speed is called STAMP (sequentially timed all-optical mapping photography). The research paper, published in the journal Nature Photonics, has the full details.

Robots have already taken over — If you think it’s just a joke that robots are going to replace humans, it’s not. It’s going to happen. In fact, CGP Grey explains in ‘Humans Need Not Apply’ how it’s already happening around us right now. You might not notice it but you will after you watch how we’re following historical patterns towards obscurity.
In reality, as CGP Grey shows us, real change happens when last decade’s shiny and fancy and new and expensive stuff becomes cheaper and faster.

Limits to smaller, faster computing — In a [paywalled] review article in this week’s issue of the journal Nature (described in a National Science Foundation press release), Igor Markov of the University of Michigan/Google reviews limiting factors in the development of computing systems to help determine what is achievable, in principle and in practice, using today’s and emerging technologies. “Understanding these important limits,” says Markov, “will help us to bet on the right new techniques and technologies.”
Luckily Ars Technica does a great job of expanding on the various limitations that Markov describes, and the ways in which engineering can push back against them.

 

Corsair's super DRAM4
Corsair’s super new DDR4

Super futuristic DDR4 RAM — A new chipset and memory combination will blow away anything that came before it. DDR4 is the brand new memory standard, soon to replace the now seven-year-old DDR3 as the overclocker’s RAM of choice. Corsair’s new DDR4 RAM, along with other brands’ and the next-gen motherboards that support it, will go on sale at the end of this month.
~ And it looks pretty super!

Sponge could help fill gaps where bone can’t regrow itself — Your bones are masterful self-healers, but certain injuries and defects can leave a gap too wide for new bone cells to fill in. Texas A&M’s Dr Melissa Grunlan and team have come up with a solution, a biodegradable polymer sponge that supports new bone cell growth, then disappears as it’s replaced by solid bone.
~ I still want a third hand with three fingers and two thumbs in the middle of my chest that reaches my mouth so I can eat a sandwich while I do something else, personally. Grow me one of them, Dr Grunlan!

Historians rediscover Einstein’s forgotten model of the universe — In 1931, after a 3- month visit to the US, Albert Einstein penned a paper that attempted to show how his theory of general relativity could account for some of the latest scientific evidence.
Einstein had met Edwin Hubble during his trip and so was aware of the latter’s data indicating that the universe must be expanding. The resulting model, now translated into English, is of a universe that expands and then contracts with a singularity at each end. He wrote the paper in only 4 days, and this model was ultimately superseded by the Einstein-de Sitter model published the following year.
~ Er, yeah, I’ll read it later.

How a 1920s feminist imagined our futuristic high-tech world —Josephine Daskam Bacon was an author known for her adventure serials that featured female protagonists. But in 1929, she took a break from her regular fiction and slipped on futurist goggles for an article in Century magazine titled ‘In Nineteen Seventy-Nine’.
Bacon imagined just how much progress women will have made fifty years hence — and whether her granddaughter would be able to “have it all” as some people here in the future might say.
~ Here’s a comment from Bacon: “No, the most the aeroplanes can do is to ease the traffic a little, and spread the accidents over a wider surface.”

Wyoming cave yields loads of interesting bones — Scientists excavating an ancient Wyoming sinkhole containing a rare trove of fossils of Ice Age mammals. It contains hundreds of bones of such prehistoric animals as American cheetahs, a paleontologist said on Friday.
The extensive excavation that began late last month uncovered roughly 200 large bones of animals like horses that roamed North America from 12,000 to 23,000 years ago and an uncounted number of microfossils of creatures such as birds, lizards and snakes.
~ I too have some interesting bones. My favourite wraps all around my brain.