Tag Archives: water

Futurology ~ Superfast supernova, brown planet, alien DNA, water, better ears, Petaflopper, spiderbot, paper like LCD, Canadian footprints, Neanderthal skeleton


Spider-bot transforms into a wheel for fast rolling

Rare supernova extinguishes star at record speed — Using data collected by the Kepler space telescope, an international team of astronomers led by Brad Tucker from Australian National University has documented the death throes of a star located 1.3 billion light-years away. Known as KSN 2015K, this unprecedented FELT reached its maximum brightness in just 2.2 days, which is 10 times faster than standard supernovae.
~ Or it’s a pretty full-on war in a distant galaxy …

Brown planet reopens debate — Scientists have discovered a planet a lot like Jupiter orbiting a dim star, if you can even call it a star – it’s nothing like our Sun. The finding once again makes us wonder: what is a planet, anyway?
~ I’m going with ‘big round thing in space that orbits and is not on fire’. 

Alien DNA — If an alien life form is alien, how will we know what it is? DNA and RNA are the building blocks of life on Earth, but the molecules of life might differ substantially on another planet. So if scientists combing, say, the potentially habitable waters of Jupiter’s moon Europa were to stumble across a new life form, how could they know what they had discovered? Aha – scientists at Georgetown University suggest a method for identifying alien life using modern genome sequencing technology.
~ Please open your carapace, sir and/or madam, we would like to take a swab. 

Slippery-rough engineered surface harvests water — A slippery rough surface (SRS) inspired by both pitcher plants and rice leaves outperforms state-of-the-art liquid-repellent surfaces in water harvesting applications, according to a team of researchers at Penn State and the University of Texas at Dallas.
~ Then we can bottle the water and add the little bits of plastic. 

Cat-like ‘hearing’ with device tens of trillions times smaller than human eardrum — Researchers are developing atomically thin ‘drumheads’ tens of trillions of times thinner than the human eardrum able to receive and transmit signals across a radio frequency range far greater than what we can hear with the human ear. Their work will likely contribute to making the next generation of ultralow-power communications and sensory devices smaller and with greater detection and tuning ranges.
~ Have to go – I just heard my cat. 

NVIDIA’s 2 Petaflop DGX-2 AI Supercomputer with 32GB Tesla V100 and NVSwitch Tech — NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang recently announced a number of GPU-powered innovations for machine learning, including a new AI supercomputer and an updated version of the company’s powerful Tesla V100 GPU that now sports a hefty 32GB of on-board HBM2 memory. NVIDIA claims NVSwitch is five times faster than the fastest PCI Express switch and offers an aggregate 2.4TB per second of bandwidth.
~  All the better to monitor us with. 

Terahertz chips — Following three years of extensive research, physicists have created technology that will enable our computers – and all optic communication devices – to run 100 times faster through terahertz microchips.

Bionic wheelbot — Using eight reconfigurable legs, the BionicWheelBot can creepily crawl along the ground, but then transform into a wheel and roll at an alarming speed.
~ It can tiptoe through tricky terrain then quickly roll through the flat bits. 

A paperlike LCD is thin, flexible, tough and cheap — Optoelectronic engineers have manufactured a special type of LCD that is paper-thin, flexible, light and tough. With this, a newspaper could be uploaded onto a flexible paperlike display that could be updated as fast as the news cycles. It sounds futuristic, but scientists reckon it will be cheap to produce, perhaps only costing US$5 for a 5-inch screen.
~ I can almost guarantee the last word in its description will be gone by the time this becomes available. 

Sewage sludge leads to biofuels breakthrough — Researchers have discovered a new enzyme that will enable microbial production of a renewable alternative to petroleum-based toluene, a widely used octane booster in gasoline that has a global market of 29 million tons per year.
~ Isn’t toluene also carcinogenic? 

13,000-year-old human footprints found off Canada’s Pacific coast — Human footprints found off Canada’s Pacific coast may be 13,000 years old, according to a new study. The finding adds to the growing body of evidence supporting the hypothesis that humans used a coastal route to move from Asia to North America during the last ice age.
~ So that rules out flying. 

Secrets of famous Neanderthal skeleton La Ferrassie 1 revealed — Anthropologists have provided new insights on one of the most famous Neanderthal skeletons, discovered over 100 years ago: La Ferrassie 1. Nearly all of the fractures were made post-mortem. La Ferrassie 1 was an old man (likely over 50 years old) who suffered various broken bones during his lifetime and had ongoing respiratory issues when he died. The skeleton was found in a burial pit and dated to between 40,000 and 54,000 years old.
~ The weight of sediments snapped the bones. 

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The Apocalypticon ~ Hackers, water, China, Space-X hole, medical, stupidity, apocalypse


But wait! There is more from the a-holes at Cambridge Analytica — Cambridge Analytica got its hands on millions of people’s Facebook likes in 2014 by getting an academic, Aleksander Kogan, to design an app with a personality test that hoovered up data from the 250,000 or so Facebook users that took it, as well as from their millions of friends. Cambridge Analytica then used all those likes combined with the magic of big data to help put Donald Trump in the White House. But that’s only the half of it ….
It may be a while since you’ve heard the handle Guccifer 2.0, the hacker who took responsibility for the infamous DNC hack of 2016. Reports from the intelligence community at the time, as well as common sense, pegged Guccifer 2.0 not as the Romanian activist he claimed to be, but a Russian operative. He messed up once, and now Guccifer 2.0 has been fingered as a particular GRU officer working out of the Russian agency’s headquarters on Grizodubovoy Street in Moscow.
AI outsmarting its creators — A paper recently published to ArXiv highlights just a handful of incredible and slightly terrifying ways that algorithms think.

Gyre-normous — The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) is filled with 79,000 metric tonnes (87,000 tons) of plastic, and that’s between 10 to 16 times higher than previous estimates, according to new research.
Marine researchers say recent sea star wasting disease epidemic defies prediction. Some sea star communities on the west coast could recover, but marine scientists still can’t pinpoint the environmental factors behind the unprecedented disease outbreak.
The number of people short of water could rise to 5.7 billion people by 2050. Currently, about 3.6 billion people are estimated to be living in areas with a potential for water scarcity for at least one month per year.

China’s terrifying “social credit” system isn’t planned to be fully implemented until 2020, but we’re already seeing facets of it being put in place. In May, people who have committed acts of “serious dishonor” will reportedly be unable to travel on trains or flights for up to a year.
And China has approved the creation of one of the world’s largest propaganda machines as it looks to improve its global image. [Greetings from George Orwell, and good luck with that.]

Space-X made a hole — The Falcon 9 rocket that launched last August reportedly ripped a temporary hole in the ionosphere due to its vertical launch.

Cell tower cancer link — Researchers with the renowned Ramazzini Institute (RI) in Italy announce that a large-scale, lifetime study (PDF) of lab animals exposed to environmental levels of cell tower radiation developed cancer.
A massive new study concluded that lead is 10 times more dangerous than thought, and that past exposure now hastens one in every five US deaths. Researchers at four North American universities, led by Bruce Lanphear, of Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, studied the fate of 14,289 people whose blood had been tested in an official US survey between 1988 and 1994. Four fifths  had harbored levels of the toxic metal below what has, hitherto, been thought safe.

People asked to name women tech leaders said ‘Alexa’ and ‘Siri’ — The tech industry has a persistent problem with gender inequality, particularly in its leadership ranks, and a new study from LivePerson underscores just how depressingly persistent it truly is. When the company asked a representative sample of 1000 American consumers whether they could name a famous woman leader in tech, 91.7% of respondents drew a complete blank, while only 8.3% said they could. But wait, it gets worse: Of those 8.3% who said they could name a famous woman tech leader, only 4% actually could — and a quarter of those respondents named Siri or Alexa. [OMFG.]

The duelling visions for how humanity will survive — By 2050, the world’s population will top ten billion. As industrial capitalism evolves across the globe like no time in human history, will our planet’s ecosystem be able to sustain itself during this rapid transformation? Charles C. Mann’s grapples with these problems in The Wizard and the Prophet.
We’re sleepwalking into a mass extinction, say scientists. The most biodiverse aquatic communities may be the most vulnerable to extinction. Arctic wintertime sea ice extent is among lowest on record[But some of us are looking at the stars. We could become a galactic wrecking crew rather than just an Earthbound one.]

But yes, there’s a little good news: A few decades ago, the Aral Sea was the world’s fourth-largest freshwater lake. But in the 1950s, it became the victim of the Soviet Union’s agricultural policies. The Aral Sea began to disappear and nearly completely vanished. But things have changed for good. Its total area of water, straddling Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, is now a tenth of its original size. What’s left has broken into two distinct bodies: the North and South Aral Seas. In Uzbekistan, the entire eastern basin of the South Aral Sea is completely desiccated, leaving merely a single strip of water in the west. But Kazakhstan’s North Aral Sea has seen a happier outcome, thanks to a nearly $86 million project financed in large part by the World Bank. [Great, huh? Hah!]

Futurology 21~ possible Dark Matter, not water from comets and more


Space Station shot in Infra-Red
Space Station shot in Infra-Red

Possible Dark Matter spotted — Astronomers may finally have detected a signal of dark matter, the mysterious and elusive stuff thought to make up most of the material universe. While poring over data collected by the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton spacecraft, a team of researchers spotted an odd spike in X-ray emissions coming from two different celestial objects — the Andromeda galaxy and the Perseus galaxy cluster.
~ It clearly wants to avoid spotting – hope we haven’t annoyed it. 

Comets didn’t bring the water — Scientists have dealt a blow to the theory that most water on Earth came from comets. Results from Europe’s Rosetta mission, which made history by landing on Comet 67P in November, shows the water on the icy mass is unlike that on our planet. The results are published in the journal Science. The authors conclude it is more likely that the water came from asteroids, but other scientists say more data is needed before comets can be ruled out.
~ It’s just a different flavour – I say embrace it. 

Our Space Station in Infra Red — The above image was taken 70m from the ISS as the European Space Agency’s Automated Transfer Vehicle docked with it earlier this year. Obtained using Laser Infrared Imaging Sensors, the images were obtained to help researchers develop better automated rendezvous procedures for use out in space. (Main picture, above).
~ Can’t see anyone waving, anyway.

Artificial skin feels pressure, dampness, heat — A new, stretchy artificial skin can pick up many of the sensations from the real thing, and could someday cover a lifelike prosthetic hand.
The skin was developed by researchers in South Korea, and combines the ability to sense pressure, temperature, and humidity.
~ Handy. 

Scientists invent a new form of ice — A new form of ice has just been created in a lab. It consists of frozen water molecules spun into a tiny, intricate, empty cage.
~ They did this because, er … there was nothing on TV that day?

3D printed dress — The garment here is a 3D-printed dress, made by design studio Nervous System. Although it’s not the first 3D-printed dress (that honour goes to a burlesque star), it’s one of the first to be made on Nervous System’s Kinematics system, software which can create complex structures composed of articulated modules. What that means is a 3D-printed dress that requires no assembly: take the pile of plastic out of the printer, wash it off, unfurl it, and you’ve got a dress.
~ A dress of sorts, anyway.

Super-duper map — The US Geological Survey and Esri have created a zoomable map that lets you explore all of the world’s ecological land units down to an astounding 250 metre resolution.
~ What? Why isn’t the washing out?!

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’.