Warp Drives May Come With a Killer Downside

Found on Universe Today on Friday, 02 March 2012
Browse Future

Proposed by Mexican theoretical physicist Miguel Alcubierre in 1994, the drive would propel a ship at superluminal speeds by creating a bubble of negative energy around it, expanding space (and time) behind the ship while compressing space in front of it. In much the same way that a surfer rides a wave, the bubble of space containing the ship and its passengers would be pushed at velocities not limited to the speed of light toward a destination.

When the Alcubierre-driven ship decelerates from superluminal speed, the particles its bubble has gathered are released in energetic outbursts. In the case of forward-facing particles the outburst can be very energetic — enough to destroy anyone at the destination directly in front of the ship.

This is the point where the military gets interested in the Alcubierre drive.

Cloud-seeding ships could combat climate change

Found on Physics World on Saturday, 06 September 2008
Browse Future

It should be possible to counteract the global warming associated with a doubling of carbon dioxide levels by enhancing the reflectivity of low-lying clouds above the oceans, according to researchers in the US and UK.

The idea relies on the "Twomey effect", which says that increasing the concentration of water droplets within a cloud raises the overall surface area of the droplets and thereby enhances the cloud's albedo.

The 300-tonne unmanned ships used to seed the clouds would be powered by the wind, but would not use conventional sails.

Terraforming. Basically, they are trying to fight the results of a problem with an untested idea on a global scale instead of taking care of the cause. They don't even know the side effects. You can achieve a global cooling way easier with a nuclear winter. The results are just as untested.

Swarm robotics work hundreds of robots into one

Found on IT News on Friday, 14 March 2008
Browse Future

Forget the conventional notion of human-like androids; researchers are investigating large swarms of up to 10,000 miniature robots which can work together to form a single, artificial life form.

As a part of an international collaboration dubbed the "Symbiotic Evolutionary Robot Organisms" project, or "Symbrion" for short, researchers from the University of York are developing an artificial immune system which can protect both the individual robots that form part of a swarm, as well as the larger, collective organism.

Should any faults be detected, individual robots will be able to share the information with others in the robotic swarm. The swarm as a whole will thus be capable of evolving in the face of new problems, just as a natural immune system is able to cope with unfamiliar pathogens.

Better 'bionic eye' offers new hope

Found on New Scientist on Friday, 16 February 2007
Browse Future

Profoundly blind people could get their best shot yet of restored vision with a more advanced "bionic eye", researchers have announced.

Trials of the new retinal prosthesis will begin shortly, following the success of a prototype that has enabled six blind people to see again.

Within a few weeks all could detect light, identify objects and even perceive motion again. For one patient, this was the first time he had seen anything in half a century, after his sight was destroyed by retinitis pigmentosa, a virus that attacks retinal cells.

Currently recipients of the device experience a relatively narrow view, but more electrodes should provide a greater field of vision, Humayun says. By stimulating more ganglion cells, he hopes that visual acuity will increase dramatically. His team's next goal is to design a device with 1000 electrodes.

Sometimes, Star Trek just gets real.

100 miles on 4 ounces of water?

Found on ZPEnergy on Tuesday, 30 May 2006
Browse Future

Denny Klein just patented his process of converting H2O to HHO, producing a gas that combines the atomic power of hydrogen with the chemical stability of water. "it turns right back to water. In fact, you can see the h20 running off the sheet metal." Klein originally designed his water-burning engine for cutting metal. He thought his invention could replace acetylene in welding factories. Then one day as he drove to his laboratory in Clearwater, he thought of another way to burn his HHO gas. "On a 100 mile trip, we use about four ounces of water." Klein says his prototype 1994 Ford Escort can travel exclusively on water, though he currently has it rigged to run as a water and gasoline hybrid.

Sounds too good to be true. Although I give him the benefit of doubt, there are a lot of people who think his idea is nothing but a scam. After all, converting water to hydrogen and oxygen isn't that new. Nevertheless, let's hope his results are more promising that the pessimists think.

12.8 Petabytes, You Say?

Found on Slashdot on Tuesday, 09 May 2006
Browse Future

Dr. Jonathan Spanier from Drexel University has come up with a novel way to greatly increase data storage density: water. Specifically, they propose using hydroxyl ions to stabilize minute ferroelectric wires. These wires could be many times smaller than what is possible today, enabling data densities in the neighborhood of 12-13 PB per cubic centimeter. While there are still many problems to be resolved before drives using these can be manufactured this technology does seem promising. For one thing, it would be non-volatile, but could apparently be made to act as RAM. The fact that this is coming out of a university gives me hope that this technology won't turn out to be just so much vapor.

Now this would solve my storage needs for some time.

US Military Plans To Make Insect Cyborgs

Found on Spacewar on Wednesday, 15 March 2006
Browse Future

Facing problems in its efforts to train insects or build robots that can mimic their flying abilities, the U.S. military now wants to develop "insect cyborgs" that can go where its soldiers cannot.

The Pentagon is seeking applications from researchers to help them develop technology that can be implanted into living insects to control their movement and transmit video or other sensory data back to their handlers.

In an announcement posted on government Web sites last week, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, says it is seeking "innovative proposals to develop technology to create insect cyborgs," by implanting tiny devices into insect bodies while the animals are in their pupal stage.

The objective is to transform the insects into "predictable devices that can be used for various micro-UAV missions requiring unobtrusive entry into areas inaccessible or hostile to humans."

I don't mind when they fiddle around with robots, but abusing a living being is disturbing. This blurs the line between animal and object.

Star Trek holodeck gets closer to reality

Found on The Inquirer on Monday, 29 August 2005
Browse Future

An outfit which is experimenting with using huge high definition tellies to simulate a 3d virtual environment, thinks that it is getting closer to creating a Star Trek style holodeck.

Holodek’s test site has 42 gaming stations with PCs and high definition screens ranging in size from 17 inches (43cm) to 20 feet wide and 12 feet high.

However it has also built something called the sphere, which is 20 feet in diameter and eventually will offer a 360° view. It works a bit like a flight simulator.

Fewls, don't they realise that if something ever went wrong on a Starship, it was usually as a direct result of a sodded up holodeck. The Enterprise and Voyager would have had far less problems if they had pulled the plug on the thing.

It sounds interesting, but I wouldn't compare it to a holodeck. This one still displays 2D images, instead of a real 3D environment.

Gizmodo Japan: Auto door

Found on Gizmodo on Saturday, 20 August 2005
Browse Future

Cleanliness, efficiency, compactness, cool-factor... for a variety of reasons, automatic doors have become a standard feature of Japanese shops. While the typical sliding star-trek style design has proven itself, the tanaka auto door aims to improve upon a good concept. This new design entails strips equipped with infrared sensors that open to the approximate shape of the person or object passing through, minimizing entry of dust, pollen, and bugs while keeping precious air-conditioning in. The technology for the new design seems to be in it's infancy, but Japan has proven once again that it’s a least 10 years ahead of everyone else.

Looks pretty neat. However, the downside is that those doors require a power supply. Not as economical as traditional doors; which is quite important when you keep in mind all the problems which arise from power consumption.

Download your brain onto a computer

Found on The Inquirer on Sunday, 22 May 2005
Browse Future

Ian Pearson, head of the futurology at BT told the Observer that such technology will be possible for the very rich in about 50 or so years. The rest of us will have to wait, but of course we will have more interesting lives to record.

He said that will mean that when you die it's not a major career problem, you just work from inside the computer rather than having to use a monitor. His rationale is that Sony's new PlayStation 3 is 35 times more powerful than the model it replaced, and in terms of processing is "one per cent as powerful as a human brain".

Pearson thinks that the next computing goal would be replicating consciousness. His crystal ball also forecasts that computer systems will be able to feel emotions so that aeroplanes will be programmed to be more terrified of crashing than their passengers, meaning they would do whatever possible to stay airborne.

Technology with a consciousness could end up in fun and/or problems. If airplanes are afraid of crashes, why start at all? I really wouldn't want to argue with my computer and justify my actions, thanks. Then we might also have a depressed Marvin...