The world's first flexible smartphone lets you hold and use your mobile phone like an old-fashioned book. Gif source: Engadget.
Recent scientific and high tech headlines struck a positive note, with some discordant undertones. Several cutting-edge experiments create synthetic or mechanical versions of what we already have in organic form, revealing the underlying meta-mentality of researchers. The European Commission's Digital Single Market announced the arrival of the 'Fourth Industrial Revolution' in late January, 2016. In early February, there was a discussion at Quora about converting energy into matter: E=mc2 says energy and mass are interchangeable. Are energy and matter states of a same thing? Is matter a rigid form of energy? Great discoveries, such as the possible cure for blindness this week, are beneficial; yet that same desire to overcome physical debilitation, limitations and illnesses becomes problematic in other examples, as when parents assert the right to edit their children's genes.
The flood of news in such a short amount of time reveals vast resources diverted to these spheres, with very little to no resources comparatively devoted to putting this work into human perspective. The headlines show how difficult it is to keep track of the explosion of innovations on an ongoing basis; and they reveal how necessary it is to do so (hat tips: Engadget, ErekAlert, Graham Hancock):
- Quartz (3 February 2016): Germany is getting closer to nuclear fusion—the long-held dream of unlimited clean energy
- BBC (11 February 2016): Einstein's gravitational waves 'seen' from black holes
- BBC (11 February 2016): Why you really should get excited about gravitational waves
- Engadget (12 February 2016): Watch DARPA's tiny drone do 45 MPH indoors, autonomously ... and then crash into countless expensive pieces
- Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (12 February 2016): Researchers Create ‘Mini-Brains’ in Lab To Study Neurological Diseases
- Independent (13 February 2016): Chinese nuclear fusion scientists achieve temperatures three times hotter than the sun The temperatures were roughly equal to a 'mid-sized thermo-nuclear explosion'
- Guardian (14 February 2016): Race is on for next breakthrough as physicists target dark matter: Scientists from South Dakota to Australia seek material believed to make up quarter of universe as researchers in China investigate another mystery particle
- University College London / EurekAlert (15 February 2016): Virtual reality therapy could help people with depression: "Patients in the study wore a virtual reality headset to see from the perspective of a life-size 'avatar' or virtual body. Seeing this virtual body in a mirror moving in the same way as their own body typically produces the illusion that this is their own body. This is called 'embodiment'. While embodied in an adult avatar, participants were trained to express compassion towards a distressed virtual child. As they talked to the child it appeared to gradually stop crying and respond positively to the compassion. After a few minutes the patients were embodied in the virtual child and saw the adult avatar deliver their own compassionate words and gestures to them. ... 'People who struggle with anxiety and depression can be excessively self-critical when things go wrong in their lives,' explains study lead Professor Chris Brewin (UCL Clinical, Educational & Health Psychology). 'In this study, by comforting the child and then hearing their own words back, patients are indirectly giving themselves compassion.'"
- Engadget (15 February 2016): Johns Hopkins grows tiny brains in petri dishes for lab testing: "Most new drugs tested on mice don't work on humans, because we're 'not 150-pound rats,' says Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School's Dr. Thomas Hartung. He and his team believe the 'mini-brains' they've designed and grown in the lab are better test subjects for drug development, since they're derived from human cells. These mini-brains are truly tiny at 350 micrometers in diameter, or about the size of a housefly."
- PhysOrg (15 February 2016): No more keys or cards? Technology goes under the skin
- Guardian (15 February 2016): Cancer researchers claim 'extraordinary results' using T-cell therapy ‘This is unprecedented’ says researcher after more than half of terminally ill blood cancer patients experienced complete remission in early clinical trials
- Guardian (16 February 2016): WHO paves way for use of genetically modified mosquitoes to combat Zika: Consequences of Zika outbreaks could be ‘staggering’ says WHO as it advocates further trials and assessments for controversial mosquito control techniques
- Ars Technica (16 February 2016): The NSA’s SKYNET program may be killing thousands of innocent people: "Ridiculously optimistic" machine learning algorithm is "completely bullshit," says expert: "Last year, The Intercept published documents detailing the NSA's SKYNET programme. According to the documents, SKYNET engages in mass surveillance of Pakistan's mobile phone network, and then uses a machine learning algorithm on the cellular network metadata of 55 million people to try and rate each person's likelihood of being a terrorist."
- Engadget (16 February 2016): Doctors reveal they can 3D print body parts and tissue
- Sky News (16 February 2016): 'Extraordinary' Cancer Breakthrough Revealed: Terminally ill patients are left symptom free after treatment with modified cells - described as a "potential paradigm shift"
- Discovery News (16 February 2016): Hawking: Gravitational Waves Could Revolutionize Astronomy
- Engadget (17 February 2016): Flexible smartphones may be coming sooner than you think
- EurekAlert (17 February 2016): DNA evidence shows that salmon hatcheries cause substantial, rapid genetic changes
- EurekAlert (17 Feburary 2016): New predictor of cancer: When your biological age is older than your chronological age, the risk of getting and dying of cancer rises
- EurekAlert (17 February 2016): Progress toward an HIV cure highlighted in special issue of AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses
- Yahoo (17 February 2016): The Hubble Space Telescope Just Snapped Photos of the Biggest Black Hole We've Ever Observed: "So how big is it, exactly? Well, according to our best estimates, the supermassive black hole is roughly 21 billion times the size of the Sun, and its event horizon (an area so dense and powerful that light can’t escape its gravity) measures 130 billion kilometers in diameter. That’s about 15 times the diameter of Neptune’s orbit around the Sun, according to scientists at the Hubble Space Telescope."
- PhysOrg (18 February 2016): Five-dimensional black hole could 'break' general relativity: "Ring-shaped black holes were 'discovered' by theoretical physicists in 2002, but this is the first time that their dynamics have been successfully simulated using supercomputers. Should this type of black hole form, it would lead to the appearance of a 'naked singularity', which would cause the equations behind general relativity to break down. The results are published in the journal Physical Review Letters."
- Guardian (18 February 2016): Robots could learn human values by reading stories, research suggests. Scientists have been running tests where artificial intelligences cultivate appropriate social behaviour by responding to simple narratives
- Baltimore Sun (18 February 2016): Woman's blindness apparently reversed by stem cell treatment
- Economist (20 February 2016): Wireless: the next generation. A new wave of mobile technology is on its way, and will bring drastic change
- Daily Mail (20 February 2016): Earth really IS special: None of the 700 million trillion planets in our known universe are similar to our own, study finds
- HuffPo (20 February 2016): Lost Tapes Reveal Apollo Astronauts Heard Unexplained ‘Music’ On Far Side Of The Moon. "If you’re behind the moon and hear some weird noise on your radio, and you know you’re blocked from the Earth, then what could you possibly think?"
- Science Alert (22 February 2016): NASA researchers are working on a laser propulsion system that could get to Mars in 3 days. "There is no known reason why we cannot do this."
- Wired (22 February 2016): Nasa's laser-powered engine could get us to Mars in 72 hours (if it works)
- Reuters (22 February 2016): Brazil to fight Zika by sterilizing mosquitoes with gamma rays
- Science Daily (22 February 2016): Bat 'super immunity' could help protect people
- PhysOrg (22 February 2016): Study shows plants appear able to forget memories when they are not useful
- Science Alert (23 February 2016): NASA has been inundated with a record number of astronaut applications. Real-life space cadets
- Space.com (23 February 2016): Plans Being Devised for Human Outpost Near the Moon
- Discovery News (23 February 2016): Self-Driving Flying Car to Take Off in Two Years
- Nature (23 February 2016): Should you edit your children’s genes?
- ErekAlert (23 February 2016): DNA 'Trojan horse' smuggles drugs into resistant cancer cells
- ABC News (23 February 2016): Vaccinating wildlife with GM viruses could stop diseases jumping to humans, scientists suggest
- Engadget (23 February 2016): Boston Dynamics presents the 'next generation' Atlas robot. Google's humanoid robot-builders have created a version that's smaller, lighter and more agile
The confirmed discovery of gravitational waves (11 February 2016), when two American research institutes recorded the merging of two black holes a billion years ago, has huge implications. Image Source: BBC via Twitter.
A 3D printed, human-size ear (16 February 2016). Image Source: Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine / Engadget.
Virtual reality could help fight depression (17 February 2016). A recent experiment depended on immersing participants in a dissociative experience, in which they helped a virtual child. They thereby had the therapeutic opportunity to 'stand outside' themselves while doing something beneficial. This allowed participants with low self-esteem indirectly to comfort themselves by suppressing ego awareness and direct responsibility to the self. Why not have depressed people help a real child, in reality? Virtual reality psychotherapy has previously been discussed on this blog here. Image Source: Engadget.
What 5G is about. A 22 February 2016 white paper discussed how 5G would transform Europe's economy. Image Source: European Commission.
NASA on interstellar travel (11 February 2016). Video Source: NASA via Youtube.
From Queen's University (15 February 2016): "Researchers at Queen’s University’s Human Media Lab have developed the world’s first full-colour, high-resolution and wireless flexible smartphone to combine multitouch with bend input." Video Source: Youtube.
From Johns Hopkins School of Medicine (12 February 2016): "Mind-Controlled Prosthetic Arm Moves Individual 'Fingers.'" Video Source: Youtube.
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) (12 February 2016): Fully loaded quadcopter. Video Source: Youtube.
Caption for the above video: "A new version of Atlas, designed to operate outdoors and inside buildings. It is specialized for mobile manipulation. It is electrically powered and hydraulically actuated. It uses sensors in its body and legs to balance and LIDAR and stereo sensors in its head to avoid obstacles, assess the terrain, help with navigation and manipulate objects. This version of Atlas is about 5' 9" tall (about a head shorter than the DRC Atlas) and weighs 180 lbs."