Jet Packs – Finally!

August 29, 2010

I finally feel like the 21st century has arrived!  I still don’t have my flying car, but at least I know I can by my jet pack (as soon as I win the lottery).  According to this Popular Mechanics article, I can get my very own jet pack plus flying lessons for a measly $155k.  And with two companies offering them for sale already, market forces may push down that price point to a more affordable $100k in the next few years.

Diamond Seas?

January 27, 2010

How awesome would that be?  Whole seas of diamonds swirling and flashing in the light…I can picture it and it is beautiful.  So what gave me this idea, you ask?

Well, my son is doing a research project on a space topic and he picked Uranus.  My husband jumped on the bandwagon and looked around on the web to help him find some interesting articles, and he found this one on Discovery News.

Apparently, both Uranus and Neptune have a magnetic north that is significantly off geographic north.  The theory is that, due to the high temperatures and pressures and the abundance of carbon on both planets, there may be seas of liquid diamond on the planets.  Scientists recently created conditions similar to what they believe exist on these planets in a lab and found that they could in fact liquify diamond, and surprisingly enough, when they did so the liquid diamond had similar properties to water.  Water is one of the few substances that is more dense in its liquid form than its solid form, which is why ice floats.  According to these experiments, diamond is the same way – as the scientists reduced the pressure on the liquid diamond and solids started to form, they floated.  So in the diamond seas that are becoming more and more plausible on Neptune and Uranus, there could even be diamond icebergs!

Now we just need to send spaceships to Neptune and Uranus to see if we’re right.  If so, I want a diamond iceberg!

A New Link in the Evolution Chain

October 1, 2009

Once again it has been too long since I last posted.  This real life stuff just takes so much time!  But I saw this articleon (so probably everyone who looks at real news outlets has already seen it) about the fossil of the human ancestor believed to be 1 million years older than Lucy – she was previously the oldest human-linked fossil ever found.  The new guy is nicknamed Ardi, short for Ardipithecus ramidus, and is dated at 4.4 million years old.  He is not a human fossil of course, but he is believed to be another link in the chain back to a common ancestor of humans and apes.  He has some human type characteristics, some ape/chimp type characteristics, and some that are neither but could be from a common starting point before both human and ape/chimp characteristics evolved fully.  This explanation makes sense to me, since I never got how apes could have essentially stopped evolving when humans branched off – it seems much more logical to think that there was a common starting point but that both branches have continued growing and changing since then, than it does to think humans evolved from apes and apes haven’t changed since then.  Maybe that’s how evolutionary scientists have seen it for years, but it isn’t how it was taught in schools as recently as 15 years ago (yes, I’m dating myself here).

Mars Update

July 5, 2009

Mars has been in the news lately – and the news has been pretty darn interesting.  First, on July 2nd there was an articleabout NASA’s idea of terraforming Mars using nanobots.  Well, technically I suppose the plan is to use nanobots to first survey Mars so that the ‘unique Martian biosphere’ can be preserved when Mars is terraformed.  But it is only natural to think we would then use those same nanobots already present to do the grunt work of terraforming – you know, producing oxygen from the carbon dioxide present so that the atmosphere could be altered to support humans and all our accompanying stuff.  Also, the nanobots would likely need to be self replicating, so it would be a good opportunity to practice that technology (and see if the dreaded ‘grey goo’ develops) without risking Earth.  Actually, that doesn’t sound great for the Martian biosphere.  Maybe we should set up a preserve….

Second, on July 3rd NASA announced more Martian news of note:  NASA Mars lander Phoenix discovered snow on the north pole of Mars.  This is the first confirmation we have had of an actice water cycle on Mars.  Aside from the general excitement of the scientific community at a new discovery, NASA is super excited about their theory being confirmed – based on what the lander had seen so far they were pretty sure there was a water cycle.  There is also, of course, excitement over what this means for the future of humans on Mars.  An active water cycle could mean a lot less work making the planet habitable.  Cool, huh?

Does anyone else find this as scary as I do?

June 25, 2009

According to Slashdot, a researcher at Stanford has successfully spliced light sensitive algae genes into human brain cells.  The cells can then be activated by laser light.  This is pretty scary on its own.  But here’s the money quote:  ‘Once the researcher attaches the other end of the cable to a laser, he or she has absolute and flawless control over that group of neurons.’

Holy #$%#!!!  Absolute control over someones neurons?!  What are they planning to use this for?  And even if there is some benign use in mind, how long will it take for some very malignant uses to be devised?  Sure, right now it requires being hooked up to a cable, which limits the potential for malicious use – at least they can only control a person’s mind in a lab.  But what happens when some other helpful scientist figures out how to control those neurons from a distance, or by remote control?

At least we don’t currently have a fascist president.  Silver lining, right?

NASA plans to blow up the moon!

June 17, 2009

According to this articleon Slashdot (and there are lots more in various places – I just like Slashdot), NASA plans to set off an explosion on the moon that will create a 6 mile high debris plume so that they can look for water in the debris.

On the serious side, if they find a significant source water it would be another major step toward starting a real lunar colony, because water is one of the most important resources (right up there with air and soil – well, with hydroponics, I guess soil is less important) that are currently absent on the moon.

But, really, it’s very hard to be serious when you’re talking about NASA blowing up the moon.  I mean, have they thought about what could go wrong?  Two moons, anyone?  What would that do to our tides?  Ah, the imagination can run wild.  Thanks, NASA.

A new babysitter?

June 15, 2009

Pink Tentacle has an articleabout a robot that can read books.  The robot’s premiere had it reading a fairy tale, and the designers said that once they figure out how to put a little more feeling in its voice so it sounds, well, less like a robot, it will be ready for a job reading to children and the elderly.  Now they just need to program it to prepare meals, keep the kids (or grandma and grandpa) from wandering off, and put out fires – and it can take over babysitting duties!  Of course, it’s better than just sitting your kids in front of the tv and using that as a babysitter.

Where are we compared to Star Trek?

May 6, 2009

I love these articles.  This one from MSN sums up where our current tech is in comparison with Star Trek tech (from the original series) – we’re still way behind on some of it, but we’re actually ahead on a couple of things!

The Cutting Edge of Genetic Manipulation – in Louisiana?

April 18, 2009

Reactionary Republican State Senator Danny Martiny is prepping a bill for the state legislature banning the creation of animal-human hybrids in the state.  The bill also would prohibit placing human embryos in non human wombs or nonhuman embryos in human wombs.  This begs the question – is this a big problem in Louisiana?

I’m on vacation but I just had to share this.  I originally found it on Slashdot, then linked through to the full article.

Teaching Twitter in Schools?

March 26, 2009

And other modern comminication technologies, including blogging and podcasting, according to this article in TechCrunch.  Actually, it doesn’t sound like a bad idea – as long as core subjects like reading, writing, and math don’t get shortchanged in the process.  It won’t matter how tech savvy the next generation is if they don’t know how to think and express themselves logically and coherently.


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