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 $100k in the next few years.
Mars has been in the news lately – and the news has been pretty darn interesting. First, on July 2nd there was an articleabout NASA’s idea of terraforming Mars using nanobots. Well, technically I suppose the plan is to use nanobots to first survey Mars so that the ‘unique Martian biosphere’ can be preserved when Mars is terraformed. But it is only natural to think we would then use those same nanobots already present to do the grunt work of terraforming – you know, producing oxygen from the carbon dioxide present so that the atmosphere could be altered to support humans and all our accompanying stuff. Also, the nanobots would likely need to be self replicating, so it would be a good opportunity to practice that technology (and see if the dreaded ‘grey goo’ develops) without risking Earth. Actually, that doesn’t sound great for the Martian biosphere. Maybe we should set up a preserve….
Second, on July 3rd NASA announced more Martian news of note: NASA Mars lander Phoenix discovered snow on the north pole of Mars. This is the first confirmation we have had of an actice water cycle on Mars. Aside from the general excitement of the scientific community at a new discovery, NASA is super excited about their theory being confirmed – based on what the lander had seen so far they were pretty sure there was a water cycle. There is also, of course, excitement over what this means for the future of humans on Mars. An active water cycle could mean a lot less work making the planet habitable. Cool, huh?
According to Slashdot, a researcher at Stanford has successfully spliced light sensitive algae genes into human brain cells. The cells can then be activated by laser light. This is pretty scary on its own. But here’s the money quote: ‘Once the researcher attaches the other end of the cable to a laser, he or she has absolute and flawless control over that group of neurons.’
Holy #$%#!!! 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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
Ok, so the British are not who I think of when I picture the leaders in space technology – but they seem to be on the top of the heap right now in the race to develop a functional, practical spaceplane that would reduce the cost (in both time and money) of launches. Check out this article from LiveScience that explains what they have and what they’re hoping to develop.
I don’t really care who does it (although I must admit it would be nice if it was the US), as long as someone finds a better way to get us into space. There are so many projects and experiments that get put on hold or altogether vetoed every year because they are just too expensive. It’s time for a change.
Yep, President Obama went through with it as expected. Yesterday he reversed the ban on stem cell research put in place by former president George W. Bush. Of course, it will still be a few years before any of the stem cell therapies we’ve been hearing about are ready for use due to the testing and safety requirements, but this is still a big step. I have a friend with a spinal injury who may benefit from the therapy in testing right now, and I have numerous relatives with diabetes (and a high likelihood of developing Type II later in life myself), so I am all for government regulated stem cell research. I specify that it should be government regulated because I too have heard the cautionary tales of mad scientists stealing embryos for evil plots – but really, is government regulation or even a ban going to stop a mad scientist? I doubt it.
Anyway, now that I have returned from that rabbit trail, I’ll just conclude by saying ‘Yea! A step forward for science in America! It’s about time!’