Mar 192013

CNN — Just in time for Albert Einsteins birthday Thursday, scientists delivered exciting news about how the universe works.

Last summer, physicists announced that they had identified a particle with characteristics of the elusive Higgs boson, the so-called “God particle.” But, as often the case in science, they needed to do more research to be more certain.

On Thursday, scientists announced that the particle, detected at the Large Hadron Collider, the worlds most powerful particle-smasher, looks even more like the Higgs boson.

via Scientists more certain that particle is Higgs boson –

Mar 022013

I was watching something on the Discovery channel this last week (it’s all kind of a blur, I’ve been pretty sick) that stuck with me. The show focused on Comets and got around to Shoemaker-Levy-9, which was discovered in 1993 and did something frightenly spectacular in 1994, it broke into multiple pieces and impacted with Jupiter’s atmosphere.

via BBC Guide

via Dave Jerrard (creative visualization)

via NASA

This got me to thinking about the 99942 Apophis. But the rest of this story is a bit anticlimactic:

Thankfully, on 9 January 2013, the European Space Agency (ESA) announced that the Herschel Space Observatory’s observations of 99942 Apophis have allowed them to update trajectory data ruling out an Earth impact in 2036. The most interesting bit of astronomy that came out of my research was the discovery that, in 2029, Apophis will transition from an Aten-class asteroid to an Apollo-class asteroid.

  • Aten-class asteroids are classified as asteroids which most of the orbit is within 1 AU. An interesting note is that most Aten-class asteroids have an aphelion outside of 1 AU (meaning that most of their orbit is inside the Earth’s orbit, but at their greatest distance from the Sun, they are outside of Earth’s orbit– meaning they cross Earth’s orbit often.)
  • Apollo-class asteroids are the inverse, which is to say their perihelion (the point at which they are closest to the sun) is within 1 AU, but they spend most of the rest of their time outside of Earth’s orbit. (Again, meaning they cross Earth’s orbit.)

During that 2029 pass, Apophis will pass so close to the Earth that it will pass under the man-made satellites that we have launched– far inside the Moon’s orbit of the planet. (A pass which is estimated to be around 14,000 miles.) The original concern was that it would difficult-to-impossible to predict Apophis’ trajectory on future passes (say 2036) with any certainty based on the available information (from 2005 through 2011). As noted above, using the Goldstone Radar facility astronomers were able to obtain better data about Apophis than ever before and, ahead of expectations, were able to obtain the data they believe necessary to more accurately predict the 2036 trajectory, thus ruling out an Earth impact on that pass.

Needless to say, further observation is warranted.

Jan 122013

… because of the polymer’s pattern of negative/positive polarization, the sperm are torn apart through the polyelectrolytic effect. On a molecular level, it’s what supervillains envision will happen when they stick the good guy between two huge magnets and flip the switch.


The trouble is, most people don’t even know this exists. And if men only need one super-cheap shot every 10 years or more, that’s not something that gets big pharmaceutical companies all fired up, because they’ll make zero money on it (even if it might have the side benefit of, you know, destroying HIV).

via The Best Birth Control In The World Is For Men.

Aug 262012

Besides being a 20-45 near-sighted individual, I also experience a low level but constant degree of visual noise. Thanks to xkcd for pointing me towards the term “Blue Sky Sprites“. (You not only entertain, you educate!) In my early twenties, I’d deduced that the noise was in fact blood cells moving through my optic blood vessels. It’s nice to have it confirmed.

As a side note, after reading the article I’ve also determined that Level 3 CEV is my baseline when my eyes are closed. (I can see the blue sky sprites even then, but they overlay the CEV.)

Feb 192012

Physicists Discover Quantum Speed Limit | Wired Science |

In my life (before 1990) there was still hope that we might someday reach the stars. Writers told stories about what a future star-faring humanity might look like. I’m not sure what happened in 1990, or if it was a gradual change that started much sooner (the theory of special relativity was first presented in 1905), but ever since, the epic idealism of SciFi and space travel has been steadily ground down. Today, Urban Fantasy and Paranormal themed novels apparently dominate the market. That’s not horrible; I like Urban Fantasy and Paranormal themes, but I miss the golden era when people still believed we might one day reach the stars.

As in many other strongly interacting systems, these excitations take the form of quasiparticles that can travel through the lattice. Neighboring quasiparticles begin with their quantum states entangled, but propagate rapidly in opposite directions down the lattice. As in all entangled systems, the states of the quasiparticles remain correlated even as the separation between them grows. By measuring the distance between the excitations as a function of time, the real velocity of the quasiparticles’ propagation can be measured. As measured, it is more than twice the speed of sound in the system.

The specific lattice strengths used in the experiment make it difficult to do direct comparisons to theory, so the researchers were only able to use a first-principles numerical model (as opposed to a detailed theoretical calculation). To phrase it another way, the velocity they measured cannot currently be derived directly from fundamental quantum physics.

It’s difficult to generalize these results as well. Systems with other physical properties will have different maximum speeds, just as light moves at different speeds depending on the medium; the researchers found things changed even within a simple one-dimensional lattice whenever they varied the interaction strength between the atoms.

However, showing that excitations must have a consistent maximum speed is a groundbreaking result. As with relativity, this speed limit creates a type of “light cone” that separates regions where interactions can occur and where they are forbidden. This has profound implications for the study of quantum entanglement, and thus most forms of quantum computing.

Despite recent anomalies in tests suggesting faster than light neutrino, the overwhelming evidence is that the anomaly is the result of a measurement error. How I would love to believe otherwise, but I think it much likelier that we’ll discover worm-hole technology before we’ll find a way to accelerate mass above the speed of light.

Feb 142012

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), one of the world’s top-rated universities, has announced its first free course which can be studied and assessed completely online.

An electronics course, beginning in March, will be the first prototype of an online project, known as MITx.

The interactive course is designed to be fully automated, with successful students receiving a certificate.

The US university says it wants MITx to “shatter barriers to education”.

This ground-breaking scheme represents a significant step forward in the use of technology to deliver higher education.

via BBC News – MIT launches free online ‘fully automated’ course.

As a follow up to yesterday’s futurist prediction that the Education industry is going to lose a lot of jobs. If this pilot program @ MIT works, then the end is nigh.

Feb 132012

Yesterday I was honored to be one of the featured speakers at the TEDxReset Conference in Istanbul, Turkey where I predicted that over 2 billion jobs will disappear by 2030. Since my 18-minute talk was about the rapidly shifting nature of colleges and higher education, I didn’t have time to explain how and why so many jobs would be going away. Because of all of the questions I received afterwards, I will do that here.

via – A Study of Future Trends and Predictions by Futurist Thomas Frey » Blog Archive » 2 Billion Jobs to Disappear by 2030.

He goes on to suggest that five industries will be impacted:

  1. The Power Industry (Gas and Electricity primarily)
  2. The Automobile Industry
  3. The Education Industry (Colleges specifically, trade schools to a lesser degree)
  4. The Manufacturing Industry (Anything that can be replaced by 3D printers)
  5. ? Unspecified Industry where Bots will replace all manual labor

The last two aren’t really industries, they’re technology ideas that will affect jobs because of some speculated impact said technologies will have. For #4, the technology is 3rd printers. If you’ve seen anything about 3D printers, the potential is huge. Certainly a lot of supply chains can be easily replaced by a house-hold 3D printer, supplies and 3D printer diagrams. I think Thomas overestimates the probability that households with disposable income will prefer 3D printed items over traditionally mass manufactured items. Books, Shoes, comfort items. While Thomas believes that if we can make our own shoes suddenly shoe manufacturers are going to go away, but he underestimates the value of comfort. Likewise, for clothing manufacturing to go away there would need to be sizable advances in 3D printing technology (and  3D printing material technology). Presently, manufacturing clothing out of anything but the 3D printing plastic is impossible. And the odds that you can produce anything of comfort is next to zero. It’s 2012 now. Do we honestly think that 18 years will bring all of the needed advancements to not only produce said clothing and shoes, but to almost make it comfortable and fashionable? I think not.

For #5, Bots stand to inherit a lot of activities that are labor intensive. And, as I posted recently, some of the humanoid robot advancements mean it’s possible we might see more advanced robotics taking over menial jobs (harvesting produce from farms; washing dishes; putting the immigrant out of work.)

Thomas leaves us with critical words to consider in our headlong rush in to new technology:

Certainly there’s a downside to all this. The more technology we rely on, the more breaking points we’ll have in our lives.

Feb 122012

Via C.J. Cherryh @ Wave Without A Shore » The army mule—revived. You may have to suffer through the commercial, but…

I had a bit of fun this morning purusing Exoskeleton related Youtube videos. Here’s the lineup.

And an example of a fully autonomous humanoid robot, or robots that interact with people.

Feb 112012

Self-Assembling Energy Storage

Alternative energy raises hopes of combating climate change, but making efficient, inexpensive means of storing green energy hasn’t proven easy. This video, which riffs on Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of 2001: A Space Odyssey, shows how self-assembling nanostructures might lead to the next generation of fuel tanks.

Video: Christopher E. Wilmer/Omar K. Farha/Patrick E. Fuller/Northwestern University

via The 16 Best Science Visualizations of 2011 | Wired Science |

A short, fun video from the Northwestern University on some of the applications of nano-technology research being done today. In essence, the video talks about why liquid fuel has a higher density than gaseous fuels, and how self-assembled materials can be formed to make energy storage even higher density than the traditional liquid “gas tank”.

Jan 312012

Wired Magazine posted a interesting (if long winded) article about High-Powered Plasma Turns Garbage Into Gas. The nutshell version of this article is that a chemist, who used to work with nuclear waste, pioneered a method of reducing residential waste to a synthetic gas. The trash is then exposed to plasma (and an electrical current) which causes the atoms in the trash to merge with the gas to create a synthetic gas which can be burned as a fuel. Any atoms that fail to bond are then isolated within a glass structure. If the chemist who started this venture is right, we should see trash become reusable in the next decade or two as effectively renewable fuel.