Posts from the ‘technology’ Category

All of Earth’s human explorers have been part of a largely unconscious effort to wire up an already previously verdant Earth into one global technological intelligence—making our world smaller, not larger. Today’s intelligent bipeds colonize only a small fraction of the space inhabited by our bacterial ancestors, who dwell at least six miles deep in our crust and two miles up in the clouds, as well as having left Earth entirely, and been transported to neighboring planets, as spores on impacting meteorites billennia ago.

John Smart (via inthenoosphere)

A small refugee town in Pakistan is demonstrating the power of solar energy in changing lives. A few dozen families, many of them led by single mothers, are experiencing a revolution in not just green energy, but social acceptance and prosperity.

Each small house has four solar panels powering it, allowing for basic electrical amenities such as ceiling fans. The panels cost about $1500 each, and were paid for by a joint Chinese/German company. Many of the appliances were previously impossible for the families, many of whom had never known about solar energy. Most of the single mothers are able to own the houses outright, a usually rare occurrence that has fostered a more equal attitude toward women in the town.

Outside of the home, panels also power irrigation systems, water pumps, and city streetlights. This, combined with the strict attitudes of the residents, has resulted in greater production and virtually no crime.

As we work toward creating alternative energies that allow us to power large-scale grids, we need to be mindful of the effect that even small amounts of electricity can have on the impoverished of the world. If this small Pakistani village is any sort of example, it’s clear that electricity is more than just a luxury but a force that can change the world. 


Geneticist Runs Personalized Medicine Superstudy On Himself

Michael Snyder has taken “know thyself” to the next level — and helped heal thyself.

Over a 14-month period, the molecular geneticist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, analyzed his blood 20 different times to pluck out a wide variety of biochemical data depicting the status of his body’s immune system, metabolism, and gene activity. In today’s issue of Cell, Snyder and a team of 40 other researchers present the results of this extraordinarily detailed look at his body, which they call an integrative personal omics profile (iPOP) because it combines cutting-edge scientific fields such as genomics (study of one’s DNA), metabolomics (study of metabolism), and proteomics (study of proteins). Instead of seeing a snapshot of the body taken during the typical visit to a doctor’s office, iPOP effectively offers an IMAX movie, which in Snyder’s case had the added drama of charting his response to two viral infections and the emergence of type 2 diabetes.

(Read more of the Wired Magazine Article)

The work being done in the ‘omics is fascinating, and I don’t think it will be too long before this kind of testing is standard for occasional checkups, much like physicals are today. The danger is the inevitable discrimination that will result, and the remedy for that is educating our current and future policy makers and managers to avoid that mistake.

The Joggobot is designed to either accompany or help train you on your runs. It can either float along next to you so you have “company,” or stay a distance in front of you and be set to go a certain pace. Fun idea, I think it would have issues with turns if it automatically shuts off if the colors on the shirt disappear, making running along winding paths difficult. Whether it could keep up at fast speeds might also be a problem. I don’t think I would use it personally, but if it does work for some people then it’s whatever gets you out there!

Clive Thompson decided to have a little fun with his kid’s Warhammer 40k figures, redesigning them and then printing his designs on his nifty 3-D printer. After sharing his designs on the web, he got sued for copyright infringement. As 3-D printers go down in price (and they are already only about $1000 now), I think this is going to be a big issue. How are silverware companies supposed to make revenue if you can download a spork design and print it for free? It’s the piracy issue all over again, except with physical objects. Luckily, unlike creative copyright, patent copyright expires after 20 years..Legos anybody?

What 3-D printing hobbyists mostly have to watch out for, Weinberg argues, is copying artistic patterns or designs on an object. That violates copyright. But if you stick to reproducing or modeling the basic physical nature of something—particularly if you’re rejiggering a physical concept into a new form—you’re probably safe. (Indeed, Weinberg isn’t even sure Valenty infringed on Warhammer’s copyrighted designs, because Games Workshop is accusing him of creating figurines in the style of the game, and you can’t copyright style.)

So really, the longer-term danger here is that manufacturers will decide the laws aren’t powerful enough. Once kids start merrily copying toys, manufacturers will push to hobble 3-D printing with laws similar to the Stop Online Piracy Act. “You’ll have people going to Washington and saying we need new rights,” Weinberg frets. Imagine laws that keep 3-D printers from outputting anything but objects “authorized” by megacorporations—DRM for the physical world.

An autonomous car test was carried out in Spain last week by Project SARTRE (Safe Road Trains for the Environment). Working with Volvo, they have developed a reliable ability for cars to join with a “platoon” of other cars following the leader. While part of the group, the car completely takes over driving, keeping a 10 to 50 ft distance from the car in front of it. In this test, a truck and 3 cars traveled 125 miles over the course of the day, using public highways at a cruising speed of about 53mph.

The project has three primary aims: convenience, safety, and efficiency. Obviously, being able to work or read or any number of things on long commutes is handy. Also, because a lot of people do that sort of thing anyway while driving, the system would be able to alleviate the danger of human error (to some degree). By allowing the cars to follow each other much more closely and maintain safety, it also increases the ability to save fuel through drafting. The amount of fuel saved is the focus of their next set of experiments.

Those moments you realize we live in the future.

Boing Boing reader Michael Smith-Welch shares this image, and says,

Why did I see so many binders (presumably filled with paper) on the desks of the engineers at NASA’s Mission control yesterday when they were docking SpaceX’s Dragon module to the Space Station?

In contrast, the SpaceX folks had (almost) none at there mission control center. The only conclusion I can draw from this is that the government agency is so riddled with bureaucracy that everything must be followed “by the book” so to speak. But this seems simple minded to me.


It looks like a 20 year difference between the two!


An engineer for the space exploration company SpaceX has outlined an elaborate plan to build Star Trek’s USS Enterprise, which he says could be ready to fly within the next 20 years.

“We have the technological reach to build the first generation of the spaceship… so let’s do it,” writes BTE Dan on his website, (which has been loading intermittently because of heavy traffic). 

The website includes conceptual blueprints, budgeting proposals, a timeline for research and development, and almost every other conceivable detail.

Could they actually pull this off?

Sounds like a really cool project. Is it really practical enough to justify though? 


A virus that creates electricity

A virus called simply M13 has the power (literally) to change the world. A team of scientists at the Berkeley Lab have genetically engineered M13 viruses to emit enough electricity to power a small LED screen. M13 poses no threat to humans — it can only infect bacteria — but it could one day serve humanity by powering your laptop, or even your city.

Illustration by Iaroslav Neliubov via Shutterstock

It works by putting pressure on it, and is totally okay with being made into thin, transparent sheets. Convenient! Every tap on the keyboard, footstep on your floor or jiggle of your iPod would provide power to it. The virus can produce just a little power normally when squeezed, and then was genetically altered to add some more negative amino acids to increase its output.