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Extraterrestrial Intelligence: Jet Propulsion Labs Brings AI to Space
05.03.2010
12:42 pm

Topics:
Science/Tech

Tags:
NASA
Mars
Artificial Intelligence
h+

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I have the cover story over at h+ magazine today, about the new artificial intelligence upgrades to the space program. (Jet Propulsion Labs has upgraded the Mars rover with artificial intelligence firmware… could intelligent AI nanoclouds be far off?) Read on at the link below for the rest of my reporting live from NASA’s labs.

Though we may not have found intelligent life on Mars, NASA has just beamed up its own.

As announced at the end of March, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratories has upgraded the Opportunity rover (already stationed on Mars) with artificial intelligence firmware, code-named AEGIS. Short for Autonomous Exploration for Gathering Increased Science, AEGIS allows the Opportunity to identify high-value photography targets — making its own decisions about which Martian rocks to photograph and send back to Earth. As the rover has limited downlink capacity, this is expected to greatly increase its productivity, allowing it to retrieve more data in fewer trips across Mars’ surface. AEGIS isn’t the first artificial intelligence application developed for space, or even at Jet Propulsion Labs — JPL has been in the game as far back as the Deep Space 1 craft in 1998.

I visited JPL on a recent rainy afternoon. Nestled in the mountains near Pasadena, California, the NASA campus dates to the 1940s, and was an early stalwart of the United States’ rocketry and space programs. Beyond security checkpoints, rows of polished, glass-and-steel buildings house the facility’s various projects — major foci at the moment are the Mars rovers and Reconnaissance orbiter, the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn, and the Spitzer space telescope. Further up the hill is a simulated outdoor Martian landscape, with volcanic rocks resting in red sand. It’s an eerie thing to see through a gray LA fog.

(h+: Extraterrestrial Intelligence)

Posted by Jason Louv | Discussion
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Flying Humvee: Worst Idea Ever?
05.01.2010
12:13 pm

Topics:
Science/Tech

Tags:
Military
Humvees

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Weren’t you excited that they stopped making Humvees? Didn’t you breathe a sigh of relief that perhaps some sanity had slipped into the world sideways? Well, hm. Now they’re making a FLYING one.

Generals may be notorious for always wanting to fight the last war but if true, there will be no shortage of tomorrow’s weaponry they’ll be able to choose from. At least in the U.S.
Earlier today, the New York Times ran a big piece on a new class of weapons that can hurl conventional payloads with precision accuracy at a target from thousands of miles away. Or at least that is how it’s being billed at this point.

For obvious reasons, that could turn into a very big deal. But with all the attention lavished on Prompt Global Strike, another story got lost in the shuffle that has the capacity to have an equally transformational effect on the U.S. military.

The Defense Advanced Projects Agency, or DARPA, the Defense Department’s research arm, has decided to go ahead with what it calls the Transformer (TX) program. The idea is to enable soldiers to go into battle riding a four-person flying car that also function like an airplane. The vehicle, which will be able to drive 250 miles on a tank of fuel, will not need a runway to get airborne.

(CBS News: Flying Humvees in Military’s Future?)

Posted by Jason Louv | Discussion
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Snuggling up to the Better Marriage Blanket

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Question: in the above photo, is it the wife or the husband sleeping in the blanket?  Either way, it’s made by a science teacher from activated carbon—how could such a miracle device not save a marriage?!  As The Better Marriage Blanket site stresses, “This is a real product, not a joke!”

Experience the Fresh Air!

Every Couple Should Have One!

A Fun Solution to a Common Problem!                                                                 
                                        
Almost everyone knows the silent but deadly effects of flatulence on relationships.  For couples, nothing can spoil the romantic aura more quickly!  It can be funny but it can also be a nuisance.  The Better Marriage Blanket is made using the same kind of activated carbon fabric found in Military Chemical Suits.

As a science teacher, I had used activated carbon in my laboratory lessons and was aware that chemicals and gasses are absorbed in millions of microscopic pores in each tiny particle of activated carbon.  This principal is what makes The Blanket so effective!  Activated Carbon is well known in Science and Industry for its odor absorbing properties.  It is safe and non-allergenic.

This beautifully made, soft, warm, medium weight, 300 thread count comforter will work for many years.  It can be machine washed normally and is dry cleanable.  Simply drying in an electric dryer or in the sun will re-activate the odor absorbing qualities of the carbon.

And if there’s some married couples out there still on the fence, by all means check out the testimonials.  And you Dangerous Minds readers in, well, unconventional relationships, call in for your group discount!

 
The Better Marriage Blanket
 
(thanks, Tara!)

Posted by Bradley Novicoff | Discussion
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A star is born
04.30.2010
11:34 am

Topics:
Science/Tech

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Lawrence Livermore Labs, aka “terrifying military-industrial complex facility hated by all Bay Area hippies,” has apparently just created a miniature star. They plan to use these to solve the energy crisis. Makes about as much sense as building a freaking Hardon Hadron Collider…

It may be an American project, but it has the potential to greatly affect not only the EU, but the entire planet. Researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory believe they have come up with a way to permanently cure the planet’s energy woes - to create a star on Earth.

Now immediately, the entire plan sounds like ‘science-fiction gone mad’ and throws up some rather important questions - how can you create a star on Earth? Won’t having a sun so close essentially toast the planet? And how is this possibly a good idea? However the scientists at the government lab in California are entirely serious.

Using the world’s largest laser, which is the size of three football fields, the scientists propose to “set off a nuclear reaction so intense that it will make a star bloom on the surface of the Earth.”

If that didn’t sound terrifying enough, the group are hoping to go ahead with the plan late this summer with the aim of harnessing the energy generated by the mini-star to solve the global energy crisis.

While nuclear fusion has been pitched as a ‘miracle power source’ for almost half a century, scientists have yet to sufficiently harness it. To make things worse for the team, the US Government Accountability Office has stated in an audit that delays and mismanagement may delay the fusion reaction this year.

(EU Infrastructure: Star Power)

Posted by Jason Louv | Discussion
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Giant Animatronic Baby
04.29.2010
08:35 pm

Topics:
Art
Science/Tech

Tags:
baby
robot
Isabel Coixet
Miguel

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HUGE robot baby alert! From Sociedad Estatal para Exposiciones Internacionales:

Miguelín is a 6.5 meters tall baby, electronically animated. It breathes, blinks and dreams with the cities that we will leave to future generations will smiling visitors as they walk into “Sons”, the last of rooms that integrate the pavilion, which is managed by the Spanish Agency for International Exhibitions (SEEI) [...]

The baby’s “Mother” is film director Isabel Coixet who has pointed out that with this collaboration she has wanted to stay accurate to the Expo Shanghai’s Theme, “Better city, better life”. Also that Miguelín is a reminder that tells us that “all our actions have direct consequences on our children’s future and that we have to react to this”, said the filmmaker in an encounter with the Spanish Press at the Instituto Cervantes in Beijing.

Spain Pavilion unvelis the contents of the exhibition rooms created by Basilio Martín Patino and Isabel Coixet
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Creepy: Giant Babybot With Giant Head
 
(via Everlasting Blort)

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Ancient weapons emerge from Arctic ice
04.29.2010
06:49 pm

Topics:
Science/Tech

Tags:
Aliens
Arctic Ice
Lance Henriksen

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When I read a headline like “Ancient weapons emerge from melting Arctic ice,” three things immediately pop into my mind:

1. Oh f_K, they’ve discovered an ancient spaceship under the polar icecaps which contains Aliens, Predators, Alien-Predators, Terminators, Terminator-Alien-Predators and/or the Da Vinci Code;

2. These things will probably kill all of us as they see us as little more than pawns in an epic game/hunt that has been conducted across the universe for millennia and which we have just reactivated by finding this Arctic trove which should have stayed buried;

3. Lance Henriksen will be involved.

However, all that happened is they found some old caveman spears. *Phew.* Headlines should know better than to scare me like that.

A treasure trove of ancient weapons has emerged from melting ice patches in the Canadian Arctic, revealing hunting strategies thousands of years old.

The weapons, which include a 2,400-year-old spear throwing tools, a 1000-year-old ground squirrel snare, and bows and arrows dating back 850 years, have been found high in the remote Mackenzie Mountains, a region where Mountain Boreal caribou abound in the summer months.

Dotted with ice patches resulting from accumulation of annual snow that, until recently, remained frozen all year, the mountains have been the caribous’ shelter for millennia.

Seeking relief from the heat and annoying bugs, the animals huddle on the ice patches, becoming an easy target for hunters who recognized this behavior millennia ago.

(Discovery News: Ancient weapons emerge from arctic ice)

(A 24x36 poster of LANCE HENRIKSEN about to take down a perp aka the SWEETEST FREAKING THING IN ALL OF HUMAN HISTORY)

Posted by Jason Louv | Discussion
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The Universe is Not a Black Hole
04.28.2010
03:30 pm

Topics:
Science/Tech

Tags:
Black Holes

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Via Discover:

People sometimes ask, “Is the universe a black hole?” Or worse, they claim: “The universe is a black hole!” No, it’s not, and it’s worth getting this one straight.

If there’s any quantitative reasoning behind the question (or claim), it comes from comparing the amount of matter within the observable universe to the radius of the observable universe, and noticing that it looks a lot like the relationship between the mass of a black hole and its Schwarzschild radius. That is: if you imagine taking all the stuff in the universe and putting it into one place, it would make a black hole the size of the universe. Slightly more formally, it looks like the the universe satisfies the hoop conjecture, so shouldn’t it form a black hole?

But a black hole is not “a place where a lot of mass has been squeezed inside its own Schwarzschild radius.” It is, as Wikipedia is happy to tell you, “a region of space from which nothing, including light, can escape.” The implication being that there is a region outside the black hole from which things could at least imagine escaping to. For the universe, there is no such outside region. So at a pretty trivial level, the universe is not a black hole.

(Discover: The Universe is Not a Black Hole)

(The Black Hole: The worst kid’s science fiction movie of all time other than Captain EO)

Posted by Jason Louv | Discussion
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New Dimensions in Tedium: How the Internet is Going 3D and Why That is Horrifying

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Apparently somewhere between thirty seconds to a minute after the opening weekend numbers for Avatar came in, the entirety of Western civilization decided to go 3D, and wholesale convert our malls and living rooms into one gigantic Disneyland of the Damned, like a Michael Bay Transformer changing state from “obnoxious and expensive” into “obnoxious, expensive, and three centimeters from your face.” Not only has Hollywood made 3D nigh-on mandatory for its big releases (presumably to combat file sharing), but 3D televisions are slated to begin rolling out this summer, despite health concerns (apparently they can cause vertigo, seizures and a host of other shocks to our woefully non-3D-adjusted systems). Perhaps it’s Michael Jackson’s revenge from beyond the grave, for barely noticing when he pioneered the technology with Captain EO back in the dark ages of 1986, or 24 BA (Before Avatar) in Hollywood years.

And now, the Internet. Intel Labs’ Sean Koehl recently predicted that the Internet will “go three-dimensional” within five to ten years—the company is currently hard at work developing the technology, touting its potential use for teleconferencing, among other business applications.

But… but. You know as well as I do that that’s not what it’s actually going to be used for.

If Koehl’s timeline bears out, somewhere between 2015 and 2020—right as Web 3.0, the Semantic Web and Augmented Reality are coming to maturity—we can expect:

Porn. I imagine the nearly-bankrupt porn industry will be all over this so quickly that they’ll just about be able to create an entire virtual reality pocket porniverse which the Global Otaku Diaspora will likely declare permanent residence in and which the rest of the world’s population will likely spend a good chunk of their waking hours in. Expect bedroom and office doors locked.

A constant, endless assault of cats. You will be like a cat lady for all the cats in the whole world, who will be all up in your face, all the time. Guess what’s in your inbox this morning? It’s another 3D video of somebody’s cat. And now it’s in your lap.

A running, inescapable feed of status updates from your friends—imagine the hovering, 3D heads of your online acquaintances popping up when you least expect them to constantly update you as to what they’re having for dinner, how much they hated Robert Pattinson’s directorial debut, or sending you a link to a 3D video of their cat being confused by their 3D computer. The thought of constantly being bothered by twelve-second video clips of the holographic heads of everybody I’ve ever exchanged two words with or been cc’d on an e-mail from, all of whose comments are bound to be equally aggravating and pointless, is enough to prompt a pre-emptive desert homestead. Are we all doomed to become like Jimmy Stewart in a doozie, with all those heads swimming around ours, all the time? Combined with augmented reality, three-dimensional Internet is going to be f___cking unavoidable. And so will everybody you know.

And good god… do we really want a three-dimensional version of Chatroulette? Do we really want to be able to see all of us, all the time, in shuddering, sickening three dimensions? Are we ready for the Slob Singularity, when everybody on the Internet can have the experience of staring directly at everybody else on the Internet; when all of our Doritos-greased faces see each other as one Being; when we all become One All-Slouching, All-Trolling, All-Wanking Consciousness?

I hope we are. Because that’s what’s coming. In glorious 3D.

(Watch Captain EO, It Is the Future: The Horrible, SAN-Depleting Future)

Posted by Jason Louv | Discussion
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Stephen Hawking: Aliens Gonna Get You
04.26.2010
02:03 pm

Topics:
Science/Tech

Tags:
Stephen Hawking
Aliens
Bad Astronomer

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Physicist Stephen Hawking has suggested (in his new documentary series) that aliens almost certainly exist in the universe (by dint of the sheer numbers and probabilities involved)—but that we’d probably be better off not looking for them, since they might eat our poor asses.

THE aliens are out there and Earth had better watch out, at least according to Stephen Hawking. He has suggested that extraterrestrials are almost certain to exist — but that instead of seeking them out, humanity should be doing all it that can to avoid any contact.

The suggestions come in a new documentary series in which Hawking, one of the world’s leading scientists, will set out his latest thinking on some of the universe’s greatest mysteries.

Alien life, he will suggest, is almost certain to exist in many other parts of the universe: not just in planets, but perhaps in the centre of stars or even floating in interplanetary space.

Hawking’s logic on aliens is, for him, unusually simple. The universe, he points out, has 100 billion galaxies, each containing hundreds of millions of stars. In such a big place, Earth is unlikely to be the only planet where life has evolved.

“To my mathematical brain, the numbers alone make thinking about aliens perfectly rational,” he said. “The real challenge is to work out what aliens might actually be like.”

(Image above is taken from a Bad Astronomer post on a New York Times depiction of aliens from Venus and Mars from 1912.) (He also counters Stephen Hawking here.)

(Times Online: Don’t Talk to Aliens)

(Stephen Hawking: A Briefer History of Time)

Posted by Jason Louv | Discussion
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Scientists Create Embryo From Three People
04.16.2010
10:41 am

Topics:
Science/Tech

Tags:
DNA

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UK scientists have successfully created an embryo from the DNA of one man and two women, combining three genetic strands into one. Finally, my science fair project of breeding a Sparkling Dance Beast from the DNA of myself, Tiffany AND Debbie Gibson can take flight!

Embryos containing DNA from a man and two women have been created by scientists at Newcastle University.

They say their research, published in the journal Nature, has the potential to help mothers with rare genetic disorders have healthy children.

The aim is to prevent damaged DNA in mitochondria - the “batteries” which power the cell - from being passed on by the mother.

IVF clinics are not currently permitted to carry out the procedure.

(BBC News: Three-person IVF ‘may prevent inherited disease)

Posted by Jason Louv | Discussion
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