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Archive for the 'The Future' Category

Future Shock

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

I read this article at InfoWorld on 10 future technologies which may be available in ten years. Number 8 is a little scary. I laughed at number 3. Everything works and you don’t have to wait. Some times I sit down to do something on my computer and by the time it boots and everything asks me if I want to upgrade it, I’ve forgotten what it was I was going to do in the first place. I guess I have thought about the idea of being able to capture all of your life and record it somehow. As much as it would be nice to be able to create a high resolution image of something beautiful you saw when you didn’t have your camera. I often think how strange it would be now to be a kid and have something stupid you did being posted to YouTube.

The idea of using a space elevator has been around for a long time. This article points out carbon nanotubes would only have to be 4 times stronger than they are now to accomplish that. This is one technology I thought was well off into the future but if you believe the article, the Japanese are planning to build one.

I’ve often felt like there should be a way to go play golf on an extremely hot day and stay cool somehow, especially if you rented a cart. This device sounds like the only real difference between it and sticking you hands in cold water is that it draws a vacuum on your palms to speed up the process. The part where the guy goes from 180 pull-ups to 616 in six weeks is pretty amazing.

First there was dark energy, then dark matter, now dark flow. Is there a cosmic vacuum cleaner sucking up the universe?

This is an ad for condoms which has an interactive visualization of the “beer goggle” effect.

I thought this came out kind of cool. A guy decorates his basement by drawing on the walls with a Sharpie.

Probably not safe for work, but if you can cross view, check out these photos from a bikini contest. If you want to learn to cross view, see my tutorial here.

TV on the web is really evolving. Now at Hulu you can watch shows which have not premiered on TV yet.

And finally, here is your funny animal picture.


Thursday, August 14th, 2008

Every once in a while I read an article that makes me think yeah, we are living in the future. That is the way I felt about this article on a robot with a biological brain. It does make you wonder if in the future, we will have household robots with biological brains that are useful but somewhat unpredictable in their behavior. I suppose it’s not that different than owning a pet.

Offshore drilling is one of those things you would not think would divide up neatly upon party lines. I would think if you live on the ocean or have a vacation home there you would probably be against it. Also if your living depends on tourism or fishing you would be against it as well. Perhaps the government shouldn’t determine our energy policy but there is no real way to avoid its role. When you see evolving technologies such as this one where they have genetically altered bacteria to produce fuel which is compatible with existing pipelines and could be used in gasoline engines, you really wonder if the development can’t be accelerated.

This guy has an interesting view of the future. I can see a lot of those things happening but maybe on a longer time-line. It takes so long for new medical treatments to be approved, if you’re my age you probably won’t have nanobots swimming around your bloodstream. The replicator is a common subject for science fiction. I’m pretty sure someday they will exist but I’m thinking later than 2025.

Here is a follow up on the post I made yesterday on Bigfoot. Turns out one of the guys has been involved in Bigfoot hoaxes before.

This video of a huge propane explosion has some language some might find offensive. Unfortunately when the main blast hits, the person holding the camera understandably moves the shot off center. It’s a pretty dramatic scene though with a very visible shock wave.

This is kind of sad and funny. It’s a coffee cup with the bill of rights printed on it. Add hot coffee and watch your civil liberties disappear.

Smoke pictures are something I have never got around to trying along with high speed water drops. The best ones are at the bottom and aren’t real pictures but computer effects.

And finally, check out these cute guinea pigs.

The End Of The World As We Know It?

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

You have to wonder what the mood would be like at a Global Catastrophic Risk Conference. I suppose mostly somber with a few people partying like it’s the end of the world. This article at CNN quotes some of the things Ray Kurzweil said I’ve linked to before. Some of the comments are interesting. I have often thought people will infuse themselves with artificial blood just because it makes them feel better. The idea you could spend hours under water hadn’t occurred to me. I don’t see how the economy could function once an intelligent machine could surpass a human. Companies wouldn’t bother paying enhanced people if they could get the same work done without the brain part. You would end up with some tiny enhanced rich part of humanity and a whole lot of poor people. I suppose it’s possible everything would become really cheap but if you have no income it wouldn’t matter.

Speaking of the future, this article about fusion is encouraging. If we are all going to be super humans we are going to need a whole lot of energy.

I’ve always thought we should have cars that can travel short distances where we could then link up to a rail system which not only guides the car but also provides the power. Finally someone is building something which is like that. It’s not surprising a guy who worked in the roller coaster industry had the idea.

I’m curious about the game Spore. I would really like to see what the code looks like for the game. Here is an article about it. You can download a free version of the creature creator here.

Living in a garbage truck doesn’t strike you as pleasant, unless it was this one.

Some of these houses made from bottles look pretty cool. I wonder what you do if you break one.

After reading this article about exotic fruits I was really wishing I could taste them.

And finally, this isn’t normally what you think of when you hear the term ‘food fight‘.

A Sense of Adventure

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

This article where scientist discover an area of the brain which rewards a sense of adventure made me think about discussions I’ve had with non-campers about backpacking. It does seem kind of silly to strap a bunch of stuff on your back and head out to live in the woods for a while. The reward is seeing what is around the next bend in the path or finding the perfect spot for the night. It’s funny what some people say like they couldn’t go that long without a shower. We shower regularly when we camp and except for forgoing cold beer or fresh milk, we really don’t rough it. I suppose surviving an occasional scary moment just adds to the sense of adventure. Once we surprised a rather large black bear while hiking on an old logging road which was overgrown with chest high brush. The bear stood up about 30 feet away from us and there was a moment where we just looked at each other. Then it disappeared into the brush snorting and moving quickly. Once we realized it was moving away and caught our breath, we thought it was cool to have seen a bear.

Speaking of wildlife, try to spot the animals in these pictures. Most of them aren’t that hard but there are a couple of tricky ones.

I found this article about curing cancer amazing. It’s not just the potential for a cure but the fact that they are harvesting blood cells from people who have a super ability to resist cancer.

While we are on the subject, here are 9 extraordinary human abilities.

We are in the process of buying a car and if we decide to go with a new one it will come with OnStar free for a year. I’m not sure but I believe I read my car would be sending me an email once a month telling me how it’s doing. As if that isn’t bizarre enough, the idea of buying a car that has a kill switch capable of rendering it inoperable really seems strange. I’ve never had a car stolen and usually keeping them running is hard enough. It just seems like another thing to go wrong. Perhaps it keeps you insurance cost lower. The Pentagon wants kill switches installed on airplanes. Then a terrorist wouldn’t even need a bomb or be on a plane to take it down, they could just activate the switch. I’ve got to say I agree with this article written by Bruce Schneier at Wired; I’ve Seen the Future, and It Has a Kill Switch.

I’ve always thought the superhighway system should be more like a train. You accelerate to cruising speed and then link up to something. This guy had the opposite thought, what if trains never stopped?

Here are some nice pictures of crazy weather in Nebraska.

And finally, you guessed it, another silly cat video.

The Singularity

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

This video is more of a slide show of facts. It’s one of those things that really makes you sense the world is changing fast. One of the predictions is someone will build a computer smarter than a human by 2013. I personally think that is a little early but I still think it will happen and it isn’t far off. I wonder whether it will be a computer smarter than a human or human integrated with a computer. The economic repercussions would be phenomenal and happen over a very short time.

Think it will never happen? This list of quotes of people saying something will never happen reminded me of a discussion (argument) I had with a former business partner who believed regular people will never get on the internet.

When machines become smarter than people it will become futile to try to get the machine to try to explain why something should be done a certain way and we will just have to accept the results. On the other hand i wonder what it would be like if we merged with them. We will actually have an understanding of the computer side of our brain? Will it just seem like two voices in our heads? Here researchers develop neural implants that learn with the brain.

I thought this was cool; creating an artificial tornado to generate electricity. I thought the quote he was confident he could control it was interesting. I can imagine the consequences if one got away.

Although it is only currently a mathematical model, scientists have designed a “cloak of silence“. In an increasingly noisy world, they can’t develop one of these fast enough in my opinion.

An apple that tastes like a berry?

In a follow up on a piece I wrote about here. The photos of that “lost” tribe were staged.

Here are some very nice bubble photos, and a behind the scenes look at how they were done.

Feel like everyone is out to get you? Read this on the economics of nice folks.

British police chase a UFO in a helicopter.

And finally, check out these funny pet shots.

Science Show

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

I woke up to my UPS beeping again this morning. That makes it 3 times in 10 days we have lost power, although the first time wasn’t weather related. The news said the group of storms that knocked it out the other day had dropped softball sized hail on Illinois. According to this personal account of a hail storm at a wedding in Minnesota, the world’s largest hailstones are baseball size.

There was also another tornado last night but not that near to us. Here are two short videos from bank cameras of the EF-5 tornado in Iowa on May 25th.

There was a science show in New York last week and the turn out was pretty impressive.

Every event at the four-day science festival was sold out — more than 22,000 tickets in all — according to Ben Austin, the festival’s vice-president of marketing and communications. After the free science street fair began Saturday, Mr. Austin said, police had to close four extra blocks to traffic because so many people showed up — 100,000, by the police’s estimate. And that was on a day with intermittent thunder, lightning and torrential rain.

“I don’t think we ever expected to see 800 people in an auditorium about the weirdness of the quantum world, but we got that — and another 400 people were lined up outside waiting for overflow seats,” Mr. Austin said. “That kind of thing happened over and over again.”

If you read this blog you know I write about quantum weirdness a fair amount. Of course I don’t know if people read that stuff or just skip over it.

I’ve written about Ray Kurzweil before. He has some pretty optimistic predictions about the future. This article covers basically the same thing in more detail but there are interesting comments at the bottom. I think he is right about solar energy because of Moore’s law. Also, I think some technologies will grow even faster. Take this article about Lithium-ion batteries. They aren’t talking about a doubling of performance; they are talking about a battery which is twenty times as powerful!

Cisco is sponsoring a game where the winner gets $10,000. I haven’t tried it yet but I’m guessing any teenager would be faster than I am.

Years ago I worked in a lab which had an electron microscope. When they used to look at chips under them you could actually watch them run because the charged areas repelled the electron beam causing them to “light up”. These photos are from 2003 but they are still pretty cool.

Here is a really creepy article about zombie caterpillars.

More strange animal news; marked up birds become sexier.

I got a chuckle out of this; the definition of irony.

Lost? Here is a collection of funny road signs.

Still lost? You are here. If you can’t see us it’s about 3/4ths the way down, in the middle.

I also got a laugh out of this opinion piece about ‘Deficit Attention Disorder!’

This is a pretty cool collection of ancient inventions. Some of them like the tumbler lock were around well before I would have guessed. I also liked the ship shaker.

The ten deepest lakes on earth.

And finally, check out this silly cat.

A Big Storm

Monday, June 2nd, 2008

Last year was dry so it’s been a while since we had one of those really intense thunderstorms. On Friday evening, the sky put on one heck of a show and we had tornadoes nearby. I kept thinking it was a really good opportunity to try some lightning photography, but couldn’t get up the courage to go out there. When it seemed like the worst of the storm had passed, I turned on my computer only to have the power go out before it had finished starting up.

Cisco demonstrated on-stage telepresence holography recently. Here is the link but the talk is somewhat boring. You get the idea in the first few moments. I think I would have at least opened with some sort of magic trick. It’s going to be cool when we can get these in our homes.

Here is yet another video of an exoskeleton. I can’t imagine what I would carry if I could take 200 pounds backpacking. I wouldn’t be eating dehydrated food, that’s for sure. I messed up my back over Memorial weekend pushing my van out of the mud. I could sure use one of these.

This article is about ‘fountain of youth‘ pills already in clinical trials. I wonder if people will be more concerned with sustainable living if they are going to be around longer. On one hand, it would be nice to have the energy I had in my youth, on the other hand, I was awfully fidgety.

Of course, if you want to live longer you could just take up golf.

In other medical news, scientists are developing drugs to grow your brain. How long before employers require you to take it?

Back on the subject of sustainable living, here are five people who’ll make you feel good about the future.

This is a new energy source. No matter how many times I read through it, it doesn’t make much sense to me.

Here are some nice photographs of Angel Falls and other waterfalls.

Can you ride a bike here? I don’t think I would. It reminded me of the walkway of death I posted about the other day.

Check out these amazing sand sculptures.

And finally, strange unseen animals is one of those collections of mythical creatures created using computers.

Earth Day

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

Sometime in the late seventies I needed one more class in the humanities to finish my degree requirements. Since I was majoring in the sciences I was hesitant but signed up for an honors english class entitled Perspectives on the Future. It turned out to be one of my favorite classes. Part of it was the professor. Not only was he interesting but I remember on at least one occasion, it was such a nice day, we moved the class outside. For the last class we met at a local pub. Imagine earning college credit sipping beer and talking about the future! It was a small interesting group of maybe 12 to 14 people and I don’t think any two of them had the same major.

The class wasn’t all fun, we read a lot, and we wrote a lot of papers. I remember in one of mine I predicted a war over oil would occur in the late nineties. One of the things we learned about was the Delphi method. The Delphi method is a way of trying to predict the future where a group of people each makes a prediction by writing it down along with some reasons for that prediction. A moderator then reads the results and the process is repeated. The idea is, the group gradually converges on an answer which is close to the right one. Here is a Wikipedia article explaining it in more depth.

One of the required books for the class was The 29th Day. It’s about exponential growth. I’ve been thinking a lot about it lately because my statistics for this blog have been following an exponential growth pattern since I stated it. The rate of increase in my number of readers is proportionate to the number of readers I have at any one time. Again from Wikipedia;

French children are told a story in which they imagine having a pond with water lily leaves floating on the surface. The lily population doubles in size every day and if left unchecked will smother the pond in 30 days, killing all the other living things in the water. Day after day the plant seems small and so it is decided to leave it to grow until it half-covers the pond, before cutting it back. They are then asked, on what day that will occur. This is revealed to be the 29th day, and then there will be just one day to save the pond. (From Meadows et al. 1972, p.29 via Porritt 2005)

Exponential growth is great for a blog or your 401K, but when it comes to using up the earth resources, well, you get the idea. The flip side of exponential growth is exponential decay. Newton’s law of cooling states the rate of change in temperature of an object is proportionate to the difference in temperature between that object and its environment. I learned it like this.

The King and Queen of Tasmania are having coffee. Don’t ask me why it’s Tasmania. The Queen adds cream to her coffee right away. The King waits a few minutes and then adds the exact same amount of cream. Who has the hotter coffee? The answer is the Queen. For the few minutes the coffee was cooling, the difference in temperature between the Kings coffee and the air was greater, so it cooled at a faster rate.

It’s Earth Day and I don’t know what it’s like where you live but here it’s one of those days which really makes you appreciate the Earth. The sky is blue, the birds are singing, and everything is turning green. I have asparagus popping out of the ground. Before I started growing asparagus I’m not sure I liked it that much. It may be one of those things that just tastes better because you grew it yourself. It’s the ultimate lazy gardener vegetable. Once planted, a bed can last for 20 years. Bugs don’t attack it. You don’t have to do anything other than pick it.

Here’s a list from Live Science of 10 Ways You Can Improve Earth’s Health. We don’t drive much and we did the light bulb thing years ago. We could use a new refrigerator.

On a bigger scale here is a prefab solar power plant. eSolar is one of those Google funded ventures set out to save the earth and make money doing it.

eSolars primary business goal is nothing short of making solar electricity for less than the price of coal, without subsidies, said Bill Gross, eSolar Chairman and Founder of Idealab. This is not only attainable, but will truly change the world.

Back to small, how would you like to live in a 10 by 10 foot apartment?

Now really small, in Tiny robotic hand has the gentlest touch they describe a robot that can not only manipulate tiny objects such as cells, it can sense how hard it is gripping.

Since its Earth Day, I wanted to include this link to Visions of the Earth at National Geographic.

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Yahoo teams with Freecycle to turn junk into treasure.

It’s also an election day in Pennsylvania. Back in the early eighties I built and started programming a small computer. One day it really hit me how these machines could revolutionize scientific progress in all kinds of disciplines. Getting back to the idea of exponential growth, it’s hard to measure such a thing as the rate of change of scientific progress, but I get the feeling it’s increasing exponentially. That’s why I couldn’t agree more with this opinion in the Wall Street Journal; We Need a Science White House.

Finally, I linked to a picture of a really large cat the other day; check out these huge dogs!

Goodbye Arthur, Hello Ella

Thursday, March 20th, 2008

Arthur C. Clarke died at the age of 90 at his home in Sri Lanka. He was an accomplished writer of both science and science fiction. He was probably best known for writing “2001: A Space Odyssey”. My first memory of him was when I discovered “Childhood’s End” while exploring the science fiction section of my local library. Shortly after, I read “The Nine Billion Names of God“. I was probably 13 years old. The future never seemed so bright. We were going to the moon and surely, my young mind thought, by the time I was grown up regular people would be flying around in spaceships.

Around that time I knew a woman who told me as a child she had seen the Wright brothers at a fair. To me, thinking this woman had lived through a time from the beginnings of flight to common jet aircraft transportation meant similar progress would be made in space travel in my lifetime.

From the New York Times;

But acts of reason and scientific speculation are just the beginning of his imaginings. Reason alone is insufficient. Something else is required. For anyone who read Mr. Clarke in the 1960s and ’70s, when space exploration and scientific research had an extraordinary sheen, his science fiction made that enterprise even more thrilling by taking the longest and broadest view, in which the achievements of a few decades fit into a vision of epic proportions reaching millenniums into the future. It is no wonder that two generations of scientists were affected by his work.

From a different article at the New York Times;

Mr. Clarke’s reputation as a prophet of the space age rests on more than a few accurate predictions. His visions helped bring about the future he longed to see. His contributions to the space program were lauded by Charles Kohlhase, who planned NASA’s Cassini mission to Saturn: “When you dream what is possible, and add a knowledge of physics, you make it happen.”

When I run across spectacular advances in science I often think about his third law;

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

If a person from the past were able to view our present, this would certainly be true. I suppose, if I were to pick one technology I most appreciate I didn’t have as a kid, it wouldn’t be a computer, it would be the microwave oven.

I wish I could tell you who said this. I think I was watching an interview with some science fiction writers.

“The internet is cool and all, but I really would rather had the flying car”

Within hours of learning of Mr. Clarke’s death my new grandniece entered the world. Yesterday, as my sister put her in my arms, I felt a fleeting moment of apprehension. What if she doesn’t like me? What if she cries? She didn’t. She just looked up with those beautiful blue eyes and made happy baby sounds. As I held her, my mind raced into the future.