Breakthrough brings ‘Star Trek’ teleport a step closer

Posted on June 4, 2007
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The Independent reports that a team of physicists funded by the European Space Agency has transported data between two of the Canary Islands using quantum entanglement. The idea was to perform a practical test of data transmission and promises to yield practical applications in quantum-encrypted communications. Note that this feasibility study was funded by Europe, not the U.S. While it’s nice to see other geographies funding successful research, it kind of makes you long for the era of Kennedy’s moon challenge. The future, Mr. President, is not in Iraq 🙁

Of robots and Pilgrims and smart caves

Posted on January 31, 2007
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My five-year-old nephew tromped through the french doors and into the living room, bringing his liberally muddied shoes with him. As leaves and debris made themselves comfortable on my floor boards, I arrested him in his tracks. He simply looked at me, mildly puzzled, and said, “Don’t you have a robot vacuum to clean it up?”

And yes, I do indeed have a robot vacuum: my second Roomba in almost as many years (the first suffered an untimely battery death). I’m not entirely sure where my moral outrage is seated: the insouciance of youth or the fact that I still have oh-so-many tasks around my house that cannot be attended to by said device.

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Posted on January 31, 2007
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The Discovery Channel has just aired a three-part series entitled 2057 that combines current technology research with bad drama in an attempt to portray life in fifty years. I can’t call this show “futuristic” per se, but it’s a nice look at the state-of-the-art in a few different fields. You’ll have to sit through cheesy drama and eye-rolling details that were overlooked, but it might be worth TiVoing.

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US Answer to Global Warming: Smoke and Giant Space Mirrors

Posted on January 28, 2007
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The Guardian reports that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of the United Nations will issue a report this upcoming Friday on the effects of global warming. Apparently, the US has complained that the “negative effects” of global warming have been “overstated”, though they accepted that the global average temperatures will rise another 1.5-5.8 degrees Celsius by the end of the century depending on emissions. Their answer: send back the sunlight using giant orbiting screens, tiny shiny baloons or microscopic sulphate droplets to mimic volcanic dust. The IPCC draft said such ideas were “speculative, uncosted and with potential unknown side-effects.” In other words, rather than curtail corporate profits by curtailing emissions, let’s set Halliburton up with a contract to build a giant space umbrella.

Have we learned nothing from the sky-scorching in The Matrix? No, seriously, we might have to pin our hopes on Keanu Reeves – ack.

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“Doomsday Clock” Moves Two Minutes Closer To Midnight

Posted on January 28, 2007
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The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists adjusted the “doomsday clock” from 7 to 5 minutes before midnight, a.k.a. the end of time, on January 17, 2007. They cite nuclear policy and global climate change as pushing humanity closer to the brink of extinction. It was last adjusted in February 2002 after the events of September 11, 2001. Disaster could potentially be averted with a global focus on non-proliferation and dismantling current nuclear arsenals. The Bulletin was founded in 1945 by University of Chicago scientists who had worked on the Manhattan Project.

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Imagine Earth Without People

Posted on January 21, 2007
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An older article from New Scientist just showed up on Digg speculating about reversing the impact of human civilization on the environment. It’s fascinating to get a Google Earth-like view from above of all the ways we’ve changed the face of the planet, large and small: light pollution, poodles and Homer Simpson at the helm of a nuclear reactor. I’m starting to understand what hell on earth would look like after “the Rapture”, at least until the Pizza Hut is covered with daisies (cue the ‘Heads…).

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Greatest Medical Advance: Sanitation

Posted on January 21, 2007
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From WebMD. BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal) readers voted for the top medical advances since 1840. Sanitation ranked first, highlighting the importance of clean drinking water and adequate waste disposal, which are still unavailable to billions of people worldwide. Vaccines ranked fourth; the first was Edward Jenner’s smallpox vaccine of 1796. We’ve had vaccinations for two-hundred years, but we still haven’t found a way to help everyone in the world out of living in squalid conditions, which is obviously more of a socioeconomic issue than a medical one in this day and age. Other innovations include “oral rehydration therapy” – essentially, fluid replacement by drinking. Sigh; seems like we’re a long way from nanites and medical tricorders.
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