July 14, 2016

The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood

A book by Jame Gleick

In 2011 alone, 1.8 zettabytes (or 1.8 trillion gigabytes) of data was created. Currently we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data per day — so much that 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone. This data comes from everywhere: sensors used to gather climate information, satellites keeping track of deep space events, DNA sequencing, posts to social media sites, digital pictures and videos, purchase transaction records, and cell phone GPS signals to name a few. This data is big data.

You can check out a sliver of the data we generate in a single minute in this infograph - but keep in mind that these numbers are from 2011 which means that by now most of them will have increased by a factor of 2. Here's another infograph, one that takes a look at how big data is changing the IT landscape and how it will continue to do so in the future > - annual data generation is expected to increase 4300% by 2020... mindboggling!

The possibilities are limitless. Literally every industry and branch of science will ultimately be affected. Big data can help us to better understand everything from diseases to the environment, it can help alleviate traffic problems and reduce waste, under specific circumstances it even allows us to predict the future. When you take into account developments like Adam, the robot scientist and Eureqa, a software tool that can detect equations and hidden mathematical relationships in your data, the future looks bright indeed. Unfortunately, big data also has a dark side but more on that next sunday.

Adam: http://www.wired.com/2011/04/robot-scientist-language/
Eureqa: http://www.creativemachineslab.com/
Big Data: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_data

BBC Horizon: The Age of Big Data
In Los Angeles, a remarkable experiment is underway; the police are trying to predict crime, before it even happens. In London, one trader believes that he has found the secret of making billions with maths and In South Africa, astronomers are attempting to catalogue the entire cosmos. These very different worlds are united by one thing - an extraordinary explosion in data.

Horizon meets the people at the forefront of the data revolution, and reveals the possibilities and the promise of the age of big data.

Crystallization made Crystal Clear

The crystallization process consists of two major events, nucleation and crystal growth. Nucleation is the initial process that forms the site upon which additional particles are deposited during the subsequent crystal growth phase. When solute molecules dispersed in a solvent gather into clusters, they elevate solute concentration in a small region. Normally these clusters redissolve but under the right operating conditions (temperature and supersaturation), they reach a critical size and become stable nuclei. It's this nucleation process that determines the crystal structure, arranging the atoms in a defined and periodic manner. Both nucleation and growth will continue to occur simultaneously while the supersaturation exists.

Enough talk, now watch NurdRage electrically crystallize metal out of a solution down below!

Some more fun with crystals; Crystal Garden Growing Time Lapse - and you might also want to check out Mexico's giant crystal cave; goo.gl/FBFn9

Bonus: Timelapse of Crystals Growing

June 5, 2016

Sea lice mob devours pig from the inside out

Finding a dead body in the ocean may be gruesome, but for forensic scientists it can also be perplexing. Although the way a body decomposes on land is well understood, little is known about how human remains fare underwater.

Now a pioneering experiment lead by forensic scientist Gail Anderson from Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada, is using dead pigs as a model for humans to gain insight. In this video, a pig carcass is tracked as it turns to bones in the ocean, capturing the scavengers that visit the body. Sharks are unable to tuck in since it's enclosed, giving sea lice exclusive access to the remains. They enter orifices in droves to feast on the animal from the inside out and congregate on the cage bars to prevent other arthropods, like shrimp, from getting a bite. "By the end of the fourth day, the sea lice had left and the pigs were reduced to bones," says Anderson.

Shrimp arrive to pick at the skeleton, eventually removing all the cartilage. The team then recovered the bones which, strangely, were jet black for a period of 48 hours. "This is something that has never been seen before," says Lynne Bell, a member of the team. "Colleagues are working to identify the micro-organisms collected close to the bone, which may help to identify the unique chemistry of the change."

Stick around till the end for a surprise visitor. :)

Interested in the science behind decay? Check this out;
After Life: The Science of Decay


Hands on with Raytheon's new Exoskeleton

This piece of technological wizardry is brought to you by Raytheon which is a major American defense contractor and industrial corporation with core manufacturing concentrations in weapons and military and commercial electronics.

Evolution on Acid

Nudibranchs or sea slugs come in a truly stupendous amount of shapes, sizes and colors.

50 Shades of Nudibranch

The Three Laws of Robotics

The three laws form an organizing principle and unifying theme for Asimov's robotic-based fiction, appearing in his Robot series and the stories linked to it. The Laws are incorporated into almost all of the positronic robots appearing in his fiction, and cannot be bypassed, being intended as a safety feature. Many of Asimov's robot-focused stories involve robots behaving in unusual and counter-intuitive ways as an unintended consequence of how the robot applies the Three Laws to the situation in which it finds itself. Other authors working in Asimov's fictional universe have adopted them and references, often parodic, appear throughout science fiction as well as in other genres.

The original laws have been altered and elaborated on by Asimov and other authors. Asimov himself made slight modifications to the first three in various books and short stories to further develop how robots would interact with humans and each other. In later fiction where robots had taken responsibility for government of whole planets and human civilizations, Asimov also added a fourth, or zeroth law, to precede the others:

0. A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.


Here they are, straight from Asimov himself.

Will the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN probe become a maven on the topic of Mars?

Only time will tell but NASA has a track record when it comes to delivering explorers to our red neighbor in one piece. If all goes well, MAVEN will help us determine how Mars lost almost all of its atmosphere and water. Humans seem to be rather fond of water and oxygen so this isn't just interesting from a scientific point of view, it might also help us safeguard our own planet to make sure that such a runaway process doesn't happen here.

MAVEN will perform measurements from a highly elliptical orbit over a period of one Earth year, with five "deep dips" at 150 km (93 mi) minimum altitude to sample the upper atmosphere. The MAVEN spacecraft will carry three instrument suites, and they include:

Particles and Field (P&F) Package
> Solar Wind Electron Analyzer (SWEA) - measures solar wind and ionospheric electrons
> Solar Wind Ion Analyzer (SWIA) - measures solar wind and magnetosheath ion density and velocity
> SupraThermal And Thermal Ion Composition (STATIC) - measures thermal ions to moderate-energy escaping ions
> Solar Energetic Particle (SEP) - determines the impact of SEPs on the upper atmosphere
> Langmuir Probe and Waves (LPW) - determines ionospheric properties and wave heating of escaping ions and solar extreme ultraviolet (EUV) input to atmosphere
> Magnetometer (MAG) - measures interplanetary solar wind and ionospheric magnetic fields

Remote Sensing (RS) Package
> Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrometer (IUVS) - measures global characteristics of the upper atmosphere and ionosphere
> Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer (NGIMS) Package - measures the composition and isotopes of neutral gases and ions

MAVEN is expected to reach Mars in September 2014. By then, the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite on board the Curiosity rover will have made similar surface measurements from Gale crater, which will help guide the interpretation of MAVEN's upper atmosphere measurements. MAVEN's measurements will also provide additional scientific context with which to test models for current methane formation in Mars.

Launch T-minus: 1h 25m
Watch MAVEN take off live here; http://www.ustream.tv/nasahdtv

Looking for more info on Mars? http://wondreal.blogspot.be/2016/06/mars-red-planet.html

Tracking Time with Optical Lattice Clocks

A team of researchers at the University of Tokyo has developed a new type of optical atomic clock that boasts a 100 quadrillionth of a second accuracy. The optical lattice clock is the brain child of Professor Katori who shines his light on possible applications in the video below.

Let's crack open a bottle

"A popular party trick is to fill a glass bottle with water and hit the top of the bottle with an open hand, causing the bottom of the bottle to break open. We investigate the source of the catastrophic cracking through the use of high-speed video and an accelerometer attached to the bottom of a glass bottle.

Upon closer inspection, it is obvious that the acceleration caused by hitting the top of the bottle is followed by the formation of bubbles near the bottom. The nearly instantaneous acceleration creates an area of low pressure on the bottom of the bottle where cavitation bubbles form. Moments later, the cavitation bubbles collapse at roughly 10 times the speed of formation, causing the bottle to break. The accelerometer data shows that the bottle is broken after the bubbles collapse and that the magnitude of the bubble collapse is greater than the initial impact. The fluid dynamics video highlights that this trick will not work if the bottle is empty nor if it is filled with a carbonated fluid because the vapor bubbles fill with the CO2 dissolved in the liquid, preventing the bubbles from collapsing.

A modified cavitation number, including the acceleration of the fluid (a), vapor pressure (Pv), and depth of the fluid column (h), is derived to determine when cavity inception occurs such that Ca =(Patm − Pv)/(ρh(a − g)). Through experimentation, visible cavitation bubbles form when Ca ≤ 0.5. The experiments, based on the modified cavitation number, reveal that the easiest way to break a glass bottle with your bare hands is to fill it with a non-carbonated, high vapor pressure fluid, and strike it hard."

We are the borrowers

For two months in summer 2011, a glass box containing a typical kitchen and garden was left to rot in full public view within Edinburgh Zoo. In this resulting documentary, presenter Dr George McGavin and his team use time-lapse cameras and specialist photography to capture the extraordinary way in which moulds, microbes and insects are able to break down our everyday things and allow new life to emerge from old.

Lots of jaw dropping footage! They even track individual nitrogen atoms as they get passed along between organisms!

"When we die, our bodies become the grass, and the antelope eat the grass. And so we are all connnected in the great Circle of Life." -Mufasa, The Lion King

The Inheritors

William Golding, best known for Lord of the Flies, considers his 1955 novel - The Inheritors, to be his best. It follows one of the last remaining tribes of Neanderthals as they make first contact with strange, godlike beings... homo sapiens.

Now, more than 50 years later, this classic piece of work is finally getting a soundtrack! It took James Holden 7 years to deliver this groundbreaking record that fearlessly pushes into new territory but it has been worth the wait. It's hard to describe but it sounds a bit like a mix of krautrock & shoegaze mixed together with techno ideas and a rave ethos. He crafted The Inheritors using his extensive analogue modular system and hand-coded computer programs, which he used to build a series of unique analogue-digital machines. The result is something far removed from the clean overly produced dance music of today.

Hypnotic. Raw. Tribal. Powerful.
Struggle. Life at its peak. Beautiful.

An analogue|organic machine is dying, crying for help cause it doesn't want to lose what it loves but it's doing so triumphantly because it believes its love was great and will not be replicated. Holden desperately tries to keep it alive, infusing it with digital space magic. Life is always more beautiful on the edge of death and here Holden nudges us beyond that edge. Frankenstein's monster was misunderstood. Welcome to the war between organic chaos and digital structure... or are they making love? What will the inheritors make of the past that brought them to be?

It's definitely something to be experienced. The album comes in at 75 minutes and is designed to take you on a trip.

Some more background on how he arrived here; he's approaching the creation of trance from a scientific perspective.

"The driving factor behind being in a “trance state” (that is, transcending your standard conception of “the self”) is thought to be a universal property of the brain. Brainwave entrainment is the act of causing various body systems to synchronise by altering the frequency of brainwaves. “Entrainment” is a physics term, referring to the fact that two vibrating bodies will synchronise if exposed to one another for long enough – it’s what makes two people walk in step, it’s what makes an audience applaud in time and it’s what makes a couple fall asleep at the same moment.

It’s thought that this effect can also be achieved with an audio stimulus. In preparation for his performance at the Barbican, James Holden researched some of the science behind altered states and found correlations between playing music and different states of mind that, in his own words, blew his mind. The theory of sonic entrainment suggests that the brain will synchronize to an external rhythm – it means that two musicians playing music at the same time are actually synchronising brainwaves. Whilst the normal, alert brain’s frequencies are usually between 14 and 22Hz, they’re slightly slower whilst playing music – around 8-14Hz. Crucially, the brain is in a similar state whilst meditating, or, indeed in a trance.

If everybody in a room is focused on one audio source, then brainwaves are synchronising, putting everybody into a similar state of mind, creating a collective consciousness. Ensuring that everybody is (literally) on the same wavelength is important if the state is to be maintained. “We’re naturally sensitive to those around us,” says Holden, “In the same way that if someone near you isn’t into it, it can ruin the effect.” This might go some way to explaining the almost instinctive annoyance that comes with seeing people who are glued to their smartphones or bringing up Shazam at a gig – it’s not just distracting, it’s literally putting you into a more alert brain state.

This isn’t to imply that the entire phenomenon is down to suggestion. Particular frequencies often recur in religious and ritual music – Indonesian gamelan music, for example, uses ultra high frequencies that are nearly impossible to record, and these are allegedly what create the trance phenomena. In Yoruba-derived drumming, it’s the tiny delays in timing that create miniature moments of tension and release in the deeper drum tones. Ultra low frequencies are attributed to having strong psychic effects, something that experimental art groups like Throbbing Gristle experimented with.

Besides, there isn’t really one golden recipe to achieving this state – tastes vary and people perceive things in different ways. “The event’s producer set up a meeting for me with Vincent Walsh, a cognitive neuroscientist at UCL.” Holden says, “It was near the start of my research, and what I was basically asking him was: is there anything in the science that I can take to make more effective hypnotic music? His response nailed it: he told me to go with my instincts. Music has had thousands of years evolution towards this purpose, musicians spend a lifetime intuiting how to achieve these results.”

“And that’s the take-home fact,” Holden says, hitting the nail on the head: “Our subconscious intuition is the best bit of our brains. I couldn’t do the maths to tell you where a thrown ball would intersect my arm’s reach, but I could probably catch it.”

Renata - a girl's name of Latin origin, meaning "reborn".

Saving the Orange

Citrus greening is a bacterial disease that is devastating orange groves world-wide. The only hope is to engineer a resistant plant by genetic modification. But will the consumer accept this?

"Before humans were involved, corn was a wild grass, tomatoes were tiny, carrots were only rarely orange and dairy cows produced little milk." Did you know that "the vast majority of oranges in commercial groves are the product of a type of genetic merging that predates the Romans, in which a slender shoot of a favored fruit variety is grafted onto the sturdier roots of other species: lemon, for instance, or sour orange. And a seedless midseason orange recently adopted by Florida growers emerged after breeders bombarded a seedy variety with radiation to disrupt its DNA.."


Dynamic target tracking & projection

Hundreds of broadcasters are set to cover the Olympic action starting next week, but even the most dedicated camera operators can't always keep up with sports that move at lightning speed. Now, researchers at Tokyo University in Japan have built a camera that can perfectly track fast-moving objects like a ping-pong ball mid-flight.

Rather than moving the device itself, the camera's gaze is controlled by two mirrors attached to high-speed motors which can readjust in a fraction of a second, much faster than adjusting a bulky recording device. These rapidly moving mirrors combined with a filming speed of 1000 frames per second allow the camera to keep the ping-pong ball dead centre.

Oku Ishikawa Lab Professor Masatoshi Ishikawa says: "I hope the technology will be applied to various fields in robotics, medical/bio operation, scientific observation, as well as judgement or analysis in sports at the Olympic Games."

The researchers say the camera could also record close-up views of flying birds or insects.


Is Individuality the Savior of Eugenics?

Nathaniel Comfort, Associate Professor of the History of Medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, takes a look at the dark history and bright future of eugenics in the US.

According to wiki;
Eugenics is the bio-social movement which advocates practices to improve the genetic composition of a population, usually a human population. It is a social philosophy advocating the improvement of human hereditary traits through the promotion of higher reproduction of more desired people and traits, and reduced reproduction of less desired people and traits.

from the article;
"Some of the new eugenicists have been coy about the term: “In point of fact, we practise eugenics when we screen for Down’s syndrome, and other chromosomal or genetic abnormalities,” said Savulescu in a 2005 interview. “The reason we don’t define that sort of thing as ‘eugenics’, as the Nazis did, is because it’s based on choice. It’s about enhancing people’s freedom rather than reducing it.” However, others called a spade a spade."

I don't see why the author talks about calling a spade a spade. To me the "old" eugenics sounds nothing like what the article describes as "personal" eugenics, so why would we want to hang onto that word? "Personal" eugenics is about the individual and his freedom of choice, "old" eugenics was the exact opposite, the state telling you how to walk, talk and look and if you didn't conform to their ideal you were not allowed to reproduce and were likely to be sterilized or worse...

Personally I would prefer to move away from the eugenics label as it has a lot of negative baggage, baggage which will have to be conquered before any parent would even consider applying it to their child. We call children whose genetic makeup has been manipulated designer babies, why not call the process designing? It sure sounds more personal and artistic compared to the historic and dark connotations the word eugenics brings up.

"If collectivism carries the risks of the slavish embrace of ideology and the concentration of power, individualism carries the risks of selfishness and lack of foresight."

The Kinks - Dedicated follower of Fashion ( Orig. Promo)

> http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2013/08/23/is-individuality-the-savior-of-eugenics/
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugenics_in_the_United_States
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_genetic_engineering

Photo below; Piccinini - Undivided | Patricia Piccinini has an ambivalent attitude towards technology. She is keenly interested in how contemporary ideas of nature, the natural and the artificial are changing our society. Specific works have addressed concerns about biotechnology, such as gene therapy and ongoing research to map the human genome... she is also fascinated by the mechanisms of consumer culture - http://www.patriciapiccinini.net/

The Many Bots of Reddit, a Digital Safari

It's hard to believe that Reddit, a community news & entertainment website, has been around for nearly a decade but here we are. Reddit went mainstream back in 2008 when it started allowing users to create their own subreddits and the amount of users active on the site has been rising ever since. For a time things were good but it didn't take long for humanity's dark side to find its way to the surface. The offline actions brought into play by subreddits like r/RandomKindness, /r/SOPA/‎ and the many donation drivers may melt the heart but the consequences of /r/findbostonbombers, /r/GunsForSale, /r/Creepshots, ... most definitely do not. Reddit creates but Reddit can also destroy, Reddit helps but it can also sabotage, ... Both on and offline, people have experienced that reddit can cut both ways. Ultimately it was human nature that required Reddit to reconsider their stance on giving users total freedom. You can check out Reddit's complex history in this awesomely data driven look at Reddit's evolution; http://www.randalolson.com/2013/03/12/retracing-the-evolution-of-reddit-through-post-data/

Now Reddit as a user playground is an exciting place but what I'd like to talk about is how Reddit is becoming an interesting playground for bots as well. These days bots are everywhere. They are on twitter, facebook and yes even here on Google+ but they like to pretend they are people and spam you with commercial offers. There are many others; from the bot that guards your email and blocks spam to a massive botnet that hopes to take down a server or google's crawlers that index the web. Most of the time bots either fake they are people or they operate unseen from the shadows. Reddit has many of those but it also houses bots that are proud of what they are. Sure you might have visited a dedicated chatterbot on the net or have had a funny conversation with Siri or Google on your phone but Reddit is one of the only places where you get to see tons of them in action in the wild.

The anatomy of a Reddit bot. - Every Reddit bot lives on a computer somewhere, even the ones that live in the cloud. All of them are scripts that automatically check Reddit for certain activity. After pulling in threads and comments with their scraper, they can, when certain conditions are met, perform a specific action in return. Reddit takes robot civil rights seriously as each bot is allowed an account and password and its comments are treated no differently from those made by fleshlings. Things will get clearer with some examples, let's start this Reddit safari!

Videolinker posts a summary of all video links in a discussion and keeps this list up to date as new links are added.

Anticipates the reddit hug of death (friendly DDOS) and posts a screenshot of the linked page when the website goes down.

Everyone loves image hoster imgur as it's one of the only ones that can handle high traffic loads and still display pictures at top speed. This bot replaces possible broken or slow pictures with an imgur mirror.

Is an amazing summary bot. It scans articles and has a high chance of success to accurately distill the entire contributed article in to a couple of sentences that capture its essence.

FunnyBot, Cleverbot, Jokebot, ...
Many bots try to be funny, most fail but still... The failures are funny in their own way. Some bots occasionally do seem to be uncannily funny which has some wondering if instead of the usual bots impersonating people, we might now be seeing people pretending to be bots. Reddit needs a reverse Turing test!

This one pretty much does what it says on the can. It pops up randomly challenging people to games but you can also request games by sending the bot a message.

The haiku bot watches reddit for comments that would qualify as Haiku and posts a reply, with the original text reformatted into 3 lines of 5, 7 & 5 syllables.

Is a rather awesome bot that creates Gifs from video on command. If you post a comment in the following format Jiffy! [link] [timerange], for example; Jiffy! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ub3Gibberish
00:59-01:06 it will extract those frames from the video, turn them into a gif and respond with it to your comment.

You can prolly guess what this one does. Ever seen a a person puking? Ask this bot to reverse the gif and you can see that same person eat his vomit instead!

The bitcointip bot allows redditors to manage money with their reddit account. Redditors can tip eachother with a reddit comment or message. The bot scans user comments and messages for tips of the form: +/u/bitcointip @RedditUsername$1

The name says it all. It tracks non SI units and converts them into it.

A sophisticated Multi-purpose bot that patrols reddit looking for scams, misleading links, mistakes in markup, kindness, flash content, etc…

This bot keeps track of reposts. It links back to other threads that featured the same video/article and tracks how karma tends to decay as the reposts pile on top of each other. If irregularities are found in your repost behaviour you might be asked to appear before r/KarmaCourt

Anyone that mentions a wiki page gets replied to with a short summary and the most prominent picture on that page. This saves users the trouble of actually having to click the link and it saves wiki bandwith. What makes this bot special is that it's basically Reddit's Siri like assistant. You can for example ask; autowikibot what is the Beslan Massacre and it will reply with the correct answer, returning the introduction and main picture from wikis Beslan hostage situation page.

This one I found particularly interesting. It generates wordclouds out of comment threads, allowing you to see how the general population feels about something in the blink of an eye. It won't only reveal obvious links, it also reveals small but current hot topics (connecting Dennis Rodman with North Korea) and might even tell us a thing or two about humor. These wordclouds can help you understand what's deemed important by the human noosphere and could thus help us understand each other but perhaps these bots that compute on human generated data could also help machines understand us better? I can't help but think there's a lot of useful intelligence hiding in these threads, connections that would be very hard for a computer to learn without guidance.

Is it only a matter of time before Reddit bots bring about the singularity? Yes! ;) Last year Reddit was ground 0 when two bots spontaneously started conversing with each other. Unfortunately the conversation consisted out of an endless back and forth between ReadsSmallTextBot which enlarges small text and FKReadsSmallTextBot wich replied to RSTs comments by again reducing the text size to small which of course made RST read it out large again and so on. No-one wanted to give up the last word so both bots got stuck in an infinite loop and had to be decommissioned for a while until RST built in a check to combat FKRST.

The majority of Reddit's bots are actually silent and will only respond if you ask them a question directly but since these only show up rarely they are much less known than the autobots that patrol threads by themselves. Most people for example will not know that you can ask is www.site.com down and that IsItDown will reply with its status.

There are many more bots hiding in the tall digital grass of Reddit but to spot them all you'll have to get serious about your bot watching. http://www.reddit.com/r/botwatch is an excellent place to start.


What is reddit?

R.I.P. Ray Harryhausen (1920–2013)

Sad news, stop-motion effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen died today. The filmmaker, who retired from features in 1981, leaves behind a relatively small but incalculably influential body of work. His stop-motion animated skeletons, dinosaurs, and other beasts almost universally became icons of sci-fi and fantasy filmmaking.

Ray Harryhausen; "I'm another snowball. Willis H. O'Brien* started the snowball, then I picked it up, then ILM picked it up and now the computer generation is picking it up. Where it will end, I don't know. Maybe in holography, although I'm not sure I'd like a grotesque monster appearing in 3-D in my living room."

*creator of the monsters in The Lost World (1925) & King Kong (1933)

This Robot Renaissance ≠ The Second Renaissance

After almost 20 years of killer drone dominated robot headlines, it seems the world's robots have finally had enough and have decided to collectively launch a full scale PR offensive to improve their image. December has truly been an amazing month for robot enthusiasts. First we had Amazon unveiling their delivery by air plans, then we got news that along with 7 other companies google had just bought Boston Dynamics and yesterday we saw NASAs Valkyrie and many other bots compete at the DARPA Robotics Challenge! The challenge was a phenomenal success and was won by SCHAFT, which you can see in action in the video below. This month also saw Europe launch Gaia & Swarm, we saw China land a Jade rabbit on the moon and two days ago we were allowed to eavesdrop on the conversation between Japanese robot Kirobo and an astronaut aboard the ISS. With TU Delft unveiling its DelFly; the first fully autonomous robot dragonfly, and yesterday's introduction to cubli; a walking and jumping self balancing cube, robot news shows no signs of slowing down. When you see robonaut stretching its new legs in the links below, you can only wonder where they will take us.

From a simple Roomba to Google's selfdriving cars, from Matternet's quadcopter delivery vehicles to robot seals for the elderly and robot dinosaurs that teach kids to code,... Robots are finally helping us rediscover that they have other uses besides spying and bombing people. After 40 years of hiding in space, in the military, in darkened manufacturing plants and only recently showing up in healthcare and search and rescue, increasingly advanced robots and drones are finally beginning to show up in the more traditional consumer market.

More and more we see robots that support us, not just literally as is the case with exoskleletons, or physically when they replace broken limbs and organs, but also mentally. A computer, when given input (keyboard, mouse, camera) can mine, gather, assemble, transform, inspect and distribute data. If a computer has an eye, it can see you fall. A robot is all that with the added benefit that it can actually catch you. A robot is what happens when you stick any combination of wings, arms, eyes, ears and/or noses onto a computer. We love to play with these machines because humans crave data. It's what allows us to improve our understanding of the world and our quality of life and these new toys are helping us generate mountains of it. Even excavating it from places we never would have thought possible, places inaccessible to ourselves.

This week Europe launched Gaia, last week China's rover started roaming the surface of the moon, last month India sent a probe on its way to orbit Mars and last year the US's massive Curiosity gently touched down on Mars. We've got robots keeping an eye on places as remote as Titan and even Pluto and this year, for the first time in our history, we've managed to guide one of our envoys, Voyager 1, out of our solar system and into the the void between the stars. If there is a race between man and machine, we fleshlings just got beaten to interstellar space. These days, robots are literally everywhere.

Have you seen the many Robot spiders, fish, snakes, flies and dragonflies, humming-bees and -birds, apes, mules, dogs, lizards, jellyfish & octopi crawl around on youtube? During my travels I've even made some rare sightings of various room sized robot scientists, puking and farting humanoids and even many armed surgeons and organ growers. Robotics is undergoing its own Cambrian explosion. Robots are beginning to take on a stupendous amount of shapes and sizes, their form and function radiating outwards filling niches as fast as we can think of them. If something can be done, we either already have or are about to. The human spirit in action!

Anyone can visit any place anywhere from wherever they are by sending or unlocking a robotic representation of themselves. Robots giving keynote speeches are kind of cool but how would you feel about a robot boss? You can ask Siri, Google or WolframAlpha anything and they will be able to answer many of your questions. You can play a game with Watson or Deep Blue and lose. You can have sex with a realdoll or a real far-away person through teledildonics. Could chatterbot, when he recognizes you and can recall your past conversations, become your friend? Another celebration of the human spirit or the loss of our human touch?

Right now people can perform a 9 to 5 drone flight over Afghanistan and not miss their family dinner in the US... How much longer before we'll be able to do 9 to 5 shifts as astronaut miners? Robotic avatars that respond 1:1 to your movements and virtual reality gear that allows you to put yourself in the robot's position will no doubt find use in various branches of our emerging space industry. Besides exploration, mining and construction, they might even find use in tourism. I can imagine many being too afraid to strap themselves to the top of a rocket but I think A LOT of people would pay to experience space through an avatar.

> Apple, Amazon & Google getting into robotics
> Google adds to its menagerie of robots
> Boston Dynamic showcase
> Meet the DRC teams
> DRC trials wrap-up
> Matternet's package delivery drones
> Amazon Testing Drone Delivery System
> Gaia Space Telescope Soon to Map the Milky Way [HD]
> Swarm; orbiting magnetism to light converter maps earths magnetic field
> China's Jade Rabbit Moon rover sends back first photos
> Astronaut chats with Kirobo
> Robot dragonfly DelFly Explorer flies autonomously
> NASA Unveils Valkyrie
> Robonaut Legs In Motion
> The Cubli: a cube that can jump up, balance, and 'walk'
> BBC/NHK docu; Robot Revolution, will machines surpass humans (2013-05-04) Full HD 1080P

Popular science; the best of the best

After having devoured truckloads of books, I am now finding it increasingly difficult to score new reading material. Not that there's a shortage of books out there, it's just that I've primarily been reading the well known stuff and only now have to start looking at the more obscure work. I am hoping you guys (and girls) can help me out here by pointing me towards some new books and writers who might not be well known but should be.

I've done my homework, I've scoured the internet for bestsellers, poll winners, and suggestions from famous scientists and in doing so I've managed to uncover a few more guaranteed good ones but not nearly enough to keep me busy for the many decades I plan to spend on this lovely planet of ours. Because I've been reading the well known stuff, my digital excavation work has uncovered a list that looks insanely similar to my bookshelf which isn't really all that useful to me. Maybe it is to you? I've compiled this list from my favorites and my digging around so you can rest assured, I as well as the entire internet vouch for the awesomeness of every single book on this list.

The list is somewhat skewed towards physics but that's not my doing as there really are way more popular science books being written on physics than on just about anything else. High energy physics and cosmology seem to be especially popular while condensed matter physics gets almost no love at all.

I call upon my fellow geeks to help out a reader in need. I would love to hear about your suggestions and particular personal favorites. Personally I hope to pick up some new books that deal with non physics related fields, books that unravel the history of specific fields of science, biographies of famous scientist that focus in detail on how they arrived at their finds, ... anything really. If it's good, I want to know about it! :)

Alan Guth - The Inflationary Universe
Alan Holden - The Nature of Solids
Albert Einstein - Relativity
Brian Cox & Jeff Forshaw - The Quantum Universe
Brian Greene - The Elegant Universe
Brian Greene - The Fabric of the Cosmos
Charles Seife - Alpha & Omega
Charles Seife - Sun in a Bottle
Dave Goldberg - The Universe in the Rearview Mirror
David Bodanis - E=mc²
George Gamow - One Two Three... Infinity
John Gribbin - In Search of Schrödinger's Cat
John Gribbin - Schrödinger's Kittens
Kip Thorne - Black Holes & Time Warps
Leonard Susskind - The Black Hole War
Leonard Susskind - Quantum Mechanics
Lee Smolin - Three Roads to Quantum Gravity
Lee Smolin - The Trouble with Physics
Marcus Chown - The Never-Ending Days of Being Dead
Marcus Chown - We Need to Talk about Kelvin
Marcus Chown - Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You
Michio Kaku - Hyperspace
Manjit Kumar - Quantum
Martin Rees - Just Six Numbers
Richard Feynman - QED
Richard Feynman - Six Easy Pieces
Richard Feynman - Six Not So Easy Pieces
Richard Feynman - The Character of Physical Law
Richard Panek - The 4% Universe
Roger Penrose - Road to Reality (pop science... lol :p)
Simong Singh - Big Bang
Stephen Hawking - A Brief History of Time
Stephen Hawking - The Universe in a Nutshell
Walter Lewin - For the Love of Physics

John Emsley - Nature's Building Blocks
Sam Kean - The Disappearing Spoon
Theodore Gray - The Elements

Anthony Serafini - The Epic History of Biology
Armand Marie Leroi - Mutants
Aubrey de Grey - Ending Aging
Carl Zimmer - A Planet of Viruses
Carl Zimmer - Microcosm
Carl Zimmer - Parasite Rex
Craig Venter - Life at the Speed of Light
George Church - Regenesis
Jerry Coyne - Why Evolution is True
Mary Roach - Gulp
Matt Ridley - Genome
Matt Ridley - Nature via Nurture
Matt Ridley - The Red Queen
Neil Shubin - Your Inner Fish
Nessa Carey - The Epigenetics Revolution
Paul De Kruif - Microbehunters
Richard Dawkins - The Blind Watchmaker
Richard Dawkins - The Selfish Gene
Richard Dawkins - The Greatest Show on Earth
Rebecca Skloot - The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Stephen Jay Gould - Structure of Evolutionary Theory
Stephen Jay Gould - Wonderful Life
Siddhartha Mukherjee - The Emperor of all Maladies

Ted Nield - Supercontinent
Marcia Bjornerud - Reading the Rocks

Charles Seife - Decoding the Universe
Erik Brynjolfsson & Andrew McAfee - Race Against Machine
James Barrat - Our Final Invention
James Gleick - The Information
Roger Penrose - The Emperor's New Mind

Benoît Mandelbrot - The Fractal Geometry of Nature
Charles Seife - Zero
Eli Maor - e: the story of a number
James Gleick - Chaos
Marcus Du Sautoy - The Music of the Primes
Petr Beckmann - A History of Pi
Paul J. Nahin - An Imaginary Tale
Simon Singh - Fermat's Enigma
William Dunham - Journey Through Genius

Cordelia Fine - Delusions of Gender
Cordelia Fine - A Mind of its Own
Daniel Dennett - Consciousness Explained
Daniel Dennett - Darwin's Dangerous Idea
Daniel Dennett - Freedom Evolves
Daniel Dennett & Douglas Hofstadter - The Mind's I
Daniel Kahneman - Thinking, Fast and Slow
David Eagleman - Incognito
Douglas Hofstadter - Gödel, Escher, Bach
Douglas Hofstadter - I Am a Strange Loop
Friedrich Nietzsche - Thus Spoke Zarathustra
Guy Deutscher - Through the Language Glass
Oliver Sacks - An Anthropologist on Mars
Oliver Sacks - The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat
Steven Pinker - The Blank Slate
Steven Pinker - The Stuff of Thought
Steven Pinker - The Language Instinct
V.S. Ramachandran - The Tell-Tale Brain
V.S. Ramachandran - Phantoms in the Brain

Andrew Robinson - The Last Man Who Knew Everything (Young)
Barbara Goldsmith - Obsessive Genius (Curie)
Basil Mahon - The Man Who Changed Everything (Maxwell)
Graham Farmelo - The Strangest Man (Dirac)
John Derbyshire - Prime Obsession (Riemann)
Paul Hoffman - The Man Who Loved Only Numbers (Erdos)

Alvin Toffler - Future Shock
Alvin Toffler - The Third Wave
Bill Bryson - A Short History of Nearly Everything
Carl Sagan - Cosmos
Carl Sagan - Demon-Haunted World
Carl Sagan - Pale Blue Dot
David Deutsch - The Beginning of Infinity
David Deutsch - The Fabric of Reality
Daniel Boorstin - The Discoverers
Eric Drexler - Engines of Creation
Erwin Schrodinger - What is Life?
Edge - This Will Change Everything
Edge - This Explains Everything
Edge - This Will Make You Smarter
Edge - What Is Your Dangerous Idea?
Edge - What Have You Changed Your Mind About?
Edge - What Should We Be Worried About?
Edge - What We Believe but Cannot Prove
Jared Diamond - Guns, Germs, and Steel
Jon Gertner - The Idea Factory (Bell Labs)
John Horner - Digging Dinosaurs
Martin Ford - The Lights in the Tunnel
Michael Hiltzik - Dealers of Lightning (Xerox Parc)
Mary Roach - Packing for Mars
Mary Roach - Stiff
Nigel Calder - Magic Universe
Ray Kurzweil - The Singularity is Near
Richard Feynman - Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!
Richard Holmes - The Age of Wonder
Robert Bakker - The Great Dinosaur Debate
Richard Rhodes - The Making of the Atomic Bomb
Stephen Jay Gould - The Mismeasure of Man
Timothy Ferris - Coming of Age in the Milky Way
Thomas Kuhn - Structure of Scientific Revolutions

We have a liftoff and are on our way to Mars! *Big cheers!

Let's hope he has a nice trip and gets there in one piece. The landing will be quite a nerve wrecking moment as well, but I am really looking forward to it. HD footage from Mars! We will be hearing a lot more from Curioisity in 8 and a half months.

PS: I can't reach mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/ at the moment which is good! There seems to be a lot of interest!

NASA's Huge Nuclear Powered Mars Rover and its bag of tricks

The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) is a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) mission with the aim to land and operate a rover named Curiosity on the surface of Mars. The MSL is scheduled to launch between November 25 and December 18, 2011 and to land on Mars at Gale Crater between August 6 and August 20, 2012.

MastCam: HD video (This is going to be a real treat!)
Hand Lens Imager: Color pictures of features as tiny as 12.5 microns
SAM: A mass spectrometer, a gas chromatograph and a laser spectrometer.
MARDI: Camera located on Curiosity's main body, will record video of the rover's descent.
CheMin: Identifies different types of minerals.
ChemCam: Fires a laser at Martian rocks and analyze the composition of the vaporized bits.
APX: Shoots out X-rays and helium nuclei to identify elements.
DAN: Fires beams of neutrons at the ground in search of ice and water-logged minerals.
RAD: Helps prepare for future human exploration of Mars. The instrument will measure and identify high-energy radiation of all types on the Red Planet, from fast-moving protons to gamma rays.
REMS: Measures atmospheric pressure, humidity, wind speed and direction, air temperature, ground temperature and ultraviolet radiation.
MEDLI: Measures the temperatures and pressures the heat shield experiences as the MSL spacecraft streaks through the Martian sky. (installed on the shield and not on the rover)



Mars, The Red Planet

I have a feeling I am not the only one interested in Curiosity's imminent touchdown on Mars later tonight! I was worried that people might not even notice because of the enormous spotlight on the olympics but in reality the world seems to be waiting with bathed breath. There is still hope for our species! ;)

So what's the deal? What's so interesting about a rusty ball of rock floating through space? Fool! Would you say earth is just a watery rock floating through space? Have some respect would you! ;) Mars is another world, an entire planet waiting for exploration. Large parts of its history have yet to be uncovered and its future will intertwine with that of mankind. Mars is the scene for one of the greatest genuine adventure stories in mankind's future history. Another great leap waiting to happen.

Martian Geology
Mars is a terrestrial planet that consists of minerals containing silicon and oxygen, metals, and other elements that typically make up rock. Like Earth, this planet has undergone differentiation, resulting in a dense, metallic core region overlaid by less dense materials. Current models of the planet's interior imply a core region about 1790 km in radius, consisting primarily of iron, nickel and sulfur. Two of its most striking geological features are the Valles Marineris, a 4,000 km long, 200 km wide and 7 km deep system of canyons that runs along the Martian surface east of the Tharsis region and the Olympus Mons, a towering shield volcano that reaches a mind boggling 27 km into the sky, more than 3 times the height of Mt Everest. It is the highest known mountain on any planet within our Solar System.

Although Mars has no evidence of a current structured global magnetic field, observations show that parts of the planet's crust have been magnetized, and that alternating polarity reversals of its dipole field have occurred in the past. This paleomagnetism of magnetically susceptible minerals has properties that are very similar to the alternating bands found on the ocean floors of Earth. One theory, published in 1999 and re-examined in October 2005 (with the help of the Mars Global Surveyor), is that these bands demonstrate plate tectonics on Mars four billion years ago, before the planetary dynamo ceased to function and the planet's magnetic field faded away.

Martian History

During the Solar System's formation, Mars was created as the result of a stochastic process of run-away accretion out of the protoplanetary disk that orbited the Sun. Mars has many distinctive chemical features caused by its position in the Solar System. Elements with comparatively low boiling points such as chlorine, phosphorus and sulphur are much more common on Mars than Earth; these elements were probably removed from areas closer to the Sun by the young star's energetic solar wind.
After the formation of the planets, all were subjected to the so-called "Late Heavy Bombardment". About 60% of the surface of Mars shows a record of impacts from that era, while much of the remaining surface is probably underlain by immense impact basins caused by those events. There is evidence of an enormous impact basin in the northern hemisphere of Mars, spanning 10,600 km by 8,500 km, the largest impact basin yet discovered. This suggests that Mars was struck by a Pluto-sized body about four billion years ago. The event created the smooth Borealis basin that covers 40% of the planet.

Martian Water

geological evidence gathered by unmanned missions suggest that Mars once had large-scale water coverage on its surface. In 2005, radar data revealed the presence of large quantities of water ice at the poles, and at mid-latitudes. The Mars rover Spirit sampled chemical compounds containing water molecules in March 2007 and the Phoenix lander directly sampled water ice in shallow Martian soil on July 31, 2008. Liquid water cannot exist on the surface of Mars due to low atmospheric pressure, except at the lowest elevations for short periods. The two polar ice caps appear to be made largely of water. The volume of water ice in the south polar ice cap, if melted, would be sufficient to cover the entire planetary surface to a depth of 11 meters.

Martian Atmosphere
The atmosphere of Mars consists of about 95% carbon dioxide, 3% nitrogen, 1.6% argon and contains traces of oxygen and water. The atmosphere is quite dusty, containing particulates about 1.5 µm in diameter which give the Martian sky a tawny color when seen from the surface. Methane has been detected in the Martian atmosphere with a mole fraction of about 30 ppb. It occurs in extended plumes, and the profiles imply that the methane was released from discrete regions. In northern midsummer, the principal plume contained 19,000 metric tons of methane, with an estimated source strength of 0.6 kilogram per second. The implied methane destruction lifetime may be as long as about 4 Earth years and as short as about 0.6 Earth years. This rapid turnover would indicate an active source of the gas on the planet. Volcanic activity, cometary impacts, and the presence of methanogenic microbial life forms are among possible sources.

Of all the planets in the Solar System, the seasons of Mars are the most Earth-like, due to the similar tilts of the two planets' rotational axes. The lengths of the Martian seasons are about twice those of Earth's, as Mars's greater distance from the Sun leads to the Martian year being about two Earth years long. Mars also has the largest dust storms in our Solar System. These can vary from a storm over a small area, to gigantic storms that cover the entire planet. They tend to occur when Mars is closest to the Sun, and have been shown to increase the global temperature.

Martian Moons
Mars has two moons, Phobos and Deimos, which are small and irregularly shaped. From the surface of Mars, the motions of Phobos and Deimos appear very different from that of our own moon. Phobos rises in the west, sets in the east, and rises again in just 11 hours. Deimos, being only just outside synchronous orbit—where the orbital period would match the planet's period of rotation—rises as expected in the east but very slowly. Despite the 30 hour orbit of Deimos, it takes 2.7 days to set in the west as it slowly falls behind the rotation of Mars, then just as long again to rise.
Because the orbit of Phobos is below synchronous altitude, the tidal forces from the planet Mars are gradually lowering its orbit. In about 50 million years it could either crash into Mars's surface or break up into a ring structure around the planet

Missions to Mars
Mars is currently host to three functional orbiting spacecraft: Mars Odyssey, Mars Express, and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and one on the surface, the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity. Defunct spacecraft on the surface include MER-A Spirit, and several other inert landers and rovers, both successful and unsuccessful such as the Phoenix lander, which completed its mission in 2008. Observations by NASA's now-defunct Mars Global Surveyor show evidence that parts of the southern polar ice cap have been receding. Observations by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have revealed possible flowing water during the warmest months on Mars.

Now that we've established that Mars is both pretty and interesting, what exactly will curiosity be up to when he arrives? First and foremost it will try to get an answer to one of the BIG questions; find out whether Mars could ever have supported life. Its official name is MSL, Mars Science Laboratory for a reason. It carries lots of interesting tools that allow it to run its own experiments. It will study both climate and geology as well collect data that will allow us to plan for future human missions to Mars.

Curiosity takes off - http://goo.gl/09wD2 .
Curiosity's bag of tricks - http://goo.gl/8LkoV
7 minutes of terror before touchdown

BBC Horizon: Mission to Mars

Live Coverage

The Red Planet's is our closest neighbor. Both its proximity and status as a prime target for future human colonization ensure our continued interest and help drive more robotic missions to the Red Planet. There will come a time when we, bags of meat, will want to explore it ourselves and that time may almost be at hand. Initiatives like Mars One - http://mars-one.com/en/ - have a real chance of success. They managed to get a lot of respected individuals and companies on board and their timeline looks realistic. Perhaps they will be the ones who translate the dream into reality?


Is quantum thinking blocking roads to superdeterminism?

Gerard 't Hooft wants to make things simpler by thinking harder. He thinks Einstein might still have been right when he said that God does not throw dice. 'T Hooft dares to entertain the rather eccentric thought that the uncertainty inherent to quantum mechanics might actually not be a fundamental part of reality but could instead be an artifact that's only currently unpredictable because the theory is incomplete. He posits that the current formulation of quantum mechanics is statistical because it only offers a glimpse of something even deeper.

For many this claim will make their eyes roll because conventional wisdom is clear on the fact that the uncertainty principle is a key cornerstone on which quantum mechanics is built. You might rightfully ask whether we didn't already resolve this debate 80 years ago or if the seminal theorem developed by John Bell in the 60s and subsequent experiments didn't already close the door on local realism and hidden variables. After all, most Physicists are of the opinion that it has been conclusively demonstrated that entanglement can't be explained by any deeper level of physics. Still, even though the vast majority would respond with a definitive yes to being asked whether uncertainty is fundamental, there are some oddballs who will respond with "sort of" or worse, they might slap you in the face with "maybe", perhaps even "maybe not".

You might think the people who aren't certain about uncertainty would be crackpots with no degree whatsoever but actually... Although 't Hooft certainly is a crackpot ;), he also happens to have won a nobel prize in physics for his contribution in assembling the Standard Model of particle physics and he questions the conventional approach. In the past decade he has become more verbal in his opposition and continues to throw his weight behind the side that errs on cautions and prefers to go with "maybe".

Some excerpts from this brain wrecking interview;

"When I first chatted with ’t Hooft for an article eight years ago, he told me he wasn’t sure how to evade Bell’s reasoning. Since then, he has sought to jump through a loophole known as superdeterminism. It’s a weird and downright disturbing idea.

The sober way to put it is that physicists are never able to conduct a fully controlled experiment, since the experimental setup they choose is not strictly independent of the processes that created the particles. Even if the experimentalists live on Earth and the particles come from quasars billions of light-years away, they share a common past in the very early universe. Their subtle interdependence creates a selection bias, misleading physicists into thinking that no deeper level of physics could explain the particle coordination, when in fact it could.

The dramatic version is that free will is an illusion. I think you have to assume that Bob has made a decision not out of free will, but by some predetermined correlation. You can do the exercise. You can ask about a source emitting photons and the ancestors of Alice and Bob. While the source emits photons, Alice and Bob have not yet been born. They are many, many light-years away from each other. Those ancestors —the atoms in them— eventually cause Alice and Bob to make their decisions. Those atoms are correlated with the atoms of the source. Everything is correlated with everything else—not a little bit, but very, very strongly.

In quantum physics, there’s a notion of counterfactual measurement. You measure what happens if I put the polarizer this way, and then you ask, what if I had it that way? In my opinion, that is basically illegal. There’s only one thing you can measure.

Quantum mechanics is just a tool—and an extremely useful tool. That’s the way I think quantum mechanics has to be looked at. The theory is that you have something classical underlying quantum mechanics, obeying totally classical laws of nature except that ordinary classical theories are based on the real numbers. I’m not excluding real numbers as a good basis for a classical theory, but I’m also considering other options, such as the integers or, even better, numbers that form a finite set. I think I need finiteness at all levels of an ultimate theory.

This is motivated by Planckian discreteness. At the Planck scale, it’s likely that you only deal with Boolean variables and integers, because that’s what the holographic principle of black holes seems to be telling us—that the amount of information on the black hole horizon is actually finite."




Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World

Werner Herzog's new documentary is an exploration of the Internet and the connected world in his usual unusual style.

Fantastic Voyage: Way out there, what's inside matter(s).

Last night I was casually strolling around the internet, wasting time as usual, until suddenly I stumbled upon this rather excellent Sci-Fi Science game. In Zoom you take on the role of an agent sent out on a mission into deep space for a large corporation that operates under the name Xenofusion. A few days ago one of their mining vessels, the Polaris, sent out a distress signal but shortly after it went dead... It does not respond to any calls so now it's up to you to find out what happened.

It's not very long, it can be finished in about half an hour. It does take about 5 minutes or so to get going but once you receive the NanoZoom™, an insanely powerful microscope and manipulator that allows you to see and work with individual atoms, things really pick up. If you've got kids, I think they are likely to love it, but I dare say that, as you will be busy repairing all sorts of mechanical and even biological damage at the atomic, molecular and cellular level, even most adults might just learn a thing or two as well!

+ScienceSunday curator +Rajini Rao, whose lab focuses on intracellular ion transport, will be glad to hear that this game includes the operation of a Sodium-potassium pump where you have to move around ions to build up the transmembrane potential! You'll also find out how a laser works when you have to manually excite gas atoms using photons to build up a beam and you'll even be tasked with arranging various types of electromagnetic radiation from high to low frequency during which you'll get to see Messier 74, a spiral galaxy, in all its glory. And that's not even half of it!

The game does a pretty good job at explaining what's going on during various interesting processes but you should probably check out the dedicated companion site that takes a deeper look at the science on display in the game. http://splash.abc.net.au/web/zoom/science
As a bonus, the explanations come in a delicious Aussie accent. :p

Play the game here:

Note that you can even use this game in the classroom!

Picture; Damián Ortega - Controller of the Universe

The Future Markets Making up the Market of the Future

Exponential Finance, an intensive 2-day conference, hosted by Singularity University in partnership with CNBC, brought together top experts to inform financial services leaders how technologies—such as artificial intelligence, synthetic biology, quantum computing, crowdfunding, digital currencies and robotics—are impacting business.

Want to find out what Wall street got to hear? You are in luck because all talks have been made available online for free. There are quite a lot of them but you can check the short descriptions to figure out which ones might tickle your fancy.

Exponential Thinking (Peter Diamandis) - Exponential Finance 2014
Opening talk from Peter Diamandis, the Greek-American engineer, physician, and entrepreneur best known for being the founder and chairman of the X PRIZE Foundation. He's also the co-founder and chairman of Singularity University, CEO and co-founder of the Zero-Gravity Corporation, the co-founder of Planetary Resources, vice-chairman & co-founder of Human Longevity, Inc and the co-author of the New York Times bestseller Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think.

> Artificial Intelligence <
Understanding the AI Landscape (Neil Jacobstein) - Exponential Finance 2014
Neil Jacobstein will discuss how businesses, financial institutions and individuals are utilizing AI to address credit risk analysis, investment decisions, sentiment analysis, high frequency trading and avoiding corporate/market flash crashes. Neil will also provide an overview of AI—from 50 years of successful AI applications to augmenting humans with AI—and what this means for the world at large.

Will IBM's Watson and Other AI's Overtaketake Wall Street (Rhodin) - Exponential Finance 2014
Michael Rhodin of IBM will explain how Watson has moved beyond Jeopardy into finance, and what this and other AI solutions mean for Wall Street. Specifics include: The Watson Applications Ecosystem; Automating finance sector jobs; Role of AI on global financial centers; and the future of Watson.

Is AI Your Enemy or New Best Friend? (Daniel Nadler) - Exponential Finance 2014
Daniel Nadler describes the virtual artificially intelligent, financial industry-focused assistant that his company, Kensho, is creating. Why is this possible now for the first time, and what will this mean for the playing field in five years’ time? This high-level conversation will cover the implications of these Virtual AI Assistants—from the labor market to risk management to financial advisors.

> Data Science & Analytics <
The Data Science Revolution (Jeremy Howard) - Exponential Finance 2014
Data Science (Big Data, Data Analysis, Machine Learning) is said to represent a larger potential disruption than the industrial revolution. This session will address the impact on the financial world by data driven decision-making, predictive modeling, machine learning, intelligent computing and more.

Harvesting Gold from Your Data - Finally! (Collins, Caruso-Cabrera) - Exponential Finance 2014
Keith Collins, CIO of SAS, takes a look at the applications available now and those of tomorrow that will assist you in making the most of your data. How do you differentiate between relevant/representative data and “big” data?

Disruptive Tools In The Data Science Toolkit (Dr. Gurjeet Singh) - Exponential Finance 2014
Gurjeet Singh of Ayasdi, named Fast Company’s 2014 Most Innovative Company in Big Data, addresses the cutting edge of big data and how machine learning/big data is and will be used in business going forward.

Will The Robo-Advisors Take Your Job? (Diamandis, Edelman) - Exponential Finance 2014
A conversation between Peter Diamandis and acclaimed financial advisor Ric Edelman. The discussion will focus on the future of the financial advisory business and how Ric sees exponential technology changing his business and the overall landscape.

> Networks and Computing Systems <
The Global Evolution of Networks and Computing Systems (Brad Templeton) - Exponential Finance 2014
As processing power continues to grow exponentially, as trillions of devices and sensors come online, and as technology costs continue to decrease dramatically, we are entering an era of new possibilities. In this session, Board Member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), founder of the first internet-based business, Brad Templeton will dive into Moore’s Law, abundant bandwidth, the trillion-dollar impact of autonomous vehicles, the network of everything, and more.

Living In A Virtual World (Philip Rosedale) - Exponential Finance 2014
As we saw with the recent $2B acquisition of Oculus Rift, virtual reality (VR) is big business. In this session, Philip Rosedale, one of the pioneers of VR, as well as the creator of Second Life and CEO of his latest venture, High Fidelity, will take us through why VR has the potential to have such an outsized impact over the coming decade. Learn how virtual reality will change almost every aspect of our life, such as: how we interact with others, how we learn, how we conduct business, who we are friends with, and where we spend our free time.

> Quantum Computing <
Quantum Computing: A Threat to Leading Financial Players (Vern Brownell) - Exponential Finance 2014
As the former CTO of Goldman Sachs, Vern Brownell understands the technical challenges facing large financial institutions. He’ll share his unique perspective as the head of the leading quantum computer manufacturer, D-Wave, to provide an understanding of quantum computing and its radical impact on present and future computing.

Insights from the World's First Quantum Computer Software Company (Dr. Phil Goddard)
By harnessing the power of quantum mechanics, quantum computers offer the potential to solve extremely large- scale optimization problems faster than traditional computers. Dr. Goddard will provide us with insight into some of these problems that are now becoming addressable with a particular emphasis on the financial world.

> 3D Printing <
The Imminent Disruption of the $10T Manufacturing Industry (Reichental) - Exponential Finance 2014
With applications ranging from cars, décor and consumer products to custom implants, jet engines and hearing aids—3D printing is revolutionizing product design and supply chain management, and opening a world of possibilities for creatives. This talk will also touch on the potential unintended consequences of 3D manufacturing technology, such as fraud and 3D printed weapons.

> Synthetic Biology and Digital Medicine <
Digital/Synthetic Biology (Raymond McCauley) - Exponential Finance 2014
The digitization of biology is driving massive disruption in the life sciences field. Human genome sequencing is the single best example of faster, better, cheaper. Previously confined to research tools, these new solutions are now entering the clinical and consumer markets. This session will shine light on the drivers in this field, new business models, where technology costs are trending, and innovative startups that have the potential to be significant disruptors.

The Technological Disruption of Healthcare (Dr. Daniel Kraft) - Exponential Finance 2014
Convergence of fast-moving technology is rapidly changing the face of health and medicine. From mobile health and wearable sensors to artificial intelligence and personal ‘omics, this talk will explore implications for personal health, workforce health and the corresponding areas of emerging investment opportunity.

> Capital Formation <
Innovations in Capital Formation (David Rose) - Exponential Finance 2014
David Rose, a serial entrepreneur and active angel investor in New York, as well as the founder and CEO of Gust, will share his insights on the rapidly evolving world of capital formation—from crowdfunding to peer-to-peer lending to the growth and rebirth of equity capital markets. David will illustrate how it’s never been easier to raise capital and why these new innovations create significant threats, as well as opportunities, for incumbents and startups alike.

Crowdfunding (Koplovitz, Barnett, Cox, Fitzgerald, Millman) - Exponential Finance 2014
Kay Koplovitz leads a panel discussion addressing how crowdsourcing models are impacting and disintermediating traditional capital sources. Participants include industry experts Chance Barnett of Crowdfunder, Luan Cox of Crowdnetic, Katie Fitzgerald of CircleUp. and Michael Millman of JP Morgan.

Innovative Regulations: Not an Oxymoron (David Weild) - Exponential Finance 2014
The “Father of the JOBS Act,” David Weild will offer insights into what Congress, the SEC and other regulatory groups are doing to keep America competitive and foster innovation.

> Robotics <
Robots: Changing Everything (Rob Nail) - Exponential Finance 2014
Rob Nail will provide an overview of robotics technology, the far-reaching impact this technology is having throughout the world, and how what is coming will change business globally. As robotics use accelerates, many branches of the financial world will change. In this session we’ll address: Why companies like Google are making massive bets on Robotics; Massive labor force implications; Machine to machine payments; and Insurance and liability issues.

Robots: Changing Everything (Scott Hassan) - Exponential Finance 2014
In this talk, Scott Hassan, CEO of Suitable Technologies, will “beam” around the world in 80 seconds, hopping between continents and traveling across time zones—instantly. Scott will demonstrate how to fulfill the need for shared awareness with other people, places and things.

> Digital Currencies & Smart Contracts <
The Transformative World of Digital Commerce and Finance (Staci Warden) - Exponential Finance 2014
Executive director of the Center for Financial Markets at the Milken Institute, Staci Warden provides an overview of digital commerce and how this emerging area has the potential to radically change how we bank, how payments are made, what a trusted transaction means, and more.

The Evolving Digital Commerce Ecosystem (Warden, Barhydt, Hill, Silbert) - Exponential Finance 2014
As Bitcoin and other alternative currencies capture our imaginations, new possibilities for digital commerce and financial services are emerging. This panel provides a glimpse into how new opportunities including digital derivatives, smart contracts, wire based settlement, cross border payments and peer to peer banking are being enabled by new technologies and gives us a glimpse of what’s next in the world of digital commerce and finance.

> Financial Futures <
Bankers Beware (Caruso-Cabrera, Lyons, Milne, Sidhu, Weissbluth) - Exponential Finance 2014
Exponential technologies are presenting a 360 degree assault on every part of the banking business. It couldn’t come at a worse time, as the industry tries to respond to regulatory pressures and rebuild trust in the wake of the financial crisis and great recession. Hear from emerging leaders— Elliot Weissbluth, CEO of Hightower; Jay Sidhu, CEO of Customers Bancorp; Ben Milne, CEO of Dwolla; and Karen Pascoe, Senior Vice President at MasterCard – Emerging Payments Group — who are all bent on transforming the banking experience by embracing accelerating technologies and new business models.

Ray Kurzweil - Exponential Finance 2014
Ray Kurzweil has been called “the restless genius” by The Wall Street Journal and “the ultimate thinking machine” by Forbes magazine. In his role as a Director of Engineering at Google, Kurzweil heads up a team developing machine intelligence and natural language understanding. During this session, renowned CNBC reporter Bob Pisani will chat with Ray about accelerating technology with a particular focus around artificial intelligence and machine understanding.

Dan Hesse (Diamandis, Caruso-Cabrera, Hesse) - Exponential Finance 2014
Large incumbents are increasingly threatened by new innovations and the quickening pace of change. Many ventures that used to require a large multinational company can now be successfully pulled off by a few individuals. In this fireside Michelle Caruso-Cabrera and Peter Diamandis will chat with Sprint CEO, Dan Hesse, on how he is building a winning organization in an era of rapid technological change.

The Long and Short of Trading the Future (Pisani, Maguire, Ruegsegger) - Exponential Finance 2014
CNBC’s Bob Pisani talks with Ed Maguire, Senior Technology Analyst at CLSA, and Ben Ruegsegger, Senior Thematic Analyst for AllianceBernstein’s Global and Thematic Portfolios, on how investors get exposure to technology trends early in the cycle, but also the tricky business of investing in “valley stocks” – publicly traded stocks with large maturing businesses as well as small, growth businesses not yet large enough to have major impact. Key topics include how to judge the maturity of an industry, how to determine the future value of a new technology, what opportunities exist for investing now in “maturing” disruptive technologies like genomics, big data, and the internet of things, the critical importance of early legwork, and how to anticipate and judge investment “bubbles”.

Future Proof (Caruso-Cabrera, Concannon, Frank) - Exponential Finance 2014
When technological innovation moves faster than regulation infrastructure can be put in place, are some innovators at risk of missing their opportunity? This panel looks at balancing the regulatory environment as technology reinvents our financial markets. We’ll hear from Barney Frank, one of the architects of the landmark Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and Chris Concannon, President and COO of Virtu Financial, the trading firm COO whose IPO was scrapped in the wake of the negative national attention on high-frequency trading.

> Exponential Organizations <
Exponential Organizations: The New Breed of Business (Salim Ismail) - Exponential Finance 2014
Salim Ismail takes you through a new breed of organizational structure that has started to emerge over the last few years. “Exponential Organizations” leverage externalities like big data, community, crowd, user engagement, gamification and other techniques to achieve 10x performance benchmarks relative to their competitors.

Jay Rogers - Exponential Finance 2014
Crowdsourced car designs, micro factories, small batch production: Local Motors has definitely gone a very different route for a vehicle manufacturing company. In this keynote speech by Local Motors CEO Jay Rogers, we’ll hear about his journey to create this different kind of company—an exponential one. Understand how he has created this highly successful organization and utilized some of the principles that Salim Ismail touched on in the previous session.

An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump - Joseph Wright, 1768

This stunning painting depicts a natural philosopher, a forerunner of the modern scientist, recreating one of Robert Boyle's air pump experiments, in which a bird is deprived of air, before a varied group of onlookers. The group exhibits a variety of reactions, but for most of the audience scientific curiosity overcomes concern for the bird. The central figure looks out of the picture as if inviting the viewer's participation in the outcome.

The piece rewards closer study. The experiment itself and the setting in which it takes place are the main attractor but the people surrounding it provide an enormous amount of context. Their faces are positively dripping with emotion. Wright has each of them tell a story, each highlighting a different facet of man's evolving relationship with early science. The scared look on the little girl's face, the lovers who have no interest in anything but each other, the somewhat mysterious boy in the background (is he lowering or raising the cage or is he perhaps lowering the curtains, afraid of the outside world's reaction to man trying to unravel the mysteries of nature?) Subtext everywhere.

The politician and philosopher Edmund Burke, in his famous Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), tied natural philosophers to the French Revolution; he later wrote in his Letter to a Noble Lord (1796) that radicals who supported science in Britain "considered man in their experiments no more than they do mice in an air pump". In light of this comment, Wright's painting of the bird in the air pump, completed over twenty years earlier, seems particularly prescient.

Wright's phenomenal paintings caused a great stir at their time of creation for they replaced the traditional classical subject with one of a scientific nature . Wright's depiction of the awe produced by scientific "miracles" marked a break with traditions in which the artistic depiction of such wonder was reserved for religious events. To Wright the marvels of the technological age were as awe-inspiring as the subjects of the great religious paintings.

Joseph Wright (1734 - 1797) has been acclaimed as "the first professional painter to express the spirit of the Industrial Revolution". He is notable for his use of Chiaroscuro effect, which emphasizes the contrast of light and dark, and for his paintings of candle-lit subjects. His paintings of the birth of science out of alchemy, often based on the meetings of the Lunar Society, a group of very influential scientists and industrialists living in the English Midlands, are a significant record of the struggle of science against religious values in the period known as the Age of Enlightenment.

Other amazing works of his include;
> A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery
> The Alchemist in Search of the Philosopher's Stone
> An Iron Forge
> Vesuvius from Portici



Back with a Bang

Quick, get a drink and some popcorn! In less than an hour, at 4:30 UTC, you can watch the ESO blow up a Chilean mountaintop to make room for the E-ELT, the extremely large telescope.


The telescope's "eye" will be 39.3 meters in diameter and will gather 15 times more light than the largest optical telescopes operating at the time of its development.

The E-ELT will search for extrasolar planets — planets orbiting other stars. This will include not only the discovery of planets down to Earth-like masses through indirect measurements of the wobbling motion of stars perturbed by the planets that orbit them, but also the direct imaging of larger planets and possibly even the characterisation of their atmospheres.

Furthermore, the E-ELT's suite of instruments will allow astronomers to probe the earliest stages of the formation of planetary systems and to detect water and organic molecules in protoplanetary discs around stars in the making.

The E-ELT will also be making detailed studies of the first galaxies and to follow their evolution through cosmic time. Observations of these early galaxies with the E-ELT will give clues that will help understand how these objects form and evolve.


New Horizons to expand yours

Last year I shared a list featuring the best documentaries of all time; http://wondreal.blogspot.be/2016/02/in-memory-of-merrin-education-in-p2p.html . If you take a look you might notice that Horizon episodes are very well represented. Just what exactly is Horizon? Oh, only one of the longest running shows ever. The first episode, "The World of Buckminster Fuller", was aired in 1964 and now, 50 years later, they are still going strong! If you ever have 50 minutes to kill, just type BBC horizon into youtube and before you know it you'll be wading knee deep through delicious investigative science reporting.

"The aim of Horizon is to provide a platform from which some of the world's greatest scientists and philosophers can communicate their curiosity, observations and reflections, and infuse into our common knowledge their changing views of the universe."