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Oct 16, 2015

Giant ‘Hole’ in Sun Is 50 Earths Wide

Posted by in category: space

I know that solar flares and CME’s aren’t an existential threat to humanity (as long as we’ve got our geomagnetic shield in place, of course), but having seen the movie Knowing I can’t help but feel at least a small and totally irrational bit terrified. And not by Nicolas Cage’s hair, either! (although it does come in a close second wink )


The sun has sprung a leak: A hole in the topmost layer of the sun and its magnetic field, the size of 50 Earths, is letting loose an ultrafast solar wind that has kicked off several nights of auroras down on Earth.

A new image, from NASA’s orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory, reveals the enormous hole as it was Oct. 10, taken at an ultraviolet wavelength unseen by the human eye. To an ordinary observer, the gaping hole would be invisible, though you should NEVER stare at the sun because serious eye damage can result.

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Oct 16, 2015

System that replaces human intuition with algorithms outperforms human teams

Posted by in categories: information science, robotics/AI

Big-data analysis consists of searching for buried patterns that have some kind of predictive power. But choosing which “features” of the data to analyze usually requires some human intuition. In a database containing, say, the beginning and end dates of various sales promotions and weekly profits, the crucial data may not be the dates themselves but the spans between them, or not the total profits but the averages across those spans.

MIT researchers aim to take the human element out of big-data analysis, with a new system that not only searches for patterns but designs the feature set, too. To test the first prototype of their system, they enrolled it in three data science competitions, in which it competed against human teams to find predictive patterns in unfamiliar data sets. Of the 906 teams participating in the three competitions, the researchers’ “Data Science Machine” finished ahead of 615.

In two of the three competitions, the predictions made by the Data Science Machine were 94 percent and 96 percent as accurate as the winning submissions. In the third, the figure was a more modest 87 percent. But where the teams of humans typically labored over their prediction algorithms for months, the Data Science Machine took somewhere between two and 12 hours to produce each of its entries.

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Oct 16, 2015

The 5 Coolest Robots at the Biggest US Land Warfare Show

Posted by in categories: military, robotics/AI

Autonomous systems for land, sea, and sky prowled the floor at this week’s AUSA conference in Washington.

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Oct 16, 2015

World Monuments Fund 2016 World Monuments Watch

Posted by in category: education
Country: Nepal Site: Durbar Square Caption: View of site Image Date: May 5, 2015 Photographer: René Fan/World Monuments Fund Provenance: Site Visit during earthquake Original: email from Lisa Ackerman

Country: Nepal
Site: Durbar Square
Caption: View of site
Image Date: May 5, 2015
Photographer: René Fan/World Monuments Fund
Provenance: Site Visit during earthquake
Original: email from Lisa Ackerman

“World Monuments Fund (WMF) President Bonnie Burnham has announced the 2016 World Monuments Watch, presenting a diverse group of cultural heritage sites at risk from the forces of nature and the impact of social, political, and economic change. Marking 20 years of the Watch, the 2016 list features 50 sites in 36 countries, dating from prehistory to the twentieth century.”

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Oct 15, 2015

Why An Interplanetary Fuel Stop Makes Sense For Human Missions To Mars

Posted by in categories: energy, engineering, space travel

My take on the MIT study.


Routine human missions to Mars would be much more efficient if they first swung by Earth’s Moon to pick up fuel for the trip, a new MIT strategic engineering study concludes. NASA’s 90’s-era mantra of “Back to the Moon and on to Mars” really does make sense, a new paper published in the Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets notes.

The idea is that a crewed mission to Mars would greatly save on fuel and launch costs if it first made an interplanetary pit stop at a space-based depot to pick up its needed fuel. In this case, such a depot would optimally be placed at the Earth-Moon Lagrange Point 2 (EML2), a point of gravitational equilibrium lying beyond the Moon’s far side.

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Oct 15, 2015

How Traveling to Deep Space In Cryogenic Sleep Could Actually Work

Posted by in categories: food, neuroscience, space travel

Our bodies aren’t meant for space. We require too much maintenance to speed through the stars. We need a steady supply of things absent from space — namely water, food and oxygen. We crave warmth but won’t find it in deep space, where the average temperature is −455 degrees Fahrenheit. Even if we could survive in an icy vacuum without sustenance, we’d probably go insane without distractions and room to move.

But aeronautic engineers believe they have found the key to solving that puzzle: put your space travelers to sleep. Long-term cryogenic and hibernative sleep may be the key to getting humans to Mars, and beyond. But it may first come to a spa near you.

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Oct 15, 2015

Prosthetic Limbs Could Have Artificial Skin That Really Feels

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, cyborgs

It can transmit different amounts of pressure, just like real skin.

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Oct 15, 2015

Anti-drone rifle shoots down UAVs with radio waves

Posted by in categories: drones, energy, law enforcement, military

While the US military continues to develop new and awesome ways of blowing aerial drones to smithereens, not many of these systems can easily be adapted to use in the civilian realm. That’s why Battelle has developed the DroneDefender, a shoulder-mounted rifle that knocks UAVs offline with a barrage of radio waves.

“It can help us in numerous settings, from the White House lawn to bases and embassies overseas; from prisons and schools to historic sites,” Alex Morrow, technical director on the project, said in a statement. “It easily and reliably neutralizes the threat.” The weapon weighs roughly 10 pounds and can target drones up to 400 meters away. When the trigger is pulled, the gun emits a blast of electromagnetic energy tuned to the most common GPS and ISM frequencies, safely disabling the drone and preventing it from accepting any additional commands from its operator. This is especially helpful if the drone is equipped with an improvised explosive device.

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Oct 15, 2015

Billions in Change — Official Film

Posted by in categories: complex systems, energy, ethics, hacking, health, materials, sustainability, water

“The world is facing some huge problems. There’s a lot of talk about how to solve them. But talk doesn’t reduce pollution, or grow food, or heal the sick. That takes doing. This film is the story about a group of doers, the elegantly simple inventions they have made to change the lives of billions of people, and the unconventional billionaire spearheading the project.”

Oct 15, 2015

Researchers use engineered viruses to provide quantum-based enhancement of energy transport

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, genetics, particle physics, quantum physics, solar power, sustainability

Nature has had billions of years to perfect photosynthesis, which directly or indirectly supports virtually all life on Earth. In that time, the process has achieved almost 100 percent efficiency in transporting the energy of sunlight from receptors to reaction centers where it can be harnessed—a performance vastly better than even the best solar cells.

One way plants achieve this efficiency is by making use of the exotic effects of quantum mechanics—effects sometimes known as “quantum weirdness.” These effects, which include the ability of a particle to exist in more than one place at a time, have now been used by engineers at MIT to achieve a significant efficiency boost in a light-harvesting system.

Surprisingly, the MIT researchers achieved this new approach to solar energy not with high-tech materials or microchips—but by using genetically engineered viruses.

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