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Dec 15, 2018

Author Vernor Vinge: Proposing a singular view of technology’s future

Posted by in categories: robotics/AI, singularity

When the Technological Singularity arrives, you can’t even imagine what the future will hold afterwards. Just ask author Vernor Vinge.

A five-time Hugo Award-winning author (among various other awards and accolades), Vernor Vinge has been writing and speculating about AI and intelligence amplification for over half a century. As part of his storied career, an interesting anecdote concerns a rejection letter he received from legendary science fiction editor and publisher John W. Campbell, Jr.

Early in his career, Vinge had proposed a story about a human being with amplified intelligence and (as Vinge relates in his short story collection) Campbell wrote him back with the comment, “Sorry — you can’t write this story. Neither can anyone else.” Jump forward a few decades, and Vinge delivered a paper to NASA entitled The Coming Technological Singularity in which he foresaw a moment when artificial intelligence will develop exponentially until it reached a point that surpasses humanity’s ability to comprehend. It is intelligence so far superior that we can’t even imagine what it would be like. And then what?

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Dec 15, 2018

Mind-reading machine allows completely paralyzed patients to say if they want to live

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, computing, neuroscience

Some patients were even able to indicate that they were happy.

A brain-computer interface records “yes” and “no” answers in patients who lack any voluntary muscle movement.

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Dec 15, 2018

Lasers help keep CubeSats on target to handle large data downlinks

Posted by in category: satellites

An MIT team is working on a new aiming system that will allow CubeSats to use lasers for high-bandwidth communications with Earth. The new laser-pointing platform uses a second directional beam to keep the primary data beam on focus, allowing the CubeSat to transmit large amounts of data without the need for heavy antennae or wasting propellant.

Dec 15, 2018

What happens when the Orion spacecraft returns back to Earth after traveling thousands of miles into deep space?

Posted by in category: space travel

Splashdown. Our engineers are testing the airbags to ensure they deploy and keep the spacecraft upright when it splashes into the ocean — even through rough waves or high winds. Dive in:

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Dec 15, 2018

Scientists Are Creating a Laser So Powerful It Could Get a Probe to Mars in Days

Posted by in categories: innovation, space

An initiative called Breakthrough Starshot wants to explore another star system using ultra-powerful laser beams and wafer-thin spaceships.

It’s a goal that sounds so fantastic, you’d be forgiven for dismissing it as science fiction. But it’s no joke, and the project’s chief engineer says millions of dollars’ worth of work is moving along without any major snags.

Starshot’s founders and collaborators include the late Stephen Hawking, Harvard University astronomer Avi Loeb, and Russian-American billionaire Yuri Milner. The concept is based on more than 80 scientific studies about interstellar travel.

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Dec 15, 2018

Breathing in Moon Dust Could be Even More Toxic Than We Thought

Posted by in categories: health, space

Space agencies are working hard to get humans back to the surface of the Moon. But it’s not exactly the most inviting place.

Astronauts during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969 may not have had any health incidents while they were gleefully bouncing around on the lunar surface, as a NASA mission report from the time points out. But they knew that lunar dust wasn’t their friend — it could irritate their lungs, cause their Moon buggies to overheat — it even started degrading their spacesuits.

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Dec 15, 2018

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope spotted a… — NASA — National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Posted by in category: space

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope spotted a rare, medium-size “hot Neptune” planet in a solar system far beyond our own. Why are there so few exoplanets of this size? Some clues: the planet orbits very close to a young star, and its atmosphere is evaporating rapidly from the blistering radiation.

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Dec 15, 2018

Royal Statistical Society Christmas quiz: 25th anniversary edition

Posted by in category: futurism

Solving the RSS’s fiendishly tricky festive quiz will require general knowledge, logic and lateral thinking.

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Dec 15, 2018

Facebook apologizes after security flaw exposes unpublished photos

Posted by in category: security

“We’re sorry this happened,” Tomer Bar, engineering director at Facebook, wrote in a blog post about the flaw.

The flaw allowed apps that users accessed through the social network’s “Facebook Login” system to see photos that had been uploaded but not published on Facebook, as well as photos published to Facebook’s “Marketplace” and to its Stories feature.

“The bug also impacted photos that people uploaded to Facebook but chose not to post,” Bar wrote.

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Dec 15, 2018

Sci-Fi Promised Us Home Robots. So Where Are They?

Posted by in categories: robotics/AI, transportation

Science fiction has promised us a whole lot of technology that it’s rudely failed to deliver—jetpacks, flying cars, teleportation. The most useful one might be the robot companion, à la Rosie from The Jetsons, a machine that watches over the home.

It seemed like 2018 was going to be the year when robots made a big leap in that direction. Two machines in particular surfaced to much fanfare: Kuri, an adorable R2D2 analog that can follow you around and take pictures of your dinner parties, and Jibo, a desktop robot with a screen for a face that works a bit like Alexa, only it can dance.

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