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Mar 29, 2016

This Wonderful Short About a Robot War Deserves to Be a Full-Length Film

Posted by in categories: entertainment, robotics/AI

Back in 2014, we told you about Rise, a film about a robot insurgency that was the subject of a Kickstarter campaign. The result of the $38,000 raised is this proof of concept video, which definitely looks good enough to deserve a full feature.

Rise comes from director David Karlak and writers Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton (Feast). It’s one of those classic robot revolution stories. Of course, in this case you find yourself in the awkward position of rooting for the failure of humans, but that’s sometimes how these things shake out. Plus, it’s always easier to side with Anton Yelchin than Rufus Sewell.

This is clearly a pitch for some studio to give them money to make a full thing, and it’s one of the most successful of that genre I’ve ever seen. There’s clearly a story in mind and Karlak’s vision looks great in these five minutes.

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Mar 29, 2016

Scientists just found more evidence that Planet Nine exists in our Solar System

Posted by in category: space

Back in January, the astronomer who led the charge to have Pluto demoted to dwarf planet status announced that he’d just found evidence that a huge, icy planet could be lurking on the edge of the Solar System, just past Neptune.

Mike Brown, a planetary astronomer at Caltech University, estimated that the hypothetical ‘Planet Nine’ appears to be circling the Sun on a super-elongated orbit that takes an incredible 10,000 to 20,000 years to complete. And now, thanks to a newly detected Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) that’s acting really strange, Brown says the case for Planet Nine just got a whole lot stronger.

“Hey Planet Nine fans, a new eccentric KBO was discovered. And it is exactly where Planet Nine says it should be,” Brown tweeted over the weekend.

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Mar 29, 2016

There’s A Powerful And Mysterious Signal Coming From The Core Of The Milky Way

Posted by in categories: cosmology, particle physics

Dark matter is one of the greatest revelations in modern physics. Even though it hasn’t been directly detected yet, we know that it makes up around five-sixths of the total matter in the universe, binding much of it together in dramatic ways. It is this matter that stops galaxies from being torn apart as they spin.

As a new study published in the journal Physics of the Dark Universe notes, dark matter can also be destroyed. A signature of dark matter’s annihilation could potentially reveal what it was composed of in the first place, and this team of researchers from Harvard University think they’ve found one right in the heart of our own Milky Way.

Scientists are still debating what dark matter may actually be composed of, and one recent suggestion implies the particles are so dense that they are on the verge of becoming miniature black holes. Whatever they turn out to be, many astrophysicists think that these particles share a property with “ordinary” matter: they come in two flavors, matter and antimatter. When matter encounters antimatter, both are destroyed in a powerful blast that emits high-energy radiation.

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Mar 29, 2016

Synopsis: Photon’s Lifetime Extended

Posted by in category: physics

Introducing a slow-light medium into an optical microresonator extends the lifetime of a photon circulating in the device by several orders of magnitude.

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Mar 29, 2016

Will capitalism survive the robot revolution?

Posted by in categories: economics, employment, finance, robotics/AI

My new article for TechCrunch on capitalism and the robot revolution:

Economic experts are trying to figure out a question that just two decades ago seemed ridiculous: If 90 percent of human jobs are replaced by robots in the next 50 years — something now considered plausible — is capitalism still the ideal economic system to champion? No one is certain about the answer, but the question is making everyone nervous — and forcing people to dig deep inside themselves to discover the kind of future they want.

After America beat Russia in the Cold War, most of the world generally considered capitalism to be the hands-down best system on which to base economies and democracies. For decades, few doubted capitalism’s merit, which was made stronger by thriving globalization and a skyrocketing world net worth. In 1989 — when the Berlin Wall fell — the world had only 198 billionaires. Now, according to Forbes, there are 1,826 of them in 2016.

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Mar 29, 2016

Something Just Slammed Into Jupiter

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, existential risks

Astronomers have captured video evidence of a collision between Jupiter and a small celestial object, likely a comet or asteroid. Though it looks like a small blip of light, the resulting explosion was unusually powerful.

As Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy reports, the collision occurred on March 17, but confirmation of the event only emerged this week. An amateur Austrian astronomer used a 20-centimeter telescope to chronicle the unexpected event, but it could’ve been some kind of visual artifact.

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Mar 29, 2016

Flyby Comet Was WAY Bigger Than Thought

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, existential risks

Oh, joy. I hope it doesn’t take an actual catastrophe before the world comes together to get all of our eggs out of this one basket.

Comet P/2016 BA14 was initially thought to be a cosmic lightweight, but as it flew past Earth on March 22, NASA pinged it with radar to reveal just what a heavyweight it really is.

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Mar 29, 2016

Magic Microbes: The Navy’s Next Defense?

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, biotech/medical, computing, materials, nanotechnology, neuroscience, robotics/AI

Synthetic biology involves creating or re-engineering microbes or other organisms to perform specific tasks, like fighting obesity, monitoring chemical threats or creating biofuels. Essentially, biologists program single-celled organisms like bacteria and yeast much the same way one would program and control a robot.

But 10 years ago, it was extremely challenging to take a DNA sequence designed on a computer and turn it into a polymer that could implement its task in a specific host, say a mouse or human cell. Now, thanks to a multitude of innovations across computing, engineering, biology and other fields, researchers can type out any DNA sequence they want, email it to a synthesis company, and receive their completed DNA construct in a week. You can build entire chromosomes and entire genomes of bacteria in this way.

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Mar 29, 2016

Twisting puts the brakes on light in a vacuum

Posted by in categories: computing, quantum physics

A team of researchers at the University of Ottawa has discovered that twisted light moves slower than the speed of light in a vacuum set by Einstein’s theory of relativity, with major implications for the development of quantum computing and communications.

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Mar 29, 2016

Multiple bends won’t crack this lightweight, paper-like, flexible ceramic

Posted by in categories: electronics, materials, wearables

A flexible, paper-like ceramic material has been created that promises to provide an inexpensive, fireproof, non-conductive base for a whole range of new and innovative electronic devices (Credit: Eurakite). View gallery (4 images)

Materials to make hard-wearing, bendable non-conducting substrates for wearables and other flexible electronics are essential for the next generation of integrated devices. In this vein, researchers at the University of Twente have reformulated ceramic materials so that they have the flexibility of paper and the lightness of a polymer, but still retain exceptional high-temperature resistance. The new material has been dubbed flexiramics.

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