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Jul 24, 2018

Choose Your Own Story

Posted by in categories: futurism, robotics/AI

Which future are you going to pick?


Today, I would like to tell you two short stories describing what your far future might look like, depending on the choices that you €”though not only you €”will make in the near future. Feel free to leave a comment to let others know which one you’d rather have as your real future.

Story 1: A day in 2140

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Jul 24, 2018

Artificial intelligence saves water for water users associations

Posted by in categories: climatology, robotics/AI, sustainability

Agriculture uses 70 percent of the water in the world, and this appears to be an upward trend regarding water needs. As the demand in other industry sectors is also increasing, and the effects of climate change exacerbate water shortages, water saving measures have become an unavoidable challenge for maintaining the sector and preserving life.

Agronomy researcher Rafael González has developed a model to predict in advance the that users will need each day. This tool came about from a drive to ally with water resource sustainability.

The model applies artificial intelligence techniques including fuzzy logic, a system used to explain the behavior of decision making. It also mixes variables that are easier to measure, like agroclimatic ones or the size of the plot of land to be watered, with other more complicated variables, like traditional methods in the area and holidays during watering season.

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Jul 24, 2018

Team lands new efficiency breakthrough for emerging solar cell material

Posted by in categories: solar power, sustainability

UNSW solar energy researcher and Scientia Fellow Dr. Xiaojing Hao and her team have achieved two energy efficiency world records for the solar cell material of the future, sulfide kesterite.

Dr. Hao and her team broke the 10 per cent barrier for not only sulfide kesterite but also for a standard sized kesterite solar cell, whether pure sulfide material or incorporating less-desirable selenium.

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Jul 24, 2018

Search engine for ‘smart wood’

Posted by in categories: habitats, robotics/AI

The enzyme laccase is able to alter the chemical structure of wood on its surface and thus facilitate biochemical modifications without changing the structure of the material. By attaching functional molecules, Empa researchers develop waterproof or antimicrobial wood surfaces, for instance. Also it is possible to make adhesive wood fibers, which can be pressed to fiberboards without any chemical binding agents. These solvent-free fiberboards are used for insulation of eco houses.

The problem: There are many variants of laccase, which differ in the architecture of the chemically active center, and not all of them react with the desired substrate. As it is extremely difficult to predict whether or not a particular laccase will react with a specific substrate, costly and time-consuming series of experiments are required to identify suitable laccase-substrate pairs. Molecular simulations could solve the problem: You simply need a precise structural analysis of the laccase to simulate the chemical reaction mechanism for every desirable combination on the computer. However, this requires a high computer computing—capacity and, even then, would be extremely time-consuming and expensive.

But there is a shortcut: “deep learning.” A computer program is trained to recognize patterns with data from the literature and own experiments: Which laccase oxidizes which substrate? What might be the best conditions for the desired chemical process to take place? The best thing about it: The search works even if not all details about the mechanism are known.

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Jul 24, 2018

CityHawk eVTOL flying car entering “full-scale development”

Posted by in categories: energy, transportation

Israel’s Urban Aeronautics (UA) has announced it’s going into full-scale development of its CityHawk VTOL flying car. The first manned flights of this hybrid-powered, 170 mph six-seater will take place in 2021–22, after which it’ll be converted to run on hydrogen fuel cells.

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Jul 24, 2018

Five Teams Win a Share of $100,000 in 3D-Printed Habitat Competition

Posted by in categories: 3D printing, habitats, space

NASA and partner Bradley University of Peoria, Illinois, have selected the top five teams to share a $100,000 prize in the latest stage of the agency’s 3D-Printed Habitat Centennial Challenge competition. Winning teams successfully created digital representations of the physical and functional characteristics of a house on Mars using specialized software tools. The teams earned prize money based on scores assigned by a panel of subject matter experts from NASA, academia and industry. The judges interviewed and evaluated submissions from 18 teams from all over the world and selected these teams:

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Jul 24, 2018

Artificial Intelligence Shows Why Atheism Is Unpopular

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, robotics/AI

Title is a bit misleading — atheism is only unpolular with totalitarian regimes (and Templeton Foundation?) — interesting.


Although Johnson said he found the team’s research useful and important, he was unimpressed by their claim to have outperformed previous predictive methods. “Linear regression analysis is not very powerful for prediction,” he said. “I was a little surprised by the strength of their claims.” He cautioned that we should be skeptical about the word prediction in relation to this type of model. Opinion might be better.

“It’s great to have as a tool,” he said. “It’s like, you go to the doctor, they give an opinion. It’s always an opinion, we never say a doctor’s prediction. Usually, we go with the doctor’s opinion because they’ve seen many cases like this, many humans who come in with the same thing. It’s even more of an opinion with these types of models, because they haven’t necessarily seen many cases just like it—history mimics the past but doesn’t exactly repeat it.”

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Jul 24, 2018

Beamed propulsion doable now, and with it space solar power

Posted by in categories: particle physics, solar power, space, sustainability

A dream of advocates of low cost space access has been beam propulsion of various types, whether laser, microwave, or particle beams.

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Jul 23, 2018

New ‘trackless train’ which runs on virtual rail lines launched in China

Posted by in categories: robotics/AI, transportation

Is it a tram, or is it a train, or even a fancy bus?

The world’s first electric-powered ‘trackless train’ has been launched in China.

Using virtual rail lines on the streets of Zhuzhou, Hunan Province, the new Autonomous Rail Rapid Transit (ART) system can travel up to speeds of 43 mph.

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Jul 23, 2018

Tesla Model 3 Has Highest Profit Margin of Any Electric Vehicle

Posted by in categories: engineering, food, sustainability

The engineering firm Munro & Associates made waves recently when it tore the new Tesla Model 3 apart both literally and figuratively. The company dismantles and studies cars and other products, and CEO Sandy Munro was very vocal about his feelings regarding Tesla’s newest electric vehicle. He said the build quality was like a Kia from the 90s. Now, the company has completed its analysis. While Munro’s opinion on the fit and finish hasn’t changed, he has expressed downright shock that the Model 3 is highly profitable for Tesla.

The initial Munro & Associates analysis of the Model 3 called out issues like clunky door handles and windows that bounce around inside the door panels. The exterior panels of the Model 3 also drew Munro’s ire. The gaps are substantially larger than the more expensive Teslas — even conventional cars that cost thousands less look more polished on the outside, according to Munro.

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