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Jun 5, 2016

Toyota is the top bidder for robotics pioneer Boston Dynamics

Posted by in categories: robotics/AI, transportation

Over the past couple of months, Google’s parent company Alphabet has been looking to offload its robotics division, Boston Dynamics, as it seeks to divert its attention to self-driving cars. Toyota’s Research Institute was thought to interested in picking up the company from the start, but Nikkei is now reporting that the car maker’s R&D arm is close to signing a deal for not only Boston Dynamics, but also Google’s Japanese robotics company, Schaft.

According to the newspaper, the Toyota Research Institute will use its $1 billion budget to purchase both companies. The Institute was established in November 2015 to develop AI, robotics and autonomous car technologies and opened its first facility in Silicon Valley in January.

Earlier this week, Tech Insider reported that the “ink is nearly dry” on the deal, suggesting it won’t be long until Alphabet and Toyota formally announce the trade. It added autonomous vehicle specialist Jaybridge Robotics to its team in March, now it’s looking to bolster its team ahead of a possible rollout of self-driving cars in 2020. Let’s hope Spot, Atlas and AlphaDog make the journey too.

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Jun 5, 2016

Plan to Fabricate a Genome Raises Questions on Designer Humans

Posted by in category: biotech/medical

What will scientists do with $100 million to mass-produce genes in the lab?

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Jun 5, 2016

Quantum weirdness survives space travel

Posted by in categories: encryption, quantum physics, satellites

In a feat that demonstrates the feasibility of using satellites to transmit uncrackable quantum messages, scientists have measured the quantum properties of photons sent to space and back again.

Physicists beamed the blips of light up to a satellite that reflected them back to Earth. Upon the photons’ return, the team, led by Paolo Villoresi of the University of Padua in Italy, observed a property known as quantum interference. That confirmed that the particles’ quantum traits remained intact over the 5,000-kilometer space voyage. The team reports the advance in a paper to be published in Physical Review Letters.

The technique could one day lead to quantum cryptography by satellite, allowing users to send snoop-proof encryption keys for encoding secret information. It’s important for the sake of secure communication and advancement of physics,” says Villoresi. But that’s not the only reason he took on the challenge. “I can more honestly say that it’s cool.”

Continue reading “Quantum weirdness survives space travel” »

Jun 5, 2016

Latest update: (1:26 PM) Estimates now show that perhaps 22% of Switzerland voted YES. — Basic income

Posted by in category: economics

Today is the day Switzerland voted on the idea of an unconditional basic income. It is a first. It is historic. It is direct democracy in action.

As I write this here from inside the campaign headquarters in Basel, Switzerland, the polls are still open and people are still voting, but as soon as they close, I will publish this and update it throughout the day with results as they come in and also the results of a representative survey that questioned Swiss voters in detail about how they feel about basic income now.

For those who wish to follow what’s going on throughout the day on video, here is the livestream. Yes, it’s in German. No, there is not an alternate version where they’re all speaking English.

Continue reading “Latest update: (1:26 PM) Estimates now show that perhaps 22% of Switzerland voted YES. — Basic income” »

Jun 5, 2016

We can now ‘cut and paste’ RNA in addition to DNA, and it could disable viruses

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, biotech/medical, genetics

You’ve probably heard of CRISPR — the gene editing tool that essentially lets scientists cut and paste DNA, removing things like HIV and muscular dystrophy from our cells — and now scientists have discovered a way to edit RNA with just as much precision.

RNA is DNA’s close biological cousin, responsible for translating messages from the nucleus to the rest of the cell, and being able to change it could open up all-new disease-fighting possibilities.

Just like CRISPR/Cas9 editing, the new procedure selectively cuts up RNA, which gives us microscopic control over genetic information, and the researchers behind it say it could open up the method could be used to block viruses and halt disease in its tracks.

Continue reading “We can now ‘cut and paste’ RNA in addition to DNA, and it could disable viruses” »

Jun 5, 2016

Tensegrity Approaches to In-Space Construction of a 1g Growable Habitat

Posted by in categories: habitats, robotics/AI, space

You’ve seen that tensegrity sphere toy. I own one. This is like Bigelow modules but a step beyond.


NASA NIAC has funded a proposal that seeks to design a rotating habitat with a robotic system that constructs the structure and provides a habitat growth capability.

The tensegrity technology allows minimum mass of both the habitat and the robotic system. This proposal solves three unsolved space travel problems:

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Jun 5, 2016

Chile is producing so much solar power, it’s giving it away for free

Posted by in categories: economics, solar power, sustainability

Market forces often produce strange quirks in the economic system, like the one we’re seeing in Chile this year: the country is producing so much solar power that it’s being sold for… nothing at all.

While it’s incredibly encouraging to see so much expansion in the country’s renewable energy output, this huge amount of supply does actually cause problems for the companies looking to invest in solar energy.

Solar capacity on Chile’s central power grid (called SIC or Sistema Interconectado Central) has more than quadrupled over the past three years to 770 megawatts – good news for the environment and customers paying their electricity bills.

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Jun 4, 2016

$17M to shape the future of music

Posted by in categories: engineering, media & arts

Very cool!


Schulich’s Music Multimedia Room has been used as a laboratory for CIRMMT and a favourite recording studio for orchestra-size ensembles since the Elizabeth Wirth Music Building opened in 2005.

By Lev Bratishenko.

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Jun 4, 2016

Did the Irish bring horns to India 2,000 years ago?

Posted by in category: futurism

Irish and the Indians jam together 2000 years ago — wow.


For example a large C-shaped bronze horn known as a kompu, which is used in Kerala in southern India, is similar to late Bronze age horns found in Scandinavia known as lurs.

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Jun 4, 2016

The Chinese Government is Setting Up Its Own Major Science Fiction Award

Posted by in categories: government, space

China’s SciFi Awards — I can see the red carpet and the outfits too. Wonder if China could do their own SciFi Walk of Fame?.


This is pretty interesting: during the latest national congress of the China Association for Science and Technology, chairman Han Qide announced that the country would be setting up a program to promote science fiction and fantasy, including the creation of a new major award.

Throughout much of its genre’s history, China’s science fiction has had a legacy of usefulness, often promoted to educate readers in concepts relating to science and technology. This new award will be accompanied by an “international sci-fi festival” and other initiatives to promote the creation of new stories.

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