Month: May, 2018

Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck on His Mission To Transform Space As We Know It

On the YouTube channel today, I am releasing an often-requested video on Rocket Lab, the New Zealand private launch company that’s focusing on small, disposable rockets to serve the growing cubsat and micro satellite industry. And for the video, CEO Peter Beck was kind enough to spend some time talking with me about his company, his philosophy, and some of the engineering challenges to reaching space.

Find the YouTube video here:

https://youtu.be/zjg5CGylUkM

If you want to learn more about Rocket Lab, visit their website:

http://www.rocketlabusa.com

 

Electronic Nose Could Aid In Rescue Missions

Anatomy of a super-smeller.

The olfactory system is based on artificial intelligence algorithms that enable the detection of the scent of alcohol, but with some modifications to the system and the algorithms it can recognize odors and toxic gases or elements.

“In rescue missions it might recognize blood, sweat or human urine,” said the former student of Tec de Monterrey.

In the first phase of development, the student wondered about how living things carry out the process of odor recognition and then transferred that knowledge to the mathematical sciences, and thus translated it into algorithms.

We note that, biologically, animals perceive the direction of an odor using two characteristics: it comes at different concentrations to the nostrils, and, because it is appreciated with a time difference.”

These two factors can identify from which a certain aroma comes,” explained the researcher.




This is how chemical sensors that mimic the nostrils, and which are separated by a septum, will perceive specific odors.

The data, said Lorena Villarreal, is sent by radio to a computer, where it is analyzed in real time to know the origin and direction of the aroma, using programmed algorithms.

Unlike other olfactory systems, this has the feature that in each cycle of ventilation the air chamber empties, making sensors ready for a new measurement,” says the doctor.

Thus, the technology takes only one cycle to detect that there has been a change of direction in the path of smell, which enables the robot to perform the tracking faster.

A noble beast.

Later the young researcher implemented this olfactory system to a robotic platform funded by CONACYT, to achieve its deployment to hypothetical emergency zones.

Blanca Lorena Villarreal is developing algorithms that allow the discrimination of odors, to give the robot some artificial intelligence that contributes to decision making processes.

For developing the “electronic nose,” the researcher has been recognized as one of the most innovative young Mexicans in the Mexican edition of MIT Technology Review, by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Changing Lanes Is Simple For Human Drivers. Not So For Autonomous Cars.

A driver sits engrossed in her laptop screen, catching up on emails as the car barrels down the highway. In the next lane, a father helps his kids finish homework while their vehicle swiftly changes lanes.

Nearby, an empty car returns home after dropping off its owner.—

These are the self-driving cars in which humans can be mindlessly commuting in as few as five years, some ambitious estimates claim.

It’s a highly disruptive technology that’s coming on a lot faster than people expect,” says Barrie Kirk, executive director of the Canadian Automated Vehicles Centre of Excellence.

He helps governments and companies prepare for the advent of automated vehicles.

Many automakers and tech firms have already entered the driverless car manufacturing game. Now it’s a race to perfect the technology and start selling these Knight Rider-style vehicles.




Companies hype the cars as the best safety feature since seatbelts and airbags, but there’s a sense that phasing driverless cars onto public roads may be anything but a smooth transition.

Self-driving car advocates, like Kirk, believe in the technology’s potential to save thousands of lives.

Humans, generally, are poor drivers,” he says. He would like to see human drivers banned from roads to make room for an all-automated-vehicle world.

Drivers’ mistakes are responsible for more than 90 per cent of crashes, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found.

Kirk hopes automated vehicles can eliminate 80 per cent of such collisions — a number often cited by advocates.

In 2012, 2,077 people died in car crashes on Canadian roads, according to Transport Canada. If Kirk’s estimate holds, about 1,500 of those victims could have avoided an accident.

If you’re got a whole bunch of sensors that give you a 360-degree scan, 30 times a second,” he says, “humans can not come anywhere close to that.

There will be time to adjust before the new fleet of robot cars takes over roads.

We’re not going to be in a situation where we go from no automation to fully autonomous or self-driving vehicles,” says David Adams, president of the Global Automakers of Canada.

Some people already own low-level autonomous vehicles, like ones that parallel park once the driver has properly aligned it. Some U.K. cities have started experimenting with low-speed self-driving shuttles on closed streets.

Even if safety is somewhat disputed, there are other potential benefits that can make the pursuit of these cars worth it.

Seniors, disabled people and others unable to drive will gain mobility. Families may need to own fewer cars if vehicles can travel empty to pick up and drop off family members.

Cities may require fewer parking spaces if cars can return home after dropping off owners.

But to see all those benefits and ensure safety isn’t compromised, these cars must be carefully brought into the public realm, says Shladover.

It has to be done in a sensible way.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

5 Reasons Why Octopuses Are the Weirdest

No matter how well they camouflage, octopuses will always stand out for a variety of crazy reasons — at least to those of us who live above the water line.

Octopuses are really good at blending in. They match their skin color and texture to whatever’s around them until it looks as if they’ve disappeared.

But no matter how hard they try, there are other reasons octopuses still stand out — at least to those of us who live above the water line. Here are a few ways octopuses set themselves apart:

1. They see with their skin.

No, they don’t have a million eyeballs. But scientists at the University of California in Santa Barbara discovered that octopus skin contains the same proteins that are found in eyes.

Just like the pupils of your eyes expand and contract with light, so do the muscles around an octopus’s chromatophores, which are the cells that allow it to change color.

They probably don’t pick up detail very well through their skin, but they definitely see the light!

2. They shape-shift.

Some octopuses are masters of the fake-out. The appropriately named mimic octopus would totally win Halloween with its ability to make itself look like something it’s not.




3. They have three hearts and nine brains.

Two of the hearts pump blood to the gills, and the third pumps blood to the organs in the rest of the octopus. According to Smithsonian, the third heart stops beating while the octopus is swimming.

4. They’re cannibals.

At least the giant Pacific octopus is. Found in the northern Pacific Ocean, adults often weigh more than 50 pounds.

They prefer to live alone until it’s time to mate, which is probably for the best, since they eat almost anything they can get their eight arms on — from small sharks to each other.

5. They manipulate their own RNA.

Scientists may have just discovered how an invertebrate got so smart. It turns out that octopuses can edit their own RNA.

Think about it like this: If you’re building a house, you’re going to get an architect to draw up a blueprint. That blueprint is your DNA.

To build the house, you’re going to have to hire a general contractor to execute what’s on the blueprints.

In humans, the general contractor mostly does what the blueprint says. He knows that putting in a deck when you wanted a pool could end up costing him a lot.

But for some reason, the octopus’s general contractor changes the plan in the heat of the moment. Literally. Scientists have known for a while that octopuses use RNA editing to function in the cold.

But with new information on the extent to which they pull this off, researchers now wonder if this ability will translate to a survival strategy as the oceans warm and acidify.

If humans want to make changes like this, we have to go back to the blueprints. We rely on DNA mutations passed to the next generation.

So what’s the cost to the octopus for the decisions of a headstrong contractor? Its blueprint hasn’t changed much in the last hundred million years.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Could Hawaii Volcano Explode Like Mount St. Helens In 1980?

Nearly 20 fissures have opened since the Kilauea volcano started erupting almost two weeks ago.

A fissure that opened Sunday led authorities to order 10 people to flee their homes, Hawaii County Managing Director Wil Okabe said.

With Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano continuing to belch out lava, ash and noxious fumes, people are wondering: Could it soon explode in a deadly and catastrophic fashion, like Mount St. Helens did in 1980?

Probably not, said University at Buffalo geologist Tracy Gregg. “Kilauea and Mount St. Helens are different in almost every imaginable way,” she said.

Michael Poland of the U.S. Geological Survey, agreed, saying there’s no concern that Kilauea could explode like Mount St. Helens did back in 1980.

The volcanoes are very different in composition and style,” he said.




One big difference? Gas bubbles, Gregg said.

The magma, what lava is called when it’s still underground, in Mount St. Helens is thick and sticky — think cold peanut butter — and full of gas bubbles. So it’s prone to violent explosions as it reaches the surface.

However, Kilauea’s lava is runnier — like honey — and contains less gas, so it flows more easily and doesn’t explode.

Kilauea is not likely to have a Mount St. Helens-style eruption because it’s made of runny lava that lets the gas bubbles escape, and the lava doesn’t contain much dissolved gas to begin with,” Gregg said.

Poland said gas is what drives explosive eruptions. That’s why high-silica volcanoes (like Mount St. Helens) tend to erupt more explosively than low-silica volcanoes (like Kilauea).

Silica is a rock-forming compound that helps determine the thickness of the lava.

Mount St. Helens, in southwestern Washington state, blew its top in a ferocious explosion on May 18, 1980, killing 57 people in one of the biggest volcanic eruptions in U.S. history.

An aerial view of the eruption of Mount St. Helens, Skamania County, Washington on May 18, 1980.

The two volcanoes are also different shapes: Kilauea is a gently sloping shield volcano, unlike Mount St. Helens, which is a steep-sided stratovolcano, also known as a composite volcano.

This allows for different types of eruptions, with shield volcanoes being much less violent.

However, Kilauea has experienced violent explosive eruptions in the past, Poland said, including several from roughly 1500-1800.

But the conditions to have the sorts of explosions that occurred during do not exist right now, so such explosions are not expected,” he said.

Any explosions on Kilauea in the near future would be relatively minor, caused by the mixing of hot rock and water, Poland said.

While minor, this activity could still be hazardous to anyone that is in the vicinity of the eruptive vent at the summit,” such as within a few hundred yards.

“This is one of the reasons that Hawaii Volcanoes National Park remains closed,” Poland said.

Over the past two weeks, lava from Kilauea has consumed about two dozen homes located miles from the volcano’s crater and about 2,000 people have been evacuated from the danger zone.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

In A Bonobo World, Ladies Get To Choose Their Mates

bonobo

It seems like the tendency to want to mate with the most attractive male extends beyond humans and into the animal kingdom.

A new study has found that certain male bonobos have a strong advantage when it comes to fathering offspring – which researchers suggest could come down to how attractive they are.




Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig have studied a population of bonobos in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

They discovered that despite friendly relations between the sexes, particular males have a surprisingly strong advantage over others when it comes to fathering offspring.

bonobo

For example, in one group, the most successful bonobo male fathered more than 60 percent of the next generation. The findings show that the reproductive skew is much higher in bonobos than it is in chimpanzees – which are known for being more aggressive.

While the reasons remain unverified, the researchers suspect that it may come down to a tendency for many females to choose to mate with the same attractive male.

bonobo

Dr Martin Surbeck, who led the study, said: “The funny thing under such a scenario would be that most of the females would have the same preference for Camillo, the alpha male of the bonobos at our research site.”

Bonobos are known for their friendly nature and lack of aggression, and males are often seen investing in friendly relationships with females.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Will An App A Day Keep The Doctor Away?

health app

With a big assist from technology, Americans are driving a major transformation of the nation’s health care system.

Recent years have brought us the passage of the Affordable Care Act, technology advances in sensors and devices, cheaper personal genomics, and the growth of the mobile app market. And all these things are empowering consumers to take control and become CEOs of their own health.

The rapid adoption of connected mobile devices is enabling the shift from a sickcare nation to a preventative care nation with big potential savings at stake.




This monumental shift in the way Americans approach health care comes just in the nick of time: as a nation, we badly need a kick in the behind.

More than two-thirds of American adults are now overweight or obese. According to one forecast, by 2020 more than half of us will be pre-diabetic or diabetic, creating a $500 billion annual drag on the economy.

But solutions are coming. And it starts with your mobile phone.

Before long, all of those devices will be sending real-time data about you to your doctors, nutritionists and trainers. Subjective medical findings will be bolstered by cold, hard stats on the continuous state of your health.

health app

In short, we’re headed for a world of truly personalized medicine, practiced from a central hub in the cloud.

Today, mobile apps are already solving health problems and providing personalized advice and communities. It is early days but you can see the potential. Here are some examples:

HealthTap is creating a mobile “triage” system, where consumers can ask doctors questions and find out the most effective way to get specific care.

Diabetic? Welldoc recently rolled out BlueStar, a doctor-prescribed app that offers coaching.

health app

Have asthma? Try the Asthmapolis sensor which passively logs your data via Bluetooth LE and gives you personalized feedback and education on how to control your asthma.

Having trouble getting pregnant? Glow will help you track your cycle and tell you the exact best time and how to get pregnant increasing your odds of success.

MyFitnessPal is teaching consumers a new way to track their nutritional intake and lose weight. Personal trainers will tell you nutrition is 80% of the battle in maintaining a healthy lifestyle that can ward off diabetes, heart disease – even cancer.

The core of the digital healthcare revolution will be day-to-day tracking of personal stats, also known as the quantified self. Many companies are trying to be this central health and fitness hub, including insurance companies.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Forget About Shots, Allergy Sufferers Can Now Find Relief In Toothpaste

If you have bad allergies you’ve probably been told that allergy shots are the best way to get relief.

But most people don’t like needles, and going to the doctor for a shot every week can be time consuming.

As CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez explained, there is a new way to treat your allergies, and it’s toothpaste. Not just any toothpaste, but a custom blended toothpaste with the same extracts that are in allergy shots.

It turns out the mucus membranes of the mouth are a really good way to show allergens to the immune system so it stops over reacting to things like pollen or mold.




Daniel Siefring is a year round allergy sufferer. He reacts to pollen and lots of other things too.

It turns out you can add the same allergens in drops to toothpaste.

Reisacher, an allergy specialist, compared the two approaches in a recently published study and found that they produced similar allergy relief, but that toothpaste was used more consistently.

The prescription kit is completely customized, the doctor or pharmacy adds in exactly what you’re allergic to, blends it into the toothpaste, and puts it into a handy pump.

Peanuts: the ultimate frenemy.

Now, Siefring treats his allergies with his usual morning routine, and no the paste doesn’t taste like cat, mold, or pollen.

Users have to brush for two minutes, which is what dentists recommend anyway.

Unfortunately, the toothpaste is not covered by health insurance. The cost works out to about $3 to $5 a day, so skipping the mocha frappucino in the morning could make your miserable allergy symptoms get better.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

800-Year-Old ‘Made In China’ Label Reveals The Lost History Of An Ancient Shipwreck

An 800-year-old ‘Made in China’ label has revealed the lost history of a shipwreck and its cargo.

The ship sank in the Java Sea, off the coast of Indonesia, hundreds of years ago, and the wooden hull disintegrated over time, leaving only a treasure trove of cargo.

The mystery ship had been carrying thousands of ceramics and luxury goods for trade, and they remained on the ocean floor until the 1980s when the wreck was discovered by fishermen.

Since then, archaeologists have been studying artifacts retrieved from the shipwreck to piece together where the ship was from and when it departed.

And findings published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, reveal how the equivalent of a ‘Made in China’ label on a piece of pottery helped researchers reevaluate when the ship went down and how it fits in with China’s history.

Study lead author Doctor Lisa Niziolek, an archaeologist at the Field Museum in Chicago, said: “Initial investigations in the 1990s dated the shipwreck to the mid- to late 13th Century, but we’ve found evidence that it’s probably a century older than that.




Eight hundred years ago, someone put a label on these ceramics that essentially says ‘Made in China’ – because of the particular place mentioned, we’re able to date this shipwreck better.

The ship was carrying ceramics marked with an inscription that might indicate they were made in Jianning Fu, a government district in China.

But after the invasion of the Mongols around 1278, the area was reclassified as Jianning Lu.

The slight change in the name tipped Dr Niziolek and her colleagues off that the shipwreck may have occurred earlier than the late 1200s, as early as 1162.

Dr Niziolek noted that the likelihood of a ship in the later “Jianning Lu” days carrying old pottery with the outdated name is slim.

She said: “There were probably about a hundred thousand pieces of ceramics onboard.

It seems unlikely a merchant would have paid to store those for long prior to shipment – they were probably made not long before the ship sank.

The ship was also carrying elephant tusks for use in medicine or art and sweet-smelling resin for use in incense or for caulking ships.

Dr Niziolek said both the tusks and the resin were critical to re-dating the wreck.

The resins and the tusks come from living things, and all living things contain carbon. A type of carbon atom called C-14 is unstable and decays relatively steadily over time.

Scientists can use the amount of C-14 in a sample to determine how old it is.

The analysis, known as radiocarbon dating, had been done decades ago and pointed to the shipwreck being about 700 to 750-years-old.

But Dr Niziolek said analytical techniques have improved, and the scientists wanted to see if the date held.

The amount of decayed carbon found in the resins and tusks revealed that the cargo was older than previously thought.

When taken together with the place name inscribed on the ceramics, stylistic analysis of ceramics from known time periods, and input from experts overseas, the researchers concluded that the shipwreck was indeed older than previously thought -somewhere in the region of 800 years old.

Dr Niziolek said: “When we got the results back and learned that the resin and tusk samples were older than previously thought, we were excited.

We had suspected that based on inscriptions on the ceramics and conversations with colleagues in China and Japan, and it was great to have all these different types of data coming together to support it.”

She said the fact that the shipwreck happened 800 years ago instead of 700 years ago is a big deal for archaeologists.

Dr Niziolek said: “This was a time when Chinese merchants became more active in maritime trade, more reliant upon oversea routes than on the overland Silk Road.

“The shipwreck occurred at a time of important transition.”

She added: “The salvage company Pacific Sea Resources recovered these artifacts in the 1990s, and they donated them to the Field Museum for education and research.

There’s often a stigma around doing research with artifacts salvaged by commercial companies, but we’ve given this collection a home and have been able to do all this research with it.

It’s really great that we’re able to use new technology to re-examine really old materials. These collections have a lot of stories to tell and should not be entirely discounted.

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Pass it in on: Popular Science

Net Neutrality Is Not “Officially Dead,” Today

There have been a lot of inaccurate reports that the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality will officially go into effect last April 23rd. That’s not true. It’s a bit more complicated than that.

It’s understandable many journalists are confused by this. It’s legitimately confusing. The FCC order said it would go into effect 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, which would have been April 23rd.

But, it still has to be approved by the Office of Management & Budget.

The most important thing for EVERYONE to understand is that nothing catastrophic or dramatic is going to happen immediately when the FCC rules go into effect.

Telecom shills will immediately start saying “See? The sky didn’t fall, we never needed Net Neutrality.” They’re lying.




The ISPs aren’t going to immediately start blocking content or rolling out paid prioritization scams. They know Congress and the public are watching them.

Rather, the death of net neutrality will be slow and insidious. You might not even notice it at first.

And that’s the worst part. What will happen is over time ISP scams and abuses will become more commonplace and more accepted.

They’ll roll out new schemes that appear good on their face but undermine the free market of ideas by allowing ISPs to pick winners and losers.

Over time we’ll see less awesome startups. Less awesome videos. Less diverse online content. And we’ll see more content that our ISPs want us to see.

The Internet will be watered down and manipulated. It will change forever in ways that harm our democracy. But it will take time.

So don’t fall for ISP lobbyists talking points. They’re ALREADY claiming that net neutrality was never needed since the sky hasn’t fallen, and the rules haven’t even gone into effect.

But also don’t panic. The Internet is not going to die next week. Keep calm and keep fighting. The Senate will vote in a matter of weeks on a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution to block the FCC’s repeal. Now is the moment to get engaged.

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Pass it on: Popular Science