Month: May, 2018

Talking Model 3 With Ben Sullins of Teslanomics

I recently traveled to Palm Springs and got a chance to hang out with Ben Sullins, who brought his Model 3 with him – and I got a chance to drive it!

Ben’s channel, Teslanomics, talks about Tesla from a data science standpoint. It’s a great source of Tesla news that cuts through all the hype. Find his channel here:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbEbf0-PoSuHD0TgMbxomDg

And see the video on my YouTube channel:

Doctors Explain Michael Jackson’s Impossible Dance Move

Neurosurgeons have described in detail how Michael Jackson achieved biomechanically impossible dance moves in his music video Smooth Criminal.

In the 1987 routine, Michael leans from the ankle at a 45 degree angle, while keeping his body straight as a rod.

The illusion, which many have tried to copy, was thanks to specially designed shoes and the artist’s core strength.

The spine experts warn others against attempting the potentially injurious but mind-boggling move.

Manjul Tripathi and colleagues from the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh, India, say in the Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine: “Most trained dancers with strong core strength will reach a maximum of 25 to 30 degrees of forward bending while performing this action. MJ pulled off a gravity-defying 45 degree move that seems unearthly to any witness.




How MJ did it?

If a person were to attempt the Smooth Criminal lean, they would notice that the bulk of the strain to strike the pose moves to the Achilles tendon in each ankle, rather than the erector spinae muscles of the back.

This allows for only a very limited degree of forward bend, even for someone matching Michael’s strong athletic abilities, explains Assistant Prof Tripathi.

Michael got the extra degrees of tilt thanks to some fancy footwear.

A v-shaped slit in the bottom of each heel of his spats slotted onto a strong nail or “hitch member” driven into the ground, allowing the dancer to pivot and lean further forward, for the gravity-defying move.

Prior to the patented footwear invention, Michael had relied on supporting cables and a harness around his waist to create the illusion.

It’s said that he and two Hollywood colleagues borrowed the footwear idea from US astronauts’ boots, which can be docked to a fixed rail when working in zero gravity.

But even with specially designed footwear and the support of the hitch member, the move is incredibly hard to pull off, requiring athletic core strength from strengthened spinal and lower-limb muscles, say the doctors.

Several MJ fans, including the authors, have tried to copy this move and failed, often injuring themselves in their endeavours,” they caution.

Dr Tripathi said: “The chances of injury to the ankle are significant. You need strong core muscles and good support around the ankle. It’s not a simple trick.”

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Pass it on: Popular Science

GMO Food To Get Labels Beginning 2020

New guidelines for labeling foods with genetically modified organisms have now been submitted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which essentially would require all foodmakers to use labels that indicate their products contain GMO.

A great number of Americans still debate over the safety of GMO food regardless of scientific studies that say they aren’t health hazards.

Many companies, along with a handful of different establishments including restaurants and coffee shops, now place “non-GMO” labels on their products.

For the uninitiated, GMO refers to plants and animals created via gene alteration in ways that natural breeding can’t achieve. It also refers to products that contain GMO ingredients.

Scientists perform this to make some plants resistant to ill elements and ultimately make agriculture more efficient. For example, one type of papaya contains a gene modification that makes it resistant to a certain virus.

Only a handful of crops like this, according to The New York Times, are grown globally.




What Are GMOs?

The most significant belief among the anti-GMO groups is that GMO foods elevate risk of certain diseases.

A report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine in 2016 found “no differences that would implicate a higher risk to human health” from GMO crops.

It found no evidence that GMO foods in North America have contributed to higher risks incidence of cancer, obesity, diabetes, kidney disease, autism, celiac disease, or food allergies.

Several other organizations have also expressed that GMOs are safe for consumption.

Department Of Agriculture’s New Guidelines

Even still, the new guidelines will require foodmakers and manufacturers to put GMO labels on their products by 2020, but they’re given more freedom beyond a plain, nondescript “GMO” sticker.

Instead, the guidelines propose labels such as “bioengineered” — or “BE,” for short.

Foodmakers would also be able to choose among three options: say the product contains GMO flat-out, use a standard icon or logo, or place a QR code that will take users to a website containing more information.

However, the labels may not appear on all products that contain GMO.

For example, some crops that undergo genetic engineering might not be required to get such labels because even though their genes are altered, such alterations can still occur via conventional breeding methods.

Another example are foods whose main ingredient is non-GMO meat but otherwise contain GMO ingredients. Both of these don’t have to be labeled.

It’s important to note that the Department of Agriculture’s guidelines are still pending. The public has until July 3 to comment on the proposal.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Behind The Hype Of ‘Lab-Grown’ Meat

Some folks have big plans for your future. They want you—a burger-eatin’, chicken-finger-dippin’ American—to buy their burgers and nuggets grown from stem cells.

One day, meat eaters and vegans might even share their hypothetical burger. That burger will be delicious, environmentally friendly, and be indistinguishable from a regular burger.

And they assure you the meat will be real meat, just not ground from slaughtered animals.

That future is on the minds of a cadre of Silicon Valley startup founders and at least one nonprofit in the world of cultured meat.

Some are sure it will heal the environmental woes caused by American agriculture while protecting the welfare of farm animals.




But these future foods’ promises are hypothetical, with many claims based on a futurist optimism in line with Silicon Valley’s startup culture.

Cultured meat is still in its research and development phase and must overcome massive hurdles before hitting market.

A consumer-ready product does not yet exist and its progress is heavily shrouded by intellectual property claims and sensationalist press. Today, cultured meat is a lot of hype and no consumer product.

The truth is that only a few successful prototypes have yet been shown to the public, including a NASA-funded goldfish-based protein in the early 2000s, and a steak grown from frog cells in 2003 for an art exhibit.

More have come recently: Mark Post unveiled a $330,000 cultured burger in 2013, startup Memphis Meats has produced cultured meatballs and poultry last and this year, and Hampton Creek plans to have a product reveal dinner by the end of the year.

Because many in the cultured meat industry see this meat as cruelty-free, animal rights groups have become more vocal about cultured meat in its recent past.

For now, we know that the meat is made by growing animal-derived cells in the lab and harvesting the meat after a month or so.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Do Black Holes Die?

There are some things in the universe that you simply can’t escape. Death. Taxes. Black holes. If you time it right, you can even experience all three at once.

Black holes are made out to be uncompromising monsters, roaming the galaxies, voraciously consuming anything in their path.

And their name is rightly deserved: once you fall in, once you cross the terminator line of the event horizon, you don’t come out. Not even light can escape their clutches.

But in movies, the scary monster has a weakness, and if black holes are the galactic monsters, then surely they have a vulnerability. Right?

In the 1970s, theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking made a remarkable discovery buried under the complex mathematical intersection of gravity and quantum mechanics: Black holes glow, ever so slightly, and, given enough time, they eventually dissolve.




Wow! Fantastic news! The monster can be slain! But how? How does this so-called Hawking Radiation work?

Well, general relativity is a super-complicated mathematical theory. Quantum mechanics is just as complicated.

It’s a little unsatisfying to respond to “How?” with “A bunch of math,” so here’s the standard explanation: the vacuum of space is filled with virtual particles, little effervescent pairs of particles that pop into and out of existence, stealing some energy from the vacuum to exist for the briefest of moments, only to collide with each other and return to nothingness.

Every once in a while, a pair of these particles pops into existence near an event horizon, with one partner falling in and the other free to escape.

Unable to collide and evaporate, the escapee goes on its merry way as a normal non-virtual particle.

Here’s the thing: I don’t find that answer especially satisfying, either.

For one, it has absolutely nothing to do with Hawking’s original 1974 paper, and for another, it’s just a bunch of jargon words that fill up a couple of paragraphs but don’t really go a long way to explaining this behavior.

It’s not necessarily wrong, just…incomplete.

One way or the other, as far as we can tell, black holes do dissolve. I emphasize the “as far as we can tell” bit because, like I said at the beginning, generality is all sorts of hard, and quantum field theory is a beast.

Put the two together and there’s bound to be some mathematical misunderstanding.

But with that caveat, we can still look at the numbers, and those numbers tell us we don’t have to worry about black holes dying anytime soon.

A black hole with the mass of the sun will last a wizened 10^67 years. Considering that the current age of our universe is a paltry 13.8 times 10^9 years, that’s a good amount of time.

But if you happened to turn the Eiffel Tower into a black hole, it would evaporate in only about a day. I don’t know why you would, but there you go.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Pluto May Have Formed From 1 Billion Comets

At its heart, Pluto may be a gigantic comet.

Researchers have come up with a new theory about the dwarf planet’s origins after taking a close look at Sputnik Planitia, the vast nitrogen-ice glacier that constitutes the left lobe of Pluto’s famous “heart” feature.

The European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission orbited Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from 2014 through 2016.

The orbiting mothership also dropped a lander named Philae onto the icy body, pulling off the first-ever soft touchdown on a comet’s surface.

Glein and his SwRI colleague Hunter Waite devised the new Pluto-formation scenario after analyzing data from Rosetta and NASA’s New Horizons mission, which flew by Pluto in July 2015.

The scientists also made some inferences about the dwarf planet’s evolution in their new study, which was published online Wednesday (May 23) in the journal Icarus.




Our research suggests that Pluto’s initial chemical makeup, inherited from cometary building blocks, was chemically modified by liquid water, perhaps even in a subsurface ocean,” Glein said.

Glein and Waite aren’t claiming to have nailed down Pluto’s origin definitively; a “solar model,” in which the dwarf planet coalesced from cold ices with a chemical composition closer to that of the sun, also remains in play, the duo said.

This research builds upon the fantastic successes of the New Horizons and Rosetta missions to expand our understanding of the origin and evolution of Pluto,” Glein said.

Using chemistry as a detective’s tool, we are able to trace certain features we see on Pluto today to formation processes from long ago,” he added.

This leads to a new appreciation of the richness of Pluto’s ‘life story,’ which we are only starting to grasp.”

Rosetta’s mission ended in September 2016, when the probe’s handlers steered it to an intentional crash-landing on 67P’s surface. New Horizons’ work, however, is far from done.

The NASA spacecraft is speeding toward a flyby of a small Kuiper Belt object known officially as 2014 MU69 (and unofficially as Ultima Thule).

This close encounter, which will occur on Jan. 1, 2019, about 1 billion miles beyond Pluto’s orbit, is the centerpiece of New Horizons’ extended mission.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

This App Will Let You Call An Uber Just by Clicking Your Heels

ruby heels

Every little girl who watched The Wizard of Oz thought one thing: I want those ruby slippers. They were so beautiful, sparkly, colorful, and bright, like Christmas molded into a low heel and round toe.

And the idea that you could get home with three ladylike clicks of the heel warmed our lazy little hearts. Certainly a lot more glamorous than hailing down a cab like a wild banshee or digging through the depths of your bag for your phone to request an Uber.



Well, thanks to technology, it seems that perhaps some dreams really do come true. A creative agency called iStrategyLabs just unveiled the aptly named Dorothy, a device that will give you powers much like our favorite stranded Kansan.

All you have to do is slip “the ruby” a small Bluetooth-enabled micro-controller into your shoe, click your heels three times, and wait for your Uber to arrive.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

A Cardboard Bicycle Is Now A Reality

Israeli cycling enthusiast Izhar Gafni is the one behind this cardboard bicycle, where it is not only highly affordable at just $10, it is also eco-friendly and lightweight.

The pieces of cardboard have been painstakingly bent and folded into what initially resembles that of a shipping package on wheels.

Once done, all of it is dunked into a bit of resin, before a layer of pearly paint is added, and you end up with beautiful looking bicycle, albeit at a relatively cheap price.

Since it is made out of cardboard, the coat of resin has a special role to play. It makes the entire cardboard bits and pieces waterproof.

So that riders are able to glide through puddles or a rain storm without having your ride all apart or unable to take your weight due to the sogginess.

There is also an attachable electric motor accessory just in case you need to have that extra boost in speed.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

This 3D-Printed Sunglasses Can Automatically Move Into Place

iron man glasses

Designer Yousif Ashoor created a pair of 3D-printed autoshade sunglasses that automatically slide into place over his eyes in sunlight.

The glasses are triggered when a sensor detects ultraviolet light, and the lenses slide out of place when out of the sun.

Ashoor’s design is just a prototype for now, but he said he will soon be uploading the necessary files and creating a post on Instructables for anyone who would like to create their own pair.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Meet MiRO: The robot dog with a mind of its own

Attendees of the International Conference on Robotics and Automation last year met MiRO. The robotic pet dog that has been built to provide the elderly with company.

MiRO – designed by Consequential Robotics looks and behaves like a pet dog, and has six ‘senses’ including touch sensitivity, light sensitivity, stereo eyesight and sharp hearing.

The robot dog uses a sonar sense, like bats and dolphins, to help navigate its surroundings, and MiRO’s cliff sensors help to ensure that it does not fall off a table or down a flight of stairs.

“At the heart of our approach is human-centred design – understanding the practical  needs  of  our  users  as  well as  their  emotional  wants  and  dreams,” said designer, Sebastian Conran.

Although the long-term plan is for MiRO to be a companion robot, initially the robot will be marketed to researchers who are interested in  developing  companion  robots  and  to  universities  doing  research  in robotics  or  offering training  in  robot  programming.

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Pass it on: New Scientist