Tag: Future

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

NASA Scientists Believe We Will Find Alien Life Within The Next 20 Years

It’s not exactly the Hollywood fantasy of flying saucers beaming down big-headed, wide-eyed aliens to Earth, but top NASA scientists have announced that they think we are tantalizingly close to discovering some form of extraterrestrial life.

In fact, our search tools have become so sophisticated that space researchers believe we will have gathered convincing data for the presence of alien life, most likely microbial, by 2025.

I think we’re going to have strong indications of life beyond Earth within a decade, and I think we’re going to have definitive evidence within 20 to 30 years,” NASA chief scientist Ellen Stofan said this week at a public panel discussion in Washington.

We know where to look. We know how to look. In most cases, we have the technology, and we’re on a path to implementing it.”

This optimism was promoted by recent discoveries that suggest that potentially habitable worlds are much more common than once believed.




Almost every star is now thought to host planets, and one study even suggested that those within our galaxy possess an average of two planets within the habitable range, or “Goldilocks zone,” which is the area where liquid water can exist.

But it’s not just stars that can host these regions; discoveries much closer to home suggest that even giant planets could have habitable zones, which could greatly expand scientists’ search for life.

Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, for example, has a vast and deep subsurface ocean despite residing some 400 million miles away from the sun.

The water within this ocean resists completely freezing over due to strong tidal forces resulting from Jupiter’s gravitational pull.

Jupiter is also home to another interesting satellite, Ganymede, which is also thought to possess a subsurface saltwater ocean.

Although Europa has received the most attention, Saturn’s moon Enceladus also recently became a top candidate for extraterrestrial life following the discovery of a liquid water ocean below its icy surface.

Furthermore, this satellite was also found to possess geysers that spurt out sandy plumes of water and ice, suggesting the presence of hydrothermal activity within the subsurface ocean.

And let’s not forget about Mars; this now parched and barren planet was once a watery world complete with enduring lakes, oceans and flowing rivers, some of which could have lingered long enough for life to have had a chance to evolve.

Not only that, but scientists also recently found evidence of useful nitrogen compounds, which are a crucial source of this element for life on Earth.

While our present set of powerful observatories are obviously capable of churning out exciting data on the subject, things are only set to get more exciting as technology develops.

A mission to Europa is already on the cards, for example, which NASA hopes to launch by 2022.

And before that, the agency hopes to send up their James Webb Space Telescope, which will probe the atmospheres of nearby “super-Earths,” or exoplanets with masses higher than our own planet, with the hope of identifying gases that could have been created by life forms.

Certainly, we have got a lot to look forward to in the coming years.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Larry Page’s Kitty Hawk Unveils Autonomous Flying Taxis

Autonomous flying taxis just took one big step forward to leaping off the pages of science fiction and into the real world, thanks to Google co-founder Larry Page’s Kitty Hawk.

The billionaire-backed firm has announced that it will begin the regulatory approval process required for launching its autonomous passenger-drone system in New Zealand, after conducting secret testing under the cover of another company called Zephyr Airworks.

The firm’s two-person craft, called Cora, is a 12-rotor plane-drone hybrid that can take off vertically like a drone, but then uses a propeller at the back to fly at up to 110 miles an hour for around 62 miles at a time.




The all-electric Cora flies autonomously up to 914 metres (3,000ft) above ground, has a wingspan of 11 metres, and has been eight years in the making.

Kitty Hawk is personally financed by Page and is being run by former Google autonomous car director Sebastian Thrun. The company is trying to beat Uber and others to launching an autonomous flying taxi service.

The company hopes to have official certification and to have launched a commercial service within three years, which will make it the first to do so.

But its achievement will also propel New Zealand to the front of the pack as the first country to devise a certification process.

The country’s aviation authority is well respected in the industry, and is seen as pioneering.

Kitty Hawk is already working on an app and technology to allow customers to hail flying taxis as they would an Uber, but whether Page, Thrun and their team will actually be able to deliver within three years remains to be seen.

Many companies have promised great leaps but failed to deliver meaningful progress towards a Jetsons-like future, from Uber’s Elevate to China’s Ehang.

Even if Kitty Hawk hits all its projected milestones and launches commercially, there’s then the matter of persuading people to actually use it.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Star Trek Tech: From Science Fiction To Science Fact

Whether you’re a fan of the original series, an admirer of Jean-Luc Picard or a sucker for the incredible action sequences in the latest J J Abrams reboot films, we can all agree that Star Trek is amazing!

It has inspired generations of children and adults to learn more about science and astrophysics. But, have you ever wondered about some of the science in the show?

How does the Enterprise travel at warp speed? What exactly is a photon torpedo? Well, wonder no longer, because we’re going to take a look at some of the science behind Star Trek!




These are the famous words that describe the mission of the Star Trek Enterprise. Strange worlds, new life, new civilisations; this is exactly what you want from a Sci-Fi TV show!

But, there have been over 700 episodes of Star Trek, so surely they must be running out of planets to visit?

Well, the latest research from NASA, using the Kepler satellite which looks for planets around other stars in our galaxy, suggests that 50% of stars in our galaxy have at least one Earth sized planet or bigger.

There are approximately 100 billion stars in our galaxy alone, which means there are at least 50 billion (that’s 50,000,000,000) planets in our galaxy!

As there are an estimated 100 billion galaxies in the Universe, that means there could be 5,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (that’s called 5 sextillion!) planets in the Universe!

Mr. Spock certainly has enough planets left in our Universe to beam down to.

But, how many of these have life on them? Well, this is much trickier question to answer. The only life that we know of in the Universe is down here on Earth.

Space missions are planned to see whether life exists elsewhere in our own solar system, perhaps on Mars or on Saturn’s moon Titan, but there is no evidence so far that life exists anywhere other than on our own planet.

We’ll let you judge for yourselves what the chances are that one of those 5 sextillion planets has life on it.

“She cannae take it Captain!”

This is the response by Scotty, the ship’s engineer, when asked to take the ship to a higher warp speed. But, what is warp speed? Well, light travels at a certain speed (around 300 million metres per second), which we call the speed of light (clever naming!).

Scientists in the real Universe believe that this is the fastest speed that anything can travel; however, in the Star Trek universe, they have developed engines that can make ships travel faster than the speed of light, which they call warp speed.

A ship travelling at warp speed two is travelling on average 8 times faster than the speed of light, for example.

“Fire Photon Torpedoes!”

When you’re fighting off evil aliens, you need some powerful weapons, and no weapon is more famous in the Star Trek universe than the photon torpedoes.

These torpedoes use small amounts of anti-matter and matter to create devastating explosions; but could we make these deadly weapons in real life?

Well, matter is any kind of material made of atoms – that’s trees, the air, water, metal and pretty much everything in the Universe.

Anti-matter is the opposite of it, a strange material which is made up of the opposite versions of the particles that make up atoms.

Most of the Universe is made up by normal matter and not anti-matter, which is good, as when matter and anti-matter meet the violently explode!

Live long and prosper

So, in conclusion, the science in the Star Trek Universe is pretty good; there are billions and billions of planets out there, many of which are suitable for carrying life.

We can make anti-matter down here on Earth already, so photon torpedoes might not be too far away.

And we might not be able to travel faster than the speed of light, but who want’s to watch a TV show about a thousand year journey to Alpha Centauri!

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Inside The Weird World Of Quantum Computers

In a world where we are relying increasingly on computing, to share our information and store our most precious data, the idea of living without computers might baffle most people.

But if we continue to follow the trend that has been in place since computers were introduced, by 2040 we will not have the capability to power all of the machines around the globe, according to a recent report by the Semiconductor Industry Association.




What is quantum computing?

Quantum computing takes advantage of the strange ability of subatomic particles to exist in more than one state at any time.

Due to the way the tiniest of particles behave, operations can be done much more quickly and use less energy than classical computers.

In classical computing, a bit is a single piece of information that can exist in two states – 1 or 0. Quantum computing uses quantum bits, or ‘qubits’ instead.

These are quantum systems with two states. However, unlike a usual bit, they can store much more information than just 1 or 0, because they can exist in any superposition of these values.

A qubit can be thought of like an imaginary sphere. Whereas a classical bit can be in two states – at either of the two poles of the sphere – a qubit can be any point on the sphere.

This means a computer using these bits can store a huge amount more information using less energy than a classical computer.

Last year, a team of Google and NASA scientists found a D-wave quantum computer was 100 million times faster than a conventional computer.

But moving quantum computing to an industrial scale is difficult.

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Pass it on: New Scientist