April 27, 2015

School Projects With Internet Brains

My friend Andy Forest recently sent me an email I'd like to share:

I'm writing to you because I'm working on some interesting community technology education projects. I think they would be of interest to your readers, and we're working to build awareness and support. 

My wife Marianne and I founded MakerKids a few years ago, and it's been amazing - we've taught digital literacy and other tech skills to thousands of kids. Marianne and my next venture is STEAMLabs, a non-profit community makerspace for all ages in the new Centre for Social Innovation's building on Spadina at Queen. One of our main focuses is to transform education by injecting the maker movement into it.

One project is "School Projects with Internet Brains". The idea here is to give public school teachers a way to teach the mandated curriculum in a way that is multi-subject integrated, experiential, self-directed and creative! So we went in to a grade 6 class, and worked with them to build a model of Ontario's power system out of craft materials and Arduino-controlled electronics. The finished product pulls XML files over the Internet and displays the live power generation mix from renewable and other sources on a 3D printed display on colour coded RGB LED strips. Arduino coding on a Spark Core provides the brains. The kids learned HTML, CSS and Javascript to build a web interface to send commands to the Spark and explain the system. Their project has been accepted as an exhibition at the TIFF DigiPlaySpace this Saturday, April 18th and the kids will be there all day to explain it. 

STEAMLabs has also published a free, open source Internet of Things teaching kit to enable other educators to make projects with Internet brains! 

We are also currently crowdfunding the equipment for our makerspace. We're going to get some awesome tools like a laser-cutter, a 4'x8' CNC router, a wood shop, electronics lab and of course lots of 3D printers.

So if there's anything you can do to help us tell these stories to the world, I would greatly appreciate it!

April 23, 2015

Scientists Make History By Genetically Modifying Human Embryos

After weeks of speculation, it can finally be confirmed that geneticists in China have modified the DNA of human embryos. It's a watershed moment in biotech history, but the experiment may ultimately serve as a major setback in the effort to responsibly develop beneficial interventions involving the human germline.

Read the entire article at io9.

April 21, 2015

A New York Judge Has Granted Legal Person Rights To Chimpanzees

For the first time in U.S. history, a supreme court has granted a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of two lab chimpanzees, effectively recognizing them as legal persons. While the future of the chimps has not yet been decided, it's a huge step forward in establishing personhood status for highly sapient animals.

Yesterday, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe issued an order to show cause and writ of habeas corpus on behalf of two chimpanzees, Hercules and Leo, who are being used for biomedical experiments at Stony Brook University on Long Island, New York. A writ of habeas corpus requires a detained person to be brought before a judge or court to secure their release unless it can be shown that they're being held for lawful reasons. Stony Brook University, who are being represented by the Attorney General of New York, will now have to present their case to the court on May 6th.

In New York, only a legal person can have an order to show cause and have a writ of habeas corpus issued on their behalf. The judge, by virtue of doing so, implicitly decided that the chimps are legal persons for the purpose of habeas corpus.

Read the rest of the article at io9.

April 15, 2015

A Scan Of 100,000 Galaxies Shows No Sign Of Kardashev III Civilizations

A pioneering infrared scan of 100,000 galaxies by Penn State astronomers has failed to detect any signs of galaxy-spanning extraterrestrial supercivilizations. This result, though very preliminary, may be a sign that aliens aren't capable of conquering entire galaxies.

Read the entire article at io9.

8 Possible Alternatives To The Turing Test

The Turing Test, which is intended to detect human-like intelligence in a machine, is fundamentally flawed. But that doesn't mean it can't be improved or modified. Here are eight proposed alternatives that could help us distinguish bot from human.

Check out the entire list here.

April 12, 2015

12 Ways Humanity Could Destroy The Entire Solar System

We humans are doing a bang-up job of messing up our home planet. But who's to say we can't go on to screw things up elsewhere? Here, not listed in any particular order, are 12 unintentional ways we could do some serious damage to our Solar System, too.

Read the entire post at io9.

April 2, 2015

Tatooine-Like Planets May Be More Common Than We Thought

For decades, astronomers have assumed that Earth-like planets cannot form around binary stars on account of wacky gravitational effects. Which, for Star Wars fans, was a total downer. But a new study suggests that not only is the formation of Tatooine-like planets very much possible, they may actually be quite common.

Unlike the accretion disk surrounding a young solitary star, the planet-forming environment around a binary system is subject to seriously disruptive gravitational ebbs and flows. In turn, many astronomers believed that the formation of rocky planets around binary stars is either very difficult or outright impossible. A new study by Ben Bromley from the University of Utah and Scott Kenyon of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory now suggests otherwise.

March 31, 2015

Tiny 'Nanoneedles' Could Help Your Damaged Organs Repair Themselves

In a trial involving mice, an international team of researchers used microscopic "nanoneedles" to coax the body into generating new blood vessels. Applied to humans, the technology could eventually be used to get organs and nerves to repair themselves.

Researchers from Imperial College London and the Houston Methodist Research Institute used the nanoneedles to deliver nucleic acids — the building blocks of all living organisms and transmitters of genetic information —to a specified area. Once delivered to a cell or tissue, the nucleic acids do their work by regenerating lost function. The researchers, a team led by Ciro Chiappini and Molly Stevens from the Imperial College London, describe their findings in the latest issue of Nature Materials.

The Real-Life Science Behind Orphan Black

In addition to being incredibly entertaining and provocative, the popular Orphan Black series is absolutely teeming with science. From human clones and genetic engineering through to DNA barcodes and genetic patents, here's what you need to know about the science behind the show.

For the uninitiated, Orphan Black is a conspiracy thriller that stars Tatiana Maslany as several human clones. Uncertain of their true origins, the clones struggle to evade the unscrupulous Dyad Corporation as they try to learn more about their past.

And to the show's credit, the writers — with the help of science advisor Cosima Herter — get much of the science right. There's too much to cover in a single article, so we boiled it down to four main topics: human cloning, genetic engineering, the viability of the show's timeline, and the issue of genetic patenting.

Read the rest of the article here.

March 30, 2015

Do You Suffer From 'Exploding Head Syndrome'? You're Not Alone.

New findings indicate nearly one in five college-age students has been startled awake by an abrupt, loud noise that doesn't actually exist. Known as "exploding head syndrome," the psychological condition appears to be more common and disruptive than previously thought.

Read the entire article at io9.

March 27, 2015

A.I. Pilots Are Not The Solution To Preventing Airline Disasters

We're still trying to understand the horrific Germanwings tragedy. But already, some people are suggesting it could have been prevented if a computer had been flying the plane. But that's not the solution. We spoke to an expert about why an A.I. pilot would open up an entirely new set of risks and complications.

Read the entire article at io9.

This Biohacker Used Eyedrops To Give Himself Temporary Night Vision

A team of biohackers from California successfully induced a temporary sense of night vision by injecting a simple chemical cocktail directly onto the eye. Incredibly, it allowed them to see over 160 feet in the dark for a brief period of time.

Read the entire post at io9.

March 26, 2015

This New Infrared Telescope Could Help Us Detect Dyson Spheres

The search for extraterrestrial intelligence just got a big boost, thanks to the introduction of a powerful new infrared telescope. In addition to scanning for pulses of infrared light, astronomers will use device to search for alien megastructures, such as Dyson Spheres.

Read the entire article at io9.

March 25, 2015

The 9 Weirdest Implications Of The Many Worlds Interpretation

According to the Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum physics, we live in an infinite web of alternate timelines. It's a serious claim that carries some rather serious scientific, philosophical, and existential baggage. And here are the nine weirdest possible implications.

Read the entire post at io9.

We Should Be Able To Detect Spaceships Moving Near The Speed Of Light

A pair of engineers say it's possible to detect the signatures of spacecraft traveling at relativistic speeds, and we can do so using current technologies. The trouble is, their new analysis also suggests that moving through space at ludicrous speed is more hazardous than previously thought.

Read more at io9.

Why A Moratorium On Heritable Genetic Modification Is A Bad Idea

A group of geneticists has called for a moratorium on research into modifying heritable human DNA — a practice that could lead to so-called "designer babies." But as scientists consider this drastic proposal, they should also recognize the potential benefits this technology could afford – and the risks of an outright ban.

Read the entire article at io9.

March 12, 2015

New "Senolytic" Drugs Can Dramatically Increase Healthy Lifespan

Researchers from the Scripps Research Institute and the Mayo Clinic have developed a new class of drugs that were shown to significantly slow the aging process in animal models. Remarkably, dramatic improvements were noticeable just days after treatment.

The research was only carried out on mice, but the introduction of an entirely new class of drugs, called "senolytics," could have incredible potential for humans as well.

Read the entire article at io9.

March 6, 2015

These Are The Surprising Jobs You'll Be Doing By The 2030s

As our technological and sociological realities change, so too do our jobs. But just what, exactly, will we be doing 15 years from now? Here are some completely unexpected jobs you've almost certainly never heard of—but likely will soon.

Indeed, the landscape of careers is changing. But knowing which vocations are around the corner is not obvious. This is why the Canadian Scholarship Trust, as part of its Inspired Minds campaign, recently collaborated with the foresight experts at Idea Couture (a team that included scifi author Karl Schroeder). Together, they came up with 10 jobs that are likely to appear within the next 15 years or so, along with the skills and education required.

The end result is Careers 2030—an intriguing piece of speculative work designed to inspire conversations—between parents and kids, teachers and students, and so on—about what the world of work might look like in the near future. To learn more, we contacted Jayar LaFontaine, a Foresight Strategist at Idea Couture.

Read the entire article at io9.

The 10 Algorithms That Dominate Our World

The importance of algorithms in our lives today cannot be overstated. They are used virtually everywhere, from financial institutions to dating sites. But some algorithms shape and control our world more than others — and these ten are the most significant.

Read the entire article at io9.

12 Futuristic Forms of Government That Could One Day Rule the World

As history has repeatedly shown, political systems come and go. Given our rapid technological and social advances, it's a trend we can expect to continue. Here are 12 extraordinary — and even frightening — ways our governments could be run in the future.

Read the entire article at io9.