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From Science Fiction to real Science : We all remember the Star Trek bionic eyes on a crew member. While this is not new, the science behind the bionic eyes we can now make is fascinating. While the bionic eye is still in its initial stages of development, there is a lot that can be done to connect it to medical devices and other interconnected devices. Maybe have some memory in the eye? The possibilities are endless.

Visor idea : Clearly taking her inspiration from Star Trek: The Next Generation,  lead researcher, Dr. Sheila Nirenberg, a computational neuroscientist at Weill Cornell, envisions a day when the blind can choose to wear a visor which will take in light and use a computer chip to turn it into a code that the brain can translate into an image.

Mechanics : The retina at the back of the eye contains light detecting cells called photoreceptors. These cells convert light energy into electrical energy, which is transmitted to the brain via several layers of retinal nerve cells. In several forms of blindness, such as age related macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa, the photoreceptors die but leave the other nerve cells in tact. While those nerve cells cannot detect light themselves, they can respond to electrical stimulation.

How does it work? : In a bionic eye, we bypass the visual display and send the electrical signals from each pixel in the camera to the array of stimulating electrodes positioned on the eye. When placed into the eye of a blind patient, the electrodes stimulate the nerve cells that would normally receive input from the absent photoreceptors. The nerve cells have no idea that the electrical stimulation they are experiencing is coming through a man-made electrode array: they interpret the signals as if they were coming from normal photoreceptors. As a result, they send the information to the brain, which in turn experiences a pattern of electrical signals that replicates those experienced via the normally functioning eye.

References and Links

http://inhabitat.com/scientists-crack-code-that-would-allow-bionic-eyes-to-send-signals-to-the-brain/

http://www.nvri.org.au/pages/bionic-eye.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-33571412

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visual_prosthesis

Pic courtesy: http://inhabitat.com/

#science #sciencefiction  
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Virtual currencies : I have been following the evolution of bitcoin with some interest. Over the period, it has shown that hacking it does not make sense due to the blockchain database (Please see hacking news in comments). But is this where we are heading? From a futuristic concept, Yes. It makes irrefutable logic. And here is why... (Do watch the video, it's thought-provoking).

Most of the money we have is already electronic : It really is. How much do we use cash anyway? Plastic and electronic payments has outstripped physical flows of money.

Money as a concept is changing : Consumers do not differentiate between using a credit card or a debit card for small payments. Payment gateways. POS machines and mobile payments have changed all that. A lot of us never actually hold the money we earn or see it.

Value of banks : Banks historically have been the owners of these flows of money. But the real value of banks is to provide loans and take deposits, managing risk. As more and more banks are getting to be risk averse, the very reason for banks to exist is being questioned.

Reserves : Money is no longer linked to reserves. Not the hard gold standard. So what is currency? It is more of a philosophical question than you imagine. Currency is purely a trading method. Stocks and bonds are already electronic. Will cash also move in the same direction? I think so.

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Telepathy over the internet : As part of my collections on the Science of SF. It's not as far-fetched as one would imagine. Only goes to show our brains are one of the biggest mysteries to us. In more ways than one.

Over the web : The ultimate way to speed up online communication would be to push towards direct brain-to-brain communication over the web. If brains were directly connected, there would be no more need for pesky typing – we could simply think of an idea and send it instantly to a friend, whether they are in the same room or half the world away. We’re not there yet, of course, but a recent study took a first step in that direction, claiming direct brain-to-brain communication over the internet between people thousands of miles from one another.

Still just a beginning : Using EEG, the research team first translated the greetings "hola" and "ciao" into binary code and then emailed the results from India to France. There a computer-brain interface transmitted the message to the receiver's brain through noninvasive brain stimulation. The subjects experienced this as phosphenes, flashes of light in their peripheral vision. The light appeared in numerical sequences that enabled the receiver to decode the information in the message, and while the subjects did not report feeling anything, they did correctly receive the greetings.

Caution : Of course, with this kind of power comes danger too. Anything sent over the internet can be hacked and tracked. The ability to send messages directly into a person’s brain is, to some, a terrifying concept. “It can potentially be some day used in a negative way – you could try to take control of [somebody’s] motor system,” says Ruffini. But he points out that researchers are a long way from being able to do anything even remotely so sophisticated.

+Corina Marinescu has posted about this here : https://plus.google.com/+CorinaMarinescu/posts/EBGqEJze21K

References and Links

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0105225

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4138179/

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140903105646.htm

http://io9.com/brain-to-brain-interfaces-and-the-science-of-telepathy-1690302834

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20150106-the-first-brain-to-brain-emails

#sciencefiction #science  
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A Science Fiction World : Smithsonian hosts  'The Future is here' : The invite list has some awesome names such as Brian Greene,  Adam Steltzner, Rich Devaul etc. The names are like a who's who of futurists and scientists. But can we do a guessing game? What will they talk about? Where will the conversation go? While one cannot predict what they would bring forth, here is my list of things one would like to hear about....

Transhumanism : But naturally. With people like David Brin around, it would have to include all forms of transhumanism, Cyborgs, remotely controlled beings, robots with artificial DNA etc. See an earlier post here http://goo.gl/LU23b3

Living Quarters : Quite literally living buildings. Self-sustaining and self-powered. I would definitely talk about these. See earlier posts http://goo.gl/tMRLGj and http://goo.gl/KfO5qn

Economical way to go into space : With a much lower carbon footprint. There are already a lot of technologies in the works, and I posted a story on my blog based on some of the science which exists - http://goo.gl/u2ekqZ (I would also include dynamic soaring, fusion power, the railgun cum scramjet, but the laser based story is something which I think has the best potential).

Power : Reduce cost of power through fusion (http://goo.gl/1DW0bD), Space based solar power (http://goo.gl/5yi0Gr), Luna ring (http://goo.gl/a71BCC), Biomimicry (http://goo.gl/lXWSnh) and using microbes (http://goo.gl/I871zI). Alternate energy post here http://goo.gl/vBUr5a.

Redefining transportation : Virus powered cars (http://goo.gl/rpz3VE), The hyperloop perhaps (http://goo.gl/bm6Nts). ETT is still waiting for us (http://goo.gl/im2KAu) and so much more!

Nanobots and Nanotechnology : Nanobot post here (http://goo.gl/4VT0bG) and Nanomachine mimics nature's protien factory (http://goo.gl/JdzoSN). More recently a post on Material science, nanotechnology and biology meet here (http://goo.gl/XNU2ui).

There are so many new areas I have missed out like 3D printing, self-assembling robots and nanobots, Artifical DNA, Stem cell research, work on graphene. What is your guess??

For more details look at this post shared by +Thomas Dolby  here http://goo.gl/KUFNts

Originally tagged via +Avinash Jaisinghani..... on the Smithsonian event.

Speaker list includes: +David Brin, +Sara Seager, +Richard DeVaul and Brian Greene.

More food for thought: http://arstechnica.com/science/2014/04/habitable-exoplanets-are-bad-news-for-humanity/

Pics courtesy: Smithsonianmag, giantlife.com

#futurism #prediction #sciencefiction #scifi  
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Science Fiction to Science : This is a fascinating story which I came upon. Knight-Ridder and a skunkworks team dreamed up an idea which was to come true in 15 years. Roger Fidler dreamt up a 'tablet' computer. One wonders how much of Apple's tech is not actually stolen from someone else?

Article Extract: The Knight-Ridder company was once the USA's second largest publisher of newspapers. The company had the foresight to establish a small team to explore how the digital revolution might change the way future consumers would access news and other information, and how newspapers could adapt in order to retain their audiences. The work of this team, led by Roger Fidler, proved impressively prescient. It conceived of and described an entirely new product, a tablet computer weighing about a kilogram with a colour touch screen and resolution as good as paper — and identified how consumers would use such a device not merely as a tool to access news and information, but also to communicate and wirelessly purchase goods and advertised products.

Shortly after this video was made, Knight-Ridder closed Roger Fidler's research project. A changed corporate leadership saw no urgency in pursuing the concept of the tablet. After all the newspaper business was still very profitable, and Roger's tablet was considered to be so far into the future as to be science fiction.

Jury decision sounds suspicious : Samsung lawyers presented the Knight-Ridder research as "prior art", arguing that many of Apple's patents were not of its own original invention. The jury did not agree.

Article link: http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2014/10/27/4107530.htm

More about Knight-Ridder: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knight_Ridder

Apple steals tech? : http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1381528/Knight-Ridder-tablet-looks-just-like-iPad-17-YEARS-OLD.html

#technology #ipad #newspaper  

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The Bernal Sphere : While this is essentially a science fiction inspired mega project, which was proposed in 1929 by John D Bernal, the technology will soon be within our reach. Of course its a flight of fancy, but its interesting to read about, and makes for a great story. I do remember reading references in Arthur C Clarke's books as well as those by Peter F. Hamilton.

The Concept : A Bernal sphere is essentially a globe about a third of a mile in diameter that rotates almost twice per minute to provide Earthlike gravity along its equator. (This feeling of artificial gravity would peter out near the poles.) The vessel was essentially to be constructed from asteroid and Moon material, 16 km in diameter with a population of around 20,000 people. A atmosphere would be provided within the structure so that it became a self-contained habitat. The outer shell would be hard, transparent and thin, preventing the escape of gas and allow for the preservation of a rigid structure. The Bernal sphere was mainly designed as a space habitat, but this visionary ideas laid the ground work for the more rigorous studies that were to follows. The American engineer Gerrard K.O’Neill took this work to a new level in the 1970s when he also designed large human habitat structures that could accommodate tens of thousands of people. O’Neill planned that such structures would be loaced at the L5 point in space, a region where the gravity from the Moon, Earth and Sun is neutral.

Mechanics : Gravity might be a thing of the past, everyone could drink distilled urine, and a whole generation of Earthlings may grow up without ever having set foot on the surface of the planet. At the moment, those ideas are still firmly set in the realm of science fiction, but in the next thousand years, new technologies could be developed that would enable humanity to colonize space. While a self-sustaining space station colony might be a long way off, scientists are still working to design and perhaps even build a space station that goes beyond low-Earth orbit.

Design your own : People from all walks of life can get involved in NASA's mission to create a sustainable deep space habitat, planners say. The space agency sponsors the eXploration Habitat (X-Hab) Academic Innovation Challenge for university students. The X-Hab competition asks students for ideas about the best ways to craft a space station that could exist for an indefinite amount of time in deep space. "One of the nice things about the X-Hab project is that we have been able to fund student work on a variety of habitat designs, which stimulates us and gives us ideas about ways to lay them out and innovative things to incorporate," Smitherman said.

Article link : http://www.space.com/22229-space-station-colony-futuristic-technology.html

Additional source : http://www.bis-space.com/what-we-do/projects/project-world-ship

Video link : Bernal Sphere Space Habitat - Updated flyby.

Further reading from NSS: http://www.nss.org/settlement/space/bernalsphere.htm

Additional reference and pic courtesy : http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/space/deep/how-we-could-actually-build-a-space-colony-17268252

#bernalsphere #sciencefiction  
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The Ringworld concept in SF : Larry Niven dreamt up this megastructure based on the fact that Dyson spheres had two drawbacks. One was that it could not possibly have the same gravity everywhere due to the centrifugal force being concentrated around the 'equator' of the sphere. Niven's solution? Get rid of the sphere and just keep the equator. While the science is still not verified and the concept may well be in the realm of impossibility, it makes for great story telling.

Megastructure : Sci-fi author Larry Niven conjured up such a megastructure for his award-winning 1970 book Ringworld. Niven imagined a ring with a radius of 93 million miles—the sun-Earth distance—with the sun placed at the center. The ring' would reach 600 million miles across and a million miles tall. The vast landscape could comfortably support perhaps trillions of humans (or another similarly ambitious, technologically advanced race).

Huge scale : Niven figured a Ringworld would have a thickness of a few thousand feet, and require raw materials with a mass equal to that of Jupiter. Mountain "walls" a thousand miles high would line each rim, preventing the atmosphere from leaking into space.

Viability : Could a Ringworld ever be made? While the concept does not bend physics past the point of breaking, it would require truly extreme engineering and an utter mastery of the forces of nature. According to Anders Sandberg, a research fellow at Oxford University's Future of Humanity Institute who has studied megastructure concepts, a Ringworld "is an amazingly large structure that's way beyond what we can normally imagine, but it's also deeply problematic."

Issues : To get Earth-like gravity, the Ringworld would need to spin at nearly three million miles per hour. Very fast, to be sure. But in a frictionless space environment, it could be doable. Although it would be equidistant from its central star at all points, the Ringworld would not, in fact, be gravitationally stable. Any perturbing force from, say, a meteorite strike or a close encounter with another star could throw the Ringworld out of attractive equilibrium and onto on a cataclysmic collision course.For residents of the Ringworld, that sun would always be directly overhead at a perpetual high noon. To create a day–night cycle and save plant life from frying, Niven envisioned a set of "shadow squares" around the sun at about Mercury's distance from Earth. The parts of Ringworld between the squares would experience roving daylight, while the eclipsed portions would rest in the shade. The whole length of the Ringworld would be checkered light and dark. Solar panels on the immense shadows squares could collect energy to power the structure. Energy could be beamed via laser from the squares to receiver stations along the Ringworld's rim, away from inhabited "land."

Article link: http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/space/deep/could-we-build-a-ringworld-17166651?click=pp

Wikipedia link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ringworld

Related Elysium : http://www.space.com/22326-elysium-movie-space-colonies-future.html

Paper: http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Big+Dumb+Objects+in+science+fiction%3A+sublimity,+banality,+and...-a0149303037

Research paper on Shell worlds: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S009457651200344X

Main pic: from larryniven.net, pic bottom right from http://goo.gl/bd62eU and pic top right from http://goo.gl/ewrs4E (for illustration purposes only).

#ringworld #niven #megastructures  
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The Shkadov Thruster : Moving the solar system : The Shkadov thruster is a theoretical mirror larger than the Sun. The role? To potentially move the Sun to another place if required. It has been portrayed in some Science Fiction novels including Bowl of Heaven and its sequel Shipstar by Gregory Benford and Larry Niven. Some of the cosmic megastructures are just amazing in the sheer audacity in the thinking behind them!

Article Extract: Russian physicist Leonid Shkadov presented the megastructure concept in a 1987 paper at the 38th Congress of the International Astronautical Federation. In about a billion years our aging sun will become hot enough to boil off Earth's oceans. But we needn't let our world bake to death. By devising a megastructure called a Shkadov Thruster, we could cruise our solar system—sun, planets, and all—close enough to a younger star for it to gravitationally capture Earth. By enabling us to swap our sun for another, the Shkadov Thruster could give the planet's biota a brand new lease on life.

The Shkadov Thruster setup is simple (in theory): It's just a colossal, arc-shaped mirror, with the concave side facing the sun. Builders would place the mirror at an arbitrary distance where gravitational attraction from the sun is balanced out by the outward pressure of its radiation. The mirror thus becomes a stable, static satellite in equilibrium between gravity's tug and sunlight's push. Solar radiation reflects off the mirror's inner, curved surface back toward the sun, effectively pushing our star with its own sunlight—the reflected energy produces a tiny net thrust. Voilà, a Shkadov Thruster, and humanity is ready to hit the galactic trail.

'Minor Problems' : If humanity were ever crazy or desperate enough to build a Shkadov, the first order of business would be deciding where to place the megastructure. Much of the space-facing side of the thruster would probably need to be lined with cooling fins. These fins would radiate away excess solar heat in order to keep the mirror from deforming or melting, depending upon its material.

The thruster, of course, could not be positioned in Earth's orbital path. A logical spot for it would be above or below the plane of Earth's orbit, with the reflective mirror beaming energy mostly perpendicularly. For a thruster with a mirror angle of 30 degrees, the usual presumed curvature, Earth would still catch some extra rays.

The other problem is simply acquiring enough material to build the behemoth structure. Badescu estimated that 1/10,000 of Earth's mass would be required—probably about a sextillion pounds. Shkadov's figure is a bit higher, more like septillion pounds. Either way, it's hefty.

Space travelling a whole new way : Lining up our speeding solar system with the target star so that Earth seamlessly transfers into a nice, circular orbit around its new host would surely make for some hairy course correcting en route. Exquisite timing would be needed so that Earth, in its regular orbit, is situated on the side of our sun as near as possible to the other star for gravitational capture during the stars' close pass. Shkadov's original paper, however, suggested it could be done.

Article link: http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/space/deep/the-shkadov-thruster-or-how-to-move-an-entire-solar-system-17000392

Abstract of original paper: http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1987brig.iafcR....S

Paper related to the story : http://arxiv.org/abs/1306.1672

Additional article: http://www.astronomytoday.com/exploration/solartravel.html

Wikipedia link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stellar_engine

Related : http://news.discovery.com/space/alien-life-exoplanets/planet-searches-might-stumble-across-an-alien-stellar-engine-130625.htm

Pic top right: http://www.orionsarm.com/eg-article/49f85ad889279 (Accelerating Stars Gravitationally using unpowered Stationary Satellites), Pic bottom right : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stellar_engine (Diagram of a Class C Stellar Engine—to scale—built around a sun like star. It consists of a partial Dyson swarm composed of 5 Dyson Rings of solar collectors (the Class B component), and a large statite Shkadov thruster (the Class A component). Pic left: http://www.kurzweilai.net/what-our-civilization-needs-is-a-billion-year-plan - Artist’s concept of a Kardashev Type 2 civilization (credit: Chris Cold)

#shkadovthruster #cosmicstructures #sciencefiction  
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Holographic Projectors for Smartphones may not be as far away as you think : Ostendo Technologies has been working on the concept for the past nine years. And while others have created holographic images, the company has created a chipset which is small enough to fit into a cellphone, which is called the 'Quantum Photonic Imager.'

Article Extract: The Ostendo Quantum Photonic Imager combines an image processor with a wafer containing radically miniaturized light-emitting diodes (LEDs). The system can control the color, brightness and angle of more than a million individual beams of light. During a demonstration, six Ostendo units laid together beamed a 3-D image of green dice “spinning in the air,” according to the Journal report: “The image and motion appeared consistent, irrespective of the position of the viewer.”

One of the biggest challenges facing wearable displays, like the one on Glass, though, has been that the internal components are too large to be hidden. Ostendo says it has spent the past eight and a half years quietly developing the QPI image engine to be both compact and high in resolution. The 5-by-5-millimeter chip contains an image processor, micro LEDs and image-rendering software. To produce an image, the processor controls the precise distance and angle of each of those LEDs. The images are higher in resolution than those produced by most current phone screens. A QPI image has 3,000 dots per inch; a Samsung Galaxy S IV has 441.

El-Ghoroury, CEO says that the company is already in talks with a few smartphone manufacturers. The chips should cost about $30. First to market sometime next year will be a 2D–capable projector chip, with its flashier hologram-producing cousin following shortly thereafter.

+Smithsonian Magazine source: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/smartphones-project-holograms-180951698/ (pics courtesy on right)

+Discovery source: http://news.discovery.com/tech/gear-and-gadgets/new-chip-to-beam-smartphone-holograms-140606.htm

Company website and pdf download: http://ostendo.com/press/wsj.php

Science news daily link: http://www.sciencenewsdaily.org/hardware-news/cluster578115426/

Related patent: http://www.freepatentsonline.com/y2014/0029307.html

Additional link and main pic source: http://www.dailydot.com/entertainment/morning-gif-lana-del-rey-dancing-luke-skywalker/

Video Link: http://on.wsj.com/1nLwQDx

#hologram #smartphone #3d #technology  
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The Smithsonian's "The Future is Here Festival' : I wrote about this earlier in a post, with my own list of what would be future and emerging technologies here http://goo.gl/62x7pg . (I wish they had covered some of my list - do take a gander!!!)

While some of the technologies were showcased, it was more of a festival of people who had a take the future. They discussed stuff on various topics - some of which I reproduce here. The video is a nice piece of PR :)

Article Extract: Joshua Bell's talk, "From Hal to Siri to Us: Voices of the Future" explored our multifaceted mobile culture—how we're constantly changing it, and how it's constantly changing us. Bell had lots of ideas, ranging from mobile implants to a burgeoning open-source "hacker" culture that would democratize technology for the masses.

Corinna Lathan works with robotics, sensors, and mobile computing platforms. According to her, bodily-adapted wearable electronics are "one of the top emerging technologies for 2014." The big question, she says, is how we can leverage them to enhance human ability.

The Future Festival wrapped up its first day with a conversation between +David Brin and Brian Greene, the author/superstring and multiverse theorist. The theme? Science meets science fiction. "Science becomes meaningful when it isn't something you're forced to learn in facts and figures," reflects Brin. "The real litmus is whether you affected people."

Article Link: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/peek-futures-present-live-coverage-smithsonian-future-here-festival-180951445/

Interesting video here : http://www.smithsonianmag.com/videos/category/3play_1/the-future-of-climate-change-is-in-the-past/

Additional news link : http://www.nbcnews.com/science/weird-science/real-life-jetpack-flies-futuristic-conference-n109221

#science #future #smithsonian  
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