io9, the new-ish Gawker blog about science fiction, has taken offense at Discover. Heaps and gobs of offense. All about our li’l column “20 Things You Didn’t Know About Science Fiction.” Annalee Newitz, the lead editor of the blog, attempts to scare-quote and exclamation-point our lighthearted column into Internet ignominy. The complaints, such as they are, range from wrong to not right to long on sarcasm, short on logic.
The most concrete gripe concerns our claim that “in 1926 writer Hugo Gernsback founded Amazing Stories, the first true science-fiction magazine.” Newitz says this honor actually belongs to Mary Shelley for writing Frankenstein.
Which raised a question in my mind, one that I pose to our readers: Have you picked up that latest issue of Frankenstein Magazine yet? It contains the entire story of Frankenstein’s monster in one bound volume. Yeah, that heavy, leather thing that says, “Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus,” on the cover. Speaking of the cover, it’s fairly hard… Read More
In case you hadn’t heard, it’s Australian Week here in the U.S., a state-run marketing event that has the streets running red with wine, buildings plastered with shots of Russell Crow and the strangely soothing accents infiltrating the airwaves (at least, if you’re in New York or Los Angeles).
Today at the Waldorf Astoria on Park Avenue, the spotlight was placed squarely on Australian innovation. Six companies assembled for a shot to win money to fund the transition to the U.S. marketplace. The event, dubbed, an innovation “shoot out” had a representative from each of the companies (who were finalists in their respective Australian states) giving a 10 minute presentation on their company with follow-up questions from a panel. No two companies competed in the same market and the ideas varied from wastewater treatment to breast cancer detection. Here is the skinny on a few of the companies from down under that are working on getting a foot into the U.S. market. Read More
Bad at remembering names? What if all you had to do to remind yourself was center a crosshair on a person’s face and his name-perhaps even his Facebook profile-would pop into your field of view?
Engineers at the University of Washington have pushed our technologically primitive world closer to this Terminator-esque dream of augmented reality: They’ve manufactured contact lenses that contain electronic circuits and red LEDs-and taken pretty sweet pictures of rabbits showing them off. Read More
Scientists have determined that shipworms, a wormlike-species of clam, use air as their source of protein. Shipworms have long been known to eat boats and historical landmarks, but wood only provides them with sugar; like termites, shipworms have symbiotic bacteria that can digest cellulose into sugar molecules. But to a shipworm, a diet of wood is like a diet of Pixy Stix—just gobs of carbohydrates and calories. Biologists didn’t understand where the clams were getting their protein, and hence, how they were able to survive. Read More
Scientists at MD Anderson Cancer Center have created mice with long, slender, bat-like fingers in place of their short, stubby little paws. Unlike the stunning quail-duck, or “quck”—which was cobbled together with gnarly Face/Off-esque transplants—researchers created the “mouat” by simply replacing a small section of DNA from the mouse version to the bat version. This section is responsible for regulating the levels of a single protein in the developing limb—with the protein at elevated bat levels, the mouse’s fingers grew long and slender.
The mouats are far from taking flight—it takes more than long fingers to make functional wings—but they may help solve the evolutionary mystery of bats, the only flying mammals. The fossil records show a sudden appearance of mammals nearly identical to modern bats about 50 million years ago—with no transitional forms—providing ample fodder for ID-ists. This study shows that a small change to the expression of a single gene—not even a change to the gene itself—may have instigated the evolution of mammalian flight.
The FDA has finally ruled that food from cloned animals is as safe as food from those produced by conventional reproduction, and will not require a special label (except, perhaps, in California). The 968-page report, released Tuesday, details these peer-reviewed findings, which also conclude that cloning does not pose any unique risks to the animals, compared with other reproductive techniques.
But cloned meat and dairy still won’t be available at the supermarket for a while—the USDA is asking for a “voluntary moratorium” on sales to allow the consumer marketplace to get over their revulsion towards genetic modification. This “ick” factor, which seems to dominate the arguments against cloned meat, may stem largely from misunderstanding the cloning process.
At the Macworld expo today, Steve Jobs revealed several new features for your $400 iPhone, a $500 terabyte backup drive for OS X Leopard’s Time Machine, and, of course, the new $1,800-plus Macbook Air: the thinnest notebook in the world—so ridiculously thin, it practically floats. That’s the idea, anyway. Read More
During the discussion of current technologies driving the future, the need for modular technology—in automotive systems, robots, and personal devices—was discussed at great length. As consumer electronics continue to become more personalized, customizable, and able to interact with a growing number of other devices, they will consequently need to be more modular—not just with open software, but also with the hardware they carry.
In the near future, you may be able to build your cell phone at the store—choosing a five-megapixel camera, a small LCD touchscreen and, heck, throwing in GPS capabilities. On top of that, you’ll be able to easily customize your programs, choosing from pre-packaged software or writing it—in a simple meta-language, of course—for your own needs. Read More
Wireless power: We’ve seen it in MIT’s media lab, some predicted it would take over the world and, finally we see it coming out in products. Well, at least one product. eCoupled (owned by Fulton Innovations), hopes to be at the front of this emerging market. They introduced their brand of wireless power in, of all things, a water purifier. Ten years ago the company was having problems with an ultraviolet light and carbon-block filter water purifier. They were getting unwanted hot water caused by the ultraviolet lamp and a unit that was too large, and corrosion of metal-to-metal electrical connections. So they looked towards a connector-free energy-transfer technology to connect the base of the unit and the top. They say they ended up reducing energy consumption and ambient heat by nesting a connector-less ultraviolet lamp inside a submersed carbon filter. This solution also apparently reduced the size of the system and got rid of exposed electrical connections.
Now, the company is looking to take this solution and pursue a more difficult task—use it to make power hubs for devices that can charge without connectors. Read More
Science fiction might make eye scanners out to be the security system of the future, but current eye-scanning technology is extremely pricey and is seen by many as an invasive version of security. (Really, who wants lasers in their eyes?) That’s probably why fingerprint systems have popped up as the first industry winner in biometric personal-security systems, a technology that is built into a number of computers on the market now. Such security is used as an access point to operating systems or particularly sensitive files. But if you have bank statements and other extremely sensitive personal information on your computer, the risk of a security breach is uncomfortably high, as it is not unimaginable for some nosy soul to obtain fingerprints using century-old forensic techniques and a simple latex mold. Read More