"One small fact: You are going to die," Death says in the opening of The Book Thief. "Despite every effort, no one lives forever." If you've come to terms with that (or have at least thought of death at one time or another), perhaps you've prepared for the inevitable by getting insured, saving up for those you're leaving behind and writing up a last will and testament. These days, though, you also need to decide what will happen to your online life after death. What can you do to prepare for it, and what can you do to help if someone close to you passes away?
Remember when Google said it'd store your entire genome on its servers? Well, the outfit is putting that to good use and is teaming with advocacy group Autism Speaks to sequence the genomes of some 10,000 autism patients (and their family members). In case you're wondering why, it's so we can hopefully discover the disorder's genetic origins. As Wired notes, this would allow researchers to sort through the roughly 100GB -- per person -- of genetic data in a way that's similar to how we search for things online. Except, of course, the scientists would be looking for genetic commonalities in those with Autism rather than, say, leaked images of a new iPhone.
We've seen haptic feedback in mid-air before, but not quite like this. The folks from Bristol University are using focused ultrasound in a way that creates a 3D shape out of air that you can see and feel. We know what you're probably thinking: How do you see something made of air? By directing the apparatus generating it at oil. As you do. According to the school, the tech could see use in letting surgeons feel a tumor while exploring a CT scan. Or, on the consumer side of things, to create virtual knobs you could turn to adjust your car's infotainment system without taking your eyes off the road. The tech can also apparently be added to 3D displays to make something that's both visible and touchable. If you're curious about what it looks like in action, we've embedded a video just below.
If you ask us, the idea of rewritable paper seems pretty redundant no matter how high-tech it is. Apparently that didn't cross the mind of scientists at the University of California, Riverside. See, that's where Yadong Yin and his colleagues are using special color-switching dyes (called "redox") and an ultra-violet light to put text on a physical medium. In this case, that's a glass or plastic film like the tile above. The school says that these can be rewritten some 20 times without a significant loss in contrast or resolution, and could presumably replace the dead trees we're used to printing documents on. At this point, you're probably wondering how you erase the old text off, and that's fair -- even your favorite rubber pencil-cap won't do a thing here.
What if we could hear the numerous invisible data frequencies that swirl around us every day? That's exactly what a project from hearing-impaired writer Frank Swain and artist Daniel Jones aims to do. Phantom Terrains is the proper name of the effort, and by hacking Swain's Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids, the duo has transformed WiFi signals into ambient sounds. So instead of seeing the device as a prosthetic, it's used as a sort of super power. The modification allows him to stroll around and listen to the range of tones electromagnetic signals provide -- like the pattern of a network's security parameters. And of course, no one else nearby can pick them up.
NASA's launch clock is finally moving into the digital age. The new countdown timer sports a 1280 x 360 resolution screen (which NASA admits is far from being HD) and measures in at 26 feet wide and some 7 feet tall. The $280,000 unit is a bit more capable than its predecessor (pictured above, check after the break for a shot of the new one) too: not only will it show the time until lift-off, but NASA's entire pre-launch program too. This, the firm says, will make it easier to know if a delay is intentional or a glitch in the system. It'll apparently be a lot brighter than the analog one was as well, and can even display a launchpad close-up and the timer simultaneously.
Stephen Hawking created some of the most revolutionary ideas in science, but he's very conservative with his communication tech -- right down to the "copyrighted" electronic American accent. He has worked with Intel since 1997 on the assistive computer system he relies on to speak and create documents, since motor neuron disease took his real voice decades ago. Hawking isn't interested in new tech like eye-tracking, but he and Intel recently decided to bring his current text and voice system up-to-date. They ended up getting an assist from a company more familiar to smartphone users -- SwiftKey.
Sure, the idea of keeping your phone up-to-date by swapping out parts is nice. But Dave Hakkens didn't invent Phonebloks (with tech Motorola borrowed for Project Ara) so you could have the latest electronics -- he was simply trying to reduce waste. He also wants more plastic recycled, and was recently awarded €10,000 ($12,500) to improve his small scale recycling machine, called "Precious Plastic." With Phonebloks, Hakkens doesn't have the time to make it happen personally, so he's willing to give that money to someone who does -- along with the use of his large workshop, tools and even lunch.
At first glance, the satellite image above may seem like one of the many that have been shared in the past. What you're looking at, though, was delivered in a much more timely manner than the imagery which came before it. For the first time ever, the European Space Agency has used a laser to beam a photograph to Earth -- of Berlin, in this case -- stretching around 36,000 km (or roughly 22,000 miles) across space and delivering it almost in real time. The ESA was able to accomplish this by linking up its Sentinel-1 and Alphasat satellites, both of which are equipped with a laser communications system that makes it possible to deliver data at super high speeds.
If you thought the comet where Philae recently touched down (multiple times) was steel gray in color, we've got news for you -- it's actually a juicy red-brown. Despite the success of the orbiting Rosetta probe, it launched in 2004 so its camera doesn't have the latest tech. As a result, all images of the Manhattan-sized rock have been strictly gray-scale so far. But an upcoming research paper has revealed new images using the full spectrum of Rosetta's OSIRIS Narrow Angle Camera. The image appears blurry because each color slice was shot from a slightly different angle as Rosetta transited around the comet.
Well, would you look at that: scientists have discovered that DNA can make it through the hellish ordeal of atmospheric re-entry after all. German and Swiss researchers dotted a rocket's grooves and screw heads with fragments of genetic blueprints to see how they'd fare in situations that could've led to the appearance of life on Earth. Scientific American notes that the 13-minute rocket trip might not perfectly represent how DNA might actually travel from one celestial body to the next (that'd be by meteor), but there is purpose here. What the experiment suggests is that even if the meteor's been scorched, that the material can survive at higher temperatures than previously expected, and as such this paints a better picture of just how resilient DNA is. What's next? Pushing the limits further and seeing exactly what it takes to kill the double helix -- we're pretty sure at least one rock band is itching to find out.
[Image credit: Getty Images/OJO Images RF]
Here's another new use for graphene (that will probably never happen): stopping bullets. University of Massachusetts-Amhers researchers have found that everybody's favorite potential wonder-material vastly outperforms steel and even kevlar armor. Testing the ultra-lightweight, 1-atom thick carbon sheets has proved tricky in the past, as they disintegrated on contact with regular bullets. So, the team used laser pulses to fire micron-sized glass bullets into the sheets at around 6,700 mph, about three times the speed of an M16 bullet (see below). Sheets from 30 to 300 layers thick absorbed the impacts much better than the other materials by deforming into a cone shape, then cracking.
I'm tired of walking into musty pubs and ordering pints that are bland, poured incorrectly, or twice the price of the nearest off-licence. If I weren't meeting friends, I'd be out the door faster than Road Runner. Of course, more than a few social drinkers share my apathy, so a surge of public houses are starting to change tack. They're embracing top-notch craft beers and employ bartenders that put genuine care into your order. You feel like they want your business, and what you're getting in return would be difficult to replicate at home.