Category Archives: technology

Strange science

We’ve known for some time that certain animals can navigate using the Earth’s magnetic field, but how they did it was a mystery.

Well, a little bit of that mystery may now be solved via a rather interesting experiment conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Tokyo.

You can find a detailed description of the experiment here but basically what it showed was that waving a magnet over a bunch of cells every 4 seconds caused the fluorescence [light emitting] of those cells to dim, proof positive that it was the magnet – ie magnetism – causing the effect. The scientists think this dimming was caused by the ‘radical pair mechanism’ at work in the cells:

“Essentially, if certain molecules are excited by light, electrons can jump between them to their neighbors. That can create pairs of molecules with a single electron each, known as a radical pair. If the electrons in those molecules have matching spin states, they will undergo chemical reactions slowly, and if they’re opposites the reactions occur faster.” [Emphasis is mine]

https://newatlas.com/biology/live-cells-respond-magnetic-fields/

So why does this rather obscure discovery excite me so much? Because of that old quote from Hamlet:

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio

http://www.shakespeare-online.com/quickquotes/quickquotehamletdreamt.html

Change the word ‘philosophy’ to ‘science’, and Shakespeare could have been describing how new discoveries are always expanding the boundaries of what we know about the real world.

For a science fiction writer like myself, this is manna from heaven because in one hundred years time, some bright spark may discover that telepathy is not so much supernatural as supranatural! [Don’t hit me! I’m using supranatural as a description of something that doesn’t fit into the physics of the normal world…like quantum mechanics. As I’m no physicist, however, I’ll submit to those who know better.]

Okay, I’ll stop there before I get too carried away, but you can see why I find these kinds of discoveries so exciting.

Take care and stay well,
-hugs-
Meeks


Dancing Robots Bid Farewell to 2020

There’s still 15 and a half hours till the start of New Year here in Australia, but…Happy New Year anyway!

Let’s dance!

https://newatlas.com/robotics/entire-boston-dynamics-robot-dances-spot-atlas-handle/

love,
Meeks


Making tech work in the 3rd World

This is an interview between Dr John Campbell and David Davies of AgUnity. The first few minutes are about Covid but the rest of this incredible interview is about how AgUnity makes it possible for poor farmers in developing nations to work co-operatively with their villages and, for example, the Fair Trade organisation, to better their lives.

How? By providing the farmers with a very cheap, specially tailored smart phone.

This is smart tech. And yes, the bloke with the tan is an Aussie. 😀 To find out more about AgUnity, visit their website http://www.agunity.com or contact them via hello@agunity.com.

cheers
Meeks


New Knees, using 3D printing

I’m not at the point of needing to get my knees fixed yet, but they definitely ain’t what they used to be, so I was fascinated by the idea of using 3D printing to build the implants. More importantly, I was thrilled by the idea that the bioinks used in the 3D printing process could actually encourage the body to create new cells itself:

‘…the researchers used several bioinks together to print the entire fibrocartilage tissue layer by layer, in an interleaved crosshatch pattern. The first was a composite gellan gum and fibrinogen ink, which encourages the body’s own cells to repopulate. The second bioink is a silk fibroin methacrylate, which helps keep the structure strong and flexible.’

Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM)

You can find the whole article on the New Atlas website. It’s quite short and not super technical, so if you’re like me and starting to creak, check it out.

I have to say I’m quite looking forward to becoming a ‘bionic’ woman in the years ahead. 🙂

cheers
Meeks


I’m a genius!

-grin- no really! I just read a New Atlas scientific article about :

“…biohybrid synapses that let living cells communicate with electronic systems, not with electrical signals but with neurotransmitters like dopamine.

New Atlas: https://newatlas.com/computers/artificial-synapses-living-cells-communicate-dopamine/?utm_source=New+Atlas+Subscribers&utm_campaign=ff0315b360-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2020_06_17_12_51&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_65b67362bd-ff0315b360-92416841

Remember when Miira was inducted into Innerscape and basically lost her whole skull so Kenneth Wu’s nano interface could connect the AI to her brain? Not quite there yet but…this article shows that it’s coming. And I actually forecast it…

Okay, okay, probably not that hard to do if you read sci-fi, but I’m still proud as punch.

Ahem, that’s all. As you were….


Advances in wearable tech

I know that most of you won’t be interested in the technical side of this article: https://www.physics-astronomy.org/2020/04/mini-generator-cheaply-converts-heat.html but it could have really important implications for how we use technology in the future.

At the moment, wearable technology is limited by the need to power the device[s] :

a) without bulky batteries, and
b) without those batteries quickly going flat

We could wear little solar panel hats; they could charge the batteries as we walk around. But only outside, and only when there’s some sunshine. Plus there’s the added problem of fashion. Hats simply aren’t ‘in’ at the moment.

Or…we could use the heat of our own bodies to generate power. Mammals maintain a constant body temperature so we could have a constant source of power to run our wearable devices – no need for batteries at all.

Using body heat to generate power isn’t a new idea, but the research described in the article offers a new, more efficient way of doing so. If the researchers can make it work at a cost efficient price, we could be wearing our computers and communications devices within twenty years. Or less.

Let’s just hope that fashion and function go hand in hand. 🙂

cheers
Meeks


Plastic eating gut bacteria

We all know that plastic is a huge problem – just think of the garbage patches in the Pacific ocean. Not only does all this rubbish have to be collected, it has to be broken down somehow, but plastic doesn’t ‘break down’ the way organic material does. The bits do get smaller, but that just makes them more dangerous, not less.

So what’s the solution? The following quote is taken from a New Atlas tech article:

‘In recent years, scientists have identified a number of organisms with an ability to eat away at common plastics. These include engineered enzymes, mealworms with an appetite for Styrofoam and a type of bacterium with an ability to break down PET plastics in a relatively short space of time.

Waxworms are another exciting example. These … critters also have quite an appetite for plastic, with an ability to chew through it, digest it, and turn it into ethylene glycol, a type of alcohol.’

Hopefully one day, these waxworms will be part of the rubbish recycler’s toolbox, cleaning up this man-made mess and turning it into something useful.

Please go to the New Atlas website and read the whole article. A bit of good news never goes astray. 🙂

Meeks


The price of convenience

I’ve been concerned about online privacy for a couple of years now, but the article I just read still shocked me. It’s titled ‘Your Apps Know Where You Were Last Night, And They’re Not Keeping It Secret’.

You can read the entire article here:

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/12/10/business/location-data-privacy-apps.html

I’ve had geo location turned off on my phone since I bought it, but until today, I always felt a little silly; was I being paranoid for no real reason?

You may be wondering that too, but the case study of Lisa Magrin, a 46-year-old math teacher, may change your mind. It certainly confirmed my fears.

An app on the device [smart phone] gathered her location information, which was then sold without her knowledge. It recorded her whereabouts as often as every two seconds, according to a database of more than a million phones in the New York area that was reviewed by The New York Times. While Ms. Magrin’s identity was not disclosed in those records, The Times was able to easily connect her to that dot.

Lisa Magrin’s movements over a four month period

Lisa Magrin’s every single move was recorded…without her knowledge or consent. Then that information was sold. The Times article doesn’t mention who or what the information was sold to, but there’s a good chance it was sold to an ad network that collated her location data with her online data – Facebook comments, Instagram pictures, websites she visited, products she bought with her credit card, all those convenient little things we take for granted every day.

That’s a lot of information, and it’s meant to be anonymous, but what does anonymous actually mean? When your ‘anonymous’ data knows where you live and can track everything you do, the fact that it doesn’t automatically name you means nothing.

The ad networks that mine this data don’t need your name to target you for advertising. But that information is for sale, and there are no guarantees that the buyer will be a ‘harmless’ advertiser.

“Pffft! I have nothing to hide,” you say. “Besides, who’d want to buy my boring info anyway?”

Nothing to hide, huh? I wonder.

Does your wife know you visit that massage parlour for a quickie when you should be at squash?

Does your Mum know you spend hours on that porn site?

Do you use your birthday as the password for every online game you play?

Are you absolutely sure there’s nothing you wouldn’t want your co-workers to know about you?

As for who would want to buy that boring information, hackers would, and stalkers, or your abusive ex-husband perhaps. The list is endless, and the danger is real, not just for you, personally, but for those near you who may be targeted via information you unwittingly provide.

Stealing this kind of information will become illegal eventually, but until then you have to ask yourself – is that little bit of convenience really worth it? Or is your life too high a price to pay?

Meeks

p.s. My thanks to Chris the StoryReadingApe for this point:

Some of the things that can happen when your data is hacked can also apply to data that’s been sold to hackers, either directly or indirectly.


Uploaded to Vimeo!

‘Take that, Google!’

I did start the account creation process with Google [so I could upload my videos to Youtube], but when I was asked to verify both my email address and my phone, I started to get goosebumps, and not in a good way. This is a small part of Google’s privacy [sic] statement:

It was about this point that my survival instincts kicked in again and I aborted the process, or at least I tried to. I very much fear that my phone number is forever in Google’s possession. Given that it’s an Android phone I’m very glad I have GPS turned off. 😦

Anyway, with Youtube no longer an option, I went looking for alternatives and discovered that WordPress.com allows Vimeo videos! Yay and double yay. 🙂

So here is my rather ambitious Plotagon video entitled ‘Prepare for Induction’:

Go on, you can laugh. I won’t mind. 😀

cheers

Meeks


Playing with Plotagon

Plotagon is a program that allows you to create cartoony animations by using stock ’emotes’. In gaming, these would probably be called ‘run cycles’, except for facial expressions.

Basically, what you do is you add a sequence of these run cycles to a ‘scene’. When you play the scene, the run cycles merge together to create a short animation.

WordPress will only allow me to upload a Plotagon video [mp4 format] if I subscribe, so, here’s a gif that I can upload for free. 🙂

I had to split Innerscape to ‘inner’ and ‘scape’ so the computerised ‘voice’ could say it without mangling the unfamiliar word. And yes, in the video, Miira is talking out loud!

Plotagon provides voices to speak the dialogue, or you can use your own voice. As I don’t have a mic., I’m making do, at least for now. The app. also provides a ton of sound effects and free music, so you can imagine how much fun I had choosing those. 😀

If you want to have a play yourself, go to:

https://www.plotagon.com/

You can download a free, trial version for 7 days. That’s what I was playing with last night. It’s a good way of testing out whether the app. is for you or not, but there’s a whopping big watermark right across the screen that is rather annoying. That’s one of the reasons why I decided to subscribe for a month [cost US $13].

I’m calling this a marketing investment as everything I produce can be saved to either mp4 or gif format, or both. That means whatever I create remains ‘mine’ if I decide to unsubscribe at the end of the month.

If I manage to produce something genuinely worthwhile, I may sign up with Youtube again so I can upload the videos I produce. For some odd reason, WP allows me to place Youtube videos in my posts but not home made ones.

Unfortunately, Youtube is now owned by Google so I can’t create an account without signing up for Google as well.

I’m very ambivalent about Google for security and privacy reasons, but as the blind man said, ‘we shall see’. 🙂

cheers

Meeks


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