I do own a laptop, but I haven’t used it in years because it has a tiny screen and a tiny keyboard. In a word, it’s about as comfortable as…porcupine undies. Okay, that’s two words, but it is Sunday morning, and I’m not quite awake yet… Anyway, a little light bulb went off in my head when I read the title of this New Atlas article: ‘Spacetop AR laptop puts the screen on your face‘
Basically, you get special glasses – that’s the ‘on your face’ part – that allow you to see virtual screens in the air, like in the video below:
And this is what the whole Spacetop looks like:
Developed by Israeli company, Sightful, the augmented reality laptop isn’t ready for commercial production yet, BUT, in gamer terms, it is ready for beta testing, and that means commercial production may not be that far off.
I won’t be able to afford the new Spacetop laptop for many years yet, but just the thought of it excites me. This is real augmented reality about to go mainstream. The future is almost here. 🙂
I hit 70 this year, and there’s no way this particular avenue of research will mature fast enough to have any impact on my life, but as a science fiction writer I’m fascinated by the idea that future humans may live to twice the age they do now. How that might happen is discussed on the New Atlas website here.
I strongly recommend that you read the entire article, but if you only want the bare bones, keep reading.
Before I talk about the anti-ageing research, you need to know that:
ageing occurs at the level of each, individual cell [and there are trillions of them]
as we age, cells sustain damage that eventually leads to the death of the cell,
Now for the interesting part. Once a cell ‘chooses’ a path to cell death, it does not deviate from that path. But what if it did? This is where the research comes in. The UC San Diego team:
‘…rewired a central gene regulatory circuit that controls cell aging. Usually it works like a toggle switch, sending a particular cell down a particular path, but in this case the researchers tweaked it to function as a gene oscillator. That triggers a cell to periodically switch from one path to another, slowing down the arrival at the destination of cell death.’ [The highlight is mine].
The cells were yeast cells, so about as far from human cells as you can get, but the results were amazing. Cells that zigzagged between the two paths took 82% longer to reach cell death.
Even assuming that the results could be replicated in human cells, the process of altering humans at the cellular level like this would trigger a $hit storm of ethical debate that could last for centuries, so no, this is not going to help anyone alive now. But…the mere fact that a possible mechanism has been found means that it could happen in the future. And that is what science fiction is all about, extrapolating from the now to the future.
I don’t write super hard science fiction, but everything I imagine has to have some basis in reality. It has to be possible, and today I’ve learned that life extension may become possible…in the future. 🙂
‘Researchers have developed a mobile printer that creates temperature-stable, dissolvable vaccine patches on demand. The novel device not only does away with vaccine injections, but it would also enable vaccines to be delivered to remote areas.’
I’m not needle phobic, but I know a couple of people who are, so this ground-breaking way of administering vaccines [and potentially other medications] is fabulous.
More importantly, this 3D printing invention could be transported to remote regions where medical facilities are minimal. There it could print vaccine patches on demand, potentially saving millions of lives. That is a dream come true.
We’ve been growing pots of strawberries for about five years now, and while they are always smaller than their commercial cousins, the flavour has more than made up for their size. Now, there is actual, real research that explains why home grown tastes better:
The culprit? Fungicide. Apparently fungicides not only kill fungus, they can also have a detrimental effect on the strawberry’s ability to produce sugars and other nutrients. Ergo, the commercial products don’t taste as sweet as home grown. 😀
As home gardeners, we’ve also noticed that our tomatoes are incredibly sweet. Much sweeter than the ones I used to buy from the supermarket. If anyone knows why, I’d love to know.
Oh, and it goes without saying that NOTHING in our garden is sprayed with herbicides, pesticides or fungicides. We are as organic as a home garden can be without being officially certified. I’m proud of that. 🙂
Hydrogen has become something of a buzz word lately, but is it really a magic bullet for solving our energy problems? The answer is a qualified ‘yes’.
But first, what is hydrogen?
Hydrogen is the ‘H’ in H2O.
What is H2O? Why it’s good old fashioned water, that’s what!
About 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, so if we can find a cheap, easy way to extract hydrogen from water we’ll be half way there to our renewable magic bullet.
We can already use electrolysis to split water atoms into hydrogen and oxygen, but the process requires both energy AND catalysts like platinum and iridium. If we use solar or wind power to extract the hydrogen then we’re still left with the problem of the platinum and iridium, neither of which is cheap.
Luckily, a lot of research is being directed at the extraction process. One team, headed by Dr Alexey Ganin of the University of Glasgow, is working on ‘pulsing electric current through a layered catalyst’ in order to extract the hydrogen. With this discovery, the pulse is the key.
Another team, from Stanford University, ‘developed a low-voltage, single-catalyst water splitter that continuously generates hydrogen and oxygen for more than 200 hours’. The beauty of this discovery is that the catalyst used is nickel-iron oxide. Not platinum or some other rare earth.
Clearly then, the extraction process is being improved in leaps and bounds, but what of the other side of the equation, the use of hydrogen as an energy source?
At the moment, hydrogen ‘…can be physically stored as either a gas or a liquid. Storage as a gas typically requires high-pressure tanks (5000–10,000 psi tank pressure). Storage of hydrogen as a liquid requires cryogenic temperatures because the boiling point of hydrogen at one atmosphere pressure is -252.8°C’ [Hydrogen Storage – Basics].
I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’d like to be anywhere near a hydrogen car if/when it collides with a truck and goes boooom!
To be a true magic bullet, hydrogen has to be both cheap and easy to produce and cheap and easy to store [and then use]. It also has to be safe. This is where new research is really powering ahead. Recently, not one, but two, separate research teams have come up with novel ways to store and transport hydrogen.
I’m very pleased to say that a team from Deakin University, right here in Australia, has come up with ‘a super-efficient way to mechanochemically trap and hold gases in powders’. Powders!!!
The neat little gif below [not mine] illustrates the process:
The steel balls pounding away in the cylinder separate the gases and then bind one of them to the boron nitride. That’s why it’s called a mechano + chemical process. The resultant powder can be stored safely at room temperature. To release the gas, you simply heat the powder.
Hot on the heels of that discovery comes another, this time from a Hong Kong based company EPRO Advance Technology (EAT). They’ve made a silicon based powder that doesn’t contain hydrogen – it makes hydrogen… when you add water.
‘The Si+ powder can be made using a (preferably renewable) energy source, as well as metallurgical-grade silicon – which itself can be made from sand, or from crushed-up recycled solar panels and electronics. EAT’s process results in a porous silicon powder that’s completely safe and easy to transport.’
Two completely different approaches to the storage, transport, and use of hydrogen. Will either one become our magic bullet? I have no idea, but breakthroughs like these give me hope that we will be able to stop climate change before it stops us. 🙂
Just read a thought-provoking article in New Atlas about the cognitive deficits experienced by people who have had severe Covid:
‘A new study has presented the most rigorous investigation to date into the long-term cognitive impacts of severe COVID-19. The research, led by scientists from Imperial College London and the University of Cambridge, found persistent cognitive deficits in hospitalized patients equivalent to declines consistent with 20 years of brain aging.’
The study followed the post-Covid recovery of 46 people who had all had severe Covid, including 16 who had been ventilated. Their cognitive functions were compared to that of ‘age and demographically matched healthy control subjects.’ It was found that the more severe the disease, the greater the cognitive impairment:
‘These COVID patients were slower to respond to tasks and less accurate in their responses, compared to their matched controls. More specifically, the COVID patients performed poorly on “verbal analogical reasoning” tasks which are designed to test particular word-based reasoning cognitive domains.’
And as if that were not enough, there is some evidence to suggest that:
I know everyone wants to believe that the worst of Covid is over, but with Omicron morphing into BA.4 and BA.5 already, it’s not done with us yet. Please treat this disease with the caution it deserves. Even if you’re fully vaccinated. Even if you’ve had it before. Because there may be outcomes worse than death. 😦
Climate change is too big for any one person to do much about, but if we all demanded non-plastic packaging, we might clean up those garbage patches in the oceans.
I’m still getting supermarket stuff home delivered [about 4 weeks until I’m fully vaccinated], and the thing I hate the most is that the packer puts each kind of fruit and veg. into a separate plastic bag. Back when I did my own choosing, all my fruit and veg went straight into the trolley or straight into one of my own bags. I know that’s not possible now, but… -sigh-
Anyway, I’m looking forward to edible packaging. 🙂
“Once it’s been injured, the protective cartilage in our knees and other joints heals very slowly – if at all. A new injectable gel, however, could both reinforce the tissue after it’s been damaged, and encourage new cartilage to grow over top of it.”
If you’re young and have no idea what cartilage is, or how a joint works, or why it can cause pain, here’s a simple picture:
As you can see, the bone ends that meet in our joints, don’t actually meet. They’re held in place by ligaments [the blue bit] that act a bit like rubber bands. And to make sure the two bones don’t grind against each other, each end is capped by cartilage. Cartilage is a tough but flexible material that acts like the tyre on the wheel of a car – it stops you from driving on the metal rims.
And just like tyres, the cartilage protecting the ends of your bones wears down over time. How much time depends on how much wear and tear it is subjected to. The knee cartilage of runners tends to wear down faster than that of couch potatoes because it’s used more. Unlike tyres, however, joint cartilage can’t be replaced when the ‘treads go bald’, which is why this research is so important.
My tread isn’t bald yet, but it’s getting there, so I can hardly wait for the hydrogel to be commercialised. 🙂