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Having the ability to cloak an object is equal parts exciting and terrifying.  Exciting because of the pure awesomeness of the concept.  Terrifying when thinking about how this technology could be used by the military or other nefarious organizations.  So far the awesomeness seems to be winning out because every few weeks or so we hear about a new development that pushes this staple of science fiction fantasy closer towards becoming a reality.

However, in spite of our best efforts there hasn’t really been a major breakthrough that completely cloaks an object from all angles.  That may be about to change though thanks to a new breakthrough that uses, get this, four standard lenses to get the job done.  No high tech wizardry.  No fancy new super materials.  Nothing special at all.  Just ordinary, readily available, run of the mill lenses.

As Phys.org explains:

“Many cloaking designs work fine when you look at an object straight on, but if you move your viewpoint even a little, the object becomes visible…previous cloaking devices can also cause the background to shift drastically, making it obvious that the cloaking device is present.  In order to both cloak an object and leave the background undisturbed, the researchers determined the lens type and power needed, as well as the precise distance to separate the four lenses. To test their device, they placed the cloaked object in front of a grid background. As they looked through the lenses and changed their viewing angle by moving from side to side, the grid shifted accordingly as if the cloaking device was not there.  There was no discontinuity in the grid lines behind the cloaked object, compared to the background, and the grid sizes (magnification) matched.”

What’s really interesting about this breakthrough though is the potential it has for what I will call reverse cloaking.  This is when rather than hiding an object from view you instead use the device to see around something that is actually there.  The Phys.org article for example suggests that the device could be used to let a surgeon look through his hands to see what he was operating on or to remove blind spots when driving.

If that is indeed what this cloaking device is going to be used for then I need to change my answer.  Cloaking is now officially more exciting than terrifying.

‘Cloaking’ device uses ordinary lenses to hide objects across range of angles

Is a cloaking device made from four standard lenses the Greatest Idea Ever?

Every year each NFL team gets one week off during the season.  These bye weeks occur on a staggered basis so that on any given Sunday during the middle portion of the schedule there will always be a few teams off.  The schedule is set up this way for obvious reasons.  With games on every Sunday the television ratings are guaranteed to be high every Sunday.

However, this practice of staggering bye weeks creates issues.  First and foremost is the fairness factor.  Take the highly competitive NFC West for example, arguably the NFL’s best division featuring three legitimate Super Bowl contenders.  The Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks had their byes this week.  Meanwhile the San Francisco 49ers don’t have their bye for another month.  That means that the 49ers could be fresher down the stretch when compared to the players on the Cardinals and Seahawks who would be going three straight months with no rest by the time the playoffs roll around.  How is that fair?

The fairness factor extends to the entire schedule as well since it’s a known fact, at least in gambling circles, that teams coming off their bye usually have an advantage over their opponent since they have two weeks to rest up and game plan.  Is it fair that a division title is won or loss because one team plays multiple opponents coming of their bye weeks while another doesn’t play any such teams?

Last but not least is the fantasy football factor, a factor that can no longer be ignored with the popularity of fantasy sports at an all time high.  What factor is that?  It’s the fact that bye weeks wreck havoc with fantasy teams causing good teams to lose to inferior opponents because they have to play without their star players.  Or worse it causes good players to get dropped in leagues with shallow benches.  Or worse it leads to bad decisions on draft day with owners obsessed over how to construct a team with bye weeks in mind.  Basically, bye weeks are a huge pain in the ass for fantasy owners.

So what can be done about it?  Well what I’m envisioning is a standard bye week.  Every team in the league gets the same week off.  A proverbial half time for the season set after week 8.  This would create an even playing field for all teams, remove unfair advantages created by the schedule makers, and make fantasy football more enjoyable.

Of course this would never happen because of the money involved with ratings and advertising on a weekly basis.  But wait just a second.  What if there was a way to turn this into a boon for TV execs and advertisers as well?  Wouldn’t they have to be interested then?  I think they would be because what I’m envisioning is scheduling a major sporting event during that week off.  An event worthy of having the full attention of the entire sporting world for an entire week in late October.  And as fate would have it we already have a worthy event scheduled for that time. THE WORLD SERIES.

Boom.  Lock it up.  Championship.

Would the NFL and fantasy football be better with all teams getting a bye at the same time?

#554 – Week In Review

Here’s a look at all the things that caught my eye this past week:

1.  Keyboard Cleaning Slime!

If you’ve ever eaten lunch at your desk at work your keyboard is probably a cesspool of germs.  It may even be home to advanced civilizations on the verge of inventing the wheel.  Wouldn’t it be great then if you had a way to quickly and easily clean your keyboard without banging it upside down over a garbage can or using an expensive high powered air duster?  Well, thankfully we may now have such a way.  Just so long as you don’t mind the idea of touching slime.

According to Psfk, “Cyber Clean is a Swiss made (first of it’s kind?) cleaning slime that can get at hidden dirt no matter where it hides. Roll the goop over your keyboard or any other device and it will slink in and pick up any bit of filth and debris. It cleans and kills germs while binding with dirt due to its special viscosity and elasticity. It can be used repeatedly until it gets filled with junk and will change color to let you know it’s through. When you’re done, just throw it away – it’s also biodegradable.”

Special Slime Will Clean Your Dirty Keyboard

2.  Solar Power Saving Liquid Batteries

Solar and wind power have a lot of potential for solving our energy needs.  The only problem is that we can’t save and store all of the energy they create.  For the most part we can only use them when it’s sunny or windy out.  What we need is a battery capable of storing that excess energy for future use.  That battery now exists.  And, oh by the way, the battery is made of liquid!

According to Popular Science, “a team of MIT researchers has built an all-liquid battery prototype that’s designed to store excess energy from solar and wind power plants. When the sun isn’t shining, or the wind isn’t blowing, future versions of this battery could release energy captured during more productive times into nations’ power grids.”

To be fair there are some existing options that store some power for future use but these are solid state batteries and they’re used primarily in one off situations like single homes.  These new liquid batteries, however, would be cheaper to produce and would last longer.  In fact, these first generation batteries may be able to withstand ten years of daily use.

Take that energizer bunny!

photo of a room-temperature, liquid battery in a clear glass container

3.  Alba Light Bulb

We’re on the verge of a household revolution the like of which has not been seen since the advent of the microwave.  A revolution powered by smart devices that communicate with one another and respond to our every movement.  As it turns out nothing is save from that revolution.  Not even the humble light bulb.  That’s because we may soon be outfitting our homes with smart light bulbs, like the Alba.

According to the Huffington Post, “Created by tech startup Stack Lighting, (the) Alba, will brighten or dim based on your presence (i.e. when you enter and leave a room), and as natural light changes throughout the day.”

Edison would be proud.

 4.  Luna Washing Ball

Why bother transferring your clothes from the laundry hamper to the actual washing machine when you can just wash your clothes while they are still inside your hamper!  That’s the premise behind the Luna Washing Ball, a new device that aims to make doing your laundry easier than ever.

According to the now defunct Dvice, “the Luna Wash is like a miniature dirt-destroying Death Star that uses static electricity and steam to coax your clothes clean. To get the wash going, you first fill the Luna Wash with a small amount of water and plop it down into your laundry. The Luna Wash then produces a cloud of steam. The surrounding clothes relax in the heat, letting go of the dirt on their fibers. Next, it swaps to dirt-magnet mode, emitting an electrostatic charge that sucks that loosened dirt right into its own metal frame.  Vibrating and pulsing its way all the way to the bottom of your hamper, the Luna Wash finishes its cycle by blowing your fresh-cleaned clothes dry with hot air.”

I’ve heard of cutting out the middle man to make a process more efficient but I’ve never heard of making it so that the middle man does all the work!  Now if only they could also figure out a way to get all the clothes folded after drying them…

 

Is a ball that washes your clothes while they are still in the hamper the Greatest Idea Ever?

3-D printing continues to progress at a rapid rate.  Blink and you may miss something. I do my best to try and stay on top of it but it’s becoming an exercise in futility.  Here’s my latest attempt to stay on top of the latest developments:

1.  3-D Bio Printer:  There’s already been quite a few breakthroughs when it comes to 3-D printing organs.  Now there’s word about a new process that can 3-D print skin in order to quickly aid burn victims.

According to the International Business Times, “In severe burn injuries, both the epidermis (outer layer of the skin) and the dermis (inner layer) are severely damaged, and it usually takes at least two weeks for skin cells to be grown in a laboratory to be grafted on to a patient.  As both layers of skin are made from completely different cells that have different structures, it is very difficult for the body to regenerate itself and burn victims can die if their wounds cannot be closed quickly enough.

So how does it work? IBT explains: “Using the patient’s keratinocytes and fibroblast cells, the bioprinter creates a biopolymer in a 3Dstructure that is able to mimic the epidermal and dermal layers of the patient’s skin, printing out in patterns like spots and stripes, which is faster and requires far less cells than printing out a continuous sheet of skin cells.”

This amazing new process is thanks to the PrintAlive Bioprinter and it may be coming to a hospital near you sooner than you think.

The PrintAlive Bioprinter - a 3D printer that can print a

2.  Sand Printing:  Like most people I’m a huge fan of building things with sand namely sand castles.  I’m also a huge fan of 3-D printing.  What do you get when you put them together?  Only pure awesomeness.

That’s because we may soon be on the verge of being able to make things out of sand using the sun!

Tech Crunch sums it up best:

“You know the kid in your old neighborhood that spent his spare time frying ants with a magnifying glass? This is like that — except instead of a magnifying glass, he’s using an big ol’ fresnel lens. And instead of roasting insects, he’s melting freaking sand into stuff.”

Check out this video to see the printer in action:

3.  Printing in Space

If we’ve ever going to colonize space or even just create a permanent base on Mars or the Moon we’re going to need to cut down on our shipping costs.  How do you do that?  By just sending a 3-D printer instead of everything you need! And that’s exactly what happened last week when Space X shipped a 3-D printer to the International Space Station for the very first time!  Despite the fact this is was a mere footnote in your local newspaper I would argue that this is the most significant space related breakthrough since man walked on the moon.

However, there are some logistical concerns with 3-D printing in space as one might imagine.  Specifically as it relates to using the printer safely.  According to Forbes:

“The safety issue is the simple fact that when a 3D printer creates objects from its plastics, it will “off-gas” – emitting toxic gasses into the local air. This isn’t a problem on Earth, where doors, windows and HVAC systems allow those gases to diffuse safely. On the space station, however, the atmosphere is strictly controlled and this becomes a real problem.  To solve that problem, the company has developed an environmental control unit that filters out harmful gasses and nanoparticles produced during the printing process. It’s so efficient, in fact, that the filter all by itself can purify a room on Earth.”

While there are plans to spin off that technology back here on Earth that’s not the best news to come out of this development.  Rather it’s the fact that we’re soon going to be able to make things in space for use in space.  Conquering the final frontier begins now.

As you can see there’s never any shortage of incredible developments when it comes to 3-D printing.  From new materials to new processes to new uses it’s a constant struggle to keep up with it all.  I will do my best though so be sure to keep checking back for all of the latest news.

For the very first time in history a 3-D printer has made its way into space.

Here’s a look at some things I’ve been thinking about over the past week or so:

  • In households around the world at this very moment there is somebody wondering what happened to their other sock.  At this point the case of the missing sock is no longer a running joke.  It’s a flat out epidemic.  What happens to them?  Does the monster under the bed get them?  Does the washing machine hoard them for currency in an illicit underground black market of appliances?  Where do they go?! Wouldn’t it be great then if there was a way to guarantee that you never lost another sock ever again?!  Perhaps if we invented some kind of machine washable clip that held them together while they were getting washed that would do the trick.
  • Did you know that when you lease a car you only get a certain number of miles to use per year?  If you go over that allotment you have to pay a fee to the dealer presumably something like 10 cents for every mile you go over.  Wouldn’t it be great then if you could buy, sell, or trade your miles as if they were another form of currency?  Let’s say for example that you’re a little old lady who only drives locally.  You might have thousands of unused miles at the end of the year.  Now let’s say you’re a traveling mouse pad salesman.  You might spend half the year on the road.  If you could get some of grannies unused miles in exchange for something of value to that little old lady everybody wins.  Except for the car dealer of course.  Which is exactly why this is never going to work.  But wouldn’t it be great?!
  • How come we say bless you when someone sneezes but don’t do anything when someone has the hiccups?  This is an injustice that must be rectified!
  • It really bothers me that I couldn’t get in on the largest IPO of all time when Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba went public last week.  Regular investors like me could only get in at the market opening price of $92 not at the original offering price of $68.  On the first day of trading shares went up past $95 and then settled below $90.  That means that the people who got in ahead of time saw their shares raise in value by more than 35%.  Meanwhile people like me would have seen their shares decrease in value by the end of the day.  In other words the rich get richer and everyone else gets screwed.  How is this fair?  How is this legal?
  • Speaking of things that aren’t fair or legal how was ESPN allowed to suspend Bill Simmons for three weeks for speaking his mind about NFL commissioner Roger Goodell?  For those of you who don’t know, Simmons, an opinion columnist, was suspended for giving his opinion!!! About something factually true that ESPN itself was reporting!!! And he got suspended for longer than the NFL suspended Ray Rice for domestic abuse!  I know that there are limitations to Freedom of Speech and all but this is absolutely ridiculous.  #FreeSimmons.
  • Tinder is addicting.  No surprise there.  But what is surprising is the fact that you can’t go back and change your mind about someone.  I swipe so quickly, as most people probably do, that it’s highly likely that I may accidentally swipe the wrong way in either direction.  Shouldn’t you have the ability to change your mind?
  • Because it’s so hot in Arizona during the summer time you don’t even realize that you are sweating since your sweat evaporates so quickly.  This is a dangerous phenomenon that leads to a lot of people, especially hikers, suffering serious, even catastrophic injuries since they don’t realize that they are dehydrated.  Wouldn’t it be great if there was some kind of wearable device that could track your hydration?
  • The other day I tried calling Pottery Barn’s customer service to check on the status of a delivery.  I was told that I had to speak with the furniture delivery department.  Problem was I couldn’t get through to anyone as I was on hold for more than half an hour on three different occasions.  I then called back to customer service, expressed my frustration with this process, and requested another way to get in contact with them.  An email address.  A direct line.  Something.  Anything.  Apparently no other form of communication existed.  Just one line that no one picks up.  I then said that I wanted to cancel my order.  Well to do that I had to speak to the furniture delivery department!  What the what!  To either find out the status of my item or cancel it I have to speak to the same person that I can’t reach!  That is a horribly inefficient way to run a business!  I bring this up because waiting on the phone to speak to a customer service agent that can’t help you is a horrific experience.  There should be a service that exists where you tell someone your issue and they deal with customer service on your behalf until the issue is resolved!! Sounds like the perfect part time job for an unused Uber driver

It really bothers me that ordinary people couldn’t benefit from Alibaba’s IPO.

 

Here’s something that will blow your mind while your watching Thursday Night Football: Black Holes don’t exist!  That’s right.  Those staples of science fiction movies, those portals to other dimensions and parallel universes, those awe-inspiring awesome entities at the center of our galaxy and every other known galaxy don’t exist!! No wonder information can’t escape them.  Information can’t escape something that’s not real!

This means that we have to rethink everything we know about physics, quantum mechanics, relativity, the Big Bang, multiple universes and string theory.  Everything we think we know about everything may be wrong.

Phys.org does a great job of explaining what this all means:

“For decades, black holes were thought to form when a massive star collapses under its own gravity to a single point in space – imagine the Earth being squished into a ball the size of a peanut – called a singularity. So the story went, an invisible membrane known as the event horizon surrounds the singularity and crossing this horizon means that you could never cross back. It’s the point where a black hole’s gravitational pull is so strong that nothing can escape it.

The reason black holes are so bizarre is that it pits two fundamental theories of the universe against each other. Einstein’s theory of gravity predicts the formation of black holes but a fundamental law of quantum theory states that no information from the universe can ever disappear. Efforts to combine these two theories lead to mathematical nonsense, and became known as the information loss paradox.

In 1974, Stephen Hawking used quantum mechanics to show that black holes emit radiation. Since then, scientists have detected fingerprints in the cosmos that are consistent with this radiation, identifying an ever-increasing list of the universe’s black holes.

But now Mersini-Houghton describes an entirely new scenario. She and Hawking both agree that as a star collapses under its own gravity, it produces Hawking radiation. However, in her new work, Mersini-Houghton shows that by giving off this radiation, the star also sheds mass. So much so that as it shrinks it no longer has the density to become a black hole.

Before a black hole can form, the dying star swells one last time and then explodes. A singularity never forms and neither does an event horizon. The take home message of her work is clear: there is no such thing as a black hole.”

The take home message for me is also clear: if something sounds like non-sense it probably is!  The idea that there was a some kind of magical invisible membrane creating a point of no return sounds so silly now.  When it comes to matters of physics there are no magical powers.  No short cuts.  Dark matter isn’t a magical entity that we can’t detect.  We just haven’t detected it yet.  Dark energy isn’t a magical force that is speeding up the expansion of the universe.  It’s a definition in a physics textbook that hasn’t been written yet.  When it comes to physics there is no room for guess work.  There is only room for the truth.

According to new research black holes don’t exist!

#550 – News Butler

Bill Simmons just got suspended by ESPN.  The Situation from the Jersey Shore just got indicted.  John Malkovich just pretended to be Marilyn Monroe.  An iPhone 6 just bent inside of someone’s skinny jeans.  Emma Watson just became a United Nations ambassador and then became the target of cyber bullies.

Some of these stories interest me but others do not.  Why do I bring this up?  Well it’s because I think it would be great if there was a service that would send you an email alert every time there’s a story of interest to you.  I know that some people already complain about getting too many emails but this service wouldn’t be sending you a random link to a Buzz Feed article of cats that look like Game of Thrones characters.  On the contrary this service would be sending you highly relevant information that you find useful, helpful, and down right essential to your way of life.  Although, it could be argued that the aforementioned Buzz Feed cat article is essential!

But that’s beside the point.  The point is that I have a serious case of FOMO and I need someone or some thing to help me keep up with everything that is happening in the world.  For me that means links to UFO sightings, news stories about novel ideas and inventions, and breaking sports news about players on my fantasy team.  For you that may mean a story about a stock your own, a TMZ post about your favorite celebrity, or a press release about who just got cast for Season 2 of True Detective.  (Spoiler Alert: you’re probably not going to like it)

Whatever your interests are from mainstream topics to obscure niches there are likely dozens of stories that could be of interest to you on a daily basis.  Stories that you may not be aware of or may become aware of after the fact, after it’s too late, after the buzz has already died down.

What you need, what we all need, is a news discovery and delivery service that works for us around the clock.  The kind of service that I wish I had but know is probably impossible to create.  Or is it?

What I’m envisioning is a hybrid system featuring humans and artificial intelligence working side by side.  The first part of the system will be an algorithm that scans various data points such as your credit card history, social media profiles, browsing history, a questionnaire that you fill out, etc. to build a very detailed profile about you.

The problem is that even the most advanced artificial intelligence program isn’t going to be able to sort out exactly what somebody may or may not like.  For example, just because I love 3-D printing doesn’t mean I want to be inundated with every new 3-D printing story.  But if there’s a new breakthrough regarding 3-D printing then yea I would want to know about that.  How do you get around this?  With the human element of course as a team of “butlers” review the results before they get distributed ensuring that only the best, most relevant content gets distributed.  These “butlers” could also conduct in person interviews to get to know customers even better.

With a service like this around you wouldn’t have to spend countless hours scrolling through Twitter or hoping from one web site to another in search of something interesting.  Rather, you’d have your very own hand picked collection of articles waiting for you to browse at your convenience.

I realize that some people out there may think this concept is far-fetched and if there was five years ago I probably would agree with you.  But I think we’re headed towards a future where work is geared towards doing tasks that robots and artificial intelligence programs can’t do.  Work like looking for patterns in data.  Which if you think about it is exactly what a news butler would be doing.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go surf the web in case I missed anything…

Wouldn’t you want to know right away if this man got suspended!?!?!? Wouldn’t you want a News Butler to deliver that information directly to your inbox!?!!

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