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Archive for January, 2014

#408 – Memorial Diamonds

Technology now touches every aspect of our lives so it was only a matter of time before it started to influence what happens to us after we die as well. So it should come as no surprise that we can now elect to have our cremated ashes turned into “memorial diamonds” courtesy of a Swiss Company, called Algordanza. This means that instead of wearing your late grandmother’s old jewelry, you can actually wear your late grandmother. Is this creepy or cool?

While you ponder that here’s some more background on the process that makes this possible courtesy of Fast Compnay, “To create these synthetic stones, the company’s trained chemists extract carbon from cremated human remains, then convert the carbon into graphite by heating it to high temperatures. This graphite is then put into a machine that mimics the conditions found deep within the Earth, where natural diamonds form. For several weeks, the material is compressed and heated in temperatures of about 1,500 degrees Celsius. The ashes then emerge transformed into a shining raw diamond, usually bluish in color, due to the element Boron in the carbon.”

As interesting as this is I wonder though if this technology could be used for nefarious purposes? Could a murder victim be turned into jewelry that is proudly flaunted around town by the person who took their life? Would people fight over who possesses a certain piece of jewelry if it is known to contain the ashes of someone famous? Would we go to war, Middle Earth style, over a ring, if the remains of somebody important, like a religious figure, were contained inside?

Perhaps one day, when the Singularity is reached, and humans live forever in a mind meld with robots, we won’t have to worry about any of this anymore. But until then I’m left to ponder what I would want to happen to my remains.

I’ve always been drawn to the idea of being cryogenically frozen, like Walt Disney and the head of Ted Williams so that I can reappear one day and tell everyone “told you so” for all of the various things that I’ve written about on this blog. I also wouldn’t mind being mummified so that future visitors to the Greatest. Museum. Ever. can marvel at my greatness. But ultimately, what I’d like to have happen, is for my remains to be jettisoned in space so that aliens can find it and reanimate me on their planet thousands of years from now where I will rise to power by making all of the inhabitants believe that I am the reincarnation of their deity. But if that’s not a realistic possibility then I guess being the centerpiece of a seven year old girl’s Tiara isn’t a bad consolation prize.

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The Immunity Project is not your typical Y Combinator startup. They aren’t interested in social media, the sharing economy, or wearable technology. They don’t care about apps, games, location based services or new ways of communicating with one another.  Rather, they care about one thing and one thing only: saving lives. The way they intend to do that is by creating a synthetic vaccine for AIDS which they then intend to give away for free!!!

In order to pull this off this group of Harvard, Stanford, and MIT scientists aimed to exploit the fact that some people are born with a natural immunity to HIV. The goal was then to identify these “controllers” and reverse engineer how the body was able to ward off AIDS in these people. The group has taken to crowd funding to get this project funded and their pledge page sums up what they are trying to do perfectly:

“Like the finely tuned laser scope on a sniper rifle, the immune systems of controllers have the ability to target the biological markers on the HIV virus that are its achilles heel. When a controller’s immune system attacks these biological markers it forces the virus into a dormant state. Non controllers have sniper rifles, but they are missing this critical targeting ability.”

As great as an Aids vaccine would be it pales in comparison though to the ultimate end goal of this organization. As Y Combinator’s Sam Altman told Fast Company, “Imagine a world where vaccines are developed for a tiny fraction of the big pharma cost and given away for free to everyone who needs them…We thought that work done by Microsoft Research that underlies this was really interesting, and we’re always interested in areas where software can change how things are done. Technology means doing more with less; this is an extreme example…”

That is a world that I would very much like to imagine but it’s one in which I just assumed, as we all did, that would never happen. The big pharmaceutical companies would never allow it. But thanks to crowd funding and big data they may not have a choice anymore.  The implications of this are far reaching and have so far flown under the radar while this particular project steals the spotlight and rightfully so.  But make no mistake about it.  Crowd funding cures for diseases and then giving them away for free is a monumental game changing idea.  It just doesn’t get any better than that.

If you are interested in pledging you can visit:  https://pledge.immunityproject.org/the-free-hiv-aids-vaccine.  I’ll be right behind you.

Immunity Project to end AIDS

These are the people who could be revolutionizing the way we do healthcare.

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#406 – Oyster

My literary evolution goes something like this:

  • Have books, primarily of the Dr. Seuss variety, read to me.
  • Once I turn 10, move on to picture and pop up books.
  • Upon entering middle school turn my attention to the sports section of the newspaper and to the publication Baseball Weekly now known as Sports Weekly.
  • Read first book for fun: Sahara by Clive Cussler.  This eventually became a horrible movie starring Matthew McConaughey.
  • Read all books ever written by Cussler.  Eventually realize this was a stupid idea.
  • Attempt to read every word in the dictionary.  Last until page two.
  • Then a brief phase in high school where I read my mom’s Cosmopolitan magazines.
  • Read nothing, not even text books, for four years of college.  Play video games instead.
  • Binge read all of the Harry Potter books.
  • Post college an obsession with Baseball America.
  • More recently an obsession with Wired Magazine and then back issues of Fast Company, Discover, Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, Scientific American, etc.  Blog is born.
  • Continue to read countless magazines and online sources.
  • Attempt to start reading real books again.  Decided to read all of Malcolm Gladwell’s books.  Barely make it through Outliers.  Give up on project.
  • Go back to reading magazines.

All of which is to say that I don’t really read that many books.  I prefer newspapers and magazines.  All the better for my short attention span.  Plus as silly as this sounds I want to write the next great American novel and when I do I want it to be an instant classic that is 100% original.  I don’t want my writing style to be influenced by anyone else so I figure the less I read the less chance I have of being influenced by someone else!  Eventually, I’ll go back and read the classics.  Like when I’m 75 and my only friend is the local robot librarian.

But if I did read then Oyster, the “Netflix of Books” would be something that I’d want to use.  For just $10 a month you get access to a growing library that already has over 100,000 titles in it.  Of course that claim could very well be meaningless if those 100,000 titles are horrendous Young Adult novels that no one is ever going to want to read.  Thankfully, that is not the case.  As CNET describes, “This is no fly-by-night operation. Already, it has signed up big-name publishers like HarperCollins, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and others. And those companies are, in turn, providing some of their biggest titles…”

And just like your gut during the winter time Oyster’s library is only going to get bigger as time goes by.  So whether you’ve had a more traditional literary evolution or have followed an unconventional path like me there figures to be something for everyone no matter your tastes.  So it would seem as though Oyster is well worth checking out, especially when you consider that is a mobile first enterprise that is available on a variety of devices including your cell phone.

Now if only they could do something about that name…

Is Oyster the Greatest Idea Ever?

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I’ve written a lot about science, technology, and inventions on this blog but the fact is not all ideas fit neatly into these categories.  A crazy theory, even a bat shit crazy conspiracy theory, could qualify as a good idea if it’s thought provoking and grounded in factual evidence.  Which brings me to Ancient Aliens, the hit series on the History Channel.

Featuring a rotating cast of “Ancient Alien Theorists” this show examines a lot of major historical events and tries to figure out if there’s more to it than meets the eye.  In short, they want to know if it’s possible that ancient aliens were really involved, interacting with the residents of our first civilizations, guiding us in the right direction, or perhaps even manipulating us for their own means.

Even if you’ve never seen the show you are probably familiar with some of their theories, the most well known of which is the presumption that aliens built the pyramids.  How else could they have been built?!?!  The Egyptians hadn’t even invented the wheel and yet somehow they were able to construct something that we would even struggle to build today.  But the show doesn’t stop there.  Anything and everything that we’ve ever learned about from Greek Mythology to Flying Carpets to fire breathing Dragons could very well have been the work of aliens.  Lacking the ability to accurately describe what they were seeing our ancestors made up stories about Gods with magical powers when in actuality what they were encountering were aliens with advanced technologies.  At least that’s what the show wants us to believe.

To be honest I didn’t know what to expect when I first started binge watching with my roommate.  I just thought it would be an entertaining way to kill some time during the Polar Vortex that crippled the Northeast two weeks ago.  As it turns out though there was a plethora of amazing theories that the show discussed, almost all of which completely blew my mind.  I know that most people are going to be skeptical of these theories, and I don’t even believe all of them myself.  But the show presents them in such a believable way that its hard not to think there’s some merit to them.  So much so, that I think it’s worth sharing some of my favorite highlights from the show.  But be forewarned.  I’m not responsible for what is about to happen to your mind:

  • The Ancient Egyptians hadn’t even invented the wheel when the built the Pyramids.  How then were they able to move such heavy materials to construct them?  The answer is simple.  Ancient Aliens helped them!!!  But for what purpose?  According to the show the Great Pyramid of Giza was really a power plant.   The chambers in the pyramid were used to filter two different substances of unknown origin that when combined created a form of hydrogen.  This process ultimately led to the creation of radio waves that were beamed up to a space ship and then beamed back down to other locations on Earth including Easter Island.  The result?  Ancient wi-fi!!!
  • When the Jewish people fled Egypt they survived for forty years in the desert on a food source known as Manna which was said to have rained down from the sky six nights per week.  Sounds plausible except for the fact that food can’t rain down from the sky.  A more likely scenario?  Manna was actually created by a machine that the Jewish people stole from the Egyptians during their escape.  A machine that had been provided to the Egyptians by the Ancient Aliens!  The reason why it produced food for six days per week was not because it didn’t work on the Sabbath.  It’s because it needed to be cleaned once per week and so the tradition of the Sabbath was built around its cleaning schedule!  The food that this machine created was an algae like substance that NASA scientists have proven can sustain life.  After forty years the machine stops working forcing the Jewish people to make their way to modern day Israel in search of a new food source!
  • Noah of Noah’s Ark fame was born to a mother who claimed that she hadn’t had sex when she got pregnant.  The implication of this is that Noah’s mother was knocked up by the aliens who wanted to create a new line of genetically enhanced humans, the first of which was going to be Noah.  The purpose of the flood was to wipe out the genetically inferior humans and replace them with Noah’s off spring which would then all be from this new line of humans.  In other words, we’re all aliens!!!
  • The Black Plague that swept through Europe was another attempt by ancient aliens to wipe out mankind.  Eye witness reports of mysterious cloaked figures in the area at the time gave rise to the notion of what the Grim Reaper looks like.
  • Columbus encountered aliens on his journey to discover America and actually wrote about it in his log book!  They somehow forgot to mention that in elementary school.
  • The original Buddha was an alien.
  • On Oak Island in Canada there is a rumor of buried treasure in an area known as the Money Pit.  What’s buried down there?  None other than the Ark of the Covenant!!
  • There is an area near Japan known as the Dragon Triangle where ships go missing and weird shit happens.  Just like the Bermuda Triangle!  Same for an area in Lake Michigan.  The cause of these mysterious happenings?  Worm holes that transport people and ships and anything else caught in the wrong place at the wrong time to another part of space!
  • Not all of the Dinosaurs died off right away.  Some of them even lived long enough to actually co-exist with early man!
  • There’s a two year period where Leonard Da Vinci was unaccounted for.  Where was he during these two years?  With ancients aliens of course.  How else do you explain how he was a well respected painter and sculptor prior to him going missing and an inventor with advanced knowledge about anatomy and weaponry afterwards?   And why did he spend the last sixteen years of his life obsessing over every little detail of the Mona Lisa?  The answer is simple.  He used a technique known as mirror painting so that nobody in his time would be able to know the true meaning of the painting but that future generations would be able to see his hidden message when they reversed his painting and placed the two versions on top of each other.  The end result?  An image of an alien!!!
  • Humans actually have a third eye i.e. a part of the brain that is light sensitive.  It is said that this part of the brain controls our sleep cycle.  But it may also be attributed to creativity, art, contemplation and a hidden ability to communicate through wormholes!
  • There are said to be thirteen crystal skulls in existence throughout the world.  These skulls may have information stored on them but they won’t work until all thirteen are all in the same place at the same time.  And of course no one knows where the 13th skull is.  Was this an ancient computer?!!
  • Everything we think we know about God, the Devil, and Angels is wrong.  They were all aliens known as Annunaki who came down to Earth and created human beings.  This is why multiple civilizations, on opposite sides of the Earth, who had no contact with one another, all have depictions of winged people interacting with their own kind.  How would this be possible unless if all of these civilizations interacted with the same group of aliens?  According to the show a group of these aliens known as the Watchers were left behind to watch after man but some of them got too close and fell in love with some people.  This angered some of the other Annunaki and they wound up having a battle in the sky which is depicted in several paintings from different cultures.
  • Merlin was an alien who used his “powers” to install Arthur as King.  The famous pulling of the sword out of the stone was a staged event made possible by alien technology.  The whole purpose of this rouse was to unite the people into what became modern day Great Britain.
  • Hades helmet that Perseus used to kill Medusa was really an invisibility cloak given to him by aliens!  All of Greek Mythology depicts events influenced by aliens.
  • The Ica Stones depict ancient heart transplant surgeries being performed.  Successful brain surgeries have been depicted too.  These are advanced procedures that we struggle with today and yet they were performed successfully back then.  How do you explain that unless if these early peoples were given advanced medical knowledge by aliens?!
  • Long range space travel might not only be possible but actually fairly easy to pull off.  The key would be to ditch our current propulsion methods and instead devise a way to ride space the way a surfer rides a wave.

A few of my own thoughts:

  • Is any of this actually far fetched at all?  Today we can genetically modify species, tamper with the weather, and wipe out entire cities with advanced weapons.  Is it really that crazy to believe that aliens did the same things to our ancestors?  Also, if you examine human history there are several key points where we seem to take quantum leaps forward in terms of our intelligence.  Did these “jumps” occur naturally or were we steered in the right direction?
  • A lot of ancient cultures depict powerful leaders holding some kind of weapon whether it’s a wand/staff/trident/septor/whatever.  If we act under the assumption that ancient aliens are real and that depictions of Gods are really describing aliens then that would infer that these powerful weapons actually existed.  And yet no one has ever made an attempt to re-create them.  Why are we settling for guns when we could have a powerful trident at our disposal!!
  • A lot of ancient cultures seem to pay tribute to the same star cluster known as the Pleiades.  Shouldn’t we take this seriously and assume that we’re going to find a habitable exo-planet in this region?
  • We’ve always assumed that if aliens came to Earth they would want to wipe us out and take our natural resources.  But I find that logic hard to believe if these are in fact the same beings that have been helping us out all along and may in fact have seeded us here.  If they ever did come back they’d probably want to catch up with us or share more knowledge with us.
  • I’ve learned more about ancient civilizations, history, and even geography from watching these shows than I had from twenty years of schooling.  Historical events are dry and boring.  Aliens and conspiracy theories are fun and interesting.  I honestly believe that if we taught an ancient alien course to our children instead of sending them to Church or Hebrew School that we’d all be better off as we’d have kids who would want to study more and learn as much as they could about what really happened instead of just being told far fetched stories and told that this is definitively what happened.
  • The truth of the matter is that we still don’t know one way or the other what really happened.  As time goes on we’ll probably continue to unearth new evidence that leads to crazier and crazier theories.  But in any event I think it’s fair to say that something happened and you can’t entirely rule out the possibility that aliens actually were involved.  And that to me is mind blowing.

Is Ancient Aliens the Greatest Show Of All Time? The answer is a resounding yes!!!

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“From Mags to Riches:  Finding the Gold in your favorite magazines so you don’t have to” is back with a look at two incredible back issues of Wired U.K. known as the Wired World in 2013 and the Wired World in 2014.  These two special editions served as trend reports detailing all of the amazing breakthroughs that we could expect to see in the year ahead.  After combing through these issues I uncovered a ton of great ideas that I feel are worth sharing here.  I won’t go into great detail for any of these concepts and will instead urge you to pick up a copy of the magazine for yourselves to find out more.  But what I will do is give a rundown of the ideas that I think warrant the most consideration.  Please note that these are all “new” ideas that I have never written about before.

2013 Ideas

  • Ultrasound could soon be a thing of the past thanks to newly developed Ultra-wideband radar that could take its place.  This new technology could do a better job of identifying early stage breast cancer and it could also usher in a new age of cell phones that come with built in radar capabilities.
  • You’ve probably heard of lasers.  But have you heard of masers?  You soon might as their use could lead to longer range telescopes.
  • Instead of living in a world where innovation trickles down from the 1st world to developing 3rd world countries we could soon see the opposite occur.  Reverse Innovation as it has been come to be known is a phrase that we will be hearing a lot about from now on.
  • The Human Genome project is an ambitious initiative designed to map the human genome and it’s 21,000 genes to learn more about human beings in an effort to better understand who we are.  As important as that undertaking is it pales in comparison to efforts to map the Proteome and the 500,000 proteins in the human body.  Success in this area could lead to early diagnosis of diseases as it is believed that the body’s proteins undergo changes in these circumstances.
  • It may be possible to create a vaccine for Nicotine that would protect people against the harmful effects of smoking cigarettes.
  • Epilepsy is a horrible disease that could strike at any moment.  Someone who sufferers from it has no way of knowing when the next episode could occur.  Soon they could though as a new breakthrough could lead to a way to predict when it’s going to occur next.
  • A new type of brain surgery known as DBS (Deep Brain Stimulation) could soon be used to cure everything from drug addiction and alcoholism to anorexia and bi-polar disorders.  It may even be used in healthy people for memory enhancement, brightening of vision, and weight loss.

2014

  • If facial recognition software creeps you out your not going to like the next wave of the technology that will be able to pick you out of a crowd far more efficiently thanks to a new technique that measures the blood vessels in your face.
  • There may also soon be a way to use blood vessels or at least a concept based on blood vessels to control the temperature in your house.  According to Wired, “Rooms will be kept warm (or cool) by windows coated with a silicone layer containing tiny channels, like blood vessels, through which a clear liquid is circulated. Developed at the University of Toronto, the coating will prevent heat transfer outwards in winter and inwards in summer.  Using a liquid with the same refractive index as glass will render it essentially invisible.”
  • Another amazing breakthrough could lead to battery-less devices as sensors buried in concrete could harness energy from broadcast and cellular signals around them, convert that energy into electricity, and then re-transmit a message using a Morse code type system.  In other words your cell phone could still work even after the battery has died.
  • We could soon have a form of super human hearing as a mask has been invented that zooms in on nearby speech and neutralizes the background noise.  If we combine that mask with a technique known as “superdirective beamforming” we may be able to hear a conversation up to 30 meters away.
  • One day we could have a whole new way of treating heart attacks.  Known as Microbubble heart imaging this procedures introduces microbubbles into the body intravenously.  Sound waves are then reflected giving paramedics an ultrasound image of the patient’s heart.  The sound waves can then be re-directed to release anti-clotting agents in the targeted area.
  • The future of food is going to blow your mind as we could have digital, yes digital, seasonings.  The way that it would work is that a dish is served with two phone numbers.  When you call one of the numbers a sound track is played that will either enhance your dish’s bitterness or sweetness.  Another culinary trick may be to serve food on a plate that releases fragrances to compliment your meal.
  • Arguing with your significant other over the remote control may soon be a thing of the past thanks to new technology that will allow two people to watch two different things on the same TV at the same time.
  • Thanks to something known as NeuroKnitting you may be able to design your next scarf just by thinking.

To find out more about these ideas and many more be sure to check out these two amazing special issues of Wired U.K.

These two special editions of Wired U.K. were jam packed with great ideas.

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#403 – BitCloud

Some of you may have heard of BitCoins, the decentralized crypto currency that could very well be the future of money.  Well, soon we could also have BitCloud, a decentralized version of the Internet based on the same protocols that govern BitCoins.  And considering that the Internet as we know it may soon be a thing of the past thanks to the failing doctrine of Net Neutrality the timing of this announcement could not be any better.

The way that it would work is that individual people (hence the decentralized part) would perform tasks normally performed by major companies; tasks such as routing, providing bandwidth, and storing data.  They will do so in exchange for payment in the form of a new currency known as Cloudcoins.  The amount of payment that someone receives will vary from person to person and will depend on how much they contribute to the network thereby creating an incentive based system to power the entire operation. In essence, we will wind up having a whole new version of the Internet that is safer and more secure than the one we’ve all grown to know.  

“If you’re interested in privacy, security, ending internet censorship, decentralising the internet and creating a new mesh network to replace the internet, then you should join or support this project.’  

That statement comes straight from the group responsible for dreaming up this proposal.  On GitHub that group explains in great detail all of the nuances that will go into building this new version of the world wide web.  While most of the technical jargon they describe is over my head there is one part that stood out to me:

“Bitcloud is constructed by the integration of an inter-dependant chain of modules and plugins, each one having its own BCL (laws).

For example, there are the fundamental modules of routing, storage, and goverment. From there on, a complete set of plugins can be constructed.

Each plugin will allow publishers to create sub-nets. In the case of the cloud module (the first and most important one) the publishers create a sub-net with only the content moderated by them. Collaboration between publishers is possible.

Examples:

  • A social plugin, like Facebook, Twitter, and G+. Any publisher will have an independent social sub-net, so it is possible to create different social nets each one specialized under the rules of the particular publisher.
  • A wiki plugin. Each publisher will have and moderate its own wiki.
  • A forum plugin. Each publisher will moderate and establish the rules of his own forum.
  • A market plugin. Each publisher will be in charge of one store or collection of stores and will moderate sellers and customers.

The possibilities are endless. We can virtually replace every single major layer of the actual Internet in a decentralized way.”

Just like that anything and everything that we could ever want is available to us at our beck and call.  According to the BBC that means that we could soon have a whole new way of watching video:

WeTube can act as a replacement for YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, Soundcloud, Spotify and other audio video streaming services…Artists would be paid with a percentage of advertising revenues…”

As great as that sounds to musicians and regular folk alike that’s just the beginning.  With this new system we can dream up entire new ways of doing things and create a more fair and democratic system in the process.  The only people who aren’t going to like this proposal are going to be people in government and the heads of major internet companies who stand to lose all of their power if this comes to fruition.

For now they have nothing to worry about because this idea is still in the early planning phases and is by no means a finished product.  In fact, it may never happen.  But if it does…watch out.  Everything could change.  For the better.  

Is this what the future of the Internet will look like?

 

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Here’s a look at everything that I’ve been thinking about lately:

  • Every new game changing technology needs a killer app.  Something that helps it turn the corner and become a part of mainstream society.  For the much maligned Google Glass that killer app could very well be a sex app.  Known as ‘Sex with Google Glass’ this app not only lets you record the action from multiple angles but it also lets you see what the other person is seeing.  Game changed.  Find out more at the Huffington Post.
  • While that sure is big news it pales in comparison to the discovery that water may be prevalent throughout the Universe as it has been found in stardust.  All of the buzz so far seems to be surrounding the idea that this may mean that life as we know it could be common across the cosmos.  But as far as I’m concerned there is a far greater connection that should be made here and that’s the fact that we can take advantage of this new found knowledge to travel throughout the Universe.  Instead of transporting water with us everywhere we go we could just extract it from stardust.  Interstellar space travel here we come!
  • From the why I didn’t think of that department comes the Horizon video app which allows people to take perfect horizontal video no matter what angle you are holding your phone at.  As Wired explains, “It’s the defining scourge of the smartphone video age. When you shoot while holding your phone the normal way, in portrait mode, your clips take the shape of your screen. Then, when you go to watch them on your computer or TV they look ridiculous, occupying a skinny vertical stripe like you’re watching the action through a picket fence. The internet has been trying to educate the public on this issue for years with little success.”  Thankfully, that’s all about to change.
  • Kudos to the math nerd who hacked Ok Cupid to find his dream girl.  But why was this necessary?  Why can’t the dating site just do a better job of finding us matches that we’d actually want to go on dates with?  I’m sorry but just because two people both like going to the movies doesn’t mean that they are a good match!
  • Fixed sounds like another great idea for anyone who has ever received a parking ticket which is pretty much all of us.  The next time it happens send them the ticket and they will fight it for you!  If they win they receive 25% of the face value of the ticket as a thank you.  If they lose you pay them nothing.  Either way you don’t have to take off from work to go to court.  That’s a win-win situation.

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