Archive for November, 2018

#1,399 – Barter Travel

Thanks to AirBnB I just had a wonderful experience staying in an impressively-designed retired architect’s condo filled with antiques from all around the world. But you know what would have made the stay even better?  If it would have been free. And thanks to a new travel website specializing in bartering that may soon be the case.  Assuming that is, that you have something to trade.

As Travel and Leisure explains, “Desired offers include playful exchanges like providing a comic book collection or tango lesson to taking photos, teaching English, or helping out feeding farm animals.”

Now while I wouldn’t want to spend my vacation doing chores or milking cows I might be willing to teach English or trade tangible items in exchange for staying somewhere for free.  Especially if the listings correspond with places I wanted to go to anyway.

The article adds that, “ Currently, there are close to 500 properties located across some 60 countries, ranging from European stops like Greece and Belgium to stops in South America, the U.S., Asia, and more.  While bed and breakfasts are one type of accommodation found through the program, travelers can also find stays in hotels, vacation homes, hostels, nature lodges, and even 17th-century farmhouses.”

Sounds good to me! Which begs the question: what would you be willing to barter?!?

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Is barter travel the Greatest Idea Ever?

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If you spent either Cyber Monday or Black Friday purchasing a new TV then I’ve got some bad news: you probably just wasted your money.  Because in a few years you might be replacing it with a new version from Samsung, one that can be controlled with your very own thoughts.  That’s right.  In the near future we may have the ability to channel surf or change the volume on our TVs just by thinking about it.

Now to be clear this technology isn’t being designed exclusively for consumer use.  Rather it’s being designed to help people who have suffered brain injuries.  But if the technology exists you can be sure that it will eventually make its way into a consumer facing product.  Especially when you consider just how lazy couch potatoes really are.  After all, why get up to look for the remote control when you can just stay where you are and use Jedi mind control instead.  Which might explain why Samsung chose to put this technology into a TV in the first place.

As CNET reports, “Samsung initially considered building the technology into a smartphone but opted for the TV in part because of its bigger screen and because most homes have a TV, [Martin] Kathriner said. He added that TVs also can be used as smart home hubs, which could be attractive for the brainwave technology.”

Now, it’s worth mentioning that this technology is still in its infancy although there is significant potential for producing a real game-changing experience in the long run.

As BGR explains, “At present, the system combines brain monitoring sensors and eye-tracking hardware to identify what selections the individual intends to make. Going forward, the partnership hopes to make the system smart enough to accept commands via brain commands alone, meaning that you’d only need to think about changing the volume for the action to be performed.”

So, what do you think? Is a brain controlled TV something you’d be interested in purchasing? Or is using your voice to control your TV with Alexa a good enough substitute?

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Is a brain controlled TV the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,397 – Cactus Pain Killer

Yesterday, I toured the Boyce Thompson Arboretum in Superior, Arizona where I marveled at the beauty and majesty of a wide array of cacti.  But as it turns out these beautiful plants offer more than just lovely photo ops.  Soon, they may even save our lives.  Or at least free us from a life-time of pain.

As Wired puts it, “In Morocco there grows a cactus-like plant that’s so hot, I have to insist that the next few sentences aren’t hyperbole. On the Scoville Scale of hotness, its active ingredient, resiniferatoxin, clocks in at 16 billion units. That’s 10,000 times hotter than the Carolina reaper, the world’s hottest pepper, and 45,000 times hotter than the hottest of habaneros, and 4.5 million times hotter than a piddling little jalapeno. Euphorbia resinifera, aka the resin spurge, is not to be eaten. Just to be safe, you probably shouldn’t even look at it.

But while that toxicity will lay up any mammal dumb enough to chew on the resin spurge, resiniferatoxin has also emerged as a promising painkiller. Inject RTX, as it’s known, into an aching joint, and it’ll actually destroy the nerve endings that signal pain. Which means medicine could soon get a new tool to help free us from the grasp of opioids.”

As someone who suffers from excruciating chronic back pain this news couldn’t come at a better time.  If it really is true and is successfully converted into a viable treatment it would be like a dream come true, giving me the ability to permanently turn off my pain, instead of just learning to tune it out.  So the next time I see a cactus it looks like I’ll be doing more than just taking a photo.  I’ll also be saying thank you.

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Is a cactus pain killer the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Age related diseases are the worst.  Completely debilitating, with limited cures, they often sneak up on us, robbing us of our dignity, and ruining any chance we have of enjoying our retirement years.  But good news is on the way.  For it soon may be possible to detect Alzheimer’s, even years before symptoms appear, simply by conducting a non-invasive eye exam.

As Futurism reports, “At the 122nd Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, not one but two research teams presented studies that suggest that changes in blood vessels in the eye can indicate Alzheimer’s before symptoms appear — and it may be the early detection technique we need to get ahead of this devastating disease.”

Personally I believe that early detection is going to be one of the hallmarks of medicine in the future.  As our technology continues to develop and our medical knowledge continues to advance we’ll get to the point where we eradicate some diseases completely, figure out how to bypass others (by growing replacement organs for the ones that fail us), and then ultimately work on early detection for the ones that we haven’t contracted yet.  It’ll be a multi-faceted approach to healthcare, one that attacks problems from the past (issues that already afflict us), the present (dealing with issues as they arise), and the future (taking a proactive approach instead of a reactive one) to any potential threats.

If we can use such a multi-faceted approach to tackle Alzheimer’s and do so in a quick and easy non-invasive way then that would be amazing.  So hopefully this research continues to bear fruit.  Because I’m not getting any younger!

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Is an eye test for Alzheimer’s the Greatest Idea Ever?

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I’m usually not that paranoid.  I don’t think that the NSA is listening to my calls and I never feel as though as I’m being followed.  But even if I have to admit that I have thought about the possibility of there being hidden cameras in the hotel or Airbnb I’m staying in.

The same goes for public places.  Gym locker rooms.  Mall changing rooms.  There’s a million and one different places to hide a camera.  And not just in a perverted way.  Undercover cops, investigative reporters, even enterprising citizens with a cell phone camera that’s within range of a celebrity – everywhere you look there could be a concealed camera watching your every move.  Your laptop’s very own webcam could even be spying on you at this very moment while you read this.

Conditions surrounding your lack of privacy aren’t likely to improve anytime soon either.  As technology gets smaller and smaller and tiny sensors become more and more ubiquitous it’s just going to get easier and easier for people to plant detection and monitoring devices without being noticed.

Thankfully there will soon be something you can do about it.  A new technology that’s capable of finally giving you peace of mind.

According to Mental Floss, “Spy Associates, a maker of surveillance and privacy protection products, has designed a product that will help put worried travelers’ minds at ease. The company’s SpyFinderPro Hidden Camera Detector uses LED strobe lights to ferret out the reflective surfaces of various kinds of cameras. The company says the gadget works even when cameras are undetectable to the human eye, and even when they’re turned off or non-functioning.”

Such a technology, if it really does work as advertised, would be a total game-changer.  Allowing people to be free from the prying eyes of peeping Toms everywhere once and for all.

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Is a hidden camera detector the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,394 – Powder Storage

Over the years several unique ways of storing data have been invented as everything from DNA to quartz has been used as a potential medium for transferring information.  Now we can add one more unique method to that list.

As Futurism puts it, “Data might be the most valuable resource in the world, but we’re quickly approaching the physical limits of the magnetic systems we use to store most of it. Additionally, mining the materials needed to create those systems, such as hard drives or USB sticks, is a burden on the environment.  Given all that, it’s not surprising that finding new ways to store data is a top research priority.  Now, a team from Ghent University thinks it may have figured out a promising new medium: powder.”

That’s right.  It soon may be possible to store information, such as a QR code, on the grain of a powder.  But how exactly does this amazing process work?!

Futurism explains:

“Using a chemical process they developed, the team figured out a way to translate information into the chemical signature of a sequence-defined macromolecule, which is a type of molecule with a specific chain length and defined groups. They then wrote two computer algorithms. One automates the process of translating the data into its chemical form and vice versa. The other program ensures this process happens quickly.  As a result of these efforts, they were able to produce powders that contained links to websites and apps.”

Why anyone other than a CIA agent would ever want to transfer information through a powder is beyond me.  But at the very least it’s a cool proof of concept that shows just how far we’ve come since the days of floppy discs.

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Is storing data in powder the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,393 – Oumuamua

Last year, when a star’s unusual dimming pattern couldn’t be explain by scientists, a new theory emerged.  The light was being blocked out by an alien mega-structure, one built by an advanced civilization in order to harness their sun’s energy.  And now this year, when a strange space rock entered our solar system that can neither be confirmed as an asteroid nor a comet, a new theory emerged.  From Harvard University no less.  The mysterious object was an alien spacecraft, a solar sail, sent off to the far reaches of the galaxy by a curious cosmologist on the other side of the cosmos.

Personally, I love these sci-fi infused theories.  Especially when they are put forth by serious scientists.  They prove that we’re actively working towards figuring out the mysteries of the universe and will consider any possibility.  No matter how remote it may seem.

As CNN puts it, “A mysterious cigar-shaped object spotted tumbling through our solar system last year may have been an alien spacecraft sent to investigate Earth, astronomers from Harvard University have suggested.

The object, nicknamed ‘Oumuamua, meaning ‘a messenger that reaches out from the distant past’ in Hawaiian, was discovered in October 2017 by the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope in Hawaii.

Since its discovery, scientists have been at odds to explain its unusual features and precise origins, with researchers first calling it a comet and then an asteroid before finally deeming it the first of its kind: a new class of ‘interstellar objects.’”

So, why is Oumuamua so unusual? Why is it that we suspect that it may have alien origins?

Well, for starters there’s the fact that it originated from outside our solar system.  Then you have to consider its unusual spin and trajectory and the fact that it sped up as it passed the sun.  This would imply that the object is being powered by solar radiation that would enable it to gain speed every time it passed a new star.  Now to be fair, comets also act in this same way but when a comet passes by a sun some of its ice melts away, propelling it forward and creating a tail.  This object had no such tail so that would seem to imply that it’s not a comet.  Or is it?

It’s certainly possible that it’s a new form of comet or asteroid.  Or something else entirely.  A new class of interstellar object that we just don’t understand yet because it’s the first of its kind.  Perhaps there are many more of these types of objects floating around in deep space.  Objects that we’ll be able to study more closely in the near future as our telescope technology advances further.

The unknown origin could also be easily explained away.  Debris from a distant planet that was wiped out by a star going supernova.  The fact that we can’t trace back its origin to a known position, due to the fact that the incident happened millions of years ago, with the sky shifting so much since then, (thanks to dark energy powering the expansion of the Universe), that it has become impossible to line up the trajectory accurately.  In the same way that you have trouble locating your blanket at the beach after drifting in the ocean.

But at the same time it is worth noting that the alien solar sail theory does have merit.  After all, this technology already exists right here on Earth thanks to the Breakthrough Starshot Initiative and other similar projects.  If sending out a probe powered by solar radiation is how we’ll explore the cosmos then wouldn’t it stand to reason that other advanced civilizations would do the same thing?

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Is a solar sail the Greatest Idea Ever?


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