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If you’re single and using an online dating service you know how it goes.  You match with someone that you really like, you start talking to them and decide that you really, really like them, and then before you can schedule a first date, they just completely stop talking to you for no reason.  I used to call that flaking out.  Kids today call it ghosting.  Either way, it’s horrible, annoying, and the bane of my existence.

Thankfully, there’s a new dating site that aims to change all that.  Known as Tonight, this new app is specifically designed to force people to actually go out on dates.  Right now. Tonight.

That’s because the service is time-sensitive, only allowing you to search for potential dates for that night.  It won’t even work past 6 pm at night, ruling out the possibility of just using the service for last minute hookups.  Instead, if you’re free that night, and match with someone earlier in the day, you’ll be a given a time and place to meet up later that night.

And best of all, the service discourages people from flaking out, even eventually removing them from the site altogether, if they keep doing it.

As TechCrunch puts it:

“…as soon as two people show interest in each other, the app tries to set them up on a date, no messaging required…you sign on when you’re free for a date that very evening. If both you and one of your matches is free, the app will give you a time and a place to meet up.  You’ll need to sign in by 6pm to get a date that night, which will hopefully discourage people who are just looking for a hookup. In addition, users get penalized for flaking out, and they’re eventually removed if they keep doing it.”

That last caveat, about getting penalized for flaking out, is a real deterrent.  With that rule in place, even if you show up and instantly know that you got cat-fished and aren’t attracted to the person at all, you’d probably still want to go through the motions of going on the date with them just to avoid getting kicked off the site.  That means less people will get stood up, which is one of the worst things that can happen to a dater.

On the other hand there are some potential issues that I see with this app.  First of all, what happens if you get assigned a location or activity that doesn’t agree with you.  Maybe it’s far away and annoying to get to or an activity that you either hate or have done before and don’t care for.  Would you have any say at all in the type of things that you could be doing?  Also, what happens if you match with two people in the same day?  Would you be double booked?  Or what if you accidentally match with someone because you were swiping too quickly?  I agree that once you start talking to someone you shouldn’t be allowed to back out, but what if you don’t want to start talking to them in the first place?

If Tonight can iron out all of those logistical concerns then they could really be onto something here.  Because the #1 complaint about online dating that I’ve heard recently is about how hard it is to actually go on a real date nowadays.  In an era of instant gratification swiping, where a first date consists of “Netflix and chill”, people are starting to yearn for the good old days of awkward meet-ups at mini-golf courses.  Or maybe that’s just me.  Either way, this new app has promise.  So, what are you doing Tonight?

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Is Tonight the Greatest Idea Ever?

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I believe in evolution but there are still some among us who don’t buy it.  They’ll point to something like the eye and wonder how something so incredibly complex could form since logic would dictate that while it was developing, it would have likely been eliminated by natural selection for failing to work properly right away.  Scientists get around that problem by suggesting that the eye may have initially formed for some other reason before being co-opted and repurposed for sight.

Similarly, another thorny issue when it comes to evolution is the development of the immune system.  If we need it to survive then how did we survive before we had it? It really is quite the conundrum.  One theory is that our cells, in lieu of a full blown immune system, must have instead had some kind of “backdoor kill switch”, a mechanism that would allow for faulty or cancerous cells to be killed off before they could harm us.  Eventually, we stopped using that switch, instead relying on an immune systems to protect us.  But now the time may have come to start using that kill switch once again to fight cancer.  A novel approach that allegedly works on all types of cancer.

As Pionic puts it, “Small RNA molecules originally developed as a tool to study gene function trigger a mechanism hidden in every cell that forces the cell to commit suicide, reports a new Northwestern Medicine study, the first to identify molecules to trigger a fail-safe mechanism that may protect us from cancer.  The mechanism — RNA suicide molecules — can potentially be developed into a novel form of cancer therapy, the study authors said.”

Best of all, “cancer cells treated with the RNA molecules never become resistant to them because they simultaneously eliminate multiple genes that cancer cells need for survival. ‘It’s like committing suicide by stabbing yourself, shooting yourself and jumping off a building all at the same time,’ said Northwestern scientist and lead study author Marcus Peter. ‘You cannot survive.’”

In case you’re worried that this cell kill switch could be weaponized and used to turn kill off healthy cells, have no fear.  It only targets cancerous cells.  Hopefully, this research continues to advance and this method of curing cancer by getting cancerous cells to commit suicide becomes a standard treatment method.  Because if it does we could be looking at a real game-changer.  Something that ensures that cancer never takes another life.

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Is using a cellular kill switch to fight cancer the Greatest Idea Ever?

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This past weekend, while walking the immaculately groomed grounds of the famed Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, I engaged in an unofficial competition with a friend of mine over who could take the better photo.  I say unofficial because she wasn’t aware that we were competing.  But in my mind we were and every five seconds I would show her my phone and force her to marvel at “the shot of the day” that I had just captured.  At first this annoyed her.  But eventually she got into the act as well and refused to leave a particular area until she also got the same awesome shot that I had just got.  Even if that meant waiting around for stragglers to leave one particularly photogenic area.  Even though I could have easily just sent her my photo.

This got me thinking.  What if there was a way to actually compete against somebody else in a photography competition? What if getting the “perfect shot” could actually win you money or make you famous? In today’s Instagram obsessed culture, where almost everyone is an instant professional photographer, wouldn’t there be a huge audience for such a show?

What I’m imagining then is a reality TV show that would pit amateur photographers against one another in a race against time to try and capture as many amazing shots as they can in a given area.  Say in a mansion or at a National Park.  In addition to racing around the grounds to get as many shots as they can there would also be points awarded for taking pictures of certain things or from certain angles.  In a way, it would be a like a photo scavenger hunt.  Take a picture of all 20 items on your checklist and receive a bonus.  There would also be a bonus for the shot of the day or for taking a picture with a vintage camera that is hidden somewhere on the property.  The final round could force contestants to go old school and develop a black and white photo in a lab.

Partially inspired by Supermarket Sweep (which is coming back by the way!) and other obscure competition shows that came before it, Photo Finish, would be a ratings smash.  At the very least, you’d have to think that it could hang with other modern day competition shows currently populating cable TV such as Forged in Fire, a show about a welding competition, Alone, a show about surviving in the wilderness, or Talk Show The Game Show, a late night talk show in which guests receive points for the best answers to canned questions.  If those obscure competition shows can get green lit, then surely Photo Finish could as well.

That’s the hope at least.  If not, I’ll always have Asheville.

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Here’s one of my photos from this past weekend.  Could it win me Shot of the Day on Photo Finish?

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As Hurricane Harvey continues to deluge Houston with rain, with two or three more feet still to come, we’re reminded of the devastating effects of Mother Nature at her worst.  But as horrible as the catastrophic flooding is, there’s a far greater natural threat that we have to worry about: the super volcano positioned under Yellowstone National Park in the heart of the United States, because if it were ever to erupt it wouldn’t just effect an area the size of Texas.  It would effect the entire United States.  In fact, it would effect the entire world.  And oh by the way, it’s long overdue for an eruption.

Ever since I saw Spock save an ancient civilization from an impending volcano induced cataclysm in the second movie of the Star Trek reboot, I had long hoped that there would be a similar geoengineering scheme that could save us from the Yellowstone Super Volcano.  And now, thanks to NASA, there is.

As Popular Mechanics reports, “NASA’s plan is to drill a hole into the side of the volcano and pump water through it. When the water comes back out, it’ll be heated to over 600 degrees, slowly cooling the volcano. The team hopes that given enough time, this process will take enough heat from the volcano to prevent it from ever erupting. As a bonus, the scientists are proposing to use the heated water as a source of geothermal energy, potentially powering the entire Yellowstone region with heat from the volcano that wants to destroy it. A geothermal generator could produce energy at around $0.10 per kWh, competitive with other energy sources.”

NASA won’t be the only ones pocking around the Yellowstone Super Volcano though.  According to Wired, the discovery of lithium there could make it a hot bed for mining activity.

“Electric cars and smartphones of the future could be powered by super volcanoes like Yellowstone after scientists discovered that ancient deposits within them contain huge reservoirs of lithium—a chemical element used to make lithium-ore batteries, supplies of which are increasingly dwindling.”

The article from Wired further explains the process behind how the lithium was created:

“In a study published in the journal Nature Communications, researchers from Stanford University and the US Geological Survey have found a new potential source for lithium—within America’s super volcanoes

These volcanoes are capable of producing huge eruptions, about 1,000 times bigger than average. Along with the famous Yellowstone caldera, there are three other supervolcanoes in the US, Crater Lake, Long Valley and Valles Caldera.

When these volcanoes erupt, they collapse into huge basin-like formations known as calderas. These depressions often fill with water to become lakes, with the ash and pumice ejected during the eruption spread across the caldera in ancient deposits.

In the study, the team looked to super volcanoes as a potential source of lithium because of the lithium-enriched magma that formed them. Over thousands of years, lithium leaks out of the volcanic deposits, accumulating in the caldera lake, eventually becoming concentrated in a clay.”

So as you can see, all of our prayers have been answered.  We’re finally going to be tackling the issue of what to do about the Yellowstone Super Volcano.  And everything from electric cars to smartphones to all life on earth is going to reap the rewards of this intervention.  Now, if only it would stop raining in Houston…

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Is the plan to save Yellowstone the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,146 – MoviePass

There’s a lot going on these days.  The racial tensions in Charlottesville that lead to three people dying.  The push to remove confederate statues that followed.  President Trump’s off the rails press conference in which he blamed both sides.  All of the CEOs and moderate Republicans who have abandoned Trump in droves since.

Combine all that with Trump’s feud with the FBI, the Attorney General and anyone else who has crossed him, the Congressional failure to repel and replace Obamacare, and with the Russian election meddling and possible collusion, and it’s enough to make you wonder if we’re really living in Westeros all of a sudden with enough sub-plots to fill an entire series of books and spawn a hit HBO series.  With the threat of North Korea looming, our very own (nuclear) winter is coming as well.

So what do you do when life begins to imitate art?  When you need to find an escape from all the bad news inundating your Facebook feed?  You do the only thing you can do.  You spend more time with the arts! A feat which is now imminently possible thanks to the MoviePass, a monthly subscription service that lets you attend one in theatre movie per day for just $10 a month.  Considering that a single movie ticket usually costs around $10 this deal sounds almost too good to be true.  So, what’s the catch?

Well, for starters there are a few restrictions.  The ticket doesn’t cover IMAX or 3-D movies and the corresponding app will only work when you’re within 100 yards of a theatre.  That means that you can’t buy tickets online ahead of time which could limit your ability to see a popular new release.  And even for movies that have been out for a while you run the risk of schlepping all the way to the theatre just to find out that the movie you want to see is sold out.  Plus, it is for only one movie per day.  But, still.  We’re talking about $10 a month to have the ability to see up to 28-31 movies per month if you really wanted to.

So, let’s evaluate this.  It sounds like a no-brainer, but is it?  $10 a month for thirty movies is a great deal but that’s $10 more per month than I pay right now.  An additional $120 per year that I’d have to budget for.  Keep in mind that I haven’t seen a movie in the theaters in several months.  I wanted to see Wonder Woman and the new Spider Man but couldn’t bring myself to do it.  So, if I’m not going to use this pass religiously, or even all that often, am I literally just throwing away $10 a month?

Well, if I had this pass a few months ago logic would dictate that I probably would have used it to see Spider Man and Wonder Woman thereby recouping my investment.  So long as I see at least two movies a month then the deal is worth it.  But would I see two movies a month? 3 movies a month?  4 movies a month?  Two seems doable.  Anything more than that seems unlikely.  Who has that much free time to be able to go to the movies everyday anyway?  Especially, once the weather clears up and hiking season begins.  Not to mention the fact that there really aren’t that many good movies that are worth seeing in theaters.  For every Dunkirk there’s five Valerians.  Is this pass worth it if it means I’m going to be spending a Saturday night watching Brigsby Bear or a Sunday morning watching the Emoji Movie?  Sure, the value is there but what about the psychological toll that watching dozens of bad movies will take on my psyche?

It’s also fair to ask if this business model is even sustainable, a question that AMC is soon going to beasking via a subpoena.  When the program first launched back in NYC in 2011 it cost $50 per month.  That still sounds like a reasonably good deal to moviegoers and theaters realizing that most people wouldn’t go more than five times a month were on board with that.  But now that the cost has been slashed to $10 a month?!?! There’s no way this can last can it?

I don’t know.  All I know is that if you’re a movie lover who would go to the movies more than two times per month, and don’t mind having to buy last minute tickets, then you should definitely take the plunge.  And quickly!  Before they change their mind!

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Is MoviePass the Greatest Idea Ever?

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On last night’s episode of Silicon Valley, a paranoid Gilfoyle take action when he realizes that Dinesh’s hacker girlfriend has infiltrated the apartment’s Wi-Fi network and is using it to effectively spy on them.  In a panicked state the duo ripped wires out of the wall, covered up their webcams with duct tape, and took various other actions to try and safeguard their apartment from their virtual intruder.

The scenario that played out last night is the one that we often associate with our Wi-Fi routers.  That some hacker in Estonia is trying to enter our home networks to steal our social security numbers or bank account numbers.  Or less nefariously that our neighbors are trying to steal our signal.

But now we can add one more privacy fear to Wi-Fi routers: the fact that one day they may be used to spy on us by using holograms to recreate what the inside of an apartment looks like.

As Science Mag puts it, “Your wireless router may be giving you away in manner you never dreamed of. For the first time, physicists have used radio waves from a Wi-Fi transmitter to encode a 3D image of a real object in a hologram similar to the image of Princess Leia projected by R2D2 in the movie Star Wars. In principle, the technique could enable outsiders to ‘see’ the inside of a room using only the Wi-Fi signals leaking out of it…”

This technology comes to us from scientists at the Technical University of Munich and obviously won’t just be used for spying.  There are plenty of practical applications that could benefit society as well, such as using the technology during disaster recovery efforts to locate victims that may be trapped inside a burning building.

But for those of you who may still have spying concerns you can rest easy knowing that your humble abode will likely never get mapped.

According to CNET, “The development of this technology is still in an early state. But for those concerned about privacy, [paper co-author Friedemann] Reinhard said the movable antenna required to scan an entire room or a building would be very large and couldn’t be installed clandestinely.”

So for now all you really have to worry about are your neighbors.  Or if you’re anything like Dinesh, your crazy hacker girlfriend.

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Are Wi-Fi holograms the Greatest Idea Ever?

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People who are familiar with the CRISPR-CAS-9 gene editing technique are aware of its truly transformative ability to change the world.  Capable of ending hunger and curing all diseases (including cancer and AIDS) it has a chance to be the most important scientific discovery of all-time.  In fact, as scientists and researchers continue to play around with this nascent technology it’s becoming clear that we have barely just scratched the surface of what it can do.  As witnessed by its newfound ability to act as an antibiotic.

A few years ago, when researchers from my alma mater Northeastern University discovered a new antibiotic in soil, it was the first new antibiotic discovered in more than thirty years.  This was a historically important discovery that is likely to be downright pivotal in our on-going fight against drug resistant super bugs. That’s because super bugs have evolved to fight and even become resistant to most antibiotics thanks to our misguided insistence that we should wipe out all of our gut bacteria in one fell swoop every time we are sick.  As it turns out though not all gut bacteria is bad.  Some of it lives symbiotically with us and plays a vital role in maintaining our health.  Using an antibiotic as a proverbial sledgehammer to destroy everything in its path is counterproductive.  The correct approach is a targeted one that would eliminate only the bad bacteria.  Thanks to CRISPR-CAS-9 that may now be on the verge of happening.

As Futurism explains, it may soon be possible to provide patients with a CRISPR pill that could target specific bacterium such as Clostridium difficile which can kill 15,000 people per year:

“Jan-Peter van Pijkeren, a food scientist from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is creating a probiotic cocktail that patients can swallow as a liquid or pill.  The cocktail of bacteria will include a bacteriophage – a virus that infects bacteria – capable of carrying a customized, false, CRISPR message to C. difficile. This message would cause C. difficile to make lethal cuts to its own DNA.”

Instructing bacterium to kill themselves on purpose?  That’s straight up savagery.  And it could very well be the future of medicine.  A future in which we deliver drugs to specific parts of our body using gene editing techniques as part of complex personalized healthcare plans that our doctors specifically design for us.  With this approach you won’t need a sledgehammer to get the desired results.  Just a pair of scissors.

Considering the already limitless potential of the CRISPR-CAS-9 gene editing technique it’s somewhat surprising to find yet another novel use for it.  Which begs the question: what else can it be used for?!?!

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Is a CRISPR pill the Greatest Idea Ever?

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