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Wearables offer a lot of promise for monitoring our health and improving our daily lives but they have yet to fully catch on thanks to fashion faux pas and privacy concerns.  Fitbits may be here to stay but Google Glass is down and out for a ten count.

The only real way to get around this problem and counteract societal norms is to either design something that is socially acceptable or make something so small as to be virtually undetectable.  That’s where a tiny wearable designed by researchers at Tufts University comes into play.  Their sensor is so small in fact, that it can fit on one of your teeth, enabling it to transmit valuable data about what you’ve been eating.

According to The Next Web, “The device could give doctors real-time alerts on patients based on actual chemical intake. This means that rather than wait for an emergency, when it’s often too late, they could respond before there’s a problem.  Imagine what a difference this could make for people who need to monitor glucose or sodium levels – it could be revolutionary in the field of preventative medicine. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

What’s great about this technology is that it can be used to detect any type of chemical and can be affixed to just about any type of surface, whether that’s a tooth, your skin, or anything else.  This means that we could use it to monitor our level of fatigue, our sobriety, our blood sugar levels, or anything else worth monitoring.  For those life loggers out there who believe in the quantified self movement this sensor could provide invaluable information about where they’ve been and what they’ve been doing.

It’ll be interesting to monitor this technology going forward to see what other use cases we can come up with.  Unless, of course, privacy concerns quash this idea as well.

A miniaturized sensor mounted on a tooth. Photo: SilkLab, Tufts University

Is a tiny tooth mounted sensor the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,253 – Alo

Smartphone technology continues to evolve.  Every two years or so a new iPhone or Samsung Galaxy device comes out.  Each iteration packed with state of the art features.  New and improved cameras.  Fingerprint scanners.  Touchscreen functionality.  Apps galore.  But for the most part, every new phone that comes out is the same as the last.

Sure, the dimensions may be slightly different.  Over time they get thinner and look sleeker.  We’re no longer walking around with Zack Morris brick phones.  But by and large they all still roughly appear to be the same.  An iPhone 4 is physically comparable to an iPhone X.  But those days may be coming to an end.  For the Alo phone will be nothing like anything else you’ve ever seen before.  In fact, it’ll barely resemble a phone at all.

Here’s what we know so far about this mysterious product that it still in development.  The phone will be AI infused and entirely voice controlled.  It will be capable of projecting everything – emails, texts, photographs, videos, etc. as holograms.  And it will be comprised of a weird gelatinous material ergonomically designed to fit your hand.  But that’s just the start.

According to Futurism, “A user could also communicate with the device through vibrations and, oddly enough, heat. Inside of the phone would be a center made up of an aluminum alloy that would vibrate and give feedback to the user through temperature. According to [designer Jerome] Olivet, ‘Its translucent skin emits vibrations or communicates by producing heat depending on its activity,’ and, ‘Its skin repairs automatically as soon as it is damaged.’”

A gelatinous, hologram projecting phone that communicates via heat and is controlled only by your voice.  This is going to take some getting used to.  Which is exactly why I can’t wait to try it!

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Is Alo the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Lots of new things this week!

New Form of Matter Discovered

According to Science Alert, “Researchers at the University of Illinois have announced an exciting finding – the discovery of a new form of matter: excitonium.

This material is made up of a kind of boson, a composite particle that could allow the matter to act as a superfluid, superconductor, or even as an insulating electronic crystal.”

It’s still too early to tell what technologies could be impacted by this new discovery but quantum computing figures to probably be affected the most.

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New Force?

As far as we know there are four major fundamental forces of the Universe: the strong and weak nuclear force, electromagnetism, and gravity.  But what if there was a fifth force? A force even stronger than gravity, capable of both pushing and pulling objects?! Such a force may exist.  In fact, it may be a blackbody, or, what we more commonly refer to as Hawking radiation, that mysterious matter said to be theoretically escaping from black holes.

As Futurism explains:

“A blackbody is said to emit a type of thermal radiation that can both repel and pull nearby objects like atoms and molecules. For objects that aren’t so massive and are hot enough, this blackbody radiation could even be stronger than their gravitational pull.”

Studying this phenomenon further could help us better understand the mechanics behind planet formation.

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New Cancer Detection Method
 
It may soon be possible to detect cancer much earlier than today’s leading techniques.
 
According to New Atlas,A team from Rutgers University has devised a ground-breaking new method for detecting tiny cancerous tumors. Using light-emitting nanoparticles the technique can accurately identify and track early-stage tumors months before they grow large enough to be detectable by conventional imaging methods.”

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New Approach to Fighting Bacteria
 
In the near future we may not have to worry about drug resistant super bugs anymore.
According to Gizmodo, “…because of bacteria’s uncanny ability to adapt to the most inhospitable environments, scientists have been searching for creative ways to get past their defenses. One way, a new study in the journal ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering suggests, might be to create a surface that keeps bacteria away from it in the first place.

The researchers, hailing from Georgia Tech, created a form of stainless steel riddled with sharp bumps so tiny they can repel and kill bacteria, making the surface practically uninhabitable.

Testing their creation, known as nanotextured steel, in the lab, they found it was able to bounce off both the gram-positive Staphylococcus aureus and the gram-negative Escherichia coli, two bacteria with lots of harmful and drug-resistant strains, for at least 48 hours. That’s important because gram-negative bacteria already have a unique cell membrane that makes them especially impervious to antibiotics.
Equally important was that the nanospikes were too small to affect mouse cells placed on the steel, likely meaning the material could be used safely to coat devices that need constant contact with human cells, like surgical implants.”

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Are any of these the Greatest Idea Ever?

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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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