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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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Suffice it to say, the way that we eat and drink in the future is likely to be vastly different than the way we eat and drink now.  For instance, we’ll probably consume lab grown meat and seaweed that taste likes bacon.  We’ll probably have no choice but to turn to bugs as a source of protein.  Heck, we might even start drinking cockroach milk.  It’s also entirely possible that we’ll even have vaporized cuisine that we inhale instead of eat.  And now we can add edible water bottles to that list.

Designed to counteract the environmental impact of water bottles, the Ooho is a spherical, edible blob of water, that looks like a jelly fish and could very well be the future of hydration.  It’s outer layer is designed to be peeled away like a piece of fruit, leaving behind a gelatinous blob that you can consume to quench your thirst.  A blob, that the creators say has no taste, although artificial flavoring could be added if so desired.

As the Huffington Post describes, it’s an innovation whose time has come: “It will come as no surprise to anyone with the slightest interest in the environment that water bottles are at the top of the hit list for ‘worst products to buy,’ thanks to their one-time purpose and amount of waste generated.  But one London-based company could be changing the whole game with the idea for a water bottle made out of edible materials that delivers hydration in the form of a blob.”

Fast Company adds that, “The new packaging is based on the culinary technique of spherification, which is also used to make fake caviar and the tiny juice balls added to boba tea. Dip a ball of ice in calcium chloride and brown algae extract, and you can form a spherical membrane that keeps holding the ice as it melts and returns to room temperature.”

 

As great as this concept is I wonder if it will be convenient all of the time.  For example, if you’re hiking and only want to take a sip of your water supply wouldn’t it make more sense to have a water bottle so that you can put the cap back on and save some for later?  Won’t the Ooho get dirty if you put it away in your backpack after peeling it?  Also, if you have a water bottle and drink its contents you can easily re-fill it and keep going.  Once you eat the Ooho there’s no way to re-fill it.

So while the Ooho is a great idea that will definitely have a place in the market I’m not certain that it will completely replace the need for water bottles.  But it does raise an interesting question: what else does the future have in store for us when it comes to food and drink?

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Is Ooho the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Should I get Lasix eye surgery or hold out hope that Google Glass eventually comes out?  Do I wait for the Bionic Lens to come along and give me 3x better than 20/20 vision or do I make a fashion statement now with some Snapchat Spectacles?  With so many vision enhancing options on the market the decrepit, crooked-beyond-repair frames that I’ve been rocking since middle school just aren’t going to cut it anymore.  The time has finally come to upgrade my eye wear.  

But, wait!  Before I make a final decision it’s worth noting that there will soon be another option on the market: contact lenses capable of monitoring your health!  First up is blood sugar monitoring for diabetics.  But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

According to Gizmodo, “A research team led by Oregon State professor Gregory Herman has developed a transparent biosensor that, when added to a contact lens, could conceivably be used to detect symptoms an array of health conditions. Currently, a lab-tested prototype can only detect blood glucose levels, but in the future, the team believes it could detect other medical conditions, possibly even cancer.

What other kinds of medical conditions are we talking about?!?! 

As Herman tells Gizmodo, there is a lot of information that can be gleamed from a single tear drop.  Such as: “glucose, but also lactate (sepsis, liver disease), dopamine (glaucoma), urea (renal function), and proteins (cancers). Our goal is to expand from a single sensor to multiple sensors.”

This means that it’s likely that we’ll one day have health monitoring contact lenses for a whole array of ailments and illnesses.  On the one hand, this is great news as we can now “envision” a future where everyone is more in tune with their bodies, leading healthier lives.  But on the other hand, I now have an even harder decision to make.  In fact, I still have no “eye-dea” what to do.

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Are health monitoring contacts the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Lost among all of the alternative facts, fake news claims, and political wrangling of the last week was the news that scientists have finally achieved the holy grail of chemistry, creating a metallic form of hydrogen, 80 years after its existence was first theorized.  How big of a deal is this?  Well, considering that hydrogen is the most abundant element in the Universe and a metallic version could be used as a fuel source for long range space travel, among other uses, I’d say that it’s a very big deal.

As the Independent put it:

“For nearly 100 years, scientists have dreamed of turning the lightest of all the elements, hydrogen, into a metal.  Now, in a stunning act of modern-day alchemy, scientists at Harvard University have finally succeeded in creating a tiny amount of what is the rarest, and possibly most valuable, material on the planet…for metallic hydrogen could theoretically revolutionize technology, enabling the creation of super-fast computers, high-speed levitating trains and ultra-efficient vehicles and dramatically improving almost anything involving electricity.  And it could also allow humanity to explore outer space as never before.”

That last part is what really grabbed my attention.  Revolutionizing space travel and making it so that we can travel to the far reaches of our galaxy within the span of a human lifetime?  Um, yes please!

The key to making that happen is to figure out a way to reverse the incredibly rare process that scientists only just created for the first time.  No easy feat.   Especially when you consider that the amount of pressure needed to create metallic hydrogen is greater than the amount of pressure found at the center of the Earth.  So great in fact, that the diamond anvils typically used to crush elements in high pressure experiments, couldn’t be used in this instance since the diamonds themselves would not have survived the high pressures involved.  Instead synthetic diamonds coated with alumina were used.

Here’s why that matters.  Since metallic hydrogen is formed at such high pressure, turning around and breaking it apart would create more energy than any other known catalyst that we currently have at our disposal.  Meaning that if we can harness this process we can use it in place of rocket fuel as a way to power our space craft and propel us to where no man has gone before.

There are some scientists who remain skeptical of the findings from Harvard University so it remains to be seen if metallic hydrogen is just a pipe dream or our future savior.  But if the science turns out to be viable and the process repeatable, then we could be looking at a legitimate world changing super material that would truly have the power to revolutionize society.

So far the early results are promising with the metallic hydrogen proving to be stable at room temperature, just like how diamonds remain stable after getting formed through a similar high pressure process.  Hopefully, the next wave of tests show equally promising results and that over time scientists can figure out exactly what else they can do with this new wonder material.

Until then let’s just marvel at the fact that metallic hydrogen was even created at all.  And remind ourselves that sometimes, the best news, isn’t on the front page.

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Is Metallic Hydrogen the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,027 – Gita

When I was at CES I saw a demo video for a new Segway that was capable of following you around autonomously.  For instance, you could ride it to a shopping mall, have it trail you while you perused the sales rack at the Gap, have it continue to follow you around while you make your way through the food court, and then ride it back home while chowing down on some pretzels from Auntie Anne’s.

A better use case, however, for an autonomous vehicle that follows you around may come to us from the makers of the Vespa scooter.  Known as Gita, the vehicle is basically a personal car trunk on wheels that enables you to walk around freely without having to carry around a briefcase, sporting goods, or anything else that you might need to transport to a remote location.

According to Engadget, “the machine can haul up to 40 pounds of supplies either autonomously (if there are maps) or by following a human operator. It’s fast enough to keep up with you on a bike (22MPH), and its zero turning radius promises the ‘human agility’ needed to navigate sidewalks. If you don’t like the idea of driving a car or pushing a dolly just to get your groceries home, this might be just what you were looking for.”

City slickers who don’t own a car would probably be the most likely to own a Gita.  But I can envision suburban use cases as well.  Such as using one to lug your food and beverages through a park for the picnic that you want to set up.  Or using it to transport a cooler down the boardwalk to your designated spot on the beach.

Are we really getting this lazy that we need to continuously invent machines to lug our stuff around for us?  There’s already a suitcase on the market, the Modobag, that is sturdy enough to allow you to ride it through the airport to your gate.  At this rate it won’t be too long before the obesity epidemic future predicted by WALL-E comes true.  Not that I’m complaining.  Having used a dilapidated dolly for years when I lived in Queens I would have certainly been interested in something like Gita.  Hopefully there will one day be a sturdy off-road version to follow me around on my hikes.  Until then my trusty backpack will have to do.

 

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Is Gita the  Greatest Idea Ever?

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One of the calls to action that I made the other day in my post about the Resist Movement was that everyone, regardless of whether you identify as a Republican or Democrat or Independent, should strive to get more involved in politics so that we can elect better representatives and put pressure on those already in office to talk some sense into Trump.  Well, now there’s a quick and easy way for us to do just that thanks to a new app that thoroughly streamlines the political process.

The app is known as Countable, presumably short for accountable, although a more fitting name would have been Pester, because pestering your local representative is exactly what you’ll be doing.  First, the app connects to your Facebook profile in order to determine where you live and who your elected representatives are.  It then shows you what’s on their agenda, informs you about the issue, and enables you to contact them to give your opinion.

As Wired describes:

“[Countable] shows you the next piece of legislation your representatives are expected to vote on, with a short summary of the bill and a list of pros and cons. You can click ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ to automatically send an e-mail to your representatives, or you can ‘skip’ it. You can also click on the bill’s name to pull up more details, including voting activity, costs, links to media coverage, and the full text of the bill.”

In addition, the app also keep tracks of voting records so that you can follow along and see if your representatives are actually voting the way that you want them to.  If they’re not, you’ll know that the time has come to vote someone else into office.

The gripe about politics that we hear most often is that it’s too hard to get involved.  The most common refrain of all is: if you want more people to vote, make it easier to vote.  Similarly, if you want more people to get involved in applying pressure to politicians, make it easier to apply pressure.  Countable does that, and much more.

What’s great about this app is how easy it is to use, not just for voters, but for government officials as well as it doesn’t require them to do anything differently.  There’s no special software to download or install.  No change to existing protocols.  The only difference is the volume of feedback that they’ll now be receiving.

The time has come to RESIST!  And we now have an app that makes it easy to do just that.  No.  More.  Excuses.

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Is Countable the Greatest Idea Ever?

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