Speaking of the Singularity, a new study found that dogs are perfectly happy to interact with robots if the robots are presented as social beings. Now we're left to wonder if humans would do the same, along with whether the dogs would assist in bringing about the robot apocalypse.
As fascinating as it might be to speculate that life may have originated in space, it's important to keep in mind that, much like the four-dimensional star hypothesis I wrote about earlier this week, that's all this is so far: pure speculation. Great job, LA Times, for referring to "mounting scientific evidence" while not actually citing any.
There are many different examples of accidental scientific discoveries, not the least of which is penicillin. But this one's pretty cool too: the world's thinnest piece of glass, which is only one atom thick.
A recent article from Slate questions whether much of the popular rhetoric about cyberwar is over-hyped. While that's a legitimate question and the article raises some interesting points, I take issue with Slate's seemingly narrow definition of what constitutes a war. If your article about futuristic technology shows an over-reliance on obsolete Industrial Age ways of thinking, haven't you missed the point?
Drones -- thanks to our old friends at DARPA, they're not just for the air anymore.
A recurring theme in many of my Science Friday posts is how our government and our laws haven't caught up to technological realities. Now, in a brilliant display of the law of unintended consequences in action, Apple may have created a legal minefield that endangers the foundation of the Fifth Amendment with its new fingerprint recognition technology. Beyond iPhones, the minefield will only expand if companies choose to rely too heavily on biometrics for security.
It doesn't seem like many people are counting, but it's been eight years since the last major hurricane -- meaning Category 3 or above -- directly hit the United States. There may be a number of nuanced factors to explain this, but the largest factor is probably pure luck, since those eight years have hardly been what you'd call quiet. On a completely unrelated note, I can't help but find it amusing that the science and operations officer at the National Hurricane Center is named Chris Landsea.
Sure, everyone wants to save the pandas because they're cute, but what about the more aesthetically challenged blobfish? The grumpy-looking blobfish recently won the title of the world's ugliest animal and the right to represent a society dedicated to the preservation of the um, shall we say, less visually pleasing members of nature's family.
And now the latest in the field of biometrics, otherwise known as the scientific field most likely to realize and then surpass George Orwell's horrifying vision of a totalitarian state: using scans of brain waves to verify the identity of a vehicle's driver. The immediate applications of such a technology -- preventing carjackings of vehicles carrying dangerous or valuable cargo -- seem harmless enough, but . . .
New York to Boston in under an hour or San Francisco to Los Angeles in under two hours? It would be possible if the United States were to deploy Japan's newest maglev train technology, which has been clocked at 310 miles an hour in recent trials.
Scientists working on NASA's Dawn mission to the asteroid belt are getting increasingly excited about a visit to the dwarf planet Ceres. Ceres is an ice world along the lines of Jupiter's moon Europa and measurements so far indicate it has a very low density, leaving the possibility for underwater oceans and . . . life? Maybe?
In trying to answer the question of whether humans are alone in the universe, it's important to remember just how old the universe is and how long it existed before there was ever life on Earth. Whole civilizations could have risen, fallen, and died out long before life on Earth even made it to land. There is a recognition that what we may be looking for may not be evidence of alien civilizations, but rather, evidence of the ruins of alien civilizations.
Most people with any interest in space exploration or SETI have heard of the Drake Equation, a tool for measuring the probability of the existence of alien civilizations. Unfortunately, we only have actual knowledge of the first term of the equation, the average rate of star formation in the galaxy. With the recent growth of research into exo-planets, it may be possible at some point to get a handle on the second term, the fraction of those stars that form planets. The other five terms are largely guesswork and you could assign values that give you almost any result you want, from humans being alone in the universe to a universe teaming with tens of millions of alien civilizations. MIT astronomer Sara Seager revisited the Drake Equation at a conference earlier this year and her version was recently published in Astrobiology magazine.
Say goodbye to Voyager I. Based on recent data from the probe's instruments, scientists are now convinced that Voyager has left the confines of our solar system and is now the first man-made object to reach interstellar space.