Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Futurama


Three recent findings have the scientific and technology community buzzing with excitement. Sure, geeks humming with excitement sounds a bit like nervous, high pitched, annoying laughter from 40 year old virgins, but these items might be something to keep an eye on. Especially the middle one since it could end life as we know it or, at the very least, give someone super powers.

The first is the discovery that light can behave like a solid. Melbourne and Cambridge University researchers Andrew Greentree, Jared Cole, Lloyd Hollenberg, and Charles Tahan have figured out a way to get light to act like crystals. In their words, 'Usually, photons flow freely, but in the right circumstances, they repel each other, and form a crystal'.

If you say so. Apparently this is a big deal and is supposed to lead us into an entirely new technological direction, which could include new sources of energy. I say 'could' because nobody is really sure what good this will do. Can't help but think of Superman's Fortress of Solitude when they say 'solid light will help us build the technology of this century'. You can read the self congratulatory press release here, if you so choose.

Second on our list is this discovery of a new type of SuperNova. This is the biggest and baddest stellar explosion ever recorded. If you go to that link you can even have a cool artist rendering of what it would look like up close. In fact, here, I'll put it at the top of this entry. Pretty, isn't it?

According to Nathan Smith of the University of California at Berkeley (Berkeley again!!) 'This was a truly monstrous explosion, a hundred times more energetic than a typical supernova. That means the star that exploded might have been as massive as a star can get, about 150 times that of our sun. We've never seen that before.'

Why is this important to us, you ask? Because those in the know are comparing this massive blast to similar behavior a star in our galaxy is exhibiting. Prior to blowing up, the star (dorkily named SN 2006gy) 'expelled a large amount of mass prior to exploding'. Sounds like me after a night of heavy drinking. Eta Carinae is a star in our galaxy that is displaying the same mass expulsion behavior. As Mario Livio of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore says, 'We don't know for sure if Eta Carinae will explode soon, but we had better keep a close eye on it just in case'. Good idea, Mario. Let us know if you need anything.

For the record, any SuperNova emits massive doses of gamma radiation. Eta Carinae is about 7500 light years away from earth and, if you ask me, that's too close. Besides, we all saw what happened to Bruce Banner when he got exposed to gamma rays. Would you want to be walking around in a world full of Hulks? Me neither.

Lastly, and probably the coolest of the three items, is Sony's development of Data Tiles. I can't properly explain them, so go here and watch a demonstration. Pay particular attention to the online shopping demo and how they pay for their purchase. It's about halfway through the clip and found it interesting. Talk about your paperless society!

I have no idea how these tiles work, but it has something to do with those red and gray wires and little blinky lights. I'm sure of it. Can't wait until these are introduced into the workplace and those dopes that can't figure out how to send an email or turn on their laptops need to be trained on them.

Just kill me now.

Today's distraction: Read one woman's 10 Most Needed Inventions. Couldn't agree more about number 2. I want to be able to travel without spending 8 hours on a plane. I'm 6'1 and get cramped and cranky when I'm flying for more than 3 hours.

On the flip side, the last thing we need are flying cars (number 8). The bozos driving now can't figure out the highways and side roads. Do we really want Grandma flying into the side of an office building?

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