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Massive River Systems on Another WorldThe spacecraft Cassini recently did a flyby of Saturn's moon Titan. It's the only moon in our solar system with a thick atmosphere, but we'd suffocate on its surface because of the lack of oxygen. During its flyby, Cassini took some rather interesting photos:"But that looks like a river on Earth" you say, and you'd be right. Titan has liquid rivers that behave very much like the ones we have here, but you wouldn't want to swim in them-- unless you enjoy the feel of liquid methane on your skin. You see, Titan is really cold. Cold enough for methane to exist in liquid form, and that's what those rivers and oceans are. Pure methane. And liquid methane is much colder than liquid nitrogen, so this river isn't exactly something you should go skinny dipping in.Titan is the only other world we know of that has liquid on its surface, much less rivers and oceans. It even has its own "water cycle" and the stuff rains from the sky, just as water does on Earth. Some scientists have even gone so far as to suggest that simple, methane based life could have developed on Titan the same way water based life did here, but that's something we won't find out until we go there.
A Gun That Can Make You Shut Up
Everyone has that annoying friend that they just want to shut up from time to time, and now you can. The National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Japan recently created a "gun" that can physically prevent a person from talking.
It works because whenever we are speaking, we're passively listening to what we say. That may not seem all that important, but it plays a large part in maintaining coherence while we speak. The gun records the sound of the person you're aiming at, and shoots their speak back with a few millisecond delay, which is enough to make their brain think that they are babbling like an incoherent moron. It can make normal people stutter, or just shut up altogether.
AerographiteHumanity appears to be in the midst of a neverending quest to see just how much nothing we can cram into something. And while aerographite is technically something, it's mostly nothing. It's 75 times lighter than Styrofoam, but still strong enough to retain its shape after squishing it-- kind of like a Twinky... if a Twinky could totally absorb light as well.Aerographite will have all sorts of real world applications, from allowing us to decrease the weight of batteries to purification and even protecting the senitive bits in satellites from space vibrations. Because that's a thing that plagues satellites apparently.Here's a video of the stuff bouncing around like a bunch of jumping beans.
Cockroach Bio-BotsThe human race has finally delved into necromancy and created something that would make Dr. Frankenstein proud. It's really as simple as strapping a couple of electrodes and a little backpack to a cockroach and then driving it around like a child''s remote controlled car:The roaches are aren't harmed at all. They're placed in the freezer for a few minutes prior to attaching the device, and that puts them into a sort of hibernation. The general idea is that these "bio bots" could be used to locate survivors of disasters in hard to reach areas. "Why not just build a robot" you ask? Because cockroaches will instinctively scurry away from danger, making them less likely to get crushed or stuck.Plus, it's a simple form of mind control, which I'm sure we can all agree is pretty awesome.
Male Beluga Whales Can Imitate HumansBeluga whales kind of drew the evolutionary short straw. Apart from having a name that almost definitely got them picked on in high school, they also have a "I've been chasing parked cars" sort of face:A diver at the National Marine Mammal Foundation in California, who was in a beluga whale's tank, surfaced and asked who the hell told him to get out of the tank, but no one did. This was because the whale, named Noc, was doing vocalizations that were very similar to the human voice.This is something you just need to hear.It sounds more like a baby babbling than actual speech, but it's impressively close to the amplitude of human speech. And this isn't something that the whale just decided to do one day. He has to totally modify his vocal mechanics to "speak" this way. This sort of behavior cannot be anything other than learned speech. And apparently this is something other whales have done too. Another whale by the name of "Lagosi" was reported to be able to say his own name.
A Robot Finger Better at Feeling Than YoursWhat's one of the few things that sets robots and humans apart? Touch is one of the only senses that they can't replicate, right? Right? If you've gotten this far into this article, you know that the words "yes, that's exactly right" never follow me asking that question. Of course not. Robots can feel even better than us flesh sacks now.When it is run along a surface, a small microphone housed inside picks up vibrations and allows it to recognize textures. It can also register temperature differences and directional forces.It was able to correctly identify a texture from a pool of 117 with 95 percent accuracy, which is much better than the human hand.So they can already feel. When the robots start to love, they need to be destroyed.
Strobe Light Goggles Can Improve MemoryWhat are flashing lights good for beside raves and inducing epileptic seizures If you guessed "improving your memory," that's an oddly specific guess, but also correct. We'll just file this experiment under "how the hell did you eve thing of doing this?" but some scientists at Duke University decided to test some people playing catch while wearing goggles that simulated strobe lights:What did the test reveal? These goggles strongly short term memory capabilities. The were much better at memorizing test information up to a full day after the experiment. This is because playing catch with your vision rapidly coming in and out, you have to actively remember the situation.There's no word on whether or not there is any significant long term improvement, but it's being looked into as we speak.
Voyager is Rapidly Approaching the HeliopauseInterstellar travel is the stuff of science fiction, and no one is foolish enough to envision humanity reaching for the stars any time soon. Except that's definitely happening. Right nowNASA launched Voyager 1 all the way back in 1977, and it has long since gone beyond the orbit of Pluto and recently entered an area of the solar system called the heliosheath, where the effects of the solar wind are significantly lessened. Sometime in the near future, (it could be tomorrow or three years from now since we actually have no idea how big the solar system is) Voyager 1 is going to reach the heliosheath (essentially the edge of the solar system) and pass through, entering interstellar space. When this happens, humanity will have officially become interstellar beings, which is a pretty big step for us, to say the least.
With every day that passes and Voyager doesn't break through, we learn that the solar system is much larger than we ever anticipated. Hopefully it reaches the edge, and we can learn just how huge it really is before the fuel runs out and Voyager 1 becomes a glorifies toaster, floating uselessly in space billions of miles from home.