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Pseudoscience Saps the Power of TEDx Brand | Wired Business |

Pseudoscience Saps the Power of TEDx Brand | Wired Business | | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |

It may have been the TEDx talk in Valencia, Spain, by the Great Soul of Hugs that rang the alarm bell at headquarters for big-think conference TED. Or perhaps the free-energy, buzzword-crammed stylings of TEDx speaker Randy Powellin Charlotte, North Carolina, about “vortex-based mathematics.”Whatever the final straw, the big brains at TED schooled their rabid audience Friday on the perils of pseudo-science. The ultimate warning: “Presenting bad science on the TEDx stage is grounds for revoking your license.”

TED posted a letter to the TEDx community on its blog warning of the pitfalls of bad science. TEDx conferences happen in cities and towns across the world. To date there have been 5,000 events and 21,000 TEDx talks put up online.

While they are based on the well-known TED conference, and would-be TEDx event planners need to apply for a free TEDx license to use the brand, the satellite events aren’t organized nor are speakers vetted by TED staffers. That’s left up to the individual TEDx organizers. And it is where the process has failed in some cases, says TEDx Director Lara Stein.

“This isn’t the first time it’s happened, but the community does a pretty good job of policing itself, and most of the time there are amazing events,” says Stein. “But we thought it was an important enough issue to respond directly and help the community respond to this better.”

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Step forward for quantum computing - BBC News

Step forward for quantum computing - BBC News | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Scientists have made progress towards correcting the errors that are expected to affect quantum computing.

Quantum computers could offer a massive performance boost over conventional types, but progress toward commercially useful machines has been slow.

Now, scientists from IBM's Watson Research Center have successfully demonstrated a new method for correcting errors on a quantum circuit.

Details are published in the journal Nature Communications.

The basic units of information in classical computers are called "bits" and are stored as a string of 1s and 0s. But their equivalents in a quantum system - qubits - can be both 1s and 0s at the same time.

In theory, this should give quantum machines much greater computational power than conventional types.

But quantum information is fragile, and errors in calculations carried out in a quantum system can creep in through interference from factors such as heat, electromagnetic radiation and defects in materials.

Controlling or removing such errors is one of the great challenges for harnessing the power of quantum computing.
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ICYMI, English language is changing faster than ever, says expert

ICYMI, English language is changing faster than ever, says expert | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
The English language is evolving at a faster rate now than at any other time in history because of social media and instant messaging, a language expert has said.

John Sutherland, professor of English from University College London, who led a study into common social media and “text speak” terms, found most parents were baffled by the language used by their children.

According to the study, commissioned by Samsung for a phone launch, there was a “seismic generational gap” between the older and younger generations when it came to how modern informal language was used.

Modern terms such as “fleek” and “bae” were found to be the most commonly confused by parents, with 10% of the 2,000 surveyed being able to identify the true meaning of “bae” – a term of affection; while 86% of parents who took part in the survey said they felt teenagers spoke an entirely different language on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

“Fleek” – which means looking good – came top of the list of terms parents did not understand, with 43% selecting it as a term they did not know.

This was ahead of fomo (fear of missing out) and bae (thought to have come from “before anyone else”, or to represent a shortened version of “babe”) – which 40% of parents said they didn’t know.

Popular social media acronyms ICYMI (in case you missed it), TBT (throwback Thursday) and NSFW (not safe for work) also made the list of terms parents failed to understand.

Sutherland said: “The limitation of characters on old handsets were a key factor in the rise of acronyms in text messaging such as TXT, GR8 and M8.
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Does the digital era herald the end of history? - BBC News

Does the digital era herald the end of history? - BBC News | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Has the digital transformation of our society put the future of recorded history in jeopardy? Many internet observers fear so. But why, and what do they mean?

Since the 1980s our lives have grown increasingly digital, and with dizzying speed.

Most of our photos, videos, conversations, research and writings are now stored as strings of ones and noughts on local computers or in data centres distributed throughout the world.

Data specialist EMC estimates that in 2013 the world contained about 4.4 zettabytes (4.4 trillion gigabytes) of data. By 2020, it expects this to have risen tenfold.

History, in other words, has gone online.

While this means unprecedented instant access to vast stores of human knowledge and culture, it also means that mountains of digital data of crucial importance to archivists and future historians are potentially under threat from deletion, corruption, theft, obsolescence and natural or man-made disasters.

How so?
Data threats

In the past, we wrote on stone, wax tablets, parchment, calfskin vellum and paper - anything we could get our hands on. And these hard copies lasted pretty well - some cave paintings survived more than 40,000 years, while Egyptian hieroglyphics date from about 3500BC.

But anyone who's seen their photo or music collections wiped out, knows how easily digital files can be lost.

A digital version of the fire that nearly destroyed the great Library of Alexandria - and many of its culturally significant books and scrolls - in 48BC, may not be as far-fetched as it sounds.

An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) from a nuclear explosion, for example, could easily wipe out entire electricity networks and effectively bring civilisation to a crashing halt. Computers, unlike printed books, need power to work.

Billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Singer warned his investors last year that an EMP was "the most significant threat" to the US and its allies.

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METROPOLIS - The Future of Autonomous Personal Air Transport

METROPOLIS shows how a city might look like in the future, in which personal flying cars play an important role. METROPOLIS is a European FP7 project in ...
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Artificial meat tipped to flood low-end market

Artificial meat tipped to flood low-end market | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Steaks and chops could be pushed to the high-end of the meat market in future, with artificial meats supplying the bulk, cheap end, research suggests.

The Murdoch University review examined potential impacts of in vitro meat (cultured meat), plant, fauna and fungal-based meat alternatives, genetically modified animals and cloning.

Dr Sarah Bonny says while artificial meat isn't likely to revolutionise how we eat any time soon, conventional meat production can't meet future demand.

"With estimates of the global population reaching nine billion in 2050, the meat industry would need to increase production by approximately 50 to 73 per cent," Dr Bonny says.

Current projections suggest that without substantial change and innovation the industry will max out feeding eight billion people.

This, along with growing concerns about animal welfare and the environmental impact of animal agriculture, suggests artificial meat will become increasingly accepted by consumers.

New technology and health risks must be considered
However, Dr Bonny says a number of issues must be overcome, including creating certain technologies and having a better understanding of health risks.

This is the case for in vitro meats, which were cultured in labs from cells and have garnered media attention in recent years.

"The cell culture approach for in vitro meat is in the preliminary stages of development and the technology is at least 10 to 20 years from being commercially available," Dr Bonny says.

"Making it viable will require commitment and investments from both governments and industry.

"As an example, the first in vitro burger made for human consumption cost $335,000 to produce."
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Cow Milk Without the Cow Is Coming to Change Food Forever | WIRED

Cow Milk Without the Cow Is Coming to Change Food Forever | WIRED | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Counter Culture Labs takes its name pretty literally. It is a bio lab, for sure, complete with pipettes, carboys, microscopes, and flasks. But it is decidedly counter to the traditional culture of laboratory science. The DIY tinkerers who hang out here—in the back of a sprawling space that used to house a heavy metal club in Oakland, California—are working beyond conventional notions of inquiry and research. Their goal is nothing less than to hack nature.

Consider one group of bio-hackers who meet in the lab each Monday night to work on a project that sounds like a contradiction in terms: They’re trying to make cow’s milk cheese without the cow. Using mail-order DNA, they’re tricking yeast cells into producing a substance that’s molecularly identical to milk. And if successful, they’ll turn this milk into cheese. Real cheese. But vegan cheese. Real vegan cheese.
That’s the name of the project: Real Vegan Cheese. These hackers want cheese that tastes like the real thing, but they don’t want it coming from an animal. Abandoning real cheese is one of the hardest sacrifices vegans must make, says one member of the group, Benjamin Rupert, a chemist by training and a vegan for the past decade. With Real Vegan Cheese, they won’t have to. “What we’re making is identical to the animal protein,” he says. “You’re not giving anything up, really.”
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How Artificial Intelligence Will Eliminate The Need For The Vast Majority Of Life Insurance Agents

How Artificial Intelligence Will Eliminate The Need For The Vast Majority Of Life Insurance Agents | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
All the professions are going to be reconfigured by artificial intelligence. The result will be fewer professionals and many of their roles “downgraded.” Advances in artificial intelligence, also known as cognitive computing, are starting to cause a seismic shift in the professions. The eventual result is the eradication of many positions [...]
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Carbon3d demonstrated a new 3D-Printer: One more step towards the future

Carbon3d demonstrated a new 3D-Printer: One more step towards the future | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |

Today every minute that goes by always brings something new. It doesn’t matter what domain we are talking about, we must accept that changes are happening faster. If we look at an example of technology

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Ants in space grapple well with zero-g

Ants in space grapple well with zero-g | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Ants carried to the International Space Station were still able to use teamwork to search new areas, despite falling off the walls of their containers for up to eight seconds at a time.

Their "collective search" was hampered but still took place, biologists said.

The insects also showed an impressive knack for regaining their footing after taking a zero-g tumble.

Researchers want to learn from the ants' cooperative methods and develop search algorithms for groups of robots

The ants were sent aloft in a supply rocket in January 2014, and results from the experiments are now published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.

Speaking to the BBC's Science in Action, senior author Deborah Gordon said that ants have demonstrated their remarkable collective abilities in myriad environments on Earth, but the results from the microgravity conditions of the Space Station were something new.

"We had no idea what the ants would do. We didn't know if they would be able to search at all," said Prof Gordon, a biologist at Stanford University.

As it turned out, although they had a little difficulty maintaining contact as they crawled, once adrift the ants showed a "remarkable ability" to get their six feet back on solid ground.
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Study shows humans are evolving faster than previously thought

Study shows humans are evolving faster than previously thought | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Study shows humans are evolving faster than previously thought

Results of largest ever genetics study of a single population could also help refine dates for major events during human evolution

Humans are evolving more rapidly than previously thought, according to the largest ever genetics study of a single population.

Scientists reached the conclusion after showing that almost every man alive can trace his origins to one common male ancestor who lived about 250,000 years ago. The discovery that so-called “genetic Adam”, lived about 100,000 years more recently than previously understood suggests that humans must have been genetically diverging at a more rapid rate than thought.

Kári Stefánsson, of the company deCODE Genetics and senior author of the study, said: “It means we have evolved faster than we thought.”

The study also shows that the most recent common male ancestor was alive at around the same time as “mitochondrial Eve” - the last woman to whom all females alive today can trace their mitochondrial DNA.

Unlike their biblical counterparts, genetic Adam and Eve were by no means the only humans alive, and although they almost certainly never met, the latest estimate which gives a closer match between their dates makes more sense, according to the researchers.
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‘Penguin’ Anomaly Hints at Missing Particles | Quanta Magazine

‘Penguin’ Anomaly Hints at Missing Particles |  Quanta Magazine | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
A penguin-shaped anomaly first detected two years ago has survived a comprehensive new analysis of data from the first run of CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC), scientists revealed today at a meeting in La Thuile, Italy.

The anomaly, an unexpected measurement of rare particle decays called “penguin processes,” isn’t statistically significant enough to constitute a discovery, but if the signal strengthens in the LHC’s upcoming second run, it will imply the existence of new elementary particles beyond those of the Standard Model — the precise but incomplete equations that have governed particle physics for 40 years.

“What we find is that this anomaly has persisted,” said Guy Wilkinson, a physicist at the University of Oxford and the spokesperson for the LHCb collaboration, which first detected the statistical bump in penguin decays in 2013. “This is extremely interesting.”

The finding comes as the LHC sputters back to life after a two-year upgrade that will nearly double its previous operating energy. The hopes of thousands of particle physicists are riding on the protons that in the coming years will collide there, shattering into petabytes of data that may carry long-awaited answers to fundamental questions about nature, and the penguin anomaly is one reason for optimism.
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Antarctic ice shelf thinning speeds up

Antarctic ice shelf thinning speeds up | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Scientists have their best view yet of the status of Antarctica's floating ice shelves and they find them to be thinning at an accelerating rate.

Fernando Paolo and colleagues used 18 years of data from European radar satellites to compile their assessment.

In the first half of that period, the total losses from these tongues of ice that jut out from the continent amounted to 25 cubic km per year.

But by the second half, this had jumped to 310 cubic km per annum.

"For the decade before 2003, ice-shelf volume for all Antarctica did not change much," said Mr Paolo from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, US.

"Since then, volume loss has been significant. The western ice shelves have been persistently thinning for two decades, and earlier gains in the eastern ice shelves ceased in the most recent decade," he told BBC News.

The satellite research is published in Science Magazine. It is a step up from previous studies, which provided only short snapshots of behaviour. Here, the team has combined the data from three successive orbiting altimeter missions operated by the European Space Agency (Esa).
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Are humans getting cleverer?

Are humans getting cleverer? | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
What is behind the so-called Flynn Effect - the pattern of rising IQ scores around the world?


IQ is rising in many parts of the world. What's behind the change and does it really mean people are cleverer than their grandparents?

It is not unusual for parents to comment that their children are brainier than they are. In doing so, they hide a boastful remark about their offspring behind a self-deprecating one about themselves. But a new study, published in the journal Intelligence, provides fresh evidence that in many cases this may actually be true.

The researchers - Peera Wongupparaj, Veena Kumari and Robin Morris at Kings College London - did not themselves ask anyone to sit an IQ test, but they analysed data from 405 previous studies. Altogether, they harvested IQ test data from more than 200,000 participants, captured over 64 years and from 48 countries.

Focusing on one part of the IQ test, the Raven's Progressive Matrices, they found that on average intelligence has risen the equivalent of 20 IQ points since 1950. IQ tests are designed to ensure that the average result is always 100, so this is a significant jump.

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Wildlife decline may lead to 'empty landscape' - BBC News

Wildlife decline may lead to 'empty landscape' - BBC News | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Populations of some of the world's largest wild animals are dwindling, raising the threat of an "empty landscape", say scientists.

About 60% of giant herbivores - plant-eaters - including rhinos, elephants and gorillas, are at risk of extinction, according to research.

Analysis of 74 herbivore species, published in Science Advances, blamed poaching and habitat loss.

A previous study of large carnivores showed similar declines.

Prof William Ripple, of Oregon State University, led the research looking at herbivores weighing over 100kg, from the reindeer up to the African elephant.

"This is the first time anyone has analysed all of these species as a whole," he said.

"The process of declining animals is causing an empty landscape in the forest, savannah, grasslands and desert."
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Industrial Revolution III 3D printer places electronics within the objects it creates

Industrial Revolution III 3D printer places electronics within the objects it creates | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
The development of 3D printer technology has been rapidly accelerating, boosted in a large part to the open source community and world-wide sharing of information. There are now literally dozens of brands of 3D printers on the market at all price points, but Buzz Technology Limited, out of London, is looking to stand out from the crowd with its Industrial Revolution III printer (or IR3 for short) that can embed wiring within plastic components using conductive material.

There are printers that print food, printers that use lasers, printers that sinter metal, and printers that make full color objects. Adding to the expanding array of 3D printer capabilities, the IR3 can deposit material to make plastic objects – like other 3D printers – and lay down conductive pathways using other materials. But it can then stick electronic components into the assembly to make a working product. In the example on its Kickstarter page, the printer is used to fabricate, wire and assemble a small radio-control car. The trick here is the ability of the printer to "pick and place" objects into the assembly and leads to the company calling the IR3, "the world's first product assembling 3D printer."

However, there are several caveats to this ability – the part must fit into a special bin on the machine, it must have a steel plate that the electromagnet on the print head can grab onto, and it must have special spring loaded connections that mate to the printed conductive material in the plastic assembly the rest of the printer is making.
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Shoe That Grows gives poor kids footwear that fits for years

Shoe That Grows gives poor kids footwear that fits for years | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
For children living in poverty, footwear is one of many problems. Almost as soon as a child has received shoes to wear, they're likely to have grown out of them and have to make do with them being too small. The Shoe That Grows changes this. It allows children to adjust its size as their feet grow.

Shoes are hugely important for protecting our feet, especially in places where healthcare provision is limited. In bare feet, an innocuous cut or graze can easily become infected or pick up soil-transmitted diseases.

Unfortunately, shoes are not always readily available for those living in poverty, let alone shoes that are the right size. Kenton Lee, founder of poverty charity Because International, saw this first-hand during a trip to Nairobi, Kenya, in 2007. Lee says he saw young children wearing shoes that were way too small for them, with their their toes poking out of the ends.

The experience led to the development of The Shoe That Grows. The shoe has a flexible compressed rubber sole and adjustable leather straps that fit over the top of the foot and around the rear of the heal.
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Do Killer Robots Violate Human Rights?

Do Killer Robots Violate Human Rights? | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
As bizarre as it sounds, the United Nations just held an arms-control conference to figure out if killer robots might violate the laws of war.

Ten years ago, very few experts were worried about military robots. The technology was just emerging onto the battlefield. Now, several credible groups are waging war against killer robots, officially known as lethal autonomous weapons systems.

The UN returned to the subject last week in a five-day meeting of experts for the Convention for Certain Conventional Weapons. I was invited by the convention’s chairperson, the German Ambassador Michael Biontino, to speak about the problems that lethal autonomous weapons systems may create for human rights. This essay is adapted from my testimony and gives a glimpse at how this important debate is moving along. (These are my opinions alone and don't necessarily reflect the positions of UNIDIR or other organizations.)

The specific issue I was asked to address is whether killer robots, in making kill-decisions without human intervention, violate either a right to life or the "laws of humanity," as protected by the Martens Clause that has been in effect since the 1899 Hague Convention. (The Martens Clause requires nations to consider warfare through the lens of the “public conscience.”)

These concerns are a different kind than technology-based objections to killer robots. For instance, critics point out that artificial intelligence still can’t reliably distinguish between a lawful target (such as an enemy combatant with a gun) and an unlawful one (such as a civilian with an ice-cream cone), as demanded by the laws of war. Technology limitations, like this one and others, are possibly solvable over time. But if lethal autonomous weapons are truly an assault on human rights, that’s a philosophical challenge that can’t just be solved with better science and engineering. So it’s worth focusing on human rights as some of the most persistent problems for the killer robots, and I’ll keep that separate from technical issues to not confuse an already-complex debate.
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This company is using machine learning to develop a cure for cancer

This company is using machine learning to develop a cure for cancer | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Boston-based Berg has spent the last six years perfecting an artificial intelligence platform that may soon crack the cancer code.

Could we be just two or three years away from curing cancer? Niven Narain, the president of Berg, a small Boston-based biotech firm, says that may very well be the case.

With funding from billionaire real-estate tycoon Carl Berg as well as from Mitch Gray, Narain, a medical doctor by training, and his small army of scientists, technicians, and programmers, have spent the last six years perfecting and testing an artificial intelligence platform that he believes could soon crack the cancer code, in addition to discovering valuable information about a variety of other terrible diseases, including Parkinson’s.
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Short probabilistic programming machine-learning code replaces complex programs for computer-vision tasks | KurzweilAI

Short probabilistic programming machine-learning code replaces complex programs for computer-vision tasks | KurzweilAI | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Probabilistic programming does in 50 lines of code what used to take thousands

On some standard computer-vision tasks, short programs — less than 50 lines long — written in a probabilistic programming language are competitive with conventional systems with thousands of lines of code, MIT researchers have found.

Most recent advances in artificial intelligence — such as mobile apps that convert speech to text — are the result of machine learning, in which computers are turned loose on huge data sets to look for patterns.

To make machine-learning applications easier to build, computer scientists have begun developing so-called probabilistic programming languages, which let researchers mix and match machine-learning techniques that have worked well in other contexts. In 2013, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency launched a four-year program to fund probabilistic-programming research.

“This is the first time that we’re introducing probabilistic programming in the vision area,” says Tejas Kulkarni, an MIT graduate student in brain and cognitive sciences and first author on the new paper. “The whole hope is to write very flexible models, both generative and discriminative models, as short probabilistic code, and then not do anything else. General-purpose inference schemes solve the problems.”

By the standards of conventional computer programs, those “models” can seem absurdly vague. One of the tasks that the researchers investigate, for instance, is constructing a 3-D model of a human face from 2-D images. Their program describes the principal features of the face as being two symmetrically distributed objects (eyes) with two more centrally positioned objects beneath them (the nose and mouth).

It requires a little work to translate that description into the syntax of the probabilistic programming language, but at that point, the model is complete. Feed the program enough examples of 2D images and their corresponding 3D models, and it will figure out the rest for itself.
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The science of sexiness: why some people are just more attractive

The science of sexiness: why some people are just more attractive | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Face shape, body ratio, hair colour and smell are all linked to attraction


A new study suggests that long-distance runners are more attractive because they have greater levels of testosterone which makes them more manly and fertile.

But there are other biological and evolutionary triggers which are constantly drawing us to certain individuals, even if we don’t realise it is happening. Scientists in Geneva discovered that determining whether we are attracted to someone is one of the most complex tasks that the brain undertakes. Here are the scientific secrets of attraction:


Charles Darwin once wrote: "It is certainly not true that there is in the mind of man any universal standards of beauty with respect to the human body."

However recent research suggests that there are universal agreements about beauty which hold true across all cultures and even throughout the animal kingdom.

Probably the most important is facial symmetry. Having a face which is equal on both sides is a biological advert which tells prospective partners that good genes will be found in this body.

Lopsidedness is thought to reflect how development in the womb has been derailed by general poor health, bad DNA, alcohol or tobacco use.

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New group seeks to timeline the Anthropocene—when humans became the dominant force on Earth

New group seeks to timeline the Anthropocene—when humans became the dominant force on Earth | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
(—A team of four scientists has published a Perspectives piece in the journal Science outlining their arguments for reaching back further in time than others have suggested for the beginning of the Anthropocene—a geologic epoch defined by the impact of homo sapiens on planet Earth. William Ruddiman, Erle Ellis, Jed Kaplan and Dorian Fuller suggest that current arguments that point to modern exploits overlook the huge impact of forest clearing and farming many thousands of years ago.

Humans have had a major impact on planet Earth, there is no debating that. But have our efforts resulted in an un-reversible geologic impact? And if so, when exactly did it happen? That is what climatologists, geologists and other scientists have been debating for the past several years. Back in 2000 Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer published a paper igniting the debate by coining the word Anthropocene to describe what they felt was the current epoch—where humans are the driving force, instead of nature. They suggested its start was the 1700's because that was when the industrial revolution got going.

Over the past fifteen years, many others have published papers offering their ideas on when the Anthropocene got its start, with some debating whether it ever really did. In this new paper, the authors suggest that if a start date is to be identified it should take into account the massive changes wrought by cutting down forests and the start of agriculture, which they say pushes the date back 11,000 years, or perhaps to the time when humans began wiping out other large animals such as the woolly mammoth, around 50,000 years ago.

The thing that is making it difficult to settle the matter is the absence of a clearly identifiable marker, known as a golden spike, e.g., the comet that killed off the dinosaurs. Some have suggested that scientists finding traces of radiation worldwide from nuclear tests is such a marker, while others point to the finding of carbon ash (due to burning coal) in soils.
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Why organism engineering could be a foodie’s dream come true

Why organism engineering could be a foodie’s dream come true | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Thanks to recent advances in synthetic biology — a hybrid discipline of engineering and biology that makes possible the manipulation of DNA of microorganisms such as yeast, bacteria, fungi and algae — a new generation of “organism engineers” has already started experimenting with the creation of new flavors and ingredients. In doing so, they have the potential to transform synthetic biology into a new creative platform to enable chefs, bakers or brewers to create new flavor profiles for food and drink.

Imagine being able to create the next acclaimed ingredient that makes foods more savory, harnessing the power of the “noble rot” to make a wine the equal of a bottle of Château d’Yquem, or fermenting a new cheese that has more flavor complexity than Roquefort. Creative types in foodie capitals around the nation would no doubt be interested in experimenting with these new products and tastes, just as visionary chefs Ferran Adrià, Wylie Dufresne and Grant Achatz experimented with the molecular gastronomy trend when it first started to go mainstream.
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Science’s Path From Myth to Multiverse | Quanta Magazine

Science’s Path From Myth to Multiverse |  Quanta Magazine | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
We can think of the history of physics as an attempt to unify the world around us: Gradually, over many centuries, we’ve come to see that seemingly unrelated phenomena are intimately connected. The physicist Steven Weinberg of the University of Texas, Austin, received his Nobel Prize in 1979 for a major breakthrough in that quest — showing how electromagnetism and the weak nuclear force are manifestations of the same underlying theory (he shared the prize with Abdus Salam and Sheldon Glashow). That work became a cornerstone of the Standard Model of particle physics, which describes how the fundamental building blocks of the universe come together to create the world we see.

In his new book To Explain the World: The Discovery of Modern Science, Weinberg examines how modern science was born. By tracing the development of what we now call the “scientific method” — an approach, developed over centuries, that emphasizes experiments and observations rather than reasoning from first principles — he makes the argument that science, unlike other ways of interpreting the world around us, can offer true progress. Through science, our understanding of the world improves over time, building on what has come before. Mistakes can happen, but are eventually corrected. Weinberg spoke with Quanta Magazine about the past and future of physics, the role of philosophy within science, and the startling possibility that the universe we see around us is a tiny sliver of a much larger multiverse. An edited and condensed version of the interview follows.
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Photosynthesis hack needed to feed the world by 2050 | KurzweilAI

Photosynthesis hack needed to feed the world by 2050 | KurzweilAI | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
High-performance computing and genetic engineering could boost crop photosynthetic efficiency enough to feed a planet expected to have 9.5 billion people on it by 2050, researchers report in an open-access paper in the journal Cell.

“We now know every step in the processes that drive photosynthesis in plants such as soybeans and maize,” said University of Illinois plant biology professor Stephen P. Long, who wrote the report with colleagues from Illinois and the CAS-MPG Partner Institute of Computational Biology in Shanghai.

Improvement strategies

“We have unprecedented computational resources that allow us to model every stage of photosynthesis and determine where the bottlenecks are, and advances in genetic engineering will help us augment or circumvent those steps that impede efficiency. Long suggested several strategies.

Add pigments. “Our lab and others have put a gene from cyanobacteria into crop plants and found that it boosts the photosynthetic rate by 30 percent. ” But Long says we could improve that. “Some bacteria and algae contain pigments that utilize more of the solar spectrum than plant pigments do. If added to plants, those pigments could bolster the plants’ access to solar energy.

Add the blue-green algae system. Some scientists are trying to engineer C4 photosynthesis in C3 plants, but this means altering plant anatomy, changing the expression of many genes and inserting new genes from C4 plants, Long said. “Another, possibly simpler approach is to add to the C3 chloroplast the system used by ,” he said. This would increase the activity of Rubisco, an enzyme that catalyzes a vital step of the conversion of atmospheric carbon dioxide into plant biomass. Computer models suggest adding this system would increase photosynthesis as much as 60 percent, Long said.

More sunlight for lower leaves. Computer analyses of the way plant leaves intercept sunlight have revealed other ways to improve photosynthesis. Many plants intercept too much light in their topmost leaves and too little in lower leaves; this probably allows them to outcompete their neighbors, but in a farmer’s field such competition is counterproductive, Long said. Studies headed by U. of I. plant biology professor Donald Ort aim to make plants’ upper leaves lighter, allowing more sunlight to penetrate to the light-starved lower leaves.
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The 3D Additivist Manifesto

The 3D Additivist Manifesto | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |

Derived from petrochemicals boiled into being from the black oil of a trillion ancient bacterioles, the plastic used in 3D Additive manufacturing is a metaphor before it has even been layered into shape. Its potential belies the complications of its history: that matter is the sum and prolongation of our ancestry; that creativity is brutal, sensual, rude, coarse, and cruel. 1 We declare that the world’s splendour has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of crap, kipple 2 and detritus. A planet crystallised with great plastic tendrils like serpents with pixellated breath 3 …for a revolution that runs on disposable armaments is more desirable than the contents of Edward Snowden’s briefcase; more breathtaking than The United Nations Legislative Series.

Wildcat2030's insight:

A fascinating manifesto.. go read

Alessio Erioli's curator insight, March 25, 12:48 PM

"There is nothing which our infatuated race would desire to see more than the fertile union between a man and an Analytical Engine. Yet humankind are the antediluvian prototypes of a far vaster Creation. 4 The whole of humankind can be understood as a biological medium, of which synthetic technology is but one modality. Thought and Life both have been thoroughly dispersed on the winds of information. 5 Our power and intelligence do not belong specifically to us, but to all matter. 6 Our technologies are the sex organs of material speculation. Any attempt to understand these occurrences is blocked by our own anthropomorphism.  7 In order to proceed, therefore, one has to birth posthuman machines, a fantasmagoric and unrepresentable repertoire of actual re-embodiments of the most hybrid kinds. 8"