The Futurist magazine’s top 10 forecasts for 2014 and beyond.
Every year, the editors of the Futurist magazine identify the most provocative forecasts and statements about the future that we’ve published recently and we put them to into an annual report called “Outlook.” It’s sprawling exploration of what the future looks like at a particular moment in time. To accompany the report, we draft a list of our top 10 favorite predictions from the magazine’s previous 12 months. What are the criteria to be admitted into the top 10? The forecast should be interesting, relatively high impact, and rising in likelihood.
In other words, it’s a bit subjective.
There are surely better methods for evaluating statements about the future, but not for our purposes. You see, we aren’t actually interested in attempting to tell our readers what will happen so much as provoking a better discussion about what can happen—and what futures can be avoided, if we discover we’re heading in an unsavory direction.
The future isn’t a destination. But the problem with too many conversations about the future, especially those involving futurists, is that predictions tend to take on unmitigated certainty, sounding like GPS directions. When you reach the Singularity, turn left—that sort of thing. In reality, it’s more like wandering around a city, deciding spur of the moment what road to take.
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It's been nearly three years since Google rolled out its Ngram Viewer, allowing armchair historians to plot the trajectories of words and phrases over time based on an enormous corpus of data extracted from the Google Books digitization project. Since then, there have been numerous studies seeking to glean some cultural significance from the graphs of falling and rising word usage. And the graphs themselves have inspired imitators: Recently, the engineering team behind Rap Genius introduced Ngram-style graphing of historical word frequency in rap lyrics, and, more bizarrely, New York Timeswedding announcements.
As the Ngram model extends its influence, Google continues to tinker, making improvements to the Ngram Viewer's already slick interface. Last year saw a major upgrade, with a sizable increase in the underlying data spanning English and seven other languages, as well as the introduction of part-of-speech tagging and mathematical operators that allowed for more sophisticated searches. Today, meet Ngram Viewer 3.0. While the corpus itself hasn't expanded in this version, the search features have become even more useful, especially now that wildcards are in the mix.
Anyone who has spent time delving into databases knows how much flexibility you can get with wildcards: use an asterisk to stand in for any word, and suddenly your search horizons have expanded. In the new Ngram Viewer, using the asterisk as a wildcard will display the top ten most frequently appearing words that fill the slot over the range of time you have selected. The asterisk can be combined with parts of speech, too, so "*_NOUN" will find only the nouns that could appear in the sequence of words you're searching on.
Now if you type "*_NOUN 's theorem" into the Ngram Viewer, you will see a graph with the ten most common names (which count as nouns) that have spawned eponymous theorems — names like Godel, Bayes, and Euler. Right-clicking will toggle back and forth between a view tracking the different variants and one showing a single line encompassing all the variants.
In addition to wildcards, the new Ngram Viewer introduces a couple of other welcome changes: variation in capitalization and inflection can be accounted for. The previous version was always case-sensitive, but now you can check a "case-insensitive" box if you want to look at forms with varying capitalization all at once. Right-clicking on the line will then display the most common case variants, each on its own line in the graph. So, for instance, a case-insensitive search on aids will expand to show the rapid rise of AIDS (as opposed to aids or Aids) since 1980.
While the Ngram Viewer remains one of Google's "20 percent time" projects, meaning that it isn't a high priority for the engineers working on it, it is heartening to see continued improvements to satisfy all of us Ngram-heads. It's also notable that Google's dictionary, which pops up in search results when you're looking to define a word (like, say, literally), now includes a graph of relevant Ngram results. Clicking on the graph in the dictionary entry takes the user to the Ngram Viewer, which should guarantee a steady stream of new devotees to the addictive world of Ngrams. Now more than ever, it's a glorious time suck for professional and amateur researchers alike.
A team of researchers at the Kavli IPMU led by Robert Quimby has identified what may prove to be the first ever Type Ia supernova (SNIa) magnified by a strong gravitational lens.
In this work, the 'standard candle' property of Type Ia supernovae is used to directly measure the magnification due to gravitational lensing. This provides the first glimpse of the science that will soon come out of dark matter and dark energy studies derived from deep, wide-field imaging surveys. The supernova, named PS1-10afx, was discovered by the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System 1 (Pan-STARRS1).
PS1-10afx exploded over 9 billion years ago, which places it far further than typical Pan-STARRS1 discoveries. Based on this distance and its relatively bright appearance, the Pan-STARRS1 team concluded that PS1-10afx was intrinsically very luminous.
The inferred luminosity, about 100 billion times greater than our Sun, is comparable to members of a new, rare variety of superluminous supernovae (SLSNe), but that is where the similarities end.
SLSNe typically have blue colors, and their brightness changes relatively slowly with time. PS1-10afx on the other hand was rather red even after correcting for its redshift, and its brightness changed as fast as normal supernovae. There is no known physical model that can explain how a supernova could simultaneously be so luminous, so red, and so fast.
Soon after the findings were announced, Robert Quimby, a postdoctoral researcher at Kavli IPMU, independently analyzed the data. Quimby is an expert in SLSNe and has played a key role in their discovery. He quickly confirmed part, but not all of the conclusions.
PS1-10afx was indeed rather distinct from all known SLSNe, but the data struck Quimby as oddly familiar. He compared the features seen in the spectra of PS1-10afx to known supernova, and, surprisingly, found an excellent match. The spectra of PS1-10afx are almost identical to normal SNIa.
SNIa have a very useful property that has enabled cosmologists to chart the expansion of our Universe over the last several billion years: SNIa have strikingly similar peak luminosities that can be rendered even more standard by correcting for how quickly they brighten and fade (their "light curves").
This property allows astronomers to use SNIa as standard candles to measure distances, as was key to the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the Universe (2011 Nobel Prize in Physics).
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Should religion change with the times or should it be the bastion of tradition?
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Graffiti art is considered as one of the most famous and one of the oldest types of art. Graffiti art commonly know as wall art can be found everywhere though slogans and statements vary from country to country.
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A British scientist says he may have solved the mystery of the Abominable Snowman—the elusive ape-like creature of the Himalayas. He thinks it's a bear.
DNA analysis conducted by Oxford University genetics professor Bryan Sykes suggests the creature, also known as the Yeti, is the descendant of an ancient polar bear. Sykes compared DNA from hair samples taken from two Himalayan animals—identified as local people as Yetis—to a database of animal genomes. He found they shared a genetic fingerprint with an ancient polar bear jawbone found in the Norwegian Arctic that is at least 40,000 years old.
Sykes said Thursday that the tests showed the creatures were not related to modern Himalayan bears but were direct descendants of the prehistoric animal. He said, "it may be a new species, it may be a hybrid" between polar bears and brown bears. "The next thing is go there and find one alive."
Sykes put out a call last year for museums, scientists and Yeti aficionados to share hair samples thought to be from the creature. One of the samples he analyzed came from an alleged Yeti mummy in the Indian region of Ladakh, at the Western edge of the Himalayas, and was taken by a French mountaineer who was shown the corpse 40 years ago. The other was a single hair found a decade ago in Bhutan, 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) to the east.
Sykes said the fact the hair samples were found so far apart, and so recently, suggests the members of the species are still alive. "I can't imagine we managed to get samples from the only two 'snow bears' in the Himalayas," he said.
Finding a living creature could explain whether differences in appearance and behavior to other bears account for descriptions of the Yeti as a towering, hairy hominid. "The polar bear ingredient in their genomes may have changed their behavior so they act different, look different, maybe walk on two feet more often," he said.
Sykes' research has not been published yet, but he says he has submitted it for peer review. His findings will be broadcast Sunday in a television program on Britain's Channel 4 television.
Mattersight’s system, on the other hand, is more like “artificial empathy”: it takes the same stream of verbal input, and it extracts information about the speakers mood, personality, and interaction style. This is basically the same thing that people do intuitively when listening to one another: assessing mood, feelings, and personality.
A truly insightful person can “read” people very effectively. Empaths sometimes bill themselves as “psychics” and impress audiences by doing “cold reads” on strangers with amazing accuracy. In fact, however, such people are using the same types of subtle cues that Mattersight uses to recognize patterns and divine personality traits.
The Guardian Art galleries should be apothecaries for our deeper selves The Guardian The idea that one might use art for a purpose, for "instrumental" reasons, tends to set off alarm bells. Art is not an instrument, comes the almost automatic reply.
'Music is my religion' Deutsche Welle Music can exercise a kind of magnetic pull, with its notes taking root in the subconscious. "Music and religion have the same roots," believes Swiss musicologist and psychologist Maria Spychiger.
By Kate Kelland, Health and Science Correspondent LONDON (Reuters) - Valerie Curtis is fascinated by faeces. And by vomit, pus, urine, maggots and putrid flesh. (RT @HealthyLiving: Why do we get grossed out?