NASA Researching Warp Drive

From Boing Boing:

Harold White of NASA’s Johnson Space Center is currently leading an effort to design a warp drive space ship. But, as Amy Teitel explains in a story for Vice’s Motherboard, the fact that this is happening does not necessarily mean a real working warp drive is possible. It’s more about the fact that NASA is partly in the business of letting really smart people try things that are kind of crazy and unlikely, if they can back up the idea with a reasonably plausible hypothesis. Speculative research is a thing that happens.

I don’t think there are too many things I want more in this world than to live in a world where warp drive is a reality. The other half of that want is the ability to say “warp speed ahead” and not be talking Sci Fi.

MakerBot Replicator 2

MakerBot Replicator™ 2

The MakerBot Replicator™ 2 is pretty amazing when you think about it. I’m pretty certain there is a future in 3D printing. It may eventually even be the successor to physical mail in many cases. Simply order and print out your product. Perhaps the order will reimburse you the material used to output your product. Instant delivery not even Amazon could beat with the warehouse model.

It’s hard to justify the purchase of one today, but make no mistake, these things have a future somewhere.

2000 As Seen In 1900

French Year 2000 Prediction

Here’s an interesting set of pictures by Jean-Marc Côté and other artists from around 1900 depicting what they thought the world would be like by the year 2000. Some of them at least partially came true. The “busy farmer” is partially true as farming has become more automated. “Electronic Scrubbing” does reflect what a Roomba is today. Sadly no flying cars.

Interesting to note flying was a very common theme.

Via Gizmodo

The iPad In Star Wars

StarWars Tablet Computer

It dawned on me today while watching “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace” that George Lucas actually featured a surprisingly iPad like device. It was used by Shmi Skywalker, Anakin’s mother (left) and Queen Amidala (right) to watch the podrace which occurred over a larger terrain than spectators could see. It was wireless, thin, and roughly the same form factor, but with handles. In theory if licensing weren’t so complicated we could watch sports like that today at stadiums.

Interesting to note that even in a world where interplanetary travel is almost trivial, a tablet computer is thicker than the iPads we have today. Then again the timeline was “a long time ago”. What an amazing world we live in when you can beat George Lucas’s imagination in a mere 15 years.

Capture © 20th Century Fox

“The Future” As Seen In 1961

1961 Vintage Motorola Ad

Images of what the future would look like have long been a fascination. 1950′s and 1960′s always focused on a sleek, minimalist future with a very retro (by today’s standard) color palette. It’s easy to dismiss them as silly, until you realize the basis of them is pretty spot on.

Take the image up top of Motorola’s vision of the future from a 1961 set. The two main themes in these images actually happened:

  1. Media Everywhere – A reoccurring theme in the set is that there’s media (in the form of a TV) everywhere. It’s the centerpiece of every home. This isn’t shocking for an electronics company. For the 1960′s when not everyone owned a TV, this was pretty bold. Of course today that’s true. It’s even a step beyond. Most of us now have phones that can play video. We have laptops. Media is everywhere.
  2. Transparency/Lack of Privacy – The other strong theme is the lack of privacy. From open floor plans to glass walls. The future is out in the open. This is hardly just a Motorola idea. Glass House was built in 1949 and Case Study Houses were often built in this style including the notable Stahl House. The illusion to Facebook and social media shouldn’t be lost here. The transparency that’s normal in this modern age was unthinkable in the 1960′s.

Of course part of Motorola (the Motorola Mobility part) is now part of Google, and had an influence on both of those changes as cell phones played a big role in both trends.

When you really think about it, TV’s are flatter and we cram more things into the same square footage, but these aren’t terribly far off concepts of what the future holds. From a high level they are spot on. These are really the biggest changes to the American home.

World IPv6 Launch Day

World IPv6 Launch

It’s here! World IPv6 Launch begins June 6 2012 00:00:00 UTC. The future of the Internet (and the beginning of the death of NAT).

I’ve started enabling IPv6 on my websites including this one, which is already seeing a few IPv6 hits. I expect to see that climb over time. I’ve noticed Facebook turned on IPv6 recently. Google is expected to at any moment. A handful of bugs limit me from flipping the switch on a few more sites, but I hope to get that resolved soon enough. Still better than my 2010 projections.

If you’re unsure if you’re internet connection supports IPv6 yet, you can find out at:
AmIUsingIPv6.com

DNA Sequencing Via USB

Meet the MinION, a low cost ($900) USB DNA sequencer. Per New Scientist:

The UK firm Oxford Nanopore built the device, called MinION, and claims it can sequence simple genomes – like those of some viruses and bacteria – in a matter of seconds. More complex genomes would take longer, but MinION could also be useful for obtaining quick results in sequencing DNA from cells in a biopsy to look for cancer, for example, or to determine the genetic identity of bone fragments at an archaeological dig.

There is another one by Ion Torrent that’s desktop sized.

There’s competition in the world of desktop DNA sequencing. The future is here.

The Ultimate Human Supercomputer

For most of my life there’s been a list known as the TOP500. The list of the fastest computers in the world. The fastest today is K computer, built by Fujitsu. We refer to them as “computers”, but in reality they are large rooms filled with servers that operate in coordination with one and other to solve a problem. They are individual nodes that work together.

I think this ranking is becoming increasingly irrelevant. Peak Tflops isn’t necessarily what matters anymore in terms of solving problems. I propose that the internet itself is the fastest and most powerful computer in terms of it’s ability to solve complicated problems. We haven’t figured out how to fully utilize it, we don’t even know it’s capacity or how to optimize it yet. But we know it has amazing potential already.

A photographer during the Vancouver riots (loosing in hockey is a real first world problem isn’t it?) photographed an anonymous kissing couple. In less than 24hrs they were identified. Someone requested help identifying the source of some amazing Nazi era photographs on a Tuesday morning. By Tuesday evening the photographer and the back story were coming into focus. There are no algorithms for these problems.

Things like tagging photos, status updates, tweets, wiki’s, and the ability to index, search, sort them in near real-time is at it’s infancy. We’ve barely got the technology to handle data at this magnitude, much less optimize, and realize it’s full potential. Already it can solve things that you can’t brute force using a supercomputer. At some point we’ll be able to question this “machine” and it will know who most likely would know and who shouldn’t be bothered even seeing the question. This isn’t artificial intelligence, this is computer network assisted human intelligence collaboration.

The internet likely won’t solve π to a trillion places anytime soon, if ever. We’ll leave that dull task to a “simplistic” supercomputer. But it’s important to not underestimate the power of the collective human brain. It’s already able to solve very obscure and complicated questions with ease and can be used without a degree in computer science. It’s only 2011. Just 10 years ago we couldn’t solve the above questions nearly as quickly, or perhaps at all if the person(s) with an answer wasn’t online. Imagine what 2021 will bring.