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Hacking Dreams

What if you could hack into another person’s dreams and find out what they like, or what if doctors could hack into a PTSD patient’s dreams to see how to find a way to fix it? Hacking into dreams seems like a very interesting concept, however, it also seems very far-fetched. Can it be a reality or is it just a faux rumor being spread around?

A group of researchers at MIT Dream Lab, which was launched in 2017, has developed a device that can help you hack into dreams. In reality, it is a device that needs to be worn and it interacts with your dreams in various ways. This includes giving you a sense of control over your dream.

The goal behind developing this device was to prove to the world that dreams are not just useless gibberish we experience while we sleep, rather that they hold some sort of meaning and importance. They also wanted to show that dreams can easily be changed, influenced, and modified according to will at ease.

On average we spend a third of our life asleep. The researchers at MIT believe that we could structure this time better and modify it to benefit us in the future. The device is called Dormio and it is created with so many sensors that they can detect the type of sleep that has been induced and the state of sleep a person is in. When the wearer of the device goes into a hypnagogic state of sleep, where he or she is between consciousness and sub-consciousness, the device begins to play an audio cue that has been pre-set, usually just a word.

Researchers believe hypnagogic imagery or hypnagogic hallucinations are very common in the state of consciousness where one is moving between sleep and wakefulness. Some have reported having vivid auditory and visual hallucinations.

The workings of this device were shown through an experimental study conducted by Dream Lab which consisted of 50 people who were given the audio cue of the tiger within their state of hypnagogic sleep. They all ended up having a tiger in their dream.

A similar device was created previously by a member of Dream Lab which relied on smell rather than relying on audio cues. It was targeted for that part of sleep where the body begins to heal and regenerate. In this test, they used smells to consolidate the idea.

Mass Extinction Caused by Exploding Star

Growing up, we have all heard at least once that hundreds of millions of years ago, the Earth bloomed with simple unicellular life, evolving gradually and slowly into ferocious dinosaurs and one day a big explosion happened and life on Earth vanished.

Much research has been carried out throughout history to get a hint of what life was like on Earth before humans. In fact, the research still goes on and every now and then, archeologists and scientists dig up something fascinating that satisfies our curiosity to understand about the past.

Research has helped scientists gain a perspective on exactly what might have happened all those millions of years ago. According to the University of Illinois, a supernova 65 light years away might have something to do with the mass extinction that happened nearly 339 million years ago; one of the worst in the planet’s lifetime. Nobody knows for sure how or what events led to the mass extinction, but of all the limited knowledge of the event that the researchers have, they gathered information by studying ancient plants. The spore of most of the plants in the study had been sunburnt by UV radiation caused by lower ozone in the Earth’s atmosphere. And since, the ozone levels in the Earth’s atmosphere are severely damaged by natural events it is extremely likely that the supernova may have been behind the extinction that happened all those years ago.

Another fact that strengthens the claim is that any supernova explosion within 25 light years of distance, otherwise referred to as the kill zone, can prove fatal to the Earth. So it is quite possible that a cosmic explosion some 65 light years away may have caused some trouble on Earth. Apart from the extinction on such a massive scale, it was the Earth’s ecosystem that took the most damage to the point that the effects lasted for well over one hundred thousand years.

Scientists researching the event also looked at other possible explanations such as a meteorite shower or other cosmic events. However, none of these explanations can be correct when comparing the amount of damage that had been dealt to the Earth’s ozone layer and the time it took to recover – more than a century. In the end, scientists came to a possible conclusion that it is highly likely that a supernova explosion may have caused a massive shower of cosmic radiations onto the Earth’s atmosphere, hence severely damaging the Ozone layer.

Whether the event happened the way the scientists concluded or not depends greatly on the presence of plutonium isotopes from the Devonian period. If they can be found, the presence of these isotopes on Earth will confirm the event of a supernova explosion since these can only come to Earth via an explosion.

Robot Energy Reserves

In today’s world, everything is slowly advancing towards automation so there is no doubt that one day in the near future we would have robots doing everything for us, maybe even chores. But to perform all these tasks, robots need to be constructed more reliably, not only in the sense of technology but also in the sense of functioning capacity or in other words; a bigger battery is required.

A robot is a machine that obeys instructions fed into it, while on the front it may seem very easy that a robot obliges to your commands but in the back end, complex algorithms and sophisticated programming is operating the machine. To function effectively and efficiently, a reliable battery is crucial.

And that is exactly the scientists’ concern at the University of Michigan. They believe that by just redesigning the robot’s exterior, a better battery life can be obtained. To understand how that is possible we to look at how human bodies in contrast store energy. We humans do not need to carry large batteries with us throughout the day to keep us energized and get us through the tasks of the day. Instead we store energy in fats throughout our body. And when we do something challenging or exhausting, we derive energy required to complete the task, from the fats and then restore it through our diet.

But robots cannot do that, so they only derive energy from the batteries capacity of which can be limited depending on the size of the battery or the placement location on the robot.

The scientists at the University of Michigan suggest that robotic performance can be increased tenfold by redistributing the batteries location throughout the exterior. Nearly 20% of a robot’s design is occupied by batteries. However, by mimicking the human energy derivation from fat from all over the body, placing batteries in different parts of the robot’s exterior can not only save space and allow it to be used for other purposes, but also allow the robot itself to operate more efficiently. How much more efficient exactly? Nearly 72 times.

Furthermore, scientists suggest that such a large efficiency is possible by replacing lithium-ion batteries with zinc batteries. However, there is only one drawback, zinc batteries only retain high capacity until 100 charge cycles. To compensate for that, zinc batteries are not only cheaper, but also easier to replace as compared to lithium-ion batteries. Similarly, zinc batteries apart from being efficient are also eco-friendly. The battery is designed in a way that it passes ions between a zinc electrode and air through a membrane. All the essential components of a zinc battery are non-toxic in nature. Therefore, zinc batteries are not only eco-friendly but also recyclable, and could be the answer to longer lasting robot batteries.

Florida Releasing Gene Hacked Mosquitoes

The local government of Florida has officially approved a plan that sounds no less than a plot straight out of a sci-fi movie. It is fair to say that technology today has made our lives convenient and comfortable. Not just that, the advancing technology has also enabled us to craft a smarter and safer world for future generations.

That most certainly holds true when it comes to the approval of the proposal put forward by Oxitech, a biotech company, that is all set to release almost a billion gene-hacked mosquitoes in Florida over the next two years.

Why, you must be wondering? Well, mosquitoes are a primary carrier for a number of diseases including yellow fever, dengue, malaria and others. The proposal that took years waiting for approval, aims to specifically genetically modify the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, also known as the yellow fever mosquito, so that the female dies as a larva. While the authorities are aiming at reducing the risk of yellow fever by genetically modifying mosquitoes, people are concerned with the effects of the decision.

Environmentalists and other concerned individuals are mainly worried about the environmental aspects of the project. According to them, introducing genetically modified mosquitoes can have an adverse effect on the nearby ecosystems. Some go as far as saying that disrupting the ways of nature never end up fruitful.

On the contrary, Oxitec claims the project to have no negative effects on the environment. Years of research and an investigation by the United States Environmental Protection Agency supports that claim. Nonetheless, one claim is apparently not enough to convince the nature-loving Florida natives. A petition had been set up against Oxitec that has 23 thousand signatures.

For most people, the bigger question is whether spending so much money on a project that looks like the work of a Hollywood director really worth it? Especially in such currently difficult economic conditions. The answer to that question depends greatly upon the priorities of the local government. The government of Florida is primarily aiming at lowering the mosquito population to minimize the risk of diseases. Investing so much in a project like this in such economic fragility however may or may not be a good idea.

How the project of genetically modified mosquitoes will bid against the natural eco systems in the long run is unknown, but the project itself is a manifestation of how fast and how smart we have become as a society to think of ways to tackle healthcare problems.

As Grey Frandsen, Oxitec’s CEO puts it: “This is an exciting development because it represents the ground-breaking work of hundreds of passionate people over more than a decade in multiple countries, all of whom want to protect communities from dengue, Zika, yellow fever, and other vector-borne diseases,”

Black Hole Collision

It is quite rare to spot a black hole in space, let alone spot a black hole collision which in itself is an epic spectacle of the universe. But before we look into the details of a black hole collision, it’s useful to understand what black holes are.

Owing to a strong gravitational force, a black hole is a region in space that sucks matter in its vicinity. In fact, the gravitational force is so strong that even light cannot escape from it. Hence the title black hole. As far as the birth of black holes are concerned. They are usually formed when two or more gigantic stars approaching the end of their life cycles collide. Upon collision, a black hole is born that grows exponentially by absorbing the particles and other matter around it. Such is the complexity and beauty of the universe of which we form a tiny part of.

To imagine a merger containing two black holes, with one black hole at least the size of approximately 85 suns is, as Simon Portegies Zwart; computational astrophysicist at Leiden University, put it “mind boggling”. The merger that left the astronomers in awe also presented the astronomers with a revelation that the collision of black holes produces yet again another black hole, but only bigger and stronger. The black hole produced due to the merger in discussion is said to be as large as 150 solar masses.

Thanks to the cutting edge technology used by the US and an Italian observatory, the detection of this colossal merger was possible from almost 7 billion light years away. The discovery was made by recording the sudden spike in gravitational waves which are indicative of any activity occurring in space. In a collision of cosmic matter, energy is released in the form of gravitational waves which are then recorded by astronomers to detect the event taking place far away in the galaxy. But when it comes to this merger, the spike in gravitational waves awed the astronomers and for every right reason. Just spotting a black hole is rare enough, now imagine a collision between two.

What makes this merger mind boggling for the astronomers is the sheer size of the black holes involved in the collision. Since theoretically speaking, it is highly unlikely for stars of such giant sizes to exist. Therefore, a black hole which is a product of two or more stars colliding, existing with such a heavy mass is also unlikely-but not impossible as the merger shows.

Astronomers are putting forward all sorts of theories to explain the gigantic size of the black holes involved in the merger, some suspects the black holes to be a product of multiple smaller black holes.

How a black hole so huge came into existence is still puzzling and unknown to the astronomers but this merger nonetheless puts in perspective just how spectacular our universe is.

Flying Cars

As a child, most of us would watch science fiction movies and believed the future was filled with hover boards and flying cars. Well, hover boards have become very popular and flying cars have begun to be built. So were all those predictions correct?

The Japanese government has decided to invest heavily into the development of flying car technology to make this a reality. They want to be the first country to have such a futuristic transportation system and even believe they can start commercializing these cars by 2023.

Even though Japan is actively working towards flying cars and their development, all over the world such technology is also being worked on by industry giants such as Uber, Airbus, and Boeing.

The dream of being able to cover a small distance in vehicles that have a vertical takeoff is very much alive and is close to being fulfilled in Japan due to the strides they are making in this technology.

Image: http://www.skydrive2020.com

The country’s newest set up that specializes in flying cars is SkyDrive and has recently also revealed a model for people to feast their eyes upon. Their SD-XX is a two-seat vehicle that is meant to fly and is about the size of a car. It comes with an average speed of 62mph. According to Japanese media, the company wants to start testing the model this year.

They believe they want to start slow and small and do not want to risk too many people. This is why they have chosen to start an air taxi service in either Tokyo or Osaka, and decided that the initial flight would be over the sea. This would minimize the risk of too many people being hurt if there was a malfunction.

The media has reported that fast progress is being made because of the backing of many people, investing their money as well as their talent and skills to make the dream a reality.

The startup plans to introduce round trips all over Japan, mainly focusing around attractions like Universal Studios. They believe that the model will be flown on autopilot, but will require a pilot should an emergency situation arise.

The setup aims to create at least 100 vehicles by the end of 2028 and believe that the cost of these cars should not be more than what an expensive branded car would cost. If this were to work out, it would revolutionize the transportation industry and could lead to rapid advances in flying vehicles for the future. This startup shows lots of potential and by 2028 we could begin to see flying cars all over Japan.