Glimpses Of The Future – March 2016

IBM’S Adoption Of Blockchain Secures Its Future

International Business Machines Inc. is becoming the biggest backer of the Blockchain technology that underpins the bitcoin digital currency.

In the coming year, IBM will begin testing its own variation on the transactional software known as Blockchain, aiming to simplify life for customers who lease IBM’s computer hardware, the company said.

IBM, in a bid to establish a new standard for Blockchain software expects to contribute computer code it developed to a free, open-source project called Hyperledger.

The company also plans to introduce new services intended to help software developers build Blockchain services for its mainframe computers and for devices that use radio-frequency identification tracking tags.

Additionally, the company plans to set up a network of what it calls “IBM Garages” in London, New York, Singapore and Tokyo, where customers can experiment with its Blockchain software.

(FYI, “bitcoin” has a l/c “b”, “Blockchain” uses u/c)

This Camera Can Tell Whether You’re Really In Love

If you’re not sure whether your partner is really in love with you, shine a thermal imaging camera on him/her.

To test this, researchers at the University of Granada used a group of 60 volunteers consisting of men and women aged 24 to 47 years old. All of them had started a new relationship within the past few weeks, and described themselves as being in love “in a romantic way.”

Each person was observed through a thermographic (heat-imaging) camera, as they sat naked in a room looking at images on a computer screen.

Half of the people were shown photos of their romantic partner (as pre-selected by them) while the other half looked at photos of family and friends, or at images specifically chosen to produce feelings of anxiety.

The scientists observed that when viewing the images, members of the first group showed a 2-degree Celsius body temperature increase in areas such as their cheeks, hands, chest, genitals, and around their mouth. That change didn’t occur with the control group.

(Life must be boring in Grenada.)

Why You Should Reconsider Freezing Your Head

The problem with deep freezing newly dead bodies in the hope of returning them to life (cryogenics) is that ice crystals form and wreck the cellular structure.

Now, The Brain Preservation Foundation has announced that a team at 21st Century Medicine has been able to preserve an entire rabbit brain with well-preserved ultrastructure, including cell membranes, synapses, and intracellular structures such as synaptic vesicles .

The technique is claimed not to be the same as conventional cryonics (rapidly freezing the brain), which has never demonstrated preservation of the ultrastructure of the brain.

Hope for immortalists yet.

Aircraft Makers To Build Humanoid Robots

Robots may build cars by the millions, but they still don’t have much to do with assembling airliners – a task where human workers are still essential.

To give the humans (“organics”) a helping manipulator, the Joint Robotics Laboratory (JRL) and Airbus Group have embarked on a four-year joint research project to develop humanoid robots that can work on aircraft assembly lines and free workers from tedious and hazardous jobs.

The aim is to develop robots capable of working alongside humans in a very robot-unfriendly environment and take on the laborious and dangerous jobs, while freeing up human workers for higher-level tasks.

To do this, they need to be capable of moving about in confined areas, often with uneven surfaces, without bumping into surrounding objects. Once in position, they then need to be able to handle screwing, torqueing, tightening bolts, cleaning up metal dust, and inserting parts, and then verify that the task is properly completed.

TED Offers $4.5 Million Prize For A.I. Speaker

TED Talks have just announced the world’s biggest speaking fee – a $4.5m (£3.1m) cheque to be awarded to a speaker at the 2020 TED conference.

There’s just one catch: the speaker must be an artificial intelligence, which convinces the audience that it has mastered the art of the 18-minute TED talk.

The IBM Watson AI X Prize will offer $4.5 million to the team that develops an artificial intelligence showing “how humans can collaborate with powerful cognitive technologies to tackle some of the world’s grand challenges”.

Pity TED doesn’t pay its human speakers.  My money is on Watson.

Moore’s Law Is Over – No It’s Not!

No sooner has the prestigious journal Nature declared Moore’s Law has come to an end, than a new technology is announced that seems set to extend its life again!

Researchers are fending off the demise of Moore’s Law with the help of a new material that allows electrons to move from point A to point B faster.

Engineers at the University of Utah have discovered a new kind of flat semiconducting material made of tin monoxide that is only one-atom thick, allowing electrical charges to pass through it faster than silicon or other 3D materials.

The researchers say the new material fills an important gap in speeding up electronics because, unlike graphene and other near atom-thin materials, it allows both negative electrons and positive charges – or “holes” – to move through it.

This has led the team to describe the material as the first stable P-type 2D semiconductor material in existence.

A Better Test For Prostate Cancer?

With the goal of developing a more capable alternative to PSA tests for prostate cancer, a team of researchers has adapted a machine it calls the Odoreader to analyse urine samples to provide a non-invasive prostate cancer test.

The new research is a collaboration between the University of Liverpool and the University of the West of England in Bristol. It focuses on a device called the Odoreader, which was used back in 2013 to detect bladder cancer by analysing the odours in urine, with a 100 percent success rate.

The researchers believe that the device could significantly improve prostate cancer diagnostics, by offering a non-invasive test that’s potentially much more accurate than existing methods.

The machine, which is described as being ” like an electronic nose,” uses a gas chromatography sensor combined with specially developed algorithms to detect whether a patient has cancer from a single urine sample.

New Wearable Analyses Body Chemicals Through Sweat

A group of researchers has developed a flexible, wearable band filled with sensors that can track sodium, potassium, glucose, and lactate, along with the temperature of the skin.

Sodium and potassium levels, for example, can indicate hydration while lactate levels can point to how tired your muscles are.

The data is collected and sent to a flexible electronic board that processes it, and from there it’s sent to a smartphone app via Bluetooth.

There are already plenty of activity trackers and smart watches out there that can measure things like heart rate, respiration rate, and skin conductance. But there aren’t yet good, non-invasive ways to keep an eye on what’s actually in bodily fluids, such as sweat.

In their study the researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, placed the sensors in armbands and headbands, and had people wear them while performing different exercises inside and outside, like running and cycling.

Japanese Government Hobbles AirBnB

Under pressure from the hotel industry and a populace concerned with the surge of foreigners in their neighbourhoods (sooo xenophobic!), the Japanese government has released guidelines for home sharing – called minpaku in Japanese – that could make most Airbnb rentals in the country illegal.

Airbnb hosts would only be allowed to rent to guests who stay for a week or longer, a minuscule slice of the market. The national guidelines only become law if local municipalities decide to ratify them but it has been reported that is beginning to happen.

Saliva Test For Detecting Cancer Under Development

A new saliva test called a “liquid biopsy” has been created to detect cancer cells in patients showing no other symptoms

Professor David Wong, from the University of California and the scientist behind the test, says that, if there are tumour signatures circulating in the test subject’s blood or saliva, the liquid biopsy will detect it.

So far, the saliva test has been tested on lung cancer patients and has delivered “near-perfect” results.

Prototypes of the saliva test are already being made and will start to begin testing in Europe and China this year.

All a test subject needs to do is purchase the saliva test kit from any pharmacy and send the saliva off to a laboratory, where researchers can analyse it for tumour DNA. Most notably, the test will cost a little more than $20 and may be widely available in the market by 2020.