GLIMPSES OF THE FUTURE – MAY 2021

Is Hydrogen The Fuel That Will Make Long-Haul Flying Clean?

Long-haul aviation, like everything else in the human world, needs to be totally decarbonised, and in the race to zero emissions for international airliners, liquid-hydrogen powertrains look like one of the only viable possibilities.

Liquid H2’s main attraction to aircraft designers is its impressive energy density by weight, but Airbus believes there are serious opportunities to be explored in another of its properties: temperature. To keep it liquid, it needs to be stored cryogenically at -253.15 °C (-423.7 °F), and Airbus figures that if you’ve got a monster cold source like that on board your aircraft, you might as well make use of it.

The theory is that the liquid hydrogen can supercool the entire electric powertrain down to superconducting temperatures, at which point resistance virtually disappears from the system, and efficiency skyrockets. A powertrain designed to take full advantage of this effect, reasons Airbus, could get the same job done at less than half the weight, half the electrical losses and reduced voltages.

So it’s building one. The Ascend system will be a ground-based proof of concept developed over the next three years. It’ll be a 500-kW (670-hp) powertrain, with cables, controllers, electronics and motors that are cryogenically cooled by liquid hydrogen pumped around in a circuit from the fuel tanks.

Are You Ready To Feed Your Pet On Insects?

 More and more, insect protein is being suggested as a more sustainable alternative to meat. Humans aren’t the only omnivores, though, which is why a new insect-based cat food should soon be hitting the market – and it won’t be the only one.

According to the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization, meat production in general accounts for approximately 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. These emissions mainly take the form of gases such as methane, ammonia and carbon dioxide, which are burped up by cattle, produced by the fertilizers used to grow livestock feed crops, and released by decomposing manure.

Additionally, large areas of forest are routinely cleared in order to create the pastureland or feed-growing cropland required for meat production. This adds to the greenhouse gas problem, as living trees capture carbon dioxide, keeping it from accumulating in the atmosphere – and they release that stored gas once they’ve been cut down.

New Gel May Enable You To Regrow Missing Teeth

The tooth fairy is a welcome guest for any child who has lost a tooth. Not only will the fairy leave a small gift under the pillow, but the child can be assured of a new tooth in a few months. The same cannot be said of adults who have lost their teeth.

A new study by scientists at Kyoto University and the University of Fukui, however, may offer some hope. The team reports that an antibody for one gene — uterine sensitization associated gene-1 or USAG-1 — can stimulate tooth growth in mice suffering from tooth agenesis, a congenital condition. The paper was published in Science Advances.

Although the normal adult mouth has 32 teeth, about 1% of the population has more or fewer due to congenital conditions. Scientists have explored the genetic causes for cases having too many teeth as clues for regenerating teeth in adults.

According to Katsu Takahashi, one of the lead authors of the study and a senior lecturer at the Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine, the fundamental molecules responsible for tooth development have already been identified.

“The morphogenesis of individual teeth depends on the interactions of several molecules including BMP, or bone morphogenetic protein, and Wnt signaling,” says Takahashi.

BMP and Wnt are involved in much more than tooth development. They modulate the growth of multiple organs and tissues well before the human body is even the size of a raisin. Consequently, drugs that directly affect their activity are commonly avoided, since side effects could affect the entire body.

Your Amazon Delivery Driver Will Also Assemble Flat-Pack Furniture

Amazon is considering a new service that would have drivers not only deliver but build furniture, according to Bloomberg. The service is meant to help Amazon better compete with Wayfair and brick-and-mortar stores like Home Depot, Lowes, and Best Buy.

Bloomberg says Amazon is planning to introduce the service in Virginia and at least two other markets initially. It’s meant to deal with one of the biggest annoyances of furnishing your house entirely online: giant packages full of pieces you have to then assemble like the world’s heaviest and most complex Lego set.

Wayfair and most other companies in the furniture business already offer a building service for an additional fee. However, Amazon has faced public scrutiny for its treatment of drivers, including a recent piece by Motherboard that detailed instances of drivers using everything from water bottles to McDonald’s cups to Pringles cans to relieve themselves.

In the presentation Bloomberg reported on, the new service required Amazon drivers to deliver the product, remove all packaging, and assemble it. Crucially it would also require drivers to take the product back if the customer wasn’t entirely satisfied, which adds additional labour, and potential risks during the pandemic, to an already difficult job.

New Stock Exchange In Japan Will Be Blockchain-Based

 SBI Holdings and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group will launch a digital stock exchange in Osaka in the spring of 2022 to compete against the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE), Nikkei reports.

The move comes amid growing calls for alternatives to the TSE, which last autumn suffered a computer glitch that halted trading for a day. The joint venture also aims to be the first Japanese exchange to handle digital securities using blockchain technology.

To prepare for the launch of the new exchange, the companies in March will set up an operator, the Osaka Digital Exchange. SBI will own 60% of ODX, and SMFG 40%.

The exchange will use a proprietary trading system, an electronic trading venue run by a securities company to allow investors to conduct transactions outside a normal public exchange.

The companies aim to make the exchange more attractive to investors by taking orders outside the TSE’s trading hours and reducing the tick size, the minimum amount securities can move up or down.

SBI and SMFG both have brokerage units. The companies will put in place a governance structure to prevent any conflict of interest. The exchange is expected to start handling digital securities in 2023. Japan gave the greenlight to digital securities last year, making it possible for brokers to offer securities faster and in smaller units.

Product Placement Becomes Possible In Old Films – Retrospectively

Product placement is big business for movies and TV series alike, and items can now be added digitally to films and programmes both new and old.

Fans of classic war flicks will know the scene – actor Steve McQueen revs his motorcycle furiously as he is chased by German soldiers. Hoping to use the bike to jump over a barbed wire border fence, and reach safety in Switzerland, he pauses to gather his thoughts by a barn.  On the side of the building is a big poster advertising a best-selling beer.

You don’t remember the billboard advert? Well it might not have been there the last time you watched The Great Escape, but it could well be the next.

Product placement in films is almost as old as the movie industry itself. The first example of the phenomenon is said to be the 1919 Buster Keaton comedy The Garage, which featured the logos of petrol firms and motor oil companies.

Fast-forward to 2019, and the total global product placement industry, across films, TV shows and music videos, was said to be worth $20.6bn (£15bn) that year, according to a report by data analysis firm PQ Media. It is highly lucrative to get a show’s leading actor to wear a certain item of clothing, or drink a particular coffee, or drive a specific car.

But while previously the product had to actually, physically be there when the shots were filmed, the advertising industry is now turning to technology that can seamlessly insert computer-generated images.

UK Drones Can Now Deliver Packages Beyond Line Of Sight

 Drones flown by remote pilots using only cameras and sensors to guide their aircraft moved a step closer to regular use on Tuesday with the UK aviation regulator announcing trials that, if successful, could transform the logistics sector.

Drones are currently banned from flying beyond the line of sight of their pilots under almost all circumstances, meaning it has been difficult to roll out the technology at scale on logistical tasks such as inspecting critical infrastructure or flying deliveries in urban areas.

But the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has authorised West Sussex-based drone company Sees.ai to begin operating regular flights beyond the pilot’s line of sight at three locations in the UK, to test the safety of opening the technology up to the wider industry.

The drones will be flown by pilots who could be based hundreds or even thousands of miles away from their aircraft. The tests will take place on industrial sites well away from the public and other aircraft, the CAA said.

“Spot” The Robot Dog Has Now Been Taught To Pee Beer

 Boston Dynamics’ robot dog Spot exists in two realities. In one, it’s a terrifying harbinger of a dystopian future when robots hunt and kill humans. In the other, it’s the plaything of YouTubers who teach this robot quadruped to “piss beer” on command.

The latter example comes from the talented, imaginative, piss-focused YouTuber Michael Reeves, who managed to get his hands on a unit before using his tech expertise and dirty mind to turn Spot into the ultimate drinking buddy. With some quick code and a few feet of tubing, Spot can identify cups on the floor, position itself over them, and release a stream of piss beer into the awaiting receptacle. It’s the future Isaac Asimov could only dream of.

As Reeves notes in the video, it’s hardly a polished product. “Piss bot is working flawlessly. 35 percent of the time,” he says. But it’s still an absolutely amazing thing to make.