Flavobacterium, Sp. KI72 is a strain of bacteria that eats nylon. Other forms of life could mutate or be genetically engineered to adapt to our world and help clean up our mistakes. Petroleum eating microbes could clean up ocean oil spills while others could reduce landfills of polystyrene. One day special bacteria might even recycle carbon emissions and depollute our atmosphere.
We’re still a long way off from making trips to planets in just our system, let alone outside of it - but when we’re ready we may be able to pick the best time to go there.
Researchers used NASA’s Kepler satellite to study the weather patterns of six large gas giants that orbit close to their suns.
As techniques get more sophisticated, the team hopes to adapt the techniques for much smaller worlds. As we continue to discover exoplanets, we might not just find habitable worlds but ones ideal for a summer vacation.
Whether it’s the infamous planet X, the alien world Yuggoth of H.P Lovecraft, or former planet demoted to dwarf planet by NASA, Pluto has captured our imaginations.
NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is getting closer to the mysterious and remote world, and gaining interesting information along the way. It turns out that Pluto doesn’t just have one moon (Charon), but as many as five (Nix, Styx, Hydra, and Kerberos).
While the latest images don’t have too much detail we are beginning to get our first color images and see hints of polar caps on Pluto. While no one can predict what Pluto will show us, it’s almost guaranteed to surprise us. Stay tuned.
There has been a lot of talk lately about a manned mission to Mars. Such a mission has many challenges: it will be costly and fraught with many perils for the crew. A recent study has revealed a danger even greater than we realized - radiation.
An experiment bombarded lab mice with radiation to simulate the kind of cosmic radiation astronauts would get exposed to. The exposed mice were less “responsive” afterwards and their brains showed signs of reduced connections. The effects from radiation would accumulate over time and could be disastrous for a human crew.
Before we can send humans to Mars (or any other planet) research and development must be done on things like the next generation of radiation shields.
While we are still far away from genetically enhanced mutants with superpowers, we’re getting closer to a future where it’s more fact than fiction.
A team of scientists in China altered the genes of (nonviable) human embryos (as part of an experiment to explore the feasibility of using gene alteration to treat disease). Some kinks still need to be worked out. While targeting a specific gene, the test unintentionally altered other, unrelated genes. The experiment demonstrates that gene alteration is not yet ready for clinical human trials and conventional medicine.
Genetic manipulation may become commonplace in the future, and now may be a good time for speculative fiction writers to start chiming in on possible social ramifications. If gene alteration led to unexpected changes and mutations, is the public ready to welcome an “altered” human? How we treat or denigrate this new potential demographic may be a major social issue of future generations.
Most of us are aware that bias exists in media political coverage. Even if we have well trained ears, sometimes subtle techniques can be used to sneak under the radar. Example: quotes. By taking a quote out of context or using a clipped quote to elicit a certain response, a snip of dialogue can have us either lauding or leering at a political candidate.
Scientists at Cornell have developed a computer algorithm that sifts through thousands of selected quotes to uncover the political leanings of the reporters that picked them. That biases not only exist in the media but even determine which quotes we use to represent a candidate is very telling in our national political discourse.
Future candidates might be scrutinized like never before with the advent of internet social media, but social media it might also find itself under close scrutiny.
Black holes have earned their scary reputation for a reason. But, as it turns out, they aren’t as bad as they seem.
When an object (or character) gets sucked into a black hole and torn apart particle by particle, the matter and energy they are composed of isn’t destroyed (that would violate the laws of the conservation of matter/energy).
Thanks to Stephen Hawking, we now understand that the bits of “information” contained in a body are preserved by the black hole, which, via hawking radiation, radiates virtual particles back out.
What if an extremely advanced civilization could use a black hole as a massive data storage device and all of the victims that fell into one (and all of the particles that composed their bodies) could be “recalled” and reassembled?
This is the penultimate bullet dodge.
Sometimes human beings are motivated to take action because of the benefit to all, or at least to our bottom line. But, other times, we'll do something just because we can. How about injecting your eyeballs with night vision serum? That's what a group of "body hackers" in California did. After injecting Chlorin e6 (Ce6), found in some deep-sea fish, into their volunteer's eyes, he could in low to no light. The effects took about an hour to take hold and lasted for maybe an hour after that. This was just the first test, there will be more as they try to build themselves a better body. What's interesting is that the scientists used a preexisting compound found in nature to evolve the body in way that nature never did. It was a feat of engineering, but of genetics. What other life forms could we splice with humans and to what effect? And what if there was life and death motivation behind the effort and only one creature had what we needed to survive? What if that creature were extremely difficult to find, or extinct? How far would we go to get it?
A message from ET at last? Don’t hold your breath, the experts aren’t celebrating just yet.
Mysterious and abrupt radio pulses are not uncommon. Collectively known as fast radio busts (FRBs), they can be anything from faulty equipment to distant astronomical phenomenon. The thing that has astronomers scratching their heads about the latest burst was that a mathematical pattern seemed to be embedded in the bursts. While the sequence is not likely to be a coincidence, objects like Pulsars remind us that nature can create patterns all the time.
Of course, as speculators and writers we can dream up sources for these curious bursts. In a few milliseconds the signals’ power output was equivalent to what our Sun puts out in a month (and yet the source might have been as small as several hundred miles long). Natural? Or an alien megastructure built for one purpose?
By now you have probably heard the saying about Muhammad having to go to the mountain, because the mountain wouldn’t go to him. But what if we could move mountains?
NASA has an ambitious plan to study asteroids by crunching off a piece, sailing it closer to Earth (in orbit around the Moon), where we can analyze the piece at our leisure.
If the strategy works it might be repeated in the future. Instead of traveling to the main belt to mine asteroids, future space pioneers might be able to reap in a slightly smaller till with a much shorter and safer trip.
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