10 Unconventional Uses Of Nanotechnology

It’s hard to envision the future without the presence of nanotechnologies. Manipulating matter at an atomic and sub-molecular level has paved the way for major breakthroughs in chemistry, biology, and medicine. Yet, the unfolding applications of nanotechnology are far broader and more diverse than what we’ve imagined.

10Film Making

Without the invention of the scanning tunneling microscope (STM) in the 1980s, the field of nanotechnology might have remained science fiction. With its atomic precision the STM has enabled physicists to study the structure of matter in a way that was impossible with conventional microscopes.

The astonishing potential of STM was demonstrated by researchers at IBM when they created A Boy and His Atom, which was the world’s smallest animated film. It was produced by moving individual atoms on a copper surface.

The 90-second movie depicts a boy made of carbon monoxide molecules playing with a ball, dancing, and bouncing on a trampoline. Consisting of 202 frames, the animation takes action in a space as tiny as 1/1000 the size of a single human hair. To make the movie, researchers utilized a unique feature that comes with the STM: an electrically charged and extremely sharp stylus with a tip made of one atom. The stylus is capable of sensing the exact positions of the carbon molecules on the animation surface (which is the sheet of copper in this case). Therefore, it can be used to create images of the molecules as well as move them into new positions.

9Oil Recovery

9 Oil
The global expenditure for oil exploration has risen exponentially during the past decade. However, efficiency in oil recovery has remained a major issue. When petroleum companies shut down an oil well, less than half of the oil in the reservoir is extracted. The rest is left behind because it is trapped in the rock where it is too expensive to recover. Luckily, with help from nanotechnology, scientists in China have discovered a way to work around this.

The solution is enhancing an existing drilling technique. The original technique involves injecting water into the rock pores where oil is located. This displaces the oil and forces it out. However, this method reveals its limitation as soon as the oil in the easily reached pores has been extracted. By then, water begins emerging from the well instead of oil.

To prevent this, Chinese researchers Peng and Ming Yuan Li have come up with the idea of infusing the water with nanoparticles that can plug the passages between the rock pores. This method is intended to make the water take narrower paths into the pores that contain oil and force the oil out. With successful field studies conducted in China, this method has proven highly efficient in recovering the 50 percent of the black gold that otherwise remains out of reach.

8High-Resolution Displays

8 High res
The images on computer screens are presented via tiny dots called pixels. Regardless of their sizes and shapes, the number of pixels on a screen has remained a determining factor of image quality. With traditional displays, however, more pixels meant larger and bulkier screens—an obvious limitation.

While companies were busy selling their colossal screens to consumers, scientists from Oxford University have discovered a way to create pixels that are just a few hundred nanometers across. This was achieved by exploiting the properties of a phase-change material called GST (a material found in thermal management products). In the experiment, the scientists used seven-nanometer-thick layers of GST sandwiched between transparent electrodes. Each layer—just 300 by 300 nanometers in size—acts as a pixel that can be electrically switched on and off. By passing electrical current through layers, the scientists were able to produce images with fair quality and contrast.

The nano-pixels will serve a variety of purposes where the conventional pixels have become impractical. For instance, their tiny size and thickness will make them a great choice for technologies such as smart glasses, foldable screens, and synthetic retinas. Another advantage of nano-pixel displays is their lower energy consumption. Unlike the existing displays that constantly refresh all pixels to form images, the GST-layer-based displays only refresh the part of the display that actually changes, saving power.

7Color-Changing Paint

7 paint
While experimenting on strings of gold nanoparticles, scientists at the University of California have stumbled upon an astonishing observation. They’ve noticed that the color of gold changes when a string of its particles is stretched or retracted, producing what one of the scientists described as a beautiful bright blue that morphs into purple and then red. The finding has inspired the scientists to create sensors out of gold nanoparticles that change colors when pressure is applied to them.

To produce the sensors, gold nanoparticles have to be added to a flexible polymer film. When the film is pressed, it stretches and causes particles to separate and the color to change. Pressing lightly turns the sensor purple while pressing harder turns it red. The scientists noticed this intriguing property not only in gold particles but also in silver where the particles change into yellow when stretched.

The sensors could serve a variety of purposes. For instance, they could be incorporated into furniture, such as couches or beds, to assess sitting or sleeping positions. Despite being made of gold, the sensor is tiny enough to overcome the cost issue.

6Phone Charging

6 Smart phone
Whether it’s an iPhone, Samsung, or different type of phone, every smartphone that leaves the factory comes with two notorious downsides: battery life and the time it takes to recharge. While the first is still a universal problem, scientists from the city of Ramat Gan in Israel have managed to tackle the second problem by creating a battery that requires only 30 seconds to recharge.

The breakthrough was attributed to a project related to Alzheimer’s disease that was carried out by researchers from the University of Tel Aviv. The researchers discovered that the peptide molecules that shorten the brain’s neurons and cause disease have a very high capacitance (the ability to preserve electric charges). This finding has contributed to the foundation of StoreDot, a company that focuses on nanotechnologies that target consumer products. With help from researchers, StoreDot has developed NanoDots—technology that harnesses the peptides’ properties to improve the battery life of smartphones. The company demonstrated a prototype of its battery in Microsoft’s ThinkNext event. Using a Samsung Galaxy S3 phone, the battery was charged from zero to full in less than a minute.

5Sophisticated Drug Delivery

5 Medicine
Treatments for diseases such as cancer can be prohibitively expensive and, in some cases, too late. Fortunately, several medical firms from around the world are researching cheap and effective ways of treating illnesses. Among them is Immusoft, a company that aims to revolutionize how medicines are delivered to our bodies.

Instead of spending billions of dollars on drugs and therapy programs, Immusoft believes that we can engineer our bodies to produce drugs by themselves. With help from the immune system, cells of a patient can be altered to receive new genetic information that allows them to make their own medicine. The genetic information can be delivered via nano-sized capsules injected into the body.

The new method hasn’t been tested out on a human patient yet. Nevertheless, Immusoft and other institutions have reported successful experiments conducted on mice. If proven effective on humans, the method will significantly reduce the treatment and therapy costs of cardiovascular diseases and various other illnesses.

4Molecular Communication

4 Molecules
There are circumstances in which electromagnetic waves, the soul of global telecommunication, become unusable. Think of an electromagnetic pulse that could render communication satellites, and every form of technology relying on them, useless. We are quite familiar with such terrifying scenarios from doomsday movies. Furthermore, this issue has been contemplated for years by researchers from the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom and the York University in Canada before ultimately coming up with an unexpected solution.

The researchers observed how some animal species, particularly insects, employ pheromones to communicate across long distances. After collecting the data, they were able to develop a communication method in which messages are encoded in the molecules of evaporated alcohol. The researchers successfully demonstrated the new technique using rubbing alcohol as a signaling chemical and “O Canada” as their first message.

Two devices were employed with this method including a transmitter to encode and send the message and a receiver to decode and display it. The method works by keying in a text message on the transmitter using Arduino Uno (an open-source microcontroller) that comes with an LCD screen and buttons. The controller then converts the text input into a binary sequence which is read by an electronic sprayer containing the alcohol. Once the binary message is read, the sprayer converts it into a controlled set of sprays where “1” represents a spray and “0” equals no spray. The alcohol in the air is then detected by the receiver which consists of a chemical sensor and a microcontroller. The receiver reads and converts the binary data back to text before displaying it on a screen.

The researchers were able to send and receive the “O Canada” message across several feet of open space. As a result, a number of scientists have expressed confidence in the method. They believe it might be helpful in environments such as underground tunnels or pipelines where electromagnetic waves become useless.

3Computer Storage

3 Computer
During the past few decades, computers have grown exponentially in both processing power and storage capacity. This phenomenon was accurately predicted by James Moore around 50 years ago and later became widely known as Moore’s Law. However, many scientists—including the physicist Michio Kaku—believe that Moore’s Law is falling apart. This is due to the fact that computer power cannot keep up with the exponential rise of the existing manufacturing technologies.

Though Kaku was emphasizing processing power, the same concept applies to storage capacity. Luckily, it’s not the end of the road. A team of researchers from RMIT University in Melbourne are now exploring the alternatives. Led by Dr. Sharath Sriram, the team is on the verge of developing storage devices that mimic the way the human brain stores information. The researchers took the first step and built a nano film that is chemically designed to preserve electric charges in on and off states. The film, which is 10,000 times thinner than a human hair, might become the cornerstone for developing memory devices that replicate the neural networks of the brain.

2Nano Art

2 Art
The promising development of nanotechnology has earned a great deal of admiration from the scientific community. Nevertheless, breakthroughs in nanotechnology are no longer confined to medicine, biology, and engineering. Nano art is an emerging field that allows us to view the tiny world under the microscope from an entirely new perspective.

As its name implies, nano art is a combination of art and nanoscience practiced by a small number of scientists and artists. Among them is John Hart, a mechanical engineer from the University of Michigan, who made a nano portrait of President Barack Obama. The portrait, which was named Nanobama, was created to honor the President when he was a candidate during the 2008 presidential elections. Each face in Nanobama measures just half a millimeter across and is entirely sculpted from 150 nanotubes. To produce the portraits, Hart first created a line drawing of the iconic “Hope” poster. He then printed the drawing on a glass plate coated with the nanoparticles needed to grow nanotubes. Using a high-temperature furnace, it was only a matter of time before the portrait was ready for a photo shoot.

1Record Breaking

1 Book
Humanity has always sought to build the strongest, fastest, and largest things. But, when it comes to building the smallest, nanotechnology emerges on the stage. Among the tiniest things ever created using nanotechnology is a book called Teeny Ted From Turnip which is currently regarded as the world’s smallest printed book. Produced in the Nano Imaging Laboratory at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, the book measures just 70 micrometers by 100 micrometers and is made of letters carved on 30 crystalline silicon pages.

The book’s story, written by Malcolm Douglas Chaplin, features Teeny Ted and his triumph at the turnip contest at the annual county fair. Over 100 copies of the book have been published. But to buy one of them you will need a deep pocket—a single book costs over $15,000. An electron microscope will also be required to read it, adding even more to the cost.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2014/12/01/10-unconventional-uses-of-nanotechnology/

Top 10 Fascinating Firsts in Motoring

Cars have become an essential object for most people these days – and there are probably few (if any) people still alive who remember the days before automobiles were on the roads. This list takes a look at some of the interesting “firsts” in motoring.

Delamare1884S

In 1883, 27 year old Edouard Delamare-Deboutteville built the very first petrol driven automobile. The motivation for doing so was to find a good alternative to horse transport for his father’s cotton mill. He was helped by his father’s mechanic, Charles Malandin. They modified an 8HP stationary gas engine for use with petrol as a fuel and fitted it to a four wheeled hunting-brake. [Image: a small scale model of the car built by Delamare-Deboutteville and Malandin]

01Curvedasholds-1

The first instance of mass-produced petrol driven motorcars occurred in the USA. The car in question was the curved-dash Olds. It was the first car to be produced in quantities greater than 10 per week, making its appearance in public in April 1901. By the end of the year the total number of cars made was 433, and this number rose to 5,508 per year in just three years. The car retailed at $650 – significantly less than other cars at the time. [Image: 1901 curved-dash Olds]

1922Modelt3

The first car radio was fitted to the passenger door of a Ford Model-T by 18 year old George Frost, president of the Lane High School Radio Club in Chicago in May 1922. In November that year, the first radio was installed in a Daimler limousine by the Marconi-phone company and displayed at the Olympia Motor Show in London, England. [Image: 1922 Ford Model-T]

No 2 3.75Hp Peugeot

The first car theft in history occurred in Paris, France, in June 1896, when Baron de Zuylen’s Peugeot was stolen by his Mechanic from the manufacturers where it was undergoing repairs. Fortunately for Baron de Zuylen, both the thief and the car were found later at the nearby town of Asnieres. [Image: 1896 Peugeot]

Place Du Havre, Paris

The first vehicle registration plates were introduced in France by the Department of the Seine under the Paris Police Ordinance of 14 August 1893, which stated: “Each motor vehicle shall bear on a metal plate and in legible writing the name and address of its owner, also the distinctive number used in the application for authorization. This plate shall be placed at the left-hand side of the vehicle – it shall never be hidden.” In a general decree of 30 September, 1901, this rule was extended to include the rest of France. [Image: Camille Pissarro’s The Place du Havre, Paris, 1893]

Chica333

The first death by motoring happened on August 17, 1896, at the Crystal Palace, London, when Bridget Driscoll of Croydon was run over and her skull fractured by the wheel of the offending car. The driver (Arthur Edsell) was employed to give joy rides in a Rogers-Benz on the terrace of the Crystal Palace. Driscoll was crossing the road when she saw the automobile hurtling toward her at the speed of 4 mph. She took fright and stood still in the path of the oncoming car. The death was ruled accidental. [Image: 1896 Benz]

Eng05Parliament

The first traffic lights were installed on a 22ft cast iron pillar at the corner of Bridge Street and New Palace Yard off Parliament Square in London and began operating on 10 December 1868. The installation was made at the direction of the Metropolitan Police in order to make it easier for politicians to enter the Houses of Parliament. The lights consisted of a revolving lantern and a red and green signal. The lantern was turned by hand. The sign was (not surprisingly) not popular with the general public, and one man is quoted as complaining that it was “another of them fakements to wex poor cabbies”. It remained the only traffic light in London until its removal in 1872. Traffic lights were not re-introduced to London for another 50 years. [Image: site of the world’s first traffic light]

719-1

The first traffic signs were erected in Britain in December 1879. They were installed by the Bicycle Union and consisted of a wooden post with an enameled iron plate bearing the warning: “To cyclists – this hill is dangerous”. In 1901 the first signs directed specifically at motorcar drivers were introduced in Gloucester. The first internationally standardized signs (a red triangle surrounding a plate with an agreed symbol) were agreed upon in 1909 in France. [Image: first motoring traffic sign design, still in use today]

719-2

The first parking meter was devised by Carlton Magee, the editor of a leading Oklahoma City Newspaper. Magee was the chairman of a committee set up in 1933 to inquire into methods of imposing stricter parking controls in town. Magee created the Dual Parking Meter Company (so called because of the fact that the meters served two purposes: parking control and revenue generation). The first meters came in to service on July 16, 1935. [Image: Magee’s parking meter – the first in the world]

Gas

The first bulk-storage petrol filling station was operated by the Automobile Gasoline Co., founded by Harry Grenner and Clem Lessing at St Louis, Mo. in 1905. The petrol was dispensed through a garden hose connected to a gravity-feed tank. The first station with a forecourt and projecting canopy (the form mostly in use today) was opened by Standard Oil of California in Seattle, Washington, in 1907. [Image: the first gas station – best quality copy available on the internet]

Contributor: Maman

Read more: http://listverse.com/2008/07/12/top-10-fascinating-firsts-in-motoring/

10 Unsettling Facts About Microsoft

Everyone’s heard the jokes about how evil Windows is, though admittedly most of these snarky comments come from Apple users. Here are 10 facts about Microsoft that are actually pretty disturbing.

10Lawsuits

1- lawsuits
All companies tend to be slightly trigger-happy when it comes to suing other people. But Microsoft really decided to sink low when they sued a 17-year-old boy. The multimillion-dollar company threw a fit in 2004 when Mike Rowe created his own website and named it MikeRoweSoft, as he thought it would be a clever, but innocent, pun. Microsoft felt differently and threatened to sue Rowe for copyright infringement. Mike Rowe asked for a settlement if he was forced to give up his website, and Microsoft offered him a measly sum of $10. He countered with $10,000, claiming that he was offended by their suggestion.

That’s when things got ugly, and the press and public continued to present Microsoft in an awful light. Eventually, Microsoft relented and agreed to not only reimburse Rowe, but offer him a visit to Microsoft headquarters, Microsoft training, and an Xbox with a selection of games.

9Racism

2- racist2

It’s true that racism is still, sadly, all around us even to this day. But it’s even worse when big names like Microsoft send out racist messages—even if it’s claimed to be an innocent mistake. In 2009, the Polish version of Microsoft’s Business Productivity Infrastructure was published with one key difference from the American version: Polish users noticed that an African-American man had been Photoshopped out and a Caucasian man had been placed on the home page of the website instead. The image was quickly returned back to its original form and Microsoft apologized for their “mistake,” but the damage was already done.

While some people have tried to justify it as Microsoft’s attempt at “promoting interracial harmony,” others believe that it is more likely that, since the Polish audience is predominantly white, someone thought that having a person of color in the picture would be a bad idea.

8Charity

3- charity
People like to idolize Bill Gates as the college dropout who went on to make a multibillion-dollar company. But just as Microsoft’s reputation isn’t exactly squeaky clean, neither is its creator’s. In 2013, an investigation took place into one of the charities he had helped create, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which admittedly has funded several admirable projects. But the foundation’s trust has also made investments in groups such as The GEO Group, a private prison company with a mile-long list of offenses, such as one of their juvenile facilities having its walls covered in feces, the inmates (all minors) abused, and locked emergency exits. Even the state of Texas won’t fund them.

But if you think that’s bad, it gets even worse. Bill Gates’s charity also invests in the defense contractor group DynCorp, which has been charged with several incidents of abuse of human rights, up to and including sexually molesting Afghan boys and paying them to dress up as girls and dance. They were also accused of being involved in a sex-slave ring in Bosnia, where the company’s employees were charged with raping girls only 12 years old.

7Sexism

4- sexist
When video games were first created, they were definitely seen as a stereotypical “guy” pastime for a long period of time. But the number of girl gamers is astounding. In fact, a recent study showed that around half of all current video game players are women. Unfortunately, girl gamers are often persecuted and excluded, and Microsoft hasn’t exactly been helpful with that.

In a recent ad, Microsoft insinuated that women hated video game systems and that their men needed to beg them to let one into the house. In an attitude fresh from the 1950s, the ad suggested cheerfully, “You’d rather knit than watch me slay zombies, but hear me out on this. Xbox One is actually for both of us. Seriously.” The outraged criticism wasn’t exactly a surprise.

6Bribery

5- bribes
Bribery’s not a new problem—politicians and organizations get bribed by companies all the time, and now, in the Internet age, so do YouTube stars. It was recently discovered that Microsoft secretly paid some of the most popular YouTube hosts to talk about the Xbox One. They would pay $3 for every 1,000 views the channel received if they incorporated 30 seconds of playing an Xbox game. Considering that these channels get millions of views, that’s actually a lot of cash.

And of course, the YouTubers were also forbidden from saying anything negative about Microsoft or revealing what was going on. Technically it’s not illegal, but it definitely hurt the reputation of both parties involved, especially the YouTube stars who people tended to trust more. The details of this dirty little agreement got out when a full copy of the legal document was posted on the Internet. In the end, Microsoft got themselves busted by their own creation.

5Privacy Violations

6- NSA
Thanks to Edward Snowden, the NSA got itself into some pretty hot water regarding the Internet surveillance they had been performing on completely unaware citizens. Out of all the companies accused of assisting the NSA and betraying the privacy of their users, Microsoft was considered one of the biggest offenders. Reports showed that Microsoft helped the NSA override the security measures on Microsoft Outlook, allowing them to read through hundreds of chat conversations and emails. They also allegedly allowed the NSA to view thousands of Skype video chats (Microsoft purchased Skype in 2011).

Microsoft continues to deny these claims, insisting that the privacy of its users has always been its chief concern. The only information Microsoft was willing to reveal was that they had received 6,000 to 7,000 criminal warrants, subpoenas, and orders in a six-month period. They also pleaded for the federal government to make their actions clearer to avoid further incidents like this.

4Sexual Discrimination

7- gay
Besides politics or religion, nothing gets people steamed up like issues regarding sexuality. Microsoft was heavily criticized for its treatment of the LGBT community—they banned users of their games from using the word “gay” in any of their tags, even if they were describing their own sexuality. One member was banned simply because his name was “TheGAYERGamer,” and an executive in the Xbox community referred to the title as “a form of implied sexual innuendo.”

But things became extremely ugly after Xbox Live ended up banning “Teresa,” a gamer who had identified herself as a lesbian in her profile info and who had been repeatedly harassed online, with other players stalking her and saying that they “didn’t want to see that crap.” To their credit, Microsoft now states that they are working with GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) in order to make sure that everyone can use their products fairly.

3Censorship

8- censored2
Nowadays, China censors everything—in fact, their system of Internet censorship is one of the best in the world and has earned the nickname “The Great Firewall.” But it’s definitely disgusting when American companies help them do it. To be fair, Microsoft isn’t the only company that’s helped China cut its people off from the rest of the world—so have Google, Yahoo, and AOL. Microsoft in particular will block Chinese users from certain searches or blog titles that include sensitive political topics.

Thankfully they’re not as bad as Yahoo, who actively reported people to the Chinese government. Activist groups such as Human Rights Watch have let all of these groups have it, announcing that it is “ironic that companies whose existence depends on freedom and expression have taken on the role of censor.” Unfortunately, none of these companies seem to have any interest in challenging these rules, even the rules that aren’t technically legally binding.

2Pervert Santa

9- santa
Some kids love to sit on Santa’s lap and tell him all about what they want for Christmas. Others burst into tears at the site of jolly old St. Nick. With regards to this particular Santa, they might have good reason to. In 2007, Microsoft thought it would be a good idea to create a virtual Santa that children would be able to talk to. And it probably would have been a great idea, if it weren’t for the fact that the old man started getting a little bit off topic—it wasn’t long before he went from talking about presents to lecturing about sexual acts.

The first time this problem occurred, Santa was talking to two girls aged 11 and 13 who were asking him about pizza. Besides the specific, crude sexual acts that Santa tried to discuss, some users could also prompt the big man to expound upon his criminal past and to repeatedly cuss the users out. Microsoft took it down as quickly as possible.

1Labor Contracts

Microsoft Prepares To Unveil Surface Tablet At New Times Square Store
It seems hard to believe that Microsoft could be so heavily criticized for its labor practices, considering its permanent workers are known to enjoy wonderful corporate treatment. However, that’s a surprisingly small percentage. Believe it or not, Microsoft has been referred to as a “Velvet Sweatshop,” a term first coined in a Seattle magazine and a term which its own employees now use regularly. Even though Microsoft insists that its employees get the best of everything, reports have suggested that workers are often highly overworked throughout their stay.

And if you ever want to leave Microsoft? Well, that’s even more of a mess. Microsoft uses controversial forced retention tactics—which basically means that if you try to quit, they’ll sue you for everything you’re worth. They’ve also been accused of cutting employee’s health benefits. Many of the employees who do manage to quit make their way toward companies that compete against Microsoft, like Google and Yahoo.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2014/10/04/10-unsettling-facts-about-microsoft/

10 Notable Buildings People Hated

All buildings were once new. And all building designs were once new. But some designs, and the buildings that resulted from them, were so shocking to the public that it took grit to get them built, and time for them to be accepted. Here are ten such buildings, in no order…

Washington-Monument-Address

The Washington Monument was initially planned shortly after George Washington died, in 1799. But plans were interrupted by the War of 1812 and a lack of funding. In 1833, the Washington National Monument Society was formed to raise money to build the memorial. The winning design was submitted by Robert Mills, an architect from Charleston, South Carolina. For cost reasons, only the obelisk from his proposed Greco-Roman temple-like edifice was approved. It drew immediate criticism. “A stalk of asparagus” some called it. “The big furnace chimney on the Potomac Flats”, said the New York Tribune. Construction began, but was halted by the Civil War. The half-finished monument stood like a stump for years afterwards. Mark Twain derided the “memorial chimney”, with livestock “dozing in the holy calm of its protecting shadow.” Work resumed in 1877, and the monument was finally dedicated by President Chester A. Arthur on February 21, 1885, to broad public acclaim. But some still dissented. A reviewer in the American Architect and Building News said, “It is to be regretted that ages are likely to elapse before the monument will fall down.”

Eiffel-Tower-Paris-215498 1024 683

The French government planned to celebrate the centennial of the French Revolution with a symbol of France’s industrial prowess. The plan was to build the highest tower in the world. Of all the plans submitted, the judges unanimously chose Gustav Eiffel’s graceful lattice of girders, anchored by four piers. When the plan, along with its proposed site in the residential neighborhood of Champ de Mars was made public, the protest was immediate. Eminent artists, including Guy de Maupassant and Alexandre Dumas, signed an angry letter to the minister of public works. “We protest with all our strength the useless and monstrous Eiffel Tower. The Eiffel Tower is without doubt the dishonour of Paris. Everyone feels it, everyone says it, everyone is profoundly saddened by it.” As the tower progress, nervous neighbors feared that it would attract lightning, or topple onto their homes, and sued to stop construction. The city would take no responsibility, so Eiffel himself insured the neighbors, and work resumed. Parisians watched in awe & horror as it went up, calling it an “elephant”, a “giraffe”, a “hulking metal beast crouched on all fours”. After it finally opened, it became a huge hit, even with the protesting artists. All except de Maupassant. He hated it so much that he often ate lunch in the tower’s second floor restaurant, which was the only point in the city where he couldn’t see “this tall skinny pyramid of iron ladders, this giant and disgraceful skeleton.”

Flat-Iron-Building

The Fuller Building, immediately nicknamed the Flatiron Building because of its narrow, triangular shape, was, at 23 stories, the highest building in New York, north of City Hall when it was built, in 1902. Designed by architect Daniel Hudson Burnham, and constructed by contractor George B. Fuller, it incorporated many then-new elements of skyscrapers, such as a load supporting steel skeleton, and a masonry veneer. The Madison Square neighborhood in which it was erected was quite stylish at the time, and the imposing building drew ire from the public. An architectural journalist said that the building “is at present quite the most notorious thing in New York, and attracts more attention than all the other buildings now going up put together”. Although fears that strong winds would push the building over proved unfounded, the shape of the building created strong downdrafts. The New York Herald reported how “women were inconveniently blown about and paper money lost from their pockets.” The gusts also, scandalously, revealed the womens ankles. Police chased away male rubberneckers by shouting “Twenty-three skiddoo!”, meaning “leave Twenty-third street.” One blast of wind blew a messenger boy into Fifth Avenue, where he was killed by a passing automobile. Windstorms around the building broke windows. Yet despite all this, the building became a popular tourist attraction, and is now revered as New York’s oldest skyscraper.

Glasshouse

In 1946, architect Philip Johnson bought land in New Canaan, Connecticut, and, over the next three years, built a minimalist, flat-roofed house made of huge sheets of glass. The neighbors were angry because the modernist design sharply clashed with the clapboard colonial houses the area was known for. Some newspapers published mocking verse: “It takes a heap of livin’ in a place to make it home. / And I wish those guys like Johnson would take their plans and roam.” Actually, the house was not visible from the road. In one of the first American usages of feng shui, he situated the house on a rocky shelf, halfway down a hill. “The good spirits will be caught by the hill that’s behind the house; the evil spirits will be unable to climb the hill below the house,” Johnson explained. “My house has beautiful wallpaper,” he said, referring to the New England countryside rolling away from every viewpoint. But the house attracted unwanted attention. Birds crashed into it. Locals threw rocks at it, prompting Johnson to retaliate in kind, landing him in some trouble. As the house was being built, crowds of people came to sightsee, causing traffic problems in the small town, and requiring a police presence. Some residents called it “the desecration of the New Canaan countryside.” Johnson finally made peace with New Canaan by opening his home for a tour once a year. The proceeds went to benefit the community nursery school.

04

In 1978, architect Frank O. Gehry pondered the house that his wife had found for them to live in. It was a simple two-story pink bungalow in a quiet neighborhood in Santa Monica, California. “It was just a dumb little house with charm, and I became interested in trying to make it more important. I became fascinated with creating a shell around it.” Create a shell he did. He boxed in the house with corrugated sheets of metal, lengths of chain-link fencing, and unfinished plywood, all cut into odd angular shapes. The neighbors predictably complained. One said that it was a dirty thing to do in one’s front yard. “If he were a poet, he’d be writing smutty jingles.” But Gehry has said that he merely used the familiar materials of his own middle-class childhood in an original way, to create a house that is also a work of art. Gehry continued to add to it, but the neighbors hated its unfinished appearance. One neighbor even fired a shot at it. But the house won national architectural awards, and as the years rolled on its fame won it a measure of local acceptance.

Neuschwanstein 1

This familiar castle, which looks like it came out of a fairy tale, caused considerable uproar when it was first built. “What, is the king mad?” was one typical reaction. In the Middle Ages, castles were for nobility and their family and retainers. But King Ludwig II of Bavaria built Neuschwasntein, in 1869, only for himself. He picked a remote site 6,000 feet up in the Alps, atop the ruins of an older castle, so that he wouldn’t be troubled by his government’s ministers visiting to discuss matters of state. The storybook design was inspired by his admiration for–and friendship with–Richard Wagner, and his grand operas. In fact, the Singer’s Hall was modeled directly after a scene in Parsifal. Many other idiosyncratic–and expensive–quirks of Ludwig’s personality were expressed in the interior design. He was so busy with the construction of the castle that he barely paid attention to the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, not even attending the victory celebrations. After he moved in, he demanded more and more public money for additions and more castles, even hatching a plan to rob the Rothschild Bank of Frankfurt at one point. As creditors dunned him for his bills, and the commoners protested his spendthrift ways, he withdrew to Neuschwanstein, never appearing in public again. Before he could be declared legally insane, and the throne be given to a regent, Ludwig was found dead in a small lake, in 1886. Contrary to his wishes, Neuschwanstein was not demolished upon his death, and is today Germany’s most popular castle.

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

“A toilet bowl?” “A hangar for flying saucers?” These were some of the reactions to Frank Lloyd Wright’s design for the museum housing the art collection of Solomon Guggenheim. It was Wright’s first museum, and his first major building in New York City, which he disliked as “a forest of skyscrapers”. Wright was influenced by Guggenheim’s collection of abstract, modernist Wasilly Kandinsky paintings. The design featured a spiral topped with a dome. This prompted some critics to call it “an inverted potty” to “a gigantic snail shell”. And, indeed, Wright was inspired by the spirals of the chambered nautilus. Construction was due to begin in 1946, but was delayed by squabbles with locals and artists, until 1956. Guggenheim had died in 1949, but Wright was on hand to oversee the construction. The New York press continued to deride the building: a marshmallow, a corkscrew, an upside down washing machine. One of the construction workers called it “screwy. The whole joint goes round and round.” “It is a freak that astonishes passersby. It bears no relationship to its neighbors”, wrote journalist Brendan Gill. Another writer called it “Wright’s joke on New York.” Yet, when the Guggenheim museum opened to the public, in October, 1959, several months after Wright’s death, the giftshop sold far more cards picturing the museum than any of the artworks, therein. It has since become one of the most popular museums in New York.

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Years ago, when I was in Paris on a student trip, I visited the Pompidou Cultural Center. I looked at its facade, all multicolored piping, and thought, “this thing is a giant hemorrhoid.” I was not alone. “An architectural King Kong.” “The back of a refrigerator, enormously enlarged.” were some other reactions. An obscure architectural duo, Englishman Richard Rogers and Italian Renzo Piano, won a competition, in 1971, to design the cultural center. This, by itself, was enough to incense the French, having two unknown foreigners be charged with building the next major Parisian landmark. At a public hearing one woman was so outraged she had to be removed by police. Things got more exciting when the plan was made public. It would be made of glass and steel, but all of its piping, ductwork, elevators and even wiring would be exposed on the exterior. The seven-story high-tech edifice was to be situated in a medieval neighborhood, full of crooked, gabled, low-rise buildings, a mere block away from the oldest surviving house in Paris, built in 1407. Rogers and Piano worked under a deadline of 1975 for completion. They were hampered by the fact that they hadn’t worked out the details of the concrete substructure, and had to do so as they went along. Then, in 1974, Georges Pompidou died, and his conservative successor Valery Giscard d’Estaing had to be strongly persuaded to let work continue on the project of his former political rival. As the structure took shape, complaints poured in. Residents filed “nuisance allegations” against the design jury. Artists filed lawsuits. The old petition against the Eiffel Tower was recycled by contemporary artists, in opposition to “this useless monster.” At its opening, in 1977, novelist Anthony Burgess called it “a $200 million erector set”. But it drew huge crowds to its public spaces, and won critical praise in the art press. It drew one more criticism during renovation in the late 90s: from original designer Richard Rogers. He disliked the fact that the interior was becoming more enclosed, and that the public now had to buy tickets to ride the exterior escalators.

Jay Walker's Library

Early in the 20th century, industrial tycoon Andrew Carnegie bequeathed more than a thousand public library buildings, to communities all across America. In a small southern town I once lived in, the little Greek marble building still survived as a flower shop. The much larger Carnegie library, in Minneapolis, served until the late 1970s, when it was obvious that it was too small for the population, and needed expensive physical and electronic upgrades. Plus, in the energy-conscious Seventies, it was hard to keep heated in winter. So, when architect David Bennett won the job of designing a new public library, he decided to make most of it underground. The building would extend several stories below the surface, with a low, cubist plaza occupying the surface of the lot. Although he designed in extra-high ceilings and even a sunken courtyard garden, people complained that the interior was claustrophobic. The librarians complained about how stuffy and bunker-like it was, and joked about giving flashlights to the patrons. One critic called it “more like a mine shaft than a civic building.” It didn’t help matters that it leaked, the heating was inadequate, the above-ground plaza became a hangout for vagrants and sk8tr punks, and passersby often didn’t even know the library was there. Another architect, Francis Bulbulian, was hired, in 1995, to fix it. He modified the windows and the courtyard so that more sunlight would get in, installed a multi-story bookdrop made from two children’s spiral slides, and erected seven-foot-high steel letters on the plaza: L-I-B-R-A-R-Y. After the newly renovated facility was re-opened, the complaints abated, and the community finally seemed to embrace it.

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“Will somebody please tell me what’s the matter with McDonald’s?” asked humorist P. J. O’Rourke, back in the 80s. “It’s not like the Europeans don’t line up by the millions to eat there. Maybe McDonald’s food isn’t the best thing for you, but roasted goose liver smooshed up with truffles isn’t either. And has anyone ever smoked a joint and had a “pate’ de foie gras” attack?” The familiar golden arches are a target for snobs and anti-Americans worldwide. “We don’t want one of these restaurants on every street corner in France,” asserted one French vandal. Whenever the G-20 economic summit comes to town, anti-globalist rioters are right there, with McDonalds at the top of their list of businesses to trash. Yet, McDonalds began as a family restaurant founded by two brothers, Richard and Maurice McDonald, in San Bernardino, California. Their innovative restaurant model called for a kitchen open to view, exceptional cleanliness, quick service and cheap meals. The brothers soon felt the urge to create a chain of the restaurants, and hired architect Stanley Meston to create a distinctive design for the buildings. The first McDonalds with the signature Golden Arches arcing over the whole building opened in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1953. The rest of the corporate story, of how salesman Ray Kroc took the franchise to international ubiquity, is familiar or readily available elsewhere. But as the restaurants spread, protests against the tackiness of the buildings did, too. Kroc hired architect Donald Miller to tone down the design. He lowered the arches, eventually reducing them to a logo on the sign. As time went on, and the company heeded protests, restaurants were designed to blend in with the local architecture–adobe blocks in the West, for instance. So, although progressives howl against McDonalds as loudly as ever, the buildings themselves are no longer an issue, save for the arches on the sign.

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One from the Too Good To Check File. When King William III (some say King Charles II, or Queen Anne) was brought to view the newly completed St. Paul’s Cathedral, he is supposed to have exclaimed to architect Christopher Wren that it was “awful, pompous and artificial”. The words have shifted meaning over the centuries, and in modern English we would say something like “awe-inspiring, magnificent and technically accomplished.” Yet, this linguistic gem is probably apocryphal, possibly originating as a funny in a 1960s lecture by Harvard philosopher John Rawls. Too bad!

Read more: http://listverse.com/2010/10/21/10-notable-buildings-people-hated/

Top 10 Typography Crimes

Graphic design is a burgeoning industry. With the rise and ubiquity of the Internet in the last decade, web design especially has become prevalent. Other forms of graphic design include print, mobile, illustration, and typography. Typography refers to any design involving the arrangement of letters or alphabetical symbols in a space. Every design geek has taken a course in typography and knows the vast importance of it, yet basic type-crimes (errors or faux-pas in typography design) can still be seen virtually everywhere. While many are quick to dismiss the rules of graphic design, Ron L. Peters in his book Do Good Design emphasizes just how important good design is in our society: “Design creates culture. Culture shapes values. Values determine the future. Design is therefore responsible for the world our children will live in.” Practicing good design is of utmost importance, and good typography is crucial to good design as a whole. This list takes a look at 10 commonly occurring type-crimes:

(Note: to clear up further confusion, a “font” is a specific weight or style such as Arial 16 Bold, whereas “typeface” refers to the broader, all-encompassing Arial).

Computerstyling

In essence, a good font should be left alone. It can be made bigger or smaller to accommodate the space it occupies, but it should always retain its original ratio. It should not be stretched, compressed, skewed, or any other applicable distortion. As a rule of thumb, if the font looks pixelated, something is wrong. The program Adobe Illustrator is better than Photoshop in this way, because it uses Vectors as opposed to pixels — so your type should never look pixelated in Illustrator. Overall, type is supposed to look crisp and harmonious, not tweaked into oblivion.

Signals

Signals such as: bold, underline, all caps, oblique, and italics are all uniquely different ways to add emphasis to type. Italic type for example is reminiscent of the strokes in calligraphy, and it has a cursive form as well as a Roman influence (named italic in part because it was developed in Italy). Originally, it was often used to help people save money, as it required less space. When the typewriter came out, underline largely replaced italics. Oblique is by some accounts a type-crime in and of itself; it is simply slanted type and not the actual cursive, true italic form. Signals should only be used when appropriate, and should not be overdone.

Widoworphan

One of the most common type-crimes; designers will cringe upon hearing these words. The terms are often used interchangeably, although they are not the same: an orphan is a lone word at the end of a paragraph, and a widow is a word or part of a sentence that ends at the bottom of a paragraph and carries over onto the top of the next paragraph. They are considered type-crimes because they create unaesthetic gaps in text and make it more difficult for the reader.

Dummyquotes

There is a difference between hatch marks and quotation marks. Hatch marks are used to denote feet and inches, and often surface in math (indicative of equal length for triangles in geometry). Hatch marks should not be used in lieu of Quotation marks. Quotation marks should also hang outside of the text. In a clean design, the Quotation marks remain outside.

Dashes

Technically more of a grammatical error, yet just as applicable to design as it is to grammar. Hyphens are used to hyphenate compound words, to break words, and between non-continuing numbers such as phone numbers. En dashes are used to connect continuing or inclusive numbers, example: time and dates, page numbers, and so forth. Em dashes are used to denote a sudden break in thought that causes the end of a word. They enclose words or phrases and create strong breaks in the structure of sentences. Interesting note: the “en dash” received its name for being the length of a standard sized letter “n,” and likewise the em dash with the letter “m.”

Rivers

Designers will be familiar with the term “river,” which is what happens when type is poorly justified — large unsightly gaps will appear throughout the paragraph — the end result looking like several rivers of white space are flowing throughout the text. These often appear in newspapers.

Rags

A good designer can always find a way to make a paragraph look relatively straight and crisp at the edges. If a paragraph has lines sticking out and the margins are uneven (most margins are flushed left, meaning the rags would be sticking out to the right), it can be distracting and unsightly.

Kerningtrackingleading

Kerning refers to the amount of space between letters in a word. A word may look untidy due to too much space between some letters, or not enough. Tracking is essentially kerning but applied to the entire sentence, paragraph, or body of text, and not just certain letters within the word. “Leading,” (from the literal lead bars that used to be in the press) refers to adjusting the space vertically between lines of text. Any design program worth its money will have simple commands to increase or decrease the kerning, tracking, and leading of words and sentences. (In most Adobe programs you simply highlight a word and press alt + the arrow keys).

Dropshadowembossed

There is great debate about the drop shadow. It is said that when a certain New York Times magazine printed their headline with drop shadow, hundreds of designers called in the following day to the extent that the NY Times had to disconnect their phone temporarily. While it is a way to draw emphasis to type, many are unsatisfied with its unnatural, gimmicky feel. Similar to #10 on the list, embossing and drop shadows are text effects that are best left omitted.

Poortypeface

Potentially a controversial item on the list, there are several typefaces that are widely believed by designers to be rubbish and never to be used. Examples include Comic Sans, Papyrus, Jokerman, and Hobo. Even the ubiquitous Times New Roman is frowned upon by many designers who believe it is best kept to its original purpose: newspapers. Many of these typefaces such as Papyrus (famously used in James Cameron’s Avatar) have drawn a lot of scrutiny for being misused and overused. One font in particular known for its overuse is Helvetica. So prevalent in fact is the overuse of Helvetica, that in 2007 a documentary film came out about it. It is a great film and the author of this list highly recommends you see it!

Read more: http://listverse.com/2012/06/24/top-10-typography-crimes/

10 Ways Urine Can Shape The Future

While people generally don’t think much about what role pee plays in advancing humanity, the answer may surprise you. Scientists believe that the uses of urine may just be as endless as its supply. With technology ever advancing and our knowledge of science increasing, scientists are finding more and more ways to use this golden resource to achieve a golden age.

10 Robot Blood

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Who knew our future overlords will be powered by our very own bladders? The guys at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory have created an artificial heart that can power the robots of the future.

As of 2010, there are an estimated 8.6 million robots in the world, employed in different industries and serving different functions. Depending on their purpose, robots are traditionally charged with solar energy, battery power, or electricity. Peter Walters and his colleagues from the University of Bristol have taken a slightly more unconventional route, creating a robot that can charge itself with a urinal.

The scientists built an artificial heart that pumps a regulated supply of human urine into microbial power stations, which then break down urine and convert it into electricity. This artificial heart was able to run a robot called “EcoBot” using nothing but human urine. These robots have been able to function before on other biodegradable materials, but this is the first time that an EcoBot was sustained with power using an artificial heart that pumps urine. The researchers are inspired to make improvements on this pee-pumping heart and hope to see these urine-powered EcoBots being used in the future, especially in green projects such as monitoring pollution.

9 Tracking Climate Change

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The rock hyrax, locally known in Africa as pelele, is a mammal of the Hyracoidea order. Small and furry with a close resemblance to a guinea pig, the rock hyrax spends most of its time bathing under the sun or eating grass and leaves. At first glance, the rock hyrax doesn’t seem to be a very special animal – except that its urine will be proven an essential tool for studying climate change.

Whole families of rock hyraxes tend to pick a favorite spot to pee and their quick-drying discharge often capture artifacts of a particular time period—such as pollens, dried leaves, and air bubbles—that provide clues as to how the climate changed during that time. Researchers from France’s Montpelier University studied these dried urine layers and compared them with existing theories about changes in our climate past. They concluded that the urine was consistent in accurately telling the story of how our climate really changed over the years, like how ice glaciers retreated in Europe during the end of the last ice age and how lakes of melted water formed after the planet has warmed. Because of its precision in detailing our climate past, the researchers are hoping that the rock hyrax urine will be a useful tool in making better predictions of future deviations in the climate.

8 A Solution To The Water Crisis

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As disgusting as it is, we’ve become inured to images of drinking urine. Aside from it being Bear Grylls’s claim to Internet fame, astronauts regularly recycle urine to quench themselves during manned missions to space. However, scientists warn that drinking urine may no longer be the exclusive territory of TV shows or space shuttles. As our freshwater supply runs dry at an alarming pace, scientists advise that we should also begin treating and drinking our own urine as soon as possible.

With new technology that can treat urine less expensively and more efficiently, the US National Research Council says that reclaiming it for reuse may potentially be a long-term solution to the water crisis. While urine naturally ends back into our water reservoirs, it takes a very long time for it to get back into our natural water system. Directly treating urine from our sewage systems would be much speedier than waiting for it to go back to our waters. The council even suggests advantages of processing urine over freshwater—the health risks of recycling urine may be significantly lower than extracting water from our present sources. We may even be able to recover phosphorus from our urine, which is also currently a dwindling resource.

We are already starting to see a future of reprocessed pee unfold. Because of the harsh drought that has affected many towns in the state, the Texan town of Big Spring has already resorted to reprocessed urine to supply its 27,000 residents with potable water.

7 Fighting Pollution

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According to the UN Weather Agency, our levels of CO2 are at an all-time high. The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere in 2012 was at 393.1 parts per million (ppm), 2.2 ppm higher than in 2011. It is predicted that in 2016, the number will reach a staggering 400 ppm, far beyond the 350 ppm that scientists say is the ceiling for a safe level of CO2.

CO2, the main agent of global warming, occurs naturally in the planet. However, human activities like factory work and car emissions multiply our CO2 emissions at a rate that is more than what Mother Earth can take. This makes our planet warmer at a pace we can barely follow, melting our glaciers and drying our lakes before our very eyes. Thankfully, scientists from Andalusia discovered that global warming can be staved off by a bizarre brew of urine and olive waste water. They have found out that this curious cocktail can absorb CO2 when exposed to the air.

The researchers explain that each molecule of urea in urine produces one mole of ammonium bicarbonate and one mole of ammonia, which then absorbs one mole of CO2 from the air, lessening our excessive output of the greenhouse gas. When the CO2 is absorbed, urine produces another mole of ammonium bicarbonate, which can then be used to fertilize our farms. The olive waste water’s role is to prevent the urine from going stale, maximizing the urine’s use until it is saturated with gas. This unique concoction can be strategically installed in chimneys where CO2 emissions usually pass through. A special filling and emptying mechanism can also be added to make replacement of this fluid more convenient.

6 Pee-Powered Smartphones

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About half of Americans now use smartphones. These high-end cell phones that can do almost anything won’t be going away soon and it’s only a matter of time before we have to address the issue of their energy consumption.

Thankfully, Dr. Ioannis Ieropoulos of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory is on the job. Earlier this year, he and his team developed a method of charging smartphones using urine. Allowing urine to pass through microbial fuel cells (MFC), which break down our pee into electricity, the researchers were able to power a mobile phone long enough to send messages, browse the Internet, and make a brief phone call.

While this urine-converting process is still in its infancy and can only produce small amounts of electricity, the researchers and their supporters are optimistic about its potential future value. The Bill and Melissa Gates Foundation—who has funded further improvements on this technology—hopes that with pee-powered smartphones, we can expect a more sanitized and energy-efficient future.

5 Urine-Powered Cars

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In the past decade, alternative cars—those that run on fuels like hydrogen rather than fossil fuel—caught the public’s eye, with big car companies parading the possibility of a future of low cost vehicles running on fewer pollutants. However, alternative cars seem to always encounter problems that hinder them from even making it to the market. While the natural gas is abundant in our universe and can be derived from water, it’s difficult to make hydrogen in large enough quantities because of the energy required to do so.

To solve this, Dr. Gerardine Botte of Ohio University devised an electrolyzer that can extract hydrogen from urine using lesser energy. With this technology, Dr, Botte had achieved the potential to power cars using hydrogen from our pee. She explains that, because hydrogen is less bound to urine than it is to water, her devise only requires 0.37 volts of energy—or less than half the energy of an AA battery—to extract it from urea. Water, on the other hand, requires a significantly more powerful energy at 1.23 volts for its hydrogen to be separated. With the tiny amount of energy needed to separate hydrogen from urea and our urine supply of 64 ounces per person, a future of vehicles running on bladder power is not far from the impossible.

4 Brain Cells From Urine

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Contrary to popular belief, the adult brain does grow new cells. However, neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s disease destroy more brain cells than we create, leading to certain horrible symptoms like dementia and depression. Where can patients of these debilitating diseases acquire new brain cells to function properly? Scientists from China believe they can pee them. Duanqing Pei and his team of scientists reported that human urine can be used to grow new brain cells.

In their study, researchers extracted the cells from urine samples of three different donors and converted them into neural progenitors, immature brain cells that eventually turn into either glial cells or neurons. The cells were then grown and reprogrammed into different brain cells, some of which were made into actual mature neurons that were able to produce nervous impulses. Other cells were grown to become supportive glial cells like astrocytes and oligodendrocytes. These cultivated brain cells were then transplanted into the nervous systems of newborn rats. A month after the transplant, the brain cells were still seen to be alive and active, though their integration with the existing circuitry of the rat’s brain is still under study.

The biggest benefit of this method is its ethical advantages. Presently, scientists are considering embryonic cells for the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders, but many pro-life groups are opposed to using them. With this new method, scientists can just take urine samples from donors or patients. When this method is improved, we could have better and faster treatment for neurodegenerative disorders that is simple, effective, and ethical.

3 Rocket Fuel

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There’s a chance our next trip to space will be potty-powered, as scientists from Radboud University in the Netherlands have developed a way to turn urine into rocket fuel. Microbiologist Mike Jetten says that a type of bacteria that grows and survives without oxygen can convert urine’s ammonia into hydrazine, a type of rocket fuel.

The researchers say that the anaerobic ammonium oxidizing (“annamox”) bacteria are responsible for this amazing feat of nature. While the bacteria’s ability to convert ammonia into hydrazine is already common knowledge among microbiologists, the complex processes involved in the conversion were only figured out recently by Jetten and his team, opening the possibility for a practical use of the bacteria. Their discovery encourages space programs to incorporate the use of the magnificent microbe in our future missions to space. With millions of gallons of ammonia produced every single day from bathroom breaks, the scientists are hopeful to efficiently produce huge quantities of rocket fuel from our urine.

Because space programs like NASA continually suffer from immense budget cuts, which can hinder ground-breaking space missions, looking into this golden idea of turning urine to rocket fuel may be the answer to more cost-effective trips to the last frontier.

2 Pig Pee Plastic

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Pig urine is currently Denmark’s most disgusting dilemma. The country’s 20 million pigs produce gallons and gallons of urine per day and the environment isn’t too thrilled about it. Fortunately, a company named Agroplast offers a unique solution to this smelly situation. While we really don’t want the words “pig urine” and “plastic spoons” to ever be combined, Agroplast plans on doing exactly that. The Denmark-based company aims to minimize the hassles of pig pee pollution by turning the compounds of urine into plastic precursors to be used in spoons and plates. Because pig urine in itself has no use and is a financial burden to dispose, plastic made from the substance becomes a very attractive solution to the growing pollution caused by pig urine.

Bioplastics—plastic material made from biomass sources—aren’t a new concept. People have been creating them for years from vegetable oil, corn starch, and plant cellulose. However, bioplastics have proven to be more expensive to produce than those made from fossil fuel. Agroplast claims that, unlike other bioplastics, turning pig pee into plastic would cost one-third less to produce than fossil fuel plastics.

1 Self-Healing Rubber

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Broken toys and flat tires are but a few shortcomings of using rubber. It’s a conveniently stretchy and soft material that can be molded into various uses, but when exposed to certain circumstances like heat, it breaks easily. Inspired to solve these deficiencies, French physicist Ludwik Liebler turned to urine to create an amazing invention pulled straight out of sci-fi—rubber that heals itself.

This amazing material is created by combining urea and vegetable oil. When snapped into two, this distinct rubber can be simply stuck back together, immediately returning to its original. Liebler says that the secret is the fatty acids of the vegetable oil and their reaction to urea, creating a material made of a non-uniform molecular system that doesn’t crystallize and become rigid.

The possible uses of this material are endless. Once nothing more than a science fantasy, self-healing objects such sneakers, gloves, wallets, and tires made of this magical substance may actually be the next ground-breaking leap in technology. Because urine and vegetable oil are renewable and easily accessible, mass production of this wonder material won’t be much of a problem. As the French chemical company Arkema has recently adopted this innovation, we can actually aspire to have self-repairing stuff in the near future.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2014/01/27/10-ways-urine-can-shape-the-future/

10 Most Mind-Blowing Androids And Robots

The Uncanny Valley theory argues that the more realistic robots become, the more people will dislike them. Technology is continuing to expand at an exponential rate, and the lines between human and robot are quickly becoming blurred. Robots are now capable of humanoid movement, appearance, and even consciousness to a certain extent. There seems to be no end to how robots can be programmed, what they can be taught to do, and how realistic they can look. This list compiles examples of some of the newest and most state-of-the-art robots and androids out there.

10BEAR

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While robots have the ability to make our lives easier, they also have the ability to make our lives much safer. A robot developed by Vecna Technologies, known as the Battlefield Extraction-Assist Robot (BEAR), is being used as a rescue android in dangerous situations. Its capabilities include being able to carry heavy objects over long and rough distances (including stairs), surprising dexterity and balance, and explosion- and fire-resistant treads and batteries. BEAR can be easily controlled by a remote or glove and could be used to enter dangerous situations and rescue injured soldiers without risking anyone else’s life. BEAR’s massive steel frame is controlled by hydraulics capable of lifting up to 236 kilograms (520 lbs) and it can sense its environment through infrared, night vision, and optical cameras.

Plus, while BEAR definitely has the ability to do heavy lifting, it also has the dexterity to hold something as delicate as an egg without breaking it. It can balance perfectly while carrying heavy objects that would usually topple other robots of its kind. BEAR has come a long way since its original designs, and now has the ability to obey higher-level commands from its operators. It’s even fitted with a friendly humanoid face to put the wounded at ease. Developers are excited to continue improving BEAR’s capabilities to help save citizens and soldiers alike in dangerous situations.

9BINA48

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The Breakthrough Intelligence via Neural Architecture, or BINA48, has quickly achieved the title of the most shockingly realistic android ever made. BINA48 was created and programmed by David Hanson of Terasem Movement and modeled after the co-founder of Terasem’s wife, Bina Rothblatt. While everyone can agree that BINA48 has an uncanny physical resemblance to an actual person, what makes the robot so groundbreaking is that she is actually made up of the real Bina’s thought, memories, emotions, and feelings.

The project took over 100 hours of compiling Bina’s thoughts, to be downloaded into the android. BINA48 now has the ability to hold conversations on a number of intellectual topics using the actual Bina’s mannerisms. BINA48 also has the ability to continually learn, and her vocabulary and knowledge continue to grow each day that she interacts with other humans. While she currently isn’t fitted with a body, her head alone has the ability to express over 64 feelings based on the information she gives and receives. BINA48’s abilities are quite unsettling to many, though the creators hope to continue to build and improve her technological consciousness. Not only can BINA48 make choices on her own based on her past memories and tastes, she is also learning to reinforce her decisions with data and reasons.

8NAO

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When you think of an android, emotional capacity probably isn’t the first thing that springs to mind. However, the NAO robot boasts the ability to learn, recognize, and interact with humans—and develop emotions as well. NAO was developed by Aldebaran Robotics and stands a mere 58 centimeters (23 in) tall.

What makes NAO so versatile is how programmable it is. The University of Hertfordshire is using this ability to help it learn emotions. By building on NAO’s ability to recognize and learn facial and body language, the new NAO will form an attachment to those it sees most. From there, NAO will be able to learn emotions much in the same way young children do—through observation. Rather than just preprogramming anger, fear, sadness, excitement, pride, and happiness into the robot, NAO will actually learn when and how to use these emotions through observation of teachers and trial-and-error. In addition, it has the ability to learn several other skills, including writing and different languages. NAO has been used as an educator and for visiting kids. NAO also gives comedy shows, grooms cats, helps with research, plays soccer, and works at hospitals. Researchers are excited to see what the future holds for this little robot.

7HRP-4C

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So far, the androids on this list have been pretty clearly robotic. But the HRP-4C (Miim) takes things to a whole new level with its uncanny resemblance to a real human. Another piece of work from the Japanese company AIST, Miim was fashioned after an average young Japanese female. She stands at 157 centimeters (5.2 ft) and 43 kilograms (95 lbs) with the ability to recognize faces, speech, and ambient noise.

What makes her especially amazing is her ability to mimic human facial expressions and movements to a high degree of accuracy. She’s been called “super-realistic” and even has the ability to dance. When she was uncovered on the catwalk in 2009, photographers snapped multiple pictures of her striking poses, smiling, and even pouting. Designers at AIST explain that the reason they chose to make her face (but not her body) hyper-realistic is that they thought it would just be too creepy.

6PARO

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Who doesn’t love cute little baby harp seals? Japanese company AIST certainly does: They’ve developed a strikingly realistic robotic seal named PARO to be used for therapy. Paro interacts with people much in the ways a normal baby seal would by moving its head and flippers and making sounds, while using five sensors (audio, light, tactile, posture, and temperature) to assess its environment. What make it such a good therapeutic buddy (aside from looking adorable), is that it remembers how its owner interacts with it and responds based on how it is treated. For example, if it squeaks in a certain way and you hug it, it will squeak in a similar manner more often. On the other hand, if it moves or talks in a way you dislike and you hit it, PARO knows not to make those movements ever again. (This would admittedly be a bit scary in some circumstances.)

PARO is actually Guinness-certified as the world’s most therapeutic robot for the positive social and psychological effect it has on patients. It not only serves to reduce stress, but also increases interaction between patients and their caregivers. The robot has a number of applications in both hospitals and nursing homes, giving patients the love of a pet with virtually none of the work. PARO can express emotions to its caregivers as well and remains the leading “robopet” for therapy.

5FACE

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While most scientists stay away from creating robots that are too like humans due to the Uncanny Valley theory, scientists at the University of Pisa are actively trying to prove that prediction wrong. They’ve created robot named FACE, considered groundbreaking for its realistic human expressions. Most robots with the ability to mimic expressions are only given a set of five to six emotions. FACE can mimic these same emotions (such as happiness, sadness, disgust, amazement, indifference, and fear), but it also has the ability to express the emotions between these categories. FACE uses 32 motors located around the face and upper body to produce these humanoid expressions. Researchers hope FACE can be used in several situations, including teaching children with autism to understand mood through facial expressions.

4Actroid

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While the HRP-4C was fitted with an uncanny humanoid face, the Actroid matches it with an equally realistic body and even more human behaviors. It was first manufactured by Kokoro Company Ltd., who have since created several new and improved versions. Using air-powered actuators placed at several points in her upper body, the Actroid can react accordingly to different kinds of tactile data. For example, if Actroid feels a slap coming, she can quickly move out of the way or retaliate, but will react normally when tapped on the shoulder. She is also designed to express the subtle human-like movements of the head and eyes and even looks like she’s breathing.

Actroids can be taught to learn even more human movements, though their actual locomotion abilities are non-existent and they can only be placed in a sitting or standing position with firm supports. In addition to their earlier Actroid model, Repliee Q-1, Kokoro has also created Repliee R-1, an Actroid of a small Japanese girl. Kokoro and a team at Osaka University say that their main goal is to create robots so realistic that people won’t notice they’re even interacting with a robot. So far, Actroids have come very close—some people mistake them for humans for the first few minutes. In addition to this, some people even forget they’re interacting with a robot at all because their movements and reactions are so realistic. A cousin to both Repliee Q-1 and R-1 is known as Geminoid, an android created by and fashioned at Hiroshi Ishiguro.

3Morpheus

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Being able to control a robot with gestures or a controller is one thing, but imagine if you could control an android just using your mind. These mind-control technologies actually exist and are growing in popularity with things like small helicopters. In a key breakthrough, a robot known as Morpheus now has the ability to follow commands given as thoughts. A controller is fitted with a swim cap filled with electrodes, a procedure that is totally non-invasive and boasts a success rate of up to 94 percent (most robots controlled by thought up to this point have required electrodes be surgically embedded into the operator’s skull). Built by Rajesh Rao at the University of Washington, it is hoped that Morpheus will be able to provide companionship, assistance, and rescue to many people.

2Atlas

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On July 11, DARPA revealed one of the most technologically advanced robots to date. Known as Atlas, the robot stands almost two meters (six feet) tall and weighs about 150 kilograms (330 lbs). Developed by Boston Dynamics, the robot was made to be a humanoid responder for dangerous situations like nuclear meltdowns. It’s set to participate in DARPA’s robot challenge in December as Boston Dynamics continues to make improvements to the software.

While Atlas already looks like something straight out of Terminator, things get even creepier when you realize what it’s capable of doing. With its 28 hydraulic joints, arms, legs, head, torso, sensors, and on-board real-time computer, Atlas can not only sense its environment, but can react to it with a dexterity not yet seen in an android robot. It can perform basic functions like walking, grabbing, turning, and giving visual feedback, but it’s also capable of doing things like climbing a ladder, starting and driving a car, and connecting a fire hose to a valve. The robot’s real-time computers and lasers allow for its environment to be sensed and mapped even at long ranges. DARPA uses the robotic challenge to encourage advancements in robotics like Atlas, and they’re confident that it will not only do well in the challenge, but extend its abilities to real-world uses as well.

1ASIMO

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Built by Honda, the Advance Step In Innovative Mobility robot, or ASIMO, was first unveiled in October 2000. While its stature isn’t anything to gawk at—it stands just 1.3 meters (4.3 ft) tall and weighs 54 kilograms (119 lbs)—it’s ASIMO’s capabilities that set it apart. The robot was designed to be a personal assistant, helping those who can’t help themselves. It runs on a battery and, while it doesn’t have a mind of its own, it can be controlled by a computer, controller, or voice signals.

That probably seems pretty run of the mill so far, but ASIMO also has the ability to differentiate and interact with humans by sensing postures, gestures, sounds, and even faces. If you were to walk in a room, ASIMO would turn to face you and actually shake your hand if you were to put it out first. It can even distinguish one person from another for up to 10 people. ASIMO has been showcased at several conventions and can currently be seen in a show at Disneyland. While it’s not the most up-to-date robot, ASIMO’s capabilities and humanoid qualities continue to keep it in the running with the more current androids.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2013/10/05/10-most-mind-blowing-androids-and-robots/

Top 10 Misconceptions About Linux

For most computer users, Windows is the only operating system (OS) they’ve ever used. In fact, most people don’t even know about other OSes at all, and that is not good. In our daily lives we always like to have a choice. Whether it’s different flavors of ice-cream or different brands and types of shirts and pants, we like to have a choice. So the question is, why not have a choice with our computers? While we all get to choose whether we want NVIDIA or ATI graphics card, most PCs come with pre-installed Windows operating system. It’s almost shoved down our throats. Where’s the choice in that?

There are many operating systems out there, some are good and some are bad. This list is about Linux, a free open-source operating system. There is a chance you have never heard of it, and even if you have you probably carry a few misconceptions about it. I’ll try to dispel some of these misconceptions starting with the most common:

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Misconception: Linux is an Operating System (OS)

Actually – no it isn’t. Linux is an OS kernel. The kernel is the core of all operating systems, and of course Windows has one too. The quality of the kernel is vital to the running of the OS. If your kernel is slow or buggy your entire operating system will be slow and buggy. For end users like you and me, this means more crashes, Blue Screens Of Death (if you don’t know what BSOD is, you’re a lucky bastard), freezes and the most terrible consequence – data loss. There are different types of kernels out there, each with their pros and cons. For more information on them, just google “kernel”, it’s an interesting topic.

The proper name for an operating system using the Linux kernel would be “GNU/Linux”, because the Linux kernel wouldn’t do much for you without the GNU project software. You can find more on that on Google. But, for the sake of readability of this list, we’re going to use the word “Linux” instead of “GNU/Linux” to refer to operating systems that use the Linux kernel.

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Misconception: Linux is a command line OS

Wrong. While Linux does rely on command line utilities, it doesn’t mean you have to use them. On Linux, a GUI is only an addition to the operating system. For you, this is a good thing because you can choose between many types of “windows”, or “window managers” as they are called on Linux.

Two most popular window managers are KDE and Gnome. KDE looks similar to Windows in many ways, and it is a good choice for those who don’t want to lose their Windows look and feel. Gnome is different from Windows, and for many (including myself) in a very positive and refreshing way. But KDE and Gnome are not the only choice: Enlightenment, Metacity, IceWM, Blackbox, Window Maker, FVWM and many, many others

Also, if you’re interested in what Linux WMs can do when compared to Windows, take a look at this YouTube video which shows a small subset of available effects on Compiz Fusion window manager; Fun, isn’t it?

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Misconception: Linux is for geeks only

Actually, I think it’s quite the opposite. Although this was true years ago, when Linux was an infant and full of pimples, it certainly isn’t like that any longer. If you take a careful look at the user interfaces of Linux and Windows, you’ll often be surprised how intuitive Linux is. As an example, I’ll just mention my wife, who is not particularly computer savvy, yet manages to use Ubuntu Linux on daily basis with no trouble at all. According to her (and I quote): “Linux is far less irritating, it doesn’t stop working for me at random like Windows does.”

Now there’s a candidate for an official Linux slogan.. :)

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Misconception: Linux is not compatible with Windows stuff

Well, yes and no, it really depends. For most users, Linux is very much compatible. You’ll be able to read your emails, open your Office documents, view and edit your photo albums, and much more. Often with better and faster tools than you’d be able to find on Windows. Flagships of open-source software like The Gimp, Inkscape, OpenOffice and many others, can import, read and often export proprietary file formats (such as Microsoft Office documents, Photoshop PSDs etc). Often, these tools can offer you even more than those you’re used to. For example, I can export my document from OpenOffice to PDF in just one click. No custom printers installed, no “free” web converters. It’s all natively supported.

Of course, there are files which can’t be opened under Linux. You should ask yourself why. Is it Linux to blame, or the authors of that file format, which force their users to use an operating system they find suitable? Think about it. Do you really want to depend on your software vendors to be able to access your data? Or use an open-source and standardized format?

As a side note, a huge collection of open-source applications written for Linux also have a Windows version. Isn’t that neat?

If that’s not good enough for you, Linux comes with a Windows translation layer called Wine. It allows you to run Windows application on Linux. Basically, it serves as a bridge between Linux and Windows applications. For you that means not giving up your familiar Windows programs.

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Misconception: Nobody is using Linux

Terribly, terribly wrong. The majority of the World Wide Web is standing on the shoulders of Linux and GNU software. Because Linux is modular and secure, it’s the most logical choice for a web server. Not only that, every year, more and more users recognize the advantages of using Linux,and are using it at home. Many companies and governments have switched their systems to Linux (I am looking at you, New Zealand). It’s cheap, durable and safe, and by the looks of it – it will never die. Unlike commercial operating systems, it is maintained by the community – all of us – instead of a large company. If a company declares bankruptcy and disappears from the face of the Earth, who will maintain your OS?

If you’re still not convinced, let this be a lesson to you: Listverse is written in PHP and it is hosted on an array of Linux machines.

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Misconception: Linux doesn’t have technical support

Sure it does. But unlike Windows, you have choice of paid and unpaid technical support. By unpaid technical support, I mean a large number of communities on “the Internets”, available twenty four hours a day. It is a community of enthusiasts, who love using Linux and will be more than willing to help you with your problem. If for no other reason, than to make another Linux convert!

As far as paid technical support goes, there are companies such as Red Hat and Canonical which do just that. If you really need it, you can get the same kind of technical support you get for Windows.

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Misconception: Linux is difficult to maintain

This also might have been true many years ago. Today, Linux requires little or no maintenance at all. Unlike Windows, if you just use it, it will never break. Linux makes it very difficult for you to break it. If you have kids, cousins or grandparent who frequently mess up their Windows installation, or their PCs become virus infested – give them Linux. It will make your life easier. I have a testing machine at work, running an ancient Fedora 5 Linux and the only time it needs a reboot is when a power failure occurs. If you can call that a reboot.

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Misconception: There are no games for Linux

I partially agree with this one, but let’s be fair about it, shall we? Games have always been – and still are – a major drawback when it comes to switching to Linux. In terms of volume (and I confess, often quality too), there are a lot more games for Windows than for Linux. Only a few companies have decided to make a Linux version of their game. The famous ID Software is one of them. As well as their own Doom, Quake 3, and Quake 4, many other commercial games have been ported to Linux: Heroes of Might and Magic 3, Civilization 3, Soldier of Fortune, Tribes 2 and many others.

This is where the brave Linux community comes to save the day. There are numerous efforts towards creating truly fun and playable games – free of charge. Games like Sauerbraten (pictured above), Nexuiz, Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, UFO: Alien Invasion and Glest are all very much free and very much playable.

Also, as mentioned above, you can run many games using the aforementioned Wine. Even the famous World Of Warcraft works on it. And if you’re really addicted, you can also pay for Cedega or CrossOver Games, commercial variants of Wine which specialize in games.

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Misconception: A lot of hardware doesn’t work under Linux

Again, this was true many years ago. Today, you can install Linux on almost any machine, and it will recognize all your hardware, install the appropriate drivers and never ask you anything again. It is true that Linux has some compatibility issues with some printers, scanners and wireless cards, but it’s nothing that can’t be fixed. In fact, Linux contributors are aware of this and things are improving each and every day.

And here’s another thing: if you have sufficient knowledge, *you* can contribute a driver for your device. If you’re missing a feature, or don’t like the existing ones, you have the option of changing them yourself. Keep that in mind next time Microsoft changes the appearance of the start menu.

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Misconception: You have to ditch Windows to use Linux

Very much not true. Many Linux distributions also offer the so called Live CD, which enables you to try Linux without the installation. Simply download, burn, reboot your PC and off you go. There are also Live USB flash drives versions. If you try it out and like it, most of those Live distributions have an option of installing Linux – alongside Windows. You can use both operating systems on a same computer with no trouble at all. Linux folks have made sure of that, because they know nobody wants to jump into the unknown.

If you don’t want that, there are always alternatives, like the the Virtual Box, which allows you to install Linux on a virtual machine inside your Windows. Also, nobody’s stopping you from running Virtual Box on Linux and running Windows inside Linux.

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So what’s next? My recommendation is to try it out yourself. If you don’t like it, at least you tried. Good places to start would be a Linux Distribution Chooser. After that, give it a spin. My personal recommendation is Ubuntu, it is very simple and straightforward. But, if you don’t like it, there are many others to choose from and discover what suits you – not some corporate monster.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2009/05/31/top-10-misconceptions-about-linux/

10 Incredible Ways Technology May Make Us Superhuman

In the last half of the twentieth century, medical science came up with some pretty astonishing ways to replace human parts that were starting to wear out. Though the idea is commonplace now, the invention of the artificial pacemaker in the ’50s must have seemed like science fiction come to life at the time; today’s innovations routinely restore a modicum of hearing to the deaf, sight to the vision-impaired, and if a pacemaker won’t cut it, we can just replace that faulty heart like the water pump in your old Ford.

These technologies that were in their infancy just a few decades ago are now so well-established as to seem downright mundane. The medical tech that is in its infancy today likewise seems like science fiction—and if history has taught us anything, it’s that this means we’ll probably see a lot of it in use very soon (if it isn’t already). Oh, and while there are certainly applications for many of these to replace those worn-out parts, many others are intended specifically to improve upon perfectly good parts in unprecedented ways.

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A “BCI” is exactly what it sounds like—a communication link between the human brain and an external device. BCIs have been the realm of sci-fi for decades, but believe it or not this hasn’t been speculative technology for some time—there are many different types of completely functional interfaces for a variety of applications, and the earliest devices of this type to be tested in humans showed up in the mid ’90s. And, it’s safe to say that the research is not slowing down.

It has been known since the 1920s that the brain produces electrical signals, and it was speculated since then that those signals might be directed to control a mechanical device—or vice versa. Since research into BCIs began in earnest in the ’60s (with monkeys as the usual test subjects), many different models with different levels of “invasiveness” depending upon the application have been produced, with research progressing particularly quickly within the last 15 years or so.

Most applications involve either the partial restoration of sight or hearing, or the restoration of movement to paralysis sufferers. One completely non-invasive prototype was demonstrated to enable a paralyzed stroke victim to operate a computer in early 2013. In a nutshell, the device picks up the eyes’ signals that are routed to the back of the brain, and analyzes the different frequencies to determine what the patient is looking at—enabling them to move a cursor on a screen using only eye movements, using a device that amounts to a helmet.

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The general public’s concept of the powered exoskeleton is more like “powered battle armor” on account of the Robert Heinlein novel “Starship Troopers” and also a very popular character from an increasingly pervasive multimedia franchise. The tech that’s actually being developed is less geared toward battling giant robots and invading aliens, and more toward either restoring mobility to the disabled, or augmenting endurance and load-carrying capacity.

For example, one company manufactures a 50 pound aluminum and titanium suit called the Ekso that has seen use in dozens of hospitals around the U.S. It has made people with paralyzing spinal cord injuries able to walk, an application that was once too impractical due to the bulk and weight of such a suit.

The same technology was licensed by Lockheed Martin for their Human Universal Load Carrier (HULC, oddly enough), which has been extensively tested and may be deployed for military use within a year. It enables a normally conditioned man to carry a 200 pound load at ten miles per hour, pretty much indefinitely, without breaking a sweat. While the Ekso takes pre-programmed steps for its users, the HULC uses accelerometers and pressure sensors to provide a mechanical assist to the user’s natural movements.

We should note that a Japanese firm has produced a similar device with medical applications called “Hybrid Assistive Limb” or HAL, which—as the name of a famously murderous machine—we’re thinking might not have been such a hot idea. Oh, and the company’s name? Cyberdyne. We are not kidding.

Brain-Neural-Implant

A neural implant is any device which is actually inserted inside the grey matter of the brain. While a neural implant can be a BCI and vice versa, the terms are in no way synonymous. What exoskeletons do for the body, implants do for the brain—while most are meant to repair damaged areas and restore cognitive function, others are meant to give the brain a power assist or a pathway to external devices.

The use of neural implants for deep brain stimulation—the transmission of regularly spaced electrical impulses to specific regions of the brain—has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat various maladies, with the first approval coming in 1997. It has been proven effective at treating Parkinson’s disease and dystonia, and has also been used to treat chronic pain and depression with varying degrees of efficacy.

Thus far, the most commonly used neural implants are cochlear implants (approved by the FDA in 1984) and retinal implants, both pioneered in the 1960s and proven effective at partially restoring hearing and vision, respectively. Fun fact: the inventor of the cochlear implant was Dr. House—William House, who passed away in 2012, and whose brother Howard was also a physician.

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Prosthetics have been used to replace missing limbs for decades, but the modern version—cyberware—strives not for just an aesthetic replacement, but a functional one. That is, to restore a missing limb with a natural functionality and appearance. And while the use of aforementioned brain interfaces to control robotic prosthetic devices is already happening, other explorations in this field seek to remove limitations inherent to this scheme.

Many existing devices use non-invasive interfaces that detect the subtle movements of, say, chest and/or bicep muscles to control a robotic arm. Modern devices of this type are capable of some pretty fine motor movement, improving drastically in this respect over the last decade or so. Also in this field, research is underway to provide a two-way interface—a robotic prosthetic that will allow the patient to FEEL what they are touching with their artificial limb; but even this only scratches the surface of what’s being envisioned for the future of this tech.

At Harvard, the emerging fields of tissue engineering and nanotechnology have been combined to produce a “cyborg tissue”—an engineered human tissue with embedded, functional, bio-compatible electronics. Says research team lead Charles Lieber: “With this technology, for the first time, we can work at the same scale as the unit of biological system without interrupting it. Ultimately, this is about merging tissue with electronics in a way that it becomes difficult to determine where the tissue ends and the electronics begin.” And we are officially talking about full-on cyborg technology, in development right now.

Digital-Mind

Extrapolating many concepts from the previous examples into the future, consider the Exocortex. This is a theoretical information processing system that would interact with, and enhance the capabilities of, your biological brain—the true merging of mind and computer.

This doesn’t just mean that your brain would have better information storage (though it would mean that), but better processing power—exocortices would aid in high-level thinking and cognition, and if that sounds a little heavy, remember that humans have long used external systems for this purpose. After all, we couldn’t have modern mathematics and physics without the ancient technologies of writing and numbers, and computers are merely another plot on that same long, long technological graph.

Also, consider that we already use computers as extensions of ourselves. The Internet itself can be thought of as a sort of prototype of this very technology, as it gives us all access to vast stores of information; and the devices we use to access it—our computers—give us the means by which to process and assimilate that information with our brains, which are just bigger processing devices. Merging the two processors can theoretically give us the means by which to truly level the playing field in terms of human intellect, and enable us all to perform the most complex of high level mental functions with just as much ease as you are reading this article. Theoretically.

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Human gene therapy and genetic engineering holds at once the most promise AND the most potential for a vast array of complications than perhaps any other scientific development ever. The understanding of evolution and the ability to modify genetic components is so new to science that it is a gross understatement to say that its implications are not yet understood; of the applications that are known to be possible (and there are many), the majority are still in the “too dangerous to even attempt on humans” phase of development.

The most obvious application is the eradication of genetic diseases. Some genetic conditions can be cured in adults by gene therapy, but the ability to test for said conditions in embryos is where the real promise lies—however, the ethical implications here are staggering. It’s possible to test not only for genetic diseases and abnormalities, but for other “conditions” like eye color and sex—and the possibility of actually being to design your baby from the ground up is absolutely within sight. Of course, we all know how expensive technology works in a free market, and it’s easy to envision a future where only the wealthy are able to afford “enhancements” to their offspring. Considering that we humans have demonstrated a very limited ability to reconcile differences in race, gender and sexuality, it’s safe to say that this technology may very well lead to the most complicated social issues in the history of humanity.

Indeed, researchers have been able to easily create mice with enhanced strength and endurance, and this field also includes stem cell research, with its promise to eventually be able to cure damn near anything. When it comes to the potential for increasing the durability and longevity of the human body, not many fields hold more promise—except perhaps for one…

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Nano tech is quite prevalent in the public imagination as a likely cause of the end of the world, but this is a technology that is coming along at a lightning pace—and its medical applications, taken to their logical endpoint, hold the promise of nothing less than the eradication of all human diseases and maladies—up to and including death.

Current nano medicine applications involve new and highly accurate ways to deliver drugs to specific locations in the body, along with other treatment methods involving tiny particles—tiny on a molecular level—dispersed into the body. For example, an experimental lung cancer treatment uses nano particles that are inhaled by aerosol, settling in diseased areas of the lungs; using an external magnet, the particles are then superheated, killing the diseased cells. The body’s own response eliminates the dead cells AND the nano particles. This method has been used successfully in mice, and while it will not yet kill 100% of the diseased cells in an affected area, it’s close—and the tech is in its infancy.

Speculative uses of this technology involve the use of nano bots—microscopic, self-replicating machines that can be programmed to target cells for destruction, drug therapy or rebuilding. Of course, this could theoretically apply not only to diseased cells but damaged ones—perhaps allowing for much speedier recovery from injury and even the reversal of aging. The logical progression here ends with a remarkably durable, age-proof human body—but even if that never comes to fruition, it’s not as if this is the only way we’re attempting to cheat death with science…

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It is here that we get into the realm of what has become known as “Transhumanism“—the notion that we may one day be able to surpass our physical limits, to perhaps even discard our bodies or live beyond them. This notion was first suggested as a realistic prospect by Robert Ettinger, who in 1962 wrote “The Prospect Of Immortality”, and is considered a pioneering Transhumanist and the father of Cryonics.

That is essentially the study of the preservation of humans or animals (or parts of them, like the brain) using extremely low temperatures (below ?150 °C, or ?238 °F), which was the best means of preservation available at the time Ettinger wrote his book. Today’s brain preservation studies focus more on chemical preservation, which has been demonstrated on brain tissue (but not an entire brain) and does not require the ridiculous temperatures demanded by Cryonics.

This is, of course, an inexact science—researchers in the field are well aware that it’s impossible (at this point) to determine how much, if any, of what makes up a person’s mind is preserved along with the brain, no matter how physically perfect the preservation. It’s a field that relies on the further emergence of developing, overlapping sciences that are still in the purely speculative region, such as…

Android Dreams

As we’re able to replace more and more of our body parts with versions that have been engineered, grown in a lab or both, it stands to reason that we’ll one day reach an endpoint—a point at which every part of the human body is able to be replicated, including the brain. Right now, a collaborative effort between 15 research institutions is underway trying to create hardware which emulates different sections of the human brain—their first prototype being an 8 inch wafer containing 51 million artificial synapses.

Oh, the “software” is being replicated too—the Swiss “Blue Brain Project” is currently using a supercomputer to reverse-engineer the brain’s processing functions, with many elements of the activity of a rat brain having been successfully simulated. The leader of this project, Henry Markram, stated to the BBC that they will build an artificial brain within ten years.

Our muscles, blood, organs—artificial versions of all are in various stages of development, and at some point the prospect of assembling a fully functional artificial human body will be within sight. But even if we develop the software to run such magnificent machines—and having androids would be pretty cool—their applications for us would be incredibly significant with the development of a complementary technology, one that is less farfetched than it may seem…

Synthetic-Brain

We’ve previously mentioned futurist Ray Kurzweil and his insanely accurate rate of predicting new technologies. Kurzweil is of the opinion that by 2040 to 2045, we will be able to literally upload the contents of our consciousness into a computer—and he’s not even the only one who thinks so.

Of course, many argue that brain functions cannot be reduced to simple computation—that they are not “computable” and that consciousness itself poses a problem that science will never be able to solve. There is also the matter of whether an uploaded or otherwise “backed up” mind is indeed a different entity from that which was copied, a different consciousness altogether. Hopefully, these are questions that neuroscience will soon be able to answer.

But if indeed we are ever able to inject our very minds into the digital realm, the obvious implication is that our consciousness need never terminate—we need never die. We can hang out indefinitely in fantastically rendered digital worlds, and load ourselves into a Cyberdyne X-2000 Mind Vessel when we have business in the real world; transmit ourselves through space, perhaps even through time, and share knowledge instantaneously across all of humanity.

Smarter people than us are expecting these developments within your lifetime. Even if they are only partially correct, we’re going to go out on a limb and say that despite the exponential explosion of technology within the last couple decades, we ain’t seen nothing yet.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2013/05/12/10-incredible-ways-technology-may-make-us-superhuman/

Another 10 Curious Everyday Inventions

Nearly two years ago we wrote a list of everyday inventions. The list was relatively popular for its time and debunked at least one myth about the invention of peanut butter. This list is the second installment and looks at ten more items that we all come into contact with in our daily lives. These are things we tend to take for granted and we certainly wouldn’t know the name of the inventor if asked.

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The first garden gnomes were made in Gräfenroda, a town known for its ceramics in Thuringia, Germany in the mid-1800s. Philip Griebel made terracotta animals as decorations, and produced gnomes based on local myths as a way for people to enjoy the stories of the gnomes’ willingness to help in the garden at night. The garden gnome quickly spread across Germany and into France and England, and wherever gardening was a serious hobby. Griebel’s descendants still make them and are the last of the German producers. Garden gnomes were first introduced to the United Kingdom in 1847 by Sir Charles Isham, when he brought 21 terracotta figures back from a trip to Germany and placed them as ornaments in the gardens of his home, Lamport Hall in Northamptonshire. Only one of the original batch of gnomes survives: Lampy, as he is known, is on display at Lamport Hall, and is insured for one million pounds. He is pictured above.

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While matches existed in China in the 6th century and Europe from the 16th century, it was not until the 1800s that friction matches as we know them today were invented. The first “friction match” was invented by English chemist John Walker in 1826. Early work had been done by Robert Boyle and his assistant, Godfrey Haukweicz in the 1680s with phosphorus and sulfur, but their efforts had not produced useful results. Walker discovered a mixture of stibnite, potassium chlorate, gum, and starch could be ignited by striking against any rough surface. Walker called the matches congreves, but the process was patented by Samuel Jones and the matches were sold as lucifer matches (as they are still known in the Netherlands). In 1862, Bryant and May, the British match manufacturers began mass producing the red tipped matches we all know today, after the patent by the Lundström brothers from Sweden,

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Contact lenses are surprisingly older than most of us realize. In 1888, the German physiologist Adolf Eugen Fick constructed and fitted the first successful contact lens. While working in Zürich, he described fabricating afocal scleral contact shells, which rested on the less sensitive rim of tissue around the cornea, and experimentally fitting them: initially on rabbits, then on himself, and lastly on a small group of volunteers. These lenses were made from heavy blown glass and were 18–21mm in diameter. Fick filled the empty space between cornea/callosity and glass with a dextrose solution. Fick’s lens was large, unwieldy, and could only be worn for a few hours at a time. It was not until 1949 that the first lenses were produced that sat on the cornea only and allowed for many hours of wear.

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The first patent for a non-electrical washing machine was issued in England in 1692. Nearly two hundred years later, Louis Goldenberg of New Brunswick, New Jersey invented the electric washing machine (late 1800s to early 1900s). He worked for the Ford Motor Company at that time, and all inventions that were created while working for Ford under contract, belonged to Ford. The patent would have been listed under Ford and or Louis Goldenberg. Alva J. Fisher has been incorrectly credited with the invention of the electric washer. The US patent office shows at least one patent issued before Mr. Fisher’s US patent number 966677.

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The early metal beverage can was made out of steel and had no pull-tab. Instead, it was opened by a can piercer, a device resembling a bottle opener, but with a sharp point. The can was opened by punching two triangular holes in the lid — a large one for drinking, and a small one to admit air. This type of opener is sometimes referred to as a churchkey. As early as 1936, inventors were applying for patents on self-opening can designs, but the technology of the time made these inventions impractical. Later advancements saw the ends of the can made out of aluminum instead of steel. In 1962, Ermal Cleon Fraze of Dayton, Ohio, invented the integral rivet and pull-tab (also known as rimple or ring pull), which had a ring attached at the rivet for pulling, and which would come off completely to be discarded. These were eventually replaced almost exclusively by the stay tabs we still use today. Stay tabs (also called colon tabs) were invented by Daniel F. Cudzik of Reynolds Metals in Richmond, Virginia, in 1975.

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The first rubber condom was produced in 1855. For many decades, rubber condoms were manufactured by wrapping strips of raw rubber around penis-shaped molds, then dipping the wrapped molds in a chemical solution to cure the rubber. In 1912, a German named Julius Fromm developed a new, improved manufacturing technique for condoms: dipping glass molds into a raw rubber solution. Called cement dipping, this method required adding gasoline or benzene to the rubber to make it liquid. These condoms were re-usable. Latex, rubber suspended in water, was invented in 1920. Latex condoms required less labor to produce than cement-dipped rubber condoms, which had to be smoothed by rubbing and trimming. The use of water to suspend the rubber instead of gasoline and benzene eliminated the fire hazard previously associated with all condom factories. Latex condoms also performed better for the consumer: they were stronger and thinner than rubber condoms, and had a shelf life of five years (compared to three months for rubber).

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Foil made from a thin leaf of tin was commercially available before its aluminum counterpart. In the late 19th century and early 20th century, tin foil was in common use, and some people continue to refer to the new product by the name of the old one. Tin foil is stiffer than aluminum foil. It tends to give a slight tin taste to food wrapped in it, which is a major reason it has largely been replaced by aluminum and other materials for wrapping food.
The first audio recordings on phonograph cylinders were made on tin foil. Tin was first replaced by aluminum starting in 1910, when the first aluminum foil rolling plant, “Dr. Lauber, Neher & Cie., Emmishofen.” was opened in Kreuzlingen, Switzerland.

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The first patent on a ballpoint pen was issued on 30 October 1888, to John J. Loud, a leather tanner, who was attempting to make a writing implement that would be able to write on the leather he tanned, which the then-common fountain pen couldn’t do. The pen had a rotating small steel ball, held in place by a socket. Then, fifty years later, with the help of his brother George, László Bíró, a chemist, began to work on designing new types of pens. Bíró fitted this pen with a tiny ball in its tip that was free to turn in a socket. As the pen moved along the paper, the ball rotated, picking up ink from the ink cartridge and leaving it on the paper. Bíró filed a British patent on 15 June 1938. Earlier pens leaked or clogged due to improper viscosity of the ink, and depended on gravity to deliver the ink to the ball. Depending on gravity caused difficulties with the flow and required that the pen be held nearly vertically. The Biro pen both pressurized the ink column and used capillary action for ink delivery, solving the flow problems.

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Shampoo originally meant head massage in several North Indian languages. Both the word and the concept were introduced to Britain from colonial India. The term and service was introduced in Britain by a Bengali entrepreneur Sake Dean Mahomed in 1814, when Dean, together with his Irish wife, opened a shampooing bath known as ‘Mahomed’s Indian Vapour Baths’ in Brighton, England. During the early stages of shampoo, English hair stylists boiled shaved soap in water and added herbs to give the hair shine and fragrance. Kasey Hebert was the first known maker of shampoo, and the origin is currently attributed to him. Originally, soap and shampoo were very similar products; both containing surfactants, a type of detergent. Modern shampoo as it is known today was first introduced in the 1930s with Drene, the first synthetic (non-soap) shampoo.

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Up to and including the 19th century, candy of all sorts was typically sold by weight, loose, in small pieces that would be bagged as bought. The introduction of chocolate as something that could be eaten as is, rather than used to make beverages or desserts, resulted in the earliest bar forms, or tablets. In 1847, the Fry’s chocolate factory, located in Union Street, Bristol, England, moulded the first ever chocolate bar suitable for widespread consumption. The firm began producing the Fry’s Chocolate Cream bar (arguably the best tasting chocolate bar in the world in my opinion) in 1866. Over 220 products were introduced in the following decades, including production of the first chocolate Easter egg in UK in 1873 and the Fry’s Turkish Delight (or Fry’s Turkish bar) in 1914. By 1919 the company merged with Cadbury’s chocolate and the joint company named British Cocoa and Chocolate Company.

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