The photo is hilarious
One of the test vehicles for Google's Self-Driving Car project.
In the future, we may not be dealing with the hassles and frustrations that come with driving cars everyday. Autonomous automobiles can make our lives better! But are cars that drive by themselves all that it's cracked up to be?
The advertising agency Sparks & Honey has compiled a mess of data and research on autonomous cars into a report entitled "Driving Disrupted: Driverless Cars Change Everything." Besides the obvious things such as being safer for travel and freeing up time for other pursuits, there are some surprising things that will emerge in a world with intelligent cars.
Pointing to an MIT study, the report states that whole cities could adopt a car-sharing program, not unlike bike sharing, which may make car ownership obsolete.
Entertainment on the Go
Beyond having extra time to work or read or do other hobbies, the report imagines autonomous cars as a place where the owner entertains a group of friends or colleagues, almost like a moving bar. And who knows where such drunkenness and debauchery will go...
Vehicles of Vice
And that means that bar-like autonomous cars could become the go-to place for illicit activities. Whether it is casual sexual encounters or drug use, the privacy and luxury of such cars could bring a spike in such activities.
We'll Need A New Source Of Municipal Income
With fewer traffic violations, cities and towns will have to find new ways to ticket its citizens to earn revenue or the penalties for existing violations will become more harsh. So you may want to reconsider your stance on jaywalking.
We'll Need A New Source Of Organs
Whether it is through growing them in the labs or through a form of 3-D printing, according to the report, artificial organs for health care will be in high demand because less traffic accidents means fewer natural organ donations.
You can view a slideshow of the report.
Asking a team of journalists to rally around a science fiction movie might sound ludicrous. Yet some combination of boundless vision, relaxing of natural laws, and enthralling story can prompt even the most disciplined Popular Science employee to daydream at his or her desk. To us, science fiction is a lens through which we can explore our place and future in the universe.
So when we found out director Christopher Nolan was making Interstellar, we couldn’t resist. The film promises to pull habitable alien worlds into reach, bring far-out spaceflight technologies within grasp, and test humanity’s mettle in spectacular fashion. We wondered aloud: What if?
You won’t find any spoilers here; we have yet to see the movie, which stars Anne Hathaway and Matthew McConaughey and debuts Nov. 7. But in geeking out with experts over the limited information we extracted from the movie’s trailers (Nolan’s team, including theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, refused all interview requests), we rounded up the latest knowledge about wormhole travel, robotic companions, habitable exoplanets, and, of course, starships.
Without further navel-gazing, we present the science of Interstellar.
Some people just don't like cats. That's okay. Some people don't like pizza. Or dogs. Or Harry Potter. But some cat-haters aren't satisfied with not owning cats themselves. They need to drag the rest of us down with them.
The first thing you notice when you dig around in the seedy underworld of cat-bashing is that it's an old hobby. The haters have left their mark across poetry, literature, and art for centuries.
"There's always going to be someone in a group who's going to stand up and say cats are aloof, manipulative little devils," says cat researcher John Bradshaw.
In his 1922 cultural history of the domestic cat, The Tiger in the House, Carl Van Vechten notes, "One is permitted to assume an attitude of placid indifference in the matter of elephants, cockatoos, H.G. Wells, Sweden, roast beef, Puccini, and even Mormonism, but in the matter of cats it seems necessary to take a firm stand....Those who hate the cat hate him with a malignity which, I think, only snakes in the animal kingdom provoke to an equal degree."
Joseph Stromberg at Vox is only the most recent ailurophobe to launch a broadside against the feline species. His 28-paragraph essay on the supposed evils of Felis catus, published last week, tells readers that cats are "selfish, unfeeling, environmentally harmful creatures."
His argument breaks down into four simple points: "Your cat probably doesn't love you." "Your cat isn't really showing you affection." "Cats are an environmental disaster." And, "Your cat might be driving you crazy."
We called Bradshaw, an internationally recognized cat and dog researcher and author of several books on pet ownership, including Cat Sense, for his learned opinion on the "science" of cat-bashing.
Haters want you to believe cats don't really care about their people. Stromberg points to a series of studies by Daniel Mills at the University of London and other researchers that show cats don't look to humans for guidance in unfamiliar situations. Abandon your dog (or child) in a place it's never seen before, and it's likely to run to you on your return. Cats are more likely to explore the space on their own terms.
Compared to a stranger, the dogs become more disturbed when their owners leave, and interact with them more when they return. By contrast, Mills' cat experiments — which are still ongoing and haven't yet been published, but were featured in a BBC special last year—haven't come to the same conclusion. On the whole, the cats seem disinterested both when their owners depart and return.
Meanwhile, other experiments carried out by a pair of Japanese researchers have provided evidence for a fact already known to most cat owners: they can hear you calling their name, but just don't really care. As detailed in a study published last year, the researchers gathered 20 cats (one at a time) and played them recordings of three different people calling their name—two strangers, plus their owners.
Regardless of the order, the cats consistently reacted differently upon hearing their owner's voice (in terms of ear and head movement, as graded by independent raters who didn't know which voice belonged to the owner). However, none of them meowed or actually approached the speaker, as though they'd be interested in seeing the person.
Bradshaw says this interpretation draws too much out of limited study—research similar to work he has done himself. "It shows something about cats, but it doesn't show you that cats are not affectionate," he says.
Dogs have evolved to be "almost obsessively" dependent on humans, Bradshaw says. In unfamiliar situations, they look to their humans as sources of stability and guidance, much like small children. Cats, on the other hand, "prefer to deal with things in their own heads."
A creature that fails to run to your side in a strange situation does not necessarily have a cold, unfeeling heart. Some couples show up at parties and hold hands the entire time, talking mostly to one another. Others split up when they arrive, mingle, meet new people. But they still leave together when it ends. Your cat's a mingler—an explorer.
After wedging a seed of doubt into the emotional relationships between humans and their cats, the enemies of felinekind try to insert themselves into the physical expressions of human-feline love. Stromberg is no exception:
Many cats... will rub up against the leg of their owner (or another human) when the person enters a room. It's easy to construe this as a sign of affection. But many researchers interpret this as an attempt, by the cat, to spread his or her scent — as a way to mark territory. Observations of semi-feral cats show that they commonly rub up against trees or other objects in the exact same way, which allows them to deposit pheromone-containing secretions that naturally come out of their skin.
In other words, all the squirming and rubbing cats lavish on their owners are just the feline equivalent to a dog lifting its leg and peeing all over a fire hydrant.
Bradshaw says this notion is way off-base. "Superficially, [rubbing against humans] looks like scent marking," he says, but "the display that goes on when a cat raises its tail and rubs its sides against another cat, or a person, is a social action."
Some researchers suggest the behavior has a its roots in the creation of a "clan scent" for packs of wild cats, but no one has published proof. What's important, Bradshaw says, is the interaction between creatures. The raised tail is a signal of good intent. When two cats know each other well they will rub their whole bodies against each other, including their sides, which have no scent glands. They often then lie down together and purr. Cats will do the same thing with their owners. Claiming this behavior is no deeper than a wild cat rubbing its face on tree bark is like saying that human handshakes are mostly about checking for secret weapons.
A 2013 study supposedly shows cats hate when humans pet them.
The research indeed found that cats pumped stress hormones into their bloodstreams when they were petted excessively. But Bradshaw points out that the research was conducted in Brazil, a country where house cats are far less common than small dogs. He thinks pet owners used to rough-and-tumble dogs might not prepared to handle cats in ways they enjoy. The cats grabbed and picked up for the study were reacting to a long history of unpleasant interactions, not simple human touch.
"Like all genuine affectionate relationships, [cat cuddling] is a two-way street," he says. "Dogs put up with harsher treatment. Yank on a choke chain, and the dog bounces back. Cats say goodbye."
Perhaps the most damning charge against cats is that they are natural murderers who can disrupt local ecosystems. Stromberg pounced gleefully once again:
In the US, domestic cats are an invasive species—they originated in Asia. And research shows that, whenever they're let outside, cats' carnivorous activity has a devastating effect on wild bird and small mammal populations, even if the cats are well-fed.
So what's an environmentally-conscious cat lover to do? Bradshaw says not to worry. It turns out, as long as your cat wasn't born feral or on a farm, it's probably a clumsy hunter. Birds and rodents zip away from its plodding, obvious approach.
Bradshaw says cats learn to kill from their mothers. In the wild, a kitten follows its mom on many hunts in the first eight weeks of its life. She teaches the skills of sneaking up on prey and pouncing with lethal precision. But housecats born at home or to breeders miss that crucial step. Kittens instead spend their first eight weeks yowling at cotton balls and bits of string. Unless you trained your pet in the art of war before the end of its second month—a crucial period in its development—it's probably next to useless against live prey (even if it does sometimes get lucky).
"Obviously there's some deep ancestral memory of stalking prey," he says, "but a cat by itself is usually not a very good hunter."
Whenever local fauna succumb to feline hunting, he says, "it almost always turns out to be feral cats." Australian experiments with 24-hour cat curfews turned out to have minimal impacts. Still, the ASPCA suggests keeping cats indoors to prolong their lives, so it's probably a good idea. Also, spayed and neutered housecats will never birth feral kittens that could endanger wildlife.
If you really want to do right by the environment, Bradshaw says, cats are way better than dogs.
See, there's this parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. It enters the brains of prey animals like mice and alters their behavior to make them less afraid of predators. These bold, addled rodents ride their parasitic high all the way into your favorite pet's gnashing jaws, and some of those parasites make their way into your cat's litterbox. From there it's a short jump to a human owner's body.
Some reaserchers suspect that humans infected with T. gondii are susceptible to its nefarious mind control as well. Here's what Kathleen McCauliffe wrote about the parasite in her extensive coverage for the Atlantic:
The subjects who tested positive for the parasite had significantly delayed reaction times. [Parasite researcher Jaroslav] Flegr was especially surprised to learn, though, that the protozoan appeared to cause many sex-specific changes in personality. Compared with uninfected men, males who had the parasite were more introverted, suspicious, oblivious to other people’s opinions of them, and inclined to disregard rules. Infected women, on the other hand, presented in exactly the opposite way: they were more outgoing, trusting, image-conscious, and rule-abiding than uninfected women.
Infected men were more likely to wear rumpled old clothes; infected women tended to be more meticulously attired, many showing up for the study in expensive, designer-brand clothing. Infected men tended to have fewer friends, while infected women tended to have more. And when it came to downing the mystery fluid, reports Flegr, “the infected males were much more hesitant than uninfected men. They wanted to know why they had to do it. Would it harm them?” In contrast, the infected women were the most trusting of all subjects. “They just did what they were told,” he says.
Flegr goes on to note that even infected people may not be heavily impacted by the bug, and that cat poop is not the only way humans catch it. (In fact, it's incredibly common.) Not all researchers agree with Flegr's dire interpretations of the evidence, though T. gondii does turn dangerous when patients have damaged immune systems.
Ultimately, yes, your cat probably loves you, but that might just be the mind-controlling parasite talking.
Detergent, prepare to be disrupted.
The makers of a new fabric softener, Sofft, say they want our clothes to join us in the fight against stink and stains. While mixing with your clothes in the washing machine, Sofft coats organic and plastic fibers in a thin protective layer of hydrophobic molecules. These chemicals cause common stains like oil and juice to slide right off clothes (at least, that's how it seems in their promotional videos). The company says clothes would remain breathable.
Sofft's protection does not last forever. Clothes still have to get washed as the coating wears off, but most users would be able to get a few more wears in between trips to the laundromat. Plus, fewer loads in laundry machines could also ease the strain of detergent chemicals and water consumption on the environment.
Vinod Nair, founder and CEO of the Sofft company, calls the technique "prevention based laundry." In the manner of a Silicon Valley programmer hawking a revolutionary new app, he sells his product with the vision of a changed future. If Sofft succeeds, he says, "we would expect an ecosystem change. The washing machine would have to change." We would all do laundry less often, he argues, because our clothes would stay fresh longer. His company calls this imagined world "Laundry 2.0."
Sofft's hydrophobic qualities may also make it easier to filter out waste water than regular detergent. The molecules don't dissolve well, and Nair believes they could be extracted more easily than common laundry chemicals at waste treatment plants.
Sofft still faces challenges. Right now they have no large scale, efficient factories. Plus, 32-ounce bottles of the product cost $35 a pop, with enough fluid for about 15 light loads. The only way to order is through their Kickstarter campaign, which has already beaten its $25,000 goal by more than $10,000 with six days to go. They expect to ship in February 2015.
"Once we get to scale," Nair says, "our long term vision is to have this selling for $10 on the shelf at Walmart."
If that happens, he says mass use of Sofft and the competitors that would follow will require laundry machine makers to redesign their products as well.
"We're doing high performance chemistry in a washing machine," he says. Modern machines are very good at removing chemicals from clothing, but not great at adding others in their place. Clorox held patents now used in Sofft, Nair says, but balked at the expense of engineering an untested product. The laundry giant signed its rights over to retiring engineer Greg van Buskirk, who went on to design Sofft with Nair.
So now, the future of Sofft (and the future of laundry, according to Nair) is now in the hands of the Kickstarter-funding public.
In modern explanation the "past lightspeed" bit has been retconned away. Instead there are the hyperdrive classes with a reverse scale. The higher the number the slower the ship. So a Class 1 hyperdrive is one of the fastest, but the Millennium Falcon has a 0.5 class hyperdrive. Twice as fast as a Class 1. Just how fast a Class 1 is is never really explained.
Obi-Wan never explicitly stated in the three "Star Wars" movies that he didn't remember R2-D2 and C3PO. He merely told Luke he never remembered "owning" a droid, which was indeed the case. Considering that he
liedtold from a "certain-point-of-view" about "Vader betrayed and murdered your father" (to prevent Luke from prematurely learning the truth he couldn't handle yet), it seems very plausible that he ALSO was pretending to not recognize the droids, for the same reason.
While training with Yoda, Luke learns that "through the force many things you will see ... the future, the past, good friends long gone". Later in the movie Luke calls out to Leia from Bespin and she receives his "force message" and his exact location without realizing she is using the force herself. So we know Leia is force capable (Luke confirms this to her in "ROTJ" as well) so it is entirely possible that Leia can remember "images" of her real mother being "beautiful, but sad". Keep in mind that Leia doesn't have any concrete memories of her mother, just the images and feelings she described. In "ROTS," this how we see Padmé just before she dies.
If you've seen Microsoft's recent articles about Lumia you know it was coming. The Nokia brand has been phased out by calling the phones just "Lumia" and redirecting Nokia online properties to Microsoft.com. This rebranding effort will expand and soon the lineup will become "Microsoft Lumia". Lumia is already the de facto face of Windows Phone - it accounts for about 90% of the market. Microsoft has been busy signing up new vendors but they will struggle to gain significant market share as the big names have mostly neglected WP. Nokia, the company, still exists but as part of the agreement with Microsoft it won't make new phones for at least several more years. Instead it has shifted its focus to things like mapping and, with no exclusivity to consider, it has been bringing its software to Android. Will Microsoft put its own logo on the devices or will a more restraint Lumia logo suffice? Keep in mind that Microsoft is treading lightly, not to annoy other WP vendors by showing favoritism to its in-house...
Banksy just published photos of a new piece titled Girl with a Pierced Eardrum, a take on Vermeer’s famous Girl with a Pearl Earring, replacing the girl’s earring with an outdoor security alarm. The mural appears in his hometown of Bristol, UK where he last painted the Mobile Lovers piece earlier this year.
From Alana Jones-Mann, a baker, culinary artist and DIY enthusiast in Brooklyn, cupcakes that look like miniature cacti. They're so cute, they're even planted in crushed graham cracker soil.
Scared of needles? You aren’t alone. According to some estimates, as many as 1 in every 10 people are frightened of needles, and experts fear that the fear of pain may deter people from getting important injections at the doctor’s office.
But what if getting a shot didn’t hurt? That’s the idea behind new research presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists, which showed how vibrations and pressure applied to the injection site right before a shot could reduce pain.
“Our early research suggests that using a device that applies pressure and vibration before the needle stick could help significantly decrease painful sensations by closing the ‘gate’ that sends pain signals to the brain,” lead author of the study William MacKay said in a press release.
The 'gate' that MacKay refers to is related to the gate control theory of pain. The theory basically says that pain occurs for people when it reaches the brain, and the stimulus that causes pain has to travel through neurological gates along the spinal cord to get there. By occupying those gates with other sensations (like vibrations or pressure), the sensation of the needle stick is able to slip by our neurological defenses.
The researchers also looked at the effects of heat and cold, but found that the combination of pressure and vibration seemed to have the most dramatic pain reduction effect. (Adding heat to the combination of pressure and vibration also reduced pain, but not by a significant amount.)
The study was small, with a sample size of only 21 people, but the researchers are hopeful that by quantifying people’s perceptions of pain they can help other researchers develop or improve devices already in the works that have the same goal. And there are plenty of people and companies interested in finding a needle that doesn’t hurt or terrify patients. Other vibrating needles are slowly making their way towards the market, and, as we reported a few weeks ago, some researchers are developing pills with needles inside that you can swallow.
The other big announcement for the day is of course Apple’s new iPads, the iPad Air 2 and the iPad mini 3. As signaled by their names, neither is intended to be a massive departure from their (still for sale) predecessors. But both of them, the iPad Air 2 in particular, pack a number of improvements over the 2013 models.
In-hand, the iPad Air 2 is not as significant a departure from its predecessor as the original Air was from earlier iPads, but if you are familiar with the original Air then you can appreciate the fact that Apple has taken it down from 7.5mm thick to 6.1mm thick. The weight is roughly the same (437g vs. 469g) so it’s not much lighter in the hand, but handling it makes the change in size more apparent.
Perhaps more readily apparent is the anti-reflective coating, a first for an iPad. While Apple’s controlled demo room doesn’t give us the opportunity to introduce too much light, in what testing we could do there’s definitely a difference. Whatever it is that Apple is using, the coating doesn’t seem to have changed the clarity at all; it is seemingly still as clear as the non-coated iPad mini 3.
Meanwhile the A8X inside presents us with a new mystery. This is a new chip, and we know very little about it besides Apple’s claims of 40% better CPU performance and 2.5x better GPU performance. The CPU performance points to a dual core “Enhanced Cyclone” configuration like A8, while the GPU performance number is well in excess of what we saw going from A7 to A8. So comparing A8X to A7, we are most likely (finally) looking at a hex-core Imagination PowerVR GX6650 GPU. However, this alone does not explain where the roughly 1 billion additional transistors compared to A8 have gone. Most likely there are additional surprises to be found.
Moving on, we have the iPad mini 3. Unlike the iPad Air 2, Apple isn’t overhauling the hardware by nearly as much, so the iPad mini 3 is a smaller upgrade over its predecessor than the iPad Air 2 is. Size and weight stay the same, so the new mini feels the same in your hands as the old one. The display is also once more a 2048 x 1536 pixel display, though it did look a bit better than we recall the iPad mini 2’s display being, so it may be a new panel (but this is something we’d need to test).
Apple hasn’t replaced the SoC or WiFi radio – it’s still an A7 and 802.11n respectively – so performance isn’t any different either. What’s left to set apart the new mini from the old then is the inclusion of Apple’s Touch ID sensor along with a larger 128GB storage option. It’s admittedly not much, especially when the iPad mini 2 is now $100 cheaper. On the other hand it is available in Gold, and as we’ve seen with the iPhone that has proven to be a very popular option at launch.