Tag: Technorhetoric

Geo-engineering

Hail Control Gun

hail control gun

A single hail storm can destroy the year’s harvest. For over 25 years, this gun has been used by vine and fruit growers in France, Spain, Austria and Belgium for one purpose: control nature.
The guns functioning is argued by scientists (it is difficult to prove its results) but already 150 years ago farmers in the Alps used primitive manually controlled versions that worked on carbide. So if it could not make the hail disappear, at least the bang would scare some crows.

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Designed-by-Evolution

Fun begins in 2029

arnold.jpg

Famous technologist and futurist Ray Kurzweil states: it’s going down by 2029, so be prepared to get digital on entirely new levels. According to Kurzweil, machines will have both the hardware and the software to achieve human level artificial intelligence by then. Kurzweil doesn’t expect Arnold style robots to be hanging around but thinks of it on the nano scale, with interfaces to enhance our own physiology and intelligence.

Source: BBC News.

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Anthropocene

Fight climate change: Hack the Planet

Hack the planet

Lots of clouds this week. The peculiar picture above shows the eruption of mount Pinatubo in 1991, which apparently resulted in a certain amount of global cooling (next to some serious negative effects). If a vulcano can do that, why not humans?

Environmental scientist David Keith talks about a cheap, effective, shocking solution to climate change (TED video): What if we injected a huge cloud of ash into the atmosphere, to deflect sunlight and heat? As an emergency measure to slow a melting ice cap, it could work. Keith discusses why it’s a good idea, why it’s a terrible one — and who, despite the cost, might be tempted to use it.

Via Beyond the Beyond. See also: Clear Blue Sky, Cloud producing Cloud, Super Mario Cloud, Blur Building, Humans to blame for Global Warming.

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Made-to-debate

Retro Future: Magic Highway USA

Magic Highway nextnature retrofuture

Nothing makes a person more modest about future speculations than Retro Future. Want proof? Here is a 1958 video entitled “Magic Highway USA”. No, they didn’t anticipate traffic jams or feminism (can you find all the male chauvinist details?), the sheer optimism is just overwhelming: “It will be our magic carpet to new hopes, new dreams and a better way of life, for the future” (Yes, they’re talking about highways here).

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Hypernature

French USB wine

USB wine parody

Remember the article N is for Nature, describing the Californian company Enologix, which creates software to predict how wine critics will rate a wine, so that it can be produced accordingly? No, I would not expect the French to appreciate this wine making as information science. After all they are the inventors of wine, carefully guarding their traditions. Some might say they are just old fashioned and tastes differ, but don’t dare to say the French don’t have a sense of humor.

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Digital-Presence

Google 2084

google 2084

Tongue in cheek speculation on what Google’s home page may look like in 2084, created by Randy Siegel for NY Times. Frankly, I don’t think this is very realistic: We don’t have to wait that long for most of this.

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Fake-for-Real

Fake for Real: QWERTY, the Right Order

qwerty - the right order

Did you ever wonder why the letters on the keyboard are in the order they are? The reason for QWERTY goes way back. This order was chosen to reduce the probability that mechanical typewriters’ hammers would get entangled. Over time, typewriters were replaced by computers. Though various alternative keyboard layouts have been developed from a user-centred perspective, to enable more comfortable and faster typing, the QWERTY layout remains the standard today. Once a technology has become the norm, it seems to take on a certain aura of authenticity. To supplant it, an alternative must be significantly better.

From our Fake for Real series.

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Digital-Presence

Brain-computer interface for Second Life

Brain-computer interface for Second Life

While recent developments in brain-computer interface (BCI) technology have given humans the power to mentally control computers, nobody has used the technology in conjunction with the Second Life online virtual world ‘ until now.

A research team led by professor Jun’ichi Ushiba of the Keio University Biomedical Engineering Laboratory has developed a BCI system that lets the user walk an avatar through the streets of Second Life while relying solely on the power of thought. To control the avatar on screen, the user simply thinks about moving various body parts ‘ the avatar walks forward when the user thinks about moving his/her own feet, and it turns right and left when the user imagines moving his/her right and left arms.

The system consists of a headpiece equipped with electrodes that monitor activity in three areas of the motor cortex (the region of the brain involved in controlling the movement of the arms and legs). An EEG machine reads and graphs the data and relays it to the BCI, where a brain wave analysis algorithm interprets the user’s imagined movements. A keyboard emulator then converts this data into a signal and relays it to Second Life, causing the on-screen avatar to move. In this way, the user can exercise real-time control over the avatar in the 3D virtual world without moving a muscle.

Future plans are to improve the BCI so that users can make Second Life avatars perform more complex movements and gestures. The researchers hope the mind-controlled avatar, which was created through a joint medical engineering project involving Keio’s Department of Rehabilitation Medicine and the Tsukigase Rehabilitation Center, will one day help people with serious physical impairments communicate and do business in Second Life.

(For video of the Second Life BCI, check the links on the Ushida & Tomita Laboratory news page, right above the first photo.)

Via PinkTentacle. See also: Playing Dreams, Out of Body Experience.

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Digital-Presence

Printing virtuality

desktop factory 3d printer

Phone, internet, television, photography, even books or music: today it is hard for the mind to escape from virtual worlds. A day without communication or interaction could make us feel like we left home without a wallet. The key to why communication and virtual reality is such a success, hence adopted in our every-day-life, is the concept of being in two places at the same time. This ability makes us feel like we can experience twice as much in the time given.

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