Welcome to Technology Tuesday! Every week The Job Shop Blog will bring you our 5 top science and technology news stories from around the web.
This week: Elon Musk just launched a company to merge your brain and a machine, stem cells prevented a woman from going blind, using light to travel the stars, meet the scientists preparing for the apocalypse, and new stackable homes.
Elon Musk’s Cyborg Plans
n case you missed it, Elon Musk is rather concerned about the fate of humanity, given the extreme advancements being made in artificial intelligence (AI). Ultimately, he fears that our AI will, one day, overtake us. When this happens, he claims that humans will likely become second class citizens (or slaves, or something even worse).
Now, reports have surfaced which assert that he is backing a brain-computer interface venture that was founded to allow humans to keep up with the advancements made in machines. The interface is intended to work by augmenting that which makes us human: our brains.
Groubdbreaking Stem Cell Treatment Prevents Blindness
Macular degeneration affects more than 10 million people in the U.S., and is the most common cause of vision loss. It is caused by the deterioration of the middle of the retina, called the macula. The macula focuses central vision and controls our ability to see objects in fine detail, read, recognize colors and faces, and drive a car. Until now, the disease has been considered incurable.
An octogenarian with the condition is now the first person to receive successful treatment with induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. The progression of the woman’s macular degeneration was arrested by new retinal cells made in the lab. Unlike embryonic stem cells, iPS cells can be created from regular adult cells. In this case, the cells used to repair the damaged retina from macular degeneration came from the woman’s skin.
Using Light To Voyage Between The Stars
Right now, space travel as we know it is plagued by a few stubborn problems, most of which boil down to striking a balance between speed and time. The faster you travel, the more energy you need. Without gravitational assists, that means more fuel will be required — and that has to be carried somehow. Faster speeds — required to reach long distances in a reasonable timeframe — also mean more difficulty slowing down.
So far, New Horizons is the fastest spacecraft ever in terms of launch velocity. Its launch speed was about 58,000 km/hr. After a flyby of Jupiter, New Horizons picked up a gravitational boost — but even still its speed was only 48,000 km/hr as it approached Pluto.
These Researchers Study and Prepare for Apocalyptic Scenarios
OK, we survived the cataclysm. Now what?
In recent years, warnings by top scientists and industrialists have energized research into the sort of civilization-threatening calamities that are typically the stuff of sci-fi and thriller novels: asteroid impacts, supervolcanoes, nuclear war, pandemics, bioterrorism, even the rise of a super-smart, but malevolent artificial intelligence.
But what comes afterward? What happens to the survivors? In particular, what will they eat? How will they stay warm and find electricity? How will they rebuild and recover?
Harvard Engineer Invents Stackable Homes
As cities continue to fill with people, eventually there will be nowhere left to spread but up. And since sky-high rent in cramped, decaying apartments isn’t exactly the ideal living situation of the future, Jeff Wilson, a Harvard researcher, imagined a better reality.
While dean of Huston-Tillotson University in Texas, Wilson spent a full year living in a dumpster. He was inspired by this experience and came to embrace the idea of “tiny living,” a minimalist lifestyle that creates an alternative, streamlined way of life without clutter.
Know any interesting stories we missed? Let us know in the comments!