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Category Archives: Futurism

See Newly Released NASA Footage of the Fastest Plane Ever Flown – Futurism

Posted: August 25, 2017 at 3:31 am

In Brief Built by Lockheed Martin in the 1960s and decommissioned in 1998 due to high operational costs, the SR-71 Blackbird remains the fastest aircraft to have ever been flown. Now, Lockheed Martin wants to build an even faster plane: the SR-72.

Now that Lockheed Martin has confirmed that they are building the SR-72, which could be the first hypersonic plane, NASA has released video footage of its predecessor: the SR-71 Blackbird.

Built in the 1960s by Lockheed using designs that were kept secret in the 1950s, the SR-71 Blackbird is the fastest manned aircraft to have ever flown the skies. To get an idea of how fast, watch the below video of the plane taking off.

Capable of reaching speeds up to Mach 3 (2,200 mph) with a maximum altitude of almost 26,000 meters (85,000 feet), the two-seater SR-71 Blackbird was used as a reconnaissance plane from 1964 to 1998. Lockheed built only 32 of these super-fast planes, and now, they want to build an even faster one that will act asa strike and recon aircraft.

The SR-72, the leading project under Lockheeds Advanced Development Programs (ADP) or Skunk Works, promises to be even faster than the Blackbird. The company wants to develop a plane capable of hypersonic flight speeds of Mach 5 (3,836 mph) and higher and the SR-72 is expected to reach a Mach 6 (4,600 mph) top speed.

The inspiration for this hypersonic plane may come from the past, but it is poised to take military aircraft well into the future.

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NASA Has a $3.46 Billion Plan to Ensure the Yellowstone … – Futurism – Futurism

Posted: at 3:31 am

In BriefNASA has detailed a plan to prevent the Yellowstonesupervolcano from ever erupting. By drilling into the volcano andpumping water into and out of it at high speeds, they believe theycould cool the volcano and use the emerging hot water to generateelectricity. FromThreat to Ally

When people think of Yellowstone, its usually in relation to the national park, a massive 8,983 square kilometer (3,468.4 square mile) area comprising mountains, rivers, and forests. Less commonly considered is the Yellowstone Caldera, a supervolcano whose eruption could be devastating for our planet.

Thankfully, such an explosion is highly unlikely, and now,NASA has come up with a way to not only ensure that the volcano remains inactive, but also use it to provide the surrounding area with electricity.

Following their release of a story on supervolcanoes, the BBC was contacted by a few NASA members who wanted to share details on a previously unreleased plan to deal with Yellowstone. Even NASA admits their incredibly ambitious plan is risky, but the potential benefits resulting from its success cant be completely ignored.

First, they would drill into the volcano from the lower sides, outside the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park. Coming from this direction would prevent the intense heat from making its way to the top of the chamber, where it would cause further problems.

Once drilling is complete, water would be pumped into and back out of the supervolcano at high pressures, with the exiting water heated to a temperature of around 350 degrees Celsius (662 degrees Fahrenheit). The water going in would slowly cool the volcano, while the hot water coming out of it could be used to generate electricity.

Yellowstone currently leaks around 6GW in heat, Brian Wilcox, a researcher at NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), explained to the BBC. Through drilling in this way, it could be used to create a geothermal plant, which generates electric power at extremely competitive prices of around $0.10/kWh.

Aside from the dangers inherent in any plan to drill into a volcano, the NASA proposal is also largely theoretical no one knows for sure that it would work, and the cost of finding out would bean estimated$3.46 billion. Wilcox doesnt think this cost is insurmountable, however.

You would have to give the geothermal companies incentives to drill somewhat deeper and use hotter water than they usually would, but you would pay back your initial investment and get electricity which can power the surrounding area for a period of potentially tens of thousands of years, he noted. And the long-term benefit is that you prevent a future supervolcano eruption which would devastate humanity.

Even if the system can effectively cool Yellowstone at NASAs estimated rate of 1 meter (3.2 feet) per year,it would take thousands of years before only cool rock was left and longer than that to actually confirm that the process had permanently eliminated the threat of an eruption.

Despite all of these variables, the plan is worth consideration, especially given that Yellowstone is just one of about 20 supervolcanoes on the planet. NASA hopes that their proposal will encourage more practical discussions and debates on what to do about these massive structures prior to an eruption, at which point the Earth could be thrust into a volcanic winter.

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Microsoft Releases a New Deep Learning Acceleration Platform Called Brainwave – Futurism

Posted: at 3:31 am

In BriefMicrosoft unveiled a new cloud-based programmable hardwarethat’s capable of handling deep learning operations faster and inreal-time. Dubbed Brainwave, the system operates on a massivehardware network of Intel’s latest Statix 10 chips. Accelerating Machine Learning

At the 2017 Hot Chips symposium today, Microsoft unveiled a new hardware capable of boosting artificial intelligence (AI) programs. CalledBrainwave, Microsoft believes itll boost how machine learning models functionby designing them forprogrammable silicon.

We designed the system for real-time AI, which means the system processes requests as fast as it receives them, with ultra-low latency, Microsoft explained in a press release. Real-time AI is becoming increasingly important as cloud infrastructures process live data streams, whether they be search queries, videos, sensor streams, or interactions with users.

The model is larger than other AI-dedicated hardware available. It features a Gated Recurrent Unit model running at a speed of 39.5 teraflops on Intels new Stratix 10 field programmable gate array (FPGA) chip. Plus, it doesnt use so-called batching operations, which means it provides real-time insights for machine learning systems by handling requests as they come in.

We call it real-time AI because the idea here is that you send in a request, you want the answer back, Microsoft Research engineer Doug Burger said at the symposium, Venture Beat reports. If its a video stream, if its a conversation, if its looking for intruders, anomaly detection, all the things where you care about interaction and quick results, you want those in real time.

Brainwave allows for cloud-based deep learning models to be performed seamlessly across a the massive FPGA infrastructure Microsoft has installed in its data centers over the past few years. According to Burger, this means that AI features in applications receive more rapid support from Microsoft services. By running on a host of FPGAs, machine learning models that might be too big for just one FPGA chip receive simultaneous support from multiple hardware boards.Click to View Full Infographic

In addition toperformance speeds faster and more flexible than other CPUs or GPUs, Brainwave also incorporates software designed to support a host of popular deep learning frameworks. So, as Burger said, its thuspossible for Microsofts programmable hardware to operate at par with chips dedicated for machine learning operations like Googles Tensor Processing Unit. In fact, he believes that its possible to increase performance in the future from 39.5 teraflops to 90 teraflops by further improving operations with the Stratix 10 chip.

As machine learning models and algorithms see greater employmentby a plethora of applications, hooking these to Brainwave would reduce user waiting timefor these apps to respond. Microsoft hasnt yet made Brainwave available to customers, and no timeline has been set. But they areworking to make it accessible to third-party customers through Microsofts Azure cloud platform.

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Researchers Capture the Best Image of Any Star Ever Taken – Futurism

Posted: at 3:31 am

In Brief A team of astronomers created the first ever two-dimensional velocity map of a star and the movement of its atmospheric gasses, a feat never before done in a star other than the Sun. Their technique could be used to study other stars in the future. Look at the Stars

Red supergiant (RSG) stars are considered the most voluminous starsin the universe. The two most famous examples of RSGs are Betelgeuse and Antares, and to the naked eye the latter appears to shine with a strong red tint as it sits at the heart of the constellation Scorpius. However, RSGs are known to exhibit a certain kind of behavior thats baffled astronomers for a long while.Click to View Full Infographic

A team of astronomers decided to figure out this strange phenomenon by taking a closer look at Antares, a star already at near the end of its life. How stars like Antares lose mass so quickly in the final phase of their evolution has been a problem for over half a century, Keiichi Ohnaka from the Universidad Catlica del Norte in Chile and lead author of the study said in a press release.

His team used the Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI) of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) at the Paranal Observatory in Chile, with which they mapped the surface and movement of the surface material of Antares. The result: they managed to take the best image of an extra-solar stars surface ever. Their research has been published by the ESO.

This was made possible by the VLTIs ability to combine light from four of its telescopes to create a virtual telescope that works like a single mirror thats 200 meters across. It, in turn, allowed the team to recreate a two-dimensional velocity map of a star, the first such beyond our solar system.

The VLTI is the only facility that can directly measure the gas motions in the extended atmosphere of Antares a crucial step towards clarifying this problem, Ohnaka explained in the release. By calculating the difference between the speed of the atmospheric gas in Antares at different positions and the average speed of the entire star relative to the VLTIs imaging array, he made it possible to map the relative speed of atmospheric gas across the surface area of Antares, on the ground, as it were. While this revealed the motions of gas clumps, it merely hinted at a process behind suchmovement thats still to be identified.The next challenge is to identify whats driving the turbulent motions, he added.

Ohnakas team has made it possible to study a stars surface from a far more effective viewpoint. They hope to duplicate this successin the study ofother stars. In the future, this observing technique can be applied to different types of stars to study their surfaces and atmospheres in unprecedented detail. This has been limited to just the Sun up to now, Ohnaka said. Our work brings stellar astrophysics to a new dimension and opens an entirely new window to observe stars.

The method Ohnaka and his team used could also provide better imaging of exoplanets that could help us glimpse atmospheric movements in these planets. Learning about what goes on in the atmospheres of exoplanets is crucial to knowingwhich of these could sustain life.

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New Research Shows Mars Experiences Violent Snowstorms – Futurism

Posted: at 3:31 am

In Brief A group of planetary scientists studying Mars’ atmosphere have finally obtained proof that it snows on the red planet. The snowstorms don’t drop a lot of snow, but the way they form can make landings harder for future spacecraft.

We now have evidence that Mars gets its share of snow and that far from being only light flurries, theyre sometimes violent snowstorms.

These storms are much different from what was previously thought of the red planets weather, which only occurs at night and comes with intense gusts of wind. This new forecastcame from a combination of data on water-ice clouds, collected by the Mars Global Surveyor and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft over the years, and data gathered by NASAs Phoenix Lander, which ventured to Mars in 2008.

Its the first time anyone has shown that snowstorms, or water-ice microbursts, occur presently on Mars, said lead researcher Aymeric Spiga, a planetary scientist from the Universit Pierre and Marie Curie in Paris, to New Scientist. Any snow particles formed were thought to fall only very slowly through their own weight.

Spiga explains that previous attempts to find snowstorms were unsuccessfulbecause scientists were using the wrong models, or only one model at a time. Spiga and his team used more sophisticated and fine-scale modelling, allowing them to simulate Mars atmosphere in greater detail.

Many of the snowstorms will gradually come to an end before reaching the planets surface, but others can make it to ground level if a cloud forms closer to the surface. That said, the amount of snow isnt enough to ski on, or even to make a decent snowman.

The way it forms, however, could have an impact onfuture attempts to land on the planet for colonization.

Well, the associated winds found in the storm are rather vigorous, explained Franck Montmessin, another member of Spigas team studying Mars atmosphere, to ResearchGates blog. Since they occur in the lower part of the atmosphere, one might want to avoid these turbulent events to ensure a safe landing.

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Report Suggests Solar Energy Capacity Will Rival Nuclear Power by … – Futurism

Posted: at 3:31 am

In Brief New data from GTM Research suggests that rapid adoption of solar power could mean that its global gigawatt capacity rivals that of nuclear power by the end of 2017. While nuclear currently far exceeds solar in terms of energy generation, some predict solar could be the world’s largest source of energy by 2050. Sunny Forecast

Solar energy has been on the rise, and based on new data from GTM Research, it could rival nuclear energy in terms of global capacity by the end of 2017.

The data, which is available in the most recent edition of Global Solar Demand Monitor, indicates that solar power will reach a capacity of roughly 390 gigawatts this year. Meanwhile, the latest figures from the Nuclear Energy Institute suggest that the world is currently home to 391.5 gigawatts of nuclear plants.

Solar growth is slowing slightly following a massive jump from 50.3 gigawatts added in 2015 to 77.8 gigawatts added in 2016, 81.1 gigawatts will likely be added in 2017. However, GTM Research expects that growth will continue at a steady rate, with total global capacity reaching 871 gigawatts by 2022.

Capacity is just one piece of the puzzle, though. Nuclear energy is still well ahead of solar in terms of electricity generated, outputting 2,476,671 gigawatt-hours compared to solars 375,000. That being said, the International Energy Agency projects that solar could feasibly become the worlds largest source of energy by 2050 due to its falling cost and increasing convenience.

Solar energy can help us reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, which we desperately need to do as our net emission of 37 gigatonnes of CO per year are wreaking havoc on the planet, causing global warming, extreme weather events, and millions of deaths.

Building solar panels has become much more cost-effective in recent years, which has fostered large-scale solar initiatives all over the world. Now, with Teslas solar roof panels set to provide homeowners with an inexpensive, aesthetically pleasing, and convenient way to take advantage of solar on an individual basis, the technology seems more poised than ever before for energy domination.

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Bitcoin Cash Price Rises While Bitcoin and Ethereum Drop – Futurism – Futurism

Posted: at 3:31 am

In Brief The top three cryptocurrencies have gone through some changes in the last day, with Bitcoin and Ethereum dropping in price and Bitcoin Cash sharply falling, only to see another meteoric rise.

Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, and Ethereum experienced a few changes since Monday, with some rising to new heights and others dipping down.

As reported by Business Insider, both Bitcoin and Ethereum, the two biggest cryptocurrencies, have seen a single-digit percentage drop, while Bitcoin Cash has seen a double-digit rise.

Bitcoin dropped 2.2 percent against the US dollar as of Tuesday morning, and is now valued at $4,004.67. Ethereum, which recently announced its Metropolis update, saw a slightly larger drop than Bitcoin, dropping 3 percent to $310.32. This drop continued the currencys struggles to hit $350, and its unclear how the Metropolis update will further affect Ether token prices.

Although Bitcoin Cash only split from Bitcoin very recently,at the beginning of August, it quickly became the third-biggest cryptocurrencyin the world. Compared to the top two, Bitcoin Cash rose by 15.6 percent, to $696.39. As impressive as this may be, Business Insider notes the young currency managed to top $1,000 last weekend, but skepticism about its staying power caused it to fall sharply.

Expect prices to fluctuate, as they often tend to do, especially when regarding Bitcoin. Trusted trader masterluc predicts the top digital currency will hit $15,000 by the end of 2017.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Cyborg Bacteria Could Be the Key to Commercially Viable Artificial Photosynthesis – Futurism

Posted: at 3:31 am

In BriefIn an effort to improve the efficiency of naturalphotosynthesis, a researcher at the University of California,Berkeley, has created cyborg bacteria. These bacteria were trainedto grow and cover their bodies with tiny semiconductor nanocrystalsthat act as efficient solar panels for harvesting sunlight. Cyborg Bacteria

Although most life on Earth relies upon photosynthesis as its source of energy, the process has a weak link: chlorophyll. Plants and other organisms use the green pigment to harvest sunlight during photosynthesis, but it is rather inefficient. To that end, scientists have been searching for ways to upgrade natural photosynthesis sohumans would be able to capture and use energy from the Sun more efficiently.

Now, Kelsey K. Sakimoto, a researcher at Peidong Yangs lab at the University of California, Berkeley, has come up with a new alternative to natural photosynthesis: cyborg bacteria that were trained to cover themselves in solar panels that are much more efficient than chlorophyll at converting sunlight into useful compounds.

Rather than rely on inefficient chlorophyll to harvest sunlight, Ive taught bacteria how to grow and cover their bodies with tiny semiconductor nanocrystals, Sakimotosaid in a press release. These nanocrystals are much more efficient than chlorophyll and can be grown at a fraction of the cost of manufactured solar panels.

To produce his cyborg bacteria, Sakimoto fed them the amino acid cysteine and the element cadmium. The bacteria then synthesized cadmium sulfide (CdS) nanoparticles, which efficiently absorb light, functioning as solar panels on the bacterias surfaces. The new hybrid organism, called M. thermoacetica-CdS, produces useful acetic acid from light energy, water, and CO2 at a rate that outperforms any sources of natural photosynthesis.

Today, Sakimoto is presenting his work at the 254th National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

Humanity is facing an ever-growing need for alternatives to fossil fuels as we face down the consequences of greenhouse gas emissionsand a rapidly increasing population that requires energy to sustain.

Artificial photosynthesisisnot a new concept, and a system that requires only sunlight and simple organic chemicals to generate renewable energy cheaply and cleanly is understandably highly desirable.

While some limited progress has been made in this area, until now, no proposed solution has been nearly efficient enough to warrant commercial use.

Sakiomotos bacteria, however, operate at an efficiency of more than 80 percent and are both self-replicating and self-regenerating, making this a zero-waste technology with multiple uses. Once covered with these tiny solar panels, the bacteria can synthesize food, fuels, and plastics, all using solar energy, he explained. These bacteria outperform natural photosynthesis.

While he does acknowledge that more research is needed, Sakiomotois hopefully that his cyborg bacteria could prove to be a viable alternative to fossil fuels, helping the world produce energy more cheaply and cleanly.

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A New Blockchain Platform is Taking on Ethereum – Futurism

Posted: at 3:31 am

In BriefNEO is going head-to-head with Ethereum, claiming that itsplatform provides more options for scripting smart contracts andenhanced reliability. New Kid on the Blockchain

Cryptocurrency is on the riseand, as a result, theres no shortage of companies looking to establish themselves as an essential part of the trading process. In addition to organizations fielding new coins, there are firms that handle other pieces of infrastructure, like Blockchain specialist NEO (formerly known as AntShares).

NEOs biggest competition is currently Ethereum, the blockchain platform behind the prosperous Ether token. Both offer support for programming languages Vitalik Buterin, who originally conceived Ethereum, has felt that the absence of such support has been a major detriment to cryptocurrency but the group behind NEO maintains that its implementation has several advantages.

Smart contracts are automated agreements between traders that can call upon all kinds of different checks and triggers, ranging from a particular date to the balance of a particular account. NEO allows developers to write smart contracts and other projects using familiar programming languages like .NET and Java, with plans to support Python, Go, and JS in the future.

NEO also diverts from the likes of Bitcoin and Ethereum in eschewing the need for anonymity. The platform uses a digital identity system thats intended to help it integrate with the real-world economy. Digital identity is expected to give NEO a major advantage as it attempts to spur adoption in its origin country China.

Bitcoin and Ethereum use proof-of-work (POW) to validate transactions, but NEO instead uses a delegated Byzantine Fault Tolerance (dBFT) consensus method.

POW has strong availability, but it also has a big disadvantage, because it cannot ensure finality. Forks and lone blocks will occur easily, explained company co-founder and CEO Da Hongfei. dBFT ensures finality, which means that once a transaction is confirmed by a block, it is confirmed permanently without being rolled back or revoked. In our point of view, finality is far more important than availability in an important financial system.

Bitcoin was the first cryptocurrency to really make a splash, and it still leads the pack. However, it is still too early to determine the ramifications of itsrecent fork, which could turn out to be either ablessing or a curse.

NEO has been designed with a focus on avoiding the security issues that might prompt a fork. Reliability and stability are a big priority for its creators, having seen projects like Bitcoin Unlimited come undone as a result of such issues.

It certainly seems like NEO is being set up to fulfill the needs of tomorrows cryptocurrency market. That being said, competition from the likes of Bitcoin and Ethereum wont be easy to overcome.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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SpaceX Has Officially Put Red Dragon on the Back Burner, Delaying Mars Expedition – Futurism

Posted: at 3:31 am

In Brief Jim Green, the head of NASA’s planetary science division, has confirmed that SpaceX has told the agency that their Red Dragon program will not be ready to go to Mars as soon as previously expected. According to past statements by CEO Elon Musk, a revised timeline could be revealed next month.

NASA has confirmed that SpaceX is making changes to their previously announced timeline for a manned mission to Mars. Jim Green, head of the agencys planetary science division, acknowledged that NASA had been informed that Red Dragon was being put on the back burner.

SpaceX was originally planning to make the journey to Mars in 2018, with NASA providing assistance with regards to navigation and communications as part of a Space Act Agreement between the two organizations. Wed agreed to navigate to Mars, get [Elon Musk] to the top of the atmosphere, and then it was up to him to land, said Green.

Initially, Red Dragon was expected to use a propulsion landing system to make its controlled descent onto the surface of Mars. However, when SpaceX confirmed in July 2017 that the craft wouldno longer have these capabilities, many observers wondered whether the Mars mission might miss its launch date.

Back in June, Musk teased major changes to SpaceXs mission to Mars, noting that updates could arrive as soon as September, so the expedition likely isnt off the table entirely. Whats more, the CEO just revealed the space suitshis company is developing for NASA, so that relationship seems to be as strong as ever.

Getting to Mars is no small feat, but even if SpaceX has to amend their course, the Red Planet appears to still be a big priority.

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