The 3D-printed object is a trim-and-drill tool, a special tool used by aircraft manufacturers like Boeing to build the wings on its passenger airplanes. ORNL’s version of the tool stands at 17.5 feet long, 5.5 feet wide, and 1.5 feet tall (5.3 x 1.7 x 0.5 m)—practically the size of a large sports utility vehicle—and it took the laboratory only 30 hours to print with its Big Area Additive Manufacturing Machine using carbon fiber and composite plastic materials.
Guinness World Records judge Michael Empric said the tool reached 82.4 cubic feet (2.3 cubic meters), surpassing the previous record of 10.6 cubic feet (0.3 cubic meters) for a 3D-printed item.
Besides setting a new world record, the trim-and-drill tool is really meant to be used to secure Boeing’s 777x passenger jet’s composite wing skin for drilling and machining before it is assembled. Production of the 777x passenger jet in Boeing’s St. Louis production facility is set to begin in 2017, with a delivery target of 2020.
“The existing, more expensive metallic tooling option we currently use comes from a supplier and typically takes three months to manufacture using conventional techniques,” said Leo Christodoulou, Boeing’s director of structures and materials. “Additively manufactured tools, such as the 777X wing trim tool, will save energy, time, labor and production cost and are part of our overall strategy to apply 3D printing technology in key production areas.”
This isn’t ORNL’s first foray into 3D printing. The research facility, which has printed a working Shelby sports car, and an Army Jeep, among other items, has been working on 3D printing methods to create wind turbine blade molds since current processes are not just complex, but also time and energy consuming.
Throughout the year, evidence of a ninth rogue planet, imaginatively dubbed, Planet Nine, has been increasing. Astronomers have been following a trail of clues that would potentially lead to pinpointing its location in hopes of proving its existence.
Carnegie Institute astronomers Chadwick Trujillo and Scott Sheppard were the first to propose the existence of a ninth planet in 2014 based on “extreme KBOs (Kuiper Belt Objects)” that did not seem to be influenced by Neptune, unlike normal KBOs. Instead, these “trans-Neptunian objects” seem to be uniformly gravitating towards something else: “[the gravitational behavior] suggested that something—an unknown giant planet—is shepherding them into similar orbits,” Sheppard said.
And now, the same astronomers that led a worldwide hunt for the elusive Planet Nine are adding more to the mounting evidence. They published their latest discoveries demonstrating more objects with orbital characteristics consistent with those believed to have been herded by Planet Nine.
Not Enough, But Exciting Nonetheless
Sheppard says more evidence is still needed to understand the structure of the Outer Solar System: “Right now we are dealing with very low-number statistics, so we don’t really understand what is happening in the outer Solar System,” he said. “Greater numbers of extreme trans-Neptunian objects must be found to fully determine the structure of our outer Solar System.”
He adds that the quest for Planet Nine is comparable to the older eras of planet discoveries, when we used to only know a few: “we are now in a similar situation as in the mid-19th century when Alexis Bouvard noticed Uranus’ orbital motion was peculiar, which eventually led to the discovery of Neptune.”
As astronomers continuously find and follow the hypothetical Planet Nine’s trail we hope to eventually be able to corner it. At that distance from the Sun, it wouldn’t be moving fast but with such a vast sky to search, it is an absolute challenge…but fortunately an entertaining one: “It’s exciting to go through,” Sheppard says. “Every image—you never know what you’re going to get. It could be the image with the super-Earth in it.”
Ten years ago, the world’s first cancer vaccine was administered in Australia.
Since then, the vaccine—Gardasil—that targets human papilloma virus (HPV) has been administered more than 187 million times in 130 countries around the world, cutting up to 90 percent of infections in some areas, according to a recent review published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.
Aside from Australia, this vaccine is also being used in Europe, North America, and New Zealand.
“Reductions in HPV infections as well as reductions in the prevalence of HPV 6/11/16/18-related diseases, as noted by decreases in Pap abnormalities, cervical pre-cancers, and genital warts, were detected within four years after vaccine introduction,” said lead researcher Professor Suzanne Garland, M.D., director of microbiological research and head of clinical microbiology and infectious diseases, at the Royal Women’s Hospital in Australia.
10 YEARS ON
HPV is a common virus, affecting nearly 80 million people—or one in four—in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gardasil is typically prescribed for women between the age of 9 and 26 to prevent cervical, vulvar, vaginal, anal cancers, genital warts, and precancerous or dysplastic lesions caused by the virus. It is also approved for use of men between 9 and 26 years old.
Professor Ian Frazer, who co-created the HPV vaccine, said the virus is an “extremely common infection,” so much so that “5 percent of all cancers worldwide are caused by papilloma virus infection”—including cervical cancer, cancers in the throat and mouth, and a small number of rarer cancers.
“About 20 percent of all cancers are caused by a virus infection and about a quarter of those are caused by papilloma virus,” the professor told Brisbane Times.
Experts point out that the vaccine does not eliminate the need for women to undergo cervical cancer screening. Still, the review is an indication—and a very good one at that—of how important the vaccine is in the fight against cervical cancer and other HPV-related cancers and diseases.
To measure the level of a civilization’s advancement, the Kardashev scale focuses on the amount of energy that a civilization is able to utilize. Notably, the amount of power available to a civilization is fundamentally linked to how widespread the civilization is (you obviously can’t harness the power of a star if you are confined to your home planet). In a previous article, we offered an overview of the various civilization types, Subglobal Cultures, Galactic Cultures, Multiverse Cultures etc.
Today, I want to talk about what it would be like to live in a Type 0 Civilization—A Subglobal Culture.
This might seem like a rather strange topic for discussion. After all, we are a subglobal culture. So couldn’t I just say, “What you are doing right now is living in a subglobal culture. Congratulations. Look out your window or something.” Wouldn’t that give you a much better understanding of this civilization type than any explanation that I could give? No.
Understanding Our World
Based on our energy use, in 1973 astronomer Carl Sagan estimated that Earth represented a Type 0.7 civilization, more current assessments put us at about 0.72. What does this mean? We’ve had 4.5 billion years and we still haven’t made it to a Type 1 civilization.
So there’s a lot more to a Type 0 civilization than simply what you see when you look out your window. What about what came before? And what will come next?
On our own planet, at the lowest civilization type (Type 0.1) you would be a proto-human. You would use sticks and other basic tools to hunt and forage for your food. You probably wouldn’t wear any clothes. Many of your fellow proto-humans would be eaten by proto-lions (which would not be terribly pleasant, I’m afraid).
However, as an individual in a proto-society, you’d have to fight to earn mating rights, protect your hunting territories, and establish leadership through a strength based dominance hierarchy…so your fellows getting eaten by proto-lions might actually work to your advantage. Warm showers would (of course) be out of the question. You’d have to rely entirely on natural resources such as hot springs, fires set by lightning, and your own muscle power.
But eventually a proto-human in your proto-society would start carving stones into tools. Thus, your little world would evolve into the Stone Age (how exciting for you!).
At this point, as you move to a Type 0.2 civilization and beyond, you figure out how to manipulate fire and use it to your advantage (like making roasted proto-lion). You also start wearing clothing and other items that protect you from the natural environment. Eventually, you harness animals and use them to herd and transport material (proto-Lassie and proto-Mister Ed).
You might use smoke signals to communicate to distant tribes as you expand across the planet. And so you would slowly evolve from relying on natural forms of energy to manipulating resources for use.
As your culture continues to develop, you will begin metalworking. But moving from the Stone Age into the Metal Ages takes time…a lot of time (the Stone Age on Earth lasted some 3.4 million years). But eventually you’ll stop using those ruddy stones, and you’ll progress through the Copper, Bronze, and Iron Ages, where metal tools replace previous devices (and you make swords to stab your enemies, which will be of great assistance as you continue to fight to earn mating rights, protect hunting territories, and establish leadership through an economic based dominance hierarchy). Better fuels, such as coal or oil secured from local tar pits, will replace wood in campfires (just be careful with your herds around those tar pits; if one of your animals slips in, it probably won’t be seen again until some bloody scientist from a Type 0.7 civilization unearths it in a few millennia).
As you form into a more advanced community, you develop large structures that allow you to harness water power and wind power. Populations around rivers and other water systems surge and cities begin to truly develop (which makes plague spreading a snap and sewage removal a serious problem). Assuming your civilization isn’t wiped out by dysentery (it’s caused by fecal contamination of food and water), you will plateau here for a bit, at about Type 0.4.
The large structures created to harness wind and water energy are really only capable of producing a tiny amount of energy. So slowly, ever so slowly, you transition into widespread use of fossil fuel burning. And as we all know, a tiny bit of oil or natural gas goes a long way: Cue the industrial revolution!
Of course, steam and electricity are soon to follow.
Once you have electricity, your subglobal culture will evolve at an amazing rate. With electricity comes the advent of instantaneous global communication systems, amazingly fast transportation systems (which enable people to traverse the planet on a whim), global markets and planetary trade activities…and the dawn of a global culture is at hand.
At this level, you begin to truly understand the processes that create the planet and cosmos (your archaeologists delve into the deep recesses of tar pits and learn much about the herding practices of your ancestors). Nuclear energy is soon to follow and, as the energy released by nuclear fission is a million times greater than that released in chemical reactions, it fuels industry and technology even further, bringing society ever closer to breaching the bounds of the planet.
And here we have the major test
Nuclear energy isn’t all fun and games. Sure, you can use it to power cities and expand world markets. But you can also use it to obliterate your enemies (and much of the planet in the process) as you continue to fight to earn mating rights, protect hunting territories, and establish leadership through an economic based dominance hierarchy.
If you pass the test, you will harness the power of your planet and advance to a Type 1 civilization—a united global society that is capable of harnessing all the solar energy that reaches your world, manipulating planetary weather systems, and you’ll start to pull energy from other objects in the cosmos. If you fail, you will quite literally bomb your society back into the Stone Age (assuming, of course, that you don’t completely obliterate every living member of your civilization).
In the race to create practical quantum computers, researchers have been focusing on optical systems. For instance, researchers from MIT recently made an important step towards quantum computing by developing a prototype chip that can trap ions in an electric field, and using built-in optics, direct laser light towards each of them.
But what if there was another way to build quantum computers without focusing on optical systems?
A team of researchers at Aalto University in Finland came up with a new answer: microwave signals.
“Today the basic architecture of future quantum computers is being developed very intensively around the world. By utilizing the multi-frequency microwave signals, an alternative approach can be pursued which realizes the logical gates by sequences of quantum measurements. Moreover, if we use the photons created in our resonator, the physical quantum bits or qubits become needless,” said Professor Pertti Hakonen from the Low Temperature Laboratory of Aalto University.
For the study, published in journal Nature Communications, the team chilled a microwave resonator to nearly absolute zero temperature—freezing any thermal motion. This state, called a quantum vacuum, is akin to perfect darkness, but has fluctuations that can bring photons in and out of existence, albeit for just a very short time.
After turning these flickering photons into real ones, the researchers discovered that there is a “magic connection” between each of the photons.
“This all hints at the possibility of using the different frequencies for quantum computing. The photons at different frequencies will play a similar role to the registers in classical computers, and logical gate operations can be performed between them,” said Dr. Sorin Paraoanu, senior university lecturer and one of the co-authors of the work.
In the field of geology, an epoch is a period in Earth’s history used to identify a specific era. An epoch, therefore, becomes a reference point to categorize objects of geological study. For most of the Earth’s history, these periods last for millions of years. That is, until we (humans) came along. Officially, we are currently in the Holocene epoch which only covers, roughly, the past 12,000 years.
Now, a team of international scientists and researchers who have gathered at the International Geological Congress held in Cape Town, South Africa are saying that it’s time that a new epoch should be declared. They’re calling it the Anthropocene, signifying the significant role human activity is having on the currently developing sediment.
This human-influenced epoch is marked, unfortunately, by climate change, air pollution, population growth, significant rainforest loss. There is still some debate as to when the epoch’s start is, but some are pointing to the 1950s, when nuclear testing began and prompted radioactive elements to become a part of the sediment. In order to declare the new epoch, there has to be a clear signal, defined as a “golden spike,” of a change in the geological record. Aside from radioactive sediment, other candidates include deposits caused from the burning of fossil fuels, the effects of fertilizer on soil, and plastic pollution, among others.
New Age of Man
Of the 35 experts, recognized as the Working Group on the Anthropocene (WGA), 30 voted for the declaration of the new epoch. “The significance of the Anthropocene is that it sets a different trajectory for the Earth system, of which we of course are part,” WGA chair, Jan Zalasiewicz, a geologist from the University of Leicester in the UK told The Guardian. “…we have lived most of our lives in something called the Anthropocene and are just realizing the scale and permanence of the change.”
The experts are now conducting more investigations to make sure that this human-influenced epoch is indeed scientifically valid. This could entail several years of sampling and analysis to identify when the Anthropocene epoch officially starts and then be submitted to the International Commission on Stratisgraphy (ICS). From there, it will be formalized by the International Union of Geological Sciences.
To date, the promises of AI have largely remained unfulfilled. 2016’s cast of artificial characters—Siri, Cortana, Alexa—are still glorified chatbots, summoned only when we remember to check the weather, or when we need a gimmick at a house party.
Real artificial intelligence—the kind that thinks; the kind that feels; the kind that observes; the kind you might fall in love with if you’re not careful—is still a developer’s daydream. Meanwhile, the AI we do have seem trapped in the same cycle of incremental evolution as the devices they inhabit.
And perhaps that’s exactly the problem. Maybe AI isn’t supposed to be an app on a smartphone, or a software program on a speaker. Maybe it demands a dedicated device. Maybe it deserves its own body—not a humanoid body, of course, but a practical one; a body that allows it to integrate meaningfully and unobtrusively into your life.
The best example of this kind of device is probably ‘Samantha,’ the Scarlett Johansson-voiced companion bot that turned Joaquin’s Phoenix’s life upside down in Spike Jonze’s Her. Samantha felt real. For all intents and purposes, she was real—the promise of AI fulfilled. She talked like we talked; felt like we felt; loved like we loved.
Of course, today’s AI are nowhere near Samantha’s level. Even our best iterations are still learning how to read and write. Surely we must be decades away from technology of this caliber. Surely we must sit and wait while Apple and Amazon teach Siri and Alexa to grow up—right?
Nathan Ross and Dan Gailey don’t think so.
In fact, they believe their company can pluck Samantha right out of Hollywood and put her into your hands (or your left breast pocket, at least). Their plan? Build a brand new kind of mobile device—build, what they call, a brand new category of mobile device—and convince the world they need to carry it around with them.
Meet Asteria. It’s a hardware device host, and an interface to your personal artificial intelligence bot. It’s built small—24 mm x 78 mm—to unobtrusively become part of your every day life. It’s GNU/Linux-based to take advantage of distributed multi-processing. And the team notes that it’s packed with a variety of sensors—camera, wifi, bluetooth, GPS, accelerometer, compass, microphone array—to learn who and what you are.
From there, the sky’s the limit.
Ross and Gailey state that Asteria is extensible, which means the community can develop for both the hardware and software. The back-end was built from the ground up to integrate and accommodate bot marketplaces, machine learning models, smart contracts, and even blockchain transactions. In fact, it will mine its own proprietary cryptocurrency for you while it charges—paying for itself in the process.
Community involvement is an essential part of what Ross and Gailey are trying to do with Asteria—it takes a village to beat a turing test, after all. They envision a number of challenges developers might tackle early on—speech analysis, voice modulation, habit learning, and data modeling, to name a few.
They want Asteria to know you, and your relationships. They want it to make informed recommendations based on the thing you say, the places you go, and the habits you form. They want it to track your health and wellbeing 24 hours a day. They even want it to help you identify opportunities to make a quick buck on the go (sharing economy, anyone?)
The team asserts that all of this simply wouldn’t be possible on an existing device. “Building a new device allows Asteria’s AI to fit the needs of the user as a truly immersive experience, allowing people to not think of this as a phone or camera, but as something far more profound,” Ross explained.
If they have their way, and if the developer community bites, they may just be on the way to realizing their vision. But even if they do, don’t expect Samantha right out of the box. Asteria is only building the foundation for what it believes is a viable means of achieving true, personal artificial intelligence.
It’s up to all of us to make it human.
Asteria are launching a limited preorder for their pocket-sized AI, which is still in development. The company hopes to ship the first units to developers in Spring 2017. In the meantime, you can subscribe to their newsletter for updates.