The future can be sly. We expect to wake up one day and suddenly have jetpacks and sentient robots trying to kill us. But as often as not the technology of the future comes at us slowly, incrementally. So it’s no great surprise when it finally arrives. When it does, it’s almost as if it’s been with us all along.
We’re seeing this with “cars of the future.” While much of the world has been focusing on the tremendous strides in autonomous driving — and they are tremendous; see here and here — a quiet revolution has been under way in the auto industry otherwise. Optics and other technologies are already making cars smarter, more efficient and generally just a little bit cooler.
Perhaps the most obvious example of cars... MORE
I almost always regret reading the comments sections of online articles. The speed with which they devolve into vitriol and simple, unrestrained idiocy is breathtaking and totally dispiriting. Millions of years of evolution give us the capacity for speech and abstract thought, and the wherewithal to build technologies enabling us to communicate with countless others around the globe in an instant, and this is what we do with those gifts. Comments sections make me weep for humanity.
Still, every now and then I come across a comments thread that doesn’t make me want to claw my eyes out. This happened just last week, in fact, with a news article on Nature.com: “Animal-rights activists wreak havoc in Milan laboratory.” Here, I found a number of measured and informative... MORE
Imagine a world in which the academic paper is no longer the ultimate goal, the inviolable end product of science.
It’s hard, isn’t it?
For centuries, scientific journals have offered a means to communicate new findings and ideas to the broadest possible audience — taking advantage of developments in the printing press and later, related developments to disseminate scientific knowledge to scholars the world over. Indeed, they have come to represent a sort of reification of this knowledge, as if the words and figures on their well-thumbed pages are a kind of Platonic ideal.
But now all of that is changing. In “Beyond the paper,” an essay in a recent Nature special issue on the future of publishing, Jason Priem describes a widespread move towards... MORE
The future, as they say, is now. Everything we know today was once just a possibility, a germ of an idea that might come to fruition months or years or decades down the road.
In the 1960s, the television series Star Trek offered a vision of the future — and of technology in the future — that, in some ways, has already come true. Among the predictions made by the show: the tricorder, a handheld medical device used to detect, diagnose and treat whatever injury or illness happened to arise. The tricorder was just a germ of an idea then, but it anticipated — likely inspired — a number of devices under development and even in use a mere 50 years later (See: The Age of the Tricorder).
Star Trek offers all kinds of examples of instruments that have since come to... MORE
A friend handed me a business card for a holistic health & beauty practitioner. On the back of the card were an appointment reminder, a note about the practitioner’s cancellation policy and a list of the areas in which she was certified: heart forgiveness, core health, and a subspecialty of the holistic medical arts that had somehow previously escaped my attention, biophoton therapy.
This is a thing, apparently (and a thing in which you can be certified). But what exactly is it? I found scads of information on the Internet: informational websites, technology briefs, masters’ theses about the effects of the therapy on red blood cells and isolated rat cortical neurons. Turns out there’s a whole world — more to the point, an entire industry —... MORE