NASA Finds Water On Mars (Gizmodo.com)

This is a stunning discovery. Of course, finding clay (or water after a sample’s been super-heated) isn’t the same thing as finding drinking water, but it does mean more excitement and interest will be eyeballing NASA. I believe we need far more money spent on space (and undersea) exploration.


NASA’s Curiosity Rover Just Found Water in Martian Soil

Just when you thought ol’ Curiosity was digging in for the winter, the little discovery machine came up with a doozy: It discovered water in Martian soil. NASA scientists just published five papers in Science detailing the experiments that led to the discovery. That’s right. There’s water on Mars.

Impressive as it is, though, the discovery comes with some caveats. It’s not like Curiosity stumbled on a lost lake under a mountain or a stream trickling across the landscape. Rather, it found water molecules bound to other minerals in Martian soil. There’s kind of a lot of it, too. Researchers say that every cubic foot of Martian soil contains about two pints of liquid water. All things told, about two percent of the Martian soil is made of up water.

“We tend to think of Mars as this dry place—to find water fairly easy to get out of the soil at the surface was exciting to me,” Laurie Leshin, dean of science at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, told The GuardianShe also explained how the discovery was made. Curiosity picked up and sieved a scoop of soil from the surface before dropping it into an on-board oven. “We heat [the soil] up to 835C and drive off all the volatiles and measure them,” she said. “We have a very sensitive way to sniff those and we can detect the water and other things that are released.”

Of course, this isn’t the first sign of water on the red planet. Back in June, Curiosity scooped up a rock specimen that contained a type of clay only be formed in neutral water telling scientists that Mars was once home to running water. And of course, scientists have long suspected water once existed on the planet due to various formations across the Martian landscape. In fact, it’s widely believed that water existed in abundance on Mars, perhaps just as prominently as it does on Earth.

The discovery is important for a number of reasons, but especially exciting because of what this means for future missions to Mars. “We now know there should be abundant, easily accessible water on Mars,” says Leshin. “When we send people, they could scoop up the soil anywhere on the surface, heat it just a bit, and obtain water.” She makes it life on Mars sound so easy; now we just have to figure out how to get around that the quantity of deadly radiation we’ll encounter on the trip over. [Science via The Guardian

Update (5pm): We reached out to Dean Leshin to ask what the discovery of water meant for the larger question of life on Mars, and she replied with a shade of optimism:

Although we found water bound up in the soil particles, it’s still pretty dry. Also, we didn’t find evidence of organic molecules in the soil. So, this doesn’t have a very big bearing on the life on Mars discussion. However, we now know that our instruments are working beautifully, and our next step is to drill into rocks that may have been better places to preserve evidence or organics and of wet environments that could be suitable for life.

Joseph Staten Leaves Bungie

Joseph Staten, one of Bungie’s greats, has now left the company. This man was brought on as a product manager/ localization expert during Myth II: Soulbringer in 1998. He went on to be part of the script writing team team for Oni and helped influence much of the Halo universe that many of us grew to love. I’m a long time Bungie fan and he will be missed.

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300px-Joe_stat_01[1]

At Bungie, we consider ourselves lucky. Every day, we get to do what we love in an amazing place, alongside people we respect and admire. No one embodies that more than Joseph Staten. Few have contributed as much to our success. To that end, it is with no small degree of sadness that we say “Godspeed” to more than just a Grizzled Ancient, but an old, dear friend. And it is with no small degree of delight and intrigue that we imagine what worlds he might take us to next.

Here are a few words from the man himself.

Dear community friends,

After fifteen great years at Bungie, from the battlefields of Myth to the mysteries of Halo and beyond, I’m leaving to tackle new creative challenges. While this may come as a surprise, fear not. It’s been my pleasure building Destiny these past four years, and after the big reveal this Summer, our hugely talented team is on track for greatness. I’ll be cheering all of them, with all of you, when the game launches next year. Thank you for your support of me, and your continued support of Bungie. We couldn’t have done it without you.

Per Audacia Ad Astra!
Joseph Staten

It’s been an honor serving with you, Joseph. Thank you for everything.

Robots, Humans, and Animations Dance (Gizmodo.com)

This is phenomenal.
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Combine robots, 3D graphics, and actors and what do you get? Box, an amazing performance by San Francisco-based engineering firm Bot & Dolly. It’s a short film that explores how the digital world interacts with the real world.

Originally performed live, Box is equal parts art and technical demonstration. Bot & Dolly explain:

It is the culmination of multiple technologies, including large scale robotics, projection mapping, and software engineering. We believe this methodology has tremendous potential to radically transform theatrical presentations, and define new genres of expression.

A little more on those technologies: The piece uses one SCOUT and two IRIS robotic motion control systems that are based on Kuka robots, as well as two high-res projectors. The software that makes Box happen integrates with an Autodesk program called Maya, and was designed in-house at Bot & Dolly. This could easily be a scene from The Matrix, right? [Bot & Dolly via Creators Project via Engadget]

Fully Functioning Iron Man Laser Glove Created (BitRebels.com)

Even though this is well beyond my skills of reinvention, this Iron Man glove is pretty awesome. It even blows stuff up!

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It’s amazing how new technology can mesmerize people. When Star Wars was first released, people started toying with the thought of inventing the science fiction gadgets they saw on the screen. Today people are mesmerized by the fantasy gadgets and user interfaces that some of the heroes we see on the silver screen use. Tony Stark and his Iron Man gear are great examples. What would it feel like to have one of those Iron Man laser glove devices stuck on your arm?

Iron Man Laser Glove

For Patrick Priebe, a quite impressive Iron Man fan, it was a dream too great not to be realized. He managed to somewhat recreate the Iron Man laser glove in a way that would make most Iron Man fans drool. Sure, it might not have the impressive jet boosters, the incredible weaponry or even the insane mechanics of the Iron Man laser glove itself, but it does have the laser, and it’s pretty darn powerful as well. Well, maybe not compared to the real deal perhaps, but compared to what we are all used to seeing.

Patrick’s full metal gauntlet, or Iron Man laser glove, runs on 1x 18650 plus 2x 14500 Li Ion cells. It also has 2 blue lasers on board, 1.2W each, plus 2 4mW for aiming. The power might not be equivalent to that of Iron Man’s laser glove, but it is impressive enough, and with a second of aim, it will blast balloons from a respectable range.

If Patrick kept modifying his glove and added more cool technology to it, and maybe if he builds the whole suit, this Iron Man laser glove could become quite a kick starter (and of course I don’t mean the crowdfunding website Kickstarter). Innovative approaches to recreate and realize on-screen technologies (like the Iron Man laser glove) are not only on the edge of geek, but they also push technology forward because people see that it can, if only slightly, be done. When a lot of people start to innovate individually on the same draft technology, it’s a huge leap forward for the overall field of technology.

Patrick Priebe’s Working Iron Man Laser Glove

A Preliminary Look at WTFast (TenTonHammer.com)

For gamers, low pings can make or break an entire raid not to mention help improve accuracy in first-person and other shooters. Xerin over at TTH took WTFast through its paces, but only for WoW. (There’s a promise to test FFXIV, Phantasy Star Online II, etc.) I look forward to seeing if it turns out this could really drop pings in a meaningful way.

If you’re interested in trying the service for yourself, first go to the full list of supported games to make sure what you need is offered.

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wtfast

WTFast is a service that connects your computer to the game servers using an Internet expressway of sorts. Normally traffic is routed throughout different routers and exchanges, the traffic bouncing everywhere to get to your destination. Each hop adds in a tiny bit of lag. With WTFast, your connection goes directly to their server which routes it directly to a server near the location of the game servers, cutting out a lot of the latency.

Who needs such a service? Well, that’s a tough question. It’s sort of a niche service in the sense that those who don’t need to worry about latency wouldn’t benefit much. If you press your buttons in the game and they work and nothing feels off then I’ll be honest – a product like this isn’t going to improve your game much. Maybe it’ll make the game feel a little better, but if you’re focused on casual playing and there is nothing that bothers you, then you’re fine.

On the other hand, if you have network problems (something I’ve experienced a lot of that are only solved by services like these, say a router somewhere between you and the gameserver is messing up) and are constantly getting dropped from the game then this is something that will help a ton. If you’re doing any sort of high level PvP or PvE and need your connection to not be dodgy or slow, then this is the sort of product that helps.

Another big use of a product like this is for game servers that are cross continent. The reason being is that if you start getting a large degradation in service when you start going international. Anyone playing a game with servers in South Korea from North America knows exactly how the latency feels. Having a straight connection from your house to overseas can make the world of a difference.

So there is viability to something like WTFast and there are those out there who can benefit from a service like that, but one of my big questions is does WTFast actually work? Does it decrease or increase latency? Is it easy to use?

As far as the software goes and the website, they are easy enough to use. You download the software, register on the website, and then choose the game that you want to play and the server that you play on (to make sure that the end connection is as close as possible to the game server that you’re going to play on).

WTFast Latency

The connection before using WTFast.

WTFast Latency

The connection after using WTFast.

Our first test is with World of Warcraft. Loading up the game with no background processes running we receive a hilariously high ping that later settles down to 52ms, which is the average. After loading up WTFast, my ping drops to 40ms. A rather huge difference, even on marginal levels, because that is 12ms less it takes data to travel from my computer to Blizzard and back again.

So I would say there was a benefit in using the service directly and I’d like to note that my ping does get much worse at times, this is testing it late at night. During the day I can see spikes up to 60 to 80ms, so the results are definitely in line with an improvement.

As far as WoW goes, I can give it a big thumbs up as an improvement. Stability as I played was fine and there was a somewhat noticeable difference in responsiveness. My character casted spells and used skills slightly more fluidly. So no huge change, but in mission critical areas like the arenas or raids, those few milliseconds can mean the difference between life and death.

That’s about all the time I’ve had with the product now. We’ll be doing a more comprehensive review of the service and testing out some really exciting games like Phantasy Star Online II as a custom game, FFXIV on Japanese servers, and maybe even Mabinogi. So be sure to stay tuned. In the meantime, to look for more information about the service, visit their website at https://www.wtfast.com/.

Hand Gesture Holographic Interface Demo (BitRebels.com)

Our favorite sci-fi billionaire is at it again. This time it’s a holographic gesture system. Y’know…a year after implementation, nerds around the world will have the upper body strength of Mr. Universe!

I could see this working well for specific applications (design, CAD, art, medicine, etc.), but games? Hmmm.

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The Iron Man movies have become synonymous with next generation technology. Many innovators are trying to recreate the magical interfaces that we are now used to seeing on the silver screen. One of those people is billionaire and space age fanatic Elon Musk, who’s been known to take ideas and realize them with the help of his earned fortune. Tony Stark’s Jarvis holographic interface is just one of the technologies that Elon Musk has been trying to recreate.

A couple weeks ago, Elon Musk tweeted that he and his SpaceX team had just built and 3d printed parts for a rocket using a hand gesture system which he was eager to showcase. The video was uploaded recently, and since then, Mr. Musk has made several intriguing updates about what goes on over at his innovative company.

Elon Musk Jarvis System Tweet

Even though the expectations were almost too high, people were still impressed by the innovative way this system utilizes hand gestures to interact with the objects on the screen. The ability to model and alter objects by just using hand gestures is a a huge optimization. If the team manages to incorporate a holographic interface using Displair, or something similar, this technology could rapidly become something that is really close to what we are used to seeing in the Iron Man movies.

In this video, we are taken through the process of building the virtual reality holographic interface system Elon Musk and his team have been working on. Even though it’s not a legit holographic interface, it still is in a way. By using virtual reality glasses, the system allows the user to seamlessly operate in unlimited space. The question is whether or not virtual reality can be called a holographic interface, or if it is still just a virtual reality system. Either way, with people like Elon Musk working on holographic interface systems and spending millions on developing software and hardware to bring them to reality, I am quite sure that we’ll be seeing some pretty cool stuff very soon.

Elon Musk & SpaceX’s Hand Gesture Holographic Interface

Elon Musk Holographic Interface

Elon Musk Holographic Interface

Elon Musk Holographic Interface

Tokyo’s 2020 Olympic Stadium Is Breathtaking (Dezeen.com)

This looks like something out of “V” or most any alien invasion movie, but stunning is a great word for the competition winning design.

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Tokyo 2020 Olympics to centre around Zaha Hadid stadium

News: the forthcoming National Stadium of Japan by Zaha Hadid Architects is now set to become the main sporting venue for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic games, following the news that Tokyo will be the host city.

The new 80,000-seat stadium will host the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2020 games, as well as athletics, football and rugby events.

Tokyo 2020 Olympics to centre around Zaha Hadid stadium

“The stadium will become an integral part of Tokyo’s urban fabric, directly engaging with the surrounding cityscape to connect and carve the elegant forms of the design,” said Zaha Hadid, after winning a competition to design the stadium in November.

“Our three decades of research into Japanese architecture and urbanism is evident in our winning design and we greatly look forward to building the new National Stadium,” she added.

Tokyo 2020 Olympics to centre around Zaha Hadid stadium

Set to replace the existing Kasumigaoka National Stadium, the new building will join Kenzo Tange’s iconic 1964 Olympic stadium in Yoyogi Park, which will function as a handball arena this time around. Zaha Hadid Architects will also work on this building, renovating the structure and adding a retractable roof.

Two other venues from the 1964 games – the Nippon Budokan and the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium – will also be reused, offering venues for judo and table tennis.

Additional arenas will be constructed in downtown Tokyo in an effort to save energy and reduce the need for transport investment, while the Olympic village is proposed on Tokyo’s harbour and will be converted into housing after the games are over.

Tokyo was named as the host city for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic games over the weekend and will follow on from Rio de Janeiro in 2016. Find out more about Rio 2016 »

Zaha Hadid Architects previously designed the Aquatics Centre for the London Olympics in 2012, which recently had its two temporary wing-like seating stands removedSee more architecture by Zaha Hadid  »

Thunderclap: Phonebloks Seeks To Revolutionize Mobile Phone Upgrades (Kotaku.com)

While the idea in its current implementation may not be feasible (according to nearly every engineer who replied), it certainly doesn’t mean it’s impossible – forever. That’s what innovation’s all about.

I’d definitely buy a device like this as it’s how I’ve generally managed my PC upgrades for the past decade: buy a great case and fill it with awesome parts that’ll last me a couple years, then rip out parts and replace with better fillings as needed. I think this product would be immensely popular as customers could have mix and match to fit their exact customization needs (bigger camera, bigger storage, bigger battery, etc.). And, honestly, outside of case color, customization in mobile handsets isn’t really an option. Heck, with the iPhone, you get what you get and that’s it outside of choosing how much RAM you want.

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Forget The iPhone, Let’s Support This Thing

At some point, smartphone ownership can start to feel like a runaround. You buy the phone with the new! best! features! and a year later,Apple (or whoever) reveals a newer phone with the newer! bester! features! and your phone becomes obsolete. Enter Phonebloks, a brilliant modular concept phone.

The concept, from designer Dave Hakkens, is of a totally modular phone with separate “parts” that can be swapped out, removed, or upgraded, depending on the needs of the user. When they make a faster chip or a better screen, you could simply buy a new chip or screen without replacing the entire phone. If you just want a lot of disk space or battery juice and don’t care about your camera, you could sacrifice the one for the other. Smart!

And sure, it may be unrealistic. It doesn’t seem to be designed with profitability in mind, which would make it a tough sell for cell phone manufacturers. And I have no idea if it would even be possible to engineer something like this. (Though if they can put a freakin’ fingerprint scanner on an iPhone, surely someone could make something like this work?)

But whatever, this idea is too appealing to ignore completely. Why not explore it? See what happens? You don’t have to give them money to support the idea; all they ask is that people go to Thunderclap and lend them some social media push. And what’s the harm, really? Phonebloks may never amount to anything, but you never know.

Pressy: So Awesome It Completes Kickstarter In A Day (Engadget.com)

So, I had my doubts. Would I really use a clicky in my 3.5mm port? Watch the video at the end. I bet you’ll pitch in $5 toward the Kickstarter, too!

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DNP Pressy the onebutton Android controller so cool it was Kickstarted in under a day

If Kickstarter had a 24-hour funders club, Pebble and the Bolex Camera would be welcoming Pressy today. In under a day, the multifunction Android controller has more than doubled its $40,000 goal (raising $108,435 from 4,889 backers as of this writing) and with 45 days left to go, the numbers keep climbing. Perhaps its simplicity is what’s making it such a hit. Pressy plugs into any Android device’s headphone port (Gingerbread and above), and clicking its unobtrusive 0.7mm-tall button controls and automates any manner of your gizmo’s functions. Through its app you can assign a given task to a sequence of clicks; it’s up to you if it takes two short clicks to speed-dial your mom or one long press to snap an unobtrusive picture, for example. You can still use it if you have a pair of headphones in too, with the cans’ play button subbing in for control. Clever.

Unlike other Kickstarters, this isn’t some far-off prospect: Developer Nimrod Back has promised Pressy will be available within four months. A basic Pressy will set you back $17, for a choice of colors with a keychain storage sheath you’ll have to pony up $25. Oh, and if you fancy yourself a programmer and want the device’s API, then drop $1,000 and make that tier’s one other pledge less lonely.

3D Hubs’ Crowdsource Project Backed By London VC Firm (VentureBeat.com)

In case 3D printing wasn’t heading to the mainstream soon enough, high-end estimates have the industry generating a half-trillion dollars in revenue in the next decade or so. In an effort to capitalize on the early entrance to the already booming market, Balderton Capitol has just backed 3D Hubs’ crowdsourcing effort to create a worldwide network of 3D printers. The project would allow folks to find and use a local printer, send their request to print, pay a small additional fee for the service, then pick up the items instead of waiting for shipping. (This would also keep the “little guys” viable as Staples and UPS Stores have also tossed their hats into the 3D printing ring.)

I think far more people would be interested in 3D printing if they had a local resource to answer questions directly and build a rapport with. Plus, that substantially lowers the cost of an initial investment into the marketplace. “Try before you buy.”

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Balderton Capital backs crowdsourced 3D printing network 3D Hubs

Balderton Capital backs crowdsourced 3D printing network 3D Hubs

London-headquartered VC firm Balderton Capital is betting on popular demand for 3D printing with a seed-stage investment in 3D printing network 3D Hubs.

The rate of growth for 3D printing is tremendous. About 23,000 printers were sold in 2011, according to a recent McKinsey report, which is up 300% in average annual growth since 2007. The industry as a whole could have an economic impact of $230-$550 billion per year by 2025.

3D Hubs, a six-person team based in Amsterdam, is building a global network that connects people who want to print with 3D printer owners. Here’s how it works: 3D printer owners sign up to be listed on their local “Hub”, which sets its own price per print plus material used. 3D Hubs performs a quality check for each uploaded digital model, delivers the order and processes the payment. It adds a 15% charge on top of the quoted price for each print.

The community aspect is a big part of 3D Hubs’ offer — unlike centralized services, customers know they’re supporting local makers and can pick up prints rather than wait for them to be shipped. Expansion follows supply and demand, with cities “unlocked” once a certain number of printers become available. The network currently spans over 500 printer locations in cities including London, Amsterdam, Berlin, Antwerp and Copenhagen.

Other options for those without a 3D printer to call their own include Shapeways, an online marketplace for making, buying and selling 3D printed products that ships anywhere in the world. Staples in the Netherlands and UPS in the US, also plan to offer on-demand 3D printing services.

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