A Guide to the Future

Photo Credit: Imperial College London (Click to enlarge)

The future may seem intangible, but according to Business Insider, Academics at Imperial Tech Foresight are helping us grasp just what it might look like. Inspired by the periodic table of chemical elements, the academics replaced its contents with elements we may very well one day see.

The predictions are slotted into a space across two axis: The Y-axis ranks the potential for disruption from high to low, while the X-axis determines how soon it will become a reality. All elements are also color-coded to reflect the present, 20 years into the future, and up to the far away future.

For example, green elements are a reality now: Cm – Cultured meat, Pp – Predictive policing, and Rc – Robotic care companions.

And yellow elements are those that may occur in the near future: Em – Emotionally aware machines, Mm – Public mood monitoring, and Bs – Artificial human substitutes.

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Nomination Deadline: September 1, 2018

You are invited to nominate qualified candidate(s) for the Nanocarbons Division Richard E. Smalley Award.

The Nanocarbons Division Richard E. Smalley Research Award was established in 2006 to encourage research excellence in the areas of fullerenes, nanotubes and carbon nanostructures. The award consists of a scroll, a $1,000 prize and travel assistance to attend the 235th ECS biannual meeting in May 2019 in Dallas, TX for formal recognition. Explore the full award details on the ECS website prior to completing the electronic application.

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For the legendary actor Alan Alda, it was the same curiosity that drew him into acting that propelled him into the world of science.

“I remember as a kid always trying to figure out why things were the way they were. How they got to be the way that they were,” says Alda. He was fascinated with the world around him, from examining a flame at the end of a candle to contemplating human behavior. “Why did adults say the things they said and why they behave the way they did?”

Then, an opportunity arose that mixed a little bit of each world. Alda was asked to host the television show Scientific American Frontiers. A show that discussed new technologies and discoveries in science and medicine.

“I said ‘yes’ on the condition I could actually interview the scientists and not just read a narration,” says Alda, “because I really wanted to hear from the scientists about their work. And I wanted to understand it better. That kind of lead to what I do now which is to help scientists communicate better.”

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According to the Georgia Institute of Technology, crab shells and trees may soon replace the flexible plastic packaging used to keep food fresh. The innovative process involves spraying multiple layers of chitin from crab shells and cellulose from trees to form a flexible film similar to plastic packaging film. Once fully dried, the material is flexible, strong, transparent, and compostable.

Not only will these lifeforms become a source of sustainable and renewable wrapping, but they will also help improve food quality. Compared to conventional plastic packaging, the new technology offers a 67 percent reduction in oxygen permeability, allowing food to stay fresh even longer.

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Gordon Moore, InterfaceNineteen sixty-eight marked a year of tragedy but also of transformation. It may be 50 years in our past, but what occurred that year is still very much alive with us today. Here are our top 5 reasons why the scientific advances of that year are super “groovy” in our book:

5. Patent for the jacuzzi whirlpool hot tub granted

Roy Jacuzzi realized early on that the market for leisure and fitness was a growing one. He set out to create a bathtub that allowed enough room to offer “a relaxing soak,” according to Jacuzzi Inc.’s company history page. With that, the first bathtub with a built-in whirlpool system was born. The laid-back culture of California in the 1970s turned out to be the perfect launching ground for the now widely appreciated and known jacuzzi.

4. Apollo 8 is the first manned spacecraft to orbit the moon

Jim Lovell, Bill Anders, and Frank Borman became the first human beings to orbit another world. According to NASA, on Christmas Eve 1968 the three men were the first to orbit the moon and see  Earth as a whole planet. With that, Jim Lovell confirmed, “there is a Santa Claus.”

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Jan Talbot (center) with Wendy Coulson (left) and Nicole Pacheco (right), Talbot’s graduate students.

One of the pioneers for women in engineering, Jan Talbot retired from the University of California San Diego on July 1, 2018.

Talbot was one of two women in her chemical engineering class at Penn State University. In 1970, when she started her program, there were only seven women and nearly 3,000 men in engineering.

According to the National Science Foundation, in 1973, 576 women in the U.S. graduated with a bachelor’s degree in engineering. Two years later, Talbot was one of the 372 women that earned a master’s.

After completing her degrees at Penn State, she became one of two women in her class to graduate from the University of Minnesota in 1986 with a doctorate in engineering and one of 225 women to earn that degree in the whole country.

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By: Nir Kshetri, University of North Carolina – Greensboro

IOTThe world is full of connected devices – and more are coming. In 2017, there were an estimated 8.4 billion internet-enabled thermostats, cameras, streetlights and other electronics. By 2020 that number could exceed 20 billion, and by 2030 there could be 500 billion or more. Because they’ll all be online all the time, each of those devices – whether a voice-recognition personal assistant or a pay-by-phone parking meter or a temperature sensor deep in an industrial robot – will be vulnerable to a cyberattack and could even be part of one.

Today, many “smart” internet-connected devices are made by large companies with well-known brand names, like Google, Apple, Microsoft and Samsung, which have both the technological systems and the marketing incentive to fix any security problems quickly. But that’s not the case in the increasingly crowded world of smaller internet-enabled devices, like light bulbs, doorbells and even packages shipped by UPS. Those devices – and their digital “brains” – are typically made by unknown companies, many in developing countries, without the funds or ability – or the brand-recognition need – to incorporate strong security features.

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MicroscopeLenses are no longer necessary for some microscopes, according to the engineers developing FlatScope, a thin fluorescent microscope whose abilities promise to surpass those of old-school devices.

A paper in Science Advances describes a wide-field microscope thinner than a credit card, small enough to sit on a fingertip, and capable of micrometer resolution over a volume of several cubic millimeters.

FlatScope eliminates the tradeoff that hinders traditional microscopes in which arrays of lenses can either gather less light from a large field of view or gather more light from a smaller field.

Rice University engineers Ashok Veeraraghavan, Jacob Robinson, Richard Baraniuk, and their labs began developing the device as part of a federal initiative by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency as an implantable, high-resolution neural interface. But the device’s potential is much greater.

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Researchers have created an algorithm that could work alongside an extremely sensitive laser technology that reflects off nearby objects to help self-driving cars see around corners.

Imagine that a driverless car is making its way through a winding neighborhood street, about to make a sharp turn onto a road where a child’s ball is rolling across the street. Although no person in the car can see that ball, the car stops to avoid it.

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Fuel Cell CarUsing advanced computational methods, University of Wisconsin–Madison materials scientists have discovered new materials that could bring widespread commercial use of solid oxide fuel cells closer to reality.

A solid oxide fuel cell is essentially an engine that provides an alternative way to burn fossil fuels or hydrogen to generate power. These fuel cells burn their fuel electrochemically instead of by combustion, and are more efficient than any practical combustion engine.

As an alternative energy technology, solid oxide fuel cells are a versatile, highly efficient power source that could play a vital role in the future of energy. Solid oxide fuel cells could be used in a variety of applications, from serving as a power supply for buildings to increasing fuel efficiency in vehicles.

However, solid oxide fuel cells are more costly than conventional energy technologies, and that has limited their adoption.

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