The man with the answer to life, the universe and (nearly) everything

British scientist Peter Higgs dreamt up a theory explaining the tiny particles that make up everything, including you, decades ago. At last he’s set to be proved right.

Peter Higgs remembers the day everything suddenly began to make sense. “It was July 16, 1964, when some new research papers arrived. I looked at one, realised what it meant and then jumped up and shouted out loud: ‘Oh shit’.”

For years his colleagues had been working on theories about the building blocks of the universe – and Higgs had disagreed with them all. The trouble was, he’d had no better suggestions.

Now he had an idea and spent the weekend mulling it over. “When I came back to work on Monday, I sat down and wrote a new paper as fast as I could,” he recalled in an interview last week.

Read moreThe man with the answer to life, the universe and (nearly) everything

Star Trek warp drive is a possibility, say scientists

Two physicists have boldly gone where no reputable scientists should go and devised a new scheme to travel faster than the speed of light.

  • Star Trek technology: The reality
  • A brief history of warp drives
  • Warp Drive – A New Approach [the paper]
  • The advance could mean that Star Trek fantasies of interstellar civilisations and voyages powered by warp drive are now no longer the exclusive domain of science fiction writers.


    The US Starship Enterprise from the original Star Trek series

    In the long running television series created by Gene Roddenberry, the warp drive was invented by Zefram Cochrane, who began his epic project in 2053 in Bozeman, Montana.

    Now Dr Gerald Cleaver, associate professor of physics at Baylor, and Richard Obousy have come up with a new twist on an existing idea to produce a warp drive that they believe can travel faster than the speed of light, without breaking the laws of physics.

    Read moreStar Trek warp drive is a possibility, say scientists

    Solar Cell Sets World Efficiency Record

    Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have set a world record in solar cell efficiency with a photovoltaic device that converts 40.8 percent of the light that hits it into electricity. This is the highest confirmed efficiency of any photovoltaic device to date.

    Read moreSolar Cell Sets World Efficiency Record

    Uncle Sam Wants Your Brain

    Drugs that make soldiers want to fight. Robots linked directly to their controllers’ brains. Lie-detecting scans administered to terrorist suspects as they cross U.S. borders.

    These are just a few of the military uses imagined for cognitive science — and if it’s not yet certain whether the technologies will work, the military is certainly taking them very seriously.

    “It’s way too early to know which — if any — of these technologies is going to be practical,” said Jonathan Moreno, a Center for American Progress bioethicist and author of Mind Wars: Brain Research and National Defense. “But it’s important for us to get ahead of the curve. Soldiers are always on the cutting edge of new technologies.”

    Moreno is part of a National Research Council committee convened by the Department of Defense to evaluate the military potential of brain science. Their report, “Emerging Cognitive Neuroscience and Related Technologies,” was released today. It charts a range of cognitive technologies that are potentially powerful — and, perhaps, powerfully troubling.

    Here are the report’s main areas of focus:

    Read moreUncle Sam Wants Your Brain

    A ‘Frankenrobot’ with a biological brain

    PARIS (AFP) – Meet Gordon, probably the world’s first robot controlled exclusively by living brain tissue.

    Stitched together from cultured rat neurons, Gordon’s primitive grey matter was designed at the University of Reading by scientists who unveiled the neuron-powered machine on Wednesday.

    Related article: ‘Brain’ in a dish flies flight simulator

    Their groundbreaking experiments explore the vanishing boundary between natural and artificial intelligence, and could shed light on the fundamental building blocks of memory and learning, one of the lead researchers told AFP.

    Read moreA ‘Frankenrobot’ with a biological brain

    The Rise Of The Droids

    August 11, 2008: The U.S. Air Force is, for the first time, converting a fighter wing from manned (F-16) combat aircraft, to unmanned ones (the MQ-9 Reaper.) The conversion, for the 174th Fighter Wing, has been in the works for three years, and the last combat sorties in manned aircraft were flown last week, by members of the 174th serving in Iraq.
    The air force has already converted several combat wings to fly Predators which, while armed (with two 107 pound Hellfire missiles), are considered reconnaissance aircraft. The Reaper is considered a combat aircraft, optimized for seeking out and destroying ground targets. Jet powered combat UAVs are in development. It’s only a matter of time before UAVs take over air superiority, strategic bombing and suppression of enemy air defenses duties as well.

    Read moreThe Rise Of The Droids

    How to Make a Solar Power Generator for Less Than $300

    Using parts easily available from your local stores, you can make a small solar power generator for $250 to $300. Great for power failures and life outside the power grid. Power your computer, modem, vcr, tv, cameras, lights, or DC appliances anywhere you go. Use in cabins, boats, tents, archaeological digs, or while travelling throughout the third world. Have one in the office store room in case of power failures in your highrise. I keep mine in my bedroom where it powers my cd player, turntable, lights, modem, laptop, and (ahem) a back massager. I run a line out the window to an 8″ x 24″ panel on the roof.

    Read moreHow to Make a Solar Power Generator for Less Than $300

    Biometric passport chips can be cloned in an hour, researcher warns

    Faked document with picture of Bin Laden fooled UN agency, newspaper reports


    A British passport

    New microchipped passports designed to protect against identity theft by terrorists and criminals can easily be faked, it was claimed today.

    Tests showed that personal information could be cloned and manipulated within an hour before being inserted into new chips, the Times reported.

    The paper said it had exposed “security flaws” in the passport system by asking a researcher to clone the chips on two British passports and implant digital images of Osama bin Laden and a suicide bomber. The altered chips were then passed as genuine by reader software used by the UN agency that sets the standards for such e-passports.

    The tests showed that bogus biometrics could be inserted in fake or blank passports, the Times alleged, saying the flaws also undermined assertions that 3,000 blank passports stolen last week could not be forged.

    Read moreBiometric passport chips can be cloned in an hour, researcher warns

    Game Controllers Driving Drones, Nukes

    War really is getting more like a video game, as hardware and software from the gaming industry is increasingly being adopted for military use. The latest sign of this appeared at the Farnborough air show this week, where arms-maker Raytheon showed off its new Universal Control System for robotic aicraft. It’s based on the same technology that drives Halo and Splinter Cell:

    “Gaming companies have spent millions to develop user-friendly graphic interfaces, so why not put them to work on UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles]?” says Mark Bigham, business development director for Raytheon’s tactical intelligence systems. “The video-game industry always will outspend the military on improving human-computer interaction.”

    Read moreGame Controllers Driving Drones, Nukes

    Want some torture with your peanuts?

    Just when you thought you’ve heard it all…

    A senior government official with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has expressed great interest in a so-called safety bracelet that would serve as a stun device, similar to that of a police Taser®. According to this promotional video found at the Lamperd Less Lethal website, the bracelet would be worn by all airline passengers.

    This bracelet would:

    • take the place of an airline boarding pass
    • contain personal information about the traveler
    • be able to monitor the whereabouts of each passenger and his/her luggage
    • shock the wearer on command, completely immobilizing him/her for several minutes

    The Electronic ID Bracelet, as it’s referred to as, would be worn by every traveler “until they disembark the flight at their destination.” Yes, you read that correctly. Every airline passenger would be tracked by a government-funded GPS, containing personal, private and confidential information, and that it would shock the customer worse than an electronic dog collar if he/she got out of line?

    Clearly the Electronic ID Bracelet is an euphuism for the EMD Safety Bracelet, or at least it has a nefarious hidden ability, thus the term ID Bracelet is ambiguous at best. EMD stands for Electro-Musclar Disruption. Again, according to the promotional video the bracelet can completely immobilize the wearer for several minutes.

    So is the government really that interested in this bracelet? Yes!

    Read moreWant some torture with your peanuts?