It seemed like an ordinary day in the primordial ooze, but romance was in the methane-ammonia air. An amoeba, pseudopoding along as usual, met and was enchanted by a particularly lovely photosynthetic bacterium. He took her inside his cell membrane, but instead of digesting her as he first planned, the two fused into a single organism. The bacterium gave the amoeba the new ability to absorb energy from sunlight, and their descendants became every plant in the world.
One of the most promising technologies for the aspiring outer-space commuter is the space elevator. The concept, like quite a few others, was pressed into the public imagination by Arthur C. Clarke, who in his 1979 novel The Fountains of Paradise described a incredibly thin, incredibly strong carbon filament with one end anchored on Earth and the other extending up to a satellite in geostationary orbit. Now, a group of Japanese scientists are convinced that they can build a space elevator more quickly and cheaply than has been believed possible.
Such a cable could convey cargo into space very cheaply and easily. Carriages would travel up and down the cable under modest power, not the vast expenditures of energy that are currently needed to send anything into orbit.
This week everyone's at the Web 2.0 Expo at New York City's Javits Center. Abby reported on a technology that makes your computer talk to you; I met a couple of brothers who were at the show to promote their invention, wherein you talk to your computer.