We've seen hydrogels--the squishy material of the future--do some neat tricks before. Researchers, for example, have already tried to make them autonomous self-healers, ready to repair themselves when they break. But what if they just didn't break at all under strain? Then you'd get something like this video, which shows a new, super-strong hydrogel shrugging off a ball of metal.
It's now two Olympics running that Usain Bolt has dominated the 100-meter dash, breaking Olympic records both times and being crowned fastest man in the world. He's so good that it's drawn the attention of top engineers and scientists who want to know the biomechanics--the physics behind his movement--that give Bolt his competitive edge.
Living in the Future is a new column about those rare moments, as we go about our daily lives, when we realize that what we're doing is amazing. We have a tendency to assimilate new tech into our lives without giving it much thought, or even without much gratitude, as Louis C.K. reminds us. But every once in awhile, we get that visceral "whoomph" while doing something as mundane as listening to music or playing a video game, and think: "Holy shit. I can't believe this is possible."
My favorite thing about AirPlay, Apple's wireless streaming protocol, is that it works so well and so simply that I never have to think about it. This scene has happened more than once: A group of friends sit around a living room, talking, drinking, laughing. Somebody wants to share a song with the group, or a YouTube video of tiny houses, or of a cat that figured out how to get more food from its automatic feeder, or the music video du jour.
In some way or another, I've been taking music and video from my computer and playing it on my TV for years, and it's always been awkward, ungainly, and unreliable. But these days, when I want to do that, my mental image is this: A video plays on my phone. I look down. I wrap my fist around the video. While the video struggles against my palm, cats meowing or singers cavorting, I wind up like a pitcher and heave it at my TV. It flies through the air in bits, like that Wonkavision scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, before slamming into the TV and reassembling itself, large and cinematic.
As we upload more and more videos to the Internet—one hour of new video every second to YouTube alone—experts are finding new ways to mine them. A team led by Igor Curcio of Nokia's Research Center, for example, has developed an algorithm that stitches concertgoers' cellphone footage into a single, synchronized multi-angle film. The concept is relatively simple: the audio track serves as a guide to sync up the footage, and the software chooses the best shots.
When he's not busy with his full-time gig, NASA Astronaut Don Pettit takes the time to run some of his own personal science experiments. His latest? A zero-gravity didgeridoo performance — for science.
A year and a half ago, we published a great feature on the current state of the quest to read the human mind. It included some then in-progress work from Jack Gallant, a neuroscientist at U.C. Berkeley, in which Gallant was attempting to reconstruct a video by reading the brain scans of someone who watched that video--essentially pulling experiences directly from someone's brain. Now, Gallant and his team have published a paper on the subject in the journal Current Biology.