A group of scientists at Carnegie Mellon believe that by the year 2050, robots designed to play soccer will surpass their professional human counterparts. This juicy nugget of techno-speculation materializes in the middle of Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World, a new documentary broadly about the internet from Werner Herzog. Sporty robot prototypes, which look like Roombas with attitude, have already been created by an emotional team of students who have developed love for one robot the way sports fans adore Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi. But they disappear just as swiftly as they entered in the dizzying collage of subjects Herzog has stuffed into the 98-minute film.
Divided into 10 parts, each introduced with a Herzogian title like “The Internet of Me,” the doc spends all-too-brief time with the people who create, protect, advance, and fear the internet — and in one stark case, those who have found a way to escape it.
The graph made astronomer Tabetha “Tabby” Boyajian sit up at her desk at Yale University. Something was definitely strange — the line was mostly flat but had two sharp dips resembling stalactites hanging from the ceiling of a cave.
The dips implied that light coming from the star KIC 8462852, more than 1,400 light years away, had dimmed twice in a most unexpected way.
The starlight graph Boyajian was looking at in the summer of 2013 is part of a large data set that the space-based Kepler telescope collected during its four-year mission to hunt for Earth-like planets around other stars. Dips in the amount of light coming from a star can indicate a planet passing in front of it. The bigger the planet, the larger the light dip. Boyajian’s graph suggested the presence of a planet more massive than any astronomer has ever seen — or maybe something stranger.
The two dimming events she observed from KIC 8462852 happened around the 800th and 1,500th days of observation, when the star’s light dropped by 15 and 22 percent, respectively. A planet the size of Jupiter, roughly 11 times the size of Earth, would cause a dip of only 1 percent — so whatever is orbiting KIC 8462852 is much bigger than the largest planet in our solar system.
In West Virginia, just 200 miles away from Washington, DC, you’ll find a community of roughly 8,000 people who live completely off the grid.
In the 13,000-square-mile “National Radio Quiet Zone,” all cell phone, Wi-Fi, microwaves, and even some vacuum use are all banned by law.
The restrictions were put in place because of the 11 large-scale telescopes installed in the area by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in the 1950s. The observatory houses the world’s largest fully steerable telescope, which has a staggering surface area of 2.3 acres.
Nothing, not even a Hoover vacuum or commercial cell phone tower, is allowed to interfere with the telescope’s readings. While some Pocahontas County residents are long-time locals, others are self-proclaimed “technological lepers” who moved there to adopt a device-free lifestyle.
Photographer Emile Holba was extremely fascinated by the off-the-grid lives led in the National Radio Quiet Zone, so he began documenting the people and landscapes of Pocahontas County. We spoke with Holba about the characters he met, as well as what it was like to briefly live without an iPhone, GPS, or email.
Astronomers in China working with one of world’s largest optical telescopes released a huge collection of data over the new year holiday, increasing the chances of “significant findings” in space exploration, experts say.
The latest update to the National Astronomical Observatories’ sky survey, conducted using the LAMOST telescope, includes some 4.62 million spectral data relating to the structure, formation and evolution of the Milky Way.
LAMOST－short for Large Sky Area Multi-Object Fiber Spectroscopic Telescope－has been used to carry out a massive sky survey since September 2012. So far, it has collected more data than all previous sky surveys combined, according to the NAO.
“As more and more data are released, there will be more significant findings,” said Yan Jun, director of the NAO.
Chu Yaoquan, deputy director of operations and development at LAMOST, described the survey as like a census of the stars. “The project gives us a large sample of stars. With the large sample－say, a few million－we can know more about the past and present of the galaxy,” he explained in an earlier interview.
Life in Green Bank, West Virginia, is far from ordinary. The small town sits inside a “national radio quiet zone” that houses one of the largest radio telescopes in the world. To ensure that astronomers work without interference, residents cannot use any product that transmits wireless signals within a ten-mile radius of the telescope. In other words: no microwave ovens, no cell phones, and no Wi-Fi. “Just about anything that uses electricity could potentially cause interference to our telescopes,” says Jonah Bauserman, a technician for the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.