Technology

Methane-consuming bacteria could be the future of fuel

Methane-consuming bacteria could be the future of fuel

By oxidizing methane and converting it to methanol, methanotrophic bacteria (or “methanotrophs”) can pack a one-two punch. Not only are they removing a harmful greenhouse gas from the environment, they are also generating a readily usable, sustainable fuel for automobiles, electricity and more.

What Would It Mean for AI to Become Conscious?

What Would It Mean for AI to Become Conscious?

As artificial intelligence systems take on more tasks and solve more problems, it’s hard to say which is rising faster: our interest in them or our fear of them. Futurist Ray Kurzweil famously predicted that “By 2029, computers will have emotional intelligence and be convincing as people.”

Should we turn the Sahara Desert into a huge solar farm?

Should we turn the Sahara Desert into a huge solar farm?

Whenever I visit the Sahara I am struck by how sunny and hot it is and how clear the sky can be. Aside from a few oases there is little vegetation, and most of the world’s largest desert is covered with rocks, sand and sand dunes. The Saharan sun is powerful enough to provide Earth with significant solar energy.

How biologists and engineers learn from animals

How biologists and engineers learn from animals

The parasitic wasp can do something special. The insect is able to puncture rotten wood or a fruit and thus lay eggs in larvae that live in these kinds of places. The wasp uses a long tube for this. But this tube is so long that the animal cannot push it into the material itself. The secret is that this "needle", which consists of three separate parts, can pull itself forward.

We accidentally created a new wonder material that could revolutionise batteries and electronics

We accidentally created a new wonder material that could revolutionise batteries and electronics

Some of the most famous scientific discoveries happened by accident. From Teflon and the microwave oven to penicillin, scientists trying to solve a problem sometimes find unexpected things. This is exactly how we created phosphorene nanoribbons – a material made from one of the universe’s basic building blocks, but that has the potential to revolutionise a wide range of technologies.

The World’s Biggest Aircraft – the Rocket-Launching Stratolaunch – Completes its First Test Flight

The World’s Biggest Aircraft – the Rocket-Launching Stratolaunch – Completes its First Test Flight

In 2011, Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen and Scaled Composites founder Burt Rutan announced the creation of Stratolaunch Systems. With the goal of reducing the associated costs of space launches, the company set out to create the world’s largest air-launch-to-orbit system. After many years, these efforts bore fruit with the unveiling of the massive Scaled Composites Model 351 Stratolaunch air carrier in the Summer of 2017.

A user’s guide to self-driving cars

A user’s guide to self-driving cars

You may remember the cute Google self-driving car. In 2014, the tech giant announced their brand-new prototype of what the future of transportation might one day look like. If you wish you could drive one today, you are out of luck. The design was unfortunately scrapped in 2017. But don’t worry, what happened didn’t make a dent in the plan of introducing the world to self-driving cars, I mean autonomous cars, driverless cars, automated vehicles or … robot cars?

Flying cars could cut emissions, replace planes, and free up roads – but not soon enough

When Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was released 50 years ago, flying cars were a flight of fancy. Now, these futuristic vehicles are entering the outer fringes of reality. According to a new study published in Nature, for some journeys flying cars could eventually be greener than even electric road cars, cutting emissions while also reducing traffic on increasingly busy roads.

In the future, everyone might use quantum computers

In the future, everyone might use quantum computers

Computers were once considered high-end technology, only accessible to scientists and trained professionals. But there was a seismic shift in the history of computing during the second half of the 1970s. It wasn’t just that machines became much smaller and more powerful — though, of course, they did. It was the shift in who would use computers and where: They became available to everyone to use in their own home.

Algorithms have already taken over human decision making

Algorithms have already taken over human decision making

I can still recall my surprise when a book by evolutionary biologist Peter Lawrence entitled “The making of a fly” came to be priced on Amazon at $23,698,655.93 (plus $3.99 shipping). While my colleagues around the world must have become rather depressed that an academic book could achieve such a feat, the steep price was actually the result of algorithms feeding off each other and spiraling out of control. It turns out, it wasn’t just sales staff being creative: algorithms were calling the shots.

Hydrogen fuels rockets, but what about power for daily life? We’re getting close

Hydrogen fuels rockets, but what about power for daily life? We’re getting close

Have you ever watched a space shuttle launch? The fuel used to thrust these enormous structures away from Earth’s gravitational pull is hydrogen. Hydrogen also holds potential as a source of energy for our daily activities – driving, heating our houses, and maybe more.