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NASA Reveals Three Potential Habitats You Could Live In On Mars

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Martian HabitatsIf we, as the collective human race, are ever going to get to Mars, there are some massive challenges that we will have to overcome. Actually getting there is only the first part of the problem, once we arrive on the Red Planet, we’ll have to deal with other issues, like where the hell do we live? Now we have a look at three designs that could, in the future, prove to be habitats for humanity while we vacation on our nearby neighbor.

NASA has joined forces with MakerBot to issue the Mars Base Challenge, which allows anyone willing to go through the effort the chance to submit their own design for possible Martian domiciles. In doing so, the contestants have to take a number of factor into consideration, like bitterly cold temperatures (down to negative 70 Fahrenheit), the constant, deadly radiation, vicious dust storms, and other things that I probably haven’t even considered that will make life on Mars rather difficult.

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Nail Polish Lets You Know If Your Drink Has Been Roofied

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nail polishWe’ve all heard about Rohypnol and GHB, otherwise known as roofies, sedatives invented in the 1970s that were unfortunately later repurposed as date rape drugs. Many times more potent than Valium, these odorless, colorless, and almost tasteless drugs can be next to impossible to detect if slipped into a drink. Four North Carolina State University students are working to change that by developing a nail polish that changes color if it touches these drugs. All a wearer has to do is dip her finger in her drink and she’ll know whether it’s safe.

The nail polish is called Undercover Colors, and if it works, it could be even more effective than cups and straws that can detect the presence of date rape drugs (martinis don’t come in cups and most of us haven’t sucked beer through a straw since college). The company cites the sobering statistic that 18% of women in the U.S. have been or will be sexually assaulted during their lifetimes, and many of those assaults happen on college campuses, including 14 reported assaults at North Carolina State University between 2010-2012 (and many more at neighboring Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill).

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Oculus Rift Game Teaches You How To Become A Jedi Knight

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Those of us who fall into a certain age bracket and who were young enough to see the Star Wars movies in the theaters have spent more of our lives wanting to/pretending to be Jedi Knights than we have on anything productive, like planning for the future or learning marketable skills. This may be an over generalization, but I don’t feel like it’s all that far off, or like this is a super outlandish statement. (I’ve definitely spent much more time wielding a pretend lightsaber than, say, learning to do my taxes, change the oil in a car, or finding out what an IRA is.) Leave it to technology to lend us a hand in this regard, as Oculus Rift may have just made it slightly easier for us to achieve our dreams of becoming Jedi Knights.

For those of you not in the know, Oculus Rift is a virtual reality system that uses a headset and earphones to immerse you in an artificial world, kind of like Lawnmower Man. Though it’s not currently commercially available, it’s been used in everything from gaming to architecture to education. And I’m thoroughly shocked that it took this long for someone to make Jedi training program, but that’s exactly what this video shows, and it looks totally rad.

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BabyX: An AI That Learns Like A Toddler, Minus The Potty Training

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BABYXI remember the first moment I saw real-time evidence of my niece’s developing brain. She was about three years old and asking my brother for a puzzle she wanted to play with. He started to get up to get it for her, and then paused. “Do you think you can get it yourself if I tell you where it is?” He asked her. She was up for the challenge. He gave her the directions slowly: “Go upstairs—be careful—and go into my office. Open the closet and on the second shelf on the right side you’ll see your puzzle.” She listened to him, mind almost visibly cranking away as she tried to remember and visualize these steps. After a few seconds she nodded and left the room. A few minutes later, she came back with the puzzle, beaming. I remember thinking how amazing it was to see her receive and follow a fairly complicated set of instructions, and how she’d be honing those skills for the rest of her life. The brain of a toddler, in all its glorious plasticity, is really nothing short of miraculous, so it’s not surprising to learn that researchers are using it as a model for artificial intelligence.

A team from the Laboratory for Animate Technologies at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute is developing a virtual infant called BabyX. Like a real toddler, it can read and identify symbols, interact and respond appropriately to feedback, and make its pleasure or displeasure known via facial expressions. The purpose of this “computer generated psychobiological simulation” is to provide a platform for experimenting with “neural systems involved in interactive behaviour and learning.” The algorithms used in BabyX allow it to respond as a real toddler would For example, praise triggers something akin to a dopamine boost. But BabyX’s learning abilities are what make it particularly interesting.

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Cyborg Moths Are A Real Thing Now

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cyborg-mothJust over a year after researchers figured out how to control cockroaches with Microsoft Kinect, North Carolina State University researchers have created cyborg moths. They’ve essentially hacked the little fellas to insert some wires into their tissues to control their movements, bypassing their little moth brains. What’s the purpose of such a project, you might wonder. To amass and control an army of moth drones, of course.

Proof of this concept was demonstrated a few years ago by folks over at MIT who electrically controlled moths’ abdomens, prompting them to turn mid-flight. Naturally, all kinds of people and organizations were interested in the possibilities this opened up — I’m pretty sure DARPA’s been salivating at the idea of remote-controlled insect spies for years. The North Carolina State University improved upon this previous experiment by focusing more on the mechanics of the moths’ flight and how to control them without hindering their movement. The team figured that if they could insert their wiring — in this case, an electrode — into the moth while it was still in its cocoon, the moths’ tissues could grow with the implants. This is the same principle some human cyborgs have demonstrated when receiving implants that their skin and muscles pull into place.

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Workers Want Robots In Charge

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CSAIL

Photo credit: CSAIL

That’s right. For all our fears of succumbing to robotic overlords, it turns out that we want robots to hold dominion over us — at least, when it comes to the workplace.

Even though many people believe robots and other automated systems will put many out of work (others believe they will usher in a new era of innovation and resourcefulness), research conducted by MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) reveals that workers actually prefer for robots to take the lead in manufacturing tasks. The study explores the two sides of robotic workers: on the upside, they free humans from tasks characterized by the “three D’s” — tasks that are dirty, dangerous, and/or dull. Of course, if robots do assume those jobs, what’s left for humans? Oversight? Programming? Perhaps collaboration with the robots?