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U.S. Navy Has Swarming Autonomous Drone Boats

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navy-robot-boatRobots that assemble and swarm have been around for a while, but never like this. In addition to lasers that shoot down drones and robotic firefighters, the U.S. Navy now has automated boats that can launch a coordinated defense or attack on any threatening vessel in the water.

The advanced ship protection system is designed to prevent attacks such as the one on the U.S.S. Cole in 2000. Navy ships would be accompanied by fleets equipped by Control Architecture for Robotic Agent Command and Sensing (CARACaS, a system that includes sensors and software that alert those boats to the presence of a threat on the water. When a suspicious vessel is identified, five ships in the fleet swarm to investigate.

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Mars One Simulation Offers Grim Predictions For The Mission

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mars-oneThe Dutch nonprofit Mars One aim to send four humans to Mars in 2024 (two years later than in their original timeline) for a 2025 landing on the Red Planet. These four intrepid colonists will be joined by 4 more two years later, and then 4 more two years after that, until the colony reaches 24. Or at least, that’s the plan. But according to strategic engineering graduate students at MIT, the strategy, as it currently exists, may prove problematic. Unless the program makes some fundamental changes to its approach, the researchers predict that the new colony will be unsustainable and deadly for the colonists.

The team developed a simulation of the settlement, per Mars One’s stated mission design. That simulation provided them with a tool to measure and predict how using the resources on the planet, growing crops, and future resupply efforts, will play out. Of course, this is just a model—no one can say with certainty how the mission will unfold, but creating and studying such models is one of strategy any Mars colonization mission organizers should rely on for insight about how to make their mission safer and, hopefully, more successful.

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London Embraces The Future With New Phone Booths And Subway Cars

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New TubeThe future looks way cooler across the pond (as if their adorable accents aren’t enough). The iconic London subway is about to get a facelift—at least, a bunch of their subway cars are. In addition to a sleek new look, London’s subway of the future, or New Tube, will be autonomous.

London’s population continues to grow, and the subway system needs to grow to match that increase. The new, fully automated trains will still have an operator on board, but I’m not sure why. I guess to text and nap and not get in trouble for it? Anyway, the service will be faster, more frequent, and more reliable than the current system, in no small part because the doors will all be double sized for easier entry and exit, and because people can move between the cars without a terrifying face-to-face with the track below. The automated signals and controls will make it easier for trains to arrive and depart stations without delay, and the changes in service are projected to boost service on the Piccadilly line alone by 60%. 250 new trains will be deployed over the next decade on that route, as well as the Bakerloo, Central and Waterloo, and City Lines.

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Mars Colonists Could Spend Their Entire Journey Sleeping

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suspended animationWith today’s technology, it takes a spacecraft approximately seven months to reach Mars. That’s a long time for astronauts to be crammed together, especially if their Netflix access is choppy. It also means that astronauts have to eat, use the bathroom, exercise, and clean (at least a little bit) during the journey, which increases the amount of supplies they need, and thus, the cost of the mission. And something tells me that playing “I Spy” would get a little old. NASA is backing a study at SpaceWorks Enterprises in Atlanta to see if it’s feasible to put a crew into deep sleep for the journey.

The official term for the state is “torpor,” which involves slowing down metabolic functioning to the point where hypothermia is induced and people enter a state of hibernation. The technique has been used in medical facilities, particularly in trauma units, for keeping patients alive long enough to undergo surgeries or other procedures. For crews headed to Mars in the future, scientists consider six months to be an optimistic traveling time. So the idea of the idea is to see what it would take to keep humans in a state of torpor for 180 days. Thus far, the longest any human has been kept in this state is one week. Human suspended animation trials are currently being conducted on gravely injured ER patients, however, and may provide some insight into how the process can be adapted for longer-term scenarios.

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The Transhumanist Party Announces Their 2016 Presidential Candidate

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transhumanismThe 2016 presidential race just got a lot more interesting. I’m not talking about Hillary Clinton or Rick Perry, or even Sarah Palin—I’m talking about someone with a far cooler name: Zoltan Istvan.

Istvan is a one of the most famous transhumanists out there, largely because of his prolific and popular writings. He writes for the Huffington Post, Vice, Psychology Today, and many other publications, and his novel The Transhumanist Wager, details one man’s search for immortality through technology.

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Plant Blood May Be The Secret To A Better Veggie Burger

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impossible burgerI haven’t eaten a burger—and I’m talking a real burger—in almost twenty years. It sounds crazy, even to me. I used to love them—my dad made a killer burger, and there’s just nothing like the smell of ground beef on the grill. I stopped eating meat in high school, and while you might catch me lingering next to a barbeque with my eyes closed, I don’t regret it. In fact, I feel loads better and don’t have to feel guilty about participating in one of the most disgusting and arguably unethical industries humans have ever come up with. But sometimes, veggie substitutes for meat foods are lacking, or even straight-up nasty. I think it’s a mistake to try and make something vegetarian taste like the real thing. I’ll happily eat marbled strips of soy, but if you tell me they’re soy bacon, or “fake-on,” then I have a whole different expectation. Hence the problem with veggie burgers: they don’t taste like real burgers. Sure, when you drown them in mustard, ketchup, onions, etc, you can trick yourself into forgetting what is all too evident. I’ve had some damn tasty veggie burgers in my day, but the best ones were inventive—lentils, quinoa, and walnuts, or some combination of things you’d never find on a real burger. It’s best not to beg the comparison. But I may soon be eating my words—a Stanford biochemist claims to have made a totally convincing veggie burger with “plant blood.”

In addition to being a scientist—and in addition to being one of the folks responsible for the PLOS (Public Library of Science) journal—Patrick Brown has been vegetarian for over 30 years, and has been vegan for 7. A couple years ago at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting, he called animal farming “the biggest environmental catastrophe.” He’s not wrong. According to the Food & Agriculture Organization of the UN, livestock—or more accurately, their methane emissions (read: farts)—comprises 37% of human-caused methane and 65% of human-caused nitrous oxide. These two gases contribute to the greenhouse effect far more than carbon dioxide does, and, overall, these emissions amount to more than those generated by cars and airplanes combined.