February 2, 2017

Quanta - How Life (and Death) Spring From Disorder 13min

Biological systems don’t defy physical laws, of course — but neither do they seem to be predicted by them. In contrast, they are goal-directed: survive and reproduce. We can say that they have a purpose — or what philosophers have traditionally called a teleology — that guides their behavior. ... By the same token, physics now lets us predict, starting from the state of the universe a billionth of a second after the Big Bang, what it looks like today. But no one imagines that the appearance of the first primitive cells on Earth led predictably to the human race. Laws do not, it seems, dictate the course of evolution. ... Animals are drawn to water not by some magnetic attraction, but because of their instinct, their intention, to survive. Legs serve the purpose of, among other things, taking us to the water. ... there appears to be a kind of physics of things doing stuff, and evolving to do stuff. Meaning and intention — thought to be the defining characteristics of living systems — may then emerge naturally through the laws of thermodynamics and statistical mechanics.

IEEE Spectrum - Forget Autonomous Cars—Autonomous Ships Are Almost Here 8min

Although robotic ships of this sort are some ways off in the future, it’s not a question of if they will happen but when. My colleagues and I at Rolls-Royce anticipate that the first commercial vessel to navigate entirely by itself could be a harbor tug or a ferry designed to carry cars the short distance across the mouth of a river or a fjord and that it or similar ships will be in commercial operation within the next few years. And we expect fully autonomous oceangoing cargo ships to be routinely plying the world’s seas in 10 or 15 years’ time. ... Remotely controlled ships, piloted by people on shore, and autonomous ships, which can take actions for themselves, are the latest beneficiaries of increasing digital connectivity and intelligence. These developments in electronic sensors, telecommunications, and computing have sparked interest in a range of autonomous vehicles including cars, planes, helicopters, trains, and now ships. ... That people should be seriously interested in robotic ships is easy enough to explain: Such ships are expected to be safer, more efficient, and cheaper to run. According to a report published by the Munich-based insurance company Allianz in 2012, between 75 and 96 percent of marine accidents are a result of human error, often a result of fatigue.

San Francisco Magazine - The Agony and Ecstasy of a Mayo Messiah 10min

This is a guy who, seemingly overnight, raked in hundreds of millions of dollars in investment by promising to change the world through vegan mayonnaise, a product that had been on the market for years before his company, Hampton Creek Foods, came along to claim it. For Tetrick, fake mayo is not so much a lowly condiment as a gateway into a better tomorrow of clean eating, humane farms, and enlightened sustainability practices. ... This vision of a utopian techno-corporation, which Tetrick began building six years ago this month and which now counts 150 employees, has of late been the subject of considerable scrutiny, by both the media and the United States Securities and Exchange Commission. ... unnamed former Hampton Creek employees who charged that Tetrick and his company were guilty of numerous questionable practices, including exaggerating Hampton Creek’s scientific discoveries and the number of plant species in its database (which it currently tallies at 1,000); mislabeling ingredients; surreptitiously and unfavorably changing the terms of employee severance packages; insufficiently testing products; and, in the biggest burn of all, being a “food company masquerading as a tech company.” ... To those who question the company’s scientific bona fides, he offers the name of Jim Flatt, the former chief technology officer of the synthetic biology company Synthetic Genomics, who was hired in August 2015 as Hampton Creek’s chief technology officer. To those who question the company’s profitability, he says that it recently had its first $8 million month in sales. ... In Hampton Creek’s future he sees pasta, ice cream, yogurt, grains, and cheese; a global presence through e-commerce; shelf space in every single Walmart in the United States and Mexico; and a presence in food service around the world.

Bloomberg - Will a Test for Brain Trauma Protect NFL Players—or End the NFL? 13min

Hrusovksy’s pitch to me is roughly the same as the one he just gave Jeff Miller, the NFL’s senior vice president for health and safety—skittering from drones, to driverless cars, to Tesla, to heart attacks and diabetes. “I’m still addicted to pastries at night,” Hrusovsky says before circling back to his thesis: Quanterix’s machines are on the brink of delivering a revolution in medicine, as scientists use them to detect diseases earlier, target them more precisely, and create breakthrough treatments for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s, to name a few. ... Discovering, for instance, that half its linemen show signs of CTE could starve the league of talent or force changes that make it unrecognizable to fans. And football isn’t alone: CTE presents similarly dire questions for hockey, soccer, and ultimate fighting, among other contact sports. ... The method is a thousand times more sensitive than the Elisa, capable of detecting molecules in concentrations as low as 30,000 per drop—the equivalent, Hrusovsky says, of finding a grain of sand in 2,000 swimming pools.

Fader - E-40’s Eternal Comeback 18min

Becoming a rapper today might seem as easy as signing up for SoundCloud and visiting your neighborhood face-tattoo parlor, but only a few artists get to travel the country playing to sold-out arenas. Whichever end of this vast spectrum you find yourself on, it helps to be young and unattached, and able to tour constantly. E-40 is none of those things: he is 49, happily married with two sons. His rap career began when cassette tapes still seemed pretty novel, and now that many of us don’t even have a way of listening to CDs, he’s returned to making music the way he did back in the late ’80s: completely independently, selling his raps more or less directly to his fans.