Technology Tuesday: April 3rd

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Welcome to Technology Tuesday! Every week The Job Shop Blog will bring you our 5 top science and technology news stories from around the web.

This week: Growing vegetables in Antarctica (and Mars), collecting space junk, the most distant star we’ve ever seen, free genetic testing for an entire country, and bias free news written by an AI.


WE CAN NOW GROW VEGGIES IN ANTARCTICA, A SIMULATION FOR MARS

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In the icy white desert of Antarctica, without the help of sunlight, soil, or pesticides, something green is growing.

And the scientists at Germany’s Neumayer Station III are eating well tonight.

Neumayer III’s researchers just harvested their first crop of Antarctica-grown vegetables, picked from a high-tech greenhouse that makes up the centerpiece of their “Eden ISS” project. The project is testing how plants can grow – not only in hostile places on Earth, like the poles and in deserts – but also in the inhospitable conditions of other planets (hopefully providing humans fresh vegetables when they colonize the moon, Mars, and beyond).

 

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AN EXPERIMENTAL SPACE JUNK COLLECTOR IS ON ITS WAY TO THE ISS

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A group of European engineers are about to go fishing in space. Their target: space junk.

Yesterday, SpaceX launched the Dragon spacecraft, which, if all goes according to plan, will reach the International Space Station on Wednesday, April 4. Among the many different experiments it has in tow, one didn’t receive much attention: a new “proof of concept” space junk collector called RemoveDEBRIS.

Created by scientists at the University of Surrey Space Center in the U.K., this spacecraft will run a series of experiments over the coming months aimed at capturing and destroying some of the debris floating around our planet.

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WE’VE SPOTTED THE MOST DISTANT STAR WE’VE EVER SEEN. 4 THINGS TO KNOW

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Between the glowing blue and yellow swirls of distant galaxies, this tiny pinprick of light doesn’t look like much: a white smudge on the infinite black of the universe.

But this tiny speck has enormous significance for astronomers. It’s the most distant star ever seen, affording astronomers a glimpse back in time.

The star, MACS J1149+2223 Lensed Star 1 (more simply known as “Icarus”) was about 9 billion light years away when it emitted the light now reaching Earth. Most other objects spotted at this distance are either galaxies or exploding stars (AKA supernovas), which produce much more light than this distant glimmer.

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ESTONIA TO OFFER FREE GENETIC TESTING

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For residents of Estonia, genomic tests may soon become as commonplace as blood pressure. The country has launched the first stage of a national state-sponsored genetic testing and information service, which will seek to help residents minimize their risk of illness based on their DNA. If the experiment goes well, it’s possible that other countries with nationalized healthcare systems will follow suit.

The initiative, which launched on March 20, will start by providing 100,000 of its 1.3 million residents with information on their genetic risk for certain diseases. Genetic information from the project will first be delivered to a family doctor, so that patients will receive counseling about what their results actually mean and how they can better adapt their lifestyle to avoid illness. According to a press release from the University of Tartu’s Institute of Genomics, which is hosting the new service, the country plans to eventually offer free genetic testing to all of its residents.

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A NEW AI “JOURNALIST” REWRITING THE NEWS TO REMOVE BIAS

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Want your news delivered with the icy indifference of a literal robot? You might want to bookmark the newly launched site Knowhere News. Knowhere is a startup that combines machine learning technologies and human journalists to deliver the facts on popular news stories.

Here’s how it works. First, the site’s artificial intelligence (AI) chooses a story based on what’s popular on the internet right now. Once it picks a topic, it looks at more than a thousand news sources to gather details. Left-leaning sites, right-leaning sites – the AI looks at them all.

 

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