Down the Rabbit Hole: Black Hole Edition

In honor of this week's space and technology theme, the image of a black hole rather than a rabbit hole is an appropriate metaphor for getting our time and attention sucked into the internet. Fear not, this will be painless. Once we cross the event horizon we'll never know whether we actually lost something. 

   File:BlackHole Lensing.gif,  by Falcorian , 16 February 2006,  CC BY-SA 3.0


File:BlackHole Lensing.gif, by Falcorian, 16 February 2006, CC BY-SA 3.0

  • For your fiction fix, check out this short story on Electric Lit, Hero Absorbs Major Damage by Charles Yu. They've used annotations to add to the story, making it an interactive experience. This is an excellent use of technology for the betterment of mankind. 
   Nh-pluto-in-true-color 2x JPEG.jpg,   by WolfmanSF , 14 July 2015; released 25 July 2015,  Public Domain


Nh-pluto-in-true-color 2x JPEG.jpg,  by WolfmanSF, 14 July 2015; released 25 July 2015, Public Domain

  • In April of this year, NASA solicited public input for the naming of newly discovered features on Pluto. According to Mashable, they chose the theme of "underworld" for a dark spot on Charon, Pluto's moon is now named after J.R.R Tolkein's Mordor, and the dark whale shaped region at Pluto's south pole is named for H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu.  For full maps of of the newly named features on  Pluto and Charon check out the site Our Pluto.  
  • Back on earth, technology might be moving us towards a sci-fi future similar to the one from the Terminator movies. The only promising thing about a robot war is the way the rest of the human population must finally unite over a common cause. The Washington Post carried the news "Hitchhiking robot’s cross-country journey comes to tragic end in Philadelphia". Will this be the Archduke Ferdinand of the First Robot War?
According to the Associated Press, the robot’s creators were sent a photo of their vandalized robot collapsed among trash and dead leaves on the Philadelphia pavement, its pool noodle arms ripped from its beer bucket torso, its plastic cake saver skull and robot brain nowhere in sight. They decided not to share the image because it might be upsetting to some viewers.
— Associated Press Via The Washington Post

Human kind does have a chance for redemption. According to NPR, A group of design and technology makers from Philadelphia called The Hacktory wants to repair the hitchBOT so the bot can continue on her cross country journey fueled by the kindness of strangers. This story is still unfolding. You can follow the hitchBOT on twitter for the latest. 

  • Man has long been the bringer of our own destruction. Our desire to prove that we can do seems to outweigh any past regrets. Our pursuit of technology has brought about frightening new realities like the atomic bomb, whose creator, J. Oppeneheimer, quoted the Bhagavad Gita saying"Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds".  We have remote controlled drones whose capacity was once limited by it's need to recharge, a problem that two Seattle firms are working to "solve" using mid air recharging techniques.  
Wibotic that plans to recharge drones (and also earthbound robots) without them having to establish an awkward physical connection with a plug. A ’bot whose batteries were low would simply manoeuvre itself to within half a metre or so of a recharging station to top them up. LaserMotive, another Seattle-based company, is even more ambitious. It is developing a system designed to replenish the batteries of drones that are still aloft, using lasers and photovoltaic cells.
— The Economist

Even more frightening is the potential rise of Autonomous Military Machines. While the military is saying they are not weaponizing autonomous machines, they are moving forward with the next generation of remote controlled military machines

Remote-controlled unmanned robots have been in use by the military for over a decade. The Packbot from iRobot defuses bombs; armed drones track and strike their targets; and the MK-18, an underwater torpedo-shaped vehicle, mimics a dolphin’s sonar to locate mines on the ocean floor. What these robots have in common is that there is one person directly controlling them.
— Chris Scrapper, engineer quoted in the New York Times
Unlike drones, which require a person to remotely pilot the craft and make targeting decisions, the autonomous weapons would search for and engage targets on their own. Unlike nuclear weapons, they could be made with raw materials that all significant military powers could afford and obtain, making them easier to mass-produce, the authors argued.
— The New York Times quoting the open letter from Open Letter from AI & Robotics Researchers

If you find yourself concerned about these developments, you can join Mr. Musk and Mr. Hawking by adding your name to the AI & Robotics Researchers' open letter.

Though this ends a bit dark, after you sign the letter and regain a little hope, check out these frogs in space whose dedication to science proved that vertebrates can reproduce in space. I suppose that means there is hope on the final frontier if we mess things up to badly here on Earth.  

Bufo bufo couple during migration(2005).jpg,  Uploaded by Janek , 28 May 2005,  CC BY-SA 3.0

Bufo bufo couple during migration(2005).jpg, Uploaded by Janek, 28 May 2005, CC BY-SA 3.0

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