How Snapchat Changed The Future

Another little piece I wrote for work this week.  You can have a look at the original, or an excerpt quoted below.

Karl Lagerfeld is probably very upset.

The German fashion designer once stated, “What I like about photographs is that they capture a moment that’s gone forever; impossible to reproduce.”

Well, Snapchat, as we all know, captures a moment for a moment (or ten), and then both are gone forever.  In the process, the Android and iOS app has turned the very meaning of photography on its head: taking photographs for the purpose of posterity and remembrance, and instead using them to convey a fleeting, momentary message.

And what’s most startling, quite possibly, is that we didn’t notice how one of the multimedia staples of the last two hundred years has been completely changed in less than two.

In less than two years, and despite having only five staff, Snapchat has gone from initial release to being valued at a staggering $860M and has received significant investment in 2013.  Despite the vast majority of its user base being located in the United States, it has infiltrated the lexicon of Great Britain, and seems to have overcome initial fears that it would be used solely for untoward purposes.

But the undeniable and exciting success of Snapchat has hidden another story: what does this new method of communication hold for the future?  The ability to get a user to examine every detail of a picture in less than ten seconds, and commit it to memory long enough to draft a reply, is something out of an advertiser’s dream.  And whilst Snapchatremains ad-free, for now, one has to question from where the inevitable monetization of the app will come.

Read the rest here.


1984 sales up 7,000%

Sales of George Orwell’s classic work 1984 have rocketed by 7,000% in the last week, in the aftermath of revelations concerning surveillance on US citizens by the American government.

Orwell’s bleak vision of the future, where citizens are monitored and observed by ‘Big Brother’, was a cautionary tale of an imagined future.

Now, however, it would appear that people are buying it as a kind of How To guide for living in an increasingly dystopian society.

If you are going to go out and buy it, please go and get a physical copy from a bookshop.  Downloading it to your Kindle via a tracked user account is just too much irony for one day.


Could we be living in a computer simulation?

The good folks over at io9 have posted a really nice piece on the possibility that we are living inside a huge computer simulation.

Sound like codswallop?  Probably.  Is it possible?  Definitely.

A snippet:

[quote]Interestingly, the researchers consider their simulation to be a forerunner to more powerful versions in which molecules, cells, and even humans themselves might someday be generated. But for now, they’re interested in creating accurate models of cosmological processes — and finding out which ones might represent hard limits for simulations.

To that end, they have investigated the Greisen–Zatsepin–Kuzmin limit (or GZK cut-off) as a candidate — a cut-off in the spectrum of high energy particles. The GZK cut-off is particularly promising because it behaves quite interestingly within the QCD model.

According to the Physics arXiv blog, this cut-off is well known and comes about when high energy particles interact with the cosmic microwave background, thus losing energy as they travel long distances. The researchers have calculated that the lattice spacing imposes some additional features on the spectrum, namely that the angular distribution of the highest energy components should exhibit cubic symmetry in the rest of the lattice (causing it to deviate signi?cantly from isotropy).

“In other words,” write the arXiv bloggers, “the cosmic rays would travel preferentially along the axes of the lattice, so we wouldn’t see them equally in all directions.”

And that would be the kind of reveal the physicists are looking for — an indication that there is indeed a man hiding behind the curtain.[/quote]

Read the whole thing here.


New Comet May Outshine Moon

An exciting piece of news from over at Geekologie.

A new comet, which has been discovered near Saturn, could become one of the brightest ever recorded when it speeds past the Sun in late 2013/early 2014.

The comet, entitled Comet ISON (C/2012S1) will burn up past the sun.  Although it won’t be as large as the moon, it may well outshine it, and perhaps even be visible during the day.

Although nothing is certain, and only time will tell whether it will actually be as bright as experts claim, it seems that the comet will reach its optimum position for viewing in the weeks following the 28 November 2013.  Comets vary in their composition, and this to a large extent determines who bright they will be from Earth.

It’s the second exciting comet forecast for next year, as Comet Pan-STARRS (C/2011 L4) will pass by in March 2013, and should be visible in the evening sky.


NASA Working On Warp Drive

In the second of today’s new technology stories, it’s the exciting news that NASA have begun work on warp drive.  

[quote]Perhaps a Star Trek experience within our lifetime is not such a remote possibility.”[/quote] - Dr. Harold White.

It would appear that NASA now believe that a real life-warp drive is now possible, by rejigging the energy requirements of previous hypotheses.

Dr. White’s team are working on loopholes that are believed to exist in certain mathematical equations.  Such loopholes, though they may sound like nothing, may indicate that warping the fabric of space-time is possible.

According to Gizmodo, “The Eagleworks team has discovered that the energy requirements are much lower than previously thought. If they optimize the warp bubble thickness and “oscillate its intensity to reduce the stiffness of space time,” they would be able to reduce the amount of fuel to manageable amount: instead of a Jupiter-sized ball of exotic matter, you will only need 500 kilograms to “send a 10-meter bubble (32.8 feet) at an effective velocity of 10c.” ‘

Read the entire story at Gizmodo.


Driverless Car Bill Signed

It may look like the stuff of science-fiction, and sound like the stuff of science-fiction, but it’s soon to become science-fact.

California governor Jerry Brown backed legislation on Tuesday to bring driverless cars onto the roads of California.

A Google project, the company have been testing a fleet of 12 computer-controlled automatic vehicles for a while now.  The bill – signed at Google HQ – will set up safety and performance regulations in order to ensure the new fleet of vehicles is safe.  These need to be drafted by 2015.

Brown said:

[quote]Today we’re looking at science-fiction becoming tomorrow’s reality.[/quote]

Google’s Sergey Brin added that the new cars would be “far safer” than those driven by humans, and can “really dramatically improve the quality of life for everyone”.

Brown did add:

[quote]Anyone who gets inside a car and finds out the car is driving will be a little skittish.[/quote]


Endeavour’s Last Flight HD

A really nice video taken from Gizmodo, with some gorgeous shots of the Space Shuttle Endeavour’s last flight in California.

The video is shot using a RED Epic camera at 5K resolution with Canon 800mm 5.6 lens in slow motion—-96 frames per second.

This was the last flight of any space shuttle.


UK Meteor Was Space Junk

Twitter exploded last night in a similar fashion to the disintegrating meteor that came tumbling through the atmosphere above Britain.

Now, experts claim that the fireball was more likely to have been space junk.

According to Dr. Tim O’Brien at Jodrell Bank Observatory, the event was probably caused by “orbital debris from satellites”.

“They are still moving fast. They are 18,000 miles an hour, not that slow,” he told BBC Radio 4.

“But a little bit slower than the rocks and meteorites that come from farther out in space.”

I’d argue it’s slightly disconcerting that something that size can fall from the sky – especially from our own atmosphere – and we had no idea it was coming.

[ Source: BBC News ]


Huge Meteor over UK

Thousands of people witnessed a large fireball heading over the United Kingdom and Ireland on Friday evening (September 21st 2012).

The large meteor could be seen from Dublin to Belfast, and Glasgow to the Midlands of England.

The object seemed to disintegrate in the atmosphere, with the BBC posting amateur footage from Ballymena in Northern Ireland.

An eyewitness said it was “very bright, very beautiful.”

More footage:


Martian Spheres Puzzle Experts

The discovery of a collection of strange spherical objects on Mars has caused a stir over at NASA.

Despite all the fuss made over the Curiosity rover in recent months, the discovery has actually come from earlier rover Opportunity.  

The strange spheres resemble earlier objects – the ‘blueberries’ – which were discovered to be rich in hematite.

Yet these new discoveries are fundamentally different.

Steve Squyres of Cornell University in Ithaca stated:

[quote]This is one of the most extraordinary pictures from the whole mission. They are different in concentration. They are different in structure. They are different in composition. They are different in distribution. So, we have a wonderful geological puzzle in front of us. We have multiple working hypotheses, and we have no favorite hypothesis at this time. It’s going to take a while to work this out, so the thing to do now is keep an open mind and let the rocks do the talking.[/quote]

More as NASA discover it.