A Submarine to Explore the Ocean on Saturn's Moon, Titan

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1. A proposed autonomous submarine for exploring the hydrocarbon sea of Kraken Mare on Titan, one of Saturn's moon.

"Titan is unique in the outer solar system in that it is the only one of the bodies outside the Earth with liquid lakes and seas on its surface. The Titanian seas, however, are not composed of water, like Earth’s seas, but are seas of liquid hydrocarbons. What lies beneath the surface of Titan’s seas? We propose to develop a conceptual design of a submersible autonomous vehicle (submarine) to explore extraterrestrial seas. Specifically, to send a submarine to Titan’s largest northern sea, Kraken Mare.... Sprawling over some 1000 km, with depths estimated at 300 m, Kraken Mare is comparable in size to the Great Lakes and represents an opportunity for an unprecedented planetary exploration mission."

+ All of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concept grant recipients are worth checking out.

 

2. A $1900 humanoid caretaking robot debuting next year in Japan.

"At birthdays, Pepper could be found encouraging fun by initiating singing and dancing, a prospect that’s sure to add additional air of cringe to any family gathering. Other more serious possible uses for the robot include as a nurse or emergency medical workers. It could also prove an effective companion for elderly people. Speaking at press conference in Tokyo this morning, Masayoshi Son, SoftBank CEO, said: 'People describe others as being robots because they have no emotions, no heart. For the first time in human history, we’re giving a robot a heart, emotions.'"

 

3. Waiting for Godot, auto-generated movie edition.

"I recently discovered Plotagon, a bizarre and fascinating tool for auto-generating movies from dialogue and simple direction. Here is the first 5 minutes of Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett, performed by some of these virtual robot actors. The actors can be given lines, simple acting direction for the dialogue (afraid, angry, arrogant, bored etc), and instructions for non-verbal expressions between the lines (bow, caress, clear throat, cry, laugh etc)."

 

4. On super-agers and what they can teach us about getting old.

"Exceptional longevity isn’t a reward for healthy living; it’s more like a winning lottery ticket, coded into the genes of a lucky few — only 1.73 of every 10,000 people in the U.S. have it. The remarkable longevity of centenarians, in other words, is a fluke, the consequence of rare and unique gene combinations passed from parents to children to grandchildren. That’s the bad news. The good news is that researchers like Barzilai and other colleagues have recently identified something else, something totally unexpected, in the cells of these oldest living humans, and it could radically transform old age for the rest of us."

 

5. A comprehensive look at the implementation of a very successful IT solution... ticketing at superstar chef Grant Achatz's Chicago restaurants

"Despite bugs, website propagation issues, and everything else that could possibly go wrong on a software launch – on the very day of the Next opening – tickets went on sale.  So many people logged on and bought tickets so quickly that I simply couldn’t believe it... 'There are 8,432 people on the system hitting the refresh button right now chef.  As soon as you unlock one, it sells.  Here, look.'  I opened another window with our credit card processing transactions listed. $57,293  in sales in the first hour of the system.  $ 358,483 in the first 24-hours.  Two days later $563,874 of revenue was in our bank."

 

Today's 1957 American English Usage Tip

Boxing day. Brit. The first weekday after Christmas, on which Christmas boxes [tips] are given to servants &c. A legal holiday. Nothing to do with boxing matches.

 

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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