Distant Encounter

NASA’s New Horizons space probe has just completed its latest flyby. Amazingly the the object, 2014 MU69—AKA Ultima Thule—is 44 AU from Earth (44 times our average distance from the sun). It takes light 6 hours for sunlight to crawl out to this remotest tenant of the Solar System.

The little probe has to send all its data back over that distance, the bandwidth is appalling.  So far, New Horizons has only managed to squirt us 1% of its image cache, but still, the pictures are amazing:

Ultima Thule is 33km-long. Each of the two lobes is almost spherical. It probably formed right at the dawn of the Solar System, over 4 Billion years ago from a drifting cloud of snow balls.

It has a reddish tinge, probably from the same methane based organics as found on the North pole of Pluto’s moon Charon.

Super cool stuff!

I am looking forward to the new images that should be coming in soon at much higher resolution.
New Horizons is still going strong, at 58,000 km/h, and has enough fuel and power for another 20 years! (assuming the native pond life in charge down here doesn’t further cut NASA’s budget.)


Oh, and Happy New Year!    🙂

Cheating Robots!

The problem with modern AI is that nobody really knows what’s going on inside all those cold robot minds.

This is a great example. An algorithmic faker tricked its programmers into thinking it was doing its homework, learning how to encode map images, by employing the disembodied digital equivalent of writing the answers to exam questions on its hands!


Tech from Singularity’s Children: 3D Printing Organs in Space

3D Tissue Printing in Space is another technology I play with in my Singularity’s Children books.

The ultra-rich have found a new way to stave of a visitation from the grim-reaper by packing themselves in gelly and shooting themselves into orbit. There, cloning, cybernetics, and 3D tissue printing can fashion them new bodies.

FT – Small ‘organoids’ grown in the lab could be used to treat chronic conditions

In Space, the printer can place cells anywhere without worrying about gravity deforming the growing wet blob. Nutrients can be misted across the pulsing membranes as a new vessel for an oligarchs consciousness takes shape…

Once the body is done and ready for a freshly scooped out brain, all the fiddly neural wiring can be handled by software. Bulk connections are made in the brain-stem and dynamically mapped to sensations or actions in the synthetic body.

That’s the SciFi, this is the fact:

“In the microgravity environment, cells exhibit spatially unrestricted growth and assemble into complex 3D aggregates, in contrast to typical growth in monolayer (2D) cultures as occurs on Earth. For over two decades, investigations conducted in space and on Earth have shown that 3D culture supports the generation of tissue-like characteristics in vitro that are more biologically representative of native in vivo-like cell growth and function.” 3dprint.com