Three Interesting Things in the Tech World You May Have Missed

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Drone Racing

If you haven’t already heard, drone racing is now a thing. I’m not talking about photography quad-copters you send into the skies to capture a great Facebook cover photo. I’m talking about drones that are built for one purpose… to race.

FPV headset image sourced from https://www.computerpoweruser.com

Drone racing is relatively new but is picking up a huge fan base, primarily composed of electronics enthusiasts, but open to any new comers.

Racing drones are striped back and light, to allow for speeds of up to 100mph. They have neon lights and mounted cameras that send a direct video link to their pilots, who wear special goggles. As if it wasn’t already cool enough the racing tracks are lit up with neon obstacles for the pilots to manoeuvre around and through, making for some spectacular viewing.

 

As with most popular sports it had humble beginnings. Small groups of drone hobbyists would purchase cheap flags and race them via line of sight at local parks, the practice quickly drew a large audience and different leagues began to surface. High production videos published online sparked a global interest and the International Drone Racing Association was launched.  http://www.idra.co/about-idra/

Drone Racing Prix 2016 track. image sourced from https://www.horusrc.com

Just a few years later there was a big enough fan base for the IDRA to organize the first ever World Drone Prix. Held on the 21st of March 2016 in Dubai, the Prix had a cash pool of a whopping $1 million.

The future of the sport is unknown but certainly promising. As tech sports become more popular their global viewing platforms will evidently evolve.

Would you like to see it reach the Olympics?  

Neuralink 

This may sound like science fiction so brace yourselves and be assured that this is the reality we live in.

Elon Musk, CEO of Neuralink. image sourced from https://geekboy.com

Neuralink is a company founded by the great tech innovator Elon Musk, also founder of billion dollar companies like Telsa and SpaceX.

Mr Musk ultimately plans to merge man with machine. To be specific, the human brain with a computer interface.  

Mr Musk is well known for his bold enterprises, and his success has led to prolific advancements in the tech world, but this may just be his most daring project yet.

Still in very early stages, Neuralink plans to develop an implant for the brain for the purpose of keeping up with technological advancements. According to www.theverge.com the chip could potentially “improve memory and allow for direct interfacing with computing devices”. Essentially, Neuralink envisions a possibility in which we can communicate wirelessly with the world.

Mr Musk has often voiced has concerns about the rise of artificial intelligence and believes that if we are to keep up with AI we must merge “biological intelligence and digital intelligence”.

The human brain is possibly the most complex thing on earth and the dangers of opening it up and inserting a foreign object inside it are scary to even fathom. And of course, for this to become a reality there must be human testing eventually, I doubt there would be many eager to volunteer.

Human and machine merging is already a reality, there are thousands, perhaps millions of people that have been aided by cybernetic enhancement, artificial limbs provide the prospect of a second chance for those injured or disabled. It seems that fictional realities like the one depicted in the recent Ghost In The Shell film could eventually be fulfilled. But at what cost? 

Mr Musk is confident that the product will be developed within the next four years, it will primarily be used by those with severe brain injuries but Mr Musk is hopeful that it will eventually become commercial.  

 

 

Technological advances in renewable energy

In 2015, nearly 200 countries came together and agreed to have legally binding limits to global temperature rises in a joint endeavor to keep global warming below 2C which is the threshold of assessed safety.

Image from the Paris Climate Accords. sourced from http://www.slate.com/blogs/

In November of 2016 the accords went into effect

paris-climate-change-agreement 

Meanwhile the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that the world must: “Cut greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 70 percent by mid-century, and to nearly zero by 2100, to have any chance of avoiding warming levels that could ensure sinking cities, mass extinctions, and widespread droughts”.

With this in mind let’s look at two recent technological developments in renewable energy.

Photonic Crystal

Researchers at MIT have created a solar energy device that theoretically could “double the efficiency of conventional solar cells” according to www.technologyreview.com review.

Be sure to check out the featured video in the above link.

MIT’s Solar device. image sourced from www.technologyreview.com

The Photonic Crystal is able to turn sunlight into heat and then convert it back into light.

An absorber-emitter captures the light, converting it into heat, and when the temperature reaches around 1,000 degrees an adjacent layer reflects the energy as narrow bands of light which the photovoltaic cell absorbs.

Standard cells can create around 32% energy from sunlight but MIT’s device “Operating at just 6.8 percent efficiency” can produce around twice as much energy.

 

75% of electricity is produced by the burning of fossil fuels which pollutes the air with carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas. If MIT’s prototype solar device is perfected and becomes consumer available it would be a huge step towards keeping below the threshold of assessed safety.

 

Turning carbon dioxide into reusable fuel

World map showing how much energy people from each country use per year. sourced from http://burnanenergyjournal.com

The world produces 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide each year, figuring out what to do with the carbon is a challenging task, one solution already being practiced Iceland is capturing the carbon (as difficult as you would imagine) and burying it, subsequently turning it into stone.

 

A more recent solution, and perhaps a more promising one, is turning captured Carbon dioxide back into reusable fuel.

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have discovered a method to do just that.

 

image sourced from http://spectrum.ieee.ol Laboratory have discovered a method to do just that.

I won’t attempt to explain the science to you, but if you are eager to know please visit this website www.technologyreview.com or watch the video below. 

Essentially the researchers created an electro-chemical reaction which converted a solution of carbon dioxide into reusable ethanol with a high level of effectiveness.

 

 

 

This is an amazing breakthrough in the fight against climate change, the implications of which could dramatically change how much carbon effects the earth. However, the method must continue to be studied, practiced and used by multiple companies to have noticeable effects.

 

 

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