Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Most Futuristic Predictions That Came True In 2014

The Most Futuristic Predictions That Came True In 2014
As 2014 comes to a close, it's time to reflect on the most futuristic breakthroughs and developments of the past year. This year's crop features a slew of incredible technological, scientific, and social achievements, from mind-to-mind communication to self-guiding sniper bullets. Here are 15 predictions that came true in 2014.

Technologically-assisted telepathy was successfully demonstrated in humans

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Remarkably, the system is completely non-invasive. By using internet-linked electroencephalogram (EEG) and robot-assisted image-guided transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) technologies, an international team of researchers were able to get two subjects — one in India and one in France — to mentally transmit the words "hola" and "ciao." It's an important proof of concept for furthering the development of tech-enabled telepathy.Image: Carles Grau et al/Plos.
And in a similar breakthrough, a different team developed a system that allowed a human subject to control the movements of another personThe University of Washington researchers showcased the technology by having participants collaborate on a computer game where a "sender" sent mental instructions to a "receiver" to control their hand movements.

NASA emailed a wrench to the space station

The Most Futuristic Predictions That Came True In 2014
In what's being seen as a precursor to a Star Trek-like replicator, astronauts aboard the ISS used their 3D printer to manufacture a socket wrench. Remarkably, the 20-part wrench was designed on Earth and emailed to astronaut Barry Wilmore who ran it through the printer. It's a prime example of how 3D printing is poised to change space travel, allowing astronauts to produce equipment on demand and in emergency situations. Image: NASA.

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The technique, which is only being used on patients who would otherwise be expected to die, involves internal rather than external cooling. The patient's blood is replaced with a cold saline solution, which slows down the body's metabolic functions and need for oxygen. Image: Prometheus.

The U.S. Navy deployed a functional laser weapon

The device, called a High Energy Laser (HEL) weapon, was fitted to the USS Ponce, which is currently on exercises in the Persian Gulf.
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It's still at the prototype stage, but it's being fielded to evaluate its capabilities in a real-world environment where it has already shown its effectiveness in destroying two boats and a drone.Image: U.S. Navy.

Scientists "uploaded" a worm's mind into a robot

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Researchers at the OpenWorm project are trying to create a digital version of an actual nemotode worm in a computer. They're not quite there yet, but that didn't stop team member Timothy Busbice from creating software that mimics the natural processes of the worm's neural networks — and then putting that knowledge in a LEGO Mindstorms EV3 robot.

A computer solved a math problem that we can't check

Mathematician Steven Strogatz once predicted that computer-assisted solutions to math problems will eventually extend beyond human comprehension. His prediction appears to have finally come true.
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Earlier this year, a computer solved the longstanding ErdÅ‘s discrepancy problem. Unfortunately, human mathematicians aren't entirely sure about the solution because it's as long as all of Wikipedia's pages combined.

An artificial chromosome was built from scratch

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In what was the year's biggest artificial life breakthrough, researchers from New York University Langone Medical Center reconstructed a synthetic and fully functional yeast chromosome. Incredibly, they were also able to insert their own special additions to the chromosome, including a chemical switch that allows scientists to "scramble" it into thousands of different variations to make subsequent gene editing even easier. It's an important proof of concept that could lead to designer organisms and artificial chromosomes in humans.

A venture capitalist firm appointed an AI to the board

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Some say it was a media stunt, but it might be the start of a larger trend: Hong Kong-based Deep Knowledge ventures appointed a machine learning program, called VITAL, to its board of directors. It's said to be an "equal member" that will uncover trends "not immediately obvious to humans" in order to make investment recommendations. The system will pour over massive data sets, apply machine learning, and then predict which life sciences companies are the best investments.

A double amputee received two mind-controlled arms

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Les Baugh became the first human to ever receive two shoulder-level thought-controlled prosthetic arms. It's not permanent, but the researchers at Johns Hopkins are hoping that the arms will eventually become a permanent add-on.
In other major cybernetic breakthroughs, researchers created an artificial hand that feels, and the first mind-controlled prosthetic hand with 10 degrees of freedom. Also, these wearable limbstook us a step closer to creating Doctor Octopus.

A cloaking device that hides objects in the visible spectrum

We've seen so-called invisibility cloaks before, but nothing quite like this one.
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Researchers at the University of Rochester developed a cheap and surprisingly effective cloaking device that's being heralded as the first to perform 3D, continuously multidirectional cloaking in the visible spectrum of light. To do it, they combined four standard optical lenses that keeps an object hidden — even as the viewer moves side to side. The system could eventually be used to eliminate blind spots in vehicles or let surgeons see through their hands during surgery. Photocredit: J. Adam Fenster / University of Rochester.

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An orangutan became a legally recognized person

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In an important precedent that could influence law elsewhere, a 29-year-old Sumatran orangutan held at an Argentinian zoo was granted the right of habeas corpus, or bodily autonomy. As noted by AFADA lawyer Paul Buompadre, "This opens the way not only for other Great Apes, but also for other sentient beings which are unfairly and arbitrarily deprived of their liberty in zoos, circuses, water parks and scientific laboratories." Sandra will be released from the zoo and transfered to a sanctuary.

Self-guiding sniper bullets became a reality

The DARPA-funded system, called EXACTO, features a .50-caliber sniper round that can be optically guided to a target with a laser. Incredibly, the bullet can hit a target up to 1.2 miles (1.9 km) away.
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The technology was developed by Teledyne Scientific and Imaging, who disclosed virtually no information as to how the bullet maneuvers mid-trajectory.

A proto-cyber war erupted between the U.S. and N. Korea

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It all started because of a very silly movie, but the consequences — and potential implications — are anything but. The Sony Hacks were directly linked to North Korea (an accusation that's still being contested), resulting in the temporary cancellation of The Interview's theatrical release. Shortly afterward, North Korea's entire Internet was taken down, allegedly by the United States. The world thus caught its first glimpse of what a cyber war might actually look like.

Humanity landed a robot on a comet

We've sent robotic probes to planets, but we've never done anything quite like this before.
The Most Futuristic Predictions That Came True In 2014
Philae's harrowing landing on Comet 67P in early November wasn't perfect, but the mission is being hailed as a wild success. In addition to some incredible images, we're learning aboutorganic compounds on the comet and weird water that's potentially upending our theories of where our oceans came fromImage: ESA.

Five Golden Rules for Setting Great New Year Career Goals

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Monday, December 22, 2014

The Santa Claus Workout

Ho! Ho! Ho!
Santa Claus here. With just a week to go until the Big Dance, things are hopping here at the North Pole. While the elves make their final preparations, I’m busy preparing myself physically and mentally for my grueling 24-hour work shift delivering toys to boys and girls around the world.
Yes, I do have magic to help me, but magic only gets you so far. You need to be in pretty good physical condition to do my job.
Now, I know what you might be thinking. Santa? In good physical condition?
Yes, it appears I have a belly that shakes like a bowl full of jelly. It’s part of my personal brand. But thanks to elf magic, I’m able to maintain my rotund physique, while simultaneously being a specimen of peak physical health and conditioning. Suck on that, mortals!
Anyways, I thought I’d share with you the HIIT (high intensity interval training) routine I use to get in shape for my Christmas Eve flight. It works for me, maybe it will work for you.
Maybe. Only if you’re good.

The Workout

Perform each exercise back-to-back with no rest. After you complete a circuit, rest for thirty seconds. Complete the circuit 10 times, 5 times if you’re a mortal man. If you can’t do one set, you’re on the Needs-to-Get-Their-Lazy-Butt-in-Shape List. Expect to receive a lump of broccoli in your stocking this year.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Authentic Swing

By: Steven Pressfield | Dec 10, 2014 01:17 am

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Matt Damon as Rannulph Junah in "The Legend of Bagger Vance." Behind him, left, is Michael Moncrief as the story's narrator, Hardy Greaves.
Sometimes a story—particularly fantasy, historical or sci-fi—needs a conceptual Premise. By that I mean a hypothetical truth that informs the drama the way, say, the airfoil-shaped wing informs the idea of an airplane.
The conceptual premise of The Legend of Bagger Vance is “the Authentic Swing.”
Premise is different from theme. It’s different from concept. It’s even different from “What if?”
Here are examples of premises in fiction and movies:
1. A certain ring contains the secret power of the universe. Whoever possesses the ring possesses that power.
2. In the future, technology exists that can detect crimes before they are committed. “PreCrime” is a division of police departments in this future.
3. In the future, creatures called “replicants” have been created, which are virtually identical to humans. Replicants, by the nature of their genesis, have no memories of childhood or of any past before they were created. Thus, to control them and to keep them emotionally stable, their manufacturer has implanted artificial memories, which the replicants believe to be real. When replicants discover this ruse and see through it, it is deeply distressing to them.
Sometimes non-fantasy/sci-fi stories have premises as well.
1. Love and hard work can overcome (or at least mitigate) certain psychological conditions such as bipolar disorder.
2. It is possible to recreate the past, specifically to recover a lost love, through force of will, abundant means, and an overpoweringly vivid reinvention of oneself and one’s world.
(These are the premises of Lord of the Rings, Minority Report, Blade Runner, Silver Linings Playbook, and The Great Gatsby.)
One curious thing about premises: they don’t have to be true. A premise is simply the supposition upon which the dramatic superstructure of the story is based. The reader/audience doesn’t have to buy into the truth of the premise in real life as long as he or she accepts it in the story. Nor do all the characters in the drama have to believe in the premise (though of course it’s better if they do). It’s enough for one character to believe the premise (Jay Gatsby, for example). The story can work, based on that alone.
But back to “the Authentic Swing.” What exactly is it and how does it fit into The Legend of Bagger Vance?
The conceptual premise of The Legend of Bagger Vance—in other words, the dramatic myth on which the actions of the story are based—is that each one of us possesses his or her own unique golf swing. This swing is ours at birth. We can alter it a little through hard work and practice, but it is impossible to materially change it. As Tiger Woods has the Tiger Woods swing and Rory McIlroy has the Rory McIlroy swing, so do you and I have our own swings, even if we’ve never picked up a golf club.
The metaphor of course is the Authentic Self.
Each of us has one, and only one, swing/self that is “authentic” to us. The worst thing that can happen to us is to lose this Authentic Swing/Self. If we do, we will be compelled by our own emotional pain and distress to drop everything and attempt to recapture it at all costs.
I believe this theory absolutely, by the way. But a writer doesn’t have to believe the premise of her story. It’s enough that the premise be provocative enough and true-sounding enough for the reader/audience to willingly suspend disbelief.
If you’re working on a novel or screenplay now, does it have a conceptual premise? (Remember, not all stories have to have one.) If yours does, what is it? How are you using it in the narrative?
In The Great Gatsby, the premise is the emotional foundation of Jay Gatsby’s world.
But you can’t recreate the past.
Of course you can, old sport!
The inciting incident in The Legend of Bagger Vance is the moment (actually before the book begins) when the protaganist, Rannulph Junah, loses his Authentic Swing. In other words, he has lost his soul, his identity, his vision of himself as a human being.
How can he recover his Authentic Swing/Self?
His mentor, Bagger Vance, will show him as the story unfolds.
If you recall the two previous posts in this series, you remember that the structure ofThe Legend of Bagger Vance was taken from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita—and that the character of Bagger Vance is a parallel to that of Krishna, i.e. God in human form. Krishna obviously never uses the term “authentic swing” in the Gita, but every gem of spiritual wisdom that he utters is a variation on that premise.
Am I getting too heavy here? Are you still with me?
What Krishna says to Arjuna in the Gita is basically this:
You are who you are. It is folly to reject this identity, to flee from it or to try to alter it. Do you imagine that you, with your limited human capacity to grasp the ways of God … do you imagine that you possess wisdom and vision superior to all of nature, including the nature of the Almighty and the ultimate purpose of the universe? Stand up! Embrace your calling! Take the action that you know you must take!
In other words, your well-intentioned but misguided search for superior wisdom and justice has caused you to lose your Authentic Swing/Self. Trust me, says Krishna/Bagger Vance. Trust the true heart wisdom you have always possessed. Return to yourself and act.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

What's Your Absolute Favorite Book Ever To Introduce Other People To?

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Whether you're buying a stack of the same paperback to give out as gifts, lending out (and then retrieving) the well-turned copy you've had for the past decade, or simply pinging an e-copy over to as many friends' e-readers as you can, we want to know about which book you most love to share.
Tell us in the comments what the book is, who wrote it, when you first read it, and why it is that you love to pass it along. Pictures too, please!

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Winston Churchill School of Adulthood Is Now in Session

Last month, we published a post on 6 reasons why it’s especially hard to become an adult in the modern world, and argued that despite this difficulty, the world still needs grown-ups.

And yet, as we admitted at the end, even when we know how necessary adults are to a flourishing, full-functioning society, it can still be hard to want to grow up ourselves. In popular culture, youth is associated with freedom, fun, and creativity, while grown-ups are seen as dull, constrained, and perpetually stressed out. Adults are perceived as lacking in imagination and zest for life, and seem to be ground down by their responsibilities. So who would want to join their ranks?

One of the most unfortunate tendencies of an adolescent culture is the impulse to fit everything into black and white narratives. Narratives themselves aren’t the issue; in fact, psychologists say that being able to view your life as a story is a key component to mental health and happiness. And as we’ll come to see, being able to imagine yourself as an actor in that story – a kind of hero’s journey – is one of the most important ways of achieving an awesome adulthood. No, it’s not narratives per se that are problematic, but ones that are overly simplistic and one-dimensional.

When you’re young, you feel a burning desire to fit yourself neatly into a clear-cut conception of “who I am.” This tendency may be even stronger in our modern world, where we can carefully curate an image of ourselves on social media of how we want others to view us. We’re a hippie, or a hippie Christian. We’re an adventurous world traveler, or a bookish homebody. We’re a conservative, or someone who hates conservatives. Yet an identity that can be built with carefully chosen pictures, and selected from a platter of dropdown menus, is quite limiting. A clearly delineated identity can feel very secure, but it keeps us moving along a single track of thought and experience.

Part of maturity is being able to comfortably sit with two seemingly contradictory ideas and energies. “I can be this and that.” “I can doubt that, but believe this.” “I can prioritize this, without giving up my love for that.” Being able to comfortably operate in different dimensions has a two-fold benefit. First, it provides a satisfying steadiness that allows you to make real progress with your life. When you’re young, you often go all-in on one phase, and then swing over whole hog into another when something in your life changes. If someone challenges how you’re living at the peak of one of these phases, you feel incredibly angry. Or, if you come to feel one of your long-held beliefs isn’t true, you tend to freak out, and feel angry and betrayed, launching a period where you don’t believe anything anymore, and define yourself only in opposition to your old creed.

As you mature, you become able to examine new ideas without feeling anxious or threatened by them; you gain the ability to calmly sift through your changing opinions and examine things more objectively. You have a core foundation of principles, but feel the freedom to play with other lines of thought. In doing so, sometimes you come to feel that there are expectations and “shoulds” of adulthood that just seem silly, and you reject them. And sometimes, you realize that something you like or believe isn’t completely rational, but you decide you don’t care and keep it in your life anyway, simply because you enjoy it so much.


Think about it – what are the best, most exciting, most engrossing movies/books/TV shows you’ve consumed? Those with simplistic plots? Or those with rich narratives filled with complex characters, conflict, and some mystery?

When we’re kids, children’s books and films capture our attention. But as adults, we’re ready to grapple with more. As it goes in media, so it goes in our lives. The false narrative in which “being young is awesome/being an adult sucks” works well when you’re actually young, but as you mature in age, it reaps increasingly diminished returns. To grow up well, you need a new mindset, one with an expanded palette of possibilities.

The greatest aspect of adulthood is one’s ability to imagine whatever kind of life you’d like for yourself, and to have the power, freedom, and independence to turn that vision into a reality. You can make whatever you will of it, without interference from parents, teachers, or other authority figures.

In this act of creation, you want to be able to draw not only from the toolbox of childlike inclinations, but those of adulthood as well. The task of growing up well is learning to keep the best energies of youth, while combining them with the different privileges and pleasures of maturity. To settle down, without completely settling in.


When it comes to achieving one of the most interesting, eventful, and outright original adulthoods in history, Winston Churchill surely has no rival. He was a writer, a politician, an orator, a family man, a painter, a lifelong adventurer, and much, much more. Of the supreme fullness of Churchill’s life, his biographer, William Manchester, writes:

“If one accepts Freud’s dictum that mental health is the ability to love and work, Churchill possessed his full mental health. If anything, Churchill had attained what the American humanist psychologist Abraham Maslow called ‘self-actualization,’ the condition at the top of Maslow’s ‘hierarchy of needs,’ where is found creativity, morality, spontaneity, and the ability to parse problems, accept facts, and refute prejudices.”

When poet and literary critic John Squire met Churchill he summed up his impression of the man by saying this: “I have met many politicians; this is the first one who was alive.”


He was full of boyish mischief, humor, and enthusiasm, and yet willingly took on what was arguably the 20th century’s greatest burden of leadership.

He continually sought for adventure, but was happiest at home with his wife and children, and found his greatest pleasure in life’s most simple: good food, good drink, and good company.

He outsourced his daily duties from dressing to feeding himself to servants, but reveled in the dirt, danger, and hardship of being in the trenches of war.

He was a staunch traditionalist, who lived and breathed the lessons of history, but could also be incredibly innovative and forward thinking.

He was agnostic in his religious beliefs, but maintained a moral code of absolutes and saw life as an outright battle between the forces of good and the forces of evil.

He could be tough and hard-nosed, and yet cheerfully admitted to being an unabashed sentimentalist who cried regularly and freely.

He was detail-oriented and realistic, and yet imaginative, intuitive, and thoroughly Romantic.

He was learned and thoughtful, and yet defined his identity and success through action.

He worked like 10 men, and played like a little boy.


Enroll in the Winston Churchill School of Adulthood

If it still seems difficult to grasp how different energies might be incorporated into your life in order to cultivate an interesting, adventurous, and fulfilling adulthood, fear not – each installment of this series will explore these dichotomies in full. Today represents only an introduction to the “curriculum” we’ll now begin to explore.


Join us for the Winston Churchill School of Adulthood to find out how.