As society continues to descend further into a more internet focused world as COVID continues (albeit some early openings and re-locking down in other areas), the new normal is leveraging these tech tools on a daily basis. As this trend continues, further advancements across the board abound through further investment in these sectors. Sadly, these stories get lost behind the "news that sells". From energy advancements to AI memristor hardware to a successful interstellar solar sail test, September was a great month!
Here are the top stories from the past month (in mostly chronological order):
One hope buoying nuclear energy advocates has been the promise of “small modular reactor” designs. By dividing a nuclear facility into an array of smaller reactors, they can largely be manufactured in a factory and then dropped into place, saving us from having to build a complex, possibly one-of-a-kind behemoth on site. That could be a big deal for nuclear’s persistent financial problems, while also enabling some design features that further improve safety.
Microsoft has added to the slowly growing pile of technologies aimed at spotting synthetic media (aka deepfakes) with the launch of a tool for analyzing videos and still photos to generate a manipulation score. The tool, called Video Authenticator, provides what Microsoft calls “a percentage chance, or confidence score” that the media has been artificially manipulated.
Extremely energy-efficient artificial intelligence is now closer to reality after a study by UCL researchers found a way to improve the accuracy of a brain-inspired computing system. The system, which uses memristors to create artificial neural networks, is at least 1,000 times more energy efficient than conventional transistor-based AI hardware, but has until now been more prone to error.
It's been 35 years since a pair of robotic balloons explored the clouds of Venus. The Soviet Vega 2 and Vega 2 probes didn't manage to find any Venusians, but that may have been because we didn't know exactly what to look for. On 14 September 2020, a study published in Nature suggested that traces of phosphine in Venus' atmosphere could be an indication of a biological process: that is, of microbial alien life. If confirmed, such a finding could completely change the way we think about the universe, which has us taking a serious look at what it would take to get human explorers to Venus in the near future.
Two major convenience store franchises in Japan are testing out robots capable of stocking shelves using two creepy hands with three “fingers” each, CNN reports. The seven-foot is called Model-T, named after the Ford automobile that triggered a car revolution in the early 1900s, and was developed by Japanese startup Telexistence. During a pilot program, it was controlled by a “pilot” in an office miles away.
IBM is one of the companies jockeying for position in the nascent field of quantum computing and the company thinks it has a roadmap to develop a universal quantum computer with up to 1,000 qubits. Such a chip would be capable of more complex workloads than any existing chip. Furthermore, IBM claims that even this 1,000-qubit CPU, codenamed Quantum Condor, is just the beginning, with long-term plans for a “million-plus” qubit chip at some unspecified point in the future.
Isaac Arthur | YouTube
Nuclear Fission was once hailed as the solution to our power & energy needs, but has grown unpopular of fears of radiation, meltdowns, and radioactive waste. However, advances in science and reactor design may make atomic energy safer and more attractive in the future.
Helmholtz Zentrum München
Researchers at Helmholtz Zentrum München and the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have developed the world’s smallest ultrasound detector. It is based on miniaturized photonic circuits on top of a silicon chip. With a size 100 times smaller than an average human hair, the new detector can visualize features that are much smaller than previously possible, leading to what is known as super-resolution imaging.
The challenge of any space journey comes down to delta-v. That is, how much you can change your speed relative to the speed of Earth. To gain delta-v, you need to have some kind of thrust. Rockets are a great way to get delta-v, but they have one big downside. Rocket fuel needs to be carried with you, and that means the faster you want to go the more fuel you need to carry. In other words, the greater the delta-v, the greater your mass to payload ratio.
The US government is continuing its crusade against Huawei, with economic undersecretary Keith Krach visiting Berlin to pressure the German government to reconsider banning the company’s kit from its 5G network. Krach reportedly told Angela Merkel and her advisers that including Huawei equipment in its next-generation networks could even put the future of NATO at risk, repeating the US government’s position that Huawei represents a national security threat. He recommended Nokia and Ericsson kit instead.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has revealed plans to extract hydrogen from the Moon’s ice deposits to use as a fuel source, the major Tokyo-based newspaper Japan Times reports. The goal is to cut costs during the nation’s planned lunar explorations in the mid-2030s by creating a fuel source locally rather than lugging copious amounts of fuel all the way from Earth.