Chris McKitterick (mckitterick) wrote,
Chris McKitterick

We live in amazing times.

Here are four big news stories I've discovered since returning from my trek to the Colorado Rockies:

Quantum Teleportation Across 10 Miles

Okay, not quite up to this level:

Click the image to see the Chinese news story.

But this headline is still pretty amazing: Chinese researchers use quantum physics to teleport photons across 10 miles of empty space. TEN MILES. Back in 2004, German scientists teleported an atom about 600 meters. That's a leap of magnitudes in range. So how does quantum teleportation work? Here's a visual explanation:

Click the image to see more details.

Teleporting people a la Star Trek is pretty far off, but these experiments prove that we can teleport stuff. This means, at minimum, that instantaneous communication across large distances is possible, and SF writers can (relatively) safely extrapolate galactic travel via information download (should we be able to truly scan and re-form the information that determines who we are) a la Stross' Glasshouse into fresh bodies is also possible. It's not about transmitting huge blobs of matter - which is impossible, due to massive energy requirements - but about transmitting the information about the matter which is possible. Think how printing works: Your computer sends info about the page you want to transport from computer to paper, and viola! there it is! You didn't transport the page, itself, just the data that your printer needed to reproduce the page. Seriously, we live in an age of wonders: Teleportation!

Artificial Life Created

Check it out: Here's what synthetic life looks like:

Click the image to see the story.

Dr. Craig Venter, creator of the synthetic genome, is seeking a patent on made a completely new "synthetic" life form from a mix of chemicals. The man-made, single-celled organism (nicknamed "Synthia") can reproduce - a required condition for something to be considered "alive." Venter reports that his technique could pave the way for more complex organisms that can "transform environmental waste into clean fuel, vaccinate against disease, and soak up pollution." Here's the paper in the journal, Science. This abstract sums up how they did it:

"We report the design, synthesis, and assembly of the 1.08-Mbp Mycoplasma mycoides JCVI-syn1.0 genome starting from digitized genome sequence information and its transplantation into a Mycoplasma capricolum recipient cell to create new Mycoplasma mycoides cells that are controlled only by the synthetic chromosome. The only DNA in the cells is the designed synthetic DNA sequence, including 'watermark' sequences and other designed gene deletions and polymorphisms, and mutations acquired during the building process. The new cells have expected phenotypic properties and are capable of continuous self-replication."

Okay, now we have teleportation and synthetic life. How are these not top news stories? All I'm finding on the front pages (print or online) are stories about BP blah blah Al-Queda blah blah stock market blah... I mean, seriously, teleportation and synthetic life don't rate front-page news? Then how about this:

Signs of Possible Life on Titan

Here's what the surface of Titan looks like, The Land of 10,000 Hydrocarbon Lakes:

Click the image to see the NASA story.

This one seems like a no-brainer for the newsies to report on, something that would interest everybody: What is consuming hydrogen and acetylene on Titan? Some scientists believe that exotic life-forms could live in the lakes of liquid hydrocarbons pooled across the surface of Saturn's largest moon - a world larger than both Mercury and Pluto, whose atmosphere is denser even than the Earth's. Fascinating place, full of fuel for life. These scientists have described the theoretical Titanian hydrocarbon-gobbling microbes as hydrogen-breathers who eating the organic molecule acetylene, exhaling or otherwise excreting methane as a by-product. If so, this would result in a lack of acetylene on Titan and a depletion of hydrogen close to the moon's surface, where the microbes live, they said. Now, measurements from the Cassini spacecraft prove these predictions, hinting that these exotic critters might, indeed, exist on this harsh and alien world.

Life on other planets, people! How cool is that? Here's a photo of Titan from the Cassini spacecraft. Clouds and mystery shroud a world that potentially harbors life:

Click the image to see the New Scientist story.

And More Proof That Profits Trump Ethics in Business

Finally, in Earth-bound, mundane, not-so-pleasant news to leaven this series of wondrous and astounding discoveries, The Author's Guild shares this:

Wiley's Deceptive Letter to Bloomberg Press Authors: "We are pleased to inform you" that we will be slicing your royalties up to 50%. Ah, publishing, full of honesty and magnanimity.

Screw that: Teleportation Synthetic life! Aliens on Titan! We live in an age of wonders.

Tags: age of wonders, aliens, random cool stuff

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