The future is fast approaching

Caught up in an information culture.


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When Do We Get Flying Wind Turbines?

Still from footage of Makani Power's flying turbine test flight.

Still from footage of Makani Power’s flying turbine test flight.

Makani Power, recently acquired by Google as part of their billion-dollar renewable energy initiative, want to make wind power, which is already pretty efficient in the world of renewables, even more efficient and appropriate for a wider range of locations, by using 90% less materials than standard turbines and taking advantage of high-altitude winds, with tethered flying turbines that have minimal impact near the ground. (Wind at the turbine’s flying altitude, reported to be between 250 and 600 meters, is stronger and steadier than wind currents nearer the ground.)

While their goal is an industrial-sized offshore wind facility, one of these would be pretty darned awesome flying over the ol’ homestead some day – the limited ground impact and visibility is a huge benefit in residential areas, where people struggle with the impact of a retrofit, and there’s not much cooler than a flying kite-like propeller-driven flying turbine.  (Admittedly, this may be wishful thinking for some time to come, as residential zones may simply be too dense for it to land for maintenance.  But given all the small towns installing wind turbines for municipal power, this could be an interesting twist, especially for towns with concerns about historic districts and turbine visibility.)

See below for footage of a recent testing flight:

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Infographic: How big will your apartment be in 2050?

Graphic by BBC Future

Graphic by BBC Future

Two types of people are obsessed with the apartment of the future: science fiction fans and anyone who’s lived in a city.  Both those groups know that Korben Dallas’s apartment in The Fifth Element is somewhere between near-certain prediction and inspirational.

If you’re one of those two types of people (or, let’s be honest, both), BBC Future’s got the infographic for you: city by city, they depict how big your individual shoebox will be and how many of your fellow citizens will be stacked on top of you.  And for good measure, they’ve added in what your quality of life will be, based on things like health care, culture, infrastructure, and political stability.

Life in 2050: How much space will you have to live in?


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Pre-flight footage of Valentina Tereshkova – June 16th, 1963

Valentina Tereshkova, suited up for spaceflight.

Valentina Tereshkova, suited up for spaceflight.

Here’s a little Tereshkova love to celebrate the 50th anniversary of her spaceflight on  June 16th, 1963.  I didn’t realize this footage existed, but it’s great stuff.  It always surprises me to realize how actually literal it is when Bowie says, “Here am I sitting in my tin can“, and how much space-age technology really… isn’t.  We basically sent people up into total vacuum with snorkels and aluminum foil.  What wonderful insanity. Continue reading


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Digital Signposts, the Physical Environment, and Steve Martin’s “L.A. Story”


There’s apparently no CG there, it’s all on-location footage.  Oh, the beautiful, shiny future of the pointy sign.

It’s fair to say that this sign, as implemented, duplicates a lot of the functionality people expect from smartphones, but I don’t see street signs (or, for that matter, billboards) disappearing.  This may not be the final form digital signposts take, but it’s an interesting look – minimalist, fairly unobtrusive. Forget the content for a moment; as a medium, I like this as a way for the physical environment to communicate information to me.

The question it raises is, how much interactivity do we need?  The simpler interface of buttons rather than screens seems appropriate, though I wonder about how the interaction goes down on a more crowded street corner.  Some of the suggested interactions seem counterproductive; there are other devices far better suited to streaming digital news, for instance.  I don’t personally need my physical environment to display tweets, and nor do I have a pressing need for game scores or news, unless that news is accompanied by “and evacuate immediately in this direction” (which would, by the way, be a great use of this sign). Continue reading


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To be filed under “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed”: robotic underground bike storage in Japan, via Boing Boing, who describe it as a somewhat neo-Lovecraftian process where “these  machines ingest RFID-tagged bicycles and whisk them into their bowels and set them lovingly into huge subterranean crypts”.  So, a) very cool, b) an interesting addition to the urban bicycle infrastructure, and c) subterranean bike robots?  Very cool.