Signal to Noise Report
Headlines from the bright, unnerving world of today.
The Signal to Noise Report collects headlines to illustrate humanity’s move into what is beginning to resemble a hybrid species: The Jetsons meets Blade Runner. The idea being that we have a proclivity to accept (with glee) whatever new techno gizmos are shoved at us, yet rarely question their purpose and/or their long-term effects on our health and sanity.
Glow-in-the-dark trees could someday replace city streetlights
Imagine: No more street lamps with broken bulbs or dimly-lit alleys. Instead, your evening stroll is illuminated by luminous trees giving off a calming blue hue. A Danish startup called Allumen wants to make this sci-fi fantasy a reality. The goal is to isolate the genes that cause some creatures to glow, and use those genes to genetically engineer trees to do the same thing.
Will they harm other plants and animals? Researchers aren't sure. But a major concern is the spread of seeds and pollen from genetically engineered trees, which can travel hundreds of miles. They could contaminate and cross-fertilize with native trees in parks, forests, or your own backyard, possibly creating mutant plants with their own set of problems.
Source: The Week.
“Would you like to sign in with your palm?” Here Comes the Full Amazonification of Whole Foods
“Would you like to sign in with your palm?” That was the question a cheerful Amazon employee posed when greeting me last week at the opening of a Whole Foods Market in Washington’s Glover Park neighborhood. She blithely added, “You can also begin shopping by scanning the QR code in your Amazon app.”
“Let’s go for the palm,” I said. In less than a minute, I scanned both hands on a kiosk and linked them to my Amazon account. Then I hovered my right palm over the turnstile reader to enter the nation’s most technologically sophisticated grocery store.
I noticed a sign near the entrance that forbade shoppers to take photos or videos inside. My eyes drifted toward the ceiling, where I noticed hundreds of small black plastic boxes hanging from the rafters. An employee jumped in. “Those are the cameras that will follow you during your shopping experience,” she explained, with no hint of irony.
Source: New York Times
Russia-Ukraine crisis shows need for US to 'drill, baby, drill'
Despite its polarized politics, the world’s largest economy — also the globe’s biggest oil producer — sits in the enviable position of having the most stable environment to produce and export supplies. In fact, a number of observers argue that the time to ensure stable and reliable energy supplies is long overdue, even if the conversation postpones the day of reckoning on climate change.
“I think people just forgot about energy security,” energy expert Daniel Yergin told The New York Times’ Andrew Ross Sorkin last week.
Source: Yahoo Finance
Dyson's newest device, the Dyson Zone, combines a personal air purifier and noise-canceling headphones
Dyson, the stylish appliance-maker known for powerful statement-piece vacuums and TikTok-coveted hair straighteners, wants to help you keep car exhaust out of your lungs on your morning commute.
Its newest product, the Dyson Zone, is a personal air- and noise-pollution purifier—a strange-looking headpiece to keep smog out of your lungs and traffic out of your ears. The air purifier pulls air through its filter and then blows it directly into your nose and mouth, ensuring that what you breathe lacks the particles and gasses from car emissions and other pollutants. Meanwhile, it also acts as a set of Bluetooth active noise-canceling headphones to keep crowd noise and, again, excess noise from nearby cars, from impacting your hearing.
Source: Popular Science
Wendell Berry’s Advice for a Cataclysmic Age
“I am suggesting,” he once wrote, “that most people now are living on the far side of a broken connection, and that this is potentially catastrophic.”
I asked him if he retains any of his youthful hope that humanity can avoid a cataclysm. He replied that he’s become more careful in his use of the word “hope”.
Source: The New Yorker
This fabric microphone could blend into your outfit—while keeping you fashionable—to track your health data.
The clothes we wear are silent sentinels to our daily prattle and privy to the going-ons of our body. “They hear everything,” from our breaths to the blood whooshing through our veins to the beating of our hearts, says study author Yoel Fink, a material scientist and electrical engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He thinks that the wearable microphone can be used as sensors to probe our bodies’ inner soundscape, which could have reverberating implications in healthcare monitoring. “In principle, could we give a person access to the soundtrack of their life?” Fink suggests.
“Computers are going to really become fabrics,” he says. “We’re getting very close.”
Source: Popular Science
Global CO2 emissions rebounded to their highest level in history in 2021
Global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions rose by 6% in 2021 to 36.3 billion tonnes, their highest ever level, as the world economy rebounded strongly from the Covid-19 crisis and relied heavily on coal to power that growth, according to new IEA analysis released today.
The increase in global CO2 emissions of over 2 billion tonnes was the largest in history in absolute terms, more than offsetting the previous year’s pandemic-induced decline, the IEA analysis shows.
Robot dogs bark out lockdown orders in Shanghai
Robot dogs and drones are patrolling the streets and skies of Shanghai to help enforce a lockdown on the city’s 26 million residents aimed at curbing the vicious spread of the Omicron variant of coronavirus… In a video posted by The Paper, a state-run newspaper, a loudspeaker is strapped to a robot dog roaming a residential area in the city’s Jiading district. “Wear the mask, wash your hands frequently, check your temperature,” the loudspeaker blares. Residents, apparently delighted to see the robot dog, appeared to welcome its use.
Source: The Times UK
A Day Made of Glass... Made possible by Corning. (From the optimistic year of 2011)
Ned Mudd resides in Alabama where he engages in interspecies communication, rock collecting, and frequent cloud watching. He is the author of The Adventures of Dink and DVD (a space age comedy). Some of Ned’s best friends are raccoons.
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