Category Archives: Science

Ethics of Driverless Cars

Driverless CarsGoogle has been developing the driverless car for over half a decade, and with each passing year these automated chauffeurs move farther away from science fiction and closer to reality. Five states have passed laws enabling such vehicles, and as of April of this year, over 700,000 miles have been driven without an accident.

While commercialization is still a long way off, last week a debate raged over the ethical situations that may arise when a driverless vehicle is put into a situation where a crash is imminent. As a hypothetical example, what if a crash was unavoidable, and a driverless car had to choose where to guide the car – either to collide with a schoolbus or a volvo?  Physics dictates that hitting an object of larger mass will statistically be the safest, but there are kids on board! What is the correct decision?  Is the law, and by extension, the public, prepared for cars that “choose” the best scenario?

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Posted in Hardware, Science, Security, Shifting Perspectives, Technology. Tagged with , , .

Are You Color Blind?

The human eye

The human eye is one amazing instrument – a phenomenon of biological engineering, and the window through which we interact with our world.  The fastest and arguably strongest muscle – it is second only to the brain in its complexity. At Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, where I now work, our mission is to promote healthy vision for everyone.

This doesn’t mean just vision correction! It means treating the full range of optical conditions, from common myopia (short sightedness) to the more complex and currently incurable glaucoma –  and everything in between.  It means designing products that don’t just improve the quality of vision, but are also safe and non-damaging to this special organ.

It’s easy to just focus on simple vision correction, because 285 million people are estimated to be visually impaired worldwide, and only a fraction of them are treated. But in the spirit of Healthy Vision, I had a very interesting discussion with my coworkers about color blindness – and learned some pretty amazing things! Read on to take a hue test to see how accurately you see the lush colors of the world, and to hear about exciting research into curing color blindness. Continue reading

Posted in Science, Shifting Perspectives, Technology. Tagged with , , , , , .

badBIOS, a Bad-To-The-Bone, Halloween Malware

"Our forensic procedures are weak when faced with challenges like this"

“Our forensic procedures are weak when faced with challenges like this”

As a cyber security enthusiast, I like to think I know a thing or two about how to stay safe against viral threats.  But no article could have been more frighteningly fitting for arstechnica to post on Halloween, even for me. The article tells the story of Dragos Ruiu, a security icon responsible for the pwn2own hackathon franchise, who three years ago stumbled upon malware that took over a clean install of OS X on his Macbook Air.  He was unable to boot from CD, and found the machine was deleting data and undoing configuration changes without prompting. This is when it starts to get freaky.  The virus started propagating, even to machines completely disconnected from any traditional access point.  No networking, no power cables (running on batteries) fresh installs, with no contact with infected devices. Continue reading

Posted in IT, Science, Security. Tagged with , , , , , , , .

George Whitesides – Virgin Galactic

"Only 541 people have been to space (total). Within two years we will double that number."

“Only 541 people have been to space (total). Within two years we will double that number.”

George Whitesides is the CEO and President of Virgin Galactic, the spaceflight company founded by Sir Richard Branson. Prior to Virgin Galactic, Whitesides served as Chief of Staff for NASA, where he provided policy and staff support to the agency’s Administrator. Upon departure from the agency he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, the highest award the agency confers.

During this talk at the WOBI conference I was just in awe. There isn’t much to say after a video like that. I am unbelievably excited that the view from space may be something I see in my lifetime with my own eyes.  Especially after my thoughts on the Overview Effect, I think it would do the world a lot of good for people to see the world as one planet, one ecosystem, and not a collection of invisible borders. Companies like Virgin Galactic are pushing the envelope of what’s possible, going where governments have not. Continue reading

Posted in Inspirations, Science, Shifting Perspectives. Tagged with , , , , .

Man-Powered Helicopter Wins Sikorsky Prize

The Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Competition was established in 1980 by the American Helicopter Society (AHS) International to develop the first controlled flight of a human powered helicopter that meets a set of extremely challenging requirements. In summary, the requirements to win the AHS Human Powered Helicopter Competition include a flight duration of 60 seconds and reaching an altitude of 3 meters (9.8 ft) while remaining in a 10 meter (32.8 ft) square. The flight must be certified by a representative of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. On July 11, 2013, 33 years after the competition was established, the award was officially declared won when AeroVelo, from the University of Toronto, flew a human-powered helicopter that met all the requirements of the competition. [Wikipedia]

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Posted in Art, Inspirations, Science, Shifting Perspectives. Tagged with , , .

The Overview Effect

The Overview Effect is a phenomenon experienced by a large number of veteran astronauts, who traveled to the moon and stars searching for answers to ancestral questions about who we are, what is our purpose, and what is our destiny. They were so focused on what was “out there” that it never occurred to them how breathtaking, how awesome, fragile and how perfect their home would look from mankind’s newest vantage point. It is this profound moment when they began to feel an overwhelming sense of inter connectivity, of unity, or purpose. That we are all part of one ecosystem, and that may have been the most important discovery of the journey. Fair warning: this post will get deep.

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Posted in Blog, Inspirations, Life Lessons, Science, Shifting Perspectives. Tagged with , .

Designing For Our Bodies

Artist Neil Harbisson was born completely color blind, but these days a device attached to his head turns color into audible frequencies. Instead of seeing a world in grayscale, Harbisson can hear a symphony of color — and yes, even listen to faces and paintings.  Neil Harbisson’s “eyeborg” allows him to hear colors, even those beyond the range of sight, such as ultraviolet and infrared frequencies.

His story is unbelievable; a remarkable use of modern technology.  This is just one example of a growing trend of technology integration with our biological “hardware”.  I want to talk about encouraging the innovation that will push the boundaries between technology and our world.  To do this, we have to start designing for our bodies, for our native ecosystems.  There is a lot of material in this post, so make sure you catch all of the exciting developments! Listen to Neil’s story, and get excited! Continue reading

Posted in Health, Inspirations, Science, Shifting Perspectives. Tagged with , , , , , .

TEDxJNJ: The Future of Biogenetics and HealthCare

 

 Biogenetics, DNA sequencing, personalized healthcare, what does it all mean?  We are standing on the cusp of the next plateau of medical knowledge, and it is all thanks to our growing understanding of our genetic code. Science has already identified multiple gene “markers” that are indications of a genetic susceptibility to certain diseases. As this wealth of knowledge grows, we grow closer to making science fiction a reality – delivering targeted treatments, preventative care, and most eerily, know what hereditary diseases you will contract in the future with an unprecedented level of accuracy. In doing so, one must consider the policies and the human psychology that are affected by such a profound shift in healthcare.

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