Re-Up Your Pup: Clone Your Pet And Be Best Friends Forever!

It's a question that's been on humanity's mind since the success of Dolly the sheep.  What if man's best friend (or some genetically-accurate approximation thereof) could stay with him for the duration of the human's longer life?  Now, thanks to cloning, you may be able to have a couple of copies of Fido to follow you through life's long walk.

According to, the Sooam facility in South Korea is the world's only doggie-doubling company, where for $100,000 your precious pooch can live on.  It only requires a somatic cell sample from the original donor dog, which scientists cryogenically freeze while a surrogate dog is prepared for pregnancy.  Immature ovum (oocytes) are flushed from the prospective parent-dog, then the somatic cells are injected into the ennucleated (nucleus-removed) oocytes.  The donor cells and egg are fused by electricity into a new embryo, and then implanted into the surrogate.  Shortly thereafter, your best friend is back!

Fresh piles of's like reverse plastic surgery!
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The process, which was perfected by geneticist Dr. Hwang Woo Suk, has been applied over 550 times since Hwang's first successful attempt in 2005.  Specialty dogs like Tibetan mastiffs and capable police dogs are popular pups, but next year the Sooam company will be expanding to help grow other animals like beef cows and pigs.  The process is the same one that was used to create Dolly the sheep in 1996 (as well as a veritable ark of animals since), and the patent for the process is leased to Hwang from the US company ViaGen.
A whole squad of murderdogs can be yours!
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The Sooam team is currently able to produce 150-200 cloned critters per year, and has captivated clients from veterinarians to Middle Eastern royalty.  One customer even missed his Catahoula leopard dog Melvin so much that he had two of his doting doggies recreated.  However, it is not just canine companionship that drives the company.  Sooam regenerates dogs for scientific testing as well, creating critters with diabetes or Alzheimer's disease so that testing and research may alleviate these diseases (while operating in the comfortable confines of a well-controlled experiment.)

No cure has yet been found for the common pug.  They're just always going to be goofy like that.
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Hwang doesn't want to stop at just a few species, either.  He has been working to clone rare animals like tigers and ibex, and possibly even to reboot extinct creatures like a woolly mammoth (whose frozen cells he believes could be made to gestate in a surrogate elephant.)  And of course, there's the ultimate goal: a handmade human.  “We will keep knocking on the doors,” Hwang says, “not only in South Korea but also in other countries, until we can continue our human stem cell research.”

While the pets are pleasant, there's a world of creatures to concoct.  So how long until we can have disciplined domestic dinosaurs instead of dogs?

Until then, this will have to do.
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McRobots: Fast Food To Become Automated?

Some people worry about immigrants taking jobs from citizens.  Others know that the next big threat to employment might not be found in different humans, but similar robots.  That's right, automated androids might be serving you Big Macs in the near future.

This is already a thing in Japan (of course.)

As reported by, the time has come for robots to replace humans for repetitive, easily-customizable customer service work.  Ordering by touchscreen isn't just for internet goodies anymore - it'll soon be a fast-food feature.  Can full automation be far behind?  With food service workers currently campaigning for an unlikely $15/hour (when Obama can't even cajole the minimum wage up to $10.10), a company like McDonalds may be inclined to roll with robots from a cost perspective alone.  Robots don't need smoke breaks, bathroom breaks, meals or vacation (to say nothing of lawsuits and strikes.)

They ARE good at organizing...their messages are tough to follow, though.

The Wall Street journal confirmed this, saying, "By the third quarter of next year, McDonald’s also plans to fully roll out new technology in some markets to make it easier for customers to order and pay digitally and to give people the ability to customize their orders, part of what the company terms the “McDonald’s Experience of the Future” initiative." Automating the ordering, if not the production process, will be the first step in the switch. The company has already rolled out "ordering kiosks" in various locations such as Vienna, Austria, according to Forbes.

While McDonald's is (unfortunately) not yet busy hiring MIT to make them a burger-bot Terminator that cooks fries with its laser eyes, many food-prep devices already exist (including for the major food groups of burritos and pizza.)  Can automated Happy Meals be far behind? And what will become of the McD's fry jockeys then? If they all lose their jobs, be sure not to send them to a bar helmed by robot mixologists like Monsieur. Because that could easily spark a neo-Luddite fervor, if not the beginnings of an android apocalypse (okay, food service robots can't fight back, but they can burn your pizza or put pickles on your burger, and that's nearly just as bad, right?)

To be fair, the McBots have been warning us about this since the 1980s.
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E-asy Rider: Check Out Harley's "LiveWire" Electric Motorcycle

Motorcycles have traditionally been associated with freedom and rebellion.  But not all rebellions are created the same.  Is it possible for Harley Davidson to convince their tough biker demographic that a new bike can buck the notion of conventional fossil fuel (for a power source similar your cellphone) and still stay cool?  They intend to find out, with their new "LiveWire Project" all-electric motorcycle.

Sharp AND sustainable!
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According to, developer Ben Lund explained that Harley wanted to present the LiveWire simply as a newer model that "happens to be electric."  The look, sound, and feel of the past Harleys all had to be taken into account, but so did a new technical element of composition.  Using CAD computer models to design the initial bike before production, other computer software such as Pro Engineer Wildfire and CAM (computer-aided machining) aided the process.

Harley's in-house 3D printers churned out 1:1 scale parts for testing, so that an authentic look and feel for every component could be assessed and duly approved.  While also used for the fabrication of model elements for Harley's internal combustion engine bikes, the 3D prototypes were important tools in deciding what fit best for the new LiveWire venture.

One of Harley's  3D-printed prototype parts.  It is unknown if the computer made motorcycle noises while printing it.
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The LiveWire runs thanks to a longitudinally-mounted 74hp AC induction motor, which Lund and his team found superior for its availability, affordability, and high power-to-weight ratio. It's fueled by a 300V lithium-ion battery pack that can allow the bike to achieve speeds of nearly 100 m.p.h.  A "power" or "economy" mode switch lets you regulate your ride.

The pseudo-futuristic design may irk the aesthetic sensibilities of "classic" Harley enthusiasts, who would perhaps appreciate some more chrome or pipes.  As for a Harley's distinctive growl, the classic Harley revving-rumble isn't possible with an electric vehicle.  However, the sound was fine-tuned by the engineering team so that the gearbox emits a turbine-like noise as it roars down the road.  Yes, it's very different, but it's a rebellion you could grow to like.  The LiveWire is currently still a prototype, but it could spark a whole new revolution in riding.

You can care about the environment and still be a badass.
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Fire(fighting) In The Sky: NASA Drones To Patrol For Literal Hotspots

With all of the bad rep they get as military and surveillance machines, we can't be quick to also denounce the drones that might do good work helping people.  NASA is working on a new series of drones that you can think of as your friendly local fire department, not the police force that puts the emphasis on "force."

As reported by, the new drones are in development at Langley Research Center, and are intended to be used to find and fight fires (as well as provide help for underfunded local fire departments.)  NASA aerospace engineer Mike Logan, who heads up Langley's unmanned air vehicle lab, explained, “The theory is that we should actually be able to see smoke rising up, or we should be able to see the hot spot with the infrared...They’re going to be doing so many missions that flat out can’t be done now. People can’t afford to do them now because of the expense.”

Fires in rural areas that would often go unpatrolled, or that might naturally occur in the depths of the wilderness, can now be monitored and dealt with before they become a more serious issue for civilization.  The drones are especially useful for this task, as they can fly in storms that other aircraft or humans would have a more difficult time dealing with.

Although the drones only have 20-25 minutes of flight time at 40-50 m.p.h., they could cut significant costs for fire departments and eventually cost very little per launch.  Originally developed as Army target drones, the 15-pound aircraft could save firefighters and citizens a ton of trouble.

These drones don't want pictures of YOU, they're looking for something much hotter.
BTW, that's NASA aerospace engineer Mike Logan, and it seems like his life is awesome.
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Back To "Back To The Future": Functional Hoverboard Under Kickstarter Development

Maybe you watch the "X-Games" or gnarly GoPro videos and secretly lust for the idea of zipping around a danger-fraught area on a skateboard, but you can't quite dodge that whole "obstacles everywhere" thing.  Maybe you just have a serious jones for future technology.  If either or both of these apply to you, check out the real-life hoverboard currently in development.

As reported by the Independent UK, the hoverboard is similar in premise to its counterpart from the film "Back To The Future", although it is not yet capable of hovering over water (or really, anything that's not a non-ferromagnetic conductor...a.k.a. a flat metal surface is required.)  The hoverboard's creator, Hendo Hover, explained that the floating fun is powered by magnetism in "four disc-shaped engines...these create a special magnetic field which literally pushes against itself, generating the lift which levitates our board off the ground."

DIY UFO enthusiasts approve of the design.
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The boards are self-propelled, although future versions could use the magnetism to implement forward momentum.  Currently, they hover at around one inch off of the ground.

While very cool looking (even...or perhaps especially...because you can only ride it over huge sheets of metal), the hoverboard has its drawbacks.  According to the Telegraph UK, the board's battery only lasts 7 minutes, and this little slice of tomorrow-tech will cost $10,000.  Only ten hoverboards are currently available, but the development team is now on its 18th version of the prototype, and they plan to improve on it further.

Up to a good start.
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Hendo Hover is currently seeking $250,000 on kickstarter to complete the hoverboards, with some of the money going to areas where it can be safely enjoyed (but be sure to bring your helmets for those all-metal half pipes.)  Hendo's ultimate ideal would be to implement the hover technology for houses and buildings, making them more resistant to the impact of earthquakes.

Could this idea eventually work, or will it just float away like so many other tantalizing visions of the future (we're looking at you, groovy orbiting space-station cities)?  For now, maybe the best recreational floating will be done in a pool.  But it's nice to think that someone is thinking of something fun and functional for the future, not just the usual murderous robots.

Just for fun, here's how the U.S. Air Force tried to pull it off.
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Robo-Written: New Computer Programs Tell Tales To You

Telling stories has been a way of preserving our history since before the first written word was ever scrawled onto some bark or chiseled into stone.  Now, like many other modern developments, we've figured out a way to make machines do it for us.

As reported by New Scientist, there are several computer programs that are currently capable of spitting out a story.  Or at least, the idea for one.  The program that does "write", called Scheherazade, will give you a tale that's not near Shakespeare, but might entertain a young reader learning to string sentences together.  Set in any world that the program can learn about via the internet, Scheherazade uses crowdsourcing to gain knowledge of actions and scenarios.  It then strings the actions together to form a story.  

While this requires a great deal of human interaction on the input and refinement level, the program can nonetheless create accurate historical timelines from information presented, as well as fairly detailed short stories.  According to Technovelgy, once the plot points are entered, Scheherazade then "clusters them based on semantic similarity to create plot events that unfold sequentially until a decision point is reached, at which point a new line of plot events and decision points is triggered."

Scheherazade is currently being developed at the Georgia Institute of Technology under a grant from DARPA, which wants to use the program as a means to develop instructional materials for the "online cultural training" of American troops.

"Online cultural training."  Sure, DARPA. You're surely not teaching your murderous robot army how to dream up evil plots.
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If you're not in the mood to be regaled and would rather write, a program can offer you a plausible (if possibly strange) character arc to work with.  The Flux Capacitor, a program being developed at University College in Dublin, uses a metaphor generator to create conflict via "role transitions."  These then become the inklings of a story, which are paired with the program's basic knowledge of the world, juxtaposed with characters that undergo a personal change.  

For example, the Flux Capacitor could take the concepts of "cool" and "angry", adhere them to the roles of "musicians" and "politicians", and generate the idea of, "What causes cool musicians to change their style of rock and roll, start a campaign, and become angry politicians?"  The "what causes" question prefaces each of the scenarios, which include two transitory notions before reaching the conclusion of the character arc. The Flux Capacitor uses @MetaphorMagnet twitter handle to assess its progress.

Then there's your simple "What If?" scenarios.  There's a program now for that, the What-If Machine, being developed at the University of London.  More of a computerized Mad Lib than anything you'd write a novel from, it nonetheless generates notions if you need them.  In addition to human, animal, and object scenarios, one can also make Kafkaesque or Surrealist what-ifs.  A Kafkaesque what-if (based off of the premise of "The Metamorphosis", whose lead character wakes up as a giant bug) might read, "What if there were a man who woke up as a manta ray, but he could still sing opera?"  A Surrealist scenario might read, "What if there were a computer who fell in love, but his only object of attraction was a malfunctioning toaster?"

That actually might not be too much of a Surrealist leap, anymore, considering computer programs are becoming advanced enough to write.  And what's writing if you're not doing it for love?  Just another string of code stringing together words.  Could computers learn enough about situational experiences enough to want to replicate them or experience them?  If they don't, in their stories, at what point do humans put in that ineffable touch of literary love?  Will there be a literary computer singularity, where a machine writes a book so good it fools humans?  

What if we just kept using our brainframes to imagine all these what-ifs on our own?  Can't we preserve a piece of art we still do as well, or better, than a computer?

Even if you do dream up and write the whole story on your own, you'll still want an editor.  That's where you can hire Hemingway, an editing app that pares down your excessive verbiage into the taut, tough style of the classic American author.  Robo-Hemingway highlights run-on sentences that you need to break up, adverbs that can be replaced with action verbs, polysyllabic words that you don't need to use to show off, and passive voicing to eliminate.  That last part, for those who may want to work on it manually, means it's more effective to say, "The artist lost money because the computer wrote the book", rather than "The money was lost by the artist because the book was written by the computer."

Although hopefully, neither you or the computer will ever have to write that.

The preceding article was 100% non-computer-generated.  Except for the research part.  They're pretty good at that.

Fall's Hot New Look: Antisurveillance "Dazzle" Camouflage

Camouflage takes many forms, some in plain sight, some you've maybe never even spotted (by design.)  In today's world of ever-encroaching surveillance, one can't be too careful around cameras, both overt and hidden.  If you're trying to keep your face out of the electronic archives, one way to dodge the documentation is to use some good old-fashioned dazzle camouflage. 

In WWI, battleships were painted like hipsters (shipsters?) to confuse enemies.

Based on the premise of actual military warpaint used on planes and boats, CV Dazzle is a new means to break lines of vision while simultaneously breaking your monotonous old look.  According to the CV Dazzle website, "Since facial-recognition algorithms rely on the identification and spatial relationship of key facial features, like symmetry and tonal contours, one can block detection by creating an “anti-face."  Avant-garde, Surrealist, and cubist designs all contribute to the various elements of CV Dazzle.  

Arts AND sciences!
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Some ideas for your new radar-revolting look could include:

-Long, facially-obscuring bangs in a variety of lengths and colors

-Facepaint including large "pixel"-style blocks 

-makeup that contrasts with your skin tone and doesn't enhance specific features

-obscuring the nose bridge (a key indicator in facial recognition software)

-obscuring the size and shape of the head

-covering or altering the perceived appearance of the eyes (size, shape, color)

-developing an overall asymmetrical facial presentation

The CV website offers styling templates and a host of look ideas to ponder, if you need to take your anti-surveillance look to the next level.  Would a mask also work?  Sure, but you might look cooler with blue bangs.

Of course, if you're not inclined to wear facepaint or weird bangs, you can always just anonymize your face in photos with the Face Dazzler app.  It'll take you right out the running for all the "tags" you don't need to be found in.  Privacy never looked so pretty!

Dazzle camouflage still works in modern times, as shown by this Dazzle-inspired yacht painted by Jeff Koons.  Yes, that is a real boat.