Educational robotics: the robots are kids stuff
Schools are now introducing the basic principles of robotics to children at a very early age.
Robots capable of performing human tasks, materials capable of performing at nanometric scale, buses avoiding traffic jams… What can we expect from science in the future?
Machines capable of “reasoning” and learning can be utilized in various fields such as medicine, banking, aviation or architecture.
Development of artificial materials and investigation of their applications could revolutionize our daily habits.
More and more, cities are being able to optimize their processes thanks to the Internet of Things.
Big Data together with Artificial Intelligence forms a team that offers infinite possibilities.
Finance system is adapting it structures and services to the new digital era.
A crucial ally for artificial intelligence, climate study, and innovative encryption methods, among other applications.
If the 20th century was a revolution in chemistry, the 21st century is set to revolutionize physics with the handling of materials on an atomic scale.
The history of mankind is bursting with plenty of technological milestones that have marked our evolution, such as the invention of the wheel, the Gutenberg press, the telephone, penicillin… Some of those discoveries were the result of the accumulation of knowledge and others were complete serendipities, but the truth is that each of those innovations changed our world forever.
Nowadays, the exponential growth behind those discoveries is almost frightening. According to the scientist Ray Kurzweil, at this rate, the incoming breakthroughs of the XXI century will seem like going from painting the walls that adorn the caves of Altamira to walking on the Moon in just one generation. A frenzied pace out of which we highlight these 8 science and technology advancements that may be key.
Nobody is stranger to the concept of Artificial Intelligence anymore. What was part of the realm of literature and cinema is now recurrently appearing in the news in the form of programmes or robots capable of performing human tasks, such as the AI system that for determines customer payments already implemented by a Japanese insurance company. These machines capable of “reasoning” and learning can be utilized in various fields such as medicine, banking, aviation or architecture.
In engineering, design co-creation process between engineers and intelligent machines may be crucial to obtain results that, separately, would be much more difficult to achieve. From the use of complex learning algorithms and computing power, the engineering field will be able to devise, for instance, bridges longer than ever before, or to propose increasingly sophisticated safety standards.
Napoleon III offered his most distinguished guests an aluminium-made cutlery due to its greater exclusivity on par with gold. Of course, this was before the discovery of a way to industrialize its extraction, making it omnipresent from then on.
Nowadays we are facing a similar juncture with the creation of artificial materials which may revolutionize our world, such as graphene, a semiconductor capable of performing at nanometric scale; aerogel, the most lightweight material ever created; or nitinol, a nickel and titanium alloy with memory, capable of remembering and returning to its original shape.
Same happens with already existing, but still expensive to extract, materials such as platinum, iridium or osmium. The latter two are part of the most ambitious projects in space mining, which aspire to find these materials in asteroid operations.
It is fair to say that the development of the Internet of Things has already changed our lives. Our smartphone has become some kind of operation centre able to connect us with our homes´ air conditioner, washing machine or heating system.
But in terms of self-awareness it’s our cities that are leading the race. Smart Cities are presented precisely as that, smart, because they are being able to optimize their processes thanks to the IoT. Examples such as the efficient water management in the city of Burgos (Spain) are just the tip of the iceberg. We are on the verge of enjoying buses capable of avoiding traffic jams, achieving energy management through Virtual Power Plants, and plenty of other technological applications in order to create increasingly sustainable and efficient populations.
One of the technological keys regarding the nearest future lies in our capability to store and manage data on a large scale. Big Data together with the aforementioned Artificial Intelligence result in a powerful duo with plenty of possibilities in such fields as science, medicine, banking or even, and this is no joke, football.
2017 will be the year of Big Data, allowing for identification of health patterns and better understanding of diseases like cancer, traffic regulation, or improvement in the energy management of cities.
The emergence of fintechs or, in other words, start-ups combining finance and technology, shows how technological innovation applied to banking is definitely here to stay. We will be able to find banking offices in our pocket thanks to smartphones.
Also, taking into account that the virtual currency or bitcoin was just the beginning, its foundation technology, blockchain, is one of the most brilliantproposals of our century. It will allow, amongst many other things, smart contracts, agreements and transactions to be made securely without revealing confidential information between the parties and without any “referee” involved.
In 2019, Google announced that it had achieved quantum supremacy. That is, it had managed to carry out a process impossible for current computers. The operation carried out by the 54-qubit Sycamore processor in two hundred seconds would have taken ten thousand years if executed by a supercomputer. The New York Times compared the leap to the Wright brothers' first flight in 1903.
But what exactly is quantum computing? The main difference is that today's processors use a binary system of zeros and ones, known as bits, while a quantum computer is based on atomic states, the so-called qubits. This means that, in addition to zeros and ones, they can handle superposition states: zero, one, or both at the same time.
For now, quantum computers are restricted to the laboratory environment, but their potential is revolutionary. Here are some of the most promising applications:
- Simulations for the development of new drugs
- Improving artificial intelligence processes
- Optimization of routes and logistics
- Secure encryption
- More accurate weather forecasting
Source: The Verge
Nanotechnology is essentially the ability to shape the behavior of atoms and molecules and the development of devices on a microscopic scale, the so-called nanorobots. The pioneer of this new approach was Nobel laureate Richard Feynman, who in 1959 proposed the possibility of writing the twenty-four volumes of the Encyclopaedia Britannica on the head of a needle. This required working at nanometer scales, i.e., one billionth of a meter. For example, the helical structure of DNA is two nanometers thick. One nanometer could hold seven oxygen atoms.
Nanotechnology covers many fields, from semiconductors to the development of new materials with hitherto unthinkable properties. For example, carbon nanotubes offer six to seven times the strength of steel. Another example is graphene, with structures only one atom thick. Today, nanotechnology is opening the door to applications such as:
- Nanorobots in medicine
- Energy (high-performance photovoltaic panels)
- New textile fibers
- Purifying membranes
- Ultra-sensitive sensors
- New materials such as graphene
The 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Charpentier and Doudna for their development of the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technique. While nanotechnology is the ability to develop new materials and devices at atomic scales, CRISPR offers something similar in the field of genetics—the possibility of cloning, modifying, or deactivating genetic chains at will. This technique makes it possible to locate DNA fragments in a cell and change them at a relatively low cost. The acronym CRISPR stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats.
- Repair of damaged genes
- Elimination of disease-transmitting mosquitoes
- Fish with higher protein content
- Recovery of extinct species
- Algae optimized for biofuel production
- Creation of anti-cancer cells
Source: New Scientist