Help! I’m stuck in the matrix.

photo by Yassay, courtesy of Pixabay

Do we live in a simulation? How do we know that this is real life?

It’s not just crazy conspiracy theorists asking these questions. In fact, many prominent scientists have publicly advocated for the sci-fi-esque “simulation theory.” They claim that many of the laws and characteristics of our universe are coincidental at best, and downright suspicious at worst.

The first clue lies in humanity’s existence itself. Earth just happens to reside in a “Goldilocks Zone,” which refers to planets having certain conditions that permit life to exist on their surfaces.

In the Goldilocks Zone, planet temperatures cannot be too hot…

The future is uplifting

photo by Free-Photos, courtesy of Pixabay

Think of the regular elevators you see on Earth. Now imagine the same thing, but a few sizes bigger and instead of travelling between floors on a building, this elevator travels from the surface of our planet into space. That’s the concept of the magical space elevator.

In practice, a space elevator could help transport people and other cargo into space more efficiently than a rocket. It would also be less expensive and safer for its riders. …

A study in repurposing the brain

image by jplenio, courtesy of Pixabay

Echolocation is a way of visualizing space through sound waves.

Most people associate with echolocation with bats, who make distinct, high frequency screeches for their initial sound waves. In regards to volume, some bats’ calls can be as loud as 120 decibels. That’s not only louder than a smoke detector, this ultrasonic frequency can cause severe damage to human hearing.

In turn, when these intense sound waves hit an object, the object returns new waves to the bat, like an “echo.” The unique, returned sound waves tell the bat the object’s relative position, size, and shape.

Additionally, echolocation isn’t just…

Phones made out of human “flesh”

photo by Autumn Goodman, courtesy of Unsplash

“Skin hunger” is phenomenon that stems from the natural, biological craving for human touch.

Studies show that babies who do not have regular human contact can actually stop growing and even die, depending on how long they are cut off from touch. From age zero to five, if a developing child does not receive enough stimulation, they will never grow to their full capacity. While the ethics of these types of experiments are questionable, they have clearly demonstrated a very real, innate need for human touch.

This is actually why babies in neonatal intensive care departments are placed on their…

The Limits of AI

photo by Jose Aljovin , courtesy of Unsplash

One of the most important goals of any chatbot is to seamlessly behave as a real human. Today, we can see how many artificial intelligence applications accomplish this in a range of different scenarios. From diagnosing medical conditions, to enhancing the customer service experience, and even producing art, AI might seem unstoppable.

However, one particularly frustrating hurdle chatbots continue to face is common sense. “Common sense” can be defined as a large pool of background information in regards to how the world works. …

Exploring zero gravity

image by Adam Miller, courtesy of Unsplash

The “Vomit Comet” is a special way that astronauts used to train for missions in space. The astronauts-in-training would board a KC-135 aircraft and experience what gravity is like on different planets and even what total apparent weightlessness would feel like.

The Vomit Comet was able to simulate these types of microgravity sensations in an airplane by flying in parabolic patterns with steep ascents and abrupt dives. Most trips typically lasted about 2–3 hours with up to 40 individual parabolic curves.

At the very top of each parabola, the Vomit Comet would reach weightlessness for 25 seconds. True weightlessness, or…

A study in prions

photo by Adrian Schweiz, courtesy of Pixabay

Prions are abnormal forms of proteins in the brain that can be caused by infection or genetic mutation. Once a prion enters the brain, they begin to multiply and influence otherwise harmless (benign) proteins to misfold into their abnormal structure.

Normally, these proteins would be made up of flexible coils known as alpha helices. However, these coils become flattened into new structures called beta strands in prion proteins. This shape prevents cellular enzymes or “proteases” from modifying them. As a result, the proteases cannot break down the prions when the multiply. Instead, the prions will continue to increase inside of…

Journeying through the fourth dimension

Time isn’t a constant. Instead, thanks to Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, we know that both time and space act as variables that change values based on the perspective of the observer.

Space encompasses the three dimensions that we directly interact with in every day life: length, width, and height. Time, on the other hand, is a whole new dimension. According to Einstein, time will speed up or slow down according to how fast the observer moves or its gravity relative to something else. The 4D environment that simulates this is known as the space-time continuum.

It is considered a…

Paying for clothes you can’t wear

photo by Wilmer Martinez, courtesy of Unsplash

At first, you might think contactless “cyber fashion” is pointless. Why would anyone want to purchase clothes that they can’t even hold, let alone wear?

However, taking a closer look at this trend, cyber fashion truly offers a whole new outlet for designers and consumers alike. First, there is currently no genuinely sustainable way to manufacture and deliver clothes. The top ethically sourced fibers and upcycling techniques just don’t cut it, and the additional hassle of shipping makes the process doubly inefficient and environmentally unfriendly. …

The rise of dark mode in UX design

An icon with a yellow moon and three stars. Large, white text reading “Join the Dark Side” followed by small, yellow text reading “The Rise of Dark Mode in UX Design.”
An icon with a yellow moon and three stars. Large, white text reading “Join the Dark Side” followed by small, yellow text reading “The Rise of Dark Mode in UX Design.”
icon by Joseph Mucira, courtesy of Pixabay

“Dark mode” and “light mode” are two different types of interface set ups. They are less commonly known as positive contrast polarity and negative contrast polarity, respectively.

Today, most applications have a default light mode, which refers to the combination of dark colored text on a light colored screen. In fact, the Medium platform you’re using to view this article right now automatically uses a light mode interface.

On the other hand is the dark mode set up which, as you might expect, uses light colored text on a dark colored screen. …

Catherine Rasgaitis

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