To the Stars with Data: March 27 2022
Are Americans ready for futuristic tech?, male birth control, passing 5,000 confirmed exoplanets, and much more
My husband and I gearing up for a summer of gardening and we couldn’t be more excited. We’ve been sprouting peppers and tomatoes, constructing a raised bed, procuring bees, and much more. Have you gardened in the past? I’d love to hear which tips and tricks you’ve found to be most successful!
Now, let’s go to the stars with data!
Thought-Provoking Data Viz
Quick hits. Pew Research surveyed over 10,000 adults in Nov 2021 about their views on six technologies widely discussed among futurists, ethicists, and policy advocates. Examples include facial recognition used by police, autonomous vehicles, robotic exoskeletons, and computer chip implants in the brain. The responses are widespread, with support for technologies ranging from 13% (computer chip implants) to 46% (facial recognition technologies). Even though over a quarter of participants indicated “not sure” as their opinion for each technology, it looks like the public is not overwhelmingly supportive of any of the technologies.
Digging deeper. Pew also proposed a number of “mitigating steps” to gauge whether they would make the technologies more acceptable. In every case, more than 50% of participants indicated that the mitigating step would, indeed, make the technology more acceptable. I included a list of mitigating steps below. What do you think?
Driverless passenger vehicles: If regular reports about the number of accidents caused by them were required
Robotic exoskeletons for manual labor: If licenses were required to use them
Facial recognition technology used by police: If officers were trained on how it can make errors in identifying people before they use it
Computer chip implants in the brain: If people could turn on and off the effects
Gene editing to reduce risk of serious diseases: If it were only used in adults who could consent to the procedure, rather than for babies
Quick hits. In a recent study, researchers successfully tested a new form of non-hormonal male birth control on mice. The mice subjected to male birth control experienced a sharp drop in sperm counts and became sterile during the four-week period of taking the compound, but their sperm counts rebounded completely within 4-6 weeks after consumption of the compound ended. Although the period lasted only 4-weeks, there were no notable side effects. After the success of the study, the researchers licensed the compound to a pharmaceutical company and human trials could commence later this year.
Digging deeper. Female birth control has been around for decades, so you may be wondering why male birth control—other than vasectomies or condoms—is still not widely available. Naturally, there are a plethora of reasons, many of which are associated with gender roles. For instance, reproduction has been conflated with women for decades, and thus the onus of birth control has been placed on them. However, there are also other reasons relating to chemistry: hormonal birth control can deliver many more side effects than nonhormonal birth control, yet many of the male birth control methods we currently know of are hormonal. If you want to learn more, here’s an article further digging into the matter.
*Here at To the Stars with Data, we recognize and celebrate that genders and sexes are complex and aren’t either/or. We are presenting this information keeping in mind that a majority of relationships are heterosexual and between cis-gendered persons.
Other Earth news
💻 NVIDIA unveils its new AI chip and hints it will build the fastest AI supercomputer in the world. The new chip will offer up to nine times higher performance when developing AI models, training in days what used to take weeks.
🧠 A person with ALS communicates with the help of a brain implant. The person with ALS, K1, had lost control of almost all muscle movement, even including eye movement. With the implant, K1 could type out individual letters after only a few months. Here’s the scientific paper.
Quick hits. Within the past week, NASA has crossed the 5,000 confirmed exoplanet milestone! 🎉 To confirm an exoplanet, evidence of its existence needs to be presented in peer-reviewed scientific journals and be confirmed using multiple detection methods or analytical techniques. Our exoplanet discovery journey started 30 years ago when the first planets were found to be orbiting a neutron star. Since then, researchers have confirmed over 5,000, with thousands more in the queue, waiting to be confirmed with another detection method or analytical technique.
Digging deeper. I’ve written a lot about exoplanets in previous issues of To the Stars with Data because they’re absolutely fascinating. Just imagine: with billions of exoplanets in our galaxy alone and with potentially trillions of galaxies in our observable universe, we’re talking about at least 1 septillion exoplanets in the observable universe. Woah.
Coming back down to Earth, here are some of my favorite resources when it comes to exoplanets:
Eyes on Exoplanets: An interactive “map” of the exoplanets we’ve discovered so far, with details on each and every one
Exoplanet Archive: AKA an exoplanet nerd’s dream, it contains lists of exoplanets, scientific data, tools, and more
Exoplanet Sonification (included below): A relaxing video, visualizing and “sonifying” the night sky and where exoplanets were discovered over time
Exoplanet Detection Methods: A list of ways we can detect exoplanets
Other space news
🌌 A new “gobsmacking” simulation, Thesan, shows how matter in the early universe interacted. Specifically, the simulation takes place during the Epoch of Reionization, or about 400 million to 1 billion years after the big bang. Here’s a video of the simulation and here’s the scientific paper.
🔭 NASA finalizes plans for SPHEREx, its next cosmic mapmaker. Launching before April 2025, SPHEREx will survey the entire sky every 6 months in the infrared wavelength.
In addition to their Mind Kit, a modular robotics kit anyone can use to make their own robots, Vincross created Hexa, an adorable spider-like robot (shown in the above video). One of Hexa’s potential use cases is carrying around a plant, moving around to ensure the plant gets the sunlight and/or shade it requires. Hexa is purchasable on Vincross’s website.
Based in London, Shellworks makes compostable packaging from seafood waste. Some of their packaging can be dissolved in water and used as plant fertilizer, other packaging is made of marine and soil microbes for more rigid bioplastic.