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Apple Inc. filed its plans with the N.C. Utilities Commission last week to build the 4.8-megawatt project in Maiden, about 40 miles northwest of Charlotte, N.C. That’s where Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple has built a data center to support the company’s iCloud online  and its Siri voice-recognition software.

The fuel cell project, the nation’s largest such project not built by an electric utility company, will be developed this year. It will be located on the same data complex that will host a planned 20-megawatt solar farm – the biggest ever proposed in this state.

Apple logo

But it’s the fuel cell project that’s generating buzz, eclipsing anything ever dreamed of in California, the nation’s epicenter for fuel cell projects.

“That’s a huge vote of confidence in fuel cells,” said James Warner, policy director of the Fuel Cell and  Association.

Fuel cells generate electricity through an electro-chemical process and are compared to batteries that give out power as long as they have a source of hydrogen.

They are exorbitantly expensive and in the past have been used only in experimental realms, such as NASA moon launches. The federal government offers a 30 percent tax credit, but no state incentive is available for fuel cells in North Carolina, making Apple’s project all the more intriguing. Apple is also developing miniature fuel cells to power .

According to a recent report by the U.S.  Information Administration, fuel cells are among the world’s most expensive forms of electricity, costing $6.7 million per megawatt, which would put Apple’s project in the $30 million range.

North Carolina’s fuel cell exposure is limited to demonstration projects that are a tiny fraction of the size of Apple’s fuel cells. Microcell Corp. is the Raleigh, N.C., company behind the demos.

Like quantum physics? What about quantum computers? Or quantum computers in adiamond? Then you should know that researchers at the Max Planck Institute have appropriately devised a way to create aquantum network in which a photon is exchanged between two atoms. Future!

According to Time, the two atoms transmit the photon over a 60 meter fiber optic cable and is said to be the first to send, receive and store information without failure.

Professor Ignacio Cirac, a director at MPQ, proposed the framework for the experiment. In his team’s quantum network, individual rubidium atoms were lodged between two highly reflective mirrors placed less than a millimeter apart – a setup referred to as an “optical cavity.” The team then fired a laser at one of the atoms, calibrated so as not to disturb it and instead cause it to emit a photon, which then traversed the 60-meter fiberoptic cable to be absorbed by the second atom, transferring the first atom’s quantum information.

Because quantum bits can computer 0s and 1s at the same time, the bits need only exchange the status of their quantum state, which researchers say is a faster and more elegant way of transferring data. They even suggest a entire quantum internet could be possible. I want the future now.

Is this a record for a quantum computer? A group of physicists in China have used a process called adiabatic computing to find the prime factors of the number 143, beating the previous record for a quantum computer of 21. However, there are doubts about the quantum nature of this method, and its potential to scale up any further.

Rather than bits, quantum computers use quantum bits, or qubits, which can exist in multiple states at once. In theory, these superpositions should allow the machines to complete some calculations, including factorisation, much faster than conventional or classical computers.

That could be a boon to some types of computation, but it could also pose a threat: encryption schemes rely on the fact that factorising large numbers is hard for classical computers. As yet, though, no one has built a quantum machine big enough to harness this power.

The Chinese experiment, led by Jiangfeng Du at the University of Science and Technology in Hefei, China, is based on well-established technology called liquid-phase NMR. The qubits in this set-up are the spins of hydrogen nuclei in molecules of 1-bromo-2-chlorobenzene. Each spin is a quantum magnet that can be manipulated using bursts of radio waves.

Qubit pool

While this hardware is conventional, its use in this case is not. Adiabatic quantum computing does away with the circuits and separate components found in other quantum and classical computers, which are based on switches and logic gates. Instead, a pool of qubits is encouraged to find the answer collectively.

The technique relies on a pool of qubits always seeking its lowest overall energy state; the trick is to adjust the system so that the lowest-energy state gives the answer to the problem. It is a bit like putting a lightweight ball in the middle of a stretched out blanket, and then moving the blanket’s edges to manoeuvre the ball into the right spot. Only the right moves will coax it into position; similarly, only the right quantum algorithm will enable a pool of qubits to solve a given problem.

In 2006, Ralf Schützhold and Gernot Schaller at the Dresden Technical University in Germany worked out an adiabatic algorithm to factorise a number using a pool of qubits. Now Du and colleagues have simplified that algorithm, and used it to factorise the number 143. (It’s 13 x 11, in case you were wondering.)

Though that is a leap of an order of magnitude, it is still a small enough number that ordinary computers can do the calculation in a flash.

The researchers’ computer has just four qubits and it is hard to scale up liquid-phase NMR further. That means that to factorise larger numbers,different hardware would be required such as trapped ions or superconducting circuits – or perhaps a hybrid of the two. But “the algorithm could be used in other quantum-computing architectures”, says Du.

Entanglement clue

Most groups are taking a different approach, trying to beat classical computers at factorisation via another quantum algorithm called Shor’s algorithm.

There is mathematical proof that Shor’s algorithm will be much faster than any classical algorithm for factorising large numbers, but will the same be true of the adiabatic algorithm? Maybe not, says Scott Aaronson, a quantum physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“It doesn’t ‘know’ about the special mathematical properties of factoring that make that an easy problem for quantum computers,” Aaronson says. “In contrast to Shor’s algorithm, we have no reason to think it would be able to factor 10,000 digit numbers in less than astronomical amounts of time.”

Du acknowledges that there is no mathematical proof for his team’s algorithm, but he says there is strong evidence from numerical simulations that it will be fast for large numbers.

Aaronson also questions the quantum nature of the calculation. “I didn’t see any evidence that quantum behaviour played a role in finding the factors of 143,” he says. Rather, the experiment might have reached the conclusion in a classical way, he suggests.

Du responds that the system starts from a superposition of all possible quantum states, and that qubits are linked in a uniquely quantum manner called entanglement. “No classical algorithms could handle the computing task in this way.”

Scientists at TU Delft’s Kavli Institute and the Foundation for Fundamental Research on Matter (FOM Foundation) have succeeded for the first time in detecting a Majorana particle. In the 1930s, the brilliant Italian physicist Ettore Majorana deduced from quantum theory the possibility of the existence of a very special particle, a particle that is its own anti-particle: the Majorana fermion. That ‘Majorana’ would be right on the border between matter and anti-matter.

Nanoscientist Leo Kouwenhoven already caused great excitement among scientists in February by presenting the preliminary results at a scientific congress. Today, the scientists have published their research in Science. The research was financed by the FOM Foundation and Microsoft.

Quantum computer and dark matter

Majorana fermions are very interesting — not only because their discovery opens up a new and uncharted chapter of fundamental physics; they may also play a role in cosmology. A proposed theory assumes that the mysterious ‘dark matter’, which forms the greatest part of the universe, is composed of Majorana fermions. Furthermore, scientists view the particles as fundamental building blocks for the quantum computer. Such a computer is far more powerful than the best supercomputer, but only exists in theory so far. Contrary to an ‘ordinary’ quantum computer, a quantum computer based on Majorana fermions is exceptionally stable and barely sensitive to external influences.


For the first time, scientists in Leo Kouwenhoven’s research group managed to create a nanoscale electronic device in which a pair of Majorana fermions ‘appear’ at either end of a nanowire. They did this by combining an extremely small nanowire, made by colleagues from Eindhoven University of Technology, with a superconducting material and a strong magnetic field. “The measurements of the particle at the ends of the nanowire cannot otherwise be explained than through the presence of a pair of Majorana fermions,” says Leo Kouwenhoven.

Particle accelerators

It is theoretically possible to detect a Majorana fermion with a particle accelerator such as the one at CERN. The current Large Hadron Collider appears to be insufficiently sensitive for that purpose but, according to physicists, there is another possibility: Majorana fermions can also appear in properly designed nanostructures. “What’s magical about quantum mechanics is that a Majorana particle created in this way is similar to the ones that may be observed in a particle accelerator, although that is very difficult to comprehend,” explains Kouwenhoven. “In 2010, two different groups of theorists came up with a solution using nanowires, superconductors and a strong magnetic field. We happened to be very familiar with those ingredients here at TU Delft through earlier research.” Microsoft approached Leo Kouwenhoven to help them lead a special FOM programme in search of Majorana fermions, resulting in a successful outcome..

Ettore Majorana

The Italian physicist Ettore Majorana was a brilliant theorist who showed great insight into physics at a young age. He discovered a hitherto unknown solution to the equations from which quantum scientists deduce elementary particles: the Majorana fermion. Practically all theoretic particles that are predicted by quantum theory have been found in the last decades, with just a few exceptions, including the enigmatic Majorana particle and the well-known Higgs boson. But Ettore Majorana the person is every bit as mysterious as the particle. In 1938 he withdrew all his money and disappeared during a boat trip from Palermo to Naples. Whether he killed himself, was murdered or lived on under a different identity is still not known. No trace of Majorana was ever found.

It’s a shame about Pluto. If it still counted as a planet, our sun would still be among the record-holders in the planet stakes.

Instead, that crown may have just been stolen by HD 10180, a star 130 light years away that has mass, temperature, brightness and chemistry similar to the sun. A new report sees evidence for up to nine planets in HD 10180’s family, all of which are more massive than the Earth. The finding is one of two suggesting our solar system may not be as weird as we thought.

After our sun, we used to think the stars with the most planets were Kepler-11 and HD 10180:, each appeared to have six orbiting worlds. Then Mikko Tuomi, an astronomer at the University of Hertfordshire, UK, re-examined observations of HD 10180 from the HARPS (High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher) spectrograph at the La Silla observatory in Chile. He confirmed the presence of a suspected seventh planet and found new evidence of two more, which would bring the total up to nine.

The suggestion that other solar systems have similar numbers of planets to our own fits with growing evidence that ours is not as freakish as earlier evidence suggested.

The early days of exoplanet hunting mostly turned up bizarre and exotic beasts like hot Jupiters, behemoths many times larger than Jupiter that orbit scorchingly close to their stars, often in single-planet families. Sometimes their orbits were askance, titled at crazy angles with respect to the star’s axis of rotation.

The new zoo of planets threw doubt on conventional models of planet formation. Based only on our own crowded but orderly family of planets, astronomers had assumed that planets coalesce calmly out of a flat disc of gas and dust that circled the star like a record. Hot Jupiters are too massive to have formed as close to their stars as they are now, implying a history ofplanet-on-planet violence in which bigger planets tossed smaller ones out in order to migrate inward.

Now though, it seems our orderly orbits might not be so odd. A second study out this week from the EXOEarths collaboration compared data from HARPS, which is sensitive to all planetary systems regardless of their orientation with respect to Earth, and the Kepler Space Telescope, which can see planets only if they transit, or cross in front of their star as seen from Earth. If Kepler sees multiple transits across the same star, that means there must be two or more planets in more or less the same orbital plane.

EXOEarths team member Pedro Figueira of the University of Porto, Portugal, and colleagues calculated how many such systems Kepler should see, given the frequency of all planetary seen by HARPS. The results matched what Kepler actually sees.

That means that planets’ orbits are probably more often aligned than not, and suggests that planets often form in a disc without much violent jostling.

“These results show us that the way our solar system formed must be common,” Figueira said, according to a press release. “Its structure is the same as the other planetary systems we studied, with all planets orbiting roughly in the same plane.”


The future potential to build and realize the concepts of the human mind lie just there, within the potential of the human mind. For years the architectural world has been struggling to keep up with the ability of pen-to-paper and the recent advents in NURB surface computer modeling, algorithmic and parametric architecture. This in-return has led to the  building and technology industry playing catch-up with the recent advances in 3D architectural visualizations. In fact, as computer-aided design invaded these practices in the 1980s, radically transforming their generative foundations and productive capacities, architecture found itself most out-of-step and least alert, immersed in ideological and tautological debates and adrift in a realm of referents severed from material production.

The clear disconnect between how/what we design and the tangible manifestation of tectonic form has stalled the future of architecture. A beauty and suspense that came with the “paper architect” was the hope of one day being able to build and realize that which the mind created long before it was possible to build. One reason for this disconnect is the continued separation between building and structure, another being the lack of emphasis and research with materials science and the exploration for a means to break-away from traditional building methods.

© Enrico Dini

The architectural field’s current use of the parametric has been superficial and skin-deep. Despite the contemporary collective desire to forget postmodern semiotic signification, everything visual eventually devolves into symbolic imagery. Michael Meredith, an Associate Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, goes as far as saying that the “parametric work” being produced today fits within an evolution of so-called postmodernism, concerning the image and referent although the parametric is the tautological modulated image of quantity. To the extent the profession has utilized parametrics today, there is very little instigating complexity other than a mind-numbing image of complexity, falling far short of its rich potential to correlate multivalent processes or typological transformations, parallel meanings, complex functional requirements, site-specific problems or collaborative networks.

© Enrico Dini

For this reason it is refreshing and provides a new sense of hope in the future of architecture that has lead and pushed Enrico Dini, an Italian inventor, and Markus Kayser, a young German born furniture and product designer to search out a method that combines building, structure and material. Creating and setting up new methods for how architects, engineers and designers can finally plan and realize the future that they have long promised.

© Enrico Dini

Enrico Dini dreamt of buildings, construction and impossible shapes. He has long been inspired by Antoni Gaudi’s architecture and loves the ambition with which Gaudi practiced. Dini became a civil engineer and later branched out into making machines, all the while dreaming of impossible shapes. For Dini, thinking about having to build with concrete and brick and the required use of scaffolding and manpower seemed outdated and inefficient. Rather than accept the constraints of the current building methods, in 2004 he invented and patented a full scale 3D printing method that used epoxy to bind sand. Enrico could now 3D print buildings.

© Enrico Dini

In 2007, Enrico went back to his invention and did away with the use of the messy and sticky epoxy and got a new patent for a system using an inorganic binding material combined with sand to once more 3D print buildings. The new process had lower maintenance costs and was easier to use and cost effective. Enrico is currently working on further improving the accuracy and will 3D print a full sized roundabout sculpture in Pisa Italy. Enrico Dini calls his real scale printing machine D_Shape. As of now the D_Shape technology can easily 3D print 6m x 6m x 1m parts that could then be either shipped or assembled in place. The goal being to literally 3D print an entire building is not far off. The parts made by D_shape resemble ‘sandstone.’ They are comparable in strength to reinforced concrete and the ingredients are the binding material and any type of sand. D_Shape’s materials cost more than regular concrete but much less manpower is needed for construction. No scaffolding needs to be constructed so overall building cost should be lower than traditional building methods.

© Enrico Dini

The system works with a rigging that is suspended over the buildable part. The system deposits the sand and then the inorganic binding ink. No water is necessary. Because the two components meet outside the nozzle, the machine does not clog up and can keep up its accuracy of 25 DPI. Enrico and D_Shape are currently talking to lots of construction & engineering companies and architects about their technology. Currently Enrico has partnered with Norman Foster Architects to incorporate the us of moon dust and the building element with the ambition of one day being able to transport the 3D printing machine to the moon and build structures made of the same sand/dust found on the surface of the moon.

© Markus Kayser

Markus Kayser was born near Hannover,  in 1983. He studied 3D Furniture and Product Design at London Metropolitan University from 2004 – 2008 and continued 2009 with the study of Product Design at the Royal College of Art and gained his Master in 2011. Markus Kayser Studio was set up in London, UK in 2011. From early works of furniture and lights in his father’s farm workshop through to today Markus Kayser developed an understanding of materials, processes and technologies which he sees as being key in combination with the natural given. He wants to engage by producing objects that one can relate to, that speak about something else other than just their utilitarian qualities. The layers to be discovered as well as one’s associations with objects interest him.

Experimentation plays a central part in developing his designs. Kayser’s recent work demonstrates the exploration of hybrid solutions linking technology and natural energy to show the great opportunities, to question current methodologies in manufacturing and to test new scenarios of production. In his process it is important that behind the thorough research and the theory there must be a realistic proof of concept, which elucidates the real potential of a given subject. He tries to tell a story and to balance the seriousness with a sense of humour. This kind of storytelling makes his products as well as his experimental works digestible without losing its depths in content.

© Markus Kayser

In August 2010 he took his first solar machine – the Sun-Cutter – to the Egyptian desert in a suitcase. This was a solar-powered, semi-automated low-tech laser cutter, that used the power of the sun to drive it and directly harnessed its rays through a glass ball lens to ‘laser’ cut 2D components using a cam-guided system. The Sun-Cutter produced components in thin plywood with an aesthetic quality that was a curious hybrid of machine-made and “nature craft” due to the crudeness of its mechanism and cutting beam optics, alongside variations in solar intensity due to weather fluctuations.

© Markus Kayser

In the deserts of the world two elements dominate – sun and sand. The former offers a vast energy source of huge potential, the latter an almost unlimited supply of silica in the form of quartz. The experience of working in the desert with the Sun-Cutter led him directly to the idea of a new machine that could bring together these two elements. Silicia sand when heated to melting point and allowed to cool solidifies as glass. This process of converting a powdery substance via a heating process into a solid form is known as sintering and has in recent years become a central process in design prototyping known as 3D printing or SLS (selective laser sintering).

© Markus Kayser

These 3D printers use laser technology to create very precise 3D objects from a variety of powdered plastics, resins and metals – the objects being the exact physical counterparts of the computer-drawn 3D designs inputted by the designer. By using the sun’s rays instead of a laser and sand instead of resins, he had the basis of an entirely new solar-powered machine and production process for making glass objects that taps into the abundant supplies of sun and sand to be found in the deserts of the world.

© Markus Kayser

His first manually-operated solar-sintering machine was tested in February 2011 in the Moroccan desert with encouraging results that led to the development of the current larger and fully-automated computer driven version – the Solar-Sinter. The Solar-Sinter was completed in mid-May and later that month he took this experimental machine to the Sahara desert near Siwa, Egypt, for a two week testing period. The machine and the results of these first experiments presented here represent the initial significant steps towards what I envisage as a new solar-powered production tool of great potential.

© Markus Kayser

In a world increasingly concerned with questions of energy production and raw material shortages, this project explores the potential of desert manufacturing, where energy and material occur in abundance. In this experiment sunlight and sand are used as raw energy and material to produce glass objects using a 3D printing process, that combines natural energy and material with high-tech production technology. Solar-sintering aims to raise questions about the future of manufacturing and triggers dreams of the full utilisation of the production potential of the world’s most efficient energy resource – the sun. Whilst not providing definitive answers, this experiment aims to provide a point of departure for fresh thinking.

© Markus Kayser

This should be an especially loud call to arms to architects, who hold within their own minds the ability to think forward and manifest their own destiny. While it is great that these technologies are being pursued it should be architects who pursue them directly. With the recent passing of Steve Jobs, who many considered the Frank Lloyd Wright of the technology industry, we as architects should aim to pursue the same level of great and ambitious work, and the desire to unify architecture similar to how he unified his products. Steve Jobs created the need for a product, then designed the product and the technology to be able to realize those products. Likewise, architecture and architects should aim to unify the building, the experience, the structure, the material and the technology to make it all possible.

Digital Chocolatier

While all the recent chatter about the way that 3D-printing technology has advanced is pretty cool, there’s a new prototype that has us thinking about printing out custom chocolates instead of Companion Cubes. Called the Digital Chocolatier Prototype, it allows you to quickly design and assemble different kinds of chocolate candies via a touchscreen interface. Using a chocolate extruder, the device puts the delicious confection into a thermoelectric cup that rapidly cools the candy ready for consumption.

User interface

The mastermind behind this awesomeness is a man named Marcelo Coelho, a Canadian designer and researcher who is currently finishing his doctorate a the MIT Media Lab. When he’s not getting smarter in Cambridge, he runs a studio called Zigelbaum + Coelho in Montreal. His goal with tackling food-based printing is to continue the convergence that’s going on between technology and everyday life. What’s more a part of our culture and our identities than food?

As mentioned above, this machine is simply a prototype. It consists of a carousel of 4 different delicious items that you can layer to your hearts content. The pictured user interface is simply a concept as to how the device would work. There are no plans to build a fully working unit for mass production, so you can view this as adding to the body of work that Coelho is trying to develop for his doctorate work. Of course, if a working prototype emerges, we’ll be first in line to try it.

Using chocolate or other confections as the material for 3D printing is not a new concept. Rather than extrudable plastics, you simply replace the building material with molten chocolate to create a layered object that you can actually eat.

How long before an established chocolate company gets wind of this and commercializes it?

go to to see how I hacked his website.

Yes, hippies, we know that we can “save the world” by merely giving up all of the things that make modern life worth living. Thanks for reminding us that we can save lots of greenhouse gases by simply walking the 13 miles to work in the middle of the damned summer. We’ll get right on that.

Though to be fair, a huge chunk of the damage we’re doing to the world is due to things you probably didn’t even know you were doing. For instance …

#5. A Massive Amount of Power Goes to Gadgets You Aren’t Using

Most of us have a weird double standard when it comes to using or wasting electricity. You’d never leave your refrigerator open or your front door open in the summer when the AC is running. And you’d be regarded as a crazy person if you left your oven on at all times so you wouldn’t have to wait for it to preheat if you wanted to cook a pizza.

“I like to eat a baked chicken every hour, on the hour.”

But everything from your computer to your TV to your Blu-ray player does something equally crazy, and they’re probably doing it right now.

The Horrible Downside:

Two words: Vampire energy.

Not to be confused with its mortal foe, werewolf energy.

Most modern devices are like your computer — they don’t turn all the way off, they just go into sleep mode, either because it makes them start up faster the next time or because they have little blue lights on at all times to make them look cool. As long as these devices are plugged into a socket, they suck the teat of Mother Electricity, little by little, 24 hours a day.

But honestly, how much power can that really be? It can’t really take that much to keep your sleeping computer alive or your TiVo on standby for when it wants to record something. Right?

With all the extra seconds you save not unplugging things, you’ll be able to write an extra six Facebook messages per year!

Actually, the “vampire drain” of your various plugged-ins accounts for up to 10 percent of your home’s total power usage. That’s more than $3 billion per year out of our pockets. “Our” doesn’t mean “the government” here, either — it means you, personally. Experts estimate that the average home loses around $200 per year because of the phenomenon.

And if you think the monetary part is nasty, wait until you see how downright ugly things get on a planetary scale. Vampire drain isn’t just sneaking five bucks off your wallet for a Big Mac every now and then. Machines that leak power all the time pollute all the time. Vampire drain is responsible for 100 billion pounds of carbon dioxide emissions every year, an amount that would take 10 million cars to fart out. It is estimated to account for up to 40 percent of the energy used for home electronics … and it’s on the rise. By 2020, some estimates expect the cost of vampire drain to hit 20 percent of our national power use.

That’s every nuclear power plant in America keeping your iPhone topped off.

Think about that the next time the government is going on and on about spending billions to replace 20 percent of the power plants with renewable energy by 2020. All of that power will be sucked up by gadgets that aren’t actually doing anything.

And that’s not even mentioning the other idle energy wasters — to just name one, think about the many office buildings, where useless nighttime lighting and air conditioning fight a never-ending war that benefits no one, yet manages to piss away 38 million tons of coal every year.

There are three people inside that building right now.

Or those open display refrigerators most supermarkets have. While the ecologically frozen cheesecake we have a hankering for is certainly easier to grab when there’s no pesky doors to open, the energy they waste amounts to leaving your fridge open all day — if you had dozens and dozens of fridges. It’s 1,550 tons of carbon emissions per year. Per store.

Oh, and the things cool down the building so much that they force the heating systems to waste even more energy as they try to heat it up again. With the simple act of adding some doors, most supermarkets could reduce their energy consumption by up to 68 percent. But that would be a deterrent to customers who don’t like to have to slide glass to get to their frozen pizzas.

“Fuck that noise. Hand me a mallet!”

#4. Birth Control Turns Your Pee into Fish Poison

Hormonal birth control, while awesome and liberating and instrumental for relatively consequence-free sex, does have some pretty serious side effects. We’ve already discussed how it can fundamentally change who you find attractive, which is weird, but does keep things interesting.

Incidentally, there’s another interesting thing about the birth control pill: The way it turns your pee into fish poison.

“But no, hey, those condoms sound like a real hassle.”

The Horrible Downside:

That’s not some weird euphemism. Birth control pills work by flooding the body with synthetic versions of estrogen and progestin. Together, they stabilize hormones and effectively dumb down a woman’s ability to become pregnant, thus saving her hundreds of dollars every Christmas.

Basically, it’s this or a week of sex and drugs in your beach house every December.

But all that ingested estrogen creates a surplus, which the body dumps the best way it can: by peeing it out. The jacked-up urine goes into the sewage system, which feeds it into the waterways … where the hormone eventually ends up in fish.

seven-year experiment in Ontario, Canada, yielded some alarming results. The good news: The estrogen wasn’t quite enough to straight up kill the fish. The bad news: It did bring the followed populations close to complete extinction by giving the male fish some serious gender issues — and rendering them infertile in the process.

At least unwanted fish pregnancies are at an all-time low.

As fish gonads shrank and sales of fish training bras soared in Canada, studies from Boulder, Colorado, and the Potomac River also showed dramatic increases in aquatic gender confusion. In some instances, the percentage of intersex fish –fish with both male and female traits — was as high as 80 percent. These were not isolated incidents, either — a full third of all surveyed rivers show similar symptoms.

Other continents are also experiencing the fishy underbelly of sexual liberation — five in seven Northern European countries struggle with the phenomenon.

“On the plus side, those of us with working gonads are getting mad fin.”

In a world already set to run out of many kinds of seafood by 2048, this creates a conundrum: If we make fewer babies and lower the world demand for seafood, we force the fish populations down. If we make more babies, so do the fish — we’ll just eat them all. So, either someone MacGyvers a solution for the problem pretty damn now, or we’re looking at a future of mass vasectomies sponsored by Red Lobster and Long John Silver’s.

“For every man at the table who gets snipped, you each get a free order of coleslaw.”

#3. Your Lawn Hogs Our Freshwater Supplies

If we asked you what the largest irrigated crop in all of America was, you’d probably answer “corn,” “potatoes” or (most likely) “Get the hell out of my house, you clipboard-wielding maniac.” But the real answer sits right in front of your house, all green and lush and unassuming.

And thirsty.

“This water is nice, but I was thinking something more like your souls.”

The Horrible Downside:

Lawns occupy about 50,000 square miles of U.S. turf, which is three times the space taken by corn. Maintaining them costs us roughly 200 gallons of water per person daily. Nationwide, keeping grass green sucks up 50 to 70 percent of our residential water. In dry states like Texas, the percentage can occasionally reach 80 percent.

“The stars at night, are blotted out by wildfires, deep in the heart of Texas!”

Now, “residential water” tends to equal “water that humans can drink.” This means that, every day, our lawns are busy shotgunning our precious freshwater supplies into their gaping, bottomless maws.

And we’re very, very close to running out.

Each day, New Mexico and Arizona use 300 million gallons more than they can renew. The Southwest largely relies on underground aquifers that can’t be replenished, and also we have no idea how much water they have. If they run out, the whole damn continent will get to live out the villain’s plot from Quantum of Solace.

“Sure, we could measure it. But then the aquifer wins.”

Actually, scratch the “if.” It’s happening already. The underground river in Arkansas (the one that makes rice growing possible) will be dry in five years. The San Francisco Bay Area is headed for a severe water crisis within the next 50 years. Even Seattle and Chicago, cities that are notorious for constant rain and neighboring the goddamn Great Lakes, respectively, will face shortages within 20 years.

It was a great lake. And when it’s dry, it’ll be an even greater skate park.

And that’s downright peachy compared to what our readers under the Mason-Dixon can look forward to: The entire South is estimated to be locked in a permanent state of drought by 2050.

So while those of us with shiny green lawns have a few more years of regular watering left, we might be better off hoarding our precious sprinkler fuel for the inevitable Water Wars.

Our knowledge of outer space is a lot like our knowledge of history — it’s really hard to separate what we know from research from what we picked up from movies. In both cases, this means that a lot of our everyday knowledge about space is just laughably wrong.

Yep, it’s not enough for space to make us feel small — it needs to make us feel stupid, too.

#6. Asteroid Belts Are Deadly


Remember how in The Empire Strikes Back the temporarily hyperdriveless Han Solo had to navigate through a chaotic asteroid field in an attempt to evade the Empire? The damn things were packed so closely, not even the tiny TIE fighters could sweep between them without getting squished by colliding hunks of stone. And those asteroid fields were everywhere — in Attack of the Clones, Obi-Wan winds up in the exact same predicament, swerving and dodging as huge space rocks miss his ship by inches.

Also missed: Plot, urgency, the existence of Boba Fett without a stupid back story.

But that’s just the way asteroid belts are, right? As C-3PO will tell you, the chances of successfully navigating an asteroid field are slim to none. It’s basically a stampede, only instead of pissed-off cows, you’re facing millions of huge murderous space boulders.

The Reality:

Here’s a pic of the asteroid belt in our solar system. It kind of looks just like the one from Star Wars:

Although it could really use a couple of extra Dewbacks. We’ll take care of that in editing.

And there are loads of asteroids in that belt, true enough — it features about half a million asteroids that we know of. However, there are also lots and lots of miles for them to cross. Lots and lots. To the point that when NASA had to send a probe through it, their scientists said the odds of colliding with an asteroid were one in a billion. So basically Han could have blindfolded himself and steered through our asteroid belt with his dick, secure in the knowledge that the odds of hitting an asteroid in the middle of an asteroid belt aren’t a whole lot higher than the odds of you hitting one while driving your car to the grocery store.

That sounds crazy looking at the picture up there, but no picture of space really conveys the distances. For instance, once upon a time, our asteroid belt had way more asteroids in it (about a thousand times more, in fact). Even if Han had to fly through that density of asteroids, he’d find that each asteroid has a mind-boggling 400,000 square miles to itself.

It’s empty. That’s why it’s called space.

You could argue that maybe in the particular galaxy Star Wars takes place in they for some reason have superdense asteroid belts, but that’s actually impossible — the whole problem is that over time, the asteroids will disperse. If they were as close as the Star Wars belt, for instance, each time an asteroid bumped into another, they would go flying off into outer space, with nothing to stop them.

This means that actually getting hit by an asteroid in an asteroid belt is less a matter of not paying attention and more a matter of veering off course by a good couple of million miles. And actively trying to find an asteroid. And then somehow intercepting it at the perfect time, with the perfect velocity and the accurate trajectory. You’d need a hell of a space pilot with a hell of a death wish.

And a tolerance for giant space cocks.

#5. Black Holes Are Cosmic Vacuum Cleaners


Of all the horrible space things out there, black holes are probably the best proof that the universe really hates us. They’re invisible, they’re ominous, they’re huge and they hoover everything within light years into their incomprehensible void.

But enough about your scary demon ghost-mom. She cleans up good.

Because of this tendency to hose up everything in their vicinity, black holes are pretty much contractually obligated to appear in every sci-fi epic worth its salt. From the planet-Vulcan-destroying black hole in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek to the ones in Stargate SG-1 and Doctor Who, the black hole is consistently portrayed as an inescapable vortex of destruction, slurping at our universe through a straw.

It’s like a million nerds cried out in horror and were suddenly reminded that this is a Star Wars quote.

The Reality:

Let’s imagine you woke up tomorrow and found that somebody had replaced our sun with a black hole. And say the black hole is the same mass as our sun. What would happen?

Nothing, that’s what.

OK, we’d all freeze to death because the sun is gone. There is that. But we certainly wouldn’t get sucked in — or even slowly fall in, flailing our hands comically.

“My only regret is not capturing this image for my desktop wallpaperrrrrrr!”

While black holes are certainly frightening, they’re not nearly as powerful as most people think. We forget that, as big as they are, they still have mass. This means that no matter how big and absurdly strong they might seem, they also have finite strength.

In other words, a black hole is just like every other object in the universe, in that its gravitational pull can only be as powerful as its mass allows it to be. If it’s the mass of the sun, its pull is the same as the sun’s. No more, no less. Physics is a thing even black holes have to obey. There is no special mechanism that makes it suck things in beyond regular ol’ gravity, and gravity has to obey the same rules as everything else.

And that means no loitering, asshole.

Say what you want about the universe, that last sentence makes us feel a bit better about it. It’s comforting to know that even something that can drag time itself into the drain has to play by house rules.

#4. The Sun Is Yellow


Quick, grab a crayon and draw the sun. If you grabbed anything other than the yellow one, you’re a smartass, or else you’re about to fail kindergarten.

“I’m failing at a 10th grade level!”

The sun is yellow; that’s one of the first things most kids learn about it, right after the whole “hot” thing but before the “horrific mass of nuclear hellfire” part. The color of the sun is one of the easiest things in the world to verify, if you don’t mind your eyeballs catching fire after staring at it too long. Hell, even its classification is yellow dwarf.

Actually, we have a pretty good idea of what color the rest of our immediate space is, too. That’s because we have plenty of visual material of our galactic ‘hood, from the pictures provided by Hubble to numerous satellite images and the various probes roaming the solar system. That’s how Hollywood knows what color the Martian sand under Arnold should be when he does the eye-bulge fandango inTotal Recall.

We’ve always assumed they just killed off his stunt double for this scene.

The Reality:

At the risk of crushing the memory of every painting you had to make in grade school art class, the sun is not really yellow, nor is it engulfed in wavy flames. In fact, it doesn’t really look like anything much. An intergalactic cue ball, maybe.

The reason the sun appears like it does to us is Earth’s atmosphere, which makes its rays appear yellow-tinted. However, the temperature of the Sun is 6,000 degrees Kelvin, and any star of that particular temperature has only one color it can be: white.

Boring white, too. Here’s a picture of the sun viewed from space, courtesy of NASA:

It’s like the testicle of an albino man with impeccable skin care.

Yes, the sun looks like the moon, but without the face to make it interesting.

But what about the rest of our solar system? We’re not dependent on our eyes when it comes to the colors of, say, Mars. We’ve got pictures. Hell, we had a Mars rover that was right there on the ground, it took snapshots of the red planet from inches away.

Actually, none of those cameras photograph in color. The color is added later, with filters.

So, yes, you can call Photoshop on space.

It’s not NASA’s fault — extraterrestrial photography is tricky, and the pictures that result do not necessarily represent the most accurate version of the subject. Instead, the scientists involved in the process tend to go for the combination of colors that help their work the most. Zolt Levay of the Space Telescope Science Institute says:

“The colors in Hubble images are neither ‘true’ colors nor ‘false’ colors, but usually are representative of the physical processes underlying the subjects of the images. They are a way to represent in a single image as much information as possible that’s available in the data.”

So, yeah. Basically, all those awesome pictures space research has been throwing our way for years are nothing but black and white images colored in to show how much science each part of the picture features. The Mars rover will send back this:

New Mexico.

And NASA will run it through filters to approximate what the full color version would look like if you were actually there sitting on the rover:

New Mexico floating in pee.

But then you have to remember that Mars gets less than half as much sunlight as the Earth, and that said light is shining down through an atmosphere full of dust made of iron oxide (rust) particles. What we’re saying is, the question of “What color is ________?” never has a simple answer when you’re talking about outer space.

Read more: 6 Myths Everyone Believes about Space (Thanks to Movies) |