Video Of The Day: Sunrise In Cloud City

Today’s Video of the Day could pass for footage from a futuristic sci-fi movie, but it was taken recently in Dubai by photographer Sebastian Opitz. Opitz’s surreal, almost comic book-like images were shot on a rare foggy morning as the sun rises. The time-lapse video was taken over four hours, at the end of which, the clouds seem to melt away, but the landscape still seems like a scene from the not-too-distant future.

Check out more of Sebastian Opitz’s gorgeous photography over on My Modern Metropolis.

Seen a video we should feature here? Leave us a link in the comments.

Scientists Develop Tractor Beam (On A Microscopic Scale)

A research team in Scotland and the Czech Republic has developed a tractor beam.

A press release from St. Andrews University reveals that scientists at that university and at the Institute of Scientific Instruments in the Czech Republic have for the first time been able to use light to draw objects closer, although only on a microscopic scale.

It has long been known that photons create a small amount of pressure. Johanes Kepler described the effect way back in the 17th century when he observed that the tails of comets point away from the sun. Experiments using light to push microscopic objects have been conducted for decades, but the current research is the first time light has been used to attract objects.

The team discovered that under a certain set of parameters with a special optical field, the pushing effect turns into a negative force and the object is drawn closer.

The negative force is specific to the object’s size and composition, allowing scientists to pick and choose what objects to attract. This would have applications to medicine and biological research, enabling researchers to sort cells or even parts of a cell. The team’s results have been published in Nature Photonics.

A real science-fiction-style tractor beam would have to be on a vastly greater scale than these experiments, however, so don’t expect it to be used for transportation anytime soon. We’ll see space tourism long before that. The tractor beam experiments are a bit like teleportation experiments that made headlines a year ago. We’re seeing what our grandkids might one day take for granted.

[Image courtesy St Andrews University]

Winter dreams can make for a great road trip season

Road trip season is more the stuff of winter dreams than reality this time of year. Snow, ice, frozen windshields and bad weather are not good reasons to get us in the car and out on the road. Broke after the holidays, cabin-fever starting to set in, it seems only natural to daydream about being someplace else. Psychologists say that’s perfectly normal and might even be helpful to planning future travels.

“Daydreaming is characterized by a shift of attention away from focusing on a physical or mental task to a series of thoughts derived from long-term memory (often taking a narrative form)” Psychologists Scott Barry Kaufman and Jerome L. Singer say in Scientific American.

Maybe now is the time to pull up those photos from the last road trip, vacation or travel of any kind and re-live those memories. Apparently, we might already be thinking of them anyway.Daydreaming, or mind-wandering “may serve multiple adaptive functions, such as future planning, sorting out current concerns, cycling through different information streams, distributed learning (vs. cramming), and creativity” note Kaufman and Singer.

In other words, when we daydream we may appear to be doing nothing but in reality, things are going on behind the scenes, much like a computer might perform routine maintenance tasks that are also not displayed.

This video tells more about how daydreaming can result in some of the best, most creative travel plans. Pay attention. Really.

Flickr photo by strudelt

Adelaide 2008-based time traveler attempts to pay bill with spider drawing

In case you’ve been time traveling and are confused, utility companies in Adelaide, Australia do not accept drawings of spiders as payment for utility bills. Read the article here.

I’m disappointed, of course, that artwork is still not accepted as currency. Just imagine the kind of economy we could build:

If someone rich was owed money by someone poor, the poor person could just draw a picture, and the rich person could hang it on their wall. Or, if a poor person wanted food, they could just draw a picture of the food they wanted and then leave the drawing on the shelf at the grocery store, confidently striding out the door with the item. But then, of course, rich people would want to pay for things with artwork, too, so eventually someone would have to judge how much each work of art is worth. Thusly, this new economy, which for just a moment teetered on the edge of communism, would become a dictatorship – unless, of course, there were some kind of international online community where everyone in the world could vote and value each piece of new art democratically. A new world economy would be born. What? It’s better than the one we have right now. . .

I think maybe David Thorne traveled to the future.

The world prepares for doomsday

As we work on trying to save our planet, it is disturbing to realize that we are also preparing for the ultimate global catastrophe.

A “doomsday vault” — which is a bombproof shelter dug into a mountain on a Norwegian island in the Arctic Ocean — has been built to store 2.25 billion seeds of important agricultural crops in the world, so that in the face of a global calamity, the world will be able to restart the growth of food.

The vault has already received an initial shipment of 100 million seeds from 268,000 varieties of wheat, barley, lentils and other crops. The $9-million, highly protected vault will keep the seeds cool as well as safe from potential flooding caused from foreseen ice-cap melting, for the next 200 years. More than 100 countries have supported its construction, although its ownership rights are with Norway.

So, in event of political instability, nuclear warfare, an epidemic, or large-scale natural disasters, we need not worry my friends, we and our children, and their children, will have food to survive.

We frequently hear that the world is in peril for many reasons and global leaders are putting their heads together to save the planet. Building such a vault is a smart and practical move but it also underscores the harsh reality that, no matter what we try to do, the world’s destruction is imminent, sooner or later.

Happy Wednesday.