Just For the Tech of It: Martian crops and dinosaur chickens

This week on Just For The Tech Of It: Scientists in the Netherlands published the results from a small agricultural study that they conducted with simulated Martian soil. The experiment was pretty straightforward. Researchers first worked with NASA to mix up a special soil substitute that matched the composition of Martian topsoil, and then planted a bunch of different edible plants in it to see if they’d grow.

The first time they tried it the experiment failed miserably, but when they added a little bit of manure to the soil and tried again, all 10 of the test crops flourished. It was much more than just potatoes, too. Scientists were actually able to grow things like tomatoes, spinach, and even quinoa. This is great news for the first mars colony, because it means that it probably won’t be too difficult to cultivate crops on the red planet. Check out the full article here.

Next up, as odd as it seems, Facebook is very much involved in the development of artificial intelligence. The company actually has an entire division dedicated to AI research, and they already use a bunch of artificial neural networks to do things like photo recognition and auto-tagging on Facebook. But lately they’ve been doing something different.

In an effort to help these artificial neural networks better understand language, Facebook has been feeding them hundreds of classic children’s books, and then training them to recognize relationships between characters, places, and events. The idea is that by understanding contextual relationships between elements of these stories, the neural network will become more adept at understand interactions between Facebook users. Head over to our full article to learn more.

And finally, news broke late this week that scientists from the University of Chile have created genetically modified chickens that grow velociraptor legs instead of chicken legs. Don’t freak out though, it’s not quite what you think. Thankfully, there aren’t chickens running around Chile with big, leathery raptor legs right now. The chicken’s legs aren’t any bigger than normal; they just have a bone structure that’s more similar to a raptor than it is to a chicken.

The amazing thing is, in order to achieve this, they didn’t do the whole Jurassic Park thing and splice the chicken’s DNA with raptor DNA that they sucked out of a fossilized mosquito. In fact, they didn’t add any new genetic material at all. Instead, they actually just silenced a gene that chickens already have. Because velociraptors are the ancestors of modern chickens, scientists just had to turn back the genetic clock and remove a mutation that made the leg grow differently.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: heat-powered watches, phone cases with reflexes

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Web

Switch up your Reddit routine with these interesting, inspiring, and zany subs

So you've just joined the wonderful world of Reddit and want to explore it. With so many subreddits, however, navigating the "front page of the internet" can be daunting. Here are some of the best subreddits to get you started.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘Norsemen’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Movies & TV

Epic sci-fi novels you should read before they become blockbuster films

You can get ahead of the next crop of science-fiction movies coming out of Hollywood by picking up the books that inspired them. We compiled a list of books you can add to your reading list now to get a glimpse of the future.
Emerging Tech

Face-scanning A.I. can help doctors spot unusual genetic disorders

Facial recognition can unlock your phone. Could it also be used to identify whether a person has a rare genetic disorder, based on their facial features? New research suggests it can.
Emerging Tech

Lasers and bovine breathalyzer help determine how much methane cows produce

Cow farts and belches don't sound like catastrophic threats, but they contribute to the massive amounts of methane in the atmosphere. Recently, scientists set out to establish the numbers.
Emerging Tech

Yamaha’s new app lets you tune your motorcycle with a smartphone

It used to be that if you wanted to tune your motorcycle’s engine and tweak its performance, you needed specialized tools and even more specialized knowledge. Yamaha’s new Power Tuner app changes that.
Emerging Tech

Researchers discover a way to make 3D printing 100 times faster using light

Researchers at the University of Michigan have invented a new method of 3D printing which is up to 100 times faster than conventional 3D-printing processes. Here's how it works and why it could prove a game-changer for 3D printing.
Emerging Tech

Why wait? Here are some CES 2019 gadgets you can buy right now

Companies come to CES to wow us with their cutting edge technology, but only a few products are slated to hit the market right away. Here is our list of the best CES 2019 tech you can buy right now.
Emerging Tech

Drones: New rules could soon allow flights over people and at night

With commercial operators in mind, the U.S. government is looking to loosen restrictions on drone flights with a set of proposals that would allow the machines greater freedom to fly over populated areas and also at night.
Emerging Tech

Short film celebrates New Yorker’s amazing robot costumes

New York City resident Peter Kokis creates stunning robot costumes out of household trash. His designs are huge, heavy, and extremely intricate, and never fail to turn heads when he's out and about.
Emerging Tech

In a first for humankind, China is growing plants on the moon

Having recently landed a probe on the far side of the moon, China announced that it managed to grow the first plant on the moon, too. Here's why that matters for deep space travel.
Emerging Tech

Ford’s sweaty robot bottom can simulate 10 years of seat use in mere days

Ford has developed 'Robutt,' a sweaty robot bottom that's designed to simulate the effects of having a pair of human buttocks sitting on its car seats for thousands of hours. Check it out.
Emerging Tech

CES 2019 recap: All the trends, products, and gadgets you missed

CES 2019 didn’t just give us a taste of the future, it offered a five-course meal. From 8K and Micro LED televisions to smart toilets, the show delivered with all the amazing gadgetry you could ask for. Here’s a look at all the big…