Science Saturday: Real Life Universal Translator + Perfect Cloaking Device + Farthest Galaxy in the Universe + Discoveries in Earth’s Oceans + More

Welcome back to Science Saturday! This week, get a good look at some very promising real Trek tech including a language translator that translates your own voice into Mandarin and a cloaking device that works perfectly in the microwave. Also peer into the universe’s past by viewing the farthest ever discovered object — a galaxy 13.3 billion light years away. And learn how fast we’re learning about life in earth’s oceans. All this and more, plus our gadget of the week: The Decelerator Helmet.


Microsoft Translates English to Mandarin in User’s Voice — Truly The Closest We’ve Come to a Real Life Universal Translator
We’ve seen plenty of examples of life imitating art (especially when it comes to technology imitating Treknology), and we’ve even seen our fair share of would-be universal translators. But, Microsoft’s newest tech is truly the closest we’ve come so far. Not only does it translate english speech into mandarin text, not only does it translate that text into mandarin speech, it actually speaks mandarin in the english speaker’s voice! Or, at least, an approximation of it. And, it does that all in real time! There’s certainly still a lot of work to be done, but this is a very promising step in the world of universal translation technology. See for yourself in the video demonstration below.

More at TalkingPointsMemo.

‘Perfect’ Invisibility Cloak is Invisible to Microwaves
More exciting news from the tech research world with the advent of a “perfect” invisibility cloak. For the first time, scientists have created a device that perfectly cloaks itself — that is, it’s invisible to microwave radiation. Although the scientists say that the trick will be hard to reproduce with visible light, this is a breakthrough in that it is the first cloaking technique where no incident light is reflected. Moreover the illusion only works in one direction. “It’s like the card people in Alice in Wonderland,” Prof David Smith, a cloaking scientist, explained. “If they turn on their sides you can’t see them but they’re obviously visible if you look from the other direction.” Does this technically break any Federation treaties?
Read the full study, published in Nature.

Nathan Landy with his cloaking device (Image Credit: Duke University)

Farthest Galaxy in the Known Universe Discovered
Astronomers are reporting that galaxy MACS0647-JD may be the most distant object ever discovered in the universe. It sits about 13.3 billion light years from earth and appears very young — it formed only 420 million years after the Big Bang. In astro-years, that’s nothing. And, given that the universe is 13.7 billion years old, that means that the light from this galaxy has been travelling towards us here on earth for almost all of history of space and time. Mind boggling.
Details of the discovery will be published in a paper in the Dec. 20 issue of The Astrophysical Journal. Read more from the Bad Astronomer.

Inset showing galaxy MACS0647-JD

Most Ocean Species ‘Will be Discovered This Century’
In a new study published this week in Current Biology, a team of international scientists released calculations saying that fewer than one million marine species are likely to exist and 70,000 of those may already be in collections, waiting to be described. Moreover, their new findings suggest that most of Earth’s marine life may be discovered this century. Their conclusions are based on the very fast rate in which we have been discovering marine species as of late.

There is more and more to learn about our oceans, but we nearly have the species mapped

Pic of the Week: Like a Diamond in the Sky
Today’s Astronomy Picture of the Day is a beauty. It shows off a beautiful view of this week’s much awaited total solar eclipse as seen from Queensland, Australia. Pro tip: Check out more APOD for great desktop wallpapers!

Click the image for full size version

Gadget of the Week: The Decelerator Helmet
This new shiny helmet, created by German artist Lorenz Potthast, allows its wearer to experience their world in real slow motion. A small camera mounted on the outside sends video input to a computer inside of the helmet that then projects a slow motion version of the world outside to the wearer through an eyepiece. The same slow-mo image is also displayed on the outside of the helmet. I can’t imagine this being of much use, but it could be pretty trippy. In fact, I’m getting a headache just thinking about it.
More at Design Boom.


Follow me on Twitter: @kaylai.

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I thought the Universal Translator worked on the principle of interpreting brainwave patterns. If so, we have a long way to go … but in the meantime, I’ll take this app on my iPhone …

Now we know where to set our headings if we want to go ‘Beyond the Farthest Star’.
Thanks Kayla. As always, interesting (which by my reckoning is indeed high praise).

Science Saturday – great as always. Thanks Kayla :-)

Kayla is so awesome.

Hey, one thing I want to point out: Do you realize that, looking at that photograph, once the Moon passes completely across the Sun, it will become invisible to the naked eye? The reasons is, of course, that it is rendered such by the brightness of the daytime sky.

But isn’t it bizarre to think that the Moon can be totally invisible during such times? (At night, during that phase, it is also virtually invisible, actually, as it wouldn’t reflect any of the Sun’s light to Earth.)

^^ “The reason is” not “The reasons is”. As corrected.

#4. and 5.

I think you neglecting to account for Earthshine which is why the New Moon, while harder to discern, is not entirely “invisible”.

I think it’s totally invisible during daytime while in the new moon phase, and virtually invisible (as I said) at night. But you’re right — Earthshine does illuminate the Moon, particularly when there is a “full Earth,” which corresponds with the new moon.

^^ Difference between daytime and nighttime being that the daylight completely washes out the Moon’s reflected Earthshine.

WTG! Kayla. Another one hit out of the park. Some great stuff. 13.6 Billion light years is a long time to get there.

@ 9 (Emperor Mike of the Empire), even at maximum warp, I would agree!

hey Hat Rich. I guess we better use Slipstream or Transwarp. Or maybe the Travolor would be a big help. Lol.

Ooh decelerator helmet! I want one.

@Emperor Mike of the Empire (11), yes, transwarp conduits. Even then, it might take centuries. This is the end of the universe we’re talking about., or nearly so.

Actually, in Futurama, they had an episode where Fry wanted to do all the science-fictiony things that he never got to do in his native era (about 1,000 years before). He said he wanted to go to the Moon — so they did, in the Planet Express ship. The trip took about 3 seconds. Then he said he wanted to see the End of the Universe, and he did. That trip took a little longer — maybe a few hours, from the looks of it. The Earth Park Service had a very helpful sign pointing to the lookout to what lay beyond, which apparently was just another universe, with other versions of our heroes. (LOL.) Anyway, apparently the canonical speed of the PE ship in Futura is thousands of times faster than that of the fastest known ship in the Trekverse (except Voyager at Warp 10, and excluding any Q or Q-like transportation methods).

But I digress.

^^ “thousands” seems a little low; could be millions.

The Decelerator Helmet ??

A bottle of Jim Beam would have the same effect !


Instant English to Mandarin? Awesome. My wife is Chinese. Of course, not even a super computer can translate from Man to Woman. But, you take what you can get, right?

Gotta wonder if we could take in as much info as possible from a 13.3B y/o light source, could we really watch what was happening back then? I suppose something is lost in transit, but it would be fascinating.

Thanks, Kayla!

I have an app on the phone that translates what you say into 32 different languages. Itranslate Voice. Great app.

Great days we live in.

I need one of those helmets.

I believe Zach will be in the third movie (because the contract) and it´s over, of course, if Into Darkness is a huge success. Money is money.

Probably. And anyway, his comment can be interpreted in different ways so I think it’s probably just rumor. But Trekmovie hadn’t posted it so I thought I’d share it.

Thanks for the great article Kayla…

Thanks Kayla, love your articles.

Mr Quinto thats a bad career decision to quit star trek…

25. That Trekweb article about Quinto quitting was reading a fair bit into the comments in the original interview…

I love the tie that the Microsoft guy is wearing. Very much a symbol of life imitating Star Trek.

It’s the universal Teacher helmet!!!

Surely if you walk around wearing that thing you’ll bump into things, as it will be showing you where they were, not where they are.