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Food From the Future: 3D-Printed Astro Pizzas

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In May, NASA funded mechanical engineer Anjan Contractor and his company, Systems & Materials Research Corporation, with $125,000 to build a model of a 3D food printer. The model, which will be revealed sometime later this month, is designed to create a food beloved by both Home Alone's Kevin McAllister and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: pizza.

The plan is for Contractor's machine to print pies for astronauts during missions to Mars. Why pizza? Because it's made in distinct layers—perfect for a machine that can only produce one substance at a time.

The machine will first print a layer of dough that slowly bakes on a hot plate. While the dough is baking, the printer will squeeze out a layer of tomato sauce made from tomato powder, water, and oil. Finally, the printer creates a topmost “protein layer," which could consist of various alternative food sources, including algae, duckweed, grass, lupine seeds, beet leaves, and insects. It will take the printer approximately one hour to complete a pizza, although researchers hope to decrease the cooking time for convenience.

Adding to the many challenges faced in traveling to Mars and beyond is the fact that whatever food astronauts take with them will have to last a long time. “Long distance space travel requires 15-plus years of shelf-life,” Contractor said. Since all of the pizza ingredients will be in powder form, they will have a shelf life of up to 30 years.

Contractor originally developed a printer that would create a chocolate valentine for his wife, but he soon realized that 3D printing could have a global impact.

Beyond NASA, Contractor envisions a worldwide need for a food printer, since present food sources are unlikely to sustain growing populations. Contractor hopes to create software for the printers that would allow recipes to be traded and tweaked by each user before being downloaded by the machine.

However, not everyone is looking forward to the development of 3D printers. Earlier this year, lawmakers in Congress proposed passing legislation that would track the purchases and uses of printers. Some senators believe that criminals could use the 3D printers to print untraceable guns.

Others are more optimistic. Some researchers have developed plans for 3D printers that include printing organs and prosthetics for individuals who have suffered serious injuries. Others have suggested infusing the food printer "ink" with nutrients for people with special diets.

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Arctic Temperatures are Rising So Fast, They're Confusing the Hell Out of Computers
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This past year was a brutal one for northern Alaska, which saw temperatures that soared above what was normal month after month. But you wouldn't know that by looking at the numbers from the weather station at Utqiaġvik, Alaska. That's because the recent heat was so unusual for the area that computers marked the data as incorrect and failed to report it for the entirety of 2017, leaving a hole in the records of the Climate Monitoring group at the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), according to the Huffington Post.

The weather station in the northernmost tip of Alaska has been measuring temperatures for nearly a century. A computer system there is programed to recognize if the data has been influenced by artificial forces: Perhaps one of the instruments isn't working correctly, or something is making the immediate area unnaturally hot or cold. In these cases, the computer edits out the anomalies so they don't affect the rest of the data.

But climate change has complicated this failsafe. Temperatures have been so abnormally high that the Utqiaġvik station erroneously removed all its data for 2017 and part of 2016. A look at the region's weather history explains why the computers might have sensed a mistake: The average yearly temperature for the era between 2000 and 2017 has gone up by 1.9°F from that of the era between 1979 and 1999. Break it down by month and the numbers are even more alarming: The average temperature increase is 7.8°F for October, 6.9°F for November, and 4.7°F for December.

"In the context of a changing climate, the Arctic is changing more rapidly than the rest of the planet," Deke Arndt, chief of NOAA's Climate Monitoring Branch, wrote for climate.gov. The higher temperatures rise, the faster Arctic sea ice melts. Arctic sea ice acts as a mirror that reflects the Sun's rays back into space, and without that barrier, the sea absorbs more heat from the Sun and speeds up the warming process. “Utqiaġvik, as one of a precious few fairly long-term observing sites in the American Arctic, is often referenced as an embodiment of rapid Arctic change,” Arndt wrote.

As temperatures continue to grow faster than computers are used to, scientists will have to adjust their algorithms in response. The team at NCEI plans to have the Utqiaġvik station ready to record our changing climate once again within the next few months.

[h/t Huffington Post]

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Big Questions
What Could the Repeal of Net Neutrality Mean for Internet Users?
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What could the repeal of net neutrality mean for the average American internet user?

Zouhair Belkoura:

The imminent repeal of net neutrality could have implications for Americans beyond the Internet’s stratification, increased costs to consumers, and hindered access to content for all. Net neutrality’s repeal is a threat to the Internet’s democracy—the greatest information equalizer of our time.

With net neutrality’s repeal, ISPs could be selective about the content and pricing packages they make available. Portugal is a good example of what a country looks like without net neutrality

What people may not realize is that a repeal of net neutrality would also give ISPs the ability to throttle people’s Internet traffic. Customers won’t likely have visibility into what traffic is being throttled, and it could substantially slow down people’s Internet connections.

What happens when this type of friction is introduced to the system? The Internet—the greatest collective trove of information in the world—could gradually be starved. People who experience slower Internet speeds may get frustrated and stop seeking out their favorite sites. People may also lose the ability to make choices about the content they want to see and the knowledge they seek.

Inflated pricing, less access to knowledge, and slower connections aren’t the only impact a net neutrality repeal might have. People’s personal privacy and corporations’ security may suffer, too. Many people use virtual private networks to protect their privacy. VPNs keep people’s Internet browsing activities invisible to their ISPs and others who may track them. They also help them obscure their location and encrypt online transactions to keep personal data secure. When people have the privacy that VPNs afford, they can access information freely without worrying about being watched, judged, or having their browsing activity bought and sold by third-party advertisers.

Virtual private networks are also a vital tool for businesses that want to keep their company data private and secure. Employees are often required by their employers to connect to a VPN whenever they are offsite and working remotely.

Even the best VPNs can slow down individuals' Internet connections, because they create an encrypted tunnel to protect and secure personal data. If people want to protect their personal privacy or company’s security with a VPN [they] also must contend with ISP throttling; it’s conceivable that net neutrality’s repeal could undermine people’s freedom to protect their online safety. It could also render the protection a VPN offers to individuals and companies obsolete.

Speed has always been a defining characteristic of the Internet’s accessibility and its power. Net neutrality’s repeal promises to subvert this trait. It would compromise both people's and companies’ ability to secure their personal data and keep their browsing and purchasing activities private. When people don’t have privacy, they can’t feel safe. When they don’t feel safe, they can’t live freely. That’s not a world anyone, let alone Americans, want to live in.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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