Link About It: This Week’s Picks

Real life Star Wars destinations, a blue moon eclipse, growing materials for robots and more

1. Get Ready for a Very Rare Blue Moon Eclipse

For the first time in 150 years, we can expect a blue moon total lunar eclipse on 31 January. A blue moon is the second full moon in a month—and the eclipse will happen in the middle of the night. Viewing, however, is best “in Central and Eastern Asia, Indonesia, New Zealand, and Australia,” according to Slash Gear. For those in the contiguous United States, the eclipse will be interrupted by moonset. If you miss this, don’t worry, the next wait is only until 2028 this time. Read more over at Slash Gear.

2. Amazon Patent’s Mirror for Virtually Trying on Clothes

Utilizing a camera scanning system, displays and projectors, Amazon’s patent for a blended-reality mirror describes an item that could (if produced) allow users to try on clothes virtually. The device would be part reflective and part transmissive, wherein the users face and eyes are recognized and reflected back, though affixed to a transmitted body model—based upon a scan—dressed in virtual clothes. Of course, a hindrance in online shopping happens to be lack of ability to try things on. With this proposal, which might employ technology Amazon acquired through their purchased of Body Labs, one could “try on” just about anything from their home.

3. Growing Future Robot Materials

Hydrogel, commonly used for tissue engineering and soft robotics, can now grow in a way similar to plant and animal tissue—with some coaxing. Scientists can manipulate oxygen to create desired growth designs, guiding the substance’s self-assembly. Robots, and maybe even the medical field, will benefit from this development—a collaborative effort between Nanyang Technological University, Singapore and Carnegie Mellon University. Read more about the process at Futurism.

4. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Norman Lykes Home Is On The Market

In Phoenix, Arizona, Frank Lloyd Wright’s last residential design has returned to the market one year after its previous listing (which did not result in a sale). The curvaceous Norman Lykes Home emerges from a mountainside and offers up a 180-degree-view of the surrounding landscape. Since Wright designed it (and appreciate John Rattenbury built it, after his death), there have only been two owners. Rattenbury enacted structural (aesthetic) updates in 1994 but it’s still as Wright imagined: circular and stunning. It can be yours for $3.25 million.

5. An Algorithm to Predict the Death of Terminally Ill Patients

A thoughtful, riveting piece from author and oncologist Siddhartha Mukherjee in the New York Times Magazine touches upon the current, general inaccuracies in predicting how much time remains in the lives of patients with terminal illnesses. Mukherjee, however, goes into explaining a “dying algorithm” that might just be able to help doctors with palliative care. Plugging a hospital’s medical records for 160,000 deceased patients into a “deep neural network,” Anand Avati of Stanford’s computer-science department developed such an algorithm that aimed to predict which living patients would die in the next three to 12 months. This algorithm was applied to 40,000 living patients, and was accurate with 9 out of ten patients predicted to die within three to 12 months, doing so. Inversely, 95% of patients assigned low probabilities survived longer than 12 months. Read more about the algorithm and Mukherjee’s thoughts on it at the NYTIMES Magazine.

6. Expectations and Rumors Around CES 2018

As we rapidly approach one of the year’s most exciting technology showcases, CES aka the Consumer Electronics Show, Endgadget author Daniel Cooper has compiled many of the rumors and expectations—from “low-power, super-efficient” personal computers to budget mobile phones, sleep sensors, 4K TVs and more. Developments can be expected in both gaming and smart home systems. Of course, we’re all excited about a new wave of robots. Head over to Endgadget for a comprehensive breakdown.

7. Amazon’s Alexa Moves into the Kitchen

First there were lightbulbs, then door locks. But soon, Amazon’s Alexa will have power in the kitchen, too. Amazon has added cooking abilities within Alexa’s Smart Home Skill framework. This means users can operate microwaves (and soon conventional ovens) with their voice. The first partner brand, Whirlpool, has created an Alexa skill for microwaves. Engadget notes, “GE Appliances, Kenmore, LG and Samsung have also committed to working on skills for their own ovens,” and more. Further, Amazon has invested in June Life, the company behind the connected June Oven. Read more over at Endgadget.

8. Luke Skywalker’s Jedi Hideaway aka Earth’s Skellig Michael Island

Even if one has only seen the trailer for The Last Jedi, a glimpse at Luke Skywalker’s verdant, cliffy hideaway leaves an imprint. This remarkable, exotic destination—referred to in the film as Ahch-To—isn’t the product of digital effects. It’s actually the island of Skellig Michael, located west of the Iveragh Peninsula in County Kerry, Ireland. The island, its abandoned monastery and several stone structures were declared UNESCO World Heritage Site. As for Skywalker’s stone dwelling, it’s a replica version of a real life clochán, or beehive hut, built by monks centuries ago on the island. The production team built their own on nearby Dingle Peninsula. Read more at Atlas Obscura.

Link About It is our filtered look at the web, shared daily in Link and on social media, and rounded up every Saturday morning.