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Volume 343

This week’s coolsh*t is keeping track of the tech race. We’ve got go-go-gadget gloves, drunken juggernauts, and interplanetary rapper real estate. Plus there’s a space-bound sentient blob, because why wouldn’t there be?


We’re all about sustainability here. Some readers might remember, several moons and coolsh*ts ago, a sea-cleaning boat that fuels itself using sea water. That was decent, but Glenfiddich have blown it out the water with their new fleet of lorries fuelled by whiskey waste. Flouting the maxim about getting high on one’s own supply, the lorries have been converted to run on green biogas produced from Glenfiddich’s own whiskey. This closed loop system will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 99% compared to diesel and other fossil fuels, with each truck displacing up to 250 tonnes of CO2e annually. The very idea that something can be fuelled almost entirely on whiskey has been met with some scepticism, but need I remind you of Sir Alex Ferguson. He was fuelled by whiskey and chewing gum throughout most of his managerial career, and that turned out alright.

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Bionic Man.

It seems that almost each week now there’s a new technological innovation that takes us one step closer to humanity’s inevitable obsoletion. However, for once, we’ve found one that might be able to work harmoniously with our decaying physical make-up to ready us for the new world. Or at least it’ll help some teenagers in trackies run up the sides of buildings. Baby steps, I suppose. ‘Gripit’, designed by Lior Edri, is a smart wearable glove that aims to enhance the biophysical abilities of the human body for parkour athletes. The gloves integrate EAP (electroactive polymers) technology to function like artificial muscles, thus basically giving their wearer super-human grip strength. Just remember to take them off before stroking your dog.

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Lil Uzi, Big Planet.

Some people are well-off, some people are rich, some people are filthy rich, and some people are ‘I’m going to buy a planet today’ rich. Lil Uzi Vert, ever the shrewd investor, is following up on having a $24million pink diamond implanted in his forehead by purchasing WASP-127B. For those of you unfamiliar with intergalactic geography, that’s a planet 1.4x larger than Jupiter and is located around 540 light years from Earth. Which, unless you have a Millennium Falcon lying around, is a bit of a trek. The news of the purchase was actually announced by Grimes – who may or may not really be an alien – and was then confirmed by Mr. Uzi on Twitter. His claim has since been refuted by some space lawyers, so this may all just be some very confusing PR. But ‘space lawyer’ sounds like as much of an actual job as ‘space cowboy’ – and not half as fun – so I’m not convinced.

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Time Travelling.

In sad news for actors, it now appears that any hopes they might have harboured of playing a young version of any celebrity in a biopic have been thoroughly vanquished. This whole de-aging business dances right on the precipice of cool and creepy – and Paul McCartney is the latest beneficiary of it. His latest music video features a very realistic simulacrum of his younger self singing, dancing, and walking through a hotel corridor. Although considering they could have made him do anything, I feel they missed a trick by not giving him some more stunts. A 20-something Paul McCartney taking on a horde of barbarians would have been much more compelling. But this does set an interesting precedent for aging rock-stars who can now make music videos without having to clamber up from a comfortable chair. And it’s going to get even more wacky once they start bringing people ‘back to life’ for a video. I can’t wait to see Atilla the Hun’s new single released by Vevo. That would be a good name for a Drag Race contestant, actually. Somebody write that down.

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Mr. Blobby.

A gelatinous blob is going to space. No, NASA haven’t relaxed their physical requirements for astronauts – this actually is a blob. A brainless blob capable of thought, mind you. But why? Well, to see what happens, basically. And also, just, kind of, why not? The Blob is also known as Physarum polycephalum, but for simplicity’s sake it will from this point on only be referred to as Blob – or Blobby, to his mates. Despite its lack of brain, Blob is able to think, learn, make decisions, sleep, and even navigate a maze. Blob will now be taken to the International Space Station, where astronaut Thomas Pesquet will be tasked with awakening it with a couple of drops of water, after which it will then be observed to see how microgravity impacts its behaviour and its attitude to its favourite food: oats. Hang on, oats? Really? It may be able to get out of Hampton Court maze, but it sure has poor taste. Although, how can they know? I doubt they’ve offered it a medium-rare filet mignon.

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Robo Farah.

Putting those poxy parkour gloves to shame, Cassie – a bipedal robot from Agility Robotics – has achieved a world first by running a full 5k without any sort of tether assisting it. With the Olympics currently going on, you can’t help but wonder how long it’ll be until the Robolympics become a thing. Although I guess they kind of already did a colosseum, pankration, fight-to-the-death version with Robot Wars about 20 years ago. So, now, if anything it feels overdue. The run was achieved through something known as a deep reinforcement learning algorithm, which enables Cassie to teach herself how to maintain balance by making small adjustments as she goes. However, it did take her about 45 minutes to complete the 5k – which is a bit crap. Saying that, the first time I attempted a 5k I was left as a wheezing husk of shame on the side of the road, so fair play. Plus, this is just the start. Apparently, in the near future, this technology will be used to create a fleet of robot couriers. Although, based off the current design, I imagine they’ll have a hard time ringing the doorbell. Back to the drawing board.

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