In the first half, writer and researcher Peter Rubin, who oversees WIRED's culture coverage, revealed the mind-blowing advancements with virtual reality (VR), which has been in continual development at universities, labs, and tech companies around the world. Participants wear a set of VR goggles that allow them to see, hear, and move in an immersive digital space. At the heart of the VR experience is what Rubin referred to as "presence," in which the user's movements match up so perfectly in the virtual location that some part of the brain buys into the idea that it's a real environment.
Companies that make VR are cognizant of the "uncanny valley" effect in which avatars that look too realistically human can creep people out, so at this point, they're not aiming for super realism, he explained. VR isn't just being made for gaming and entertainment but has great possibilities for education and training. A couple of years ago, a cardiac surgeon was able to do a VR "dry run" of a tricky surgery with a premature infant. VR, he added, has also been used for therapeutic applications for treating patients with PTSD and phobias. On the entertainment front, Oculus just rolled out a virtual stadium experience for concerts and sports, in which people share a live event with other avatars.
In the latter half, British astronomer and science writer David Darling discussed the latest news from science as well as research on other dimensions and parallel worlds. While we can't directly imagine a 4th dimension in space, mathematics can represent such an environment, he noted, adding that current physics proposes that we live in a higher dimensional universe, with up to 26 dimensions. Dark matter and dark energy may exist in higher or extra dimensions, he indicated. Speculations that we live in a multiverse, or that there are an almost infinite number of universes fit in with notions about modern cosmology, he suggested.
He also talked about his new book co-authored with a teenage genius, Agnijo Banerjee, who can calculate the correct answer of the multiplication of two three-digit numbers in just a couple of seconds. When he took the Mensa IQ test at age 13, he scored the highest possible result-- 162. Darling wonders if the human brain has a switch that opens people up to the incredible math skills that Agnijo demonstrates. He also talked about such topics as teleportation, time travel, and asteroid strikes.