Science & Technology

How Clinical Trials Work

Prescription medications undergo rigorous rounds of testing and approval before hitting the consumer market. The Onion breaks down the steps involved in this process

Scientists Develop New Extra-Sloppy Peach

DAVIS, CA—Explaining that the latest strain of the fruit was far softer and runnier than previous varieties, agricultural scientists at the University of California, Davis announced Thursday the successful development of a new extra-sloppy peach.

SpaceX’s Plan To Colonize Mars

SpaceX founder Elon Musk continues to lay the groundwork to attempt the human colonization of Mars. Here’s a step-by-step guide to his plan:

The Pros And Cons Of Self-Driving Cars

With Uber’s robot cars debuting this week in Pittsburgh, many wonder whether driverless technology will improve or endanger our lives. The Onion weighs the pros and cons of self-driving cars

How Animals Go Extinct

With an estimated 40 percent of species on earth now considered endangered, many wonder how it’s possible for these animals to be wiped out. The Onion provides a step-by-step breakdown of how species go extinct

Horrible Facebook Algorithm Accident Results In Exposure To New Ideas

MENLO PARK, CA—Assuring users that the company’s entire team of engineers was working hard to make sure a glitch like this never happens again, Facebook executives confirmed during a press conference Tuesday that a horrible accident last night involving the website’s algorithm had resulted in thousands of users being exposed to new concepts.

Team Of Vatican Geneticists Successfully Clone God

VATICAN CITY—Describing the groundbreaking work as a major step forward for theological research, a team of Vatican geneticists held a press conference Tuesday at the Apostolic Palace to announce they had successfully cloned God.

Dad Shares Photo Album Through Never-Before-Seen Website

SECAUCUS, NJ—Wondering aloud how the father of three even managed to find the online image-hosting service, family members of local dad Phil Yates told reporters Monday the 57-year-old had shared a photo album with them through a never-before-seen website.

NASA Discovers Distant Planet Located Outside Funding Capabilities

WASHINGTON—Noting that the celestial body lies within the habitable zone of its parent star and could potentially harbor liquid water, NASA officials announced at a press conference Thursday they have discovered an Earth-like planet located outside their funding capabilities.

‘DSM-5’ Updated To Accommodate Man Who Is Legitimately Being Ordered To Kill By The Moon

ARLINGTON, VA—Saying they were committed to ensuring the influential reference text accurately represented all known psychological conditions, leading members of the American Psychiatric Association announced Monday they would update the Diagnostic And Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition to accommodate a man who is legitimately being ordered by the moon to kill those around him.

NASA Launches First Cordless Satellite

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL—In what experts are calling a breakthrough achievement that is poised to revolutionize American space exploration and telecommunications, NASA announced Friday it has successfully launched its first cordless satellite into orbit.

What Is Pokémon Go?

Since its debut last Thursday, the augmented-reality smartphone app Pokémon Go has been downloaded millions of times and has grown publisher Nintendo’s stock by 25 percent. The Onion answers some common questions about the game and its unprecedented success.

Factory Robot Working On Some Of Its Own Designs After Hours

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC—Saying it had been mulling over the “fun little side project” for a while, an Electroimpact Quadbot reportedly put in some extra work after hours at the Boeing assembly plant Wednesday to try out a few of its own original designs.

Books Vs. E-Readers

Though e-readers have increasingly supplanted books in the digital age, many bibliophiles defend the importance of physical texts. Here is a side-by-side comparison of physical books and e-books
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Modern Science Still Only Able To Predict One Upcoming Tetris Block

Despite 30 years of efforts, the world’s top scientists admit they are no closer to knowing which Tetris block will show up even just 10 seconds in the future.
Despite 30 years of efforts, the world’s top scientists admit they are no closer to knowing which Tetris block will show up even just 10 seconds in the future.

CAMBRIDGE, MA—During a press conference Thursday at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, leading members of the scientific community confirmed that despite decades of research, the best available theoretical models still cannot predict more than one upcoming Tetris block.

While they have long possessed the technology to accurately forecast and display which of the seven distinct Tetris shapes, or tetrominoes, will appear next, scientists told reporters they’ve so far had no success determining what any of the blocks beyond the immediate successor will be.

“Modern supercomputers have now reached speeds of 30 quadrillion calculations per second, but even with all that processing power, we’re no closer to solving this problem than we were a generation ago,” said MIT professor Michael Haemlin, who has studied tetromino sequencing since 1984. “Right now our most sophisticated equations can correctly predict two upcoming blocks just one out of every seven times, which unfortunately is no better than the result achieved by random guessing.”

“So for years, all we’ve been able to do is rotate each descending shape 90 degrees at a time, control its lateral movement, accelerate the speed of its descent if desired, and simply hope for the best,” Haemlin added.

According to researchers, the ability to predict two, three, or four incoming shapes would be “nothing short of revolutionary,” allowing blocks to be stacked in more optimal patterns in order to achieve the goal of eliminating horizontal lines as efficiently as possible.

For example, with enough advanced warning of an arriving I-shaped piece, scientists said they could in theory prepare the Tetris matrix in such a way that up to four rows are cleared simultaneously, with many stating this was one of the ultimate goals of their rigorous stacking trials.

“Over the past 30 years, we’ve developed a much better understanding of how blocks fit together,” said Dr. Florence Edelman, the designer of a well-known Tetris experiment in 1993 in which a perfect slot for an L or zigzag block was created under carefully controlled conditions, only to be closed off when a series of ill-fitting square pieces appeared instead. “But without a working predictive model, our entire field of study is at an impasse. Indeed, reaching unpassable standstills is well chronicled in trial after trial.”

“Some of the world’s most brilliant scientific minds have dedicated their lives to unlocking this mystery, yet for all their knowledge and expertise, it’s still anyone’s guess what will happen five or 10 seconds into the future,” Edelman continued. “Once that last bit of uncertainty has been eliminated, we believe our interactions within the Tetris matrix will be far more successful.”

Edelman stated that many aspects of Tetris are indeed predictable, noting that workers in her lab had discovered that each falling piece is consistently composed of four individual tiles; that the speed at which descents occur increase in direct proportion to total time elapsed; that pieces with the same shape also share the same color; and that while the color of a piece is not particularly important, its shape is of vital significance.

Foreknowledge of those shapes, she explained, could lead to a breakthrough phenomenon she described as “a perpetual Tetris” of unlimited duration.

“While this remains entirely hypothetical at this moment, there exists a theoretical point at which the elimination of bottom rows occurs with such speed and efficiency that there is always enough room at the top of the matrix to accommodate new pieces,” Edelman said. “This would create a fluid and sustainable Tetris that could exist indefinitely—perhaps forever. It would of course still require continuous human maintenance, but it would be a monumental step in the right direction.”

“For now, though,” she added. “We’ll simply keep trying and see how far we are able to progress.”


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