The Apocalypticon ~ Trumps inspires fascists, world heat, world problems


Trump inspires searches for definitions of Fascism — Donald Trump held another neo-fascist rally Thursday in North Carolina USA where the crowd chanted things like “treason,” “traitor” and “send her back,” while Trump talked about Democratic members of US Congress. Online dictionary searches in the US from just after the rally show just how bad things have become in the country. [Hey, Donald, how about setting up the Trump Youth? Fun for all the kids, right? Well, fun for the white ones, anyway.]
Trump’s ‘go back’ rhetoric is sign of a racially divisive and turbulent year to come, writes the NPR.
New documents reveal how Trump, Cohen, aides worked to seal hush money deals — Trump took part in phone calls with his then-personal lawyer Michael Cohen as the attorney and other aides scrambled to arrange hush payments.
US tests killing robotised vehicles — The US Army has already been testing robotic squad vehicles such as the Multi-Utility Tactical Transport (MUTT) and semi-autonomous targeting systems such as the Advanced Targeting and Lethality Automated System (ATLAS). It will soon conduct live-fire testing of a new Robotic Combat Vehicle (RCV) built on M113 armoured personnel carrier chassis next year. [When a machine kills someone, where sits the moral conundrum? Squarely with the regime deploying them, rather than soldiers charged to carry out murder.]
A journalist has been digging into years of corruption and disfunction at the US Border Protection Agency. Customs and Border Protection is the largest law enforcement agency in the US, with 45,000 gun-carrying officers and agents. It’s larger than the NYPD and larger than the US Coast Guard.
Oakland also bans fail recognition — The Oakland City Council in California has voted unanimously to ban the use of facial recognition technology by the city, including its police force. It’s the third ban of the tech by a US city since May.
Marshall Islands still radioactive after US tests — An analysis of soil samples, ocean sediment, and fruits from the Marshall Islands, the site of nearly 70 nuclear weapons tests during the 1940s and 1950s, has revealed alarmingly high levels of radiation, with some regions at levels exceeding areas affected by the Fukushima and Chernobyl disasters.

Big Data — The European Union is planning an antitrust investigation into e-commerce giant Amazon over its treatment of third-party merchants that rely on the company’s marketplace to sell goods, the Wall Street Journal has reported.
US lawmakers want Amazon investigated — Over a dozen progressive US lawmakers have co-signed a letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to request a “comprehensive investigation into the workplace conditions” in Amazon and its subsidiary businesses’ warehouses.
App boss is a terrible master — US same-day grocery service Instacart has a checkered past when it comes to fair and dignified labour practices, and now dozens of its contract workers are claiming that the company app torments them into accepting shitty jobs or suffering the consequences. [Keep that in mind when considering a robotised fighting vehicle, as above.]
Google yanks dogs apps — Google has yanked several apps from its Play Store after cybersecurity firm Avast identified them as “all likely designed by a Russian developer to allow people to stalk employees, romantic partners, or kids.”
Now you can find out which Facebook advertisers get your data — The next time you see Facebook ads for, say, erectile dysfunction pills or egg freezing, you can check to see why you were targeted by those brands and where the companies got your data. [I deleted Facebook a few months back and it’s like being able to breathe again. I also got big time benefits.]
Data on all Bulgarians —Someone has stolen the personal and financial information of millions of Bulgarian taxpayers, likely the majority of the adult population.

Climate fears — Arctic on fire: Vast stretches of Earth’s northern latitudes are on fire right now. Hot weather has engulfed a huge portion of the Arctic, from Alaska to Greenland to Siberia. That’s helped create conditions ripe for wildfires, including some truly massive fires burning in remote parts of the region that are being seen by satellites.
Coral and poop — It’s no secret corals are dying at an alarming rate. While climate change heating up the oceans is understood to be screwing over corals, a new study points fingers at a different culprit: human poop.
Chennai gets rain but has no water — This city of nearly 10 million — India’s sixth largest — has almost run out of water. But why? Industry is diverting the water for its own use before it reaches the reservoirs.
Heatwaves to further engulf America — As the globe warms in the years ahead, days with extreme heat are forecast to skyrocket across hundreds of US cities, a new study suggests, perhaps even breaking the “heat index.”
Rome is sweltering and has trash everywhere — Flocks of cawing seagulls have replaced traffic roar as the soundtrack of Roman life.

While we’re out in the world — Ebola a health emergency: The World Health Organisation (WHO) announced this week that it has elected to declare the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo a “public health emergency of international concern,” a decision that comes nearly a year after the outbreak was first declared and after the infection of thousands of people.
Dutch complicity in Srebrenica — The Netherlands’ Supreme Court has affirmed the country’s troops are partly to blame for the deaths of 350 Muslim men and boys after the fall of the Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica. But in a break with an earlier ruling, the court lowered the Dutch liability for the massacre to 10%, from 30%.
Insufficient fruit and vegetables — If everyone around the globe began to eat the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables, there wouldn’t be enough to go around. That’s the conclusion of a new study published in The Lancet Planetary Health.

But there is some good news — The 20-50 metre asteroid 2006 QV8 will not hit the Earth on September 9th 2019.
Ace arsehole Martin Shkreli, the former pharmaceutical CEO widely known as Pharma Bro, has lost his bid to overturn a seven-year prison sentence for fraud. Hurrah!

Futurology ~ Dark Matter, Apollo tech, Antarctic idea, eel generator, AI languages, electric Harley, insect antioxidants


Who ever would have thought? An electric Harley Davidson! (Image: Harley Davidson, via Gizmodo)

Deaths from Dark Matter — The fact no one has died from being struck by dark matter is enough proof to rule out certain ideas about the mysterious stuff, according to one new theory paper.
~ Hard to prove, but I can assert it hasn’t killed me yet. 

Moon missions gave us lots of tech — Here are several innovations from Apollo that made their way into the transportation world here on earth. They include ‘fly by wire’, better flame retardants and more.
~ Even little DustBuster vacuum cleaners!

Saving the Antarctic — A new study looks at an avenue of saving the Antractic glaciers by increasing snowfall onto the surface to thicken the ice. The process that could in theory stabilise them by adding heft that would push the grounding line — where the ice, seafloor, and ocean meet — further out to sea.
~ Ambulance. Cliff. Bottom.

Electric eel inspires new generator — Researchers from the Beijing Institute of Nanoenergy and Nanosystems and the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences describe a stretchable nanogenerator that takes inspiration from electric eels.
~ It’s … a … moray!

Some languages never been deciphered could be get the machine translation treatment — Jiaming Luo and Regina Barzilay from MIT and Yuan Cao from Google’s AI lab in Mountain View, California have developed a machine-learning system capable of deciphering lost languages, and they’ve demonstrated it by having it decipher Linear B.
~ Next, the never-deciphered Linear A?

Electric Harley Davidson Live Wire — Harley-Davidson’s new, extremely pricey electric motorbike  has an official power rating of 105 horses and 39kg-ft from a 15,000 RPM permanent magnet synchronous motor with water jacket cooling.
~ It comes with an app, of course. 

Insects high in anti-oxidants — Of course, you have to eat them! New research has demonstrated that edible insects are high in antioxidants — and whether or not you buy into the health benefits of eating antioxidants, it’s an important finding from a nutrition perspective.
~ ‘Better’ than olive oil and orange juice. 

The Apocalypticon ~ Shit version of New Zealand, trolls and twits


Around the apocalyptical world — why is Australia the shit version of New Zealand? Or so asks Australian Tegan Jones.
Abandoned Russian sub leaking radiation — Using a robotic sub, a team of investigators has detected traces of radiation leaking from Komsomolets, a Soviet nuclear submarine that sank 30 years ago in the Norwegian Sea. The recorded radiation levels are unusually high, but scientists say it’s not threatening humans or marine life.
Massive seaweed bloom the ‘new normal’? Scientists in Florida have detected the largest seaweed bloom in the world. Extending from the Gulf of Mexico to the African coast, the unusually large bloom is threatening marine life and coastal regions, with the researchers warning it’s likely a sign of things to come.
A bloom of toxic algae has forced Mississippi to close 25 beaches along its Gulf Coast.
Beautiful Russian lake is actually toxic — The turquoise water of a lake in Siberia looks like a tropical paradise and it’s drawn in hundreds of Instagrammers who have posed in and around the ‘Novosibirsk Maldives.’ But it’s not white sands or microscopic plankton that give the water its unusual hue: the “lake” is actually a human-made ash dump, used to store toxic byproducts from a power plant’s burned coal.
Largest carbon sync is now leaching its carbon — Carbon that’s been locked up in the Congo Basin’s rainforest soils for hundreds to thousands of years is starting to seep out. This because the rainforest is being steamrolled for agriculture and charcoal production.
Turkey chooses Russian missiles — The first pieces of the S-400 missile defence system Turkey bought from Russia, against the wishes of the U.S. and NATO, has begun arriving, according to Turkey’s National Defense Ministry. In response, the Pentagon is expected to announce that Turkey will be barred from receiving the new F-35 fighter.
Streaming online porn and Netflix produces as much CO2 as Belgium — The transmission and viewing of online videos generates 300 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, or nearly 1% of global emissions. On-demand video services such as Netflix account for a third of this, with online pornographic videos generating another third.

Trolls and twits — Facebook’s Libra project getting criticised: Facebook’s already-troubled Libra cryptocurrency project, which has already run into significant opposition among the US House Committee on Financial Services and the Senate Banking Committee, is running headlong into further resistance from regulators.
President Trump has announced he is directing his administration to explore all regulatory and legislation solutions to “protect the free speech of all Americans.” [So wait, Americans do understand irony?]
US civil rights organisations were, somehow, both pleased and exasperated with Twitter after the social network announced the latest update to its rules against “hateful conduct.”
Cortez being sued — Representative. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat for New York, is being sued by two people who say they criticised her on Twitter and were then blocked from her account, which has more than 4.7 million followers.
Humans are listening to your questions to Google Assistant — Human contractors have been transcribing audio clips from Google Assistant devices, according to Belgium’s VRT NWS.

And the good news? If you’re reading this, you’re probably still breathing, too.

 

Futurology ~ Space robots, satellite bridges, poker-bot, car home power, squeezer-freezer, ancient cows, ancient Europeans


The new 40kWh Nissan Leaf has the capability to become your personal, massive, mobile battery which can be used for power in the home.(Image: Nissan)

How NASA will prolong the lives of the Voyager probes, 11 billion miles from Earth — Launched 42 years ago, the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 space probes are now exploring the outer realms of our solar system. Sadly, the end of the mission is now firmly in sight, but NASA has a plan to keep the probes operational for as long as possible before their power finally runs out.
~ The new space explorers are our robots. 

Satellite imagery can predict bridge collapses — Researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab and the UK’s University of Bath believe advanced satellite imagery can be used for analysing structures like bridges for tiny movements that could be signs of potential collapse.
~ This kind of precision from afar seems impossible, you’d think. 

Super computer beats all comers in poker — Computer scientists have developed a card-playing bot, called Pluribus, capable of defeating some of the world’s best players at six-person no-limit Texas hold’em poker, in what’s considered an important breakthrough in artificial intelligence.
~ Yeah, can’t read its expression, not fair. 

New Nissan Leaf can help power your home — Nissan confirmed at the launch that the new Leaf, with a 40kWh battery, will be a V2H (vehicle-to-home) energy asset – meaning that, unlike other electric vehicles, it will have the capability to charge your home (subject to further testing with Australia’s network owners and operators).
~ Why not use its battery when it’s parked? 

Squeeze to freeze — A research team from Tohoku University, Nissan Motor Co., Shinshu University and Okayama University have discovered how to use a nanosponge to carry out liquid-to-gas phase transitions. Conventional systems use hydrofluorocarbons as a refrigerant, but hydrofluorocarbons are super pollutants, with a Global Warming Potential about 1300 times higher than carbon dioxide. Instead of a refrigerant, researchers have figured out how to use force for cooling.
~ Cool in your home without warming the planet. 

Scientists have found evidence of Bronze Age human civilisation written into ancient cattle DNA — The research team collected and sequenced DNA samples from ancient domesticated and wild cattle, or aurochs, to tell the story of cattle domestication in the Fertile Crescent, a region today defined as the Middle East and the Levant. The results reveal a sudden introduction of DNA from a different cattle breed originating in the Indus Valley.
~ This was perhaps the result of humans adapting to a sudden change to the climate.

Earliest humans in Europe pushed back again — A comprehensive re-analysis of a skull fragment found in a Greek cave back in the late 1970s suggests early modern humans were present in Eurasia some 210,000 years ago. It’s the earliest indication of our species on the continent, but the lack of supporting archaeological evidence raises some questions.
~ Ancient-ancient-ancient Greeks indeed. 

The Apocalypticon ~ Trash talking, data-harming and global warming


Trash talking — Americans create the most waste in the world, they’re among the worst at recycling it.
So why not add infamy to idiocy? That’s clearly what Trump figured when he hailed America’s military and declared the US “is stronger today than it ever was before” in a Fourth of July speech with patriotic themes underscored by flyovers from fighter jets and displays of tanks near the stage at the Lincoln Memorial. [At least now we know what he learnt from Kim Jong-Un in that quick visit to North Korea.]
That mighty US Air Force, which is really really powerful, dropped dummy bombs on Florida by mistake on July 1st. The public has been asked not to touch them. [Hoorah!]
Fewer than 40% of Americans have ever had an HIV test, according to a new report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These rates are even lower in states with rural areas where the disease is disproportionately more common.
Frack that — A sweeping report that evolved from work that helped ban fracking in New York State has been released to help the American public fight the practice as it pops up elsewhere across the country.
Massive wiretap — A single court-authorised wiretap order resulted in authorities in the Southern District of Texas, USA, scooping up more than 9.2 million communications.
NSA improperly collected US phone call data even after saying problem was fixed.

Data wars — ‘Impartial’ Zuckerberg doesn’t want Facebook broken up: the US government shouldn’t break up Facebook because that wouldn’t address the real problems that people face in the age of social media, according to CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg, a man who is currently worth an estimated $US71.5 billion ($102 billion) precisely because the social media company is so large.
Civil rights leaders unimpressed at Facebook’s attempts — Many civil rights leaders directly involved in discussions with Facebook say the company has only agreed so far to half-steps unlikely to effect substantive change.
Italy slaps Facebook … with wet bus ticket — Italy’s privacy watchdog announced its decision to fine world-swallowing social platform Facebook €1 million (about $NZ1.7 million) for the catastrophic mishandling of data associated with now-defunct Cambridge Analytica. [Wow, yeah, that’s only going to affect the lunch buffet for a few weeks.]
Alexa keeps your conversations — Next time you use Amazon Alexa to message a friend or order a pizza, know that the recording could be stored indefinitely, even if you ask to delete it.
Google’s toxic data mess — Google’s internet freedom moonshot has gotten glowing attention for its ambitious projects. But current and former employees, leaked documents, and internal messages reveal a grim reality. “The mission of the team is to save the day for the poor brown people.” Yikes!
Bitcoin uses as much energy as the whole of Switzerland — That’s according to a new online tool from the University of Cambridge.
Iranian authorities have seized about 1000 bitcoin mining machines in two abandoned factories, state television reported, after warnings that the activity had led to a spike in consumption of government-subsidised electricity.
New Zealand anger at Google — Government officials in New Zealand are angry and considering legal options after Google sent newsletter subscribers information about a murder case last year.
Mental health suffers with social media use — In a survey of over 22,000 people in Indonesia, researchers have found that heavy social media usage is linked to poor mental health there.

Heat — Hot world, hot France: The small, quaint town of Villevieille, southern France, the temperature soared to 45.11°C (113.2 degrees F). Météo-France, the national weather service, issued its highest warning level for four French regions.
Temperatures climbed to 32°C (90°F) in Anchorage, Alaska — This broke the all-time heat record for the northerly city. It was also the driest June on record.
Indian water apocalypse — A combination of climate change, bad policies and political apathy is steadily pushing India into a catastrophic water crisis that threatens stability in South Asia.
Less ice — Floating ice off the southern continent steadily increased from 1979 and hit a record high in 2014. But three years later, the annual average extent of Antarctic sea ice hit its lowest mark, wiping out three-and-a-half decades of gains — and then some, a NASA study of satellite data shows.
US wasps enjoy the extra heat — Typical yellow jacket nests might contain up to a few thousand workers in a cavity, but if the weather doesn’t get cold enough in the winter to kill off many of these insects, the nests can live on. This has produced car-sized nests containing 15,000 insects or more.
Cockroaches getting harder to kill — The cockroaches that plague our homes are even more indestructible than we thought, according to a recent study by researchers at the University of Purdue in Indiana.

But planting more trees could really help with climate change — We’d need to add a US-sized chunk of trees, though. As trees grow, they absorb and store the carbon dioxide emissions that are driving global heating. Tree planting is “a climate change solution that doesn’t require President Trump to immediately start believing in climate change, or scientists to come up with technological solutions to draw carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere”, professor Tom Crowther said. “It is available now, it is the cheapest one possible and every one of us can get involved.”

Futurology ~ FRBs, twinkling star, light torque, deaf CRISPR, metabolism, solar train, erasable ink, water repellant, Flash-cam


The Byron Bay Railroad in Australia converted this vintage diesel train to run 100% solar

Very distant fast radio bursts — Astronomers have spent the past dozen years hunting for fast radio bursts (FRBs). These flashes of radio waves come from outer space and last just milliseconds. And after a dozen years of work we still don’t know exactly what causes them, only that it must be something very powerful, as they’ve clearly travelled a long way (billions of light-years).
~ And strewth! They’re making progress thanks to an Australian array. 

Strange twinkling star — Typically, if the planet-hunting Kepler telescope saw a regularly dimming star, that would signal the presence of an exoplanet periodically passing between the star and Earth. But researchers identified a star called EPIC 249706694 (HD 139139) that seems to dim at random, and the team hasn’t been able to come up with an explanation for the weird observation.
~ How they wonder what you are. 

Torque of light — A team of researchers affiliated with several institutions in Spain and the US has announced that they have discovered a new property of light: self-torque. In their paper published in the journal Science, the group describes how they happened to spot the new property and possible uses for it.
~ Acceleration?

CRISPR for Russian deaf — Five deaf Russian couples want to try the CRISPR gene-editing technique so they can have a biological child who can hear, biologist Denis Rebrikov has told New Scientist. He plans to apply to the relevant Russian authorities for permission in “a couple of weeks”. The parents have a recessive form of deafness, meaning all their children would normally inherit the same condition.
~ Perhaps this is justified, then. 

Origins of metabolism identified — A Rutgers-led study sheds light on one of the most enduring mysteries of science: how did metabolism – the process by which life powers itself by converting energy from food into movement and growth – begin?
~ Well, if you’re going to reverse-engineer primordial proteins …

Solar powered train — The Byron Bay Railroad Company in Australia operates a 100-seat vintage train on a short 6-kilometre  route that basically goes from a town and down to a resort and beach, then back. A couple of years ago the town decided to invest in converting the train to pure EV, powered by the sun.
~ Yes, this formerly polluting diesel train is now 100% powered by the sun 100% of the time.

Erasable ink — Recycling paper is good but it still takes its toll on the environment. Researchers at Rutgers have come up with a new way to erase ink off a printed page, allowing it to be run through a printer again and again. This works with regular old copy paper and the standard toner used in copiers around the world, trading lasers for high-intensity xenon lamps that pulse light.
~ The page can be wiped clean using a small amount of alcohol. I’ll drink to that. 

Force field against water — Researchers at MIT have found a way to make water-repellent surfaces better shed a soaking.
The new method builds on research from about six years ago when it was discovered that small macroscopic features added to a surface, such as a series of nearly imperceptible ridges, helped break up a water drop’s shape and symmetry as it recoils from an impact, increasing the speed at which it bounces away from that surface. More complex structures reduce the spread of water droplets, meaning they’re less likely to turn to use on, say, aircraft fuselages.
~ The new structures can also be applied to fabrics.

Canon adds a camera to a flash drive — Canon promises it’s shockproof and waterproof (to a depth of just 1m, however, it’s not for divers) and its 13 megapixel 1/3-inch CMOS sensor can also record hi-def video at 60 frames per second.
~ It’s clever: the carabiner clip lets you frame the photo, as it has no LCD screen, or you can monitor it from your smartphone. 

The Apocalypticon ~ Trump hell-bent, exacerbating inequality, climate fears, tranche of idiots


Trump administration debates encryption … behind closed doors. Officials held a National Security Council meeting in the US focussed on the challenges and benefits of encryption.
Emails reveal how the Trump regime creates Twitter propaganda to excuse the migrant baby jails — On May 31, 2018, the Twitter account for Tyler Q Houlton, former press secretary for the US Department of Homeland Security sent out a tweet lecturing Senator Dianne Feinstein of California about the Trump regime’s immigration policies.
The bizarrely confrontational tweet starts with “News Flash @SenFeinstein: We don’t have a policy of separating families.” But as we now know, the Trump regime did, in fact, have a policy of separating children from their families at the border, and the policy never really stopped. But the tweet wasn’t just a hot-headed, spur-of-the-moment slip-up: the tweet went through revisions and was reviewed by numerous people before it was sent out into the world.
United States Homeland Security officials have attempted to downplay the impact of a security intrusion that reached deep into the network of a federal surveillance contractor, secret documents, handbooks, and slides concerning surveillance technology deployed along US borders are being widely and openly shared online. Reporters are digging through the dump and already expanding our understanding of the enormous surveillance apparatus being erected on the US border.
No toothpaste for camp kids — The US Justice Department argued in federal court that government agencies like Customs and Border Protection have no responsibility to provide toothbrushes, toothpaste, and soap to migrant kids who are currently held in America’s vast network of concentration camps. [Well, did the Nazis provide toothbrushes and toothpaste for their concentration camp inmates? No, they did not.]
Star Wars convention impacted by Homeland Security — On the first day of Star Wars Celebration Chicago this April, it was suddenly announced that Riz Ahmed (he played Imperial courier-turned Rebel hero Bodhi Rook in Rogue One) had to cancel his appearance at the convention. Now, the actor’s revealed why: Homeland Security wouldn’t let him board his flight.
Facial recognition ban — Meanwhile, Massachusetts just became the second US city to ban the use of facial recognition in public space.
But companies can use employee smartphones to track them that’s thanks to PhoneAgent.

Away from the US — Trump’s impacts. Global commerce is “being hit by new trade restrictions on a historically high level,” World Trade Organization Director-General Roberto Azevedo said in a report Monday that pointed to an increase in protectionist measures by G20 countries. “This will have consequences in increased uncertainty, lower investment and weaker trade growth.” [What an economic maestro.]
Following reports the US carried out cyberattacks against Iran, a senior US official has warned about hacking attempts from Iran directed at the United States.
Libra will concentrate economic power in Facebook — Hughes, who apparently still considers his university roommate Mark Zuckerberg a friend, has said Zuckerberg is too powerful and that the company should be broken up. Now Hughes has warned that Facebook’s new planned digital currency Libra would shift monetary power to corporate giants. The Switzerland-based Libra Association is a group composed of Facebook and its global corporate partners with an entry fee of $US10 million ($14 million). It will be making all the governance decisions surrounding this new global currency.
Robots are expected to take over some 20 million manufacturing jobs worldwide by 2030, extending a trend of worsening social inequality while boosting overall economic output, a new study shows.
Upwards of 90% of insects found in British hospitals carry potentially harmful bacteria, according to new research.

Climate fears — Greenland’s ice is doomed. Research published in Science Advances finds that if emissions continue to climb at their current rate, all Greenland’s ice could melt by the year 3000, causing sea levels to rise 7.01m and redrawing coastlines around the world.
Indias’ sixth-largest city is almost dry — The floor of the Chembarambakkam reservoir is cracked open, dry and sun-baked. About 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) away, in Chennai, India’s sixth largest city, millions of people are running out of water.
Everglades ablaze — The US Democratic National Committee refuses to hold a climate change-focused debate despite calls for one from activists and candidates. And now, it would seem the Everglades are also helping to make their case: they’re on fire.
Jet contrails are adding to global warming — Under certain conditions these contrails can linger for hours, absorbing thermal radiation emitted by the Earth and adding to warming. By 2050, contrail-induced warming could be three times higher than it was in 2006.

Any good news? Not really. Even the US Democrats seems to attract its tranche of idiots.

Futurology ~ Rover wheels, solar car, sugar fuel, Crohn’s diet


The Lightyear concept car is causing quite a buzz – it does 450kms on a single, solar, charge

Mars Rover gets wheels — At just a little over a year away from the launch of the Mars 2020 Mission, which will see NASA’s new rover reach the Red Planet on 18 February 2021, NASA has fitted the wheels to the vehicle.
Once in Jezero Crater, the rover will search for signs of prior habitability and evidence of past microbial life, collect rock and surface samples, and perform some groundwork for a human mission to Mars, including an oxygen production test. Each wheel (there are six) has its own motor.
~ A roving it will go.

Solar-powered electric car — Lightyear, a startup from the Netherlands, has come a long way since it won a Crunchie award in 2015, with a vehicle that now looks ready for the road. The Lightyear One prototype vehicle has a sleek, driver-friendly design and also boasts a range of 450 miles on a single charge – definitely a first for a car powered by solar and intended for the actual consumer market.
~ Will it work better in countries that actually get substantial sunlight? 

Fuel from plants — Researchers in Japan and China have developed a two-step method to more efficiently break down carbohydrates into their single sugar components for the production of green fuel.
~ I can envisage so many issues with this around ramping up plant production to make fuel!

Apple’s new Mac Pro is being manufactured in China — After six years of manufacturing the cylindrical Mac Pro in Texas, Apple has shifted production of the new Mac Pro to China, even as trade tensions escalate between the US and China.
~ Imagine how much more than its ridiculous price it would cost at US labour rates!

Crohn’s diet breakthrough? A 25-year-old man first been diagnosed with Crohn’s in 2014 cut out all animal products and processed foods from his diet for 40 days, as part of a “period of religious observation.” He decided to stick with the diet, and a colonoscopy of the man’s ileum (the end of the small intestine long affected by his Crohn’s) revealed that it had fully healed.
~ This definitely deserves more research. 

The Apocalypticon ~ Climate woes, Trump’s fake war, data hypocrisy


Humans gleefully trash their only home — Photographer Edward Burtynsky and filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier were inspired by this ongoing debate over this new geological era called the Anthropocene, in which humans have created significant changes to Earth. Arctic coastlines are collapsing into the sea.
Don’t let the sea into the US! Estimates show that to defend every coastal city, town, and hamlet in the US with sea walls over the next 20 years could cost over $600 billion, and that’s under a fairly optimistic climate scenario. [And the Mexicans won’t pay for it.]
‘Never-ending barrage of rain’ in the US It has left the Midwest flooded, the Gulf of Mexico primed for a huge dead zone.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced the agency’s final replacement for the Obama-era rule, which aimed to reduce carbon emissions from the energy sector to combat climate change. and yeah, it’s as bad as you’d imagine.
US military is killing the planet while it practices killing people — A new report from Brown’s Watson Institute examines the Pentagon’s day-to-day carbon footprint, oil use, and how much carbon the unending War on Terror has emitted. It shows that while the military is progressive in terms of acknowledging the threat climate change poses to the world, it’s also a huge part of the problem.
Glacial melts — Researchers are turning to a once-secret source: spy satellite imagery from the 1970s and 1980s, now declassified. The Himalayan glaciers lost 25 centimetres (10 inches) of ice per year from 1975 to 2000. This region contains the most ice in one region after the actual poles.
Bee worried — Beekeepers across the US lost four in 10 of their honeybee colonies over the past year, as the worst winter on record for tracked bee populations raised fresh concerns over the plight of the crucial pollinators.
Beautiful Chinese algae is a curse — Satellite imagery taken over the past two decades shows that the toxic bioluminescent microorganisms responsible for China’s sparkling blue seas are becoming increasingly abundant.
Canada’s empty climate words Canada’s Liberal Party voted en masse to declare a climate emergency in the House of Commons. Then the Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau approved the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion that, when completed, will pump 590,000 barrels of highly-polluting tar sands oil from Alberta to British Columbia.

Trump ‘calls off’ fake war — President Trump says he called off a Thursday strike on Iran ordered as retaliation for Iran’s having shot down a US drone. Trump said he cancelled the attack shortly before it was to begin, after he was told 150 people would very likely be killed. [Honestly, does anybody believe any of this crap? Tell me, please, how you get video footage of ‘Iranian terrorists’ fitting mines to oil tankers yet you do nothing about it? Fake war!] 
Tens of millions displaced by violence — A record 70.8 million people had been forcibly displaced by war, persecution and other violence worldwide at the end of 2018, according to the latest annual Global Trends report by the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. This is the highest number in UNHCR history.

Data hypocrisy — Moderating Facebook is an awful job. The details in the report are, at best, a grim account of the dirty and chaotic conditions of the workplace and at worst a disturbing insight into the psychological toll of the job.
Magic Leap info stolen for China — Magic Leap Inc, a US startup that makes a headset to project digital objects onto the real world, accused one of its former engineers of stealing its technology to create his own augmented reality device for China.
UK can’t control ‘horny teens’ — Sources now say the project is “indefinitely delayed” (after being previously delayed twice) and will not in fact be rolling out next month as planned.
Millions of Google Maps listings are fake, but lucrative — Google still can’t seem to stop the proliferation of fictional business listings and aggressive con artists on its search engine.
WeTransfer shared its users’ files with the wrong people — The company not only shared files with the intended recipients, but with random strangers.
Gmail confidential is not confidential — Without end-to-end encryption, Gmail confidential mode is little more than a marketing strategy. Learn why privacy experts call Google’s privacy features “misleading.”
Facebook’s creepy cryptocurrency ambitions — Facebook’s ambitions to create a quasi-nation state ruled by mostly corporate interests is a secret weapon, one the company hopes it can use to create another platform used by billions of people – and generate enormous new revenue streams along the way.

Any good news — The inhabitants of Çatalhöyük, an ancient city founded over 9000 years ago in what is now Turkey, were subject to many urban problems we’re familiar with today, including overcrowding, interpersonal violence and sanitation issues. [But presumably not device addiction.]
More people return wallets than you’d imagine — but having money in the wallet upped the odds.
The world’s population is slowing down and could stop growing, or even begin decreasing, by 2100, according to a United Nations report. [The universe requires us to put a break on all that procreation!]

Futurology ~ Two world, ambitious aliens, pristine comet, bio-plastic, Boaty McB success, wifi bulbs, snail-sticky, lost city life


Two potentially life-friendly planets found orbiting a nearby star — A tiny, old star just 12 light-years away might host two temperate, rocky planets, astronomers have announced. If confirmed, both of the newly spotted worlds are nearly identical to Earth in mass, and both planets are in orbits that could allow liquid water to trickle and puddle on their surfaces.
~ I christen you Puddle and Trickle, then. 

Absence of aliens inspires more ambitions — The Breakthrough Listen project has completed a sweeping search of over 1700 nearby stars for signs of alien technology. Sadly, no evidence of extraterrestrials was found, but the $145 million project took a major leap forward in terms of its ability to continue the search. But those involved intend to try again, with better tools and refined techniques.
~ By ‘refined’ I am guessing they mean those Star Trek and Orville style aliens who almost all, magically, speak English. 

The Comet Interceptor mission will include a mothership and two ‘daughter’ spacecraft — The ESA describes the new Comet Interceptor mission, scheduled for launch in 2028, as unique in that it’ll be our first encounter with a comet making its first trip into the inner solar system. (Americans are less interested in NASA sending humans to the moon or Mars than they are in the US space agency focusing on potential asteroid impacts.)
~ It’s ‘pristine’. 

The Plastic Age — If civilisations are remembered for what they leave behind, our time might be labelled the Plastic Age. Plastic can endure for centuries. It’s everywhere, even in our clothes, from polyester leisure suits to fleece jackets.
A Silicon Valley startup is trying to get the plastic out of clothing and put something else in: biopolymers. Unlike plastic, they can be broken down into natural materials.
~ As long as these clothes don’t start eating their occupants.

Boaty McBoatface plumbs the depths — The British research submarine Boaty McBoatface has made an impressive debut in the scientific arena, discovering a significant link between Antarctic winds and rising sea temperatures on its maiden outing. Its findings have revealed how increasingly strong winds in the region are causing turbulence deep within the sea, mixing warm water from middle levels with colder water in the abyss.
~ The abyss really sounds like no fun at all. 

Wifi-transmitting smart bulbs — Signify (formerly known as Philips Lighting) produces Hue-branded smart lights and has announced a new range of internet-transmitting Li-Fi lights called Truelifi. They’re capable of transmitting data to devices like laptops at speeds of up to 150 Mbps using light waves, rather than the radio signals used by 4G or Wi-Fi.
~ I’ll just beam that data across the office, then. 

Stick like a snail — Scientists have developed an adhesive both sticky and reusable thanks to inspiration from snail mucus. Things stick together thanks to a combination of various microscopic and macroscopic behaviours, influenced by interactions between individual molecules and the shapes of surfaces.
~ Yeah, I was going to say that. 

Lost city teems with life — A black puma was just a taste of the magnificence Larsen and his team would find in the recently discovered lost city in Honduras’ Mosquitia Rainforest. This remote region is teeming with life – some of which was believed extinct.
~ Except this region is subject to very hard-to-control human ravages. 

The Apocalypticon ~ Let’s go to Siberia, Zuckerberg grabs, assorted catastrophes, assorted craziness


Moving to Siberia — Unchecked climate change could make Siberia an oasis capable of sustaining a up to nine times more people in some locations, according to new research. [Here, of course, we have Invercargill.]
So do we all owe Al Gore an apology? [I don’t, I always knew he was right.]
Canada to ban plastics — Canada will ban many single-use plastic items by 2021, including bags, straws, cutlery and stirring sticks, to cut harmful waste damaging the country’s ecosystems.
Americans may be ingesting thousands of microplastics every year — Americans consume between 74,000 and 121,000 plastic particles annually (and that’s likely an underestimate).
But Circulate Capital, the investment management firm that incubates and finances companies involved in plastic waste management in South and Southeast Asia (SSEA), has announced a blended finance partnership with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to combat ocean plastic pollution.
Hydrogen explosion — A hydrogen refuelling station exploded in Norway and the company operating the station has suspended operation at its other locations following the explosion. Now, Toyota and Hyundai are both halting sales of fuel cell vehicles in the country.
Fix — But finally, there’s apparently a climate change documentary that will get you excited to fix it.

Zuckerberg up for grabs — After years of struggle, a man Mark Zuckerberg supports secured a series of disputed properties that lie within the bounds of Zuckerberg’s vast estate in the northeast corner of Kauai in Hawaii. [He’s rich so he gets what he wants.]
Emails dish dirt on Zuck — Facebook Inc. uncovered emails that appear to connect Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg to potentially problematic privacy practices at the company, according to people familiar with the matter.
Deep Fake Zuckerberg — Mark Zuckerberg is famed for looking and acting like a (slightly damp) synthetic being trying to infiltrate human society … so the new Deep Fake of him is uncannily accurate.
Facebook shareholder revolt gets bloody — Powerless investors have voted overwhelmingly to oust Zuckerberg as chairman.
YouTube says it’s ‘too hard’ to ban LCBQT harassment — “I know that the decision that we made was very hurtful to the LGBTQ community,” Wojcicki said. “That was not our intention and we [are] really sorry about that.” Now YouTube’s LGBTQ and allied workers are mobilising to demand a satisfactory response.

Speaking of surveillance — As you shop, ‘beacons’ are watching you using hidden technology in your phone. InMarket tracks 50 million Americans per month.
Russia banning VPNs — Russia is getting closer to implementing the sort of internet regulations that exist under the Great Firewall of China.

In other assorted catastrophes — A 5-year-old has died in Uganda as Ebola spreads from the Democratic Republic Of The Congo.
Nowhere near as news-worthy, but measles is spreading in the US — The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday that 1001 cases of measles have been reported so far in the US throughout 2019.
Boeing wanted to wait three years before fixing the Max — Boeing Company planned to wait three years to fix a non-working safety alert on its 737 Max aircraft and sped up the process only after the first of two deadly crashes involving the planes.
A swarm of meteors is coming — A swarm of meteors heading towards Earth could have the potential to cause a catastrophic impact, a new study from Western Ontario University says.
The Gulf Of Mexico’s ‘Dead Zone’ could balloon to over 20,720 square kilometres (8000 square miles) this summer.
Trump wants to limit aid for low-income Americans — NPR takes a  look at his proposals.

Assorted craziness — Soccer spy app: Spain’s data protection agency has fined La Liga, the nation’s top professional soccer league, 250,000 Euros (US$406,633) for using the league’s phone app to spy on its fans.
Icelandic tap water is a national resource — Iceland is now touting its tap water as a delicacy for tourists and locals alike.
Trump’s most hated journalists speaks — As the most visible reporter to regularly spar with the president, CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta is a disputed icon. Trump has called Acosta a “rude, terrible person” and “fake news.” To many on the right, he represents deep media bias; to some on the left, he represents media pushback against Trump’s frequent lies.
Acosta recounts in his new book, The Enemy of the People: A Dangerous Time to Tell the Truth in America.
InfoWars must pay Pepe The Frog creator $21,500 and never sell Pepe merch again.
Drunken Japanese drone-flyers beware — Operating a drone in Japan while drunk could lead to a year in prison thanks to new legislation.
No pizza for Queen Lizzy — An unnamed Domino’s employee was reportedly stopped by armed guards at Buckingham Palace and caused a bit of a security kerfuffle as he attempted to deliver four large cheeseburger pizzas for “Elizabeth.”

Good news! John Dean, the man whose cool, calm and controversial testimony in the Watergate investigation began the public demolition of President Richard Nixon, has now set his sights on Trump [finally!].
Russian investigative journalist Ivan Golunov is now free, after Russia’s Internal Affairs Ministry said it would drop drug charges [which appear trumped up] against him.
iPhones to block robo-calls — A recently announced iPhone feature arriving with iOS 13, however, might help quiet some of those unknown callers by kicking them straight to voicemail.
Heathrow has got rid of two steps in  security checks! Yay!

Futurology ~ Pentaquark reveal, Europa salt, elastic aerogels, 3D-printed corneas, bullet-proof foam, universal blood, better magnet, better microscope, algo-faces, brief Bronze Age


Large Hadron Collider reveals Pentaquark structure — New results from the world’s largest particle accelerator illuminate the structure of the pentaquark, an exotic particle consisting of five quarks bound together. Researchers observed a baryon bound to a meson, forming a weird new kind of unearthly molecule.
~ Sounds like a Fonterra brand. 

Salt under Europa’s surface — Observations from the Hubble Space Telescope point to the presence of sodium chloride on the surface of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa. This is potential evidence that sodium chloride, otherwise known as table salt, exists within Europa’s subsurface ocean – yet another indication of this moon’s potential to support alien life.
~ Except it’s humans who would be the aliens on Europa. 

Stretchy aerogel — A team of scientists in China has developed a straightforward technique to fabricate super-elastic and fatigue-resistant hard carbon aerogels.
~ Trip the light fantastic.

Better 3D-printed corneas — A research group in South Korea has developed a method to better 3D-print an artificial cornea.
~ Thanks to bio-ink. 

Better bullet-proof steel — A new bulletproofing material developed at North Carolina State University mimics lightweight styrofoam, sidestepping a big issue with bulletproofing: weight. Composite metal foam is  made from hollow metallic spheres surrounded by a matrix that can be made from various types of metals, including titanium or alloys.
~ It has other benefits: better heat dispersion, resistance to various rays etc. 

Type A blood converted to universal donor blood thanks to bacterial enzymes — Hospitals across the United States go through some 16,500 litres (35,000 pints) of donated blood for emergency surgeries, scheduled operations, and routine transfusions. But recipients can’t take just any blood: for a transfusion to be successful, patient and donor blood types must be compatible. Now, researchers analysing bacteria in the human gut have discovered that microbes there produce two enzymes that can convert the common type A into a more universally accepted type.
~ This could revolutionise blood donation and transfusion.

World’s strongest magnet — The National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, or MagLab, at Florida State University runs the world’s strongest continuous magnet for use by scientists, at 45 tesla: that’s around 10 times stronger than a hospital MRI. Now, researchers at the lab have announced a 45.5-tesla magnet. Not a huge jump, but it paves the way for even stronger magnets based on the principles of superconductivity.
~ Now that is attractive. 

Better microscope — Researchers have combined laser techniques and an ingenious detection scheme in order to create a powerful new molecule-imaging system—a quicker, easier way to determine the identity of microscopic molecules. Basically, it’s an advanced yet surprisingly simple microscope.
~ I see. 

Algorithm generates fairly accurate faces from voices — MIT researchers published a paper last month called Speech2Face: Learning the Face Behind a Voice which explores how an algorithm can generate a face based on a short audio recording of that person. It’s not an exact depiction of the speaker, but based on images in the paper, the system was able to create an image with accurate gender, race, and age.
~ I can often do that by looking at someone. Grin. 

British Bronze Age settlement lasted just a year — A remarkably well-preserved Bronze Age settlement dubbed the ‘British Pompeii’ was destroyed by fire around a year after it was constructed, according to new research. It’s one of many new findings that’s shedding light on the 3000-year-old community and the people who called it home – albeit it for a short time.
~ Oh, they were Hobbits? 

The Apocalypticon ~ No more humans from 2050, Ladybuggeration, Dastardly data, evil unbound


High likelihood of human civilisation coming to an end starting in 2050 — A harrowing scenario-analysis of how human civilisation might collapse in coming decades due to climate change has been endorsed by a former Australian defence chief and senior royal navy commander.
Ladybuggeration — An 80 by 129km blob in the atmosphere, chugging toward San Diego in the US, turned out to be a massive ‘bloom’ of ladybugs . It was densest in a 16km mass in the middle and could be seen by people as flying specks from the ground.
Completely catastrophic’ flooding (and tariffs) causing chaos for US farmers — Weeks of rain across the Midwest and the Great Plains have kept many farmers from planting crops. Surging rivers have broken levees, flooded fields and brought barge traffic to a halt on some of the nation’s biggest waterways.
Training a single AI model can emit as much carbon as five cars in their lifetimes — With the artificial-intelligence industry often compared to the oil industry, now it seems the metaphor may extend even further. Like its fossil-fuel counterpart, the process of deep learning has an outsize environmental impact.
The gyre is terrible, but microplastics are through all the oceans to a much greater degree — And it’s throughout the maritime food chain right up to us. 

Dastardly data — You might expect Homer Simpson to hand over personal details in exchange for a donut, but not cybersecurity professionals. But they do.
The US House Intelligence Committee will next week examine the risks posed by deepfakes, artificial intelligence technology that can create realistic-looking fake videos, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said. [A deepfake is an artful, digitally constructed fake, by contrast to Donald Trump, who is just a shallow fake.]
Schiff: “And this may be the future we are heading into, and when you combine that with the fact that we already have a President of the United States who says the things that are real – like the Access Hollywood tape – are fake, and things that are fake – like the Pelosi tape – he pushes out as real; when he has a presidential lawyer saying truth isn’t truth, and a spokesperson, Kellyanne Conway, saying they are entitled to their own alternate facts.”
Police order phone unlocking, but … A Florida man was thrown in jail for 44 days for refusing to unlock two iPhones in his possession during a traffic stop!
The Russian government has added dating service Tinder to a government database that legally forces the company to hand over user data and private communications to the country’s law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
NSA recommends updating Microsoft software — A critical Windows security vulnerability known as BlueKeep was revealed and fixed a few weeks ago, with Microsoft repeatedly begging users of older Windows versions to make sure their machines were updated. The NSA agreed: “Although Microsoft has issued a patch, potentially millions of machines are still vulnerable,” the NSA wrote.

Evil abounds — Piracy is ethically acceptable, according to many Harvard lawyers. This is the conclusion of an intriguing new study conducted among Harvard lawyers by Professor Dariusz Jemielniak and Dr Jérôme Hergueux.
Tesla tries to stop its workers communicating — Blind is an anonymous social network that has been used by tech workers to speak freely about grievances related to the workplace, among other concerns. Thousands of Tesla employees have signed up for the service, but now the company is reportedly trying to suppress its workers from joining the network.
Drug company’s paltry fine for 1 billion dollar scandal — Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals has announced the company expects to pay $15.4 million in a settlement with the US. Justice Department after allegations that Questcor Pharmaceuticals, which Mallinckrodt acquired in 2014, had bribed doctors and their staff to prescribe an incredibly expensive drug.
Troubling study to monitor social media against suicide — Northumbria University in the UK has announced it will surveil student social media posts, among other data, to try and determine whether students are suicidal. The project is part of a pilot program and will reportedly be deployed across all British institutions if it works as intended.
YouTube bravely bans Nazis hours after throwing LGBT users under the bigot bus — That headline says it all, really …
Boeing reports up to 148 parts for its aircraft were ‘improperly manufactured‘ — But hey, the profits! Even the payouts to the families of 346 dead people won’t come close.

Image: izusek via Getty Images

 

 

 

 

 

 

A little good news — Princess Cruise Lines fined — It and its parent company Carnival Corporation has agreed to pay a $20 million criminal penalty for environmental violations. Princess Cruise Lines has already paid $40 million over other deliberate acts of pollution including systematic dumping gf plastics and oil at sea.
And Microsoft has discreetly wiped its massive facial recognition database.

Apple Mac, iPhone & iPad news for New Zealanders

%d bloggers like this: