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.

Futurology ~ 10-million-light-year connection, self-repairing recharge, human mosaics, pumping heart patch, Justinian’s plague, medical Salamander goo,


A ‘pumping’ patch containing millions of living, beating stem cells could help repair the damage caused by heart attacks

Mysterious, 10-million-light-year-long magnetic field connects two galaxy clusters — Scientists have detected radio waves emanating from the space between a pair of galaxy clusters—evidence of intergalactic magnetic fields and fast-moving particles in the space between these giant galactic assemblages. Even more mysteriously, the feature the scientists detected is tens of times longer than the distance that a relativistic electron can travel in its lifetime.
~ It’s pizza delivery!

Self-repairing rechargeables — Researchers in Japan have developed a self-repairing material that could extend the lifespan of batteries. Professor Atsuo Yamada at the University of Tokyo, Japan, has invented an oxygen redox-layered oxide (Na2RuO3) that could allow rechargeable batteries to last much longer as it’s self-repairing.
~ OK, next I want self-recharging. 

Accumulated mutations create a cellular mosaic in our bodies — Mutations, most of them harmless, accumulate in our tissues over a lifetime. The subtle genetic variations in cells make humans a mosaic. Your body has about 40 trillion cells which all arose from a single fertilised egg. But the DNA in many of those cells is no longer a perfect clone of that original one.
~ So it It turns out you aren’t simply a clone of the cells you started with.

Pumping heart patch — A ‘pumping’ patch containing millions of living, beating stem cells could help repair the damage caused by heart attacks, according to researchers.
Sewn on to the heart, the 3cm (1in) by 2cm patch, grown in a lab from a sample of the patient’s own cells, then turns itself into healthy working muscle.
~ Rabbits recommend …

Ancient plague bacteria sequenced — Scientists have gained some insight into one of the first known calamities to visit mankind: a two century-long pandemic caused by the bacterial disease plague. Studying the remains of plague victims, the researchers say they were able to sequence the genomes of plague strains that devastated the Roman Empire starting in the 6th century. They also found direct evidence the plague’s destruction made it as far as England.
~ Maybe this item belongs in The Apocalypticon. 

Salamander goo makes amazing medical glue — When Chinese giant salamanders are injured, they discharge white mucus from glands on their skin. New research shows this sticky salamander goo makes an excellent medical glue, sealing wounds and encouraging them to heal. Using the glue, scientists were able to close bleeding skin incisions in less than 30 seconds.
~ Current medical glues make wounds hot, they’re not elastic enough and can be toxic. 

The Apocalypticon ~ New heights of rubbish


Tribal Climate Emergency — An indigenous community in Canada’s Yukon territory, where the planet is warming fastest, recently declared a climate emergency. In fact, they are the first indigenous peoples to do so — and that’s major.

Killing yourself eating — If you’re living somewhere that’s not warming as fast, you could be killing yourself by what you eat, instead. Heavily processed food like ready meals and ice-cream linked to early death. Obese seniors, by the way, have a higher risk of experiencing physical limitations in old age.

Speaking of rubbish — Malaysia is shipping thousands of tons of the world’s plastic rubbish back to where it came from, the food delivery trend in China is drowning the country in plastic and US parents are spending thousands on YouTube camps that teach kids how to be famous [a new height of vacuity].

Thought garbage — The San Francisco Police Officers’ Association is calling for the city’s police chief, William Scott, to resign over the raid of a freelance journalist’s home and office.
Uber posts massive losses while under-paying its drivers as its CEO takes home $75 million a year. Uber posted losses of $1 billion over the previous quarter, more or less matching investor expectations, because sending the GDP of Vanuatu off a cliff every three months is Uber’s current business model, more or less.
IBM has been flogging the latest facial recognition tech to a dictatorship, fake LinkedIn profiles are undetectable, Indian parents agonise over the radicalisation of their kids,

In good (?) news, single women are happier and live longer, London police officers were called to investigate a “possible unexploded device” washed onto the bank of the River Thames and found a giant Christmas decoration and New Zealand has introduced the Global Impact Visa which is as much about intellectual renewal and generating positive vibes as economic impact.

Futurology ~ Alien rock, purifying membrane, hearing aid, Titanium bodies, transparent batteries, 1884 electric car, ancient beers, jurassic fish school


Graphene may be leading to better, and even transparent, batteries

Ancient Extra-Terrestrial rock —Geologists in France and Italy have spotted what appear to be organic molecules from outer space in 3.3-billion-year-old rocks in South Africa, according to a new study.
Organic molecules, from methane to amino acids, exist in space. Perhaps some of these molecules were brought to our own planet via carbon-containing asteroids. Scientists studying ancient rock in South Africa seem to have uncovered evidence of the oldest examples yet of these extraterrestrial molecules.
~ Or were you hoping for music? 

Fabric purifies water — A team of scientists in China has found a way to purify water contaminated with pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs). Their findings are published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.
~ Dare I ask what they plan to do with the then-contaminated membranes? 

Improvement for hearing aids — Researchers at Columbia University had the opportunity to work with epilepsy patients undergoing repeated brain surgeries to test out a new approach to improving how hearing aids work. Using data gathered from electrodes implanted directly into the volunteers’ brains, they found that their brain wave activities tended to naturally mirror the speech patterns of a specific person they were focusing on and listening to, even when other voices were competing for attention. It’s this unique behaviour of the brain that researchers believe could be the key to radically improving the effectiveness of hearing aids.
~ The confusion of a multiplicity of voices …

We can build you from Titanium — Titanium is a silver-coloured metal valued for its low density, high strength, and resistance to corrosion. Relatively low-cost precision 3D printing is becoming a game-changer for titanium as designers can create amazing shapes, including structural body parts.
~ Titanium is a very biocompatible metal.

Almost-transparent batteries — Scientists in South Korea have developed a transparent and flexible battery using single-layered graphene. Advances in materials science and electronics are bringing such gadgets closer to reality. Graphene, a one-dimensional layer of carbon atoms in a hexagonal arrangement, has unique electrical and optical properties, making it ideal for use in electronic displays and devices.
~ Imagine a wholly-transparent smartphone. 

Electric car c1884 — Thomas Parker was a British genius inventor who revolutionised several aspects of life in England. He was once described as “the Edison of Europe” because of the things he was able to accomplish. He even built an effective electric car.
~ He had well aware how bad coal and gas were for the environment. 

Ancient beers revived — A self-proclaimed beer archaeologist, Rupp has traveled the world in search of clues as to how ancient civilisations made and consumed beer. With Avery Brewing Co, he has concocted eight of them in a series called Ales of Antiquity. The brews are served in Avery’s restaurant and tasting room.
~ Viking beer, anyone? 

Ancient school of fish — An exquisite fossil of photographic-like quality shows nearly 260 tiny fish swimming together in what appears to be coordinated group action. The 50-million-year-old fossil is evidence that fish have been swimming together in shoals for a very long time.
~ An enduring lesson, then. 

New iPod touch is twice as fast


(Image: Apple Inc)

Featuring Support for Group FaceTime and AR Experiences — Apple has today introduced the new iPod touch with enhancements to power, capability and communication at a remarkable price. The Apple-designed A10 Fusion chip brings improved performance in games, and for the first time on iPod, immersive augmented reality (AR) experiences and Group FaceTime, making it easy to chat with family members, friends or colleagues simultaneously. The new iPod touch is available to order on apple.com/nz and in the Apple Store app starting today and in stores later this week.
iPod touch comes in a new 256GB capacity, giving plenty of space to download music for offline listening through Apple Music or the iTunes Store. With Apple Music, subscribers can access a catalogue of over 50 million songs, thousands of playlists, Beats 1 Radio and daily editorial selections from the world’s best music experts. Subscribers can create their own playlists, watch music videos, listen to exclusive Beats 1 shows from their favourite artists on demand and share music with their friends. Now available in over 100 countries, Apple Music offers the most comprehensive music experience ever.
iOS is the world’s largest gaming platform, and with three times faster graphics, games on the new iPod touch run even smoother and look even more beautiful. This spring gamers can look forward to Apple Arcade, a game subscription service with over 100 new and exclusive games with no ads or additional purchases, and the ability to download games for offline play. Apple Arcade is the perfect complement to the already enormously popular catalogue of free games on the App Store.
The new iPod touch also provides fun and productive AR experiences across gaming, education and web browsing. AR is even more engaging and immersive with the new capabilities of shared AR, persistent AR, which is tied to a specific location, and image detection, making it possible for the new iPod touch to magically bring to life 3D objects like toys and sculptures.

Pricing and Availability — The new iPod touch starts at NZ$349 inc. GST for the 32GB model, NZ$549 inc. GST for the 128GB model and NZ$749 inc. GST for the 256GB model from apple.com/nz, in the Apple Store app, and is also available through select Apple Authorised Resellers (prices may vary). iPod touch is available in six finishes; space grey, white, gold, blue, pink and (PRODUCT)RED.
The new iPod touch models are available to order starting today from apple.com/nz and in the Apple Store app in New Zealand, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the UAE, UK and US.

The Apocalypticon ~ The US, China, the word, the Persistence of Chaos, volunteers


America the Great — No relief: Texas House Republican Republican Chip Roy has blocked a $19.1 billion disaster aid bill because it didn’t include provisions for boosting border security. [So if you suffered in a disaster, tough.]
Outbreak suspends processing —US Customs and Border Protection temporarily suspended intake at the McAllen Central Processing Center, the largest migrant processing center in South Texas, after the outbreak of what the agency calls “a flu-related illness…” This is where hundreds of people are kept together in fenced pens, frigid holding cells or sleep outside in the parking lot.
Trump authorises evidence hiding — Trump has authorised Attorney General William Barr to “declassify, downgrade, or direct the declassification or downgrading of information or intelligence” related to the origins of the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, according to an official order.
Democrats split on impeachment — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will convene a meeting Wednesday morning to hear from Democrats on whether to move forward with impeachment proceedings against President Trump.
Inside Google’s ‘civil war‘ — 20,000 Google employees in 50 cities around the world had joined their colleagues to protest the company’s handling of sexual harassment.
Amazon goes all Black Mirror on its worker drones — Amazon is currently experimenting with a pilot program that turns warehouse jobs into a sort of video game, a system the company claims is meant to break up the monotony of the day-to-day tasks required of its workers but has, conveniently, led to competition among employees to outperform their colleagues. [Mr Orwell, please come back.]
The man who oversaw the US nuclear industry now thinks it should be banned Gregory Jaczko served on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission from 2005 to 2009, and as its chairman from 2009 to 2012.
US birth rate hits 32-year low — Americans are continuing to have fewer and fewer children, according to a new government report released this week.
Baltimore hacked into services blackout — Anonymous hackers breached the city of Baltimore’s servers two weeks ago. Since then, those servers’ digital content has been locked away – and the online aspects of running the city are at an impasse.

The Persistence of Chaos — A computer infested with six of the word’s most infamous viruses is being sold as an art piece called ‘The Persistence of Chaos.’ The auction has already topped US$1 million.
Ukraine’s new president, former(?) comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy , has been sworn into office and immediately said one of his first actions will be to dissolve parliament.
“Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem,” quoted Zelenskiy in his inauguration speech.

Around the whirled — Is Earth heading for overpopulation? If so, what does that mean? Gizmodo investigates.
More pile-ons for Huawei — A Huawei executive was involved in a plot to steal trade secrets, claims California-based electronics startup CNEX Labs.
Ford slashes — Ford is eliminating about 7000 white-collar jobs – or about 10% of its salaried workforce – as part of a previously announced companywide global restructuring.
Trumps amps Middle Eastern military presence — President Trump has ordered some 1500 troops to the Gulf region to serve a “mostly protective” purpose for American forces and interests.
Indonesian presidential opponents spit the dummy — Confirmation of Indonesian President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo’s reelection win has set off violence in Jakarta, where at least six people died after protests morphed into riots in the capital. Widodo’s challenger, retired right-wing military general Prabowo Subianto, is refusing to concede the race. [Coz if you don’t get what you want, try and burn democracy down.]
Indonesia then became the latest nation to hit the hammer on social media after the government restricted the use of WhatsApp and Instagram following deadly riots.
China secretly boosts damaging emissions — Since 2013, annual emissions of a banned chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) have increased by around 7000 tonnes from eastern China, according to new research published in Nature.

Any good news? A solution to loneliness could be volunteering. New Zealand’s National Volunteer Week celebrates the collective contribution of the 1.2 million volunteers who enrich Aotearoa. This year it runs from June 16-22. Look for events near you (I know MOTAT has plans).

Futurology ~ Pristine Ultima Thule, lopsided moon, student space, warm superconductor, Civil War medicinals, wood wide web


USC students were the first such group to launch a rocket into space

How pristine Ultima Thule is — New Horizons mission scientists have released the first peer-reviewed results from their study of 2014 MU69, demonstrating just how “pristine” this object is. Around 16kms across, it orbits the Sun at a distance of around 6.5 billion km (Pluto orbits at around 5.9 billion km). It seems to have remained relatively unaltered from the solar system’s earliest era, and it already presented some surprises when the New Horizon spacecraft transmitted its first images back — and now, those first results are published and vetted.
But things are just getting started for this team.
~ Never have ‘coalescing pebbles’ seemed so interesting. 

Lopsided Moon — Our Moon features a nearside and far side with dramatically different geological features. This anomaly has puzzled scientists for years, but new computer simulations suggest the Moon’s asymmetric disposition can be traced back to an ancient collision with another object – possibly a dwarf planet.
~ The far side crust was about 10 kilometres thicker than the crust on the near side. 

Student rocket reaches space — The USC team’s successful launch represents one of several groups of college students across the United States and Europe that have been racing to send a rocket above the Kármán line, the imaginary boundary that separates Earth’s atmosphere and space.
~ The collegial space race.

Room-temp superconductor — A team of physicists has published peer-reviewed results documenting near-room-temperature superconductivity in the hydrogen-rich compound lanthanum hydride.
~ That means power savings, and lower AC costs.

Near-room-temp superconductor — In the most recent paper, researchers placed a piece of lanthanum into an insulating ring, then placed it into a box full of pressurised hydrogen gas.
~ Damn, I was going to do that. 

American Civil War medicinal plants — With conventional medicines in short supply during the Civil War, the Confederacy turned to plant-based alternatives in desperation. New research suggests some of these remedies were actually quite good at fighting off infections – a finding that could lead to effective new drugs.
~ This from an amazingly thorough compendium first published in 1863.

Trees are connected underground — Millions of species of fungi and bacteria swap nutrients between soil and the roots of trees, forming a vast, interconnected web of organisms throughout the woods. Scientists have now mapped this ‘wood wide web‘ on a global scale, using a database of more than 28,000 tree species in over 70 countries.
~ More complexities to discover.

The Apocalypticon ~ Collapse of nature, the US, Trump and all that, food killing, suicides rising, sadder music, Tesla auto-death, ebola worsens, coal fail


How to prevent nature’s collapse — Scientists warned last week that a million species could go extinct, and it’s all our fault. ‘Our’ fault as in humanity’s. Gizmodo has some suggestions.
Carbon in the atmosphere hits record — Scientists recorded the first ever carbon dioxide reading above 415 parts per million (ppm) at the Mauna Loa Observatory. They’ve been measuring carbon dioxide levels continuously since 1958 at that location, but ice cores and other data show that it’s not just the highest carbon dioxide has been in 61 years of data. It’s the highest its ever been 800,000 years of data
Startling El Nino — Australian scientists have developed an innovative method using cores drilled from coral to produce a world first 400-year long seasonal record of El Niño events, a record that many in the field had described as impossible to extract. And clearly, Central Pacific El Niño activity increased in the late 20th Century.
Ice loss — a quarter of the ice sheets in West Antarctica, the most vulnerable part of the continent, have destabilised. Ice loss has sped up fivefold across the region’s most imperilled glaciers in just 25 years.
Remote islands strangled in plastic — a marine biologist from Australia traveled to a remote string of islands in the Indian Ocean to see how much plastic waste had washed up on the beaches, and found “373,000 toothbrushes and around 975,000 shoes, largely flip-flops,” says Jennifer Lavers of the University of Tasmania in Australia. And that’s not all: more than 414 million pieces of plastic debris are estimated to be currently sitting on the Cocos Keeling Islands, weighing a remarkable 238 tons.

US will not sign Christchurch call against online extremism — The US will not sign onto the Christchurch call to action against online extremism expected to be released Wednesday, citing concerns that the pact would violate free speech protections in the First Amendment, the Washington Post reports.
Is it because terrorists buy guns, and that’s profitable? A series of internal National Rifle Association documents leaked online have detailed lavish six-figure spending on clothing and travel expenses for CEO Wayne LaPierre. [Quick, right wing morons, donate more money!]
Mueller cover-up — If lawmakers eventually win, they — and potentially us — could learn more about what Mueller uncovered during his roughly 22-month investigation.
Trump welcomes hard-right Hungarian — President Trump has hosted Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban at the White House , a gesture the past two US presidents avoided granting to the hard-right European leader.
Navy SEAL gets hacked and tracked — Military prosecutors in the case of a US navy Seal charged with killing an Islamic State prisoner in Iraq in 2017 installed tracking software in emails sent to defence lawyers and a reporter in an apparent attempt to discover who was leaking information to the media, according to lawyers who said they received the corrupted messages.

Ultra-processed foods is killing people — Over the past 70 years, ultra-processed foods have come to dominate the US diet. They are made from cheap industrial ingredients and engineered to be super-tasty and generally high in fat, sugar and salt. The rise of ultra-processed foods has coincided with growing rates of obesity, leading many to suspect that they’ve played a big role in our growing waistlines. A new study suggests yes, it is.

Girl suicides rising — The number of people dying by suicide in the US has been rising, and a new study shows that the suicide rate among young teenage girls has been increasing faster than it has for boys of the same age.

Music getting sadder — Today’s music expresses an even deeper unhappiness than the songs of the past is the conclusion of two recent analyses examining thousands of US and UK hits from the last few decades.

Another Tesla autopilots into a death — In March, a Tesla Model 3 crashed into a semi-truck turning onto a Florida highway, killing the driver. After a preliminary investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board has concluded Autopilot, Tesla’s semi-autonomous driving technology, was engaged at the time of the fatal crash.

Second worst Ebola outbreak kills higher percentage — The current outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has infected 1720 and killed 1136, giving the viral disease a whopping 66% fatality rate. The situation is making public health experts on the ground increasingly nervous.

Fourth-largest coal producer in the US files for bankruptcy Wasn’t Trump going to save coal? [Take. Make. Use. Lose.]

Futurology ~ Moon’s mantle, selenium solar, living artificial DNA, printed organoids, inflatable weight-loss, new bio-glue, amber surprise


An incredible 99-million-year-old chunk of amber contains several trapped marine gastropods

Chinese moon rover finds geological evidence — Lying just beneath the cratered, desolate crust, the moon’s upper mantle is thought to be the frozen remnant of a vast magma ocean that existed more than 4 billion years ago. A Chinese mission has discovered signs of mantle material at the moon’s surface, effectively setting an X on lunar maps for future explorers seeking this not-so-buried geological treasure.
~ Not everybody is convinced, though. 

Researchers solve scientific puzzle that could improve solar panel efficiency — A Loughborough University Ph.D. student has helped shed light on a solar panel puzzle that could lead to more efficient devices being developed. Tom Fiducia has helped figure out how adding selenium assists improves efficiency.
~ And duralium?

World’s first living organism with fully redesigned DNA created —
Scientists have created the world’s first living organism that has a fully synthetic and radically altered DNA code. The bug’s existence proves *life can exist with a restricted genetic code and paves the way for organisms whose biological machinery is commandeered to make drugs and useful materials, or to add new features such as virus resistance.
~ *I thought Trump already proved that. 

3D-printed paper organs — Using a 3D printer, an international team of scientists has generated functional organoids that better mimic organs in the body. A 2D layer of cells is a poor substitute for the much more complex 3D structure of tissues in organs. Organs also contain supporting cells, including nerves, blood vessels and connective tissues, which are not adequately represented by 2D cell culture.
~ Organoids … good name for a band. 

Self-inflating weight-loss pill — Today, moderately obese patients and those who are too ill to undergo surgery can opt for the intragastric balloon, an established weight loss intervention that has to be inserted into the stomach via endoscopy under sedation. It is removed six months later via the same procedure. Being invasive, the treatment is not suitable for all patients, but now there’s a prototype capsule containing a balloon that can be self-inflated with a handheld magnet once it is in the stomach.
~ Ah, but can you make a balloonanimal out of it? 

New bio-glue is activated with light — A new bio-glue (an experimental adhesive gel activated by a flash of light) has been proven to stop high pressure bleeding in the hearts of pigs.
~ Pigs go wild celebrating …

99-million-year-old amber holds saline surprise — An incredible 99-million-year-old chunk of amber contains several trapped marine gastropods, including an extinct ammonite.
~ Clearly they were tree-climbing sea life. 

The Apocalypticon ~ Royal baby, traditions; fat farmers; Infowars, info and wars; Facebook; plague in Mongolia; USA; Climate change; anti-vaxxer pox


Aw, a baby! Even better, a royal baby, born into a family that doesn’t have to do anything apart from act like they deserve it to get loads of tax payers’ dollars. So as a breath of polluted air, Gizmodo ran a story called ‘Here’s How Screwed By Climate Change The UK Will Be When The Royal Baby Turns 18.’
Talking about hallowed old traditions — Eugenics and anti-immigration laws of the past still resonate today, according to journalist Daniel Okrent. He sees echos of the 1924 act in President Trump’s hard-line stance regarding immigration. [I just see recurring short-sighted stupidity, but what do I know?]
Here’s another: farmers are slimmer and fitter than city dwellers — Not so, though. Comprehensively not so: over 1000 researchers representing the Non-Communicable Disease Coalition analysed 2009 studies of more than 112 million adults from 200 countries. The study found that global averages are creeping up for everyone — but faster for rural residents. [I guess riding around all day in a ute or on a quad-bike is not quite the same as old-time farming.]

Sword-missile — Seriously, imagine a drone-fired missile that doesn’t explode, but slices you up instead. It’s real: the RX9 redefines ‘surgical strike‘.

Infowars, info and wars— When you check your Alexa dialogue history, you can see text next to the recordings like “How’s the Weather” and “Set an Alarm.” Amazon lets you delete those voice recordings, but this gives you a false sense of privacy because the company still has that data as text logs of the transcribed audio, with no option for you to delete them. [I love how Zuckerberg and his ilk are now trying to sell you privacy: first they take it away, and then they offer it back as a commodity you can purchase to make them even richer.]
Facebook co-founder says break Facebook up — Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes just published a lengthy and extremely convincing argument for breaking up Mark Zuckerberg’s empire. Hughes warned that Zuckerberg’s power to censor and control speech on the Facebook platform, where the vast majority of the social media activity takes place, along with WhatsApp and Instagram which he also controls (WhatsApp has 1.6 billion active monthly users; Instagram 1 billion), is something that lawmakers should take more seriously. [Jeeze, you reckon?]
Surprise! Uber systematically exploits workers — Studies have repeatedly found that after fees and expenses, Uber drivers make less than minimum wage in major markets. One found that half of all Uber drivers in Washington, DC lived below the poverty line. Meanwhile the CEO took in US$72 million last year. [In NZ, I seriously recommend you switch to Olla and /or Zoomy if you can, which at least keep the profits here.]
AI smart-locks locked people in — Five tenants in Hell’s Kitchen sued their landlord in March after the owners installed a Latch smart lock on the building last year. It is unlocked with a smartphone, and reportedly granted tenants access to the lobby, elevator, and mail room. But the group that sued their landlords saw this keyless entry as harassment, an invasion of privacy, and simply inconvenient. [Latch’s privacy policy indicates that the company collects and stores user information, including someone’s GPS location. In other words, Latch’s ‘privacy policy’ ensures you don’t have any.]
AI gun detection — Tech company Athena Security believes its smart security cameras can prevent attacks like the tragedy in Christchurch, and says it plans to install its AI-powered systems in mosques around the world. [I wish them good luck in Iraq.]

Thousand-year-old part drug kit — Archaeologists in the Bolivian Andes discovered a 1000-year-old ritual bundle that was basically a stash of drug paraphernalia. It contained traces of five different psychoactive substances, including cocaine and the active ingredients found in ayahuasca. [Party like it’s 999 …]

Bubonic plague strikes in Mongolia — In Mongolia, a couple died of bubonic plague on May 1 after reportedly hunting marmots. These are large rodents that can harbour the bacterium that causes the disease.

USA — Infamous Russian agents’ actions described: Newly obtained documents describe what happened when two now-infamous Russians took their outreach campaign into the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve in 2015.

(IImage from The Atlantic)

Climate change — Ice collapses, world quails, Trump regime cheers: A rational person looking at the collapse of the Arctic as we’ve known it for at least 115,000 years would see an ecological and humanitarian crisis. For the Trump administration, it’s just another business opportunity and chance to peddle climate denial. In sum, Pompeo said that climate change isn’t happenihappiness training happinessng, but also that it is but that’s actually good because it’s melting the Arctic, but also that the US has reduced emissions which is also good … yeah.
Renewable energy stalls — Installations of renewable energy plateaued in 2018 for the first time in nearly two decades of record keeping. Even if it’s just a temporary hiccup, a pause in installations is an extremely worrisome sign about the world’s ambition to address climate change.
But: Britain passed one week without coal power for first time since 1882. 

In good news: anti vaxxer twit gets chickenpox: 18-year-old Jerome Kunkel and his family filed a lawsuit against the health department that banned non-vaccinated kids from attending school. The suit claimed the vaccine violated his religious beliefs because the cell line used as the base of the chickenpox vaccine was derived from foetuses that had been aborted. Now he has chickenpox. [Well, I guess it can’t make him any dumber.]
Finally, you can train yourself 8 points to help you enjoy things: you can be taught to have a more positive attitude. And, if you work at it, a positive outlook can lead to less anxiety and depression.

Futurology ~ lasering missiles, carbon-sucking AC, desalination, breakthrough, endlessly recyclable plastic, beetle fire detectors, cancer nanomedicine, arsenic breathers, undersea archaeology


Scientists plan to drop grabs to find archaeological artefacts from a small sample range under the sea

US Air Force lasers missiles — The Force reckons it successfully used a ground-based surrogate for its laser weapons project, the Self-Protect High-Energy Laser Demonstrator (SHiELD), to shoot down multiple air-launched missiles during a test at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
~ A ground-based surrogate’? You mean the Air Force pretended to shoot down missiles with a laser? What did they use, a laser pointer? 

AC to suck carbon out of the sky — Researchers with the Institute for Micro Process Engineering in Germany have dreamt up a world where air conditioners don’t make climate change worse, but rather suck carbon out of the air.
~ It’s always seemed bizarre to me that you would help warm the planet just to cool down your own little apartment. 

Game-changing way to desalinate water — Temperature Swing Solvent Extraction is designed to purify hypersaline brines (water that contains a high concentration of salts, making it up to seven times as salty as seawater). This kind of waste water is produced by industrial processes and during oil and gas production, and it poses a major pollution risk to groundwater. The game changing part is this can occur at much lower temperatures than previous methods allowed.
~ I wonder if they considered just adding pepper for a cordon bleu solution? 

Endlessly Recyclable Plastic — A team from Berkeley Lab, California  has developed a method to create a new type of plastic that can be broken down at the molecular level to create new plastic without any deterioration in quality.
~ Erp …

Beetles detect oil fires — Pyrophilous jewel beetles approach forest fires and there is considerable evidence these beetles can detect fires from great distances of more than 60 km. Melanophila beetles are equipped with infrared receptors so they are also attracted by hot surfaces: it can be concluded that these infrared receptors are used for fire detection.
~ Fire Service, get your beetles out! 

Nanomeds slip through the cracks to fight cancer — Scientists in Japan have devised a nanoparticle carrier for siRNA that can access hard-to-reach tumours, such as those of the pancreas and the brain. Due to their small size of less than 20 nanometers, the YBCs are able to squeeze into hard-to-reach tumours.
~ Well, it’s working for mice so far, anyway. 

Arsenic breathers deep n the sea — Arsenic is toxic to almost all life forms, but now researchers at the University of Washington have discovered that some microbes in the Pacific Ocean not only tolerate the stuff, but actively breathe it. The discovery has implications for how life may adapt to a changing climate, as well as where we might find it on other planets.
~ Poisson breathing poison: well I never. 

Fishing for stone age settlers — Lost at the bottom of the North Sea almost eight millennia ago, a vast land area between England and southern Scandinavia which was home to thousands of stone age settlers is about to be rediscovered. The area was submerged when thousands of cubic miles of sub-Arctic ice started to melt and sea levels began to rise.
~ North Sea fishing crews have discovered archaeological artefacts in their nets.

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