Futurology ~ Space fission, moon ice, feeling robot, graphene-create, sound camera, new humans, HIV, ancient Philippines


Evidence of lunar water may actually exist right here on Earth in the form of moganite trapped within lunar meteorites

Successful nuclear fission test for space use — NASA and the US Department of Energy say they have successfully tested a new type of nuclear reactor that could one day provide juice to colonies on other worlds. The reactor can power several homes (it outputs about 10 kilowatts) and appears able to operate in harsh environments. The new reactor uses more-conventional uranium fuel with a core about the size of a paper towel roll, the reactor can turn pistons that can run a generator.
Scientists believe it could run continuously for a decade or so, making deep space travel a lot simpler. They also gave it a catchy acronym: KRUSTY, which stands for Kilopower Reactor Using Stirling TechnologY.
~ Well, I like the acronym. It’s certainly better than ‘the Kilopower’!

Africa, meteorite, moon ice — Scientists have discovered traces of moganite in a lunar meteorite that was discovered 13 years ago in Africa. This mineral requires water to form, so its discovery is being taken as potential confirmation that frozen water exists beneath the Moon’s dusty surface.
~ ‘Potential confirmation’ sounds like Trumpian Newspeak. 

Pinhead robot lets you feel objects — Researchers at Stanford University have come up with a way for your hands and fingers to feel virtual objects with a unique robot that looks like an animated version of those Pin Art toys.
ShapeShift looks like a small desktop PC augmented with a dense grid of rectangular pins on top. When it’s moved around on a flat surface such as a table, a tracking marker syncs the location of the ShapeShift box to the location of the user’s hands in a virtual reality world.
~ But is that distant kitten fluffy?

A better concrete with graphene — In a recent study, University of Exeter’s Center for Graphene Science used nanoengineering technology to add graphene to concrete production. The resulting graphene concrete is two times stronger than traditional concrete and four times as water resistant, but with a much smaller carbon footprint compared to the conventional process of making concrete. The addition of graphene cuts back on the amount of materials needed in concrete production by nearly 50% and reduces carbon emissions by 446kg per ton.
~ Concrete production emits that much carbon? Crikey!

Sound camera — CAE Systems’ SOUNDCAM, currently making its way through a Kickstarter campaign, doesn’t generate images using only noise. What it does do is show you where sound is emanating from via its rear touchscreen and includes distance info and other interesting data.
~ Er, so now I rename my ears ‘SoundCams’? Coz they do the same thing. 

Human cells impervious to viruses — Two years ago, a consortium of scientists, lawyers, and entrepreneurs announced a plan to synthesise an artificial human genome from scratch – an extremely ambitious endeavour that’s struggled to secure funding. Project organisers have now disclosed details of a scaled-down version of the venture, but with a goal that’s still quite audacious: creating human cells invulnerable to infections.
~ Hey, ultra rich, the future just looks better and better for you. 

HIV antibody drug — A team led by scientists from the University of Hong Kong has developed a new antibody drug that will not only protect people from contracting HIV but also serve as a long-acting treatment for the virus, unlike current medication that must be taken daily.
~ Good news.

Ancient Philippine humans hunted rhino — Our species, Homo sapiens, weren’t the first humans to leave Africa by a long shot. The remarkable discovery of a 709,000-year-old butchered rhino fossil in the Philippines shows that so-called archaic humans were romping around the islands of southeast Asia a full 400,000 years before our species even existed.
~ I wonder what that tasted like. Tough?

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The Apocalypticon ~ Your data, killer DNA, killer animals, North Korean collapse, Polish Christ sprouts antennae, Zuckerberg for laughs


Who has more of your personal data than Facebook? Try Google — Facebook may be in the hot seat right now for its collection of personal data without our knowledge or explicit consent, but as The Wall Street Journal points out, “Google is a far bigger threat by many measures: the volume of information it gathers, the reach of its tracking and the time people spend on its sites and apps.” [OMG I have been telling people for YEARS about how bad Google is! And no, I do not recommend Gmail! Gah!]
But that does not get Facebook off the hook, oh no. A patent filed by the social network describes how personality characteristics, including emotional stability, could be determined from people’s messages and status updates. Facebook says it has never, so far, used the personality test in its products. But the patent was first filed in 2012. [Yeah, we really trust you, Facebook.]

Golden Gate killer tracked down by genealogy DNA — The suspect, Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, has finally been arrested by police. Investigators used DNA from crime scenes that had been stored all these years and plugged the genetic profile of the suspected assailant into an online genealogy database. They found distant relatives of DeAngelo’s and, despite his years of eluding the authorities, traced their DNA to to his front door.

Chinese institutionalised misogyny — A Human Rights Watch report reveals gender discrimination amongst major tech companies, as in the rest of Chinese society, is common and widespread. Search engine Baidu listed a job for content reviewers in March 2017 stating that applicants had to be men with the “strong ability to work under pressure, able to work on weekends, holidays and night shifts.” The conglomerate Tencent, which owns WeChat, the massive game Honor of Kings and a majority stake in League of Legends was found to have posted an ad for a sports content editor in March 2017, stating it was looking for “strong men who are able to work nightshifts.”

Animals who kill us — Mosquitos take the crown, but even cows are pretty bad. Oh, you’re not worried? The cow could be left as the biggest land mammal on Earth in a few centuries, according to a new study that examines the extinction of large mammals as humans spread around the world.

The world is agog at the Koreas talking, but — A new reports suggests the collapse of North Korea’s test facility may have been a contributing factor. Ouch.

Massive Polish Christ suddenly sprouts antenna — Rising 36m in the air, Christ the King is said to be the tallest statue of Jesus in the world. Since 2010, it’s loomed over the residents of Świebodzin, Poland, and it’s apparently already getting some upgrades. Signal broadcasting equipment was recently spotted embedded in the statue’s crown, but no one’s quite sure what’s going on with Jesus 2.0. [Monetising belief – now there’s an idea!]

And OK, let’s have a laugh at Mark Zuckerberg. Why not? He became a gazzlionaire off our data. 

Futurology ~ Galactic map, home-bound aliens, Spooky Action, DNA structure, arm-projector, Euro-AI


(A rendering of the “twisted knot” DNA structure. Illustration: Zeraati et al., Nat Chem, 2018)

Biggest galactic map yet — Astronomers from the European Space Agency’s Gaia mission will release the biggest map of our galaxy ever, using data collected by the Gaia space telescope. That includes 1.7 billion stars, as well as new information that could potentially solve some cosmic mysteries.
~ Well, sniff, I will of course be hanging out for version 3 with the Spectral Data …

Aliens stuck at home … maybe literally — Rocky worlds larger than Earth are commonplace in the galaxy, and a few of them may even be habitable. Which poses an interesting question: how difficult would it be for aliens living on these super-Earths to launch rockets into space, given the tremendous gravity? According to new research, it would be difficult to the point of impossibility – meaning that some aliens may be perpetually trapped on their home worlds.
~ Which also makes them rather hard to visit. 

Uranus really does smell — According to a study published in Nature Astronomy, scientists have determined the atmosphere of Uranus smells like rotten eggs. The smell of Uranus was determined by the use of an Near-Infrared Integral Field Spectrometer (NIFS), an instrument that allows scientists to determine what an atmosphere is composed of based upon the reflections of sunlight that bounce off of it.
~ Now surely they could have made the spectrometer’s acronym ‘SNIF’? Come on, people! Bit of effort here. 

Einstein shows his Spooky Action — For the first time, scientists have managed to show quantum entanglement – which Einstein famously described as “spooky action at a distance” – happening between macroscopic objects, a major step forward in our understanding of quantum physics. Quantum entanglement links particles in a way that they instantly affect each other, even over vast distances. On the surface, this powerful bond defies classical physics and, generally, our understanding of reality, which is why Einstein found it so spooky.
~ And it smells like roses. 

Australian scientists discover another human DNA structure — Scientists have identified the existence of a new DNA structure that looks more like a twisted, four-stranded knot than the double helix we all know from high school biology. The newly identified structure, detailed in the journal Nature Chemistry, could play a crucial role in how DNA is expressed.
Some research had previously suggested the existence of DNA in this tangled form, dubbed an i-motif (main picture above), but it had never before been detected in living cells outside of the test tube. Researchers at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Australia, though, found that not only does the structure exist in living human cells, but it is even quite common.
~ Good effort there. 

Arm projector — Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, however, have now created a smartwatch prototype with a built-in projector that turns the wearer’s arm into a smartphone-sized touchscreen.
Despite what you may have seen on crowdfunding sites, the LumiWatch is the first smartwatch to integrate a fully-functional laser projector and sensor array, allowing a screen projected on a user’s skin to be poked, tapped and swiped just like a traditional touchscreen.
~ Yeah, how long is your arm going to last in an intense game? And so I will invent the Mouse Pad Sleeve, mwa-ah-ahh!

European AI — Leading scientists have drawn up plans for a vast multinational European institute devoted to world-class artificial intelligence (AI) research in a desperate bid to nurture and retain top talent in Europe.
The new institute would be set up for similar reasons as Cern, the particle physics lab near Geneva, which was created after the Second World War to rebuild European physics and reverse the brain drain of the brightest and best scientists to the US. Named the European Lab for Learning and Intelligent Systems, or Ellis, the proposed AI institute would have major centres in a handful of countries, the *UK included, with each employing hundreds of computer engineers, mathematicians and other scientists with the express aim of keeping Europe at the forefront of AI research.
~ Oh wait: sorry, UK, you had all those insular twits voting for Brexit, so maybe not. 

The Apocalypticon ~ Facebotch, Big Brothers and another excerpt


Facebook has booted AggregateIQ, the Canadian election consulting firm that built data tools for sketchy election firm Cambridge Analytica, this week on the grounds that it may have received some of the extensive data on 87 million Facebook users the latter company received through a partnership with an app.
Facebook is also suspending a data analytics firm called CubeYou from the platform after CNBC notified the company that CubeYou was collecting information about users through quizzes. CubeYou misleadingly labeled its quizzes “for non-profit academic research,” then shared user information with marketers. [I would guess ‘sold’ rather than ‘shared’, myself. ] Almost 10% of Americans have already deleted their Facebook accounts.

(Image from Atlas Obscura’s article on Soviet industrial design)

Does that sound bad? How about this, then – the data could be in Russia: Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie says the data the firm gathered from Facebook could have come from more than 87 million users and could be stored in Russia. The professor who was managing the data harvesting process was going back and forth between the UK and Russia, you see. Hooray!
So Facebook has a dubious plan to ‘improve’ the situation.

Better passwords — Anyway, here’s some advice on better passwords. Read it!

Bigger Brothers: a man in China got caught by his face — The man was reportedly caught by facial recognition software running on cameras at a concert identified him. That’s despite there being over 50,000 people attending the concert, which took place in Nanchang. Law enforcement in the country has increasingly been turning to facial recognition software to surveil the public for persons of interest.
The Indian government intends to build an identification system of unprecedented scope. The country is reportedly “scanning the fingerprints, eyes and faces of its 1.3 billion residents and connecting the data to everything from welfare benefits to mobile phones.” [All of these ventures are for the betterment of humanity. Well, 1% of humanity, anyway.]

Excerpt from my forthcoming book: Authorities often scramble security and defence forces to combat ‘panic’ and looting after disasters. In fact, though, if you think back to news reports you have seen, this is rarely the case. For example, flooding swamps a community and emergency services respond, and of course they are extremely helpful and proficient, but almost inevitably they arrive to find people towing the disabled on boats, helping fill sandbags and passing around supplies.
These scenes are often captured by the very same news crews that would have you believe the people on the ground are panicking, paralysed or looting, ‘so thank God (or whatever) the authorities have arrived’.
Of course, some people do those unhelpful things too, but the point is, most people do not.

Futurology ~ Einstein Ring and more, Arctic lakes, electric avenue, 3D-printed houses, old onion, ancient bird-flip


Sweden has installed the first electric road – it charges vehicles as they drive across it.

Hubble Space Telescope discovered a light-bending Einstein Ring in space —The perfect circle surrounding a galaxy cluster in a new Hubble Space Telescope image is a visual indicator of the huge masses bending time and space in that region. The galaxy cluster, called SDSS J0146-0929, features hundreds of individual galaxies all bound together by gravity.
There’s so much mass in this region that the cluster is distorting light from objects behind it. This phenomenon is called an Einstein Ring because Albert Einstein suggested that a massive object would warp space and time back in the early 1900s.
~ This process is known today as a gravitational lens. Wow, what a clever bloke Einstein was!

Tiny neutron star spews out X-rays — The Hubble keeps on discovering. 1E 0102.2-7219 has the remnants of a supernova in one our Milky Way’s closest neighbours, the Small Magellanic Cloud dwarf galaxy. This supernova remnant is especially well-studied, but that hasn’t stopped astronomers from continuing to find new surprises, such as the neutron star at its centre.
~ A neutron star can pack the mass of our Sun and more into a ball less than 32km across. Heavy, right? 

Europe’s gas-sniffing spacecraft to detect Martian gases — In about two weeks, the European Space Agency and Roscosmos orbiter will begin to scan the Martian atmosphere in search of trace gases, including those potentially linked to life.
~ Mars’ atmosphere is about 100 times thinner than Earth’s. So it’s got to be one amazing sniffer. 

One-degree rise in temperature causes ripple effect in world’s largest High Arctic lake — A 1 C increase in temperature has set off a chain of events disrupting the entire ecology of the world’s largest High Arctic lake. The amount of glacial meltwater going into the lake has dramatically increased. The changes resulted in algal blooms and detrimental changes to the Arctic char fish population, and point to a near certain future of summer ice-free conditions. The findings document an unprecedented shift from the previous three centuries.
~ A gimp I know once told me that ‘global warming was a left wing conspiracy’. I asked him what the left wing could possibly gain from such a conspiracy. He cut me off. 

Then there are these just-discovered  ‘super-salty’ arctic lakes — Anja Rutishauser, a PhD student at the University of Alberta, accidentally discovered two sub-glacial super-salty lakes while conducting a geological survey of the area. She was able to confirm the presence of a hypersaline subglacial lake complex.
The lakes measure about five and eight square kilometres (between two and three square miles) in size, but aren’t connected to any known sources of meltwater. Excitingly, these super-salty lakes, with their cold, liquid water, are potential hosts for microbial life – and reasonably good approximations of what the conditions might be like on Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus.
~ But are they full of pre-salted fish? 

World’s first electrified road for charging vehicles opens in Sweden — A 2 kilometre (1.2-mile) stretch of road with electric rails has been installed in Stockholm, Sweden. This allows electric vehicles to charge up their batteries as they drive across it. The technology behind the electrification of the road linking Stockholm Arlanda airport to a logistics site outside the capital city aims to solve the thorny problems of keeping electric vehicles charged, and the manufacture of their batteries affordable.
~ At a cost of €1m per kilometre, the cost of electrification is said to be 50 times lower than that required to construct an urban tram line!

3D-Printed public housing unveiled in France  — Researchers have unveiled what they billed as the world’s first 3D-printed house to serve as a home in the French city of Nantes, with the first tenants due to move in by June. From a report:
Academics at the University of Nantes who led the project said it was the first house built in situ for human habitation using a robot 3D-printer. The BatiPrint3D robot uses a special polymer material that should keep the building insulated effectively for a century. It took BatiPrint3D around 18 days to complete its part of the work on the house, creating hollow walls that were subsequently filled with concrete.
~ The 95-square-metre (1000 square feet), five-room house will be allocated to a local family qualified for social housing.

Sweden had a Pompeii and an onion — On the Swedish island of Öland, at a ring fort called Sandby Borg, archaeologists have uncovered a peculiar onion, project leader Helena Victor found a preserved bulb and sent it to archaeobotanist Jens Heimdahl at The Swedish History Museum, who discovered the ‘big nut’ was in fact a 1500-year-old onion. It’s the oldest one ever found in Scandinavia.
Sandby Borg was the site of a mysterious fifth-century massacre. In 2013, Sweden’s Kalmar County Museum and Lund University researchers found the slaughtered remains of its inhabitants.
~ Maybe they had terrible breath …

88,000-year-old middle finger found in Saudi Arabia could rewrite human history — A lone, bony middle finger is probably the oldest directly dated fossil of our species to ever be found outside of Africa and the region that comprises Israel, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. But the new discovery is not without its critics, who say older evidence of human habitation outside of this region exists elsewhere, and that the finger might not even be human.
~ I’m not convinced either. After all, it’s hard to write anything with just one finger. 

The Apocalypticon ~ US oh God, new bacteria, Serial’s Syed, Estonian DNA


Facebook exec who wrote terrorism and death are ‘justified‘ by Facebook’s ‘growth’ says he was just trying to be ‘provocative‘. Andrew Bosworth wrote in an internal company memo that said Facebook may be used to coordinate terrorist attacks and that it might cause deaths from bullying, but that those effects were justified in the name of corporate growth.  [Not the best deployment of social capital, then.] But Facebook’s fake news problems extend far beyond Russian trolls interfering in US elections. Overseas, false stories have turned into tools of political warfare – most notably in Myanmar, where government forces have carried out a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya. Even Zuckerberg admits that’s a ‘real’ issue. [Big of him, or what?]
But wait there’s more: a week after Apple CEO Cook said “some well-crafted regulation is necessary ” in light of the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal and that Apple was better off than Facebook because it doesn’t sell user data to advertisers, Facebook’s CEO decried Tim Cook as being ‘glib‘.

Ah, companies that make money from your personal information … Last year, Google announced some upgrades to Chrome, by far the world’s most used browser – and the one security pros often recommend. The company promised to make internet surfing on Windows computers even “cleaner” and “safer” adding what The Verge called “basic antivirus features.” What Google did was give its browser the ability was scanning files in the Documents folder of Windows computers. [I’ve said it before, and it seems like I’ll be saying it again and again: Google makes money from your personal data. Why would you trust it? Or its Gmail, for that matter.]
So, Google should be trusted to build AI for killer drones, right? The US Army describes how it’s working to make a battlefield network of machines and humans a reality. [And there Commander in Chief is …]
Richard Stallman, the president of the Free Software Foundation, says that the surveillance imposed on us today is ‘worse than in the Soviet Union’. He argues that we need laws to stop this data being collected in the first place. Security guru Bruce Schneier warns that “thousands of companies” are spying on us and manipulating us for profit. [Did you ever think what ‘the Information Age’ was really going to lead to?]
So, are you being hacked? Here’s how to tell. In other US news, Illinois is dealing with an outbreak of synthetic weed that makes its users bleed from their eyes and ears. Deaths in the us from synthetic opioids doubled from 2015 to 2016. And eating out a lot might disrupt your hormones. [And I thought phthalates was exercise for people who lisp.] ‘Nightmare bacteria’ with unusual resistance to antibiotics of last resort were found more than 200 times in the United States last year in a first-of-a-kind hunt to see how much of a threat these rare cases are becoming, health officials said this week. Hey, at least it’s also the new era of Super Gonorrhoea!Cellphones might kill too
A pair of studies by the US National Toxicology Program found “clear evidence” that exposure to radiation caused heart tumors in male rats, and found “some evidence” that it caused tumors in the brains of male rats. [And that’s why I won’t let my rats have smartphones.]

Is there any good news? I take heart that Adnan Syed, the man whose murder conviction became the subject of the wildly popular Serial podcast, was granted a new trial by Maryland’s second-highest court of appeals last week, although whether that actually happens is still in limbo.
Oh, and the jury’s still out on whether the Estonian governments program that aims to collect the DNA of 100,000 of its 1.3 million residents to then offer them lifestyle and health advice based on their genetics is a good thing or not.

Excerpt from my forthcoming book: On calling in the army after a disaster to ‘control looting and maintain order’: “It’s interesting that the panic myth is so persistent. Think about news reports you have seen: flooding swamps a community and emergency services respond, and of course they are extremely helpful and proficient, but almost inevitably they arrive to find people towing the disabled on boats, helping fill sandbags and passing around supplies.”

Futurology ~ Stargazing, 3D bridge, antarctic veggies, new Nazca lines, Roman refrigerators, four-eyed lizard


MX3D in Amsterdam has almost completed the world’s first 3D=-printed bridge

Using Relativity to magnify stargazing — Two teams of scientists report seeing single, twinkling stars in galaxies billions of light years away with the help of the Hubble Space Telescope. All they needed was Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity.
~ And I thought that theory was about my Uncle Eddie. 

Milky Way centre has loads of black holes — The supermassive black hole lurking at the center of our galaxy appears to have a lot of company, according to a new study that suggests the monster is surrounded by about 10,000 other black holes.
~ Holey heck.

The first 3d-printed steel bridge looks like it broke off an alien mothership — MX3D in Amsterdam just revealed the world’s first 3D-printed bridge. It’s made of a completely new type of steel, spans 12.19m (main picture, above), and will be installed early next year in De Wallen, the largest and best-known red-light district in Amsterdam. It also looks utterly otherworldly.
~ The pimps and pushers will be pleased. 

Antarctic vegetables — As temperatures outside dipped to well below freezing, and as blizzards pounded the Antarctic research station, German scientists were carefully tending to a remarkable veggie garden – one requiring no soil or natural sunlight. The success of their first harvest, which produced vibrant-looking lettuce, radishes, cucumbers and other treats, represents a promising test run for similar greenhouses that could one day be built on Mars – or beyond.
~ Iceberg lettuce, anyone? 

Archaeologists have now found ‘new’ Nazca lines with the help of drones — Peruvian archaeologists armed with drones have discovered more than 50 new examples of these mysterious desert monuments in adjacent Palpa province, traced onto the earth’s surface in lines almost too fine to see with the human eye. In addition, archaeologists surveyed locally known geoglyphs with drones for the first time – mapping them in never-before-seen detail.
~ It’s a sign. 

Roman refrigerators — Archaeologists in Switzerland are conducting an experiment to figure out how ancient Romans used a series of deep shafts to keep food cool well into the summer months. The shafts were discovered in 2013 at Augusta Raurica, an archaeological site located near the Swiss city of Basel. The Roman colony was founded in 15 BC, and it soon blossomed into a vibrant metropolis and trade hub that was home to around 15,000 to 20,000 people. Today, Augusta Raurica remains one of the best-preserved Roman cities north of the Swiss Alps.
~ Really? To get cold in Switzerland, just walk up  hill!

Four-eyed lizard — An ancient species of monitor lizard that went extinct some 34 million years ago had four eyes, according to new research. It’s the first time that scientists have ever seen such a thing in a jawed terrestrial animal – an observation that’s filling a gap in our understanding of how these features evolved.
~ Ah, but was four-eyed forewarned? 

The Apocalypticon ~ Nuke yourself in sim, surveillance, Apple, your passwords, China, forest shapes and good news


Nuclear Explosion Simulator shows just how screwed we’d be if Russia dropped another Tsar Bomba — For years, one of the more perversely interesting things on the internet has been Alex Wellerstein’s NUKEMAP, which — true to its name — shows you the estimated damage if you dropped a nuclear weapon anywhere in the world. Now the Outrider Foundation has released its own, rather more elegant version, and we’re back to blowing up our backyards.
Outrider’s simulator lets you enter any location and select from a number of bomb strengths, from the 15KT Little Boy (the first nuke used in war) to the 50,000KT Tsar Bomba, which Russia tested in 1961. [Finally, a more compelling reason to move to the outer burbs! Except for the Tsar Bomba – that just wipes out the entire Greater Auckland from Pukekohe in the south to north of Orewa.]In the US, President Trump has slammed Amazon for ‘causing tremendous loss To the United States’ — President Trump recently escalated his attack on Amazon, saying the e-commerce giant does not pay enough taxes, and strongly suggested he may try to rein in the e-commerce business. A sexual harassment lawsuit against Google might proceed as a Class Action; a department of the US State Department dedicated to diplomatic security has reportedly procured a $US15,000, Apple TV-sized device its manufacturers advertise as being able to break iPhone encryption in anywhere from two hours to three days (the FBI did not have the technical capability to access an iPhone used by one of those behind the San Bernardino shooting, it turns out).
Facebook may be able to listen to you through its app … During an appearance before a committee of UK lawmakers, Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie breathed new life into longstanding rumours that the Facebook app listens to its users in order to target advertisements.

Dark Australian — In 2015, during the transition from paper to contactless public transit cards, Australia passed sweeping new data retention laws. These laws required all Australian internet service providers and telecommunications carriers to retain customers’ phone and internet metadata for two years: details like the phone number a person calls, the timestamps on text messages or the cell tower a phone pings when it makes a call. So Claire Reilly ‘went dark‘…

Apple adds more privacy and security — Apple’s updates (macOS 10.13.4, iOS11.3 and tvOS 11.3) were prompted by the enormous new European data protection regulation GDPR, and have been in the works since at least January. But they come at a good time for the company, whose head Tim Cook has been merrily capitalising on the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal, publicly rebuking Mark Zuckerberg over the social network’s business model.

Your passwords — Do you know whether the ones you’re using are strong enough to stand up to repeated hacking attempts? If you want to know how to do a self-audit on password security, and the best combinations to use to keep your data safe, Gizmodo has asked the experts to explain.

China sin-drome — China is testing cutting-edge defence technology to develop a powerful yet relatively low-cost weather modification system to bring substantially more rain to the Tibetan plateau, Asia’s biggest freshwater reserve. The network will be three times bigger than Spain[And it uses burners! Yeah, global warming, China, for goodness sake!]
But hey, at least the jaywalkers will be sent ‘punishing text messages‘. [Angry face sad face …]

Shaping forests — Scientists have made a fundamental discovery about how fires on the edges of tropical forests control their shape and stability. The study implies that when patches of tropical forest lose their natural shape it could contribute to the catastrophic transformation of that land from trees to grass.

Some good news — A class of antibiotics heralded as an essential future weapon against drug-resistant superbugs passed an important test. There’s now evidence they can be used to treat serious infections in live animals (in vivo) without being toxic.
Staunch ancients — Soon after the glaciers melted at the end of the last Ice Age, our planet was vulnerable to abrupt and dramatic shifts in climate, including prolonged cold snaps that lasted for decades. New research suggests early hunter-gatherers living in the British Isles didn’t just manage to survive these harsh conditions – they actually thrived.

Futurology ~ Superfast supernova, brown planet, alien DNA, water, better ears, Petaflopper, spiderbot, paper like LCD, Canadian footprints, Neanderthal skeleton


Spider-bot transforms into a wheel for fast rolling

Rare supernova extinguishes star at record speed — Using data collected by the Kepler space telescope, an international team of astronomers led by Brad Tucker from Australian National University has documented the death throes of a star located 1.3 billion light-years away. Known as KSN 2015K, this unprecedented FELT reached its maximum brightness in just 2.2 days, which is 10 times faster than standard supernovae.
~ Or it’s a pretty full-on war in a distant galaxy …

Brown planet reopens debate — Scientists have discovered a planet a lot like Jupiter orbiting a dim star, if you can even call it a star – it’s nothing like our Sun. The finding once again makes us wonder: what is a planet, anyway?
~ I’m going with ‘big round thing in space that orbits and is not on fire’. 

Alien DNA — If an alien life form is alien, how will we know what it is? DNA and RNA are the building blocks of life on Earth, but the molecules of life might differ substantially on another planet. So if scientists combing, say, the potentially habitable waters of Jupiter’s moon Europa were to stumble across a new life form, how could they know what they had discovered? Aha – scientists at Georgetown University suggest a method for identifying alien life using modern genome sequencing technology.
~ Please open your carapace, sir and/or madam, we would like to take a swab. 

Slippery-rough engineered surface harvests water — A slippery rough surface (SRS) inspired by both pitcher plants and rice leaves outperforms state-of-the-art liquid-repellent surfaces in water harvesting applications, according to a team of researchers at Penn State and the University of Texas at Dallas.
~ Then we can bottle the water and add the little bits of plastic. 

Cat-like ‘hearing’ with device tens of trillions times smaller than human eardrum — Researchers are developing atomically thin ‘drumheads’ tens of trillions of times thinner than the human eardrum able to receive and transmit signals across a radio frequency range far greater than what we can hear with the human ear. Their work will likely contribute to making the next generation of ultralow-power communications and sensory devices smaller and with greater detection and tuning ranges.
~ Have to go – I just heard my cat. 

NVIDIA’s 2 Petaflop DGX-2 AI Supercomputer with 32GB Tesla V100 and NVSwitch Tech — NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang recently announced a number of GPU-powered innovations for machine learning, including a new AI supercomputer and an updated version of the company’s powerful Tesla V100 GPU that now sports a hefty 32GB of on-board HBM2 memory. NVIDIA claims NVSwitch is five times faster than the fastest PCI Express switch and offers an aggregate 2.4TB per second of bandwidth.
~  All the better to monitor us with. 

Terahertz chips — Following three years of extensive research, physicists have created technology that will enable our computers – and all optic communication devices – to run 100 times faster through terahertz microchips.

Bionic wheelbot — Using eight reconfigurable legs, the BionicWheelBot can creepily crawl along the ground, but then transform into a wheel and roll at an alarming speed.
~ It can tiptoe through tricky terrain then quickly roll through the flat bits. 

A paperlike LCD is thin, flexible, tough and cheap — Optoelectronic engineers have manufactured a special type of LCD that is paper-thin, flexible, light and tough. With this, a newspaper could be uploaded onto a flexible paperlike display that could be updated as fast as the news cycles. It sounds futuristic, but scientists reckon it will be cheap to produce, perhaps only costing US$5 for a 5-inch screen.
~ I can almost guarantee the last word in its description will be gone by the time this becomes available. 

Sewage sludge leads to biofuels breakthrough — Researchers have discovered a new enzyme that will enable microbial production of a renewable alternative to petroleum-based toluene, a widely used octane booster in gasoline that has a global market of 29 million tons per year.
~ Isn’t toluene also carcinogenic? 

13,000-year-old human footprints found off Canada’s Pacific coast — Human footprints found off Canada’s Pacific coast may be 13,000 years old, according to a new study. The finding adds to the growing body of evidence supporting the hypothesis that humans used a coastal route to move from Asia to North America during the last ice age.
~ So that rules out flying. 

Secrets of famous Neanderthal skeleton La Ferrassie 1 revealed — Anthropologists have provided new insights on one of the most famous Neanderthal skeletons, discovered over 100 years ago: La Ferrassie 1. Nearly all of the fractures were made post-mortem. La Ferrassie 1 was an old man (likely over 50 years old) who suffered various broken bones during his lifetime and had ongoing respiratory issues when he died. The skeleton was found in a burial pit and dated to between 40,000 and 54,000 years old.
~ The weight of sediments snapped the bones. 

The Apocalypticon ~ Hackers, water, China, Space-X hole, medical, stupidity, apocalypse


But wait! There is more from the a-holes at Cambridge Analytica — Cambridge Analytica got its hands on millions of people’s Facebook likes in 2014 by getting an academic, Aleksander Kogan, to design an app with a personality test that hoovered up data from the 250,000 or so Facebook users that took it, as well as from their millions of friends. Cambridge Analytica then used all those likes combined with the magic of big data to help put Donald Trump in the White House. But that’s only the half of it ….
It may be a while since you’ve heard the handle Guccifer 2.0, the hacker who took responsibility for the infamous DNC hack of 2016. Reports from the intelligence community at the time, as well as common sense, pegged Guccifer 2.0 not as the Romanian activist he claimed to be, but a Russian operative. He messed up once, and now Guccifer 2.0 has been fingered as a particular GRU officer working out of the Russian agency’s headquarters on Grizodubovoy Street in Moscow.
AI outsmarting its creators — A paper recently published to ArXiv highlights just a handful of incredible and slightly terrifying ways that algorithms think.

Gyre-normous — The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) is filled with 79,000 metric tonnes (87,000 tons) of plastic, and that’s between 10 to 16 times higher than previous estimates, according to new research.
Marine researchers say recent sea star wasting disease epidemic defies prediction. Some sea star communities on the west coast could recover, but marine scientists still can’t pinpoint the environmental factors behind the unprecedented disease outbreak.
The number of people short of water could rise to 5.7 billion people by 2050. Currently, about 3.6 billion people are estimated to be living in areas with a potential for water scarcity for at least one month per year.

China’s terrifying “social credit” system isn’t planned to be fully implemented until 2020, but we’re already seeing facets of it being put in place. In May, people who have committed acts of “serious dishonor” will reportedly be unable to travel on trains or flights for up to a year.
And China has approved the creation of one of the world’s largest propaganda machines as it looks to improve its global image. [Greetings from George Orwell, and good luck with that.]

Space-X made a hole — The Falcon 9 rocket that launched last August reportedly ripped a temporary hole in the ionosphere due to its vertical launch.

Cell tower cancer link — Researchers with the renowned Ramazzini Institute (RI) in Italy announce that a large-scale, lifetime study (PDF) of lab animals exposed to environmental levels of cell tower radiation developed cancer.
A massive new study concluded that lead is 10 times more dangerous than thought, and that past exposure now hastens one in every five US deaths. Researchers at four North American universities, led by Bruce Lanphear, of Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, studied the fate of 14,289 people whose blood had been tested in an official US survey between 1988 and 1994. Four fifths  had harbored levels of the toxic metal below what has, hitherto, been thought safe.

People asked to name women tech leaders said ‘Alexa’ and ‘Siri’ — The tech industry has a persistent problem with gender inequality, particularly in its leadership ranks, and a new study from LivePerson underscores just how depressingly persistent it truly is. When the company asked a representative sample of 1000 American consumers whether they could name a famous woman leader in tech, 91.7% of respondents drew a complete blank, while only 8.3% said they could. But wait, it gets worse: Of those 8.3% who said they could name a famous woman tech leader, only 4% actually could — and a quarter of those respondents named Siri or Alexa. [OMFG.]

The duelling visions for how humanity will survive — By 2050, the world’s population will top ten billion. As industrial capitalism evolves across the globe like no time in human history, will our planet’s ecosystem be able to sustain itself during this rapid transformation? Charles C. Mann’s grapples with these problems in The Wizard and the Prophet.
We’re sleepwalking into a mass extinction, say scientists. The most biodiverse aquatic communities may be the most vulnerable to extinction. Arctic wintertime sea ice extent is among lowest on record[But some of us are looking at the stars. We could become a galactic wrecking crew rather than just an Earthbound one.]

But yes, there’s a little good news: A few decades ago, the Aral Sea was the world’s fourth-largest freshwater lake. But in the 1950s, it became the victim of the Soviet Union’s agricultural policies. The Aral Sea began to disappear and nearly completely vanished. But things have changed for good. Its total area of water, straddling Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, is now a tenth of its original size. What’s left has broken into two distinct bodies: the North and South Aral Seas. In Uzbekistan, the entire eastern basin of the South Aral Sea is completely desiccated, leaving merely a single strip of water in the west. But Kazakhstan’s North Aral Sea has seen a happier outcome, thanks to a nearly $86 million project financed in large part by the World Bank. [Great, huh? Hah!]

Futurology ~ Sodium Earth, medical advances, green tech, DNA-RNA etc


Schema DRESDYN: 3-D-Modell der Anlage (Nov. 2015)

Scientists building a mini-Earth with 8 tonnes of spinning liquid sodium — Many scientists still don’t know much about our planet’s magnetosphere, and about planetary magnetic fields in general. There are several effects hypothesised to add to this “dynamo” that drives the magnetic field. Some think it’s related to the buoyancy of the metals inside the Earth, for example. But these scientists want to know how precession, like the motion of a wobbling top, adds into the mix.
To try to figure it out, German scientists are recreating the Earth in a lab. Sort of.
~Data by 2020. Now there’s a vision. 

Of which, UK doctors used stem cells to restore eyesight in two people — Two elderly patients with macular degeneration at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London were given a cutting-edge stem cell therapy as part of a small trial to improve vision for people with sudden and severe loss of vision caused by what’s known as ‘wet’ macular degeneration, in which abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina and macula in the eye. ‘Wet’ macular degeneration is less common than ‘dry’ macular degeneration, but it is a more severe form of the disease. The two patients in the study went from not being able to read even with glasses, to reading 60 to 80 words per minute with normal reading glasses.
~ Further trials needed …

Wearable MRI scanner — British scientists have invented a new type of brain scanner that patients can wear on their head allowing them to move while being tested.
Neuroscientists will be able to envisage a whole new world of experiments with such a device, which looks like a prop (left) from a budget sci-fi movie or phantom of the opera.
~ And it’s called ‘Meg’. I prefer ‘Nut Meg’. 

Editing RNA, not DNA, could cure disease one day — DNA is the code of life, and so advances that allow us to edit that code have unlocked vast potential, from simply editing away the buggy code of disease, to engineering animals that don’t spread illness, to, maybe one day in a distant future, creating so-called designer babies. But editing another essential molecular component of our biology – RNA, the messenger used by cells to turns DNA instructions into proteins – also holds great promise.
~ RNA turns genetic instructions from DNA into proteins.

Machine learning spots treasure trove of elusive viruses — Researchers have used artificial intelligence (AI) to discover nearly 6000 previously unknown species of virus. The work illustrates an emerging tool for exploring the enormous, largely unknown diversity of viruses on Earth. Although viruses influence everything from human health to the degradation of trash, they are hard to study. Scientists cannot grow most viruses in the lab, and attempts to identify their genetic sequences are often thwarted because their genomes are tiny and evolve fast.
~ One man’s treasure is …

First proof a synthesised antibiotic is capable of treating superbugs — A ‘game changing’ new antibiotic which is capable of killing superbugs has been successfully synthesized and used to treat an infection for the first time – and could lead to the first new class of antibiotic drug in 30 years.
~ It’s a simplified, synthesised form of teixobactin.

Researchers create new low-cost, sustainable material for reducing air and water pollution — A new ‘green’ material made from solid wastes and natural polymers promises better results than activated carbon in adsorbing pollutants in wastewater and air. The material is synthesized inexpensively from solid wastes and a naturally abundant polymer, and can cut down pollutants in air and wastewater with more success than activated carbon, the current gold standard adsorbent.
~ Is that hoisting waste by its own petard? 

Bacteria eat greenhouse gas with a side of protein — With the ability to leech heavy metals from the environment and digest a potent greenhouse gas, methanotrophic bacteria pull double duty when it comes to cleaning up the environment. But before researchers can explore potential conservation applications, they first must better understand the bacteria’s basic physiological processes. New research has identified two never-before-studied proteins, called MbnB and MbnC, as partially responsible for the bacteria’s inner workings.
~ If it eats, what does it excrete?

New valve technology promises cheaper, greener engines — New technology reliably and affordably increases the efficiency of internal combustion engines by more than 10 per cent. The patented system for opening and closing valves could significantly reduce fuel consumption in everything from ocean-going ships to compact cars.
~ Aha, but what about compact ocean-going cars?

IBM unveils the ‘World’s Smallest Computer’ — On the first day of IBM Think 2018, the company’s flagship conference, IBM has unveiled what it claims is the world’s smallest computer. It’s smaller than a grain of salt and features the computer power of the x86 chip from 1990.
The computer will cost less than ten cents to manufacture, and will also pack “several hundred thousand transistors,” according to the company. These will allow it to “monitor, analyze, communicate, and even act on data.”
~ It’s a bit hard to see the screen, though, and typing, what a nightmare!

Graphene makes better hair dye — Researchers at Northwestern University think they have stumbled upon an unexpected new use for the so-called supermaterial graphene: an easy-to-apply, safer and sturdier black hair dye that could give other permanent dyes a run for their money. The new dye even made hair immune to frizz and static electricity.
~ Finally, a real use for Graphene! 

Genomes of five late Neandertals provide insights into Neandertal population history — Researchers have sequenced the genomes of five Neandertals who lived between 39,000 and 47,000 years ago. These late Neandertals are all more closely related to the Neandertals that contributed DNA to modern human ancestors than an older Neandertal from the Altai Mountains that was previously sequenced. Their genomes also provide evidence for a turnover in the Neandertal population towards the end of Neandertal history.
~ And there was  hoping one sample at least was from Zurich, so I could write ‘Genomes of Zurich’… but no, they were from Croatia, Siberia and the Russian Caucasus.

The Apocalypticon ~ Fake news, tech calumny, cartel phones, radioactive, plastic not fantastic, China, climate change, filthiest animal


Fake news: it’s us! Over the last year, ‘fake news’ has gone from being a niche concern that charlatans exploited for profit, to a code red existential threat to the fabric of society … But our scientific understanding of how and why false stories spread is still limited. Researchers at MIT’s Media Lab are diving in to correct that blind spot and for anyone looking to point a finger, Gizmodo has some bad news. It’s not all bots: ‘major Twitter influencers’ [perhaps they really should be called Twats] were more likely to share true stories.
Twitter has also suspended several popular accounts known for stealing tweets or mass-retweeting tweets into manufactured virality.
Meanwhile, Facebook subsidiary Instagram and its competitor Snapchat have both disabled GIF-embedding service Giphy after an extremely racist image began spreading via the platform.
Hacking Team’s developers are actively continuing the development of spyware, and Reddit says it has identified and removed hundreds of Russian propaganda accounts. [Or is that Reddit propaganda?]

Shadowy phones for drug cartel — For years, a slew of shadowy companies have sold so-called encrypted phones, custom BlackBerry or Android devices that sometimes have the camera and microphone removed and only send secure messages through private networks.
Now, the FBI has arrested the CEO of one of the most established companies, Phantom Secure, as part of a complex law enforcement operation, according to court records and sources familiar with the matter.

Radioactivity — Contractor CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation has released its evaluation of what went wrong in December during demolition of the nuclear reservation’s highly contaminated Plutonium Finishing Plant. The Tri-City Herald reports the study said primary radioactive air monitors used at a highly hazardous Hanford project failed to detect contamination. Then, when the spread of contamination was detected, the report said steps taken to contain it didn’t fully work.
So what about bricks? A team of researchers at North Carolina State University thinks they have a simple way to detect the leftover radiation simply by taking a core of material out of a brick. Something like this could be important for things such as nuclear weapons inspections. [I can do that just from a place name: Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Chernobyl …]
So, how about ‘better’ nuclear plants? Scientists want to create miniature suns in power plants here on Earth. [Yeah, this idea doesn’t worry me at all.] MIT has announced it is working with a new private company called Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS) to make nuclear fusion finally happen. CFS recently attracted a $US50 million ($64 million) investment from the Italian energy company Eni, which it will use to fund the development.

Plastic water bottles full of plastic-filled water — The bottled water industry is estimated to be worth nearly US$200 billion a year, surpassing sugary sodas as the most popular beverage in many countries. But its perceived image of cleanliness and purity is being challenged by a global investigation that found the water tested is often contaminated with tiny particles of plastic. [I’ve always found this so absurd for so many reasons: this just adds another. Water should always be heated and filtered through ground coffee for maximum safety.]

China wants to bar people with ‘bad social credit’ from trains and planes — People who would be put on the restricted lists included those found to have committed acts like spreading false information about terrorism and causing trouble on flights, as well as those who used expired tickets or smoked on trains, according to two statements issued on the National Development and Reform Commission’s website on Friday. [This from a country dumb enough to willingly give its authoritarian leader even more power.]
The suspected Chinese cyber-espionage group dubbed TEMP.Periscope appeared to be seeking information that would benefit the Chinese government, said FireEye, a US-based provider network protection systems. The hackers have focused on US.maritime entities that were either linked to, or have clients operating in, the South China Sea.
But hey, at least the pollution has diminished. Over the past four years, pollution in China’s major cities has decreased by an average of 32%.
But be careful, the Chinese space station may still wipe out your city. [From Heavenly Palace to Earth-smashing malice.]
Is this why Frazzled Chump wants a Space Force? 

Half a degree more global warming could flood out 5 million more people — A new study finds that by 2150, the seemingly small difference between a global temperature increase of 1.5 and 2° Celsius would mean the permanent inundation of lands currently home to about 5 million people, including 60,000 who live on small island nations.
Extreme winter weather in the US has been linked to the warmer Arctic. Extreme winter weather is two-to-four times more likely in the eastern US when the Arctic is unusually warm.
In Florida, wildlife officials are smashing the skulls of iguanas. Over the past decade, the population of this invasive lizard has absolutely exploded. Native to Mexico and Central America, these herbivorous lizards were introduced to the state as pets, but they have since taken Florida by storm, munching on plants and flowers in gardens, and damaging footpaths and seawalls with their burrows. [So officials smash ’em.] The head-bashing technique falls within the bounds of Florida’s animal cruelty laws …
But, in ‘good’ news … Around 74,000 years ago, a massive caldera erupted on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, triggering a prolonged and devastating volcanic winter. Scientists have speculated that the Toba eruption pruned back human populations to a considerable degree, but new research published today suggests at least one group of humans living in southern Africa not only managed to survive the event, they actually prospered.

For a bit of fun, what do you reckon is the filthiest animal? Gizmodo asked the experts. [Don’t worry, humans get a mention.]

(Image from Gizmodo)

Excerpt from my forthcoming book: “Say you wake up one morning, and 40% of people no longer exist. That’s the honeymoon vision of apocalypse, as ridiculous as that sounds … because it is ridiculous. If people didn’t just evaporate, which you have to admit is extremely unlikely under any imaginable apocalyptical scenario, the immediate problem is getting rid of the dead. There are 56 houses in my street. If there are three people in each, averaged out, that’s 168 people. At 40% mortality, that’s 67 bodies to cope with straight away …”

Futurology ~ Galaxy rotation, Kepler power, gravitational waves, smaller devices, whiter white, new limbs, data diseases, mind uploading, systemic weirdness, particle-accelerated text, Denisovans with benefits, ancient Saharan cultivation


Nanoparticle eyedrops may one day replace glasses

All Disk Galaxies rotate once every billion years — According to a new study published in The Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, astronomers discovered that all disk galaxies rotate about once every billion years, no matter their size or mass.
~ Is it just me  who finds it weird that distant galaxies follow a time frame dictated by the sun we happen to be circling? 

Kepler space telescope is running out of gas — NASA’s Kepler spacecraft has been peering deep into the Milky Way galaxy for nearly a decade. It has spotted over 2500 confirmed planets orbiting distant stars, with another 2500-plus possible worlds are waiting to be confirmed. But Kepler will be out of fuel in just a few months and left to its long, lonely orbit. The spacecraft will soon be replaced by another exoplanet-hunting space telescope, NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). TESS is set to launch into space on April 16th.
~ Er, they didn’t fit solar panels??

Gravitational Wave Detector progress — One of the most expensive, complex and problematic components in gravitational wave detectors like the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) — which made the first, historic detection of these ripples in space-time in September 2015 — is the 4-kilometer-long vacuum chambers that house all the interferometer optics. But what if this requirement for ground-based gravitational wave detectors isn’t needed? This suggestion has been made by a pair of physicists at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). They are developing a method that could allow extremely sensitive interferometers to operate in the “open air.”
~ After all, the open air is good for nearly everyone. 

Devices get smaller, so which watch? Can you imagine that one day all your devices might be in that thing around your wrist? Already, some people use  smartphones alone for all their computing … inconceivable 10 years ago. Reviews.com has decided on what’s best so far.

Ghostly beetle for new white — Scientists have engineered perhaps the whitest natural substance, using the same physics behind one ghostly white Southeast Asian beetle. White and black feel like opposites for a reason. Black-coloured things absorb nearly all of the light that strikes their surface, while white things send the light back, scattered equally at all wavelengths. A team of European scientists have essentially created the whitest paper using this physical property.
~ It can be 20 to 30 times whiter than white filter paper. Ouch!

Amputees to get new limb ‘feeling’ — Prosthetic hands have gotten increasingly sophisticated. Many can recreate the complex shape and detail of joints and fingers, while powered prostheses allow for independent, willful movement. But a new study published in Science Translational Medicine offers a potential glimpse into the future of the technology: Artificial hands that actually feel like living limbs as they move.

New methods find undiagnosed genetic diseases in electronic health records — Researchers have found a way to search genetic data in electronic health records to identify undiagnosed genetic diseases in large populations so treatments can be tailored to the actual cause of the illness.
~ Yay, a use for Big Data that’s other than pecuniary.

New brain preservation technique could lead to mind uploading — Using a technique developed three years ago, researchers from MIT and 21st Century Medicine have shown that it’s possible to preserve the microscopic structures contained within a large mammalian brain. The breakthrough means scientists now have the means to store and study samples of the human brain over longer timescales – but the method could eventually, maybe, be used to resurrect the dead.
~ It’s the downloading part some people clearly need. 

Nanoparticle eyedrops may one day replace glasses — A new paper from Bar-Ilan University’s Institute of Nanotechnology and Advances Materials in Tel Aviv, Israel and published by the European Society of Cataract & Refractive Surgeons, outlines the research, which involves a combination of “nanodrops” and a quick medical procedure.
~ But how will you wipe those smears off them? 

Systemic weirdness — The universe is loaded with a lot of strange symmetries between seemingly dissimilar systems, thanks to similar underlying physics. Take an electrical circuit, a spring and a swinging pendulum. These simple oscillators might look completely different, but they are governed by the same mathematical equations. Other similarities aren’t so simple – which makes them especially mind-boggling.
Separate teams of researchers have announced another discovery: specially-engineered materials, called topological insulators, displaying similar behaviours in very different systems.
~ I don’t think that’s weird. It’s like two vastly different political systems ending up with the same result: one was called Hitler and the other, Stalin. 

Particle accelerator reveals hidden text — History and particle physics seem like pretty disparate fields but they have more in common than you’d think. X-rays from a high-energy lab have revealed ancient Greek medical texts that had been stripped and covered with religious writing.
Scientists at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have long been using high-powered X-rays at their Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL) to analyse ancient texts. This week, they will be revealing the text beneath 10th-century psalms from the St Catherine’s Monastery on the Sinai Peninsula. The hidden words were a translation of writings by the ancient Greek doctor Galen.
~ Wasn’t he in Planet of the Apes? And yes, there is a connection there, too. 

Modern humans interbred with Denisovans twice in history — Modern humans co-existed and interbred with Neanderthals, sure, but also with another species of archaic humans, the mysterious Denisovans. Research now describes how, while developing a new genome-analysis method for comparing whole genomes between modern human and Denisovan populations, researchers unexpectedly discovered two distinct episodes of Denisovan genetic intermixing, or admixing, between the two.
~ Let’s all hope it was consensual. 

Entomologist confirms first Saharan farming 10,000 years ago — By analysing a prehistoric site in the Libyan desert, a team of researchers has been able to establish that people in Saharan Africa were cultivating and storing wild cereals 10,000 years ago. In addition to revelations about early agricultural practices, there could be a lesson for the future, if global warming leads to a necessity for alternative crops.
~ But first they had to rule out ants. 

Apple Mac, iPhone & iPad news for New Zealanders

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