Tag Archives: Social Media

The Apocalypticon ~ Korea, Russia, China, Social Media, cleaners, CRISPR threat, time travellers, booze anger


Korean DMZ — Is this the ‘scariest place on Earth?’ (I think Washington DC is scarier, myself). The Korean Demilitarized Zone was established in 1953 as part of the armistice agreement that ended three years of brutal fighting between North and South Korea. Stretching across the 250km (155-mile) width of the Korean peninsula, the approximately 3.2km (2-mile) wide swath of land is bounded on both sides by several lines of barbed wire fence and one of the largest concentration of soldiers and artillery in the world. President Bill Clinton once called it the “scariest place on earth.” Now you can see images of it.

Enriched uranium floating about — On 3 August 2016, 7km above Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, a research plane captured something mysterious: An atmospheric aerosol particle enriched with the kind of uranium used in nuclear fuel and bombs.
It’s the first time scientists have detected such a particle just floating along in the atmosphere in 20 years of plane-based observations. And this has baffled scientists. [North Korea?]

The Russian charges — Surprise! The US Justice Department has revealed an eight-count indictment charging 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities over their alleged meddling in US politics, including the 2016 US presidential election. So while the current White House may result from Russian meddling, it has been eight months since the malware known as NotPetya tore through the internet, rippling out from Ukraine to paralyse companies and government agencies around the world. On Thursday, the White House finally acknowledged that attack. And in a reversal of its often seemingly willful blindness to the threat of Russian hacking, it has called out the Kremlin as NotPetya’s creator.
Meanwhile, Russian bots flooded Twitter with pro-gun tweets after the school shooting in Florida.

Social media — General practitioner Rangan Chatterjee says he has seen plenty of evidence of the link between mental ill-health in children and their use of social media. “One 16 year-old boy was referred to him after he self-harmed and ended up in A&E,” reports the BBC. Dr Chatterjee was going to put him on anti-depressants, but instead worked with him to help wean him off social media. Maybe he’s not the only one: Facebook lost around 2.8 million US users under 25 last year.

China — The heads of six top US intelligence agencies told the Senate Intelligence Committee last week they would not advise Americans to use products or services from Chinese smartphone maker Huawei. [That’s going to go down well …] Huawei responded that it “poses no greater cybersecurity risk than any ICT vendor.”
China has reassigned over 60,000 soldiers to plan trees in a bid to combat pollution by increasing the country’s forest coverage. The soldiers are from the People’s Liberation Army, along with some of the nation’s armed police force. The majority will be dispatched to Hebei province, which encircles Beijing, known to be a major culprit for producing the notorious smog which blankets the capital city.

Household cleaners, paints and perfumes have become substantial sources of urban air pollution as strict controls on vehicles have reduced road traffic emissions, scientists say. Researchers in the US looked at levels of synthetic “volatile organic compounds”, or VOCs, in roadside air in Los Angeles and found that as much came from industrial and household products refined from petroleum as from vehicle exhaust pipes.

CRISPR could be triggering unintended mutations — Last winter, a letter appeared in a scientific journal that challenged how truly “revolutionary” and world-changing CRISPR gene-editing technology really might be. Researchers found that when they used CRISPR to cure blindness in mice, it had resulted in not just a few but more than a thousand unintended effects. Those unintended changes to DNA, they found, were not detectable using common methods for checking for off-target effects. This, the authors wrote, meant that CRISPR needed significant fine-tuning before it was ready to cure disease in people. Stocks tumbled. The scientific community freaked out.

And in good, or at least funny, news — Time travellers: though most of their wild tales were eventually disproven, the stories are still incredible. Here are five of the most memorable.
Australian scientists are trying to work out why some drunks get so mean. Dramatic mood shifts while drinking alcohol are normal, but for some of us, booze takes us down a path toward nasty, belligerent and downright aggressive behaviour. By studying brain scans of drunk men, Australian scientists have pinpointed the parts of our brain that go weak when we drink, making us meaner than usual. But like so many aspects of human psychology, it’s a lot more complicated than that. [I’ve always thought drunkenness reveals true nature, myself.]

Futurology ~ Zombie Stars, Pillars of Creation, Comet pic, astronaut neurons, Infrastructure Age, morphin’ wings, Social Media and forests on climate change


This  image of the 3km wide comet was captured by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft on April 15th.
This image of the 3km wide comet was captured by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft on April 15th.

Zombies at the centre of the galaxy — NASA spotted the x-ray glow with its NuSTAR telescope array. X-rays in the area aren’t uncommon, but this particular patch was different: stronger, brighter, more intense than anything surrounding it, and, strangest of all, seemingly with no cause.
Now, researchers have come up with a series of ideas that might explain them, and almost all of them involve dying stars that feast on their neighbours.
~ So, not Egg from Our Walking Dead Up North, then.

Goodbye to the Pillars of Creation — One way or another, the Pillars of Creation in the Eagle Nebula are toast. Based on new observations at the European Southern Observatory, these awe-inspiring structures have another three million years before their ghostly image fizzles away into cosmic nothingness. Actually, there’s a good chance they were already destroyed over a thousand years ago.
~ But what are they holding up?

Nicest picture of comet so far — A stunning view of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko shows what happens when it moves closer toward the Sun: it ejects gas and dust that gets left in its wake. And it looks gorgeous too (main picture).

Radiation in space may alter astronaut’s neutrons — NASA hopes to send the first round-trip, manned spaceflight to Mars by the 2030s. But a study in mice suggests particles from cosmic rays could alter the shape of neurons, impairing astronauts’ memories and other cognitive abilities.
~ They leave as people. They arrive as damaged mice. With damaged memories, they may wonder why they wanted to go there, which I’m already wondering now.

New test suggests NASA’s “impossible” EM Drive will work in space — Last year, NASA’s advanced propulsion research wing made headlines by announcing the successful test of a physics-defying electromagnetic drive, or EM drive. Now, this futuristic engine, which could in theory propel objects to near-relativistic speeds, has been shown to work inside a space-like vacuum.
~ I get it! Space is also a ‘space-like vacuum’!

The Information Age is over. Please welcome the Infrastructure Age — The age of information tech isn’t exactly finished, it has just matured to the point where all we keep getting better iterations of the same thing: better cameras and apps for our phones, VR that actually works. But these are not revolutionary gadgets, just realizations of dreams that began in the 1980s, when the information revolution transformed the consumer electronics market.
But now we’re we’re entering the age of infrastructure gadgets
~ It will transform our relationship to energy. 

Morphing wings could  turn planes into fuel-savers — NASA’s new wing design adjusts its flaps mid-flight. NASA teamed up with the US Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) and Michigan-based engineering firm FlexSys Inc to create a new type of wing that tailors its flap angles from -2 degrees to 30. These flexible wings can be adjusted up and down to make the aircraft more aerodynamic to make aircraft lighter, and also less noisy during takeoff and landing.
~ The airline industry must be in a flap about this. 

Instragrammed climate change — Social media’s ability to so easily capture and share observations has inspired a new citizen science project to use tools like Instagram and Twitter to document evidence of climate change. It’s called ISeeChange.
~ Why not? Citizen Reporting has already replaced journalism.

China’s Great Wall of Trees — China’s monster, 32 million-acre army of trees is a step in the planet-saving direction. According to a recent study in Nature Climate Change from researchers at the University of New South Wales, Australia, humans have planted enough vegetation since 2003 to consume four billion tons of carbon worldwide, thanks largely to China.
~ Always nice to hear something positive about China’s environment.