Tag Archives: world

The Apocalypticon ~ World, Trump, Russia, moles, gnats, Twitter, Facebook, mouths


Nuclear power plants in Europe have been forced to cut back electricity production because of warmer-than-usual seawater. Plants in Finland, Sweden and Germany have been affected by the heat wave that has broken records in Scandinavia and the British Isles and exacerbated deadly wildfires along the Mediterranean.
Common food additives could have ‘lifelong’ health consequences, a US paediatrician group has warned.
US fascist eyes Europe: Steve Bannon built his career on right-wing politics inside the United States but now he’s taking on a new frontier: the European Parliament. He’s optimistic about uniting Europe’s right wing across its national boundaries. [Sorry, is ‘fascist’ too strong? How about Nazi, then, Steve?]
The doom of the ancient Cambodian city of Koh Ker may have been the result of bad engineering – plus some bad karma, baby.

The US — House Speaker Paul Ryan on Tuesday downplayed a threat by President Trump to revoke security clearances for a number intelligence officials who served under President Barack Obama as “trolling” and not a political act. [In this case, clearly, the trolling is a political act.]
Facial recognition technology made by Amazon, which is being used by some police departments and other organizations, incorrectly matched the lawmakers with people who had been arrested for a crime, the American Civil Liberties Union reported.
President Trump resumed acknowledging Russian election interference but said he fears that this year, it will benefit Democrats. [Right, because it’s clearly done wonders for them so far.]
Facebook is reportedly rolling out its ‘downvote’ button to a wider group of users in the United States. The feature began appearing on the service’s mobile app without a formal company announcement. The feature appears to currently be limited to public posts. Should your account be flagged for this week’s test, every comment in a thread will include a numeric value and small up- and down-arrows connected to that number. Other territories, particularly Australia and New Zealand, have seen wider downvote tests since April of this year. [That’s right, Facebook, get the users to do your work for you.]
And here’s new US hobby – destroying the lives of complete strangers. [Trump likes this one too, you know, putting those immigrant kids into cages.]
Gnats spreading disease — A disease spread by sandflies seen as an exotic nuisance in the US might not be solely a traveller’s disease after all. A new study suggests most American cases of leishmaniasis are actually spread by native bugs, not caught while travelling. And thanks to climate change, the parasitic illness may become even more common in the years to come.
Twitter shares fell 21% as the company reported that user growth had turned negative, even as its quarterly results beat Wall Street expectations. The decline was even greater than Facebook’s almost 19% plunge in shares after the social media giant reported disappointing results. [Oh. Gosh. Boohoo. Anyway, it’s something to share and tweet about …]

Russia — Russian hackers have broken into supposedly secure, “air-gapped” or isolated networks owned by US utilities with relative easy by first penetrating the networks of key vendors who had trusted relationships with the power companies,” The Wall Street Journal has reported, citing officials at the Department of Homeland Security.
Maria Butina’s story may point to a Russian effort, years in the making, to give the Kremlin influence in the US by connecting with American gun enthusiasts and religious conservatives, an effort that’s had a ‘surprising degree of success’. [Hardly surprising. But no doubt Trump will try and shoot this theory down.]

And finally, some good news — scientists have figured out how our mouths heal so fast. [Although the voluntary 3-metre wounds sound a little harsh – that was three millimetres, I suspect, Gizmodo copy editor!]

Excerpt from my forthcoming book: “In the present day, we might consider ourselves rugged individualists but we have libraries at our disposal, and we use roads, social services and communications networks all built by combined effort for our mutual benefit.”

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Futurology ~ Alien radio, Mars liquids, under-ice robot, electric yarn, Exo-boot, forest losses and Welsh ghost-doodles


Human walking, optimised.
Human walking, optimised.

Alien Radio. Or not — For nearly a decade, astronomers have puzzled over powerful bursts of radio energy that seem to be hailing from billions of light years away. Recently, it was discovered the bursts follow a mathematical pattern, and it’s one that doesn’t line up with anything we know about cosmic physics. But it’s also possible the pattern doesn’t actually exist.
~ If it’s a message, all it’s saying is ‘here we are’. 

Alien biosignatures — A new open-access database of biosignatures has been designed to help astronomers map which alien planets may be capable of supporting life. It catalogues colours that reflect from 137 microbe species, a brilliant range “from the egg-yolk yellow of Halorubrum chaoviator” to “the deep blue-green of Dermocarpa violacea.”
~ Perhaps it will inspire decor. Anyway, I still tend to think ‘we’re it, so don’t mess it up’. 

Mineral veins on Mars — The Curiosity rover has sent back data on these multi-coloured mineral veins it found on the surface of Mars — but the veins themselves are not the most interesting thing about the discovery.
What’s really interesting is what they tell us about ancient Mars, and the water situation there. The two-toned mineral veins are pretty good evidence that liquid once flowed along the mountain base the vein was found at.
~ Antifreeze brine, perhaps.

Robot goes under in the cold — Literally. Georgia Institute of Technology researchers built a new needle-like robot that can descend through ice-fields to explore the sea floor beneath — and this footage from Antarctica is the first footage it’s returned.
‘Icefin’ was sent through a 30cm diameter bore hole drilled through 20m of ice at Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf.
~ But what are those obviously rectangular, therefore man-made, things down there? 

Electric yarn — Researchers report the creation of an ultrathin, fabric circuit that keeps high conductivity even while bending and stretching as much as yoga pants. The fibre’s core mimics spandex, consisting of an elastic synthetic thread (polyurethane) twinned by two cotton yarns. These stretchy strings were then dipped in silver nanoparticles to instill conductivity, then liquid silicone to encase everything.
~ No fable. 

Exoskeleton boot needs no battery — After millions of years of evolution, human feet are still not perfectly energy efficient. But researchers have created a new boot that, unlike other exoskeletons, makes walking more efficient without an extra battery or power source. The boot contraption reduces the energy it takes to walk by about 7%. It works differently from exoskeletons that give you superhuman strength.
~ Spring is sprung, but in your foot.

18 million hectares of forest gone in 2013 — New high-resolution maps of international woodland reveal the world lost 18 million hectares of forest — the same area as that covered by Oklahoma — to wildfires, deforestation and development in 2013.
~ Another human milestone. 

Ghost graffiti — The Black Book of Carmarthen, named for the colour of its binding and believed location of origin (the Augustinian Priory of Saints John the Evangelist and Teulydog in Carmarthem), is the oldest surviving manuscript written in the Welsh language. It contains one of the very first appearances of King Arthur in known literature; PhD student Myriah Williams and Professor Paul Russel of the University of Cambridge have spent the last three years uncovering mysterious etchings from the book’s animal skin pages, and revealing hordes of ghostly doodles in the process.
~ All thanks to UV light.