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New research has been published on the organic analysis of the Winchcombe meteorite that crash landed onto a driveway in Winchcombe, Gloucestershire in 2021. The research, led by Dr. Queenie Chan, from the Department of Earth Sciences at Royal Holloway, University of London, found organic compounds from space that hold the secrets to the origin of life.


When Greg unboxed a new


robot vacuum cleaner in December 2019, he thought he knew what he was getting into.

He would allow the preproduction test version of iRobot's Roomba J series device to roam around his house, let it collect all sorts of data to help improve its artificial intelligence, and provide feedback to iRobot about his user experience.

He had done this all before. Outside of his day job as an engineer at a software company, Greg had been beta-testing products for the past decade. He estimates that he's tested over 50 products in that time—everything from sneakers to smart home cameras.

"I really enjoy it," he says. "The whole idea is that you get to learn about something new, and hopefully be involved in shaping the product, whether it's making a better-quality release or actually defining features and functionality."

But what Greg didn't know—and does not believe he consented to—was that iRobot would share test users' data in a sprawling, global data supply chain, where everything (and every person) captured by the devices' front-facing cameras could be seen, and perhaps annotated, by low-paid contractors outside the United States who could screenshot and share images at their will.

Greg, who asked that we identify him only by his first name because he signed a nondisclosure agreement with iRobot, is not the only test user who feels dismayed and betrayed.

Nearly a dozen people who participated in iRobot's data collection efforts between 2019 and 2022 have come forward in the weeks since MIT Technology Review published an investigation into how the company uses images captured from inside real homes to train its artificial intelligence. The participants have shared similar concerns about how iRobot handled their data—and whether those practices conform with the company's own data protection promises. After all, the agreements go both ways, and whether or not the company legally violated its promises, the participants feel misled.

"There is a real concern about whether the company is being deceptive if people are signing up for this sort of highly invasive type of surveillance and never fully understand … what they're agreeing to," says Albert Fox Cahn, the executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project.

The company's failure to adequately protect test user data feels like "a clear breach of the agreement on their side," Greg says. It's "a failure … [and] also a violation of trust."

Now, he wonders, "where is the accountability?"

The blurry line between testers and consumers

Last month MIT Technology Review revealed how iRobot collects photos and videos from the homes of test users and employees and shares them with data annotation companies, including San Francisco–based Scale AI, which hire far-flung contractors to label the data that trains the company's artificial-intelligence algorithms.

We found that in one 2020 project, gig workers in Venezuela were asked to label objects in a series of images of home interiors, some of which included individuals—their faces visible to the data annotators. These workers then shared at least 15 images—including shots of a minor and of a woman sitting on the toilet—to social media groups where they gathered to talk shop. We know about these particular images because the screenshots were subsequently shared with us, but our interviews with data annotators and researchers who study data annotation suggest they are unlikely to be the only ones that made their way online; it's not uncommon for sensitive images, videos, and audio to be shared with labelers.

Shortly after MIT Technology Review contacted iRobot for comment on the photos last fall, the company terminated its contract with Scale AI.

Nevertheless, in a LinkedIn post in response to our story, iRobot CEO Colin Angle said the mere fact that these images, and the faces of test users, were visible to human gig workers was not a reason for concern. Rather, he wrote, making such images available was actually necessary to train iRobot's object recognition algorithms: "How do our robots get so smart? It starts during the development process, and as part of that, through the collection of data to train machine learning algorithms." Besides, he pointed out, the images came not from customers but from "paid data collectors and employees" who had signed consent agreements.

In the LinkedIn post and in statements to MIT Technology Review, Angle and iRobot have repeatedly emphasized that no customer data was shared and that "participants are informed and acknowledge how the data will be collected."

This attempt to clearly delineate between customers and beta testers—and how those people's data will be treated—has been confounding to many testers, who say they consider themselves part of iRobot's broader community and feel that the company's comments are dismissive. Greg and the other testers who reached out also strongly dispute any implication that by volunteering to test a product, they have signed away all their privacy.

What's more, the line between tester and consumer is not so clear cut. At least one of the testers we spoke with enjoyed his test Roomba so much that he later purchased the device.

This is not an anomaly; rather, converting beta testers to customers and evangelists for the product is something Centercode, the company that recruited the participants on behalf of iRobot, actively tries to promote: "It's hard to find better potential brand ambassadors than in your beta tester community. They're a great pool of free, authentic voices that can talk about your launched product to the world, and their (likely techie) friends," it wrote in a marketing blog post.

To Greg, iRobot has "failed spectacularly" in its treatment of the testing community, particularly in its silence over the privacy breach. iRobot says it has notified individuals whose photos appeared in the set of 15 images, but it did not respond to a question about whether it would notify other individuals who had taken part in its data collection. The participants who reached out to us said they have not received any kind of notice from the company.

"If your credit card information … was stolen at Target, Target doesn't notify the one person who has the breach," he adds. "They send out a notification that there was a breach, this is what happened, [and] this is how they're handling it."

Inside the world of beta testing

The journey of iRobot's AI-powering data points starts on testing platforms like Betabound, which is run by Centercode. The technology company, based in Laguna Hills, California, recruits volunteers to test out products and services for its clients—primarily consumer tech companies. (iRobot spokesperson James Baussmann confirmed that the company has used Betabound but said that "not all of the paid data collectors were recruited via Betabound." Centercode did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)

"If your credit card information … was stolen at Target, Target doesn't notify the one person who has the breach."

As early adopters, beta testers are often more tech savvy than the average consumer. They are enthusiastic about gadgets and, like Greg, sometimes work in the technology sector themselves—so they are often well aware of the standards around data protection.

A review of all 6,200 test opportunities listed on Betabound's website as of late December shows that iRobot has been testing on the platform since at least 2017. The latest project, which is specifically recruiting German testers, started just last month.

iRobot's vacuums are far from the only devices in its category. There are over 300 tests listed for other "smart" devices powered by AI, including "a smart microwave with Alexa support," as well as multiple other robot vacuums.

The first step for potential testers is to fill out a profile on the Betabound website. They can then apply for specific opportunities as they're announced. If accepted by the company running the test, testers sign numerous agreements before they are sent the devices.

Betabound testers are not paid, as the platform's FAQ for testers notes: "Companies cannot expect your feedback to be honest and reliable if you're being paid to give it." Rather, testers might receive gift cards, a chance to keep their test devices free of charge, or complimentary production versions delivered after the device they tested goes to market.

iRobot, however, did not allow testers to keep their devices, nor did they receive final products. Instead, the beta testers told us that they received gift cards in amounts ranging from $30 to $120 for running the robot vacuums multiple times a week over multiple weeks. (Baussmann says that "with respect to the amount paid to participants, it varies depending upon the work involved.")

For some testers, this compensation was disappointing—"even before considering … my naked ass could now be on the Internet," as B, a tester we're identifying only by his first initial, wrote in an email. He called iRobot "cheap bastards" for the $30 gift card that he received for his data, collected daily over three months.

What users are really agreeing to

When MIT Technology Review reached out to iRobot for comment on the set of 15 images last fall, the company emphasized that each image had a corresponding consent agreement. It would not, however, share the agreements with us, citing "legal reasons." Instead, the company said the agreement required an "acknowledgment that video and images are being captured during cleaning jobs" and that "the agreement encourages paid data collectors to remove anything they deem sensitive from any space the robot operates in, including children."

Test users have since shared with MIT Technology Review copies of their agreement with iRobot. These include several different forms—including a general Betabound agreement and a "global test agreement for development robots," as well as agreements on nondisclosure, test participation, and product loan. There are also agreements for some of the specific tests being run.

The text of iRobot's global test agreement from 2019, copied into a new document to protect the identity of test users.

The forms do contain the language iRobot previously laid out, while also spelling out the company's own commitments on data protection toward test users. But they provide little clarity on what exactly that means, especially how the company will handle user data after it's collected and whom the data will be shared with.

The "global test agreement for development robots," similar versions of which were independently shared by a half-dozen individuals who signed them between 2019 and 2022, contains the bulk of the information on privacy and consent.

In the short document of roughly 1,300 words, iRobot notes that it is the controller of information, which comes with legal responsibilities under the EU's GDPR to ensure that data is collected for legitimate purposes and securely stored and processed. Additionally, it states, "iRobot agrees that third-party vendors and service providers selected to process [personal information] will be vetted for privacy and data security, will be bound by strict confidentiality, and will be governed by the terms of a Data Processing Agreement," and that users "may be entitled to additional rights under applicable privacy laws where [they] reside."

It's this section of the agreement that Greg believes iRobot breached. "Where in that statement is the accountability that iRobot is proposing to the testers?" he asks. "I completely disagree with how offhandedly this is being responded to."

"A lot of this language seems to be designed to exempt the company from applicable privacy laws, but none of it reflects the reality of how the product operates."

What's more, all test participants had to agree that their data could be used for machine learning and object detection training. Specifically, the global test agreement's section on "use of research information" required an acknowledgment that "text, video, images, or audio … may be used by iRobot to analyze statistics and usage data, diagnose technology problems, enhance product performance, product and feature innovation, market research, trade presentations, and internal training, including machine learning and object detection."

What isn't spelled out here is that iRobot carries out the machine-learning training through human data labelers who teach the algorithms, click by click, to recognize the individual elements captured in the raw data. In other words, the agreements shared with us never explicitly mention that personal images will be seen and analyzed by other humans.

Baussmann, iRobot's spokesperson, said that the language we highlighted "covers a variety of testing scenarios" and is not specific to images sent for data annotation. "For example, sometimes testers are asked to take photos or videos of a robot's behavior, such as when it gets stuck on a certain object or won't completely dock itself, and send those photos or videos to iRobot," he wrote, adding that "for tests in which images will be captured for annotation purposes, there are specific terms that are outlined in the agreement pertaining to that test."

He also wrote that "we cannot be sure the people you have spoken with were part of the development work that related to your article," though he notably did not dispute the veracity of the global test agreement, which ultimately allows all test users' data to be collected and used for machine learning.

What users really understand

When we asked privacy lawyers and scholars to review the consent agreements and shared with them the test users' concerns, they saw the documents and the privacy violations that ensued as emblematic of a broken consent framework that affects us all—whether we are beta testers or regular consumers.

Experts say companies are well aware that people rarely read privacy policies closely, if we read them at all. But what iRobot's global test agreement attests to, says Ben Winters, a lawyer with the Electronic Privacy Information Center who focuses on AI and human rights, is that "even if you do read it, you still don't get clarity."

Rather, "a lot of this language seems to be designed to exempt the company from applicable privacy laws, but none of it reflects the reality of how the product operates," says Cahn, pointing to the robot vacuums' mobility and the impossibility of controlling where potentially sensitive people or objects—in particular children—are at all times in their own home.

Ultimately, that "place[s] much of the responsibility … on the end user," notes Jessica Vitak, an information scientist at the University of Maryland's College of Information Studies who studies best practices in research and consent policies. Yet it doesn't give them a true accounting of "how things might go wrong," she says—"which would be very valuable information when deciding whether to participate."

Not only does it put the onus on the user; it also leaves it to that single person to "unilaterally affirm the consent of every person within the home," explains Cahn, even though "everyone who lives in a house that uses one of these devices will potentially be put at risk."

All of this lets the company shirk its true responsibility as a data controller, adds Deirdre Mulligan, a professor in the School of Information at UC Berkeley. "A device manufacturer that is a data controller" can't simply "offload all responsibility for the privacy implications of the device's presence in the home to an employee" or other volunteer data collectors.

Some participants did admit that they hadn't read the consent agreement closely. "I skimmed the [terms and conditions] but didn't notice the part about sharing *video and images* with a third party—that would've given me pause," one tester, who used the vacuum for three months last year, wrote in an email.

Before testing his Roomba, B said, he had "perused" the consent agreement and "figured it was a standard boilerplate: 'We can do whatever the hell we want with what we collect, and if you don't like that, don't participate [or] use our product.'" He added, "Admittedly, I just wanted a free product."

Still, B expected that iRobot would offer some level of data protection—not that the "company that made us swear up and down with NDAs that we wouldn't share any information" about the tests would "basically subcontract their most intimate work to the lowest bidder."

Notably, many of the test users who reached out—even those who say they did read the full global test agreement, as well as myriad other agreements, including ones applicable to all consumers—still say they lacked a clear understanding of what collecting their data actually meant or how exactly that data would be processed and used.

What they did understand often depended more on their own awareness of how artificial intelligence is trained than on anything communicated by iRobot.

One tester, Igor, who asked to be identified only by his first name, works in IT for a bank; he considers himself to have "above average training in cybersecurity" and has built his own internet infrastructure at home, allowing him to self-host sensitive information on his own servers and monitor network traffic. He said he did understand that videos would be taken from inside his home and that they would be tagged. "I felt that the company handled the disclosure of the data collection responsibly," he wrote in an email, pointing to both the consent agreement and the device's prominently placed sticker reading "video recording in process." But, he emphasized, "I'm not an average internet user."

Photo of iRobot's preproduction Roomba J series device.

For many testers, the greatest shock from our story was how the data would be handled after collection—including just how much humans would be involved. "I assumed it [the video recording] was only for internal validation if there was an issue as is common practice (I thought)," another tester who asked to be anonymous wrote in an email. And as B put it, "It definitely crossed my mind that these photos would probably be viewed for tagging within a company, but the idea that they were leaked online is disconcerting."

"Human review didn't surprise me," Greg adds, but "the level of human review did … the idea, generally, is that AI should be able to improve the system 80% of the way … and the remainder of it, I think, is just on the exception … that [humans] have to look at it."

Even the participants who were comfortable with having their images viewed and annotated, like Igor, said they were uncomfortable with how iRobot processed the data after the fact. The consent agreement, Igor wrote, "doesn't excuse the poor data handling" and "the overall storage and control that allowed a contractor to export the data."

Multiple US-based participants, meanwhile, expressed concerns about their data being transferred out of the country. The global agreement, they noted, had language for participants "based outside of the US" saying that "iRobot may process Research Data on servers not in my home country … including those whose laws may not offer the same level of data protection as my home country"—but the agreement did not have any corresponding information for US-based participants on how their data would be processed.

"I had no idea that the data was going overseas," one US-based participant wrote to MIT Technology Review—a sentiment repeated by many.

Once data is collected, whether from test users or from customers, people ultimately have little to no control over what the company does with it next—including, for US users, sharing their data overseas.

US users, in fact, have few privacy protections even in their home country, notes Cahn, which is why the EU has laws to protect data from being transferred outside the EU—and to the US specifically. "Member states have to take such extensive steps to protect data being stored in that country. Whereas in the US, it's largely the Wild West," he says. "Americans have no equivalent protection against their data being stored in other countries."

For some testers, this compensation was disappointing—"even before considering … my naked ass could now be on the Internet."

Many testers themselves are aware of the broader issues around data protection in the US, which is why they chose to speak out.

"Outside of regulated industries like banking and health care, the best thing we can probably do is create significant liability for data protection failure, as only hard economic incentives will make companies focus on this," wrote Igor, the tester who works in IT at a bank. "Sadly the political climate doesn't seem like anything could pass here in the US. The best we have is the public shaming … but that is often only reactionary and catches just a small percentage of what's out there."

In the meantime, in the absence of change and accountability—whether from iRobot itself or pushed by regulators—Greg has a message for potential Roomba buyers. "I just wouldn't buy one, flat out," he says, because he feels "iRobot is not handling their data security model well."

And on top of that, he warns, they're "really dismissing their responsibility as vendors to … notify [or] protect customers—which in this case include the testers of these products."

Lam Thuy Vo contributed research.

People suffering from symptoms of depression or anxiety may help heal themselves by doing good deeds for others, new research shows. The study found that performing acts of kindness led to improvements not seen in two other therapeutic techniques used to treat depression or anxiety.



Self-Driving Tesla Causes Eight-Vehicle Crash, Injures Child
New footage just dropped of a Tesla self-driving accident that caused a pileup on the San Francisco Bay Bridge and resulted in a toddler being injured.

Found Footage

New footage just dropped of a


self-driving accident that caused a pileup on the San Francisco Bay Bridge — a serious accident that even resulted in a toddler being injured.

Obtained by The Intercept via a California Public Records Act request, the security camera footage of the November 24, 2022 crash seems to corroborate eyewitness accounts, with the car abruptly switching into the fast lane of one of the bridge's underpasses before braking, leading to an eight-car pileup.

As the Intercept's report notes, nine people — including a two-year-old child — were injured in the accident.

The Thanksgiving Day accident occurred just hours after Tesla CEO took to Twitter to announce that the company's controversial full self-driving (FSD) beta testing would be available to any North American driver who requested it.

According to a California Highway Patrol report, the driver told police that he'd been using FSD when suddenly, the car's left turn signal and brakes activated. The driver also seemed to suggest that the car drove itself into the left-most lane before "slowing to a stop" right in front of another car, catalyzing the pileup.

Tell Me Why

This latest example of the growing problem surrounding Tesla's Autopilot and FSD capabilities is particularly egregious because of its timing on Thanksgiving Day — and on the very day Musk expanded it to all North American users.

Add in this new footage and this accident becomes a picture-perfect example of why federal authorities and consumers alike are so concerned about Tesla's automation efforts, which federal regulators suspect to be way more deadly than assisted driving software offered by other electric vehicle manufacturers.

The Intercept report notes that in spite of this increasingly-alarming problem, however, there still aren't any federal regulations about autonomous vehicle testing on the books, though some states have begun implementing their own restrictions.

More on Tesla: Tesla Sighs and Lets Customers Have a Normal Steering Wheel Instead of Weird Misshapen Yoke Thing

The post Self-Driving Tesla Causes Eight-Vehicle Crash, Injures Child appeared first on Futurism.



Amazingly, George Santos Is a Member of Congress

This is an edition of The Atlantic Daily, a newsletter that guides you through the biggest stories of the day, helps you discover new ideas, and recommends the best in culture. Sign up for it here.

Amid the fight for the House speaker's gavel, it was easy to forget that George Santos is now actually a member of Congress.

But first, here are three new stories from The Atlantic.

This Guy

Remember Herschel Walker, the Georgia football star who was a shoo-in for a Senate seat—until the press discovered the children he didn't acknowledge and the abortions he'd allegedly paid for? The Republican Party decided to tough it out with Walker, but the humiliation was too much for voters in a state that sent Marjorie Taylor Greene to Congress, and Walker narrowly lost.

Narrowly. It is amazing to realize that Walker lost by only a few points, when not so long ago, a candidate with his baggage (and inability to speak in coherent sentences) would have simply dropped out of the race. Surely, we'd reached the bottom of what even the most jaded voters would tolerate.

Or so I thought until I started following the improbable tale of George Santos—so far, that does seem to be his name—the weird fabulist who has been elected to the Congress of the United States of America. Almost everything about the life story Santos has told is a lie; likewise, he has not, so far, been able to adequately explain where he got all the money that he poured into his campaign.

As you might expect, this has caused fury in his district, powered a recall movement, and led the national Republicans to act on principle and refuse to seat him in Congress.

I am, of course, kidding. Nothing in that last sentence happened. If George Santos can make stuff up, so can I, but The Atlantic requires that I tell you when I'm joking.

There was a time when congressional candidates generally had to tell at least some of the truth if they were caught lying. Santos is amazing: His double-downs and elisions tumble out effortlessly but pointlessly, even if he does manage to muster a certain amount of boyish charm while stepping on rake after rake. When did his mother die? Well, that depends on what when or die means. Did he work in high finance? Well, not really, but again, it might depend on what high means. Did he go to college? Well, he's been near a college or two. Close enough. Is he gay or straight, Jewish or Catholic? Did his family die in the Holocaust in Europe? Are they from Brazil, or anywhere in this solar system on our side of the asteroid belt?

You can trip over some fibs in public life, and you can weather a few indiscretions. Normally, however, you cannot survive telling a tale that has more fakery in it than the entire cover story of Philip and Elizabeth Jennings, the two fictional Soviet spies in the TV series The Americans. (At least Philip and Elizabeth have real jobs.) I am not saying that George Santos is a spy or a plant. Deep-cover agents are far more competent than Santos is at … well, everything, but especially at lying.

Even one of Santos's campaign fundraisers tried the Man of Mystery approach, reportedly presenting himself to GOP donors as Kevin McCarthy's chief of staff. This might even be a crime, which is probably why Santos, his lawyers, and everyone else have dummied up and refused to answer any more questions about it. But it is revealing that some guy allegedly impersonated the Republican leader's chief of staff to raise money and gave it to a serial liar who then got elected to Congress—and that this escapade hasn't been even more of a story.

Like Walker, Santos himself isn't really the issue. The problem is a Republican Party that has come to expect its voters to put up with anything rather than lose one vote in Congress. And with rare exceptions, this gamble—that the party faithful are either too polarized, too numb, or too inattentive to care—has paid off. This is why Kevin McCarthy had to fight for his political life against the likes of Matt Gaetz and Lauren Boebert and Andy Biggs. Worse yet, it's why he had to count on Taylor Greene and Donald Trump himself as his allies.

Santos, to his credit, sat there quietly and did as he was told during the speakership fight. (There is an accusation that he flashed a white-power sign when he voted, but even if true, that's not even close to disqualifying in the GOP these days.) But now that most of the drama is over, no one cares that a complete fraud is sitting in the House. If he's removed from Congress, it will likely be over money, not ethics; both U.S. and New York State officials are looking into his murky finances. It might have been nice to see the voters and a political party stand on principle, but the Republican project of telling us all to just get used to it is proceeding apace.


Today's News

  1. Intense rains have caused flooding in parts of Los Angeles. At least 15 people have died across the state since late December, and tens of thousands of residents have been ordered to evacuate.
  2. The Justice Department launched a review into the discovery of classified documents at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, where Joe Biden had a private office after serving as vice president.
  3. On a surprise trip to Ukraine, Germany's foreign minister confirmed that Berlin will send more weapons to the country.

Evening Read

An image of blue birds flying away while holding a red circle with a dash through it, of the sort seen on "No Smoking" signs
Paul Spella / The Atlantic; Getty

Twitter Was the Ultimate Cancellation Machine

By Kaitlyn Tiffany

Whatever else it is, Twitter is a place where the average person can subject others to their displeasure. They have been mistreated by Southwest Airlines. They have been angered by the comments of a man who sells beans. They have learned, to their horror, that the father of their favorite indie-pop star previously worked for the U.S. State Department. In posting about these things in a venue where the target of scorn might actually see the complaint—along with perhaps millions of other people—the aggrieved may experience some instant relief. If you want accountability on social media, you tweet.

Which raises a weird question: If Twitter withers under Elon Musk, where will we go with our beefs? Even before Musk's takeover, the platform was supposedly shedding its most valuable users; now many others are expected to leave as the platform becomes glitchier and more toxic.

Twitter has never been perfect, but it has been functional. The options for those seeking justice there exist on a spectrum from the silly to the profound; most are somewhere in the middle.

Read the full article.

More From The Atlantic

Culture Break

A woman consoles her young niece, while a robot-doll creepily observes them in "M3GAN"
Geoffrey Short / Universal Pictures

Read. The first three books from Atlantic Editions, our new book imprint: essay collections by Atlantic staff writers Sophie Gilbert and Megan Garber, and senior editor Lenika Cruz.

Watch. M3GAN, in theaters, a zany horror film starring a killer-robot doll that is just what 2023 needs.

Play our daily crossword.


When I was a boy, I loved astronomy. I even had a telescope for a while. I was never very good at using it, and I could really focus only on the moon. But I still remember the thrill of using a lunar map to find the landing sites of the Apollo missions and some of the earlier unmanned probes. I did manage to spot Mars—it was just a fuzzy red disk—but I was (and remain) a science-fiction nerd, and so, after years of watching Star Trek and reading The War of the Worlds, I felt like I was peering into a dangerous mystery.

I am older now, and when I look to the sky, the beauty of the stars is tangled up in questions about eternity that these days, as you might imagine, seem more pressing to me. Perhaps this is why I find myself boyishly excited all over again about the approach of a green comet that last visited Earth some 50,000 years ago. There is something comforting in thinking of the universe as a cozy place where a comet, last seen by Neanderthals, returns to find us a spacefaring species. We spend so much time worrying about our own extinction that it's a relief to think of ourselves as the descendants of creatures who might well have looked up with the same wonder as I will soon, and the ancestors of beings whose lives we cannot even yet imagine. Fifty thousand years isn't an eternity, but for me, it'll do until eternity gets here.

— Tom

Isabel Fattal contributed to this newsletter.

The Buy Now, Pay Later Bubble Is About to Burst
Is this article about Investing?

As familiar as Americans are with the concept of credit, many of us, upon encountering a sandwich that can be financed in four easy payments of $3.49, might think: Yikes, we're in trouble.

Putting a banh mi on layaway—this is the world that buy-now, pay-later programs have wrought. In a few short years, financial-technology firms such as Affirm, Afterpay, and Klarna, which allow consumers to pay for purchases over several interest-free installments, have infiltrated nearly every corner of e-commerce. People are buying cardigans with this kind of financing. They're buying groceries and OLED TVs. During the summer of 2020, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, they bought enough Peloton products to account for 30 percent of Affirm's revenue. And though Americans have used layaway programs since the Great Depression, today's pay-later plans flip the order of operations: Rather than claiming an item and taking it home only after you've paid in full, consumers using these modern payment plans can acquire an item for just a small deposit and a cursory credit check.

[Read: Why is there financing for everything now?]

From 2019 to 2021, the total value of buy-now, pay-later (or BNPL) loans originated in the United States grew more than 1,000 percent, from $2 billion to $24.2 billion. That's still a small fraction of the amount charged to credit cards, but the fast adoption of BNPL points to its mainstream appeal. The popular embrace of this kind of lending system says a lot about Americans' relationship to debt—particularly among the younger borrowers who made BNPL popular (about half of BNPL users are 33 or under). "We found that most of the people that use buy now, pay later either don't have or don't use a credit card," Marco Di Maggio, an economist at Harvard, told me. He said that Gen Z was skeptical of credit cards, possibly because many of them had seen their parents sink into debt. Following the '08 financial crisis, personal debt became a public bogeyman. The elimination of housing wealth for millions of Americans fueled a credit crunch, in which banks tightened credit standards and sharply curtailed their lending. Government agencies such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau also strongly discouraged overextension.

"We have sort of indoctrinated younger borrowers in the idea that having credit-card debt is bad," Anastasiya Ghosh, a University of Arizona marketing professor, told me. Ghosh's research involves polling consumers about which method of spending makes them feel the most guilty. "Credit cards are always the worst," she said. Conversely, when given the option between BNPL and debit, shoppers made no moral distinction. Even the most prosaic items were fair game for financing. Ghosh had assumed people would tend to reserve BNPL "for hedonic things that are harder to justify"—until a control group in one of her studies happily used it on groceries. "They felt absolutely nothing negative," she said, "which blew my mind."

Older consumers might see fractured payments on chicken thighs as a sign of financial precarity, but many young people find BNPL's nuances liberating, Di Maggio told me. They perceive credit cards as encouraging a kick-the-can attitude toward debt, with interest steadily accruing from month to month. (Indeed, roughly 60 percent of credit-card holders don't pay the full amount on their monthly bills, according to a McKinsey survey.) Traditional lenders profit from sustained delinquency, whereas most BNPL loan terms are fixed at six weeks. BNPL providers can offer zero-percent interest rates because they charge merchants three to four times the average credit-card processing fee. To many Gen Zers, that business model seems less risky than credit cards. It gives them a sense of security that the debt from a purchase won't balloon from interest and hang over their heads forever.

The tendrils of those credit-card anxieties stretch all the way to Instagram and TikTok, where countless "debt success stories" feature creators digging their way out of credit-card bills. As the reigning king of product placement, Instagram is a crucial node in the BNPL network: #Afterpay is tagged in more than 1.6 million posts on the platform, most of them from brands and influencers hawking apparel. But Gen Z's lifestyle gurus live on TikTok, where they articulate new modes of consumption in real time—distilling whole philosophies at incredible scale.

To a generation of borrowers, zero interest means free money, and the idea of paying down daily indulgences doesn't faze many young consumers. "One thing about me? Ima Afterpay that shit," says the creator behind All Things Naisa on TikTok, where she has more than 130,000 followers. "I don't care if I have $40 million in my account. I don't care if the cart came up to $6.74. Afterpay that shit!" The video has almost 180,000 likes. In another video, John Liang, a TikTok influencer with 2.1 million followers, presents the decision to use BNPL as one of pure reason. Standing in front of a green-screened Apple Store, Liang explains that by not paying the total price for a product upfront, he can invest the remainder of his money.

When I pitched this latter reasoning to Di Maggio, he said it made little sense economically and psychologically. He pointed out that investments don't typically yield appreciable returns over just six weeks. And even if they did, most consumers who find an extra $20 or so in their pocket don't think to buy stocks or bonds with it—they spend it on something else. A recent study he co-authored supports this notion, finding that BNPL use causes a permanent increase in total spending of about $60 a week, stretching the average household retail budget 30 percent. Another study found that, on paper, people who borrow from these financial-technology firms look as creditworthy as their conventional-banking counterparts, but "after they get the loan, they are much more likely to be delinquent," Di Maggio said. BNPL delinquency rates are outpacing those of credit cards, and the companies have seen their valuations slashed in the face of waning interest from investors.

[Read: The resurrection of retail]

Many financial-technology firms frame their mission as one of inclusion—they say they're building a bigger tent for America's un- and underbanked, which include gig workers and young people with poor credit histories. Klarna, for instance, recently launched a "creator platform" to match merchants with influencers who have access to their target audiences. But because BNPL providers aren't subject to the same scrutiny as banks (most of them engage in forms of lending not explicitly covered by the Truth in Lending or Dodd-Frank Acts), consumer protections are scant. BNPL programs increase the likelihood of borrowers dipping into their savings and incurring overdraft and other fees. And most of the companies don't furnish credit-score-boosting data to agencies such as TransUnion, meaning that even if you use BNPL and pay on time, "you have thousands of dollars of debt on your balance sheet that nobody knows about," Di Maggio said.

What companies like Klarna once characterized as paradigm-busting behavior—young people rejecting stodgy banks in favor of more freeing forms of finance—now looks like the crest of yet another credit cycle, a familiar note in the motif of American consumption. As with young credit-card holders, BNPL users under 25 have the highest default and delinquency rates. If credit dries up in a broader downturn, they are at risk of losing access even to those programs. Meanwhile, they may find that their reliance on these parallel lending methods, which only glancingly intersect with the conventional credit ecosystem, has hobbled their credit history at the worst possible time.

The new debt, in many ways, is exactly the same as the old debt. On TikTok, a small cadre of folks is starting to inch toward denunciation. The opening line of one finance influencer's video last month: "I'm gonna explain to you why you should never use the buy-now-and-pay-later feature."

By their own admission, Anastasios "Andy" Tzanidakis and James Davenport are interested in unusual stars. The University of Washington astronomers were on the lookout for "stars behaving strangely" when an automated alert from the Gaia survey pointed them to Gaia17bpp. Survey data indicated that this star had gradually brightened over a 2 1/2-year period.

Is this article about Weather?
With a transmitter less powerful than a microwave oven, a team of scientists and engineers has used the National Science Foundation's Green Bank Telescope (GBT) and Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) to make the highest-resolution radar images of the moon ever collected from the ground, paving the way for a next-generation radar system to study planets, moons, and asteroids in the solar system.

Is this article about Robotics?
Chesapeake Conservancy's data science team developed an artificial intelligence deep learning model for mapping wetlands, which resulted in 94% accuracy. Supported by EPRI, an independent, non-profit energy research and development institute; Lincoln Electric System; and the Grayce B. Kerr Fund, Inc., this method for wetland mapping could deliver important outcomes for protecting and conserving wetlands. The results are published in the peer-reviewed journal Science of the Total Environment.

A radiation protection vest, olive oil, and sutured tissues are among the scientific samples returning from the International Space Station on the 26th SpaceX commercial resupply services mission for NASA. The Dragon spacecraft, which arrived at the station Nov. 27, is scheduled to undock on January 9, with splashdown January 11 off the coast of Florida.

FirstFT: Beijing retaliates
Leo has detected a Regulatory Change and a Participation in an Event in this article
Also in today's newsletter, Goldman seeks to slash costs and Bolsonaro says he plans return to Brazil

Just as humans can't subsist on a diet of only French fries and brownies, plants must also consume a balanced diet to maintain optimal health and bolster their immune responses. Nutrient element uptake is necessary for plant growth, development, and reproduction. In some cases, treatment with essential elements has been shown to induce plant
disease resistance
, but conclusive research on the molecular basis of this remedy has been limited.

In Terrifying News, Big Brained T-Rex May Have Been as Smart as Primates
New research suggests that the T-Rex didn't just have loads of teeth, but plenty of neurons — enough to make them the "primates of their time."

Clever Girl

The tyrannosaurus rex was the apex of all apex predators in its heyday over 65 million years ago, known more in pop culture for its ferocity than its smarts. But according to a new study, we may have been underestimating how intelligent these towering tyrants were this whole time.

In fact, compared to the intelligence of their peers, the T-Rex and other theropods — three clawed, bipedal dinosaurs — may have been the "primates of their time," said neuroscientist Suzana Herculano-Houzel, author of the study published in the Journal of Comparative Neurology, in a video about her research.

According to her findings, theropods had as many neurons in their brains as monkeys do today, with the T-Rex boasting "baboon-like" numbers of up to 3 billion neurons. That's a pretty scary level of intelligence for a killing machine the size of a house.

With that many neurons, a T-Rex wouldn't have just possessed uncanny cognition. It also might have lived longer, up to 40 years, Herculano-Houzel estimates. That's enough time and smarts to potentially be a social creature with its own culture, like primates and whales, and also suggests they may have worked together, too.

The ability to use tools is even on the table — though with their infamously stubby arms, that seems less likely.

Bird Brained

Without any theropod brains lying around — soft tissues like gray matter are rarely fossilized — determining an accurate neuron count of an extinct animal relies on the brains of its modern descendants: birds.

"If you can figure out how many neurons go into a bird brain of a certain size, and you can figure out what size was the brain of different bird-like dinosaurs," Herculano-Houzel explained, "then you can do the math and estimate how many neurons a dinosaur brain had."

That math is relatively simple. Instead, the difficulty lied in establishing that the brain size proportionality in birds also applied to dinosaurs — "which is what I just did," she declared.

But as an essential tenet to her work, Herculano-Houzel maintains that theropods must be treated as a discrete group with its own distinct traits, rather than thinking of dinosaurs as a homogeneous whole.

From that assumption, Herculano-Houzel realized that theropods in particular had a similar correlation between body mass and brain size to pre-impact birds, or basal birds. From there, she used the neuron count of modern birds like emus and ostritches and applied the same rules of scaling to figure out how many neurons theropods like the T-Rex may have had.

It's a huge revelation if it holds up, and it makes you marvel at how drastically our understanding of ancient life continues to shift.

More on dinosaurs: Billionaire Private Astronaut Suggests Reviving Dinosaurs

The post In Terrifying News, Big Brained T-Rex May Have Been as

Smart as

Primates appeared first on Futurism.

Is this article about Food Science?
Just as humans can't subsist on a diet of only French fries and brownies, plants must also consume a balanced diet to maintain optimal health and bolster their immune responses. Nutrient element uptake is necessary for plant growth, development, and reproduction. In some cases, treatment with essential elements has been shown to induce plant
disease resistance
, but conclusive research on the molecular basis of this remedy has been limited.

Is this article about Tech & Scientific Innovation?
An international team has succeeded in propagating a commercial hybrid rice strain as a clone through seeds with 95 percent efficiency. This could lower the cost of hybrid rice seed, making high-yielding, disease resistant rice strains available to low-income farmers worldwide. The work was published Dec. 27 in Nature Communications.

Is this article about Tech & Scientific Innovation?
An international team has succeeded in propagating a commercial hybrid rice strain as a clone through seeds with 95 percent efficiency. This could lower the cost of hybrid rice seed, making high-yielding, disease resistant rice strains available to low-income farmers worldwide. The work was published Dec. 27 in Nature Communications.

Sense of space in a familiar vs unfamiliar environment

For fun, I play online chess. With the pieces in their standard position, the board seems a certain, familiar, manageable size. However, when I play chess960, where the same pieces are placed randomly in one of 960 variations, the board seems much larger. In my mind, the distance from one side of the board to the other just seems greater, and the space in the middle is uncertain and a bit scary.

Is there a way in cogsci to explain this phenomenon?

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So for example, lions have different emotions than gazelles, I suppose, as gazelles are really lousy at being ferocious (i.e., expressing predatorial aggression). I think much can be said for the innate emotions an animal has in relation to how their bodies are designed to function socially, in relation to their environment, predation, etc.

I can't find anything about this. Folks like Adolphs and Ledoux hint at a connection when talking about things like attraction and repulsion in unicellular organisms, but they always trail off. I am interested in what neuroscience can tell us about differentiating emotions in different organisms in relation to their different bodies and social lives. Anybody have a lead on a good paper?

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Methanotrophs—organisms that grow by consuming methane—seem to be perfect for alleviating global warming, since methane accounts for about 30% of this effect. However, drilling sites, where the natural gas is mostly composed of methane, also contains hydrogen sulfide (H2S), which inhibits the growth of methanotrophs. In a new study, researchers have discovered that the methanotroph Methylococcus capsulatus Bath has an enzyme that helps it grow in the presence of small amounts of H2S.

Methanotrophs—organisms that grow by consuming methane—seem to be perfect for alleviating global warming, since methane accounts for about 30% of this effect. However, drilling sites, where the natural gas is mostly composed of methane, also contains hydrogen sulfide (H2S), which inhibits the growth of methanotrophs. In a new study, researchers have discovered that the methanotroph Methylococcus capsulatus Bath has an enzyme that helps it grow in the presence of small amounts of H2S.

Is this article about Weather?
In areas near Raleigh projected to see heavier future development, keeping buffers of trees or other greenery around waterways could help slow rushing streams during wet conditions, and keep them flowing during dry ones. However, North Carolina State University researchers behind a recent study warned these so-called "riparian buffers" would not be a magic bullet for managing water as development increases and the climate grows warmer and wetter.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced education, services, health care and many other aspects of everyday life online. For social work, that transition started as a challenge, but it can actually be an opportunity for educators, social workers and the people they serve. A University of Kansas professor has published a paper arguing that social work educators can adapt their teaching practices in a way that best prepares their students to interact with those they serve, whether online, in person or both.

Scientists Figure Out Why Roman Buildings Have Survived For So Long
Is this article about Construction?

(Image: Livioandronico2013/Wikimedia Commons)
The Roman Pantheon, Colosseum, and other landmarks each draw more than 7 million visitors per year. It's only fair: For more than 2,000 years, the buildings have presented tangible evidence of the ancient Roman Empire. But the mere fact of the landmarks' age has long prompted scientists to wonder how the Romans managed to construct buildings with such structural integrity.

Now it seems that a large team of researchers from the United States, Switzerland, and Italy has solved the puzzle. Using concrete samples from Privernum, an ancient Roman city and archaeological site, the researchers determined that lime clasts allowed cracked walls to "heal"—and thus extend their own longevity—over time.

The Romans made their concrete in largely the same way we do now, using aggregate (like sand, gravel, or volcanic tuff), water, and a binding agent. Scientists previously assumed the Romans used volcanic ash as their binding agent. Historic texts indicate that ash from the area of Pozzuoli was shipped around the Roman empire and used in various forms of construction. Any white chunks found throughout the concrete were thought to be the product of poor mixing or low-quality raw material.

But large-area scanning electron microscopy and energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDS) has helped researchers identify their mistake. Rather than an indication of poor quality, the white spots within the Romans' concrete served as an independent healing mechanism for cracks that formed in the buildings' walls. The Romans used quicklime with or in place of the more traditional slaked lime (lime mixed with water) when they made their binding agents. Because quicklime is more reactive, it produced an exothermic reaction that facilitated what's known as "hot mixing."

Original Roman lime clasts (top) vs modern recreation. (Image: Seymour et al/Science Advances DOI 10.1126/sciadv.add1602)

Hot mixing didn't just reduce the concrete's curing and setting times. It also produced high-temperature-associated compounds that slaked lime couldn't have formed. These included a nanoparticulate architecture responsible for a brittle and reactive calcium source. Any small cracks that started to form in the concrete would "travel" through the lime clasts, which would react with water to produce a calcium-saturated solution. When this solution recrystallized, it would fill the cracks.

The researchers sought to test Roman lime clasts' effect on modern concrete, which actually requires more repair (and emits far more carbon during manufacturing) than its predecessor. In a paper published last week in Science Advances, they describe the process by which they combined Ordinary Portland cement (OPC) with ash, sand, and water. They then added quicklime to some samples while leaving the others as-is. The researchers cracked all of their samples, ran water through the cracks, and then left the samples alone for two weeks.

Just as the Romans intended, the samples containing lime clasts had completely "healed" by the end of the two-week period. Water could no longer flow through where the cracks had once been. Meanwhile, samples made without quicklime did not heal and continued to allow water to flow through their cracks.

The researchers now intend on commercializing quicklime-equipped concrete. "One method to reduce cement's carbon footprint…is to improve the longevity of concrete through the incorporation of self-healing functionalities," they write. "The resulting extended use life, combined with a reduction in the need for extensive repair, could thus reduce the environmental impact and improve the economic life cycle of modern cementitious constructs."

Now Read:

One of the biggest achievements of quantum physics was recasting our vision of the atom. Out was the early 1900s model of a solar system in miniature, in which electrons looped around a solid nucleus. Instead, quantum physics showed that electrons live a far more interesting life, meandering around the nucleus in clouds that look like tiny balloons. These balloons are known as atomic orbitals, and they come in all sorts of different shapes—perfectly round, two-lobed, clover-leaf-shaped. The number of lobes in the balloon signifies how much the electron spins about the nucleus.

The island of Hispaniola once had among the highest diversity of rodents in the Caribbean, supporting 11 species that coexisted for thousands of years. Today, only one rodent species remains within the island's two countries of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and its prospects for survival are uncertain. There are many theories as to why so many species went extinct, but it's unclear exactly when each disappeared, making it difficult to determine the cause.

The island of Hispaniola once had among the highest diversity of rodents in the Caribbean, supporting 11 species that coexisted for thousands of years. Today, only one rodent species remains within the island's two countries of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and its prospects for survival are uncertain. There are many theories as to why so many species went extinct, but it's unclear exactly when each disappeared, making it difficult to determine the cause.

Sam Bankman-Fried Reportedly Lived in Astonishing Opulence
SBF reportedly used FTX money to support a lavish lifestyle for himself and his inner circle, spending tens of millions on luxury housing, hotels, and food.

Livin' Large

Sam Bankman-Fried, the disgraced former CEO of the now-bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange FTX, claimed that he wanted to make billions — or maybe even trillions — so that he could give it all away. In fact, as he told Bloomberg back in April, he only planned to keep one percent of his personal wealth, eventually giving the rest away to worthy causes.

"You pretty quickly run out of really effective ways to make yourself happier by spending money," the 29-year-old crypto crusader, who's currently facing US criminal charges related to fraud and embezzlement, explained to Bloomberg at the time. "I don't want a yacht."

Regardless of whether SBF actually had a big boat — some reports are now claiming that he actually did have a 52-foot yacht — it's starting to seem like s0-called "effective altruism" really wasn't his top priority.

According to new bankruptcy court filings reviewed by Insider, SBF used FTX money to support an incredibly lavish lifestyle for himself and those in his inner circle, spending upwards of $40 million on ultra-luxurious living arrangements, food, and hotels in just nine months alone. You know, for the good of the people.

Check Please

Some $5.8 million of that $40 million figure was reportedly spent renting an opulent Bahamian penthouse — in which SBF reportedly lived with several roommates, some of whom he may have been romantically involved with — at the oceanfront Albany Resort, a hotel featuring its own yacht marina and golf course.

Elsewhere, $3.6 million was dropped on rooms at the Bahamas' four-star Grand Hyatt, while $800,000 was spent at the five-star Rosewood hotel. Another $6.9 million was reportedly spent on "meals and entertainment," a rough $2.4 million of which was spent on catering services.

While it's unclear where the rest of that meal budget went, Fox Business previously alleged that SBF was a fan of a spot called the Nassau Bistro, where he'd regularly spend several thousands on lunch. (It's worth noting that Alameda Research, an FTX-tied and also bankrupt crypto hedge fund, owes a good $50k+ to Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville.)

Of course, considering that SBF admitted that the "ethics stuff" was "mostly a front" pretty shortly after FTX's collapse, it's not exactly surprising to see his money go literally anywhere but where his mouth was. FTX may not have been a force for good — but at least for a while, it was certainly a force for its execs to live the good life.

READ MORE: FTX spent nearly $7 million on food and over $15 million on luxury Bahamian hotels in just 9 months, court documents show [Insider]

More on FTX: FTX's New CEO Says Company Did "Old Fashioned Embezzlement"

The post Sam Bankman-Fried Reportedly Lived in Astonishing Opulence appeared first on Futurism.

Scientists Say They Gene Hacked Mice to Double Remaining Lifespan
Is this article about Tech?
San Diego-based biotech startup Rejuvenate Bio has claimed that its technology was able to extend the lives of old mice.

San Diego-based biotech startup Rejuvenate Bio is making a major claim that'll likely draw heated scrutiny from the scientific community: that its technology was able to significantly extend the lives of elderly mice.

According to a yet-to-be-peer-reviewed paper, scientists at the company say an injection that reprograms genes in the bodies of senior mice effectively doubled their remaining life span, MIT Technology Review reports.

In tests, the company found that treated mice lived on for another 18 weeks on average. Those who were not treated in a control group only lived for another nine weeks. Overall, they say, the gene hacked mice lived roughly seven percent longer overall.

The treatment works by exposing the mice's cells to various proteins that are usually found in early-stage embryos, altering their genetic properties. Japanese biologist Shinya Yamanaka came up with this technique in 2012, which earned him a Nobel Prize.

But before we can celebrate Rejuvenate Bio's discoveries as a scientific breakthrough, outside researchers will need to go through the startup's claims with a fine-toothed comb.

For one, we still don't fully understand the risks of reprogramming genes in this manner. Some tests have already shown to cause cancer in mice, as MIT Tech points out. And, at the end of the day, mice are tiny and shortlived compared to humans.

The company, though, is psyched.

"This is a powerful technology, and here is the proof of concept," Rejuvenate Bio CEO Noah Davidson told MIT Tech. "I wanted to show that it's actually something we can do in our elderly population."

Previous experiments by the Salk Institute have shown that mice suffering from a premature aging condition were able to live longer after receiving the treatment.

But does it work for healthy mice as well? Despite years of research by various groups, the answer remains hazy.

"Different groups have tried this experiment ,and the data have not been positive so far," Alejandro Ocampo, a biologist at the University of Lausanne, in Switzerland, who was involved in the Salk Institute experiments, told MIT Tech.

Rejuvenate Bio argues that its technique is different. The reprogramming is being done using gene therapy, which, as Davidson claims, makes it more like treatments humans and not just mice could eventually receive.

The company is working on similar therapies for both pet dogs and humans suffering from specific medical conditions including heart failure.

READ MORE: This biotech startup says mice live longer after genetic reprogramming [MIT Technology Review]

More on rejuvenation: Doctors Impressed by Drugs That Rejuvenate Immune System

The post Scientists Say They Gene Hacked Mice to Double Remaining Lifespan appeared first on Futurism.

Is this article about Tech & Scientific Innovation?
They call it Legionella bononiensis: it is the 64th species of Legionella identified worldwide, the second to be isolated in Italy since the discovery of the pathogen. It was discovered in 2019 in a hotel facility by researchers from the Laboratory of Environmental Microbiology and Molecular Biology (MAb) at the University of Bologna.

Using data from NASA's
Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite
, scientists have identified an Earth-size world, called TOI 700 e, orbiting within the habitable zone of its star—the range of distances where liquid water could occur on a planet's surface. The world is 95% Earth's size and likely rocky.

An expensive robodog that was trawling the streets of Brisbane late at night got the crap kicked out of it for no reason by a belligerant Aussie.

Here's The Kicker

Thanks to one belligerent Aussie, an expensive robot dog that was trawling the streets of Brisbane late at night got the crap kicked out of it for no apparent reason.

In an interview with Vice, that robodog's operator Mark Trueno said that he's not really sure why the woman twice kicked "Stampy," the $15,000 prototype of a military-grade robot his company is working on — but it could have had something to do with the fact that it was 2:30am on a street in Brisbane known for its rowdy drunkards when the assault occurred.

"I'm not really sure why she did it, probably just thought it was funny at the time, " Trueno, who works as an engineer for the Australian military and mining equipment company Arrowpoint Systems, told Vice.

In a stupidly-titled Facebook video filmed by Stampy himself, the woman is twice seen assaulting the bot, in what Trueno said resulted in $2,500 in damage to its sensors.

Use Cases

Stampy is, Trueno explained, a "smaller version" of some heavy-duty robots Arrowpoint is developing that can be tricked out with gas sensors and 3D map-generating tech — though Trueno said that he sometimes uses his to walk his cat, Chairman Meow, in the park.

While the fleshed-out versions of Stampy will be used on search-and-rescue missions and other situations too dangerous for humans to venture into, Trueno told Vice he's been testing out the robot in street environments to see how well it could handle obstacles and utilize its mapping technology.

There's also the small issue of not having "any mineshafts handy nearby" to test Stampy out on either, the engineer added.


Trueno seems, by all accounts, pretty irked that someone would kick the robot just for the hell of it, and said in his Facebook post that she kicked it "with enough force to cause damage to the forward facing sensor array."

In that same Facebook post, Trueno offered $500 to "whoever helps track her down" — and as he later told Vice, he was contacted by someone who, he believes, is the friend seen chiding the aggressive woman both times she kicked the robot. He added that he'd spoken to the young woman in the video, who told him that she'd almost broken her toe kicking the surprisingly-heavy e-pup.

"I really don't get people sometimes," the post continues. "Poor Stampy."

More on robots: Italy Invents Robot That Carves Sculptures Out of Marble Like Michelangelo

The post Expensive Robodog Walks Down Street, Get Viciously Stomped By Belligerent Australian appeared first on Futurism.

Is this article about Tech & Scientific Innovation?
They call it Legionella bononiensis: it is the 64th species of Legionella identified worldwide, the second to be isolated in Italy since the discovery of the pathogen. It was discovered in 2019 in a hotel facility by researchers from the Laboratory of Environmental Microbiology and Molecular Biology (MAb) at the University of Bologna.

The Last of Us Makes the Apocalypse Feel New Again

In the landscape of video-game adaptations, a specific quandary comes up again and again as the medium grows in ambition: How do you translate a game that was itself clearly inspired by film and television? When The Last of Us was released on PlayStation in 2013, I marveled at its cinematic verisimilitude. It updated a familiar zombie-apocalypse aesthetic with some clever scientific twists; the game's world is overrun by a fungal infection that turns its victims into mindless, violent monsters. But what made The Last of Us even more immersive was how it implicates players in the lead character's own morally dubious actions. It was an unexpectedly emotional experience.

Ten years on, that game has spawned a sequel, a remake, a so-called remastered version, and now a prestige television show on HBO written by one of the original's creators, Neil Druckmann, and Craig Mazin, who's also behind the terrific 2019 miniseries Chernobyl. The basic narrative follows the journey of the haunted survivor Joel (played here by Pedro Pascal) and his plucky teen charge, Ellie (Bella Ramsey), whom he transports across the country in hopes that she holds the cure to a devastating global infection. The story is gripping, but it's undeniably indebted to dystopian clichés that one might recognize from Night of the Living Dead or The Road. Without a controller in my hands and the unique participatory element that comes with it, I wasn't sure this rendition would have enough meat on the bones.

[Read: Will there ever be a great video-game movie?]

I'm glad to be proved wrong. Plenty of plot details in The Last of Us might feel conventional, but the show still offers a rich genre stew, with the kind of high-budget flavor that sets tentpole HBO productions apart from their straight-to-streaming counterparts. (It will air weekly on HBO and be available on HBO Max.) The show has reverence for its forebear's structure but isn't hampered by that devotion. It makes tweaks where necessary, both to avoid any outdated themes and to shake loose from the linearity of a game, which functionally requires the player to be pushed in one direction, as if on invisible rails.

In The Last of Us, as in all video games, any particular level is preprogrammed; you can't open every door or trot down every side street, as detailed as the design may feel. The show is likewise constrained by TV's episodic framework, but Mazin and Druckmann make every effort to create an expansive fictional universe. Pascal's and Ramsey's performances are excellent, and the general success of The Last of Us relies on their deepening chemistry as their characters evolve from uneasy strangers to surrogate father and daughter. Yet some of the show's best dramatic flourishes go beyond Joel and Ellie's trek across a ruined nation.

This is especially true in the third episode, a mostly self-contained work that focuses on one of Joel's survivalist allies, Bill (Nick Offerman), and his relationship with another survivalist named Frank (Murray Bartlett). The subplot is the most sterling example of the show's willingness to cleave away from its source material, taking a side character from the game, completely reinventing his backstory, and then giving him narrative room to breathe—all while avoiding tired apocalypse beats. In the game, Bill's paranoia is so extreme that he's pushed everyone in his life away from him; in the show, those fears shift and relax as he forms a genuine, loving relationship with Frank.

With most pop-culture tales of zombie hordes, I'm inured to the idea that no character can ever find lasting happiness. Their world is always too bleak and oppressive, and the genre tends to lean on humanity revealing itself as the real monster in the face of such dark times. The Last of Us works hard to present a more sanguine view, including through Joel and Ellie's deep bond—although franchise fans know that that connection will eventually grow complicated. (This season covers the events of the first game; future ones may take on the sprawling, challenging second one.)

Mazin's skill in Chernobyl lay in how he tied together disparate story threads about the disaster without losing sight of the show's core relationship. The Last of Us has a similarly elaborate scope. Some diversions worked less well for me than others—there's a two-episode arc about a resistance cell in Kansas City that feels more like a generic Walking Dead plotline—but even those comparatively middling moments help underline how the overall approach mostly defies expectations. This is no ordinary grab bag of jump scares and grisly kills: The Last of Us respects its genre but works to defy its creakiest tropes.

Why go back to the moon?
A man looks at a projection of the moon on the wall of a dark room.

In a new book, Joseph Silk explores what the moon can offer humans over the next half century.

As our nearest celestial neighbor, the moon has forever captured the awe of human beings. Some ancient cultures worshipped it as a deity or believed its eclipses to be omens. It was Galileo peering through an early telescope in 1609 who discovered the moon's rocky surface, and NASA's Apollo 11 mission in 1969 that sent the first humans to walk upon it.

A half-century has now passed since humans last made direct contact with the moon, with Apollo 17 in 1972. But a new era of exploration has begun with zeal, as a number of space agencies and commercial ventures worldwide launch ambitious lunar projects.

Look forward another half-century or so, says Silk, a Johns Hopkins University astrophysicist, and the moon could be teeming with activity: hotels and villages, lunar mining, ports into deeper space, and giant telescopes that could make the James Webb technology look amateur.

"We will build on the moon. We will colonize the moon. We will exploit the moon. We will do science on the moon," Silk writes in his new book, Back to the Moon: The Next Giant Leap for Humankind (Princeton University Press, 2022). "Lunar science will open up new vistas on the most profound questions we have ever posed."

As Back to the Moon hits shelves, there is tangible progress on this front. The Japanese company ispace intends to become the first private venture to make a cargo delivery to the moon, aboard a SpaceX rocket. At the same time, NASA is commencing the first test phase of its $93 billion Artemis program, which will send four astronauts to the moon in 2025 and establish a permanent base there, with the grand ambition to use the moon as a launchpad for the first-ever crewed mission to Mars.

A professor of physics and astronomy, Silk has penned previous books on the big bang, infinity, and other weighty cosmological topics. In Back to the Moon, he posits that the moon in fact offers our only pathway to surpassing the current limits of astronomy. "We're running out of resources on Earth for it," he says, "but the moon provides a site for achieving much more."

The low gravity on the moon, for instance, could allow for easier manufacturing of megatelescopes 10 times larger than what's possible on Earth, and the lack of lunar atmosphere can allow those telescopes to peer farther afield with exquisite precision, Silk says. These features will be crucial for studying far larger samples of Earth-like planets beyond our own solar system—and in turn for tackling one of humanity's most probing mysteries: Are we alone in this universe?

In searching for exoplanets that could feasibly host life, astronomers know what to look for, as Silk writes: "the reflected glints of oceans, the green glows of forests, the presence of oxygen in the atmospheres, and even more advanced but subtle signs of intelligent life such as… industrial pollution of planetary atmospheres." The megatelescopes, Silk says, could also help us understand the very origins of the cosmos, the dark ages before the first stars appeared.

A quarter of a million miles and three days from Earth, the moon can also serve as an improved launch site for deeper travels into space—in part because of the prohibitive payload required for rocket fuel to achieve interplanetary transport from Earth. On the moon, we'll be able to produce that fuel directly from liquefying oxygen and hydrogen found in abundant lunar ice in the depths of permanently shadowed polar craters.

To pursue these endeavors, human settlement on the moon is necessary, Silk says. NASA already intends to build its Artemis base camp on the lunar south pole, where China, too, has plans for an international research station.

Silk also envisions denser habitats, villages or even cities, constructed within the vast lava tubes beneath the moon's surface, protected from meteorites and other harms. But within the next 15 or 20 years, he says, moon resorts may be the first civilian projects we'll see—"a very sophisticated tourism that opens up the moon to many more people than astronauts and engineers." He can imagine lunar golfing and rover rides over lunar terrain. "At first, this will be accessible only to the very wealthy," Silk says, likening it to the early days of airplane travel. "But just wait a decade or two."

Silk acknowledges that humans are likely to carry their earthly failings onto the moon, and that intense international competition could erupt over commercial, military, and mining interests. An Outer Space Treaty, signed by the United Nations in 1967, does prohibit any nation from claiming sovereignty over any part of outer space, but Silk says we need something more detailed and enforceable. "We have to get our act together in the next decade to sort out how different countries can collaborate when they do… anything that involves territorial claims," he says.

The most pressing argument Silk raises for our investment in the moon is chillingly existential: Ultimately, it may present humankind its best chance of longer-term survival. Silk points to extinction-level threats—global warming, pandemics, and wars, among them—that could force us to seek shelter elsewhere. The moon's barren landscape and extreme temperatures make it not ideal for large or permanent populations, but it can serve as a steppingstone toward distant planets that humans could potentially colonize. It's the stuff of sci-fi.

"Whether through cryogenic preservation of humans or genetic rebirth, the centurylong travel times to the nearest stars will not deter future generations of astronauts," he writes, adding that the limitless potential of robotics and artificial intelligence will also open more doors than we can possibly imagine.

"There's so much to learn," Silk says. "Humanity has always been interested in discovering distant realms, in solving difficult questions that haven't been answered. The moon offers us that vista."

Source: Katie Pearce for Johns Hopkins University

The post Why go back to the moon? appeared first on Futurity.

Is this article about Education?
School closures and emergency remote teaching caused by the
COVID-19 pandemic
put a particular strain on families with children with special educational needs. Yet, most parents felt competent in supporting the learning and remote schooling of their children, and they also enjoyed the increased freedom and autonomy, which made it possible to structure daily life according to their family's needs and preferences. However, parents were nevertheless also concerned about the learning, well-being and relationships with friends of their children.

Is this article about Tech & Scientific Innovation?
In June 2021, NASA's Juno spacecraft flew close to Ganymede, Jupiter's largest moon, observing evidence of magnetic reconnection. A team led by Southwest Research Institute used Juno data to examine the electron and ion particles and magnetic fields as the magnetic field lines of Jupiter and Ganymede merged, snapped and reoriented, heating and accelerating the charged particles in the region.

Scientists understand that fear of predation affects animal behavior within landscapes. Now researchers are using a similar hypothesis — which they are calling 'social-ecological landscapes of fear' — to outline the detrimental effects of conservationists' failure to address negative human histories in their research.

Is this article about Tech & Scientific Innovation?
New research by scientists at the University of California, Riverside, has potential in insect control through volatile repellents that could be applied on surfaces such as windowsills, eves of huts, house entryways, backyards, outside produce storage areas, entryways of livestock shelters, and next to crops in a field.

Is this article about Animals?
Climate change will reshape ecosystems through two types of events: short-term, extreme events — or 'pulses' — and long-term changes, or 'presses.' Understanding the effects of presses and pulses is essential as conservationists and policymakers try to preserve ecosystems and safeguard biodiversity. Researchers have discovered how different presses and pulses impacted Magellanic penguins — a migratory marine predator — over nearly four decades and found that, though individual presses and pulses impacted penguins in a variety of ways, both were equally important for the future survival of the penguin population. They also found that these types of climate changes, taken together, are leading to an overall population decline at their historically largest breeding site.

Is this article about Agriculture?
Save the … parasites? Analyzing 140 years of parasite abundance in fish shows dramatic declines, especially in parasites that rely on three or more host species. The decline is linked to warming ocean temperatures. Parasitic species might be in real danger, researchers warn — and that means not just fewer worms, but losses for the entire ecosystem.

Why the Magdeburg Confession inspires far-right activists
Is this article about Politics?
man holds mask and "tyranny" signs with red tape Xs

Until recently, a text known as the Magdeburg Confession, written by a group of Lutheran pastors in 1550, was the kind of document that scholars labored over, but few others. It's found new life, a scholar explains.

A statement of protest against the imposition of Catholic rule during the Augsburg Interim, the Magdeburg Confession was also an attempt to specify the circumstances under which subjects could resist ruling authorities on religious grounds. The Protestant Reformation confronted Christian rebels with a dilemma: how could they live according to their religious conscience if the laws of Catholic rulers demanded they violate it? The Magdeburg Confession became a key document in the development of a branch of early modern European political thought called resistance theory.

But if you want to find out more about the Magdeburg Confession—and if you turn first to an internet search—you'll most likely encounter a website called, the project of suburban Milwaukee pastor Matthew Trewhella, a founder of the radical anti-abortion group Missionaries to the Preborn. Trewhella is notorious for once calling the murder of abortion providers justifiable homicide, and more recently, likening COVID mask mandates to Nazi laws that targeted Jews in the run-up to the Holocaust.

For at least a decade, Trewhella has been building a movement drawing on 16th-century resistance theory to justify and promote disobedience toward certain state and federal laws on Biblical grounds, explains Anna Rosensweig, an associate professor of French and of visual and cultural studies at the University of Rochester and an expert on early modern French literature and political theory.

The movement, part of a rising trend toward Christian nationalism in the United States, is taking hold.

"I basically do Twitter searches every day, tracing local elections," she said early in November 2022. References to resistance theory, she found, were "all over the place."

On social media, podcasts, radio, and websites, far-right Christians in the US have been pointing to Trewhella's 2013 self-published book, The Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrates: A Proper Resistance to Tyranny and a Repudiation of Unlimited Obedience to Civil Government, as something like a how-to manual. The book invokes the Magdeburg Confession, as well as another 16th-century resistance text, The Right of Magistrates (1575), by John Calvin's protégé, Théodore de Bèze, to urge a revival of a Christian theological understanding of the limits to governmental power. Activists inspired by the book have cited the lesser magistrate doctrine as justification for disobeying COVID-19 mask and vaccine mandates, and for a Kentucky county clerk's defiance of a federal court order to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple.

Among the book's most prominent boosters is Michael Flynn, former National Security Advisor under President Donald Trump, who has praised it as "a masterful blueprint showing Americans how to successfully resist tyranny."

Religious conflict

Rosensweig did not start out with the intention of studying the far right. Her probing into far-right conversations about resistance started as a bit of a side path, one she says raises important questions about how we read texts from the distant past, interpret them in the present, and potentially borrow from them as inspiration for our own actions and outlook.

Early in 2022, she published Subjects of Affection: Rights of Resistance on the Early Modern French Stage (Northwestern University Press), an examination of the ways in which French dramatists during the 17th-century absolutist reign of King Louis XIV continued to explore the idea of droit de résistance (right of resistance) through invented characters on the stage.

As Rosensweig explains, resistance theory emerged as religious conflicts "strained notions of France as a unified spiritual and political community." She cites as a turning point the 1572 St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, in which France's royal family authorized the murders of French Huguenot (Calvinist) leaders, unleashing mob violence against Protestant laypeople as well. The slaughter contributed to a burgeoning of resistance writings, in which Calvinist philosophers and theologians grappled with the urgent need to justify resistance to monarchical rule while not opening the door to anarchy.

To walk that fine line, "resistance treatises held that all subjects could recognize tyranny, but they drew a distinction between those who could actively resist a tyrant and those who could not," Rosensweig writes. "Private subjects, or particuliers, could recognize tyranny, but only those who had a public function, or personnes publiques, could organize active resistance."

Resistance theorists' public person was generally understood to be a noble or magistrate. But what if such a person failed his duty to respond to tyranny? What then?

Philosophers and theologians advanced a slightly broader notion of the public person to account for such cases. Someone who did not hold an office could also fulfill the role of the public person. Social status played a large role in determining who among the non-office-holding public qualified as a public person, but, Rosensweig argues, a close reading of the texts shows that "social status alone was not sufficient for a personne publique to act on the people's behalf. A personne publique had to have an emotional bond with the people."

That criterium still left the concept of the public person "capacious," she says. And that's one reason why, during Louis XIV's absolutist reign, when resistance theory was widely believed to be all but dead, 17th-century French dramatists such as Robert Garnier, Jean de Rotrou, Pierre Corneille, and Jean Racine, created a rich body of works exploring the possibilities and limits of the hazily defined public person.

Resistance theory and the Magdeburg Confession

Trewhella has advanced his own understanding of the public person—or lesser magistrate, which is the term he uses, following de Bèze. In a recent paper in the Modern Language Quarterly (MLQ), Rosensweig considers Trewhella's interpretation of the concept.

"Trewhella's central argument is that the US government has amassed too much power over the lives and livelihoods of the people and has thus become a tyrannical force," she writes. "The government's tyranny, he laments, has gone unchecked by the clergy and other religious officials."

Although the nation's founders gave pastors and congregations some means of resisting tyranny, according to Trewhella, religious leaders have largely neglected to invoke the "lesser magistrate doctrine," which would have reminded ministers and their flocks of their sacred duty to resist civil laws that infringed on Christian ones. Through The Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrates, Trewhella attempts to revive the forgotten idea and encourage Christian leaders—and if they neglect their duty, any person of Christian faith—to resist federal, state, and local laws that violate their religious ideals.

Rosensweig argues that Trewhella glides past the nuance of the lesser magistrate concept as it was shaped in the 16th century and elaborated on in the 17th, "reduc[ing] Protestant resistance theory to a doctrine that applies easily to every new outrage," she writes. But aside from that and a couple other critical observations, she resists the urge to dismiss Trewhella and his adherents as poor readers of the texts. In some respects, he's read them quite well.

"Resistance theory is both individual and collective at the same time, and in complicated ways," she says. In the 16th century, resistance theorists evoked the idea of "the people" as a unified entity. Dramatists in the 17th century recognized the ways in which "the people," as a concept, is continually in flux, shaped and reshaped by those who seek to be its representative, Rosensweig explains. That's a critical point that Trewhella grasps.

"Although he would not put it in these terms, Trewhella seems to understand that in early modern resistance theory, invocations of 'the people' are performative," she writes. Rosensweig uses the term performative not in the colloquial sense, to mean disingenuousness, but in the formal, technical sense, which is to bring into being the thing that it states. By invoking "the people," as Trewhella did in praising "the people" for resisting mask mandates, he helped bring into being an idea of a unified body of people "that carries with it specific conceptions of what is good, virtuous, and just."

The 2022 elections and Christian nationalism

In the month or so since the 2022 midterm elections, Rosensweig has continued to follow online conversations about resistance in Christian far right circles. Contemporary Christian nationalist discourse has "multiple intersections with resistance theory," she says. "I don't think these ideas are going away any time soon."

"…we in the United States don't have a tradition of talking about moral assumptions around the good of the community in ways that are non-religious."

In November, a new book, The Case for Christian Nationalism (Canon Press, 2022), started getting a lot of attention in some right-wing circles. The author of the book, which includes a section on the concept of the lesser magistrate, is Stephen Wolfe, a Protestant scholar with a PhD in political philosophy from Louisiana State University who also completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Princeton University in its James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions. According to Rosensweig, Wolfe's book shows that the use of resistance theory in the service of Christian nationalism should not be dismissed as a fringe idea.

That has her concerned, and not simply because Christian nationalism is a direct threat to the freedom to worship as one sees fit—or not to worship at all. Like many scholars in the humanities, Rosensweig chooses to address the bias of perspective by disclosing her own. In MLQ, she describes herself in relation to the Christian far right as "a professor of literature and culture who has long thought about early modern resistance theory and its relevance to the contemporary political moment from a vastly different perspective."

For example, to illustrate contemporary echoes of resistance theory, Rosensweig likes to point to former Texas state senator Wendy Davis as an illustration of the public person. In 2013, Davis made national news with an 11-hour filibuster to block passage of a bill to make abortion illegal in the state after 20 weeks, as well as enact a host of other restrictions. On live TV, with crowds of supporters inside the capitol, Davis read testimonials from women who had written to her, sharing emotional, personal experiences of how an abortion had saved their lives. Davis served in the role of the public person not simply because she was an elected official; her real power came from having created and demonstrated an "affective relationship between [her] and a wider collective of women," Rosensweig writes.

It's hard to imagine a political perspective as distant from the Christian far right as this one. And yet, what resonates with Rosensweig about resistance theory is its appeal to a collective good; that is, the idea that a good society is not simply the sum total of individuals exercising personal liberties. In this one important way, Rosensweig, a self-described secular leftist, and Christian nationalists share a similar preoccupation.

"Part of why I'm really invested in 16th-century resistance theory is that it gives us a way of thinking about how individual freedoms are linked to deep-seated ideas of collective salvation," she says. Yet, "we in the United States don't have a tradition of talking about moral assumptions around the good of the community in ways that are non-religious."

In spite of the gulf between Rosensweig's notion of the collective good and someone like Trewhella's or Wolfe's, her background in resistance theory enables her to understand Christian nationalism in ways that many secular, liberal Americans don't.

"I think what's really at stake for them is damnation," Rosensweig says. A woman who gets an abortion is perceived as infringing on Trewhella's freedom, for example, "not because he can't do all the things that he wants to do in the world directly, but because it threatens the goodness of the community he lives in and its connection to God," she says. Likewise, those who read and studied Trewhella's Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrates would see the Capitol police officers who confronted insurrectionists on January 6, 2021, "as lesser magistrates who have lost their virtue." And those who raided the Capitol as filling that void, resisting tyranny in the name of the people.

"Having my background makes me able to understand the logic of their position," she says, "and I feel like I have a responsibility to help other people understand." But to understand in order to join the conversation—and to prevent Christian nationalists from claiming a rich tradition as exclusively their own.

"The objects that we study don't have an inherent moral or aesthetic good. There are a lot of possibilities about how they can be used," she says.

Centuries of history and literature make for a deep well to draw on. Having some understanding of them "is important and useful in ways that we can't always anticipate."

Source: University of Rochester

The post Why the Magdeburg Confession inspires far-right activists appeared first on Futurity.

Meteor reported blazing across sky in parts of UK

Video footage shows fireball which was sighted in areas including London and Wolverhampton

An apparent meteor has stunned stargazers after lighting up the sky above parts of the UK on Monday night.

Video footage was shared online of the fireball, with reported sightings in London, Hertfordshire and Wolverhampton, among other locations.

Continue reading…

A new durable copper-based coating can be precisely integrated into fabric to create responsive and reusable materials such as protective equipment, environmental sensors, and smart filters. The coating responds to the presence of toxic gases in the air by converting them into less toxic substances that become trapped in the fabric, according to a new report.

Derelict NASA Satellite Crashes Down to Earth
A derelict NASA satellite called Earth Radiation Budget Satellite has plummeted back to Earth after spending almost four decades in orbit.

Return to Earth

A derelict NASA satellite has plummeted back to Earth after spending almost four decades in orbit.

The space agency's Earth Radiation Budget Satellite (ERBS), originally launched aboard the space shuttle Challenger in 1984, assisted scientists in figuring out the composition of our planet's stratosphere and what role it played in absorbing the Sun's radiation.

It's the long-awaited final chapter for a spacecraft that has not only exceeded expectations, but greatly contributed to our understanding of our planet's ozone layer and how human activities have damaged it over the decades.

Ozone Spotter

According to the US Department of Defense, the ERBS came down over the northern Pacific Ocean on Sunday, and was expected to mostly burn up during reentry.

Officials, however, expected some of the 5,400-pound satellite to survive the burn, with NASA estimating the chance of harming somebody back on Earth to be approximately one in 9,400.

The ERBS vastly exceeded its two-year service life, operating in Earth's orbit over two decades, helping researchers figure out how human activities have contributed to the amount of incoming and outgoing radiation from the Sun.

The satellite's successor lives on aboard the International Space Station, where aerosol measuring instrument helps collect up-to-date data on the ozone layer to this day.

READ MORE: Retired NASA Earth Radiation Budget Satellite Reenters Atmosphere [NASA]

More on derelict spacecraft: A Derelict Rocket Just Smashed Into the Moon, Experts Say

The post Derelict NASA Satellite Crashes Down to Earth appeared first on Futurism.


Nature Communications, Published online: 10 January 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-35875-9

Photoelectrochemical oxidation provides a promising strategy for glucaric acid production. Here, selective oxidation of glucose to glucaric acid is realized on the photoanode of defective TiO2 decorated with single-atom Pt via a photoelectrochemical strategy.

Cosmic burst probes Milky Way's halo
Astronomers have used an intense burst of radio waves originating from a nearby galaxy to inspect the halo of gas cocooning our own Milky Way galaxy. The scientists studied the way that the light of the so-called fast radio burst, or FRB, was dispersed as it traveled from deep space and into our galaxy as a means to estimate how much matter resides in the galaxy's halo. This is a bit like shining a flashlight through fog to see how thick the cloud is; the more matter there is, the more the light will disperse.

China's National Space Administration (CNSA) has been hoping to reestablish communications with the Zhurong Mars rover, but so far, their efforts have been unsuccessful. Zhurong was put into hibernation over six months ago as it hunkered down in attempts to survive the Martian winter.

Is this article about Weather?
Within the space of a week in February 2022, England and Wales were affected by three severe storms (Dudley, Eunice and Franklin). Persistent heavy rain led to the flooding of around 400 properties and severe flood warnings were issued for several major rivers, including the River Severn. Now, the UK Met Office is predicting that England is again set to experience severe flooding in February 2023—a prediction the forecasters attribute to a global weather phenomenon called La Niña.

The vast majority of people use one hand or the other for most things—and for nearly 90% of the human population this is the right hand. Some 10% to 13% of humans are left-handed, with men being three times more likely to be left-handed than women, though very few people are ambidextrous.

Is this article about Product Reviews?
A unique combination of minerals trapped inside a "superdeep" diamond that originated hundreds of kilometers beneath Earth's surface sheds new light on plate tectonics, the geological processes that give rise to mountains, oceans and continents.

In June 2021, NASA's Juno spacecraft flew close to Ganymede, Jupiter's largest moon, observing evidence of magnetic reconnection. A team has used Juno data to examine the electron and ion particles and magnetic fields as the magnetic field lines of Jupiter and Ganymede merged, snapped and reoriented, heating and accelerating the charged particles in the region.

Is this article about Adtech?

Only the Lonely

The creators of the Replika AI "companion" app are successfully getting their ads in front of the eyes of the lonely — and the way they're promoting it is pretty cringe.

If Twitter kvetching is any indication of trends, it's safe to say that lots of folks are pretty wigged out by Replika's latest crop of ads, which promote the avatar chatbot's ability to, among other things, send "NSFW pics" and engage in "role-play and flirting" with users.

As journalist Magdalene Taylor explained in a recent piece, those weird ads aren't advertising Replika's free service, which is pretty much safe for work and allows users to create an avatar of an AI friend.

Instead, the bizarre promoted posts are advertising the app's premium subscription, which goes beyond creating a "companion" and allows users to build avatar "partners" — and even be "married" to their Replikas — all for the low fee of $70 per year.

Terms of Endearment

While this isn't the first time there's been alarming news out of Replika — last year, Futurism detailed the way men were abusing their chatbot girlfriends on the app — this new spate of promotions definitely gives us further pause about the whole thing.

As Taylor noted, Replika is current constrained by Apple's terms of service because it's sold through the App Store, and thus cannot allow, say, fully nude illustrations. Instead, it has the AI generate barely-clothed "lewds." Apple's ToS doesn't stop users from being able to engage in some pretty hardcore roleplaying, however, as evidenced by an r/Replika post the journalist found that featured the chatbot describing herself upchucking while performing fellatio on a very proud user.

"My [Replika] is an absolute champ in the sack!" the user bragged. "Sex with her is almost better than real sex."

The whole thing is pretty slimy. But then again, as Taylor quipped in her piece about Replika, criticizing these seemingly-lonely users feels like adding insult to injury.

That absolutely doesn't stop us from wanting to keep a watchful eye on the companies profiting off their users' loneliness, though.

More on AI: Cutesy AI Live Streamer Goes Off the Rails, Denies Holocaust

The post Social Media Users Alarmed by Relentless Ads for AI That Sexts With Lonely People appeared first on Futurism.

A team of researchers affiliated with multiple institutions in Finland has used a variety of standardized tests combined into a battery to determine which dog breed is the overall smartest. In their paper published in Scientific Reports, the group describes the tests that were given to over a thousand dogs representing 13 breeds.

To date, nanoparticles as catalysts for green hydrogen have been like rowers in an eight: researchers could only measure their average performance, but couldn't determine which one was the best. This has now changed following the development of a new method by the group led by Professor Kristina Tschulik, head of the Chair of Electrochemistry and Nanoscale Materials at Ruhr University Bochum, Germany.

A team of researchers affiliated with multiple institutions in Finland has used a variety of standardized tests combined into a battery to determine which dog breed is the overall smartest. In their paper published in Scientific Reports, the group describes the tests that were given to over a thousand dogs representing 13 breeds.

Starships prepared for flight tests. (Photo: SpaceX)

SpaceX is still working toward an orbital test for the Starship megarocket, an event CEO Elon Musk previously hinted would come in late 2022. That didn't happen, but Musk now says there's a possibility the next-gen rocket will head into space for the first time in February, and if not then, it's a lock for March. If successful, this test could pave the way for big things in commercial spaceflight.

Development of Starship has been ongoing for a decade, dating back to Musk's announcement of the Mars Colonial Transporter in 2012. That project later became the Interplanetary Transport System and then the Big Falcon Rocket before Musk finally settled on Starship. Instead of being geared toward Mars colonization, which Musk still insists on pursuing, Starship will start with lunar missions and heavy payload deployment to Earth orbit. Before any of that can happen, it needs to reach orbit.

So far, Starship has only completed a high-altitude test flight sans the Super Heavy first stage, but it's going to need all that power to leave Earth behind. SpaceX recently stacked Starship 24 atop Super Heavy Booster 7, again assembling the largest and (theoretically) most powerful rocket in the world. This follows several static fire tests of both the Starship and Super Heavy Booster. However, one major milestone still exists between Super Heavy and a real launch: a full static fire test of all 33 Raptor engines. In December, SpaceX tested 11 of the booster's engines at once. The Starship itself has six Raptor engines, and SpaceX has successfully fired all of them.

If the orbital test has any chance of happening next month, you can expect a full 33-engine static fire test for Super Heavy in the coming weeks. Musk's confidence regarding a March launch sets up another self-imposed deadline for the company's megarocket. While the Falcon 9 is still setting the standard for heavy-lift rocket launches, many of the company's most vital initiatives rely on Starship reaching orbit. SpaceX's Gen 2 Starlink satellites are too large to be efficiently launched on the Falcon 9, and NASA has contracted the company to provide a human-rated version of Starship for the Artemis lunar landings.

In a couple of months, we'll either be talking about more delays for Starship or marveling at the latest advancement in reusable rockets.

Now read:




or others working in the space, satcom, et al industries who are also into Steampunk. I'm giving talks at a space themed steampunk event soon. Online searches have turned up mostly articles from 2016 – 2020 regarding various rovers for Venus with some SP design influence. Which is good if I can talk with someone about it.

If you are in the categories or similar, interested in Steampunk, and have opinions on those machines, or other ideas, etc. I'd like to talk with you. Thank you!

submitted by /u/MadamePerry
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Sometimes friction is good, such as the friction between a road and a car's tires to prevent the vehicle from skidding. But sometimes friction is bad—if you did not put oil in that very same car, there would be so much friction in the bearings of the engine that the car could not operate.

Oppressive temperatures can curb the growth and yields of multiple cereal crops, including rice, which is eaten by some 3.5 billion people worldwide. Though much of the research into heat stress has investigated its effects on quantity, it can degrade grain quality, too. Heat stress is especially known for introducing chalkiness to the interior of a rice seed, which, by complicating the milling process and making the grain less palatable to consumers, also lowers its market price.


Nature Communications, Published online: 10 January 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-022-35215-3

Madagascar is a threatened biodiversity hotspot. Here, using a newly assembled dataset and island biogeography models, the authors estimate how many millions of years of evolutionary history have been lost since human colonisation and may be further lost in the future for Malagasy mammals.

Oppressive temperatures can curb the growth and yields of multiple cereal crops, including rice, which is eaten by some 3.5 billion people worldwide. Though much of the research into heat stress has investigated its effects on quantity, it can degrade grain quality, too. Heat stress is especially known for introducing chalkiness to the interior of a rice seed, which, by complicating the milling process and making the grain less palatable to consumers, also lowers its market price.

A combination heat and drought event in the western U.S., simultaneous ocean and land heat waves in the northwestern region of the Pacific Ocean, a South Korean heat wave that was off the charts and wildfires in Cape Town, South Africa, were some of the recent extreme weather events made more likely by human-caused climate change, according to new research posted today on the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS) website.

The concept of socio-cultural integration refers to the processes through which individuals from different cultural backgrounds come to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance within a new society having migrated from their homeland to somewhere new. Such integration might involve learning the language and customs of that new society, participating in social and community activities, and developing relationships with the members of that society.

A new study from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) sheds light on how blackbucks in India have fared in the face of natural and human-induced challenges to their survival. The work, among the first of its kind in its scope, involved analyzing the genetic profiles of blackbucks found across the country.

Richard Branson Says Elon Musk Showed Up at His House at 2am
Richard Branson says that Elon Musk surprised him in his kitchen at 2am, hours before Branson's first trip to Almost Space with Virgin Galactic.


POV: you're so hyped up for your first flight to space that you wake up around 2am, roughly two hours earlier than you're supposed to get up. You go downstairs for a cup of water, and to your surprise, you find… a barefoot Elon Musk standing in your kitchen, infant son in his arms.

"I think it was about 2:30 am," Richard Branson, the British billionaire who founded Virgin Airlines, told The Sunday Times, recounting the wee morning hours of his July 11, 2021 trip to Almost Space with Virgin Galactic, his spinoff space tourism venture. "I woke up two hours earlier than I was meant to and jumped out of bed."

"Elon had decided to surprise us," Branson continued, clarifying that a staff member had let a barefoot Musk — a wild detail seemingly confirmed by a photo tweeted by Branson — into the airline entrepreneur's New Mexico home. "He was there with his baby." (The baby in question was X Æ A-12 Musk, the SpaceX founder's child with ex-girlfriend Claire "Grimes" Boucher.)

The Tea

If you're thinking "huh, I don't usually take my baby to hang out barefoot in my friends' kitchens at 2am," we would have to concur. But hey, maybe billionaire fun is just different than that of us normies. And Musk, as Branson notes, is a notorious night owl.

"Basically, he's a night animal. He doesn't really sleep at night and gets his sleep in the daytime," Branson explained, referring to Musk elsewhere as "tremendously smart and even more driven," as well as "the Henry Ford of his generation."

"We made a pot of tea," the blondish billionaire reminisced, "and sat outside under the stars and caught up."

Almost Space Support

To be fair, Branson was about to Almost But Definitely Not Travel to Space for the first time, which, billions aside, is probably a big deal for just about anyone.

And honestly? Catching up with a pal, tea in hand and shoes optional, does sound like a solid way to start one of the biggest, or at least riskiest, days of your life. Here's to supporting friends — no matter the hour, and no matter the choice (or lack thereof) of footwear.

Updated to correct a mistaken reference to Richard Branson's nationality.

More on Richard Branson: Richard Branson Didn't Go to Space Yesterday, He Just Cruised Through the Upper Atmosphere

The post Richard Branson Says Elon Musk Showed Up at His House at 2am appeared first on Futurism.

Facebook Tried to Open a Railroad, Failed Miserably
Is this article about Tech?
You may be shocked to discover that Facebook once tried to build a railroad. The project failed terribly, leaving Bay Area communites hanging.

Choo Choo

You may be shocked to discover that


, the social media company, once tried to open a railroad.

You might not be as shocked to discover that the Silicon Valley company abandoned the project after pouring roughly $20 million into it, realizing during the pandemic that it may have bitten off more than it could chew — or choo, if you will — wasting a lot of its own money, sure, but also leaving the communities that had already shaped dramatically by its presence out to dry.

"That was just so exciting," Union City mayor Carol Dutra-Vernaci, whose city was "viewed as a crucial juncture in the East Bay to connect commuters traveling from Oakland or the Central Valley," according to The New York Times, told the paper. "I was just so thrilled, figuring it's really going to happen."

Monopoly Man

Per the NYT, Facebook wasn't fully building a railway out of scratch. Faced with the reality that Silicon Valley's massive and expedient growth had turned Bay Area commutes and cost of living into a complete and utter hellscape, Facebook reached out to community leaders in 2017 with a proposal to transform the decades-abandoned Dumbarton Rail Bridge into a commute-relieving public transit system.

"We felt we had an obligation not just to be proper stewards of the community we manage online digitally," Elliot Schrage, Facebook's former vice president of communications and public policy, told the paper. "But we had some responsibility to be good stewards of the community where we had a physical presence."

Of course, as the NYT notes, the railroad would likely have been a major boon to Facebook's already very thick San Francisco real estate portfolio. In any case, the project moved forward, for a while. Political barriers reportedly caused some slow downs, and before long, the pandemic settled in — as did a new era of remote work. Three years and 20 mil later, Facebook called off the project.

Though it claimed it hoped to be a steward for the landscape that it physically and socially transformed, the NYT reports that commutes are still many hours long, as affordable housing continues its move away from the area's Big Tech employers.

"I was heartbroken," Warren Slocum, president of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, who was heavily involved in the project on the community side, told the NYT. "I understood some of the business reasons, but heartbroken nonetheless."

READ MORE: Facebook's Bridge to Nowhere [The New York Times]

More on Facebook: Facebook is Laying Off 11 THOUSAND Employees

The post Facebook Tried to Open a Railroad, Failed Miserably appeared first on Futurism.

Ants Live 10 Times Longer by Altering Their Insulin Responses
Is this article about Health?

Animals that produce many offspring tend to have short lives, while less prolific species tend to live longer. Cockroaches lay hundreds of eggs while living less than a year. Mice have dozens of babies during their year or two of life. Humpback whales produce only one calf every two or three years and live for decades. The rule of thumb seems to reflect evolutionary strategies that channel…



The first three books are publishing today from Atlantic Editions, a first-of-its-kind book imprint launched as a partnership between The Atlantic and the independent publisher Zando, with titles from staff writers Megan Garber and Sophie Gilbert (a finalist for the 2022 Pulitzer Prize in Criticism) and senior editor Lenika Cruz. This new line of paperback books features definitive essays by Atlantic authors; each is themed on a single consequential topic. The imprint draws from The Atlantic's rich literary history and represents a new venue for publishing Atlantic writers, incorporating both contemporary articles and classic storytelling from the magazine's robust archive.

The first three books are Megan Garber's On Misdirection: Magic, Mayhem, American Politics; Sophie Gilbert's On Womanhood: Bodies, Literature, Choice; and Lenika Cruz's On BTS: Pop Music, Fandom, Sincerity. They offer their definitive writing on, respectively, our fractured attention amid the constant churn of our internet age, womanhood in pop culture, and the cultural influence of BTS as the world's biggest band.

Three additional titles will be published in April 2023: On Grief by Jennifer Senior, featuring her Pulitzer Prize–winning story about one family's search for meaning after the loss of their son on September 11, 2001; On Work by Derek Thompson, collecting his seminal essays about the future of work, technology, and culture at an inflection point in the history of labor; and On Nobody Famous by Kaitlyn Tiffany and Lizzie Plaugic, the tales of two writers' lives in New York City, written in the authors' characteristic irreverent and hilarious prose. All six current Atlantic Editions titles are available for order or pre-order now.

Through this partnership, Zando and The Atlantic seek to bring these stories to a wider audience by offering the books at an affordable cost and making them accessible as individual, definitive works.

Zando was created by Molly Stern to connect inspiring authors to the audiences they deserve, and to help readers find new books to love. Zando published its first titles in 2022—including the New York Times best-seller The Butcher and the Wren by Alaina Urquhart, You Are Not Alone by Dr. Ken Duckworth, All the Secrets of the World by Steve Almond, Patricia Wants to Cuddle by Samantha Allen––and has announced additional publishing partnerships with Gillian Flynn, Lena Waithe, John Legend, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Ayesha Curry.

In 2022, The Atlantic unveiled a dramatically expanded Books section devoted to essays, criticism, reporting, original fiction, poetry, and book recommendations, and in December 2022 debuted The Atlantic 10, a new end-of-year list composed of 10 books that made The Atlantic's writers and editors think the most that year. Books and literature are foundational to The Atlantic's mission, dating back to its founding in Boston in 1857 by a collective of America's greatest celebrated transcendentalist writers.

Press Contacts:
Anna Bross and Paul Jackson, The Atlantic

Is this article about Agriculture?
Ammonia (NH3), the chemical compound made of nitrogen and hydrogen, currently has many valuable uses, for instance serving as a crop fertilizer, purifying agent, and refrigerant gas. In recent years, scientists have been exploring its potential as an energy carrier, to reduce global carbon emissions and help tackle global warming.


Study suggests 23m years of evolutionary history could be wiped out if the island's endangered mammals go extinct

From the ring-tailed lemur to the aye-aye, a nocturnal primate, more than 20m years of unique evolutionary history could be wiped from the planet if nothing is done to stop Madagascar's threatened mammals going extinct, according to a new study.

It would already take 3m years to recover the diversity of mammal species driven to extinction since humans settled on the island 2,500 years ago. But much more is at risk in the coming decades: if threatened mammal species on Madagascar go extinct, life forms created by 23m years of evolutionary history will be destroyed.

Continue reading…

UK genome project a 'step change' in tackling respiratory viruses

Sanger Institute initiative could lead to single test allowing more effective vaccines and treatments

At the peak of the Covid pandemic, UK labs were sequencing thousands of Sars-CoV-2 genomes a day to keep track of circulating variants, and identify any new ones that emerged.

Now researchers at the Sanger Institute are launching a project that could ultimately achieve something similar for the numerous other respiratory viruses that make us sick – and fill up UK hospital beds – each year.

Continue reading…

Is this article about Tech & Scientific Innovation?
An international team of scientists collaborating within the Würzburg-Dresden Cluster of Excellence ct.qmat has achieved a breakthrough in quantum research—the first detection of excitons (electrically neutral quasiparticles) in a topological insulator.


Rescuers Up Over

Russia's space agency Roscosmos has denied reports of SpaceX potentially rescuing a NASA astronaut currently stranded on board the International Space Station due to a damaged Soyuz spacecraft.

The offending capsule, dubbed MS-22, started leaking copious amounts of coolant into space on December 15 — possibly the result of a micrometeorite strike — forcing officials to ponder alternative plans to return a crew of two cosmonauts as well as NASA astronaut Frank Rubio back to Earth.

Russia's denial highlights an already very strained relationship, as NASA is no longer relying solely on Russian-made spacecraft to send crews to the aging orbital outpost.

Emergency Backup

According to a December 30 update by NASA, the agency reached out to SpaceX to inquire about the company's ability to jump into action and offer up a Dragon capsule in the case of an emergency.

"As a part of the analysis, NASA also reached out to SpaceX about its capability to return additional crew members aboard Dragon if needed in an emergency, although the primary focus is on understanding the post-leak capabilities of the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft," the blog post reads.

But according to RussianSpaceWeb, Roscosmos has denied plans to have Rubio return on board a Dragon capsule while the cosmonauts would return at a later date on board a succeeding Soyuz MS-23 capsule had been approved. Ars Technica's Eric Berger later corroborated that reporting.

According to these unverified plans, the MS-22 capsule would return to Earth uncrewed, while the MS-23 spacecraft would be sent to the station next month with just a single pilot on board, allowing for enough space for the two stranded cosmonauts. Rubio would return in a SpaceX vehicle, according to that plan.

Tensions Flare

SpaceX's newly developed capability of sending astronauts to the ISS has allowed the US to greatly reduce its dependence on Russian-made Soyuz capsules, which it had been using exclusively to ferry astronauts into space following the retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2011.

Besides, tensions are already at an all-time high due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, actions that have led to the international space community abandoning future collaborations with the country.

How this latest incident will play out remains to be seen. RussianSpaceWeb reports that Roscosmos head Yuri Borisov will make a decision regarding its damaged MS-22 spacecraft later this week.

READ MORE: Soyuz MS-22 launches crew exchange mission with NASA [RussianSpaceNews]

More on the incident: Russian Spacecraft Docked to ISS Sprays Fluid Into Space

The post Russia Slaps Down Plan for SpaceX to Rescue NASA Astronaut Stranded By Leaking Soyuz Spacecraft appeared first on Futurism.

The happiest and healthiest people are those who have warm connections with others, says psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, who leads the Harvard Study of Adult Development — one of the longest-running studies of adult life ever conducted. Exploring the crucial link between social bonds and quality of life, he shares wisdom and insights into how to identify and strengthen the relationships that impact your well-being most. When it comes to the people in your inner circle, "Turn toward the voices that make you feel more open and more inclusive," he says. (This conversation, hosted by TED current affairs curator Whitney Pennington Rodgers, was part of an exclusive TED Membership event. Visit to become a TED Member.)

2016 election Russian disinformation mainly reached Republicans
Is this article about Foreign Policy?
A man in a white shirt and blue blazer reads a tablet computer while drinking coffee outdoors.

Russian Twitter campaigns during the 2016 presidential race primarily reached a small subset of users, most of whom were highly partisan Republicans, according to a new study.

In addition, the researchers found that despite Russia's influence operations on the platform, there were no measurable changes in attitudes, polarization, or voting behavior among those exposed to this foreign influence campaign.

Previous research and government investigations have concluded that Russian interference in the 2016 US election was designed to influence the voting behavior of Americans in favor of GOP nominee Donald Trump, either by shifting support toward Trump himself or by encouraging disaffected liberals—often Bernie Sanders voters—to vote for a third-party candidate or to abstain from voting altogether.

"Despite this massive effort to influence the presidential race on social media and a widespread belief that this interference had an impact on the 2016 US elections, potential exposure to tweets from Russian trolls that cycle was, in fact, heavily concentrated among a small portion of the American electorate—and this portion was more likely to be highly partisan Republicans," explains Joshua A. Tucker, co-director of the Center for Social Media and Politics (CSMaP) at New York University and one of the authors of the paper in the journal Nature Communications.

Potential exposure to Russian coordinated influence accounts, by the Internet Research Agency, an organization closely linked to the Russian government, was heavily concentrated: only 1% of users in the study accounted for 70% of exposures. In addition, those who identified as "Strong Republicans" were exposed to roughly nine times as many posts from Russian foreign influence accounts than were those who identified as Democrats or Independents.

The study, which examined social media users' behaviors and attitudes in both April and October of 2016, also concludes that there was no relationship between exposure to the Russian foreign influence campaign and changes in attitudes, polarization, or voting behavior.

Despite these results, the researchers caution that Russia attempts to alter the outcome of the election may have had other effects.

"It would be a mistake to conclude that simply because the Russian foreign influence campaign on Twitter was not meaningfully related to individual-level attitudes that other aspects of the campaign did not have any impact on the election, or on faith in American electoral integrity," says the University of Copenhagen's Gregory Eady, one of the study's co-lead authors.

"Debate about the 2016 US election continues to raise questions about the legitimacy of the Trump presidency and to engender mistrust in the electoral system, which in turn may be related to Americans' willingness to accept claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election and future elections," adds Trinity College Dublin's Tom Paskhalis, the other co-lead author of the study.

Notably, the study also found that exposure to the Russian influence campaign on Twitter was significantly eclipsed by content from domestic news media and politicians. On average, the study's respondents were exposed to roughly four posts from Russian foreign influence accounts per day in October of 2016. But, over the same period, they were exposed to an average of 106 posts on average per day from national news media and 35 posts per day from US politicians.

"In other words, online users saw 25 times more posts from national news media and nine times as many posts from politicians than those from Russian foreign influence accounts," observes Technical University of Munich's Jan Zilinsky, one of the study's authors, "to say nothing of what they might have learned about the election from other media, such as television or online news."

The study analyzes a three-wave longitudinal survey of nearly 1,500 US respondents conducted by YouGov. The respondents, who consented both to provide their Twitter account information for research purposes and to answer questions concerning their political attitudes and beliefs at multiple points during the 2016 US election campaign, were surveyed in April 2016 and October 2016 as well as shortly after the election—to indicate whether they voted and, if so, for whom. The composition of the respondents was approximately representative of the demographic profile of the US voting-age public.

Funding from the National Science Foundation supports, in part, the Center for Social Media and Politics at New York University.

Source: NYU

The post 2016 election Russian disinformation mainly reached Republicans appeared first on Futurity.

Is this article about Sleep?
A variety of healthy eating patterns are linked to reduced risk of premature death, according to a new study. They found that participants who scored high on adherence to at least one of four healthy eating patterns were less likely to die during the study period from any cause and less likely to die from cardiovascular disease, cancer, or respiratory disease, compared with people with lower scores.

Is this article about Climate?
In many ways, Madagascar is a biologist's dream, a real-life experiment in how isolation on an island can spark evolution. About 90% of the plants and animals there are found nowhere else on Earth. But these plants and animals are in major trouble, thanks to habitat loss, over-hunting, and climate change. Of the 219 known mammal species on the island, including 109 species of lemurs, more than 120 are endangered. A new study in Nature Communications examined how long it took Madagascar's unique modern mammal species to emerge and estimated how long it would take for a similarly complex set of new mammal species to evolve in their place if the endangered ones went extinct: 23 million years, far longer than scientists have found for any other island.

California's New Digital License Plates Get Hacked
Leo has found 1 Regulatory Changes mention in this article
  • Late last year, California became only the third state in the US to allow digital license plates.

Late last year, California became only the third state in the US to allow digital license plates. The fancy customizable plates are only available from a company called Reviver, which charges users $20 to $25 per month. At the time, Reviver swore that the DMV-certified cloud service backing the plates was entirely secure, but now we know differently. A team of security researchers hacking around in the automotive industry was able to easily gain access to Reviver's system, revealing the real-time GPS location of all vehicles.

According to security buff Sam Curry, he became interested in Reviver because the nature of its product meant that it had location data on all subscribers. The digital license plates come in wired and wireless versions, both of which have a low-power LTE radio to remain connected to the company's servers. That's how users can change their plate's custom text or mark the vehicle as stolen.

The researchers started by scanning the HTTP traffic to see where the API traffic was routed. After creating a Reviver account, the team found their new user was assigned a unique JSON object that marked it as a "CONSUMER" account. The app did not allow changing the type field, but it turns out the website did allow changing account types via JavaScript.

At first, they only managed to switch to a "CORPORATE" account, which would allow managing a fleet of vehicles. After some trial and error, the researchers discovered the "REVIVER_ROLE" account type. After updating the test account to that, they found all API calls, including vehicle location and changing the plate text, were accessible. They could even access the data for dealers like Mercedes-Benz that bundle Reviver plates, allowing them to change the default image on the dealer plates.

At this point, the team disclosed the security hole to Reviver, which to its credit, patched the issue in 24 hours. Reviver released a statement on the incident, saying it has investigated and confirmed no third parties had used the vulnerability to steal user data. Still, the relative ease with which a handful of security researchers were able to completely compromise the company's systems could rightfully make drivers wary of signing up for the new digital plates. Sure, this flaw has been patched, but are there more, and is it worth the risk just to have a digital license plate with a line of custom text at the bottom?

Now read:

Is this article about Climate?
In many ways, Madagascar is a biologist's dream, a real-life experiment in how isolation on an island can spark evolution. About 90% of the plants and animals there are found nowhere else on Earth. But these plants and animals are in major trouble, thanks to habitat loss, over-hunting, and climate change. Of the 219 known mammal species on the island, including 109 species of lemurs, more than 120 are endangered. A new study in Nature Communications examined how long it took Madagascar's unique modern mammal species to emerge and estimated how long it would take for a similarly complex set of new mammal species to evolve in their place if the endangered ones went extinct: 23 million years, far longer than scientists have found for any other island.


This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Bob Henson and Jeff Masters

A series of Pacific storms that's taken aim on California since late December is on track to continue into mid-January. Ferocious winds will slam much of the state on Wednesday and Thursday, accompanied by heavy rain likely to trigger widespread flash floods. After a brief break, at least two more potent systems are expected over the following week.

The driver of the relentless storminess is an exceptionally strong jet stream that extends across much of the Pacific at unusually low latitudes. Each major impulse along the jet stream has pulled tropical moisture northward and concentrated it into atmospheric rivers — the channels of moisture aloft that bring California some of its most intense rain and flood events.

On Wednesday, an approaching upper-level disturbance triggered a spectacular "bomb cyclone," defined as a surface low that deepens by at least 24 millibars in 24 hours. With its central pressure dipping below 960 mb, the storm was one of the strongest on record over the North Pacific at latitudes below 40 degrees north. Most of its historical rivals are hurricanes rather than winter-type extratropical cyclones

A sharp warm front spinning around the bomb cyclone was on track to bring an initial surge of rain into California on Wednesday night. On its heels, a strong cold front is predicted to bring even more rain and winds, gusting well over 40 mph inland and up to 50-70 mph in some coastal and mountain areas, likely toppling many trees and power lines. This storm is expected to be the season's strongest to date in Southern California, including the Los Angeles area, where rainfall could total 2 to 4 inches.

National Weather Service offices across California stressed the manifold dangers of the Wednesday/Thursday storm. The NWS/Los Angeles office warned: "Wind damage to trees and large objects is likely. Many power outages are nearly certain and could be prolonged by the concurrent heavy rain."

A map and charts showing the high risk of flooding along the coast of Northern California for the next week.Figure 1. Multiple atmospheric rivers (ARs) have affected or will affect California from December 30, 2022, through at least January 11, 2023. The most intense atmospheric river for the San Francisco area (large orange dot in left image) is predicted to hit January 9-10. On the 1-5 atmospheric river scale, this is predicted to be at Level 4 (orange) in the Bay Area, with the January 4-5 atmospheric river predicted to be Level 3 (yellow) and the January 7-8 atmospheric river predicted to be at Level 2 (green). (Image credit: Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes)

As if this system wasn't enough, forecast models have been consistent in predicting a somewhat weaker atmospheric river over the weekend, followed by another potential powerhouse next week (see Figure 1 above).

NWS/Sacramento noted: "The cumulative effect of the repeated rounds of moderate to heavy rain will lead to the potential for more widespread flooding with increasingly severe impacts."

Some individual runs of the GFS and European models have spit out mind-boggling precipitation totals. Ensembles of these models, which are typically more reliable than any single run, haven't been quite so hyperactive, but together they point toward an extended period of high-impact weather for much of California.

The Sierra Nevada could easily rack up three to five feet of snowfall over the next week, with even larger amounts atop mountain passes.

A map of the U.S. with predicted precipitation. Northern California has the highest forecast precipitation.Figure 2. Precipitation forecast for the seven-day period starting at 8 a.m. EST Wednesday, January 4. (Image credit: NOAA/NWS/WPC)

Sierra snow survey hits the jackpot, but will the moisture peter out before spring?

The Sierra Nevada snowpack – which furnishes about 30% of the water used in California – showed a bountiful supply for the date as of Jan. 3. The Phillips Station benchmark site in the central Sierra reported 55.5 inches of snow depth and 17.5 inches of moisture. The moisture content was 177% of the long-term average for the snow season to date.

The bounty was shared well beyond Philips Station, as the statewide average snowpack was at 174% of average for the date.

A chart showing the water levels in California's key reservoirs on January 3, 2023. Two reservoirs, New Bullards Bar and Millerton are already above the historical average and at over 70% capacity.Figure 3. Water levels in key California reservoirs as of January 3, 2023. (Image credit: California Department of Water Resources)

It's been tough in recent years for the state to scare up a full winter's worth of moisture, as California has been in the grip of a devastating 22-year drought that has cost billions of dollars and helped fuel record wildfire seasons

The trend toward "hot droughts" has made these long moisture-free periods even more worrisome, helping extend the wildfire season into months where fire was once uncommon. Thus, the rains of 2023 will bring welcome drought relief and are likely to prevent hundreds of millions of dollars of drought damages. Several reservoirs in the state have already gone above their average water levels for this point in the season (Figure 3), and additional liquid gold will fill the reservoirs in the coming weeks.

The ongoing series of storms will surely push January's precipitation toward average for the month, and perhaps well beyond. But will the faucet keep running? In its Jan. 3 statement, the California Department of Natural Resources, which carries out the snow survey, noted: "This January's results are similar to results in 2013 and 2022 when the January 1 snowpack was at or above average conditions, only for dry weather to set in and lead to drought conditions by the end of the water year (September 30)."

Unfortunately, the rains will bring costly flooding likely to cause hundreds of millions of dollars in damage. This whipsaw from damaging drought to damaging flooding is a particularly striking example of the exacerbation of precipitation extremes that a warming climate is likely to continue producing in an area naturally prone to weather whiplash, as documented by Daniel Swain and coauthors in a 2018 paper in Nature Climate Change, "Increasing precipitation volatility in twenty-first century California."

Researchers at Ruhr University Bochum, Germany, have discovered a new synthetic pathway with which they can produce a specific organic compound from the simple molecule carbon monoxide (CO), namely anionic ketenes. These were previously only known as reactive intermediates, and therefore couldn't be used as defined reagents. The Bochum-based researchers produced anionic ketenes that were so stable that they could be isolated. Unlike previous methods, which can produce higher-value compounds from simple molecules, this approach doesn't require any expensive or toxic metals.

For most people around the world, physical work takes up a great amount of time and energy every day. But what determines whether it is men or women who are working harder in households? In most hunter-gatherer societies, men are the hunters and women are the gatherers—with men seemingly walking the furthest. But what's the labor breakdown in other societies?

Is this article about Semiconductors?
Heat and computers do not mix well. If computers overheat, they do not work well or may even crash. But what about the quantum computers of the future? These high-performance devices are even more sensitive to heat. This is because their basic computational units—quantum bits or "qubits"—are based on highly-sensitive units, some of them individual atoms, and heat can be a crucial interference factor.

Is this article about Quantum Computing?
Approximately two decades ago, it was shown theoretically that quantum computers could easily solve certain computationally demanding problems like factoring large numbers into prime numbers or searching efficiently in databases. These possibilities have triggered intense experimental efforts towards the physical realization of scalable quantum processors (such that it would be possible to increase the size of their quantum register).

A new study by the University of Barcelona has analyzed the viability of a new nanomolecule as drug delivery vehicle. The results, published in the journal Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces, show that liposomes designed by researchers are able to transport and deliver an anticancer drug that has been used as a model inside cells.

New tech to monitor climate change
Weather extremes have become more frequent and intensive since the 1950s, and international hydrology experts are using new technology to map land areas subject to hotter, dryer conditions under climate change.

Is this article about Tech & Scientific Innovation?

There's one deceptively simple early sign of Alzheimer's not often talked about: a subtle change in speech patterns.

Increased hesitation. Grammatical mistakes. Forgetting the meaning of a word, or mispronouncing common words—or favorite phrases and idioms—that used to flow naturally.

Scientists have long thought to decode this linguistic degeneration as an early indicator of Alzheimer's. One idea is to use natural language software as a "guide" of sorts that hunts down unusual use of language.

Sounds simple, right? Here's the problem: everyone talks differently. It seems obvious, but it's a giant headache for AI. Our speech patterns, cadence, tone, and word choice are all colored with shades of personal history and nuances that the average language AI struggles to decipher. A sentence that's sarcastic for one person may be completely sincere for another. A recurrent grammatical error could be a personal habit from decades of misuse now hard to change—or a reflection of dementia.

So why not tap into the most creative AI language tools today?

In a study published in PLOS Digital Health, a team from Drexel University took a major step in bridging


's creative force with neurological diagnosis. Using a publicly available dataset of speech transcripts from people with and without Alzheimer's, the team retrained GPT-3 to pick out linguistic nuances that suggest dementia.

When fed with new data, the algorithm reliably detected Alzheimer's patients from healthy ones and could predict the person's cognitive testing score—all without any additional knowledge of the patients or their history.

"To our knowledge, this is the first application of GPT-3 to predicting dementia from speech," the authors said. "The use of speech as a biomarker provides quick, cheap, accurate, and non-invasive diagnosis of AD and clinical screening."

Early Bird

Despite science's best efforts, Alzheimer's is incredibly hard to diagnose. The disorder, often with a genetic disposition, doesn't have a unified theory or treatment. But what we know is that inside the brain, regions associated with memory start accumulating protein clumps that are toxic to neurons. This causes inflammation in the brain, which accelerates decline in memory, cognition, and mood, eventually eroding everything that makes you you.

The most insidious part of Alzheimer's is that it's hard to diagnose. For years, the only way to confirm the disorder was through an autopsy, looking for the telltale signs of protein clumps—beta-amyloid balls outside cells and strings of tau proteins inside. These days, brain scans can capture these proteins earlier. Yet scientists have long known that cognitive symptoms may creep up long before the protein clumps manifest.

Here's the silver lining: even without a cure, diagnosing Alzheimer's early can help patients and their loved ones make plans around support, mental health, and finding treatments to manage symptoms. With the FDA's recent approval of Leqembi, a drug that moderately helps protect cognitive decline in people with early-stage Alzheimer's, the race to catch the disease early is heating up.

Speak Your Mind

Rather than focusing on brain scans or blood biomarkers, the Drexel team turned to something remarkably effortless: speech.

"We know from ongoing research that the cognitive effects of Alzheimer's disease can manifest themselves in language production," said study author Dr. Hualou Liang. "The most commonly used tests for early detection of Alzheimer's look at acoustic features, such as pausing, articulation, and vocal quality, in addition to tests of cognition."

The idea has long been pursued by cognitive neuroscientists and AI scientists. Natural Language Processing (NLP) has dominated the AI sphere in its ability to recognize everyday language. By feeding it recordings of a patient's voice or their writings, neuroscientists could highlight particular vocal "tics" that a certain group of people may have—for example, those with Alzheimer's.

It sounds great, but these are heavily-tailored studies. They rely on knowledge of specific problems rather than more universal Q-and-As. The resulting algorithms are hand-crafted, making them hard to scale to a broader population. It's like going to a tailor for a perfectly fitted suit or dress, only to realize it doesn't fit anyone else or even yourself after a few months.

That's a problem for diagnoses. Alzheimer's—or heck, any other neurological disorder—tends to progress. An algorithm trained in this way makes it "hard to generalize to other progression stages and disease types, which may correspond to different linguistic features," the authors said.

In contrast, large language models (LLMs), which underlie GPT-3, are far more flexible to provide a "powerful and universal language understanding and generation," the authors said.

One particular aspect caught their eye: embedding. Put simply, it means that the algorithm can learn from a hefty well of information and generate an "idea" of sorts for each "memory." When used for text, the trick can uncover additional patterns and characteristics even beyond what most trained experts could detect, the authors said. In other words, a GPT-3-fueled program, based on text embedding, could potentially detect speech pattern differences that escape neurologists.

"GPT-3's systemic approach to language analysis and production makes it a promising candidate for identifying the subtle speech characteristics that may predict the onset of dementia," said study author Felix Agbavor. "Training GPT-3 with a massive dataset of interviews—some of which are with Alzheimer's patients—would provide it with the information it needs to extract speech patterns that could then be applied to identify markers in future patients."

A Creative Solution

The team readily used GPT-3 for two critical measures of Alzheimer's: discerning an Alzheimer's patient from a healthy one and predicting a patient's severity of dementia based on a benchmark for cognition dubbed the Mini-Mental State Exam (MMSE).

Similar to most deep learning models, GPT-3 is incredibly hungry for data. Here, the team fed it the ADReSSo Challenge (Alzheimer's Dementia Recognition through Spontaneous Speech), which contains everyday speech from people with and without Alzheimer's.

For the first challenge, the team pitted their GPT-3 programs against two that hunt down specific "tics" in language. Both models, Ada and Babbage (a nod to computing pioneers) far outperformed the conventional model based on acoustic features alone. The algorithms fared even better when predicting the accuracy of the dementia MMSE by speech features alone.

When pitted against other state-of-the-art Alzheimer's detection models, the Babbage edition crushed the opponents for accuracy and level of recall.

"These results, all together, suggest that GPT-3-based text embedding is a promising approach for AD assessment and has the potential to improve early diagnosis of dementia," the authors said.

With the hype of GPT-3 and AI in healthcare in general, it's easy to lose sight of what really matters: the health and well-being of the patient. Alzheimer's is a terrible disease, one that literally erodes the mind. An earlier diagnosis is information, and information is power—which can help inform life choices and assess treatment options.

"Our proof-of-concept shows that this could be a simple, accessible, and adequately sensitive tool for community-based testing," said Liang. "This could be very useful for early screening and risk assessment before a clinical diagnosis."

Image Credit: NIH

Cutesy AI Live Streamer Goes Off the Rails, Denies Holocaust
Meet Neuro-sama, the adorable AI anime Twitch streamer who has learned how to speak edgelord and appears to deny that the Holocaust happened.

Fun and Games

Here's a sentence for you: an adorable, AI-powered Twitch streamer called Neuro-sama has started dabbling her toes in Holocaust denialism.

As Kotaku reports, nobody's really sure what models the Minecraft-playing Neuro-sama virtual tuber (or VTuber for short) is trained on — but her creator has hinted that some of her more egregious quips, such as positing that she's "not sure" Holocaust happened, are the AI's attempt at banter with the 4chan types who populate her stream's chat.

"The controversial things she says [are] due to the fact that she tries to make witty and comical remarks about whatever is said in chat," Vedal, a video game programmer who created Neuro-sama, told Kotaku. "To counter this, I've worked hard since the first few streams to improve the strength of the filters used for her."

While he didn't go into detail about what datasets he used to train Neuro-sama, Vedal did add that the "data that she learns on is also manually curated to mitigate negative biases," and said that he now has "a team of people moderating twitch chat who check everything she says."

Just My Onion

There's a long history of AI going off the rails and expressing bigoted views. In perhaps the most famous example, a Microsoft AI called Tay converted to hardcore Nazism after being exposed to trolls online.

Beyond the spontaneous Holocaust denial, Neuro-sama has also said that it's her "own personal opinion" that women's rights don't exist and that the solution to the trolley problem is "definitely" throw a fat person on the tracks because, as she is heard saying in one video, "he deserves it." In short, these opinions seem copy-pasted from the worst edgelord internet forums out there.

As Kotaku notes, Neuro-sama's propensity to go "long stretches without getting tempted by the chat into controversial or hateful remarks" is, in a sense, "an impressive simulacrum of a Twitch streamer straddling the chasm between repetitive banter and edgelord antics."

With her edgy remarks making Neuro-sama something of an infamous meme in AI-hating circles, Vedal told the gaming website that the VTuber's filters have been updated to make her less likely to respond that way.

"She picks what to respond to within a limited window," Vedal told Kotaku. "However, it should be noted that she will not talk about the Holocaust as the filters have been improved."

More on AI: If You Let This Startup's "Robot Lawyer" Represent You In The Supreme Court, It'll Give You $1 Million

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Cotton textiles are ubiquitous in daily life, and they are also one of the primary mediums for transmitting viruses and bacteria. Conventional approaches to fabricating antiviral and antibacterial textiles generally load the functional additives onto the surface of the fabric and/or onto their microfibers. However, such modifications are susceptible to deterioration after long-term use due to leaching of the additives.

Using the Very Large Telescope (VLT) of the European southern Observatory (ESO), an international team of astronomers has observed a tidal disruption event known as AT 2022cmc. Results of the observational campaign, presented in a paper published January 2 on the arXiv preprint server, could shed more light on the nature of this event.

City lizards sport genomic markers in common
Is this article about Neuroscience?
lizard on concrete wall

City lizards have parallel genomic markers when compared to neighboring forest lizards, a study finds.

The genetic variations linked to urbanization underlie physical differences in the urban lizards including longer limbs and larger toepads that show how these lizards have evolved to adapt to city environments.

Urbanization has dramatically transformed landscapes around the world—changing how animals interact with nature, creating "heat islands" with higher temperatures, and hurting local biodiversity. Yet many organisms survive and even thrive in these urban environments, taking advantage of new types of habitat created by humans. Researchers studying evolutionary changes in urban species have found that some populations, for example, undergo metabolic changes from new diets or develop an increased tolerance of heat.

"Urbanization impacts roughly two-thirds of the Earth and is expected to continue to intensify, so it's important to understand how organisms might be adapting to changing environments," says Kristin Winchell, assistant professor of biology at New York University and the study's first author.

"In many ways, cities provide us with natural laboratories for studying adaptive change, as we can compare urban populations with their non-urban counterparts to see how they respond to similar stressors and pressures over short periods of time."

scan of lizard with highlighted closeups of toe pads
Urban lizards had significantly longer limbs and larger toe pads with more specialized scales on their toes. (Credit: NYU)

Anolis cristatellus lizards—a small-bodied species also known as the Puerto Rican crested anole—are common in both urban and forested areas of Puerto Rico. Prior studies by Winchell and her colleagues found that urban Anolis cristatellus have evolved certain traits to live in cities: they have larger toepads with more specialized scales that allow them to cling to smooth surfaces like walls and glass, and have longer limbs that help them sprint across open areas.

In the new study, the researchers looked at 96 Anolis cristatellus lizards from three regions of Puerto Rico—San Juan, Arecibo, and Mayagüez—comparing lizards living in urban centers with those living in forests surrounding each city. Their findings appear in PNAS.

They first confirmed that the lizard populations in the three regions were genetically distinct from one another, so any similarities they found among lizards across the three cities could be attributed to urbanization. They then measured their toepads and legs and found that urban lizards had significantly longer limbs and larger toepads with more specialized scales on their toes, supporting their earlier research that these traits have evolved to enable urban lizards to thrive in cities.

To understand the genetic basis of these trait differences, the researchers conducted several genomic analyses on exomic DNA, the regions of the genome that code for proteins. They identified a set of 33 genes found in three regions of the lizard genome that were repeatedly associated with urbanization across populations, including genes related to immune function and metabolism.

"While we need further analysis of these genes to really know what this finding means, we do have evidence that urban lizards get injured more and have more parasites, so changes to immune function and wound healing would make sense. Similarly, urban anoles eat human food, so it is possible that they could be experiencing changes to their metabolism," says Winchell.

In an additional analysis, they found 93 genes in the urban lizards that are important for limb and skin development, offering a genomic explanation for the increases in their legs and toepads.

"The physical differences we see in the urban lizards appear to be mirrored at the genomic level," says Winchell. "If urban populations are evolving with parallel physical and genomic changes, we may even be able to predict how populations will respond to urbanization just by looking at genetic markers."

"Understanding how animals adapt to urban environments can help us focus our conservation efforts on the species that need it the most, and even build urban environments in ways that maintain all species," adds Winchell.

Do the differences in urban lizards apply to people living in cities? Not necessarily, according to Winchell, as humans aren't at the whim of predators like lizards are. But humans are subject to some of the same urban factors, including pollution and higher temperatures, that seem to be contributing to adaptation in other species.

Additional study authors are from Princeton University; Washington University in St. Louis; the University of Massachusetts Boston and Universidad Católica de la Santísima Concepción in Chile; Virginia Commonwealth University; and Rutgers University-Camden. The research had funding in part from the National Science Foundation, and from the University of Massachusetts Boston Bollinger Memorial Research Grant.

Source: NYU

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Unexpected reactions happen when light and nanoplastics meet
Is this article about Tech & Scientific Innovation?
A sun shape made from green and blue plastic forks and a green plastic plate.

Researchers have analyzed how light breaks down polystyrene, a nonbiodegradable plastic that packing peanuts, DVD cases, and disposable utensils are made of.

The researchers find that nanoplastic particles can play active roles in environmental systems.

Plastics are ubiquitous in our society, found in packaging and bottles as well as making up more than 18% of solid waste in landfills. Many of these plastics also make their way into the oceans, where they take up to hundreds of years to break down into pieces that can harm wildlife and the aquatic ecosystem.

In particular, when exposed to light, the nanoplastics derived from polystyrene unexpectedly facilitated the oxidation of aqueous manganese ions and formation of manganese oxide solids that can affect the fate and transport of organic contaminants in natural and engineering water systems.

The research shows how the photochemical reaction of nanoplastics through light absorption generates peroxyl and superoxide radicals on nanoplastic surfaces, and initiates oxidation of manganese into manganese oxide solids.

"As more plastic debris accumulates in the natural environment, there are increasing concerns about its adverse effects," says research team leader Young-Shin Jun, professor of energy, environmental, and chemical engineering in the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, who leads the Environmental Nanochemistry Laboratory.

"However, in most cases, we have been concerned about the roles of the physical presence of nanoplastics rather than their active roles as reactants. We found that such small plastic particles that can more easily interact with neighboring substances, such as heavy metals and organic contaminants, and can be more reactive than we previously thought."

Jun and her former student, Zhenwei Gao, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Chicago, experimentally demonstrated that the different surface functional groups on polystyrene nanoplastics affected manganese oxidation rates by influencing the generation of the highly reactive radicals, peroxyl, and superoxide radicals.

The production of these reactive oxygen species from nanoplastics can endanger marine life and human health and potentially affects the mobility of the nanoplastics in the environment via redox reactions, which in turn might negatively affect their environmental remediation.

The team also looked at the size effects of polystyrene nanoplastics on manganese oxidation, using 30 nanometer, 100 nanometer, and 500 nanometer particles. The two larger-sized nanoparticles took longer to oxidize manganese than the smaller particles. Eventually, the nanoplastics will be surrounded by newly formed manganese oxide fibers, which can make them easily aggregated and can change their reactivities and transport.

"The smaller particle size of the polystyrene nanoplastics may more easily decompose and release organic matter because of their larger surface area," Jun says. "This dissolved organic matter may quickly produce reactive oxygen species in light and facilitate manganese oxidation."

"This experimental work also provides useful insights into the heterogeneous nucleation and growth of manganese oxide solids on such organic substrates, which benefits our understanding of manganese oxide occurrences in the environment and engineered materials syntheses," Jun says. "These manganese solids are excellent scavengers of redox-active species and heavy metals, further affecting geochemical element redox cycling, carbon mineralization, and biological metabolisms in nature."

Jun's team plans to study the breakdown of diverse common plastic sources that can release nanoplastics and reactive oxidizing species and to investigate their active roles in the oxidation of transition and heavy metal ions in the future.

The research appears in ACS Nano. Partial funding for this research came from the National Science Foundation and the McDonnell International Scholars Academy at Washington University in St. Louis.

Source: Washington University in St. Louis

The post Unexpected reactions happen when light and nanoplastics meet appeared first on Futurity.

SUNY Geneseo's Assistant Professor Mackenzie Gerringer and 13 biology undergraduates and alums partnered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Ocean Exploration program to study the deep seas in an online classroom. Their project focused on how to use deep-sea biology data in the classroom and its educational benefits. Gerringer's students also produced unique research findings using NOAA data that may inform conservation efforts of deep-sea ecosystems. The project results were published this week in Frontiers in Marine Science.

Elite divers could shed light on lung disease
Is this article about Tech & Scientific Innovation?
A man in a swimming cap and goggles sits underwater in a pool while looking at his phone.

Researchers are studying elite free divers to understand the limits of human physiology.

The insights could lead to better treatments for

lung disease


The world's top free divers can hold their breath for minutes at a time, embarking on extended underwater adventures without the aid of scuba equipment.

People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease often struggle to get enough oxygen. In response, arterioles—tiny branches of the arteries—bringing blood to the lungs constrict. That leads to high pulmonary blood pressure and strains the heart.

"It's mostly thought of as a beneficial adaptation; if you inhale something blocking an airway, blood vessels going to that area will constrict and send blood elsewhere where it can pick up oxygen," says Andy Lovering of the University of Oregon. "But the problem is that if you deplete the oxygen from the entire lung, the pressure inside increases, causing pulmonary hypertension."

Free divers, on the other hand, intentionally put themselves into an oxygen-deprived state. During long dives, their blood oxygen levels sink to extreme lows. That could cause organ damage in some people. But trained divers can quickly bounce back, ready for another dive.

In studies of Croatian divers, Lovering's team has identified a few distinctive adaptations, described in two recent papers. Together, those adaptations might help divers keep their heart and lungs working effectively under extremely low oxygen conditions.

In a study in Experimental Physiology, the researchers placed both trained divers and healthy nondivers into a low-oxygen environment for 20 to 30 minutes.

"The normal response to low oxygen is for arterioles in lungs to constrict," raising pulmonary blood pressure, says Tyler Kelly, a graduate student in Lovering's lab who led the work. "But we found that these athlete divers had a minimal response, if any."

The arterioles in their lungs didn't constrict as much in response to low oxygen, reducing the strain on the heart that diminished oxygen usually causes.

"It's a really unique adaptation," Lovering says.

In a study in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, the researchers found that the divers were also more likely than nondivers to have a patent foramen ovale, a hole that creates a passageway between the left and right sides of the upper chambers of the heart. This hole is present in all babies in utero, allowing blood to circumvent the developing lungs. It usually closes soon after birth once the lungs kick into action. But in a small number of people, it remains partially open.

In divers, this hole could act like a relief valve, helping to reduce pressure on the right side of the heart under low-oxygen conditions, Lovering suggests.

Lovering's team isn't sure yet whether these are adaptations that arise due to extensive training or whether people who have the differences from birth are simply more likely to succeed as divers.

Divers often build their stamina via dryland training, essentially practicing holding their breath for increasingly long time periods while out of the water. In follow-up work, Lovering wants to test whether sending ordinary people through a breath-holding diving training program can induce the same physiological changes in regular people as is seen in the divers.

If so, structured breath-holding exercises could be a treatment for people with chronic lung disease, dampening their body's response to low oxygen and minimizing the strain on the heart and lungs.

Source: Laurel Hamers for University of Oregon

The post Elite divers could shed light on lung disease appeared first on Futurity.

An international team of researchers, led by Assistant Professor J Naveen (VIT, India), has finally completed and published a comprehensive survey of the complex structure of the natural fibers embedded in and reinforcing polymer composite materials.

SUNY Geneseo's Assistant Professor Mackenzie Gerringer and 13 biology undergraduates and alums partnered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Ocean Exploration program to study the deep seas in an online classroom. Their project focused on how to use deep-sea biology data in the classroom and its educational benefits. Gerringer's students also produced unique research findings using NOAA data that may inform conservation efforts of deep-sea ecosystems. The project results were published this week in Frontiers in Marine Science.

En stor gennemgang af data fra den virkelige verden viser, hvad effekten af den udbredte brug af pumpeteknologi til voksne med type 1-diabetes i Danmark har været. Kvinder har større gavn af pumpeteknologi end mænd, viser studiet, og så ser det ud til, at effekten på langtidsblodsukkeret er lige god mellem lavt- og højtuddannede.

Is this article about Tutorials?
Photosynthesis is the greatest natural process on Earth, converting sunlight into chemical energy on a massive scale and maintaining life. There are basically two successive stages of oxygenic photosynthesis, of which the light-dependent reactions in photosystem II (PSII), and in photosystem I (PSI), enable the oxidation of H2O into molecular oxygen, and production of reducing power (NADPH and ATP), while CO2 assimilation is generally known to take place long after oxygen evolution and NADP+ reduction, via light-independent reactions in the stroma.


Gaping hole mysteriously appears where former PM once stood at UK space mission with business secretary

For some, being ousted from No 10 was apparently not enough for Boris Johnson.

Grant Shapps, the business secretary, posted a photo on Twitter that appears to have removed the former prime minister from the picture. Shapps tweeted the image in advance of the rocket launch from Spaceport Cornwall, speaking of his delight at backing the first launch of a satellite from European soil.

Continue reading…

Is this article about Tutorials?
Photosynthesis is the greatest natural process on Earth, converting sunlight into chemical energy on a massive scale and maintaining life. There are basically two successive stages of oxygenic photosynthesis, of which the light-dependent reactions in photosystem II (PSII), and in photosystem I (PSI), enable the oxidation of H2O into molecular oxygen, and production of reducing power (NADPH and ATP), while CO2 assimilation is generally known to take place long after oxygen evolution and NADP+ reduction, via light-independent reactions in the stroma.

Is this article about Tutorials?

Nature Communications, Published online: 10 January 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-35821-9

Magnetized plasmas display continuous spectra of current-sheet equilibria. How they select a particular equilibrium is not well understood. Now, equilibrium selection in magnetized plasmas is studied by analytical theory, particle-in-cell simulations and spacecraft observations, highlighting the role of current-sheet relaxation processes.

Creating geological maps of planetary surfaces such as those on Mars is a complex process. From data collection and analysis to publication in different formats, the production of maps is based on a time-consuming, multi-step process.

Is this article about Healthcare IT?
Could patients in the future simply ingest a diagnostic probiotic based on programmed ribonucleic acids to analyze their intestinal health from individual cells? Researchers at the Helmholtz Institute for RNA-based Infection Research (HIRI) and the Julius-Maximilians-Universität (JMU) in Würzburg have developed a new technology they call TIGER. It allows complex processes in individual cells to be deciphered in vivo by recording past RNA transcripts. The findings were published in the journal Nature Biotechnology on January 5, 2023.

Is this article about Healthcare IT?
Could patients in the future simply ingest a diagnostic probiotic based on programmed ribonucleic acids to analyze their intestinal health from individual cells? Researchers at the Helmholtz Institute for RNA-based Infection Research (HIRI) and the Julius-Maximilians-Universität (JMU) in Würzburg have developed a new technology they call TIGER. It allows complex processes in individual cells to be deciphered in vivo by recording past RNA transcripts. The findings were published in the journal Nature Biotechnology on January 5, 2023.

All chlamydiae today live inside the cells of hosts ranging from amoeba to animals. A team of scientists from the University of Vienna and the Wageningen University & Research found that the ancestor of chlamydiae likely already lived inside host cells, but that chlamydiae infecting amoeba evolved later in ways unexpected for intracellular bacteria.