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As rich people plough money into ventilation to protect themselves, those with long Covid are treated as an embarrassment

You could see Covid-19 as an empathy test. Who was prepared to suffer disruption and inconvenience for the sake of others, and who was not? The answer was often surprising. I can think, for instance, of five prominent environmentalists who denounced lockdowns, vaccines and even masks as intolerable intrusions on our liberties, while proposing no meaningful measures to prevent transmission of the virus. Four of them became active spreaders of disinformation.

If environmentalism means anything, it's that our damaging gratifications should take second place to the interests of others. Yet these people immediately failed the test, placing their own convenience above the health and lives of others.

Continue reading…



Have you made adjustments to your garden to make it more welcoming for pollinators? If so, you have probably made a valuable contribution, according to a new study from Lund University. The researchers evaluated the national "Operation: Save the Bees" campaign, and their results indicate that what private individuals do in their gardens really can make a positive difference.

Have you made adjustments to your garden to make it more welcoming for pollinators? If so, you have probably made a valuable contribution, according to a new study from Lund University. The researchers evaluated the national "Operation: Save the Bees" campaign, and their results indicate that what private individuals do in their gardens really can make a positive difference.

New sustainable protein sources with low environmental impact are needed, if we are to meet environmental and climate concerns in food supply. Therefore, researchers from the Department of Agroecology have studied two nitrogen-fertilized grasses and three legumes in an attempt to find the most optimal green biomass for protein extraction.

Leo has found 1 Regulatory Changes mention in this article
  • In September, for example, California ratified a law that will create a court system to get more people with severe mental illness, many of whom are unhoused, into care.
Decades of research have shown that focusing on housing, without making sobriety or mental health treatment a prerequisite, is the most effective way to reduce homelessness




recorded a woman on the toilet. How did screenshots end up on social media?

This episode we go behind the scenes of an MIT Technology Review investigation that uncovered how sensitive photos taken by an AI powered vacuum were leaked and landed on the internet.


We meet:

  • Eileen Guo, MIT Technology Review
  • Albert Fox Cahn, Surveillance Technology Oversight Project


This episode was reported by Eileen Guo and produced by Emma Cillekens and Anthony Green. It was hosted by Jennifer Strong and edited by Amanda Silverman and Mat Honan. This show is mixed by Garret Lang with original music from Garret Lang and Jacob Gorski. Artwork by Stephanie Arnett.

Full transcript:


Jennifer: As more and more companies put artificial intelligence into their products, they need data to train their systems.

And we don't typically know where that data comes from.

But sometimes just by using a product, a company takes that as consent to use our data to improve its products and services.

Consider a device in a home, where setting it up involves just one person consenting on behalf of every person who enters… and living there—or just visiting—might be unknowingly recorded.

I'm Jennifer Strong and this episode we bring you a Tech Review investigation of training data… that was leaked from inside homes around the world.


Jennifer: Last year someone reached out to a reporter I work with… and flagged some pretty concerning photos that were floating around the internet.

Eileen Guo: They were essentially, pictures from inside people's homes that were captured from low angles, sometimes had people and animals in them that didn't appear to know that they were being recorded in most cases.

Jennifer: This is investigative reporter Eileen Guo.

And based on what she saw… she thought the photos might have been taken by an AI powered vacuum.

Eileen Guo: They looked like, you know, they were taken from ground level and pointing up so that you could see whole rooms, the ceilings, whoever happened to be in them…

Jennifer: So she set to work investigating. It took months.

Eileen Guo: So first we had to confirm whether or not they came from robot vacuums, as we suspected. And from there, we also had to then whittle down which robot vacuum it came from. And what we found was that they came from the largest manufacturer, by the number of sales of any robot vacuum, which is iRobot, which produces the Roomba.

Jennifer: It raised questions about whether or not these photos had been taken with consent… and how they wound up on the internet.

In one of them, a woman is sitting on a toilet.

So our colleague looked into it, and she found the images weren't of customers… they were Roomba employees… and people the company calls 'paid data collectors'.

In other words, the people in the photos were beta testers… and they'd agreed to participate in this process… although it wasn't totally clear what that meant.

Eileen Guo: They're really not as clear as you would think about what the data is ultimately being used for, who it's being shared with and what other protocols or procedures are going to be keeping them safe—other than a broad statement that this data will be safe.

Jennifer: She doesn't believe the people who gave permission to be recorded, really knew what they agreed to.

Eileen Guo: They understood that the robot vacuums would be taking videos from inside their houses, but they didn't understand that, you know, they would then be labeled and viewed by humans or they didn't understand that they would be shared with third parties outside of the country. And no one understood that there was a possibility at all that these images could end up on Facebook and Discord, which is how they ultimately got to us.

Jennifer: The investigation found these images were leaked by some data labelers in the gig economy.

At the time they were working for a data labeling company (hired by iRobot) called Scale AI.

Eileen Guo: It's essentially very low paid workers that are being asked to label images to teach artificial intelligence how to recognize what it is that they're seeing. And so the fact that these images were shared on the internet, was just incredibly surprising, given how incredibly surprising given how sensitive they were.

Jennifer: Labeling these images with relevant tags is called data annotation.

The process makes it easier for computers to understand and interpret the data in the form of images, text, audio, or video.

And it's used in everything from flagging inappropriate content on social media to helping robot vacuums recognize what's around them.

Eileen Guo: The most useful datasets to train algorithms is the most realistic, meaning that it's sourced from real environments. But to make all of that data useful for machine learning, you actually need a person to go through and look at whatever it is, or listen to whatever it is, and categorize and label and otherwise just add context to each bit of data. You know, for self driving cars, it's, it's an image of a street and saying, this is a stoplight that is turning yellow, this is a stoplight that is green. This is a stop sign.

Jennifer: But there's more than one way to label data.

Eileen Guo: If iRobot chose to, they could have gone with other models in which the data would have been safer. They could have gone with outsourcing companies that may be outsourced, but people are still working out of an office instead of on their own computers. And so their work process would be a little bit more controlled. Or they could have actually done the data annotation in house. But for whatever reason, iRobot chose not to go either of those routes.

Jennifer: When Tech Review got in contact with the company—which makes the Roomba—they confirmed the 15 images we've been talking about did come from their devices, but from pre-production devices. Meaning these machines weren't released to consumers.

Eileen Guo: They said that they started an investigation into how these images leaked. They terminated their contract with Scale AI, and also said that they were going to take measures to prevent anything like this from happening in the future. But they really wouldn't tell us what that meant.

Jennifer: These days, the most advanced robot vacuums can efficiently move around the room while also making maps of areas being cleaned.

Plus, they recognize certain objects on the floor and avoid them.

It's why these machines no longer drive through certain kinds of messes… like dog poop for example.

But what's different about these leaked training images is the camera isn't pointed at the floor…

Eileen Guo: Why do these cameras point diagonally upwards? Why do they know what's on the walls or the ceilings? How does that help them navigate around the pet waste, or the phone cords or the stray sock or whatever it is. And that has to do with some of the broader goals that iRobot has and other robot vacuum companies has for the future, which is to be able to recognize what room it's in, based on what you have in the home. And all of that is ultimately going to serve the broader goals of these companies which is create more robots for the home and all of this data is going to ultimately help them reach those goals.

Jennifer: In other words… This data collection might be about building new products altogether.

Eileen Guo: These images are not just about iRobot. They're not just about test users. It's this whole data supply chain, and this whole new point where personal information can leak out that consumers aren't really thinking of or aware of. And the thing that's also scary about this is that as more companies adopt artificial intelligence, they need more data to train that artificial intelligence. And where is that data coming from? Is.. is a really big question.

Jennifer: Because in the US, companies aren't required to disclose that…and privacy policies usually have some version of a line that allows consumer data to be used to improve products and services… Which includes training AI. Often, we opt in simply by using the product.

Eileen Guo: So it's a matter of not even knowing that this is another place where we need to be worried about privacy, whether it's robot vacuums, or Zoom or anything else that might be gathering data from us.

Jennifer: One option we expect to see more of in the future… is the use of synthetic data… or data that doesn't come directly from real people.

And she says companies like Dyson are starting to use it.

Eileen Guo: There's a lot of hope that synthetic data is the future. It is more privacy protecting because you don't need real world data. There have been early research that suggests that it is just as accurate if not more so. But most of the experts that I've spoken to say that that is anywhere from like 10 years to multiple decades out.

Jennifer: You can find links to our reporting in the show notes… and you can support our journalism by going to tech review dot com slash subscribe.

We'll be back… right after this.


Albert Fox Cahn: I think this is yet another wake up call that regulators and legislators are way behind in actually enacting the sort of privacy protections we need.

Albert Fox Cahn: My name's Albert Fox Cahn. I'm the Executive Director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project.

Albert Fox Cahn: Right now it's the Wild West and companies are kind of making up their own policies as they go along for what counts as a ethical policy for this type of research and development, and, you know, quite frankly, they should not be trusted to set their own ground rules and we see exactly why with this sort of debacle, because here you have a company getting its own employees to sign these ludicrous consent agreements that are just completely lopsided. Are, to my view, almost so bad that they could be unenforceable all while the government is basically taking a hands off approach on what sort of privacy protection should be in place.

Jennifer: He's an anti-surveillance lawyer… a fellow at Yale and with Harvard's Kennedy School.

And he describes his work as constantly fighting back against the new ways people's data gets taken or used against them.

Albert Fox Cahn: What we see in here are terms that are designed to protect the privacy of the product, that are designed to protect the intellectual property of iRobot, but actually have no protections at all for the people who have these devices in their home. One of the things that's really just infuriating for me about this is you have people who are using these devices in homes where it's almost certain that a third party is going to be videotaped and there's no provision for consent from that third party. One person is signing off for every single person who lives in that home, who visits that home, whose images might be recorded from within the home. And additionally, you have all these legal fictions in here like, oh, I guarantee that no minor will be recorded as part of this. Even though as far as we know, there's no actual provision to make sure that people aren't using these in houses where there are children.

Jennifer: And in the US, it's anyone's guess how this data will be handled.

Albert Fox Cahn: When you compare this to the situation we have in Europe where you actually have, you know, comprehensive privacy legislation where you have, you know, active enforcement agencies and regulators that are constantly pushing back at the way companies are behaving. And you have active trade unions that would prevent this sort of a testing regime with a employee most likely. You know, it's night and day.

Jennifer: He says having employees work as beta testers is problematic… because they might not feel like they have a choice.

Albert Fox Cahn: The reality is that when you're an employee, oftentimes you don't have the ability to meaningfully consent. You oftentimes can't say no. And so instead of volunteering, you're being voluntold to bring this product into your home, to collect your data. And so you'll have this coercive dynamic where I just don't think, you know, at, at, from a philosophical perspective, from an ethics perspective, that you can have meaningful consent for this sort of an invasive testing program by someone who is in an employment arrangement with the person who's, you know, making the product.

Jennifer: Our devices already monitor our data… from smartphones to washing machines.

And that's only going to get more common as AI gets integrated into more and more products and services.

Albert Fox Cahn: We see evermore money being spent on evermore invasive tools that are capturing data from parts of our lives that we once thought were sacrosanct. I do think that there is just a growing political backlash against this sort of technological power, this surveillance capitalism, this sort of, you know, corporate consolidation.

Jennifer: And he thinks that pressure is going to lead to new data privacy laws in the US. Partly because this problem is going to get worse.

Albert Fox Cahn: And when we think about the sort of data labeling that goes on the sorts of, you know, armies of human beings that have to pour over these recordings in order to transform them into the sorts of material that we need to train machine learning systems. There then is an army of people who can potentially take that information, record it, screenshot it, and turn it into something that goes public. And, and so, you know, I, I just don't ever believe companies when they claim that they have this magic way of keeping safe all of the data we hand them, there's this constant potential harm when we're, especially when we're dealing with any product that's in its early training and design phase.


Jennifer: This episode was reported by Eileen Guo, produced by Emma Cillekens and Anthony Green, edited by Amanda Silverman and Mat Honan. And it's mixed by Garret Lang, with original music from Garret Lang and Jacob Gorski.

Thanks for listening, I'm Jennifer Strong.

News at a glance | Science
HomeScienceVol. 379, No. 6630News at a glanceBack To Vol. 379, No. 6630 Full accessIn BriefSCI COMMUN Share on News at a glanceScience26 Jan 2023Vol 379, Issue 6630pp. 314-315DOI: 10.1126/science.adg8338 PREVIOUS ARTICLEChatGPT is fun, but not an authorPreviousNEXT ARTICLEBird flu spread between mink is a 'warning bell'Next ContentsBiosafety group calls for clamping down on risky virus studiesA…

New sustainable protein sources with low environmental impact are needed, if we are to meet environmental and climate concerns in food supply. Therefore, researchers from the Department of Agroecology have studied two nitrogen-fertilized grasses and three legumes in an attempt to find the most optimal green biomass for protein extraction.

Is this article about ESG?
In an age when environmental awareness is widespread among investors, board renewal mechanisms that better align investors' and directors' interests can enhance a firm's environmental performance, according to a new study by Hannes Wagner (Bocconi University, Milan). Interestingly, the study also finds a positive relation between the appointment of female directors and environmental performance.

Leo has found 1 Regulatory Changes mention in this article
  • Biden Administration Bans Mining in Boundary Waters Wilderness
A 20-year moratorium on new mining activity for more than 225,000 acres of federal land in Minnesota could deal a fatal blow to a proposed Twin Metals copper-nickel mine.

BuzzFeed Announces Plans to Use OpenAI to Churn Out Content
Fresh off the heels of CNET being outed for using AI to write articles, BuzzFeed has announced that its content machine will soon be assisted by OpenAI.

CNET Effect

Fresh off the heels of CNET being outed for using artificial intelligence to write articles,


has announced that its content machine will soon be assisted by ChatGPT creator



As the Wall Street Journal reports, BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti announced in a memo to staff today that moving forward, AI will become more central to the company's content operations.

Peretti said that OpenAI's text-generation software will be used to enhance the company's infamous millennial-bait quizzes, which have such pithy headlines as "Pick a trope for your rom-com," or "Tell us an endearing flaw you have." The AI's role would be to create personalized responses that users would want to share on social media, according to the memo reviewed by the WSJ.

In the memo, the CEO and Jordan Peele brother-in-law claimed human content creators will continue to be the main architects of the site's copy as they provide ideas, "social currency," and "inspired prompts" for the algorithms. Peretti added, somewhat creepily, that in the next 15 years, he expects AI to "create, personalize, and animate the content itself."

Et Tu, Jonah?

News of BuzzFeed's pivot to AI comes not only after our extensive reporting on CNET's decision to use algorithms to write some of its copy, but also after mass layoffs in both the media and tech worlds, with the Washington Post being the most recent site of carnage. Of course, BuzzFeed itself has also seen plenty of rounds of layoffs, especially after it was acquired by a private holding company last year and subsequently laid off 12 percent of its staff.

The WSJ's report did not indicate whether or not Peretti mentioned any job cuts in his memo to staff, but that's no doubt on his employees' minds given the climate surrounding AI as a potential replacement for human writers and, you know, that recession we're barrelling towards.

More on AIs (maybe) stealing our jobs: ChatGPT Shamelessly Writes Letter Announcing Layoffs While Promoting Execs and Quoting MLK

The post BuzzFeed Announces Plans to Use OpenAI to Churn Out Content appeared first on Futurism.

Science journals ban listing of ChatGPT as co-author on papers

Some publishers also banning use of bot in preparation of submissions but others see its adoption as inevitable

The publishers of thousands of

scientific journals

have banned or restricted contributors' use of an advanced AI-driven chatbot amid concerns that it could pepper academic literature with flawed and even fabricated research.


, a fluent but flaky chatbot developed by OpenAI in California, has impressed or distressed more than a million human users by rattling out poems, short stories, essays and even personal advice since its launch in November.

Continue reading…

Is this article about Gardening?
Clover-grass mixtures are popular because they do not need to be fertilized as much as pure grass crops. Indeed, legumes such as white and red clover are self-sufficient in nitrogen. They can simply fix nitrogen from the atmosphere and fix part of the nitrogen in the soil. In this way, they can actually also provide nutrients for the grasses that also form part of the field's plant community.

Add your voice to Science! Our new NextGen Voices survey for young scientists is open: AAAS (the publisher of Science) turns 175 years old this year! AAAS's mission is to advance science, engineering, and innovation throughout the world for the benefit of all. Have scientific societies played a role in your career? Are scientific societies prepared to support scientists in a changing world? What is the most important role they could play, and what changes must they make to be more effective?

Is this article about ESG?
With a contribution of 16.5% to global greenhouse gas emissions (1), animal agriculture is a key driver of climate change, second only to fossil fuels. Soy production—three-quarters of which is used as livestock feed (2)—and beef production are the top two drivers of deforestation in the Amazon (3). Livestock farming poses a risk to more than 17,900 species listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species (4). Because the environmental threats posed by animal agriculture can translate into a range of business risks for animal protein suppliers, environmentally responsible businesses are safer investments than those that cause harm (5). Therefore, businesses within the animal agriculture industry should measure and disclose their environmental impacts, and financial institutions should protect themselves from losses by investing in businesses that are good environmental stewards.

Leo has found 2 Regulatory Changes mentions in this article
The European Union (EU) soon plans to implement a law that would limit the importation of products known to drive deforestation (1), including Brazilian products originating from deforested areas in the Amazon. The law's goal of removing incentives that lead to forest degradation is laudable, given the rate of deforestation (2). However, by focusing on forests alone, the law is potentially putting other ecosystems at greater risk, as well as overlooking the reliance of forests on adjacent regions. To prevent unintended consequences, the EU should expand the law to include ecosystems other than forests.

Leo has found 1 Regulatory Changes mention in this article
  • EU deforestation law overlooks emerging crops | Science
HomeScienceVol. 379, No. 6630EU deforestation law overlooks emerging cropsBack To Vol. 379, No. 6630 Full accessLetter Share on EU deforestation law overlooks emerging cropsLuke L. Powell [email protected], Joana Capela, […] , Patrícia Guedes, and Pedro Beja+1 authors fewerAuthors Info & AffiliationsScience26 Jan 2023Vol 379, Issue 6630pp. 340-341 PREVIOUS ARTICLEA population pessimist turns 90…

In less than 2 months, the artificial intelligence (AI) program
has become a cultural sensation. It is freely accessible through a web portal created by the tool's developer, OpenAI. The program—which automatically creates text based on written …

Is this article about Gardening?
Clover-grass mixtures are popular because they do not need to be fertilized as much as pure grass crops. Indeed, legumes such as white and red clover are self-sufficient in nitrogen. They can simply fix nitrogen from the atmosphere and fix part of the nitrogen in the soil. In this way, they can actually also provide nutrients for the grasses that also form part of the field's plant community.

Earth's potassium arrived by meteoritic delivery service finds new research led by Carnegie's Nicole Nie and Da Wang. Their work, published in Science, shows that some primitive meteorites contain a different mix of potassium isotopes than those found in other, more-chemically processed meteorites. These results can help elucidate the processes that shaped our solar system and determined the composition of its planets.

In a new breakthrough, researchers at the University of Copenhagen, in collaboration with Ruhr University Bochum, have solved a problem that has caused quantum researchers headaches for years. The researchers can now control two quantum light sources rather than one. Trivial as it may seem to those uninitiated in quantum, this colossal breakthrough allows researchers to create a phenomenon known as quantum mechanical entanglement. This in turn, opens new doors for companies and others to exploit the technology commercially.

Antibiotic resistant bacteria are becoming more and more of a concern as traditional sources of anti-microbial treatments become less effective. Therefore, researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev are looking farther afield for promising compounds to treat wounds and infections.

Asteroid Measurements Make No Sense
Is this article about Space?

A couple of newly discovered asteroids whizzed past our planet earlier this month, tracing their own loop around the sun. These two aren't any more special than the thousands of other asteroids in the ever-growing catalog of near-Earth objects. But a recent news article in The Jerusalem Post described them in a rather eye-catching, even startling, way: Each rock, the story said, is "around the size of 22 emperor penguins stacked nose to toes."

Now, if someone asked me to describe the size of an asteroid (or anything, for that matter), penguins wouldn't be the first unit that comes to mind. But the penguin asteroid is only the latest example of a common strategy in science communication: evoking images of familiar, earthly objects to convey the scope of mysterious, celestial ones. Usually, small asteroids are said to be the size of buses, skyscrapers, football fields, tennis courts, cars—mundane, inanimate things. Lately, though, the convention seems to be veering toward the weird.

Also this month, the same Jerusalem Post reporter, Aaron Reich, described another pair of asteroids as "approximately the size of 100 adult pugs." Last year, a Daily Mail article wrote that an asteroid that had recently disintegrated in Earth's atmosphere was "about half the size of a giraffe." A scientific magazine, capitalizing on that article's popularity, announced that astronomers would launch a "new asteroid-classification system based on animal sizes"—then revealed that it was only joking, dismissing the idea as "nonsense." But maybe we shouldn't scoff at the practice of comparing asteroids to penguins or other delightfully odd things. Asteroids, like other space objects and phenomena, can be tricky to contextualize. Maybe there's room for whimsy. A new era of asteroid communication may be upon us.

Scientists don't have formal guidelines for describing the nature of asteroids on a human scale. "It's a real challenge to try and communicate physical properties of something that people aren't going to actually lay eyes on or have any personal experience with," Eric Christensen, a University of Arizona astronomer who oversees a program that detects near-Earth objects, told me. "Nobody's ever visited an asteroid, so not even astronauts have firsthand experience of what it's like." And if they did, they probably wouldn't think, Ah, yes, just as I expected—it's as tall as 40 sea turtles stacked like a sleeve of crackers.

[Read: The best-ever photos of an asteroid's rugged terrain]

So when astronomers talk about asteroids, they reach for the familiar. (As for the journalists who write about asteroids, I tried to contact the authors of the Jerusalem Post and Daily Mail stories, but they haven't responded). Consider last year's marquee space-rock event, when NASA crashed a spacecraft into an asteroid as practice for deflecting any future, actually hazardous visitors. Some scientists likened the size of that asteroid, named Dimorphos, to a football stadium; others compared it to an Egyptian pyramid.

These can be helpful images, but the approach has its limitations. "You can be into sports, but if you're not into U.S. football, these football fields make no sense," Carrie Nugent, a planetary scientist at Olin College who studies asteroids, told me. And the pyramids of Egypt sound cooler than a stadium, but the analogy is certainly less effective if you've never been to Cairo. The same goes for the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Empire State Building in New York City, and the Burj Khalifa in Dubai—all of which have been used as units of measure in asteroid comparisons.

Penguins, cute as they are, have the same shortcoming. (Sorry, penguins!) "I don't know how many people actually have a good sense of scale for penguins," Daniella DellaGiustina, a scientist at the University of Arizona who works on a NASA asteroid mission, told me. "I remember seeing some penguins at the zoo when I was in the Southern Hemisphere, and they were bigger than I thought they would be." Even if people can fairly accurately picture a penguin, comparing something to 22 of them "requires the reader to imagine 22 (cute!) penguins standing on each other's shoulders—something no one has ever seen before," David Polishook, an astronomer at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, told me in an email. "A comparison with one train car, for example, is much simpler."

[Read: A handful of asteroid could help decipher our entire existence]

Then there's the problem of shape. A stadium, a pyramid, the Eiffel Tower—these objects all have very different outlines. The asteroids that orbit near Earth are, for the most part, lumps. They are not long and narrow like skyscrapers or cruise ships, another common unit of comparison. A stack of emperor penguins might convey the length of an asteroid from one end to the other, but it doesn't really tell you how big the asteroid is. Using penguins may even be "a bit misleading," Andy Rivkin, a planetary astronomer at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory who works on NASA's asteroid-deflection mission, told me. "If you think about the volume of that body, it's more like—boy, I don't know, hundreds of penguins?"

Without a convention to guide them, scientists follow their own preferences (and so, it seems, do journalists). DellaGiustina likes to invoke landforms, such as mountains and ridges. "These asteroids are little worlds," she said. Not only can we picture a mountain, but we can also probably imagine ourselves hiking on a trail and feeling the craggy ground beneath us—a thought exercise that could make a faraway cosmic object less inscrutable. Nugent likes to tackle as many dimensions as possible. The asteroid that led to the mass extinction of the dinosaurs is thought to have been about 10 kilometers (32,000 feet) wide—which, she notes, is close to the cruising altitude of an airplane. So "imagine yourself in a plane, and imagine a giant, round rock that goes from your wing tip all the way to the ground, and which takes you over a minute to fly over," she said. Adding a pile of penguins to this scenario would likely make it more confusing.

Animal parallels have one clear advantage over buses and the like: They're guaranteed to draw more attention. Christensen said he isn't very amused by the trend, calling it clickbait. Asteroids are already easy targets for sensationalist coverage; some publications treat close approaches to Earth as panic-worthy near misses. Exhibit A, from The Daily Mirror in 2019: "Asteroid the Size of BIG BEN Is Hurtling Towards Earth, NASA Warns." In reality, no known asteroid poses a threat to Earth in this century, and we'll probably be safe for even longer than that.

[Read: Maybe we won't end up like the dinosaurs]

When you're picking an unconventional unit of measurement, context counts. People have a tendency to anthropomorphize just about anything space-related, whether it's a robot or a comet. Some of the public reaction to NASA's asteroid "redirection" last year carried a tone of "Oh no, poor asteroid"; indeed, Dimorphos was just minding its own business when NASA came along and smashed into it. Imagine how much more violent that would have felt if scientists and journalists had compared the asteroid to something squishier than a stadium. Rivkin suspects that if astronomers had compared it to, say, a blue whale, "you'd have these cartoons about us beating up a blue whale."

Lighthearted comparisons would also be the wrong choice in the hypothetical event of a large space rock hurtling straight toward Earth. If a truly dangerous asteroid were ever approaching, the most important thing for the public to understand would be not its size, but the extent of the potential destruction it could cause. Scientists would have to consider darker metaphors, perhaps tallying the energy of the impact in nuclear detonations.

But for garden-variety asteroids, the ones that pass right by us or burn up in the atmosphere, animal comparisons might not be so bad. Nugent is delighted by the development. Sure, a reader might be disappointed to discover that the asteroid in question isn't shaped exactly like an alligator, but they might also learn something illuminating about asteroids that they wouldn't have otherwise. Still, let's take some extra care with certain comparisons. After all, describing an asteroid as "half the size of a giraffe" prompts readers to consider a rather horrifying question: Which half?

Blood test tracks osteoarthritis progression more accurately
Is this article about Health?
An older man sitting on a couch holds his knee with one hand.

A new blood test that can identify progression of


in the knee is more accurate than current methods, researchers report.

It could provide an important tool to advance research and speed discovery of new therapies.

The test relies on a biomarker and fills an important void in medical research for a common disease that currently lacks effective treatments. Without a good way to identify and accurately predict the risk of osteoarthritis progression, researchers have been largely unable to include the right patients into clinical trials to test whether a therapy is beneficial.

"Therapies are lacking, but it's difficult to develop and test new therapies because we don't have a good way to determine the right patients for the therapy," says Virginia Byers Kraus, a professor in the medicine, pathology, and orthopedic surgery departments at Duke University School of Medicine and senior author of the study in the journal Science Advances.

"It's a chicken-and-the-egg predicament," Kraus says. "In the immediate future, this new test will help identify people with high risk of progressive disease—those likely to have both pain and worsening damage identified on X-rays—who should be enrolled in clinical trials. Then we can learn if a therapy is beneficial."

Kraus and colleagues isolated more than a dozen molecules in blood associated with progression of osteoarthritis, which is the most common joint disorder in the United States. It afflicts 10% of men and 13% of women over the age of 60 and is a major cause of disability.

With further honing, the researchers narrowed the blood test to a set of 15 markers that correspond to 13 total proteins. These markers accurately predicted 73% of progressors from non-progressors among 596 people with knee osteoarthritis.

That prediction rate for the new blood biomarker was far better than current approaches. Assessing baseline structural osteoarthritis and pain severity is 59% accurate, while the current biomarker testing molecules from urine is 58% accurate.

The new, blood-based marker set also successfully identified the group of patients whose joints show progression in X-ray scans, regardless of pain symptoms.

"In addition to being more accurate, this new biomarker has an additional advantage of being a blood-based test," Kraus says. "Blood is a readily accessible biospecimen, making it an important way to identify people for clinical trial enrollment and those most in need of treatment."

The National Institutes of Health funded the work.

Source: Duke University

The post Blood test tracks osteoarthritis progression more accurately appeared first on Futurity.

Droughts put water bills out of reach for some families
Is this article about ESG?
Paper money comes out of a kitchen faucet.

When providers act to curtail water use because of a drought, water bills can rise for low-income families while dropping for high-income households, researchers report.

Access to safe, affordable water is a necessity for human health and well-being. But when droughts strike areas that are already water-stressed, water providers are forced to enact measures to curtail water usage or invest in supplies from more expensive sources, which can increase costs for consumers.

According to the new study, these measures can disproportionately affect water bills for low-income households, making water more costly for the most vulnerable people.

"A low-income household often has a different response to curtailment measures and surcharges because of how much water they used before the drought," says Benjamin Rachunok, who conducted the work as a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University and is now an assistant professor at North Carolina State University. "This can lead to different affordability outcomes for low- and high-income people, even if the same processes and policies are being applied to everyone."

The researchers found that in some cases, low-income households end up seeing bills rise during droughts, while high-income households see their bills drop. The work illuminates the interconnected mechanisms that affect affordability and may be able to help water planners and policymakers better understand the potential impacts of long- and short-term drought responses.

Water bill affordability

Drawing on public data from the 2011 to 2017 drought in California, the researchers built a model to examine how different combinations of drought length and severity, various resilience strategies, and household behavior can affect the affordability of water.

"The standard way of thinking about the connection between water scarcity and affordability has been to look at the cost of supplying water and how that cost is passed on to users through rate design," says Sarah Fletcher, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering in Stanford Engineering and the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability and senior author of the paper in Nature Water.

"But in order to fully understand the impacts of drought on water affordability, we have to include people's behavioral responses to how the drought is unfolding and the restrictions that are put in place."

When there is a water shortage, providers often ask consumers to cut back on their water usage, while applying a drought surcharge to bills to make up for lost revenue. Fletcher and Rachunok found that high-income households can cut back significantly, lowering their average water bill even with the addition of a surcharge.

Lower-income households, however, tend to have less flexibility in their water usage. Even when they are able to curtail their water use, the drop does not make up for the additional cost of the surcharge.

Water utilities may also invest in infrastructure, such as desalination or water-recycling plants, to increase their water supply. The model showed that in all drought scenarios, these projects increase costs and reduce affordability for low-income households.

"Affordability is a key part of water access," Fletcher says. "If we think about water security as including affordability for low-income populations, then some of the expensive technological measures that we often consider might actually harm water security by making water unaffordable for a larger number of people."

Long-term water planning

Water is typically considered affordable when it does not exceed between 2% and 4% of a household's income. While the cost of supplying water is the primary driver of water bills, even a small bill increase during droughts could make it difficult for some households to afford the water they need.

By providing insight into the mechanisms that affect affordability, Fletcher and Rachunok hope to help cities evaluate different approaches for long-term water supply planning. They are continuing to investigate how rate structures and other drought management techniques affect people's behavior and are working to develop a generalized approach to help regulators make the best decisions for an uncertain future.

"We have a changing climate and changing water needs," Fletcher says. "We have to develop approaches that allow us to adapt in robust ways so that we can still have water systems that are reliable, cost effective, and provide all the services that we need. And we should really be centering the needs of vulnerable communities as we do that adaptation."

The Stanford Impact Labs and the UPS Endowment Fund at Stanford University funded the work.

Source: Laura Castañón for Stanford University

The post Droughts put water bills out of reach for some families appeared first on Futurity.

When environmental temperatures go below zero, ice crystals are formed on many leaves of evergreen plants. Nevertheless, they usually survive frost phases unharmed. Using a special cryo-scanning electron microscope, researchers from the Zoological Institute of Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel (CAU) were able to take high-resolution images of icing processes on surfaces of plants native to Germany and Antarctica at the micro- and nanoscales for the first time. In the process, they discovered various tiny structures on the leaf surfaces with which the plants protect themselves against low temperatures.

Is this article about Climate?
Most of us have felt either too hot or too cold at some point in our lives. Depending on where we live, we may feel too cold quite often each winter, and too hot for a few days in summer. As we're writing this in late January 2023 many southern Africans are probably feeling very hot and fatigued; a prolonged regional heatwave began around 9 January.

Is this article about Tech?
In 2033, NASA and China plan to send the first crewed missions to Mars. These missions will launch every two years when Earth and Mars are at the closest points in their orbits (Mars Opposition). It will take these missions six to nine months to reach the Red Planet using conventional technology. This means that astronauts could spend up to a year and a half in microgravity, followed by months of surface operations in Martian gravity (roughly 40% of Earth gravity). This could have drastic consequences for astronaut health, including muscle atrophy, bone density loss, and psychological effects.

A little over six months ago, NASA's James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) delivered its first photographs, dazzling the world as it revealed the cosmos in glorious technicolor. The first picture transmitted in July showed a galaxy cluster located in the Southern hemisphere sky, 5.12 billion light years from Earth. In the words of US president Joe Biden, it represented "the deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant universe" taken by humanity so far.

Tesla Again Delays Cybertruck Mass Production to 2024

Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced the science-fiction-styled Cybertruck in 2019, saying at the time that production would begin in 2021. Well, that didn't happen, and Musk confirmed during the company's Q4 earnings call that 2023 isn't the year either. Tesla has now pushed back Cybertruck mass production to 2024, but you are still welcome to give the company $100 to reserve a place in line.

That's not to say there won't be any Cybertrucks rolling off the line this year. Musk says that the company will start producing some Cybertrucks this coming summer, but numbers will be small at first. That suggests it'll only be the earliest pre-orders and influencers who will see their electric pickup trucks in 2023. This "very slow" production will be taking place at the Tesla Gigafactory in Austin, Texas. It must take a long time to make all the pointy bits.

This is not the first Cybertruck disappointment. In 2021, Tesla said it was moving the delivery date to 2022. In mid-2022, Musk said that production would ramp up in 2023, and we also learned that the sub-$40,000 Cybertruck was not going to happen. Now, even this modest single-motor version of the vehicle will cost more — how much more is still unclear. But who buys a two-wheel drive pickup truck anyway? The dual-motor version with all-wheel drive was supposed to cost closer to $50,000, but that's probably going to be higher as well. We don't know for sure as the most anyone has paid for the non-existent EV is $100, and that just saves a place in line. Tesla says those with active pre-orders will be able to choose their loadout closer to availability.

Tesla's year-end numbers were a bright spot for investors, overshadowing the additional delay in Cybertruck manufacturing. The company's stock had been on a steep decline all through 2022, worsening in Q4 as Elon Musk shifted to spending most of this time antagonizing people on his newly acquired social network. There has also been speculation that Musk would have to sell more Tesla stock to cover the debt obligations he took on to acquire Twitter. Strong overall 2022 sales pushed Tesla's stock price about 20% higher this week, although the price is still just half of what it was a year ago.

However, Tesla is facing more competition in the electric vehicle space from established automakers. Ford, Volkswagon, and others reported large increases in EV sales last year, and General Motors is set to release an electric Chevrolet Blazer and Silverado pickup truck. Tesla has lowered the price of some


by as much as 20%, allowing them to qualify for a new government tax incentive, purely by coincidence, I'm sure.

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After decades of declining real wages and deteriorating working conditions, strike activity has spiked over the last year, particularly in the United Kingdom. From nurses and teachers to railway and postal workers, employees are demanding wage increases and improved working conditions—and walking out if they believe employers' offers won't stave off the rising cost of living.

Australian black swans at high risk of avian flu
Two black swans with red beaks swim on clear blue water.

The unique genetics of Australian black swans leaves them vulnerable to viral illnesses such as avian flu, according to a new study.

The first-ever genome of the black swan reveals the species lacks some immune genes which help other wild waterfowl combat infectious diseases.

The geographic isolation of Australia's black swans has meant limited exposure to pathogens commonly found in other parts of the world, leading to reduced immune diversity, says Kirsty Short, associate professor in the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences at the University of Queensland.

"Unlike mallard ducks for example, black swans are extremely sensitive to highly pathogenic

avian influenza

—HPAI which is often referred to as bird flu—and can die from it within three days," Short says.

"Our data suggests that the immune system of the black swan is such that, should any avian

viral infection

become established in its native habitat, their survival would be in peril.

"We currently don't have HPAI in Australia, but it has spread from Asia to North America, Europe, North Africa, and South America. "When it was introduced to new locations, such as Chile and Peru, thousands of wild seabirds perished.

"The risk to one of Australia's most unique and beautiful birds is very real, and we need to be prepared if we hope to protect it."

With the knowledge from the new study, Short says researchers and conservationists hope to be able to better protect not only the black swan, but also other susceptible species across the globe.

"We want to increase awareness about how vulnerable Australia's bird species are to avian influenza and the highly precarious situation they are in," Short says.

The study appears in Genome Biology. Coauthors are from the Vertebrate Genomes Project (VGP).

The Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources and an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award funded the work.

Source: University of Queensland

The post Australian black swans at high risk of avian flu appeared first on Futurity.

Is this article about Animals?
Sunlit coral reefs are perhaps the most famous marine habitat and many people will have snorkeled over or dived down to one at some point. Home to a quarter of all known ocean life, these "rainforests of the ocean" have been at the forefront of marine research for decades and been featured in documentaries like Blue Planet and animations such as Finding Nemo.

Is this article about Animals?
Sunlit coral reefs are perhaps the most famous marine habitat and many people will have snorkeled over or dived down to one at some point. Home to a quarter of all known ocean life, these "rainforests of the ocean" have been at the forefront of marine research for decades and been featured in documentaries like Blue Planet and animations such as Finding Nemo.

Have you or a colleague ever been negatively labeled at work, whether it's based on your gender, age, race or ethnicity? Labels can often be mundane because we use them spontaneously on an everyday basis. But they can also be far from innocuous. Labels convey value judgments and serve to control the behavior of the people they're applied to.

Leo has found 1 Regulatory Changes mention in this article
  • California wants to ban the toxic chemical that gives chrome its classic shine
For decades, hexavalent chromium has provided the silvery showroom finish to countless consumer products, from automobile bumpers and grilles to kitchen faucets and light fixtures. It has also served as an indispensable rust-resistant coating for aviation components, such as airplane landing gear.

Half of the world's languages are endangered and more than a thousand are expected to be lost in coming decades. A team at UCL is using animation software to preserve these languages in an entirely new way.


Even if you think you are good at analyzing faces, research shows many people cannot reliably distinguish between photos of real faces and images that have been computer-generated. This is particularly problematic now that computer systems can create realistic-looking photos of people who don't exist.

A few years ago, a fake LinkedIn profile with a computer-generated profile picture made the news because it successfully connected with US officials and other influential individuals on the networking platform, for example. Counter-intelligence experts even say that spies routinely create phantom profiles with such pictures to home in on foreign targets over social media.

These deepfakes are becoming widespread in everyday culture which means people should be more aware of how they're being used in marketing, advertising, and social media. The images are also being used for malicious purposes, such as political propaganda, espionage, and information warfare.

Making them involves something called a deep neural network, a computer system that mimics the way the brain learns. This is "trained" by exposing it to increasingly large data sets of real faces.

In fact, two deep neural networks are set against each other, competing to produce the most realistic images. As a result, the end products are dubbed GAN images, where GAN stands for "generative adversarial networks." The process generates novel images that are statistically indistinguishable from the training images.

In a study published in iScience, my colleagues and I showed that a failure to distinguish these artificial faces from the real thing has implications for our online behavior. Our research suggests the fake images may erode our trust in others and profoundly change the way we communicate online.

We found that people perceived GAN faces to be even more real-looking than genuine photos of actual people's faces. While it's not yet clear why this is, this finding does highlight recent advances in the technology used to generate artificial images.

And we also found an interesting link to attractiveness: faces that were rated as less attractive were also rated as more real. Less attractive faces might be considered more typical, and the typical face may be used as a reference against which all faces are evaluated. Therefore, these GAN faces would look more real because they are more similar to mental templates that people have built from everyday life.

But seeing these artificial faces as authentic may also have consequences for the general levels of trust we extend to a circle of unfamiliar people—a concept known as "social trust."

We often read too much into the faces we see, and the first impressions we form guide our social interactions. In a second experiment that formed part of our latest study, we saw that people were more likely to trust information conveyed by faces they had previously judged to be real, even if they were artificially generated.

It is not surprising that people put more trust in faces they believe to be real. But we found that trust was eroded once people were informed about the potential presence of artificial faces in online interactions. They then showed lower levels of trust, overall—independently of whether the faces were real or not.

This outcome could be regarded as useful in some ways, because it made people more suspicious in an environment where fake users may operate. From another perspective, however, it may gradually erode the very nature of how we communicate.

In general, we tend to operate on a default assumption that other people are basically truthful and trustworthy. The growth in fake profiles and other artificial online content raises the question of how much their presence and our knowledge about them can alter this "truth default" state, eventually eroding social trust.

Changing Our Defaults

The transition to a world where what's real is indistinguishable from what's not could also shift the cultural landscape from being primarily truthful to being primarily artificial and deceptive.

If we are regularly questioning the truthfulness of what we experience online, it might require us to re-deploy our mental effort from the processing of the messages themselves to the processing of the messenger's identity. In other words, the widespread use of highly realistic, yet artificial, online content could require us to think differently—in ways we hadn't expected to.

In psychology, we use a term called "reality monitoring" for how we correctly identify whether something is coming from the external world or from within our brains. The advance of technologies that can produce fake, yet highly realistic, faces, images, and video calls means reality monitoring must be based on information other than our own judgments. It also calls for a broader discussion of whether humankind can still afford to default to truth.

It's crucial for people to be more critical when evaluating digital faces. This can include using reverse image searches to check whether photos are genuine, being wary of social media profiles with little personal information or a large number of followers, and being aware of the potential for deepfake technology to be used for nefarious purposes.

The next frontier for this area should be improved algorithms for detecting fake digital faces. These could then be embedded in social media platforms to help us distinguish the real from the fake when it comes to new connections' faces.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Image Credit: The faces in this article's banner image may look realistic, but they were generated by a computer. NVIDIA via

Eccentric Wealthy Guy Spends $2 Million Per Year Staving Off Aging
Tech centimillionaire and middle-aged human man Bryan Johnson, founder of the online payment behemoth Braintree, wants to be 18 again. Biologically.

Tech centimillionaire and middle-aged human man Bryan Johnson, founder of the online payment behemoth Braintree, among other ventures, wants to be 18 again.

Not mentally or spiritually, but physically so — Johnson's on a quest to turn back his biological clock, returning his body's 45-year-old "brain, heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, tendons, teeth, skin, hair, bladder, penis and rectum" to each of their 18-year-old condition. And according to Bloomberg, he'll do pretty much whatever it takes — or costs — to get there.

"The body delivers a certain configuration at age 18," Johnson, who again is a middle-aged human man, told Bloomberg, detailing his roughly $2 million-per-year approach to anti-aging. "This really is an impassioned approach to achieve age 18 everywhere."

Looking at the entrepreneur's daily and weekly routines, it's not surprising that Johnson's biohacking extremes ring up a multimillion-dollar yearly tab. (Full disclosure, by the way: Johnson was an early investor in Futurism Media, though his involvement ended in 2019.)

He reportedly employs over 30 doctors and health professionals and sticks to an expensive — and incredibly strict — diet, fitness, and supplement regimen. On top of it all, he routinely subjects himself to expensive treatments and procedures, which are sometimes extraordinarily painful, all with the goal of hitting 18-year-old biomarkers.

Of course, Johnson isn't the only rich person obsessed with prolonging his lifespan and vitality. Anti-aging, and even reverse-aging, is common pursuit among the ultrawealthy, particularly in Silicon Valley, elite sports, and celebrity circles. But it could well be argued that Johnson takes longevity to greater extremes than most, not just putting his money, but his body, where his mouth is.

"I treat athletes and Hollywood celebrities," Jeff Toll, an internist on Johnson's very large health staff, said to Bloomberg, "and no one is pushing the envelope as much as Bryan."

Pushing the envelope, apparently, has included but not been limited to Johnson taking a lot of pictures — 33,537 in total, per the publication — of his bowels, the undertaking of a "fairly constant stream of blood, stool and urine tests as well as whole-body MRIs and ultrasounds," and extensive daily and weekly skincare routines that involve a lot of lasers and chemical peels. He even employs a device that tracks his nighttime erections, just to give a sense of how deep this rabbit hole goes.

Johnson's doctors told Bloomberg that they do in fact believe that some of their client's organs are aging backward, with his heart, skin, and lung capacity presenting as 37, 28, and 18 years old, respectively. Overall, the entrepreneur and his team claim that Johnson has wound the epigenetic clock back by 5.1 years over the course of 7 months.

"All of the markers we are tracking," Toll continued, "have been improving remarkably."

And unlike other longevity-hunting zillionaires, Johnson hardly keeps anything he does a secret. Fascinatingly, he tracks his progress openly in something called Blueprint, which reads like a fitness-tracker-meets-personal-diary. Everything, from his monthly food costs to his "notable challenges" to his guiding "principles" — "Principle 4: Look in the Darkness to avoid being blinded by the light" — is carefully maintained in the document, in a possible sign that Johnson is less intent on cracking the reverse-aging code in order to financially capitalize on longevity tech and motivated instead by a personal curiosity. Or, perhaps, a personal need.

"This time, our time, right now — the early 21st century — will be defined by the radical evolution of intelligence: human, AI and biology. Our opportunity is to be this exciting future," reads Blueprint's landing page. "Entropy = aging and deterioration. Goal Alignment via your Autonomous Self aims to combat entropy by maintaining perpetual youth. Maximally slowing your pace of aging and reversing the aging that occurs."

Right on, guy. Anyway. We all have our hobbies. And it seems that Johnson has the funds, as well as the sheer willpower, to support his. (We'll continue to work on coming to terms with our mortality, as that suits our particular tax bracket.)

"What I do may sound extreme," the Braintree founder explained Bloomberg, "but I'm trying to prove that self-harm and decay are not inevitable."

READ MORE: How to Be 18 Years Old Again for Only $2 Million a Year [Bloomberg]

More on longevity: Experts Worried Elderly Billionaires Will Become Immortal, Compounding Wealth Forever

The post Eccentric Wealthy Guy Spends $2 Million Per Year Staving Off Aging appeared first on Futurism.

Starting with the emergence of quantum mechanics, the world of physics has been divided between classical and quantum physics. Classical physics deals with the motions of objects we typically see every day in the macroscopic world, while quantum physics explains the exotic behaviors of elementary particles in the microscopic world.

University of Twente researchers succeeded in the rapid fabrication of microscopic "antibubbles." Previous methods to produce these liquid droplets surrounded by an air layer were either lacked controllability or were prone to clogging and were much slower. The team of researchers recently published their findings in the journal Advanced Materials.

What aspect of engineering would be highly in demand for the future?

As a 15-year-old, I am interested in exploring the field of engineering. I understand that many people may suggest pursuing software engineering, however, I feel that the market for it is becoming increasingly competitive and with the advancements in artificial intelligence, it may not be as necessary in the future.

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Is this article about Economy?
In studies, forecasts and recommendations to governments, markets are seen as capable of processing so-called rational information. Economists claim that firms' market prices result from rational expectation about their future monetary flows and intangible assets not accounted by bookkeeping, which, however, would enable those future monetary flows to occur.


NASA has validated the design of a next-generation rocket engine that could power humanity's next phase of deep space exploration. Last year at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, engineers conducted a hot fire test of the first full-scale rotating detonation rocket engine (RDRE). This technology could provide high thrust at much greater efficiency compared with today's rocket engines.

The RDRE prototype wasn't mounted to a rocket — it was attached to a stationary test stand to precisely measure its performance characteristics. The team fired the engine over a dozen times, totaling almost 10 minutes of active thrust. Rotating detonation engines are so-named because they produce thrust via a supersonic combustion phenomenon known as detonation. The detonation waves travel around a circular chamber, squeezing out more power from the fuel, but they put the engine under incredible stress.

NASA believes that RDRE propulsion could be the ideal technology to get crewed and uncrewed missions to distant destinations like Mars, and it could become an integral part of NASA's plan for a long-term human presence on the moon. That depends on the success of the Artemis Program, which got underway just recently with the launch of the agency's first Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. That behemoth is currently the most powerful rocket in the world, but RDRE could make its aging RS-25 Space Shuttle engines look even more dated.

The RDRE prototype was constructed with 3D printing technology, so NASA was interested to see how it held up under sustained firing. Confirming that the engine was stable and able to provide consistent thrust was the core goal of the test, and it passed with flying colors. The RDRE produced over 4,000 pounds of thrust for stretches as long as a minute, with an average chamber pressure of 622 pounds per square inch. That's a record for RDRE designs. This is thanks in part to the use of a NASA-developed copper alloy known as GRCop-42. This allows the engine to operate under extreme conditions for extended periods without overheating.

NASA and its commercial partner, IN Space LLC, are now planning the construction of a larger prototype that will push the thrust to 10,000 pounds. That's getting into the range of mid-sized rocket engines, but far short of the RS-25 (over 400,000 LBF) or SpaceX Merlin (about 200,000 LBF), both measured at sea level. NASA expects the larger RDRE will help it better understand how this technology can safely outperform traditional liquid rocket engines.

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Sam Smith's Radical Centrism

Sam Smith's music defines the word inoffensive—so why does the singer inspire so many arguments? For more than a decade, Smith's distinctive voice has soaked through the collective consciousness like the syrup in a rum cake. But that success has also triggered annoyance from across the cultural spectrum. As a nonbinary person, Smith has been treated as a punch line by right-wing media. Earlier in their career, they also ticked off the queer commentariat by misstating gay history and tsk-tsking about Grindr. All along, critics have made sport of Smith for formulaic songwriting, mannered vocals, and a tendency to hire church choirs as if they're available on Taskrabbit to install soul on demand.

The latest round of sniping against Smith has been particularly vicious, and telling. Late last year, Smith donned two very standard pop-star outfits: a sparkly bodysuit at a concert, and a skimpy bathing suit for a series of Instagram photos taken on a boat. Whereas the Harry Styleses of the world had been ogled for doing the same, Smith received waves of mockery on social media for how they looked. That nastiness, Smith's defenders quickly noted, provided an example of the double standards that queer people face. But it also demonstrated the ridiculous body standards that basically everyone, in one way or another, must navigate. After all, Smith had been singled out for flaunting proportions more common than those of a slender Styles or a sculptural Kardashian.

Here is the paradox, and appeal, of Sam Smith: One of the world's most prominent queer entertainers is also a normie, both in style and in sound. Though they're equipped with special vocal talent, and have made a gutsy journey with gender while in the public eye—see the mammoth pink frills they sported last weekend on SNLSmith thrives at playing to the middle. Their new album, Gloria, which is out tomorrow, is a reminder that oft-disrespected figures of commerce and compromise can, in their way, nudge society along.

When Smith first drew attention in the early 2010s, their voice seemed genuinely unusual in its contemporary context. Tacking and billowing like the curvaceous sail of a yacht, Smith's singing had a fluctuating beauty that contrasted with the explosiveness of an Adele and the conversationality of an Ed Sheeran. Really, the closest vocal contemporary was Anohni, a legend of 21st-century art pop. But while Anohni made experimental music about gender dysphoria and imperialism, Smith found global fame with a love ballad that echoed a famous Tom Petty melody. On other hits, Smith sang over retro-chic dance beats. Smith's remarkable voice, it became clear, would be used not to disrupt pop but rather to provide variations on mass-market flavors.

Smith's latest smash, "Unholy," is a fascinating example of such flavor-tweaking. With a chorus that brings to mind a monastery choir and a beat made up of robotic buzzes and clangs, the song sounds not quite like anything else on the Billboard Hot 100. But that is not to say it came out of nowhere: The track pulls from the style known as hyperpop, an underground, queer-dominated brew that has percolated for years without bubbling into the mainstream. The song presumably took off thanks to Smith's preexisting fame as well as the nagging familiarity of the chorus, which sounds like Justin Timberlake's "Cry Me a River" as covered in a Verdi opera.

The lyrics of "Unholy"—celebrating a dirty "Daddy" stepping out on "Mummy"—are debatably subversive, and likely hit different listeners in different ways. People tuned into hyperpop will hear the song's Sophie-inspired beat, recognize the featured vocalist Kim Petras—a trans singer beloved in gay bars for years now—and imagine that the song is about queer sex. But the words can also be received in a more vanilla light. At Vulture, Jason P. Frank complained, "The most 'unholy' act that two queer artists could come up with is a straight man cheating on his wife."

That's the Smith trick, though: irritating the edges, lightly stirring the middle. Gloria—Smith's fourth studio album—is a similarly mild statement piece. Many of the songs are mid-tempo fare recycling various radio fads of the past 10 years: tropical pop, nu disco, The Weeknd–style R&B. Smith gasps and pants about lust and liberation, and one track samples RuPaul delivering his famous slogan: "If you can't love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?" No one who's browsed T-shirts at Target during a Pride month in recent years will have their mind blown by any of this. But at a time of anti-queer backlash in the U.S. and abroad, who can doubt that some listeners will continue finding Smith's music a lifeline?

Perhaps the best song on Gloria is the final and sappiest one, a duet with Sheeran, called "Who We Love." With a gentle melody that moves in the manner of meditation breathing, the track casts a potently sentimental spell. Sheeran's verse references the most familiar kind of happily ever after: a wedding. Smith, meanwhile, lays out a more modest dream, the kind that many queer people still cannot take for granted: "holding hands in the street, no need to be discreet." Perhaps years from now, as the song drifts across the food courts and school dances of a more enlightened era, listeners may wonder what need for discretion Smith was singing about. Or perhaps they'll notice nothing about the song, other than that it was pleasant.

Motiveless Malignity in California
Is this article about Political Science?

A few years ago, a photographer in China captured a sign in a government office with one of those amusing translation errors. The sign said, in Chinese, 伤残评定办 ("Disability Assessment Office"), which was rendered in English as "Office of Mayhem Evaluation." I found this phrase so charmingly bureaucratic that when I started writing about terrorism, I considered having it posted on my office door.

We at the American bureau of the Office of Mayhem Evaluation have suffered through a busy and perplexing few days. On Saturday, 72-year-old Huu Can Tran allegedly shot and killed 10 people in Monterey Park, California. On Monday, 66-year-old Chunli Zhao allegedly shot and killed seven people in Half Moon Bay, about 400 miles up the California coast. The first shooter is dead and left only fleeting traces of a motive. Zhao is in custody, and his motives are similarly resistant to evaluation, although according to early reports he is an ornery type. Apparently he was once accused of threatening to attack someone with a knife, and of attempting to smother him with a pillow (that most comfy of deadly weapons). Adding to the perplexity are these men's age and ethnicity: both senior citizens, and both ethnically Chinese.

[Read: An Asian American grief]

Humans are by nature self-obsessed and prone to seeking meaning and patterns, especially in atrocities. I chalk up some of the early reactions to these tendencies: Commentators saw that Asian Americans were murdered, and speculated (wrongly, it appears) that the shootings were the most recent in the string of random, racially motivated attacks against Asian Americans, especially old folks. Surely when someone commits mass murder, he has a reason, even a bad one. So we speculate, sometimes in ways that inflame our anxieties, and wait for someone to discover the killer's manifesto or rants on social media.

Sometimes that discovery arrives. But in my career of mayhem evaluation, I have found that a manifesto, or indeed a coherent motive, is a courtesy many mass killers fail to pay. The expectation that killers will explain themselves in clear, grammatical prose, as Anders Behring Breivik did, or in poetry, as members of the Islamic State did, will lead us on many a snipe hunt. Most shooters don't think straight. For that matter, most nonshooters don't either.

That is true even of those who meticulously plan their massacre. To date, the highest body count in an American mass shooting is held by a 64-year-old professional gambler at Las Vegas's Mandalay Bay in 2017. Like the men suspected of this past weekend's killings, he was unusually old. When the Las Vegas police issued their report on the atrocity, they came up with no motive whatsoever: no hatred of country-music fans, of particular races or religions, or even of humans in general. He was indiscriminate in all senses. Still others on the psychopath spectrum seem to have killed purposelessly, like the German who lethally injected several dozen care-home residents out of "boredom." Coleridge called this species of evil "motiveless malignity," and it describes minds far less sophisticated than Iago's.

Such vacuous mayhem leaves little to evaluate. But in the aftermath of these horrors, we can at least try to maintain standards of decency by observing a few precautions. The first is to show restraint in drawing conclusions based on the killer's or victims' names, ethnicity, race, or religion. Yes, a shooter named Abdelhamid Abaaoud is more likely to be a jihadist than one named Huu Can Tran. But there are irritable loners of many races and creeds, and there's little harm in waiting a day or two to make sure that you've distinguished the ordinary lunatics from the ideological fanatics.

[Elizabeth Bruenig: On murders, especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel]

The second is to remember, contrary to all instincts, that the story might not be about you—not about your pet subject, not about your community, not about the issues that affect you and occupy your thoughts, no matter how important or worthy those issues may be. When five staff members of the Capital Gazette were murdered in Annapolis, Maryland, in 2018, I watched the news and assumed that journalism was under attack. More precisely, it turned out, journalists were under attack for reporting accurately on a violent creep, who responded murderously. The beef was mostly personal. The victims died in the line of duty, but my preoccupation with press freedom—for which I make no apology—made me assume that the massacre was an attack on the profession itself.

Similarly, Asian Americans can die without Asian Americans as a class coming under attack. I grieve for the individuals slain in California; I am outraged about the beatings of Asian grannies on city streets. But decency forbids my treating the first group's apparently unrelated deaths as an opportunity to bring attention to the second.

These recent killings, which may or may not remain in the "motive undetermined" category, do raise one issue that is salient irrespective of motive. Americans continue to arm themselves as if the apocalypse is coming in a matter of months, and as if the police have gone on permanent sabbatical. Recently, a relative of mine in New England went to a local bank branch to get documents notarized for her concealed-carry permit. The nice man at the counter, who also offered her favorable intro rates on a new checking account, told her that he was on intimate terms with the application process. "Since the pandemic, everyone's been coming in to get their gun permits," he said. Then he confided, probably in contravention of some Bank of America customer-service policy, that he was licensed to carry his Glock in 37 states.

Ideological killers will find guns, one way or another. They're hard to stop, because they never stop thinking about killing. And as guns become more ubiquitous, the motiveless and impulsive spree killers will be more likely to have one nearby when the impulse strikes—and so they will make up a growing share of these awful incidents. We need to be ready to evaluate both types of mayhem with caution and restraint. And as a matter of policy, the government should try to ensure that the embittered psychos who live among us are armed with nothing more dangerous than a pillow.

The NHL Is Gutless
Leo has found 1 Regulatory Changes mention in this article
  • Under this law, "classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through third grade or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards." Disney paused its political donations in Florida over the bill, and then-CEO Bob Chapek apologized to his employees for initially staying silent.

The National Hockey League showed recently that there's a big difference between wanting inclusiveness and being willing to fight for it.

Earlier this month, the NHL began promoting its Pathway to Hockey Summit, a job fair in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on February 2 in advance of the NHL All-Star weekend. The point of the career fair was to broaden the hiring pool for staff positions in professional hockey. On LinkedIn, the NHL posted, "Participants must be 18 years of age or older, based in the U.S., and identify as female, Black, Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic/Latino, Indigenous, LGBTQIA+, and/or a person with a disability. Veterans are also welcome and encouraged to attend."

Directly targeting diverse job candidates was a sound strategy. The NHL's own demographic study last year revealed that 83.6 percent of its workforce is white. Men hold nearly 62 percent of the league's jobs.

But Ron DeSantis, Florida's Republican governor, saw an opportunity to create another senseless battle in the culture war. After finding out about the NHL's nefarious plan to attract historically marginalized groups, DeSantis's press secretary, Bryan Griffin, released this statement:

Discrimination of any sort is not welcome in the state of Florida, and we do not abide by the woke notion that discrimination should be overlooked if applied in a politically popular manner or against a politically unpopular demographic. We are fighting all discrimination in our schools and our workplaces, and we will fight it in publicly accessible places of meeting or activity. We call upon the National Hockey League to immediately remove and denounce the discriminatory prohibitions it has imposed on attendance to the 2023 "Pathway to Hockey" summit.

Rather than take a bold stand against DeSantis—who's vying to be the GOP's most prominent anti-"woke" warrior—the NHL buckled. The post was removed from LinkedIn, and an NHL spokesperson claimed in a statement to Fox News that the original wording "was not accurate." The league's intent was to "encourage all individuals to consider a career in our game."

[Read: Want to understand the red-state onslaught? Look at Florida.]

The embarrassing incident wasn't the only time this month that the NHL retreated from its efforts to make hockey more inclusive.

Last week, the Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov didn't participate in his team's pregame skate, because he refused to wear an LGBTQ Pride Night warm-up jersey or use a rainbow-taped hockey stick. The event was part of the league's Hockey Is for Everyone campaign, whose mission statement reads: "We believe all hockey programs—from professionals to youth organizations—should provide a safe, positive and inclusive environment for players and families regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender identity or expression, disability, sexual orientation and socio-economic status." Explaining his decision to not take part, Provorov said he wanted to be "true to myself" and to his Russian Orthodox faith.

NHL teams have hosted Pride nights for years, and nothing should be controversial about a team wanting all of its fans to feel welcome, or wanting to acknowledge its LGBTQ fan base.

Provorov is entitled to his beliefs, and I'm not going to pretend that his absence from a warm-up skate is an unforgivable offense. But the indulgent reaction to his decision is noteworthy. The NHL released a toothless statement declaring that players can decide for themselves which league diversity initiatives to support. Provorov's coach defended him even more emphatically. "Provy did nothing wrong," the Flyers coach John Tortorella said last week. "Just because you don't agree with his decision doesn't mean he did anything wrong."

Tortorella's response sounds extremely hypocritical in light of what he said when, in 2016, the NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem to protest police violence against Black people. Tortorella, one of the NHL's most outspoken personalities, said then that he'd bench any player who decided to sit for the national anthem. In his mind, standing up against oppression and injustice is not worthwhile, but spurning an anti-bigotry event is entirely legitimate. (Full disclosure: I am a producer of the ESPN documentary series that Kaepernick and the director Spike Lee are making about the former quarterback's banishment from pro football.)

The dustups over the job fair and Provorov were crucial tests for the NHL, and the league failed in both cases. It's simply not ready to deal with the discomfort that unfortunately comes with welcoming underrepresented groups.

Inclusiveness has never been an easy fight. Three years have not yet passed since the murder of George Floyd, which prompted a number of companies to publicly pledge to be better allies to marginalized people. Where has that 2020 energy gone?

[Jemele Hill: Athletes will never be quiet again]

The NHL and every other high-profile organization that vows to promote more inclusion should be prepared to withstand a backlash led by political opportunists. DeSantis, in particular, has used his political position to bully corporations and amplify white conservatives' grievances. Last year, DeSantis signed the "Stop WOKE Act," which, in addition to restricting how race and gender issues are taught in Florida schools, bars state businesses from using any diversity and equity training that could make their employees feel uncomfortable.

DeSantis has also picked a major fight with Disney, one of Florida's largest employers. He has been beefing with the company over the state's Parental Rights and Education legislation, which opponents have called the "Don't Say Gay" bill. Under this law, "classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through third grade or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards." Disney paused its political donations in Florida over the bill, and then-CEO Bob Chapek apologized to his employees for initially staying silent. "You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights and I let you down," Chapek wrote in a statement to colleagues. "I am sorry."

To retaliate against what DeSantis called "woke Disney," the governor is seeking to terminate the company's 50-year control over the 40 square miles that holds its theme parks and attractions. DeSantis seems to think that these cultural fights will propel him all the way to the White House, but they only make him look small.

Unfortunately, this approach is not completely misguided. The NHL has certainly given DeSantis reason to believe that his kind of browbeating can succeed. However, what professional-hockey officials should be concerned about is how their actions (or inaction) will be absorbed by the women, people of color, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ people whom the league is supposedly trying to reach. Tortorella not only defended Provorov but said he never considered benching him for skipping the warm-ups. (Kaepernick's protest, meanwhile, didn't keep him from attending practices or other team activities.)

Ultimately, in the past week or so, the NHL has proved it isn't a true ally of communities that deserve protection. If you can so easily abandon your good intentions, others can fairly question how committed you were to them in the first place.

Is Atlanta a good place to live? Recent rankings certainly say so. In September 2022, Money magazine rated Atlanta the best place to live in the U.S., based on its strong labor market and job growth. The National Association of Realtors calls it the top housing market to watch in 2023, noting that Atlanta's housing prices are lower than those in comparable cities and that it has a rapidly growing population.

Is this article about Carbon Removal?
Blue carbon is becoming an increasingly popular term, but what exactly does it mean? The answer may vary slightly depending on who you ask. But broadly speaking, according to the National Ocean Service, "blue carbon is simply the term for carbon captured by the world's ocean and coastal ecosystems."

Scientists have discovered the first gamma-ray eclipses from a special type of binary star system using data from NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. These so-called spider systems each contain a pulsar—the superdense, rapidly rotating remains of a star that exploded in a supernova—that slowly erodes its companion.

Twitter Is Quietly Re-Suspending the Lunatics Elon Musk Let Back On
Twitter has already had to re-suspend at least two reprehensible right-wingers whose accounts were reinstated by Elon Musk.

Ban Hammer

It's only been a few months since Elon Musk took over


and promised to resurrect those permabanned right-wing chuds who kept getting kicked off for being terrible — but now, the chickens seem to be coming home to roost.

At least two previously-suspended right-wingers — Ali Alexander, best known as Kanye West's 2024 campaign advisor, and Nick Fuentes, an incel-of-all-trades who has his very own Anti-Defamation League explainer — have been suspended this week.

As the Southern Poverty Law Center's Hannah Gais pointed out, Fuentes got the kibosh "roughly 24 hours" after Twitter infamously allowed him back on, and Media Matters' Alex Kaplan noted that his fellow "Stop the Steal" organizer Ali Alexander was on the chopping block soon after.

Fuentes joked about his termination on Telegram, a messaging platform favored by drug dealers, Russian government officials, and white supremacists alike due to its apparent lack of rules.

"Well it was fun while it lasted," the 24-year-old wrote, according to screenshots shared on Twitter.

Censorious Musk

While it's obviously easy to laugh at the expense of such reprehensible jerks, it's worth noting that this appears to be one of the first major instances of Twitter's content moderators sticking to their guns since Musk took over the site in late October and subsequently played host to a huge uptick in hate speech.

The suspensions also come on the heels of a shorter-reaching but arguably more important Twitter censorship story out of The Intercept that claims the social network worked on behalf of India's far-right ruling party to suppress the reach of a BBC documentary that was critical of the country's controversial prime minister, Narendra Modi.

While those serious claims of legitimate censorship barely made waves in the US, they did catch the attention of Musk, who said he was simply too busy to address the issue.

"First I've heard," Musk wrote. "It is not possible for me to fix every aspect of Twitter worldwide overnight, while still running Tesla and SpaceX, among other things."

It's unlikely that Musk hasn't heard about Alexander and Fuentes getting the can — though for now at least, he's wisely remaining silent.

More on the bird app: Desperate Twitter Auctioning Off Its Used Office Supplies

The post Twitter Is Quietly Re-Suspending the Lunatics Elon Musk Let Back On appeared first on Futurism.

FDA Gives Go-Ahead for Robotic Exoskeleton For Stroke Survivors
Leo has found 2 Regulatory Changes mentions in this article
The self-balancing exoskeleton, known as Atalante, will help in gait training in clinical environments and is impressively able to be used hands free.


Food and Drug Administration

has cleared a new exoskeleton for use in stroke rehabilitation, its manufacturer announced this week.

Known as Atalante, the self-balancing, battery-powered exoskeleton is intended to assist in training the gaits of stroke survivors, especially those that have lost significant mobility in their upper body and extremities. As such, its gait can be adjusted as a patient progresses in their rehabilitation. Footage of the device is impressive:

Strokes are the leading cause of long-term disabilities in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and every year over 795,000 people in the country suffer from one.

For those who survive, recovering is a delicate and painful process. Exoskeletons — when they work — are increasingly seen as invaluable for rehabilitation, serving as a sort of body-attuned pair of training wheels that also instill a feeling of empowerment by enabling the mere feat of being upright on one's own after a debilitating medical event.

That's why Atalante's adaptability, sturdy balance, and impressive ability to be used hands free without other assistive devices have all proved impressive. So far, its maker Wandercraft has deployed 22 Atalante exoskeletons and has helped treat over 330 patients in the last year alone, the French company says. The US will now be its latest market, with plans to significantly scale up operations in the next years or two.

Among those patients treated is Oscar Costanza, son of Wandercraft's co-founder Jean-Louis Constanza. The younger Costanza suffers from a neurological condition that hinders his nerves sending signals to his legs.

"It's new for me, because previously I've always needed assistance to walk, and now, I no longer need assistance, so I feel independent," Oscar told Reuters in a 2021 interview.

But, alas, don't expect to take one around the block. The exoskeleton is strictly designed for a clinical setting and is prohibitively heavy for everyday use — for now, anyway. Jean-Louis — perhaps quite ambitiously — envisions a future where the wheelchair will eventually be obsolete.

"Wheelchairs are an anomaly," he said in the interview. "Men, women, human beings are meant to be upright."

It'll be hard to beat the sheer, cost-effective practicality of wheelchairs, but the Atalante provides one mighty, exoskeleton-assisted step towards that lofty goal. That's especially true in the US, because, as Engadget notes, FDA approved exoskeletons are few and far between.

More on exoskeletons: 8-Year-Old Boy With Cerebral Palsy Walks Using

Robotic Exoskeleton

The post FDA Gives Go-Ahead for Robotic Exoskeleton For Stroke Survivors appeared first on Futurism.

An innovative temperature-compensation mechanism for oscillating chemical reactions based on temperature-responsive gels has been developed. Experimental findings, alongside a detailed mathematical analysis, hint at the possibility that circadian rhythms found in nature may all rely on a similar mechanism, allowing their period to remain independent of temperature.

Is this article about Animals?
Searun rainbow smelt—a culturally and ecologically valuable fish for New England anglers, consumers and marine ecosystems—is on the decline. Determining the extent of that decline, however, is difficult in Maine. Searun smelt can be easy to miss because they only enter coastal spawning streams from deeper waters during a few cold, wet nights each spring, and they depart the streams by early morning.

Is this article about Music?
By mastering the Eskista, an ancient Ethiopian dance, TED Fellow Melaku Belay survived a childhood on the streets and became a voice for his country. He shares how traditional dances can connect the wisdom of the past to the energy of the future — and, after the talk, delivers a thrilling performance of Eskista accompanied by a free-jazz ensemble. (In Amharic with consecutive English translation by filmmaker Mehret Mandefro)

Is this article about Animals?
Searun rainbow smelt—a culturally and ecologically valuable fish for New England anglers, consumers and marine ecosystems—is on the decline. Determining the extent of that decline, however, is difficult in Maine. Searun smelt can be easy to miss because they only enter coastal spawning streams from deeper waters during a few cold, wet nights each spring, and they depart the streams by early morning.

Striking and Totally Unexpected
If you would like to learn a little more about how epilepsy affects memory and more about my personal accounts, one of my previous articles, Shaken Memory, also talks about thes things. I consider this current article a revision, however, since I have learned a bit more about my condition. When Brenda Milner and William … … Continue reading →


Hi, I'm a student conducting an online study on factors which influence belief in conspiracy theories. If you are 18 years old or older and wish to find out more about the study/take part, please click the link. It will take 15-20 minutes maximum to complete.

Would really appreciate it if anyone was willing to participate. Thank you in advance!

One of my questions is about education level and I have listed only UK options (sorry!) but here is a converscion table if you're from the US –

Any other questions please ask!

submitted by /u/agadoo_
[link] [comments]

Researchers in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University have uncovered something new in one of the most studied organisms on Earth, and their discoveries could impact the treatment and prevention of devastating bacterial diseases.

Is this article about Climate?
The Earth's core has long been a place of mystery to scientists. The core of our planet sits just over 1,800 miles below the surface and exists as a ball of seething hot metal, specifically iron and nickel. It possesses many unique qualities — including its own spin. Now, researchers at Peking University in China have released new findings about the Earth's inner core: its spin rate has slowed. Here are three things you need to know about their study, as well as what the results mean for us on the surface. 1. The inner core's rotation has slowed and is reversing course. According to the results of the study, which was published in Nature Geoscience, the Earth's core may be reversing its rotation. Its rotation has slowed significantly, and this slowing began all the way back in 2009. "We show surprising observations that indicate the inner core has nearly ceased its rotation in the recent decade," writes researchers Yi Yang and Xiaodong Song in their study. "[Our] observations suggest not only a pause, but also a turning-back of the rotation by a small amount." Read More: Earth's Inner Core Is Growing Lopsided Prior to these new findings, the Earth's core was thought to have been spinning at a faster rate than the Earth's crust. These differences in spin are likely due to the gravitational effect that the Earth's mantle has on the inner core, as well as the magnetic field that is generated by the Earth's outer core. 2. These findings may suggest a larger pattern at work. Since scientists are still learning more about the Earth's core, it is difficult to uncover how it has operated in the past. However, the study's results revealed that a larger, decade-long pattern may be at play. By examining data that stretches back to the 1960s, Yang and Song discovered that the rotation of the Earth's inner core was consistent from the late 1970s to the early 2000s. Before that, though, they found that another possible slowing down or reversal event may have occurred in the Earth's inner core in the early 1970s. "The rotation is not purely steady, with a significant rate [of spin] in the earlier decades but a much smaller rate in the most recent decade and in the 1960s to 70s," they write in the study. In other words, the inner core's rotation seems to vary on a decade-long timescale, with it speeding up, slowing down and possible reversing course over a period of time. Song and Yang estimate that the switches occur every seven decades or so. 3. No, the world isn't ending. While it may seem like these results would have a huge impact to life on the surface, we haven't felt anything just yet. "Nothing cataclysmic is happening," said Hrvoje Tkalcic, a geophysicist at Australian National University, in an interview with CNN. "The inner core is now more in sync with the rest of the planet than a decade ago when it was spinning a bit faster." According to the study, small changes in the strength of the Earth's electromagnetic field, as well as the gravitational effect that the mantle has on the inner core, would be enough to alter the inner core's rate of rotation. Once again, though, these changes do not impact life on the Earth's surface much, if at all. Read More: Earth Has Been Hiding a Fifth Layer in Its Inner Core However, both Song and Yang conclude that more research is needed. And with how mysterious the core of our planet is, it's likely that there's far more to discover.

Geese Are Immune to Human Harassment
There's no winning in a stand-off against a goose. Well, that's what a study in the Wildlife Society Bulletin says, finding that the standard strategies for shooing these feisty fowl away are pointless. Particularly in the winter, this type of "harassment" has high stakes for the animals' health. Geese — Our Greatest Feathered Foes Humans are always trying to shoo geese away, hassling them with waving hands and shrill shouts. And we've got good reason for our attempts. Not only are congregating geese famous for tarnishing the terrain, they're also notoriously hostile — honking at, hissing at and otherwise terrorizing any hapless humans in their immediate vicinity. That said, though these human harassment tactics — summed up as the sprinting and screeching approach — sometimes get geese to temporarily flee, they hardly fend off the flocks for good. In fact, a team of researchers recently reported that shooing geese from a particular area actually causes them to return to that same spot two times faster than if they took off on their own. "When we harass them, it causes them to leave momentarily," says Ryan Askren, one of the team's researchers and an ecologist at the University of Arkansas, in a press release. "But, more than likely, they still have that drive to come back." Read More: For This Goose Couple, Love Knows No Boundaries According to the team, it isn't actually spite that motivates their return. Instead, it's the simple search for resources. "When we're harassing them, they probably have a biological reason to be there. There's some sort of resource, such as food or water, and they want to be there at that moment," Askren adds in the release. "When they're not being harassed, they're making the choice to leave the park because it's beneficial to them — there's a resource elsewhere they want to access." The fact that these tactics fall short isn't an issue for humans and humans alone. It's also a problem for geese, since the harassment aims to prevent them from pestering people while also pushing geese — which traditionally migrate south in the winter and north in the summer — to stick to specific movement patterns. "If a bird is hanging around Chicago in winter, it's probably not in good shape. It's cold and doesn't have a lot of food," says Mike Ward, another of the team's researchers and an ecologist at the University of Illinois, in the release. "The goal of harassment is never to hurt the geese, but to get them to use up energy during an already tough season, forcing them to migrate to warmer climates. Unfortunately, we found that doesn't happen in practice." Fearless Flocks To study their immunity to intimidation, the researchers strapped the Canada geese in Chicago's Marquette Park with special, goose-sized GPS transmitters throughout the winters of 2017 and 2018. They then trailed after the geese, banging wooden boards together, to see how harassment altered their behavior. The results revealed that the geese transitioned into a state of alertness and fled, frequently traveling to another part of the same park or to nearby parks and ponds. Those that flew away, the researchers found, tended to return to their initial position in the park after an hour or so, resuming their previous activities of resting and foraging. In other words, while the tactics frightened the flocks in the short term, the geese were much more worried about acquiring resources than they were about the harassment. Ultimately, the researchers conclude that while human harassment cannot motivate geese migrations consistently, the techniques could show success in particularly cold conditions. When humans interfere, it could prevent flocks from finding the necessary resources for survival. That said, the researchers still stress the shortfalls of these techniques, stating that geese's adaptability and aptitude for separating annoyances from actual threats stand in the way of their future success. "People don't realize how smart geese are," Ward adds. "They've learned what the real risks are over the course of their lives or from each other. Maybe we'll figure out a good harassment technique, but it's likely they're going to continue to increase in urban areas because they found a good place."

What Is a Social Media Cleanse?
People are generally spending more time on social media than they were prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. On average, social media users log around two and a half hours per day on social channels, according to 2022 research by Smart Insights. It is perhaps little surprise that many users are interested in trying a social media "cleanse", also known as a detox. Simply put a social media cleanse is time spent abstaining from Twitter, Facebook or other similar digital platforms. How long any given cleanse lasts is up to the user, and there is no clearly defined length of time. Some self-help guides suggest 30 days, while other people may take a break for just a week or as little as a few days. The terms are loose, says Trine Syvertsen, a professor of media and communication at the University of Oslo in Norway and author of Digital Detox: The Politics of Disconnecting. Some people may choose to log off from all social media entirely, while others might prefer to chose only a few apps. Possible Benefits of Social Media Detox Social media use, and overuse, are often linked with depression, anxiety and loneliness. Past research also connects it to increased stress and low moods, so taking a break can seem like a logical step to feeling better. Last year researchers at the University of Bath in the U.K. published a study in Cyberpsychology that found taking a week-long break from social media seemed to have self-reported "positive effects for wellbeing, depression, and anxiety" amongst 154 social media users. "This suggests that even just a small break can have an impact," Jeff Lambert, with the University of Bath's health department, said in a press release. Another study from Denmark indicated that quitting Facebook for a week led to increased life satisfaction and more positive emotions among participants: "Furthermore, it was demonstrated that these effects were significantly greater for heavy Facebook users, passive Facebook users and users who tend to envy others on Facebook," the paper reads. In general, however, the evidence for how effective these breaks can be is mixed, says Theda Radtke, a professor of psychological health and applied diagnostics at the University of Wuppertal in Germany. She was part of a team that reviewed a range of studies on the topic. One of the issues is the way such studies are carried out, she said, as control groups are often lacking. Some "promising results" were found in terms of reduction of overall rates of social media usage and depression symptoms, while other results were less clear, the researchers wrote. Vulnerable groups for instance — such as adolescents — can be at particular risk from overuse and may benefit from taking a break more than others. Deeper Than the Detox For Radtke, taking a break, cleansing or detoxing from social media can be a good starting point for those who believe use is interfering with their lives. "But you should also go into detail about your own use to think about the wider problem," she says. "Is it that you read every Facebook or Twitter post? Or is it that your partner is using their phone in front of you? Or is it all work-related? Then you should plan how to regulate this." As part of her own research, Syvertsen has found that these breaks are often "no quick-fix" for those who try them. "[M]any people find it difficult and not very satisfactory," she says. There can be many reasons for being online and depending on the level of connectivity you are used to, giving up can demand a lot of self-discipline, she adds. That's not to say logging off for a time won't have an impact, but based on the evidence some expectations should be tempered and steps taken to delve deeper, say the researchers. "I would say it's maybe not about only a break from electronical devices, it's also that you maybe should go more into detail and analyze your own behavior," says Radtke.

An innovative temperature-compensation mechanism for oscillating chemical reactions based on temperature-responsive gels has been developed. Experimental findings, alongside a detailed mathematical analysis, hint at the possibility that circadian rhythms found in nature may all rely on a similar mechanism, allowing their period to remain independent of temperature.

Feline uncertain? Cats do give clues if the fur's about to fly, study finds

Study of 105 pairs of interacting felines decodes the cat behaviour that puzzles humans – and flags up the unsubtle battle cry of claws and yowling

When cats get together it can be difficult to tell rough and tumble play from a full-blown scrap. Now researchers say they have decoded feline behaviour to help owners spot when the fur might be about to fly.

Dr Noema Gajdoš‑Kmecová, first author of the research from the University of Veterinary Medicine and Pharmacy, in Košice, Slovakia – a cat owner herself – said understanding feline interactions could be difficult.

Continue reading…

Loyalty card data could help spot ovarian cancer cases sooner

Researchers find pain and indigestion medication purchases were higher in women who went on to be diagnosed

Loyalty card data on over-the-counter medicine purchases could help spot

ovarian cancer

cases earlier and enable more patients to fully recover, researchers have found.

Pain and indigestion medication purchases were higher in women who went on to be diagnosed with ovarian


, usually about eight months later, according to a study of almost 300 women led by Imperial College London researchers.

Continue reading…

With ever more demands on the planet's natural resources, managing them carefully is ever more critical. But it can be challenging to make effective decisions for such complex systems. To do so, scientists and resource managers have to gather information, determine its importance and weigh possible outcomes. The key is figuring out how much information you need, so you don't spend more money monitoring than necessary.


OpenAI's viral text generator


is a real jack of all trades.

The AI-powered tool can write convincing college essays, pass business exams, and even apply for jobs on your behalf.

And, as it turns out, it could also easily take over the role of a CEO who is tasked with delivering an unfortunate message.

Dev ops expert Matt Stratton asked the tool to "compose a message announcing a seven percent reduction in headcount while also promoting executives to new titles and also include a quote from Martin Luther King."

And man, did it deliver:

The response is every bit as lifeless and impersonal as you'd expect from a human CEO — which only makes sense as Stratton's request is a direct reference to the CEO of San Francisco-based cloud computing company PagerDuty, which announced the firing of seven percent of its workforce.

The announcement email by CEO Jennifer Tejada, which has since gone viral on Twitter, kicked off with the out-of-touch intro "Hi Dutonians" and made very little effort to console the affected workers.

Writer and engineer Gegely Orosz called it "the most tone-deaf layoff email I read so far."

"The email is very long, and feels like it was written by an AI that took all the phrases that people usually say, and put it [in] one long email," he added.

"Shoutout to PagerDuty for the most horrific layoff email I've ever seen," developer advocate Kat Cosgrove tweeted. "It's got everything: framing it as a good thing, promoting people already in VP positions, thanking the board, and quoting MLK Jr."

If it weren't for the fact that the screenshot itself was taken from a ChatGPT chat window, in fact, the letter generated in response to Stratton's prompt could've easily been mistaken for the real thing.

"The decision was not made lightly, but it is necessary in order to ensure the long-term success of our organization," ChatGPT wrote.

Tejada used very similar and equally meaningless language, writing that "we are further refining our operating model as we work to increase our capacity while improving our cost structure, focusing our efforts, and improving our return on investments."

The cherry on top? Tejada used the same exact MLK quote as ChatGPT — while modifying the gendered phrase "ultimate measure of a man" to read as "the ultimate measure of a [leader]."

It all makes us wonder: did the tech CEO use ChatGPT to come up with her lazy layoffs announcement letter in the first place? Did ChatGPT just prove its brilliance, or did Tejada and other CEOs like her just set the bar that low?

Even AI generators like ChatGPT have their limits, however.

After Stratton attempted to get the AI to come up with a letter including a quote from Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini, ChatGPT suddenly grew a conscience.

"I'm sorry, but I cannot fulfill that request," ChatGPT responded, adding that Stratton's request may have led to "inappropriate, but also offensive" language due to Mussolini's "racist and discriminatory ideologies."

The first letter featuring an MLK quote, however — which likely mashes up plenty of preceding letters just like it in the bot's training data — couldn't be more pertinent right now.

2023 has already been mired in mass layoffs, with major US tech and media companies firing workers in the tens of thousands.

Other CEOs didn't fare much better in coming up with their announcement letters.

ChatGPT's response to Stratton's query is especially ironic, given the tech industry's growing investments in the AI space.

"I am confident about the huge opportunity in front of us thanks to the strength of our mission, the value of our products and services, and our early investments in AI," Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in a largely boilerplate message announcing a workforce reduction of around 12,000 roles.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella noted in his recent mass layoffs announcement that "while we are eliminating roles in some areas, we will continue to hire in key strategic areas," adding that "we know this is a challenging time for each person impacted" — an arguably meaningless sentiment that does little to soften the blow.

All told, the company let go of roughly 10,000 workers — and announced a multibillion-dollar investment in ChatGPT maker OpenAI days later.

Meanwhile, executive pay is still steadily increasing.

In short, ChatGPT's lethargic and mechanical response — which comes eerily close to the real thing — highlights just how meaningless company-wide statements put together by their CEOs and communications departments really are: a cushy job that may as well be taken care of by a regurgitating AI.

More on ChatGPT: Facebook's Resident AI Guru Just Brutally Slammed ChatGPT

The post ChatGPT Shamelessly Writes Letter Announcing Layoffs While Promoting Execs and Quoting MLK appeared first on Futurism.

With ever more demands on the planet's natural resources, managing them carefully is ever more critical. But it can be challenging to make effective decisions for such complex systems. To do so, scientists and resource managers have to gather information, determine its importance and weigh possible outcomes. The key is figuring out how much information you need, so you don't spend more money monitoring than necessary.

The behavior of cat interactions has been categorized into playful, aggressive and intermediate groups that may help owners distinguish between play and genuine fighting. The study, published in Scientific Reports, suggests that cats may engage in a mixture of playful and aggressive behaviors, which could escalate into a fight if not managed by the owner.

A team of researchers from Université Sorbonne Paris Nord, Université Paris-Saclay and Institut Universitaire de France has found that it is possible train ants to sniff out cancerous
in mice. In their study, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the researchers trained groups of ants to respond to chemicals in urine samples that were associated with cancerous tumors.

Is this article about Pharma?
Researchers led by Dr. Jens Lüders at IRB Barcelona have discovered a key role played by the
protein in the initiation of microtubule assembly during the interphase stage of the cell cycle—the phase in which cells spend most time. The cell cycle is a series of stages that lead to cell growth and division into two daughter cells. The period between cell formation and cell division is known as the interphase. During this time, the cytoskeleton is essential, playing a very active role in maintaining cell functions.

Is this article about Gardening?
Urban inequality in Europe and the United States is so severe that urban elites claim most of the benefits from the agglomeration effects that big cities provide, while large parts of urban populations get little to nothing. In a study published in Nature Human Behaviour, researchers at Linköping University show that the higher-than-expected outputs of larger cities critically depend on the extreme outcomes of the successful few.

Scientists have created an AI system capable of generating artificial enzymes from scratch. In laboratory tests, some of these enzymes worked as well as those found in nature, even when their artificially generated amino acid sequences diverged significantly from any known natural protein.

Is this article about Ecosystem Management?
A University of Queensland–led study has shown that expanding global seaweed farming could go a long way to addressing the planet's food security, biodiversity loss and climate change challenges.

The behavior of cat interactions has been categorized into playful, aggressive and intermediate groups that may help owners distinguish between play and genuine fighting. The study, published in Scientific Reports, suggests that cats may engage in a mixture of playful and aggressive behaviors, which could escalate into a fight if not managed by the owner.

A team of researchers from Université Sorbonne Paris Nord, Université Paris-Saclay and Institut Universitaire de France has found that it is possible train ants to sniff out cancerous
in mice. In their study, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the researchers trained groups of ants to respond to chemicals in urine samples that were associated with cancerous tumors.

Is this article about Pharma?
Researchers led by Dr. Jens Lüders at IRB Barcelona have discovered a key role played by the
protein in the initiation of microtubule assembly during the interphase stage of the cell cycle—the phase in which cells spend most time. The cell cycle is a series of stages that lead to cell growth and division into two daughter cells. The period between cell formation and cell division is known as the interphase. During this time, the cytoskeleton is essential, playing a very active role in maintaining cell functions.

A new study finds that people with strong attitudes tend to believe they understand science, while neutrals are less confident. Overall, the study revealed that that people with strong negative attitudes to science tend to be overconfident about their level of understanding.


The 4,300-year-old mummy was found at the bottom of a 15-metre shaft near the Step Pyramid at Saqqara

Egyptologists have uncovered a Pharaonic tomb near the capital, Cairo, containing what may be the oldest and most complete mummy yet to be discovered in the country, the excavation team leader has said.

The 4,300-year-old mummy was found at the bottom of a 15-metre shaft in a recently uncovered group of fifth and sixth dynasty tombs near the Step Pyramid at Saqqara, Zahi Hawass, director of the team, told reporters.

Continue reading…

There were fewer MIS-C cases during Omicron than Delta
A young girl lays in a hospital bed wearing a blue face mask.

There were fewer cases of multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children during the Omicron wave of the pandemic than the Delta wave, according to a new study.

Multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) is a rare but severe complication that occurs in children who've previously had COVID-19, and has near 1% mortality. Published in the journal Viruses, the findings show that those cases that did occur during Omicron were also milder than during Delta.

As shown in numerous other studies, during both waves, Black children were disproportionately affected by MIS-C, and were more likely to be admitted to the hospital with COVID-19. The authors attribute this to systemic and structural racial health inequities and note that limited analysis beyond this observation was possible as the study was not directed at contributions to racial health disparities.

"…during the change to Omicron, MIS-C has become milder and increasingly rare."

The study demonstrates how the landscape of MIS-C keeps changing as new COVID-19 variants evolve. At the same time, the authors note that it is difficult to say what it means for the future.

"That's the hard question," says senior author Mark D. Hicar, associate professor in the pediatrics department in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo and a pediatrics infectious disease specialist. "Since we don't know why the early strains of the virus caused more MIS-C and why Omicron causes less, it is hard to say if future strains will be worse or better."

Likewise, he says, it is difficult to predict what the current strain XBB.1.5 will do, as this variant is beginning to flourish in the national data and it takes weeks before MIS-C cases emerge.

"Some recently published studies have suggested that MIS-C cases are becoming more severe, but those were based on 2021 data, before the Omicron wave really took off," Hicar notes.

"Our study is one of the first to show that during the change to Omicron, MIS-C has become milder and increasingly rare," he says. "This trend has continued and MIS-C is currently quite rare per anecdotal reports from colleagues across the country."

He adds, however, that it is important to remain vigilant, as new strains of the SARS-CoV2 virus could cause an increase in incidence or severity of MIS-C.

MIS-C is changing over time

The retrospective study included 271 patients admitted to Oishei Children's Hospital in Buffalo from August 2021 to February 2022, which included the majority of the Delta wave and when the Omicron wave (BA.1) was strongest.

A key strength of the study is that a panel of three infectious disease specialists made determinations on each case as to whether a child was admitted to the hospital due to COVID-19 or due to some other reason and then happened to test positive for the virus. To avoid potential false positives, the study relied only on cases proven to be positive through PCR testing.

The panel was established after first author Patrick O. Kenney, a medical fellow in infectious diseases, found that a number of children who were reported to be admitted to the hospital with only an incidental diagnosis of SARS-CoV2 on PCR actually were experiencing symptoms that were not as common during previous waves.

These included croup, which was first described by other groups, but also increased rates of seizures, bleeding events, and intra-abdominal inflammation including pancreatitis and hepatitis.

"Reports at the time supported that there was an increase in pediatric Omicron hospitalizations, but those reports focused on global admission data," explains Hicar. "We wanted to take a deep dive and have thorough clinical chart review by three infectious disease physicians to decide if a case was admitted due to COVID-19 or for some other reason and happened to have COVID-19."

"Even during major changes in the virus, from the Delta to Omicron variants, vaccines can be highly protective in preventing hospitalizations among children."

This detailed approach helps to clarify how MIS-C is changing over time, especially in light of the decrease in severe cases during Omicron, Hicar explains. The study found that during Delta, MIS-C comprised up to 12% of hospital admissions at Oishei while during Omicron it comprised just 6% of hospital admissions. Based on their data, the researchers estimate the risk of MIS-C from Omicron in Western New York is 32% lower than it was during Delta.

The study notes that while there was an increase in pediatric hospitalizations in Buffalo during the Omicron wave, which was also the case nationwide, cases of both COVID-19 and MIS-C were generally less severe than they had been during previous waves of the pandemic. In addition, the length of hospital stays at Oishei Children's Hospital as a result of either MIS-C or COVID-19 was relatively short during this period.

The researchers report that children testing positive for COVID-19 who didn't have MIS-C during the Omicron wave exhibited a broad range of symptoms, especially among younger children, including seizures due to high fevers, as well as croup and related conditions.

By contrast, children who had MIS-C during Omicron exhibited a narrower spectrum of symptoms: they always had fever along with abdominal or upper respiratory symptoms. The authors note that none of the patients in the study met even incomplete criteria for Kawasaki disease; early in the pandemic, MIS-C was believed to be similar to Kawasaki disease.

Unvaccinated kids

The authors point out that the majority of children admitted to Oishei Children's Hospital during Omicron with either COVID-19 or MIS-C had not been vaccinated.

Vaccines for children 12 and older became available before the study began and were available for ages 5-11 during the study. Among the 107 children admitted with acute COVID-19 during Omicron, vaccine status was recorded for 88 of them; of these, five were fully vaccinated and one had received a single dose. The others were unvaccinated.

Based on local county data that showed that 33% of children under 18 had been vaccinated as the Omicron wave began, rising to 42.1% by the end of the study period, the researchers calculated that the vaccines were between 87.8-91.7% effective in preventing hospitalizations for either COVID-19 or MIS-C among children.

"Our data show that even during major changes in the virus, from the Delta to Omicron variants, vaccines can be highly protective in preventing hospitalizations among children," says Hicar.

Lorna Krabill, a fourth-year medical student in the Jacobs School, and Arthur J. Chang of Children's Hospital and Medical Center in Omaha are coauthors of the study.

Source: University at Buffalo

The post There were fewer MIS-C cases during Omicron than Delta appeared first on Futurity.

Souped up Hall thrusters might get people to Mars
Is this article about Space?
glowing blue O in darkness

Running more propellant through a Hall thruster might power a crewed mission to Mars, experiments suggest.

It was believed that Hall thrusters, an efficient kind of electric propulsion widely used in orbit, need to be large to produce a lot of thrust. Now, a new study suggests that smaller Hall thrusters can generate much more thrust—potentially making them candidates for interplanetary missions.

"People had previously thought that you could only push a certain amount of current through a thruster area, which in turn translates directly into how much force or thrust you can generate per unit area," says Benjamin Jorns, associate professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Michigan who led the work.

His team challenged this limit by running a 9 kilowatt Hall thruster up to 45 kilowatts, maintaining roughly 80% of its nominal efficiency. This increased the amount of force generated per unit area by almost a factor of 10.

Whether we call it a plasma thruster or an ion drive, electric propulsion is our best bet for interplanetary travel—but science is at a crossroads. While Hall thrusters are a well-proven technology, an alternative concept, known as a magnetoplasmadynamic thruster, promises to pack much more power into smaller engines. However, they are yet unproven in many ways, including lifetime.

Hall thrusters were believed to be unable to compete because of the way they operate. The propellant, typically a noble gas like xenon, moves through a cylindrical channel where it is accelerated by a powerful electric field. It generates thrust in the forward direction as it departs out the back. But before the propellant can be accelerated, it needs to lose some electrons to give it a positive charge.

Electrons accelerated by a magnetic field to run in a ring around that channel—described as a "buzz saw" by Jorns—knock electrons off the propellant atoms and turn them into positively charged ions. However, calculations suggested that if a Hall thruster tried to drive more propellant through the engine, the electrons whizzing in a ring would get knocked out of the formation, breaking down that "buzz saw" function.

"It's like trying to bite off more than you can chew," Jorns says. "The buzz saw can't work its way through that much material."

In addition, the engine would get extremely hot. Jorns' team put these beliefs to the test.

"We named our thruster the H9 MUSCLE because essentially, we took the H9 thruster and made a muscle car out of it by turning it up to 11—really up to a hundred, if we're going by accurate scaling," says Leanne Su, a doctoral student in aerospace engineering who presented the study at the AIAA SciTech Forum in National Harbor, Maryland on January 24.

They tackled the heat problem by cooling it with water, which let them see how big a problem the buzz saw breakdown was going to be. Turns out, it wasn't much trouble. Running with xenon, the conventional propellant, the H9 MUSCLE ran up to 37.5 kilowatts, with an overall efficiency of about 49%, not far off the 62% efficiency at its design power of 9 kilowatts.

Running with krypton, a lighter gas, they maxed out their power supply at 45 kilowatts. At an overall efficiency of 51%, they achieved their maximum thrust of about 1.8 Newtons, on par with the much larger 100-kilowatt-class X3 Hall thruster.

"This is kind of a crazy result because typically, krypton performs a lot worse than xenon on Hall thrusters. So it's very cool and an interesting path forward to see that we can actually improve krypton's performance relative to xenon by increasing the thruster current density," Su says.

Nested Hall thrusters like the X3 have been explored for interplanetary cargo transport, but they are much larger and heavier, making it difficult for them to transport humans. Now, ordinary Hall thrusters are back on the table for crewed journeys.

Jorns says that the cooling problem would need a space-worthy solution if Hall thrusters are to run at these high powers. Still, he is optimistic that individual thrusters could run at 100 to 200 kilowatts, arranged into arrays that provide a megawatt's worth of thrust. This could enable crewed missions to reach Mars even on the far side of the sun, traveling a distance of 250 million miles.

The team hopes to pursue the cooling problem as well as challenges in developing both Hall thrusters and magnetoplasmadynamic thrusters on Earth, where few facilities can test Mars-mission-level thrusters. The amount of propellant exhausting from the thruster comes too fast for the vacuum pumps to keep the conditions inside the testing chamber space-like.

The research had partial support from the Joint Advanced Propulsion Institute.

Source: University of Michigan

The post Souped up Hall thrusters might get people to Mars appeared first on Futurity.

Is this article about Photography?
Even if you think you are good at analyzing faces, research shows many people cannot reliably distinguish between photos of real faces and images that have been computer-generated. This is particularly problematic now that computer systems can create realistic-looking photos of people who don't exist.

A team of researchers affiliated with several institutions in Spain, working with two colleagues from France and another from Germany has discovered an Obsidian handaxe-making workshop from 1.2 million years ago in the Awash valley in Ethiopia. In their paper published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, the group describes where the handaxes were found, their condition and their age.

The Cause of Depression Is Probably Not What You Think

People often think they know what causes chronic depression. Surveys indicate that more than 80% of the public blames a "chemical imbalance" in the brain. That idea is widespread in pop psychology and cited in research papers and medical textbooks. Listening to Prozac, a book that describes the life-changing value of treating depression with medications that aim to correct this imbalance…


Is this article about Aerospace?

(Credit: David Cardinal/Cardinal Photo)
"Dark lightning" sounds like something out of a fantasy novel, but it's very real. These invisible bolts of energy are the most powerful type of lightning on Earth. Recent research on dark lightning suggests that if it hits a plane, air travelers could receive an unhealthy dose of gamma radiation.

Scientists have known about dark lightning since at least the early 1990s, when satellites detected a powerful gamma-ray flash in our atmosphere. At first, we thought the event must have been something like a gamma-ray burst. However, NASA's Fermi space telescope detected a terrestrial gamma-ray flash (TGF). This allowed us to trace the phenomenon's source to a terrestrial thunderstorm.

Since then, we've learned that perhaps one in 1,000 lightning bolts produces a TGF. That means dark lightning happens 1,000 times a day or more. Thankfully, they don't pose much risk to people on the ground. However, a new study compared the frequency of dark lightning bolts with a map of the most common airline routes, concluding that dark lightning does pose some risk to plane passengers.

Atmospheric scientist Melody Pallu, the first author of the report, discussed the results at the latest American Geophysical Union conference. Dark lightning might strike a plane maybe once every 1 to 4 years, said Pallu, but that's probably "an upper limit of the real probability." However, Pallu said, the calculations didn't address the fact that pilots usually avoid thunderstorms. So, that estimate of once every few years could be 10 times the actual rate.

Planes are carefully designed to withstand lightning strikes of terrifying power. But they can't protect against everything, and gamma rays are no joke. Dark lightning happens at cruising altitude for some planes. If a plane should pass near a bolt of dark lightning, said Pallu, its passengers could receive 0.3 sieverts of radiation in an instant. That's more than a year's worth of radiation exposure. It doesn't reach the level of exposure that can cause radiation sickness, but it's enough to elevate a person's lifetime risk of cancer.

Airline pilots usually try to avoid thunderstorms. They'll divert from their standard course to do so. Even so, from time to time, lightning strikes a plane — usually the nose, tail, or the end of a wing. When this happens, the plane's body acts as a Faraday cage, diverting the lightning bolt's electromagnetic pulse (EMP) to protect the people inside. Since most lightning is cloud-to-cloud, the zorch simply passes over and through the plane's metal body, and then exits the opposite end of the plane. Dark lightning, however, is different.

How Does Dark Lightning Happen?

Even now, says Pallu, we're not sure precisely how thunderstorms generate these gigantic, invisible bolts of dark lightning. But according to NASA, the leading hypothesis is that regular lightning can act as an invisible particle accelerator, producing an electric field that throws off a jet of electrons moving at near-light-speed. Those electrons crash into the atmosphere, and the energy they throw off is so much greater than normal, it's no longer in the visible spectrum.

Most lightning actually happens within the cloud-tops. Deep inside a thundercloud, positive and negative charges build up when ice crystals rub against one another. But because of the updraft, these charged particles can become separated by height. Lightning happens when an electrical charge concentrated in one place finds a path to somewhere that has an opposite charge. As soon as it does, the system finds a way to equalize that electrical "pressure." The same process is at work in high-voltage electrical arcing, spark plugs, and even neurons firing.

The light from lightning comes from bremsstrahlung ("braking radiation"). This happens when fast-moving electrons with a lot of kinetic energy are deflected and slowed down by the atmosphere. The electron releases that difference in energy as a photon. For normal lightning, our eyes see that as a glow in the visible spectrum.

Dark lightning happens when braking radiation from lightning in the upper atmosphere soaks so much energy that the electron releases a photon in the gamma energy band. Extremely severe storms with lots of lightning can create lots of gamma rays this way. When these gamma rays strike oxygen atoms, they create an electron and a positron, and the process begins anew — spiced up by antimatter. As NASA explains in the video above, it's an invisible, "self-generated, self-sustained particle accelerator."

In the end, Pallu added, we need more research to understand dark lightning and its risk to human health. Scientifically, dark lightning is a fascinating reminder that some of the most energetic interactions on the planet occur in parts of the electromagnetic spectrum we can't even see.

Now Read:

In the late 19th century, researchers discovered, in separate studies, that horses and humans have a small bone at the tip of their hoof and finger, respectively. Since then, research on the anatomical development of many animals—including horses, humans, and other species—has forged on, but little attention has since been given to this bony structure, which went unnamed for more than 100 years.

Scientists Build Working Tractor Beam, Although It's Comically Tiny
Scientists have built a real-life tractor beam that can pull actual objects using nothing but light.But it has one big drawback: it's absolutely tiny.

Small But Mighty

Scientists have built a real-life tractor beam that can pull actual objects using nothing but light.

But it has one big drawback: it's absolutely tiny.

As detailed in a new paper published in the journal Optics Express and recently spotted by ScienceAlert, a team of scientists figured out how to build a new laser that can form an optical tractor beam capable of manipulating objects at a distance.

Despite its still tiny size, the new tractor beam packs a considerable punch. And though it's still small, previous iterations were smaller still.

"In previous studies, the light pulling force was too small to pull a macroscopical object," said research team member Lei Wang from QingDao University of Science and Technology in China, in a statement.

"With our new approach, the light-pulling force has a much larger amplitude," he added. "In fact, it is more than three orders of magnitudes larger than the light pressure used to drive a solar sail, which uses the momentum of photons to exert a small pushing force."

Laser Bender

Scientists were able to bend special composite structures made out of graphene and silicon dioxide with the use of a laser.

The laser caused the far side of the composite structure to heat up and release gas molecules, which caused the structure to bend toward the light.

"Our technique provides a non-contact and long-distance pulling approach, which may be useful for various scientific experiments," Wang said in the statement.

Mars Bound

According to the researcher, it may prove especially useful in some unexpected places as well.

"The rarefied gas environment we used to demonstrate the technique is similar to what is found on Mars," Wang added. "Therefore, it might have the potential for one day manipulating vehicles or aircraft on Mars."

That may sound far like a stretch, but NASA did in fact investigate back in 2011 whether similar tractor beams could be used to gather Mars samples, as ScienceAlert points out.

For now, the tiny tractor beam is only a proof of concept. Before it can be practical, Wang and his colleagues still have to figure out the exact relationship between the power of the laser and the pulling force, while also making it work in a larger variety of atmospheric conditions.

But it's nonetheless a fascinating glimpse of a piece of science fiction taking a tiny step toward reality.

READ MORE: Scientists Have Built a Macroscopic Tractor Beam Using Laser Light [ScienceAlert]

The post Scientists Build Working Tractor Beam, Although It's Comically Tiny appeared first on Futurism.

In the late 19th century, researchers discovered, in separate studies, that horses and humans have a small bone at the tip of their hoof and finger, respectively. Since then, research on the anatomical development of many animals—including horses, humans, and other species—has forged on, but little attention has since been given to this bony structure, which went unnamed for more than 100 years.

Whatever Happened to Toilet Plumes?

In the dark early days of the pandemic, when we knew almost nothing and feared almost everything, there was a moment when people became very, very worried about toilets. More specifically, they were worried about the possibility that the cloud of particles toilets spew into the air when flushed—known in the scientific literature as "toilet plume"—might be a significant vector of COVID transmission. Because the coronavirus can be found in human excrement, "flushing the toilet may fling coronavirus aerosols all over," The New York Times warned in June 2020. Every so often in the years since, the occasional PSA from a scientist or public-health expert has renewed the scatological panic.

In retrospect, so much of what we thought we knew in those early days was wrong. Lysoling our groceries turned out to not be helpful. Masking turned out to be very helpful. Hand-washing, though still important, was not all it was cracked up to be, and herd immunity, in the end, was a mirage. As the country shifts into post-pandemic life and takes stock of the past three years, it's worth asking: What really was the deal with toilet plume?

The short answer is that our fears have not been substantiated, but they weren't entirely overblown either. Scientists have been studying toilet plume for decades. They've found that plumes vary in magnitude depending on the type of toilet and flush mechanism. Flush energy plays a role too: The greater it is, the larger the plume. Closing the lid (if the toilet has one) helps a great deal, though even that cannot completely eliminate toilet plume—particles can still escape through the gap between the seat and the lid.

Whatever the specifics, the main conclusion from years of research preceding the pandemic has been consistent and disgusting: "Flush toilets produce substantial quantities of toilet plume aerosol capable of entraining microorganisms at least as large as bacteria … These bioaerosols may remain viable in the air for extended periods and travel with air currents," scientists at the CDC and the University of Oklahoma College of Public Health wrote in a 2013 review paper titled "Lifting the Lid on Toilet Plume Aerosol." In other words, when you flush a toilet, an unsettling amount of the contents go up rather than down.

Knowing this is one thing; seeing it is another. Traditionally, scientists have measured toilet plume with either a particle counter or, in at least one case, "a computational model of an idealized toilet." But in a new study published last month, researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder took things a step further, using bright-green lasers to render visible what usually, blessedly, is not. John Crimaldi, an engineering professor and a co-author of the study, who has spent 25 years using lasers to illuminate invisible phenomena, told me that he and his colleagues went into the experiment fully expecting to see something. Even so, they were "completely caught off guard" by the results. The plume was bigger, faster, and more energetic than they'd anticipated—"like an eruption," Crimaldi said, or, as he and his colleagues put it in their paper, a "strong chaotic jet."

Within eight seconds, the resulting cloud of aerosols shoots nearly five feet above the toilet bowl—that is, more than six feet above the ground. That is: straight into your face. After the initial burst, the plume continues to rise until it hits the ceiling, and then it wafts outward. It meets a wall and runs along it. Before long, it fills the room. Once that happens, it hangs around for a while. "You can sort of extrapolate in your own mind to walking into a public restroom in an airport that has 20 toilet stalls, all of them flushing every couple minutes," Crimaldi said. Not a pleasant thought.

The question, then, is not so much whether toilet plume happens—like it or not, it clearly does—as whether it presents a legitimate transmission risk of COVID or anything else. This part is not so clear. The 2013 review paper identified studies of the original SARS virus as "among the most compelling indicators of the potential for toilet plume to cause airborne disease transmission." (The authors also noted, in a dry aside, that although SARS was "not presently a common disease, it has demonstrated its potential for explosive spread and high mortality.") The one such study the authors discuss explicitly is a report on the 2003 outbreak in Hong Kong's Amoy Gardens apartment complex. That study, though, is far from conclusive, Mark Sobsey, an environmental microbiologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told me. The researchers didn't rule out other modes of transmission, nor did they attempt to culture live virus from the fecal matter—a far more reliable indicator of infectiousness than mere detection.

Beyond that, Sobsey said, there is little evidence that toilet plumes spread SARS or COVID-19. In his own review, published in December 2021, Sobsey found "no documented evidence" of viral transmission via fecal matter. This, at least, seems to track with the three years of pandemic experience we've all now endured. Although we can't easily prove that bathrooms don't play a significant role in spreading COVID-19, we haven't seen any glaring indications that they do. And anyway, the coronavirus has found plenty of other awful ways to spread.

Just because toilet plume doesn't seem to be a vector of COVID transmission, though, doesn't mean you can forget about it. Gastrointestinal viruses such as norovirus, Sobsey told me, present a more serious risk of transmission via toilet plume, because they are known to spread via fecal matter. The only real solutions are structural. Improved ventilation would keep aerosolized waste from building up in the air, and germicidal lighting, though the technology is still being developed, could potentially disinfect what remains. Neither, however, would stop the plume in the first place. To do that, you would need to change the toilet itself: In order to create a smoother and thus better-contained flush, you could change the geometry of the bowl, the way the water enters and exits, or any number of other variables. Toilet manufacturers could also, you know, stop producing lidless toilets.

But none of that will save you the next time you find yourself staring into a toilet's blank maw. Crimaldi suggests wearing a mask in public bathrooms to protect against not just the plume created when you flush but also the plumes left by the person who used the bathroom before you, the person who used it before them, and so on. You don't need to have any great affection for masking as a public-health intervention to consider donning one for a few minutes to avoid literally breathing in shit. Sobsey offered another bit of unconventional bathroom-hygiene advice, which he acknowledged can only do so much to protect you: If you find yourself in a public restroom with a lidless toilet, he said, consider washing your hands before you flush. Then "hold your breath, flush the toilet, and leave."

When your child has a meltdown while you're running an errand or doing a chore, what do you do to deal with it? Many would probably admit to handing over a smartphone or a tablet so the child can keep themselves occupied. As the consumer electronics industry grew, this quick fix to pacify fussy children has become more common among caregivers. But while the approach appears to be harmless as a temporary tool, new research suggests it's not advisable in the long run. Read More: Emotional Distractions Can Be a Double-Edged Sword A recent JAMA Pediatrics study looked at hundreds of parents and children aged 3 to 5 to determine how the use of mobile devices as calming tools impacts child development. The University of Michigan researchers found that the use of devices to calm boys and children with high temperamental surgency (like hyperactivity or impulsiveness) was associated with higher emotional reactivity. In other words, these findings suggest that the frequent use of mobile devices as a soothing tool is associated with increased emotional dysregulation in kids. Child Development and Electronics Tantrums and defiance, of course, are common during any child's developmental stage. However, using devices to manage difficult behavior might take away their opportunity to learn how to deal with these emotions. "When we were young, we threw a tantrum to express our emotions and to make demands because we could not verbalize our emotions and needs," says Chen Chen, an assistant professor at the University of Hong Kong and research associate at Harvard University who was not involved with the study. "When we grow up, we learn that verbal communication is much more effective and much less damaging than throwing tantrums." Solving a need by adopting an escape strategy is usually a last resort. And if the last resort becomes an everyday knee-jerk reaction, Chen says, something is likely to go wrong. For example, if a child tends to use a tablet at the dining table, they may lose the opportunity for exposure to language or an interest in socializing. "If electronic devices keep replacing a child's opportunities to learn verbalizing social-emotional needs in the most sociable moments, the child can only burst all those emotions into tears, or innate those anger and fear behind timid silence," Chen says. Adults and Electronic Devices Aside from the impact of mobile devices on kids, it's also crucial to investigate the reasons caregivers use them as calming tools in the first place. A 2020 study published in Computers in Human Behavior demonstrated that when adults use electronics to soothe a kid, they are most likely simply soothing themselves. Adults may offer the electronics to obtain some peace of mind, avoid the stares of other passengers on a train or avoid the frowns from other customers in a restaurant, for example. Based on these findings, parents' lack of confidence in their own parenting abilities is a predictor of increased screen time for children. "It is when I put parents under the spotlight that I realized this is exactly what parents were trying to avoid," explains Chen, a lead author of the study. "Device is a parental escaping strategy." But the immediate relief electronics provide both child and parent may inadvertently establish a reliance on them; therefore, it's necessary to help upset children work through their emotions rather than distracting them from what they're feeling. This allows them to build the skills they will need when faced with future distress. Alternative Approaches It wouldn't be realistic to completely cut out the use of electronic devices as a soothing tool. However, using them less frequently and exploring alternative calming approaches may be a good way to go. Caregivers can try taking slow, deep breaths with their child when they begin to show feelings of irritation. Hugging and physical touch can also work — but others may prefer sensory approaches like pushing the wall or looking at something visually stimulating. Not all children are the same, so the effectiveness of different calming techniques will vary. Chen recommends that, before immediately resorting to electronics, caregivers take the time to discern why a child is exhibiting difficult behaviors. They might be in pain, or feeling anxious or lonely, all of which must be addressed accordingly. Read More: Should Children Be Screened for Anxiety? In any case, talking them through their emotions is the best way to help them understand themselves better. Emotion Coaching A research-backed way of helping children recognize and regulate strong emotions is emotion coaching, says Sarah Coyne, a professor of human development at Brigham Young University. It's a strategy that helps young children learn how to express their emotions with words. American psychologist John Gottman outlined the five steps of emotion coaching in his book Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child. These include acknowledging the child's emotion, recognizing it as an opportunity to connect, validating what they feel, labeling the emotion and then problem-solving together. The use of electronics as a soothing tool, Coyne says, is probably a short-term gain with a long-term loss. "Giving a child a device might calm them in the moment, but it might increase their dependence on devices to regulate emotions in the future," she says. "So, I would say use media sparingly as a way to regulate emotions in young children."

As a component of moors, mosses are important for climate conservation. They are also gaining increasing significance in biotechnology and the manufacture of biopharmaceuticals. For the most varied of reasons, mosses are interesting research objects. One reason for this is that they are particularly similar to the first land plants. As a result, they provide insight into the original function of signaling molecules which regulate growth and development in all land plants today.

As a component of moors, mosses are important for climate conservation. They are also gaining increasing significance in biotechnology and the manufacture of biopharmaceuticals. For the most varied of reasons, mosses are interesting research objects. One reason for this is that they are particularly similar to the first land plants. As a result, they provide insight into the original function of signaling molecules which regulate growth and development in all land plants today.

Leo has found 1 Regulatory Changes mention in this article
  • Democrats in California called for stricter gun-control laws following two mass shootings .
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Leo has found 1 Leadership Changes mention in this article
  • Reed Hastings stepped down as chief executive of Netflix, which he helped found in 1997 as a DVD rental firm.
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Is this article about Automotive Industry?
self-driving bus on street with symbols for bike lane and pedestrian walkway

Our existing social contract around driving should apply to automated vehicles, say researchers, essentially solving the "trolley problem."

The classic thought experiment asks: Should you pull a lever to divert a runaway trolley so that it kills one person rather than five? Alternatively: What if you'd have to push someone onto the tracks to stop the trolley? What is the moral choice in each of these instances?

For decades, philosophers have debated whether we should prefer the utilitarian solution (what's better for society; i.e., fewer deaths) or a solution that values individual rights (such as the right not to be intentionally put in harm's way).

In recent years, automated vehicle designers have also pondered how AVs facing unexpected driving situations might solve similar dilemmas. For example: What should the AV do if a bicycle suddenly enters its lane? Should it swerve into oncoming traffic or hit the bicycle?

According to Chris Gerdes, professor emeritus of mechanical engineering and co-director of the Center for Automotive Research at Stanford (CARS), the solution is right in front of us. It's built into the social contract we already have with other drivers, as set out in our traffic laws and their interpretation by courts. Along with collaborators at Ford Motor Co., Gerdes recently published a solution to the trolley problem in the AV context in the Journal of Law and Mobility. Here, Gerdes describes that work and suggests that it will engender greater trust in AVs:

The post How the 'trolley problem' applies to self-driving cars appeared first on Futurity.

Is this article about Cell?
Cosmic rays (CR) constitute high-energy particles that mainly originate outside our solar system. These primary CR interact with interstellar matter to produce secondary CR. The secondary nature of their origin is reflected in the higher abundance of light elements, such as boron (B), in secondary CR relative to the solar system.

Is this article about Retail?
On average, we open seven packaged items per day, most of them food items. All of this together makes for a mountain of plastic. But more and more often our tomatoes, apples and cookies are packaged in cardboard. To help speed up the transition of plastic to paper, TU/e chemist Sterre Bakker researched what coatings can be used to make cardboard a more suitable food packaging material.

Flocking flamingos in groups of 50 or more may be one key to encouraging successful reproduction, according to a study published this month in Zoo Biology. Researchers used global data shared by zoos and aquariums to study reproductive success and factors such as climate, flock numbers, and an equal sex ratio in four species of flamingo in 540 ex situ populations worldwide. The zoos and aquariums curate data on groups of flamingos using the Zoological Information Management System (ZIMS) provided by the nonprofit Species360.

In the mountains of southeastern Zimbabwe lie the ruins of the first major city in the southern Africa. The place is known as Great Zimbabwe. The name Zimbabwe itself means "the big stone house" in the Shona language, and in fact the country got its name from the ancient city. The city with large stone houses and enclosures was the 11th century the capital of the Shona kingdom in parts of present-day Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

Flocking flamingos in groups of 50 or more may be one key to encouraging successful reproduction, according to a study published this month in Zoo Biology. Researchers used global data shared by zoos and aquariums to study reproductive success and factors such as climate, flock numbers, and an equal sex ratio in four species of flamingo in 540 ex situ populations worldwide. The zoos and aquariums curate data on groups of flamingos using the Zoological Information Management System (ZIMS) provided by the nonprofit Species360.

Ice Age effects still show up in crocodiles today
An American crocodile walks from water onto the shore.

While changing temperatures and rainfall had little impact on crocodiles' gene flow over the past three million years, changes to sea levels during the Ice Age had a different effect.

"The American crocodile tolerates huge variations in temperature and rainfall. But about 20,000 years ago—when much of the world's water was frozen, forming the vast ice sheets of the last glacial maximum—sea levels dropped by more than 100 meters [about 328 feet]," says José Avila-Cervantes, a postdoctoral fellow working under the supervision of Hans Larsson, a professor of biology at the Redpath Museum of McGill University. "This created a geographical barrier that separated the gene flow of crocodiles in Panama."

The researchers point out that the crocodiles are good swimmers, but they can't travel long distances on land. As a result, the Caribbean and Pacific crocodile populations were isolated from each other, and consequently have undergone different genetic mutations.

For the study in the journal Evolution, the team compared the climate tolerance of living populations of American crocodiles (Crocodylus acutus) to the paleoclimate estimates for the region over the past 3 million years—the time span of extreme climate variation during the Ice Age.

"This is one of the first times Ice Age effects have been found in a tropical species. It's exciting to discover effects of the last Ice Age glaciation still resonate in the genomes of Pacific and Caribbean American crocodiles today," Larsson says.

"Discovering that these animals would have easily tolerated the climate swings of the Ice Age speaks to their resilience over geological time. Only humans in recent decades of hunting and land development seem to really affect crocodiles," he says.

The findings offer new insight into how environmental drivers affect genetic evolution and where conservation efforts of particular crocodile populations in Panama should be focused.

Source: McGill University

The post Ice Age effects still show up in crocodiles today appeared first on Futurity.

Stroke risk algorithms don't work as well for Black patients
Is this article about Health?
CT scans of brain

Current medical standards for accessing stroke risk perform worse for Black Americans than for white Americans, research finds.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, evaluated various existing algorithms and two methods of artificial intelligence assessment that are aimed at predicting a person's risk of stroke within the next 10 years.

The study found that all algorithms were worse at stratifying the risk for Black people than white people, regardless of the person's gender. The implications are at the individual and population levels: people at high risk of stroke might not receive treatment, and those at low or no risk are unnecessarily treated.

"We need to improve data collection procedures and expand the pool of risk factors for stroke to close the performance gap of algorithms between Black and white adults," says Michael Pencina, corresponding author of the study, professor in the department of biostatistics and bioinformatics at Duke Health and director of AI Health at Duke University School of Medicine.

"For example, the algorithms tested here mostly do not account for social determinants of health and some other factors suggested by the Stroke Prevention Guideline," Pencina says. "Data collection needs to be closer to the patient and the community."

"Disparities can potentially become propagated by these algorithms, and things could get worse for some people, which may lead to inequity in treatment decisions for Black versus white adults," he adds.

The study specifically looks at something called risk ordering, which provides perspective on how likely someone is to experience stroke compared to others—an important concept used to allocate limited medical resources.

The study also finds that a simple method using answers to patient questions was the most accurate on a population level and that sophisticated machine learning methodologies failed to improve performance.

"While advanced AI techniques have been touted as the most promising path for better algorithms, our results indicate that for simpler types of data like the ones used in our study, complex math does not help," Pencina says.

"The better accuracy of simpler algorithms, based on self-reported risk factors, suggest a promising and potentially cost-effective avenue for preventative efforts," he says.

The study had funding from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the National Institutes of Health and from a cooperative agreement co-funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and National Institute of Aging.

Source: Duke University

The post Stroke risk algorithms don't work as well for Black patients appeared first on Futurity.

Rocket Lab Launches First Electron Rocket From US Soil
Is this article about Military?

Aerospace startup

Rocket Lab

had hoped to launch its first rocket in the US last year, but the Dec 18 event was canceled due to weather. The company's second attempt late on Jan. 24 went off without a hitch. The Electron rocket blasted off from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Herndon, Virginia, delivering three satellites to orbit.

Rocket Lab was founded in New Zealand in 2006, but it moved to Long Beach, California in 2013, shifting most of its operations to the US in 2020. However, the company was still launching its rockets from New Zealand. This latest mission, jokingly dubbed "Virginia is for Launch Lovers," was Rocket Lab's 33rd launch of an Electron Rocket. All but three were successful.

Electron is a 59-foot two-stage design intended for light duty, powered by nine Rutherford rocket engines running on liquid oxygen and RP-1 (refined kerosene). These engines are semi-famous in aerospace for being largely 3D printed — SpaceX also uses 3D printing for some components of its SuperDraco engines. Electron is a non-reusable rocket, but Rocket Lab is also experimenting with using a parachute and a helicopter to catch the first stage after launch. It had modest success in early 2022 but hasn't made another attempt while it worked on moving launch operations to the US.

Whereas a rocket like the SpaceX Falcon 9 can hoist thousands of pounds into a high orbit, Electron has a payload capacity of just under 500 pounds (225 kilograms) to low-Earth orbit. That's enough mass to deploy a handful of small satellites, which is what Rocket Lab accomplished in this week's first US-based launch. The rocket carried three Earth-observation satellites for HawkEye 360, a company that uses radio-frequency analysis to track RF sources on the surface.

Rocket Lab doesn't have the scale of SpaceX, which enjoys a raft of government contracts for ongoing Falcon 9 launches, as well as the upcoming Starship rocket. However, Rocket Lab has plans for more capable launch platforms. The company announced its Neutron rocket in 2021 with about a third of the capacity of a Falcon 9. It recently started assembling Neutron rockets near the Wallops Island launch complex. Neutron is designed to be reusable, with an eye toward deploying constellations of satellites, something that may not please the astronomical community.

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Is this article about Machine Learning?
A collaboration between teams from the National Graphene Institute (NGI) at The University of Manchester, and the École Normale Supérieure (ENS), Paris, demonstrated Hebbian learning in artificial nanochannels, where the channels showed short and long term memory. Hebbian learning is a technical term introduced in 1949 by Donald Hebb, describing the process of learning by repetitively doing an action. The paper is published in the journal Science.