Month: January, 2018

Self-Driving Ships Could Be Ready In Three Years

Self-driving cars may not hit the road in earnest for many years — but autonomous boats could be just around the pier.

Spurred in part by the auto industry’s race to build driverless vehicles, marine innovators are building automated ferry boats for Amsterdam canals, cargo ships that can steer themselves through Norwegian fjords and remote-controlled ships to carry containers across the Atlantic and Pacific.

The first such autonomous ships could be in operation within three years.

One experimental work-boat spent this summer dodging tall ships and tankers in Boston Harbor, outfitted with sensors and self-navigating software and emblazoned with the words “unmanned vessel” across its aluminum hull.

We’re in full autonomy now,” said Jeff Gawrys, a marine technician for Boston startup Sea Machines Robotics, sitting at the helm as the boat floated through a harbor channel.

Roger that,” computer scientist Mohamed Saad Ibn Seddik said as he helped guide the ship from his laptop on a nearby dock.

The boat still needs human oversight. But some of the world’s biggest maritime firms have committed to designing ships that won’t need any captains or crews — at least not on board.

Militaries have been working on unmanned vessels for decades.

But a lot of commercial experimentation is happening in the centuries-old seaports of Scandinavia, where Rolls-Royce demonstrated a remote-controlled tugboat in Copenhagen this year.

Government-sanctioned testing areas have been established in Norway’s Trondheim Fjord and along Finland’s western coast.

There are still some major challenges ahead. Uncrewed vessels might be more vulnerable to piracy or even outright theft via remote hacking of a ship’s control systems.

Some autonomous vessels might win public trust faster than others; unmanned container ships filled with bananas might not raise the same concerns as oil tankers plying the waters near big cities or protected wilderness.

A decades-old international maritime safety treaty also requires that “all ships shall be sufficiently and efficiently manned.

But the International Maritime Organization, which regulates shipping, has begun a two-year review of the safety, security and environmental implications of autonomous ships.

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Do You Always Check The Weather Before Going Out? You Should Check The Disease Map Too.

The field of medical geographic information systems (Medical GIS) has become extremely useful in understanding the bigger picture of public health.

The discipline holds a substantial capacity to understand not only differences, but also similarities in population health all over the world.

New diseases and epidemics spread through the world’s population every year.

The discipline of medical geographic information systems (GIS) provides a strong framework for our increasing ability to monitor these diseases and identify their causes.

The field of medical geography has a much longer history than most are aware of, dating back to the first known doctor, Hippocrates, and progressing through the 1900s until today.

The early history leads us to the examination of contemporary examples of GIS, influences on public health, space-time mapping components, and the future of this discipline supported by Big Data.

The evolution of medical GIS from early disease maps to digital maps is a journey long in the making, and continues to evolve.

These maps have enabled us to gain insight about diseases ranging from cholera to cancer, all while increasing the knowledge of worldwide health issues.

As modern technology continues to thrive, medical GIS will remain a lasting approach for understanding populations and the world we live in.

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London Reaches Legal Air Pollution Limit Just One Month Into The New Year

London has now reached its annual air pollution limit less than a month into the new year.

European Union rules – and UK law – state that monitoring stations are allowed to exceed hourly limits of 200 micro-grams of NO2 [nitrogen dioxide] per cubic meter of air just 18 times in a year.

Today, Brixton Road in Lambeth recorded its 18th breach marking the official limit for the entire year.

This is actually a significant improvement on previous years. Last year London broke the limit for the year in just five days while the capital as a whole has consistently broken its own limits on air quality for the last five years.

To try and tackle the air pollution crisis that’s currently facing the capital, London Mayor Sadiq Khan has introduced a number of tough new measures including the T-charge which charges the most polluting types of car that wish to drive through the city.

Other actions include introducing new greener buses on routes that are classed as particularly dangerous air pollution hotspots including Putney.

This has reportedly led to a 90% drop in the harmful emissions since their introduction. Throughout 2016 Putney high street broke the EU limit a shocking 1,600 times.

World Health Organisation figures from 2016 reveal that a staggering 92% of the world’s population are living in areas that exceed its own guidelines on air quality.

Environmental law firm ClientEarth took the UK government to the High Court last week for the third time over illegal air pollution in the country.

“But it’s still only a month into 2018 and London has breached limits for the whole year, which shows there’s much more to do. Londoners are still breathing filthy air on a daily basis.”

“Ministers have to get a grip and show they’re serious about protecting our health by committing to real action to tackle our toxic air.”

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Shy Pangolins Need World Spotlight To Survive

Reclusive, gentle and quick to roll up into a ball, pangolins keep a low profile.

But they are also the world’s most heavily trafficked mammal, and experts at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) conference this week are ringing alarm bells over their survival.

Demand for pangolin meat and body parts has fueled a bloodbath, and driven the scale-covered, ant-eating mammal towards extinction.

More than a million pangolins are believed to have been poached from the wild in the past decade.

Most are used to supply demand in China and Vietnam, where they are highly regarded as a delicacy and an ingredient in traditional medicine.

At the CITES meeting in Johannesburg, conservationists will discuss moving pangolins into the highest protection category, which bans all international trade.

The pangolin today is regarded as the most heavily trafficked mammal in the world,” CITES chief John Scanlon told AFP.

“There has been a massive surge in the illegal take of the pangolin for its meat and for its scales.”

Currently CITES allows for trade in pangolins but under strict conditions.

Existing laws are clearly failing to protect pangolins from the poachers. A complete international trade ban is needed now,” said Heather Sohl, WWF-UK’s wildlife advisor.

There are four species of pangolin in Africa and four in Asia. Watchdogs say those in Asia are being eaten to extinction, while populations in Africa are declining fast.

Research published in the early 2000s estimated populations in China to have declined by up to 94 percent, said Dan Challender, pangolin expert at the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Pangolins are covered in overlapping scales, and have pink, sticky tongues almost as long as their bodies.

When physically threatened, they curl into ball, making it easy for them to be picked up by hunters and put into a sack. About the size of a small dog, they are solitary, mostly nocturnal and cannot be farmed.

“Pangolins are notoriously difficult to keep in captivity — they only feed on wild ants and termites, and they are extremely prone to stress and dehydration, so they die,” Ray Jansen, of the African Pangolin Working Group, told AFP.

In Chinese traditional medicine, pangolin scales are ground into a powder believed to cure conditions from headaches and menstrual cramps to nose bleeding and lack of virility.

The scales are sometimes even used as guitar plectrums. In traditional African culture, some people believe in keeping a scale in their pockets to ward off evil.

Zimbabweans used to present the mammals to President Robert Mugabe during his early years in office, but the practice has been discontinued.

In Shona and Zulu culture, a pangolin is regarded as the greatest gift you can bestow on a chief, statesman or an elder,” said Jansen.

Pangolin fat, blood and bones are also highly valued in African traditional medicine.

According to Jansen, in South Africa a pangolin can sell for anything between 10,000 rand ($730) to 80,000 rand ($5,800) depending on the client.

India, the Philippines, Vietnam, Nigeria, Senegal and the United States are co-sponsoring the proposal to impose a total ban on pangolin trade.

The CITES treaty, signed by 182 countries and the European Union, protects about 5,600 animal and 30,000 plant species from over-exploitation through commercial trade.

The 12-day conference started Saturday and will sift through 62 proposals to tighten or loosen trade restrictions on some 500 species.

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Black Holes Destroy Dark Matter And Emit Gamma Rays

Black holes can cause dark matter to annihilate in their vicinity by concentrating the dark matter and enhancing the collision rate between dark matter particles.

The best observational candidates are supermassive black holes, such as the 4 million solar mass black hole found at the center of our Milky Way galaxy.

Some galaxies have much larger supermassive black holes, reaching as high as several billion or even tens of billions of solar masses. Most massive galaxies appear to have supermassive black holes in their centers.

We infer the existence of supermassive black holes through their effect on nearby stellar or molecular cloud orbits.

And we more directly detect supermassive black holes (SMBHs) by the radiation emitted from ordinary matter that is near the black hole (BH), but has not yet fallen into the BH’s event horizon.

Such matter will often form a hot accretion disk around the SMBH.

The disk or other infalling matter can be heated to millions of degrees by the strong gravitational potential of the BH as the kinetic energy of infall is converted to thermal energy by frictional processes.

Ordinary matter (OM) heated to such high temperatures will give off X-rays.

Now if OM is being pulled into a SMBH, so is dark matter, which pervades every galaxy. Dark matter (DM) responds to the same gravitational potential from the SMBH.

The difference is that OM is collisional since it easily interacts with other OM via the electromagnetic force, whereas DM is generally collisionless, since it does not interact via electromagnetism.

Nevertheless DM – DM collisions can occur, rarely, via a ‘direct hit’ (as if two bullets hit each other in mid-air) and this leads to annihilation.

Two DM particles meet directly and their entire energy content, from their rest mass as well as their kinetic energy of motion, is converted into other particles.

The cross-section strength is not known, but it must be small due to observational limits, yet is expected to be non-zero. The most likely candidates for decay products are expected to be photons, neutrinos, and electrons.

The leading candidate for DM is some sort of weakly interacting massive particle with a mass of perhaps 5 to 300 GeV; this is the range where DM searches from satellites and on Earth are focused.

So if two DM particles mutually annihilate, there is of order 10 GeV to 600 GeV of available rest mass energy to produce highly energetic gamma rays.

The likelihood of a direct hit is proportional to the square of the density of the DM.

A SMBH’s gravitational potential acts as a concentrator for DM, allowing the density to be high enough that there could be a significant number of annihilation events, resulting in a detectable flux of escaping photons reaching Earth.

Relativistic effects work to further increase the annihilation rate. And it is possible that the annihilation signal could scale as M³ (mass of the SMBH cubed), and thus the most massive SMBHs would be very strong gamma ray emitters.

These would be highly energetic gamma rays with well over 1 GeV of energy.

The search for gamma rays from annihilating DM around SMBHs is already underway. There is in fact a possible detection by the Fermi telescope at 130 GeV in our Milky Way galaxy, from the direction of the Sagittarius A* SMBH.

Future more sensitive gamma ray surveys may lead to many detections, helping us to better understand both dark matter and black holes.

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Why Math Might Be Complete BS

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Mathematics is the backbone of all sciences, no theories or hypotheses are proven unless there is math to back it up. But there are many who believe that math isn’t real. In today’s video, we’ll break down the arguments.

From the Mathematical Physicalists to the Platonists to the Mathematical Fictionalists, we look at all the theories behind whether numbers actually exist, and what they mean.

Scientists Who Have Grown A Human Ear On The Back Of A Rat Say They Will Be Able To Use Them In Humans In Five Years

Human ears to could be ‘grown to order’ within five years, claim Japanese scientists who have unveiled a rat with an ear on its back.

The Tokyo and Kyoto university technology could be used to help children born with facial abnormalities, as well as youngsters mauled by dogs.

Adults, including soldiers injured in battle of people who have suffered accidents, could also benefit. At the moment, replacement ears are sculpted from cartilage taken from the patient’s ribs.

However, multiple operations are needed, plus the removal of the cartilage is painful and chest never fully heals.

In contrast, the new technique would require just a small sample of cells as starting material. Plus, the finished ear would be a living thing and so should grow with the child.

The scientists began by turning human stem cells – ‘master cells’ – into cartilage cells.

The lab-grown cartilage was then formed into tiny balls and placed in inside plastic tubes shaped like a human ear on a rat’s back.

After two months, the framework dissolved, leaving behind what looks like a two-inch hear lying flat against the animal’s back.

The technique is one of several being perfected around the world, in the aim of making bespoke replacements for body parts damaged by accidents, ravaged by disease or malformed at birth.

Doctors in London have grown a nose from scratch, using the patient’s arm to nurture it, rather than a rat’s back.

They have also built an artificial windpipe and say that eventually it may even be possible to grow a whole face in the lab.

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Elon Musk’s Flamethrower Has Already Made Well Over $3.5 Million

Hats… and now flamethrowers. Elon Musk’s Boring Company has so far been more of a ‘lifestyle’ brand than a company that, you know, digs massive tunnels through the earth as a going concern. But it’s making bank.

The hats, which retailed for $20, were capped at 50,000, thus netting The Boring Company a cool $1 million.

The flamethrower, which went up for pre-order yesterday, is selling for $500 a pop, and Musk says the total number sold will max out at 20,000.

As of late last night, the total sold was already at 7,000, which amounts to $3.5 million in fire-breathing merch thus far.

Likely, it’s already earned more, since pre-orders have been open through the night, though it’s still available as of this writing and so presumably hasn’t sold out.

All told, 20,000 flamethrowers would bring in $10 million in total, so 10x the hat heist.

Tesla, one of Musk’s other businesses, has made a common practice of taking pre-orders for cars before they ship, including sizable up-front down payments.

The Boring Company can’t exactly pre-sell huge holes in the ground, or at least not as easily, but the merch market for the venture is hot, and clearly Musk intends to ride that Hyperloop all the way into the underground station.

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GM Faces Lawsuit Over Self-Driving Car Collision

Self-driving car manufacturers dread lawsuits over crashes due to questions of liability, and GM is about to learn just how problematic they can be.

Oscar Nilsson has sued GM after a December collision between his motorcycle and one of the company’s self-driving Chevy Bolts.

According to his version of events, he was trailing the Bolt when it started changing lanes.

He tried to pass the autonomous car, but it “suddenly” swerved back into his lane, knocking him to the ground and injuring both his neck and shoulder.

GM, not surprisingly, disagreed with the interpretation in a statement.

It pointed to the San Francisco Police Department’s collision report, which didn’t lay blame but said that Nilsson merged into the Bolt’s lane “before it was safe to do so.

There have certainly been disputes over the involvement of self-driving technology in crashes — just ask Tesla.

Those incidents involved semi-autonomous cars where the human driver was always expected to share some responsibility, though, rather than fully autonomous vehicles where a human only serves as backup.

And that makes cases like this problematic. If GM bears any responsibility at all, was it the fault of the developers, or the backup driver for not spotting the abrupt move?

The lawsuit won’t completely settle the question, but it may lay the groundwork for future suits.

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One Cigarette A Day Increases Heart Disease And Stroke Risk

Smokers need to quit cigarettes rather than cut back on them to significantly lower their risk of heart disease and stroke, a large BMJ study suggests.

People who smoked even one cigarette a day were still about 50% more likely to develop heart disease and 30% more likely to have a stroke than people who had never smoked, researchers said.

They said it showed there was no safe level of smoking for such diseases.

But an expert said people who cut down were more likely to stop.

Cardiovascular disease, not cancer, is the greatest mortality risk for smoking, causing about 48% of smoking-related premature deaths.

While the percentage of adults in the UK who smoked had been falling, the proportion of people who smoked one to five cigarettes a day had been rising steadily, researchers said.

Their analysis of 141 studies, published in the BMJ, indicates a 20-a-day habit would cause seven heart attacks or strokes in a group of 100 middle-aged people.

But if they drastically cut back to one a day it would still cause three heart attacks, the research suggests.

The researchers said men who smoked one cigarette a day had about a 48% higher risk of developing coronary heart disease and were 25% more likely to have a stroke than those who had never smoked.

For women, it was higher – 57% for heart disease and 31% for stroke.

Prof Allan Hackshaw at the UCL Cancer Institute at University College London, who led the study, told the BBC: “There’s been a trend in quite a few countries for heavy smokers to cut down, thinking that’s perfectly fine, which is the case for things like cancer.

But for these two common disorders, which they’re probably more likely to get than cancer, it’s not the case. They’ve got to stop completely.

The researchers said it might be expected that smoking fewer cigarettes would reduce harm in a proportionate way as had been shown in some studies with lung cancer.

However, they found that men who smoked one cigarette per day had 46% of the excess risk of heart disease and 41% for stroke compared with those who smoked 20 cigarettes per day.

For women it was 31% of the excess risk of heart disease and 34% for stroke.

Prof Hackshaw said the increased risks of cardiovascular illness were over the course of a lifetime but damage could be done in just a few years of smoking.

But he said the good news was that those who quit smoking could also quickly reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease.

Cutting down not ‘useless’

Paul Aveyard, professor of behavioral medicine at the University of Oxford, said the “well conducted” study confirmed what epidemiologists had suspected – that light smoking created a “substantial risk for heart disease and stroke”.

But he said it was wrong to conclude cutting down smoking was useless.

Those who try to cut down with the aid of nicotine, whether from nicotine replacement treatment or an e-cigarette, are more likely to stop eventually and thus really reduce their risks from smoking,” he said.

Martin Dockrell, tobacco lead at Public Health England, said: “This study adds to the growing body of evidence which tells us that cutting down to just one cigarette a day still leaves a substantial risk of heart attack and stroke.

“The best and safest thing you can do is to quit completely for good.”

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of health charity ASH, said: “It’s addiction to nicotine that keeps people smoking but it’s the tar in cigarette smoke that does the serious damage.

Vaping is much less harmful, but only if you quit smoking altogether.”

Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ group Forest, said discouraging people from cutting down smoking could be “counter-productive“.

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