Category: News Posts

My Brain Thinks I’m Dead

On Nov. 5, 2013, Esmé Weijun Wang came to the remarkable conclusion that she was dead.

In the weeks prior to this, she had begun to feel increasingly fractured — like being scatterbrained, but to such an extreme that she felt her sense of reality was fraying at the edges.

She had started to lose her grip on who she was and on the world around her. Desperate to fend off what appeared to be early signs of psychosis, Wang went into a soul-searching and organizational frenzy.

She read a self-help book that was supposed to help people discover their core beliefs and desires; she ordered and scribbled in five 2014 datebook planners, reorganized her work space and found herself questioning her role as a writer.

Then one morning, Wang woke her husband before sunrise with an incredible sense of wonder and tears of joy to tell him it all made sense to her now: She had actually died a month before, although at the time she had been told she merely fainted.

I was convinced that I had died on that flight, and I was in the afterlife and hadn’t realized it until that moment,” said Wang, now 32, who was convinced her husband and their dog Daphne were dead as well.

“That was the beginning of when I was convinced that I was dead. But I wasn’t upset about it, because I thought that I could do things [in my life] over and do them better.




 

Her husband assured her that she — and he — were very much alive, an assertion she dismissed. But as the days passed, her bliss turned into total despair.

She lost all desire to work, talk or eat — because what’s the point when you’re already dead?

For almost two months, Wang suffered from Cotard’s syndrome, in which patients think they are dead or somehow nonexistent.

Any attempts to point out evidence to the contrary — they are talking, walking around, using the bathroom — are explained away.

French neurologist Jules Cotard first described the syndrome in the 1800s as a type of depression characterized by anxious melancholia and delusions about one’s own body.

In a case report published in 1880, Cotard wrote of a 43-year-old woman who “affirms she has no brain, no nerves, no chest, no stomach, no intestines . . . only skin and bones of a decomposing body.”

Although the condition is not classified as a separate disorder in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, there have been plenty of anecdotal accounts of what has been sensationalized as “walking corpse syndrome” and “life as a zombie.

Doctors who treat the condition say Cotard’s syndrome is a real illness, with patients believing they are dead and, like Wang, feeling extremely depressed, anxious and suicidal.

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Samsung Foldable Phone: Everything We Know So Far

Think the Samsung Edge display was cool? Something cooler is on the way.

We’ve been hearing about foldable displays for a number of years, and Samsung finally gave us an idea of what a phone with this technology will look like at its annual Samsung Developer Conference.

Information about the phone, which has been rumored to be called the Galaxy X or Galaxy F (not to be confused with the Galaxy S10 that we also anticipate), has slowly been trickling out over the last year or two.

We’ll be referring to it as Samsung’s foldable phone to keep things simple until an official name is revealed. Here’s everything we think we know about it so far.




Release and price

We expect the new device to be out at some point in the first half of 2019. It may make an appearance at CES in January, or Samsung may wait until Mobile World Congress, which is in February.

The latest rumor, courtesy of the South Korean Yonhap News Agency, states the phone will be announced at Mobile World Congress in February 2019 and released the following month.

When it comes to price, however, things are even more unknown — all we really have right now is speculation. Expect to pay a high price for the phone.

Kim Jang-yeol, head of research at Golden Bridge Investment, says the phone could cost as much as 2 million won at release, Korea Times reports. In the U.S., that converts to about $1,850.

This is similar to the Royole Flexpai, a folding smartphone with a small production run.

Specifications

While Samsung did discuss the display at the Samsung Developer Conference, it did not go into the specs under the hood. To date, there’s only one rumor about specs for the upcoming Samsung foldable phone.

The prolific (and usually accurate) Samsung leaker Ice Universe said the upcoming phone will feature a 7nm processor.

Design

Unfortunately, Samsung didn’t reveal too much about the design of the phone, beyond the display and what it can do, but we do know that you’ll be able to use the phone when it’s folded up as well, and it will act like a traditional smartphone in this mode.

Samsung also announced it’s working with Google to develop a new user interface for Android on its smartphone — dubbed OneUI — and it will allow for features specific to foldable phones.

All of these announcements were made at Samsung’s developer conference, meaning the company still needs third-party developers to bring foldable phone support to their apps.

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Scientist Have Discovered A Massive Crater Hides Beneath Greenland’s Ice

There’s something big lurking beneath Greenland’s ice. Using airborne ice-penetrating radar, scientists have discovered a 31-kilometer-wide crater — larger than the city of Paris — buried under as much as 930 meters of ice in northwest Greenland.

The meteorite that slammed into Earth and formed the pit would have been about 1.5 kilometers across, researchers say.

That’s large enough to have caused significant environmental damage across the Northern Hemisphere, a team led by glaciologist Kurt Kjær of the University of Copenhagen reports November 14 in Science Advances.

Although the crater has not been dated, data from glacial debris as well as ice-flow simulations suggest that the impact may have happened during the Pleistocene Epoch, between 2.6 million and 11,700 years ago.

The discovery could breathe new life into a controversial hypothesis that suggests that an impact about 13,000 years ago triggered a mysterious 1,000-year cold snap known as the Younger Dryas.




Members of the research team first spotted a curiously rounded shape at the edge of Hiawatha Glacier in northwest Greenland in 2015, during a scan of the region by NASA’s Operation IceBridge.

The mission uses airborne radar to map the thickness of ice at Earth’s poles. The researchers immediately suspected that the rounded shape represented the edge of a crater, Kjær says.

For a more detailed look, the team hired an aircraft from Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute that was equipped with ultra-wideband radar, which can send pulses of energy toward the ice at a large number of frequencies.

Using data collected from 1997 to 2014 from Operation Icebridge and NASA’s Program for Arctic Regional Climate Assessment, as well as 1,600 kilometers’ worth of data collected in 2016 using the ultra-wideband radar, the team mapped out the inner and outer contours of their target.

The object is almost certainly an impact crater, the researchers say. “It became clear that our idea had been right from the beginning,” Kjær says.

What’s more, it is not only the first crater found in Greenland but also one of the 25 or so largest craters yet spotted on Earth. And it has held its shape beautifully, from its elevated rim to its bowl-shaped depression.

Those data clearly suggest that the impact is at least 11,700 years old, Kjær says.

And the rim of the crater appears to cut through a preexisting ancient river channel that must have flowed across the land before Greenland became covered with ice about 2.6 million years ago.

That time span — essentially, the entire Pleistocene Epoch — is a large range.

The team is working on further narrowing the possible date range, with more sediment samples, simulations of the rate of ice flow and possibly cores collected from within the crater.

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Walmart Agrees To Work With Ford On Self-Driving Grocery Deliveries

Ford is working with Postmates and Walmart on a pilot program for self-driving grocery deliveries, the companies announced on Wednesday.

We are exploring how self-driving vehicles can deliver many everyday goods such as groceries, diapers, pet food and personal care items,” Ford said in a press release.

The grocery delivery pilot experiment will be based in Miami, where Ford’s self-driving car company, Argo, is already testing self-driving vehicles. Ford had been testing self-driving deliveries with Postmates prior to this announcement.

Like most car companies, Ford is racing to develop fully autonomous vehicle technology. But Ford has been more proactive than most of its competitors in exploring the non-technical aspects of a self-driving car service.

Last year, I got to sit in the seat suit of a fake self-driving car Ford was using to test pedestrian reactions to self-driving car technology.

Ford also experimented with delivering pizzas with mock-driverless vehicles in a partnership with Dominos.




Ford’s collaboration with Postmates over the last few months has been focused on figuring out the best way for customers to interact with a delivery vehicle.

Driverless cars won’t have a driver to carry deliveries to the customer’s door, so self-driving vehicles will need some kind of locker that customers can open to remove their merchandise.

Ford has been experimenting with multi-locker delivery vans, allowing its cars to serve multiple customers on a single trip—without worrying about one customer swiping another’s deliveries.

Ford also announced last month that Washington, DC would be the second city where Argo will be preparing to launch a commercial service in 2021 (in addition to Miami).

Ford has worked hard to cultivate relationships with local government officials, with Mayor Muriel Bowser attending last month’s announcement on DC’s waterfront.

Ford is betting that all of these preparations will help the company scale up quickly once its self-driving technology is ready.

That’s important because Ford appears to be significantly behind the market leaders: Waymo (which is aiming to launch a commercial service this year) and GM’s Cruise (aiming to launch in 2019).

But it’s also a risky strategy because if Argo’s technology isn’t ready on time, then all of Ford’s careful planning could turn out to be wasted effort.

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A Frozen Super-Earth Is Close But You Won’t Want To Visit It

Night by night, star by star, astronomers are edging ever closer to learning just how crowded our universe really is—or at least our galaxy, anyway.

A quarter century after the first exoplanets were found orbiting other stars, statistics from the thousands now known have revealed that, on average, each and every stellar denizen of the Milky Way must be accompanied by at least one world.

Look long and hard enough for a planet around any given star in our galaxy and you are practically guaranteed to find something sooner or later.

But even a crowded universe can be a lonely place. Our planet-rich Milky Way may prove to be life-poor. Of all the galaxy’s known worlds, only a figurative handful resemble Earth in size and orbit.

Each occupying a nebulous “Goldilocks” region of just-rightness—a fairy-tale-simple ideal in which a world is neither too big nor too small, neither too hot nor too cold, to sustain liquid water and life on its surface.

Instead, most of the Milky Way’s planets are worlds theorists failed to predict and have yet to fit comfortably in any conception of habitability: “super-Earths” bigger than our familiar planet but smaller than Neptune.

No super-Earths twirl around our sun for solar system–bound scientists to directly study, making it that much harder to know whether any elsewhere are Goldilocks worlds—or, for that matter, whether any one-size-fits-all metric of habitability is hopelessly naive.




A Frozen Super-Earth?

If you live in a city of millions of people, you are not interested in meeting every one of them—but maybe you want to meet your immediate neighbors,” says lead author Ignasi Ribas, an astronomer at the Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia in Spain.

“This is what we are doing for the planetary systems of the stars that surround us. Otherwise we cannot answer the big questions. How does our solar system and our Earth fit in with the rest of the galaxy?

“Are there other habitable or inhabited planets? Barnard’s Star b is not giving us those answers just yet, but it is telling us part of the story we need to know.”

Located in the constellation of Ophiuchus, Barnard’s Star is so dim in visible light that it cannot be seen with unaided eyes.

Yet it has been a favorite of astronomers since 1916, when measurements revealed its apparent motion across the sky was greater than that of any other star relative to our sun.

A sign of its extremely close cosmic proximity. The star’s nearness to us is only temporary—within tens of thousands of years, its trajectory will have swept it out of our solar system’s list of top five closest stars.

According to Ribas and his colleagues, the candidate planet is at least three times heavier than our own, and circles its star in a 233-day orbit.

That would put it in the torrid orbital vicinity of Venus around our yellow sun, but Barnard’s Star is a comparatively pint-size and dim red dwarf star.

This means its newfound companion is near the “snow line,” the boundary beyond which water almost exclusively exists as frozen ice—a region around other stars thought to be chock-full of planets, but that astronomers have only just begun to probe for small worlds.

Alternatively, the planet might be covered by a thick, insulating blanket of hydrogen leftover from its birth in a spinning disk of gas and dust around its star.

Although hydrogen on smaller, hotter worlds would dissipate into space, super-Earths in frigid orbits might manage to hang on to enough of the gas to build up a massive planet-warming greenhouse effect—a possibility that throws Earth-centric Goldilocks ideas into tumult.

If this mechanism operates on Barnard’s Star b or other cold super-Earths, “our dreams that every star may have a habitable planet could well come true,” says Sara Seager, a planet-hunting astrophysicist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology who was not involved with Ribas’s study.

“There are some crazy worlds out there.”

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Amazon Made A Deal With Apple To Sell New iPhones And iPads

Amazon has made a deal with Apple that will see the Cupertino tech company sell its products — including iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watches — directly on Amazon.

Amazon has sold Apple products before, but those have been from third-party sellers, which means that the prices are often variable (and wildly different from the “official” Apple prices) and that sourcing isn’t as reputable.

Apple products will start rolling out on Amazon sites in the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan, and India over the next few weeks, including both Apple’s devices and those sold under the Apple-owned Beats brand.

The deal doesn’t include every Apple product, though. For example, Apple’s Echo-competing HomePod is notably not going to be sold on Amazon.




In a statement released, an Amazon spokesperson commented, “Amazon is constantly working to enhance the customer experience, and one of the ways we do this is by increasing selection of the products we know customers want.

We look forward to expanding our assortment of Apple and Beats products globally.”

As part of the deal, only Apple or Apple-authorized resellers will now be allowed to sell Apple and Beats devices through Amazon’s site.

Any companies that are currently selling Apple products on Amazon will see their listings taken down starting on January 4th, and they’ll need to apply to Apple to become official resellers before they’ll be allowed to sell them again on Amazon.

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Everything You Need To Know About Canon’s EOS R Camera

Canon and Nikon protected their DSLR turf as long as possible, but Sony has been killing them lately with its mirrorless range.

Nikon finally jumped into the fray by launching the Z6 and Z7 models, and today, Canon unveiled the $2,299 EOS R, a 30.3-megapixel video-centric full-frame mirrorless camera.

It also introduced a new lens mount, Canon RF, along with four lenses, including three interesting high-end “L” models.

The EOS R slots between Sony’s A7 III and A7R III and the Nikon Z6 and Z7, resolution-wise. It’s a near match to Canon’s own EOS 5D Mark IV DSLR, with similar resolution, dual-pixel autofocus, shooting speeds and video specifications.

Canon unveiled the EOS R with four lenses, one more than the Z6 and Z7 had at launch. They are, I daresay, also more interesting than Nikon’s Z-Mount models.




The first is the Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM model, a very solid kit lens for both photographers and videographers.

There’s a macro lens available right off the bat too: the RF 35mm f/1.8 IS STM Macro. At 35mm, it will do double-duty as a relatively inexpensive walking-around lens.

The last two are the most interesting (and expensive). Canon’s RF 28-70mm f/2L USM is an extremely fast zoom lens with a normal range that illustrates the power of the new mount.

The company also launched a 50mm f/1.2 that’s not quite as light-sensitive as Nikon’s crazy f/0.95 Z-Noct, but it’s still damn fast and will be available sooner.

On top of the regular focus and zoom controls, each of the new lenses has a special new control ring. You can program it to change f-stop, shutter speed and other settings.

The three new EF to RS lens adapters, meanwhile, will let you use any EF and even EF-S lenses (with a crop on the latter) with no loss in quality.

You’ll also get full autofocus, stabilization and metering capabilities, so you won’t be left in the lurch if you already have a lot of Canon glass.

Canon also introduced a lens adapters for drop in neutral density and other filters, and another with a control ring much like the one on the new RF lenses.

All of those will let you use EF and EF-S lenses exactly as if they’re on a 5D Mark IV or other DSLR, Canon promised.

Unfortunately, because of the mount size (54mm with a 20mm flange distance), it will never be compatible with Canon’s mirrorless APS-C EOS-M system.

This will likely anger EOS-M owners, especially because Sony lets you use full-frame lenses on APS-C E-Mount cameras like the A6500, and E-Mount lenses on A7 cameras (albeit with cropping on the latter).

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How the Sun Set Off Dozens of Mines During the 1972 Vietnam War

A sea mine explodes off the coast of North Vietnam during Operation End Sweep.

In 1972, the United States was deep into the Vietnam War with little end in sight. North Vietnam had just launched an offensive on the South, the Easter Offensive.

The United States military was desperate to gain any advantage it could, so top brass hatched a plan to cover the port of Haiphong with underwater mines.

Starting in May of that year, Operation Pocket Money saw thousands of mines dropped in the water outside Haiphong’s port.

Those mines were supposed to sit there for about a year, but on August 4, dozens of them exploded prematurely. But they weren’t set off by passing ships; instead, it seems that the mines were triggered by the sun.

At the time, the military suspected solar interference might be involved in the explosion, but the research was classified until now.

Since the declassification, a group of civilian researchers revisited the incident and confirmed the military’s suspicions: Solar effects were to blame.

The key lies in how the mines are triggered to explode. Each mine has a magnetic sensor that can detect subtle changes in magnetic fields.

If a passing ship drifts too close to the mines with its metal hull, the altered magnetic field would set off the detonator.




Unfortunately, there are plenty of ways to alter a magnetic field aside from the hulls of ships. One significant source of magnetic fields is the sun, which produces the strongest magnetic field in the solar system.

Occasionally, large eruptions from the surface of the sun—called solar flares—can send huge plumes of magnetic material hurtling toward Earth.

When those solar flares reach Earth, they can cause all kinds of magnetic disturbances. At their most mild, they’re responsible for the Northern Lights and other auroras.

At their worst, they can mess with GPS systems, interfere with communications, and in one particularly notable case, almost start a nuclear war.

In this case, an unusually strong solar flare was enough to mess up the delicate sensors on some of the Navy’s mines placed in Haiphong’s harbor.

According to the research paper, that 1972 solar flare was one of the strongest on record, and in addition to exploding a few dozen mines also interfered with telephone lines and triggered power outages around the world.

This event underscores just how disruptive and dangerous solar flares can be. A high-intensity solar flare like the 1972 event could cripple our satellite networks if it hit us today, and so far we’ve been lucky to avoid something like that.

But we can’t be lucky forever, and if a repeat of the 1972 flare hits us now, exploding mines are going to be the least of our worries.

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Alibaba Sets New Singles Day Record With More Than $30.8 Billion In Sales In 24 Hours

Alibaba on Sunday tore through last year’s Singles Day sales record, racking up more than $30.8 billion in the 24-hour shopping event.

Gross merchandise value (GMV), a figure that shows sales across the Chinese e-commerce giant’s various shopping platforms, surpassed last year’s $25.3 billion record at around 5:34 p.m. SIN/HK (4:34 a.m. ET) on Sunday, and kept marching higher through the rest of the day.

In Chinese currency terms, GMV totaled 213.5 billion yuan, easily beating last year’s figure of 168.2 billion yuan and representing a nearly 27 percent year-on-year rise.

That was, however, smaller than the 39 percent year-on-year growth recorded in 2017. Alibaba’s Singles Day GMV beat last year’s figure in yuan terms earlier than it toppled the dollar record.

The Chinese currency is weaker against the greenback from a year ago, which means more sales in yuan are required to get the same dollar amount.




It was the 10th edition of the annual Singles Day event, which is also called the Double 11 shopping festival because it falls on Nov. 11.

During the 24-hour period, Alibaba offered huge discounts across its e-commerce sites such as Tmall.

Alibaba’s Singles Day sales haul easily exceeded the spending by consumers during any single U.S. shopping holiday.

The event got off to a strong start with sales hitting $1 billion in one minute and 25 seconds. Just over an hour in, and sales exceeded $10 billion, five minutes and 21 seconds faster than last year.

The number of delivery orders surpassed a billion. Alibaba introduced new aspects into this year’s Singles Day.

Lazada, a Singapore-based e-commerce site that has operations across Southeast Asia and is majority-owned by Alibaba, hosted its own sales.

And Ele.me, Alibaba’s food delivery platform, provided delivery for select Starbucks stores across 11 Chinese cities. Starbucks struck a deal earlier this year with Alibaba to work together in China.

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The Foldable Phones Are On Their Way!

Futuristic-looking bendable tablets and smartphones have captured our imagination for years.

Whether it’s the folding tablets found in Westworld or the many book-like slates with foldable pages in Microsoft’s future vision videos, a phone that folds out into a much larger device is dreamlike.

Samsung is now trying to make these wild concepts a reality.

The Galaxy maker showed off its new Infinity Flex Display yesterday, a display technology that will allow a tablet-sized screen to fold into a device that approximates the size and shape of a smartphone.

While we’ve seen flexible and bendable wearable devices, this is one of the first times we’ve seen such a display in a phone that’s rumored to ship in 2019.

Samsung’s device was “disguised” by what appears to be a chunky case, and shown only under dim light, but it’s far more than just concept art.




Samsung is actually using two separate displays to create its foldable phone — one on the inside, and a smaller display on the outside — unlike Royole’s FlexPai, which uses a single folding display on the outside of the device.

Samsung’s internal display is 7.3 inches with a 1536 x 2152 resolution (4.2:3). It folds in half to reveal a second display on the front of the device.

This second “cover display,” as Samsung calls it, functions as a 4.58-inch phone interface with a resolution of 840 x 1960 (21:9).

It’s also flanked by much larger bezels at the top and bottom compared to the internal display. Although it looks very stocky, Samsung says the device hiding inside the disguise is actually “stunning.”

This combination of displays has given us an early glimpse at what to expect from foldable phones in 2019 and beyond. As glass is not pliable, Samsung has had to develop new materials to protect its new display.

The Infinity Flex Display uses a polymer that Samsung says is both “flexible and tough,” meaning it can keep its strength even when folded and unfolded “hundreds of thousands of times.”

Samsung has combined this with a new adhesive that laminates the various display layers together to allow them to flex.

None of this is glass, though, so it could feel a little different than what we’re used to with modern phones, tablets, and touchpads.

Foldable phones are the obvious initial market for this screen technology, but manufacturers will get far more ambitious as the display technology matures. Samsung is also promising rollable and stretchable OLED displays in the future.

Imagine folding or rolling a 55-inch TV into something that will fit into your bag, or finally replacing pen and paper with a foldable tablet. It sounds unbelievable right now, but we’re only at the very beginning of our flexible future.

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