Category: News Posts

Smartphone Overuse May ‘Damage’ Eyes, Say Opticians

They are warning overuse from phones and other devices like computers, tablets, and flat screen TVs can lead to long-term damage.

It comes as a survey of 2,000 people suggests under 25s check their phones thirty-two times a day.

Optician Andy Hepworth said: “Blue violet light is potentially hazardous and toxic to the back of your eyes. So over a long period of time it can potentially damage your eyes.

“When you’re looking at a smart phone, the light peaking out of that is blue violet.”




He says tests have found that over exposure to blue-violet light has the potential to put us at greater risk of macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness.

Opticians say that, although “good” blue light (blue-turquoise) is needed to help regulate biological clocks, it is also thought that extensive exposure to blue violet light can disrupting sleep patterns and affect moods.

Although we don’t know if there’s a direct link with it creating eye problems, there is strong lab evidence it can potentially do that,” Andy added.

It’s the combination of not blinking enough and bringing the device closer than you normally look at objects – it strains your eyes.”

More headaches

The survey, commissioned by a group of independent opticians, found that on average, an adult spends nearly seven hours a day staring at a screen with nearly half feeling anxious when away from their phone.

Statistics also suggest 43% of under 25s experience genuine irritation or anxiety when they can’t check their phone when they want.

It also found 55% felt the amount of screen time they’re exposed to affects them with eye discomfort the main problem.

She said: “I’ve definitely noticed that my eyes are getting worse from staring at my computer and phone.

“I am getting more headaches.”

Amanda Saint, who is also an optician, says the advice is simple.

Get your eyes tested regularly and take regular breaks from your computer and hand held device.”

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Stew From A Polar Bear Liver Will Kill You In A Most Gruesome Way

Liver has long been a staple in many diets. Deep-fried chicken livers are a favorite in parts of the American South. Travel to Germany and you can feast on traditional liverwurst.

In Japan, you can order a heaping helping of sashimi made with raw fish liver. As delicious (or disgusting) as some of these dishes may sound to you, not every bird, fish or mammal necessarily offers the best ingredients for a culinary masterpiece.

In fact, if you ever have the chance to try polar bear liver, think twice — it may be the last meal you ever eat.

The native peoples of the Arctic have never shied away from cooking up some polar bear stew, but they’ve long known to avoid eating the livers of various arctic creatures.




Western explorers, however, learned the hard way. As early as 1596, explorers returned to Europe with accounts of horrible illnesses resulting from the consumption of polar bear liver.

Illness severity depended on how much liver the explorers consumed, but symptoms typically included drowsiness, sluggishness, irritability, severe headache, bone pain, blurred vision and vomiting.

Perhaps the most horrific symptom they encountered was peeling skin. While milder cases merely involved flaking around the mouth, some accounts reported cases of full-body skin loss.

Even the thick skin on the bottoms of a patient’s feet could peel away, leaving the underlying flesh bloody and exposed. The worst cases ended in liver damage, hemorrhage, coma and death.

These explorers suffered from acute hypervitaminosis A, a condition resulting from the overconsumption of vitamin A during a short period of time.

The polar bear’s liver, much like those of arctic seals and huskies, contains extremely high levels of retinol (the form of vitamin A found in members of the animal kingdom).

Top 5 Perseid Meteor Shower Facts

Photo Credit: NASA/MSFC/D. Moser, NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office

Every August, the night sky is peppered with little bits of comet debris in what we call the annual Perseid meteor shower.

In 2018, the Perseids will peak on Aug. 12 (best showing the nights of Aug. 11-12 and Aug. 12-13), with 60-70 meteors per hour possible for observers with clear, dark skies, according to NASA.

The Perseids are bits of the comet Swift-Tuttle and often create the most amazing meteor shower of the year, although this year its splendor will be dampened slightly by a bright moon.




Largest Object

Comet Swift-Tuttle, whose debris creates the Perseids, is the largest object known to make repeated passes near Earth. Its nucleus is about 16 miles (26 kilometers) across, roughly equal to the object that wiped out the dinosaurs.

Near-miss Coming?

Back in the early 1990s, astronomer Brian Marsden calculated that Swift-Tuttle might actually hit Earth on a future pass. More observations quickly eliminated all possibility of a collision.

Marsden found, however, that the comet and Earth might experience a cosmic near miss (about a million miles) in 3044.

Heated Air

When a Perseid particle enters the atmosphere, it compresses the air in front of it, which heats up. The meteor, in turn, can be heated to more than 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit (1,650 Celsius).

The intense heat vaporizes most meteors, creating what we call shooting stars. Most become visible at around 60 miles up (97 kilometers).

Some large meteors splatter, causing a brighter flash called a fireball, and sometimes an explosion that can often be heard from the ground.

Lots of Comets

Comet Swift-Tuttle has many comet kin. Most originate in the distant Oort cloud, which extends nearly halfway to the next star. The vast majority never visit the inner solar system.

But a few, like Swift-Tuttle, have been gravitationally booted onto new trajectories, possibly by the gravity of a passing star long ago.

Many Streams

Perseid meteoroids are anywhere from 60 to 100 miles apart, even at the densest part of the river of debris left behind by comet Swift-Tuttle.

That river, in fact, is more like many streams, each deposited during a different pass of the comet on its 130-year orbit around the Sun.

The material drifts through space and, in fact, orbits the Sun on roughly the same path as the comet while also spreading out over time.

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This Tiny Robot Walks, Crawls, Jumps And Swims. But It Is Not Alive.

Researchers in Germany have developed a robot that is about a seventh of an inch long and looks at first like no more than a tiny strip of something rubbery. Then it starts moving.

The robot walks, jumps, crawls, rolls and swims. It even climbs out of the pool, moving from a watery environment into a dry one.

The robot prototype is small enough to move around in a stomach or urinary system, said Metin Sitti, head of the physical intelligence department at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, Germany, who led the research team.

The robot hasn’t been tested in humans yet, but the goal is to improve it for medical use — for instance, delivering drugs to a target within the body.




What is most unusual about the research, Dr. Sitti said, is that such a “minimalist robot” can achieve “all different type of motion possibilities to navigate in complex environments.

Leif Ristroph, a mathematician at New York University’s Courant Institute who developed a small flying robot that mimics the motion of jellyfish, wrote in an email: “The array of behaviours and capabilities is certainly impressive and sets this robot apart from most others.”

These critters are very cute!” he said. “Love how the authors put the little guy through mini-obstacle courses.

My other thought is that the pilot, who we don’t see, is also quite impressive,” added Dr. Ristroph, who was not involved in the research.

Clearly whoever is controlling the magnetic fields has gained some hard-earned intuition and fine skills based on a lot of experience and trial-and-error.

The research was reported Wednesday in the journal Nature. Below are excerpts from a telephone conversation with Dr. Sitti. They have been edited for length and clarity.

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Aliens May Actually Be Billion-Year-Old Robots

This could ruin a lot of good science fiction movies … and create interesting plots for the next generation of them, not to mention influencing how humans deal with space aliens when they first encounter each other.

A timely article by The Daily Galaxy reviews the study “Alien Minds” by Susan Schneider where the professor and author discusses her theory that our first meeting with an extraterrestrial will be with a billion-year-old robot. Wait, what?

“I do not believe that most advanced alien civilizations will be biological. The most sophisticated civilizations will be postbiological, forms of artificial intelligence or alien superintelligence.”

Susan Schneider is an associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy Cognitive Science Program at the University of Connecticut.

Alien Minds” has been presented at NASA and the 2016 IdeaFestival in Kentucky and was published in The Impact of Discovering Life Beyond Earth.




It is her response to the question: “How would intelligent aliens think? Would they have conscious experiences? Would it feel a certain way to be an alien?

“I actually think the first discovery of life on other planets will probably involve microbial life; I am concentrating on intelligent life in my work on this topic though. I only claim that the most advanced civilizations will likely be post biological.”

Schneider’s theory is based on three components or “observations.”

In her “short window observation,” she presents the idea that a civilization or species that can conquer long-distance space travel is already very close to moving from biological to artificially-intelligent beings.

An example of this “short window” is the relatively brief 120 years it took humans to go from the first radio signals to cell phones.

Some of those species will be much older than us, which is Schneider’s “the greater age of alien civilizations” observation – one accepted by many.

And not just a few generations older but billions of years beyond us, making them far more advanced and intelligent. How much more?

Schneider’s last observation is that any species that can travel to Earth will be intelligent enough to develop robots that they can upload their brains

to. The robots would probably be silicon-based for speed of ‘thinking’ and durability, making them nearly immortal.

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Everything You Need To Know About China’s Ambitious Space Plans

By 2030, China wants to be a major space power. To achieve that, it’s got some out-of-this-world ideas.

From building its own space station, to capturing an asteroid and putting it in orbit around the Moon, China’s space programme is often depicted as ludicrous and unfeasible. But it would be foolish to overlook its potential.

China is quickly becoming one of the most ambitious and pioneering nations when it comes to exploring space.

Our overall goal is that, by around 2030, China will be among the major space powers of the world,” Wu Yanhua, deputy chief of the National Space Administration, said in January. So what are its plans?

Dark side of the Moon

One of China’s nearest goals is the plan to land a rover on the dark side of the Moon in 2018.

China’s Chang’e 4 mission is the next in line after Chang’e 3, which saw the popular Jade Rabbit lunar rover named after the Chinese Moon goddess. The plan is to study the geology of the Moon’s far side.

As the Moon orbits Earth, it is tidally locked, meaning the same side always faces us.

The far side of the Moon is not always dark, it is illuminated when the side facing the Earth is in darkness; it is just called the dark side of the Moon because we never see it.Landing there would be a significant first.




Asteroid chasing

China plans to visit the asteroid 2010 TK7 in 2026

China made headlines earlier this year when its plans to capture an asteroid were revealed, and somewhat mocked.

The idea of taking an asteroid and putting it in orbit around the Moon was reported by state media, but a detailed description of those specific plans is yet to be published.

However, a new study has revealed what China does plan to do in terms of asteroid chasing.

China’s latest proposal involves studying a chaotic asteroid.

A pair of Chinese researchers has published a paper in Advances in Space Research, outlining a plan to send a spacecraft to the asteroid 2010 TK7, which is on a bizarrely eccentric orbit around the Sun.

The mission will follow in the footsteps of NASA’s Rosetta spacecraft, which had a rendezvous with a comet. The plan is to launch the spacecraft in November 2021, with the manoeuvre happening in August 2025.

Space Station

Drawing of China’s large orbital station.

Not content with sending humans to asteroids, the Moon and Mars, China also plans on building its very own space station.

The first part of the Chinese large modular space station is expected to go into orbit around Earth in 2019 with the final sections in place by 2022.

The station will host three crew members, unlike previous efforts which could not support any crew.

The first Chinese space station, Tiangong-1 or ‘Heavenly Place’ launched in 2011, was only supposed to stay in orbit for two years.

Seven years later, and we are being told the satellite is out of control, and will crash into our planet in the next few months.

In 2011 it was decided China was not allowed to be part of the International Space Station (ISS) collaboration, when the US Congress passed a law saying it was concerned about national security.

An artists’s impression of how China’s Mars rover will look.

The ISS is a joint mission between the US, Canada, Japan, Russia and Europe. Plans to collaborate are continuing, as Nasa and Russia announced a deal to work together building a new space station around the Moon.

But this doesn’t rule China out of the picture completely. “The US-Russian agreement is in principle only,” Logsdon sats. “Neither country has a funded program for such a station yet.

If the Trump administration does fund such a US station, partnerships with many countries, not just Russia, will be sought. The issue then is whether Congress will allow Nasa to work with China.

The future of China’s space exploration is diverse and exciting. With many ambitious plans, and a few failures under its belt, it remains to be seen whether China will meet its ambitious goals.

What is clear, however, is the country is not wasting any time trying to become the leader of the next space race.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

3 Animals That Mate For Life

Did you know there are members of the animal kingdom (other than humans) that mate for life?

In some cases of monogamous mates – for example, beavers – both parents care for their offspring.

When one partner in a monogamous pair dies, most surviving partners go on to find a new mate before the next breeding season.




Beavers

Adult beavers can weigh 40 pounds or more, and they mate for life during their third year. Their babies are called kits, and typically 1 to 4 are born in the spring.

Both parents care for their kits, who stay with them for about two years. The yearlings typically help care for the next litter. A beaver colony can consist of six or more individuals, including parents, yearlings, and kits.

Gibbons

Gibbons are the nearest relatives to humans that mate for life. They live in small, stable family groups with a monogamous mated pair and offspring under the age of 7.

Gibbon families are territorial and defend their territory with morning songs sung by the breeding pair.

Gibbons reach sexual maturity between 6 and 8 years of age. Females give birth to one baby at a time, and mating pairs produce an average of 5 to 6 offspring over their reproductive lifetimes.

Wolves

Wolves live in packs that are typically family groups including a male and female breeding pair and their offspring of varying ages. Only the breeding pair mates, and has one litter a year.

Wolves reach sexual maturity between 2 and 3 years of age, and once the youngsters are ready to mate, most leave their birth pack to start their own pack or join an existing pack.

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Google Unveils Latest OS, Out NOW On Pixel Phones

Android 9 Pie: If you have the right phone, you can get the new Android right now.

Android fans can today download the latest version of Google’s hugely popular mobile OS.

Android Pie, the ninth iteration of the operating system, has been officially unveiled by the search engine giant today.

Android 9 introduces digital wellbeing features, better notifications and promises to extend battery life for devices. And it’s available to download today via an over-the-air update for Google Pixel devices.

In a blog post, Sameer Samat, the VP of Product Management for Android and Google Play, said: “The latest release of Android is here!

“And it comes with a heaping helping of artificial intelligence baked in to make your phone smarter, simpler and more tailored to you. Today we’re officially introducing Android 9 Pie.




We’ve built Android 9 to learn from you—and work better for you—the more you use it.

“From predicting your next task so you can jump right into the action you want to take, to prioritizing battery power for the apps you use most, to helping you disconnect from your phone at the end of the day, Android 9 adapts to your life and the ways you like to use your phone.”

Google described Android Pie as an experience “powered by AI” and said it will adapt to how individuals use their phones and learn user preferences.

Personalised settings include the new Adaptive Battery and Adaptive Brightness modes.

These former setting, as the name suggests, adapts to how users use their phone so apps which aren’t used don’t drain the battery.

While the latter setting automatically adjusts the brightness level to how the user prefers it.

App Actions also predict what users are going to do next based on the “context and displays that action right on your phone”.

Slices, a new feature which is launching later this year, shows relevant information from users’ favourite apps when they need it.

So, for instance, if a user starts typing the name of certain taxi apps it will also show prices for a ride home in the search results screen.

Android Pie is also introducing a new system navigation featuring a single home button.

But one of the biggest additions will be the digital wellbeing features previously announced at Google I/O earlier this year.

Google said: “While much of the time we spend on our phones is useful, many of us wish we could disconnect more easily and free up time for other things.

In fact, over 70 percent of people we talked to in our research said they want more help with this.

“So we’ve been working to add key capabilities right into Android to help people achieve the balance with technology they’re looking for.”

The digital wellbeing features are officially launching later this year, but are available right now for Pixel phones in beta.

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What Does Our Planet Look Like Once You’ve Seen It From Space?

For the bulk of human history, it’s been impossible to put Earth in cosmic perspective.

Bound by gravity and biology, we can’t easily step outside it, above it, or away from it. For most of us, Earth is inescapably larger than life.

Even now, after nearly six decades of human spaceflight, precious few people have rocketed into orbit and seen the sun peeking out from behind that curved horizon. Since 1961, a mere 556 people have had this rarefied experience.

Fewer, just 24, have watched Earth shrink in the distance, growing smaller and smaller until it was no larger than the face of a wristwatch.

And only six have been completely alone behind the far side of the moon, cut off from a view of our planet as they sailed in an endlessly deep, star-studded sea.




What Does Our Planet Look Like Once You’ve Seen It From Space?  -Here’s What Some Astronauts Have to Say:

Mike Massimino

It’s an inherently unnatural thing, spaceflight. After all, our physiology evolved specifically to succeed on this planet, not above it.

Perhaps that’s why it can be difficult for astronauts to describe the experience of seeing Earth from space.

Italian space traveler Luca Parmitano says that we haven’t yet developed the words to truly convey the realities of spaceflight.

The building blocks of modern human communication, words are necessarily constrained by meaning and connotation, no matter which language you choose (Parmitano speaks five).

And until the mid-20th century, there was no need to express what it means to see our planet in the fiercely primeval essence of space. “We just don’t think in terms of spaceflight,” he says.

Karen Nyberg

Seeing Earth from space can change a person’s worldview. U.S. astronaut Nicole Stott flew twice on the space shuttle Discovery and returned with a new drive for creating artwork depicting the view.

Canadian spacefarer Chris Hadfield says that while orbiting Earth, he felt more connected to the people on the planet than ever before.

Kathy Sullivan, who in 1984 became the first American woman to perform a space walk, returned with an abiding awe for the intricate systems that come together to make Earth an improbable oasis.

The thing that grew in me over these flights was a real motivation and desire … to not just enjoy these sights and take these pictures,” she says, “but to make it matter.

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Look Out, Wiki-Geeks. Now Google Trains AI To Write Wikipedia Articles

A team within Google Brain – the web giant’s crack machine-learning research lab – has taught software to generate Wikipedia-style articles by summarizing information on web pages… to varying degrees of success.

As we all know, the internet is a never ending pile of articles, social media posts, memes, joy, hate, and blogs. It’s impossible to read and keep up with everything.

Using AI to tell pictures of dogs and cats apart is cute and all, but if such computers could condense information down into useful snippets, that would be really be handy. It’s not easy, though.

A paper, out last month and just accepted for this year’s International Conference on Learning Representations (ICLR) in April, describes just how difficult text summarization really is.




A few companies have had a crack at it. Salesforce trained a recurrent neural network with reinforcement learning to take information and retell it in a nutshell, and the results weren’t bad.

However, the computer-generated sentences are simple and short; they lacked the creative flair and rhythm of text written by humans. Google Brain’s latest effort is slightly better: the sentences are longer and seem more natural.

Here’s an example for the topic: Wings over Kansas, an aviation website for pilots and hobbyists.

The paragraph on the left is a computer-generated summary of the organization, and the one on the right is taken from the Wikipedia page on the subject.

The model works by taking the top ten web pages of a given subject – excluding the Wikipedia entry – or scraping information from the links in the references section of a Wikipedia article.

Most of the selected pages are used for training, and a few are kept back to develop and test the system.

Also, since it relies on the popularity of the first ten websites on the internet for any particular topic, if those sites aren’t particularly credible, the resulting handiwork probably won’t be very accurate either.

You can’t trust everything you read online, of course.

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