Tag: technology

How Technology Destroyed The Truth

The promise of the internet was that if we connect the world and give everyone a voice, we could move forward as one. It didn’t turn out that way.

The way we consume information has changed drastically over the years.

For the majority of modern history, newspapers were the arbiter of truth, and people read the newspaper once a day and then talked about the issues with friends, family, and coworkers.

When radio came around, the news was delivered 2-3 times a day, by distinguished and trusted broadcasters like Edward R. Murrow that delivered the news right down the middle.

Broadcast TV increased the amount of news to 3-4 times a day, but still news was just something people ingested in between other forms of entertainment. And different sides of the news were presented evenly thanks to the Fairness Doctrine.

But with cable TV and the first cable news network, CNN, all that changed. Then news became the entertainment and more cable news outlets like Fox News, MSNBC, Headline News, and CNBC split into different ideological camps.

But with the rise of social media, the news became an all-day every day feast, and worst of all, it removed the gatekeepers. Meaning anybody with any viewpoint could get their message heard.

This was supposed to be a good thing. But it has proven to divide us even further and be exploited by troll farms and moneyed interests.

Even more upsetting is this is happening at a time when we need together on the same page to combat various existential threats.

The post-truth era could be one of the contributors to the downfall of humanity if we’re not careful.

The World’s First CRISPR Gene-Edited Babies Have Been Declared Illegal By China

Chinese authorities have declared the work of He Jiankui, who shocked the scientific community by claiming he successfully created the world’s first gene-edited babies, an illegal decision in pursuit of “personal fame and gain.

Investigators have completed preliminary steps in a probe that began in November following He’s claims and say they will “seriously” punish the researcher for violations of the law, China’s official news agency Xinhua reported on Monday.

He, who taught at Shenzhen’s Southern University of Science and Technology, had led a team to research the gene-editing technique CRISPR since mid-2016 in attempts to treat cancers and other diseases.

The incident drew significant attention to the professor’s own biotech startups that are backed by local and overseas investors.

The official probe shows that He fabricated ethics approvals which he used to recruit eight couples to participate in clinical procedures between March 2017 and November 2018.




The attempt led to two pregnancies, including one that resulted in the birth of twins and the other embryo yet to be born. Five couples failed to achieve fertilization and one pair dropped out of the experiment.

He’s project has sparked a wave of criticism among scientists across the world. CRISPR is still dangerously unethical at this point for it may cause serious genetic damage.

He Jiankui at the Human Genome Editing Conference in Hong Kong

Some researchers have proposed a moratorium on CRISPR until more guidelines become clear while others call for developing safer and more ethical methods to propel the technology forward.

Many countries, including the United States and China, prohibit gene-editing of human embryos for reproductive purposes.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: New Scientist

NASA Spacecraft Finds Water In Search For Origins Of Life On Asteroid

A NASA spacecraft that just arrived last December 2018 on an asteroid has already made its first big discovery: ingredients for water.

Scientists hope that the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will shed light on the mysteries of Bennu, an asteroid the size of a skyscraper that could hold clues to the origins of life on Earth.

The craft only arrived at the asteroid in recent days but the discovery of water is a major breakthrough that scientists hope can be matched by more discoveries in the future.

It was found when OSIRIS-REx flew close to the asteroid and picked up traces of hydrogen and oxygen molecules in its rocky surface. Those make up part of the recipe for water – itself a key ingredient in life itself.




The probe, on a mission to return samples from the asteroid to Earth for study, was launched in 2016. Bennu, roughly a third of a mile wide (500 meters), orbits the sun at roughly the same distance as Earth.

There is concern among scientists about the possibility of Bennu impacting Earth late in the 22nd century.

We have found the water-rich minerals from the early solar system, which is exactly the kind of sample we were going out there to find and ultimately bring back to Earth,” University of Arizona planetary scientist Dante Lauretta, the OSIRIS-REx mission’s principal investigator, said in a telephone interview.

Asteroids are among the leftover debris from the solar system’s formation some 4.5 billion years ago.

Scientists believe asteroids and comets crashing into early Earth may have delivered organic compounds and water that seeded the planet for life, and atomic-level analysis of samples from Bennu could provide key evidence to support that hypothesis.

OSIRIS-REx will pass later this month just 1.2 miles (1.9 km) from Bennu, entering the asteroid’s gravitational pull and analyzing its terrain.

From there, the spacecraft will begin to gradually tighten its orbit around the asteroid, spiraling to within just 6 feet (2 meters) of its surface so its robot arm can snatch a sample of Bennu by July 2020.

The spacecraft will later fly back to Earth, jettisoning a capsule bearing the asteroid specimen for a parachute descent in the Utah desert in September 2023.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: New Scientist

This Robot Recreates The Walk Of A 290-Million-Year-Old Creature

How did the earliest land animals move? Scientists have used a nearly 300-million-year old fossil skeleton and preserved ancient footprints to create a moving robot model of prehistoric life.

Evolutionary biologist John Nyakatura at Humboldt University in Berlin has spent years studying a 290-million-year-old fossil dug up in central Germany’s Bromacker quarry in 2000.

The four-legged plant-eater lived before the dinosaurs and fascinates scientists “because of its position on the tree of life,” said Nyakatura.

Researchers believe the creature is a “stem amniote“—an early land-dwelling animal that later evolved into modern mammals, birds and reptiles.

Scientists believe the first amphibious animals emerged on land 350 million years ago and the first amniotes emerged around 310 million years ago.

The fossil, called Orabates pabsti, is a “beautifully preserved and articulated skeleton,” said Nyakatura. What’s more, scientists have previously identified fossilized footprints left by the 3-foot-long (90 cm) creature.




Nyakatura teamed up with robotics expert Kamilo Melo at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne to develop a model of how the creature moved.

The researchers built a life-size replica of the prehistoric beast—”we carefully modeled each and every bone,” said Nyakatura—and then tested the motion in various ways that would lead its gait to match the ancient tracks, ruling out combinations that were not anatomically possible.

They repeated the exercise with a slightly-scaled up robot version , which they called OroBOT. The robot is made of motors connected by 3D-printed plastic and steel parts.

The model “helps us to test real-world dynamics, to account for gravity and friction,” said Melo. The team also compared their models to living animals, including salamanders and iguanas.

Technology such as robotics, computer modeling and CT scans are transforming paleontology, “giving us ever more compelling reconstructions of the past,” said Andrew Farke, curator at the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology in Claremont, California, who was not involved in the study.

Based on the robot model, the scientists said they think the creature had more advanced locomotion than previously thought for such an early land animal.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: New Scientist

This Robot Dog Can Recover From a Vicious Kick Using Artificial Intelligence

Researchers at ETH Zurich in Switzerland taught a four-legged robot dog a valuable life skill: how to get up again after it gets knocked down. And yes, it involved evil scientists kicking and shoving an innocent robot.

The researchers used an AI model to teach ANYmal, a doglike robot made by ANYbotics, how to right itself after being knocked onto its side or back in a variety of physical environments — as opposed to giving the robot a detailed set of instructions for only one specific environment.




But It Gets Up Again

The results were published in a paper today on Science Robotics. In simple terms, the robot tried again and again to right itself in simulation, and learned from instances when a movement didn’t end up righting it.

It then took what it learned and applied it to the real world.

It even learned how to run faster than it could before. Thanks to the neural network, ANYmal was also able to reach 1.5 metres per second or just over three mph in mere hours, according to a report.

Never Gonna Keep It Down

Are we inching closer to a future where robot guard dogs chase us down to exact revenge on us, as seen on Netflix’s Black Mirror? Sure looks like it.

So perhaps it’s time to stop kicking robot dogs — before we know it, they’ll start learning how to protect themselves.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: New Scientist

Going up? Space Elevator Could Possibly Take Astronauts Into Space

A Canadian space firm is one step closer to revolutionizing space travel with a simple idea – instead of taking a rocket ship, why not take a giant elevator into space?

Thoth Technology Inc has been granted both US and UK patents for a space elevator designed to take astronauts up into the stratosphere, so they can then be propelled into space.

The company said the tower, named the ThothX Tower, will be an inflatable, freestanding structure complete with an electrical elevator and will reach 20km (12.5 miles) above the Earth.

Astronauts would ascend to 20km by electrical elevator. From the top of the tower, space planes will launch in a single stage to orbit, returning to the top of the tower for refueling and reflight,” Brendan Quine, the tower’s inventor, said in a statement.

Traditionally, regions above 50km (31 miles) in altitude can only be reached by rocket ships, where mass is expelled at a high velocity to achieve thrust in the opposite direction.

Quine said in the patent that rocketry is “extremely inefficient” and that a space elevator would take less energy.




In the patent, Quine explained that rocket ships expend more energy because they “must counter the gravitational force during the flight by carrying mass in the form of propellant and must overcome atmospheric drag”.

In contrast, by using an elevator system, “the work done is significantly less as no expulsion mass must be carried to do work against gravity, and lower ascent speeds in the lower atmosphere can virtually eliminate atmospheric drag”.

The elevator cars can also be powered electrically or inductively, eliminating the need to carry fuel, Quine wrote.

The technology offers a way to access space through reusable hardware, and will save more than 30% of the fuel of a conventional rocket, Thoth Technology said in a July statement.

Quine said when a traditional rocket ship launches from Earth, it flies vertically about 15-25km (9-15 miles) before hitting drop-off stages, when sections of the rocket drop back to Earth, usually falling into the ocean.

During the final stage when it enters space it is flying horizontally.

An elevator to space has been a longstanding idea as an alternative to rocket ships, but has always been believed as unfeasible because no known material can support itself at such a height.

Thoth’s design sidesteps this problem by building the elevator to 20km so it sits within the stratosphere rather than all the way in the geostationary orbit, where satellites fly.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: New Scienstist

China Makes Historic First Landing on Mysterious Far Side of the Moon

Humanity just planted its flag on the far side of the moon.

China’s robotic Chang’e 4 mission touched down on the floor of the 115-mile-wide (186 kilometers) Von Kármán Crater Wednesday night (Jan. 2), pulling off the first-ever soft landing on the mysterious lunar far side.

Chang’e 4 will perform a variety of science work over the coming months, potentially helping scientists better understand the structure, formation and evolution of Earth’s natural satellite.

But the symbolic pull of the mission will resonate more with the masses: The list of unexplored locales in our solar system just got a little shorter.




The epic touchdown—which took place at 9:26 p.m. EST (0226 GMT and 10:26 a.m. Beijing time on Jan. 3), according to Chinese space officials—followed closely on the heels of two big NASA spaceflight milestones.

On Dec. 31, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft entered orbit around the near-Earth asteroid Bennu, and the New Horizons probe zoomed past the distant object Ultima Thule just after midnight on Jan. 1.

Congratulations to China’s Chang’e 4 team for what appears to be a successful landing on the far side of the moon. This is a first for humanity and an impressive accomplishment!”

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said via Twitter Wednesday night, after word of the milestone began circulating on social media.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: New Scientist

The Hubble Telescope Camera Needs A Fix

One of the Hubble Space Telescope’s main instruments stopped working on 8 January because of an unspecified hardware problem, NASA says.

Engineers are unlikely to be able to fix the ageing telescope until the ongoing US government shutdown ends — whenever that might be.

Hubble’s mission operations are based at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, where most employees are on involuntary leave during the shutdown.

A few people who operate spacecraft that are actively flying, including Hubble, have been allowed to keep working.




But fixing the telescope, which is almost 30 years old, will almost certainly require additional government employees who are forbidden to work during the shutdown.

NASA has formed an investigative team, composed primarily of contractors and experts from its industry partners, to examine the technical troubles.

Federal law allows agencies to keep some personnel working during a shutdown if they are deemed necessary for protecting life and property.

It is not clear whether NASA will request an emergency exception to allow repairs to Hubble before the shutdown — now on its nineteenth day — ends.

Camera trouble

The instrument that broke is Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3, one of its scientific workhorses.

The telescope has one other camera and two spectrographs that remain operational and will keep collecting data, NASA said in an 8 January announcement.

In October, Hubble stopped working entirely for three weeks after the failure of one of the gyroscopes that it uses to orient itself in space.

Engineers fixed the problem, but the rescue effort required input from experts from across NASA, including many who are currently furloughed.

The Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, which runs Hubble’s science operations, remains open for now, using money it received from NASA before the shutdown started. But many of Hubble’s technical experts are based at Goddard, which is closed.

The shutdown, which affects roughly 75% of the government, is now in its third week with no end in sight.

If it persists until 12 January, it will break the record for longest shutdown, which was set by a 21-day event that began on 16 December 1995.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: New Scientists

How Can A Drone Cause So Much Chaos In Airports?

In October 2017, a drone collided with a commercial aircraft in Canada, striking one of the plane’s wings. The plane sustained minor damage but was able to land safely.

Research on drone damage to aircraft is still limited but a number of institutions have tested a variety of impact scenarios and each seems to reach a different conclusion.

Other research from the Alliance for System Safety of Unmanned aircraft system through research Excellence (Assure) in conjunction with the US’s Federal Aviation Authority suggested drones could inflict more damage than a bird collision.

The lithium ion batteries that power them may not shatter upon impact, instead becoming lodged in airframes and posing a potential risk of fire.

Ravi Vaidyanathan, a robotics lecturer at Imperial College, London, told the BBC: “The threat posed to larger aircraft by drones is small but not negligible.

“The probability of a collision is small but a drone could be drawn into a turbine. A drone greater than 2kg might break the cockpit windshield as well for certain aircraft.”

Martin Lanni, chief executive of airspace security company Quantum Aviation, said: “A drone looks quite fragile but the battery is hefty and if you compare a drone to a bird, then it could be potentially more dangerous if it goes through the engine or hits the fuselage.




According to the UK Airprox Board, there were 92 instances of aircraft and drones coming close to colliding in 2017.

In the UK, legislation came into force in July, making it illegal to fly a drone within 1km (0.62 miles) of an airport. It is also illegal to fly a drone higher than 400ft (120m).

But experts have pointed out that this could be ineffective, given that a landing aircraft would fly below 400ft. And of course those with malicious intent would have little regard for legislation.

Systems have been tested in some prisons, where drones are often used to smuggle in goods, which aim to block radio signals within a certain area in order to prevent drones from landing.

For airports serious about protecting themselves from drone attacks, there is the option of a more sophisticated, if expensive, system, such as that offered by Quantum Aviation, which employs radar, radio frequency detectors and cameras to detect when drones are nearby and locate where they came from.

In an ideal world, you talk to a person but to do that you need to know where the drones are coming from,” said Mr Lanni.

“What you don’t want is to have them dropping out of the sky.”

The Quantum Aviation system can “jam” a drone – effectively stopping it working – the drone should, in theory, have a default mode that would see it either return to where it came from or land safely.

DJI, the world leader in making civilian drones, introduced geo-fencing systems in its products in 2013.

This technology can prevent drones from flying in some locations and offers warnings to drone operators flying near a restricted zone.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: New Scientist

China Moves Further Towards Cashless Society

If you’re planning on visiting the cashless society of China anytime soon, you better make sure all of your physical currency is left behind.

Wallets in most of the country have gone digital, and the rapid growth of digital payments and currency is exploding at a rapid pace.

The country has harnessed the power of mobile payments and wallets, leading it to become a mobile-first market. In fact, mobile payment transactions in China added up to more than $12.8 trillion in 2017.

When it comes to the ever-evolving FinTech and mobile payments industries, the rest of the world can look to China for adopting strategies that will help move economies of other countries towards a cashless society.

China’s Cashless Society Journey

Much of China’s growth is attributed not just to their rapid urbanization, but ultimately the government’s push to replace cash with electronic payments.

Because of this and other factors, the country is much further ahead than the United States when it comes to mobile wallets and digital currency.

One big example of this? QR codes. Where QR codes have failed to gain popularity in the U.S., they are used all throughout China to purchase goods and send money between persons.




Their speed and ease of use are widely accepted and appreciated by merchants and consumers alike.

Throughout the country, 40 percent of the population carries “almost no cash”, which is just another nod towards the popularization of mobile payments.

In addition to seemingly becoming a cashless society, China also appears to be becoming a cardless society.

Third party payment channels such as Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent are further progressing FinTech and the mobile industry, with more than 70 percent of all e-commerce transactions occurring via mobile payments.

Is There a Future for Non-Cashless Societies?

Compared to most traditional payment methods, digital and mobile payment options like Apple Pay, Venmo, Zelle or Paypal are generally faster and more secure.

 

And with more consumers moving towards digital wallets, it’s clear the way they choose to pay has changed drastically in the last decade.

Each step the FinTech and payments industry takes forward, the further away societies around the world get from cash as a main currency.

Cash and its role in global economies is shrinking, largely thanks to advancements and evolution in the financial industry and in payment and currency technologies.

However, as discussed earlier, cash still plays an important role in several countries — even in the U.S. It is still valued, especially for its convenience in P2P transfers and small-value transactions.

While cash still has a place in economies around the world, it is ultimately declining, especially given the rapid rise and growth of digital currency and payment technology and its accessibility.

Please like, share and this article.

Pass it on: New Scientist