Nature, Published online: 25 April 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-01313-5Franklin was no victim in how the DNA double helix was solved. An overlooked letter and an unpublished news article, both written in 1953, reveal that she was an equal player.
Ever since going into hibernation in May 2022 to wait out a bitterly cold winter, China's Mars rover Zhurong has remained in its deep slumber. That's despite expectations of having it wake up and resume its exploration of the Martian surface in December, leading to questions about whether the mission is now over.
Chinese officials have stayed strikingly quiet since then, refusing to shed light on the situation — until now.
"We have not had any communication from the rover since it entered hibernation," Zhang Rongqiao, chief designer of China's Mars exploration program, told Reuters. "We are monitoring it every day and believe it has not woken up because the sunlight has not yet reached the minimum level for power generation."
In other words, researchers aren't ready to give up hope, and are still waiting to resume contact with the six-wheeled rover. Whether that's actually likely, though, is anyone's guess.
Dust to Dust
The most likely culprit is a build-up of dust hampering Zhurong's ability to generate solar power, according to Zhang.
Images taken by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter earlier this year showed that the rover hasn't moved since at least September.
The rover, the first non-US-built one to softly land on Mars, has spent almost an entire Earth year looking for signs of ancient life on the Red Planet, vastly exceeding the three months it was designed for, as Zhang told Reuters.
But whether it will be able to shake off the dust and start charging its batteries to kick back into action remains to be seen. It wouldn't be the first manmade object to succumb to such a fate. NASA's InSight lander similarly struggled to keep the dust off, with scientists declaring the end of the mission in late December as a result.
More on Zhurong: China Refuses to Say Whether Its Mars Rover Is Dead
The post China Addresses Awkward Situation on Mars appeared first on Futurism.
Bad news for people who love fried food: French fries are not only bad for your physical health, but detrimental to your mental well-being as well, according to new research.
In a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of researchers found a link between eating fried potatoes and having anxiety or depression after analyzing data collected from more than 140,000 fried food-consuming people over 11 years.
Does that mean we should cut French fries from our diet altogether? Probably not. The results are still preliminary, and the exact links between the two are still not entirely understood. But they do suggest that fried foods may have a negative impact on your mental health.
The data — which comes courtesy of the UK Biobank, a large-scale database that contains health information from half a million UK participants — was analyzed by researchers in Hangzhou, China, who found that eating fried potatoes was linked with a 12 percent increase in the risk of anxiety and a 7 percent increase in the risk of depression.
The researchers' theory is that the effect could be due to acrylamide, a chemical that's created during the frying process. The scientists wrote that zebrafish exposed to the chemical exhibited what might be the fish version of depression and anxiety: hiding in dark corners, reticence to explore their tanks, and secluding themselves from socializing.
While these findings are intriguing, they should be taken with a huge grain of salt, much like delicious French fries. For one, zebrafish are extremely different organisms than humans.
Besides, as always, it's important to remember that correlation does not imply causation.
"The human component of this study may indicate just what it purports: that higher intake of fried food increases the risk of anxiety/depression," David Katz, a Connecticut-based lifestyle medicine specialist, told CNN. "However, the causal pathway could just as readily go the other way: people with anxiety/depression turn to 'comfort food' with increasing frequency for some semblance of relief.
In short, the study's results are preliminary and even the paper's authors are pointing out that they don't necessarily mean we should stop eating French fries immediately.
Paper co-author Yu Zhang of Zhejiang University admitted to CNN that "there is no need to panic about the adverse effects of fried food."
But then again, given everything we already know about emotional eating and the many other negative health effects of eating fried foods, it might be best to lay off the French fries all the same.
"If a takeaway is needed it is simply that overall diet quality, and the selection of wholesome foods, matters profoundly to every aspect of health — mental and physical alike," Katz told CNN.
More on food: Wisconsin Firebombing Suspect Arrested From DNA Left on Burrito
The post Game Over, Frycels! Delicious Snack Linked to Depression and Anxiety appeared first on Futurism.
Elon Musk may have accidentally leaked his alternate Twitter account — and it's really, really weird.
The evidence so far is circumstantial, but pretty convincing. It all started when Musk tweeted a screenshot of his phone logged into Twitter, Vice reports, intended to be a showcase of the site's new subscription feature.
In addition to flexing the fact that his Twitter has nearly 25,000 paid subscribers, Musk revealed another curious detail in the seemingly innocuous screenshot: the profile picture of a secondary account he was logged into, depicting a child.
The Twitter CEO brought more attention to the alt when he replied to a tweet from one of his online acolytes, sharing a cropped version of Musk's screenshot that focused on his alt.
"You'd never guess it's me!" Musk wrote, perhaps ill-advisedly.
Mind of a Child
It only took internet sleuths on 4chan 30 minutes to find an account with a matching profile picture, according to Vice: "Elon Test," with the handle @ErmnMusk.
The account was created in November, just weeks after Musk wrapped up his acquisition of Twitter, and follows some noteworthy characters, some of whom he has interacted with personally.
Here's where it gets weird.
The child in the photo is likely Musk and former partner Claire "Grimes" Boucher's son, X Æ A-12, holding a toy rocket. Early reverse image searches of the profile picture returned nothing, Vice and Gizmodo report, suggesting it hasn't been shared elsewhere.
Is this an innocent case of a proud father sharing a picture of their kid? It doesn't look like it.
On Monday night, Elon's supposed burner tweeted that "I will finally turn 3 on May 4th!" — an alarming use of the first person for a 51-year-old man.
And the date checks out. That's indeed X Æ A-12's birthday, meaning that Musk might actually be roleplaying as a precocious version of his own ankle-biter son.
"I wish I was old enough to go to nightclubs," the account wrote. "They sound so fun."
It only gets worse, as some of the account's tweets are strikingly risque for a toddler.
Take, for example, a reply in November to a sexual tweet about Caroline Ellison, the former romantic partner in crime of disgraced crypto CEO Sam Bankman-Fried.
"I librarians," the account replied.
In another racy tweet, "Elon Test" asked Microstrategy CEO Michael Saylo if he liked Japanese girls. The account even replied to a Pornhub meme Musk posted on his main, asking with an embellished childlike typo if "this a real peon video."
It's downright bizarre behavior, even for Musk. If he really is masquerading as his toddler son to make jokes about adult videos, well, he'll have truly outdone himself in terms of Twitter shenanigans.
Is this really what Musk spends his spare time doing? Considering the way things are going at Twitter, it's not exactly surprising.
More on Elon Musk: Elon Musk Forces Dead Celebrities to Become "Paying" Twitter Blue Subscribers
The post This Strongly Appears to Be Elon Musk's Alt Account on Twitter Where He Roleplays as His Own Child appeared first on Futurism.
Nature, Published online: 25 April 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-01427-wUnprecedented pattern of brain activity is recorded in freely swimming fish.
- Meanwhile, NASA is partnering with private companies to develop commercial space stations that may succeed the ISS and funding SpaceX’s Starship in the hopes it can land Artemis astronauts on the moon.
, a private space company based in Japan, lost contact with its Hakuto-R spacecraft as it attempted to become the first private mission to land on the moon this morning. “We have to assume that we could not complete the landing on the lunar surface,” iSpace CEO and founder Takeshi Hakamada said during a livestream. “Our engineers will continue to investigate the situation, and we will update you with further information when we finish the investigation.”
Hakuto-R launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket last November. It took a long but efficient route, looping way out past the moon before using several orbital adjustments and the gravity of the Earth, moon, and sun to enter lunar orbit last month. On April 13, after a few more final adjustments, it locked into a circular orbit 100 kilometers above the lunar surface.
Early in its landing attempt, the spacecraft dipped behind the moon making communications impossible. The team reestablished contact as it rounded the lunar horizon and began its descent. During the livestream, iSpace showed a simulation of the landing. The ride to the surface began with a deceleration burn and a series of attitude adjustments, bending the spacecraft’s trajectory toward the surface and flipping its orientation.
But just as it neared its landing site at Atlas Crater, the team lost all communications. Because they’d previously been in contact, Hakamada said, the presumed cause was a hard landing on the surface. Hakuto-R was the second attempt to land on the moon by a private company. SpaceIL’s Beresheet lander crashed in 2019 when its main engine failed.
The faces of the iSpace team said it all. It was an extremely disappointing outcome. However, Hakamada said, because they’d had contact with the spacecraft until its final moments, they were able to gather valuable data that would be applied to future missions. iSpace achieved eight of its ten mission milestones, demonstrating an ability to navigate to the moon and enter a stable orbit. As the recent inaugural launches of SpaceX’s Starship and Relativity Space’s Terran 1 rocket show, the development of new space systems involves risk and, often, failure.
“We will keep going. Never quit in our quest,” Hakamada said.
The company already has a second mission in the works for 2024. If that lander succeeds where Hakuto-R failed, the team plans to ramp up the frequency of trips to the moon. The business will transport and operate scientific and government payloads, and longer term, they hope to develop and sell lunar resources. Late last year, Japan issued a license to iSpace to sell lunar dust to NASA as a test case for such future transactions.
“If iSpace transfers ownership of lunar resources to NASA in accordance with its plan, it will be the first case in the world of commercial transactions of space resources on the moon by a private operator,” Sanae Takaichi, Japan’s Minister of State for Space Policy, said at a press conference last year. “This will be a groundbreaking first step toward the establishment of commercial space exploration by private operators.”
iSpace is just one of a new wave of space companies working in low-Earth orbit and beyond. SpaceX’s reusable Falcon 9 rockets have already reduced the cost of getting to space, and the company hopes to make another leap with its Starship rocket. SpaceX and others are building infrastructure in orbit, including Earth observation and telecommunications networks. Meanwhile, NASA is partnering with private companies to develop commercial space stations that may succeed the ISS and funding SpaceX’s Starship in the hopes it can land Artemis astronauts on the moon.
If all goes to plan, iSpace’s attempted moon landing today won’t be its last. And with luck, what they learned in the process will increase their chances of success next time around.
Image Credit: iSpace (Earthrise as captured by the iSpace lunar lander 100 kilometers above the moon’s surface)
Ispace loses communication with Hakuto-R lunar lander, ending a mission that began more than four months ago
A Japanese startup attempting the first private landing on the moon has lost communication with its spacecraft and said that it assumes the lunar mission had failed.
Ispace said that it could not establish communication with the uncrewed Hakuto-R lunar lander after its expected landing time, a frustrating end to a mission that began with a launch from the US more than four months ago.Continue reading…
After inspecting NASA's Mars lander data, scientists say they've figured out what lies at the heart of the Red Planet's core.
In a press release about the revolutionary findings out of the University of Maryland, the geologists who made this landmark discovery say that Mars' core is made up of a gooey liquid iron alloy that's "rich in sulfur and oxygen."
This hypothesis was gleaned, as the press release notes, by using seismic data from NASA's InSight Mars lander, which for years monitored the Red Planet's rumblings until the end of 2022 — and as one of the authors of the new paper published yesterday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences notes, there's a precedent for this sort of thing.
"In 1906, scientists first discovered the Earth’s core by observing how seismic waves from earthquakes were affected by traveling through it,” UMD's Vedran Lekic, an associate geology professor who co-authored the paper, said in the school's statement. "More than a hundred years later, we’re applying our knowledge of seismic waves to Mars."
Quaking in their Boots
Lekic and the rest of the UMD geology team got to their incredible prediction by looking at the waves caused by two events that were recorded in the InSight data: a marsquake (yes, that's like an earthquake on Mars) and an impact event.
"By comparing the time it took those waves to travel through Mars compared to waves that stayed in the mantle… the team estimated the density and compressibility of the material the waves traveled through," the UMD press release notes, adding that ultimately, the researchers concluded that "Mars most likely has a completely liquid core, unlike Earth’s combination of a liquid outer core and solid inner core."
The UMD team also "inferred details about the core’s chemical composition, such as the surprisingly large amount of light elements (elements with low atomic numbers) — namely sulfur and oxygen — present in Mars’ innermost layer," the statement reads.
While this discovery is super cool on its own, it could also help aid future research into planet formation — and there's still much to learn.
"Even though the InSight mission ended in December 2022… we're still analyzing the data that was collected," Lekic said. “InSight will continue to influence how we understand the formation and evolution of Mars and other planets for years to come.”
More on Mars: Scientists Baffled By These Almost Perfectly Circular Dunes on Mars
The post Scientists Detect Gooey Core Inside Mars appeared first on Futurism.
By almost any historic yardstick, President Joe Biden is beginning the reelection campaign he formally announced today in a vulnerable position.
His job-approval rating has consistently come in at 45 percent or less; in several recent high-quality national polls, it has dipped closer to 40 percent. In surveys, three-fourths or more of Americans routinely express dissatisfaction with the economy. And a majority of adults have repeatedly said that they do not want him to seek a second term; that figure rose to 70 percent (including just more than half of Democrats) in a national NBC poll released last weekend.
Those are the sort of numbers that have spelled doom for many an incumbent president. “Compared to other presidents, Biden’s approval is pretty low [about] a year and a half from Election Day,” says Alan Abramowitz, a political scientist at Emory University, in Atlanta. “It’s not where you want to be, for sure.”
And yet despite Biden’s persistently subpar public reviews, there’s no sense of panic in the Democratic Party about his prospects. No serious candidate has emerged to challenge him for the party’s 2024 presidential nomination. No elected leaders have called on him to step aside. And though some top Democratic operatives have privately expressed concern about Biden’s weak standing in polls, almost every party strategist I spoke with leading up to his announcement said they consider him the favorite for reelection.
There are many reasons for this gap between the dominant views about Biden’s immediate position and his eventual prospects in the 2024 race. But the most important reason is encapsulated in the saying from Biden’s father that he often quotes in speeches: “Don’t compare me to the Almighty; compare me to the alternative.” Most Democrats remain cautiously optimistic that whatever concerns Americans might hold about the state of the economy and Biden’s performance or his age, a majority of voters will refuse to entrust the White House to Donald Trump or another Republican nominee in his image, such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
“I think there’s no question that neither Trump nor Biden are where they want to be, but … if you project forward, it’s just easier to see a path for victory for Biden than for Trump or DeSantis,” says the Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg, who was one of the few analysts in either party to question the projections of a sweeping red wave last November.
Rosenberg is quick to caution that in a country as closely split as the U.S. is now, any advantage for Biden is hardly insurmountable. Not many states qualify as true swing states within reach for both sides next year. And those states themselves are so closely balanced that minuscule shifts in preferences or turnout among almost any constituency could determine the outcome.
The result is that control over the direction for a nation of 330 million people could literally come down to a handful of neighborhoods in a tiny number of states—white-collar suburbs of Detroit, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and Atlanta; faded factory towns in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania; working-class Latino neighborhoods in Las Vegas; and small-town communities across Georgia’s Black Belt. “Never have so few people had such a big impact in deciding the future of American politics,” Doug Sosnik, the chief White House political adviser for Bill Clinton, told me.
On an evenly matched battlefield, neither side can rest too comfortably about its prospects in the 2024 election. But after Trump’s upset victory in 2016, Republicans have mostly faced disappointing results in the elections of 2018, 2020, and 2022. Across those campaigns, a powerful coalition of voters—particularly young people, college-educated white voters, those who don’t identify with any organized religion, and people of color, mostly located in large metropolitan centers—have poured out in huge numbers to oppose the conservative cultural and social vision animating the Trump-era Republican Party. Many of those voters may be unenthusiastic about Biden, but they have demonstrated that they are passionate about keeping Trump and other Republicans from controlling the White House and potentially imposing their restrictive agenda nationwide. Biden previewed how he will try to stir those passions in his announcement video Tuesday: Far more than most of his speeches, which typically emphasize kitchen-table economics, the video centers on portraying “MAGA extremists” as a threat to democracy and “bedrock freedoms” through restrictions on abortion, book bans, and rollbacks of LGBTQ rights.
“The fear of MAGA has been the most powerful force in American politics since 2018, and it remains the most powerful force,” Rosenberg told me. “It’s why Democrats did so much better than the fundamentals [of public attitudes about Biden and the economy] in 2022, and that will be the case again this time.”
After the Democrats’ unexpectedly competitive showing in the midterm election, Biden’s approval rating ticked up. But in national polls it has sagged again. Recent surveys by The Wall Street Journal, NBC, and CNBC each put Biden’s approval rating at 42 percent or less.
Sosnik said the pivotal period for Biden is coming this fall. Historically, he told me, voter assessments of an incumbent president’s performance have hardened between the fall of their third year in office and the late spring of their fourth. The key, he said, is not a president’s absolute level of approval in that period but its trajectory: Approval ratings for Ronald Reagan, Clinton, and Barack Obama, each of whom won reelection, were all clearly rising by early in their fourth year. By contrast, the approval ratings over that period fell for George H. W. Bush and remained stagnant for Trump. Each lost their reelection bid. Economists and pollsters say voters tend to finalize their views about the economy over roughly the same period and once again tend to put less weight on the absolute level of conditions such as inflation and unemployment than on whether those conditions are improving or deteriorating.
With that crucial window approaching, Biden will benefit if inflation continues to moderate as it has over the past several months. He also could profit from more time for voters to feel the effects of the massive wave of public and private investment triggered by his trio of major legislative accomplishments: the bipartisan infrastructure and semiconductor bills, and the climate provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act.
[Read: Biden’s blue-collar jobs bet]
But Biden also faces the risk that the economy could tip into recession later this year, which some forecasters, such as Larry Summers, the former Clinton Treasury Secretary who predicted the inflationary surge, still consider likely.
If a recession does come, the best scenario for Biden is that it’s short and shallow and further tamps down inflation before giving way to an economic recovery early in 2024. But even that relatively benign outcome would make it difficult for him to attract more supporters in the period through next spring when voters traditionally have solidified their verdicts on a president’s performance.
That means that, to win reelection, Biden likely will need to win an unusually large share of voters who are at least somewhat unhappy over conditions in the country and ambivalent or worse about giving him another term. Historically that hasn’t been easy for presidents.
For those who think Biden can break that pattern, last November’s midterm election offers the proof of concept. Exit polls at the time showed that a solid 55 percent majority of voters nationwide disapproved of Biden’s job performance and that three-fourths of voters considered the economy in only fair or poor shape. Traditionally such attitudes have meant disaster for the party holding the White House. And yet, Democrats minimized the GOP gains in the House, maintained control of the Senate, and won governorships in most of the key swing states on the ballot.
In 2022, the exit polls showed that Democrats, as the party holding the White House, were routed among voters with intensely negative views about conditions. That was typical for midterm elections. But Democrats defused the expected “red wave” by winning a large number of voters who were more mildly disappointed in Biden’s performance and/or the economy.
For instance, with Trump in the White House during the 2018 midterms, Republicans won only about one in six voters in House elections who described the economy as “not so good,” according to exit polls; in 2020, Trump, as the incumbent president, carried only a little more than one-fifth of them. But in 2022, Democrats won more than three-fifths of voters who expressed that mildly negative view of the economy.
Similarly, in the 2010 midterm elections, according to exit polls, two-thirds of voters who “somewhat disapproved” of Obama’s performance as president voted against Democrats running for the House; almost two-thirds of the voters who “somewhat disapproved” of Trump likewise voted against Republicans in 2018. But in 2022, the exit polls found that Democrats surprisingly carried almost half of the voters who “somewhat disapproved” of Biden.
The same pattern persisted across many of the key swing states likely to decide the 2024 presidential race: Democrats won the governors’ contests in Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, and Senate races in Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Georgia, even though the exit polls found a majority of voters in each state said they disapproved of Biden’s performance. Winning Democratic gubernatorial candidates such as Gretchen Whitmer in Michigan, Josh Shapiro in Pennsylvania, and Katie Hobbs in Arizona each carried at least 70 percent of voters who described the economy as “not so good.”
Why did Democrats so exceed the usual performance among voters dissatisfied with the country’s direction? The answer is that many of those voters rejected the Republican Party that Trump has reshaped in his image. The exit polls found that Trump was viewed even more unfavorably than Biden in several of the swing states, including Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. And nationally, more than two-fifths of voters who expressed negative views about the economy also said they considered the GOP “too extreme.” Particularly on social issues such as abortion rights and gun control, the 2022 results demonstrated that “Trump and these other Republicans have painted themselves into a corner in order to appeal to their base,” Abramowitz told me.
Biden may expand his support by next year, especially in the battleground states, if economic conditions improve or simply because he may soon start spending heavily on television advertising touting his achievements, such as new plant openings. But more important than changing minds may be his ability to replicate the Democrats’ success in 2022 at winning voters who aren’t wild about him but dislike Trump and the GOP even more. “While there are not an overwhelming number of people who are tremendously favorable to Biden, I just don’t think there is an overwhelming number of persuadable people who hate him,” says Tad Devine, a long-time Democratic strategist. “They hate the other guy.” A new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll released today offered one concrete measure of that dynamic: In an echo of the 2022 pattern, three-fourths of the adults who said they mildly disapproved of Biden's performance in office nonetheless said they did not want a second term for Trump.
Lynn Vavreck, a political scientist at UCLA, told me that dynamic would likely prove powerful for many voters. Even Democratic-leaning voters who say they don’t want Biden to run again, she predicted, are highly likely to line up behind him once the alternative is a Republican nominee whose values clash with their own. “The bottom line is that on Election Day, that Democratic nominee, even the one they didn’t want to run again, is going to be closer to most people’s vision of the world they want to live in than the Republican alternative,” she said.
In both parties, many analysts agree that in a Biden-Trump rematch, the election would probably revolve less around assessments of Biden’s performance than the stark question of whether voters are willing to return Trump to power after the January 6 insurrection and his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. “President Biden by every conventional standard is a remarkably weak candidate for reelection,” the longtime Republican pollster Bill McInturff told me in an email. But “Biden’s greatest strength,” McInturff continued, may be the chance to run again against Trump, who “is so terrific at sucking up all the political oxygen, he becomes the issue on which the election gets framed, not the terrible economy or the level of Americans’ dissatisfaction with the direction of the country.”
On both sides, there’s greater uncertainty about whether DeSantis could more effectively exploit voters’ hesitation about Biden. Many Democrats and even some Republicans believe that DeSantis has leaned so hard into emulating, and even exceeding, Trump’s culture-war agenda that the Florida governor has left himself little chance of recapturing the white-collar suburban voters who have keyed the Democratic recovery since 2018. But others believe that DeSantis could get a second look from those voters if he wins the nomination, because he would be introduced to them largely by beating Trump. Although Devine told me, “I do not see a path to the presidency in the general election for Donald Trump,” he said that “if DeSantis were to be able to get rid of Trump and get the credit for getting rid of Trump…I think it’s fundamentally different.”
One thing unlikely to change, whomever Republicans nominate, is how few states, or voters, will effectively decide the outcome. Twenty-five states voted for Trump in both 2016 and 2020, and the strategists planning the Biden campaign see a realistic chance to contest only North Carolina among them. Republicans hope to contest more of the 25 states that voted for Biden, but after the decisive Democratic victories in Michigan and Pennsylvania in 2022, it’s unclear whether either is within reach for the GOP next year. The states entirely up for grabs might be limited to just four that Biden carried last time: Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and Wisconsin. And as the decisive liberal win in the recent state-supreme-court election in Wisconsin showed, winning even that state, like Michigan and Pennsylvania, may be an uphill battle for any Republican presidential nominee viewed as a threat to abortion rights.
[Read: The first electoral test of Trump’s indictment]
In their recent book, The Bitter End, Vavreck and her co-authors, John Sides and Chris Tausanovitch, describe hardening loyalties and a shrinking battlefield as a form of electoral “calcification.” That process has left the country divided almost in half between two durable but divergent coalitions with antithetical visions of America’s future. “We are fighting at the margins again,” Vavreck told me. “The 2020 election was nearly a replica of 2016, and I think that largely this 2024 election is going to be a repeat of 2020 and 2016.” Whatever judgment voters ultimately reach about Biden’s effectiveness, or his capacity to handle the job in his 80s, this sorting process virtually guarantees another polarized and precarious election next year that turns on a small number of voters in a small number of states.
April 25 has been set aside as World Penguin Day, a day to appreciate and consider these remarkable aquatic birds and their place in our world, as climate change and other pressures threaten their habitat and food sources, leading to significant declines in some populations. Gathered below, images of these unique creatures from across the colder parts of the Southern Hemisphere.
Scientific Reports, Published online: 25 April 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-33611-3Calcareous sponges can synthesize their skeleton under short-term ocean acidification
Getting into space is hard — but landing on the Moon is even harder.
Japanese lunar lander Hakuto-R Mission 1, developed by private space company ispace, attempted to touch down on the surface of the Moon today. But the planned landing time came and went, with mission control failing to reestablish communications.
"We have not confirmed communication from the lander," a somber ispace founder Takeshi Hakamada said during a live stream. "Our engineers will continue to investigate."
"We have to assume we could not complete the landing on the lunar surface," he added. "We will keep going. Never quit."
The lander was slated to become the first privately funded spacecraft to successfully land on the Moon. While ispace has yet to confirm the state of its lander, the company will likely join the likes of India and Israel in making a harder-than-expected landing.
During its entirely autonomous descent, the Mission 1 lander progressively slowed its velocity while closing in on the lunar surface as scientists anxiously watched on at ispace's HQ in Tokyo.
The team watched on for several tense minutes following the moment of the planned landing, while teams attempted to reestablish communication with the lander. At one point, ispace cut the feed to prerecorded PR videos to ease the tension.
The lander was launched by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on December 11, and spent the next couple of months traveling to the Moon. It entered lunar orbit on April 12.
It even took stunning close-up video captures of the lunar surface below in the days leading up to its landing attempt.
It's an unfortunate development that highlights just how difficult it is to travel to the Moon, let alone land on its surface. So far only the US, the former Soviet Union, and China have made successful lunar landings.
Fortunately, ispace already has its second and third mission to the Moon lined up and is gearing up to try again.
More on the landing: A Private Spacecraft Will Attempt to Land on the Moon Tomorrow
The post Private Company Landing on Moon Appears to Have Failed appeared first on Futurism.
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Are there any positions on government that either now or in 10 years could be replaced or heavily assisted by AI programs? If so, how?
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- FDA Approves Biogen’s Drug for Rare Form of ALS
A good way to learn psychology is to ruin two birthday parties.
Take it from me: I’ve got a Ph.D. in experimental psychology, but I didn’t really understand my own field until I started showing up at strangers’ birthday parties because science told me to. And now that I’ve inadvertently wrecked multiple get-togethers, I finally know the true meaning of psychology.
It happened in Atlanta, just after the 2018 meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. The place was buzzing with a new idea: Talking to strangers, research showed, could be surprisingly delightful. A few years earlier, two researchers had persuaded a bunch of Chicago commuters to talk to one another during their train ride in exchange for a free banana; the participants reported having an unexpectedly wonderful time. Now several other teams were reporting similar results. A few of my friends had discovered that strangers tend to like each other a lot when they first meet, but underestimate how much the other person likes them. I was at the conference hawking my own, related findings: Conversations rarely end when people want them to, but people have a nice time anyway. (Two of my participants flirtatiously exchanged numbers after meeting each other in my study, so, if nothing else, I was running an extremely inefficient dating service.)
So when I ended up with an extra day in Atlanta, I thought, Why not listen to all these studies and go meet some strangers? And I knew just how to do it.
I’m an escape-room enthusiast––that is, I like to pay people about $35 to lock me in a converted office space with a bunch of friends and some themed puzzles. I have done this more than 140 times, turning what might otherwise be a silly hobby into the most annoying aspect of my personality. Many escape-room websites allow you to see how many people have already signed up for a certain time slot and, as if predicting my pro-stranger epiphany, they even allow you to join those preexisting groups without consent. I was so excited that I signed up for two nearly full rooms. Unforeseen pleasures, I thought, here I come!
I began to realize my mistake on the way to the first venue. I was running late, so the woman who ran the room called me to check in. “When are you arriving?” she asked, but something in her voice said “Why are you arriving?” I wondered, Was I doing something weird? When I got there, the answer was immediately, obviously, yes. The rest of the team was waiting, and they were clearly unhappy to see me, but they were being heroically polite about it. They were six 20- and 30-somethings, profoundly normal, not the kind of people who would get hopped up on psychology studies and go crash someone else’s escape room. In another life, we might have been friends. But we weren’t. They were friends; I was a stranger. I got the impression one of them was having a birthday, but I wasn’t sure, because it’s weird to tell strangers that it’s your birthday unless you’re at a restaurant and angling for a free cupcake. The suspected birthday boy looked saddest of all to see me.
“You must be Adam,” he said.
I figured I could win over my teammates by being really good at escape rooms. All I had to do was solve a big puzzle; we’d all cheer, and then we’d get to talking about our dreams of starting our own escape room (the theme would be “friendship”), and then maybe we’d go throw a Frisbee around and we’d exchange numbers and become lifelong pals, just like the people in the psychology studies did.
“Maybe this does something,” I said, holding up a Ping-Pong ball.
“What does it do?” one of the guys asked eagerly.
“I don’t know,” I said.
I had forgotten that a key part of doing escape rooms is communication, and talking to people is hard when they all know one another and you don’t know them, and especially when you appear to be ruining their birthday party. In fact, no one really talked to me for the rest of the room, except when I said things like “There’s something about this clock” and they said “Uh-huh.” They did let me open one of the combination locks, even though I wasn’t the one who figured out the code, which was generous of them.
As soon as we got out, I skedaddled. I wanted to leave these poor strangers as soon as possible. But I also had a second room to get to––I had already paid for it, and as every social scientist knows, you’re supposed to honor sunk costs.
[Read: The surprising benefits of talking to strangers]
This one was unmistakably a birthday; the room was a prelude to a party. The gang of friends was slightly older this time, all of them new-ish parents who had left the kids with a babysitter for a little adult fun. I forget the birthday gal’s name, but I do remember that her daughter’s name was pronounced “Sir-see,” like the terrifying character from Game of Thrones who incestuously had three children with her twin brother and was later crushed by rocks.
Worst of all, the room was Prohibition-themed, and all the other guests were wearing old-timey clothes. The ladies wore flapper dresses and fascinators; the men wore suspenders and spats. I wore jeans and a plaid button-down, which was now thoroughly soaked with the kind of sweat you only produce when you know you’re doing wrong.
Once again, I embarrassed myself by solving virtually no puzzles. I walked around with fake thoughtfulness, picking things up and putting them down. “There’s probably a second room; there’s usually a second room,” I once offered, helpfully, to no response. My big win was finding a key and then, every five minutes or so, saying, “I have a key if anyone needs a key,” and when someone finally needed a key, I went, “The key!” and unlocked their padlock for them.
When we got out, the group assembled for a photo. “Let’s do one with Adam and one without,” someone offered, weakly.
“That’s okay, gotta go!” I said, already fleeing.
Where were my unforeseen pleasures? Where was my surprisingly delightful time? Where was my flirtatiously exchanged phone number? Why had science lied to me?
Psychologists sometimes act like we’re compiling a how-to book for life. Year by year, we scratch out the old wives’ tales, folk theories, and cognitive biases, and then replace them with evidence-based guidance for making better, happier decisions.
We are not compiling a how-to book for life. Many of our studies fail to replicate, but even if every paper were 100 percent true, you could not staple them together into an instruction manual, for two reasons.
First, people are just too diverse. Almost nothing we discover is going to be true for every single human. In my own research, for example, some strangers became fast friends, but others spent two painful minutes asking questions like “So, uh, do you have any cousins?” and then left as soon as they could. We also study just a small slice of the Earth’s population, and there’s no guarantee that what we discover about undergrads doing studies for extra credit, or Americans taking online surveys for pennies, or Chicago commuters striking up conversations for fruit, will generalize to the rest of humanity.
[Read: Stop being so self-conscious]
Second, social situations vary too much. People did have a surprisingly nice time talking on a train in Chicago, but the same might not be true at a grocery store in Tallahassee, or in a New York elevator. The outcome might depend on whom you’re talking with, or what you’re talking about, or whether you’ll end up getting a banana.
Studying all these different contexts would be like emptying the ocean one teaspoon at a time. At best, a few folks will run some additional studies fleshing out the phenomenon, and then everyone will move on. We will never have a truly comprehensive account of when, and for whom, talking to strangers is a good idea.
So what’s the point of all this research? Can you ever apply it to your daily life, or is it better to ignore it, like a sweaty interloper in an escape room?
My advice is to think of psychology research less as a set of instructions and more as a means of refining your intuitions. If you expect talking to strangers to be a terrible ordeal, then you should wonder why study participants find it surprisingly enjoyable. It’s possible those studies are wrong. But if they’re not, what gives? Maybe you’re just part of a minority of misanthropes. Maybe the strangers you meet aren’t like the strangers on that commuter line near Chicago. Maybe you treat every surprisingly delightful stranger as an exception and assume the next stranger will be bad.
[Read: How to talk to strangers]
Each new finding in psychology presents an opportunity to pick out the most useful bits, learn from them, and ignore the rest. We’re already used to doing this in other contexts. When we hear a narrative, we understand that some details matter (“Brutus betrayed Caesar”), and some don’t (“Brutus wore a toga”). We know that a story shows us what can happen (“Sometimes friends turn on you”), not what always happens (“Every friend will turn on you”). And we intuit that a story’s message should be taken seriously (“Make sure you maintain your friends’ loyalty”) and not literally (“Make sure to wear a stab-proof vest”). Nobody has to tell us how to reason in this way.
Applying our story sense to psychology works because psychology is stories. Each study reports what a certain group of people did in a certain time and place––that is, it sets a scene, fills it with characters, and puts them in motion. The stories can be simple (“People who said they felt depressed also said they had trouble sleeping”), or they can be complicated (“We offered people a banana to go talk to strangers on a train, and they reported having a better time than they expected”). We use statistics to show that our stories are credible, but a little bit of math doesn’t change what’s underneath.
I ended up ruining two perfectly good birthday parties because I didn’t use my story sense. The science at the conference in Atlanta suggested that meeting strangers can be unexpectedly wonderful, but I didn’t consider the context: Obviously, striking up a conversation with a fellow commuter is nothing like locking yourself in a room full of people who are trying to celebrate their friend’s birthday and enjoy a series of speakeasy-themed puzzles. I acted like the studies showed that conversations with strangers always go better than expected, rather than showing that they sometimes do. And I took the research literally (go meet new people right now!) rather than seriously (be more open to meeting new people, but, you know, don’t be stupid about it!).
A story sense can sometimes be misleading, though, as psychologists have shown in many different ways. For instance, people tend to assume that easily imagined events (such as dying in a terrorist attack) are more common than events that are hard to picture (such as dying from falling out of bed). Learning how to apply the findings of psychology research is not like learning long division or computer programming; there isn’t a handbook, and nobody can tell you when you’re doing it wrong. You pick it up slowly, painfully, through trial and error, when you see the crestfallen faces of the people whose birthdays you’ve ruined. No amount of expertise can speed up that process, which is why psychologists can study happiness and marriage all we want and yet some of us still end up depressed and divorced.
But here’s one finding you should take literally: Don’t sign up to do escape rooms with strangers. And if you’re one of the unfortunate people in those escape rooms I crashed: I’m so sorry, and please give my best to Cersei.
Hope feels elusive in America right now. Suicides and fatal drug overdoses—so-called deaths of despair resulting from a seeming lack of hope—are at unprecedented levels. Mental-health problems are on the rise: A recent CDC study of teenagers found a significant increase in sadness and vulnerability to suicide over the past decade, particularly among teen girls—a trend that began well before the coronavirus pandemic. In a recent Gallup poll, only 19 percent of Americans said they believe the country is going in the right direction.
What can our society do to encourage hope and combat despair? We might typically think of hope as a touchy-feely emotion that, almost by definition, is divorced from real-life experience. In fact, as more research is beginning to show, hope is an important scientific concept—something we can define, measure, analyze, and ultimately cultivate. Emotions are crucial to a range of human behaviors that have broader economic, social, and political consequences. And hope might just be the most important emotion in that equation, offering a new (if also ancient) way to think about issues such as health, poverty, inequality, education, and despair-related deaths.
The small number of economists who study hope, myself included, define it slightly differently from how people tend to use the word colloquially. In social science, hope is not simply the belief that one’s circumstances will get better; for that, we use the term optimism. Hope is the belief that an individual can make things better.
[Read: The difference between hope and optimism]
As an area of academic inquiry, hope has long been overlooked and under-theorized; the economic study of well-being, which explores the determinants of human welfare and quality of life, has primarily focused on happiness and life satisfaction. Those concepts are closely related to hope and usually correlate positively with it, but hope is distinct in its focus on individual agency, which links it closely with people’s life outcomes. Scholars are becoming more adept at measuring levels of hope through self-reported data from survey responses, often validated with biological or psychological markers, such as salivary cortisol levels and genuine Duchenne smiles, which indicate degrees of stress and happiness, respectively.
In individuals, hope is linked to better health and longevity. In 2019, the economist Kelsey O’Connor and I published a study analyzing a group of survey participants, born in the 1930s and ’40s, who had been asked in their 20s or 30s whether they thought their lives would work out—a proxy for hopefulness. (We used the terms hope and optimism interchangeably in this study because it was conducted before there was much research on hope as its own concept.) We found that those who had responded positively to the question about their life prospects were more likely to be alive in 2015 than those in their same peer group (in terms of age, race, and gender) who had responded negatively.
The researcher Julia Ruiz Pozuelo and I further tested the relationship between hope and later outcomes in a longitudinal survey in which we followed 400 low-income adolescents in Peru over a three-year period. The participants reported remarkably high baseline levels of hope and educational aspiration; 88 percent of them told us at the start of the survey that they planned to pursue college or postgraduate education. Three years later, those respondents who planned to pursue higher education were more likely than their peers to be enrolled full-time and had achieved more years of education.
[Derek Thompson: Why American teens are so sad]
Although the well-being of whole communities is difficult to measure, community-based interventions have been shown to increase the well-being of individuals with low levels of life satisfaction. Because hopefulness and well-being tend to be positively correlated, hope likely has the same spillover effect, but we need more research to verify this. Despair, meanwhile, appears to have negative spillover effects on community well-being, as does having less money than the average person in one’s city, state, or workplace.
So how can individuals and communities become more hopeful? Although research suggests that well-being traits such as innate happiness and hope levels might have a genetic component, hope, like many other traits and emotions, can be influenced by environmental factors such as family stability, education, and opportunity. The economists James Heckman and Tim Kautz have shown that socioemotional traits continue to evolve much later in life than IQ, which doesn’t change much after the late 20s. This suggests that one’s level of hope can differ over time. In the study of people born in the 1930s and ’40s, O’Connor and I found that Black Americans and women experienced increases in hope in the late ’70s, likely because of expanded civil rights, while men with less than a high-school education experienced decreases in hope over the same time period.
Perhaps the simplest way to cultivate hope among populations and places where it is lacking is to get isolated people, particularly older ones, out into their communities through opportunities to volunteer, participate in the arts, and spend time in nature. For children, teaching tools for developing self-esteem, resilience, and coping has been successful in middle and high schools across the United Kingdom. For young adults, our survey in Peru offered an important takeaway: Although not one of the participants had a college-educated parent (most of their parents were taxi drivers, vendors, or domestic workers), the majority reported having had a mentor in their family or community who supported their aspirations. Mentorship and community support can also help those in need of mental-health care seek and find it. This is particularly important in underserved areas.
[Sophie Gilbert: How did healing ourselves get so exhausting?]
Government also has a role to play. As several of my colleagues and I noted in a recent Brookings report, an important first step is to regularly track well-being in official government statistics as other countries, such as the U.K. and New Zealand, do. A standard indicator of well-being in the United States—something like a GNP for satisfaction—would allow us to take note of drops before they become full-blown crises. Life satisfaction would be an obvious first measure to track, because it is the most commonly used metric of well-being, but adding a measure of hope would enhance our understanding of the public’s well-being. The government also should provide more support for local and community efforts to cultivate hope, which could be done without great expense; what’s needed most is logistical support and information about efforts that have worked in other places.
To prevent the transmission of widespread despair, we must continue to expand our understanding of human well-being and put our findings into practice. The science of hope could play an essential role in improving life for the next generation.
Scientific Reports, Published online: 25 April 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-33845-1Author Correction: Pupil dilation reflects the dynamic integration of audiovisual emotional speech
- New single-nucleotide polymorphism chip that can help identify genetic markers of desirable traits in rice
Medication delivered by a new gel cured 100% of mice with an aggressive
, according to a new study.
The striking results offer new hope for patients diagnosed with glioblastoma, one of the deadliest and most common brain tumors in humans.
“Despite recent technological advancements, there is a dire need for new treatment strategies,” says Honggang Cui, a chemical and biomolecular engineer at Johns Hopkins University who led the research. “We think this hydrogel will be the future and will supplement current treatments for brain cancer.”
Cui’s team combined an anticancer drug and an antibody in a solution that self-assembles into a gel to fill the tiny grooves left after a brain tumor is surgically removed.
As reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the gel can reach areas that surgery might miss and current drugs struggle to reach to kill lingering cancer cells and suppress tumor growth.
The gel also seems to trigger an immune response that a mouse’s body struggles to activate on its own when fighting glioblastoma. When the researchers re-challenged surviving mice with a new glioblastoma tumor, their immune systems alone beat the cancer without additional medication.
The gel appears to not only fend off cancer but help rewire the immune system to discourage recurrence with immunological memory, the researchers say.
Still, surgery is essential for this approach, the researchers say. Applying the gel directly in the brain without surgical removal of the tumor resulted in a 50% survival rate.
“The surgery likely alleviates some of that pressure and allows more time for the gel to activate the immune system to fight the cancer cells,” Cui says.
The gel solution consists of nano-sized filaments made with paclitaxel, an FDA-approved drug for breast, lung, and other
. The filaments provide a vehicle to deliver an antibody called aCD47. By blanketing the tumor cavity evenly, the gel releases medication steadily over several weeks, and its active ingredients remain close to the injection site.
By using that specific antibody, the team is trying to overcome one of the toughest hurdles in glioblastoma research. It targets macrophages, a type of cell that sometimes supports immunity but other times protects cancer cells, allowing aggressive tumor growth.
One of the go-to therapies for glioblastoma is a wafer co-developed by a team of researchers at Johns Hopkins and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the 1990s, commercially known as Gliadel. It is an FDA-approved, biodegradable polymer that also delivers medication into the brain after surgical tumor removal.
Gliadel showed significant survival rates in laboratory experiments, but the results achieved with the new gel are some of the most impressive the Johns Hopkins team has seen, says coauthor Betty Tyler, an associate professor of neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine who played a pivotal role in the development of Gliadel.
“We don’t usually see 100% survival in mouse models of this disease,” Tyler says. “Thinking that there is potential for this new hydrogel combination to change that survival curve for glioblastoma patients is very exciting.”
The new gel offers hope for future glioblastoma treatment because it integrates anticancer drugs and antibodies, a combination of therapies the researchers say is difficult to administer simultaneously because of the molecular composition of the ingredients.
“This hydrogel combines both chemotherapy and immunotherapy intracranially,” Tyler says. “The gel is implanted at the time of tumor resection, which makes it work really well.”
Coauthor Henry Brem, who co-developed Gliadel in addition to other brain tumor therapies currently in clinical trials, emphasizes the challenge of translating the gel’s results in the lab into therapies with substantial clinical impacts.
“The challenge to us now is to transfer an exciting laboratory phenomenon to clinical trials,” says Brem, who is neurosurgeon-in-chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Source: Johns Hopkins University
The post Gel cures 100% of mice with deadly brain cancer appeared first on Futurity.
Nature, Published online: 25 April 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-01412-3Settlers brought in hemlock and other types of timber much earlier than previously realized.
Nature, Published online: 25 April 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-01389-zRegulation and new intellectual property laws are needed to reduce the cost of gene-editing treatments and fulfil their promise to improve human health.
Nature, Published online: 25 April 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-01390-6The story of how the structure of DNA was found is one of team science from which one member was unforgivably excluded.
- New single-nucleotide polymorphism chip that can help identify genetic markers of desirable traits in rice
With or without guardrails in place, AI-powered chatbots — like OpenAI's ChatGPT or Google's Bard — are notoriously unpredictable. Even so, the New York Times is reporting that any chatbots operating within China's digital borders must comply with the ruling Communist Party's censorship laws.
Of course, with that unpredictability in mind, the jury's still out on whether or not the makers of chatbots will be able to comply with that mandate. But as Kendra Schaefer, head of tech policy at the Beijing-based consulting firm Trivium China, explained to the NYT, the notably censorship-happy Chinese government tends to take a "move fast and break things" approach to tech regulation.
"Because you don't have a two-party system where both sides argue," China's leadership "can just say, 'OK, we know we need to do this, and we'll revise it later,'" Schaefer told the newspaper.
Importantly, neither ChatGPT nor Bard are actually available in China.
But innovators in China are already experimenting with their own versions of the viral tech — one of which, dubbed ChatYuan, was already removed from China's version of the app store for its failure to comply with censorship law. After being released back in February, ChatYuan, per the NYT, quickly started churning out a "bleak diagnosis of the Chinese economy" and referred to the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a "war of aggression."
The Chinese government — which recently saw widespread citizen protests widely credited as a response to COVID restriction-amplified economic woes and counts itself as one of Russia's most prominent allies — didn't take kindly to either of these AI-spouted claims, and the app has reportedly been shut down for "troubleshooting" for weeks now. (Per the NYT, the bot's creator has been working on a more "patriotic" version of the tech.)
As the NYT notes, China's AI censorship crackdown comes at what might prove to be an inopportune time for the nation. These new regulations may well stifle development — which in turn may set China back in what many consider to be an international AI arms race.
Ultimately, the regime may have to decide what's more important: internal control of information, or an external foothold in this global race.
As Matt Sheehan, an expert on Chinese AI and a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, put it to the NYT: "Generative artificial intelligence put into tension two of the top goals of the party: the control of information and leadership in artificial intelligence."
More on AI: Google DeepMind CEO Says AI May Become Self-Aware
The post China Says Chatbots Must Be Strictly Censored by Communist Guidelines appeared first on Futurism.
- This webinar will be hosted live and available on-demand
Ignoring the interaction between wind and ocean currents can have consequences for predicting global warming, researchers report.
Specifically, it can cause climate models to underestimate warming by as much as 17%, a new study shows.
“The ocean plays a huge role in global warming—its currents can redistribute heat from warmer to colder regions, for instance, by moving warm water from the equator to the poles,” says Kay McMonigal, a postdoctoral research scholar at North Carolina State University and corresponding author of the study in Geophysical Research Letters.
The study focuses on shallow ocean currents, which stretch from the ocean surface to 1,000 to 2,000 meters below the surface. Unlike other ocean currents, these shallower currents are susceptible to the effect of wind.
“The currents change as the winds change, and move heat into different places,” McMonigal says. “Climate models haven’t traditionally been looking at this interaction as a potential contributor to warming, so I wanted to find out if changing shallow currents can impact warming.”
McMonigal and the research team used standard international climate models and climate data from 1850 to 2014 to run the experiment. They created two models. In one version, they allowed shallow ocean currents to change with the changing climate; in the other, the shallow ocean currents ran in a repeating, seasonal pattern.
The researchers saw that the model where shallow ocean currents shifted with the changing climate warmed 17% more than the model where winds and currents did not change.
Why do shallow ocean currents have this significant impact on warming?
“When the ocean moves heat around, the warmer ocean surface can, in turn, cause the air over that part of the ocean to get warmer,” McMonigal says. “Depending on the location, this extra warming can have different effects; for example, in places considered ‘sensitive’ like the tropical Pacific, warmer oceans reduce cloud cover. Clouds burn off, more sunlight enters the system, and warming is amplified.
“In the interest of more accurate climate models, our study shows that we need to take shallow currents and the winds that drive them into consideration.”
Source: NC State
The post To predict warming, you can’t ignore wind and ocean currents appeared first on Futurity.
- Google redesigned Authenticator, making it less clunky, and in the process added one potentially handy new tool: the ability to sync your sign-in codes to your Google account and to different phones and tablets.
SpaceX's explosive orbital test flight of its Starship spacecraft, the most powerful rocket ever built, left a huge mark on its surroundings, scouring a massive crater in the ground and sending particulate matter flying for miles, far beyond the expected debris field.
Without any significant diversion measures in place, Starship's Super Heavy booster tore through the company's prepared concrete launchpad, kicking up heavy debris.
The incident was so violent that it's caught the attention of the
, CNBC reports, which has grounded Starship until it can conclude its "mishap investigation" — signs that SpaceX may have additional hurdles to overcome before it can try to get its Starship orbital again.
Fortunately, there haven't been any reported injuries or damage to public property as of last week.
But that wasn't exactly a guarantee. The massive explosion of dozens of Raptor engines igniting at once sent particulate matter hurling for several miles, raining down on Port Isabel, a city that's six miles from the launch pad. It was a powerful enough blast to even shatter windows in the city.
Given the distances involved, particulates rained down far beyond the limits of the expected 700-acre or one-square-mile debris field caused by an "anomaly," as outlined in the FAA's environmental assessment, which had to be concluded before SpaceX could get a launch license for last week's test.
And that's not to mention the effects the powerful blast could have on the endangered species that live in the area.
The particulates could even pose a danger to human health, with environmental engineer Eric Roesch noting on his blog that "the possibility of a widely dispersed plume of emissions was not disclosed by the FAA or SpaceX, during the initial environmental permitting and approval process.
Try, Try Again
Where that leaves SpaceX's opportunity to try again remains to be seen. The FAA told CNBC in a statement that it will first have to confirm that "any system, process, or procedure related to the mishap does not affect public safety" before Starship can fly again.
SpaceX will also have to complete additional "environmental mitigations" before a second launch attempt, due to "debris entering adjacent properties."
In other words, it may take longer than the optimistic "one to two months" that SpaceX CEO Elon Musk estimated in a tweet following last week's attempt.
More on Starship: Video Shows Falling Starship Debris Smashing a Minivan
The post SpaceX Is in Big Trouble With the FAA After Starship Explosion appeared first on Futurism.
On Saturday, Special Operations Forces successfully evacuated fewer than 100 U.S.-embassy personnel from Sudan. Then, in a startling break with American precedent, the State Department announced that it would not request further evacuations of trapped U.S. citizens from a country descending into violent conflict. There are currently 16,000 Americans reported in Sudan, and the U.S. embassy is in touch with at least several hundred who are actively trying to get out.
has, for decades, considered its commitment to its citizens abroad to be sacrosanct. For this reason, until very recently, the evacuation of noncombatants from conflict zones—known as a Noncombatant Evacuation Operation—was a relatively common and quintessentially American mission. When conditions deteriorate in a country, the U.S. ambassador can call for a NEO, and a Marine Expeditionary Unit or the Immediate Response Force of the 82nd Airborne will mobilize to get American citizens—not just American diplomats—evacuated to safety. During a NEO, the ambassador becomes the president’s direct representative on-site, in charge of coordinating who departs, how they depart, and when.
[Mitchell Zuckoff: ‘Screw the rules’]
No such effort is being proposed in Sudan. In a call with the press over the weekend, State Department Undersecretary for Management John Bass said that “we don’t foresee coordinating a U.S. Government evacuation for our fellow citizens in Sudan at this time or in the coming days.” He also noted that the State Department has had a travel advisory in place for more than a decade cautioning Americans not to travel to Sudan.
Sudan is not the first country with a travel advisory to need an evacuation. But the insinuation that a travel advisory makes American citizens trapped there somehow to blame for their predicament and unworthy of help certainly seems new.
A NEO is most likely to be needed in a situation where security deteriorates rapidly and without warning, as has been the case in Sudan. The outbreak of hostilities between the Sudanese military and the paramilitary Rapid Support Force took both the U.S. and allied governments by surprise. American citizens living abroad can hardly be expected to have predicted a crisis that intelligence agencies failed to see coming. For the U.S. government to allow its citizens to languish in a war-ravaged country on the grounds that they failed to predict the unpredictable is contrary to our values and at odds with the type of moral leadership the U.S. has long aspired to project outside its borders.
Since the early 1980s, the U.S. has executed approximately one NEO every two years. I took part in one of these missions in 2006, when I was serving as an infantry officer in the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit. Israel invaded Lebanon, and the platoon I led participated in a NEO that evacuated American—and many non-American—civilians from Lebanon on hundreds of flights that took place over nearly a month. Our NEO involved a fleet of military aircraft and dozens of military and nonmilitary ships that shuttled evacuees from Lebanon to Cyprus and onward. No expense was spared. The situation on the ground was fluid and dangerous, requiring our commanders to negotiate with warring factions to ensure the safe passage of trapped American citizens, many of whom were spread across the country. It took time and intricate coordination for them to arrive where we could pick them up by air or sea.
[From the October 2006 issue: War in Lebanon]
Today’s conflict in Sudan falls under a shadow that did not overhang decision making in Lebanon, however: the evacuation of Afghanistan in August 2021. There, the security situation deteriorated much more rapidly than most people predicted it would, introducing many unexpected variables. The NEO devolved into chaos, culminating with a suicide bombing at Kabul International Airport that killed 13 American service members and 170 Afghans.
The Biden administration understandably wishes to avoid a repetition of those events. But in doing so, it is sending the message that the U.S. government is no longer willing to go to the same lengths it once was to recover American citizens.
In the absence of effective government-led evacuations, private citizens will likely step into the breach. I was one of the many veterans of the war in Afghanistan who got involved with crowdsourced, ad hoc efforts to get our allies out of Kabul in 2021. Among those being evacuated were U.S. citizens, many of whom couldn’t even get past the crowds and Taliban checkpoints that choked off the airport. Our efforts were necessarily inadequate and ran the risk of shielding the government from political liability if anything went awry.
Still, it should perhaps have come as no surprise last Friday when I received a WhatsApp message, through a friend of a friend, from an American woman in Khartoum looking for help. The embassy could do little for her. She’d gone to Sudan as an aid worker and was trapped in her apartment, along with her young child. She was alternately worried and sanguine about her chances of being rescued.
“There is daily hope and then disappointment with possible evacuation news,” she wrote. “But with the gunfire and explosions all around, we are all realistic that nobody is coming anytime soon.”
Donald Trump, who is accused of rape, will likely not appear in court to defend himself against the charge. The former president declined the chance to appear at the trial that begins today, he explained through his lawyer, because of the “logistical burdens” his presence would place on the courthouse and on New York City, where the civil proceeding is taking place. It seems he does not want to be an inconvenience.
But Trump will be an unavoidable presence as the trial unfolds. The writer E. Jean Carroll is suing him for damages related to the allegation she made in 2019, which he has vehemently denied: that Trump, encountering her in a New York City department store in the 1990s, led her into a dressing room and raped her. At issue in the trial are defamation and battery—the latter claim made possible by a New York State law that provides a one-year window for adult victims of sexual assault to file civil claims after the criminal statute of limitations has expired. Carroll is also suing Trump in a separate defamation case, based on the disparaging comments he made in response to her accusation; the path of that case may depend in part on the outcome of the current trial. Jury selection will begin today, with arguments expected throughout the week.
[Read: The cruel paradox at the heart of E. Jean Carroll’s allegation against Trump]
Trump has tried to dismiss Carroll’s claims in both the narrow sense—his lawyers tried and failed to get both cases dismissed—and the broad. You could read the empty excuse Trump offered for his non-appearance at the trial in a similar vein: as an extension of efforts he has made to minimize Carroll’s accusation, undermine her credibility, and paint her story as a hoax. Trump has made those attempts not merely in public statements but also in sworn testimony. In January, Lewis Kaplan, the federal judge hearing both of Carroll’s cases, ordered a partial unsealing of depositions that both Carroll and Trump had given in October 2022 for the defamation suit. The portions of the transcripts made available detail the contested events of that day as well as their public aftermath. In them, Trump repeats his familiar insults. But he also acknowledges, seemingly in spite of himself, the gravity of Carroll’s claim. “She’s accusing me of rape—of raping her, the worst thing you can do, the worst charge,” Trump says. In testimony that found the former president ranting, rambling, and generally resisting the word rape itself, this was a rare moment of clarity.
Carroll had also been hesitant to use the word rape, she has made clear: The word had felt too loaded, too stark, to describe what she says happened in that dressing room. She does not use the term in the book excerpt, published in 2019 in New York magazine, in which she first made her claim public. Per her account, the interaction began when she encountered Trump at Bergdorf Goodman. He told her that he wanted to buy clothes for someone else as a gift, she alleges, and asked her to try on his selection. As she writes in her excerpt:
The moment the dressing-room door is closed, he lunges at me, pushes me against the wall, hitting my head quite badly, and puts his mouth against my lips. … He seizes both my arms and pushes me up against the wall a second time, and, as I become aware of how large he is, he holds me against the wall with his shoulder and jams his hand under my coat dress and pulls down my tights.
She struggled against him, she alleges, as he raped her.
I am wearing a pair of sturdy black patent-leather four-inch Barneys high heels, which puts my height around six-one, and I try to stomp his foot. I try to push him off with my one free hand—for some reason, I keep holding my purse with the other—and I finally get a knee up high enough to push him out and off and I turn, open the door, and run out of the dressing room.
Not until Carroll told a friend about the alleged assault, she says in the deposition, did she find the language for it. “Lisa shocked me in the call,” Carroll says. “She told me I had been raped.”
“Had it occurred to you?” Trump’s lawyer Alina Habba asks.
“No,” Carroll replies.
[Read: The real meaning of Trump’s ‘she’s not my type’ defense]
Elsewhere in her deposition, Carroll explains her initial hesitance to go public with her claims. “Did you ever consider coming forward with your account prior to #MeToo?” Habba asks.
“Never,” Carroll replies.
“Just—I’m going to say something that even surprises me—because women who have been raped are looked at in this society as less, are looked at as spoiled goods, are looked at as rather dumb to let themselves get attacked. I mean, even you have to say, ‘Did you scream?’ I mean, every woman who admits to being attacked has to answer that question—‘Why didn’t you scream, why did you come forward when you did, why didn’t you come forward before?’ And so, no, I didn’t—I would have been fired.”
Carroll, throughout the deposition, acknowledges the cultural reality of rape: the suspicion placed on those who say it has happened to them, the impulse to blame them, the stigma that follows. Trump, by contrast, repeatedly describes her allegation as a mere political tactic—one more effort, waged by unnamed enemies, to take him down. He repeatedly attacks Carroll: In his testimony, he treats her mental fitness (“sick,” “really sick,” “sick, mentally”) as a refrain. He dismisses Carroll’s lawyer, Robbie Kaplan, as a political operative, and threatens to sue her. He threatens to sue Carroll as well (“I’ll be suing her very strongly”). He writes off Judge Kaplan (no relation to Carroll’s lawyer) as “not a fan of mine.” He returns to his favored role—the cable-TV critic—to analyze an appearance Carroll made on CNN, and thoroughly misrepresents the claims she made during the segment. At one point, he gets in a dig at Joe Biden. At another, via his dismissal of this publication’s report about Trump’s disparagement of Americans who died in war—“hoax,” “total hoax,” “failed magazine”—he gets in a dig at The Atlantic.
[Read: Trump: Americans who died in war are ‘losers’ and ‘suckers’]
It’s all extremely familiar: Distract, deflect, “flood the zone with shit.” The strategy has proved effective for him in the past, both when it comes to Carroll’s claims and when it comes to those of the other women—more than 20—who have accused him of sexual misconduct. (Trump has denied all of their claims.) It is the same tactic that Trump reportedly demanded of Brett Kavanaugh when the then–Supreme Court nominee was credibly accused of assault: Perform rage. Sell it. Make the indignation so incandescent that the heat of it consumes everything else.
But the pared-down scope of the trial will likely limit Trump’s ability to put his typical antics to use. The case will rest on a binary question: Did he rape Carroll, or didn’t he? The question is big and consequential. That helps explain why Trump has seemed to resist talking about it in straightforward terms. Robbie Kaplan, in the deposition, asks him about public statements he made about Carroll from 2019 to 2022. Carroll’s claim, Trump wrote in one of them, is that he “swooned her” in the dressing room.
“What does ‘swooned her’ mean?” Kaplan asks.
“That would be a word,” Trump replies, “maybe accurate or not, having to do with talking to her and talking [sic] her—to do an act that she said happened, which didn’t happen. And it’s a nicer word than the word that starts with an F, and this would be a word that I used because I thought it would be inappropriate to use the other word.”
Kaplan looked up swoon in the dictionary, she notes. Did Trump intend it to mean “to faint with extreme emotion”?
“Well, sort of that’s what … she said I did to her,” Trump replies. “She fainted with great emotion.”
That is manifestly not what Carroll says happened. But Trump’s evasion also acknowledges, in its way, the immensity of the assertions she has made. Swoon is simply not a word most people use—unless, that is, they are trying to avoid using another one.
Carroll’s defamation case against Trump preceded the current one: In denying her allegations so disparagingly and so personally, Carroll argued, the former president has harmed her reputation. That claim will hover over the trial as it moves forward this week. The proceeding itself, for that reason and others, will likely be particularly complicated, as lawyers struggle to find unbiased jury members and debate which evidence is admissible and which is beyond the trial’s scope. Still, the stakes of it all are painfully clear. The trial will make Carroll one of the few Trump accusers to have her day in court. And it will decide whether the man who has earned so many epithets over the years is deserving of one more: rapist.
Authors say scientist’s role was acknowledged at the time of discovery – contrary to popular narrative
In the story of how Francis Crick and James Watson discovered the structure of DNA, the popular narrative is one of skullduggery and deceit. But now researchers say there is a twist in the tale of the double helix.
It has long been held that Rosalind Franklin’s X-ray diffraction image known as Photo 51 was illicitly shown to Watson, revealing to him that DNA has a double helix and allowing him and his colleague Crick to deduce the structure and claim the glory.Continue reading…
was hoping its F-150 Lightning would be the next hot commodity in electric pickup trucks — but probably not like this.
New footage obtained by CNBC through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) shows a close-up look at the February fire that burned through several F-150 Lightnings at a holding lot in Michigan, in an alarming wake up call on Ford's quality control and the severe battery fires that seemingly plague EVs.
"Let's hope it doesn't blow up," said a police officer responding to the fire in the video. "The smoke is clear as day."
Photos obtained through a separate FOIA — which can be seen in the video below — show the set of three ruined F-150 Lightnings in the aftermath of fire, partially melted into the asphalt.
It's not clear how long the F-150 Lightnings burned, but EV fires are notorious for taking hours to extinguish.
According to CNBC, the fire originated from one pickup truck, which then spread to the two others. Ironically, the trucks were being held for a final quality check while charging — and they couldn't have failed in a more dramatic way.
As a result of the incident, Ford was forced to temporarily halt production of the Lightning. It also ended up recalling 18 of the vehicles, though the automaker previously stated it believed the issue didn't affect Lightnings that were already sold.
The root of the issue was blamed on faulty battery cells from South Korean manufacturer SK On, which Ford says short-circuited in the initial truck that caught fire. Ford and SK On have "swiftly implemented quality actions," the automaker told CNBC in a statement, clarifying that it resumed production of the Lightning on March 13.
Even if Ford claims to have the issue under control, it's hard to deny how terrifying a problem EV battery fires can be. While it's unclear if EVs are any more prone to combusting than internal combustion engine-powered vehicles, it's undeniable that when they do go up in flames, they prove to be almost uncontrollable, and a menace even to firefighters.
"We're not putting this fucker out. Look at it," said a first responder to the fire, as quoted by CNBC. "They have to put like a whole fucking lake on it to put them out."
Not only are EV battery fires exceptionally intense, but they're incredibly difficult to extinguish as well. The lithium-ion cells that make up the battery are replete with flammable materials like graphite, and the cathodes therein release more oxygen the longer a fire burns. In short, the fires are self-sustaining, allowing them to burn for hours upon hours, and in some cases can re-ignite days — and even weeks — later.
Clearly, if Ford's EVs — and perhaps EVs at large — are going to catch on with a skeptical public, they'll have to stop dramatically catching on fire.
More on EVs: Biden to Propose Extreme Car Pollution Limits to Drive Up EV Sales
The post Footage Shows Three Ford F-150 Electric Trucks Burning appeared first on Futurism.
- MIT engineers have designed a new nanoparticle sensor that could enable early diagnosis of cancer with a simple urine test.
Utmattning, ett tidigt tecken på utbrändhet, rapporterades under pandemin av nästan en femtedel av tillfrågad personal inom kvinno- och nyföddhetsvård. Det framgår av en studie från Göteborgs universitet.
Inlägget Många utmattade i kvinno- och nyföddhetsvården under pandemin dök först upp på forskning.se.
What exactly are we giving them?
If you spend any time on the internet, you’re likely now familiar with the gray-and-teal screenshots of AI-generated text. At first they were meant to illustrate ChatGPT’s surprising competence at generating human-sounding prose, and then to demonstrate the occasionally unsettling answers that emerged once the general public could bombard it with prompts. OpenAI, the organization that is developing the tool, describes one of its biggest problems this way: “ChatGPT sometimes writes plausible-sounding but incorrect or nonsensical answers.” In layman’s terms, the chatbot makes stuff up. As similar services, such as Google’s Bard, have rushed their tools into public testing, their screenshots have demonstrated the same capacity for fabricating people, historical events, research citations, and more, and for rendering those falsehoods in the same confident, tidy prose.
This apparently systemic penchant for inaccuracy is especially worrisome, given tech companies’ intent to integrate these tools into search engines as soon as possible. But a bigger problem might lie in a different aspect of AI’s outputs—more specifically, in the polite, businesslike, serenely insipid way that the chatbots formulate their responses. This is the prose style of office work and email jobs, of by-the-book corporate publicists and
influencers with private-school MBAs. The style sounds the same—pleasant, measured, authoritative—no matter whether the source (be it human or computer) is trying to be helpful or lying through their teeth or not saying anything coherent at all.
[Read: AI search is a disaster]
In the United States, this is the writing style of institutional authority, and AI chatbots are so far exquisitely capable of replicating its voice, while delivering information that is patently unreliable. On a practical level, this will pose challenges for people who must navigate a world with this kind of technology suddenly thrust into it. Our mental shortcuts used for evaluating communicative credibility on the fly have always been less than perfect, and the very nature of the internet already makes such judgment calls more difficult and necessary. AI could make them nearly impossible.
ChatGPT and its ilk are built using what are known as large language models, or LLMs. That means they hoover up very large quantities of written language online and then, very crudely speaking, analyze that data set to determine which words would likely be assembled in which order to create a successful response. They generate text that’s been optimized for plausibility, not for truthfulness. Being right isn’t the goal, at least not now; sounding right is. For any particular query, there are many more answers that sound right than answers that are true. LLMs aren’t intentionally lying—they are not alive, and cannot produce results meaningfully similar to human thought. And they haven’t been created to mislead their users. The chatbots do, after all, frequently generate answers that are both plausible and correct, even though any veracity is incidental. They are, in other words, masters of bullshit—persuasive speech whose essence “is just this lack of connection to a concern with truth—this indifference to how things really are,” the philosopher Harry Frankfurt wrote in his book-length essay on this sort of rhetoric.
[Read: Elon Musk, baloney king]
What LLMs are currently capable of producing is industrially scaled, industrial-grade bullshit. That’s troublesome for many reasons, not least of which is that humans have enough trouble discerning the age-old artisanal variety. Every human is required to make a zillion tiny decisions every day about whether some notion they’re presented with should be believed, and rarely do they have the opportunity or desire to stop, gather all the relevant information, and reason those decisions from first principles. To do so would pretty much halt human interaction as we know it, and even trying would make you pretty annoying.
So people instead rely on cognitive heuristics, which are little shortcuts that, in this case, help tip us toward belief or disbelief in situations where the full facts are unknown or unknowable. When you take medical advice from your doctor, you’ve employed an authority heuristic, which assigns trust in sources you believe have specialized knowledge and expertise. When you decide that something is probably true because it’s become the consensus among your family and friends, that’s the bandwagon heuristic at work. Even the best heuristics aren’t perfect: Your doctor might disbelieve your reported symptoms and misdiagnose you, or your social circle might be riddled with people who think the Earth is flat. But according to Miriam Metzger, a professor at UC Santa Barbara who studies how people evaluate credibility online, many of these shortcuts are, on balance, largely sound and extremely useful. Most people in most situations, for example, would be well served to listen to their doctor instead of taking medical advice from their weird cousin.
The growth of the internet has posed all kinds of issues for the accurate use of credibility heuristics, Metzger told me. There are too many potential sources of information vying directly for your attention, and too few ways to evaluate those sources or their motives quickly. Now your weird cousin is posting things on Facebook—and so are all of his weird friends, and their friends too. “The digital environment gives us a vastness of information in which it’s just harder for consumers to know who and what to trust,” Metzger said. “It’s put more of the burden on individuals to make their own credibility assessment practically every time they are confronted with new information.”
In the United States, this informational fragmentation is usually seen through the lens of politics, but it has also seeped into more mundane parts of life. On the internet, everyone can theoretically access expertise on everything. This freedom has some huge upsides, especially for people trying to solve small, manageable problems: There are enough instructional YouTube videos and Reddit threads to make you into your own travel agent, mechanic, plumber, and physical therapist. In many other scenarios, though, making judgment calls on the internet’s conglomeration of questionably sourced knowledge and maybe-faux expertise can have real consequences. We often don’t have anywhere near the information we’d need to evaluate a source’s credibility, and when that happens, we generally start rummaging through our bag of heuristics until we find one that works with whatever context we do have. What we end up with might just be the fluency heuristic—which is to say, the sense that certain patterns of communication are inherently credible.
In mainstream American culture, good grammar, accurate spelling, and a large and varied vocabulary free of expletives, slurs, or slang are all prerequisites for credibility, and a lack of them can be used to discredit challengers to existing authority and malign people with less education or different cultural backgrounds. This heuristic also can be easily used against the people who employ it: The more the phishing email looks and sounds like real communication from your bank, the more accounts scammers get to drain.
This is where the tidy, professional corporate-speak of well-trained LLMs has serious potential to cause informational chaos, Metzger said. Among other sources, the best AIs are trained on editorial content from major media organizations, archives of academic research, and troves of government and legal documents, according to a recent report by The Washington Post. These are just the type of source that would employ a precise and highly educated communication style. ChatGPT and other chatbots like it are text-generation machines that make up facts and sever information from its source. They are also authority-simulation machines that discourage readers from ever doubting them in the first place.
As SpaceX's Starship took to the skies last week during its inaugural launch, its Super Heavy booster inflicted untold damage to the launch pad below, blasting through layers of concrete and dredging up watery folds of the Earth.
Photos of the aftermath stand as testament to the sheer forces generated by the most powerful rocket ever made — but they may also indicate that SpaceX and its CEO Elon Musk didn't do their due diligence in preparing the launchpad.
One viral image shows the concrete forming the topmost layer of the launchpad almost completely blown away, leaving behind only a skeleton of deformed rebar. Gaping beneath is a massive crater, where water can be seen flooding its moldering interior.
The saving grace is that despite the massive damage below, the launch tower remains mostly intact.
Overall, it's more damage than what SpaceX engineers — or at least their CEO — were anticipating.
Leading up to the launch date, Musk shared the mission's "low" bar for success: "Just don't blow up the launchpad," he said in a live Twitter Spaces session, as quoted by Insider.
After Starship's launch, when it became immediately clear that the launchpad was anything but intact, Musk soon gave his tentative analysis.
"The engines when they throttled up may have shattered the concrete, rather than simply eroding it," he said in a tweet on Friday.
"We wrongly thought, based on static fire data, that [the concrete] would make it through one launch," he added.
Ambitiously, the CEO wagered that SpaceX could launch again in one to two months, but some experts have estimated that it will take at least several months or longer.
Given the timelines involved, it could end up being a costly setback for SpaceX, as NASA is hoping to use the Starship launch system during its crewed Artemis 3 mission to the lunar surface as soon as 2025.
It's got to sting, then, that the massive damage may have been avoided had Musk decided to wait and implement a few precautions that are widely used in other big rocket launches, as some are arguing.
One common solution, as experts have noted, would be a flame diverter or trench of some kind, that redirects the rocket exhaust and its massive acoustic energy away from damaging the vehicle and the launchpad. Ironically, in 2020, Musk tweeted that SpaceX was "aspiring to have no flame diverter," adding that "this could turn out to be a mistake."
Another would be a water deluge system, which uses water to dampen heat and acoustic energy — something that SpaceX has been flirting with. According to Musk, SpaceX started building a "massive water-cooled, steel plate to go under the launch mount," he said in a tweet, but that it "wasn't ready in time."
Other heavy lift systems, like NASA's powerful Space Launch System, and SpaceX's very own Falcon 9 rocket, use either flame diverters or water deluge systems, according to SpaceFlight Now.
To make matters worse, the blowback from the lack of dampening extended far beyond solely damaging the launchpad. Just ask the residents of a nearby city, who were engulfed by a billowing cloud of dust and grime kicked up by the launch, plus a shattered window for good measure.
The inadequate launchpad could even be responsible for significant damage to Starship itself, as some have theorized, including popular YouTuber and rocket scientist Scott Manley in a recent video.
The unconfirmed theory goes that the concrete and dirt blasted into the air by the powerful rocket may have struck and damaged some of Starship's engines, which could explain why at least three appeared to have failed just seconds after liftoff, as seen in the live broadcast. This cascaded into what onlookers witnessed and what SpaceX has since confirmed: the expendable Super Heavy booster, short a few engines, failed to separate from the Starship spacecraft and began losing altitude. SpaceX, in turn, ordered the rocket's self-destruction.
The aerospace company, however, has yet to comment on whether concrete impacts were partially responsible for the engine failure.
Still, despite Starship exploding, the launch has been mostly hailed by experts and fans as a success. Above all, it's been framed as a necessary "learning experience," in the words of former NASA official Daniel Dumbacher, speaking to The New York Times.
But on the other hand, it's fairly standard procedure to include some sort of flame diverter or water deluge system for large rocket launches, Eric Roesch, an environmental compliance and risk assessment expert, told the publication, which makes it all the more puzzling why SpaceX completely forewent including either solutions.
All told, it's a hard-learned lesson, but the data gathered from the inaugural flight, whether you view it as a success or failure, will undoubtedly prove invaluable for exciting launches in the hopefully near future.
More on SpaceX: Video Shows Falling Starship Debris Smashing a Minivan
The post Starship Launch Absolutely Wrecked SpaceX's Facilities, Photos Show appeared first on Futurism.
California’s superblooms are amazing, but also fragile. Researchers have guidance for how to preserve the native flowers and landscape for the future.
“Superblooms are difficult to manage because they don’t occur every year,” says Joan Dudney, an assistant professor in the University of California, Santa Barbara’s Environmental Studies Program and Bren School of Environmental Science & Management.
Superblooms tend to occur when conditions are wet following one or more dry years that have suppressed invasive grasses. As a result, public use is hard to predict and can easily overwhelm the limited resources of management agencies. Case in point: At Walker Canyon Ecological Reserve in Riverside County, there were so many visitors during the last superbloom that the state decided to temporarily close it this spring.
In remote places, hiking off trails isn’t going to destroy the wildflowers forever since seeds can lie dormant in the soil for many years. “However, in highly visited locations, so many people walk off trail that within a few weeks, only a few patches of wildflowers remain,” says ecologist Loralee Larios, an assistant professor at UC Riverside. With heavily compacted soils and fewer flowers to produce seed, these places will likely degrade. That means fewer flowers will return during the next potential superbloom.
In order to continue enjoying superblooms in the future, the researchers say, we need to encourage behaviors and develop management approaches that reduce the likelihood of park closures and increase the likelihood of more flowers.
Strategies that reduce human impacts, particularly in high use areas, are critical. “These strategies may include limiting visitors, creating a paid reservation system, or providing more seasonal staff to run interpretive programs,” says Dudney. It could also involve developing a rotation of fields where photographers can wander freely during each superbloom. Dudney notes that this will require time, financial resources, and careful strategy, but will be necessary to sustain superblooms in highly trafficked areas.
Dudney, Larios, and UC Santa Barbara professor Carla D’Antonio have a few tips for those venturing into the flowers this year. These small actions add up, minimizing our impact on the landscape and allowing more visitors to enjoy these beautiful spaces for many years to come:
- Stay on designated trails. If there isn’t one, then follow in others’ footsteps.
- Avoid picking wildflowers. If one person starts, more will follow.
- Pack-out trash.
- Park in designated areas.
- Follow signs and restrictions. There are endangered species in some of these places.
Learning how to identify the flowers can promote a deeper connection to these spectacular landscapes. Dudney and Larios recommend downloading the apps Seek and iNaturalist, which can help even the most casual visitor with on-the-spot identification.
Those interested in direct action, they add, can plant native wildflowers on their own property, volunteer with local non-profits restoring native species, or consider supporting the parks, agencies, and organizations who have cared for these places for decades.
Ultimately, says Dudney, enjoyment looks different for different people. For some it’s capturing the perfect family photo. For others, it’s contrasting white, billowing dresses against the dense, orange poppies. For researchers and conservationists, it’s appreciating these places from designated trails.
“We wouldn’t be awash in wildflowers this spring if it weren’t for conservationists who pushed to protect these open spaces,” Dudney says. “But to enjoy them for years to come, we need to develop more sustainable approaches that enable different kinds of wildflower enthusiasts to wander in awe at the intensity and diversity of flowers on display.”
Source: UC Santa Barbara
to protect California’s superblooms appeared first on Futurity.
Computer simulations have helped researchers understand in detail how pharmaceutically active substances cross cell membranes.
These findings can now be used to discover new drug candidates more efficiently.
There is a need for new drugs. For example, many of the antibiotics that we have been using for a long time are becoming less effective. Chemists and pharmaceutical scientists are frantically searching for new active substances, especially those that can penetrate cell membranes, as these are the only ones that patients can take orally in the form of a tablet or syrup.
Only these active ingredients pass through the intestinal wall in the small intestine and enter the bloodstream to reach the affected area in the body. For active ingredients that cannot penetrate the cell membrane, physicians have no choice but to inject them directly into the bloodstream.
That is why researchers are trying to understand which molecules can penetrate cell membranes and how exactly they do this. For one important and promising class of substances—cyclic peptides—chemists at ETH Zurich have now decoded additional details of the relevant mechanism.
“The more we know about this mechanism and the properties a molecule must have, the earlier and more effectively researchers can take this into account when developing new drugs,” says Sereina Riniker, a professor in the chemistry and applied biosciences department who led the study.
Cyclic peptides are ring-shaped molecules that are much larger than the small molecules that make up the majority of today’s drugs. In some areas of application, however, chemists and pharmaceutical scientists are coming up against their limits with small molecules, which is why they are turning to larger molecules like the cyclic peptides. This substance class includes many pharmaceutically active natural substances, such as cyclosporine, an immunosuppressant that for decades has been used after organ transplants, and many antibiotics.
Using computer modeling and a lot of supercomputer power, Riniker and her colleagues were able to elucidate how cyclic peptides similar to cyclosporine cross a membrane.
“Only modeling allows us such detailed, high-resolution insights, as there are no experiments that would let us observe an individual molecule crossing a membrane,” Riniker says.
To understand the mechanism, one must know how cyclic peptides are structured: they consist of a central ring structure to which side chains are attached. The molecules are flexible and can dynamically change their structure to adapt to their environment.
Riniker’s simulations reveal in detail how a cyclic peptide penetrates the membrane: First, the molecule anchor itself to the membrane’s surface, before penetrating it perpendicular to the membrane. It then changes its three-dimensional shape while passing through, rotating once about its longitudinal axis before reaching the other side of the membrane, where it exits again.
These changes in shape have to do with the different environments the molecule experiences as it moves through the membrane: The body consists largely of water. Both inside and outside of cells, biochemical molecules are mostly present in aqueous solution. Cell membranes, on the other hand, are made up of fatty acids, so water-repellent conditions prevail within them.
“To enable it to cross the membrane, the cyclic peptide changes its three-dimensional shape to briefly become as hydrophobic as possible,” Riniker explains.
For the present study, the researchers investigated eight different cyclic peptides. These are model peptides with no medicinal effect—scientists at pharmaceutical giant Novartis developed them for basic research, which is why Riniker also collaborated with Novartis researchers for this study.
The new findings can now be used in discovering cyclic peptides as new drug candidates. However, Riniker points out a certain trade-off: there are side chains that provide ideal conditions for cyclic peptides to anchor to the membrane surface, but that make it difficult for the peptides to cross the membrane.
This new knowledge helps researchers to give advance thought to which side chains they want to use and where on the molecule they are most helpful. All of this could speed up drug discovery and development by ensuring right from the outset that researchers are investigating potential active ingredients that can eventually be taken as a tablet.
The research appears in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.
Source: ETH Zurich
The post How do drugs get into the blood? appeared first on Futurity.
In March 2018 at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, surrounded by his devoted keepers, Sudan the northern white rhino breathed his last. He wasn’t the only remaining northern white rhino because three females in protective captivity survived him. But Sudan’s death ended any hope of those females breeding naturally and rendered the northern white rhino effectively extinct.
- The merger comes as Alphabet leadership is increasingly nervous about the prospect of competitors overtaking it in AI.
- Google Brain and DeepMind join forces
Can you imagine a car company putting a new vehicle on the market without built-in safety features? Unlikely, isn’t it? But what AI companies are doing is a bit like releasing race cars without seatbelts or fully working brakes, and figuring things out as they go.
This approach is now getting them in trouble. For example, OpenAI is facing investigations by European and Canadian data protection authorities for the way it collects personal data and uses it in its popular chatbot ChatGPT. Italy has temporarily banned ChatGPT, and OpenAI has until the end of this week to comply with Europe’s strict data protection regime, the GDPR. But in my story last week, experts told me it will likely be impossible for the company to comply, because of the way data for AI is collected: by hoovering up content off the internet.
The breathless pace of development means data protection regulators need to be prepared for another scandal like
Analytica, says Wojciech Wiewiórowski, the EU’s data watchdog.
Wiewiórowski is the European data protection supervisor, and he is a powerful figure. His role is to hold the EU accountable for its own data protection practices, monitor the cutting edge of technology, and help coordinate enforcement around the union. I spoke with him about the lessons we should learn from the past decade in tech, and what Americans need to understand about the EU’s data protection philosophy. Here’s what he had to say.
What tech companies should learn: That products should have privacy features designed into them from the beginning. However, “it’s not easy to convince the companies that they should take on privacy-by-design models when they have to deliver very fast,” he says. Cambridge Analytica remains the best lesson in what can happen if companies cut corners when it comes to data protection, says Wiewiórowski. The company, which became one of Facebook’s biggest publicity scandals, had scraped the personal data of tens of millions of Americans from their Facebook accounts in an attempt to influence how they voted. It’s only a matter of time until we see another scandal, he adds.
What Americans need to understand about the EU’s data protection philosophy: “The European approach is connected with the purpose for which you use the data. So when you change the purpose for which the data is used, and especially if you do it against the information that you provide people with, you are in breach of law,” he says. Take Cambridge Analytica. The biggest legal breach was not that the company collected data, but that it claimed to be collecting data for scientific purposes and quizzes, and then used it for another purpose—mainly to create political profiles of people. This is a point made by data protection authorities in Italy, which have temporarily banned ChatGPT there. Authorities claim that OpenAI collected the data it wanted to use illegally, and did not tell people how it intended to use it.
Does regulation stifle innovation? This is a common claim among technologists. Wiewiórowski says the real question we should be asking is: Are we really sure that we want to give companies unlimited access to our personal data? “I don’t think that the regulations … are really stopping innovation. They are trying to make it more civilized,” he says. The GDPR, after all, protects not only personal data but also trade and the free flow of data over borders.
Big Tech’s hell on Earth? Europe is not the only one playing hardball with tech. As I reported last week, the White House is mulling rules for AI accountability, and the Federal Trade Commission has even gone as far as demanding that companies delete their algorithms and any data that may have been collected and used illegally, as happened to Weight Watchers in 2022. Wiewiórowski says he is happy to see President Biden call on tech companies to take more responsibility for their products’ safety and finds it encouraging that US policy thinking is converging with European efforts to prevent AI risks and put companies on the hook for harms. “One of the big players on the tech market once said, ‘The definition of hell is European legislation with American enforcement,’” he says.
Read more on ChatGPT
The inside story of how ChatGPT was built from the people who made it
How OpenAI is trying to make ChatGPT safer and less biased
ChatGPT is everywhere. Here’s where it came from.
ChatGPT is about to revolutionize the economy. We need to decide what that looks like.
ChatGPT is going to change education, not destroy it
Learning to code isn’t enough
The past decade has seen a slew of nonprofit initiatives that aim to teach kids coding. This year North Carolina is considering making coding a high school graduation requirement. The state follows in the footsteps of five others with similar policies that consider coding and computer education fundamental to a well-rounded education: Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Nebraska. Advocates for such policies contend that they expand educational and economic opportunities for students.
No panacea: Initiatives aiming to get people to become more competent at tech have existed since the 1960s. But these programs, and many that followed, often benefited the populations with the most power in society. Then as now, just learning to code is neither a pathway to a stable financial future for people from economically precarious backgrounds nor a panacea for the inadequacies of the educational system. Read more from Joy Lisi Rankin.
BITS AND BYTES
Inside the secret list of websites that make AI like ChatGPT sound smart
Essential reading for anyone interested in making AI more responsible. We have a very limited understanding of what goes into the vast data sets behind AI systems, but this story sheds a light on where the data for AI comes from and what kinds of biases come with it. (The Washington Post)
Google Brain and DeepMind join forces
Alphabet has merged its two AI research units into one mega unit, now called Google DeepMind. The merger comes as Alphabet leadership is increasingly nervous about the prospect of competitors overtaking it in AI. DeepMind has been behind some of the most exciting AI breakthroughs of the past decade, and integrating its research deeper into Google products could help the company gain an advantage.
Google Bard can now be used to code
Google has rolled out a new feature that lets people use its chatbot Bard to generate, debug, and explain code, much like Microsoft’s GitHub copilot.
Some say ChatGPT shows glimpses of AGI in ChatGPT. Others call it a mirage
Microsoft researchers caused a stir when they released a paper arguing that ChatGPT showed signs of artificial general intelligence. This is a nice writeup of the different ways researchers are trying to understand intelligence in machines, and how challenging it is. (Wired)
Nature, Published online: 25 April 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-01354-wSnippets from Nature’s past.
In his new book, Nicholas Mirzoeff explains how visual culture has upheld white supremacy—through art, monuments, and surveillance—and offers ways to dismantle it.
The phrase “white supremacy” can evoke images of the Charlottesville rally, Confederate monuments, and police brutality. But what if white supremacy is also perpetuated through classic works of art, face masks, or drones?
According to Nicholas Mirzoeff, professor at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, all of these things fall under the purview of “white sight”—a system that centers the experience of those identifying as white onto the world, and positions whiteness as the default. Mirzoeff’s scholarship has addressed media depictions and related visuals of subjects including the Black Lives Matter movement and the Iraq War.
In White Sight: Visual Politics and Practices of Whiteness (MIT Press, 2023), Mirzoeff suggests that throughout the centuries, cultural icons such as sculptures of Apollo Belvedere and Venus de Milo contributed to a concept of beauty equated with whiteness, while Confederate monuments served to equate whiteness with power. These symbols, along with modern-day surveillance and the policing of non-white people, work together to reinforce a culture in which whiteness is upheld within a racialized hierarchy as “superior.”
If unchecked, Mirzoeff warns, the crisis of white supremacy will threaten social justice advancements on a global scale. Here, Mirzoeff talks about the evolution of white visual culture, present-day efforts to perpetuate white supremacy, and ways to dismantle oppression:
The post How ‘white sight’ perpetuates white supremacy appeared first on Futurity.
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Scientific Reports, Published online: 25 April 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-32201-7Author Correction: Microbial community shift on artificial biological reef structures (ABRs) deployed in the South China Sea
The enormous expense of these rockets could have been spent on addressing the many crises that we face on our fragile planet
One strong argument in favor of heavily taxing the super-rich is that billionaires so often seem to have profoundly misguided ideas about how to spend their money. They waste it on solid gold toilets, or – like the Sacklers and the Russian oligarchs supporting Putin’s war – they use it to do harm. Most commonly, they fund wildly expensive vanity projects that gratify their egos while solidifying their position as masters of the universe who are socially, economically and physically insulated from the rest of us.
Among the most ambitious and widely publicized of these programs is the spaceport, SpaceX, that Elon Musk has built in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley, not far from the Mexican border. Musk founded Space Exploration technologies in 2002. His stated aim is to produce rocket ships capable of transporting a hundred passengers and large amounts of supplies and equipment into outer space – to explore the moon and eventually, Musk hopes, to colonize Mars. The first Falcon 1 rockets were tested in 2006. Twenty-six rockets have been launched in 2023 alone.
Francine Prose is a former president of Pen American Center and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and SciencesContinue reading…