Nature Communications, Published online: 16 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-41446-9The performance of membrane desalination of seawater is hampered by fouling. Here the authors develop smart gating hybrid membranes by surface coating with polymer-embedded thermosalient crystals. These membranes enhance pure water flux by over 40% in saltwater desalination by osmotic distillation.
Staying In Lane
Way back in 2015,
CEO Elon Musk would frequently give his engineers an earful after his car company's infamous Autopilot driver assistance tech nearly got him killed during test drives on multiple occasions — though there's a chance its dangerous behavior may have been due to Musk's stubbornness on how the technology should be built.
The scoop comes from Walter Isaacson's new biography of the tech magnate, simply titled "Elon Musk." Per its chapter on the launch of the driver assistance tech, Musk would learn firsthand that a curve on Interstate 405 caused Autopilot, thrown off by the road's faded lane lines, to steer into and "almost hit" oncoming traffic.
Whenever this happened, Musk would "furiously" storm into the Tesla office and proceed to chew out his engineers.
"Do something to program this right," he repeatedly demanded, as quoted in the biography.
But if Musk wanted safer software, he perhaps should've listened to his engineers, who have frequently petitioned over the years to incorporate what's known as light detection and ranging technology, or LiDAR.
LiDAR is essentially radar that uses light instead of sound, and Tesla's competitors, including Google's Waymo, have long leveraged it to help their autonomous cars "see."
Musk, however, has insisted that Tesla's cars only use optical sensors, likening it to how humans primarily use their eyes to drive, according to the biography, and as such, he's been tepid on using plain old radar, too.
As well as being a matter of arbitrary principle to him, there's also the matter of cost: ditching LiDAR makes manufacturing cheaper, according to Musk.
Many of his engineers weren't on board with that thinking.
"There was just such a gulf between Elon's goal and the possible," Tesla senior vice president Andrew Baglino told Isaacson. "He just wasn't aware of the challenges."
"We're trying to have those conversations with Elon to establish what the sensors would need to do," Baglino added. "And they were really difficult conversations, because he kept coming back to the fact that people have just two eyes and they can drive the car."
"We told Elon that it was best safety-wise to use it … but it was clear that he thought we should eventually be able to rely on camera vision only, "one young engineer who joined in 2014 recalled, as quoted in the biography.
Clearly, nothing was getting through to Musk. It was only his chief of staff Sam Teller that was able to appease his CEO's complaints. He came up with a simple solution: getting the lane lines repainted on that pesky curve — which of course, didn't actually address the underlying problem.
"After that, Musk's Autopilot handled the curve well," Isaacson wrote.
The post Elon Musk Stormed Into the Tesla Office Furious That Autopilot Tried to Kill Him appeared first on Futurism.
I don't understand why the Causal Layered Analysis (CLI) approach, created and championed by Sohail Inayatullah, has been embraced as a Futures Study methodology by the global FS community. I have ten years experience in corporate/government environments and am familiar with both Strategic Planning and Futures Studies.
CLI is Strategic Planning and is not Futures Studies. Futures Studies is a methodology to "attempt to predict the future based on extrapolation from present day trends". Strategic Planning is "a process in which an organization's leaders define their vision for the future and identify their organization's goals and objectives." These are two very different things.
I have read a number of papers on CLI and watched Sohail Inayatullah's videos and the case studies he provides are 100% clearly examples of Strategic Planning. Has he pulled the wool over everyone's eyes or is there something I'm missing here? The only thing I can think of is that many private and public sector clients have been very shy to embrace FS so he has relabeled and repackaged Strategic Planning as Futures Studies so that it is palatable to his target clientele. But why would the international FS community fall for this? Same reason as Sohail? Follow the money?
If anyone else has any thoughts on why the international FS community has embraced CLI as a methodology, instead of distancing themselves from it, I'd be interested to hear them.
🌍 The World is Changing, Are We Ready?
Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) is no longer the stuff of sci-fi. It's here, it's real, and it's transforming our world at an unprecedented pace. But as we marvel at these advancements, there's an elephant in the room that we can no longer afford to ignore: the displacement of human labor and the economic upheaval that accompanies it.
🤖 AGI: The Double-Edged Sword
AGI has the potential to be humanity's greatest ally. It can solve complex problems, advance medical research, and improve our quality of life in countless ways. But there's a flip side: job displacement. As machines become capable of performing tasks once exclusive to humans, we must ask ourselves: What becomes of the workforce?
💡 Universal Basic Income: The Inevitable Companion to AGI
Here's where Universal Basic Income (UBI) comes in. UBI isn't a new idea, but it's one whose time has come. No longer should we ask "if" we implement UBI, but "how much" should it be. As AGI takes on more roles, UBI can serve as the safety net that allows human creativity and ingenuity to flourish, free from the shackles of economic uncertainty.
🗳️ It Takes a Village, or Rather, the World
Change starts with awareness, and awareness starts with YOU. We need a societal shift, a collective agreement that human life has intrinsic value beyond labor. Policymakers, entrepreneurs, and ordinary citizens—it's time for all of us to advocate for a future where technology serves humanity, not the other way around.
✊ Let's Make Noise
The urgency is palpable. The need is immediate. If not now, when? Share this message, discuss it, question it—do whatever it takes to bring UBI into the forefront of our collective consciousness.
It's time for the whispers to become a roar.
Scientific Reports, Published online: 16 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-42740-8Exploring the effect of pain on response to reward loss in calves
Scientific Reports, Published online: 16 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-42517-zEnhancement of Doppler spectroscopy to transverse direction by using optical vortex
With worrying mutations, limited vaccine rollout, vastly reduced testing and a creaking health service, experts are predicting a tough few months ahead
“New variant”, “care home outbreak”, “cases rising”: you’d be forgiven if the headlines around Pirola, or BA.2.86, the latest
strain to arrive in the UK, had triggered a severe case of pandemic deja vu. More than two years since the UK’s last lockdown, concerns over BA.2.86 – known to have infected dozens of people in the UK as of last weekend, including 28 at a Norfolk care home – have been rising. The worry is over what is “the most striking Sars-CoV-2 strain the world has witnessed since the emergence of Omicron”, according to Francois Balloux, professor of computational systems biology and director of the University College London Genetics Institute.
That Omicron outbreak resulted in almost half of all
getting infected with Covid last year, and we may be facing a repeat performance at what scientists say is the worst possible time. With temperatures falling (colder climes help the virus to thrive), schools and universities returning to large-scale indoor mixing – and at the outset of flu season – the overall rise in
is already “translating to hospitalisations and deaths, increased NHS pressure, as well as more than a million suffering from long-term health problems under the umbrella term long Covid”, says Stephen Griffin, professor of cancer virology at the University of Leeds and a member of Independent Sage. “The NHS is buckling from continued underfunding and staff shortages.”Continue reading…
Nature Communications, Published online: 16 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-41511-3GGGGCC repeat expansion in the
Story of the Week
Humans Have Crossed 6 of 9 ‘Planetary Boundaries’
Scientists analyzed nine so-called planetary boundaries and found humans are currently transgressing six
Human activity is turning Earth into a world that may no longer adequately support the societies we’ve built, scientists warn in a new study charting whether and by how much we have surpassed nine “planetary boundaries.”
The analysis builds on a 2009 paper that first outlined nine planetary constraints that keep Earth’s environment similar to that of the world humans lived in during the preindustrial portion of the Holocene epoch. This period lasted for about the past 10,000 years, until the industrial revolution began and humans started burning large amounts of fossil fuels and sending heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. In the new research, published on Wednesday in Science Advances, researchers raise the alarm about what the potential consequences of this departure from humans’ baseline might be.
“It’s like blood pressure,” says Katherine Richardson, an earth systems scientist at the University of Copenhagen, who led the new research. “If your blood pressure is over 120 over 80, it’s not a guarantee that you’re going to have a heart attack, but it does raise the risk, and therefore we do what we can to bring it down.”
The new study marks the second update since the 2009 paper and the first time scientists have included numerical guideposts for each boundary—a very significant development. “What is novel about this paper is: it’s the first time that all nine boundaries have been quantified,” says Rak Kim, an environmental social scientist at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, who wasn’t involved in the new study.
Click here to access the entire article as originally posted on the Scientific
Humans Have Crossed 6 of 9 ‘Planetary Boundaries’ Scientists analyzed nine so-called planetary boundaries and found humans are currently transgressing six by Meghan Bartels, Environment, Scientific American, Sep 13, 2023
Articles posted on Facebook
Sunday, Sep 10, 2023
- To keep workers going in the heat, companies try fledgling cooling tech The cooling-gear industry has grown as temperatures have risen. Whether it all works is another question. by Jacob Bogage, Washington Post, Sep 8, 2023
- World isn’t moving fast enough to cut pollution and keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius, UN scorecard says by Ella Nilsen, CNN, Sep 8, 2023
- UN Puts Out 'Truly Damning Report Card' for Climate Action Before Global Summits "This report is a wake-up call to the injustice of the climate crisis and a pivotal opportunity to correct course," said one expert. by Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams, Sep 8, 2023
- As the Colorado River Declines, Some Upstream Look to Use it Before They Lose it As states negotiate future water cuts, some officials are looking to build new dams and reservoirs in the Upper Basin of the overallocated Colorado River to use more water. by Wyatt Myskaw, Justice, Inside Climate News, Sep 10, 2023
Monday, Sep 11, 2023
- Corals, mangroves unlikely to survive if global warming exceeds 2 deg C: Study by Cheryl Tan, The Straits Times (Singapore), Sep 10, 2023
- Skeptical Science New Research for Week #36 2023 by Doug Bostrom & Marc Kodac, Skeptical Science, Sep 11, 2023
- Experts Warn of ‘Denialism Comeback’ Ahead of November’s Global Climate Talks Even amid a disaster-filled summer marked by record heat, climate misinformation continues to spread online at alarming rates. Some experts fear it could slow progress at COP28. by Kristoffer Tigue, Today;s Climate, Inside Climate News, Sep 8, 2023
- Where Dangerous Heat Is Surging by Niko Kommenda, Shannon Osaka, Simon Ducroquet & Veronica Penney, The Human Limit, Climate, Washington Post, Sep 5, 2023
Tuesday, Sep 12, 2023
- Absolutely Devastating News': Antarctica Warming Quicker Than Models Projected The new study's lead author said that "it is extremely concerning to see such significant warming in Antarctica, beyond natural variability." by Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams, Sep 8, 2023
- Betting against worst-case climate scenarios is risky business by David Spratt, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Sep 4, 2023
- At least 2,000 dead and 10,000 believed missing in Libya as ‘catastrophic’ flooding breaks dams and sweeps away homes by Hamdi Alkhshali, Mostafa Salem & Kareem El Damanhoury, Africa, CNN, Sep 12, 2023
- At a glance – Does cold weather disprove global warming? by John Mason & Baerbel Winkler, Skeptical Science, Sep 12, 2023
- How is climate change impacting hurricane season? It’s complicated by Jessica McKenzie, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Sep 7, 2023
Wednesday, Sep 13, 2023
- Stop calling people ‘climate refugees’ by Kalia Ruth Barkai, Climate Home News, Sep 11, 2023
- How scientists test whether humans are causing our extreme weather by Meeri Kim, Science, Washington Post, Sep 22, 2023
- The world’s biggest carbon capture facility is being built in Texas. Will it work? The plant will inject 500,000 tons of carbon dioxide into the ground each year – but is it just greenwashing from big oil? by Oliver Milman, Environment, The Guardian, Sep 12, 2023
- What it’s like to sue the government over climate change (she won) An interview with 22-year-old Rikki Held, the lead plaintiff in a successful landmark case in Montana., Interview by Bridgett Ennis, Yale Climate Connections, Aug 29, 2023
Thursday, Sep 14, 2023
- G20 agrees to pursue tripling renewables capacity but stop short of major goals by Shivam Patel, Sustainability, Reuters, Sep 9, 2023
- US behind more than a third of global oil and gas expansion plans, report finds Study highlights conflict between Washington’s claims of climate leadership and its fossil fuel growth plans by Fiona Harvey, Environment, The Guardian, Sep 12, 2023
- Summer 2023 was the hottest on record – yes, it’s climate change, but don’t call it ‘the new normal’ by Scott Denning, Environment & Energy, The Conversation US, Sep 13, 2023
- Conditions on Earth may be moving outside the ‘safe operating space’ for humanity, according to dozens of scientists by Laura Paddison, World, CNN, Sep 13, 2023
Friday Sep 15, 2023
- Humans Have Crossed 6 of 9 ‘Planetary Boundaries’ Scientists analyzed nine so-called planetary boundaries and found humans are currently transgressing six Scientists analyzed nine so-called planetary boundaries and found humans are currently transgressing six by Meghan Bartels, Environment, Scientific American, Sep 13, 2023
- Antarctica may have entered ‘new regime’ of low sea ice as global warming ramps up Study conducted by Australian scientists describes a ‘breakdown’ in link between sea ice and atmosphere as coverage reaches record lows by Donna Lu, World, The Guardian, Sep 13, 2023
- Skeptical Science New Research for Week #37 2023 by Doug Bostrom & Marc Kodack, Skeptical Science, Sep 13, 2023
- Patrick Brown's recycled hallucination of climate science by Doug Bostrom, Skeptical Science, Sep 15, 2023
Saturday Sep 16, 2023
- Governments must seek win-win synergies by tackling climate and sustainable development crises together, urges expert group report, UN Press Release, Sep 13, 2023
- Leaders must listen to the people and end fossil fuels Masses of people will take to the streets in 650 events around the world this weekend, to call for a phaseout of coal, oil and gas Commentary by Mads Flarup Christensen (Greenpeace), Climate Home News, Sep 15, 2023
- New files shed light on ExxonMobil’s efforts to undermine climate science by Dharna Noor, US News, The Guardian, Sep 14, 2023
- Climate change "undoubtedly" played a role in Libyan floods that killed over 11,000 people: experts Cyclone Daniel caused two dams to fail in Derna but the storm was supercharged by a warming planet, scientists say by Matthew Rozsa, Science & Health, Salon, Sep 15, 2023
- Climate change is undermining nearly all sustainable development goals, says report, Staff, WMO/Phys.org, Sep 14, 2023
Nature Communications, Published online: 16 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-41544-8Deshpande et al show that MRN nuclease-dependent processing of DNA ends in human cells occurs at sites bound by DNA-PK. Chromatin immunoprecipitation analysis of DNA-PK, MRN, and CtIP supports a sequential model of pathway choice.
Scientific Reports, Published online: 16 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-42787-7Unclear
- Mighty Buildings Raises $52M to Build 3D-Printed Prefab Homes
- CEO Scott Gebicke says that it’ll be put toward Mighty Buildings’ expansion in North America and the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia, and supporting the launch of the company’s next-gen modular homebuilding kit.
This Driverless Car Company Is Using Chatbots to Make Its Vehicles Smarter
Will Douglas Heaven | MIT Technology Review
“Self-driving car startup Wayve can now interrogate its vehicles, asking them questions about their driving decisions—and getting answers back. …In a demo the company gave me this week, CEO Alex Kendall played footage taken from the camera on one of its Jaguar I-PACE vehicles, jumped to a random spot in the video, and started typing questions: ‘What’s the weather like?’ The weather is cloudy. ‘What hazards do you see?’ There is a school on the left. ‘Why did you stop?’ Because the traffic light is red.”
Just Hit the Lithium Jackpot
Ross Andersen | The Atlantic
“About 16.4 million years ago, magma surged through a raised mound near Nevada’s present-day border with Oregon and began spreading an unholy orange glow outward over the region. …[A new paper published in Science Advances] claims that underneath the volcano’s extinct crater is a thick brown clay that is shot through with what could be the largest-known lithium deposit on the planet. If the discovery holds up, and the lithium is easy to extract and refine—both big ifs—this ancient geological event could end up shaping contemporary geopolitics, and maybe even the future of green energy.”
Tesla Reinvents Carmaking With Quiet Breakthrough
Norihiko Shirouzu | Reuters
“Tesla is closing in on an innovation that would allow it to die cast nearly all the complex underbody of an EV in one piece, rather than about 400 parts in a conventional car, the people said. The know-how is core to Tesla’s ‘unboxed’ manufacturing strategy unveiled by [CEO Elon Musk] in March, a linchpin of his plan to churn out tens of millions of cheaper EVs in the coming decade, and still make a profit, the sources said.”
Liquid Computer Made From DNA Comprises Billions of Circuits
David Nield | ScienceAlert
“[Despite] the passing of 30 years since the first prototype, most DNA computers have struggled to process more than a few tailored algorithms. A team [of] researchers from China has now come up with a DNA integrated circuit (DIC) that’s far more general purpose. Their liquid computer’s gates can form an astonishing 100 billion circuits, showing its versatility with each capable of running its own program.”
How AI Agents Are Already Simulating Human Civilization
Ben Dickson | VentureBeat
“These AI agents are capable of simulating the behavior of a human in their daily lives, from mundane tasks to complex decision-making processes. Moreover, when these agents are combined, they can emulate the more intricate social behaviors that emerge from the interactions of a large population. This work opens up many possibilities, particularly in simulating population dynamics, offering valuable insights into societal behaviors and interactions.”
This EV Smashed the World Record for Distance on a Single Charge
Jonathan M. Gitlin | Ars Technica
“The diminutive coupe…was built for efficiency, and in a six-day test at Munich airport, it set a new distance record on a single charge (for a non-solar EV): 1,599 miles (2,574 km), with less battery capacity than many plug-in hybrids—just 15.5 kWh. …Their eventual distance broke the existing record by 60 percent, achieving a scarcely believable 103.2 miles/kWh, or 0.6 kWh/100 km. For those who think in terms of miles per gallon, it’s the equivalent of traveling 3,815 miles on a single gallon of gas.“
Funky AI-Generated Spiraling Medieval Village Captivates Social Media
Benj Edwards | Ars Technica
“On Sunday, a Reddit user named ‘Ugleh’ posted an AI-generated image of a spiral-shaped medieval village that rapidly gained attention on social media for its remarkable geometric qualities. Follow-up posts garnered even more praise, including a tweet with over 145,000 likes. …Reactions to the artwork online ranged from wonder and amazement to respect for developing something novel in generative AI art. …Perhaps most notably, Y-Combinator co-founder and frequent social media tech commentator Paul Graham wrote, ‘This was the point where AI-generated art passed the Turing Test for me.’i”
Mighty Buildings Raises $52M to Build 3D-Printed Prefab Homes
Kyle Wiggers | TechCrunch
“The new tranche, which sources familiar with the matter say values the startup at between $300 million and $350 million, brings Mighty Buildings’ total raised to $150 million. CEO Scott Gebicke says that it’ll be put toward Mighty Buildings’ expansion in
and the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia, and supporting the launch of the company’s next-gen modular homebuilding kit.“
US Rejects AI Copyright for Famous State Fair-Winning Midjourney Art
Benj Edwards | Ars Technica
“The office is saying that because the work contains a non-negligible (‘more than a de minimis’) amount of content generated by AI, Allen must formally acknowledge that the AI-generated content is not his own creation when applying for registration. As established by Copyright Office precedent and judicial review, US copyright registration for a work requires human authorship.”
Scientists Say You’re Looking for Alien Civilizations All Wrong
Ramin Skibba | Wired
“An influential group of researchers is making the case for new ways to search the skies for signs of alien societies. …The team of 22 scientists released a new report on August 30, contending that the field needs to make better use of new and underutilized tools, namely gigantic catalogs from telescope surveys and computer algorithms that can mine those catalogs to spot astrophysical oddities that might have gone unnoticed. Maybe an anomaly will point to an object or phenomenon that is artificial—that is, alien—in origin.”
This is an edition of The Atlantic Daily, a newsletter that guides you through the biggest stories of the day, helps you discover new ideas, and recommends the best in culture. Sign up for it here.
For those of us who have siblings, these relationships will likely be the longest of our life. That fact is a basic statistical one, but it’s also an emotional one. These are human beings who will see us at many more stages of growth than most others will: the awkward braces years, the sullen teenage years, and whatever happens after that.
Because of this, sibling relationships can be intense. As Ben Healy noted in 2018, “When a sibling relationship is bad … it can be really bad—as in messing-up-your-life bad. Tense sibling relationships make people more likely to use substances and to be depressed and anxious in adolescence.”
And when siblings become adults and are no longer forced together by circumstance, things get complicated in a whole new way. “The independence of adulthood … creates opportunities for siblings to build, repair, or discard the relationships of their youth, to stay stuck in or break free of the roles they played as children,” Angela Chen wrote earlier this year. Today’s newsletter is dedicated to the complexities—and beauty—of these relationships.
By Angela Chen
As brothers and sisters grow up, what they do can determine whether they stay stuck in their childhood roles—or break free of them.
By Ben Healy
How brothers and sisters shape who we are
By Ruth Madievsky
The unique feeling of sharing parents, or of growing up together, makes this relationship unlike any other.
- Why are people weird about only children? “Onlies” don’t seem to be any worse off than kids with siblings. So why do stereotypes about them persist?
- It used to be okay for parents to play favorites: The idea that you’re supposed to treat your children equally is recent, and it’s still not the norm in much of the world.
- The brain of a man who is always thinking about ancient Rome
- Don’t let love take over your life.
- Slack is basically Facebook now.
In his 2018 article, Ben Healy noted this bit of research that has stayed with me since I read it: “A study of more than 1 million Swedes found that one’s risk of dying of a heart attack spikes after a sibling dies of one, due not only to shared DNA but also to the stress of losing such a key figure.”
This article was originally published by Knowable Magazine.
We’ve all heard of the five tastes our tongues can detect: sweet, sour, bitter, savory-umami, and salty. But the real number is actually six, because we have two separate salt-taste systems. One of them detects the attractive, relatively low levels of salt that make potato chips taste delicious. The other registers high levels of salt—enough to make overly salted food taste offensive.
Exactly how our taste buds sense the two kinds of saltiness is a mystery that’s taken some 40 years of scientific inquiry to unravel, and researchers haven’t deciphered all of the details yet. In fact, the more they look at salt sensation, the weirder it gets.
Many other mechanics of taste have been worked out over recent decades. For sweet, bitter, and umami, it’s known that molecular receptors on certain taste-bud cells recognize the food molecules and, when activated, kick off a series of events that ultimately sends signals to the brain.
Sour is slightly different: It is detected by taste-bud cells that respond to acidity, researchers recently learned.
In the case of salt, scientists understand many details about the low-salt receptor, but a complete description of the high-salt receptor has lagged, as has an understanding of which taste-bud cells host each detector.
“There are a lot of gaps still in our knowledge—especially salt taste. I would call it one of the biggest gaps,” says Maik Behrens, a taste researcher at the Leibniz Institute for Food Systems Biology, in Freising, Germany. “There are always missing pieces in the puzzle.”
Our dual perception of saltiness helps us walk a tightrope between the two faces of sodium, an element that’s crucial for the function of muscles and nerves but dangerous in high quantities. To tightly control salt levels, the body manages the amount of sodium it lets out in urine, and controls how much comes in through the mouth.
“It’s the Goldilocks principle,” says Stephen Roper, a neuroscientist at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. “You don’t want too much; you don’t want too little; you want just the right amount.”
If an animal takes in too much salt, the body tries to compensate, holding on to water so the blood won’t be overly salty. In many people, that extra fluid volume raises blood pressure. The excess fluid puts strain on the arteries; over time, it can damage them and increase risk of heart disease or stroke.
But some salt is necessary for body systems—for example, to transmit electrical signals that underlie thoughts and sensations. Consequences of too little salt include muscle cramps and nausea—part of why athletes chug Gatorade is to replace the salt lost in sweat—and, if enough time passes, death.
Scientists in search of salt-taste receptors already knew that our bodies have special proteins that act as channels to allow sodium to cross nerve membranes for the purpose of sending nerve impulses. But the cells in our mouth, they reasoned, must have some additional way to respond to sodium in food.
A key clue to the mechanism came in the 1980s, when scientists experimented with a drug that prevents sodium from entering kidney cells. This drug, when applied to rats’ tongues, impeded their ability to detect salty stimuli. Kidney cells, it turns out, use a molecule called ENaC (pronounced “ee-nack”) to suck extra sodium from blood and help maintain proper blood-salt levels. The finding suggested that salt-sensing taste-bud cells use ENaC too.
To prove it, scientists engineered mice that lack the ENaC channel in their taste buds. These mice lost their normal preference for mildly salty solutions, the scientists reported in 2010—confirming that ENaC was, indeed, the good-salt receptor.
But to truly understand how the good-salt taste works, scientists would also need to know how the entry of sodium into taste buds is translated into a “Yum, salty!” sensation. “It’s what gets sent to the brain that’s important,” says Nicholas Ryba, a biologist at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, in Bethesda, Maryland, who was involved in linking ENaC to salt taste.
And to understand that signal transmission, scientists needed to find where in the mouth the signal starts.
The answer might seem obvious: The signal would start from the specific set of taste-bud cells that contain ENaC and that are sensitive to tasty levels of sodium. But those cells didn’t prove simple to find. ENaC, it turns out, is made up of three different pieces, and although individual pieces are found in various places in the mouth, scientists had a hard time finding cells containing all three.
In 2020, a team led by the physiologist Akiyuki Taruno, at the Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine, in Japan, reported that it had identified the sodium-taste cells at last. The researchers started with the assumption that sodium-sensing cells would spark an electrical signal when salt was present, but not if the ENaC blocker was there too. They found just such a population of cells inside taste buds isolated from one part of mouse tongues, and these turned out to make all three components of the ENaC sodium channel.
Scientists can thus now describe where and how animals perceive desirable levels of salt. When there are enough sodium ions outside those key taste-bud cells in the mid-tongue area, the ions can enter these cells using the three-part ENaC gateway. This rebalances the sodium concentrations inside and outside the cells. But it also redistributes the levels of positive and negative charges across the cell’s membrane. This change activates an electrical signal inside the cell. The taste-bud cell then sends the “Mmmm, salty!” message onward to the brain.
But this system doesn’t explain the “Blech, too much salt!” signal that people can also get, usually when we taste something that’s more than twice as salty as our blood. Here, the story is less clear.
The other component of table salt—chloride—might be key, some research suggests. Salt’s chemical structure is sodium chloride, though when dissolved in water, it separates into positively charged sodium ions and negatively charged chloride ions. In one study, sodium chloride created the saltiest high-salt sensation in rats; sodium paired with larger, multi-atom partners tasted less salty. This suggests that sodium’s partner might be an important contributor to the high-salt sensation, with some partners tasting saltier than others. But as to exactly how chloride might cause high-salt taste, “nobody has a clue,” Roper says.
One hint came from work by Ryba and his colleagues. In 2013, they reported that mustard oil reduced the high-salt signal in mouse tongues. Weirdly, the same mustard-oil compound also nearly eliminated the tongue’s response to bitter taste, as if the high-salt-sensing system was piggybacking onto the bitter-tasting system.
And it got odder still: Sour-taste cells seemed to respond to high salt levels too. Mice lacking either the bitter- or the sour-taste system were less put off by extremely salty water, and those lacking both happily slurped down the salty stuff.
Not all scientists are convinced, but the findings, if confirmed, raise an interesting question: Why don’t super-salty things taste bitter and sour too? It could be because the too-salty taste is the sum of multiple signals, not just one input, says Michael Gordon, a neuroscientist at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, who co-authored, with Taruno, a discussion of the knowns and unknowns of salt taste in the 2023 Annual Review of Physiology.
Despite the mustard-oil lead, attempts to find the receptor molecule responsible for the high-salt taste sensation have so far been inconclusive. In 2021, a Japanese team reported that cells containing TMC4—a molecular channel that lets chloride ions into cells—could be involved in high-salt responses. But when the researchers engineered mice without the TMC4 channel anywhere in their bodies, it didn’t make much difference to the mice’s aversion to extremely salty water. “There’s no definitive answer at this point,” Gordon says.
As a further complication, there’s no way to be sure that mice perceive salty tastes in exactly the same way that people do. “Our knowledge of salt taste in humans is actually quite limited,” Gordon says. People can certainly distinguish desirable, lower-salt levels from the foul, high-salt sensation, and the same ENaC receptor used by mice seems to be involved. But studies on people given the ENaC-sodium-channel blocker vary confusingly—sometimes it seems to diminish salt taste, and other times it seems to enhance it.
A possible explanation is the fact that people have a fourth, extra subunit of ENaC, called the delta subunit. It can take the place of one of the other pieces, perhaps making a version of the channel that is less sensitive to the ENaC blocker.
Forty years into investigations of salt taste, researchers are still left with questions about how people’s tongues perceive salt, and how the brain sorts those sensations into “just right” versus “too much” amounts. At stake is more than just satisfying a scientific curiosity: Given the cardiovascular risks that a high-salt diet poses to some of us, it’s important to understand the process.
Researchers even dream of developing better salt alternatives, or enhancers that would create the “yum” without the health risks. But it’s clear they have more work to do before they invent something we can sprinkle on our dinner plate with abandon.
Nature Communications, Published online: 16 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-41459-4Plant PR-1 proteins participate in defense responses against pathogens. Here, the authors show that PR-1-like proteins from the plant pathogenic fungus Ustilago maydis are important for virulence by detecting plant-derived phenolics and modulating plant PR-1-mediated defenses.
Nature Communications, Published online: 16 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-41527-9Cost-optimal
Nature Communications, Published online: 16 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-41572-4Measuring gene expression responses for every transcription factor (TF)-gene pair in living prokaryotic cells is challenging. Here the authors report pooled promoter responses to TF perturbation sequencing (PPTP-seq) using CRISPRi, which they use to address this problem in E. coli.
Scientific Reports, Published online: 16 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-42666-1Amino-induced cadmium metal–organic framework based on thiazole ligand as a heterogeneous catalyst for the epoxidation of alkenes
Scientific Reports, Published online: 16 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-42487-2Usage of extruded diamond multi-injectors for improvement of fuel mixing inside the supersonic combustion chamber
Scientific Reports, Published online: 16 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-42287-8Radiological assessment of different monazite grades after mechanical separation from black sand
Scientific Reports, Published online: 16 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-42728-4Crosstalk tolerance analysis of coupled-line structures using least square-support vector machine technique
-based Sage Geosystems has presented field results showing that its Earthstore underground storage system can provide 18 hours or more of storage capacity, in addition to short-duration power. The solution is said to be cost-competitive with lithium-ion batteries and natural gas peaker plants.
So we know that planets like Mars have lots of uranium, and if we assume that the solar system is being colonized, and cities and societies are being created that do not rely on Earth for support, then this could be a fun speculation.
For instance, we might have cities on Ceres, Pluto, Eris, Callisto, Titan, Europa, Mars, the moon, Venus and more. Certain countries on Earth like South Korea, China, the US, Russia and more would back their corresponding countries on other planets, moons, and dwarf planets with some being backed by larger players like Mars in a fight for resources.
The fourth or fifth cold war might be an interplanetary one. With these ground rules established, what would a solar system wide war look like potentially hundreds of years into the future?
Well, for starters, the major factor is distance. Earth to Mars is 6 months, Jupiter is about 5 years, Pluto is 10 years away. Other significant places like the moon and Venus are several months away by rocket and other destinations like Ceres are 1-2 years away.
So of course, it doesn't really make sense…unless all these factions have come prepared for a war.
If there's an interplanetary cold war, various places would send nuclear warheads in distant orbits around other celestial destinations. If something happens, they can press a red button, and the nuclear warhead "unexpectedly" collides in a target zone. Mars nukes could be ready to fire at New York City or Seöul, while the same is for the twin cities of Spirit and Opportunity, Mars' beating heart or the capital, Star City. Even areas that take 6 years to reach or more like Titan will have sent nuclear warheads to Earth, Mars, Venus, and more. Plus, the warheads in orbit around major destinations like Earth are not necessarily against Earth collectively. They could be Chinese-backed celestial destinations like Ceres sending warheads to target the USA, or
backed territories on Mars sending warheads to orbit Earth, ready to strike New Shàng'hǎï at a moments notice.
I would say every celestial destination would have several hundred war heads around it. A "regular" such destination like Ceres would have many warheads around it by various places, all trained on Vallis Aeternum, while Ceres itself has sent its warheads to a bunch of places 3 times over due to major players claiming territories, namely the People's Republic of Mars, China, and the USA.
This is just a random thought lmao, completely hypothetica
- The company announced its usual fall slate of new products, including four new iPhones that have one very big thing in common: USB-C ports, which is a big move .
Not So Absolute
It would appear that billionaire Elon Musk's self-avowed free speech "absolutism" has its limits — and according to Bloomberg, saying mean things about Musk is one of those non-absolute ceilings. Convenient!
Serial biographer Walter Isaacson's new book about the founder, "Elon Musk," unsurprisingly includes several anecdotes about Musk's takeover of the social media company formerly known as Twitter (it's since been rebranded to just "X," for some reason.) Per Bloomberg, one such Isaacson-penned vignette from Musk's purchase of the platform explains that during the mass layoffs that took place at the beginning of Musk's Twitter tenure, the billionaire had a team take a fine-tooth comb to the platform's Slack, using keywords like "Elon" to find and log any less-than-favorable remarks. Any employees found making "snarky comments" about Musk, as Isaacson apparently put it, were added to a list, and everyone on that list was fired.
In the SpaceX and Tesla CEO's world, "unfettered free speech," as Isaacson wrote, "does not extend to the workplace."
As Bloomberg points out, free speech laws don't technically extend to the workplace. Musk also famously retains a certain degree of paranoia, so it's not terribly surprising to see the world's richest man fire naysayers for the sake of perceived loyalty.
Regardless of whether firing employees for making fun of their boss is technically legal, though, it's still wildly uncool, and certainly seems to speak to Musk's long record of really, really needing people to like him. And still, considering the billionaire's eternal quest to prove his loyalty to the cause of inhibited First Amendment rights — even spending $44 billion on the internet's slowly-dying-and-probably-former town square to do it — it's usually worth calling out the founder's wide-ranging bending, and occasional all-out breaking, of his own proclaimed ideology. From penning columns for censored
We'd also be remiss to note that Musk is currently waging war on the antisemitism nonprofit the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which Musk is threatening to sue for, uh, defamation, on grounds that the ADL's claims that Twitter's antisemitism problem has gotten worse since the billionaire's purchase of the platform (it has) has caused the social media platform to lose massive amounts of revenue. You know, because Free Speech.
More on Musk and Free Speech: Free Speech Lover Elon Musk Seems to Be Throttling Exposure to Sites He Doesn't Like on Twitter
The post Free Speech Fundamentalist Elon Musk Mass Fired Staff for Saying Mean Things About Him appeared first on Futurism.
In the months since
's spectacular implosion last fall, Joseph Bankman and Barbara Fried, Stanford law professors and parents of the now-defunct crypto exchange's disgraced — and currently incarcerated — ex-CEO Sam Bankman-Fried, have maintained that they had minimal involvement with the crypto company. As the company line generally went: Fried never worked for FTX, and though Bankman did work for the company briefly, his stint was short-lived and mostly dealt with philanthropy.
But that characterization of Bankman and Fried's roles with the firm may be pretty far from the truth. According to new reporting from Bloomberg, former employees and partners of the exchange paint a very different picture of the couple's involvement, while legal filings show their influence and connections were instrumental to the company's meteoric success.
Perhaps most damningly, according to Bloomberg, those court documents also show that Bankman and Fried profited greatly from FTX, gleaning a cool $26 million in cash and real estate investments in 2022 alone. That's a lot of money, especially for two people who claim to have been generally hands-off from the venture.
Father Knows Best
Per the report, sources who worked at or with the firm viewed Bankman and Fried as regular office fixtures. Bankman-Fried wasn't exactly a people person; his dad, though, often reportedly functioned as Bankman-Fried's go-between for staffers and business partners. Fried reportedly made more appearances at dinners, but often played a similar role as a "mediator" between her son and his employees, according to Bloomberg.
Sources also told Bloomberg that Bankman played an "instrumental" role in the firm's choice to relocate to
from Hong Kong, and that Bankman-Fried often consulted his father before making any major decisions.
And then, of course, there's the money.
Per the report, Bankman and Fried visited FTX's Bahamas headquarters quite frequently, staying in a $16 million beachfront condo when they did. And though they've continued to argue that the property was "temporary housing" for Bankman to work from when in town, public records for the house make no mention of FTX. It's in Bankman and Fried's name, and it's listed as their "vacation home." Elsewhere, court documents say that Bankman-Fried used FTX funds to give his parents a $10 million cash gift. This was never given back, with Bankman and Fried arguing that they would need it to pay their son's legal bills.
Still, Bankman and Fried's most quintessential role in FTX's rise may have simply been their reputations. Their legitimacy helped bolster that of their Palo Alto-raised son, whose elite background helped to sell the unkempt wunderkind persona that the founder so famously once projected. Lessons learned.
More on FTX developments: Sam Bankman-fried Complains That the Wi-Fi Is Bad in Jail
The post Sam Bankman-Fried’s Parents May Have Been More Involved in FTX Than We Thought appeared first on Futurism.
Nature Communications, Published online: 16 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-41546-6WHO guidelines for classification of
Nature Communications, Published online: 16 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-41533-xUsing resonance Raman spectroscopy and serial femtosecond X-ray crystallography, the authors show the heme a3 iron and CuB in the resting oxidized form of
Once upon a time, presidential impeachment was a rare event. But with four of the five inquiries in U.S. history coming in the past 25 years, people seeking to understand and explain the impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, launched Tuesday, have looked to the 2019 impeachment of President Donald Trump as an analogy. Both center on allegations of using elected office for personal gain, and both have been divided sharply along partisan lines.
The comparison is understandable, especially because some Republicans have explicitly framed their inquiry as a response to Trump’s impeachment, as Jonathan Chait writes. But the more useful comparison is to the House investigation into Benghazi from 2014 to 2016. Both inquiries are based far more on vibes and political machinations than they are on hard evidence. Kevin McCarthy’s longstanding ambition to be speaker of the House sit at the center of both. And the fate of the Benghazi investigation offers some indications about how this one could turn out.
Like the current impeachment inquiry, the Benghazi story began with U.S. involvement in a foreign country—in this case, Libya, where the Obama administration was reluctantly drawn into the toppling of Muammar Qaddafi. On September 11, 2012, Islamist attacks on two U.S. facilities in the city of Benghazi killed the U.S. ambassador, a Foreign Service officer, and two CIA contractors. Republicans blamed Hillary Clinton, then secretary of state, for failing to prevent or respond quickly to the attack. Then-Speaker John Boehner initially resisted calls for a special committee to investigate the attack but eventually agreed.
The point of the Benghazi committee was to hurt Clinton’s chances at winning the presidency in 2016. We know this because Republicans were not subtle. As McCarthy, then the House majority leader, said in a September 2015 TV interview: “Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened, had we not fought.”
That frank confession that a congressional inquiry had been used as a tool of partisan warfare helped cost McCarthy the speakership. The same month, Boehner announced his retirement. McCarthy had been the clear favorite, but amid fallout from the interview, he suddenly dropped out, saying he couldn’t unite the caucus. He eventually got the gavel in January of this year, but now his speakership is once again on the line. As my colleague Russell Berman wrote Tuesday, McCarthy is a hostage of the far-right flank of his party, which forced him into announcing the impeachment inquiry. McCarthy’s ability to manage the process will in part determine whether he keeps his job.
The basis for the first Trump impeachment was clear from the start. A whistleblower alleged that Trump had tried to extort an investigation into (wait for it) Hunter and Joe Biden over dealings in Ukraine, using funds appropriated by Congress as leverage. The White House released a transcript of the call the same day that Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced an impeachment inquiry. The rest of the inquiry turned up lots of new information about Trump’s attempt to use Ukraine as a pawn in his reelection campaign, but the basic allegation was clear from the start, and the question was not whether Trump had done it but whether it was a “perfect” call, as he insisted, or a serious breach of his oath of office.
In both Benghazi and the Biden impeachment, by contrast, it isn’t entirely clear what precisely the misconduct is. In the Benghazi investigation, everyone agreed that something bad had happened—Americans died. But Republicans had no clear theory of why that was Clinton’s fault. In the Biden case, a consensus has emerged that Hunter Biden engaged in brazenly unethical behavior (separate from his legal woes in
), but that doesn’t amount to wrongdoing on his father’s part. McCarthy’s stated rationales for the impeachment inquiry are flimsy, unproven, and incorrect, as the journalists Philip Bump and Luke Broadwater have explained.
Nonetheless, Republicans seem absolutely certain that Biden is wildly corrupt, and they would prove it if only they could get all the pieces of the investigation to come together, and if only they could find their witnesses, and if only those witnesses weren’t facing federal charges, and so on. This is a view propounded not just by the far right in Congress, but also by prominent voices in the supposedly sober and serious conservative press. Well, perhaps: Evidence of serious misconduct by Joe Biden might still turn up, but for the time being, the exercise looks like a transparent attempt to hurt Biden’s chances at reelection.
Much like Benghazi. For a time, the Benghazi committee looked like nothing more than a big fishing expedition. Despite more than two years of work, the committee did not find any wrongdoing by Clinton. Her own testimony before the committee, an 11-hour slog, was widely viewed as a victory for her, because she was in command of the facts and Republican committee members didn’t land any real blows on her. By the time the election rolled around, “Benghazi” was more of a punch line—against Republicans—than a live campaign issue. The whole thing was an embarrassment for the GOP, or so it seemed.
One can easily imagine the Biden impeachment following that path. James Comer, the House Oversight Committee chair, who has been leading investigations into Hunter Biden, has appeared bumbling and ineffective. So far, no evidence suggests offenses that reach the historical threshold for impeachment. Moderate House Republicans show little appetite for impeachment, and getting a full House vote—much less a successful impeachment—looks very challenging for McCarthy. Should that work, there’s essentially no chance that the Democratic Senate would convict Biden.
But the Benghazi experience points to another possibility, too. Although the Benghazi committee couldn’t nail Clinton, one byproduct of the investigation was the revelation of Clinton’s private email server, which turned out to be a defining issue in the 2016 presidential election, and arguably cost her the presidency. Just because an investigation fails in its putative goal doesn’t mean it will fail in its actual goal.
*Lead image: Illustration by Paul Spella. Sources: Alex Wong / Getty; Bashar Shglila / Getty; Bastiaan Slabbers / NurPhoto / Getty; Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times / Getty.
Ever since Elon Musk’s lackeys began fiddling with the algorithms of X (formerly Twitter), I have noticed a distinct shift in the content that is pushed onto users. My “For you” tab is now a nest of tradwives, shoplifting videos, and that guy who has strong opinions on trouser creases. It is also home to the kind of old-fashioned misogyny that I once thought was on the decline.
And that’s because X, a small social network beloved by journalists, is now providing a window into a much bigger part of the internet—one that is simultaneously absurdly popular and almost invisible to outsiders. It is the interlinking Venn diagram of Twitch streamers; mixed-martial-arts, wrestling, and boxing fandoms; manosphere influencers; and video-game commentators. The way that these guys turn up on one another’s podcasts, X feeds, and livestreams—and their habit of physically fighting one another for money—makes them seem like a younger, more ripped version of the Intellectual Dark Web.
One of the obsessions of the worst parts of this group—call them the Influential Jerk Web—is “body count” discourse, in which women (always women) are shamed for the number of sexual partners they’ve had. The phrase has gained popularity so quickly that Jason Derulo has just released a song about it. Now, Derulo is okay with a high body count—“all that ass, must be good at math,” he observes—but others are not. “A lot of the world’s problems could be fixed if women walked around with their body count on their foreheads,” the professional kickboxer turned sexist influencer Andrew Tate said in one viral clip. A bit rich, you might think, coming from a self-confessed former “pimp” who is currently awaiting trial on human-trafficking and rape charges. But Tate is only one of many influencers who talk like ayatollahs while adhering to the beauty standards of Ryan Gosling in Barbie.
These men provide Gen Z and younger Millennials with a very old template for masculinity filtered through the new visual grammar and vocabulary of YouTube, Twitch, and TikTok. Take the mixed martial artist Dillon Danis, who is scheduled to fight the YouTuber turned pro wrestler Logan Paul in a boxing match in Manchester, England, on October 14. In the past five years, “influencer boxing” has become a lucrative content machine. Logan and his brother, Jake, who have more than 20 million YouTube followers each, have led the trend, alongside the
streamer JJ Olatunji, better known as KSI. Their venues are located across the world, in places such as Texas and Saudi Arabia, and the fights make thousands of dollars on pay-per-view. Influencer boxing is characterized by the kind of pre-match smacktalk familiar from professional wrestling but internetified. And that means, unfortunately, a torrent of sexually inflected misogyny.
Scroll down Danis’s X feed and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Over the past few weeks, he has relentlessly targeted Paul’s fiancée, Nina Agdal, posting photographs of her with her exes, digging out Instagram posts in which she is somewhat scantily dressed (she’s a model), claiming that he could put any prize money toward “HIV medication bills for Nina’s exes,” implying that she has dated everyone she has ever been photographed with, and calling her a “whore.”
This tsunami of slut-shaming nestles between other insults, such as mocking Paul’s failed NFT project, CryptoZoo. In return, Paul has taunted Danis about his dead father. Most fans will therefore see the cracks about Nina Agdal as professional-wrestling-style kayfabe—building up the hype for the fight so that Paul is trying to not just win the match but defend his honor. Pro wrestling is a highly choreographed sport; many fights are billed as “grudge matches,” and the Paul brothers’ internet-era innovation has been to bring its obsession with storylines to boxing. (In 2019, Logan Paul claimed at a press conference that KSI’s family didn’t love him. Four years on, the two men own the sports-drink company Prime together.)
But one person who apparently doesn’t find the posts funny is Agdal herself. On September 6, she filed for an injunction under New Jersey’s revenge-porn laws, accusing Danis of posting a “nonconsensual, sexually explicit photograph” of her, “displaying full frontal nudity, to millions of social media users in the course of a relentless, ongoing campaign of cyber harassment and bullying against her.” She was granted a temporary restraining order. Danis deleted that photo but falsely claimed that Agdal was trying to put him in jail. (She is seeking damages.) “This is actually wild,” he added in a post that, according to X, has been viewed 18 million times. Danis presented the lawsuit as his opponent’s camp trying to tank the October 14 fight, adding: “Logan Paul is a dead man walking.”
In feminist circles, Danis’s behavior would be classified as “DARVO”: deny, attack, reverse victim and offender. The sympathetic character in his version of the story is himself, a man threatened with jail for engaging merely in some lighthearted badinage—shh, don’t mention that it was at the expense of a woman who never asked to be involved with this circus. When Agdal understandably complained about becoming the focus of his fans’ aggression, Danis called upon 2020’s favorite misogynist trope: “Nina Agdal will be called Karen Agdal till further notice.”
I can’t be the only one who thought we had left overt, unapologetic sexism like this behind. What is most striking about Danis’s feed is how masculine his world seems—life is a competition between men, and women are just the prizes (or the liabilities). Tate, whose public comments give little indication that he enjoys spending time with women, shows the same attitude. Maybe these guys are obsessed with “
” because they treat life as one giant scoreboard.
Whether or not Danis sees his posts as kayfabe is irrelevant. At least some portion of his audience won’t, because he is tapping into well-established anti-feminist talking points. In this worldview, the most humiliating thing that could happen to a man is failing to control his woman, an attitude that puts men into a torturous position of constant precarity. Other humans are by definition uncontrollable, no matter how much you intimidate them or patrol their behavior. But tell that to the late-Millennial and Gen Z influencers trying to shame women so that they will “behave”—and not embarrass the men who are deemed to be in charge of them.
Misogyny occupies a sweet spot in our culture—it is frowned upon enough to make young men trading off it feel edgy, but it’s typically taken less seriously than racism. Its post-#MeToo resurgence has led to members of the Influential Jerk Web coming out with phrases you might have thought died out with 19th-century laws on acceptable forms of wife beating. In 2021, the livestreamer Sneako notoriously confessed that he had watched his girlfriend have sex with another man at a party, and told the Peer to Peer podcast: “It felt like somebody was taking something from me, like someone was violating my property.” He was at pains to note that wanting to watch another man have sex in no way suggested that he was bisexual, which suggests a brittle borderline homophobia is also part of the deal.
Two other things are worth noting about the body-count discourse. The first is that some people on the edges of the Influential Jerk Web have consciously rejected its exhausting sexual monitoring of women. The left-wing streamer Destiny, for example, was raised Catholic but is now in an open relationship. His partner Melina Goransson regularly mocks Danis and other bro streamers, and recently retweeted a post by another user that read: “Quickly now! Do some push ups!! That’s how we change the world!! Now go home and call women whores for not acknowledging your existence and making their own money!!”
The second thing is that, in accordance with Rule 34 of the internet, the straight male anxiety that Danis and Tate are tapping into has been translated into pornography. One of those joining the pushback against Dillon Danis was the influencer Adam Grandmaison, better known as Adam22. He has a podcast with his wife, Lena Nersesian, or Lena the Plug, where they interview a female porn actor and then sleep with her. Last month, though, Nersesian slept with another man instead. Amid all the mockery about Lena’s body count and how Adam was a cuck, the video went viral—so viral that he bought her a $400,000 Lamborghini to celebrate its success. Tate criticized them, telling the former Fox News host Tucker Carlson that “this is what the Matrix wants from you as a man. They want the woman in charge, and the man below, with no backbone … I would argue, in nearly any household where the female is dominant, everyone is vaccinated.” Unfazed, the couple went on a podcast with Tate and invited him to take part in a threesome. (Tate declined.)
The intense interest in Grandmaison and Nersesian’s relationship makes sense: If the worst thing you can say to a man is that his partner is a “whore,” then there’s money on the table for whoever will admit to reveling in his wife’s high body count. And that’s the real lesson here. The internet has smashed all kinds of taboos, but without taboos, how can people feel the thrill of breaking them? The Influential Jerk Web has brought back sexual shame not just to control women but to extract pleasure from doing so.
Since Russia invaded
has provided Kyiv with more than $43 billion worth of security assistance. Opponents of aid to Ukraine have argued that the United States is drawing down inventories of systems and ammunition that are already in short supply for its own forces, and which would be needed in any high-intensity conflict.
Our country could very well lose a large-scale war for lack of weapons and ammunition—but not because of aid to Ukraine. In a major conflict, the U.S. would run out of munitions in a few weeks, and in less than a week for some crucial categories. The quantity of weapons we are providing Ukraine is marginal compared with necessary weapons that we have not stocked. As Mackenzie Eaglen of the American Enterprise Institute has argued, “Over the past nine fiscal years, budget after budget has traded away combat power, truncated needed weapons early, and permanently closed production lines.”
Nor can we rely on our allies to supply themselves or engineer a lend-lease program to send us weapons if we should be fighting but they are not. For instance, even before it began sending weapons to Ukraine, the British military was so poorly stocked that in a major war, it would have run out of ammunition in a week.
Cutting off Ukraine won’t solve our under-capacity problem. We need to dramatically ramp up our spending and accelerate our defense production.
The adversary capable of forcing a high-intensity war on the United States is, of course, China. And China is giving worrisome indications of interest in doing so. The U.S. intelligence community assesses that China spends roughly $700 billion a year on defense, approaching U.S. levels of spending. It is on course to triple its nuclear arsenal by 2035. U.S. intelligence assesses that China aims to be able to conquer Taiwan by 2027. President Joe Biden himself has said the United States will send troops to defend Taiwan if it is attacked. And yet the president has cut the budget for troops, ships, and aircraft until 2035. Congress added $29 billion to Biden’s first defense budget and $45 billion to his second. It also allocated supplemental funding to replace for U.S. forces what’s being provided to Ukraine. But these sums are not enough to get U.S. forces where we need them to be.
More than one dollar in eight from the 2023 budget goes toward things that have little to do with fighting and winning wars. The current defense budget contains $109 billion in spending for nondefense items that belong more properly in the budgets of other parts of the government, such as the Department of Education. Administrations tend to put such items in the defense budget because it’s the only appropriations bill guaranteed to pass, and politicians like to claim that they are increasing defense spending. But the United States is not focusing its spending on essential weapons and ammunition.
Congress is also to blame for the deficiencies in funding. Debt-ceiling standoffs, sequestrations, and a failure to pass spending bills on time wreak havoc on DOD. As part of the debt-ceiling agreement, unless spending bills are passed by the end of the calendar year, Elaine McCusker and John Ferrari of the American Enterprise Institute calculate that sequestration spending caps will effectively cut defense spending by 8.6 percent.
In 1942, Admiral Chester Nimitz fought on the Midway Islands with only three aircraft carriers at his disposal. Less than three years later, he commenced operations against the Marianas with 15 new, larger, and faster carriers to feed into the fight. China has built a defense industry capable of such rapid production—but today, the United States couldn’t pull it off. The U.S. defense industry is sized for peacetime production. Mark Cancian of the Center for Strategic and International Studies estimates that at current production rates, just replacing the 155 mm artillery ammunition and the Javelin and Stinger missiles provided to Ukraine will take more than five years—and those pre-Ukraine inventories were themselves wholly inadequate.
In 1990, the United States had 54 companies that produced major defense articles; now it has just five. America reaped a peace dividend after the Cold War, then continued to take one even as the world grew more dangerous. The lack of defense production has created an alarming gap between what the United States says it can do in its strategy and what it’s actually capable of.
Nor are the shortfalls just in production. The United States has natural resources in abundance, but it mostly does not mine or process essential minerals, preferring to outsource that inefficient, messy, environmentally unpleasant work to other countries. “Rare earths” aren’t actually rare; they just exist in small quantities amid other soils. They need to be separated and chemically processed for use.
To genuinely redress the domestic shortfalls in weapons and ammunition that the intensity of combat in Ukraine has revealed, the United States needs to increase funding, rebuild its defense industry, and relax restrictions on allied cooperation in defense production. The fixes aren’t hard to identify—but as the great theorist of war Carl von Clausewitz wrote, “Everything is very simple in war, but the simplest thing is difficult.”
Start with funding: In 2017, the Trump administration adopted a National Defense Strategy, which Congress reviewed. Both branches of government concluded that enacting the strategy would require defense allocations to increase by 3 to 5 percent above inflation every year. The Biden administration’s defense strategy follows the same outlines as its predecessor’s, except in the areas where it is even more ambitious. But the 3 to 5 percent increase in spending hasn’t materialized; this year’s budget actually loses ground because of inflation. Filling the gap will cost at least $40 billion more than Biden’s $842 billion budget asks for. Unless Washington increases spending, it will have to choose between the size of its military force and the adequacy of that force’s weapons and munitions.
The single most important contribution Congress can make to the nation’s defense is to return to the regular order of passing budget bills on time. When Congress delays, the Defense Department has to rely on temporary spending bills, which do not allow it to sign long-term contracts, begin construction on military bases, and speedily invest in munitions production. The cost of these delays to the department is about $5 billion to $6 billion every month in purchasing power. And the lags are now routine: Last year, the defense budget was passed 75 days after the start of the fiscal year, robbing the DOD and taxpayers of about $15 billion in purchasing power.
The lack of funding and predictability has made the defense industry understandably skittish. If Washington were instead to deliver—on time—a budget that fully funds the country’s defense strategy, manufacturers might have the confidence to build the plants and hire and train the workers needed to replenish U.S. military stockpiles. The industry will want multiyear contracts, because it has been burned repeatedly by starting production only to have funding zeroed out by either Congress or DOD the following year. Congress has given DOD limited authority for multiyear contracts, but it should extend this authority and push DOD to make fuller use of it.
The United States has hampered its defense industry with regulations that don’t allow it to access economies of scale. Factories operated by allies abroad could help the United States build munitions much faster, and domestic businesses, especially those specializing in artificial intelligence and other cutting-edge technologies, could help build them much better. But the International Traffic in Arms Regulations have erected barriers that deter partners both at home and abroad. The Biden administration urgently needs to reform those regulations.
The Defense Department needs to ask—loudly—for what it needs and complain when the White House or Congress impedes the mission of quickly building the stockpiles that fighting China, shoring up allies, and supporting Ukraine would require. The U.S. government does an incredible disservice to its men and women in uniform by not ensuring that they have the supplies of weapons and ammunition to match their commitment. Without those supplies, the United States may lose its next war.
The thunder of war in Ukraine drowns out a lot of other news from Russia. A few days ago, however, the Russian foreign intelligence service quietly did something rather odd. Sergei Naryshkin, the director of the Sluzhba Vneshnei Razvedki, or SVR (the Russian version of the CIA), unveiled a statue of Feliks Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the Soviet secret police.
At first sight, this seems another sign of President Vladimir Putin’s nostalgia for the good old days of Soviet repression, when an aspiring young secret policeman could live a comfortable life by intimidating his neighbors and tormenting his fellow citizens. But the reappearance of a monument to this hated figure in Soviet history might be related more to Russia’s elite politics than to Putin’s nostalgia.
Before we get into the modern Kremlinology, let’s look back at the early days of the Soviet intelligence services.
Dzerzhinsky was a Polish national with a long history of revolutionary activity. He joined the Russian Bolsheviks, and shortly after the 1917 revolution, Vladimir Lenin put him in charge of creating a secret-police organization. (The czars had one, of course; the Bolsheviks wanted their own.) He became the director of the All-Russia Extraordinary Commission to Combat Counterrevolution and Sabotage, known by the Russian initials VChK, soon abbreviated to its last two letters, pronounced “che” and “ka,” which is why the secret police were called “the Cheka.” To this day, Russia’s spooks proudly call themselves “Chekists”—as do their enemies, pejoratively.
Dzerzhinsky died in 1926 after gaining a reputation as a ruthless, incorruptible fanatic and setting the tone for his successors in the secret police. Over the years, the Cheka mutated into various Soviet government entities, some of them famous in Cold War lore (such as the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs, or the dreaded NKVD). For a time, Joseph Stalin split the foreign and domestic intelligence agencies into two ministries. As with many countries’ intelligence organizations, something of a rivalry existed between the cops who did internal security and the secret agents who operated against the Soviet Union’s enemies abroad. The Soviet military, too, had its own spy service, the coldly brutal GRU, which still exists today. To put this in American terms, think of the traditional tensions among the FBI, the CIA, and the DIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency (minus any democratic oversight).
In 1954, the Soviets decided to combine all of these organizations into a giant interagency group called the Komitet Gosudarstvennoi Bezopasnosti, the Committee for State Security, or KGB—an acronym well known to Americans during the Cold War and the organization that Putin joined in 1975. The foreign spies and the domestic goons were in different departments, and worked in different buildings, but they were all under one director.
After the fall of the U.S.S.R., in 1991, the new (and short-lived) Russian democracy decided to weaken the Soviet-era police-state monolith by once again splitting up the foreign and domestic services. The foreign spy agency became the SVR and remained in its modernist digs out in the southern reaches of the Russian capital, in Moscow’s Yasenevo neighborhood. The domestic service—the thugs whom Russians fear on a daily basis—became the Federal’naia Sluzhba Bezopasnosti, the Federal Security Service, or FSB, and it stayed in the old KGB building in central Moscow.
Here’s where the story of the new statue gets interesting. The original monument—at 15 tons, a hunk of metal so large that Muscovites attached Derzhinsky’s nickname, “Iron Feliks,” to the statue itself—was erected in front of the downtown KGB headquarters in 1958. (The imposing building in Lubyanka Square was also across the way from a big Soviet toy store called Child World, and Soviet citizens would joke darkly that someone in trouble with the authorities had “gone to Child World.”) After the 1991 coup attempt against the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, the statue was torn down on the demand of Moscow’s citizens.
So when I read the first reports that a new statue was being raised, I thought it was an aggressive message from Putin to the people of the capital. In 2021, the Moscow city government had scheduled a vote on whether to bring Iron Feliks back to the downtown location or to erect a new statue in its place of the 13th-century Russian saint and hero Alexander Nevsky. The city’s mayor, citing “deep divisions,” canceled the popular poll. To return Iron Feliks to his place of honor in front of Moscow’s most notorious stronghold of repression would have been heavy-handed symbolism even from Putin.
But Feliks isn’t back in his old neighborhood; he’s out in Yasenevo. (He’s also not as tall or as heavy as he used to be; the new statue is a replica of the original, but smaller.) So what’s going on? And who is this stunt’s intended audience?
One clue might be found in the remarks that the SVR’s director, Sergey Naryshkin, made at the unveiling. Instead of celebrating Dzerzhinsky’s harsh legacy, Naryshkin praised his honesty and dedication, and gushed that Dzerzhinsky “remained faithful to his ideals to the end—the ideals of goodness and justice.” He then noted that the statue was facing toward the NATO members neighboring Russia—Poland and the Baltic states—which he identified as the source of foreign threats:
The erected monument is an exact, somewhat scaled-down copy of the famous monument of an outstanding Soviet sculptor, and that’s why we simply didn’t have the right to change the direction of the view of the monument’s hero. And the fact is that threats remain to our country, to our citizens, from the northwest—yes, this is obvious.
Dzerzhinsky is a progenitor of sorts of the foreign intelligence agency, but this bit of theater is strange—something akin to the CIA erecting a statue of the FBI director J. Edgar Hoover in front of its headquarters and extolling Hoover’s noble struggles against the Soviet enemy. (In case you’re wondering, a statue already stands outside the agency’s Langley front door—of America’s first spy, Nathan Hale, from the Revolutionary War era.) You could argue, I suppose, that Hoover did his part by setting the bureau’s agents on Soviet spies in America, but looking east and facing down the Reds is not really how we remember him.
Without getting too in the weeds, other clues about what’s going on may lie in recent machinations within the Russian government.
In a February 2020 meeting just days before the invasion of Ukraine, Putin humiliated Naryshkin on national television when the SVR chief seemed caught off guard by Putin’s questions during an audience with the president. The FSB, at that moment, was riding high; its spies were supposed to have paved the way for the collapse of Kyiv that Putin expected in the first days of the war.
We all know how that went, and Putin turned his fury on the incompetent agents in Lubyanka Square who had promised much and delivered nothing. Possibly, then, Naryshkin is now making a play for the SVR to eclipse the FSB as Russia’s premier intelligence service. Or he might be signaling his agency’s commitment to opposing NATO as part of fighting the war in Ukraine. Or maybe he’s just reminding everyone that he hasn’t forgotten that his job, regardless of the Ukraine war, is to combat Western spies. Either way, Naryshkin may be doing a bit of “managing up.”
Who knows, though? Perhaps the SVR had a spare copy of the Iron Feliks statue sitting in the basement and just decided to make a day of it. (Or perhaps Dzerzhinsky’s admirers hope it’s less likely to be vandalized out in Yasenevo.)
One thing is certain: Neither Naryshkin nor Putin—nor indeed the FSB’s chief, Alexander Bortnikov, who remains close to Putin despite his agency’s colossal screwup over Ukraine—risked putting Iron Feliks up in central Moscow. Putin’s power is not limitless, and he would have nothing to gain by antagonizing citizens in the capital with a statue few of them would want. And perhaps not even the president wants to see Iron Feliks through his limo window and be reminded of better days, when the Soviet Union still existed, the KGB was nearly omnipotent, and Vladimir Putin wasn’t one of the most hated people in Russia.
Is there a way to look at Sly Stone—a musical genius and, for a couple of years, an avatar of spiritual freedom—that isn’t dualistic, split-brained, one thing in opposition to another? That isn’t about light versus darkness, up versus down, Logos versus Chaos, good drugs versus bad drugs, having it all versus losing it all, and on and on? “Without contraries is no progression,” William Blake said, but still—I find myself groping for another plane of understanding. I want to see him as the angels do. We might need to evolve a little bit to get a handle on this man.
To the binary
eye, certainly, he soared and then he smashed. Sly Stone held the ’60s in the palm of his hand. He had the plumage and vibration of Jimi Hendrix and the melodic instinct of Paul McCartney. His music married ballooning hippie consciousness to the tautest and worldliest and most street-facing funk: Its end product, its neurochemical payload, was an amazing, paradoxically wised-up euphoria. A rapture petaled with knowingness, with slyness.
Live, he could bend time to his will like James Brown. His band Sly and the Family Stone—polyracial, polygendered, poly-freaking-phonic (you could never quite tell which voice was Sly’s, and he himself had several)—was a crucible of joy, a crucible of possibility, an experiment that took on the character of a proof: People could live together. America could work. Love and justice were real. For about a minute. “I can’t imagine my life without Sly Stone,” Cornel West says in the 2017 documentary On the Sly: In Search of the Family Stone. “Sly created a music that became a place where we could go to have a foretaste of that freedom, of that democratic experience. Even though we couldn’t live it on the ground.”
And by 1975 it was essentially over: his creativity squandered, his reputation in tatters, cocaine and PCP and paranoia everywhere. Decades of obscurity followed, punctuated by occasional failed resurrections. Plenty of people, upon hearing about his new memoir, Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin), written with Ben Greenman, will be surprised to learn that he is still alive.
But Sly lives. And the resourceful Greenman, whose publishing credits include the co-writing of a memoir by George Clinton, has coaxed, wheedled, massaged, used God knows what processes of titration and palpation to extract a fascinating book from him. “I have some questions, not too many,” he tells his subject in the moody snippet of transcribed conversation that prefaces Thank You. “We don’t have to do them all.” “We don’t have to do them at all,” answers Sly.
Pretty much the definition of an unreliable narrator, Sly nonetheless has some clear memories. Young Sly, at home in Vallejo, California, watches the cowboys on TV: “I liked Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. My favorite was Lash LaRue. There was no one cooler. He wore all black and used a whip. What for? To keep himself from shooting a motherfucker.”
Middle-school, churchgoing Sly is mesmerized by the high-energy soul singers—Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson—who come out of gospel. “They kept what was holy and added in what was earthy … I wanted to sing like them, control the stage like them.” Student Sly, at Vallejo Junior College, has a great teacher: Mr. Froehlich, who explains music theory to him with vision-inducing clarity. “I could see the melodic lines, watch them intertwine. It’s wrong to say that it was like shoelaces but it’s also wrong to say that it wasn’t at least a little like that.”
He also has some memory holes, or some places he’d rather not go. “Drugs came in. There were reasons … I was trying to write, trying to play, trying to record. All of that needed to be fueled. But how did that fuel make me feel? A drug is a substance and so the question has substance. A drug can be a temporary escape and so I will temporarily escape that question.”
Career-building Sly was a radio DJ in San Francisco, honing his patter, and also a record producer, bedding down in the acid wisps of Haight-Ashbury, tweaking the beat music of the Beau Brummels, tuning up the thumping psych-pop of the Mojo Men, cracking the whip like Lash LaRue. (He forced the Great Society, Grace Slick’s pre–Jefferson Airplane band, through 50 takes of “Somebody to Love.”) The Family Stone, he tells Ben Greenman, was “a concept—white and black together, male and female both, and women not just singing but playing instruments. That was a big deal back then and it was a big deal on purpose.”
Woodstock was a peak. Just past four in the morning, Sly and the Family Stone played “I Want to Take You Higher,” and Sly initiated a call-and-response routine that was like heaven talking to Earth: “Just say higher and throw the peace sign up,” he exhorted a rained-on, worn-out, crawling-around-in-its-sleeping-bag crowd. “It’ll do you no harm.” From the darkness came the answer, thousand-voiced, in a wall of affirmation: Higher! After Woodstock, Sly remembers in Thank You, “everything glowed.”
Entropy was already at work. As beautifully as he had realized and organized the Family Stone, Sly was also an arch-orchestrator of turmoil: the control of no control. Endless brinkmanship—Would he show up for the gig or not? And in what condition?—pitched his band into despair. There was a devouringly out-of-it appearance on The Dick Cavett Show. Gangsterhood enveloped his household: guns, drugs, sketchy people. At the center of Thank You, like a gyre of disruption, is the image of Sly’s as-good-as-feral pit bull, Gun, whirling around in pursuit of his own tail. “He was my best friend. He was crazy. He would chase his tail in circles, not for a minute or for an hour but forever.” Gun ends up mauling Sly’s toddler son, Sylvester Stewart Jr.
For some people, There’s a Riot Goin’ On, Sly’s itchy, woozy, drum-machined bummer of a 1971 album, is a masterpiece. For me the drug vibes are too heavy, the flashes of self-awareness too sour and fleeting, the music too much like Gun chasing his own tail. It was certainly groundbreaking: through the crust and downward. The two albums that followed it—Fresh (1973) and the insufficiently listened-to Small Talk (1974)—were probably better records, better art, but with Riot, Sly had cast a long, evil spell on himself and his audience. The Family Stone was falling apart. A disastrous showcase at Radio City Music Hall, in January 1975, had the smell of the end.
So what is it, the Sly Stone story? Utopia colliding with reality? Not that, because Sly was his own kind of realist all along. The slow death of the ’60s? Not that either. The ’60s were about conflict, and conflict, as far as we can tell, never dies. The space created by Sly and the Family Stone, the blast radius of delight—that, too, will never die. Genius undone by addiction, then: Is that it? Too small, way too small. Look on him rather as a supreme artist, elected and condemned to expand actuality, and thereby to experience himself fully and on the grandest scale—his flaws writ large, his glory almost dazzling, all simultaneous, all one.
This article appears in the October 2023 print edition with the headline “I, Sly.”
Nature Communications, Published online: 16 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-41504-2Enhancing nitrogen use efficiency can improve global food production while minimizing environmental damage. Here, the authors combine 29 meta-analyses revealing that tailored practices based on local conditions can boost NUEr by 30% with variation between high- and middle-income regions.
- For a while, this confusing money oopsie appeared to be the end of the studio, until it was brought back from the dead by a hitherto unknown company, LBC Entertainment, which was founded specifically to acquire and become Telltale Games anew.
Students at the Technical University of Munich in
have built an incredibly efficient electric car that's absolutely crushed the previous record for the longest distance driven on a single battery charge.
The vehicle, dubbed "muc022," covered just short of 1,600 miles on just a single charge of 15.5 kilowatt hours, officially setting a new Guinness World Record.
To put those numbers into perspective, per Car and Driver, the longest-range production car is the 2023 Lucid Air, which has an EPA-estimated range of 516 miles, thanks to a 118 kilowatt-hour battery.
The previous record of 999 miles was set by global tech company IT Asset Partners back in 2017.
The students' record-beating
took its time to cover the 1,600 miles. Specifically, the single-seater took 99 hours of driving around inside an airplane hangar near the Munich airport, traveling at a max speed of just 26 mph — essentially the opposite approach of the jaw-dropping mini racer that recently accomplished acceleration of 0 to 62 mph in a blistering 0.956 seconds.
Unsurprisingly, the wedge-shaped vehicle was designed primarily to keep weight and air resistance to a bare minimum. The vehicle has a drag coefficient of just 0.159. For perspective, Lightyear claims its Lightyear 0 production-ready solar car is the most aerodynamic production car with a drag coefficient of 0.175.
However, the muc022's curb weight of just 375 pounds suggests that its driver likely had access to an absolute minimum of luxuries.
But then again, blasting the AC or listening to music isn't exactly the goal of the exercise.
The post New EV Demolishes Previous Record for Longest Distance Driven on a Single Charge appeared first on Futurism.
Missing the Mark
With its impressive constellation of satellites, Starlink has become somewhat of a household name in spite of its relatively niche market. That hasn't saved it, however, from its numbers coming up drastically short of internal projections, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Starlink, a division of Elon Musk's SpaceX, reported a revenue of $1.4 billion for 2022. That's respectable on its own, but a far cry from what the company expected to be raking in by now.
According to a 2015 presentation obtained by the WSJ, SpaceX projected that Starlink would generate nearly $12 billion in revenue and $7 billion in profit in 2022. By 2025, it hoped to clear $30 billion — which now seems laughable.
Similarly, the actual size of its user base pales in comparison to its early projections. The plan in 2015 was that Starlink would have 20 million subscribers to its satellite based internet service by the end of last year, but in reality it only hit one million.
Whether those massive discrepancies are simply a symptom of Musk's signature overly ambitious timelines rather than the performance actually being that bad is up for debate, but clearly the company isn't anywhere near where it'd hoped to be by now.
Currently, the division's exact profitability remains unclear, and was not disclosed in the obtained documents. On the upside, Starlink reported marginal profits for the first three months of 2022, the WSJ reported. A small victory, nonetheless, amidst an overall loss for the year.
A big reason for why profits remain elusive is that SpaceX is blowing hefty chunks of change in upkeep, spending $3.2 billion in capital expenditures that year, according to the documents.
That spending, paired with day-to-day operating costs, is sure to be a huge dent in anyone's wallet, let alone for a company that is over 18 million short in expected customers.
Recent bad press is certainly no boon going forward, either, with Musk admitting last week that he manipulated Starlink to sabotage a
military attack on Russia's naval fleet in Crimea.
King of the Competition
At the very least, Starlink's revenue still enjoyed a healthy climb last year, up $222 million from the year before, and recently announced that it's no longer losing money on producing its satellite antennas.
Furthermore, the Musk-led venture can safely say that it's head and shoulders above its competitors like Amazon, who are still scrambling to deploy its own low Earth orbit satellites.
This is where SpaceX enjoys a considerable advantage: as the world's foremost launch provider, it has plenty of rockets available to send up its own satellites as often as it wants, without having to depend on third parties.
Even that advantage has a caveat, though: in a leaked email two years ago, Musk warned that if SpaceX can't get Starship off the ground as a next-gen launch vehicle for future Starlink satellites, it could put the entirety of SpaceX in danger of bankruptcy.
The post Starlink Is Falling Way Short of Projections on Revenue and Users appeared first on Futurism.
Nature Communications, Published online: 16 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-41303-9Here the authors developed an open-source program (DRfold) for RNA tertiary structure prediction from sequence. Through a unique combination of end-to-end learning and geometry restraint guided simulations, the method demonstrates advantage over peer methods.
Nature Communications, Published online: 16 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-41393-5SpCas9 off-targets are a safety concern. Here the authors report a cleavage rule that governs the on-target and off-target cleavage of increased(/high)-fidelity SpCas9 variants: the variants have differences in fidelity small enough to comprise an optimal variant for each target, irrespective of its cleavability ranking.
Nature Communications, Published online: 16 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-41502-4The role of lactate in the control of microglial function remains poorly investigated. Here, the authors show that lactate promotes lysosomal acidification in microglia, and that mice lacking the lactate transporter MCT4 in these cells display defective brain development and anxiety-like behavior.
Nature Communications, Published online: 16 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-41403-6Geophysical data from Chain Transform Fault reveal that broad damage zones preferentially facilitate fluid transport that cools the mantle, increasing earthquake depths. Fluids weaken the fault and segment it, limiting earthquake magnitudes.
Scientific Reports, Published online: 16 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-42425-2Correlate the cyanogenic potential and dry matter content of cassava roots and leaves grown in different environments
Scientific Reports, Published online: 16 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-42623-yHousehold catastrophic health expenditures for
Scientific Reports, Published online: 16 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-42271-2Calcination and ion substitution improve physicochemical and biological properties of nanohydroxyapatite for bone tissue engineering applications
NASA astronaut Frank Rubio has now spent more consecutive days in the Earth's orbit than any other NASA astronaut before him.
The 47-year-old US Army veteran has spent the last 355 days and counting aboard the International Space Station, a staggeringly long stay hundreds of miles above the Earth's surface.
"In some ways, it's been an incredible challenge," he said during a live stream on Wednesday. "But in other ways, it's been an incredible blessing."
Year in Space
The previous record for the longest time spent in orbit by an American was set by NASA astronaut Mark Vande last year, who topped out at 355 days on board the ISS.
The world record, however, is held by Russian cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov, who spent 437 days back in 1994 on board the Soviet space station Mir.
Rubio's scheduled departure on September 27 means that he will spend a total of 371 days in space, as Agence France-Presse points out, without topping Polyakov's accomplishment.
He traveled to the space station last year on board a Russian Soyuz rocket alongside two other cosmonauts. Yet an unexpected leak of the docked capsule in December forced the three space travelers to fill in for the next crew and extend their stay significantly.
Unsurprisingly, spending almost an entire year on board a tiny space station has its toll, with Rubio describing the experience as "psychologically… a little bit of a challenge."
"Once you're up here for a little bit, you really get focused on the work and sometimes you forget to appreciate the fact that you are floating around and that you have this amazing view down below you," Rubio said during the livestream.
More on astronauts: Scientists Alarmed by What Space Station Astronauts Appear to Be Breathing
The post NASA Astronaut Breaks Agency's Record for Longest Stay in Space appeared first on Futurism.
- The space agency teamed up with toy maker TOMY and Doshisha University to come up with the design.
Moon Ball Drop
Japan is hoping to follow up India's successful landing on the surface of the Moon early next year — and helping it along will be a tennis ball-shaped rover that's giving us just a little bit of the same energy as BB-8 from the Star Wars movies.
Once roughly six feet above the dusty lunar surface — that is, if the lander makes it that far in one piece — it'll release the 8.8-ounce spacecraft, which will then move both of its halves separately to crawl through the regolith, a fantastical concept that directly draws from the design of children's toys.
Think of it more as a tech demo. LEV-2's batteries only allow it to explore the area for two hours. However, the benefits of its unusual shape are substantial and could inspire future rovers.
"We adopted the robust and safe design technology for children's toys, which reduced the number of components used in the vehicle as much as possible and increased its reliability," said Hirano Daichi, senior researcher and developer of the vehicle at JAXA, in a statement.
The space agency teamed up with toy maker TOMY and Doshisha University to come up with the design. Japanese tech giant Sony came up with the control board and stabilized camera, nestled between its two half-sphere legs.
But before LEV-2 can start rolling off into the distance, JAXA has the difficult task of navigating its SLIM probe to lunar orbit and making its descent, a harrowing journey that a growing number of countries have failed to survive in recent years.
Nonetheless, Daichi and his colleagues are hopeful.
"I hope children will get interested in science generally, not limited to space science, by seeing the baseball-sized vehicle running while swinging left and right on the Moon," he said in the statement.
If you want your own LEV-2, TOMY's Sora-Q is a 1:1 model of the LEV-2 and can be bought for roughly $150.
More on JAXA: Japan Launches Mission to the Moon
The post Japanese Moon Mission Carrying Weird Rolling Robot appeared first on Futurism.
- “Marc Tessier-Lavigne steps down from Regeneron board .”
The week at
- The Retraction Watch Database becomes completely open – and RW becomes far more sustainable
- Overturning a dubious retraction proves difficult for education professor
- Turmoil at Sage journal as retractions mount
Our list of retracted or withdrawn COVID-19 papers is up to well over 350. There are now nearly 43,000 retractions in The Retraction Watch Database — which is now part of
. The Retraction Watch Hijacked Journal Checker now contains 200 titles. And have you seen our leaderboard of authors with the most retractions lately — or our list of top 10 most highly cited retracted papers?
Here’s what was happening elsewhere (some of these items may be paywalled, metered access, or require free registration to read):
- “The deal announced today will link information about the 42,000 retractions in Retraction Watch’s database to Crossref’s digital object identifier system in return for $775,000 over 5 years.”
- “We do nothing but complain about the gray fog of lies that engulfs us in these times of political polarization and digital ferocity.”
Italianminister’s papers contain evidence of image issues, says report.
- Carlo Croce, the Ohio State cancer researcher whose house and art collection are at risk of being sold by his lawyers to cover his debts, now sues Sotheby’s, saying they undervalued his art when he needed a loan. More here.
- “AI destroys principles of authorship. A scary case from educational technology publishing.”
- “Some professors at the Business School have also received emails from Harvard’s Office of the General Counsel asking them to refrain from speaking out about the Gino case or the school’s new tenure policies.”
- “Community-developed checklists for publishing images and image analyses.”
- “This alternative way to measure research impact made judges cry with joy.”
- “Previous scientific revolutions have been led by academic journals and laboratories. Robots might create the next one.”
- “Chinese academic database fined over privacy breaches.”
- “Scientist shocks peers by ‘tailoring’ climate study.” But what did it prove?
- Among 453 manuscripts in biomedicine published from 2016 to 2021, “50.1% of them fail to share the analytical code.”
- “Is it new, is it true and do we care—the role of prospective review registration.”
- “In 2021, only 0.6 per cent of scientific publications in Quebec were in French, compared to four per cent in the early 2000s.”
- “Marc Tessier-Lavigne steps down from Regeneron board.”
- “Swap authorship for ‘movie credits’ approach…”
- “You do not receive enough recognition for your influential science.”
- For editors and publishers, “the 24-hour attention required to prevent untruths and downright lies getting into the publication record does take a toll.”
- An academic governance nonprofit CEO is out “following allegations of plagiarism in a column.”
- “Is sustainability research the victim or saviour of a broken academic publishing system?”
- “Philadelphia Inquirer Deletes Article Critical of Controversial Sixers Arena.”
- “Fostering trust through transparent peer review.” A webinar on Sept. 26 featuring our Ivan Oransky.
Like Retraction Watch? You can make a tax-deductible contribution to support our work, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, add us to your RSS reader, or subscribe to our daily digest. If you find a retraction that’s not in our database, you can let us know here. For comments or feedback, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Can he?, What's new in China's robotics market?, July chip sales edge up, but are still well behind last year, Rockwell automation acquiring AMR developer Clearpath robotics
Hardware acceleration in robotics news. Modi wants to make
a chip-making superpower. Can he?, What's new in
's robotics market?, July chip sales edge up, but are still well behind last year, Rockwell automation acquiring AMR developer Clearpath robotics
Scientific Reports, Published online: 16 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-42509-zEffect of the macular shape on hole findings in idiopathic
Scientific Reports, Published online: 16 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-42483-6Organic walled microfossils in wet peperites from the early Cretaceous Paraná-Etendeka volcanism of
Scientific Reports, Published online: 16 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-42721-xRevealing mechanism of Methazolamide for treatment of
Scientific Reports, Published online: 16 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-42547-7Effects of an open-label placebo intervention on reactions to social exclusion in healthy adults: a randomized controlled trial
Scientific Reports, Published online: 16 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-42519-xExperimental study on the probabilities of kinked arches and kinked arch locations in ore passes under the influences of multiple factors
Scientific Reports, Published online: 16 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-42677-yThe effect of material defect orientation on rolling contact fatigue of a ball bearing
Scientific Reports, Published online: 16 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-41529-zGreen synthesis of TiO2 for furfural production by photohydrolysis of tortilla manufacturing waste
Scientific Reports, Published online: 16 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-42465-8A cross-cohort computational framework to trace
Nature Communications, Published online: 16 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-41493-2Zhang et al. report that Medicago AR2/ERF transcription regulators WRI5a-ERM1-ERF12 form a transcriptional negative feedback loop to coordinate arbuscular lipid supply, enabling the maintenance of a stable, reciprocally beneficial symbiosis.
Nature Communications, Published online: 16 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-41515-zThe metabolic alterations underpinning aging processes and mortality in humans are not well understood. Here, the authors show that differences in levels of nucleosides, amino acids, and several lipid subclasses can predict mortality and longevity.
Back then the boom began due to countries wanting to one up each other in military and technology and science as soon as that stopped we have been stagnating if we treated curing cancer like a war machine to defeat the nazis/Japanese or the soviet union we would have cured it there's just no huge reason now to do anything I can guarantee if a country like China were to cure cancer or other disease in a fast rate the US would do so to compete and not lag behind there's a reason we've had more military development then any other engineering or science development we fear being outperformed and loosing if we can bring back just like with the soviet union we would be advancing at high rates conflict breeds innovation its the only good thing about it we got chemo from ww1 German gas attacks let me repeat if it wasn't for ww1 we wouldn't have chemo right now war is horrible but it sure does innovate at a rapid rate you saw how fast we created and tested the covid 19 vaccine when countries tried to one up each other we need that exact mentality if we want to cure and innovate shit I'm not advocating for war I just want the same mentality countries had about one upping each other when making the vaccine but for other diseases we would have cured cancer by now if we had that mentality in the last 20 years
Nature Communications, Published online: 16 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-41522-0The poor directional charge transfer from bulk to active sites restricts the overall photocatalytic efficiency. Here, the authors report a new process of dipole field-driven spontaneous polarization in nitrogen-rich triazole-based carbon nitride to harness photogenerated charge kinetics for hydrogen peroxide production.
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Social-media platforms’ attempts to break into commerce have largely flopped. Will TikTok Shop fare any better?
First, here are four new stories from The Atlantic:
- The young conservatives trying to make eugenics respectable again
- The very common, very harmful thing well-meaning parents do
- The real issue in the UAW strike
- The Senate’s deep and dirty secret
“Silicon Valley Math”
A chamoy-pickle kit for $17.98; 352 sold so far. An ab roller wheel for $24.29; 8,592 sold. A one-piece professional V-shape-face double-chin-removal exerciser for 89 cents; 81 sold. Such is a sampling of the items featured on my TikTok Shop tab on Wednesday morning.
Earlier this week, TikTok Shop, a feature that allows audiences to purchase a baffling array of items through a stand-alone Shop tab and from videos on their feed, rolled out to TikTok users in
. Now many of the app’s livestreams are “QVC-like places where sellers are nonstop pitching products to live audiences,” as my colleague Caroline Mimbs Nyce recently wrote. TikTok’s latest move is an attempt to shift the app’s identity—and a sign of the company’s confidence in the loyalty of its users. Yes, we can riddle feeds with often-ludicrous product promotions, the Shop feature seems to be saying, and people will still keep coming back for more.
TikTok is the latest in a series of prominent platforms that have tried to pivot to e-commerce. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, and even Google have tried to launch shopping functions, with varying—though generally low—degrees of success. “Every advertising company tries its hand at commerce, because they think that there’s some huge prize to be had if you can actually own the transaction and know what people are purchasing,” Sucharita Kodali, a retail analyst at Forrester, told me. But though the potential gains are tantalizing, it’s hard to pull off: Instagram booted its shopping feature from the navigation bar and shut down its live-shopping feature earlier this year. Facebook similarly shut down its livestream-shopping function last year. Live-shopping services on YouTube have also struggled to gain traction.
Platforms moving to e-commerce need to build product pages and figure out details such as order fulfillment, secure checkout processes, customer service, and other logistics. That’s a lot for tech companies whose primary expertise lies in other areas. “It’s never worked for anyone else,” Kodali said. “Why would it work for [TikTok]?” (A spokesperson for TikTok told me that there are upwards of 200,000 sellers on TikTok Shop, and more than 100,000 registered creators, but declined to share more information beyond what’s posted on the company’s press site.)
American customers, by and large, don’t seem all that eager to shop on social-media apps instead of on trusted e-commerce websites. In China, where TikTok’s parent company is based, shopping via livestream is a huge trend—an estimated $500 billion in goods were reportedly sold on streams last year. But just because shopping on social media is big in China doesn’t mean it will translate to American audiences; Kodali noted that Chinese e-commerce trends do not have a track record of blowing up in the United States. And TikTok’s own norms may make commercial activity a hard sell. Caroline told me today that, although the app’s culture of authenticity may help some users sell things, “you could see shopping being a bit of an odd fit: This app was supposed to be where I watched relatable videos from everyday people, and now they’re trying to make money off of me?”
Still, Caroline told me, “people spend a tremendous amount of time on TikTok, and I don’t see them quitting en masse over TikTok Shop. I think it’s more of a question of how much users will tolerate, and how successful it’ll be in the long run.” In-app shopping, she added, is a “white whale” for social platforms.
Commerce and social media have long been intertwined: Much of social-media influencers’ role boils down to recommending products. But audiences follow these influencers because they trust them and because these people have a track record of offering useful or interesting information. On TikTok Shop, meanwhile, almost anyone can start selling things. I currently have five followers, and perhaps one dayI too could apply to set up an account to start hawking one-piece professional V-shape-face double-chin-removal exercisers. (I probably wouldn’t do that.) And some reporters have already identified safety and integrity concerns with the feature.
If other apps have failed to grow e-commerce businesses and there doesn’t seem to be a strong consumer appetite for these services in the U.S., why is TikTok trying to get into the retail game? Part of it might be a simple grasp at big numbers, combined with a healthy dose of the hubris that powers the tech world. American retail is a multitrillion-dollar industry: If tech executives are engaging in what Kodali called “Silicon Valley math”—calculating the total size of a market and estimating the percentage of it they can capture—they may extrapolate big revenues. And to large tech companies, it may seem relatively easy and worthwhile to create a checkout module and order pages if it means getting even a small slice of the retail pie. Social-media companies have a long history of foisting new products that they hope will prove good for their business on users who did not ask for them—consider the metaverse.
Tech companies have been throwing spaghetti at the proverbial wall for years, seeking out new revenue streams where they can. TikTok Shop may be another such investment: a grasp at revenue just in case it works. Social-media apps are always mimicking features from other apps. Instagram is trying to be like Twitter and Snapchat; LinkedIn is emulating TikTok; Facebook is trying to be like everyone. And TikTok seems to be the latest app trying to become Amazon.
- Tropical-storm warnings are in place for millions of people in New England and Canada as Hurricane Lee approaches.
- In remarks from the White House, President Joe Biden expressed respect for the United Auto Workers strike and emphasized that record profits for auto companies have not been “shared fairly” with workers.
- Corpses are decaying under rubble in the Libyan city of Derna, where at least 10,000 people are believed to be missing due to devastating floods.
- The Books Briefing: Gal Beckerman asks whether we should still read Uncle Tom’s Cabin and discusses the book’s moral complexities with Clint Smith.
Don’t Let Love Take Over Your Life
By Faith Hill
If you have a romantic partner, maybe you’ve noticed that you two spend an awful lot of time together—and that you haven’t seen other people quite as much as you’d like. Or if you’re single (and many of your friends aren’t), you might have gotten the eerie feeling that I sometimes do: that you’re in a deserted town, as if you woke one morning to find the houses all empty, the stores boarded up. Where’d everyone go?
Either way, that feeling might not just be in your head. Kaisa Kuurne, a sociologist at the University of Helsinki, told me she was “a little bit shocked” when she started mapping Finnish adults’ relationships for a 2012 study, investigating whom subjects felt close to and how they interacted day to day. Subjects who lived with a romantic partner seemed to have receded into their coupledom.
More From The Atlantic
- Slack is basically Facebook now.
- Political art isn’t always better art.
- Libya’s unnatural disaster
- Photos of the week: fish face, orca kite, naked run
Listen. An audio collection of some of last month’s most popular Atlantic articles, presented by Hark.
In another fascinating addition to the annals of Sam Bankman-Fried, my friend and former colleague David Yaffe-Bellany reports in The New York Times that while on house arrest, the FTX founder crafted a set of byzantine documents explaining himself, which he gave to the crypto influencer Tiffany Fong for reasons unclear. Bankman-Fried’s apologia took the form of a 15,000-word, 70-page unpublished Twitter thread, replete with links to Alicia Keys and Rihanna music videos as well as jabs at former colleagues; another file featured a screenshot from the Christopher Nolan movie Inception. A favorite detail of mine from the article: Apparently, Bankman-Fried told Fong that his parents were installing a pickleball court for him while he was on house arrest.
Katherine Hu contributed to this newsletter.
When you buy a book using a link in this newsletter, we receive a commission. Thank you for supporting The Atlantic.
The warming climate has been rapidly melting Antarctica to such a degree that scientists and politicians have been seriously contemplating desperate measures to forestall its total collapse, such as spraying sun-reflecting particles into the sky to cool the surface temperature of the planet.
The method is called solar geoengineering, which operates from the same principle as how erupting volcanos like Mount Pinatubo in 2001 and Krakatoa in 1883 spewed copious amounts of ash into the atmosphere, chilling the temperature of the Earth for a noticeable period.
Unfortunately, a team of scientists from
and the United Kingdom have come out with a new study in the journal Nature Climate Change that shows solar geoengineering alone would have a limited impact on delaying the melting of ice in Antarctica.
Basically, the finding is that there's no easy way out of the climate change hell hole we dug ourselves into as a species, and that rapid decarbonization is still the best path to preventing the worst impacts of global warming.
Bye Bye Bye
The research team used computer modeling to analyze the effectiveness of solar geoengineering, which they term "solar radiation management" in their paper, on the melt rate of the West Antarctic ice sheet under different climate scenarios.
"Observations of ice flows in West Antarctica indicate that we are very close to a so-called tipping point or have already passed it," said study lead author and University of Bern researcher Johannes Sutter in a statement. "With our study, we therefore wanted to find out whether a collapse of the ice sheet could theoretically be prevented with solar radiation management.”
In a situation where there's no effort to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, scientists concluded that spraying sun-dimming particles into the atmosphere in the middle of this century would only delay the disappearance of the ice sheet in West Antarctic. If the world does reduce greenhouse gas in a "medium emissions scenario," though, solar geoengineering would "delay or even prevent" the ice sheet from melting.
Basically, humans still have to do a lot of work to reduce global warming no matter how much greenhouse gas emissions we release this century and not just hope a Hail Mary like geoengineering would save the day.
And even then, geoengineering would almost certainly have unforeseen consequences that have not been studied fully, according to the scientists, such as changing weather patterns in negative ways.
More on Antarctica: Antarctica is Losing a Flabbergasting Amount of Ice
The post It’s Too Late for Geoengineering Alone to Save Antarctica, Scientists Find appeared first on Futurism.
Here are mine, these are just my opinions so don’t take my predictions as gospel or anything.
Robots that are able to do everything a human can do, with the dexterity etc of a human: 2060+
Prosthetics as good as a human limb, with sense of touch, sense of temperature etc: 2050s
fully autonomous self driving cars: 2035+
replacement of all human jobs (even doctors, nurses, etc) with AI etc: 2060s+
robot doctors, nurses etc: 2050s+ / 2060s+
robot teachers: 2050s+
robot plumbers, electricians etc: 2050s+
Robot butlers etc: 2050s+
Simple printed organs (skin, cartilage etc): late 2030s – 2040s
Complex printed organs (heart, testicles etc): 2050s+
First treatments to extend HEALTHspan in humans: 2045+ – 2050+
First treatments to extend LIFEspan in humans: 2060s+ – 2070s
Cancer cures: 2060s+
Cure for aging / immortality: 2100s+
gene therapies to change eye color, height etc: 2060s
Alzhiemers / dementia etc treatments: 2050s
alzheimers / dementia etc cures: 2070s
treatments for prions: 2060s
Treatments for brain damage: 2060s++
Human Cloning: no sooner than mid 2070s
human germline genetic editing: 2060s+
peak oil: 2040s+ / 2050s
peak coal: mid 2030s
peak gas: 2040s / early 2050s
50% renewable energy globally: 2050s+
100% renewable energy globally: 2070s+
moon colony: mid 2030s
mars colony: mid 2050s
mind uploading: 2080s – never (depends if its possible)
Full dive VR: no sooner than mid 2060s
Scientific Reports, Published online: 15 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-42726-6Efficacy of cell-free DNA as a diagnostic biomarker in
Our planet just got a health check-up — and unfortunately, according to scientists, the results are pretty grim.
In a new study published in the journal Science Advances, an international team of researchers warns that several of Earth's vital life-supporting systems — or "planetary boundaries" — have been breached, meaning that our Pale Blue Dot is "well outside the safe operating space for humanity."
Defined by the Stockholm University Resilience Centre as the margins "within which humanity can continue to develop and thrive," these nine boundaries are designed to offer researchers a way to test our planet's overall health and resilience and include categories like biosphere integrity, climate change, ocean acidification, and land-system change, among others.
Troublingly, after performing the "first scientific health check for the entire planet," the team determined that six of these nine systemic categories have been broken by manmade pollution and demolition, leaving Earth — and the life that exists on it — in a precarious position.
"We know for certain that humanity can thrive under the conditions that have been here for 10,000 years," Katherine Richardson, a professor at the University of Copenhagen and the leader of the assessment, told The Guardian. "We don't know that we can thrive under major, dramatic alterations [and] humans impacts on the Earth system as a whole are increasing as we speak."
According to the analysis, which took over 2,000 previous studies into account, some of Earth's boundaries were breached quite a while ago.
The boundary of biosphere integrity, for example, which is considered a "core boundary" along with climate change, was broken back in the 1800s, while the healthy boundary for Earth's freshwater systems was breached shortly thereafter in the early 1900s. The threshold for climate change, meanwhile, was crossed in the 1980s.
The most concerning finding? According to the assessment, all four categories dealing with the biological world were either at or close to the highest risk level.
But, if there's any silver lining, our atmospheric ozone appears to still be hovering within healthy confines — a particularly hopeful finding, considering that our ozone was once at great risk of collapse and human efforts to reverse that damage have proven effective.
While it all sounds pretty doom and gloom, Richardson was careful to note to The Guardian that the study results don't necessarily mean we're going under.
It doesn't "indicate a certain heart attack," she said, comparing our home planet to a human with high blood pressure, "but it does greatly raise the risk."
And lowering that risk, of course, will require human action.
The post Scientists
“Health Check” on Planet Earth, Alarmed by What They Find appeared first on Futurism.
Nature Communications, Published online: 15 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-41480-7Motile cilia are hair-like structures that are found on the surface of eukaryotic cells providing cell motility. Here, authors reveal the twelve components of nexin-dynein regulatory complex and associated proteins in cilia from Tetrahymena thermophila.
Nature Communications, Published online: 15 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-41101-3Aberrant G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) signaling has been associated with
went down on Wednesday morning — and the timing of its outage couldn't have been more unfortunate.
While OpenAI's world-beating chatbot suffered its second major outage in as many weeks, big tech executives were convening in Washington to plead their case to lawmakers over the future of AI.
Among several notable figures in attendance was Sam Altman, CEO of the AI startup — who probably hoped to put on a better face amidst increased scrutiny over ChatGPT's falling user traffic for the past several months.
According to OpenAI's status page, the issue, described as "elevated error rates and increased latency," was being investigated starting at around 9am EST. Then, about an hour later, an update acknowledged an "outage for most conversations with ChatGPT."
It would take nearly two hours since the troubleshooting began before the incident was declared "resolved" — a hefty length of time for any site to go down, nevermind with Congress looking to you as an industry leader.
Needless to say, it's not the best look for the world's (diminishingly) hottest AI product, especially since these outages have apparently spiked in frequency over the past few weeks.
The last outage of note occurred on August 31, during which the service "severely degraded."
But only two days before that, ChatGPT had suffered yet another "major outage," which blocked users from accessing the web UI entirely.
To add to OpenAI's worries, the chatbot continues to bleed users for the third month in a row, after reporting in July its first decline in web traffic since its release.
In Washington, Altman was joined by other industry titans including tech hyphenate Elon Musk, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang.
The meeting, known as the AI Insight Forum, was chiefly organized by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
"We all share the same incentives of getting this right," Altman said after the closed-door meeting, as quoted by The New York Times.
We'll have to wait and see how sincere he's being this time around. Altman has once before stressed the urgent need to regulate AI to lawmakers — only to turn around and throw a tantrum over the EU doing just that.
More on ChatGPT: Paper Retracted When Authors Caught Using ChatGPT to Write It
The post ChatGPT Goes Down Right as Sam Altman Defends It in Washington appeared first on Futurism.
Footage and eyewitness accounts have conveyed harrowing scenes from the storm-struck Libyan town of Derna: overflowing morgues and mass burials, rescuers digging through mud with their bare hands to recover bodies, a corpse hanging from a streetlight, the cries of trapped children. Two aging dams to Derna’s south collapsed under the pressure of Storm Daniel, sending an estimated 30 million cubic meters of water down a river valley that runs through the city’s center and erasing entire neighborhoods. Some 11,300 people are currently believed dead—a number that could double in the days ahead. An estimated 38,000 residents have been displaced.
Libya has seen no shortage of suffering and misery since the 2011 revolution that toppled its longtime dictator, Muammar Qaddafi. Yet Storm Daniel promises to be a singular event. Already, Libyan commentators inside the country and out are pointing to the apocalyptic loss of life in Derna as the product not simply of a natural disaster, but of Libya’s divided and ineffectual governance. The west of the country is run by the internationally recognized Government of National Unity; the east, including Derna, falls under the rule of the renegade strongman Khalifa Haftar.
Derna has become an emblem of ills that afflict many of Libya’s 7 million inhabitants: infrastructural decay, economic neglect, unpreparedness for global warming. But to understand the scale of its destruction requires seeing the city in its particularity—as a stronghold of opposition to Haftar’s violent consolidation of power in eastern Libya, and before that, a hub of intellectualism and dissent. Derna’s suffering is not entirely an accident. Though for that matter, neither is Libya’s.
Founded on the ruins of the Greek city of Darnis, Derna has always been a place apart in Libya, distinguished by its cosmopolitanism, creative ferment, and fierce independence. It sits along the Mediterranean coast, at the base of the aptly named Jabal Akhdar, or Green Mountains, which constitute Libya’s wettest region and account for anywhere from 50 to 75 percent of its plant species. A port city of 100,000, Derna is famous for its gardens, river-fed canals, night-flowering jasmine, and delicious bananas and pomegranates.
Muslim Andalusians fleeing persecution in Spain helped build the city in the 16th century, leaving their imprint on the designs of mosques and ornamental doors in its old quarter. Waves of other settlers would make their way there across the Mediterranean. By the early 20th century, Derna had become a font of literary output and nationalist agitation. Poets and playwrights gathered in a weekly cultural salon called the Omar Mukhtar Association to rail against colonial rule across the region, and after 1951, against the Libyan monarchy.
An officers’ coup ousted that monarchy in 1969, and the country’s new ruler—Colonel Muammar Qaddafi—naturally took a wary view of the coastal city’s troublemaking potential. By the 1980s, he had made Derna a place of despair, its arts scene eviscerated, its prosperous traders dispossessed, its youth crushed by unemployment. Many of Derna’s young men joined the Islamist insurgency against Qaddafi that spread through the Green Mountains in the 1990s. The dictator responded by shutting down the region’s water service and detaining, torturing, and executing oppositionists. By the mid-2000s, the city’s rage was channeled outward, as hundreds of young men flocked from Derna to Iraq to fight the American military occupation. The U.S. military captured documents attesting to the militancy of these recruits, also revealed in a U.S. diplomat’s 2006 cable titled “Die Hard in Derna.”
In the years after Qaddafi’s fall in 2011, Derna became the site of violent infighting among Islamists, including a radical faction that sought to make the city an outpost of the Islamic State. Haftar, a Qaddafi-era general and defector, began his military campaign under the guise of eliminating jihadist militias and restoring security. But his sweep was actually a bid for national power, and Derna’s fighters were among its staunchest opponents. He was determined to subdue the city. With remorseless, siege-like tactics and substantial foreign assistance, including air strikes and special-operations forces from the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and several Western countries, he did so in 2018, though at the cost of destroying swaths of the city and displacing thousands.
In the years since, Haftar has kept Derna under a virtual military lockdown, ruled by an ineffective puppet municipality and deprived of reconstruction funds, human services, and, crucially, attention to its decaying infrastructure, including the two dams that collapsed during Storm Daniel. Studies and experts had long warned that the dams were in dire need of repair.
Derna’s officials and Haftar’s military authority reportedly issued contradictory instructions as the storm approached: Some advised an evacuation and others ordered a curfew. The confusion suggests a lack of coordination within the eastern government, which, a Libyan climate scientist told me this week, habitually paid little attention to expertise. Haftar will exert tight control over relief and reconstruction efforts in the weeks ahead, funneling contracts to companies run by cronies and family members.
Having obstructed Haftar’s ambitions, Derna has become a particular target for repression. But Haftar’s style of rule—kleptocratic, authoritarian, extractive—has made for poor stewardship of eastern Libya’s infrastructure and natural environment, leaving other communities vulnerable to climate-induced extreme weather events as well.
Haftar’s militia controls a body called the Military Investment Authority, which is essentially a profit-making enterprise for the Haftar family. The authority has taken control of eastern Libya’s agriculture, energy, and construction, with dire consequences for the environment. Climate activists from the east have told me that under Haftar’s watch, the deforestation of the Green Mountains has accelerated. Elites and militias have cut down trees to build vacation residences and businesses, and to sell the wood as charcoal. Urban development and new settlements have expanded into once-forested areas to accommodate people displaced by war.
The absence of tree cover, other human-induced transformations to the Green Mountains, and irregular patterns of rainfall caused by climate change are worsening the damage that floods can wreak. Those that hit the eastern city of Al-Bayda in late 2020 displaced thousands of people. And without the cooling effect of the mountains’ sizable forests, the average mean temperature in the area has risen, which in turn raises the risk of wildfires among the trees that remain. Already, soaring heat waves set forests aflame near the towns of Shahat and Al-Bayda, in 2013 and 2021 respectively.
In most countries, civil society and other grassroots actors can help address such ecological concerns. But in Haftar-ruled east Libya, climate and environmental activists face an extremely repressive security machinery that either stifles their involvement or confines it to politically safe initiatives, such as tree planting.
“Young people are willing, but they are afraid,” an official from the region told me candidly in July. “There is no state support.” A member of a climate-volunteer group in the east told me this week by phone that Haftar’s government had blocked their group’s attempt to obtain weather-monitoring equipment from abroad, citing “security concerns.”
I’ve heard variations on this theme time and time again during my research in Libya—an arid, oil-dependent country that is among the world’s most vulnerable to the shocks of climate change, including floods and rising sea levels, but also soaring temperatures, declining rainfall, extended droughts, and sandstorms of increasing frequency, duration, and intensity.
According to one reputable survey in which higher numbers correlate with greater climate vulnerability, Libya ranks 126th out of 182 states, just after Iraq, in the lower-middle tier. Despite the recent inundation of Derna and the east, water scarcity poses the gravest climate-related risk to the majority of its inhabitants: Libya ranks among the top six most water-stressed countries in the world, with 80 percent of its potable-water supply drawn from non-replenishable fossil aquifers by means of a deteriorating network of pipes and reservoirs. And yet Libya has done little to address its climate vulnerabilities.
The country’s political rivalries, corruption, and militia-ruled patronage system have stymied its response. The eastern and western camps engage in only modest exchanges of climate-related information and technology. Even within the internationally recognized government in Tripoli, the ministry of the environment and a climate authority within the prime minister’s office have been jockeying for control of the climate file. (They reached a modest modus vivendi in recent months, some insiders told me this summer.)
Derna’s plight is so extreme that perhaps—so activists and commentators hope—it will not be ignored, as countless other Libyan calamities have been, but may instead lead to lasting and positive change. Derna holds a lesson for Libya’s elites, if they are listening, about the costs of division and self-aggrandizement. Momentum toward such recognition, however tragic its origins, would be in keeping with the city’s storied and sometimes controversial role as beacon of dissent.
“It’s a revolutionary city,” a climate scientist with family roots there told me this week.
From our perspective down here, on the surface of our planet, the stars are tiny, gleaming specks in an inky-dark universe. Occasionally they appear to twinkle, when the air in our atmosphere bends the incoming light. Through telescopes, they are balls of light, their glow distorted by the lens. And up close, the best star in the universe—our sun—is an orangey sphere of flame.
But stars can be so much more than that, as telescopes, especially the very good ones, can reveal. The James Webb Space Telescope—the most powerful space observatory ever built, perched a million miles from Earth—has captured a portrait of a star about 1,000 light-years away. It’s not a diamond hanging in the sky, but a velvety, dark orb, suspended in space, with jets of bright material unfurling on two sides like the long, shimmery wings of an insect. Stars twinkle, yes. But they can also illuminate the darkness in ways utterly unlike anything we’re used to.
The star in the image is a newborn in stellar terms, also called a protostar. Stars have life spans of their own—they are young, they grow up, they grow old. When they are infants, freshly ignited from clumps of cold gas and dust that have collapsed under their own gravity, they can absorb the leftover material from their formation and eject some of it in a pair of narrow jets. The gush smashes into the surrounding interstellar gas and dust, and the constant collisions produce those radiant wings.
The new picture is a result of the Webb telescope’s capacity to study the universe in, quite literally, a new light. In the beginning, protostars are encased in the dusty molecular cloud of their formation, a cocoon that most visible light can’t pierce. If you looked at the baby star with the naked eye—or even a different kind of telescope—you’d just see a sparkly, opaque cloud of stardust. But Webb is specifically designed to detect infrared light, which is invisible to the human eye but can pass through such dust. By absorbing the infrared light emitted from the excited molecules within the outflows, the Webb telescope was able to capture their structure in mesmerizing detail.
Astronomers have observed the outflows of protostars before, and they have a good understanding of the swirling chaos. But to witness it with such richness and texture is another experience; it scrambles our familiar understanding of what stars—those beautiful pinpricks that follow us around at night—can be. The newest image reminds me of Webb’s observations of Neptune and Uranus, which looked so different from previous pictures; suddenly, the outer planets were not dull gray and blue, but incandescent, each with a set of beautiful rings.
The strange-looking star recorded by Webb is a vision of our cosmic past: This is very likely what our sun looked like when it was just a few tens of thousands of years old, with only 8 percent of the mass it has today. Our sun is now about 4.6 billion years old, and it will remain its usual, shining self for another 5 billion years or so, no giant pair of jetstreams to be found. This distant object will eventually become a sunlike star, or even two; certain wiggles in the outflows suggest the presence of a pair of baby stars, according to NASA and the
Space Agency. Many stars exist in this arrangement, as binary pairs, gravitationally bound to each other. Some stars even come in triples; the nearest star system to us, about 4.3 light-years away, consists of a trio of stars, orbiting together—two sunlike stars, and one dimmer, cooler one.
We can’t predict what kind of system will take shape around this newborn star (or stars), but there might be enough cosmic bits and pieces left over to form planets. Maybe this spot in the universe will someday spark a simple form of life into being, and nourish it for eons, the way it happened here, long enough for a few of its inhabitants to invent nearly magical tools to explore the depths. Perhaps the effort will prompt them to rethink the cosmos, in the way we are now.
Do you find yourself constantly closing your eyes and seeing marble? Do thoughts of Caesar and chariot races and a nascent republic punctuate your daily goings?
All roads lead to Rome—and apparently so do all male thoughts. Across social media, women have been encouraged to ask the men in their life how often they think about the Roman empire and to record the answer. To their surprise (recounted in videos posted all over TikTok, Instagram, and more), many men purport to think about the Roman empire quite a bit. One reveals that his iPhone background is Jacques-Louis David’s Oath of the Horatii, a painting depicting a Roman legend. “Men Are Thinking About the Roman Empire All the Time” has quickly become a meme of its own. Even those who don’t cop to this behavior still sometimes do it. “Probably not a lot, why?” one confused man replies when asked, before admitting thathe thinks about the Romans three or four times a month. “The Roman empire was a very big part of history,” he says defensively.
Presumably some of this is performative, an attempt to project oneself as the sort of history bro who can mansplain Catullus. These men could surely learn something from Cullen Murphy. An Atlantic editor at large and the author of the 2007 book Are We Rome?, Murphy has spent decades thinking about the Roman empire. His work focuses on all of the analogies between ancient Rome and the modern United States, and what, if anything, the analogies portend. “The comparisons, of course, can be facile,” he wrote in a 2021 magazine story reopening the question. “Still, I am not immune to preoccupation with the Roman past.”
Over the phone this morning, he explained further: “Personally, I can’t get enough of it,” he said. “It’s just such a fascinating topic. One of the great things about having a bit of a fixation on this topic is that it makes me very easy to buy for.” We discussed why the Roman empire still matters, the appropriate amount of time we should be thinking about it, and his expansive collection of Roman artifacts.
Our conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Caroline Mimbs Nyce: I wanted to start with the obvious question, which is: How often do you think about the Roman empire personally?
Cullen Murphy: I think about the Roman empire all the time, probably three or four times a day when something comes up, whether it’s in the news or something that I see. I’m definitely in the camp of people who can’t get it out of their minds.
The thing about the history of Rome is that it goes on for such a long period of time that you can find parallels for almost anything—even contradictory parallels. It’s a huge cornucopia of examples.
Let’s start with politics. If you’re reading The New York Times or The Washington Post about political infighting and backstabbing and scandal and so on, well, Rome is just full of that stuff. Also, there’s a lot of Rome that still survives; it’s all around us. The letters of our alphabet are Roman letters. A huge proportion of the words we use come from Latin. If you go to church, the building that you’re in often has a lot of resemblance to Roman buildings. If you’re in Washington, you can’t look around the city without thinking, Oh, I see, this was modeled on Rome. And every day brings some important anniversary. Just a few days ago was the anniversary of the battle of Teutoburg Forest, one of Rome’s greatest military defeats.
Nyce: What do you think the appropriate amount of time one should spend thinking about Rome is?
Murphy: Well …
Nyce: Are you a biased source on this question?
Murphy: Yes, I’m probably not a good person to ask. Personally, I can’t get enough of it. It’s just such a fascinating topic. One of the great things about having a bit of a fixation on this topic is that it makes me very easy to buy for.
Nyce: How much Roman paraphernalia do you have?
Murphy: A lot. People in my family used to say that I was very hard to buy for. But then I gently nudged them in the direction of thinking about Rome. And so now when there’s some significant event, like a birthday, friends and family will give me a Roman coin or a little piece of Roman sculpture or a terracotta oil lamp or the small bits of lead used in slings. I’m looking at my table right now. I just had a birthday, and my wife gave me a tiny Roman bust of Eros.
Nyce: Are you surprised by how many men purport to think about the Roman empire all the time?
Murphy: I am a little bit surprised. I’m not surprised that men are more likely to think about it than women, if that reporting is true.
Over time, this subject has been presented as gendered, though it is not inherently gendered. A lot of the best recent work about Rome has to do with diverse cultures and about women. But if you look at the broad sweep of historical writing, from ancient times onwards, most of it was done by men. Most of it is about men. And much of the subject matter is about military affairs, which has also historically been something that men have gravitated to more than women.
Nyce: If someone were to dedicate themselves to the daily practice of thinking about Rome, what aspects of Rome would you suggest they be thinking about?
Murphy: I’ll mention two things. The first one has to do with a very direct lesson for American society. And it goes back to a conversation that I had with an eminent historian of Rome named Ramsay McMullen. I asked him what I thought at the time was a silly question: If you had to sum up the history of Rome in one sentence, what would it be? And he said immediately, without having to think, “Fewer have more.” He was pointing to the enormous degree of inequality in every way, whether in terms of power or money or freedom, that existed in Rome. I’ve never forgotten that answer.
The second thing has to do with the way in which people talk about the fall of Rome. The wistfulness that you sometimes hear today is along the lines of “How unfortunate that this mighty empire collapsed!” But I don’t see it that way. Very few of us would be happy living in a world that was run the way Rome was run. Here is a society where slavery was baked into the social structure. There was nothing remotely like democracy or freedom as we know it, or rights as we understand them. We are living in a world that is fortunate that it is not Rome.
Nyce: If someone is not currently thinking about Rome all the time, what would go in your thinking-about-Rome starter pack?
Murphy: The historian Tacitus wrote histories of Rome at a certain period. His writing is like a combination of All the President’s Men, by Woodward and Bernstein, and The Last Days of Hitler, by Hugh Trevor-Roper. It’s just riveting, on-the-scene accounts of political warfare. Delicious to read.
Another good place to jump in is Suetonius, who wrote a book called The Twelve Caesars—mini-biographies of 12 emperors. They could have been written yesterday. They’re filled with anecdotes and sharp personality portraits and conversations.
If someone wanted to delve into Roman history from scratch, not reading original ancient sources but reading other books, it’s hard to rival Edward Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, just because his style is so extraordinarily rich. For a much more modern take, try someone like Tom Holland; his new book, Pax, is the last volume of a trilogy. His books are beautifully written and great narrative history. For a different cup of tea, there’s Robert Harris. He has written a trilogy of novels all based on the life of Cicero. They are wonderful, wonderful books.
Nyce: Is there any part of you that thinks that our obsession with Rome is a little overblown, culturally? Or a little Eurocentric even? Have we written enough books on Rome?
Murphy: Well, sure. The world is a big place and history is a big place. And of course there are many, many other subjects that can profitably be explored. But I would say one thing: In some ways, the study of ancient times is hard to define narrowly as being simply Eurocentric, because the world that is being described is in fact a culture that we don’t know. It is as unfamiliar to an American as any existing culture in the world might be today.
Nyce: I imagine you talk about Rome with a lot of people.
Murphy: No, I think they’ve sort of stopped talking to me about it.
Nyce: Really? People avoid talking about it with you?
Murphy: No, I actually try to avoid talking about it myself. I don’t want to be a Rome bore. But sometimes I can’t help myself.
Scientific Reports, Published online: 15 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-42776-wAuthor Correction: Numerical study of ice loads on different interfaces based on cohesive element formulation
Scientific Reports, Published online: 15 September 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-42130-0Characteristic modes of a slot antenna design based on defected ground structure for 5G applications
In 2017, BP took on a cloud-first approach that committed to building any new hardware or system builds on the cloud. Just a year prior, only 2% of BP applications lived on the cloud. At the close of 2022, 90% of BP applications had migrated to cloud environments, changing product and service integration and BP’s overall digital operating model.
Cloud transformations like BP’s can help enterprises improve operational resiliency, accelerate technology adoption, and reduce data center carbon emissions, says vice president of Digital Foundations at BP, Keisha Garcia. Migrating to the cloud at that scale, however, is challenging and extensive, especially when dealing with a legacy IT estate.
“Utilizing cloud platforms provides the necessary computational power and tools to implement advanced analytics, predictive modeling, as well as simulation techniques, which also enables us to continuously improve our sustainability performance,” says Garcia.
To successfully migrate to the cloud and subsequently collaborate and deploy cloud technologies, Garcia stresses the importance of clear communication among employees as well as stakeholders. “Involve application teams, service owners, end users early in the development and delivery of the strategy. Again, just bringing everyone along for the journey, I cannot overstate how important that is,” says Garcia.
A hybrid approach to transformation that combines cloud migration with the retention of some applications, dedicated data centers, and intermediary migration environments can ensure cost effective and secure operations. With enterprise-wide communication underpinning any successful transformation, Garcia outlines having a strong and flexible governance framework, collaborating with external digital partners, and adapting to agile ways of working as best practices for complex cloud migrations.
Looking to the cloud-enabled future, Garcia identifies the convergence of AI and edge computing, mounting progress in quantum computing, and the proliferation of IoT connected devices as transformative technologies that will drive forward better business outcomes.
“I think that the convergence of edge computing and AI presents an exciting opportunity for the real-time data, a real-time low latency processing and decision making at the network edge, which is extremely critical for us, given all of the platforms, rigs that we have out across the globe,” says Garcia.
This episode of Business Lab is produced in partnership with Infosys Cobalt.
Laurel Ruma: From MIT Technology Review, I’m Laurel Ruma, and this is Business Lab, the show that helps business leaders make sense of new technologies coming out of the lab and into the marketplace.
Our topic today is building a better cloud ecosystem. From partners to internal stakeholders, enterprises are meeting challenges by deploying and innovating with cloud computing solutions. The key is to work as a team and build talent resources to confidently adopt emerging technologies.
Two words for you: optimizing cloud.
My guest is Keisha Garcia. Keisha is the vice president of Digital Foundations at BP.
This episode of Business Lab is sponsored by Infosys Cobalt.
Keisha Garcia: Thank you, Laurel. I’m happy to be here.
Laurel: Well, let’s start off. So, what has BP’s move to the cloud been like? From your perspectives, what are the major benefits and challenges with cloud transformation?
Keisha: Yeah, so our journey from my perspective has been exciting, it’s been complex, it’s been a learning journey all the while. And it’s been long. It’s been pretty long. Our journey started in 2013 and we were experimenting on cloud computing for email services and HR learning management systems. And then you fast-forward to 2016, and we were about 2% of our BP applications were on the cloud. As the company, we were conducting proof of concepts and determining what was the best approach and how do we do this at scale, large scale. In 2017, we adopted a cloud-first approach, meaning that anything that was any new hardware, any new system builds were going to be on the cloud, no more adding to our existing, at the time, eight mega data centers and over 107 different data centers throughout our regions throughout the world.
We had decided that we were no longer going to add anything, unless it was to the cloud. Or if it had to be on-prem, it had to be by exception only. And so that kind of motivated us to push along and got everybody along for the journey. But again, just getting all of our business and everyone else sold into the business or sold into cloud and cloud concepts and all of those things, given the fact that there were a lot of unknowns at the time, so working with just different vendor partners and trying to find as knowledgeable people as possible. So again, that just all fed to the complexity. By the close of 2022, we had gotten into our stride pretty well and had done quite a few, or a large part of our state, over 90% of our state, to be exact, we have migrated to our cloud environments, which enabled our faster product and service introduction and changing the BP digital operating model, which we’ve moved now to a product-led organization.
So our cloud migrations, I think some of the biggest benefits was it helped us optimize BP’s technology stack. Of course, it increased our operational resilience. It introduced new network and data architectures, accelerated our technology adoption, helped to push the modernizing of our state and keeping those evergreen, it also assisted in the reduction of our CO2 emissions from our data centers. However, migrating to the cloud at the scale that we’ve had to, as large as our landscape is, again, as I said, was challenging, complex, and extensive because we had extensive legacy IT estate. And as I said earlier on, just hosted in the eight large mega data centers throughout the US, as well as in Europe, and then also just the myriad of data centers that we have across our regions. So the challenge, I cannot overstate, it has been that, but the gains have been great.
Laurel: So that’s a great look at the past and the journey that BP has been on. So, what are some of the major cloud trends you’re seeing today?
Keisha: So some of the major trends that we’re seeing today from a platforms perspective, see increasing numbers of organizations looking to consolidate their business applications on the cloud-based platforms, be more cloud native, have robust data and analytics platforms as well that will allow both real-time and on-demand access to key business information. Again, as we said, we’ve moved to a product-led organization, so we’re seeing that, of course, there’s several companies that are doing the same. Digital teams are aligning to product-led operating models to ensure customer centricity and customer focus. And then also just putting that at the forefront. And then product development and enabling business and business-led prioritization and product delivery, which helps, again, with us aligning more to our business strategy. And given where we are going with moving to an integrated energy company and our transition with re:Invent, that has been huge for us.
There’s lots of markets that we’re tapping into, lots of things that we’re doing, and we have to get on board with the business to be able to be dynamic and be able to shift and be able to move, and to be able to provide a faster time to market with solutions. And so from that standpoint, being on a cloud platform, having all of the technology that’s available to us to do that at pace and align with our business has been awesome for us. And I’m seeing a lot more companies wanting to just share experiences and knowledge because they’re trying to do the same. Also, just the cloud native piece of that and cloud native enterprise is an organization that has aligned business and technology teams to help, again, modernize the estate, but we have to build more cloud native capability so that things can be more plug and play versus the huge build outs.
And then again, having to do a lot of the upgrading and all of the things that would come along with not building and being on top, or being with more in the cloud native state. Also, just again, part of our reinvention journey, this also enables climate action. We’re seeing a lot of folks that are moving towards doing the things that align with the Paris Agreement, as well as all of the things that we’re doing along re:Invent. So decarbonizing digital as assets directly impacts about 2% of the global energy consumption. So therefore, it helps. Every bit helps. And so therefore, those are the things that we’re seeing. And we’re also, of course, moving there in that space to also assist with us getting to net zero. There’s also just being able to be more of a connected world. So 2023, this year and beyond, promises, opportunities for large scale industrial 5G, broadband based IoT usage and catapult connections for remote regions.
And so we’ve really started to build off that as well with building digital twins and all of the different things that we’re doing at our refineries, and then also on our rigs and platforms that will capitalize on just the cloud-based technology. So, there’s quite a few things that we’re seeing that are trending, but things that we’re already in the works with and moving towards. And the last one is just the evolution of the CIO that we’re seeing. The CIO seems to have gone away. I don’t see a lot of CIO titles anymore that are out there. And we definitely have moved away from that, as well as the way our organization is structured. And as I said earlier, aligning a lot more with product led organizations and making sure that we have technology leaders that are elevating their financial acumen, along with business prioritizations and outcomes, and bringing that business value and finding where those value streams are within your business strategies and aligning to those, and then evaluating and bringing about the technology that will be the catalyst and a differentiator for most businesses, and definitely ours.
Laurel: That’s quite a bit. And you mentioned this a little bit earlier, but how do you actually bring together a company to maintain and manage and optimize all of those business practices in the cloud? What are some of those best practices companies should be thinking about in order to collaborate and deploy cloud technologies?
Keisha: I think the biggest thing that we are seeing, or that I saw that were best practices and lessons learned and things, is just providing clear stakeholder communications. If you don’t have your business on board and understand what it is that you’re doing and why you’re doing it and what’s in it for them, it’s going to be hard. It’s going to be really, really hard to do a mass migration as we have, an adoption of cloud, the way that we have. And I hate that covid-19 happened, but it definitely forced the business to really see the benefit because we were pretty much about, I want to say 50% on the cloud by the time, probably a little less than 50% on the cloud, by the time covid hit, but we were on the cloud for our major things. And our business really didn’t skip a beat really with being able to connect from anywhere in the world.
And so they saw the benefit of that. They saw some of the things that we had talked about. But just having that clear outline of communication around what you will get, what you don’t get, where you will be in each part of the journey, I cannot express how important that it was to do that. Involve application teams, service owners, end users early in the development and delivery of the strategy. Again, just bringing everyone along for the journey, I cannot overstate how important that is. Modify your operating model, your digital operating model specifically to align so that you’re working more seamlessly together across different areas and allowing for the breakdown of expertise in particular areas and having that focus on that expertise and continuing to develop that and evolve that. Because technology, as always, but definitely in this space, changes extremely quickly. And so therefore, you have got to ensure that your people are getting as educated, updated with the skill sets as possible. And building on the benefits, a realization plan, was also key.
So those are some of the softer ones that I would think that people might overlook. Other ones, just the hybrid approach that we had, the hybrid approach to transformation. We recognized early on the need for a hybrid approach, combining our cloud migration with the retention of certain applications, dedicated data centers, intermediary migration environments, allowing for cost effective and secure operations. Those are some of the best practices as far as just how we were going to transform and what that looks like, and not thinking that it’s a one size fits all and being able to assess your estate, what’s best if you have a large in the service of life estate, a legacy estate, as we did where we were legacy with operating model—the code base on our applications across our entire landscape, it was huge. I think when we first started this journey, a good amount of over 60% of our estate was in the end of the service of a life due to one of one or the other of the things that I just mentioned.
And so instead of trying to tackle those separately, we decided, what’s the best way for us to leverage and bring that all together? So being flexible and looking at the art of the possible across your state and what you have to do to address multiple things was also really a great way to look at this as well. Because you and I probably know from experience, just any time that you say that you’re going to go back and do something, nine times out of 10, you don’t. You do the first tactical thing and it stays that way forever. So it was, for me, a good thing for us to take best practice, to, if we only have to do something once or only have to open up the box once, then let’s just open it up once and figure out how much of transformation can we do in one time to keep us at ease, but also to cover as much modernization as we can before we hand them back over to our ops teams.
I think I’ve already touched on just CIO buy-in and business buy-in. Those are best practices, some of those things that were softer that I mentioned earlier. Having a governance framework, delivery model restructured for effectiveness, and how do you get things approved and establish those things, again, upfront, having that delivery model to ensure smooth cloud migrations while also ensuring business service continuity and accommodating evolving business requirements?
Because as you know, again, with some of the trends that we talked about or that I mentioned earlier, those trends are things that when you start to go and implement those things, the business change is enormous. And so being able to be flexible to accommodate those, but not being beared down by who needs to approve this, who’s making this decision. If you establish those things upfront with a good governance framework and a delivery model that allows for that flexibility and effectiveness, then that was also key and golden.
The collaboration with digital delivery partners. I can’t express enough finding great delivery partners. There’s no way that knowledge is known by everyone in your organization. And like I said, given the pace at which technology changes and things are being rolled out, you always need people that are also keeping their fingers on the pulse from learnings and different experiences. And so you can only get that sometimes if you also worked externally with external partners. And we had a couple of them, quite a few of them actually, that proved to be very, very great partners. And we all learned together with several of the others, but Emphasis has been a major partner of ours. We had eight vendor partners to supplement in-house capabilities, and it was great.
Adapting modern ways of working, agility. And agility in its simplest forms, but also just being agile and utilizing agile practices, which will help you move much faster, setting up your squads, those types of things. And then of course, I’ll say it again, last one, but communication, communication, communication, and training for sustainability and just continuing to build your knowledge base to be able to continue to support the platforms and the new technology that’s coming on board. So those are some of the things that we saw, or that’s lessons learned, best practices in general.
Laurel: You mentioned this a little bit earlier, but how critical is talent to that kind of cloud transformation? And what are some of techniques–communication clearly–for recruiting and refining talent for adopting cloud technologies?
Keisha: Yeah. Given the fact that, as we talked, there’s so many people that are going along this journey, some at the very beginning, some middle, some almost nearing the end. But because of that, the market out there is extremely competitive to get great talent. And then also, just upscaling your talent that you have in the door already. Your existing staff is also critical. So, offering a competitive compensation package, as well as providing training and certification opportunities. Because again, it’s keeping your employees motivated and keeping them focused on being a hundred percent all in and passionate around what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, but also recognizing that people have to enjoy what they do. And the compensation package has to be great. And also, the learning opportunities and promoting a learning culture has to be there because that’s what people are looking for. As we see, as people are moving from place to place, in order to retain great talent, in order to attract great talent, all of those offerings need to be there. They’re important.
They’re important for the success of any transformation program that you’re doing for some of the reasons that I touched on earlier, the pace at which technology moves, as well as the fact that everybody is out doing all of these things to test the waters, and to also create a more sustainable environment, to also create, to be able to get to market faster, to create all the different trends that are happening with people working in different spaces and places across the globe. All of those things, the offerings have to be there to attract that talent. But most of all, also building a diverse and inclusive workforce. And in order to do that, the offering has to be there across the board for people that want to work from home, people that want to work in an office building, people that are doing different things or at different stages and points in their lives. Having that flexibility to offer your employees to retain that great talent is absolutely key and critical for the purposes of the success of your transformation.
Laurel: And then you did mention the importance of working with partners, especially when you’re trying to build this collaborative ecosystem. So, what is that like working with partners in this large-scale cloud transformation?
Keisha: Again, you can’t know everything, and you’re not always going to get all of those things. So that’s where you have the extension of, I would say an extension of additional brain power, extension of learning and those things. Leveraging partnerships with educational institutions, collaborating with universities and colleges to establish internships, co-op programs, and recruitment pipelines for cloud related roles. Because again, as you see in universities, technology is key and they’re learning new things. And students coming out of universities, they’re more conscious of all of the things that are going on in the environment, and they’re wanting to work with people that are moving towards making the environment better and the sustainability of that. And the low carbon initiatives that are going on and getting to net zero, believe it or not, those are all things that are known. As soon as I go into recruiting at a university, it’s the first thing that they ask. What’s really going on with re:Invent?
What do you see and how do you utilize technology to help leverage that? So I think building those partnerships with educational institutions are great, as well as those partnerships with our third-party vendors that we’ve done as well, because they’re doing some of the same things with getting students, and as well as keeping up with the trends, keeping up their skillsets and capabilities and being able to have that flex staff to flex up and down as necessary. As you go through the ebb and flows of your journey of transformation, things start, stop, and/or increase, and sometimes you need to move at pace, or just the complexities that comes with marrying things with moving off of your legacy estate and still trying to keep that BAU [business as usual] and no downtime for your business. So therefore, all of those things, you cannot know within one organization. You have to look to research and development. And again, the partnerships with the universities, the partnerships with third-party vendors are absolutely critical and key.
Laurel: You’ve mentioned sustainability a couple times. So how moving to the cloud and adopting these kinds of emerging technologies actually help BP as a company address the sustainability goals that it may have?
Keisha: We have the reduced environmental impact paired with efficient resource utilization. So, moving to the cloud allowed us to reduce our carbon footprint by transitioning from on-premise data centers to a more energy efficient cloud infrastructure. We are dual cloud company. We use both AWS and Microsoft Azure. And so definitely working with both of them for what they’re doing around the energy efficient cloud infrastructure that they’re pushing and doing, and working with them on all hands of how to measure that. Also what’s the projection of what we’re going to contribute as we continue to move forward and get to nearing the end of our cloud journey. Also enabling us to optimize our energy consumption, like I said, by scaling resources up and down based on demand, driving efficient energy usage, reducing waste, and contributing to our wider BP sustainability goals as well.
There was a time, again, when we were on-prem and we would have large amounts of servers running. And some of those servers were literally less than 50% utilized. But yet they’re still on. They’re still utilizing energy as well. So this moving to cloud allows us, again, from the optimization perspective of what we consume. Also, low carbon emissions, data-driven sustainability, and enhanced operational efficiency. Moving to the cloud supports and drives our low carbon emission by enabling our company to utilize renewable power sources, so by adopting emerging technologies, such as AI and machine learning. The transformation to cloud allows for us to analyze vast amounts of data, driving our innovation and decision-making power for BP’s sustainable initiatives.
And again, this has been huge for us. And being data-driven helps identify opportunities for resource optimization, emissions reduction, as well as environmental impact mitigation. So in the data space, large opportunities there. And then also, there’s just a continuous improvement in innovation, and having or utilizing cloud platforms provides the necessary computational power and tools to implement advanced analytics, predictive modeling, as well as simulation techniques, which also enables us to continuously improve our sustainability performance. And it also allows for new solutions to be provided, as well as to contribute to all of the industry-wide sustainability advancements, things that when I get around other CIO tables or other tables with other people that are leading their transformations, we share ideas, we talk about the things that we’re doing, how we’re measuring that. And sharing that across the table is really good because, again, you get to also hear some of the things that they’re doing, which gives you some of the ideas of how they’re using technology to continue with the sustainability goals.
So from that standpoint, that’s how we’ve helped to leverage our cloud transformation to help with our sustainability aspirations of getting to net zero.
Laurel: Yeah, that’s quite significant. You’ve outlined major cloud trends like going cloud native that you’re seeing today. So, what are some of the cloud-enabled technologies or use cases that you’re really excited to see emerge in the next three to five years?
Keisha: So, I would say that I’m really excited about…there’s quite a few, so I’ll try and limit it. So edge AI. I think that the convergence of edge computing and AI presents an exciting opportunity for the real-time data, a real-time low latency processing and decision making at the network edge, which is extremely critical for us, given all of the platforms, rigs, that we have out across the globe. That is absolutely key. And I’m excited about that because this technology helps to enable and develop our innovative applications in our industry to optimize the energy consumption of smart grids and enhance predictive maintenance and our operations. So for me, edge AI is really one that I’m excited about. Also, quantum computing. It has the potential to solve complex problems and perform computations that are currently infeasible for classical computers. So in the next three to five years, I’d expect to see significant progress in quantum computing technology, which has the potential to revolutionize the way we approach computational challenges and drive innovation across multiple sectors of our business, but multiple sectors of the energy industry in general.
And then I’ll probably think of a couple more. I would say things have progressed quite far along in this space, but IoT and integration and analytics in that space, the proliferation of IoT devices continues to generate massive volumes of data. So cloud platforms will play a crucial role in processing, analyzing, and extracting meaningful insights from this data. In the next few years, and currently even today, I think we see further advancements in cloud based IoT integration analytics, as well as enabling US or other organizations to harness the full potential of IoT data, which will drive smarter decision making and predictive maintenance, as well as asset optimization and automation, or optimization rather. So I just think from an IoT perspective, again, big driver. We’ve been doing digital twins, we’ve been doing quite a few things within our platforms and just within our production business. Those are some of the three that really excite me. And then of course, there’s augmented reality, but I won’t go into that. But there’s a few things that are coming along that really excite us and will be driving our business forward.
Laurel: Fantastic. Keisha, thank you so much for joining us today on the Business Lab.
Keisha: Thank you for having me.
Laurel: That was Keisha Garcia, the vice president of Digital Foundations at BP, who I spoke with from Cambridge, Massachusetts, the home of MIT and MIT Technology Review, overlooking the Charles River.
That’s it for this episode of Business Lab. I’m your host, Laurel Ruma. I’m the director of Insights, the custom publishing division of MIT Technology Review. We were founded in 1899 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. And you can also find us in print on the web and at events each year around the world. For more information about us and the show, please check out our website at technologyreview.com.
This show is available wherever you get your podcasts. If you enjoyed this episode, we hope you’ll take a moment to rate and review us. Business Lab is a production of MIT Technology Review. This episode was produced by Giro Studios. Thanks for listening.
This content was produced by Insights, the custom content arm of MIT Technology Review. It was not written by MIT Technology Review’s editorial staff.
So I've been thinking about the development of technology in the future, and it's relation to the golden ratio and physical laws such as that.
The rate that developments have been made technologically seems like they have been having themselves. Meaning let's say break through in computing happened in the 1600s with the abacus. I don't know history so this is just an example, after a long time, let's just say 200 years came the next breakthrough in computing, then in the next 100 years came another breakthrough, then 50, 25, so on. This number is becoming smaller and smaller.
Until we get to today, where where these breakthroughs are now happening on an almost weekly basis, to the point we cant keep up with them on an economic standpoint.
But hey give me a break. I'm working on it and brainstorming here. If anyone knows the name of this theory or if there is one, please let me know so I can look into it. I'm very interested
Nature, Published online: 15 September 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-02914-wPlant breeder and geneticist Prince Matova helps farmers in drought-prone areas to increase their yields.