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Richard Spencers Website Dropped by GoDaddy

The alt-right movement might thrive online, but AltRight.com went offline Thursday evening, when its domain registrar cut ties with the toxic website.

AltRight.com was founded by white nationalist Richard Spencer, who coined the racist movements name. The website has remained online, even as web hosting companies ended their business with other racist right sites like The Daily Stormer following a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last August. But on Thursday, domain registrar GoDaddy finally pulled the plug on AltRight.com, giving Spencers website 48 hours to transfer its domain to another web host or lose it.

GoDaddy has previously cited freedom of expression while allowing sites like Spencers to use their services.

GoDaddy does not condone content that advocates expressions of hate, racism or bigotry, GoDaddy told The Daily Beast in a statement on AltRight.coms removal. However, we generally do not take action on complaints that would constitute censorship of content and that represents the exercise of freedom of speech and expression on the Internet. While we detest the sentiment of such sites, we support a free and open Internet and, similar to the principles of free speech, that sometimes means allowing such tasteless, ignorant content.

But AltRight.com, which published white supremacist articles daily, crossed a line, the company said. In instances where a site goes beyond the mere exercise of these freedoms, however, and crosses over to promoting, encouraging, or otherwise engaging in specific acts of violence against any person, we will take action. It is our determination that altright.com crossed the line and encouraged and promoted violence in a direct and threatening manner. As is our standard process when dealing with these incidents, we gave the customer 48 hours to transfer the domain elsewhere.

The move comes fewer than two weeks after the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law sent GoDaddy a letter arguing that AltRight.com violated GoDaddys terms of service, which prohibit illegal activity and the promotion of violence. The Lawyers Committee pointed to a recent AltRight.com article that claimed U.S. border guards should be allowed to engage in lawlessness and savagery against immigrants. Superiors would do well to turn their heads to a bit of brutality and vengeance by our guys on the border, perhaps even tolerating a massacre here or there, the article claimed.

The Lawyers Committee also pointed to AltRight.coms comment section, which hosted comments calling for extreme violence against women and minorities.

GoDaddys decision comes at a difficult time for Spencer, who recently cancelled his disastrous college speaking tour, and turned to begging supporters for legal funds to support him through a major lawsuit against him and other alt-right figures. Facebook also recently deleted Spencers Facebook page, and online funding platforms like WePay announced they would no longer allow him to use their services.

If Spencer wants to keep AltRight.com online, he might follow The Daily Stormers playbook. The Stormer, a neo-Nazi site that was ousted from GoDaddy and other web hosts in August, spent months bouncing between URLs in search for a company that would host its hate speech. After a stint on the dark web, the Stormer is now using an obscure web host that appears to do much of its business with Chinese websites.

On Twitter, where Spencer still has a profile, the white nationalist lashed out at GoDaddy. He retweeted the Twitter account for Gab, a social media platform that markets toward alt-righters who feel censored elsewhere.

You are horrible people, Gab wrote at GoDaddy. This is what authoritarian fascism actually looks like.

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Richard Spencers Website Dropped by GoDaddy

Richard Spencer’s Website Has Been Pulled Offline By GoDaddy

Altright.com, the infamous website founded by white nationalist Richard Spencer, is no longer accessible Thursday morning after it was taken down by its host, GoDaddy.

In a statement provided to BuzzFeed News, a spokesperson for GoDaddy said that Spencer was given 48 hours to transfer the Altright.com domain to a different host before it was removed.

“In instances where a site goes beyond the mere exercise of these freedoms, however, and crosses over to promoting, encouraging, or otherwise engaging in specific acts of violence against any person, we will take action,” GoDaddy’s statement read. “It is our determination that altright.com crossed the line and encouraged and promoted violence in a direct and threatening manner.”

Spencer told BuzzFeed News that he has not yet found a new host for the site.

“We’re working on solving the problem, and solving it in a permanent way. So this might take some time,” Spencer said.

The removal of Altright.com comes only a few weeks after Facebook removed two Facebook pages associated with Spencer. The takedown was first reported by Vice, which said the pages were removed after the outlet contacted Facebook about hate groups using the platform.

The pages belonged to Spencer’s National Policy Institute, which describes itself as “dedicated to the heritage [of] people of European descent,” and his website Altright.com.

A Facebook spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that it relies on both people and technology to review content and that it takes action when hate groups are flagged to the company. Spencer also maintained a profile on Instagram, also owned by Facebook. The profile was taken down shortly after BuzzFeed News asked Facebook about it.

Twitter has yet to ban Spencer.

Tech platforms have been locked in a back-and-forth with far-right internet communities since the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last summer. The Daily Stormer, an infamous neo-Nazi website, has continued to have similar issues with hosting. GoDaddy suspended the site’s hosting the same week that Google canceled the site’s domain registration in August last year.

The loss of Spencer’s internet hosting also comes only two days after he was removed from the WePay online payment service, effectively cutting his main revenue stream. Spencer is also currently embroiled in a lawsuit following the events of the “Unite the Right” rally. Unable to find a lawyer who would defend him, Spencer is representing himself.

In reaction to the news that Spencer’s site had gone down on Thursday, the Twitter account for the far-right social network Gab summed up the issue currently facing many far-right internet personalities like Spencer.

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Richard Spencer’s Website Has Been Pulled Offline By GoDaddy

Food supplements – European Commission

As an addition to a normal diet, food business operators market food supplements, which are concentrated sources of nutrients (or other substances) with a nutritional or physiological effect. Such food supplements can be marketed in dose form, such as pills, tablets, capsules, liquids in measured doses, etc.

The objective of the harmonised rules on those products in Directive 2002/46/EC is to protect consumers against potential health risks from those products and to ensure that they are not provided with misleading information.

With respect to the safety of food supplements, the Directive lays down a harmonised list of vitamins and minerals that may be added for nutritional purposes in food supplements (in Annex I to the Directive). Annex II of the Directive contains a list of permitted sources (vitamin and mineral substances) from which those vitamins and minerals may be manufactured.

This list has been amended by the following Regulations and Directive to include additional substances:

The trade of products containing vitamins and minerals not listed in Annex II has been prohibited from the 1st of August 2005.

Directive 2002/46/EC has been aligned with the new Regulatory Procedure with scrutiny by Regulation (EC) No 1137/2008.

Directive 2002/46/EC on food supplements envisages the setting of maximum and minimum amounts of vitamins and minerals in supplements via the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed ( PAFF Committee) procedure.

The Commission has issued a Discussion Paper on the setting of maximum and minimum amounts for vitamins and minerals in foodstuffs , which identified the main issues to be considered in this exercise and originated a set of Responses.

Although the Commission has consulted extensively with EU countries and interested stakeholders on the issue, no proposal has not yet been presented due to the complex nature of the issue and the divergent views that were expressed. All the available data on the potential effects on economic operators and consumers of the setting of maximum amounts of vitamins and minerals in foods, including food supplements, will be taken into account. Every effort will be made to ensure that the maximum amounts set will take into account the concerns expressed by all interested parties.

The EC commissioned a study on the use of substances with nutritional or physiological effects other than vitamins and minerals in food supplements.

Taking into account this study and other available information, the Commission – in accordance with the requirement set out in Article 4(8) of Directive 2002/46/EC on food supplements – has prepared a report to the Council and the European Parliament on the use of substances other than vitamins and minerals in food supplements.

The report is accompanied by two Commission staff working documents.

EU countries may, for monitoring purposes, request notification to their competent authority of the placing on the market in their territory of a food supplement product in accordance with Article 10 of the Directive. The list of competent authorities may be found here:

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Food supplements – European Commission

Dietary supplement – Wikipedia

“Food supplement” redirects here. For food additions that alter the flavor, color or longevity of food, see Food additive.

A dietary supplement is a manufactured product intended to supplement the diet when taken by mouth as a pill, capsule, tablet, or liquid.[2] A supplement can provide nutrients either extracted from food sources or synthetic, individually or in combination, in order to increase the quantity of their consumption. The class of nutrient compounds includes vitamins, minerals, fiber, fatty acids and amino acids. Dietary supplements can also contain substances that have not been confirmed as being essential to life, but are marketed as having a beneficial biological effect, such as plant pigments or polyphenols. Animals can also be a source of supplement ingredients, as for example collagen from chickens or fish. These are also sold individually and in combination, and may be combined with nutrient ingredients. In the United States and Canada, dietary supplements are considered a subset of foods, and are regulated accordingly. The European Commission has also established harmonized rules to help insure that food supplements are safe and properly labeled.[3] Among other countries, the definition of dietary supplements may vary as drugs or other classes of ingredients used in supplement products.

Creating an industry estimated to have a 2015 value of $37 billion,[4] there are more than 50,000 dietary supplement products marketed just in the United States,[5] where about 50% of the American adult population consumes dietary supplements. Multivitamins are the most commonly used product.[6] For those who fail to consume a balanced diet, the United States National Institutes of Health states that certain supplements “may have value.”[7]

In the United States, it is against federal regulations for supplement manufacturers to claim that these products prevent or treat any disease. Companies are allowed to use what is referred to as “Structure/Function” wording if there is substantiation of scientific evidence for a supplement providing a potential health effect.[8] An example would be “_____ helps maintain healthy joints”, but the label must bear a disclaimer that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “has not evaluated the claim and that the dietary supplement product is not intended to “diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease,” because only a drug can legally make such a claim.[8] The FDA enforces these regulations, and also prohibits the sale of supplements and supplement ingredients that are dangerous, or supplements not made according to standardized good manufacturing practices (GMPs).

In the United States, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 provides this description: “The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA) defines the term dietary supplement to mean a product (other than tobacco) intended to supplement the diet that bears or contains one or more of the following dietary ingredients: a vitamin, a mineral, an herb or other botanical, an amino acid, a dietary substance for use by man to supplement the diet by increasing the total dietary intake, or a concentrate, metabolite, constituent, extract, or combination of any of the aforementioned ingredients. Furthermore, a dietary supplement must be labeled as a dietary supplement and be intended for ingestion and must not be represented for use as conventional food or as a sole item of a meal or of the diet. In addition, a dietary supplement cannot be approved or authorized for investigation as a new drug, antibiotic, or biologic, unless it was marketed as a food or a dietary supplement before such approval or authorization. Under DSHEA, dietary supplements are deemed to be food, except for purposes of the drug definition.”[9]

Per DSHEA, dietary supplements are consumed orally, and are mainly defined by what they are not: conventional foods (including meal replacements), medical foods,[10] preservatives or pharmaceutical drugs. Products intended for use as a nasal spray, or topically, as a lotion applied to the skin, do not qualify. FDA-approved drugs cannot be ingredients in dietary supplements. Supplement products are or contain vitamins, nutritionally essential minerals, amino acids, essential fatty acids and non-nutrient substances extracted from plants or animals or fungi or bacteria, or in the instance of probiotics, are live bacteria. Dietary supplement ingredients may also be synthetic copies of naturally occurring substances (example: melatonin). All products with these ingredients are required to be labeled as dietary supplements.[11] Like foods and unlike drugs, no government approval is required to make or sell dietary supplements; the manufacturer confirms the safety of dietary supplements but the government does not; and rather than requiring riskbenefit analysis to prove that the product can be sold like a drug, such assessment is only used by the FDA to decide that a dietary supplement is unsafe and should be removed from market.[11]

A vitamin is an organic compound required by an organism as a vital nutrient in limited amounts.[12] An organic chemical compound (or related set of compounds) is called a vitamin when it cannot be synthesized in sufficient quantities by an organism, and must be obtained from the diet. The term is conditional both on the circumstances and on the particular organism. For example, ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is a vitamin for anthropoid primates, humans, guinea pigs and bats, but not for other mammals. Vitamin D is not an essential nutrient for people who get sufficient exposure to ultraviolet light, either from the sun or an artificial source, as then they synthesize vitamin D in skin.[13] Humans require thirteen vitamins in their diet, most of which are actually groups of related molecules, “vitamers”, (e.g. vitamin E includes tocopherols and tocotrienols, vitamin K includes vitamin K1 and K2). The list: vitamins A, C, D, E, K, Thiamine (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Niacin (B3), Pantothenic Acid (B5), Vitamin B6, Biotin (B7), Folate (B9) and Vitamin B12. Vitamin intake below recommended amounts can result in signs and symptoms associated with vitamin deficiency. There is little evidence of benefit when consumed as a dietary supplement by those who are healthy and consuming a nutritionally adequate diet.[14]

The U.S. Institute of Medicine sets Tolerable upper intake levels (ULs) for some of the vitamins. This does not prevent dietary supplement companies from selling products with content per serving higher than the ULs. For example, the UL for vitamin D is 100g (4,000 IU),[15] but products are available without prescription at 10,000 IU.

Minerals are the exogenous chemical elements indispensable for life. Four minerals: carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen, are essential for life but are so ubiquitous in food and drink that these are not considered nutrients and there are no recommended intakes for these as minerals. The need for nitrogen is addressed by requirements set for protein, which is composed of nitrogen-containing amino acids. Sulfur is essential, but for humans, not identified as having a recommended intake per se. Instead, recommended intakes are identified for the sulfur-containing amino acids methionine and cysteine. There are dietary supplements which provide sulfur, such as taurine and methylsulfonylmethane.

The essential nutrient minerals for humans, listed in order by weight needed to be at the Recommended Dietary Allowance or Adequate Intake are potassium, chlorine, sodium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, manganese, copper, iodine, chromium, molybdenum, selenium and cobalt (the last as a component of vitamin B12). There are other minerals which are essential for some plants and animals, but may or may not be essential for humans, such as boron and silicon. Essential and purportedly essential minerals are marketed as dietary supplements, individually and in combination with vitamins and other minerals.

Although as a general rule, dietary supplement labeling and marketing are not allowed to make disease prevention or treatment claims, the U.S. FDA has for some foods and dietary supplements reviewed the science, concluded that there is significant scientific agreement, and published specifically worded allowed health claims. An initial ruling allowing a health claim for calcium dietary supplements and osteoporosis was later amended to include calcium supplements with or without vitamin D, effective January 1, 2010. Examples of allowed wording are shown below. In order to qualify for the calcium health claim, a dietary supplement much contain at least 20% of the Reference Dietary Intake, which for calcium means at least 260mg/serving.[16]

In the same year, the European Food Safety Authority also approved a dietary supplement health claim for calcium and vitamin D and the reduction of the risk of osteoporotic fractures by reducing bone loss.[17]The U.S. FDA also approved Qualified Health Claims (QHCs) for various health conditions for calcium, selenium and chromium picolinate.[18] QHCs are supported by scientific evidence, but do not meet the more rigorous significant scientific agreement standard required for an authorized health claim. If dietary supplement companies choose to make such a claim then the FDA stipulates the exact wording of the QHC to be used on labels and in marketing materials. The wording can be onerous: “One study suggests that selenium intake may reduce the risk of bladder cancer in women. However, one smaller study showed no reduction in risk. Based on these studies, FDA concludes that it is highly uncertain that selenium supplements reduce the risk of bladder cancer in women.”[19]

Protein-containing supplements, either ready-to-drink or as powders to be mixed into water, are marketed as aids to people recovering from illness or injury, those hoping to thwart the sarcopenia of old age,[20][21] to athletes who believe that strenuous physical activity increases protein requirements,[22] to people hoping to lose weight while minimizing muscle loss, i.e., conducting a protein-sparing modified fast,[23] and to people who want to increase muscle size for performance and appearance. Whey protein is a popular ingredient,[21][24][25] but products may also incorporate casein, soy, pea, hemp or rice protein.

According to US & Canadian Dietary Reference Intake guidelines, the protein Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for adults is based on 0.8 grams protein per kilogram body weight. The recommendation is for sedentary and lightly active people.[26][27][28] Scientific reviews can conclude that a high protein diet, when combined with exercise, will increase muscle mass and strength,[29][30][31] or conclude the opposite.[32] The International Olympic Committee recommends protein intake targets for both strength and endurance athletes at about 1.2-1.8 g/kg body mass per day.[22] One review proposed a maximum daily protein intake of approximately 25% of energy requirements, i.e., approximately 2.0 to 2.5 g/kg.[27]

The same protein ingredients marketed as dietary supplements can be incorporated into meal replacement and medical food products, but those are regulated and labeled differently from supplements. In the United States, “meal replacement” products are foods and are labeled as such. These typically contain protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. There may be content claims such as “good source of protein”, “low fat” or “lactose free.”[33] Medical foods, also nutritionally complete, are designed to be used while a person is under the care of a physician or other licensed healthcare professional.[34][35] Liquid medical food products – example Ensure – are available in regular and high protein versions.

Proteins are chains of amino acids. Nine of these proteinogenic amino acids are considered essential for humans because they cannot be produced from other compounds by the human body and so must be taken in as food. Recommended intakes, expressed as milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day, have been established.[26] Other amino acids may be conditionally essential for certain ages or medical conditions. Amino acids, individually and in combinations, are sold as dietary supplements. The claim for supplementing with the branched chain amino acids leucine, valine and isoleucine is for stimulating muscle protein synthesis. A review of the literature concluded this claim was unwarranted.[36] In elderly people, supplementation with just leucine resulted in a modest (0.99kg) increase in lean body mass.[37] The non-essential amino acid arginine, consumed in sufficient amounts, is thought to act as a donor for the synthesis of nitric oxide, a vasodilator. A review confirmed blood pressure lowering.[38] Taurine, a popular dietary supplement ingredient with claims made for sports performance, is technically not an amino acid. It is synthesized in the body from the amino acid cysteine.[39]

Bodybuilding supplements are dietary supplements commonly used by those involved in bodybuilding, weightlifting, mixed martial arts, and athletics for the purpose of facilitating an increase in lean body mass. The intent is to increase muscle, increase body weight, improve athletic performance, and for some sports, to simultaneously decrease percent body fat so as to create better muscle definition. Among the most widely used are high protein drinks, branched-chain amino acids (BCAA), glutamine, arginine, essential fatty acids, creatine, HMB,[40] and weight loss products.[41] Supplements are sold either as single ingredient preparations or in the form of “stacks” proprietary blends of various supplements marketed as offering synergistic advantages. While many bodybuilding supplements are also consumed by the general public the frequency of use will differ when used specifically by bodybuilders. One meta-analysis concluded that for athletes participating in resistance exercise training and consuming protein supplements for an average of 13weeks, total protein intake up to 1.6g/kg of body weight per day would result in an increase in strength and fat-free mass, i.e. muscle, but that higher intakes would not further contribute.[30] The muscle mass increase was statistically significant but modest – averaging 0.3kg for all trials and 1.02.0kg, for protein intake 1.6g/kg/day.[30]

As of 2010,[update] annual sales of sport nutrition products in the United States was over US$2.7billion according to a publication by Consumer Reports.[42]

Fish oil is a commonly used fatty acid supplement because it is a source of omega-3 fatty acids.[43] Fatty acids are strings of carbon atoms, having a range of lengths. If links are all single (C-C), then the fatty acid is called saturated; with one double bond (C=C), it is called monounsaturated; if there are two or more double bonds (C=C=C), it is called polyunsaturated. Only two fatty acids, both polyunsaturated, are considered essential to be obtained from the diet, as the others are synthesized in the body. The “essential” fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid, and linoleic acid (LA), an omega-6 fatty acid.[43][44] ALA can be elongated in the body to create other omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

Plant oils, particularly seed and nut oils, contain ALA.[43] Food sources of EPA and DHA are oceanic fish, whereas dietary supplement sources include fish oil, krill oil and marine algae extracts. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) identifies 250mg/day for a combined total of EPA and DHA as Adequate Intake, with a recommendation that women pregnant or lactating consume an additional 100 to 200mg/day of DHA.[45] In the United States and Canada are Adequate Intakes for ALA and LA over various stages of life, but there are no intake levels specified for EPA and/or DHA.[46]

Supplementation with EPA and/or DHA does not appear to affect the risk of death, cancer or heart disease.[47][48] Furthermore, studies of fish oil supplements have failed to support claims of preventing heart attacks or strokes.[49] In 2017, the American Heart Association issued a science advisory stating that it could not recommend use of omega-3 fish oil supplements for primary prevention of cardiovascular disease or stroke, although it reaffirmed supplementation for people who have a history of coronary heart disease.[50]

Dietary supplements can be manufactured using intact sources or extracts from plants, animals, algae, fungi or lichens, including such examples as ginkgo biloba, curcumin, cranberry, St. Johns wort, ginseng, resveratrol, glucosamine and collagen.[51][52][53] Products bearing promotional claims of health benefits are sold without requiring a prescription in pharmacies, supermarkets, specialist shops, military commissaries, buyers clubs, direct selling organizations, and the internet.[52] While most of these products have a long history of use in herbalism and various forms of traditional medicine, concerns exist about their actual efficacy, safety and consistency of quality.[54][55][56] Canada has published a manufacturer and consumer guide describing quality, licensing, standards, identities, and common contaminants of natural products.[57] In 2016, sales of herbal supplements just in the United States were $7.5 billion, with the market growing at about 8% per year.[52] Italy, Germany and Eastern European countries were leading consumers of botanical supplements in 2016, with European Union market growth forecast to be $8.7 billion by 2020.[58]

In humans, the large intestine is host to more than 1,000 species of microorganisms, mostly bacteria, numbering in the tens of trillions.[59] “Probiotic” in the context of dietary supplements is the theory that by orally consuming specific live bacteria (or yeast) species, it is possible to influence the large intestine microbiota, with consequent health benefits. Although there are numerous claimed benefits of using probiotic supplements, such as maintaining gastrointestinal health, in part by lowering risk of and severity of constipation or diarrhea, and improving immune health, including lower risk of and severity of acute upper respiratory tract infections, i.e., the common cold, such claims are not all supported by sufficient clinical evidence.[60][61][62] A review based on interviews with dozens of experts in microbiome research expressed concern about “…how biomedical research is co-opted by commercial entities that place profit over health.”[62] The concern is timely, as through 2021, probiotic supplements are expected to be the fastest growing segment of the dietary supplement market worldwide, while at the same time, the global health benefits market for probiotic-containing yogurt (a food, not a dietary supplement) is declining.[63][64]

As with all dietary supplements, in the United States inappropriate label health claims such as preventing or treating disease are opposed by the FDA and deceptive advertisements by the Federal Trade Commission. Probiotic foods and dietary supplements are allowed to make claims using Structure:Function vocabulary as long as human trial evidence is adequate. In 2005, the FDA issued a Warning Letter to UAS Laboratories for disease treatment claims (colds, flu, ulcers, elevated blood cholesterol, colon cancer…). The company revised label and website content and continued to sell the product.[65] In 2011 the company was found to have resumed the label and website claims, and the FDA seized product and stopped production.[66] In 2010 a FTC action was brought against a probiotic food company for exaggerated health claims, resulting in a multimillion-dollar fine and revisions to future advertising.[67] In the European Union a more restrictive approach has been taken by the EFSA. All proposed health claims were rejected on the grounds that the science was not sufficient, and no health claims are permitted. Foods with live microorganisms (yogurt, kefir) can be sold, but without claims.[60][63]

Probiotic supplements are generally regarded as safe. The greatest concern, evidenced by reviews reporting on case studies, is that for people with compromised gut wall integrity there may be a risk of systemic infection. For this reason, probiotic research is expected to exclude bacteria species that are antibiotic resistant.[68][69]

In 2015, the American market for dietary supplements was valued at $37 billion,[4] with the economic impact in the United States for 2016 estimated at $122 billion, including employment wages and taxes.[70] One 2016 analysis estimated the total market for dietary supplements could reach $278 billion worldwide by 2024.[71]

Over the period 2008 to 2011, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) of the United States received 6,307 reports of health problems (identified as adverse events) from use of dietary supplements containing a combination of ingredients in manufactured vitamins, minerals or other supplement products,[72] with 92% of tested herbal supplements containing lead and 80% containing other chemical contaminants.[73] Using undercover staff, the GAO also found that supplement retailers intentionally engaged in “unequivocal deception” to sell products advertised with baseless health claims, particularly to elderly consumers.[73] Consumer Reports also reported unsafe levels of arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury in several protein powder products.[74] The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported that protein spiking, i.e., the addition of amino acids to manipulate protein content analysis, was common.[75] Many of the companies involved challenged CBC’s claim.[76]

A 2013 study on herbal supplements found that many products were of low quality, one third did not contain the active ingredient(s) claimed, and one third contained unlisted substances.[77] In a genetic analysis of herbal supplements, 78% of samples contained animal DNA that was not identified as an ingredient on the product labels.[55] In some botanical products, undeclared ingredients were used to increase the bulk of the product and reduce its cost of manufacturing, while potentially violating certain religious and/or cultural limitations on consuming animal ingredients, such as cow, buffalo or deer.[55] In 2015, the New York Attorney General identified four major retailers with dietary supplement products that contained fraudulent and potentially dangerous ingredients, requiring the companies to remove the products from retail stores.[78]

The United States Food and Drug Administration, Office of Inspections, Compliance, Enforcement, and Criminal Investigations, monitors supplement products for accuracy in advertising and labeling, and when finding violations, warns manufacturers of impending enforcement action, including search and seizure, injunction, and/or financial penalties, such as for a Maine supplement company in 2017.[79] The United States Federal Trade Commission, which litigates against deceptive advertising,[67] established a consumer center to assist reports of false health claims in product advertising for dietary supplements,[80] and, in 2017, successfully sued nine manufacturers for deceptive advertising of dietary supplements.[81]

In the United States, manufacturers of dietary supplements are required to demonstrate safety of their products before approval is granted for commerce.[82] Despite this caution, numerous adverse effects have been reported,[72] including muscle cramps, hair loss, joint pain, liver disease, and allergic reactions, with 29% of the adverse effects resulting in hospitalization, and 20% in serious injuries or illnesses.[72] By more than five-fold, the highest incidence of health problems derived from “combination products”, whereas supplements for vitamins and minerals, lipid products, and herbal products were less likely to cause adverse effects.[72]

Among general reasons for the possible harmful effects of dietary supplements are: a) absorption in a short time, b) manufacturing quality and contamination, and c) enhancing both positive and negative effects at the same time.[56] The incidence of liver injury from herbal and dietary supplements is about 1620% of all supplement products causing injury, with the occurrence growing globally over the early 21st century.[41] The most common liver injuries from weight loss and bodybuilding supplements involve hepatocellular damage with resulting jaundice, and the most common supplement ingredients attributed to these injuries are green tea catechins, anabolic steroids, and the herbal extract, aegeline.[41] Weight loss supplements have also had adverse psychiatric effects.[83]

Work done by scientists in the early 20th century on identifying individual nutrients in food and developing ways to manufacture them raised hopes that optimal health could be achieved and diseases prevented by adding them to food and providing people with dietary supplements; while there were successes in preventing vitamin deficiencies, and preventing conditions like neural tube defects by supplementation and food fortification with folic acid, no targeted supplementation or fortification strategies to prevent major diseases like cancer or cardiovascular diseases have proved successful.[84]

For example, while increased consumption of fruits and vegetables are related to decreases in mortality, cardiovascular diseases and cancers, supplementation with key factors found in fruits and vegetable, like antioxidants, vitamins, or minerals, do not help and some have been found to be harmful in some cases.[85][86] In general as of 2016, robust clinical data is lacking, that shows that any kind of dietary supplementation does more good than harm for people who are healthy and eating a reasonable diet but there is clear data showing that dietary pattern and lifestyle choices are associated with health outcomes.[87][88]

As a result of the lack of good data for supplementation and the strong data for dietary pattern, public health recommendations for healthy eating urge people to eat a plant-based diet of whole foods, minimizing processed food, salt and sugar and to get exercise daily, and to abandon Western pattern diets and a sedentary lifestyle.[89][90]:10

The regulation of food and dietary supplements by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is governed by various statutes enacted by the United States Congress and interpreted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”). Pursuant to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (“the Act”) and accompanying legislation, the FDA has authority to oversee the quality of substances sold as food in the United States, and to monitor claims made in the labeling about both the composition and the health benefits of foods.

Substances which the FDA regulates as food are subdivided into various categories, including foods, food additives, added substances (man-made substances which are not intentionally introduced into food, but nevertheless end up in it), and dietary supplements. The specific standards which the FDA exercises differ from one category to the next. Furthermore, the FDA has been granted a variety of means by which it can address violations of the standards for a given category of substances.

Dietary supplement manufacture is required to comply with the good manufacturing practices established in 2007. The FDA can visit manufacturing facilities, send Warning Letters[79] if not in compliance with GMPs, stop production, and if there is a health risk, require that the company conduct a recall.[91]

The European Union’s (EU) Food Supplements Directive of 2002 requires that supplements be demonstrated to be safe, both in dosages and in purity.[92] Only those supplements that have been proven to be safe may be sold in the EU without prescription. As a category of food, food supplements cannot be labeled with drug claims but can bear health claims and nutrition claims.[93]

The dietary supplements industry in the United Kingdom (UK), one of the 28 countries in the bloc, strongly opposed the Directive. In addition, a large number of consumers throughout Europe, including over one million in the UK, and various doctors and scientists, had signed petitions by 2005 against what are viewed by the petitioners as unjustified restrictions of consumer choice.[94] In 2004, along with two British trade associations, the Alliance for Natural Health (ANH) had a legal challenge to the Food Supplements Directive[95] referred to the European Court of Justice by the High Court in London.[96]

Although the European Court of Justice’s Advocate General subsequently said that the bloc’s plan to tighten rules on the sale of vitamins and food supplements should be scrapped,[97] he was eventually overruled by the European Court, which decided that the measures in question were necessary and appropriate for the purpose of protecting public health. ANH, however, interpreted the ban as applying only to synthetically produced supplements, and not to vitamins and minerals normally found in or consumed as part of the diet.[98] Nevertheless, the European judges acknowledged the Advocate General’s concerns, stating that there must be clear procedures to allow substances to be added to the permitted list based on scientific evidence. They also said that any refusal to add the product to the list must be open to challenge in the courts.[99]

Examples of ongoing government research organizations to better understand the potential health properties and safety of dietary supplements are the European Food Safety Authority,[3] the Office of Dietary Supplements of the United States National Institutes of Health,[7][100] the Natural and Non-prescription Health Products Directorate of Canada,[101] and the Therapeutic Goods Administration of Australia.[102] Together with public and private research groups, these agencies construct databases on supplement properties, perform research on quality, safety, and population trends of supplement use, and evaluate the potential clinical efficacy of supplements for maintaining health or lowering disease risk.[100]

As continual research on the properties of supplements accumulates, databases or fact sheets for various supplements are updated regularly, including the Dietary Supplement Label Database,[5] Dietary Supplement Ingredient Database,[103] and Dietary Supplement Facts Sheets of the United States.[104] In Canada where a license is issued when a supplement product has been proven by the manufacturer and government to be safe, effective and of sufficient quality for its recommended use, an eight-digit Natural Product Number is assigned and recorded in a Licensed Natural Health Products Database.[105] The European Food Safety Authority maintains a compendium of botanical ingredients used in manufacturing of dietary supplements.[106]

In 2015, the Australian Government’s Department of Health published the results of a review of herbal supplements to determine if any were suitable for coverage by health insurance.[107] Establishing guidelines to assess safety and efficacy of botanical supplement products, the European Medicines Agency provided criteria for evaluating and grading the quality of clinical research in preparing monographs about herbal supplements.[108] In the United States, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health of the National Institutes of Health provides fact sheets evaluating the safety, potential effectiveness and side effects of many botanical products.[109]

To assure supplements have sufficient quality, standardization, and safety for public consumption, research efforts have focused on development of reference materials for supplement manufacturing and monitoring.[110][106] High-dose products have received research attention,[100][111] especially for emergency situations such as vitamin A deficiency in malnutrition of children,[112] and for women taking folate supplements to reduce the risk of breast cancer.[113]

In the United States, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) has investigated habits of using dietary supplements in context of total nutrient intakes from the diet in adults and children.[100] Over the period of 1999 to 2012, use of multivitamins decreased, and there was wide variability in the use of individual supplements among subgroups by age, sex, race/ethnicity, and educational status.[114] Particular attention has been given to use of folate supplements by young women to reduce the risk of fetal neural tube defects.[115][116]

Research initiatives to improve knowledge of the possible health benefits of supplementing with essential nutrients to lower disease risk have been extensive. As examples, just in 2017 were reviews on

A 2017 review indicated a rising incidence of liver injury from use of herbal and dietary supplements, particularly those with steroids, green tea extract, or multiple ingredients.[121]

The potential benefit of using essential nutrient dietary supplements to lower the risk of diseases has been refuted by findings of no effect or weak evidence in numerous clinical reviews, such as for cardiovascular diseases,[120] cancer,[120] HIV,[122] or tuberculosis.[123]

A review of clinical trials registered at clinicaltrials.gov, which would include both drugs and supplements, reported that nearly half of completed trials were sponsored wholly or partially by industry.[124] This does not automatically imply bias, but there is evidence that because of selective non-reporting, results in support of a potential drug or supplement ingredient are more likely to be published than results that do not demonstrate a statistically significant benefit.[124][125] One review reported that fewer than half of the registered clinical trials resulted in publication in peer-reviewed journals.[126]

Improving public information about use of dietary supplements involves investments in professional training programs, further studies of population and nutrient needs, expanding the database information, enhancing collaborations between governments and universities, and translating dietary supplement research into useful information for consumers, health professionals, scientists, and policymakers.[127] Future demonstration of efficacy from use of dietary supplements requires high-quality clinical research using rigorously-qualified products and compliance with established guidelines for reporting of clinical trial results (e.g., CONSORT guidelines).[100]

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SpaceX Will Send Another Company’s Robots to the Moon in 2021

Japanese space exploration company ispace is teaming up with SpaceX on two lunar missions, one in mid-2020 and the other in mid-2021.

MOONSHOT

This year, Google’s Lunar XPRIZE (GLXP) competition ended without a winner. None of the private companies involved in the challenge were able to make it to the Moon before the March deadline.

But one of those companies, called ispace, isn’t ready to give up on its lunar ambitions just yet. It’s now working with SpaceX, Elon Musk’s space exploration company, to deliver a pair of robotic rovers to the Moon’s surface in 2021.

DOUBLE DATE

ispace is a Japanese lunar exploration company that managed Team HAKUTO, one of the final five competitors in the GLXP. Its goal, like its competitors, was simply to get a rover on the Moon. Now, it’s hoping scientists (or anyone who wants to) will pay to use the lander and rovers it developed for the competition.

On Wednesday, ispace announced that it had selected SpaceX to transport its Lunar Lander and Lunar Rovers to the Moon. According to the plan, SpaceX will use a Falcon 9 rocket to place ispace’s Lunar Lander in the Moon’s orbit in mid-2020. Then in mid-2021, a lander will gently deliver the Lunar Rovers to the Moon’s surface.

GREEN MOON

While Team HAKUTO may have missed out on the $30 million GLXP winnings, ispace has already raised more than $90 million. The goal of these missions is to demonstrate its ability to successfully navigate the Moon’s surface.

If successful, ispace could make even more money as the contractor of choice for anyone looking to explore the face of the Moon.

READ MORE: Lunar Exploration Startup, ispace, Partners With SpaceX for 2020 & 2021 Moon Missions [ispace]

More on Lunar XPRIZE: Google’s Lunar XPrize Is Over. Spaceflight Innovation, However, Is Not.

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These Robots Weave Super Durable Fiberglass Structures So Humans Don’t Have To

MIT researchers have created Fiberbots, autonomous robots that can weave fiberglass into tall tubes that we could one day use for construction projects.

PROS AND CONS(TRUCTION)

Fiberglass is a double-edged sword. It’s an excellent building material because it’s strong and durable, plus it’s easy to mold into pretty much any shape. But fiberglass’ thin strands often cause skin irritation, vision issues, and breathing problems for humans that come into contact with it.

How can we take advantage of fiberglass’ excellent structural properties without putting human health at risk? Why, robots of course!

A team of researchers from MIT has invented a type of swarm robot builders they call Fiberbots that can weave sizable structures from the material, like robotic silkworms — no human contact necessary.

TUBULAR

The Fiberbots create fiberglass tubes around themselves, one layer at a time, climbing the inside of the tubes to create lengthy cylinders, according to a paper published Wednesday in the journal Science Robotics. Tubes spun by several Fiberbots could create structures as large as bridges or buildings.

First, one of the bots combines fiberglass thread with resin, which it then winds around an inflated membrane surrounding its squat, cylindrical body. Once the Fiberbot completes a segment of tubing, it deflates the membrane and “climbs” the inside of the tube to start another segment, which overlaps the one that came before it. Layer by layer, it can curve the material, even fitting it together with tubes built by other Fiberbots.

STANDING TALL

To put their system to the test, the MIT researchers directed the Fiberbots to build a series of 22 tubes stretching as high as 4.5 meters (14.7 feet), which took about 12 hours. The tubes stayed intact for seven months, withstanding the harsh conditions of a Massachusetts winter.

We already use fiberglass for things like bridges, house insulation, and many different products. But in truth, that could be only the beginning. We could one day use Fiberbots to create the tubes we need for construction projects without requiring human workers to handle the material, the researchers write.

The bots could even build their structures in harsh or dangerous environments that humans simply shouldn’t or can’t access — including other planets.

READ MORE: Design of a Multi-Agent, Fiber Composite Digital Fabrication System [Science Robotics]

More on construction bots: This Three Story Home Was Built by Robots

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Astronomers Discover a New Source of Spectacular Radio Jets

For the first time ever, researchers have discovered radio jets launching from a neutron star with a strong magnetic field.

JET SETTER

In a ranking of cool space phenomenon, radio jets have to take a spot near the top. They’re near-light-speed blasts of material from black holes or neutron stars, which are known as “stellar corpses” because they are the remnants of stars left after they’ve gone supernova, and they’re downright spectacular.

Scientists thought the only neutron stars that could expel radio jets were those with very weak magnetic fields. But a new discovery has punched a big hole in that understanding.

They just figured out that a jet-spewing neutron star called Swift J0243.6+6124 has got a really, really strong magnetic field, according to a paper published Wednesday in Nature.

THE FORCE IS STRONG

The University of Amsterdam-led research team discovered the phenomenon using the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array radio telescope and NASA’s Swift space telescope.

“The magnetic field of the neutron star we studied is about 10 trillion times stronger than that of our own Sun, so for the first time ever, we have observed a jet coming from a neutron star with a very strong magnetic field,” lead researchers Jakob van den Eijnden said in a press release. “The discovery reveals a whole new class of jet-producing sources for us to study.”

ENERGY IN, ENERGY OUT

As co-author James Miller-Jones added, radio jets play a major role in the transfer of gravitational energy from black holes and neutron stars back into the surrounding environment, so anything that expands our understanding of the phenomenon subsequently improves our understanding of the universe as a whole.

And now, thanks to this study, we can start hunting down radio jets in places we never thought to look.

READ MORENeutron Star Jets Shoot Down Theory [EurekAlert]

More on radio jets: Researchers Discover “Bizarre” Black Holes That Are All Aligned

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Nuclear Power Used to Seem Like the Future. Now Its Fate in the US Is in Question.

When nuclear power started feeding electricity into the grid in the 1950s, there was a sense of heady optimism. We could harness cutting-edge physics to generate cheap electricity!

In 1954, Atomic Energy Commission chairman Lewis Strauss gushed that atomic energy would soon make electricity “too cheap to meter.” The ghostwriters behind the popular “Tom Swift” series of young adult novels churned out a series of titles glorifying atomic tech, from “Tom Swift and his Atomic Earth Blaster” to “Tom Swift in the Caves of Nuclear Fire.”

Public support for nuclear power faded, however. The accidents at Three Mile Island (1979) and Chernobyl (1986) showed that even though the tech worked perfectly most of the time, it also had the potential for rare and dangerous catastrophes. Though the United States still gets about 20 percent of its electricity from nuclear fission, it’s built few new reactors since the 1980s. The average nuclear plant in the U.S. is now nearly 40 years old.

How we feel about technology is often as important to its adoption as anything intrinsic about it. Nuclear power used to feel like the future, but now it keeps getting easier to imagine an era without it.

Take the Alvin W. Vogtle Electric Generating Plant, a half-built fission facility in Georgia. It  was supposed to provide affordable electricity for the region. But now the project is now billions of dollars over budget, and could be canceled entirely, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Make no mistake: there are good things about nuclear power. It doesn’t rely on fossil fuels, and releases significantly less carbon dioxide than power generated with coal, oil, and natural gas. Statistically, it’s safer than people think.

But there are also downsides, too. The 2011 Fukushima Daiichi disaster in Japan showed that the even with modern safety precautions, nuclear plants can still spin out of control. There’s the question of what to do with radioactive waste, which will remain dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years. Uranium mining pollutes groundwater. Building new plants costs a fortune.

We now have many more green energy options than they did in the 1950s. Wind and solar are getting cheaper every year. They’ve got the longevity and low carbon toll of nuclear power, without the toxic waste. And that’s to say nothing of nuclear fusion, a much cleaner energy source that’s rapidly becoming more feasible.

If we still need nuclear plants as a stopgap to moving away from fossil fuels, fine. But overall, atomic power no longer feels like the future. Instead it feels like the past.

More on atomic energy: Use of Nuclear Power Is in Decline; Why?

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URBAN-X Is Jumpstarting the Startups That Will Reimagine City Life

It takes more than elbow grease and moxie for someone with a good idea to find their place in the startup ecosystem. Even with the best idea, the pitfalls of building a real business are countless, the work required for success is daunting, and the reward often lies years in the future. To address this question we spoke to Miriam Roure, program director of URBAN-X, a startup accelerator that’s been instrumental in investing in and supporting new companies using design and technology to improve city life.

As the program director for URBAN-X, you look at hundreds of applications from startup founders hoping to work with you. What are the things that make a company stand out?

The first question that we ask ourselves is, “Is this the right team?” We evaluate their level of commitment, if the founders have complementary skill sets, or if they have started a company before. What is harder to evaluate is if they have the kind of marathon mindset it takes to build a startup, if they are quick learners, and if they are able to take advice in a constructive way.

Second, we look at the size of the opportunity. Even with a great team, if the market is too small or will take too long to mature, it can be hard to scale. The opportunity for us also means the potential impact that the solution can have. Can this solution reach 100 cities within five years? If so, what are some key KPIs that we could identify as drivers for positive change in these urban environments?

What’s the toughest part of making those decisions? Is it stressful holding the future of someone’s company in your hands?

We like to think about it as a matching process – some companies are too early and some other ones are too late, some fit our mission and some don’t, some have the growth potential and speed that the venture capital model requires and some might benefit from other kinds of funding. It’s important for us to be able to provide value to the companies in the program.

We are especially sensitive to our own biases and not dismissing opportunities because they might not fulfill a certain profile that we have in mind. We are also aware of founder stereotypes, “hot” markets and FOMO. Team selection is one of the hardest things we have to do and no investor gets it right 100% of the time.

You talked about how important it is to find companies that can have a real impact. Do you have a white whale? An urban problem that you’d love to have a hand in solving?

Our current white whale is water – no pun intended. For many areas, local sources are being exhausted and it’s really hard to find good, quality drinking water. Flint, Michigan is a touchpoint for what happens when archaic policy mixes with old technology. With climate change, cities need to find novel approaches to resilience dealing with sea level rise, storms and flooding. It’s hard to find solutions for problems that are so structural to how we have built our resource system.

For example, how we use water in our homes is the same water that we drink from the faucet and flush down our toilets. In the United States, the end consumer doesn’t perceive the true price of water and as a result, she doesn’t relate to the water crisis as much as other arguably less relevant challenges.

Does working in cities create unique challenges for URBAN-X startups?

Many URBAN-X companies face the challenge of operating in spaces that are regulated – and about 25% of our portfolio sells to or works closely with governments. This is not only challenging in and of itself, but it also can be tricky from a fundraising perspective. Many investors don’t know how RFPs and sales cycles with state or municipal governments work. We believe these solutions are not only necessary, but also operate in markets prime for disruption. In our last cohort, which concluded in February 2018, 100% of the companies have gone on to close their next round of capital, with many operating as B2G or in highly regulated markets.  With the Urban Us team, we have been proactive in building a network of investors and key players in government, policy-making and city services that are able to advise, connect and continue to invest in our startups.

By the end of the year, we will have roughly 40 startups in our portfolio. This growing network is also proving to be incredibly valuable as founders share resources, insights and respective networks.

Another challenge all early-stage startups face is their limited amount of runway and small teams. These limited resources make it such that staying focused becomes crucial. For first time founders, this is even more challenging. Beyond the investment, having access to expertise around the fundraising process, product strategy, team culture, customer discovery, design and engineering resources, and media exposure dramatically increases the chances of startup success and helps reduce the risk of failure.

What does it take? What are the qualities that a startup, or its founders, absolutely need to have to be successful?

It takes a committed and complementary team, an actionable vision, a relevant problem and a great solution, and the passion and wherewithal to not give up and make it happen.

Most important, optimism. As Clayton Christensen points out in his famous book “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” founders systematically underestimate the amount of risk that they are taking. This necessary underestimation is actually really inspiring – the idea that one can create a business that can improve the lives of people at scale makes it worth the effort. When we find a founder that’s in love with the problem they have taken on (more than their solution), we know we are on the right track.

URBAN-X, the accelerator for startups reimagining city life, invites you to Demo Day 04 on September 27, 2018 at A/D/O in Brooklyn, NY. Come get inspired by what’s next for more efficient, enjoyable, and livable cities. If you can’t make it in person, we’ll be live streaming the morning session from Futurism’s Facebook and YouTube pages!


Futurism fans: To create this content, a non-editorial team worked with URBAN-X, who sponsored this post. They help us keep the lights on. This post does not reflect the views or the endorsement of the Futurism.com editorial staff.

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Tread Lightly: This AI Can Identify You by Monitoring Your Footsteps

Researchers have created an AI that can identify a person with 92 percent accuracy after recording just seven consecutive footsteps.

ELEMENTARY

Teachers take attendance, students reply “here.” Some things never change. But what if that process got a tech upgrade? What if AI could tell which students were there based on the way they walked into the classroom?

Automating classroom attendance is just way we could use a new artificial intelligence that can identify a person simply by analyzing their footsteps. This unusual system is the work of researchers at Indian Institute of Technology, who published their study on the preprint server arXiv on Monday.

UNDER FOOT

The team needed a lot of data on footsteps to create their system. To collect it, they used a geophone, a device that converts ground movement into electrical signals. They asked eight volunteers to each walk barefooted in a circle with a geophone at the center, coming as close to the device as 1 meter (3.2 feet) and as far as 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) from it.

The researchers gathered about an hour of walking data for each individual. That added up to 46,489 footsteps, which they believe is the largest footstep database ever collected. Then they used the data to train an algorithm to differentiate between the steps of different participants by evaluating the time between steps, their length, and their rhythm.

In the end, the AI could identify a person with 92 percent accuracy after recording just seven consecutive footsteps. The researchers believe their system could eventually replace other biometric identification systems, such as fingerprint or retina scanners, as it is easily camouflaged and doesn’t require the cooperation of the person it’s analyzing.

WALK IT OFF

As for applications beyond the classroom, the researchers note that high-security areas, such as military bases, could use the system to detect anyone who isn’t in an approved footstep database. It could also prove useful in the smart homes of the future; for example, the AI could tell your home’s audio system to start playing a different radio station depending on the family member that walks into a room.

Of course, there are still kinks to work out — as it stands, the system can’t identify more than one person at a time, so it’d be useless in crowds. However, the researchers are already working to improve their device, so it might not be long before your footstep is all you need to prove your identity.

READ MORE: Researchers Train AI to Identify People From Their Footsteps [VentureBeat]

More on biometrics: A Top Manufacturer Is Taking a Chance on in-Display Fingerprint Sensors

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Does Uber Have Any User Trust Left To Spare?

Ridesharing app Uber agreed to pay a whopping $148 million fine today for covering up a 2016 hack — and bribing the hackers not to release the data.

Today, ridesharing app Uber agreed to pay a whopping $148 million for covering up a 2016 hack — and bribing the hackers not to release the data. The fine, which will be paid to all 50 states and the District of Columbia, is the largest payout ever for a data breach, Bloomberg reports.

“Uber’s decision to cover up this breach was a blatant violation of the public’s trust,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “The company failed to safeguard user data and notify authorities when it was exposed. Consistent with its corporate culture at the time, Uber swept the breach under the rug in deliberate disregard of the law.”

Uber once looked like a cutting-edge plan for the future of transportation — decentralizing it by giving drivers part-time work. But the fine caps a years-long series of scandals and missteps that has frayed the public trust in the company — a violation that has serious financial repercussions.

Let’s recall Uber’s Very Bad Few Years. There was the viral blog post by a former engineer who detailed rampant harassment at the company. Then the nasty court case, ultimately settled, in which Alphabet’s autonomous car startup Waymo alleged that Uber had stolen its trade secrets. There was the video of then-CEO Travis Kalanick berating an Uber driver who complained about the company’s notoriously low pay. There was Uber’s decision to continue making trips to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport even after taxi drivers refused the serve the route to protest against the Trump administration’s travel ban.

And, of course, there was the hack of 57 million Uber users and drivers’ information, plus the company’s $100,000 bribe to get the hackers to delete it. Even if you were gung-ho about Uber’s vision for the future, it was hard to stay in their corner through all that.

For Uber, it all adds up to a crisis of consumer confidence. To make matters worse, competitor Lyft has edged in, capturing 35 percent of the ridesharing market earlier this year.

Uber has already started to kick some of its bad habits. In 2017, it ousted Kalanick and replaced him with a CEO who has pledged to “celebrate differences” and “do the right thing.” This month, it pledged $10 million to fight street congestion.

But for some riders, it’s going to take more than a few band-aids to build back trust — they’ll need to see a sustained pattern of good behavior. Paying a huge fine isn’t a solution, but it’s a place to start.

More on Uber: Uber’s CEO Knows We Need Equality To Move The World Forward

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Scientists Want to Put a Horrifying Caterpillar Robot Inside Your Body

Researchers in Hong Kong have invented a robot that looks like a caterpillar. It's designed to travel through your body and release drugs.

NIGHTMARE FUEL

Scientists at the City University of Hong Kong have created a new robot. Upside: it could help deliver drugs inside the body, keeping patients healthier. Downside: it looks like a terrifying bug you wouldn’t want anywhere near your insides.

The bot looks a cross between a caterpillar and a strip of Velcro, with ominously hairlike legs. Those legs, according to co-creator Wang Zuankai, are so that it can better navigate the various textures of your internal anatomy.

“The rugged surface and changing texture of different tissues inside the human body make transportation challenging,” he said in a press release. “Our multi-legged robot shows an impressive performance in various terrains” (yes he just called the tissues in your body “terrains,” it’s fine).

PILL PUSHER

It’s not clear how the robot will get inside you — probably by swallowing it, right? that seems like the best of a number of not great options — but once it’s there, the idea is that it’ll crawl through your “body fluids such as blood or mucus,” according to the press release.

Then, once it reaches its destination — the release suggested a designated spot in your digestive system, for instance — it’ll release medicine.

FROM HELL

In all seriousness, though, the bot, which is described in a new paper published in Nature Communications, looks like a marvelous piece of engineering. It can climb over obstacles much taller than itself and carry a payload up to 100 times its weight, according to the release. And automated gadgets that deposit drugs and collect data from inside your body are a growing area of research; some have already won approval from the FDA.

No matter how great it is, that thing is not welcome to climb around my insides.

READ MORETiny soft robot with multilegs paves way for drugs delivery in human body [EurekAlert]

More on tiny robots: Meet The World’s Smallest Robot, It’s the Size of Fly and Capable of Flight

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This “Flying Sports Car” Is Like a Giant Drone You Can Ride In

This week, Philippine inventor Kyxz Mendiola took his Koncepto Milenya, a flying sports car prototype, out for its first public test flight.

PRETTY FLY

The founding member of an award-winning hip-hop dance troupe hangs up his sneakers to engineer a flying sports car. Tale as old as time, right?

Yeah, not exactly. But it’s the path former dancer Kyxz Mendiola has carved out for himself.

Six years ago, Mendiola decided he was sick of dealing with traffic, so he did what anyone in a similar situation would: started digging tunnels building a flying car.

He calls the craft, which looks a lot like a giant remote controlled drone, the “Koncepto Millenya.” On Sunday he took it out for its first public test flight in the Philippine province of Batangas. It lasted about 10 minutes.

“It was amazing,” the Filipino inventor told Reuters. “All the hard work paid off. Everything worked perfect.”

THE SPECS`

Koncepto Milenya seats just one person weighing up to 100 kilograms (220 pounds). Its six lithium-ion batteries power 16 rotary motors, which allow the craft to reach a height of 6.1 meters (20 feet) and a top speed of 60 kph (37 mph).

According to Mendiola, who co-founded the Philippine All Stars hip-hop dance group in 2005, flying the craft is pretty simple.

“Press a button and it will go up, then push the stick forward, it goes forward,” he told Reuters. “It’s very smart, that’s why I’m saying it has a lot of potential.”

MASS PRODUCTION

Mendiola is working with Australian company Star8 to further develop the vehicle, with the goal of mass producing it. Star8’s CEO told Reuters he wants to market the flying sports car in Australia, Europe, and Hong Kong.

No word on when Koncepto Milenya might come to the U.S., so traffic-averse Americans will just have to hope Elon Musk’s tunneling scheme works out.

READ MORE: Philippine Inventor Aims to Cut Travel Times With Passenger Drone [Reuters]

More on flying cars: How Close Are We Really to Flying Cars?

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Everyone’s Genome Is Different. That’s Why Scientists Are About to Sequence a Million of Them.

A new NIH program aims to sequence the DNA of a million volunteers, to better understand genetic variation between people and develop new treatments.

RIPPED GENES

The first time scientists sequenced the entire human genome, it took 13 years and nearly $3 billion dollars.

It was an incredible accomplishment. But now a program called All of Us wants to blow it out of the water by sequencing the DNA of a million volunteers. One goal is to better understand variation between different people’s DNA. Another is to develop better tailored treatments — presumably ones with a genetic component, like Parkinson’s or certain cancers.

“Diversity is a hallmark of this effort,” said Eric Dishman, the director of the program, in a press release. “We strive for diversity of people and also diversity of data types, so researchers can understand the many factors that influence health and health outcomes for each of us.”

GENOME WIZ

Since the Human Genome Project wrapped up in 2003, it’s become dramatically faster (and cheaper) to sequence a genome. If all goes according to plan, the All of Us program will sequence a huge swathe of the population. Then the program, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, will make that extraordinary trove of data available to researchers.

All of Us hasn’t said how long the project might take. But this week the NIH kicked off the project by awarding $28.6 million to genome centers at Baylor College, the Broad Institute and the University of Washington, which will carry out the sequencing work.

REAL TREATMENTS

The three centers will sequence the DNA of volunteers from all over the country. About 110,000 have registered so far, according to the NIH. Along with genetic material they’ll provide access to their health records, fluid samples and fitness tracker data so that researchers can look for relationships between their DNA and health.

All that data will doubtless lead to a better understanding of humans’ genetic code. But the NIH also hopes it will lead to new breakthroughs in treatments and preventative medicine.

READ MORE: NIH-funded genome centers to accelerate precision medicine discoveries [National Institutes of Health]

More on genetic sequencing: 15 Years Ago, We Sequenced the Human Genome. Now We Can 3D Map It.

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Paint it Clear: This Coating Could Make Your AC Obsolete

BEAT THE HEAT

Cranking up your air conditioner in the summer heat might seem like a good idea. But it’s not a great idea for the planet, or for your electric bill.

Now, researchers from Columbia University have devised an alternative to air conditioning that could keep your home cool without sending your power bill sky high. It’s a white polymer that reflects more than 96 percent of sunlight, and it comes in a dyeable, paint-like form, meaning we could use it to coat the sides and roofs of our homes to keep them cooler when the Sun is at its strongest.

TINY BUBBLES

The researchers describe the coating in a paper published Thursday in the journal Science. To create it, they engineered a mixture that forces water to settle into tiny droplets in a polymer. When those droplets evaporate, they leave tiny air holes behind. The holes, the researchers say, are what give the coating its remarkable sunlight-reflecting property.

The researchers put their concoction to the test under the oppressive heat of Phoenix, Arizona, painting it onto a copper sheet attached to sensors to measure the temperature. After 30 minutes, they found that the coating was 6 degrees Celsius (10.8 degrees Fahrenheit) cooler than the ambient temperature. That means it might not be long before we’re slathering the stuff on our homes in order to ward off the summer heat without cranking the AC.

UNDER THE SUN

The world is only getting hotter as we deal with the repercussions of climate change, and until we transition fully to renewables, using electricity to cool our homes will only exacerbate the problem.

Additionally, not everyone can use air conditioning — think people in low-income regions or places without electricity — and for those folks, this cheap, easy-to-implement way to lower temperatures could literally be a life-saver.

READ MORE: Keeping Things Cool With a Paint-Like Polymer [EurekAlert]

More on polymers: Unbreakable: Watch a Spray-On Polymer Let Objects Survive a 148-Foot Fall

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If We Want Drone Delivery to Be a Reality, We’ve Gotta Keep It Simple

DRONING ON

In 2013, we learned about Amazon’s splashy plans to drop packages off at customers’ homes using drones. Sure, there have been a few pilot drone deliveries, but for the most part, even Amazon hasn’t made that future a reality yet.

But in Iceland, a startup called Aha has been using drones to deliver hot food and other goods for five months. Its secret: keeping the system very, very simple.

As we creep towards a future in which drone delivery is commonplace, Aha’s success shows that a simple approach might work best — and that maybe tech giants like Amazon are over-engineering the concept.

BARE BONES

Aha’s delivery drones have no cameras or radar, IEEE Spectrum reports. In fact, they navigate the Reykjavik area using only GPS, which keeps them on pre-determined routes selected because they’re free of trees and other obstacles. When they arrive at a customer’s home, the drones lower deliveries — burgers are popular, but the company also sells electronics — on a line.

That stands in contrast to Amazon’s high-tech approach. In 2014, the company filed documents with the FAA claiming that its delivery drones sport “sense-and-avoid sensors.” A patent the company filed earlier this year describes a system that lets its drones respond to voice commands, and another patent from last year explains a beehive-like structure where drones can roost and collect new items for delivery.

AIN’T BROKE

In this case, the simple approach seems to be winning. Aha says it’s made 500 drone deliveries over the past five months, with no injuries. A delivery costs the equivalent of a modest US $7.

But don’t count Amazon out yet. The company is still pouring resources into its nascent drone program. Maybe it just needs to focus on a simpler set of features.

READ MORE: Are Delivery Drones Commercially Viable? Iceland Is About to Find Out [Spectrum IEEE]

More on drone delivery: Are Delivery Drones Actually Better for the Environment?

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Scientists Need to Solve These Two Mysteries to Find Life on Mars

An international team of scientists just announced their strategy for trying to figure out whether Mars can support life.

Back in June, NASA revealed two mind-blowing facts: that there is organic matter on Mars, and that levels of methane in the planet’s atmosphere ebb and flow over time. It’s pretty exciting news that shook our understanding of astrobiology. And while this isn’t necessarily proof that aliens are out there, much of our terrestrial methane was produced by living things. And as any child can tell you, if you smelled it, someone must have dealt it.

The recent methane findings “confront us with robust data that demand interpretation,” a team of international scientists wrote in a study published last week in Astrobiology. The study authors have done just that — they sorted out what measurements, experiments, and missions NASA and other space organizations should prioritize as they seek more evidence that Mars does (or did) support life.

In short, the scientists want to study Mars’ geological activity. They want to understand the relationship between these newly discovered organic compounds and the fluctuating methane in the atmosphere. Their goal is to find traces of other molecules and gases that might make it possible for some primitive, microscopic life forms to survive beneath the planet’s surface. Here’s what exactly they’re looking for.

One: Redox Gradient

When we eat, our bodies pull energy out of our food through chemical reactions that create a back and forth flow of electrons and oxygen atoms between molecules. This back and forth is necessary for fueling our bodies — all living things do it. But because of Mars’ extreme atmosphere, this balance doesn’t exist. The atmosphere is so strongly oxidizing that these reactions would only happen in one direction. Any living thing on Mars would be reacting so strongly with the air that it wouldn’t be able to survive. The researchers are looking for components in the Martian atmosphere that would balance out that reaction, which would make life possible.

Two: Source of the Methane

The next step towards understanding whether Mars could have ever hosted life, the researchers suggest, is to dig beneath the surface of Mars in order to figure out where all this methane is coming from. While living things on Earth produce methane as they digest food, that’s not the only way the gas could emerge in an atmosphere. NASA’s upcoming InSight mission will probe beneath the surface of Mars. It’s primarily geared towards learning about seismic activity, but who knows what it might discover along the way.

Our best guess for why Mars’ methane levels fluctuate? The seasonal freezing and thawing of ice, which traps and releases methane over time (we know this from data from the Curiosity rove). But there’s no easy way to tell how long that methane has been there or whether more is being generated. And that means finding the source of Martian methane is more complex than pulling the finger of a little green alien.

By examining the chemical composition of subterranean samples and taking more atmospheric measurements, scientists would be able to learn whether this methane came from biological processes or complex chemical reactions that don’t involve life at all.

The researchers behind this plan aren’t suggesting it because there’s super compelling evidence that Mars supports life. In fact, as astrobiologist Caleb Scharf once asserted, it is far more reasonable to assume that it does not exist anywhere other than Earth. After all, that’s the only place we know for sure has got it.

But if, by some fantastic chance, there are some microbes hiding under the planet’s surface, or if there used to be some form of life on Mars, the study authors’ strategy likely represents our best chance at finding it.

More on major Mars findings: There’s A Huge Subterranean Lake of Liquid Water on Mars

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Scientists Need to Solve These Two Mysteries to Find Life on Mars

Glimpse: How An Army of Resurrected Mammoths Could Curb Global Warming

It’s 12,000 B.C. Modern humans are starting to migrate to the Americas for the first time. We won’t discover farming for another 2,000 years. We won’t build cities for another 9,000 years. As a species, our story is just beginning. In Siberia, another’s is coming to an end.

The mammoth steppe, one of the world’s most expansive ecosystems, is on the brink of collapse. For millennia, these arctic grasslands have played host to a variety of enormous plant-eating mammals, most notably the wooly mammoth. As a keystone species, the mammoths had long ensured environmental harmony. They kept the trees from multiplying, which allowed grass to grow in its place, sustaining all of the animals in the steppe.

But then, around 12,000 B.C., that changed. Rising global temperatures (a product of a receding ice age) and human activity rapidly drove down the populations of mammoths, triggering a domino effect that transformed the Siberian landscape. Trees, bushes, and shrubs proliferated in the mammoths’ absence, choking out the grasses that once sustained life there. As a result, the permafrost slowly began to thaw, releasing potent greenhouse gases that sped up global warming.

Now, 14,000 years later, scientists are faced with record-breaking global temperatures of humans’ own doing. And they’re realizing how valuable that ice age ecosystem was, and that we may be able to bring it back.

This possibility is explored in Sebastian Moller, the third episode of Glimpse, a new original sci-fi series from Futurism Studios (a division of Futurism LLC) and DUST. Watch the episode below.

Famed geneticist George Church has made bringing back the ice age ecosystem his mission. In 2015, he and a team Harvard researchers successfully spliced the DNA of a wooly mammoth into the genome of its closest living relative, the Asian Elephant. They chose 14 of the mammoth’s most recognizable genes for the experiment, activating them for the first time since their extinction. It was a watershed moment — scientists finally had all the tools they needed to bring an extinct animal back from the dead.

That’s the good news. The bad news, as Church well knows, is that bringing one mammoth back isn’t the same as bringing the species back. To restore the mammoth steppe to its Pleistocene glory, he estimates that we’ll need 80,000 mammoths. At least.

Making pretty much anything in such high numbers is daunting. But an enormous, extinct organism? Even harder. Genetic engineering isn’t exactly known for its ability to scale.

Current de-extinction proposals rely on surrogate mothers from living species to bear the resurrected organisms. The shorter the evolutionary distance — that is, the number of genetic differences — between the extinct species and the surrogate species, the better. That makes the Asian Elephant a perfect candidate to carry mammoth babies — there are only 44 differences between them. Unfortunately, the elephants are also endangered.

Copyright Dust/Futurism, 2018

“If we want to have 80,000 wooly mammoths or cold-resistant elephants that satisfy the wooly mammoth range at once, there aren’t enough mothers that you have access to, even it all relevant governments say, ‘This is a good thing.’” George explained in a recent interview on the After On podcast with Rob Reid.

He estimates there are only about 17,000 Asian Elephant females in prime reproductive health left on earth. That’s barely enough to keep their own species going, especially since the species reproduces slowly (it takes 22 months of gestation for a baby elephant to be born). Using them to bring an extinct species back? A tough sell. African Elephants could be used, too, but you’ll eventually run into the same problem.

The only viable solution, Church posits, is “full development outside the body with adequate blood supply and nutrients.” He’s talking about growing baby mammoths in artificial wombs. No scientist has ever accomplished that for a species that gives birth to live young (that is, not in an egg). But Church and his team are already making a lot of progress with mice, and plan to release the results of those studies this year.

“We’re getting better at turning stem cells into embryo-like structures. We’re getting better at turning embryos into support structures that are vascularized. Mice can implant into that,” he told Reid.  “Once that’s working well for mice, we’ll try moving into larger animals.” Church believes the first success for a mammoth will happen within a decade.

Even if he has all the organisms and technology he needs to accomplish his mission, Church will still run into opposition from ethicists. They’ll argue, among other things, that we should focus our limited resources on protecting species we still have with us. But Church and others like him believe the rewards of such a feat make it worth the struggle — and cost.

 

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Glimpse: How An Army of Resurrected Mammoths Could Curb Global Warming

Make Music A Full Body Experience With A “Vibro-Tactile” Suit

A high-tech suit vibrates to let users feel music — a new way for everyone to experience sound, according to its creators, but especially for deaf people.

SYNESTHETES

Tired: Listening to music.
Wired: Feeling the music.

A mind-bending new suit straps onto your torso, ankles and wrists, then uses actuators to translate audio into vivid vibration. The result: a new way for everyone to experience music, according to its creators. That’s especially exciting for people who have trouble hearing.

THE FEELIES

The Music: Not Impossible suit was created by design firm Not Impossible Labs and electronics manufacturing company Avnet. The suit can create sensations to go with pre-recorded music, or a “Vibrotactile DJ” can adjust the sensations in real time during a live music event.”

Billboard writer Andy Hermann tried the suit out, and it sounds like a trip.

“Sure enough, a pulse timed to a kickdrum throbs into my ankles and up through my legs,” he wrote. “Gradually, [the DJ] brings in other elements: the tap of a woodblock in my wrists, a bass line massaging my lower back, a harp tickling a melody across my chest.”

MORE ACCESSIBLE

To show the suit off, Not Impossible and Avnet organized a performance this past weekend by the band Greta Van Fleet at the Life is Beautiful Festival in Las Vegas. The company allowed attendees to don the suits. Mandy Harvey, a deaf musician who stole the show on America’s Got Talent last year, talked about what the performance meant to her in a video Avnet posted to Facebook.

“It was an unbelievable experience to have an entire audience group who are all experiencing the same thing at the same time,” she said. “For being a deaf person, showing up at a concert, that never happens. You’re always excluded.”

READ MORE: Not Impossible Labs, Zappos Hope to Make Concerts More Accessible for the Deaf — and Cooler for Everyone [Billboard]

More on accessible design: New Tech Allows Deaf People To Sense Sounds

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Make Music A Full Body Experience With A “Vibro-Tactile” Suit

Should Coma Patients Live or Die? Machine Learning Will Help Decide.

A team of Chinese researchers has created software that can predict whether a coma patient will wake up or not. Can it replace human decision-making?

In some cases, all it takes is a major blow to the side of the head.

When somebody falls into a coma, they lose all motor functions. Brain activity slows significantly. In most cases, no external stimuli, like light or movement, can wake them up. It’s notoriously difficult to determine their future state — will they ever wake up again?

Chinese neurologists at the Academy of Sciences and the PLA General Hospital in Beijing are working hard to develop a tool that can help doctors assess exactly that. But they’ve got a technological advantage generations of doctors before them didn’t: machine learning. Algorithms like this one are part of a growing arsenal of data-driven tools that can help emotional family members and doctors make difficult decisions about a patient’s treatment, or help determine when it’s time to say goodbye.

The researchers fed fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) data from thousands of coma patients into a machine learning algorithm. That helped them understand how likely a particular patient would be to recover.

As it turns out, the results are very promising: “We have successfully predicted a number of patients who regained consciousness after being initially determined to have no hope of recovery,” the researchers told the South China Morning Post.

The algorithm was 90 percent accurate, the researchers found. And they have already used the technique on more than 300 hundred patients from all over China. They hope the same technology could help more of the estimated 50,000 “patients with chronic disturbance of consciousness” in China.

Image Credit: Thomas Schultz/Victor Tangermann

The stakes may seem high, but coma patients may in fact be the ideal application for this kind of machine learning technology, says Pascal Kaufmann, neuroscientist and founder of Starmind, a Switzerland-based company working to develop artificial intelligence to help employees at big companies communicate with one another. In fact, machines are way better at analyzing this kind of complex biological data than humans are. “These machines are doing nothing other than what the human beings are doing. They are looking at the same data sets — they do exactly the same. However, they do it a million times faster and more reliably.”

The researchers in Beijing are not suggesting that machines should have the final word on deciding whether coma patients live or die. “When we informed the family of the AI score, we always told them it should only [affect] 20 to 50 percent in their decision,” Yang Yi, a doctor in the neurosurgery department at PLA General Hospital and researcher on the project tells the SCMP.

Kaufmann agrees — a computer system’s assessment should only matter if it determines that a coma patient shows promise after human doctors deemed it a lost cause — not the other way round. “When the human doctor says the patient will never wake up again, that would be a horrible scenario. That you actually let a patient die because of machine input — that should not be possible,” Kaufmann says. “I think you should only pay attention to the results if somebody can tell you there is hope.”

“I think you should only pay attention to the results if somebody can tell you there is hope.”

In fact, now that we have technology that could help better predict whether coma patients will wake up, Kaufmann says it could be dangerous to allow human doctors to sift through the data alone. It’s like self-driving cars — human drivers are far more prone to accidents than their autonomous counterparts. “It might be dangerous to leave the judgment of whether a person will wake up or not to the doctor because the error rate is much higher in human doctors than in machines,” Kaufmann says.

For now, though, this algorithm is only being used for coma patients. And that’s probably a good thing. Machines are actually better than doctors at evaluating the condition of a patient, says Kaufmann. But they don’t have the soft skills patients like to see from their doctors. “The problem is, when it comes to human interaction [with patients that are not in a coma], then of course the human doctors are much superior to machines, because you can evaluate behavior, smell, how they talk etc. — there are many factors that the machines are not good with coping with.”

Allowing a computer to influence the decision over a patient’s life or death feels like an episode of Black Mirror, but it might actually be a good thing. It’s quite likely machine learning algorithms will make their way into many more areas of healthcare — they might analyze crowdsourced medical data through high-tech wearables, or help a robotic surgeon operate on patients with little human input. With more data, they are bound to get even more accurate.

But a future where machines alone make that decision to pull the plug on a coma patient? We probably won’t be there for a while.

More on comas: New Electrical Brain Stimulation Could “Awaken” Comatose People

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