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Psoriasis Guide: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Options

Medically reviewed on May 14, 2018

Psoriasis is a chronic skin disorder that causes scaling and inflammation.

Psoriasis may develop as a result of an abnormality in the body’s immune system. The immune system normally fights infection and allergic reactions.

Psoriasis probably has a genetic component. Nearly half of patients have family members with psoriasis.

Certain medications may trigger psoriasis. Other medications seem to make psoriasis worse in people who have the disease.

Psoriasis causes skin scaling and inflammation. It may or may not cause itching. There are several types of psoriasis:

Plaque psoriasis. In plaque psoriasis, there are rounded or oval patches (plaques) of affected skin. These are usually red and covered with a thick silvery scale. The plaques often occur on the elbows, knees, scalp or near the buttocks. They may also appear on the trunk, arms and legs.

Inverse psoriasis. Inverse psoriasis is a plaque type of psoriasis that tends to affect skin creases. Creases in the underarm, groin, buttocks, genital areas or under the breast are particularly affected. The red patches may be moist rather than scaling.

Pustular psoriasis. The skin patches are studded with pimples or pustules.

Guttate psoriasis. In guttate psoriasis, many small, red, scaly patches develop suddenly and simultaneously. Guttate psoriasis often occurs in a young person who has recently had strep throat or a viral upper respiratory infection.

About half of people with skin symptoms of psoriasis also have abnormal fingernails. Their nails are often thick and have small indentations, called pitting.

A type of arthritis called psoriatic arthritis affects some people with psoriasis. Psoriatic arthritis may occur before skin changes appear.

Your doctor will look for the typical skin and nail changes of this disorder. He or she can frequently diagnose psoriasis based on your physical examination.

When skin symptoms are not typical of the disorder, your doctor may recommend a skin biopsy. In a biopsy, a small sample of skin is removed and examined in a laboratory. The biopsy can confirm the diagnosis and rule out other possible skin disorders.

Psoriasis is a long-term disorder. However, symptoms may come and go.

There is no way to prevent psoriasis.

Treatment for psoriasis varies depending on the:

Treatments for psoriasis include:

Topical treatments. These are treatments applied directly to the skin.

Daily skin care with emollients for lubrication. These include petroleum jelly or unscented moisturizers.

Corticosteroid creams, lotions and ointments. These may be prescribed in medium and high-strength forms for stubborn plaques on the hands, feet, arms, legs and trunk. They may be prescribed in low-strength forms for areas of delicate skin such as the face.

Calcipotriol (Dovonex) slows production of skin scales.

Tazarotene (Tazorac) is a synthetic vitamin A derivative.

Coal tar

Salicylic acid to remove scales

Phototherapy. Extensive or widespread psoriasis may be treated with light. Phototherapy uses ultraviolet B or ultraviolet A, alone or in combination with coal tar.

A treatment called PUVA combines ultraviolet A light treatment with an oral medication that improves the effectiveness of the light treatment.

Laser treatment also can be used. It allows treatment to be more focused so that higher amounts of UV light can be used.

Vitamin A derivatives. These are used to treat moderate to severe psoriasis involving large areas of the body. These treatments are very powerful. Some have the potential to cause severe side effects. It’s essential to understand the risks and be monitored closely.

Immunosuppressants. These drugs work by suppressing the immune system. They are used to treat moderate to severe psoriasis involving large areas of the body.

Antineoplastic agents. More rarely, these drugs (which are most often used to treat cancer cells) may be prescribed for severe psoriasis.

Biologic therapies. Biologics are newer agents used for psoriasis that has not responded to other treatments. Psoriasis is caused, in part, by substances made by the immune system that cause inflammation. Biologics act against these substances. Biologic treatments tend to be quite expensive.

If you are unsure whether you have psoriasis, contact your doctor. Also contact your doctor if you have psoriasis and are not doing well with over-the-counter treatment.

For most patients, psoriasis is a long-term condition.

There is no cure. But there are many effective treatments.

In some patients, doctors may switch treatments every 12 to 24 months. This prevents the treatments from losing their effectiveness and decreases the risk of side effects.

National Psoriasis Foundation6600 SW 92nd Ave.Suite 300Portland, OR 97223-7195Phone: 503-244-7404Toll-Free: 1-800-723-9166Fax: 503-245-0626http://www.psoriasis.org/

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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Psoriasis Guide: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Options

Psoriasis – Diagnosis and treatment – Mayo Clinic

Diagnosis

In most cases, diagnosis of psoriasis is fairly straightforward.

Psoriasis treatments reduce inflammation and clear the skin. Treatments can be divided into three main types: topical treatments, light therapy and systemic medications.

Used alone, creams and ointments that you apply to your skin can effectively treat mild to moderate psoriasis. When the disease is more severe, creams are likely to be combined with oral medications or light therapy. Topical psoriasis treatments include:

Topical corticosteroids. These drugs are the most frequently prescribed medications for treating mild to moderate psoriasis. They reduce inflammation and relieve itching and may be used with other treatments.

Mild corticosteroid ointments are usually recommended for sensitive areas, such as your face or skin folds, and for treating widespread patches of damaged skin.

Your doctor may prescribe stronger corticosteroid ointment for smaller, less sensitive or tougher-to-treat areas.

Long-term use or overuse of strong corticosteroids can cause thinning of the skin. Topical corticosteroids may stop working over time. It’s usually best to use topical corticosteroids as a short-term treatment during flares.

Topical retinoids. These are vitamin A derivatives that may decrease inflammation. The most common side effect is skin irritation. These medications may also increase sensitivity to sunlight, so while using the medication apply sunscreen before going outdoors.

The risk of birth defects is far lower for topical retinoids than for oral retinoids. But tazarotene (Tazorac, Avage) isn’t recommended when you’re pregnant or breast-feeding or if you intend to become pregnant.

Calcineurin inhibitors. Calcineurin inhibitors tacrolimus (Prograf) and pimecrolimus (Elidel) reduce inflammation and plaque buildup.

Calcineurin inhibitors are not recommended for long-term or continuous use because of a potential increased risk of skin cancer and lymphoma. They may be especially helpful in areas of thin skin, such as around the eyes, where steroid creams or retinoids are too irritating or may cause harmful effects.

Coal tar. Derived from coal, coal tar reduces scaling, itching and inflammation. Coal tar can irritate the skin. It’s also messy, stains clothing and bedding, and has a strong odor.

Coal tar is available in over-the-counter shampoos, creams and oils. It’s also available in higher concentrations by prescription. This treatment isn’t recommended for women who are pregnant or breast-feeding.

This treatment uses natural or artificial ultraviolet light. The simplest and easiest form of phototherapy involves exposing your skin to controlled amounts of natural sunlight.

Other forms of light therapy include the use of artificial ultraviolet A (UVA) or ultraviolet B (UVB) light, either alone or in combination with medications.

Psoralen plus ultraviolet A (PUVA). This form of photochemotherapy involves taking a light-sensitizing medication (psoralen) before exposure to UVA light. UVA light penetrates deeper into the skin than does UVB light, and psoralen makes the skin more responsive to UVA exposure.

This more aggressive treatment consistently improves skin and is often used for more-severe cases of psoriasis. Short-term side effects include nausea, headache, burning and itching. Long-term side effects include dry and wrinkled skin, freckles, increased sun sensitivity, and increased risk of skin cancer, including melanoma.

If you have severe psoriasis or it’s resistant to other types of treatment, your doctor may prescribe oral or injected drugs. This is known as systemic treatment. Because of severe side effects, some of these medications are used for only brief periods and may be alternated with other forms of treatment.

Although doctors choose treatments based on the type and severity of psoriasis and the areas of skin affected, the traditional approach is to start with the mildest treatments topical creams and ultraviolet light therapy (phototherapy) in those patients with typical skin lesions (plaques) and then progress to stronger ones only if necessary. Patients with pustular or erythrodermic psoriasis or associated arthritis usually need systemic therapy from the beginning of treatment. The goal is to find the most effective way to slow cell turnover with the fewest possible side effects.

There are a number of new medications currently being researched that have the potential to improve psoriasis treatment. These treatments target different proteins that work with the immune system.

A number of alternative therapies claim to ease the symptoms of psoriasis, including special diets, creams, dietary supplements and herbs. None have definitively been proved effective. But some alternative therapies are deemed generally safe, and they may be helpful to some people in reducing signs and symptoms, such as itching and scaling. These treatments would be most appropriate for those with milder, plaque disease and not for those with pustules, erythroderma or arthritis.

If you’re considering dietary supplements or other alternative therapy to ease the symptoms of psoriasis, consult your doctor. He or she can help you weigh the pros and cons of specific alternative therapies.

Explore Mayo Clinic studies testing new treatments, interventions and tests as a means to prevent, detect, treat or manage this disease.

Although self-help measures won’t cure psoriasis, they may help improve the appearance and feel of damaged skin. These measures may benefit you:

Coping with psoriasis can be a challenge, especially if the disease covers large areas of your body or is in places readily seen by other people, such as your face or hands. The ongoing, persistent nature of the disease and the treatment challenges only add to the burden.

Here are some ways to help you cope and to feel more in control:

You’ll likely first see your family doctor or a general practitioner. In some cases, you may be referred directly to a specialist in skin diseases (dermatologist).

Here’s some information to help you prepare for your appointment and to know what to expect from your doctor.

Make a list of the following:

For psoriasis, some basic questions you might ask your doctor include:

Your doctor is likely to ask you several questions, such as:

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Psoriasis – Diagnosis and treatment – Mayo Clinic

Boeing Is Prepping to Launch Astronauts to Space Station

Commercial Crew Program

SpaceX isn’t the only company attempting to revolutionize the way we send astronauts to space.

Boeing, the largest aerospace company in the world, is looking to send up its own take on a passenger spacecraft, which it calls the CST-100 Starliner, to the International Space Station. Boeing is planning to launch the capsule — uncrewed for now, as a test flight — on an Atlas 5 rocket as early as April, according to NASA.

Starliner

Boeing’s commercial spacecraft shares similarities with SpaceX’s Crew Dragon: it can seat a crew of seven, be operated from a central control panel, dock autonomously with the ISS, and can also be reused multiple times.

Boeing’s Starliner is the result of a $4.2 billion contract signed with NASA in 2014 under the Commercial Crew Program. SpaceX signed a very similar contract for its Crew Dragon mission at the same time, although it paid SpaceX just $2.4 billion.

Race to the ISS

SpaceX successfully launched its passenger spacecraft to the ISS on Saturday, becoming the first ever private American spacecraft to do so. It also marked the first time astronauts launched into space from American soil since the end of NASA’s Space Shuttle program in 2011.

Boeing has tests to complete before it takes off.

“There still are many critical steps to complete before launch and while we eagerly are anticipating these launches, we will step through our test flight preparations and readiness reviews,” Kathy Lueders, Commercial Crew Program manager at NASA said in an official update.

SpaceX is planning a crewed test flight in July of this year. Boeing wants to do the same only a month later — and its first pilots are already on stand-by.

READ MORE: Crew Dragon and Starliner: A Look at the Upcoming Astronaut Taxis [Space.com]

More on Starliner: NASA Announces The First Commercial Astronauts to Pilot The Next Generation of Spacecraft

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China: New “Artificial Sun” Will Be Completed This Year

A Chinese official claims the nation is poised to wrap up construction on the HL-2M tokamak, a new

On the Horizon

In November, Chinese researchers announced that the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor — an “artificial sun” designed to mimic the nuclear fusion process the real Sun uses to generate energy — had hit a milestone by achieving an electron temperature of 100 million degrees Celsius.

Now, officials are saying they believe they’ll wrap up construction on a new artificial sun this year, and they claim this device will be able to hit a milestone in ion temperature — putting us one step closer to harnessing the power of nuclear fusion.

Hot Tech

On Sunday Duan Xuru, an official at the China National Nuclear Corporation, announced during the annual session of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference that engineers would wrap up construction on the nation’s HL-2M Tokamak in 2019.

“The artificial sun’s plasma is mainly composed of electrons and ions,” Duan told the media, according to the Global Times, “and the country’s existing Tokamak devices have achieved an electron temperature of over 100 million degrees C in its core plasma, and an ion temperature of 50 million C, and it is the ion that generates energy in the device.”

Tokamak

According to Duan, the HL-2M Tokamak will be able to achieve an ion temperature of 100 million degrees Celsius, about seven times hotter than the real Sun’s ion temperature. This meets meeting what the Global Times calls “one of the three challenges to reach the goal of harnessing the nuclear fusion.”

If he’s right, the device could serve as a template for future nuclear fusion reactors, bringing the dream of unlimited clean energy one step closer to reality.

READ MORE: Nation to complete new artificial sun device this year [Global Times]

More on the device: China’s “Artificial Sun” Is Now Hot Enough for Nuclear Fusion

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NASA Announces World’s First All-Female Spacewalk

On March 29, NASA astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch will leave the ISS to embark on the world's first all-female spacewalk.

The Female Frontier

Two of NASA’s astronauts are scheduled to make history this month.

On March 29, Anne McClain and Christina Koch will leave the relative safety of the International Space Station for a spacewalk to upgrade the craft’s batteries.

Though rare, a spacewalk alone isn’t history-making. What’s exciting is the fact that this spacewalk will be the first to feature only women astronauts — an inspiring sign that women are catching up with men in exploring the final frontier.

Spacewalk This Way

On Wednesday, NASA spokeswoman Stephanie Schierholz confirmed the all-female spacewalk with CNN.

“As currently scheduled, the March 29 spacewalk will be the first with only women,” she told the network.

In addition to McClain and Koch, Schierholz pointed out that two other women will play important roles behind the scenes for this spacewalk — Mary Lawrence and Jackie Kagey will serve as the spacewalk’s lead flight director and lead spacewalk flight controller, respectively.

A third woman, Canadian Space Agency flight controller Kristen Facciol, will support the spacewalk from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. She’s the one who first broke the news of the all-female spacewalk with an exuberant tweet on March 1.

I just found out that I’ll be on console providing support for the FIRST ALL FEMALE SPACEWALK with @AstroAnnimal and @Astro_Christina and I can not contain my excitement!!!! #WomenInSTEM #WomenInEngineering #WomenInSpace

— Kristen Facciol (@kfacciol) March 1, 2019

As with anything space-related, there is always a chance the spacewalk might not go as planned, with Schierholz telling CNN that “assignments and schedules could always change.”

Still, right now, it’s looking like McClain and Koch will spacewalk their way into the history books on March 29.

READ MORE: 2 astronauts are scheduled for the first all-female spacewalk in history [CNN]

More on the ISS: First-Ever 360-Degree Video of Spacewalk Lets You Feel Like an ISS Astronaut

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Stalkers Are Pretending to be Cops to Steal Your Phone’s Location

By telling companies such as Verizon and T-Mobile they're cops, stalkers and scammers can get users' real-time location data.

Just Ask

A loophole designed to protect lives is actually endangering them.

While cell phone companies typically require a court order before they’ll give law enforcement officials a customer’s real-time location data, they will make exceptions under “exigent circumstances” — for example, if turning over the data might prevent someone from being harmed.

Now, Motherboard is reporting that phone companies are also turning over this data to people impersonating officials — another troubling example of how little tech companies are doing to protect your personal data.

Scam Alert

According to Motherboard’s sources — which included Valerie McGilvrey, a skip tracer hired to find people’s locations — Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint have all turned over real-time location data to scammers who claimed to be law enforcement officials.

In some instances, the scammers were bounty hunters or debt collectors. In others, they were stalkers and domestic abusers trying to track down their victims. The stories they spin vary, but fake child kidnappings seem to be common approach.

“So many people are doing that and the telcos have been very stupid about it,” McGilvrey told Motherboard. “They have not done due diligence and called the police [departments] directly to verify the case or vet the identity of the person calling.”

Unprotected

This is far from the first example of tech companies inadequately protecting user data — from Facebook to Google, we constantly hear about companies experiencing data breaches, with users’ personal data ending up in the hands of people who were never meant to have access to it.

The issue has now gotten to the point that some legislators are suggesting bills to jail the execs of companies that don’t adequately protect user data — and if there’s one thing more worthy of punishment than accidentally leaking personal data, it might be willingly handing it over like these telephones companies are doing.

READ MORE: Stalkers and Debt Collectors Impersonate Cops to Trick Big Telecom Into Giving Them Cell Phone Location Data [Motherboard]

More on data breaches: New Bill Would Let FTC Jail Execs for Data Breaches

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Stalkers Are Pretending to be Cops to Steal Your Phone’s Location

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Spacecraft Splashes Down in the Atlantic

Welcome Home

Mission Demo-1 is officially complete.

After successfully undocking from the International Space Station in the early morning hours and burning through Earth’s atmosphere, SpaceX’s passenger spacecraft slowly descended back down to Earth, before safely splashing down into the Atlantic Ocean — and right on schedule at 8:45 am EST.

.@SpaceX’s #CrewDragon returned to Earth with a splash in the Atlantic Ocean off Florida’s eastern shore at 8:45am ET, completing an end-to-end flight test to the @Space_Station and back as part of our @Commercial_Crew Program. Learn more: https://t.co/MFB7dVb60c pic.twitter.com/8lFL6X3Tue

— NASA (@NASA) March 8, 2019

The Descent

Crew Dragon’s descent was slowed thanks to four large parachutes it deployed once it re-entered Earth’s atmosphere.

Astronauts loaded roughly 300 pounds (136 kg) of cargo from the ISS into the spacecraft on Thursday to send back down to Earth.

SpaceX successfully launched the spacecraft on Saturday. It marks the first time a passenger spacecraft launched from American soil to the ISS — and returned safely back down to Earth — since the end of NASA’s Space Shuttle program in 2011.

Mission Accomplished

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon docked itself, with no robotic arm required, to an open port of the International Space Station early Sunday morning. It then spent five days docked to the station while astronauts checked out the inside of what could one day become their ride back home.

A lot could’ve gone wrong. The cargo Dragon variant featured a different parachute system and had a differently shaped hull.

“I see hypersonic re-entry as probably my greatest concern,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said during a post-launch press event on Saturday.

In July, SpaceX is hoping to send the Crew Dragon capsule back into space — but this time with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on board.

READ MORE:

More on Crew Dragon: Expert: SpaceX Just Made Russia’s Space Program “Null and Void”

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New SETI Plan: Detect Alien Starships Powered by Black Holes

A new paper suggests that we could spot an alien civilization by looking for signs of starships powered by the radiation thrown off by small black hole.

Alien Starships

To detect alien civilizations, astronomers need to make some assumptions about the forms they might take — and the traces their technological artifacts could leave behind.

An outrageous new paper by a mathematician at Kansas State University does just that, positing that a sufficiently advanced alien civilization would likely build starships powered by the radiation thrown off by small black holes — and speculating that astronomers could use gamma telescopes to spot evidence of these black hole starships.

Black Holes

The basic idea, according to mathematician Louis Crane, is that a spaceship powered by a black hole would leave distinctive spillover from gamma rays. He suggests astronomers could detect that spillover using a telescope like the orbital Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.

“If some advanced civilization already had such starships, current [very high energy] gamma ray telescopes could detect it out to 100 to 1,000 light years if we were in its beam,” Crane said in a press release. “They could be distinguished from natural sources by their steadily changing redshift over a period of years to decades.”

Game SETI Match

Crane also said, provocatively, that he believes astronomers may have already spotted several gamma ray sources “for which no natural explanation has been given.”

He also speculated about what it would mean for a civilization to be capable of creating an artificial black hole — and it sounds absolutely epic.

“To produce an artificial black hole, we would need to focus a billion-ton gamma ray laser to nuclear dimensions,” Crane said in the press release. “It’s like making as many high-tech nuclear bombs as there are automobiles on Earth. Just the scale of it is beyond the current world economy. A civilization which fully utilized the solar system would have the resources.”

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Elizabeth Warren Shares Plan to Break up Facebook, Google, Amazon

Senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren announced a bold plan today to break up tech giants Amazon, Facebook, and Google.

Breaking Up

Senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren announced a bold plan on Friday to break up tech giants Amazon, Facebook, and Google.

“Today’s big tech companies have too much power — too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy. They’ve bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit, and tilted the playing field against everyone else,” Warren wrote in a Medium post about the plan. “That’s why my Administration will make big, structural changes to the tech sector to promote more competition — including breaking up Amazon, Facebook, and Google.”

Baby Bells

In particular, Warren singled out “anti-competitive mergers,” such as Amazon’s ownership of Whole Foods and Zappos, Facebook’s WhatsApp and Instagram, and Google’s Waze, Nest, and DoubleClick.

“Unwinding these mergers will promote healthy competition in the market? — ?which will put pressure on big tech companies to be more responsive to user concerns, including about privacy,” Warren wrote in the post.

It’s not unprecedented for the U.S. government to break up large enterprises. In the 1980s, it divided the American Telephone and Telegraph Company into so-called “Baby Bells” — several of which later re-merged into Verizon.

Zuckerberg Beware

Warren also alluded to how huge tech interests have upset the balance in the marketplace of ideas, noting how state actors may have used Facebook and other platforms to try to influence the U.S. presidential election in 2016.

“We must help America’s content creators — from local newspapers and national magazines to comedians and musicians — keep more of the value their content generates, rather than seeing it scooped up by companies like Google and Facebook,” Warren wrote on Medium. “And we must ensure that Russia — or any other foreign power — can’t use Facebook or any other form of social media to influence our elections.”

READ MORE: Elizabeth Warren’s new plan: Break up Amazon, Google and Facebook [CNN]

More on Facebook: Facebook Mods Are so Traumatized They’re Getting High at Work

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New Zealand Farmers Are Using Drones to Herd Sheep

Farmers in New Zealand have a new tool to herd sheep and cows, according to Radio New Zealand: drones outfitted with speakers so they can bark like dogs.

Sheep Drones

Farmers in New Zealand have a new tool to herd sheep and cows, according to Radio New Zealand: drones outfitted with speakers that blast the sounds of dogs barking.

“That’s the one thing I’ve noticed when you’re moving cows and calves that the old cows stand up to the dogs, but with the drones, they’ve never done that,” shepherd Corey Lambeth told the station.

Radio New Zealand video shows Lambeth corralling cows and sheep using a drone with a harsh digital bark.

Dog Days

Lambeth’s employer, Ben Crossley, confirmed that his fourth-generation farm is indeed using drones to control sheep. One favored model: the DJI Mavic Enterprise, which is already outfitted to play sounds — such as barking — over a speaker.

The Washington Post noted that farmers are already using drones around the world for a variety of farming tasks, *including* surveying crops.

The Washington Post noted that farmers are already using drones around the world for a variety of farming tasks, including surveying crops. Having the devices deal directly with animals is less common — but it could be a vision of the future of agriculture.

Drone Pups

Dogs, which were already used for herding in New Zealand, are learning to work alongside the drones, according to another story by Radio New Zealand.

“There’s definitely going to be places for dogs always on farm,” Lambeth told the station, but “the one downside of the Mavic [drones] or anything electronic is you still need to bring them in and charge them.”

READ MORE: Barking drones used on farms instead of sheep dogs [Radio New Zealand]

More on drones: Autonomous Drones Are Dropping Rat Poison Bombs on This Island

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New Zealand Farmers Are Using Drones to Herd Sheep

NASA Is About to Test a Giant Solar Drone That Broadcasts 5G

The Hawk 30

Japanese tech giant SoftBank partnered with NASA and U.S. aerospace company AeroVironment to build a massive solar-powered drone that can beam 5G connectivity down to practically anywhere in the world.

A maiden voyage of SoftBank’s Hawk 30 prototype could take place as soon as next week, according to a November Space Act Agreement with NASA. More test flights will follow within the next three months — an initiative that if successful could bring wireless connectivity to the most remote regions of the globe.

Remote Areas

The Hawk 30 is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that features ten electric engines and can fly at altitudes of over 65,600 feet (20 km) according to IEEE Spectrum. Other than that, details are sparse.

The Hawk 30 won’t be the first UAV of its kind to attempt to bring connectivity to remote areas. The drone that holds the record of any winged horizontal aircraft was set by AeroVironment’s previous prototype, the Helios. That prototype was “an elegant flying wing wider than a 747 but weighing less than just one of the jumbo jet’s 18 landing wheels,” IEEE Spectrum writes.

It flew at an altitude of 93,000 feet back in 2001, but splintered into tiny pieces and fell into the Pacific Ocean just two years later due to turbulence.

Facebook and Google

Facebook also jumped on the bandwagon with its Aquila solar-powered drone. The Aquila project was an experiment to see if it was possible to bring internet connectivity to remote areas as well. A prototype stayed aloft for almost two hours over the Arizona desert in June 2017 during its second test flight. But the project was grounded in June 2018.

Even Google tried its hand, testing its SkyBender system in 2016. High-altitude balloons made more sense to the company in the end — the project was replaced by Alphabet’s Loon project in 2017.

It’s a concept with a poor track record so far. But that’s not stopping companies from learning from their mistakes and trying again.

READ MORE:  SoftBank Hopes Its Solar Internet Drone Will Soar Where Facebook’s and Google’s Sank [IEEE Spectrum]

More on connectivity UAVs: An AT&T Drone Is Connecting Puerto Ricans to Wireless Service

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Watch a 3D Printed Self-Driving Shuttle Smash Into a Wall

Local Motors demonstrates how its Olli self-driving shuttle reacts during crash testing in a pair of video shared exclusively with The Verge.

Olli-Oops

Typically, the last thing an automaker wants the media to present is graphic video of its vehicles crashing. Not so with Local Motors.

The Arizona-based startup reached out to The Verge with exclusive video of its 3D-printed self-driving shuttle Olli in what CEO Jay Rogers calls its “worst-case scenario”: smashing into a wall at 40 kilometers per hour (25 miles per hour).

“What I hope we’re showing, by showing people these vehicles crashing, is that we’re doing the due diligence,” Rogers told the outlet. “We want people to see the progress.”

Grand Slam

The video of the crash test, which was recorded in late 2018, is quite spectacular, with plenty of flying glass and buckled wheels.

“It was quite an experience,” Rogers told The Verge. “It’s kind of the first time I think anyone has really done any kind of large-scale crash testing with a 3D-printed vehicle, so it was pretty amazing to be part of that project and kind of be on the cutting edge of that pushing the science forward.”

Still, once the wreckage settles, it’s clear that the structure of the self-driving shuttle has remained largely intact. In another video shared with The Verge, Olli doesn’t appear to sustain any damage at all — though in that one, it’s only moving at 4.8 kph (3 mph).

self-driving shuttle
Image Credit: Local Motors

Fine Print

Local Motors is already testing Olli on public roads, where it operates at speeds that roughly split the difference of the two crash videos: 24 to 29 kph (15 to 18 mph).

According to Rogers, the fact that the vehicle is 3D printed tends to be a point of concern for potential passengers. But it’s the 3D printing that allows Local Motors to easily tweak Olli’s design to improve safety or incorporate the latest technology, he said.

“Many people just ask the question, ‘Well, is it safe or not? Like, am I riding around in something that a MakerBot printed?’” Rogers told The Verge, name checking a prominent brand of consumer-oriented 3D printer. “The answer is, not only is it as safe, but it will be safer in the future.”

self-driving shuttle
Image Credit: Local Motors

READ MORE: LOCAL MOTORS WANTS TO PROVE 3D-PRINTED SELF-DRIVING SHUTTLES ARE SAFE [The Verge]

More on Olli: An Autonomous, 3D Printed Bus That Talks to Passengers? Olli Has It All

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Mitsubishi’s New Hybrid Can Power Your Home During a Blackout

Bi-Directional Charging

In the future, your car will charge your house.

That’s according to Japanese carmaker Mitsubishi, which is working on a solar platform — including a sizable home battery, charger and solar panels — called Dendo Drive House. The twist: it can use the company’s lineup of plug-in hybrid cars to store extra power.

It’s a futuristic concept: when the sun shines, both your car and home charge up at the same time thanks to a “bi-directional charger.” If you’re stuck with no power from the electric grid, your home is able to use up your plug-in hybrid car’s remaining battery reserves.

In its promotional video, Mitsubishi argues it might even save you some money — you can chose to charge your home from the grid at night, when electricity prices are lower.

The Engelberg Tourer

The reveal came alongside the announcement of Mitsubishi’s Engelberg Tourer, a “next-generation crossover SUV concept” at this year’s Geneva Motor Show.

The Tourer is meant to skip the need for charging infrastructure altogether, according to the press release, thanks to its generous battery pack — and of course the Dendo Drive House platform with its bi-directional charging capability.

It’s not the first time the idea has cropped up: Tesla CEO Elon Musk mentioned the idea in a July 2018 tweet, pointing out it might make sense for his electric vehicle company to “revisit” the idea.

Like many concepts of its kind, there’s no guarantee Mitsubishi’s SUV and the Dendo Drive House platform will ever be released to the public.

While Tesla has already shown the benefits of mounting a massive home battery packs to your garage wall, the efficiency of home solar panel technology still has a way to go.

But who wouldn’t want to save some money on their energy bills while ensuring that their energy demands are met even during a power outage?

READ MORE: This SUV powers your house–and your house powers this SUV [Fast Company]

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Robbers Tortured a Man With a Drill to Steal His Cryptocurrency

Home invaders tortured a crypto trader with an electric to force him to give up his cryptocurrency, according to a Dutch newspaper.

Crypto Crime

A key promise of the digital cash known as cryptocurrency is its security — because only you possess the password to access your money, it’s presumably more safe than it would be at a bank.

But a grisly crime in the Netherlands — in which home invaders tortured a crypto trader in an attempt to force him to give up his coins — shows that there’s also a dark side to having total control over your own wealth.

Robber Squad

According to the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, a trio of robbers disguised as police burst into the home of an unidentified cryptocurrency trader in late February.

Then, in view of the man’s four-year-old daughter, they tortured the crypto trader with an electric drill — causing injuries so severe that he was hospitalized for five days, according to a follow-up story.

It’s not clear whether they obtained any of the crypto trader’s funds before leaving, but if he did turn over his password, the criminals could have transferred the money to an anonymous account almost instantly.

Followup

Dutch police were horrified by the crime, according to De Telegraaf, and dispatched 15 officers to investigate. The cops refused to comment, but police sources confirmed to the newspaper that the criminals were after the man’s cryptocurrency holdings.

Crypto news site CoinTelegraph pointed out that there have been other examples of violent criminals attempting to steal cryptocurrency, such as a Russian businessman who was held hostage until he surrendered his Bitcoin funds.

“If you are rich and you own real estate, or stocks or a sports team, somebody can’t mug you and take your sports team away,” Bitcoin engineer Jameson Lopp told The New York Times in 2018. “Having liquid crypto assets makes you much more attractive for that type of criminal attack.”

READ MORE: Bitcoin Trader Brutally Tortured With Drill in Cryptocurrency Robbery [The Independent]

More on cryptocurrency: Did a Crypto CEO Fake His Own Death to Abscond With $190 Million?

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Psychedelic Mushrooms Can Boost Creativity and Empathy for a Week

The positive benefits of ingesting psilocybin, the active ingredient in psychedelic mushrooms, can last for up to a week, according to a new study.

Magic Medicine

The benefits of taking psychedelics could last long after the trip ends.

A team of Dutch researchers has found that psilocybin, the active ingredient in psychedelic mushrooms, doesn’t just increase a person’s creativity, empathy, and feeling of well-being while a user trips. It also allows them to experience all of those benefits for up to seven days — providing valuable insight into how we could tap into the therapeutic value of hallucinogenics.

Tea Time

For their study, which was recently published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, the team from Maastricht University recruited 55 attendees of a retreat of the Psychedelic Society in the Netherlands.

They asked the subjects, about half of whom hadn’t taken psilocybin before, to complete a series of tests designed to measure their creativity, empathy, and general satisfaction with life three times: once the evening before ingesting a tea made from psychedelic mushrooms, once the morning after drinking it, and then finally seven days later.

“We found that psilocybin, when taken in a naturalistic setting, increased aspects of creativity and empathy the morning after, and 7 days after use,” researcher Natasha Mason told PsyPost. “Furthermore, psilocybin also enhanced subjective well-being.”

Window of Opportunity

As Mason admitted to PsyPost, the study did have several limitations, including the lack of a control group and the fact that the participants were all people who chose to attend a psychedelic retreat.

However, she still believes the team’s study produced valuable insights into the potential therapeutic benefits of psychedelics.

“These findings are important in trying to understand psychedelics’ therapeutic utility in the treatment of certain pathologies,” Mason told PsyPost. “Specifically, in a therapy session, enhancements in empathy could increase feelings of openness and trust between patient and therapist, thus strengthening the therapeutic alliance.”

“Furthermore, enhancements in flexible, creative thinking could allow individuals to break out of their old patterns of thought, and generate new and effective cognitive, emotional, and behavioral strategies,” she continued. “Importantly, our data suggest that these effects outlast the acute phase and persist over time, thus potentially opening up a ‘window of opportunity’ where therapeutic interventions could prove more effective.”

READ MORE: A single dose of psilocybin enhances creative thinking and empathy up to seven days after use, study finds [PsyPost]

More on psychedelics: Scientist Tells World Leaders MDMA and Magic Mushrooms Should Be Legal

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Seaweed Straw “Looks, Feels, and Acts Like Plastic,” Says Startup

To address the world's plastic problem, startup Loliware has created seaweed straws that can be composted or allowed to biodegrade in the ocean.

Seaweed Sippers

Every day, Americans use an estimated 500 million plastic straws — and the vast majority are ending up in landfills or oceans, where they’ll likely remain for hundreds of years.

More and more locations are starting to ban these straws, but rather than asking people to live a straw-less existence, a startup called Loliware thinks we should provide them with an environmentally friendly alternative — and that’s why they’re now proposing we sip our sodas through seaweed.

Breaking It Down

Loliware has developed a straw that the company’s sustainability adviser, Daniela Saltzman, told Business Insider “looks, feels, and acts like plastic.” However, it’s actually created out of “hyper-compostable” seaweed that biodegrades much like a banana peel on land and breaks down in weeks in water.

“A disposable product that’s built to last for centuries — i.e., a plastic straw — makes no sense,” Saltzman said, “but one that can be composted or safely biodegrades in the ocean, that’s obviously fine.”

This summer the company will begin shipping its seaweed straws to several customers, including hospitality chain Marriott and beverage company Pernod Ricard.

By the end of 2020, Loliware expects to be able to produce 30 billion straws in a variety of styles, according to a Fast Company story, and it’s aiming for a production cost about the same as paper straws.

Grasping at Straws

Loliware isn’t the first company to produce an alternative to plastic straws, but existing options leave much to be desired.

Reusable stainless steel straws can be a pain to clean, bamboo ones can leave a woody taste in the drinker’s mouth, and glass straws are a bad idea for klutzes prone to dropping things.

Paper straws are disposable, so that’s a benefit, but they can also become mushy quickly and cause whatever you’re drinking to taste like, well, paper.

According to Loliware, its seaweed straws only start to turn soft after 18 hours of use. They also have a “neutral” taste, CEO Chelsea Briganti told Business Insider, and while the straws are edible, she doesn’t recommend eating them.

“It can be eaten, but this is not a food per se, or a snack,” she said. “Don’t expect to eat your whole straw as if it’s a candy.”

READ MORE: These Straws Work Like Plastic, but They’re “Hyper-Compostable” [Fast Company]

More on plastic pollution: Stop Whining That Your Plastic Straws Are Disappearing. Be Glad They’re Not Ending up in Oceans.

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Zuckerberg Said to Have “Panic Chute” for Escape From Facebook HQ

here are persistent rumors among workers at the social giant that the company's security staff installed a secret

Panic Chute

Business Insider investigation into Facebook’s security practices provides a riveting look at how the company protects its celebrity executives — but the strangest revelations were about the company’s extraordinary efforts to keep CEO Mark Zuckerberg safe.

One persistent rumor exemplifies the company’s apparent paranoia: Workers at the social media giant claim that the company’s security staff installed a secret “panic chute” at the company’s headquarters that Zuckerberg’s security detail can use to evacuate him in the case of an emergency.

Zuck Truck

Facebook’s executive-protection team is run by a former U.S. Secret Service special agent named Jill Leavens Jones, according to BI, and she has serious resources to protect Zuckerberg, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, and others — including a $10 million annual budget dedicated solely to protecting the CEO and his family.

That funding has led to some futuristic security features, according to BI‘s investigation.

In addition to the rumored panic chute, Zuckerberg himself has access to a room with bullet-resistant windows and a “panic button.” Nobody is allowed to park in the spot in the parking garage directly below his desk for fear of car bombs.

Friends Forever

The strangest takeaway from the story, though, isn’t what Facebook does to protect Zuckerberg from stalkers and potential threats — it’s the company’s efforts to protect him from Facebook employees themselves, who aren’t even allowed to take photos of the enigmatic CEO.

“If you’ve ever been close to his office, you’ll see there are big burly people sitting there staring at screens,” one Facebook employee wrote on Quora. “They pretend to be software engineers, but everyone knows that they are security guards.”

READ MORE: Mark Zuckerberg is rumored to have a secret escape passageway beneath his conference room for emergencies [Business Insider]

More on Zuckerberg: Mark Zuckerberg Insists That Facebook Promotes Privacy

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Zuckerberg Said to Have “Panic Chute” for Escape From Facebook HQ

Police Arrest Vandal Who Trashed Tesla Supercharger

Supercharger Vandalism

First, pickup truck owners started taking over Supercharger stations in apparent protest. Now a vandal has struck one of Tesla’s electric vehicles chargers.

Last week, a 52 year-old man physically vandalized the charging cable and ports at all the docks of a local St. George, Utah’s Tesla Supercharger station, local news reports — the latest skirmish in a simmering culture war about electric vehicles.

Confession

It took local law enforcement less than 24 hours from the start of their investigation to find a suspect named Johnny Doak. According to St. George News, he had been drinking heavily that night and was “grieving the death of a family member.”

Doak later confessed to his crime. Whether it was his intention was to vandalize a Tesla Supercharger station in particular is unclear. Police estimate total repair costs to be $8,000.

ICEing

The news comes after pickup drivers in the U.S. were found to park their trucks in unoccupied Tesla Supercharger spots. The trend became known as “ICEing,” due to the symbolic weight of vehicles with internal combustion engines (ICE) blocking access to electric vehicle charging stations.

Tesla developed a clever solution to the problem earlier this year by installing metal hurdles that could be lowered using a QR code on the Tesla owner’s phone.

It’s an ominous trend, but incidents have thus far been uncommon. But it goes to show that not everybody is happy about the spread of electric cars — for whatever reason.

READ MORE: Tesla Supercharger vandal has been arrested [Electrek]

More on “ICEing”: Tesla Found a Clever Way to Prevent Supercharger ICEing

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Residents Are Furious About Google’s Drone Delivery Service

Google parent company Alphabet is preparing to launch what the Australian Broadcasting Corporation says is the first commercial drone delivery service.

Project Wing

Google parent company Alphabet is gearing up to launch what the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports will be the world’s first commercial drone delivery service, which will fall under its Project Wing arm.

But Alphabet may be in for a fight before the delivery program takes flight in Australia by this coming June, according to the ABC — because local residents are furious about the idea of buzzing drones invading their community.

The Sky is Falling

Alphabet says its drones will be able to deliver coffee, food and medication — but residents of Canberra, where the program will take place, are worried about what it’ll be like living among the drones.

“Things fall out of the sky, it’s quite hard to get drones to work properly, it’s quite hard to deal with drones when they lose communications… we should be treating it that way and applying the precautionary principle and getting out ahead of the problem,” said Roger Clarke, a professor at Australian National University.

Robotics Technologies

For its part, Alphabet recently tested a quieter version of its delivery drone.

“We’re trying to be as transparent and as open as we can,” Project Wing CEO James Burgess told the Canberra Times.

But not all residents are convinced.

“That is what is going to happen with some forms of these new robotics technologies unless corporations deal the public in, and get the downsides understood and prevented or mitigated, and they’re not doing it,” Clarke said.

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