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The Top Ten Most-Read Futurism Stories of 2019 – Futurism

A WILD RIDE. Those, by and large, are the first words that come to mind looking back on Futurisms 2019 and all the news that made up these past twelve months.

We ran thousands of stories this year. They ranged from investigative projects, to interviews, to the building blocks of our site: Sharp hour-by-hour analysis on the science and technology narratives of the day. These stories shaped (and are still shaping) the weird, wonderful, frightening, inspiring, and ever-critical present moment were in, to say nothing of the future well occupy on this planet or elsewhere.

That said: Every once in a while, one of these hundreds of stories exceeds our wildest expectations, drawing hundreds of thousands of readers from across the world, and for weeks at a time, too.

To that end and without further ado, here are The Ten Most-Read Futurism Stories of 2019 along with our best guesses as to why they garnered so much attention, and what it might mean for our future.

10. The First Black Hole Photo Is Even More Amazing When You Zoom Out

When: April 12, 2019

What: After the Event Horizon Telescope team unleashed the first-ever image of a black hole, a separate team dropped an incredible follow-up image of the space around it.

Why: A sense of genuine epochal awe surrounded the release of the historic first image of a black hole, for starters. But when we covered NASAs Chandra X-ray Observatory release of the wider shot, showing how distant galaxy M87s black hole was nestled in a boggling vast cloud of high-energy particles, our readers couldnt stop looking. Heck, neither could we.

9. Our Solar System Is Blanketed in a Giant Wall of Fire

When: Nov. 21, 2019

What: Voyager 2 sent back readings suggesting that the edge of the solar system is surrounded by a bubble of 49,427 degrees Celsius (89,000 degrees Fahrenheit) plasma.

Why: We think of the deep solar system as a dark, frozen expanse, but this story showed that its a frontier of extraordinary unknowns that can apparently get, to put it lightly, hot. Even better, NASAs best tool to plumb its mysteries is Voyager 2 a probe thats been traveling away from the Sun since 1977, giving the story an outrageous old-meets-new finishing coat.

8. NASA Engineer Says New Thruster Could Reach 99% Speed of Light

When: Oct. 14, 2019

What: NASA engineer David Burns said that his new thruster design could reach a ludicrous velocity if you give it enough time to accelerate.

Why: The idea of light-speed travel scratches a sci-fi itch, and Burns has a knack for self-promotion. His thrusters undeniably clever it would use a type of particle accelerator to manipulate the speed of an ion loop, subtly changing their mass through relativity effects, thus generating a gentle thrust without propellant. Give it enough time, according to Burns, and it could reach 99 percent the speed of light. The caveats? Itd require building an enormous device in space, and itd take an extremely long time to speed up.

7. New Research: Human Civilization Will Likely Collapse by 2050

When: June 3, 2019

What: An Australian climate change analysis reached a Mad Max conclusion: Were screwed, and on a clock.

Why: The last year in news has often felt a touch world-ending, no? To say nothing of the worlds ongoing fascination with post-apocalyptic fiction, from Dawn of the Dead to The Hunger Games. The wide interest in this, though, illustrates our looming fear of a real collapse event especially when the research comes from a former fossil fuel exec. The good news, according to the research, is that drastic environmental policies could pull the planet back in the right direction. Also, lets be real: the art for this one, by Futurism writer Victor Tangermann, was haunting and beautiful.

6. NASA Research: Astronauts Are Getting Clots, Bizarre Blood Flow

When: Nov. 14, 2019

What: A NASA research project seemingly showed astronauts suffering from ominous circulatory problems.

Why: Everybody loves a feel-good story about a successful rocket launch or a shiny experiment on the International Space Station. But its difficult to ignore growing evidence that space is a hostile environment for the human body and this study, which examined ultrasounds from astronauts whod spent time on space station, showed signs of clots and bizarre blood flow. Needless to say, more research is needed, but this could be an opening act to the human space travel story narrative of this era.

5. Here Are New Pics of That Weird Substance China Found on the Moon

When: Sept. 19, 2019

What: China baffled the world when it announced that its rover had found a mysterious substance on the Moon. Then it released a photo.

Why: The implication of Chinas original announcement, which described the substance as gel-like, was that the material was deeply baffling. Thats probably why droves of Futurism readers visited to see the picture for themselves and share their thoughts though, underwhelmingly, the consensus among researchers is that the material, rather than a gel, is probably lunar glass that formed during a meteor strike.

4. A Dense Bullet of Something Blasted Holes in the Milky Way

When: May 15, 2019

What: According to research by a Harvard-Smithsonian scientist, a dense bullet of something punched holes in our home galaxy many years ago.

Why: A lot of our most-read stories this year were epic in scope, but this galactic-scale mystery by Futurism writer Dan Robitzski might take the cake. Gaps in the stellar stream suggest that something one culprit could be a chunk of dark matter, a million times the mass of our Sun crudely tampered with the large-scale structure of the Milky Way. Just like our readers, we were obsessed and well be keeping an eye out for followup astrophysical research to share with them.

3. NASA: Four Astronauts Will Stay on the Moon for Two Weeks

When: Oct. 30, 2019

What: NASA dropped tantalizing new details about its upcoming Moon missions, which include sending four astronauts to the lunar surface for 6.5 days.

Why: Our readers have a longstanding interest in NASAs efforts to return to the Moon, so these rare specifics from the inscrutable space agency were irresistible. Whats more, this new info demonstrated the depth of NASAs ambition: the 6.5 day mission, which will be loaded with at least four expeditions on the lunar surface, will be twice as long a Moon visit as any other in human history.

2. Russian Sub That Caught Fire Possibly Sent to Cut Internet Cables

When: July 3, 2019

What: In the aftermath of a Russian submarine fire, rumors emerged in Russian media that the sub was on a mission to cut undersea internet cables.

Why: Remember the tragic fire that killed 14 Russian sailors this year? Observers pointed out that Moscow was unusually cagey about the incident, refusing to say even whether it had been a nuclear sub. And then, in a pair of bombshell reports, two Russian outlets reported that the vessel had been a secretive craft thats long been speculated to have been designed to sabotage undersea internet cables. Much like other Russian drama in recent years, this one never got a satisfying conclusion but it was a rare glimpse into the murky world of deep-sea espionage.

1. Chinese Scientists Cloned Gene-Edited Monkeys With Horrifying Results

When: Jan. 25, 2019

What: Chinese scientists made five clones of a monkey that had been gene-edited to suffer from serious psychological problems.

Why: Our most-read story all year took a dive into the lurid world of genetic engineering. Scientists in China tinkered with the DNA of a macaque monkey, and then cloned the animal five times the first time a gene-edited primate had ever successfully been cloned. But ethically, Futurisms Kristin Houser explained, the experiment was a mess: the macaques genes had been altered to give it depression, anxiety, sleep problems and a schizophrenia-like condition. Researchers say the altered monkeys will be a valuable research tool for developing new therapies. But, at the same time, its a Jeff VanderMeer-esque sign of the grotesque frontiers of CRISPR and, like our readers, we couldnt look away.

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The Top Ten Most-Read Futurism Stories of 2019 - Futurism

Donald Trump Doesn’t Seem to Know Anything About Wind Power – Futurism

U.S. President Donald Trump is simultaneously an expert on wind power and completely baffled by it by his own estimation, anyways.

I never understood wind, Trump said during a speech at conservative nonprofit Turning Point USAs Student Action Summit on Saturday, according to the official White House transcript. You know, I know windmills very much. I have studied it better than anybody.

But the rest of Trumps speech implies that only the first part of that statement is true: he knows very little about wind power other than the fact that hes against it.

Trump also cited the process used to produce turbines as a mark against them.

They are made in China and Germany mostly, very few made here, almost none, he said, but they are manufactured, tremendous if you are into this tremendous fumes and gases are spewing into the atmosphere.

But as pointed out by The Hill, researchers from the American Wind Energy Association found that a typical wind project repays its carbon footprint in six months or less. Meanwhile, the benefits of the devices can last fora typical lifespan of 20 to 25 years a good investment no matter how you look at it.

Another of Trumps beefs with wind turbines? They kill birds.

You want to see a bird graveyard? Trump asked the audience. You just go. Take a look. A bird graveyard. Go under a windmill someday. Youll see more birds than youve ever seen ever in your life A windmill will kill many bald eagles. Its true.

Though its hard to say for sure how many bald eagles fall victim to wind turbines, the devices do kill approximately 234,012 birds in the U.S. every year, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

But for comparison, collisions with glass buildings like the ones Trump has made a career stamping his name on kill 599,000,000 birds every year. Thats 2,559 times more birds than turbines.

Trump didnt mention that during his speech, but he did trot out anotherfrequent claim: that wind turbines negatively impact property values and once again, its clear he doesnt have his facts straight.

So they make these things and then they put them up, he told the audience. And if you own a house within vision of some of these monsters, your house is worth 50 percent of the price.

While some smaller studies have found that a nearby wind farm can decrease a homes value, larger studies including a 2013 analysis of more than 50,000 homes in nine states concluded that turbines have no negative impact on property values.

Still, given that Trump has previously claimed that wind turbines decrease home values by 75 percent, this new 50 percent figure does get him closer to the truth so while he clearly doesnt know windmills very much, his claims about wind energy do appear to be getting slightly most accurate than theyve been in the past. Very slightly.

READ MORE: Trump rails against windmills: I never understood wind [The Hill]

More on wind power: New Research: Texas Could Ditch Coal Entirely for Wind and Solar

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Donald Trump Doesn't Seem to Know Anything About Wind Power - Futurism

Baltimore Police Plan to Monitor the Whole City With Spy Planes – Futurism

Constant Surveillance

For the second half of 2020, Baltimore will be under constant police surveillance as a trio of spy planes constantly sweep the city.

The plan, which CBS News reports will cover about 90 percent of the city, is meant to deter violent crime. And while police commissioner Michael Harrison says the spy planes arent accurate enough to spot an individuals face, the monitoring program raises glaring privacy concerns for city residents and visitors.

Baltimore actually enacted a similar surveillance program in 2016 but it operated under total secrecy until Bloomberg journalists uncovered it, CBS reports.

And while Harrison says things will be different this time he promised but hasnt yet scheduled community meetings to discuss how and why the footage will be used police officials continue to defend the first version of their city-wide spy ring.

The program has civil liberties groups up in arms over what amounts to constant surveillance without a warrant or probable cause, according to CBS.

The surveillance plane means putting every resident of Baltimore under permanent surveillance, creating a video record of everywhere that everyone goes every time they walk outside, reads a joint statement from the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland and the Coalition for Justice, Safety, and Jobs. If the police did that in real life, in person on our streets, we would never accept it.

READ MORE: Baltimore to become first city monitored by police surveillance planes [CBS News]

More on surveillance: Florida Police Cut a Secret Deal to Promote Amazons Ring Cameras

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Baltimore Police Plan to Monitor the Whole City With Spy Planes - Futurism

JFC: The Most WTF Science and Tech Moments of 2019 – Futurism

IN A WORD?

2019 was amess.

From neural networks spitting out images inspired by lab monkeys nightmares, to dark matter bullets leaving fist-sized holes in the chest cavities of astronauts, this year was filled with the kinds of scientific and technological discoveries that often left us, lacking better poetry, with a single, all-consuming thought:

WTF.

Note that its not WTF? The difference is between a rhetorical question, and a declarative statement: This is our world. This is our world?! This is our world. We cant even begin to imagine what weird questions (or answers) the dark and twisted minds of the worlds great scientific and technological talent will come up with for the next one. Forgoing that for now, we say this: May their imaginations be banished to the underworld for eternity but before they do, lets peek into their twisted minds one last time. These are the Most WTF Science and Technology Moments of 2019.

When: April 18, 2019

The Headline: Someone Listed a T-Rex on eBay, and Paleontologists Are Furious

W. A Montanan discovered the 68 million-year-old skeleton of a baby tyrannosaurus rex in his yard. Deciding that it spent enough time at such a low-class local institution as the museum thats housed the skeleton since 2017, the great and noble amateur archeologist decided to sell it on eBay. For a cool $2.95 million.

TF. Paleontologists were understandably pissed! They wanted time to study this rare and valuable artifact, not shop it over four slides like its a rare Beanie Baby. Oh, and his listing somehow actually included the garbled line: This Rex was very a very dangerous meat eater. Its a RARE opportunity indeed to ever see a baby REX, if they did not grow quickly they could not catch prey and would die. eBay: Wheres the worlds great excavations go to be sold to some overly moneyed rando whose most recent cop is a signed Battlefield Earth shirt and a pair of Nikes worn by the Heavens Gate cult. Cool.

When: May 2, 2019

The Headline: A Neural Net Hooked Up to a Monkey Brain Spat Out Bizarre Images

W. Oh, just your average day at the animal testing lab. Harvard scientists hooked up a monkey brain to a neural net, then tried to stimulate individual neurons responsible for recognizing faces, by showing it images generated by the AI.

TF. We probably could have seen this one coming. The images generated by the AI more or less what the monkey saw or imagined were darker and more twisted than anything we couldve prepared ourselves for. The scientists saw blurs that resembled humans wearing surgical masks likely lab technicians. We saw the shit of nightmares for the next three years, and several grands worth of bills in trauma therapy.

When: April 13, 2019

The Headline: Pepsi Plans to Project a Giant Ad in the Night Sky Using Cubesats

W. Imagine looking into the magnificent splendor of night sky, finding the great constellation of Orion, and seeing him holding a Pepsi can. Which is what a Russian company called StartRocket (basically) wanted when they endeavored to launch a cluster of cubesats into space to form orbital billboards.

TF. Hopefully we dont have to be the ones to tell you that literally plastering the night sky with annoying billboard ads is a horrendous idea that shouldve never been conjured in the first place. Not only would it be an eye sore, weve already learned from SpaceXs Starlink satellites that such an endeavor could pose a very real threat to the astronomy community by messing with their observations. A spokeswoman for PepsiCo confirmed to Futurism that the company was in fact collaborating with the startup, but after backlash, the company called the idea off. For now.

Credit: Warner Bros/Pixabay/Victor Tangermann

When: September 5, 2019

The Headline: 5 Insane Quotes From Boris Johnsons Bizarre UN Speech About Tech

W. Former tabloid journalist and current British prime minister Boris Johnson gave a truly unhinged speech at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Like, truly, deeply, profoundlyweird.

TF. BoJos talk jumped from talking about pink-eyed terminators a particularly egregious allegory of the singularity to terrifying limbless chicken. As for that last bit, your guess is a good as ours. If we learned anything in 2019, its that the worlds politicians have about as firm a grasp on the nuances of technology as something that lacks the appendages, motor skills, and cognitive ability to coordinating grabbing anything with. Which is to say: Not at all.

When: April 10, 2019

The Headline: Chinese Scientists Gene-Hacked Super Smart Human-Monkey Hybrids

W. Using cutting-edge gene-editing techniques, a team of Chinese scientists improved memories of unaltered monkeys by adding a human version of a gene to the macaques brains, which made them develop along a more human-like timeline. The monkeys even had better reaction times.

TF. Unsurprisingly, the research kicked off a debate about the ethics of altering the genes of macaques. Geneticists called the move a very risky road to take, arguing that it could lead to even more extreme modifications in the future. Like when we teach them how to launch military coups. Against us. And then enslave us. And then put us in cages. And then watch as they debate amongst themselves whether they evolved from the dumbcreatures or were divined to Earth through prayer to The Great Banana In the Sky.

When: May 10, 2019

The Headline: Heres What an Album Between a Musician and an AI Baby Sounds Like

W. Conceptual sound artist and composer Holly Herndon released her new artificial intelligence-inspired album PROTO earlier this year. It heavily features performances by an inhuman intelligence housed in a DIY souped-up gaming PC, that Herndon lovingly refers to as her AI baby.

TF. Were gonna let the music speak for itself here, except to say that this is nothing short of a truly eerie listening experience best experienced yourself once, and only once. Special shoutout to the nightmarish beatboxing sounds on the track Godmother, a collaboration with artist Jlin.

When: July 26, 2019

The Headline: Dark Matter Bullets Could Tear Human Flesh Apart

W. A doctoral candidate in physics is suggesting that tiny amounts of dark matter could slice the human body into pieces, Resident Evil-style. The particles could end up behaving like high-speed bullets, tearing giant holes into the bodies of astronauts, resulting in serious injury or death, according to the author. The closest analogy to a macro collision with a human being is a gunshot wound, reads the study.

TF. Its a wild, random claim that seemingly emerged from nowhere. Yet its also a terrifying thought, especially considering we barely even know what dark matter even is, or what its made out of. Do astronauts really have to worry about this? This theory stretches a pretty long list of assumptions to its drawn out and arguably sensationalist conclusion.

When: November 21, 2019

The Headline: Horrible Christian App Narcs to Your Mom If You Watch Porn

W. Covenant Eyes, a creepy religious app, was built to block people from looking at porn by using an AI-powered filter. If the app finds somebody gawking at lewd smut, it hails the authorities like your mom. But actually.

TF. Looking at pornography is as harmless as taking a selfie for most people in most situations. Vilifying the act in the name of the Lord will only cause a rift between people and cause some truly uncomfortable conversations to crop up about the birds and the bees. Is this really going to protect children? Barely. Will it stop literally anybody ever from watching porn? Doubt it.

When: July 16, 2019

The Headline: Mad Scientist Mom Turns Autistic Son Into a Cyborg

W. In an essay for Quartz, neuroscientist Vivienne Ming discussed how she channeled her inner mad scientist to give her autistic son superpowers. She build a facial and expression-recognition system for Google Glass. Ive chosen to turn my son into a cyborg and change the definition of what it means to be human, she wrote. But do my sons engineered superpowers make him more human, or less?

TF. Calling somebody wearing an enhanced pair of Google Glasses a cyborg is, eh, a bit of a stretch. And did she really have to refer to herself as a mad scientist while doing it?

When: March 11, 2019

The Headline: Creepy Database Lists Whether 1.8M Chinese Women Are Breedready

W. An internet freedom non-profit discovered a creepy-ass database of Chinese women labelled as breedready. The database includes personal details of more than 1.8 million Chinese women, including phone number, birthday, level of education, and marital status. Their ages ranged from 15 to 95 years-old, each with a breedready score. The average age was 32.

TF. Not only is it a preposterous violation of personal privacy, the chance of the database being abused by somebody with less-than-good intentions? Sky high. Making matters worse, nobody even knows where the database comes from, or who created it. Is this the Chinese government trying to address a growing population problem? Or something even more sinister?

When: September 23, 2019

The Headline: Russia: We Know Cause of Space Station Leak but Havent Told NASA

W. In late 2018, astronauts aboard the International Space Station discovered a tiny hole in the Russian side of the orbital outpost. Houston and Moscow noticed a drop in cabin pressure kicking off a search for the culprit, and a later investigation suggested that the hole was drilled from inside the space station. Days after claiming the hole was probably caused by a tiny meteorite, the Russian space agency changed its mind and said it found evidence of several attempts at drilling with a wavering hand. Many months later, Russia claimed it finally figured out the cause of the hole but is keeping the information under wraps.

TF. Nobody knows what caused the drilled hole in the space station. NASA doesnt, (Russias version of NASA) Roscosmos doesnt even an entire spacewalk solely dedicated to uncovering the mystery didnt shine any light on the situation. Was it deliberate sabotage? Did Russias gun-toting humanoid robot have anything to do with it? Like most of 2019s WTF moments in science and technology, we all want to know the answer, but also, on some level, might be better off not knowing the answer at all.

Excerpt from:

JFC: The Most WTF Science and Tech Moments of 2019 - Futurism

Bernie Sanders: Spend Money on the Climate Instead of Weapons – Futurism

Top Priority

Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders has a suggestion: stop spending so much money on the military and global warfare, and instead put it toward fighting climate change.

He made the argument during Thursday nights Democratic Party debate, The Hill reports. Sanders, whos previously introduced legislation to declare a state of emergency to mobilize against the existential threat that climate change poses, argued that the money to fund climate programs exists but its being spent in the wrong places.

Thursdays debate wasnt Sanders first attempt to push back against militarization: in August, he made a campaign promise that would stop police from using facial recognition systems, the flaws of which have only grown increasingly apparent.

Maybe, just maybe, instead of spending $1.8 trillion a year globally on weapons of destruction, Sanders said during the debate, maybe an American president i.e. Bernie Sanders can lead the world and instead of spending money to kill each other, maybe we pool our resources and fight our common enemy, which is climate change.

READ MORE: Sanders: Instead of weapons funding we should pool resources to fight climate change [The Hill]

More on Bernie Sanders: Bernie Sanders Vows to Ban Police From Using Facial Recognition

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Bernie Sanders: Spend Money on the Climate Instead of Weapons - Futurism

These Rare Exoplanets Have the "Density of Cotton Candy" – Futurism

Super Puffs

In case you needed more evidence that the universe is infinitely baffling, scientists just revealed new information about a bizarre type of exoplanet so light that they have roughly the same density as cotton candy.

The ultra-light worlds have been nicknamed super-puffs by the scientists analyzing them, according to a European Space Agency press release, invoking their Kirby-esque fluffiness and new data from the Hubble Space Telescope suggests how they might have formed.

Scientists first spotted the gassy puff balls earlier this decade NASA identified them in the Kepler 51 system in 2012, and astronomers realized how unusually light they are two years later, according to the release.

To clarify, the three exoplanets are about as big as Jupiter, but have about one-hundredth the mass of the gas giant.

Using Hubble, astronomers hoped to scan the super-puffs atmospheres for water. But they didnt find any, in part because a massive layer of clouds prevented them from looking any deeper.

This was completely unexpected, University of Colorado, Boulder researcher Jessica Libby-Roberts said in the release. We had planned on observing large water absorption features, but they just werent there. We were clouded out!

But that wont be the case for long the researchers suspect that the exoplanets accumulated their atmospheres before moving closer to their star, which will likely burn it all away in the coming eons.

READ MORE: Cotton candy planet mysteries unravel in new Hubble observations [ESA/Hubble Observation Center]

More on bizarre exoplanets: Newly Discovered Exoplanet is Unlike Any Other

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These Rare Exoplanets Have the "Density of Cotton Candy" - Futurism

Mindset Matters: A Futurist Vision For The Next Decade In Disability, Business, Innovation, And Culture – Forbes

Part One: Creating A New Normal For A New Decade

At the most recent Democratic Presidential Debate this December, candidate Andrew Yang stood on stage before a nationally televised audience and in talking about his son who has special needs declared that disability will become the new normal. While this statement may seem radical to some, it is a truism that needs to be embraced in the coming decade and beyond. Disability is not only part of the human condition, it is an essential mechanism in the worlds of business, innovation and culture that will be a basic necessity for the continued evolution of each of these areas and be a central player in shaping society as a whole.

The futurist goal is to celebrate change, innovation, and originality through culture and society.As we look toward exploring predictions and possibilities for what will impact the future of the next decade it is essential that we take the following step in the natural evolution of disability as it continues to intersect between critical elements that define the society we live in. Disability must step beyond advocacy and be embedded in the very fabric of our society. It is only then when disability takes its rightful place as a new normal. To establish this foundation, the column will briefly examine several aspects of society that are at the epicenter of this paradigm shift creating a new sense of reality. In Part One, we look at the aspect of demographics, business, and innovation which provide touchstones for society to reinterpret disability and a way for business to seize upon the economic potential that this community can offer.

Demographics:

A futurist vision relies on a set of established data points that can help foster educated guesses for the outcome of what lies ahead. Entering this new decade, we see that it is no longer tenable for disability to be viewed from the perspective of the outsider. We have shown in previous Mindset Matter columns that the disability community is growing exponentially and will continue to grow across the globe through all facets of society. In the United States alone close to a quarter of the population are those with disabilities and a global footprint of over 1.3 billion people.

This critical information should not remain solely in the domain of statisticians and government officials to help craft and implement policy but should serve as the foundation for businesses to see the value that disability plays in the organizational environment of the next decade. If disability will become the new normal, businesses must be ready to take on a new philosophical stance that looks at how to reinterpret their own culture and integrate disability as a central focal point to help determine their future success.

Business:

This new normal needs to build off these demographics and rethink the value of disability to the future of their business strategy. Aligning their corporate culture and values with the changing definitions of disability in the new decade is essential for creating a framework of success on every level of the corporate structure, both internally and externally. In this new decade true leadership will not only see how the lived disability experience can be a valued asset in helping to define solutions from job design, talent management and other internal challenges, this new definition of disability will provide a spark to push businesses to not only embrace this new reality but also enlighten the potential of a market that should no longer be a niche, but very much part of the mainstream. In this new decade, businesses will finally come to their senses and see that supporting disability is not just a charitable endeavor, but rather a true business strategy that will open up new market opportunities and create an era of innovation that is essential for the growth and competitive advantage for any company in the decade ahead.

Innovation:

The lived experience of disability is predicated by innovation. Persons with disabilities have always had to adapt to the society around them, rather than society having to adapt to them. However, since the passing of numerous civil rights legislation across the globe from the Americans with Disabilities Act to United Nations Convention for The Rights of Persons with Disabilities there has been a shift which has lead to the push for new architectural design and a movement for Smart Cities that focuses on redefining an inclusive environment that is accessible for all. However, it is worth noting that persons with disabilities have always been deeply involved with the culture of innovation. As stated in previous Mindset Matters columns the numbers of entrepreneurs and founders who deal with learning disabilities, mental health issues far exceed the national average and understand that it is because of there very disability that innovation is essential to not only their personal growth, but also creating new innovative ideas that can be shared.

Developing a philosophical concept that creates a new normal is not an easy one. Here we are trying to start the conversation rolling for 2020 and think long and hard about what will be needed to push this forward. In Part Two, we will take a closer look solely at culture and why film, television, advertising and technology can be the great equalizer and the most powerful tool for normalizing our understanding of disability.

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Mindset Matters: A Futurist Vision For The Next Decade In Disability, Business, Innovation, And Culture - Forbes

‘New options’ for former Futurist site to go before Scarborough councillors in the new year – The Scarborough News

An artists impressions of the Flamingo Land plans.

Scarborough Councils leader, Cllr Steve Siddons, has revealed that new options for the site, whose permanent use has yet to be identified, will go before councillors in the new year.

The move comes after a review of the deal between the council and theme-park operator Flamingo Land, which unveiled plans earlier this year to build a rollercoaster, a 60m-high cliffhanger tower ride and a four-storey building housing restaurants and play areas on the former Futurist site.

Cllr Siddons said: Were listening to what people have said to us and were looking at the planning options that are available to us.

We will work with Flamingo Land, if Flamingo Land are happy to work with us and at this stage they are, and in the new year, either January or February, we will bring a paper to Full Council that sets out some new options for that site.

The first artists impressions of the attraction, branded Flamingo Land Coast, divided public opinion. Although a number of people welcomed the investment, saying it will boost the towns tourism, many thought it looked out of place. Some even went as far as saying it was a monstrosity.

Despite suggesting Flamingo Lands plans didnt come with a great deal of detail, Cllr Siddons admitted that the scheme was very much disliked. Should Flamingo Land refuse to make changes to its proposal, he said, the council will look for another developer.

He added: Lots of people are telling us that different scale of buildings might be more appropriate there but Flamingo Land have said theyre happy to work with us if they can.

Obviously theyll have their own views of what they need to deliver from a business perspective but they are our preferred developer and its only right that we work with them to start with.

If they can deliver what we want for the future after talking to residents, then were happy to work with them. If they say thats not what we want to do well have to look for someone else to develop that site.

Cllr Siddons made the remarks shortly after launching the councils new Building a Better Borough strategy which focuses on delivering on peoples priorities and listening to residents views. The scheme will start with a wide public consultation in the new year.

We cant please everybody all the time you ask 100 people what they think and youll get 100 different asnwers but what weve got to try and do is pull that together in a way that thinks about the heritage of that seafront location and to do something that helps our aspirations to deliver better quality jobs for people.

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'New options' for former Futurist site to go before Scarborough councillors in the new year - The Scarborough News

The future is so much more housebound than we expected – The Week Magazine

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Futurists of a century ago were distinctly optimistic. They envisioned a 21st century of convenience, prosperity, and speed. Everything would get bigger and shinier and faster. Flying cars, jetpacks, weekend jaunts to the moon and back, and highways highways everywhere! Highways in the air; highways under the sea; highways on roofs; roads layered like a lasagna, so you could have pedestrians on top of slow cars on top of fast cars on top of trains.

The details differed, but the trend is evidence of an assumption that people of the future would always be out and about. Why we'd need to race around our cities at such a frenetic pace is not clear many predictions from the same era forecast an all-robot economy in which work is no longer necessary or at least greatly reduced but racing we would be. Maybe it's just shopping? I don't know. Whatever the reason, omnipresent highways would let us do it in record time.

The actual future, the future in which we find ourselves today, went in a very different direction. There is still plenty of work to be done. The only "robot" I own has a single skill (vacuuming) and requires regular rescue from the slightly uneven part of my kitchen cabinets. The wild new means of transportation our great-grandparents imagined for us have not materialized. Instead, we have focused our inventive energies on finding ways to stay home. The future is so much more housebound than anyone expected.

This is not all bad. Among my Amazon subscriptions are toilet paper, toothpaste, guinea pig food, trash bags, and water filters. Having this stuff delivered saves time, and it also keeps me from wandering about Target, buying pretty things I absolutely don't need. The housebound economy is also incredibly useful for people who are literally housebound. "Disabled or chronically sick people who legitimately can't leave their couches now have more ways to get the groceries they need," writes Reason's Liz Wolfe. "People who are too old to drive no longer have to fear a loss of mobility when they lose their licenses."

Nor am I sad that the 20th century's highway fixation has significantly faded, for it did not serve us well. In retrospect, it's easy to understand why car culture took hold and why urban planners reshaped our cities to suit. But too many of the results were disastrous. Freeway construction ripped through American cities see this remarkable set of images from the University of Oklahoma's school of architecture to get a sense of the damage without regard for much of the communities they ostensibly served.

Homes and businesses, parks and churches were demolished to make way for the almighty auto. Families, especially black Americans and other groups with relatively less wealth and political power, were displaced and their livelihoods eliminated. (This was sometimes an explicit rationale: In 1938, for instance, Agriculture Secretary Henry Wallace told then-President Franklin Roosevelt that urban highways would serve a second purpose of "the elimination of unsightly and unsanitary districts," reports Richard Rothstein in The Color of Law.) New construction of roads and buildings alike abandoned the traditional human scale of millennia past, even at street level, creating downtowns that empty at dusk, functioning more like white-collar factories than living places.

These decisions have consequences that still affect how our communities function today. Though futurists' fantastical highway dreams mercifully were not realized, we've built too many cities that serve cars more than people. This is a "chronic design scale flaw, and it's no harmless flaw," explains city planner Felix Landry at Strong Towns. "It poses serious fairness issues, heavily burdening folks who can't afford a car."

In that regard, the swing away from a mobility-centric future is welcome. We should not build sky highways or sea highways or roof highways or layered highways. But implicit in the highways obsession was an expectation of social connectivity and meaningful community life. We would have places to go and, crucially, people to see. Highways were always a terribly ill-suited means to that end they razed communities rather than strengthening them but the goal itself was a good one. Our housebound future, by contrast, is part of an unanticipated contraction and isolation of our social lives.

"For the first two thirds of the 20th century a powerful tide bore Americans into ever deeper engagement in the life of their communities, but a few decades ago silently, without warning that tide reversed and we were overtaken by a treacherous rip current," wrote Robert D. Putnam in Bowling Alone, a seminal work on the dissolution of American social life. "Without at first noticing, we have been pulled apart from each other and from our communities." The housebound economy is both a natural outcome and further facilitator of that trend.

Going back to the highway mania of a century ago is not the answer. And we don't have to stop getting stuff delivered. But as we engage in our own futurism, picturing the world of 2120, we should imagine technology serving people, not only as individual drivers or couch-sitters, but as communities. Neither speeding about on highways nor sitting home while all your basic needs arrive via FedEx are the best of human life. May the city of the future be built to reflect that truth.

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The future is so much more housebound than we expected - The Week Magazine

The "Cats" Movie Was So Awful They Patched It – Futurism

CGI Update

The 2019 cinematic take on Andrew Lloyd Webbers 1981 musical Cats was a catastrophe from the get-go: critics and moviegoers alike were appalled by what they saw.

And now, as the movie barely survives its opening weekend, a memo obtained by The Hollywood Reporter suggests that distributor Universal has notified thousands of theaters that theyll be receiving an updated version of the movie with some improved visual effects.

Its unheard of in the movie industry for a title thats already being played in cinemas across the nation to get an upgrade, according to the Reporter.

Director Tom Hooper has said before that he was extremely pressed for time and had to rush production to make it in time for the world premiere last week.

The movie did reportedly show a lack of polish. Eagle-eyed audience members spotted human hands on starring actress Judi Dench instead of furry cat paws wedding rings and all.

Its unlikely that the CGI update will make the movie much more digestible to audiences:it stands currently at 18 percent on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. And its not looking good financially either. Cats raked in only $6.5 million in the U.S. over its opening weekend, according to Screen Rant, making only a tiny dent in its $95 million budget.

READ MORE: Universal Notifies Theaters Cats Is Being Updated With Improved Visual Effects [The Hollywood Reporter]

More on Cats: Digital Fur Technology Will Turn Taylor Swift Into a Cat

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The "Cats" Movie Was So Awful They Patched It - Futurism

Moon’s Surface Could Electrocute Astronauts, Scientists Warn

The Moon’s surface could electrocute future astronauts as they plan to visit areas hit by very little charge-negating sunlight.

ZAP!

The Moon’s lack of an atmosphere and magnetic field means particles from the Sun go straight to the lunar surface.

That gives the Moon’s surface an electric charge — and it mean future astronauts run the risk of being zapped when they visit the Moon, according to University of Southern California plasma physicist Joseph Wang’s research, as Gizmodo reports.

Balancing Charges

Wang’s team found that the electrically charged lunar surface “raises concerns on possible charging/arcing risks for astronauts on lunar surface,” according to the abstract of his team’s paper, which it presented at this year’s meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

It’s not unlike the experience of (Moon) walking across a carpet wearing socks and then feeling a zap when you touch a metal doorknob — except without an atmosphere, you wouldn’t even need to make contact with the doorknob on the Moon.

Cautiously Optimistic

So why haven’t astronauts been zapped just yet? That’s because the areas they visited during past missions were bathed in direct sunlight, according to Wang, and the photons from that light helped balance out the surface’s otherwise negative charge, making shocks far less likely.

Future missions, however, will see astronauts visiting the Moon’s south pole, which gets far less sunlight.

Jim Rice, a senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute in Arizona, told Gizmodo he doesn’t think electrocution should be an actual concern for those astronauts. But he also didn’t rule out issues with larger future operations, such as ones that might involve bulldozing large amounts of charged materials around on the Moon.

READ MORE: Why the Next Lunar Astronauts May Have to Worry About Electric Shocks [Gizmodo]

More on the lunar surface: NASA: Four Astronauts Will Stay on the Moon For Two Weeks

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Moon’s Surface Could Electrocute Astronauts, Scientists Warn

Half of America May Be Obese by 2030. Here’s Why That Matters for Society.

A new CDC study suggests that one in two American adults will be considered obese by 2030. It's a growing problem that affects low-income workers the most.

After mapping out the last two decades of public health records, a team of scientists made a grim prediction: half of the adults in America will be obese by 2030, with half of those people falling in the “severely obese” category.

To get it out of the way: it’s a tired joke that Americans are too heavy. The medical community is also plagued by a disturbing trend in which doctors obsess over their patients’ weight rather than offering any real medical advice or care.

But that doesn’t make it less alarming just how rapidly America has become obese, nor does it erase the extra strain that an increasingly obese population will place on the already faltering American healthcare system. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity-related healthcare costs amount to billions of dollars every year.

The new CDC-conducted study, published Thursday in The New England Journal of Medicine, found that all but two states reported that at least 35 percent of their populations were obese this year. Ten and especially 20 years ago, those numbers were drastically lower.

The new research identified low income as one of the largest predictors of obesity — a troubling sign that existing public health initiatives are leaving behind groups of people who are already amongst society’s most vulnerable.

The solutions that the researchers identified reveal just how pervasive the problem has become.

In addition to the same old suggestions, including increased nutrition education, the study identified things like increased access to areas where it’s safe to walk or exercise and support for people to get up and move during the day.

Given how many Americans live sedentary lifestyles — necessitated by office work and lengthening commutes — it’s clear that this is a systematic problem facing the entire country. And it’s one that will require major changes to effectively address.

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This Robotic Bug Was Designed to Survive Swatting

Engineers built a soft robotic bug capable of surviving harsh punishment like being flattened, stomped, and folded. It's creepy, but a huge step forward.

Strong Bug

As if nature wasn’t already full of pests, a team of engineers just built their own — and the little bug can take a beating.

The DEAnsect is a soft robot modeled after an insect, and it’s the work of engineers from Switzerland’s École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and France’s University of Cergy-Pontoise.

After they built the bot, the engineers stomped on it, smooshed it with a fly swatter, and even folded it in half, but the robot kept scooting along — a creepy mental image, sure, but also a big step forward for soft robotics technology.

Adventure Bug

According to research published Wednesday in Soft Robotics, the engineers built two versions of the DEAnsect — one tethered to a controller and the other wireless and more autonomous — giving scientists the ability to choose the little critter that best meets their needs.

The two versions present a tradeoff between durability and mobility. The tethered model can survive more abuse because it only contains its own tiny artificial muscles. The wireless model, however, has to carry visual sensors, a battery, and other electronics that make it a bit more vulnerable to being squished.

Useful Bug

Even if the wireless bug can’t take as much abuse, the fact that it can carry everything it needs marks a significant leap forward for autonomous soft robots.

“This technique opens up new possibilities for the broad use of [artificial muscles] in robotics,” researcher Herbert Shea said in the release, “for swarms of intelligent robotic insects, for inspection or remote repairs, or even for gaining a deeper understanding of insect colonies by sending a robot to live amongst them.”

READ MORE: A soft robotic insect that survives being flattened by a fly swatter [EPFL newsroom]

More on soft robots: This Soft Robot Mimics Plant Tendrils to Creep and Climb

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This Robotic Bug Was Designed to Survive Swatting

Farmers Could Use Drones to Grow Better Christmas Trees

Researchers at North Carolina State University are exploring if drones can be used to monitor the growth of Christmas trees in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

‘Tis the Season

Researchers at North Carolina State University are exploring the use of drones to monitor the growth of Christmas trees in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

“Instead of going out and measuring individual trees, a person could fly a drone,” research associate Justyna Jeziorska said in a statement.

That could prove especially handy since the most popular Christmas tree species in the area, the Fraser fir, grows best in mountainous areas and on steep slopes.

Robofeller

Drones have been used to 3D-scan natural landscapes in the past, but current landscape analysis software tends to make individual trees appear like short domes rather than anything that actually looks like a tree.

That makes the process of analyzing the trees’ height and diameter near impossible, which is why the NC State team is developing new 3D-processing techniques.

In addition to monitoring the Christmas trees’ size, drones could also tell farmers if the trees are diseased by detecting discoloration or even spray herbicides and pesticides on them from above, according to the researchers.

Farmer’s Helper

The team is hoping their drone techniques could be used by other types of tree farmers in the future as well.

“If this research shows that drones are useful for managing Christmas trees, the info we provide will allow someone with their own interest and their own drone to do it themselves,” project collaborator Zac Arcaro said in the statement.

READ MORE: It’s tough to grow a Christmas tree. Can drones help? [Futurity]

More on Christmas trees: Robots Decorate Trees, Perform Carols in Store’s Holiday Display

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Finally, a Smart Robot That Can Cook and Serve Us Hot Dogs

Engineers taught an artificially intelligent robot to cook and serve hot dogs by training it in a virtual setting and then an actual grill.

GrillBot

At long last, robots have conquered one of the last bastions of human dominance: the grill.

After training an artificial intelligence in a virtual reconstruction of a grill, Boston University engineers built a robot that can successfully cook and serve perfectly acceptable hot dogs to its human masters, Inverse reports.

While it sounds like a minor triumph, the process of cooking and preparing food involves background knowledge that humans take for granted but that has, until now, consistently tripped up AI systems.

Entry Level

The engineers found that the robot was able to reach the rank of grill master when they trained it using a process called reinforcement learning, according to research published Wednesday in the journal Science Robotics. Compared to the other kinds of AI they tried, reinforcement learning was by far the best method for the chef-in-training.

Reinforcement learning is an AI architecture that basically incentivizes a system to gradually learn a new skill by coding it to perceive success as intrinsically rewarding.

The Basics

When it came to cooking a hot dog, “success” included learning things like the correct order of actions — cook the meat and then place it in a bun — as well as things people see as common knowledge, such as the fact that gravity remains a constant threat.

“You have to define things beforehand,” BU engineer Zahcary Serlin told Inverse. “As long as I know what you mean by ‘grill’ when you say ‘grill,’ then I can learn to do the thing that has ‘grill’ in it.”

READ MORE: This ‘self-aware’ robot can cook and serve hot dogs [Inverse]

More on training robots: Hellishly Hard New Game Is Specifically Designed to Confound AI

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Invisible Ink “Tattoos” Could Be Used to ID Vaccinated Kids

Researchers from MIT came up with an invisible ink that can be harmlessly embedded in the skin along with a vaccine to serve as a medical record.

For the people overseeing nationwide vaccination initiatives in developing countries, keeping track of who had which vaccination and when can be a tough task.

But researchers from MIT might have a solution: they’ve created an ink that can be safely embedded in the skin alongside the vaccine itself, and it’s only visible using a special smartphone camera app and filter.

In other words, they’ve found a covert way to embed the record of a vaccination directly in a patient’s skin rather than documenting it electronically or on paper — and their low-risk tracking system could greatly simplify the process of maintaining accurate vaccine records, especially on a larger scale.

“In areas where paper vaccination cards are often lost or do not exist at all, and electronic databases are unheard of, this technology could enable the rapid and anonymous detection of patient vaccination history to ensure that every child is vaccinated,” researcher Kevin McHugh said in a statement.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded the team’s research, which was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine on Wednesday. According to a Scientific American story, the project came about following a direct request from Microsoft founder Bill Gates himself, who has been personally involved in efforts to eradicate polio and measles through vaccinations.

The invisible “tattoo” accompanying the vaccine is a pattern made up of minuscule quantum dots — tiny semiconducting crystals that reflect light — that glows under infrared light. The pattern — and vaccine — gets delivered into the skin using hi-tech dissolvable microneedles made of a mixture of polymers and sugar.

So far, the system is mostly a proof of concept. But the researchers have already tried it out on rats and found that the patterns were still detectable nine months after injection. In human cadaver skin models, the patterns outlasted five years of simulated Sun exposure.

“It’s possible someday that this ‘invisible’ approach could create new possibilities for data storage, biosensing, and vaccine applications that could improve how medical care is provided, particularly in the developing world,” MIT professor and senior author Robert Langer said in the statement.

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Phone Location Tracking Is Way Worse Than We Thought

A major investigation reveals two terrifying truths: your phone is constantly tracking and sharing your location, and you have no control over it.

Constant Surveillance

If you own a phone, it’s almost certainly tracking your every move and sending the information to a handful of private companies that operate with virtually no regulatory oversight.

That’s according to a massive investigation by the opinion desk at the New York Times, during which reporters gained access to a tiny slice of one company’s massive stores of location data.

The investigation reveals just how much information these companies have on the average person and makes one thing very clear: any company claiming to protect or anonymize your data is either lying or being deliberately misleading.

Security Breach

The leaked phone tracking data the NYT gained access to through anonymous sources contains some 50 billion data points representing the exact locations of 12 million Americans’ phones during several months in 2016 and 2017.

Using the data, the investigators were able to track and identify senior government officials, celebrities, investigative journalists, and even an engineer who took a job at a rival company — and that’s all from a tiny fragment of the data collected and analyzed or sold by just one of dozens of similar companies.

While it’s unclear why the investigation was published by the NYT‘s opinion desk, it may have been so that the reporters could say in no uncertain terms: this is utterly terrifying.

READ MORE: Twelve Million Phones, One Dataset, Zero Privacy [The New York Times]

More on surveillance: The Pentagon Is Launching Mass Surveillance Balloons Over America

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Phone Location Tracking Is Way Worse Than We Thought

Our Acidic Oceans Are Eating Away at Sharks’ Skin

Ocean acidification is literally eating away at sharks' skin, destroying the layer of tiny scales that helps them swim and hunt.

I’m Melting

As the oceans grow increasingly acidic, they’re claiming yet another casualty: sharks.

New research shows that the acidic water, a byproduct of human-induced climate change, is damaging and destroying the tiny scales on sharks’ skin, according to Newsweek. As a result, the sharks can’t swim or hunt as well — and that could potentially wreak havoc on the already-fragile ecosystems in which they live.

Fast Changes

A team of German and South African scientists found that after just nine weeks of exposure to acidic water, over nine percent of the sharks’ denticles — those are the tiny scales — were damaged, according to research published on Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports.

While the experiment isn’t exceptionally robust — there were only three sharks in the cohort that got the acidic water treatment — the findings are a troubling sign for the future of marine life.

Silver Lining

Thankfully, the study turned up some good news as well. The researchers found that the sharks were able to moderate their bodies’ chemistry to adjust to the increasingly acidic water. Other than the damaged and destroyed scales, they seem to be unharmed.

Luntz Auerswald, an environmental researcher from South Africa’s Stellenbosch University, told Newsweek that the team “expected that they would be able to regulate their acid-base balance in the short term as a response to a lowered pH. We were unsure, but not surprised, that they can keep this regulation up for extended periods.”

“The corrosion of the denticles, however, came as a surprise,” he added. “We did not expect this.”

READ MORE: ACID OCEANS ARE STRIPPING SHARKS OF THEIR SCALES [Newsweek]

More on ocean acidification: Marine Food Webs Are on the Brink of Collapse Because of Climate Change

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The Army Wants to Generate Electricity Inside Soldiers’ Boots

An Army research center patented bizarre boots that generates electricity every time a soldier takes a step, giving them a new way to power their gear.

Portable Batteries

The U.S. Army has some wacky ideas to keep soldiers’ futuristic gear working, even when they’re far away from the nearest outlet.

To keep their gear juiced up, researchers at the Army’s C5ISR Center patented a bizarre new portable generator that can fit inside a soldier’s boot, Army Times reports. Every time a soldier takes a step, their foot triggers a small mechanism that creates a small electrical charge — not big enough to solve the energy crisis, but perhaps enough to keep personal electronics running.

Leg Day

The weird power-boots are just the first step in the military’s plan to turn soldiers into walking battery packs, per Army Times. Army researchers are also trying to build kinetic energy harvesters into high-tech knee braces and backpacks as well.

But some of these devices are actually making soldiers’ lives worse. For instance, the backpack only harvested energy when it was loose-fitting and able to bounce around — making it cumbersome to carry.

READ MORE: How the Army wants to use your boots to generate juice (and keep tabs on you) [Army Times]

More on military tech: The U.S. Army Is Using Virtual Reality Combat to Train Soldiers

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The Army Wants to Generate Electricity Inside Soldiers’ Boots

Navy Pilot Describes Bizzare “Tic Tac” UFO Encounter He Filmed

Chad Underwood, a Navy pilot who recorded a bizarre UFO encounter in 2004, talked to Intelligencer about what he saw in an interview.

In 2004, Navy pilots spotted something extremely unusual off the West Coast — groups of objects flying in erratic, inexplicable flight patterns.

Years later, the puzzling UFO encounter was revealed by The New York Times, with multiple eyewitnesses stepping forward over the years to describe what they saw.

One of three infrared videos, recorded in 2004 and shared by the Times in 2017, shows an odd oblong unidentified object, garnering it the nickname “Tic Tac.”

Now Chad Underwood, the Navy pilot who recorded the video at the time, talked to New York Magazine’s Intelligencer about what he saw in a new interview.

“You’re not going to see it with your own eyes until probably 10 miles, and then you’re not going to be able to visually track it until you’re probably inside of five miles, which is where [commanding officer, who first made visual confirmation of the UFO,] Dave Fravor said that he saw it,” Underwood told Intelligencer.

“The thing that stood out to me the most was how erratic it was behaving,” he added. “It was just behaving in ways that aren’t physically normal. That’s what caught my eye. Because, aircraft, whether they’re manned or unmanned, still have to obey the laws of physics.”

What puzzled Underwood the most was that the “Tic Tac” bore no resemblance to any conventional aircraft.

“Well, normally, you would see engines emitting a heat plume. This object was not doing that,” he said. And it certainly was no bird. “You don’t see birds at 5,000 or 10,000 or 20,000 feet. That’s just not how birds operate.”

READ MORE: Navy Pilot Who Filmed the ‘Tic Tac’ UFO Speaks: ‘It Wasn’t Behaving by the Normal Laws of Physics’ [Intelligencer]

More on the videos: Navy Confirms That Three UFO Encounter Videos Are Real

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