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Tone-Deaf US Official: Melting Sea Ice Offers Trade Opportunities

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says melting sea ice in the Arctic is

Fast Lane

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has found what he believes is the silver lining to melting Arctic sea ice: economic opportunity.

“Steady reductions in sea ice are opening new naval passageways and new opportunities for trade, potentially slashing the time it takes for ships to travel between Asia and the West by 20 days,” he said on Monday, according to the Associated Press. “Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century’s Suez and Panama canals.”

Arctic Council

Pompeo’s remarks came during a meeting of the foreign ministers of the Arctic Council, a group comprising the United States, Canada, Russia, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and Iceland.

Every two years, the group convenes to discuss any economic or environmental challenges facing the Arctic region, releasing a joint declaration at the end of every meeting.

Every meeting except this one, that is.

What Climate Change?

According to the AP report, Finland’s Foreign Minister Timo Soini said the group didn’t release a declaration because someone he didn’t want to “name and blame” refused to include language about climate change in it.

Still, at least the meeting wasn’t a total wash.

Thanks to Pompeo, we can now see the bright side of melting Arctic sea ice  — it was just hiding behind all the starving wildlife, rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and leaking greenhouse gases.

READ MORE: Climate change missing as US defends Arctic policy [Associated Press]

More on sea level rise: Polar Bears Are Terrorizing a Russian Town Due to Climate Change

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Tone-Deaf US Official: Melting Sea Ice Offers Trade Opportunities

The ISS Now Has an “Algae Bioreactor” Generating Oxygen and Food

The ISS is about to test a new algae bioreactor that turns carbon dioxide to food and breathable oxygen. If it works, it could allow deep space missions.

Fresh Air

The air on the International Space Station (ISS) might get a whole lot fresher.

Astronauts are about to start testing out a new device called a “Photobioreactor,” according to Space.com, which uses living algae to convert carbon dioxide to breathable oxygen and produce edible food.

Unlike Matt Damon, real astronauts can’t live on potato shipments alone, so closed-loop systems that replenish spacecraft with essentials like air and food may be necessary for missions into deep space.

Test Run

The bioreactor arrived at the ISS on Monday, and soon it will be used in concert with another closed loop life support system that converts carbon dioxide to useable methane and water. The leftover carbon dioxide will be consumed by the algae, according to Space.com.

If all goes well, astronauts on future missions to deep space will get more than a viable source of oxygen — the protein-rich algae could someday make up as much as 30 percent of an astronaut’s diet.

“With the first demonstration of the hybrid approach, we are right at the forefront when it comes to the future of life-support systems,” Oliver Angerer, the German scientist leading the project, said in a press release. “Of course, the use of these systems is interesting primarily for planetary base stations or for very long missions. But these technologies will not be available when needed if the foundations are not laid today.”

READ MORE: Algae ‘Bioreactor’ on Space Station Could Make Oxygen, Food for Astronauts [Space.com]

More on space food: This Martian Greenhouse Concept Just Won a NASA Award

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The ISS Now Has an “Algae Bioreactor” Generating Oxygen and Food

In China, Surgeons Are Treating Addiction With Brain Implants

Deep Brain

Deep brain stimulation (DBS), an experimental technology that involves implanting a pacemaker-like device in a patient’s brain to send electrical impulses, is a hotly debated subject in the field of medicine. It’s an inherently risky procedure and the exact effects on the human brain aren’t yet fully understood.

But some practitioners believe it could be a way to alleviate the symptoms of depression or even help treat Alzheimer’s — and now they suspect it could help with drug addiction as well.

In a world’s first, according to the Associated Press, a patient in Shanghai’s Ruijin Hospital had a DBS device implanted in his brain to treat his addiction to methamphetamine.

And the device has had an astonishingly positive effect, the patient says.

“This machine is pretty magical. He adjusts it to make you happy and you’re happy, to make you nervous and you’re nervous,” he told the Associated Press. “It controls your happiness, anger, grief and joy.”

Other studies in China have yielded mixed results trying to treat opioid addictions using DBS, according to the AP. In the United States, at least two studies that tried to treat alcoholism with DBS were dropped for not being able to justify the risks.

Inherent Risks

The idea of using DBS to treat drug addiction has raised concerns in medical communities across the globe — and not just concerning the inherent risks of a brain hemorrhage, seizures, infections, or personality changes.

Some researchers argue that the precise relationship between the technique and drug addiction are not yet known and require further study. Animal studies have shown some signs of its effectiveness, but remain inconclusive.

“It would be fantastic if there were something where we could flip a switch, but it’s probably fanciful at this stage,” Adrian Carter, head of neuroscience at Monash University in Melbourne told AP.

READ MORE: Experimental surgery gains support as opioid deaths rise [Associated Press]

More on deep brain stimulation: Brain-Zapping Pacemaker Implant Could Be a New Treatment for Opioid Addiction

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In China, Surgeons Are Treating Addiction With Brain Implants

In China, Robots Are Taste-Testing Food

Chinese food manufacturers have deployed taste-testing robots and artificial intelligence to make sure that the food is high-quality and authentic.

Two Robo-Claws Up!

Chinese robots equipped with sensors that imitate human eyes, noses, and tongues are pigging out on the job.

The taste-testing robots are sampling mass-produced food to make sure the quality is up to snuff. And according to the South China Morning Post, the bots is already saving food manufacturers millions of dollars.

FlavorBot

The Chinese government has issued a number of regulations for specific foods — SCMP gives the example of a shredded pork dish that that must, according to officials, contain exactly ten-centimeter-long slices. Other regulations dictate the colors, tastes, and other factors of specific dishes.

The robots’ AI, analyzing data from their sensors, can monitor these distinctions faster than humans. SCMP reports that the system is about 90 percent accurate as a human — while doing away with their individual tastes and biases.

Sour Taste

The automated taste tests are good for productivity and business, since a robotic tongue never needs to take a breather. But experts on Chinese food told SCMP that evaluating flavor should remain a human endeavor.

“Chinese food is extremely sophisticated. It is probably the most difficult to standardize in the world,” said Sun Lin, director of international affairs at the China Cuisine Association. “It is hard to judge which is the most authentic. I don’t think AI can tell the difference within the next two or three decades.”

READ MORE: Artificial intelligence robots boost profits in Chinese food factories, paving way for mass use [South China Morning Post]

More on AI food: AI Trained on Decades of Food Research Is Making Brand-New Foods

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This New Plastic Can Be Recycled Repeatedly

A team from Berkeley has found a way to make recycled plastic far more useful by breaking the bonds between chemicals in the material.

Plastic Solution

As of 2015, Americans recycled less than 10 percent of the plastics they used, and not only because they’re lazy: Many plastics just aren’t conducive to recycling.

Now, scientists from Berkeley Lab say they’ve created a plastic that can be broken down and recycled indefinitely — and it could help the world address its ever-growing plastic pollution problem.

Tight Bond

All plastics comprise large molecules called polymers, which in turn comprise compounds called monomers.

Often, the chemicals added to plastics to give them desirable traits — rigidity or flexibility, for example — bind so tightly to these monomers that they stick around even after the plastic goes through the recycling process.

The problem is that when manufacturers use the recycled monomers to make new plastics, they can’t know for sure what properties the new plastic might inherit from the original.

Acid Test

But in a study recently published in the journal Nature Chemistry, the Berkeley team details its creation of a new kind of plastic called poly(diketoenamine), or PDK.

Instead of being permanent, the bonds between the chemical additives and monomers in PDK are reversible — they dissolve when the material is placed in a highly acidic solution, which allowed the researchers to use the reclaimed monomers to create a recycled plastic that didn’t exhibit the same properties as the recycled plastic.

“Most plastics were never made to be recycled,” researcher Peter Christensen said in a press release.”But we have discovered a new way to assemble plastics that takes recycling into consideration from a molecular perspective.”

READ MORE: Plastic Gets a Do-Over: Breakthrough Discovery Recycles Plastic From the Inside Out [Berkeley Lab]

More on plastic: An Australian Ban Kept Billions of Plastic Bags From Polluting

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Major Bank: The Immortality Industry Is the Next Hot Investment

Bank of America analysts argue that it would be wise to invest in longevity companies that are working to extend the human lifespan and erase disease.

Moonshot

Bank of America analysts say that companies focused on immortality and longevity — extending the human lifespan as much as possible — are going to grow in coming years, with the market expected to be worth $600 billion by 2025.

Longevity companies have often risen and fallen with little ado. But if these financial experts are correct that biotech companies are poised to start “bringing unprecedented increases to the quality and length of human lifespans,” per CNBC, then we may start seeing serious results out of the industry.

“New Frontier”

Bank of America’s predictions would mean a six-fold increase in the amount of money in longevity companies. In a report to clients reviewed by CNBC, analysts wrote that the human lifespan may soon extend to 100 years.

“This has enabled a new frontier in precision medicine to further extend life expectancy,” the report reads.

Four Areas

The analysts identified four key areas of longevity research that they expect to grow in the coming years: genomics, big data and artificial intelligence, futuristic foods and nutrition, and healthcare companies working to eradicate diseases.

The analysts claim that “medical knowledge will double every 73 days by 2020,” a claim that, given how much medical knowledge is already out there, sounds like it could be overly optimistic.

READ MORE: Human lifespan could soon pass 100 years thanks to medical tech, says BofA [CNBC]

More on longevity: Disrupting the Reaper: Tech Titans’ Quest for Immortality Rages Forward

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Major Bank: The Immortality Industry Is the Next Hot Investment

Facebook Co-Founder: “It’s Time to Break Up Facebook”

In a New York Times op-ed, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes argues that Facebook needs to be broken up and regulated.

Point Break

Chris Hughes helped Mark Zuckerberg launch Facebook. But times have changed.

In a New York Times op-ed titled “It’s Time to Break Up Facebook,” Hughes argues that Facebook has gained too much power — and that it should be broken up and regulated.

“It’s been 15 years since I co-founded Facebook at Harvard, and I haven’t worked at the company in a decade,” Hughes wrote. “But I feel a sense of anger and responsibility.”

“Unchecked Power”

At the middle of Facebook’s continued troubles is Zuckerberg, a CEO that Hughes argues has too much “unchecked power” — he can determine what people read, what is hate speech and what isn’t — and an incredible amount of wealth that gives him the ability to shut out any competitors by buying them out.

Mark has a “unilateral control over speech,” Hughes wrote. “There is no precedent for his ability to monitor, organize and even censor the conversations of two billion people.”

Though Hughes is unusually close to Facebook, he’s certainly not alone in calling for accountability for the social giant. His op-ed comes after news of an impending multi-billion-dollar fine from the Federal Trade Commission emerged as a result of an investigation into the way Facebook handled its users’ data. Hughes also joins Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who argued in March that she wants Facebook, Amazon and Google to be broken up.

Regulation

The solution to Zuckerberg’s unbridled power, according to Hughes: government regulation. WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook need to be spun out into distinct businesses to create a healthier, more competitive market. Hughes also calls for the creation for a new government agency that deals with tech regulation specifically.

“I don’t blame Mark for his quest for domination,” Hughes wrote. “Yet he has created a leviathan that crowds out entrepreneurship and restricts consumer choice. It’s on our government to ensure that we never lose the magic of the invisible hand.”

READ MORE: It’s Time to Break Up Facebook [The New York Times]

More on Facebook: InfoWars Made a New Facebook Page One Hour After Ban

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Denver Becomes First U.S. City to Decriminalize “Magic Mushrooms”

Denver became the first city in the US to decriminalize psilocybin, a compound with hallucinogenic properties that occurs in some

Magic Mushrooms

This week, Denver, CO became the first city in the United States to decriminalize psilocybin, a compound with hallucinogenic properties that occurs in some mushrooms — a move that could signal new frontiers both in the country’s evolving relationship with mind-altering substances and in the medical community’s accelerating exploration of psychedelics.

“Because psilocybin has such tremendous medical potential, there’s no reason individuals should be criminalized for using something that grows naturally,” said Kevin Matthews, the director of the campaign to legalize psilocybin in Denver, in an interview with the New York Times.

Magic Mushroom

The new law passed by a narrow margin, according to the Times, of less than 2,000 votes. It doesn’t entirely legalize psilocybin-containing mushrooms, but it makes the prosecution of possession and cultivation of them an extremely low-priority offense.

But not everybody in Denver is pleased.

“We’re still in the very early stages of marijuana legalization, and we are still learning the impact of that substance on our city,” Carolyn Tyler, a spokeswoman for the district attorney, told the Times. The district attorney, she said, “is not in favor of Denver being the only city that doesn’t enforce the law.”

READ MORE: Denver Voters Support ‘Magic’ Mushrooms [The New York Times]

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

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Denver Becomes First U.S. City to Decriminalize “Magic Mushrooms”

This Machine Lets You Play “Tetris” With Your Brain

A brain-computer interface can connect three people's brains, letting them transmit thoughts to each other to collaborate in a game of Tetris.

Drift Compatible

A new brain-computer interface can connect three people’s brains, allowing them to play a “Tetris”-like video game together using something resembling telepathy.

Companies like Elon Musk’s Neuralink and Facebook are working on mind-reading devices designed to connect people’s brains to machines. While details on those projects have been sparse, this new gamified version of a brain-computer interface out of the University of Washington shows that the technology could be ready in the near future.

Multiplayer

In the game, three people collaborate to solve rudimentary “Tetris”-like puzzles in which they rearrange blocks to fill a complete row in a virtual grid. In a video featuring NPR’s Elise Hu, two players are each presented with the puzzle and asked whether or not they should rotate a block before it drops to the bottom of the screen.

The device monitors the players’ brain activity to determine whether they want to rotate the block or not. The two players’ decisions are then transmitted into the brain of a third player, who hasn’t seen the puzzle, and must then decide whether or not to rotate the block. In the video, Hu and her teammate successfully recommended against rotating the block.

For now, the system isn’t sophisticated enough to handle a full version of “Tetris” — rather, it broke the puzzles down into yes or no questions which each took several seconds, meaning that until the technology improves, we’re stuck controlling games with our hands like animals.

READ MORE: How Computer-Assisted Telepathy Helps Humans Communicate [NPR]

More on brain-computer interface: This Neural Implant Accesses Your Brain Through the Jugular Vein

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NASA Admits SpaceX Ship Crashed During Failed Test Last Month

Last month, a SpaceX Crew Dragon shuttle crash-landed after its parachutes failed, but NASA says it's a learning experience.

Parachute Test

NASA administrator Bill Gerstenmaier admitted during a contentious hearing before the House of Representatives Wednesday that SpaceX’s Crew Dragon shuttle smashed into the ground last month after a failed parachute test — alarming news that comes in the wake of a separate SpaceX failure last month when a Crew Dragon apparently exploded during a different test.

“The test was not satisfactory,” Gerstenmaier said. “We did not get the results we wanted. The parachutes did not work as designed.”

Brush It Off

During a parachute test over a dried-out lake bed in Nevada, an empty Crew Dragon shuttle was damaged when it crashed into the ground, Gerstenmaier said.

The Crew Dragon is equipped with four parachutes, and this particular test was designed to determine how safely the spacecraft could land with one parachute intentionally disabled. But the other three chutes didn’t work right, leading to the incident Gerstenmaier described.

Fully Engaged

All the same, Gerstenmaier expressed confidence that the parachute problem will be solved in time for NASA and the federal government’s ambitious space travel plans.

“NASA is fully engaged on this,” he said.

READ MORE: SpaceX had a problem during a parachute test in April [Ars Technica]

More on NASA: NASA Head: “This Time, When We Go to the Moon, We Will Stay”

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Restaurants Are Ignoring Calls From Google’s Smart Assistant

Google announced its creepy auto-calling assistant feature a year ago. Since then, many restaurants are choosing to hang up instead.

Hello, This is Robot

Almost exactly a year ago, everyone was flipping out over Google’s newly announced Duplex feature, which basically pretends to be a human assistant in order to make reservations at restaurants or schedule trips to the hairdresser.

But the AI-powered assistant has struggled to win over the hearts of service workers. The Verge reports that restaurants are hanging up on Google’s auto-calling voice assistant — sometimes because they’re creeped out by how lifelike it sounds.

“I was spooked at how natural and human the machine sounds,” server Shawn Watford of Birmingham, Alabama told The Verge. “It was so weird [that] when it called, I immediately hung up.”

Friend or Foe

Other restaurant employees ignore the calls because they think they’re spam — understandable, considering that robocallers have quickly become a particularly nagging reality of life.

Setting up online booking services like OpenTable can be expensive for smaller businesses, as The Verge points out, forcing them to rely on call-based reservations, foot traffic, and walk-ins.

But there’s one thing Google’s AI call feature has going for it: Google’s robot slaves aren’t pushy and speak very clearly — not something you can expect from every human caller trying to make a reservation.

READ MORE: One Year Later, Restaurants Are Still Confused by Google Duplex [The Verge]

More on Duplex: Yes, Google’s Phone-Calling AI Is Cool. But Why Does It Exist?

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Restaurants Are Ignoring Calls From Google’s Smart Assistant

Amazon Alexa: Illegally Recording Kids, Privacy Advocates Allege

Amazon Echo Dot Kids is illegally collecting data on minors, alleges a new FTC complaint filed by a group of privacy advocates.

Creepin’ on Your Kids

On Thursday, 19 consumer advocacy and privacy groups announced plans to file a complaint against Amazon with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The complaint alleges that the version of Amazon’s Echo smart speaker designed specifically for use by kids is illegally collecting data on minors. It’s the latest in a long list of allegations over Amazon’s devices violating users’ privacy.

Some Pissed-Off Parents

The 96-page complaint is chock full of examples demonstrating how the Amazon Echo Dot Kids violates the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), the law limiting data companies can collect on children without their parents’ permission.

The complaint notes that Amazon stores voice recordings from the device in the cloud indefinitely (just as it does for adults’ Alexa devices), forcing parents to deal with a burdensome review process to delete the data. It also asserts that Amazon does an insufficient job of making clear which third-parties can access collected data.

Pattern Emerging

Amazon spokeswoman Kinley Pearsall said the Echo Dot Kids Edition is “compliant with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act” in a statement to The Washington Post, but failed to address any specific allegations from the complaint.

Of course, this is far from the first example of Amazon playing fast and loose with user data, but the first to focus specifically on kids. Maybe this complaint will move the needle because it involves kids; or maybe Amazon will dig their heels in, deeper. After all, children are the future (Amazon customers).

READ MORE: Amazon’s Echo Dot Kids Edition is illegally recording your children, 19 privacy advocates warn [Business Insider]

More on Alexa: Thanks, Amazon! Echo Recorded and Sent Audio to Random Contacts Without Warning

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Florida Officials Are Using Drones to Kill Mosquitoes

The Florida Keys are about to use drones to find and kill mosquitos breeding in remote pools of standing water instead of sending expensive helicopters.

Droning On

Officials in South Florida are excited to announce they’ll be engaging in drone warfare.

The Florida Keys Mosquito Control District is going to spend the summer using drones to spread larvicide over the salt marshes that annoying and potentially infectious mosquitoes use as breeding grounds, according to WJCT — a high-tech attempt to keep the pests’ population in check, and one that stands to save the state a great deal of money, officials say.

Buzz Off

The mosquito control organization already uses drones to search for remote pools of standing water, WJCT reports. Now the drones will be able to carry seven or eight pounds of larvicide — enough to spray up to two acres — so that they can treat these remote pools themselves, a task usually assigned to expensive helicopters.

“It’s only treating very small areas,” Florida Keys Mosquito Control District executive director Andrea Leal told WJCT. “We want to make sure that we’re precise with this. It’s really starting out, seeing exactly what this can do for us.”

READ MORE: The Drones Are Coming! Keys Add A New Weapon In War Against Mosquitoes [WJCT]

More on mosquitoes: To Stop Mosquitoes From Biting, Scientists Put Them on Diet Pills

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Surprising Discovery: Mars Is Leaking Hydrogen from Water Vapor

A team of researchers discovered the unusual way in which water cycles on Mars. It's a clue as to why Mars turned into a dry and desolate place.

Drying Up

A team of scientists say they’ve discovered the unusual way in which water cycles on Mars.

The findings could illuminate how hydrogen from water vapor could be making its way into space on the Red Planet — a potential explanation as to why Mars has turned from a water-rich planet into a dry and desolate one over the course of billions of years.

Water World

According to the researchers’ results, water can only rise from the lower into the upper atmosphere during a tiny time window: approximately every two Earth years, when it’s summer on the southern hemisphere and Mars is at its closest to the Sun.

The team of researchers, who hail from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology and the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany, used a computer simulation and data gathered by space telescopes and space probes to probe the Red Planet’s weather dynamics.

“When it is summer in the southern hemisphere, at certain times of day water vapor can rise locally with warmer air masses and reach the upper atmosphere,” Paul Hartogh from MPS said in a statement.

Ocean Avenue

The water vapor then gets carried to the North Pole where it condenses into liquid and falls out of the sky. During that process, some of the water particles disintegrate and leak hydrogen atoms into the emptiness of space.

Many astronomers believe that Mars was once covered in a massive ocean and countless rivers — meaning this new discovery could help figure out why Mars has lost all that water.

READ MORE: New water cycle on Mars discovered [Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research]

More on water: New Research: Mars Used To Be Covered In Huge Rivers

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Surprising Discovery: Mars Is Leaking Hydrogen from Water Vapor

Google Is Adding 53 Gender-Fluid Emoji to Its Smartphones

Google is launching a series of gender-fluid emoji for its smartphones, the latest example of efforts to make the tiny symbols more inclusive.

Inclusive Designs

Google is releasing 53 new gender-fluid emoji, according to a Fast Company exclusive — the latest example of efforts to make the tiny symbols more inclusive.

“We’re not calling this the non-binary character, the third gender, or an asexual emoji — and not gender neutral. Gender neutral is what you call pants,” Android emoji director Jennifer Daniel, who sits on the Unicode consortium, told Fast Company. “But you can create something that feels more inclusive.”

Representing All

The work-in-progress designs shared with Fast Company exhibit many of the same features of the more gendered emoji, but with tiny tweaks that make the characters appear neither male nor female — or perhaps both.

The newly designed merperson emoji, for example, boasts chin-length curls, an orange tail, and crossed arms over its chest. Meanwhile, the new vampire wears a chain across its lapels, an accessory that’s a bit more gender-neutral than the necklace or bowtie sported by the seemingly female- and male-presenting vampires, respectively.

First Launch

The new gender-fluid emoji will launch as part of a Pixel smartphone beta release this week, with a roll out to all Android Q phones planned for later in 2019, at which point they’ll join the recently released emoji designed to better represent people with disabilities.

As Fast Company points out, Google collaborates with Apple and other tech companies when developing emojis, so we could see others release their own versions of the new gender-fluid emoji in the near future.

READ MORE: Exclusive: Google releases 53 gender fluid emoji [Fast Company]

More on emoji: Inclusive New Emoji Include Prosthetic Arms and Legs

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Google Is Adding 53 Gender-Fluid Emoji to Its Smartphones

Congress Is Furious That NASA Doesn’t Have a Moon Plan Yet

The Trump Administration wanted NASA to put an astronaut on the Moon by 2024 instead of 2028 as originally planned. So far, the new timeline isn't working.

Gotta Go Fast

Back in August, the Trump Administration instructed NASA to put an astronaut on the Moon by 2024 — four years sooner than originally planned.

That accelerated timeline put NASA in an unexpected tizzy, since it meant the space agency had to quickly find a way to trim four years’ worth of fat from its plans. That work hasn’t been going well, according to the Houston Chronicle — suggesting that the accelerated timeline may have been too ambitious.

NASA still hasn’t delivered the budget proposal that Congress instructed it to deliver by March, and now federal representatives want answers.

Friendly Check-In

NASA administrator Bill Gerstenmaier said that the missing budget wasn’t yet ready during a hearing with the House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology on Wednesday. He added that he expected it to be several more weeks before NASA sorted out the budget.

“We’re flying blind,” Oklahoma representative Kendra Horn said during the hearing, going on to say that the four-year acceleration left NASA “scrambling to develop a plan and hastening to pull together a budget amendment that still hasn’t been delivered.”

“The lack of planning evident so far is no way to run a human exploration program,” she said.

READ MORE: Congress members slam NASA for lack of moon plans, say the agency is ‘scrambling’ [Houston Chronicle]

More on NASA timelines: Former NASA Chief Scientist: Humans Could be on Mars in Five Years

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Congress Is Furious That NASA Doesn’t Have a Moon Plan Yet

Jeff Bezos Just Unveiled Blue Origin’s Moon Lander

Jeff Bezos' private space company Blue Origin revealed its plans to go to the Moon at a mysterious press event today, including a lunar lander design.

Alexa, Take Me to the Moon

Jeff Bezos’ private space company Blue Origin revealed its long-awaited plans to go to the Moon at a mysterious press event today.

Bezos showed off a brand new design of its “Blue Moon” lander, which is designed to carry 6.5 tons to the surface of the Moon. According to Bezos, the Blue Origin team has been working on the design for three years.

“A very fundamental long-range problem is that we will run out of energy on Earth,” Bezos said at the event. “This is just arithmetic. It will happen.”

Prime Delivery

The solution, according to Bezos: look elsewhere for energy sources in the solar system.

The lunar lander will fit into the fairing of Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket and will feature a brand new BE-7 engine with 10,000 pounds of thrust. The new rocket will fire test for the first time as soon as this summer.

Bezos also confirmed that a modified version of the Blue Moon lander could be powerful enough to carry a pressurized ascent vehicle for astronauts to the lunar surface.

A new space on Blue Origin’s website describes the lander as being capable of “precise and soft landings” to enable “a sustained human presence on the Moon.”

Space Vision

Bezos also talked about his futuristic visions of humanity living in giant space colonies modeled after physicist Gerard O’Neill’s designs for massive cylinders that could house human settlers by spinning to provide gravity.

But launching into space is not only super expensive but very difficult. The news comes just a day after Congress grilled NASA officials over how it failed to come up with plans to get to the Moon by 2024.

Blue Origin is officially offering its new lander as an ascent vehicle for NASA’s 2024 human landing missions.

Bezos confirms Blue Origin will fly people in space this year on New Shepard (but no new announcements so far about those plans.)

— Jeff Foust (@jeff_foust) May 9, 2019

Endurance

Up until the announcement, the only clue as to what the event was about was a cryptic tweet with a picture of British explorer Ernest Shackleton’s ship called the Endurance that he explored the Antarctic with.

A site near the south pole of the Moon was named after Shackleton — a crater with rims that are exposed to almost continual sunlight.

The world's richest person wants to go to the Moon, and that's pretty cool.

— Eric Berger (@SciGuySpace) May 9, 2019

Editors note: this story has been updated with additional details.

READ MORE: Blue Moon [Blue Origin]

More on Blue Origin: Jeff Bezos: In the Future, We’ll Live In “Giant Space Colonies”

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Jeff Bezos Just Unveiled Blue Origin’s Moon Lander

Watch This “Police Robot” Pull a Car Over

Traffic Stop Robocop

American nonprofit research institute SRI International has developed a prototype of what it’s calling a “police robot,” as IEEE Spectrum reports. The robot is meant to prevent accidents that occur when the police pull over drivers.

The brain behind the bot is Rueben Brewer, a senior robotics research engineer at SRI. Brewer started building the prototype in his garage.

“With such dangerous interactions between people, maybe it’s time to send a robot in between them, one that can’t hurt or be hurt,” reads the caption of the video. “Our robot goes between people to keep everyone safe.”

License and Registration

The cop bot is attached to a telescopic robotic arm that can extend from the side of the cop car to reach the window of the pulled over vehicle in front of it. The office is then able to communicate with the driver via a webcam.

From there, Brewer’s robocop can do it all: it can scan the driver’s license, spit out a ticket, and even deploy spikes to stop a perp from getting away.

READ MORE: Video Friday: Watch This ‘RoboCop’ Make a Traffic Stop [IEEE Spectrum]

More on robocops: India Just Swore in Its First Robot Police Officer

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Watch This “Police Robot” Pull a Car Over

Stanford Scientist Says In-Ear Gadgets Will Monitor Our Brains

A Stanford scientist says that

Jacking In

Personal gadgets known as “hearables,” which communicate with the neural signals passing through our ears in order to monitor and interact with our brains, are on their way.

Hearables could help us focus on specific conversations, like smart hearing aids, or monitor our brain activity to treat tinnitus. That’s according to Poppy Crum, the Stanford University neuroscientist and chief scientist at Dolby Laboratories who coined the term, who recently wrote about the concept in IEEE Spectrum.

The emerging tech stands to blur the lines between artificial and biological intelligence, Crum argues — augmenting our thought processes and collaborating with our brains.

Plug And Play

Other wearables, like Google Glass, were ridiculed for being dorky and potentially creepy. But a hearable could help people isolate specific conversations or monitor neural health without constantly being the topic of conversation by curious passers-by.

And the ear is the logical choice for such a connection to the brain, argues Crum.

“The ear is like a biological equivalent of a USB port,” writes Crum. “It is unparalleled not only as a point for ‘writing’ to the brain, as happens when our earbuds transmit the sounds of our favorite music, but also for ‘reading’ from the brain.”

Surround Sound

Based on the progress of various teams around the world, Crum argues that the technology for these wearable brain-computer interfaces could be developed within five years.

“When we do, hearables will constantly and silently assess and anticipate our needs and state of mind while helping us cope with the world around us,” Crum writes. “They will be our true life partners.”

READ MORE: Hearables Will Monitor Your Brain and Body to Augment Your Life [IEEE Spectrum]

More on wearables: Coming Soon: An In-Ear EEG for Unobtrusive Brain Hacking

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Stanford Scientist Says In-Ear Gadgets Will Monitor Our Brains

Tiny Specks Zoom Into Beautiful Galaxies In Amazing Hubble Image

Hubble scientists just assembled a dizzying composite image made of 16 years of Hubble Space Telescope observations that includes 265,000 galaxies.

Say Cheese

A resplendent new composite image shows off 265,000 galaxies — which were slowly but surely captured over 16 years of observations by the Hubble Space Telescope.

The image, called the Hubble Legacy Field, is made up of 7,500 separate images of distant galaxies. Some are so far away that our images of them represent how they looked as far back as just 500 million years after the Big Bang, according to a press release.

Enhance! Enhance!

If you don’t want to download a massive image file, Business Insider’s Dave Mosher uploaded a version that people can scroll around and explore.

You can zoom in and watch tiny specks of lights reveal themselves to be entire galaxies — some of which Hubble scientists say are 10 billion times too faint to see with the naked eye.

“Now that we have gone wider than in previous surveys, we are harvesting many more distant galaxies in the largest such dataset ever produced,” Garth Illingworth, the University of California, Santa Cruz scientist who led the project to assemble the image. “No image will surpass this one until future space telescopes like James Webb are launched.”

READ MORE: ‘No image will surpass this’: Hubble telescope astronomers created a stunning picture of the deep universe with 16 years’ worth of photos [Business Insider]

More on space telescopes: Hubble data: The Universe Is Expanding Faster and Faster

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