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Watch a Robot Fish Fly by Shooting Water out of Its Rear

Researchers have created a robot fish that can

Fish out of Water

For environmental researchers, using robots to collect much-needed water samples can be tricky. The bot might have trouble navigating around trash while collecting samples from polluted waters, for example, or avoiding ice.

Now, researchers from Imperial College London have created a robot fish that can get around such obstacles — by propelling itself over them using a stream of water pushed out its rear end.

Full of Gas

The researchers detail their creation of the flying robot fish in a paper published in the journal Science Robotics on Wednesday.

According to the paper, the bot uses a combustion chamber that fills with surrounding water via a pump, the bot’s only moving part. The chamber also contains a small amount of calcium carbide powder, which, when combined with water, produces combustible acetylene gas.

An ignition system in the robot ignites this gas, forcing water out of the robot’s rear and sending it flying into the air, where it can glide for a remarkable distance of 85 feet.

Ocean Bound

The researchers have already tested their flying robot fish in a lab, a lake, and a wave tank.

They’re now looking to begin field trials of the bot to gauge its potential use for monitoring waters near offshore energy platforms and coral reefs — so if you’re in the ocean and see a strange looking “fish” flying through the air while water shoots out of its butt, don’t be alarmed.

READ MORE: Robot can launch out of the water and glide like a flying fish [New Scientist]

More on robot fish: Robot Fish Can Swim for 37 Hours With Blood-Powered Batteries

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Watch a Robot Fish Fly by Shooting Water out of Its Rear

Residents Are Trying to Flee Russian Town Where Snow Turned Black

People from the Russian town Kiselyovsk want to gain entry to Canada as environmental refugees. Coal mining operations in their town have made it unlivable.

Escape

Residents of the Russian town of Kiselyovsk have a simple request for Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: let us in.

That’s because the town, infamous for gray-black, coal-polluted snow has proven inhospitable for residents who now seek status as environmental refugees, according to CBC News. But because of complicated legal technicalities — fleeing pollution is seen differently from escaping climate change — experts say they don’t stand much of a chance.

Toxic

About 80 percent of Kiselyovsk’s population lives near an open-pit coal mine, according to Motherboard. As a result, the town’s water and food are highly contaminated. Cancer and tuberculosis are common, and the life expectancy has plummeted as toxic dust blankets the region.

All in all, it makes Canada look great.

“We chose Canada because the climate there is similar to our region,” an exodus organizer told a local newspaper, per CBC. “So that they [Russian authorities] wouldn’t say that we just wanted to move to warm countries.”

Unlikely

The residents have publicized their plea for asylum through a series of YouTube videos. But Canada typically doesn’t welcome environmental refugees, especially when other parts of Russia remain hospitable — a stance that Queens University law professor Sharry Aiken told Motherboard she finds outdated in the face of an increasingly-inhospitable planet.

“There is no question,” Aiken told Motherboard, “that our laws and policies will need to adapt to this new reality.”

READ MORE: Residents of a Siberian Town With Black Snow Are Pleading for Asylum in Canada [Motherboard]

More on refugees: New Research: Climate Change Causes Migration and Conflict

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Residents Are Trying to Flee Russian Town Where Snow Turned Black

This Startup Will Send DNA From Your Spit to the Moon for $99

LifeShip will send your DNA to the Moon for $99 — a whimsical undertaking that could also ensure humanity lives on even if Earth becomes uninhabitable. 

Sticker Shock

A private trip to the Moon’s orbit could cost you anywhere from $35 million to $150 million. But now, one startup is saying it’ll charge just $99 to put you on the Moon.

Part of you, anyway.

In a newly published IEEE Spectrum story, LifeShip founder Ben Haldeman shares his startup’s plan to send human DNA to the Moon — a whimsical undertaking that could also ensure humanity lives on even if Earth becomes uninhabitable.

Spit Collector

The project will launch this fall with a Kickstarter campaign through which LifeShip will sell $99 kits that backers can use to collect samples of their spit.

LifeShip will then extract DNA from the saliva and preserve it in an “artificial amber” that will reach the Moon as part of a future Arch Mission journey.

“You provide a saliva sample and then we take your DNA, your source code, and preserve it up in space for eternity,” Haldeman told IEEE Spectrum.

Survival Unknown

“Eternity” might be a stretch, though.

While your DNA might land on the Moon through the LifeShip project, even Haldeman later notes that he isn’t sure how long it’ll survive once it reaches its lunar destination.

“We can’t guarantee a million years on the Moon but it should be up there for a while,” he told IEEE Spectrum. “It’s about archiving life and saving for the future but also the wonder of traveling into space and what could happen with this DNA in the future.”

READ MORE: This Startup Wants to Stash Your DNA on the Moon [IEEE Spectrum]

More on the Arch Mission: Israeli Moon Lander Is Carrying a Vast Backup of Human Knowledge

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This Startup Will Send DNA From Your Spit to the Moon for $99

FBI Investigation Targets Trump Booster Peter Thiel’s VC Firm

The FBI has reportedly begun investigating Mithril Capital, the venture capital firm co-founded by Silicon Valley tycoon Peter Thiel.

Heightened Scrutiny

The FBI has turned its all-seeing eye toward Mithril Capital, the venture capital firm co-founded by Silicon Valley tycoon Peter Thiel — an industry kingmaker who’s one of the most prominent supporters of the Trump administration in tech.

It’s unclear specifically what prompted the FBI to scrutinize the firm’s business practices, but Recode reports a host of possibilities ranging from questionable tax strategies to mismanagement of investors’ money — a shakeup, in either case, at the explosive intersection of tech and politics.

And My Axe

The FBI isn’t alone in its heightened scrutiny of Mithril, which borrows its name from a fictional metal in “Lord of the Rings.”

Also probing the company’s finances is Cambridge Associates, a prominent investment adviser for the mega-rich that has put millions of dollars into Mithril’s coffers, according to Recode. Cambridge is looking into whether the firm has been overly-selective with investments, choosing to sit on investors’ cash and collect higher management fees as a result.

All-Seeing Eye

While Thiel isn’t involved in day-to-day operations at Mithril, his money and reputation are inexorably linked with its performance.

That’s relevant because the firm is also dealing with low morale, per Recode, related to the dual investigations into its practices. It reportedly once collected staffers’ computers and phones in a bid to determine who’d been talking to the press and investigators — though a spokesperson told Recode that it was merely a “device upgrade.”

Disclosure: The Thiel Foundation previously provided grant funding to Futurism’s parent company, Singularity University.

READ MORE: The FBI is investigating a venture capital fund started by Peter Thiel for financial misconduct [Recode]

More on Mithril Capital: The Next Head of the FDA May be a Man Who is Fighting a War Against Aging

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FBI Investigation Targets Trump Booster Peter Thiel’s VC Firm

YouTube Influencers Are Mentally Collapsing From Stress

YouTube influencers feel constant pressure to churn out content, prompting some — including Christine Sydelko — to give up the gig.

Dark Underbelly

It’s easy to see why so many peopleparticularly kids — long to be YouTube influencers. Make a living just by posting videos of yourself on the internet? Sounds great!

But popular YouTuber Christine Sydelko wants people to know the job isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

In fact, she’s decided to quit the influencer game altogether, calling it “trivial,” “unfulfilling,” and the “main cause of [her] anxiety and depression”a grim insider’s look at the toll a career in digital content can take on influencers’ mental health.

Abnormal Life

Sydelko started vlogging in 2015, and she now has 1.3 million subscribers on YouTube. But despite her popularity, she tweeted on September 6 that she has decided to “quit the internet stuff.”

That post was preceded by a June tweet in which Sydelko noted the toll being an influencer was taking on her mental health and lamented her decision to forgo a “normal life.”

Breaking Point

Sydelko isn’t the first influencer to struggle under the weight of internet fame. In January, Insider published a story highlighting several YouTube influencers who experienced so much mental anguish, they felt a need to quit the site, too — at least temporarily.

“[YouTube] kind of is a machine and it makes creators believe that we have to pump out content consistently,” Lilly Singh told her 14 million YouTube subscribers in a November video announcing her own break, “even at the cost of our health and our life and our mental happiness.”

READ MORE: Christine Sydelko, a YouTuber with 1.3 million subscribers, decided to quit the internet for good because being an influencer is ‘such a trivial job’ [Business Insider]

More on YouTube: Astronauts Are Out. American Kids Would Rather Be YouTubers.

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Watch SpaceX Test Its Crew Dragon’s Escape System

SpaceX just posted dramatic footage of its commercial space shuttle Crew Dragon undergoing hundreds of rigorous tests of its emergency abort system.

Abort! Abort!

SpaceX just posted dramatic footage of its commercial space taxi Crew Dragon undergoing rigorous tests of its emergency abort system.

The idea is that if something goes wrong with the rocket carrying the Crew Dragon to orbit, the module can engage its own thrusters to quickly escape the danger — and then coast down safely on a parachute.

Ahead of our in-flight abort test for @Commercial_Crew—which will demonstrate Crew Dragon's ability to safely carry astronauts away from the rocket in the unlikely event of an emergency—our team has completed over 700 tests of the spacecraft's SuperDraco engines pic.twitter.com/nswMPCK3F9

— SpaceX (@SpaceX) September 12, 2019

Ejector Button

The spacecraft is outfitted with eight SuperDraco engines, allowing it to cover half a mile in just 7.5 seconds during an emergency, reaching a top speed of 436 mph, according to a follow-up tweet. Parachutes ensure that the craft safely lands back on Earth after the system deploys.

But testing hasn’t always gone according to plan. The same engines were responsible for blowing up the first Crew Dragon capsule during a system test in April.

Last week, SpaceX tested the first stage of its Falcon 9 boosters that will be responsible for launching two NASA astronauts into orbit as part of Crew Dragon’s first-ever crewed test flight. When exactly that test flight will take place is still uncertain.

READ MORE: SpaceX on Twitter

More on Crew Dragon: SpaceX Confirms That Accident Destroyed Crew Dragon Capsule

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MIT Team “Accidentally” Invents Blackest Material in Existence

On Thursday, a team of MIT engineers reported that they’d created a material that absorbs 99.995 percent of light that reaches it — making it even blacker than Surrey NanoSystems’ mind-bending Vantablack, which absorbs 99.965 percent of light.

But perhaps even more remarkable than the light-absorbing capabilities of the new super black material is how the MIT team discovered it: by accident.

In an attempt to boost certain properties of electrically conductive materials, the MIT team removed the oxide layer from aluminum and began growing carbon nanotubes on it.

“I remember noticing how black it was before growing carbon nanotubes on it, and then after growth, it looked even darker,” researcher Kehang Cui told MIT News. “So I thought I should measure the optical reflectance of the sample.”

That’s when the team discovered that it had created the world’s new blackest material, which it detailed in a study published in the journal ACS-Applied Materials and Interfaces on Thursday.

The MIT researchers almost immediately partnered with artist Diemut Strebe to coat a $2 million diamond in the material as part of an art exhibit that launched at the New York Stock Exchange on Friday.

The MIT team has since offered up the material to any interested artists. But the substance could have many applications beyond the artistic, such as helping astronomers remove unwanted glare from telescopes.

As black as this material is, though, researcher Brian Wardle doesn’t expect it to hold the title of blackest black forever.

“I think the blackest black is a constantly moving target,” he told MIT News. “Someone will find a blacker material, and eventually we’ll understand all the underlying mechanisms, and will be able to properly engineer the ultimate black.”

READ MORE: MIT engineers develop “blackest black” material to date [MIT News]

More on Vantablack: BMW Unveils a Car Coated in Vantablack

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A Driver Tricked Uber’s Algorithm, Sexually Assaulted a Passenger

After a horrifying case where an unauthorized Uber driver raped his passenger, the company says its inroducing human oversight to its driver-verifying tech.

Terrifying Flaws

In December 2018, a man driving an authorized Uber vehicle picked up an intoxicated woman leaving a Christmas party — and then brought her to his home and raped her. But the man, who The Age reports was sentenced to five and a half years in prison on Wednesday, was not an authorized Uber driver. Rather, he was able to easily fool Uber’s verification system by holding up a photo of a real driver.

In other words, the AI technology that Uber uses to verify that its drivers are who they claim to be — like Amazon delivery drivers, Uber contractors take a selfie when signing on — wasn’t sophisticated enough to spot a printed headshot. It’s a horrifying story that illustrates the perils of big tech offloading security to dodgy AI systems.

De-Automating

Uber told Business Insider that it deployed a fix in response to the December incident.

The company hired an undisclosed number of humans to review the driver-verifying selfies this year, it said — and also implemented better AI.

Higher Standards

Apparently, it works — The Age reports that drivers posting in online forums are talking less about operating scam rings and more about how difficult it is to get the system to approve a selfie.

But it all raises the question of why the improved security wasn’t in place from the start ­— the unauthorized driver may have been fooling Uber’s security protocols since 2016, according to The Age.

READ MORE: Uber introduces human reviewers to crack down on drivers evading security selfie system with printed photos after Australian rape case [Business Insider]

More on Uber drivers: Uber and Lyft Still Allow Racist Behavior, but Not as Much as Taxi Services

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Toyota Wants to Slather Solar Panels All Over Its Prius Hybrid

Japanese auto giant Toyota has partnered with a local energy company to test a Prius hybrid that's almost entirely covered in solar panels.

Going Solar

As electric cars become increasingly popular worldwide, there’s one renewable source of energy that could make them even more convenient and environmentally friendly: the Sun.

Japanese auto giant Toyota has partnered with a local energy company to test a Prius hybrid that’s almost entirely covered in solar panels, according to Bloomberg. The ambitious goal is to one day end the car’s dependence on charging stations entirely.

Trend Piece

Both Toyota and Hyundai have already released models, including the 2017 Prius, that feature solar panels on their roofs — but their ability to power the vehicle is extremely limited, since they only charge the batteries when the car is parked.

Since July, Toyota has been working on a brand-new design. It features special, much higher efficiency solar panels that are mounted on the hood, roof and even hatchback of the car, charging the car’s batteries even when it’s moving.

Panel Van

The new solar system could allow the Prius to cover 50 kilometers, four days a week, on solar alone, Bloomberg reports.

If the vehicle makes it to market, it wouldn’t be the only next-gen solar vehicle around. Dutch startup Lightyear revealed what it calls the world’s first long-range “solar car” back in June. The company is expecting to start deliveries in early 2021.

READ MORE: Toyota Is Trying to Figure Out How to Make a Car Run Forever [Bloomberg]

More on solar cars: Startup Unveils World’s First Long-Range “Solar Car”

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A Runaway Star Is Escaping a Black Hole at 1.2 Million MPH

Scientists just traced the path of a runaway star, first spotted in the 80s, back to its original home and learned it got cast away by a black hole.

It Follows

Back in the 1980s, astronomers spotted a runaway star speeding across the night sky at upwards of 1.2 million miles per hour.

Now, decades later, scientists say they’ve finally figured out which pocket of the galaxy the star once called home — and what it’s fleeing from: a giant black hole.

Home is Nowhere

The star, dubbed PG1610+062, has probably spent all this time escaping from a black hole, Live Science reports. Or, more technically, it likely passed near a mid-mass black hole and got whipped off course by its gravitational pull, like a galactic slingshot.

There’s something slightly off about that explanation, though. Namely, a black hole with the mid-range mass needed to launch the star at this particular speed has never been observed within the Milky Way, according to a press release about the research.

Cosmic Horror

The scientists calculated that the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy couldn’t be responsible for the star’s wild ride — the numbers simply don’t add up unless the black hole is considerably smaller.

In other words, there may be undetected monstrous black holes lurking in the Milky Way.

“Now, PG1610+062 may provide evidence that [mid-mass black holes] could indeed exist in our galaxy,” Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg astronomer Andreas Irrgang said in the press release. “The race is on to actually find them.”

READ MORE: This Ridiculously Speedy Star Might Be Running Away from a Rare, Unproven Type of Black Hole [Live Science]

More on black holes: Spotted: A Black Hole That Shouldn’t Be Physically Possible

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Putin Critic Uses Drone to Save Hard Drives Before Police Raid

A critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin used a drone to fly his electronics out of his high-rise apartment prior to a police raid on his home.

Police State

On Thursday, Russian police targeted the home of Sergey Boyko, a known critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, as part of a widespread raid.

But Boyko was determined to prevent the officers from confiscating his electronics — so he used a drone to fly them out of his high-rise apartment via an open window.

Extraction Point

A companion in Boyko’s home at the time of the Russian raid recorded the whole thing, with Boyko later uploading the footage to YouTube.

“Done,” Boyko said in Russian at one point in the clip, according to a BBC News translation. “The evacuation has been carried out. The drone reached its destination.”

That destination remains unknown, but the BBC reported that Boyko said the drone carried a combination of hard disks, solid-state drives, and flash sticks, all of which contained “very important” information he didn’t want the police to get their hands on.

Russian Raid

In addition to Boyko’s apartment, Russian police stormed approximately 200 homes and offices on Thursday as part of a crackdown on Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and his Anti-Corruption Foundation, a Russian nonprofit dedicated to exposing corruption in the nation’s government.

Boyko is a known ally of Navalny, but thanks to his quick drone escape, his electronics weren’t among the many computers and phones Russian police reportedly confiscated during Thursday’s raid.

READ MORE: A Putin opponent about to be hit by a police raid at his high-rise apartment flew his hard drives to safety with a drone [Business Insider]

More on drones: Russia’s Top Secret Heavy Strike Stealth Drone Takes Flight

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Airbus Planes Will Track How Often Passengers Go to the Bathroom

In an effort to personalize the experience of flying, Airbus is testing out a new Internet of Things platform that collects data like bathroom visits.

Bathroom Break

In the future, airplane bathrooms will never run out of toilet paper again.

At least, that’s Airbus’s excuse for a cursed-sounding new Internet of Things platform that collects a large amount of data about passengers, according to Bloomberg — including how often they go to the bathroom and how long they have to wait to pee.

Pee Tape

Airbus says it’s testing its “Airspace Connected Experience” tech in its experimental A350-900 Flight Lab aircraft.

The data collected includes “pre- and remote ordering of preferred meals, booking of private bin space, setting of individual seat positions, as well as a tailor-made inflight [entertainment] offer,” according to a press release. Oh yeah, and the pee thing.

Digital Trolleys

The big-picture vision is a system that can track the amount of free space available in overhead bins, make it easier for crew members to identify who ordered a vegan meal, and track obscure data points like how much soap and toilet paper are left in the crapper.

The platform will also give crew members access to the data through a mobile smart device — meaning they could get ahead of maintaining bathrooms that were in use far more than others and know when somebody needs help while inside the bathroom, according to Bloomberg.

READ MORE: The Next Generation of Aircraft Will Track Your Bathroom Visits [Bloomberg]

More on airplane tech: These Futuristic Airplane Seats Could Make Flying Economy Better

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Airbus Planes Will Track How Often Passengers Go to the Bathroom

Watch a Tesla Model X Blast Through Deep Flood Waters

A news reporter caught a Tesla Model X plowing its way down a flooded street in South Dakota, exiting the water seemingly no worse for wear.

Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop

On Thursday, local news reporter Colton Molesky took to the streets of Mitchell, South Dakota, to report on the city’s dangerous flooding for the station KSFY.

While Molesky was filming his segment, a white Tesla Model X appeared down the street — and then plowed its way through the headlight-covering water, exiting the flooded street seemingly no worse for wear.

What NOT to do! This car in Mitchell tries to drive down a flooded street as @CMolesky reports LIVE. pic.twitter.com/Tv00CLUDYT

— Kamie Roesler (@KamieRoeslerTC) September 12, 2019

Bad Idea

This isn’t the first time a Tesla has been filmed in high water — in 2016, footage of a Model S owner in Kazakhstan using their car to float through a flooded tunnel hit the internet.

At the time, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted that he definitely did not recommend that drivers use their Teslas as boats — and Molesky was quick to discourage others from following the South Dakota Tesla owner’s lead.

“We encourage people don’t do this,” he said in the clip. “Don’t do what you see right there. Very dangerous.”

READ MORE: Tesla Model X shows water-wading abilities by driving across deeply-flooded street [Teslarati]

More on the Model X: Watch a Tesla Model X Pull a Semi Truck Through Snow

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Watch a Tesla Model X Blast Through Deep Flood Waters

Milky Way’s Giant Black Hole Lets out Two Giant, Radioactive Burps

Scientists can finally take a closer look at the big, radioactive bubbles our galaxy's black hole burped out millions of years ago.

Table Manners

The supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy might be feeling a bit queasy — scientists say it “burped” out two gigantic bubbles of radioactive gases.

Scientists first caught a fleeting glimpse of the bubbles — tens of lightyears wide — in the 1980s, according to Business Insider. But thanks to the recently-constructed MeerKAT telescope in South Africa, astronomers could finally get a better look at the mysterious bubbles and learn more about what caused them.

Big Boom

The bubbles are an unusual outburst for our galaxy’s black hole — compared to other galaxies’ central black holes, ours is comparatively inactive, according to research published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

As such, the University of Oxford and Rhodes University astronomers behind the new survey suspect the bubbles are akin to cosmic indigestion — the black hole likely had a feeding frenzy when clumps of cosmic dust passed nearby millions of years ago, just to spew it all back out in the form of the giant bubbles.

Filtering Out

Millions of years later, the radio signals from the cosmic belch reached Earth, which is why scientists can detect them with the MeerKAT telescope.

“These enormous bubbles have until now been hidden by the glare of extremely bright radio emission from the [center] of the galaxy,” Fernando Camilo of the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory said in a press release.

“Teasing out the bubbles from the background ‘noise’ was a technical tour de force,” he added.

READ MORE: The black hole at the center of our galaxy just belched two giant bubbles of radiation [Business Insider]

More on space bubbles: Scientists Baffled by Giant Bubbles Sandwiching Our Galaxy

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Milky Way’s Giant Black Hole Lets out Two Giant, Radioactive Burps

Instagram Keeps Accidentally Flagging Fish Photos as Offensive

British fishmonger Rex Goldsmith found that Instagram was censoring his photos for featuring

False Flag

British fishmonger Rex Goldsmith likes to post photos of his available seafood on Instagram.

“I can put a video or photo up of a particular fish,” he told BBC News, “and I’ll often get direct messages or phone calls saying ‘save one for me’ — it’s a good connector.”

But twice in two weeks, he found his photos mistakenly censored by Instagram as featuring “offensive content” — a bizarre example of social networks’ current inability to effectively police their content.

Something’s Fishy

A spokesperson for Facebook, Instagram’s parent company, apologized for the mistake in a statement, noting that Goldsmith’s “content was marked as sensitive in error and has now been reinstated.”

Still, with not one but two posts censored — and whispers of butchers facing similar censorship, according to the BBC — Goldsmith suspects he and his meat-slinging colleagues might be the victims of vegan trolls.

“I think it’s a bit ridiculous really,” he told The Telegraph. “I don’t know whether the post has been reported by vegans or whether Instagram censored it as they thought it would be offensive to vegans. I have no idea why a vegan would follow a vegan would follow a fishmonger on social media in the first place.”

READ MORE: Instagram apologises after censoring London fishmonger [BBC News]

More on censorship: Facebook Needs Humans *and* Algorithms to Filter Hate Speech

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Instagram Keeps Accidentally Flagging Fish Photos as Offensive

MIT Community Horrified by Famed Researcher’s Epstein Outburst

Computer scientist Richard Stallman sent an email seemingly defending an MIT professor accused of assaulting one of Jeffrey Epstein’s victims.

Since the July arrest of Jeffrey Epstein on charges of sex trafficking, a number of huge names in the world of tech — from Bill Gates to Elon Musk — have attempted to defend or deny any inkling of a relationship with the financier.

But one prominent computer scientist is seemingly going out of his way to insert himself into the scandal: MIT Visiting Scientist Richard Stallman.

MIT accepted millions of dollars in funding from Epstein, prompting one student group to organize a protest calling for the resignation of any senior MIT administrators who knew about the donations.

In the details of the Facebook event for that protest, the students noted that late MIT professor Marvin Minsky “is accused of assaulting one of Epstein’s victims.” They included a link to a story by The Verge that cited the deposition of a woman who said that she was forced to have sex with Minsky at Epstein’s compound when she was 17 and the MIT professor was in his seventies.

On Thursday, MIT graduate Selam Jie Gano published a Medium post including excerpts from an email that Stallman reportedly sent to an MIT CSAIL mailing list in response to the protest.

“The word ‘assaulting’ presumes that he applied force or violence, in some unspecified way,” Stallman wrote in the email, “but the article itself says no such thing. Only that they had sex.”

Had Stallman checked the legal definition of sexual assault prior to penning his email, he would know that the Department of Justice defines it as “a nonconsensual sexual act proscribed by Federal, tribal, or State law, including when the victim lacks capacity to consent.”

As a 17-year-old in the Virgin Islands, Minsky’s alleged victim automatically lacked that capacity to consent — hence, sexual assault.

After that, Stallman went on to say the member of “Epstein’s harem” likely presented herself to Minsky as “entirely willing.”

Gano takes Stallman to task for his tone-deaf defense of the sexual assault accusations against Minsky in her post — then calls on MIT to “remove men like Richard Stallman” from its ranks.

“This behavior cannot go unchecked, simply because someone is seen as a ‘genius,’” Gano wrote. “Simply because they are powerful, influential, or have friends in high places. Those are the same forces that allowed Jeffrey Epstein to rape and traffick children for so long.”

“Remove everyone, if we must,” she later adds, “and let something much better be built from the ashes.”

READ MORE: Remove Richard Stallman [Medium]

More on Epstein: Sex Trafficker Jeffrey Epstein Obsessed With Eugenics, Cryogenics

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Unlike MIT, Harvard Cut Off Epstein Donations After Conviction

Over the course of nine years, Harvard University accepted about $9 million in donations from child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein.

Go Crimson!

The latest twist in the saga of financier Jeffrey Epstein, who was charged with of sex trafficking before dying by suicide in jail: Harvard University accepted about $8.9 million from him — but refused to accept more donations after Epstein’s 2008 conviction for underage prostitution.

Most of the Epstein money is gone now, according to CBS News, but Harvard plans to donate the remaining $186,000 or so to organizations that support sexual assault and human trafficking victims — a move that stands in stark contrast to MIT, which continued to solicit and hide funding from Epstein after his pattern of sex abuse was widely known.

Damage Control

In a letter to the Harvard Community, university President Lawrence Bacow explained how Epstein’s last gift to the university came in 2007, before his 2008 conviction.

After that, Bacow says the university turned Epstein down when he tried to donate more, perhaps in an attempt to differentiate Harvard from MIT and moneyed folks — including Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos — who maintained ties with the sex criminal.

Second Look

To prevent future scandals, Bacow said he plans to launch a new group to more closely scrutinize would-be donors.

“Epstein’s behavior, not just at Harvard, but elsewhere, raises significant questions about how institutions like ours review and vet donors,” Bacow wrote in the letter. “I will be convening a group here at Harvard to review how we prevent these situations in the future.”

READ MORE: Jeffrey Epstein gave nearly $9 million to Harvard [CBS News]

More on Epstein: Sex Trafficker Jeffrey Epstein Obsessed With Eugenics, Cryogenics

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Unlike MIT, Harvard Cut Off Epstein Donations After Conviction

French Gov Official Warns Facebook: Libra Is Not Welcome Here

France's Minister of the Economy and Finance said that Facebook's Libra cryptocurrency will be barred from the country if it's released as planned.

Hard Pass

The French Minister of the Economy and Finance just warned that Libra, Facebook’s controversial cryptocurrency, won’t be permitted in France if it’s launched as planned next year.

The minister, Bruno Le Maire, railed against Libra at a crypto conference on Thursday, according to Vice News. He told the crowd that he would do what he could to not only stop Libra from being developed on French soil, but also from being used in the country if it’s launched.

No Uncertain Terms

Le Maire told the crowd that Libra threatened to undermine the euro and destabilize the entire French economy — and he has no interest in playing ball with Facebook’s plan. He also shared concerns that if the economy took a hit, people could make matters worse by abandoning government-sanctioned currencies in favor of Facebook’s Libra, Vice reports.

“The monetary sovereignty of countries is at stake [from] possible privatization of money by a sole actor with more than 2 billion users on the planet,” Le Maire said, per Vice. “All these concerns around Libra are serious. So I want to say this with a lot of clarity: In these conditions, we cannot authorize the development of Libra on European soil.”

READ MORE: France Took One Look at Facebook’s Cryptocurrency and Said, ‘Hell, Non’ [Vice News]

More on Libra: Backers for Facebook’s Libra Cryptocurrency May Jump Ship

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French Gov Official Warns Facebook: Libra Is Not Welcome Here

Horrifying Study: Corpses Thrash Around For a Year After Death

After photographing dead bodies for 17 months, scientists at a body farm made a greusome discovery: decomposing corpses wriggle around as they dry up.

People spinning in their graves is actually quite common, according to gruesome new scientific research.

As bodies decompose, they tend to slowly-but-surely writhe around for a year or longer, according to Agence France-Presse. This disturbing factoid comes courtesy of scientists at the Australian Facility for Taphonomic Experimental Research — a “body farm” where human corpses are made available for scientific research — and it could have far-reaching implications for forensic investigators.

To determine how corpses wriggle around over time, Australian scientists photographed a man’s corpse — donated to the body farm for study — every half hour for 17 months, according to research published last month in a new journal called Forensic Science International: Synergy.

Troublingly, the body’s arms started down along its sides — but ended up outstretched.

“We think the movements relate to the process of decomposition, as the body mummifies and the ligaments dry out,” Central Queensland University scientist Alyson Wilson told AFP.

Wilson told AFP that she hopes her discovery can help improve forensic investigators interact with bodies at crime scenes. Time-lapse photography is already a commonly-used practice to monitor decomposition and calculate the time of death, but understanding how bodies move over time could make those calculations more accurate.

“Once I observed a movement in a previous study, I started researching and couldn’t find anywhere in the world that looks at quantifying the movement,” Wilson told AFP, “so I thought ‘OK, I’m going to do this.’”

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Horrifying Study: Corpses Thrash Around For a Year After Death

atheism | Definition, Philosophy, & Comparison to …

Atheism, in general, the critique and denial of metaphysical beliefs in God or spiritual beings. As such, it is usually distinguished from theism, which affirms the reality of the divine and often seeks to demonstrate its existence. Atheism is also distinguished from agnosticism, which leaves open the question whether there is a god or not, professing to find the questions unanswered or unanswerable.

The dialectic of the argument between forms of belief and unbelief raises questions concerning the most perspicuous delineation, or characterization, of atheism, agnosticism, and theism. It is necessary not only to probe the warrant for atheism but also carefully to consider what is the most adequate definition of atheism. This article will start with what have been some widely accepted, but still in various ways mistaken or misleading, definitions of atheism and move to more adequate formulations that better capture the full range of atheist thought and more clearly separate unbelief from belief and atheism from agnosticism. In the course of this delineation the section also will consider key arguments for and against atheism.

A central, common core of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is the affirmation of the reality of one, and only one, God. Adherents of these faiths believe that there is a God who created the universe out of nothing and who has absolute sovereignty over all his creation; this includes, of course, human beingswho are not only utterly dependent on this creative power but also sinful and who, or so the faithful must believe, can only make adequate sense of their lives by accepting, without question, Gods ordinances for them. The varieties of atheism are numerous, but all atheists reject such a set of beliefs.

Atheism, however, casts a wider net and rejects all belief in spiritual beings, and to the extent that belief in spiritual beings is definitive of what it means for a system to be religious, atheism rejects religion. So atheism is not only a rejection of the central conceptions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; it is, as well, a rejection of the religious beliefs of such African religions as that of the Dinka and the Nuer, of the anthropomorphic gods of classical Greece and Rome, and of the transcendental conceptions of Hinduism and Buddhism. Generally atheism is a denial of God or of the gods, and if religion is defined in terms of belief in spiritual beings, then atheism is the rejection of all religious belief.

It is necessary, however, if a tolerably adequate understanding of atheism is to be achieved, to give a reading to rejection of religious belief and to come to realize how the characterization of atheism as the denial of God or the gods is inadequate.

To say that atheism is the denial of God or the gods and that it is the opposite of theism, a system of belief that affirms the reality of God and seeks to demonstrate his existence, is inadequate in a number of ways. First, not all theologians who regard themselves as defenders of the Christian faith or of Judaism or Islam regard themselves as defenders of theism. The influential 20th-century Protestant theologian Paul Tillich, for example, regards the God of theism as an idol and refuses to construe God as a being, even a supreme being, among beings or as an infinite being above finite beings. God, for him, is being-itself, the ground of being and meaning. The particulars of Tillichs view are in certain ways idiosyncratic, as well as being obscure and problematic, but they have been influential; and his rejection of theism, while retaining a belief in God, is not eccentric in contemporary theology, though it may very well affront the plain believer.

Second, and more important, it is not the case that all theists seek to demonstrate or even in any way rationally to establish the existence of God. Many theists regard such a demonstration as impossible, and fideistic believers (e.g., Johann Hamann and Sren Kierkegaard) regard such a demonstration, even if it were possible, as undesirable, for in their view it would undermine faith. If it could be proved, or known for certain, that God exists, people would not be in a position to accept him as their sovereign Lord humbly on faith with all the risks that entails. There are theologians who have argued that for genuine faith to be possible God must necessarily be a hidden God, the mysterious ultimate reality, whose existence and authority must be accepted simply on faith. This fideistic view has not, of course, gone without challenge from inside the major faiths, but it is of sufficient importance to make the above characterization of atheism inadequate.

Finally, and most important, not all denials of God are denials of his existence. Believers sometimes deny God while not being at all in a state of doubt that God exists. They either willfully reject what they take to be his authority by not acting in accordance with what they take to be his will, or else they simply live their lives as if God did not exist. In this important way they deny him. Such deniers are not atheists (unless we wish, misleadingly, to call them practical atheists). They are not even agnostics. They do not question that God exists; they deny him in other ways. An atheist denies the existence of God. As it is frequently said, atheists believe that it is false that God exists, or that Gods existence is a speculative hypothesis of an extremely low order of probability.

Yet it remains the case that such a characterization of atheism is inadequate in other ways. For one it is too narrow. There are atheists who believe that the very concept of God, at least in developed and less anthropomorphic forms of Judeo-Christianity and Islam, is so incoherent that certain central religious claims, such as God is my creator to whom everything is owed, are not genuine truth-claims; i.e., the claims could not be either true or false. Believers hold that such religious propositions are true, some atheists believe that they are false, and there are agnostics who cannot make up their minds whether to believe that they are true or false. (Agnostics think that the propositions are one or the other but believe that it is not possible to determine which.) But all three are mistaken, some atheists argue, for such putative truth-claims are not sufficiently intelligible to be genuine truth-claims that are either true or false. In reality there is nothing in them to be believed or disbelieved, though there is for the believer the powerful and humanly comforting illusion that there is. Such an atheism, it should be added, rooted for some conceptions of God in considerations about intelligibility and what it makes sense to say, has been strongly resisted by some pragmatists and logical empiricists.

While the above considerations about atheism and intelligibility show the second characterization of atheism to be too narrow, it is also the case that this characterization is in a way too broad. For there are fideistic believers, who quite unequivocally believe that when looked at objectively the proposition that God exists has a very low probability weight. They believe in God not because it is probable that he existsthey think it more probable that he does notbut because belief is thought by them to be necessary to make sense of human life. The second characterization of atheism does not distinguish a fideistic believer (a Blaise Pascal or a Soren Kierkegaard) or an agnostic (a T.H. Huxley or a Sir Leslie Stephen) from an atheist such as Baron dHolbach. All believe that there is a God and God protects humankind, however emotionally important they may be, are speculative hypotheses of an extremely low order of probability. But this, since it does not distinguish believers from nonbelievers and does not distinguish agnostics from atheists, cannot be an adequate characterization of atheism.

It may be retorted that to avoid apriorism and dogmatic atheism the existence of God should be regarded as a hypothesis. There are no ontological (purely a priori) proofs or disproofs of Gods existence. It is not reasonable to rule in advance that it makes no sense to say that God exists. What the atheist can reasonably claim is that there is no evidence that there is a God, and against that background he may very well be justified in asserting that there is no God. It has been argued, however, that it is simply dogmatic for an atheist to assert that no possible evidence could ever give one grounds for believing in God. Instead, atheists should justify their unbelief by showing (if they can) how the assertion is well-taken that there is no evidence that would warrant a belief in God. If atheism is justified, the atheist will have shown that in fact there is no adequate evidence for the belief that God exists, but it should not be part of his task to try to show that there could not be any evidence for the existence of God. If the atheist could somehow survive the death of his present body (assuming that such talk makes sense) and come, much to his surprise, to stand in the presence of God, his answer should be, Oh! Lord, you didnt give me enough evidence! He would have been mistaken, and realize that he had been mistaken, in his judgment that God did not exist. Still, he would not have been unjustified, in the light of the evidence available to him during his earthly life, in believing as he did. Not having any such postmortem experiences of the presence of God (assuming that he could have them), what he should say, as things stand and in the face of the evidence he actually has and is likely to be able to get, is that it is false that God exists. (Every time one legitimately asserts that a proposition is false one need not be certain that it is false. Knowing with certainty is not a pleonasm.) The claim is that this tentative posture is the reasonable position for the atheist to take.

An atheist who argues in this manner may also make a distinctive burden-of-proof argument. Given that God (if there is one) is by definition a very recherch realitya reality that must be (for there to be such a reality) transcendent to the worldthe burden of proof is not on the atheist to give grounds for believing that there is no reality of that order. Rather, the burden of proof is on the believer to give some evidence for Gods existencei.e., that there is such a reality. Given what God must be, if there is a God, the theist needs to present the evidence, for such a very strange reality. He needs to show that there is more in the world than is disclosed by common experience. The empirical method, and the empirical method alone, such an atheist asserts, affords a reliable method for establishing what is in fact the case. To the claim of the theist that there are in addition to varieties of empirical facts spiritual facts or transcendent facts, such as it being the case that there is a supernatural, self-existent, eternal power, the atheist can assert that such facts have not been shown.

It will, however, be argued by such atheists, against what they take to be dogmatic aprioristic atheists, that the atheist should be a fallibilist and remain open-minded about what the future may bring. There may, after all, be such transcendent facts, such metaphysical realities. It is not that such a fallibilistic atheist is really an agnostic who believes that he is not justified in either asserting that God exists or denying that he exists and that what he must reasonably do is suspend belief. On the contrary, such an atheist believes that he has very good grounds indeed, as things stand, for denying the existence of God. But he will, on the second conceptualization of what it is to be an atheist, not deny that things could be otherwise and that, if they were, he would be justified in believing in God or at least would no longer be justified in asserting that it is false that there is a God. Using reliable empirical techniques, proven methods for establishing matters of fact, the fallibilistic atheist has found nothing in the universe to make a belief that God exists justifiable or even, everything considered, the most rational option of the various options. He therefore draws the atheistical conclusion (also keeping in mind his burden-of-proof argument) that God does not exist. But he does not dogmatically in a priori fashion deny the existence of God. He remains a thorough and consistent fallibilist.

Such a form of atheism (the atheism of those pragmatists who are also naturalistic humanists), though less inadequate than the first formation of atheism, is still inadequate. God in developed forms of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is not, like Zeus or Odin, construed in a relatively plain anthropomorphic way. Nothing that could count as God in such religions could possibly be observed, literally encountered, or detected in the universe. God, in such a conception, is utterly transcendent to the world; he is conceived of as pure spirit, an infinite individual who created the universe out of nothing and who is distinct from the universe. Such a realitya reality that is taken to be an ultimate mysterycould not be identified as objects or processes in the universe can be identified. There can be no pointing at or to God, no ostensive teaching of God, to show what is meant. The word God can only be taught intralinguistically. God is taught to someone who does not understand what the word means by the use of descriptions such as the maker of the universe, the eternal, utterly independent being upon whom all other beings depend, the first cause, the sole ultimate reality, or a self-caused being. For someone who does not understand such descriptions, there can be no understanding of the concept of God. But the key terms of such descriptions are themselves no more capable of ostensive definition (of having their referents pointed out) than is God, where that term is not, like Zeus, construed anthropomorphically. (That does not mean that anyone has actually pointed to Zeus or observed Zeus but that one knows what it would be like to do so.)

In coming to understand what is meant by God in such discourses, it must be understood that God, whatever else he is, is a being that could not possibly be seen or be in any way else observed. He could not be anything material or empirical, and he is said by believers to be an intractable mystery. A nonmysterious God would not be the God of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

This, in effect, makes it a mistake to claim that the existence of God can rightly be treated as a hypothesis and makes it a mistake to claim that, by the use of the experimental method or some other determinate empirical method, the existence of God can be confirmed or disconfirmed as can the existence of an empirical reality. The retort made by some atheists, who also like pragmatists remain thoroughgoing fallibilists, is that such a proposed way of coming to know, or failing to come to know, God makes no sense for anyone who understands what kind of reality God is supposed to be. Anything whose existence could be so verified would not be the God of Judeo-Christianity. God could not be a reality whose presence is even faintly adumbrated in experience, for anything that could even count as the God of Judeo-Christianity must be transcendent to the world. Anything that could actually be encountered or experienced could not be God.

At the very heart of a religion such as Christianity there stands a metaphysical belief in a reality that is alleged to transcend the empirical world. It is the metaphysical belief that there is an eternal, ever-present creative source and sustainer of the universe. The problem is how it is possible to know or reasonably believe that such a reality exists or even to understand what such talk is about.

It is not that God is like a theoretical entity in physics such as a proton or a neutrino. They are, where they are construed as realities rather than as heuristically useful conceptual fictions, thought to be part of the actual furniture of the universe. They are not said to be transcendent to the universe, but rather are invisible entities in the universe logically on a par with specks of dust and grains of sand, only much, much smaller. They are on the same continuum; they are not a different kind of reality. It is only the case that they, as a matter of fact, cannot be seen. Indeed no one has an understanding of what it would be like to see a proton or a neutrinoin that way they are like Godand no provision is made in physical theory for seeing them. Still, there is no logical ban on seeing them as there is on seeing God. They are among the things in the universe, and thus, though they are invisible, they can be postulated as causes of things that are seen. Since this is so it becomes at least logically possible indirectly to verify by empirical methods the existence of such realities. It is also the case that there is no logical ban on establishing what is necessary to establish a causal connection, namely a constant conjunction of two discrete empirical realities. But no such constant conjunction can be established or even intelligibly asserted between God and the universe, and thus the existence of God is not even indirectly verifiable. God is not a discrete empirical thing or being, and the universe is not a gigantic thing or process over and above the things and processes in the universe of which it makes sense to say that the universe has or had a cause. But then there is no way, directly or indirectly, that even the probability that there is a God could be empirically established.

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atheism | Definition, Philosophy, & Comparison to …


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