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A Millionaire Is Building a Blockchain Utopia in the Nevada Desert

Berning Man

Where others might see 67,000 acres of desolate desert, Jeffrey Berns sees a future utopia powered by blockchain.

Earlier this year, Berns’s company, Blockchains LLC, bought a vast plot of land surrounding Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory for $170 million. On it, he plans to build an experimental community that operates on a blockchain, the digital ledger technology developed to support bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

“This will either be the biggest thing ever, or the most spectacular crash and burn in the history of mankind,” Berns told The New York Times. “I don’t know which one. I believe it’s the former, but either way it’s going to be one hell of a ride.”

Sandbox City

According to The Times, Berns’s plan is to populate the land with houses, a business district, a college, and an e-gaming arena, with blockchain serving as the new community’s lifeblood.

Every resident and employee of this blockchain city will have an address on the Ethereum network that they’ll use to vote, store their personal data, record property ownership, and more.

So far Berns has spent $300 million on his blockchain city, but he didn’t earn the money through his career as a lawyer — he made it by selling high on some ether he bought in 2015. Which seems appropriate.

Get Rich Quicksand

For now, Berns will continuing working on the master plan for his community, with construction expected to begin no earlier than late 2019.

No word yet on when residents will be able to move into this city of the future, so for now, the closest you’ll probably be able to get to living on the blockchain is asking your landlord if you can pay your rent in crypto.

Just don’t be too surprised if they decline, though — after all, not everyone shares Berns’s unshakable faith in the blockchain.

READ MORE: A Cryptocurrency Millionaire Wants to Build a Utopia in Nevada [The New York Times]

More on the blockchain: Here’s Why the Blockchain Might Change the Future (and Why It May Not Live up to the Hype)

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A Millionaire Is Building a Blockchain Utopia in the Nevada Desert

A Sunscreen Ban Won’t Save the Coral Reefs, but It’s a Good Start

Extra Crispy

The Republic of Palau, an island nation North of Australia, just announced that it will ban all sunscreens that contain any of ten toxic ingredients by 2020.

The new law, which will hit violating retailers with thousand-dollar fines, comes as part of a push to slow, prevent, and reverse coral bleaching in the area, according to BBC News.

Want a Sticker?

Palau joins Hawai’i among governments that have banned the toxic substances, perhaps the most harmful of which is a common sunscreen component called oxybenzone, repeatedly shown to kill off coral in controlled experiments.

Just like plastic straws make up a minuscule fraction of the plastic found in the oceans, evidence suggests that sunscreen is responsible for just a small portion of coral bleaching. The real culprits, as the BBC reported, are climate change and algal blooms caused by agricultural runoff.

Just Say No

But like banning plastic straws, putting the kaibosh on sunscreens with oxybenzone and other harmful chemicals is an obvious choice.

That’s especially the case given that several coral reef-safe types of sunscreen hit the markets in response to Hawai’i’s ban. Though major pharmaceutical corporations like L’Oreal and Johnson & Johnson are fighting the ban according to BBC, switching to a safer alternative should not at all get in the way of tourists traveling to Palau.

READ MORE: Coral: Palau to ban sunscreen products to protect reefs [BBC News]

More on sunscreen: A Bacteria Is Making Sunscreen Safe for You and the Environment

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A Sunscreen Ban Won’t Save the Coral Reefs, but It’s a Good Start

Your Cell Phone Could Cause Cancer — Under Very Specific Conditions

The Finish Line

One of the largest and most expensive studies ever to explore a potential link between cell phones and cancer has finally concluded.

On Thursday, the National Toxicology Program (NTP) released the results of a study focused on determining if there’s any evidence of a link between cell phone use and cancer. Its conclusion: yes, but only under very specific circumstances.

“Clear Evidence”

For their study, the NTP researchers exposed rats and mice to high levels of radio frequency radiation for nine hours a day for two years.

Following this exposure, 5 to 7 percent of the male rats developed malignant schwannomas, a type of nerve tumor, in their hearts, while 2 to 3 percent of the male rats developed malignant gliomas, a deadly brain cancer. None of the rodents in the control groups developed these conditions.

The above results led the agency to conclude there is “clear evidence” of a link between cell phone use and heart schwannomas and “some evidence” of a link with brain tumors.

iPhones and Oranges

Now for the caveats.

For one thing, the NTP study has been in the works since 1999, and today’s cell phones no longer utilize the same radio frequency. So unless you’re still rocking a 2G flip-phone, the radio waves emitted by your device are probably the kind that have more trouble penetrating the human body.

Secondly, the rodents’ exposure to the radiation wasn’t entirely comparable to that of a human cell phone user.

“In our studies, rats and mice received radio frequency radiation across their whole bodies,” said NTP senior scientist John Bucher in a press release. “By contrast, people are mostly exposed in specific local tissues close to where they hold the phone. In addition, the exposure levels and durations in our studies were greater than what people experience.”

So, $30 million and nearly two decades later, it looks like this NTP study is leaving us right where we were before it started: almost completely unsure whether the phones in our pockets could be harming our health.

READ MORE: Study of Cellphone Risks Finds ‘Some Evidence’ of Link to Cancer, at Least in Male Rats [The New York Times]

More on cancer and cell phones: Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Worry About California’s New Guidelines for Cell Phone Usage

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Your Cell Phone Could Cause Cancer — Under Very Specific Conditions

MDMA Therapy Eliminated PTSD Symptoms In 76 Percent of Patients

Chill Pill

Some researchers are starting to believe MDMA, the party drug commonly known as “ecstasy” or “molly,” could become a recognized treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the coming years.

Case in point: A small clinical trial published last week in the Journal of Psychopharmacology found that therapeutic doses of MDMA, in concert with psychotherapy, reduced the severity of most participants’ PTSD symptoms. And a year after the trial ended, 76 percent of participants no longer met the clinical criteria for a PTSD diagnosis.

Expect Delays

The results, as exciting as they seem on paper, are only from a phase II trial — the second of three stages of safety and efficacy testing required before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will consider approving a new pharmaceutical.

Many phase II trials, this one included, gather very impressive-sounding results, but the road to FDA approval is littered with the corpses of early-stage research that never made it to the end. That said, phase III trials for treating PTSD with MDMA are underway.

Solid Science

Aside from its small sample size of only 28 participants, the National Institutes of Health (NIH)’s website for monitoring clinical research shows no methodological red flags.

Even so, MDMA is still listed as a schedule one drug, which means the government prevents it from being legally  prescribed, believes it has a high risk of abuse, and won’t recognize clinical uses. Though FDA approval would help change that, it means MDMA cannot legally be prescribed off-label in the meantime.

But if all goes well in follow-up research, it’s conceivable that MDMA treatments could hit the market after phase III trials are completed, which is expected to happen within three years.

READ MORE: MDMA therapy achieves astounding 76% success rate for treating PTSD [New Atlas]

More on PTSD treatment: The FDA Has Labeled Ecstasy A “Breakthrough Therapy” for PTSD

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MDMA Therapy Eliminated PTSD Symptoms In 76 Percent of Patients

A Major Automaker Is Trying to Stop AVs From Making People Sick

Sick AV, Dude

Once your car can drive itself, you’ll be able to use your daily commute to catch up on work or read the latest headlines — at least, unless riding in an autonomous car makes you sick.

Motion sickness occurs due to a disconnect between what we see and what we feel. If your body is moving in a car, but you’re looking at something stationary — a book or your smartphone, for example — your brain sometimes interprets this to mean you’re hallucinating due to some poison, and it’ll force you to vomit to get the toxin out of your system.

Keeping your eyes on the road, which is also moving, can help you avoid losing your lunch. But what’s the point of riding in an AV if you can’t ignore the road (other than, you know, increased safety)?

To get ahead of the motion sickness issue, Jaguar Land Rover, the UK’s largest car manufacturer, is developing a system it claims will identify when a rider in an AV is likely to experience a bout of motion sickness and take action to prevent it.

Vague but Encouraging

First, Jaguar’s algorithm produces a “wellness score” for each passenger in a vehicle based on data from biometric sensors. How these sensors work is something of a mystery, though. Does the car connect to the rider’s FitBit to check their heart rate? Do cameras inside the cabin monitor their features for signs of nausea?

The press release doesn’t say, but it does claim the system can use the wellness score to “automatically personalise a vehicle’s driving and cabin settings to reduce the effects of feeling car sick by up to 60%.”

Although Jaguar Land Rover is pretty light on specifics, its encouraging to see at least one automaker trying to get ahead of AV-caused motion sickness. After all, it’s going to be hard enough to convince people to accept the vehicles without adding literal vomit to the mix.

READ MORE: Future Jaguar and Land Rover Vehicles Will Help Cure Motion Sickness [Jaguar Land Rover]

More on AV adoption: Poll: Cool Teens Think Self-Driving Cars Are Totally Lame

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A Major Automaker Is Trying to Stop AVs From Making People Sick

Watch the First Knitted Concrete Structure Take Shape

Concrete and Crafts

Forget scarves and mittens. Soon, we might be able to knit entire buildings.

A team from the Swiss university ETH Zurich has developed a technique that allows them to knit textiles that can then form the scaffolds for large concrete structures. As a proof of concept, they created a 13-foot-tall architectural structure that’s now on display in Mexico City.

Knit Picking

To create this curvaceous knitted concrete structure, the team started by using an industrial knitting machine to produce the textile that serves as its basis. This process produced just four long strips of fabric and took about 36 hours.

After transporting the textile to Mexico City, they fitted it over a steel cable-net and a temporary frame, inserting balloons into pockets in the fabric to give it its desired shape. Then they sprayed the structure with a specially formulated concrete mixture. After that hardened, they applied fiber-reinforced concrete.

While the textile and net weighed a total of just 121 pounds, they were able to support 5.5 tons of concrete.

Fabric’s Future

The Mexico City structure marks the first use of this knitting technique to create a structure on an architectural scale, but it might not be the last.

“Knitting offers a key advantage that we no longer need to create 3D shapes by assembling various parts,” said developer Mariana Popescu in a press release. “With the right knitting pattern, we can produce a flexible formwork for any and all kinds of shell structures, pockets, and channels just by pressing a button.”

READ MORE: 3D-Knitted Shells Save on Construction Materials and Time [ETH Zürich]

More on concrete: Scientists Have Created a Concrete Roof That Generates Solar Power

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Watch the First Knitted Concrete Structure Take Shape

Fox is Using Machine Learning to Predict Which Movies Will be Hits

Sum of the Parts

The movie studio 20th Century Fox developed a machine learning algorithm that it’s using to predict who will like new movies. The system, described in a paper published on the preprint server ArXiv in late October, analyzes and categorizes movie trailers based on the objects and people it detects in them.

Other films with similar trailers, according to the algorithm, will likely appeal to similar audiences.

Mix and Match

For instance, a blog post about the algorithm details how it interpreted the X-Men film “Logan.” After watching the trailer, the top four labels picked up by the algorithm were “tree,” “facial hair,” “car,” and “man,” which led the algorithm to recommend the visually-similar film “The Revenant,” perhaps because of all the beards and forests.

But, The Verge highlighted, the algorithm totally missed out on the opportunity to pair “Logan” with “Ant-Man,” and “Deadpool,” both of which are also subversions of a typical superhero story.

Party Trick

Artificial intelligence and robots are rapidly automating Hollywood, with AI recommending scripts to produce and algorithmically generating special effects. But it’s unclear just who Fox’s new system will actually help, especially considering AI’s current limitations.

Maybe this tool could help marketing teams target specific demographics with ads once the trailer has been produced. But it’s difficult to imagine an area where an image-detection algorithm outperforms humans who are capable of making deeper connections.

But hey, it’s still neat!

READ MORE: 20th Century Fox is using AI to analyze movie trailers and find out what films audiences will like [The Verge]

More on Hollywood: It’s This Woman’s job to Dream up Hollywood’s Sci-Fi Future

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Fox is Using Machine Learning to Predict Which Movies Will be Hits

Quantum Navigation Could be as Accurate as GPS, Without Satellites

Where in the World

In a few years, GPS systems may get a boost from a new generation of quantum physics navigation tools.

After a series of high profile GPS hacks and failures, WIRED reported, the U.S. military and several national labs are working on new quantum navigators that could revolutionize global positioning systems by cutting out the need for satellite

Red Light Green Light

The quantum navigator takes the form of a small diamond cube synthesized to have pockets of nitrogen atoms among the usual carbon lattice. As a green laser passes through the cube, these nitrogen pockets emit a red light that varies in intensity depending on the strength and direction of whatever magnetic field is affecting the cube.

When calibrated to the patterns of Earth’s magnetic field, the device can be used as its own global positioning device — one that doesn’t require satellites that can be cracked by hackers. The gyroscope and other quantum tools rely on different physical structures and respond to different stimuli, but their use of quantum mechanics offers similar benefits over today’s technology.

You Won’t Feel a Thing

Government and military researchers hope that their tools will become available within the next decade as quantum tech continues to improve. And contractors including Lockheed Martin are already interested, according to WIRED.

For now, the tools aren’t nearly as precise as GPS tech, so it’s more likely that quantum navigation will serve as an emergency backup or to verify what a GPS is reporting — it most likely won’t replace it, at least for a while.

READ MORE: QUANTUM PHYSICISTS FOUND A NEW, SAFER WAY TO NAVIGATE [WIRED]

More on quantum technology: The World’s First Practical Quantum Computer May Be Just Five Years Away

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Quantum Navigation Could be as Accurate as GPS, Without Satellites

Watch a Missile Smash a Dummy Nuclear Warhead Out of the Sky

Midair Meeting

The Pentagon just pulled off an extraordinary feat: it shot a dummy nuclear missile out of the sky, using another missile.

On October 26, the U.S.  Missile Defense Agency launched a fake medium-range nuclear missile from the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Kauai, Hawaii. Moments later, the destroyer USS John Finn fired a specialized “interceptor” called the SM-3 Block IIA — a U.S.-Japanese missile designed to intercept enemy missiles.

Threading the Needle

The SM-3 can launch from land or sea, and was designed to intercept short- and medium-range ballistic missiles — very much like the ones in Russia and North Korea‘s stockpiles.

According to manufacturer Raytheon, the SM-3 interceptor is designed to slam into the target at a force of a “10-ton truck traveling 600 mph.” It doesn’t explode upon impact — it simply rams the enemy missile at ultra-high speeds to destroy it.

Don’t Press The Red Button

It’s the second successful demonstration of the SM-3 after two failed attempts in June 2017 and January 2018, according to Defense News. The first was a spectacular mission failure when a sailor accidentally caused the SM-3 missile to self-destruct mid-flight.

A recently released video shows the SM-3 colliding with the dummy missile in mid-air:

Shooting Bullets With Bullets

It’s a spectacular feat that essentially amounts to hitting a high-velocity target with another even faster missile — think of it as shooting a bullet out of the sky with another bullet.

Will it save us from nuclear armageddon? Impossible to tell at this early stage. But the enemy is bound to be paying attention as well, meeting U.S. advancements in missile technology with their own.

READ MORE: After consecutive failures, watch US Navy intercept test missile with SM-3 weapon [Defense News]

More on anti-missile technology: Russia Is Building an AI-Powered Missile That Can Think for Itself

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Watch a Missile Smash a Dummy Nuclear Warhead Out of the Sky

Having a Bad Day? An Adorable Video Shows AI Learning to Get Dressed

Rise and Shine

Most animators would agree: making a cataclysmic explosion destroy a planet is easy, but human figures and delicate interactions are hard.

That’s why engineers from The Georgia Institute of Technology and Google Brain teamed up to build a cute little AI agent — an AI algorithm embodied in a simulated world — that learned to dress itself using realistic fabric textures and physics.

Blessed

The AI agent takes the form of a wobbling, cartoonish little friend with an expressionless demeanor.

During its morning routine, our little buddy punches new armholes through its shirts, gets bopped around by perturbations, dislocates its shoulder, and has an automatic gown-enrober smoosh up against its face. What a day!

Great Job!

Beyond a fun video, this simulation shows that AI systems can learn to interact with the physical world, or at least a realistic simulation of it, all on their own.

This is thanks to reinforcement learning, a type of AI algorithm where the agent learns to accomplish tasks by seeking out programmed rewards.

In this case, our little friend was programmed to seek out the warm satisfaction of a job well done, and we’re very proud.

READ MORE: Using machine learning to teach robots to get dressed [BoingBoing]

More on cutesy tech: You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: Amazon Warehouse Robots Slipped On Popcorn Butter

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Having a Bad Day? An Adorable Video Shows AI Learning to Get Dressed

More Robots Means Fewer Seasonal Workers for Amazon This Holiday

Alexa, Buy Me a Gift

The holiday season is upon us, and Amazon is getting ready for the seasonal onslaught with 100,000 additional warehouse hires.

That’s about 20,000 fewer than last year. According to analysts, the drop is because the company’s automation efforts are succeeding.

Automating Santa

In 2012, Amazon bought Kiva Systems — the maker of little orange robots that are quickly becoming the gold standard in warehouse distribution center automation.

They are proving particularly useful in Amazon’s fulfillment centers, where they move orders around massive warehouses quietly and efficiently — and without complaining about horrendous working conditions. The result: fewer human workers.

Prime Real Estate

Automation has also brought much higher productivity to Amazon’s many smaller distribution centers.

And it’s packing as many robots into each of them as it can. The company is planning on using cubic instead of square feet to measure the size of its warehouses thanks to multi-story warehouse systems, CNBC reports.

And if you’re one of the unlucky few warehouse workers working grueling overtime during the holiday season: happy holidays.

READ MORE: Reduced holiday temp hiring is a sign Amazon is turning to more automation and robots: Citi [CNBC]

More on Amazon robots: Amazon Is Ramping up Its (Still Rather) Secretive Home Robot Project

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More Robots Means Fewer Seasonal Workers for Amazon This Holiday

Doctors Can Now Prescribe FDA-Approved Drug Derived From Cannabis

Marijuana Medication

Just a few decades ago, the idea of a medical use for cannabis was little more than a pipe dream. Now, there’s a cannabis-derived drug on the market that doctors can prescribe as readily as any other medication.

As of Thursday, doctors in the nation are free to prescribe patients Epidiolex, making it the first drug on the market specifically designed to treat a rare form of childhood epilepsy. It’s also the first prescribable cannabis-derived drug.

First Step

In June, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the sale of Epidiolex to treat treat two rare forms of epilepsy that manifest during childhood: Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.

While a few treatments for the former were already available, none existed for the latter. Epidiolex showed remarkable promise during trials, though, reducing seizures by up to 40 percent.

Final Step

Even though the FDA approved Epidiolex in June, prescribing it was still illegal because the Drug Enforcement Agency classifies all forms of cannabis as a Schedule I drug — the same category that heroin and LSD fall under.

That changed on September 27 when the DEA classified Epidiolex as a Schedule V drug. That classification means that doctors in all 50 states are now as free to prescribe Epidiolex as they are cough suppressants containing small amount of codeine.

The cannabis-derived drug has already improve the lives of many of the young patients who participated in its trials, and now that it’s widely available, it has the opportunity to improve many more.

READ MORE: The First FDA-Approved Cannabis-Based Drug Is Now Available [Fast Company]

More on Epidiolex: The Digest: A Marijuana-Derived Medication Is Now Approved for Sale in the US

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Doctors Can Now Prescribe FDA-Approved Drug Derived From Cannabis

A Giant Space Laser on Earth Could Blast Messages at Alien Planets

Phone Home

Scientists have a new idea to contact alien civilizations: build a huge laser and start blasting exoplanets with messages.

We could build such a laser, according to research by MIT scientists published Monday in The Astrophysical Journal, with technology that either exists today or requires just minor developments.

Death Star

The laser is more of a homing beacon than a death ray. A one or two-megawatt laser, beamed out through a 30 to 45-meter telescope, would be powerful enough to reach planets as far as 20,000 light years away. For reference, the star nearest our sun is Proxima Centauri, which is just over four light years from us.

If any planet hit with our laser that happens, by some infinitesimally small chance, to host extraterrestrial life that had developed advanced technology, its occupants would be able to look back at Earth and see signs of life.

Waiting Game

The scientists behind this research are counting on SETI, the government agency responsible for scanning the night sky for alien life, to complete more full-sky scans and invest in the infrared technology that could help identify which distant planets likely have habitable atmospheres.

With those advances and if there are aliens out where with a laser of their own — that’s a big “if” — the researchers argue that we could have a back-and-forth conversation over decades or centuries, with each message taking many years to reach its target.

READ MORE: E.T., we’re home [MIT News]

More on the search for alien life: Scientists want Your Help Crafting a Message to Aliens

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A Giant Space Laser on Earth Could Blast Messages at Alien Planets

Take a Virtual Ride Through the Boring Company’s First Tunnel

Can’t Hardly Wait

You don’t have to wait until next month to get a sneak peak inside the Boring Company’s first tunnel.

On October 21, Elon Musk tweeted that construction on his company’s two-mile-long test tunnel in Hawthorne, CA, was nearing completion. He claimed the Boring Company would host an opening party for the tunnel on December 10, at which time the public would get a chance to take free rides through it.

This weekend, Musk confirmed via Twitter that the December 10 date was still a go — and shared a remarkable time-lapse video of a tunnel walkthrough.

Sneak Peak

Be forewarned that the below clip is pretty hypnotic. We’re not doctors, but if you’re prone to seizures, you might want to skip watching this one.

Tunnel Trance

In his tweet Musk called the tunnel “disturbingly long,” but the two miles it covers might eventually seem like a short jaunt. After all, the ultimate plan is a network comprising hundreds of layers of tunnels dug out below the greater Los Angeles area.

This test tunnel is just the start of that vision, and if watching the walkthrough makes you want to experience the tunnel firsthand, just make sure you’re in the Hawthorne area on December 10.

READ MOREElon Musk Shares First-Look Into the Boring Company’s ‘Disturbingly Long’ Tunnel [Business Insider]

More on the Boring Company: Elon Musk: First Boring Company Tunnel Will Open December 10

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Take a Virtual Ride Through the Boring Company’s First Tunnel

An Ancient Star Reveals Our Galaxy Is Older Than We Thought

Old Kid on the Block

In the outer layers of the Milky Way is an old star, newly discovered by Johns Hopkins University astronomers, that might be one of the oldest in the universe.

New research which will soon be published in The Astrophysical Journal describes a star with the mouthful of a name, 2MASS J18082002-5104378 B. It’s about one-sixth the size of our sun and dates back 13.5 billion years — just 300 million years younger than the entire universe.

Old-School Metal

We know this star is so old because of its metal composition. As stars die and their leftover materials form new stars, the nuclear fusion reactions that power their cores give off heavy metals like gold and platinum. The more heavy metals, the more generations a given star must have been through.

But this star, still dimly twinkling, has such a small heavy metal content that astronomers think it comes from just the second generation of all the stuff in the universe — its celestial predecessor would have been formed in the Big Bang itself. For reference, our sun first emerged many generations after that, a 4.6 billion-year-old youngster compared to 2MASS.

I Wish I Might

This star is far older than anything else found in our galaxy so far, and its discovery opens the doors to finding even older stars.

That means we may soon learn more about how the Big Bang gave rise to the universe — and a better understanding of our own origins.

READ MORE: Johns Hopkins Scientist Finds Elusive Star with Origins Close to Big Bang [Johns Hopkins University]

More on old stars: Scientists Now Know When the First Stars Formed in the Universe

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An Ancient Star Reveals Our Galaxy Is Older Than We Thought

Huge Wind Farms Could Weaken Hurricanes Before They Make Landfall

Breezing Up

The devastation of hurricanes such as Florence and Harvey is a reminder of the terrible power of storms and our apparent helplessness when they strike.

But new research suggests that there might be a way to fight hurricanes before they come ashore and it might even help generate renewable electricity.

Tilting Windmills

According to a paper published this summer in the journal Environmental Research Letters, computer simulations suggest that offshore wind turbines suck the energy out of hurricanes and force them higher into the sky, resulting in decreased rainfall and potentially less destruction when they make landfall.

“Offshore wind farms definitely could be a potential tool to weaken hurricanes and reduce their damage,” author Cristina Archer, a professor at the University of Delaware, told Popular Science. “And they pay for themselves, ultimately, which is why I am excited about this.”

Damage Plan

Today’s wind farms often switch turbines off during high winds, so current wind farms aren’t a good defense mechanism against hurricanes.

But turbines scheduled to hit the market by 2020, Archer said, will be strong enough to withstand hurricane winds — so she’s hopeful they’ll be able to protect coastal communities, and maybe even generate some electricity in the process.

READ MORE: Scientists Want to Put ‘Speed Bumps’ in Hurricane Alley to Slow Down Storms [Popular Science]

More on nanobots: Death Count from Hurricane Maria Was Way Off. That Might Slow Puerto Rico’s Recovery.

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Huge Wind Farms Could Weaken Hurricanes Before They Make Landfall

A New Nanobot Drills Through Your Eyeball to Deliver Drugs

Mobile Bots

Famed futurist Ray Kurzweil thinks tiny robots will flow through our bodies by 2030 to help us stay healthy. We now have one more reason to believe he’s right.

Compelling nanobots to move through liquids such as blood has proven tricky but doable. It’s been much harder to get tiny bots to navigate dense tissues, such as those found in the eyeball, without damaging them.

Thanks to a bit of design ingenuity, though, an international team of researchers has managed to create a nanobot that can do just that.

Teflon-Inspired

The team describes how a few key design features gave their propeller-shaped nanobot that unique ability in a paper published Friday in the journal Science Advances.

First, the bot is incredibly tiny, approximately 200 times smaller in diameter than a human hair. Second, a non-stick coating helps it slip through dense tissue. And finally, the inclusion of a bit of magnetic material in the nanobots makes them easy to steer with an external magnetic field.

To test the nanobots, the researchers injected tens of thousands of them into a dissected pig’s eye. Using a magnetic field, they were able to direct the swarm to the retina at the back of the pig’s eye — just as they’d hoped.

Drugs On Demand

Eventually, the researchers believe this technique will allow them to deliver drugs directly to hard to reach parts of the human body — not just the back of the eyeball.

“That is our vision,” researcher Tian Qiu said in a press release. “We want to be able to use our nanopropellers as tools in the minimally-invasive treatment of all kinds of diseases, where the problematic area is hard to reach and surrounded by dense tissue. Not too far in the future, we will be able to load them with drugs.”

READ MORE: Nanorobots Propel Through the Eye [Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems]

More on nanobots: Kurzweil: By 2030, Nanobots Will Flow Throughout Our Bodies

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A New Nanobot Drills Through Your Eyeball to Deliver Drugs

The Inventor of the Web Says It’s Broken and Net Neutrality Can Fix It

It’s Alive

Tim Berners-Lee, who’s often credited with inventing the World Wide Web in 1989, sees a modern Frankenstein’s Monster in how his creation is being used today.

That’s the gist of Berners-Lee’s comments at Monday’s Web Summit tech conference, where CNBC reported that he laid out ground rules for a new “Contract for the Web“and called for a return to net neutrality.

Crowd Surfing

The new contract, published by Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web Foundation, calls for safeguards that protect users’ data from being sold, stolen, or misused. Looking back at the history of the web, Berners-Lee argued that without explicit protections against them, hate speech, misinformation, and abuse have been allowed to proliferate online.

If you’d asked me 10 years ago, I would have said humanity is going to do a good job with this,” Berners-Lee told CNBC. “If we connect all these people together, they are such wonderful people they will get along. I was wrong.”

Bad Feeling

Apparently Facebook and Google, two of the largest perpetrators of privacy violations and unscrupulous online activity, have already signed onto the contract. It raises the question of how useful such an agreement could possibly be, given the fact that these tech giants are unlikely to sign anything that would hurt their bottom line.

All the same, anything that helps restore net neutrality is a good thing, especially if Berners-Lee is willing to throw his weight around.

READ MORE: The inventor of the web says the internet is now at a ‘tipping point’ — and reveals a plan to fix it [CNBC]

More on net neutrality: Net Neutrality Is Officially Gone. Here’s How This Will Affect You.

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The Inventor of the Web Says It’s Broken and Net Neutrality Can Fix It

General Motors Will Give You $10,000 to Name Its New eBike

What’s In a Name?

Want to flex your creative muscles for a chance to win $10,000?

On Friday, General Motors (GM) unveiled two new electric bike designs it plans to begin selling in 2019, one compact and the other foldable. Each boasts a pair of wheels, a battery-powered motor, and a slew of safety features. What they don’t have, though, is a name — and that’s where you come in.

Ten (eBike) Racks

In the press release announcing the new eBikes, GM also launched a contest to name its eBike brand. The person who submits the winning name will receive a prize of $10,000, while nine runners-up will each receive $1,000.

If you’d like to get in on this naming contest, you have until November 26 at 10 a.m. EST to submit your suggestion via the contest website, which includes further details.

Electric Love

GM is far from the first major auto manufacturer to design an eBike. However, it is rare to see the vehicles actually make it to market — after all, each eBike sold could translate to one fewer car sale.

Still, GM has claimed repeatedly that it is committed to electric vehicles, and the eBike could be one more example of that commitment in action.

Other than the 2019 release date, the press release is pretty short on details. How far can these eBikes travel on a single charge? Will they be part of a bike-sharing network? Who knows?

But with $10,000 up for grabs, the question most people are probably pondering is, “What the heck should we call these things?”

READ MORE: General Motors Is Building an eBike and Wants You to Name It [General Motors]

More on electric bikes: Tow an SUV With This Incredible Electric Bike

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General Motors Will Give You $10,000 to Name Its New eBike

SpaceX Reveals How It Would Handle an Astronaut Emergency

Ready for Anything

When it comes to space travel, we can’t overprepare — countless things could go wrong at any step in the process, and even a brief delay in response could be the difference between life and death.

To that end, Elon Musk’s SpaceX recently demonstrated it was ready to handle one of our worst-case space flight scenarios: an injured or sick astronaut.

Testing the Waters

SpaceX will eventually transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station aboard its Crew Dragon spacecraft as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew program.

Some of those return flights will end with the Crew Dragon splashing down in the ocean near Florida’s eastern coast. A crane aboard SpaceX’s recovery ship, GO Searcher, will then lift the craft from the water and place it onto the ship’s main deck. Doctors can then evaluate the returning crew to ensure they’re in good shape before GO Searcher heads to Cape Canaveral.

At least, that’s if everything goes according to plan. If the astronauts aboard the Crew Dragon are sick or injured, SpaceX will need to get them medical attention as quickly as possible.

To prepare for that possibility, SpaceX rehearsed a scenario in which a helicopter landed on GO Searcher. The crew then loaded a stretcher onto the aircraft for transportation to a nearby hospital. The helicopter is also equipped to transport doctors and other medical personnel to GO Searcher so they can care for patients at the ship’s medical treatment facility.

Prior Preparation

SpaceX is ahead of the game with this dress rehearsal — there isn’t even a date set yet for the first water landing of an astronaut-carrying Crew Dragon.

Still, it’s encouraging to know Elon Musk’s space company is taking every precaution to ensure it’s prepared to provide NASA astronauts with the best possible medical care long before they might ever need it.

READ MORE: SpaceX Rehearses Helicopter Landing at Sea [NASA]

More on the Commercial Crew program: NASA Announces the First Commercial Astronauts to Pilot the Next Generation of Spacecraft

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SpaceX Reveals How It Would Handle an Astronaut Emergency


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