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The Evolutionary Perspective
Daily Archives: March 5, 2020
Posted: March 5, 2020 at 7:08 pm
A pristine white rocket stirs up the dusty terracotta surface of Mars, coming in for a smooth landing. A hatch opens, and two rovers make their way across the rugged orange-red terrain. There are no humans -- at least, not yet. But this is one small step -- or a short wheel roll -- to a new world that could be our future home.
I'm playingSurviving Mars, a 2018 survival strategy game from Tropico developers Haemimont Games and Paradox Interactive. The goal? Build the infrastructure to sustain human life on the red planet.
"Humanity is in a weird situation right now -- my smartphone has more computing power than NASA had when they sent people to the moon, but we're using that to exchange pictures of cats and argue on Twitter," said Bisser Dyankov, producer of Surviving Mars.
Video games and virtual reality simulations are bringing the average person closer than ever to experiencing life on Mars. For many, these pop culture tours make the actual missions to colonize the planet proposed both by NASA and private companies like Elon Musk's SpaceX feel more achievable.
These games, along with other pop culture representations of Mars, have vastly increased interest in human missions to Mars, said James Burk, IT director of the space advocacy nonprofit the Mars Society. In particular, the 2015 movie adaptation of the novel The Martian was a major turning point in piquing public curiosity in colonizing the planet. And now, SpaceX's plan to send an unmanned mission to Mars as soon as 2022 "is throwing gasoline on it all," he added.
"It's getting easier all the time to tell the story of sending people to Mars because now we have all these tools," Burk said. "People are more accepting of that reality now."
Strategize how to build a Mars colony and keep everyone alive in the game Surviving Mars.
Just hours after Surviving Mars was announced in May 2017, people took to the internet to argue (as they do) about how much of the game was factual and how much was science fiction. They went so far as to exchange formulas determining whether wind turbines would really be a plausible way to generate electricity on Mars, as they are in the game, Dyankov said.
"We know that whatever we do, there will always be smarter people who are willing to go way deeper and test our ideas," Dyankov said. "You know you're touching something and motivating people to go do the math and ask questions and look for the answers."
Surviving Mars gameplay is incredibly detailed: Set up a mission by choosing a sponsor, who will influence how you spend your money. Choose your rocket, your colonists and your commander by their profession and the benefits they can offer. (For example, choosing the inventor will get you faster drones, the politician will increase your funding, and the rocket scientist will give you an extra rocket at the start.)
Several more decisions go into launching your first rocket full of drones to build infrastructure, including what to bring and where to land, while balancing your funding and resources. Allocate resources for construction, including water, oxygen and power. Select a research area such as physics, robotics and biotech, each of which could offer a different benefit down the line.
Bottom line? It's a lot. The developers relied heavily on NASA resources, including topological maps and research concepts.
"It's a game, but we wanted to make it plausible fiction and ground it in existing science," Dyankov said. The team consulted with a NASA worker on the core elements of the game during early builds, but chose to forgo some elements of realism for the sake of fun gameplay, he added.
Occupy Mars gives you a first-person experience of exploring the Martian landscape.
Occupy Mars seeks to replicate the Mars experience from a different perspective.
While Surviving Mars is a colony-building strategy game, Occupy Mars is an open world sandbox game due out in the next few months that will give you the first-person experience of life on the planet. As a player, you build and update your base, discover new regions and generally try to survive, said Jacek Wyszyski, CEO and CTO of development studio Pyramid Games, based in Poland.
In college, Wyszyski dreamed of building rockets for SpaceX, until he learned that certain US laws, for national security reasons, prohibit international applicants from applying for roles at companies that work with rockets. Instead, he turned to building rockets in video games.
Occupy Mars developers consulted with the Mars Society and researched NASA resources to build the game so that the basic elements are similar to what you'd really find on Mars.
The game takes place about 50 years in the future, so the technology involved is more advanced than what we currently have, like supercharged 3D printing. But basic requirements for a working Martian base -- water, power, oxygen, heating, pressure regulation and radiation shields -- are all present, though simplified.
Like with Surviving Mars, the key was to balance realism with playability, Wyszyski said. "Initially, we wanted it to be as realistic as possible, but over the years of development we learned that the most important thing for the player is cool gameplay -- if it's too realistic, it's going to be boring," he added. For example, early feedback was that players didn't want to spend six hours building a corridor -- they wanted to get it done fast, and go exploring.
Of course, humans have not set foot on Mars, and games can only take us so far. But several research stations set up by NASA and other organizations in deserts and remote locations on Earth attempt to mimic some of the harsh conditions we would find on the planet, including extreme temperatures.
The Mars Society's Mars Desert Research Station in southern Utah has hosted more than 200 crews of six-person teams of researchers and students, who live for a week or two on the station, simulating life on the Martian surface. They explore the desert in full spacesuits, maintain the station's water systems, grow plants, and recycle their waste water. (Hey, no one said desert space travel was glamorous.)
To make these missions more accessible, the organization is developing MarsVR -- an open-source VR platform that brings viewers to the desert base to explore the landscape.
The platform, releasing later this year, will be both an educational tool that anyone with a VR headset can download, and a training tool for crews before they arrive at the Mars Desert Research Station. MarsVR will allow crew members to virtually practice living on the station -- learning how to put on a spacesuit, operate the air lock and rovers, and cook freeze-dried food, all before stepping foot on the base, Burk said. You'll also be able to explore a square mile of the terrain around the base. From an engineering perspective, it's what it would actually be like to build a Mars colony and walk around, he added.
"Every second there is precious," Burk said. "So if they know where everything is ahead of time, it makes it better."
The exploration portion of MarsVR will be free to download on Steam for VR headsets. The training portion will be provided to crews, and sold separately to the general public to support the missions.
Scientists training for Mars missions can use the Mars 2030 VR experience to explore the red planet.
VR is beneficial for training purposes in high-risk, high-cost situations, including space and Mars exploration, said Tuong Nguyen, an analyst with global research firm Gartner. For more than 20 years, NASA has used virtual reality to replicate the harsh conditions of space as a means of training astronauts.
In 2015, Julian Reyes was director of AR/VR at the now-defunct Fusion Media Group when he came across a white paper from MIT's AeroAstro Lab. It was about the feasibility of the Mars One project, a privately funded effort to colonize Mars, which has also since gone bankrupt.
Reyes began exploring research on what a successful mission would actually look like. This led to a partnership between Fusion, MIT and NASA to develop a VR experience based on NASA's research. Reyes visited the Johnson Space Center to create virtual scans of spacesuits, and the Langley Research Center to learn about space architecture and concepts for habitations on Mars. Data from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter HiRise camera was used to create a 40 square kilometer (15 square mile) virtual representation of the planet.
The result was Mars 2030 VR, a 2017 game that brought all of NASA's available data on Mars into a visual experience for both a general audience and scientists training for Mars missions. It's available for VR headsets, and is open-source on Epic Games.
Mars 2030 VR takes place in -- you guessed it -- 2030, around when NASA aims to make it to the red planet. It opens with what NASA calls "the seven minutes of terror" -- an extremely difficult maneuver when you descend to the Martian surface from space. Exit your rocket via rover and check out your habitation. After that, all you need to do is explore: Walk around to see some of the planet's geological features, either in real time or by teleporting to different places. Pick up different elements like rocks to learn about Mars' history, like when the planet might have been geologically active.
The team has since moved on to creating an internal project called Lunar 2024, to help astronauts run missions to the moon from beginning to end in VR, practicing arrival procedures, moving around a habitation and uncovering rock samples. It will also include a multiplayer feature so astronauts can perform tasks together on the virtual moon.
NASA is also testing these VR programs with the Assistant Response Gravity Offload System, or ARGOS, a cranelike tool that holds astronauts while simulating the gravity of the moon or Mars.
"VR has the capacity of mirroring the real world, and it's only getting better," Reyes said. "There's no closer analog to training astronauts for these missions than using these simulation tools, because they provide the closest experience possible to achieving that."
Games and VR may not yet be advanced enough to fully simulate life on Mars alone. But they do have the power to spark the interest of young people who will grow up to be the astronauts who do step foot on the red planet, according to Dyankov of the Surviving Mars game.
"The best result of our game would definitely not be how many copies it sells," Dyankov said. "It's if we can imagine 30 or 50 years from now, somebody on Mars says, 'For me it all started with this game when I was a kid.'"
Rumor: Something Called Star Wars Project Maverick Appears on PSNs European Database – PlayStation LifeStyle
Posted: at 7:08 pm
A reported new entry on PlayStation Networks European database may be hinting at something Star Wars-related. The entry in question concerns Star Wars Project Maverick, a title that as of yet remains foreign to the public. Apart from a striking piece of key art, nothing else about Project Maverick appears on the database.
The news comes courtesy of the PSN releases Twitter page (via Wccftech), a recently created bot account from Software Engineer Luciano Ciccariello that tracks PSN updates. Check out PSN releasess post below:
A quick Google search cross referencing the word Maverick with Star Wars pulls up a couple of interesting results. One in particular concerns trailer mashups for The Force Awakens and the Tom Cruise-starring Top Gun: Maverick film. Obviously, this is unrelated to the topic at hand. However, another Maverick and Star Wars connection links back to The Maverick Moon, a childrens storybook from 1979 whose writer, Eleanor Ehrhardt, reportedly went uncredited within the text itself.
Random House published the storybook, which is set during an undisclosed period of time after the events ofStar Wars: Episode IV A New Hope. Its plot centers on Luke Skywalkers enrollment in the New Academy for Space Pilots, where he trains to become a pilot for transport ships that are headed to uninhabited planets for colonization purposes. In some respects, this aligns with Wccftechs theory that Project Maverick may be a flight simulator of some sort.
As always, fans shouldnt get their hopes up. For now, this is merely rumor and speculation based on reported PSN database entries. It is worth noting, however, that similar PSN listings via Gamstat correctly leakedResident Evil 3remake one week ahead of Capcoms official announcement.
[Source: PSN releases on Twitter via Wccftech]
Wish to land on moon? NASA invites applications to Artemis program; the final date is here – International Business Times, India Edition
Posted: at 7:08 pm
Who is Michelle Kunimoto?
As the first step to achieve the ultimate goal of Mars colonization, NASA, the United States space agency will launch its Artemis lunar landing program in the coming years. The space agency has now invited applications for astronauts who will be embarked for manned missions as a part of the Artemis program.
A milestone mission awaiting astronauts
Jim Bridenstine, the NASA administrator, in a statement, confirmed this news, and he revealed that the new astronauts will be part of the upcoming manned lunar and Red Planet missions. Applicants interested in escaping in going beyond the earth to explore the deepness of the cosmos can apply via NASA's official application link before March 31, 2020.
The newly selected people will join the elite league of present-day NASA astronauts comprised of 48 members, and 350 astronauts in NASA's history. As per the space agency, the selected astronauts will visit multiple destinations that include the International Space Station (ISS), Mars and the moon.
"America is closer than any other time in history since the Apollo program to returning astronauts to the Moon. We will send the first woman and next man to the lunar South Pole by 2024, and we need more astronauts to follow suit on the Moon, and then Mars. We're looking for talented men and women from diverse backgrounds and every walk of life to join us in this new era of human exploration that begins with the Artemis program to the Moon. If you have always dreamed of being an astronaut, apply now," said Jim Bridenstine in the statement.
Conditions apply for NASA's astronaut program
In order to apply for this astronaut candidature program, the applicant should be a citizen of the United States. The applicant should also hold a master's degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics.
"Candidates also must have at least two years of related, progressively responsible professional experience, or at least 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft. Astronaut candidates must pass the NASA long-duration spaceflight physical," said NASA.
Posted: at 7:08 pm
2020 is already promising to be a fantastic year for space exploration. The next generation of Artemis explorers can begin applying for the program that will be journeying to the Moon, Mars and beyond; the James Webb Space Telescope is ready to test key deployments made in space, and even the Orion spacecraft that will blast off to the Moon during Artemis missions has successfully passed its final tests. Furthermore, NASA and commercial space companies prepare for the colonization of orbit, rockets are taking payloads to the International Space Station (ISS) very often and 3D bioprinting is becoming an attractive and useful method to carry out experiments. The next one up is SpaceX mission CRS-20. Scheduled to launch at 11:50 PM Eastern Time (EST) on March 6 from Floridas Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the unpiloted cargo spacecraft is expected to arrive at the orbiting laboratory two days later with three Techshot-managed research campaigns.
The Indiana-based commercial research company is sending equipment and samples supporting plant, heart and cartilage research for NASA, Emory University and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) to the ISS. According to the company, astronauts onboard the station will use Techshots 3D BioFabrication Facility (BFF) mounted inside the ISS U.S. National Laboratory (ISS National Lab) since last summer to manufacture human knee menisci for the 4-Dimensional Bioprinting, Biofabrication, and Biomanufacturing, or 4D Bio3program. Based at USU, 4D Bio3 is a collaboration between the USU and The Geneva Foundation, a non-profit organization that advances military medical research.
Funded by the U.S. Defense Health Program and managed by the Geneva Foundation, 4D Bio3promotes the development and application of advanced bioprinting, biofabrication, and biomanufacturing technologies for research pursuant to U.S. Department of Defense priorities and ultimately for translation to clinical medical defense care and training solutions.
This is our most diverse manifest to date, said Techshot President and CEO, John Vellinger. Throughout March well be conducting three major investigations in space for three customers using three very different Techshot-built research devices. Its going to be a busy month, but were excited to see the results.
Techshot owns BFF and the company built it at a cost of approximately seven million dollars. The starting point was an nScrypt printer, which now is highly modified by Techshot for use inside the ISS. In that relationship, Techshot handles all the space bioprinting, while nScrypt handles all the Earth-based bioprinting.
This first experiment for 4D Bio3 next month will be used as a test of the materials and the processes required to print a meniscus in space. Techshot engineers will upload a design file to BFF from the companys Payload Operations Control Center in Greenville, Indiana, and evaluate its success via real-time video from inside the unit. A second meniscus print will take place in BFF early next year and the item will then be returned to Earth for extensive testing and comparison to the nScrypt Earth-printed items. Last year nScrypt printed the same thing at a U.S. military base in Africa with their own printer.
Vincent B.Ho, Director of 4D Bio3 and professor and chair of radiology at USU said that meniscal injuries are one of the most commonly treated orthopedic injuries, and have a much higher incidence in military service membersreported to be almost 10 times that of the civilian population. We successfully biofabricated 3D human medial and lateral menisci in a pilot study performed in Africa last summer and anticipate learning valuable lessons on the challenges and benefits of biofabrication in microgravity by performing a similar experiment on the space station.
Besides BFF, there are four other Techshot owned and operated research machines inside the ISS today. Only the BFF is a bioprinter. The others are an X-ray machine for mice, two identical units called the Techshot Multi-use Variable-gravity Platform (MVP), and one called the ADvanced Space Experiment Processor (ADSEP), which is where cells printed in the BFF go to become conditioned and cultured into the tissue. The company has agreements with NASA and the ISS National Lab that permit Techshot to operate a commercial business in space. This is part of NASAs objective to make orbit more commercial, providing access to space for nearly anyone.
Another complex Techshot-managed experiment launching onboard SpaceX CRS-20 will test whether a heart-specific stem cell, called a cardiac progenitor, multiplies better in space and if more of them become heart muscle cells known as cardiomyocytes. This is part of Chunhui Xu, an associate professor in the department of pediatrics at the Emory University School of Medicine who studies heart cells, research that aims to improve treatments for congenital heart disorders and better the hearts ability to regenerate after injuries.
Preparing the experiments: under the vent hood, Biomedical Engineer Jordan Fite adds media to bags and fluid loops that will be used in the experiment in space (Image: Techshot)
Techshot explained that human cardiac tissues cant repair themselves once damaged from disease, due to this, repairing a failing heart by cell therapy requires a large number of cardiomyocytes, which can be converted from stem cells cultured in two dimensions in Earth-based laboratories. Without the pull of gravity, it is expected that culturing in three dimensions in space, inside specialized Techshot cell culture experiment modules, will increase the yield of high-quality heart muscle cells. The company expects that learning more about why this happens could lead to new strategies for reproducing the same results on a much larger scale on Earth, lowering costs and enabling more patients to receive needed cardiac cell therapies.
Astronaut handling Techshots BFF (Image: Techshot/NASA)
It is expected that once the cargo spacecraft reaches the station, the 12 Techshot experiment modules will be removed from the spacecraft and inserted by the crew into the companys Multi-use Variable-gravity Platform (MVP) unit number two mounted in the Japanese space laboratory known as Kibo.
We are thankful for Techshots engineers who designed the Multi-use Variable-gravity Platform hardware and will help us maintain constant communication with the astronauts during the flight operation. Their professionalism and collaboration with our team have contributed tremendously toward our overall research efforts, said Ho.
Besides the materials for the BFF meniscus print, SpaceX CRS-20 will also carry 12 Passive Orbital Nutrient Delivery System, or PONDS, plant growth devices that Techshot co-developed with Tupperware Brands, and that was first prototyped by NASA Kennedy Space Center. According to company officials, they will be growing red romaine lettuce inthe devices, installed inside two of the space stations identical plant growth chambers each called Veggie. The PONDS units are being tested in two different configurations, each representing approaches refined from two previous flight tests. For this demonstration, lettuce is expected to grow in space for 21 days. Besides the hardware built and own, Techshot also manages the space stations most complex greenhouse, called the Advanced Plant Habitat, and it manages two on-orbit research furnaces called PFMI and SUBSA.
Techshot has been working hard to get samples ready in a lab at the Space Station Processing Facility at NASAs Kennedy Space Center.
Product assurance associate Keri Roeder, program manager Nathan Thomas and mechanical engineer Grant Vellinger prepared samples for Techshot customer Emory University (Image: Techshot)
Founded more than 30 years ago, Techshot operates its own commercial research equipment in space and serves as the manager of three NASA-owned ISS payloads. The company is also working on other space 3D printing technologies. Last fall they tested a laser-based 3D metal printer in zero gravity inside an aircraft performing parabolic arcs over the Gulf of Mexico (sometimes unofficially nicknamed the vomit comet). However, officials suggest that this technology is still at least a couple of years from Techshot launching it to the space station.
NASA and dozens of companies continue to work together to develop the means for astronauts and space explorers to endure life in orbit, the Moon and other planets. This vision is enthralling for anyone who ever dreamed of going to space, even hopeful of the next generations that will be able to experience space travel and conduct research work in microgravity. Perhaps we are too hopeful of the future, but with so much going on, its difficult not to be.
The launch on Friday will be the last SpaceX launch under the current NASA CRS-1 contract, yet SpaceX will continue performing resupply missions under a new CRS-2 contract beginning with the next scheduled resupply mission in August this year. To watch the launch, which is scheduled to take place at 11:50 p.m. EST on Friday, March 6, and capture of the spacecrafts arrival at the ISS, you can tune into NASA TV using the video below:
Posted: at 7:07 pm
As pet deathcare providers, we assist families with the euthanasia process in their own homes and with the disposition of their pets body once death has occurred. Most families chose traditional dispositions like burial or cremation. Less frequently, they may choose something untraditional, like taxidermy. This would be the first time weve ever worked with clients who requested cryogenic preservation.
It was nearly 7:30 pm in Richmond, California, in late March of 2018, and from the crest where I stood I could see the last dregs of the sun slipping below the horizon. Across the Bay, the silhouette of San Francisco was drenched in shades of hazy sherbet. My husband Derek and I held hands as we slipped inside the corner houses gate and knocked on the door. His black medical kit, a plain bag, was slung over one shoulder to hang on his hip.
Laura, a tall, online psychology professor in her fifties with a background in hospice and crisis line work, ushered us inside. Her son, Jordan, a quiet 27-year-old college student, slipped into the room after us. We were there to meet Dakota, a 14-year-old mixed breed dog who was dying of right-sided heart failure.
In late April 2017, our own dog Harper was dying of heart failure, too. We eventually euthanized her in our living room, sitting on our red leather couch, with our favorite band playing quietly from the speakers as I held her to my chest the same way we took naps together over our nine years together. Once she died, I placed her in a casket lined with a bright pink towel and surrounded her body with flowers and her favorite treats. We took pictures of her before the procedure and after she was arranged in her casket. Then we drove to the crematory. I placed her body in the retort myself, and we picked her up an hour later. Sitting in our parked car with her urn in my lap, we decided to open a veterinary practice focused on providing in-home hospice, palliative care, and euthanasia. Derek was a veterinarian; I worked as a licensed funeral director, embalmer, and crematory operator across the Bay Area before moving to pet deathcare. We believed that a good death was an integral part of a good life.
Hospice and palliative care is healthcare focused on maximizing quality of life, usually for terminally ill patients. Dakota the dog was that kind of patient. He had right-sided heart failure, a chronic condition in which the heart muscle or valves doesnt pump blood efficiently. As a result, the fluids back up into the abdomen. (Left-sided heart failure causes the blood to back up in the lungs instead, leading to breathing problems and eventual suffocation.) Laura and Jordan had been managing Dakotas illness with medication, administration of concentrated oxygen, and periodic drainage of the fluid from his abdomen. Ultimately, most causes of heart disease in dogs are not reversible conditions. Death is not a matter of if, but when.
Normally, we advise that families choose euthanasia over a natural death. As we explain it, the body is a machine whose dominant goal is to continue functioning. It will push to do so regardless of pain or difficulty. Euthanasia hastens the natural dying process as painlessly as we know how to with current medical science. Jordan and Laura wanted Dakota to die naturally, without the assistance of euthanasia medications, but they also wanted to ensure his pain was managed.
As a veterinarian, my primary role and ethical imperative is to advocate on behalf of the pet, who is at a disadvantage in the decision-making process to begin with, Derek explains, as he remembers Dakota. Even at the expense of disappointing or angering the owner, advocating for the most ethical death experience is forefront. If Dakota had been dying of left-sided heart failure, the type that causes suffocation, Derek would have insisted on euthanasia as the most humane and ethical choice. Because Dakota was experiencing right-sided heart failure instead, a natural death was acceptable because the amount of suffering was minimal. (Pain is one type of suffering, but there are many different types of suffering, including nausea, malaise, fatigue, and fear.) Derek and I provided a hospice Emergency Comfort Kit filled with sedatives and pain relief, as encouraged by the International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care.
Jordan let us know that they were interested in cryogenically preserving Dakotas body after death, a process he first learned about when he was a teenager. My dad died when I was 10, Jordan would later tell me. I think that sort of really made me more aware of mortality in a way most 10-year-olds arent. He and Laura arranged to have Dakota received at the Cryonics Institute (CI) in Detroit, Michigan, a place that describes cryonics as a form of one-way medical time travel. Cryopreservation is the process where biological tissue, like a body, is cooled to very low temperatures with the intention of stopping chemical processes that might cause damage to the tissue, like decomposition. The bodies (or patients, as theyre referred to in the industry) are held in a dewar, a tall stainless steel vat. Ultimately, the end goal of cryopreservation is to hold the body in stasis until new technology is invented that can reverse or cure the injury or ailment that caused death.
Cryopreservation of tissue isnt a new concept. In 1964, a physics teacher named Robert Ettinger published The Prospect of Immortality, a book which promoted the concept of cryonics. By 1972, the first cryonics organization was founded (a company now called Alcor, located in Scottsdale, AZ.) And the technology used in the cryopreservation process is even older than that.
The tech we use goes back to the time of Queen Victoria, Steve Garan tells me over the phone. Garan is the Chief Technology Officer of TransTime, a cryonic suspension service out of San Leandro, CA that was founded in 1974. Hes also a Research Fellow at UC Berkeley, the Director of Bioinformatics at the Center for Research & Education on Aging, and a researcher at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Cryogenic liquids were synthesized back in the late 1800s... The dewar was developed back in the 1800s as well. We use Victorian technology.
Cryopreservation of biological material has included semen, blood, tissues like tumors, eggs, embryos, ovarian tissue, and plant seeds, but as of yet no human has been cryopreserved and revived. In order to do that, youd have to cure whatever caused their death, chuckles Garan. ...[But] there are people walking around today that were frozen embryos, he offers as proof of concept. For every open letter on cryonic justification signed by scientists, you can find a similar counterargument denouncing it as snake oil mixed with false hopes.
In Richmond, Derek and I gently counseled Laura and Jordan about the scientific validity of cryonics, ensuring they fully understood that there is, as of yet, no proof as to the likelihood of success. The contract they signed with CI is similarly shrouded in dire legal jargon: Laura and Jordan must represent that they understand cryonic cryopreservation is an unknown, untested process, and that no human being, or any adult vertebrate, has ever been successfully cryonically suspended and revived, and that the success of cryopreservation depends on future advances in science and technology and that the probability of success is completely unknown. CI charged $7,300 for the privilege of storing Dakotas body after death, excluding the costs of shipping his body there as soon as possible after dying.
Laura doesnt disagree. I would not advise anybody to do it, she tells me frankly, speaking quickly but clearly. I think theyre just throwing money away. She used life insurance money from her husbands death to cover most of the costs and bridged the gap by borrowing from her retirement fund. Jordan still feels gratitude about both the money spent and the fact that spending it didnt affect their quality of life. He plans to repay her once hes graduated and making money.
Derek and I agree that besides the necessity of ensuring the comfort of the pet, a huge part of our work is focused on helping the family find comfort in their moment of grief. If money is a tool meant to improve our lifes experience while were living, and cryopreservation of Dakotas body contributes to a sense of solace for Laura and Jordan, then we have successfully completed at least one facet of our job.
Laura acknowledges that shes choosing of her own free will and volition to sign the paperwork, pay the fees, and send Dakota (and, eventually, in February 2020, their 16-year-old dog Maggie, too) to be cryopreserved. But she believes the industry preys upon peoples fear of death.
It magnifies my fear of death, she explains. It makes me more afraid to die. Im concerned they might start cryopreserving me before Im fully dead, I might feel it, it might be painful. And the thought of waking up a millennium from now, surrounded by people with different customs, technology, and languages, contributes to her fear.
She wont fully commit to saying that patients will never be revivedshes been wrong beforebut posits that the number of variables that have to fall into place for it to happen seem unlikely. There are so many factors that are going to have to work out perfectly.
Jordan himself isnt actually fully sold on the feasibility, either. I think theres a reasonable enough chance that its worth doing, he explains carefully, his measured cadence in direct opposition to his moms rapid-fire responses. I sort of see it like an insurance policy. I mean, if youre decomposed in the ground or burnt to ash [via cremation], theres basically a zero percent chance of ever living again. He likens it to Pascals Wager, a philosophical argument that posits humans bet with their lives in the existence or nonexistence of God. Pascals Wager argues that a rational person should live as though God exists, as his nonexistence will result in finite loss, whereas they stand to receive infinite gains (an eternity in Heaven) or suffer infinite loss (eternity in hell) for atheism.
Jordans other big argument is the shifting litmus test for what constitutes death. Through most of the existence of animal life, if your heart stops, youre dead, he says. But now, of course, theres plenty of people who have gone into cardiac arrest and been resuscitated. Look at someone like Dick Cheney, who was alive without a heartbeat walking and talking. (After a series of heart attacks, Cheney had a small pump called a left ventricular assist device installed while waiting for a heart transplant. The devices creates continuous blood flow and results in no pulse or measurable blood pressure.)
After Derek and I left, we exchanged emails with Laura late into the evening, collecting information about the requirements to ship Dakotas body to CI. We originally planned to use UPS. Per CIs instructions, Dakota should be wrapped in a towel, contained within a plastic bag, tucked into a good quality cooler secured with clear tape, cooled with bags of ice. From there, he should be packed into a large cardboard box and shipped as an animal diagnostic specimen. The words dead dog or dead animal were not to be used, lest they cause the UPS employee to refuse the package. Time, we were told, is of the essence. With cryopreservation of people, if there is advance warning of the death, the patient is placed in an ice bath within seconds of clinical death being declared. Decomposition begins immediately.
Dakota died overnight. The dogs death led to a mad scramble, where the best laid plans of veterinarians and cryonic institutes ultimately go awry when two UPS employees refuse the shipment. I did what I could to assist with the process, but my hands were tied by the failure of the UPS to follow their own bureaucratic policies. My contact at CI told me this kind of screw-up is a rarity and depends solely on the employee; they claimed to have received another pet via UPS shipment through without issue.
One full day passes. Then another. Derek and I worried and wondered about what happened. Did Dakota get there? Even if Dakota got there, would he be able to be cryopreserved? Does water ice even follow the appropriate standards for good cryopreservation? Were we helping our clients get ripped off by assisting in this process?
I eventually found out that Laura was put in touch with Garan at TransTime, who delivered Dakotas body in person via commercial flight from California to Michigan. TransTime doesnt normally handle the cryopreservation of pets, but Garan is also a pet owner; he has a 15-year-old dog named Skippy and could empathize with Lauras predicament. Dogs are like family, he says. We treat them almost like children, in a way. He had no problem assisting with the transfer and he jokes that the x-ray technician who took Dakotas body through security nearly fainted.
Dakota was finally received at CI and his body cryopreserved in a dewar, per Laura and Jordans instructions. Jordan says he was sent a picture of Dakota cryopreserved in Michigan, and tells me he has no worries about it being an outright scam. It seems like it would be a pretty big conspiracy if theyre not really even freezing the bodies, he says.
Even without physically seeing the procedure performed, Lauras gut feeling is also that Dakota was properly preserved and stored. They genuinely believe in what theyre doing. I dont believe theyre consciously setting out to take advantage of people.
For their part, CI Headquarters say they try to be as open as possible so people can find comfort and closure. They have pets shipped via water ice because dry ice freezes a pets smaller body and prevents perfusion, a process involving an injection of cryoprotective solutions that decreases freezing damage to the cells. (Though pets like birds are not perfused because their vascular systems are too small to work with, which means theyre frozen and more likely to suffer damage than a perfused pet.) CI currently has 184 pets in cryopreserved storage.
Garan notes that while the repair job for Dakota may be more difficult because of the time between death and cryopreservation, its not impossible. By the time we get to that point, it may be kind of irrelevant, he says. The technology to do so could exist in the form of bioprinters, biogenerators, nanorobotics, the human/brain cloud... At the end of the day, theres just as much uncertainty about the preservation of a pet as there is about people. The bottom line is they have all the time for technology to do its thing.
When I speak to Laura nearly two years after Dakotas death, shes a week out from her second dogs death. She and Jordan have also elected to have Maggies body cryopreserved, though this time closer to home at TransTime. (Garan, for his part, makes it clear that TransTime will only consider pet cryopreservation if their accompanying human has plans to be preserved as well.)
Both Laura and Jordan felt like cryopreserving Dakota and Maggie was stressful to undergo. I wouldnt call it a pleasant process by any means, says Jordan, though he does point out that working closer to home certainly made things easier. For Laura, the grief of Maggies death combined with the stress of logistics plus the added remorse of money spent has her feeling sad and depressed.
Its almost like with both dogs, I didnt really have a chance to grieve and mourn because there was so much hassle to make this happen. She vacillates between worrying about whether its unhealthy that Jordan has a lifetime of false hope that he might get his dogs back and feeling adamant that its worth it to grant Jordan that modicum of hope and protect him from his fear.
For Jordan, his intense fear of death, of nonexistence, and of a negative afterlife are enough to overpower any frustrations caused through the process. If I did it for myself, but I didnt do it for Maggie and Dakota when I woke up then I would regret it forever, he says.
Ace Ratcliff lives and works in sunny Boynton Beach, FL with their veterinarian husband and a pack of wild beasts. Their hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome makes for a rebellious meatcage. They like reading, getting tattooed, and tweeting @mortuaryreport.
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Posted: at 7:06 pm
Meet the Man Who Looks After Nederland's Frozen Dead Guy - 5280 Photo by Chet Strange
Taking care of the cryogenically frozen corpse saved Brad Wickham's life.
It was 2014, and Brad Wickham was done with death. Hed spent the past 25 years working as a respiratory therapist in hospital emergency departments, where the relentless cycle of seeing patients die caused him such trauma that hed been diagnosed with PTSD. Wickham turned to alcohol and drugs to cope. Realizing he needed a fresh start, Wickham moved from Missouri to Nederland because he heard he might find work there. Eventually he didthough there was one catch: Would he be willing to spend time with a dead body?
Although small, Nederland has an outsize reputation, partly due to a local named Bredo Morstoel, a Norwegian man whos been dead for 30 years. In the early 1990s, Morstoels family brought his corpse to town, aiming to create a cryonics facility, but legal issues required them to leave the country before it came to fruition. Bredo stayed behind and became the centerpiece of Nederlands Frozen Dead Guy Days (March 13 to 15), a winter festival with live music and eccentric events like coffin racing. Bredos relatives pay someone to take care of Morstoel during the other 362 days of the year. Since 2014, that person has been Wickham.
Morstoels body rests within a Tuff Shed near Nederlands Barker Reservoir. Every two weeks, Wickham, now 61, empties around 1,000 pounds of dry ice into a wooden container that holds the casket, keeping the corpse near minus 110 degrees Celsius. The ritual provides him an opportunity to catch up and chat with the man hes come to think of as family. That might be the part where a therapist could come in handy, Wickham says, but Ive kind of grown sentimental about it. I know he depends on me.
This article appeared in the March 2020 issue of 5280.
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Grocery CPG Trends Based on Industry Adoption and Market Strength, from CB Insights – Food Industry Executive
Posted: at 7:05 pm
A recent report, Grocery CPG Trends To Watch In 2020, from CB Insights looks at 15 trends across food, beverage, and household essentials.
The trends fall into four categories, based on a combination of industry adoption and market strength:
The report identified five necessary trends.
Traditionally, retailers and other platforms that drive shopper engagement have been intermediaries in CPG companies relationships with consumers. However, in 2019, companies invested significantly to develop one-to-one consumer relationships. A more sophisticated ad tech landscape and more direct-to-consumer plays will enable CPG companies to establish deeper and more informative relationships with customers, states the report.
Per capita milk consumption in the United States went down almost 18% from 2010 to 2018, according to USDA data. Traditional dairy companies, such as Dean Foods and Borden Dairy, have filed for bankruptcy. As a result, plant-based dairy alternatives are set to reach their full market potential in 2020, as companies continue to expand alternative dairy options.
Although researchers are still attempting to understand how the gut microbiome affects health and wellness, food and beverage companies are developing products to target the microbiome. As understanding increases, CB Insights expects more companies to develop personalized nutrition services to help consumers with their diets.
Like most other food trend predictions, CB Insights sees continued growth in plant-based meat. Companies will develop new partnerships, distribution agreements, and production capabilities in 2020.
Startups and changing consumer behavior have forced some leading CPG companies to dramatically speed up the product innovation cycle. As more companies look to accelerate innovation cycles, these techniques will help companies more precisely tailor new products to individual markets, including localizing new innovations within emerging markets, states the report.
The report identified five experimental trends.
Blockchain and AI technology are helping companies address the challenge of traceability. However, moving large network supply chains to a new technological infrastructure will require more time and investment.
Developing dehydrated products is a way to reduce the cost of shipping. This cost limits e-commerce profits for many CPG companies. However, the compact nature of dehydrated products means differentiated in-store merchandising is difficult, making the products primarily valuable for e-commerce channels.
Even with all the interest in cannabis, food and beverage companies still face uncertain regulations.
The increase in human-grade pet foods will accelerate in 2020, given Increased spending on pets, declining birth rates, and premiumization trends.
Lab-grown meats are not yet commercially available, primarily due to high costs. However, recently-funded startups are working on new technology to scale production.
The report identified four threatening trends.
Nootropics and adaptogens are emerging as the go-to ingredients for everything wellness, according to the report. Products containing these ingredients can potentially take market share from traditional CPG categories. However, companies will need to prove the effectiveness of their product to attract consumers.
With all the sustainability concerns, selling models based on reusable packaging will increase.
The implementation of IoT-connected products and brand services for consumers will increase with the rollout of 5G.
Although theres interest in tech-enabled vending machines, most are still in the proof-of-concept stage.
The report identified only one transitory trend.
The healthy beverage trend is maturing. An increasingly crowded and competitive enhanced water market could stall growth. Also, more sustainable packaged-water alternatives, such as carboned at-home hydration systems, could lead to new consumption patterns and affect how enhanced water products are manufactured, packaged, and sold.
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Posted: at 7:04 pm
When the Illinois National Softball Association Hall of Fame got together for its 13th annual induction banquet in December, it honored seven inductees total, with two being local slow-pitch softball players Steve Cantway and Andre Williams.
The two former slow-pitch players joined an exclusive group that features just 11 other former slow-pitch players who have made the NSA Hall of Fame, which began in 2007.
Cantway and Williams were honored for their significant contributions to the amateur slow-pitch softball leagues. The Illinois NSA Hall of Fame felt that both of these men helped increase the quality of play in tournament and games while also taking the extra steps in making each teams visit had an enjoyable experience.
I was extremely humbled to say the least, Cantway said. Because I knew the guys that were already in it and to be mentioned with the guys that were already in it was an honor itself. But to be inducted into the hall of fame as a player was a very humbling experience.
For Cantway, his softball career began after returning home from the Air Force in 1974. Playing tackle football and baseball for his base team in the Air Force helped spark Cantways interest to continue playing sports. So, in 1975 he began his 12-inch slow-pitch softball career, playing for a couple local squads in Kankakee before eventually getting recruited to play for St. Anne Foundrys team the next year.
After joining St. Anne Foundry in 1975 (Cantways favorite team he played for) he was yet to know he would begin a 30-year slow-pitch softball career that included playing for more than 25 separate teams.
I just liked the competitiveness, Cantway said It was a good game back then.
Cantways love for the game helped him become one of the best slow-pitch softball players in the state during the 1970s and 1980s. During his career, Cantway racked up quite a few accolades after playing in more than 2,000 games.
The all-around position player finished his career being named as part of the 1982 Mens Major Class AA State All-Tournament Team. Additionally, Cantway played in 18 state tournaments and eight 35-older World Series Tournaments, including one third-place finish.
Although there are numerous softball leagues nowadays, back in Cantways time, there were only two types of slow-pitch leagues, Class A and Class AA. Cantway competed in the Class AA division, where he competed against dozens of teams on a daily basis in different weekly leagues.
I prided myself on the fact that I could play anywhere on the field, Cantway said. It didnt matter I could play infield, I could play outfield, I could pitch if necessary.
Despite his resume with the glove, Cantway was known for being able to hit the ball. He typically used to hit in the five or six spot for his team where he saw himself finish as a career .600 hitter.
Cantway didnt consider himself a home run hitter but rather an RBI guy who liked to take the ball up the middle. Even so, his proudest moment on the field came when he channeled his inner Barry Bonds and went deep four times in one game.
After working construction for about 30 years while mixing in softball as a hobby, Cantway started to see his body slowly break down. Injuries ultimately caused him to hang up his cleats in 2005 and retire from the sport that gave him so much happiness.
I miss the competitiveness and the camaraderie the most, Cantway said.
Because Cantway missed the game so much, he started coaching baseball after he retired. In 2006, Cantway began his coaching career in high school baseball at Bishop McNamara. Shortly after that, he began coaching in the PONY league, where he still can be seen doing both today as the coach of the Nuscotomek Youth Baseball team at the Palomino (17-18 years) level.
His most recent accomplishment as a coach was leading his Nuscotomek squad to the world series in Laredo, Texas, last year.
Knowing how special those types of moments can be, Cantway always takes time to remind his players to soak in the moment.
My most important thing I tell these kids is to get everything out of the practices and games each day, Cantway said. Because when that game is over or practice is over, you cant get that time back.
As for Williams, he too showed the capability of being a versatile player similar to Cantway.
A Kankakee native, Williams took on slow-pitch softball during 1989 while playing baseball and football for Olivet Nazarene University. As soon as he began routinely playing slow-pitch softball games, Williams fell in love with it not because of the game itself but rather the people he was playing with.
I went out and kind of liked it, and it was not so much softball itself, Williams said. It was just the people. We created a strong bond together, and that is what I looked for when I played it was moreso the guys who kept me interested in it.
He began playing slow-pitch softball as a shortstop before he eventually moved out to the outfield because of his cannon arm and speed. In fact, it did not take long for Williams opponents to respect his skills from the outfield.
I played the outfield, and it got to a point where nobody would try and run on me, Williams said. I used to throw everybody out, and after a while it was just a red light. Every time that I got the ball in my hand, the red light would go up, and I was on the money with it.
More than anything, Williams put his team first. Whatever his squad needed at the time Williams looked to deliver just that.
Whatever the team needed at the time, that is what I did, Williams said. If they needed a base hit, thats what I got; if they needed a home run, thats what I did.
Coming up in clutch situations allowed Williams to be part of multiple championship-caliber teams during his time in Kankakee. Playing on the Dominos team, Williams helped his squad take second place in back-to-back years in the A and AA ASA State Tournaments during the mid 1990s. He also played on the Bud Light USSSA team where Williams won a state championship before moving to Michigan in 1999.
His love for the game of softball didnt stop when he moved out of Illinois. Instead Williams carried his passion of softball to Michigan, where he has continued to play. In the past 20 years, Williams has played for several different teams and won multiple championships.
In 2003 and 2004, his team, Webworks, won the Michigan Amateur Softball Association Class B State title and was the 2004 Black USSSA State Champs. He then went on to win more championships with various teams in 2005, 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2016.
Of course, Williams is no longer the athlete he once was because of his age, yet he has continued to play. Williams is 52 years old and plays in a 50 and older league with his current team, Crash Softball. Aside from still playing softball, Williams has found another passion in coaching.
Since moving on from his hometown, Williams has spent the past couple of years coaching high school track and field as well as girls basketball at St. Charles in Michigan. He led his track and field squad to a state championship in 2018 and a second-place finish in 2019.
Out of all the accomplishments Williams has accumulated as a player and coach, none was as important as being able to play co-ed softball with his four kids.
I drug them around the softball field every weekend, Williams said. And for me to be able to be on the field with them after dragging them around and them watching me play, to be able to play with them for 20 games was my most memorable moment in softball.
Despite the age gap between Cantway and Williams during their playing days, both of them remember each other as players.
Andre was an excellent player, Cantway said. He was fast; a base hit was a double. He played outfield most of the time we played him. He tracked down everything. Not only was he a great player but he was also a great person.
For Williams, he remembers Cantway for how hard he used to play.
Those guys are warriors, Williams said of Cantway and his former teammates. As a young man, I never understood why he was playing so hard, and its because one day he wont be able to. So he is playing hard. Those guys play hard, and Steve never took a play off.
Joint Statement from DOS, DOJ, DOD, DHS, ODNI, FBI, NSA, and CISA on Preparations for Super Tuesday FBI – Federal Bureau of Investigation
Posted: at 7:04 pm
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, U.S. Attorney General William Barr, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray, U.S. Cyber Command Commander and National Security Agency Director Gen. Paul Nakasone, and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Christopher Krebs today released the following joint statement:
Tomorrow, millions of voters in more than a dozen states and territories will cast their votes in presidential primaries. Super Tuesday will see more Americans head to the polls than any other day of the primary season. We continue to work with all 50 states, U.S. territories, local officials, political parties, and private sector partners to keep elections free from foreign interference.
Americans must also remain aware that foreign actors continue to try to influence public sentiment and shape voter perceptions. They spread false information and propaganda about political processes and candidates on social media in hopes to cause confusion and create doubt in our system. We remain alert and ready to respond to any efforts to disrupt the 2020 elections. We continue to make it clear to foreign actors that any effort to undermine our democratic processes will be met with sharp consequences.
The level of coordination and communication between the federal government and state, local, and private sector partners is stronger than its ever been. Our departments and agencies are working together in an unprecedented level of commitment and effort to protect our elections and to counter malign foreign influence, but voters have a role to play too.
We encourage all voters going to the polls to check your voter registration and know ahead of time when to vote, where to vote, whats on your ballot, and whether your state requires identification. Your state or local election officials office is the most trusted source for election material. A well-informed and vigilant republic is the best defense against disinformation.
Ajit Doval’s deployment to quell Delhi violence beyond NSA’s role; here’s why Modi had to rely on his Man… – Firstpost
Posted: at 7:04 pm
National Security Advisor Ajit Doval came to the Centre's rescue once again at a time when the centrally-managed Delhi Police was facing flak for failing to control three-day-long bloody riots in the National Capital.
Doval's involvement, though unique, failed to surprise anyone as the riots came as a major embarrassment to the Central Government, which was entertaining a foreign dignitary in the National Capital, under full glare of the western media.
File image of National Security of Advisor Ajit Doval. AFP
And yet, the capital burned for three days before the violence was curbed completely. The Delhi Police, not only faced accusations of inaction but also of complicity as mobs went on rampage in the usual sensitive areas, which should have been secured foremost with so much as a whiff of communal disturbance around.
Immediately after US President Donald Trump embarked on his return flight, 75-year old Doval swooped down on the Delhi Police headquarters and undertook a late night tour of the riot-hit areas. Then again on Wednesday, the former Intelligence Bureau chief visited the affected areas, including Jaffrabad and Seelampur, where he met police officers and gave them necessary directives, besides meeting leaders of different communities to assuage the tension.
Doval met people from all communities as he did during his Jammu and Kashmir visit after abrogation of Article 370.
He used the medium of religious places to appeal for peace and harmony, walked through serpentine lanes, and reassured scared residents; the people obviously responded. Doval was the first high ranking official to have reached out to them and give assurance of peace and security.
This was not the first time that Doval, India's national security tsar, who is considered the prime minister's right hand, was asked to step beyond his traditional role and intervene in internal security and law and order problems. He had camped in Jammu and Kashmir for more than a fortnight after the abrogation of provisions of Article 370 in August last year. Doval was also considered to have played an instrumental role in facilitating foreign dignitaries' tour in Jammu and Kashmir after the state was stripped of its special status and statehood.
However, his visit did raise some questions as the PMO's lieutenant was essentially coming down to clean up a mess that was squarely the responsibility of Home Minister Amit Shah. His remark of "jo hua so hua (What happened has happened)" to a group of riot-affected people on Thursday hasn't gone down well either with Opposition leaders accusing the NSA of trying to "whitewash" the role of perpetrators.
Doval is known for his hands-on approach and is considered a close confidante of the prime minister and his go-to man for any crisis situation. The rationale behind his deployment can lie in the fact that neither Modi nor Shah enjoy the same credibility among the Muslim populace as a neutral bureaucratic figure like Doval would. In fact, Shah had made acerbic speeches about those protesting against Citizenship Amendment Law during the course of the recently concluded elections.
If anything, the move could have been a snub to outgoing police commissioner Amulya Patnaik under whom the Delhi Police was seen as rudderless, and carried a bad reputation in previous instances of violence during the protests in Jamia Millia Islamia and the Jawaharlal Nehru University. The police was also seen twiddling its thumbs when a shooter shot at a student outside Jamia Millia Islamia and another showed up at Shaheen Bagh.
Doval, on the other hand, is perceived to be a man of action.
His record as an IPS officer also reinstates his credentials to quickly respond to such challenges. The Kerala Cadre IPS officer of the 1968 batch had played a crucial role in suppressing the infamous Thalassery riot of 1972,which was the tenth major communal riot the country had witnessed and the first one for Kerala.
According toThe Week,Doval was sent to Thalassery in the heat of the riot and he managed to calm the situation within a week of his arrival.
This time too, Doval appeared on field first on Tuesday night and the instances of violence died down by Wednesday when he made his second trip to the riot hit areas. He not only made sure to mention to the people (and the media) that he was their on the prime minister's instructions, but also to not steamroll the police force publically, who was facing severe criticism for its failure.
"Police is working hard. Only some criminals were involved in this. One should try resolving issues and not increasing them. There were incidents earlier but today it is calm. Locals want peace. We have full faith there will be peace," he told the people on Wednesday.
"People were doubting the capabilities and intentions of the Delhi Police. This needs to addressed. People need to trust the man in uniform," Doval told NDTV.
This is when multiple media reports have indicated that the home ministry was of the view that the Delhi Police failedto appropriately utilise the central paramilitary forces made available to the cops.
Later Doval presented his on-the-spot assessment of the situation to the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) headed by the prime minister about the steps taken to quell the violence and restore normalcy in areas under the grip of communal riots over the amended citizenship law.
Besides the prime minister, the CCS, the country's top-most body on strategic affairs, comprises Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Shah, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.
With inputs from agencies
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