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Posted: August 25, 2017 at 4:08 am
Note: The next total solar eclipse visible from Europe will be on August 12, 2026 - and even then, only if you're in parts of Spain, Iceland, or far northern Siberia. The next total eclipse to cover the UK will be on September 23, 2090, when most of us will probably be dead. Unless we've cracked mind uploading by then, which is quite possible.
Despite all the hype surrounding Monday's solar eclipseand it has become nearly inescapablemost Americans will not see the totality. This is unfortunate, because the Sun disappearing during the middle of the day is truly amoving experience. But if you're not seeing it today, don't feel too badyou're not alone.
Only about 12 million people live within the 110km-wide path of totality that runs across the United States, from Oregon through South Carolina. By various estimates, an additional 1.8 to 7.4 million people will travel into the path of totality to view the eclipse. This means only about 6 percent of the United States population will see a total eclipse on Monday.
So if you're missing out, rest assured that most other Americans are, too. Also, you should start planning ahead. Because while it has been nearly a century since a total eclipse spanned the continental United States, we won't wait that long again. Here's a look at what lies ahead.
Unlike a total solar eclipse, during an annular eclipse the Moon is slightly farther away from the Earth, and therefore does not obscure the entirety of the star. This leaves a "ring of fire" around the Moon. And while this is pretty spectacular, it isn't as moving as a total eclipse. However much of the western and southwestern United States will have a good opportunity to view an annular eclipse in just six years, on October 14, 2023.
The country's next opportunity to see a total solar eclipse comes in fewer than seven years, on April 8, 2024. This will be another major event for the United States, with some areas (i.e. Carbondale, Ill.) actually seeing their second total eclipse in just seven years. This is the event to begin planning for now, if you're totally jealous about missing out on Monday.
Admittedly, this one requires a little more planning ahead. This eclipse on August 12, 2045, is essentially a repeat of Monday's eclipse, but with the path of totality a few hundred miles to the south. This will provide exceptional viewing from California to Florida, and the residents of the lunar colony will see a good show as well when they gaze back toward Earth. (Hey, we can hope that humans will have returned to the Moon by then, right?)
Beyond these three events, more eclipses are in the offing. A total eclipse will cross extreme southern Texas, Louisiana, and Florida in 2052 (expect quite the party in the Big Easy). More regional eclipses will hit parts of the United States during the second half of the century.
What seems clear is that the United States is entering a golden age of eclipses, with three total solar eclipses crossing much of the continental United States from 2017 through 2045. Do yourself a favor and make plans to see at least one of them.
This post originated on Ars Technica
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Posted: at 4:08 am
Did you know that if you haven't verified your income tax return, the process is incomplete? As per the existing tax laws, a return filed by the taxpayer is not valid until it is verified as filed by the concerned assessee. You can verify your return electronically with an E-Verification Code (EVC) using any one of multiple options available or you can do it physically by sending a signed ITR-V. For those taxpayers who have e-filed their returns, they can e-verify at the time of uploading or after uploading.
However, if you are unable to e-verify for any reason, then you can download the ITR-V, also known as the acknowledgement receipt, from the income tax (I-T) department's website (https://incometaxindiaefiling.gov.in/). You have to sign and send it to the Centralized Processing Centre in Bengaluru by ordinary or speed post within 120 days of uploading your return else your return will be treated as invalid. Do keep in mind that you cannot send the ITR-V through courier. There are several other important dos and don'ts to be followed while sending this ITR-V.
Here is how you can download ITR-V from the I-T department's e-filing portal. Step 1: Login to your e-filing profile.
Step 2: Once, logged in select View Returns / Forms
Step 3: Click on the acknowledgement number of the ITR for which you want to download ITR-V.
Step 4: Once you select the appropriate acknowledge number, you will get a pop-up. From there you should select ITRV / Acknowledgment.
Step 5: The ITR-V will open as a PDF which is password protected. The password is a combination of your PAN (in small caps) and your date of birth. For instance, if your PAN number is ABCD1234A and your date of birth is 01/01/2000, the password to access ITR-V is ABCD1234A01012000
Step 6: Take a printout of the acknowledgement.
Now, before taking a printout of ITR-V and sending it to the CPC, there are a few things you need to be mindful of. If you do not follow these instructions, your ITR-V will be rejected. Here is the list of the dos and don'ts. 1) Make sure you only use an ink jet or laser printer to print the ITR-V form. 2) The form should only be printed in black ink and make sure it is legible. 3) Don't print watermarks on ITR-V; the only permissible one is that of the income tax department which is printed automatically on the form. 4) You should only use A4-sized white paper to print the form. And do not use perforated paper. 5) Don't type anything on the reverse side of the paper. 6) Do not use stapler on ITR-V Acknowledgement. 7) If you are submitting your original ITR along with a revised version, do not print them back to back. Use two separate papers. 8) The form should have your original signature, i.e., it should not be photocopied or scanned. 9) Don't sign or write over the bar code on the form. 10) Please do not submit any annexures, covering letter, pre stamped envelopes, along with ITR-V.
After taking a printout and signing ITR-V, you should send it to this address: Income tax Department - CPC, Post Box No.1, Electronic City Post Office, Bangalore-560500, Karnataka. Once the CPC receives your ITR-V, it will send you an acknowledgement to your registered email ID and will start processing your income tax return. Do check your spam mail to see if it has landed up there. If you have not received the acknowledgement email in 2-3 weeks, you need to check the status in your e-filing account.
In case the CPC has not received your ITR-V, you have to mail it again. Do keep in mind that this acknowledgement, too, needs to reach within 120 days of filing your tax return.
When you get the acknowledgment email from CPC, this is when your tax filing process is complete.
Posted: at 4:08 am
Four Dell Inspiron 11 3000 Series Touch 11-inch notebook computers arranged in a circle resting on a surface. From left to right, a model in tablet mode, a model in tent mode, a model open over 180 degrees using the keyboard as a stand, and a model open over 90 degrees, facing left.
As summer turns to autumn, parents always work to make sure their children have everything they need for a successful school year.
This year, thereare a few tech items that will make it easier and more fun in and out of the classroom, whether the student is headed to a nearby school or a distance college campus.
LOGITCH FLOW MOUSE
In this age of tablets for on-the-go computing, computer mice are all but ignored in favor of touch screens and sketch pens. But what if you want to utilize your tablet while also working on a desktop project?
The MX Master 2S and MX Anywhere 2S series of wireless computer mice utilize a feature called Logitech FLOW, which allows one mouse to control everything on up to three screens on three distinct computers. Open programs that are native to each computer and share the results among them.
Copying and pasting text and sharing images or moving files from one computer to another around was a breeze. No more uploading and downloading through a cloud server to get one project to work with another.
INSPIRON 11 3000 2-IN-1
From home to classroom to study group, students want and need to take their work with them anywhere they go. Portability is just as important as power when it comes to a computer.
The Inspiron 11 3000 combines the performance of a laptop computer with the convenience of a tablet by using a 360-degree hinge that lays out the computer in four different ways. Laptop mode lets students easily work on homework. A tent mode helps those who have to do their own cooking and need some assistance from moms email recipe.
A stand mode is good for watching a gaming stream or a favorite movie. The tablet mode is great for anywhere use where space might be a little cramped.
There is a HD 1366x768 touch display and Waves MaxxAudio Pro for clear audio. Because aesthetics are important when showing off the device to friend, there are four different color choices blue, white, grey, and red.
TOM TOM SPARK 3
Hitting the classroom broadens and strengthens the mind. Hitting the gym or running trail improves the body and get those students out and improving their social skills with others. The Tom Tom Spark 3 is a fitness band that not only tracks what you are doing, it can also show where youve been and how to enjoy the way with great music.
The band has a built-in heart rate monitor, included a multisport mode for swimming, biking and running and more, and a GPS tracker to keep students on track for the fitness goals while they are thinking about the next class assignment and a compass to get them back safely.
The device is light, weighing less than 2 ounces, and is water resistant up to 130 feet. The display is also scratch-resistant, meaning it is tough enough for any adventure.
Music storage for up to 500 songs and a 2-week battery life mean they wont have to slow down until they are ready.
Sometimes, new tech not only benefits the students, it can also give parents some peace of mind. The T-Mobile SyncUP Drive does that by helping students keep tabs on the condition of their car while parents can easily spot where their son or daughter is located in emergency situations.
The SyncUp Drive plugs into a vehicles on-board diagnostic system port, and it will collect information about the cars condition, provide maintenance reminders, and alert drivers about potential car trouble. With the app, all that information is easily accessible through a smartphone connected with T-Mobile.
The drive also uses GPS to monitor the cars location for those moments at the football game or concert where they can specifically remember, it was around here someone, maybe over there, where they parked the car.
When a mobile internet plan is added, it can turn the car into a Wi-Fi Hotspot. No more driving around, looking for a coffee shop, when someone needs to look up something on a tablet or laptop.
Roadside assistance is provided by the AllState Motor Club for lockouts, battery jumps, tire changes and more. If you dont have a T-Mobile account, check with your service provider to see if they have a similar device. Verizon, AT&T, and Sirius/XM have devices that will also have some of these features.
TOYSMITH 4M STEM TOYS
Great tech isnt limited to just those high school and college kids. Elementary school kids can also benefit from toys that are fun and can teach them something about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
From growing crystals to building a walking robot to learning about dinosaur DNA, Toysmith 4M uses play to keep students interested and educate them about geology, robots, or paleontology. The kits have won awards for the innovation and inspiration of children into STEM learning.
They are designed for ages 8 and up. Young scientists get the chance to learn more about how things work while thinking they are just playing. They will never see it coming.
School shouldnt be just about work and study. Interacting in a safe and friendly environment with new classmates, roommates, or friends helps build long-lasting bonds and relationships.
Since 1974, Dungeons & Dragons has been a way for people to get together and play in role-playing games, leaving behind the worries and stress of classes for a little while. D&D Beyond is the new digital toolset to open those fantasy worlds to more people while making the game easier to manage for all.
Instead of carrying around all those source and rule books (and who wants to keep carrying around more books), the digital version of the Fifth Edition D&D helps players keep track of their game characters while opening up their imaginations for their adventures.
More content is expected later in the fall that will include official campaigns and storylines. With the new computer and mouse they got, they will be set for dragons, both imaginary and real. Those research paper deadlines can really be aggressive.
Published at 3:51 PM EDT on Aug 24, 2017 | Updated at 4:21 PM EDT on Aug 24, 2017
Originally posted here:
Posted: August 20, 2017 at 6:18 pm
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Immortality has gone secular. Unhooked from the realm of gods and angels, it's now the subject of serious investment both intellectual and financial by philosophers, scientists, and the Silicon Valley set. Several hundred people have already chosen to be "cryopreserved" in preference to simply dying, as they wait for science to catch up and give them a second shot at life. But if we treat death as a problem, what are the ethical implications of the highly speculative "solutions" being mooted?
Of course, we don't currently have the means of achieving human immortality, nor is it clear that we ever will. But two hypothetical options have so far attracted the most interest and attention: rejuvenation technology, and mind uploading.
Like a futuristic fountain of youth, rejuvenation promises to remove and reverse the damage of aging at the cellular level. Gerontologists such as Aubrey de Grey argue that growing old is a disease that we can circumvent by having our cells replaced or repaired at regular intervals. Practically speaking, this might mean that every few years, you would visit a rejuvenation clinic. Doctors would not only remove infected, cancerous, or otherwise unhealthy cells, but also induce healthy ones to regenerate more effectively and remove accumulated waste products. This deep makeover would "turn back the clock" on your body, leaving you physiologically younger than your actual age. You would, however, remain just as vulnerable to death from acute trauma that is, from injury and poisoning, whether accidental or not as you were before.
Rejuvenation seems like a fairly low-risk solution, since it essentially extends and improves your body's inherent ability to take care of itself. But if you truly wanted eternal life in a biological body, it would have to be an extremely secure life indeed. You'd need to avoid any risk of physical harm to have your one shot at eternity, making you among the most anxious people in history.
The other option would be mind uploading, in which your brain is digitally scanned and copied onto a computer. This method presupposes that consciousness is akin to software running on some kind of organic hard-disk that what makes you you is the sum total of the information stored in the brain's operations, and therefore it should be possible to migrate the self onto a different physical substrate or platform. This remains a highly controversial stance. However, let's leave aside for now the question of where you really reside, and play with the idea that it might be possible to replicate the brain in digital form one day.
Unlike rejuvenation, mind uploading could actually offer something tantalizingly close to true immortality. Just as we currently back up files on external drives and cloud storage, your uploaded mind could be copied innumerable times and backed up in secure locations, making it extremely unlikely that any natural or man-made disaster could destroy all of your copies.
Despite this advantage, mind uploading presents some difficult ethical issues. Some philosophers, such as David Chalmers, think there is a possibility that your upload would appear functionally identical to your old self without having any conscious experience of the world. You'd be more of a zombie than a person, let alone you. Others, such as Daniel Dennett, have argued that this would not be a problem. Since you are reducible to the processes and content of your brain, a functionally identical copy of it no matter the substrate on which it runs could not possibly yield anything other than you.
What's more, we cannot predict what the actual upload would feel like to the mind being transferred. Would you experience some sort of intermediate break after the transfer, or something else altogether? What if the whole process, including your very existence as a digital being, is so qualitatively different from biological existence as to make you utterly terrified or even catatonic? If so, what if you can't communicate to outsiders or switch yourself off? In this case, your immortality would amount to more of a curse than a blessing. Death might not be so bad after all, but unfortunately it might no longer be an option.
Another problem arises with the prospect of copying your uploaded mind and running the copy simultaneously with the original. One popular position in philosophy is that the youness of you depends on remaining a singular person meaning that a "fission" of your identity would be equivalent to death. That is to say: If you were to branch into you1 and you2, then you'd cease to exist as you, leaving you dead to all intents and purposes. Some thinkers, such as the late Derek Parfit, have argued that while you might not survive fission, as long as each new version of you has an unbroken connection to the original, this is just as good as ordinary survival.
Which option is more ethically fraught? In our view, mere rejuvenation would probably be a less problematic choice. Yes, vanquishing death for the entire human species would greatly exacerbate our existing problems of overpopulation and inequality but the problems would at least be reasonably familiar. We can be pretty certain, for instance, that rejuvenation would widen the gap between the rich and poor, and would eventually force us to make decisive calls about resource use, whether to limit the rate of growth of the population, and so forth.
On the other hand, mind uploading would open up a plethora of completely new and unfamiliar ethical quandaries. Uploaded minds might constitute a radically new sphere of moral agency. For example, we often consider cognitive capacities to be relevant to an agent's moral status (one reason that we attribute a higher moral status to humans than to mosquitoes). But it would be difficult to grasp the cognitive capacities of minds that can be enhanced by faster computers and communicate with each other at the speed of light, since this would make them incomparably smarter than the smartest biological human. As the economist Robin Hanson argued in The Age of Em (2016), we would therefore need to find fair ways of regulating the interactions between and within the old and new domains that is, between humans and brain uploads, and between the uploads themselves. What's more, the astonishingly rapid development of digital systems means that we might have very little time to decide how to implement even minimal regulations.
What about the personal, practical consequences of your choice of immortality? Assuming you somehow make it to a future in which rejuvenation and brain uploading are available, your decision seems to depend on how much risk and what kinds of risks you're willing to assume. Rejuvenation seems like the most business-as-usual option, although it threatens to make you even more protective of your fragile physical body. Uploading would make it much more difficult for your mind to be destroyed, at least in practical terms, but it's not clear whether you would survive in any meaningful sense if you were copied several times over. This is entirely uncharted territory with risks far worse than what you'd face with rejuvenation. Nevertheless, the prospect of being freed from our mortal shackles is undeniably alluring and if it's ever an option, one way or another, many people will probably conclude that it outweighs the dangers.
This article was originally published by Aeon, a digital magazine for ideas and culture. Follow them on Twitter at @aeonmag.
Posted: at 6:18 pm
As long as I can remember, Ive always wanted to construct my own lightsaber. It always felt like a right of passage. Picking just the right kyber crystal that bonds with you. The hilt itself never felt as important, but now as weve seen Reys journey and trials with Anakins original saber; it just might. Sadly in the real world, the closest we have come to building a fully destructible saber is Allen Pans burning saber and the Arctic Spyder 3 laser. But if youre looking for something you can take into a convention hall without suffering the risks of being escorted off the premises with; then polycarbonate sabers are right for you!
The fine folks at Ultra Sabers got in contact with me to build my ultimate saber. The ultimate fanboy in me lit up. These are not your typical store-bought sabers made of hollow plastic. Ultra Sabers are high-end lightsabers that look as if they were plucked right out of the film! Not interested in a replica? Ultra Sabers can also help you craft unique designs to fit whatever original costume or character concept you have in-store.
Its funny. I immediately had the ultimate saber in mind before going to Ultra Sabers website. Once there I was floored by the amount of customizations I could add to my saber. They even have different chipsets for light and sound FX. Right now theDiamond Controller is their hottest selling saber brand. It is the most powerful and versatile saber controller on the market for custom lightsabers. It recognizes gestures in a sequence of movements that you can program into the Diamond Controller to trigger unique sounds and light effects.
With the budget I was allotted, I becameWatto in a junkyard free for all. Yet, it was the hardest decision ever! I could buy a car and name my first born faster than I could finalize a decision like this. Luckily while making about four or five different sabers with many tabs open, Ultra Sabers staff were quick to message me through their site asking if I had any questions. Boy did I have many. I asked about their Tri LEDs. These are LED diodes instead of just the single diode. The result is a slightly brighter and a fuller blade color. Yes, you can even make your saber the brightest saber at the con! If you are going to be using these sabers for friendly combat, you can even reinforce your sabers carbon tubing and add pointed tips for effect. You also have the option to have the saber flash different colors when it clashes.
These are just a handful of effects the saber has itself. We havent even talked about the hilts. Ultra Sabers sell single blade, double bladed and Kylos cross guard designs, all Custom built to your hearts desire. You can request that your power on button lights up, or maybe you want vent holes right where the beam ignites. It is all up to you and how much you are willing to spend.
So this was the moment. What was I going to go with? I have a collection of Force FX sabers I acquired over the years. As much as I enjoyed them, they were not built for combat. Coming home one late night from work, back in my early twenties; I found my roommates in my dark backyard clashing away with the sabers in hand. Spots where the sabers had taken hits no longer worked so that the beam had gaps in it. To say I was a tad peeved is an understatement. Though with this new saber, I would not be doing much clashing, as I would just be showing off the saber at home or maybe at a convention. My now EX-roommates helped me never want to clash another saber again.
With the same budget, I sat aside a lot of the flashy motion options and put that into a second saber. Thats right. I went with a double-bladed lightsaber! While collecting sabers over the years, I never actually owned one and felt now was the time. But I wanted to theme it to my liking. I always enjoyed Jedi Master Plo Koons orange lightsaber. Though it was technically not canon (even after they put it in all the games, figures, and comics), I felt it was time to finally own an orange saber. But not just a single orange saber, a double-bladed orange saber with the Dark Sentinel V4hilt to give the lightsaber an almost Halloween look to it.
If you buy a double-bladed saber through Ultra Sabers, they are basically two separate sabers held together by a centerpiece. The inside and outside designs were complete, and it was ready for shipment. It only took about a week for the saber to be built and shipped my way. I included rechargeable batteries and chargers with the order so that way the sabers would never dull out. Upon arrival, everything was in one large box heavily wrapped in bubble wrap. It was pure bliss putting the saber together and igniting it for the first time.
Comparing my classic Force FX sabers to the new Ultra Sabers, I found one interesting difference. The travel of the light when first igniting and then extinguishing. Force FX runs LEDs up the carbon tube to give the look of the beam elongating and then diminishing. Ultras LEDs are located in the hilt of the saber and turns on and off like a flashlight. But where the travel light fails, the sound takes over. I ordered my saber with an Obsidian USB V4 Sound chip and boy does it pack a punch next to the Force FX sabers. Now the great thing about this chip is that you can load up different sounds to your saber.
For instance, sounds made in Episode II are slightly different than the ones used in Episode IV. You can hold down the sabers button and pick different sound fonts. The Ultra Sabers community has been uploading new sounds for a while now, and I think that is probably the strongest trait Ultra Sabers has going for it. For young padawans, thelauncher tutorialworks out beautifully on both Mac and Windows platforms. Just simply download the custom sound files from the forums and load them right onto your sabers hilt using a USB mini cable. If you wanted, you could even have your saber become an Owen Wilson meme. The dark choice is completely up to you.
The saber itself is beyond gorgeous and is built exactly to my liking. Another great thing about Ultra Sabers line is once you are done building your custom saber, you can always send it back in to get modifications done when new features are released. You also can also order different parts and add onto the hilt yourself. In the two videos below I show off the Phantom V4 in action, along with an up-close look at the Dark Sentinel V4. I have a creepy Sith idea in mind to accompany the grim saber and cannot wait to get started on it. Definitely give Ultra Sabers site a look soon! They are always trying out new designs and pushing the limits of their craft. Easily one of the best saber manufacturers out there!
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Chris Selley: NY wants to soak the rich to build transit. Even Ontario’s NDP won’t support that for Toronto – National Post
Posted: August 18, 2017 at 5:16 am
Public transit in New York City is an amazing mess right now. Hurricane Sandy did roughly US$5 billion in damage; five years later, much of it remains unfixed or patched over. In 2019 theyre shutting down the L train for 15 months to fix tunnel damage. Its going to screw an estimated 225,000 commuters, and not just by a little bit. This year alone, three trains have jumped the tracks at Penn Station. And everyone agrees there needs to be a new tunnel under the Hudson River before things can really be called adequate. The current estimated price tag is a fairly staggering US$13 billion.
Naturally there is constant bickering between City Hall and Albany on who should pay and how. To fund the citys contribution, Mayor Bill de Blasio is currently proposing an income tax hike, from 3.9 to 4.4 per cent, on the citys wealthiest residents. Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has been cool on approving millionaire taxes in the past and in any event has a Republican-controlled Senate to deal with returned de Blasios serve with some musings about congestion pricing.
This is all very similar to the dynamic between Toronto City Hall and Queens Park, with two fairly major differences: New York actually has a massive transit network to break down in the first place; and while de Blasio needs Albanys approval to hike the income tax, New York City does actually tax income. Indeed, it has all kinds of taxes that Toronto doesnt: on sales (4.5 per cent), on hotel rooms ($3.50 per day plus 14.75 per cent) on parking in Manhattan (8 per cent) and, of course, on driving into the city ($15 via the Holland Tunnel).
You might think thats too much or not enough, but to look at New York City, it surely seems reasonable that it has the tools. Its New York, for Gods sake the greatest city in the world, if you ask me. Why would Albany be pulling any strings in the first place?
Meanwhile, the City of Toronto Act explicitly prohibits a sales tax. Only in this years budget did the province propose allowing a hotel tax. The act allows road tolls subject to provincial approval, which Premier Kathleen Wynne recently provided to Mayor John Tory, and then withdrew when her 905 caucus pitched a fit. The city can implement a parking tax, but staff have claimed its quite complicated.
Not to say that Toronto lacks means to raise money for its giant wish list of capital projects property taxes, notably, are lower than in surrounding municipalities, and the money they bring in is as good as any other money. But there is no obvious reason it should have fewer powers than New York. And its remarkable how little disagreement this situation generates in the provincial legislature especially since it happens to be in Toronto.
There is no obvious reason Toronto should have fewer powers than New York
The Association of Municipalities Ontario (AMO) held its annual conference in Ottawa this week, where it reiterated its call for a one-per-cent sales-tax hike to fund infrastructure and transit projects in the jurisdictions where its raised. A Nanos Research poll presented at the AMO conference suggests a small majority of Ontarians, 71 per cent in the GTA and 74 per cent in the City of Toronto, might support the idea. But all three parties shot it down, one after the other.
That makes perfect sense for the Tories, who absolutely believe they can never be seen supporting a new tax (and may never again get the chance to implement one). And it makes some sense for the Liberals, who have an existing infrastructure plan to which they can point. But New Democrat leader Andrea Horwath continues to promise to help cities, and Toronto specifically uploading services, restoring the TTCs operating subsidy, more money for child care without specifying where the money is going to come from. She even conceded this week it would cost the provincial treasury quite a lot.
She objects to the HST hike because people out there are struggling. (Struggling people tend to get rebates, but never mind.) She doesnt support road tolls because theyre supposedly inegalitarian. So what, then? A municipal income tax would be quite spectacularly unpopular, the Nanos poll suggests but I wonder if de Blasios millionaire tax might be rather less so. If thats not in the NDPs wheelhouse, I dont know what the NDP is anymore.
Im not saying its a good idea, mind you. But even just proposing to allow cities the option to use more revenue tools would spice up Ontarios policy stew considerably. And it might help turn the upcoming election between a premier hanging on for dear life and a leader of the opposition trying to make as little noise as possible into something more like a legitimate contest of ideas.
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Posted: at 5:16 am
Earlier this summer, a modest little startup in Barcelona, Spain, unveiled its newest product a biodegradable, Internet-connected funeral urn that turns the ashes of departed loved ones into an indoor tree. Just mix the cremains with soil and seedlings, and the digital-age urn will automatically water and care for your memorial sapling, sending constant updates to an app on your smartphone.
At first glance, the concept seems gimmicky evidently, we're running out of ideas for smart appliances. But the Bios Incube system can also be seen as the latest example of a gradual transformation in modern culture.
Technology is fundamentally changing how we deal with death and its attendant issues of funerals, memorials and human remains. Much of this change is for the good. Some developments are a little spooky. But one thing is for sure: You can do a lot of cool things with ashes these days.
The Bios Incube system, which went on sale in June after a successful crowdfunding campaign, is the latest iteration of a much older idea in which ashes are essentially used as compost for a memorial tree or plant. But the Incube system adds some high-tech twists. The biodegradable urn is placed within a 5-gallon planter with an elegant, off-white, minimalist design vibe call it the iUrn.
Actually, that's the Incube. Fill it with water and an internal irrigation system kicks in while separate sensors monitor the progress of your plant, taking constant readings on temperature, humidity and soil conditions. This information is wirelessly beamed to the included smartphone app, allowing the bereaved user to better care for and nurture the seedling as it grows into a tree.
Roger Molin, co-founder of Bios Urn, says the company offers two versions of its system. One provides the basic biodegradable urn and planter at $145. The more expensive version if you want all the high-tech bells, whistles, atmosphere sensors and smartphone apps tops out at $695.
"Interestingly enough, we have found so far that most have opted voluntarily for the high-tech option," Molin says.
He has a theory on that.
"Most of us are connected to the digital world, and we have become used to it," he says. "Perhaps by tying together this process with technology, there can be a sense of comfort that comes from using a familiar process with a new experience. We hope that it will push people in a new direction and perhaps make this process easier for those experiencing loss."
The Bios Urn concept is indeed part of a larger transformation in which technology is changing how we think about death and dying, says Candi Cann, author of the book Virtual Afterlives: Grieving the Dead in the Twenty-first Century.
"Their approach implies a different sort of afterlife than the religious one an afterlife that theoretically we can partake in," says Cann, who teaches religion and world culture at Baylor University.
"Recent theories on mourning reveal that having continued bonds with the deceased allow us to navigate everyday life while renegotiating our relationships with loved ones who are no longer present," she says. "So in this way, the Bios Urn might actually foster a healthy type of mourning that allows us to look after the dead in an active, daily way."
Caring for the dead via a smartphone app may seem strange, Cann says, but it makes perfect sense for those of us living in a perpetually connected world: "The generation today has grown up with online spaces and smartphones, so this is their medium."
Cann has done extensive research on modern mourning rituals around the planet, and the various ways that technology is impacting how we deal with death and dying. The Internet has certainly changed the way we do things. Obituaries are posted online, funeral arrangements are sent by email or text, and social media platforms like Facebook now offer a range of memorial pages and legacy contact options.
In general, this is all good healthy progress, Cann says. "Smartphones and social media spaces have forced a decline in the importance of a controlled obituary narrative, as more people can contribute to the communal memory of a person and the meaning of their life," she says.
A recurring theme in Cann's work concerns an odd and abiding reticence in mainstream Western attitudes toward death: In short, we just don't like to talk about it. Our aversion leads to a lot of unhealthy sublimation in the culture. "I would argue that the reason we see so much death in the media and in video games is precisely because we are not having real conversations about death," Cann says.
Technology is helping in that arena, too. Cann points to online communities like Death Cafe, which use Internet forums to arrange local meetups for people wanting to talk about death.
Then there is the issue of what to do with the remains. We humans have been navigating this dilemma since the dawn of civilization, but recent technological advances have opened up some options. You can have ashes incorporated into jewelry, blended into oil paintings, mixed into tattoo ink, submerged into coral reefs or even pressed into vinyl records. And don't forget about the festive fireworks option.
While developing the Bios Urn system, Molin explored how other cultures are processing cremains, like Tokyo's unique Ruriden columbarium, which utilizes LED Buddha statues and digital smart cards.
"I've seen some interesting things in China and Japan," he says. "Both have run of out burial space in larger cities and have created interesting ways of commemorating those who have passed."
Cann says that these new modern rituals, facilitated by various technologies, can help us get a little friendlier with death.
"In Brazil, I went to a public crematorium that cremates a body every 15 minutes, and is an actively used public park and picnic space," he says. "Families were playing and picnicking among the ashes. If we see deathscapes as friendly places, rather than where the dead are banished, we might be able to utilize them in healthier and more creative ways."
Looking to the future, however, Cann addresses more worrisome technologies.
"One of the areas I'm thinking more about is the use of artificial intelligence and digital avatars," Cann said. "These are people intending to upload themselves, via AI, into digital avatars."
Proponents of this idea contend that uploading the mind into a computer is entirely plausible. But science fiction has some cautionary tales in this area any technology that promises to defy death is usually nothing but trouble. Ask Dr. Frankenstein. Even speculating on this sci-fi scenario can get a bit dodgy, Cann says.
"Whenever people focus more on extending life rather than examining its quality, death loses its importance," Cann says. "If we are spending more time trying to deny death or prolong dying, then I think we are not living well."
In this light, the Bios Urn seems like a fairly gentle step forward. Technology can't yet provide us with digital immortality, but it can help us grow a memorial tree in our living room. What's not to like?
Glenn McDonald is a freelance writer, editor and game designer based in Chapel Hill, N.C. You can follow him @glennmcdonald1.
Posted: at 5:16 am
Football is back! The first preseason game of the year ended in defeat for the Patriots, but more important than the score of the game is how individual players looked. With the debate surrounding the Patriots backup quarterback situation this off-season, how Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett perform this preseason could influence the plans for the position moving forward. With this in mind, I asked Patriots fans to decide which of the backups they wanted to see a film breakdown of. 60% of voters decided on Jimmy Garoppolo, so here we (after a slight NFL Gamepass-related delay) go.
With Tom Brady getting the night off, Jimmy Garoppolo was tabbed as the starter for the first preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Garoppolo put up impressive numbers, completing 22 of 28 attempts for 235 yards and two touchdowns. While the media provided effusive praise, Garoppolos performance doesnt quite live up the numbers. Lets take a closer look.
The biggest takeaway from the fourth year quarterbacks performance is that he showed an impressive feel for the pocket and where pressure was coming from.
The Jaguars get immediate pressure up the middle, and Garoppolo sees it and rolls away from the pressure as soon as he sees it. This isnt always the right thing to do, but in this situation Garoppolo had no other choice. He keeps his eyes downfield and finds his man to pick up a first down from third and long.
The touchdown everyone has seen by now is another good example of his pocket management. Dante Fowler gets inside leverage on LaAdrian Waddle (not a good look for Waddles roster hopes) and forces Jimmy to bail from the pocket. An argument could be made he shouldve stepped up with Jamil Douglas helping out on Fowler, but Fowler wouldve had an opportunity to get a hand on Jimmy if he did. Garoppolo resets his feet and looks downfield, making the throw for the touchdown to Austin Carr.
This wasnt a perfect playfading and throwing off his back foot is a recipe for disaster, and the throw wasnt particularly accuratebut when you evade pressure the way he did, and the result is a touchdown, those can be forgiven.
Beyond his pocket movement, Garoppolo flashed the ability (if inconsistently, more on that later) to make some impressive throws into tight windows.
Crowded pocket, hands jumping in his face, tight window, third and long, money throw. High enough the underneath LBs cant reach, behind his TEs ear so the safety cant come in and break it up, in a place that only his receiver can go get it, and Jacob Hollister did just that. First down.
30 yards down the field, 25 yards across the field. Find the length of the hypotenuse. Nearly 40 air-yard throw to the sideline, he may have been a little late getting to the target, but delivers a strike for a big first down on a deep comeback.
Lastly, probably my favorite throw he made on the night. Get to the top of your drop, set, back-shoulder throw the CB cant do anything about in 1-on-1 coverage, easy first down on a throw thats more difficult than it looks.
Garoppolo made some atrocious throws in this game, speaking to the inconsistency mentioned in the above section. He started the game off very slowly, which can be argued as just shaking off some rust and getting into a rhythm, or as struggling against the Jaguars starters and picking on the backups.
Garoppolo has a chance to put his team in the red zone, and correctly attempts to make a back-shoulder throw with a safety closing over the top and the defender step for step on Devin Luciens inside shoulder. Garoppolo cant even give Lucien a chance to make the play, however, as he leads him out of bounds.
The pocket movement here deserves to be in the Good section, but the throw lands it here. After a pump fake and stepping up in the pocket to evade the initial pressure, Jimmy finds his tight end wide open and completely misses him.
This couldve been 6. This shouldve been a big play. This was almost an interception. Garoppolo is late getting the ball out and not only underthrows his man, but leads him so far inside the ball almost landed in the safetys (who started about 10 yards to the right of the play) hip pocket.
I mean...come on. Yes, Dion Lewis managed to get a hand on it. Working from a completely clean pocket with a receiver more than 3 yards clear of any defender and facing directly at you, only ~9 yards away, there is no excuse for that ball to land anywhere other than his numbers.
Finally, a completed pass, but this is how you get your receivers killed. Open window to throw in and Garoppolo leads Hollister too far. Hollister makes a great play on the ball, and then pays the price for doing so, getting hit in the head twice immediately after catching the pass. (*Note: There was an issue uploading this gif, I had to use a different site to do so. It needs to be clicked on or hovered over to play, it will not autoplay like the others)
The Patriots did not ask Jimmy Garoppolo to do a whole lot. Most of his completions came on screens and dump-offs. He made some impressive throws but for every good one he had, he cancelled it out with an equally bad one. He heated up as the game went on, but as already mentioned, its tough to tell whether to attribute that to Garoppolo settling in, or him finding success against the Jaguars backups (Jacksonville played most of their defensive starters in the game).
Ultimately, my biggest takeaway was Garoppolos pocket movement. He was under pressure quite frequently in this game and generally knew when to step up and maneuver in the pocket and when to bail and try to extend the play with his legs. This was the one area of his game I came away from pre-season week 1 truly impressed with. This game provided us with more of the same from Garoppolo: Enough flashes to provide hope for the future, enough downside to question if hes actually a part of it.
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Posted: August 16, 2017 at 6:20 pm
Hexa is a programmable robot designed to be accessible enough for people to tinker with (Credit: Vincross)
Parents wanting to get their kids into coding from an early age are spoiled for choice, with toys like Vortex, Codeybot, Photon and Cozmo, but there aren't many gadgets for an older audience wanting to try their hand at programming. Currently on Kickstarter, Hexa is a six-legged, sensor-laden robot that's essentially a blank slate for people to program their own functionality into, and share those skills across a social network of tinkerers.
Robots are on their way to integrating into our everyday lives, but besides maybe playing with a Spiderman toy or controlling a BB-8, many people don't get a chance to really experiment with them. That's the problem that Vincross, the company behind Hexa, was aiming to address with its programmable insectoid droid.
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The six-legged robot stands 4.7 in (12 cm) high and 20 in (51 cm) across, and it will navigate the world by way of an accelerometer, infrared sensor and a 720p camera, complete with night vision mode. To keep things simple, Hexa's basic functions, like movement, will be built into the robot, letting users program it with commands like "walk forward," rather than having to wade through coding specifics to get it going.
The robot gets its smarts from a Linux-based system that Vincross calls MIND, designed to be the toolbox that users fiddle with to get Hexa doing what they want it to do. Essentially, programming boils down to setting up If/Then statements, telling the robot to do certain actions in response to certain stimuli.
Input can come from things like voice commands, gestures, light, temperature, or signals from phones and computers, and Hexa can react by walking, waving, grabbing, sending data or controlling connected Internet of Things devices.
Those behaviors can be coded in through either a developer kit based on the Go programming language, or through a more visual, user-friendly simulator. Once a user has created something they're particularly proud of (like, say, a light-activated dance routine) they can share it with the rest of the Hexa hivemind by uploading it to the Skill store.
From the companion app, users can download, try out and build on sections of code made by the community. An Explore mode in the app also lets users drive Hexa directly, with a live robot's-eye view video feed.
Hexa is a toy for tinkerers, aimed squarely at the kind of people who'd drool at the thought of a Raspberry Pi with legs and eyes. If that's you, the robot is currently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign, where it's already raised over half of its US$100,000 goal, with 29 days still to go.
Pledges for the robot itself start at US$499, with higher rewards adding wireless charging and other goodies. If all goes to plan, the Hexa should be scuttling into backers' homes in February 2018.
Check out Hexa in action in the campaign video below.
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Posted: at 6:20 pm
It was the Greek philosopher Heraclitus who first said, The only thing that is constant is change.
He was onto something. But even he would likely be left speechless at the scale and pace of change the world has experienced in the past 100 yearsnot to mention the past 10.
Since 1917, the global population has gone from 1.9 billion people to 7.5 billion. Life expectancyhas more than doubled in many developing countries and risen significantly in developed countries. In 1917 only eight percent of homes had phonesin the form of landline telephoneswhile today more than seven in 10 Americans own a smartphoneaka, a supercomputer that fits in their pockets.
And things arent going to slow down anytime soon. In a talk at Singularity Universitys Global Summit this week in San Francisco, SU cofounder and chairman Peter Diamandis told the audience, Tomorrows speed of change will make today look like were crawling. He then shared his point of view about some of the most important factors driving this accelerating change.
In 1965, Gordon Moore (cofounder of Intel) predicted computer chips would double in power and halve in cost every 18 to 24 months. What became known as Moores Law turned out to be accurate, and today affordable computer chips contain a billion or more transistors spaced just nanometers apart.
That means computers can do exponentially more calculations per second than they could thirty, twenty, or ten years agoand at a dramatically lower cost. This in turn means we can generate a lot more information, and use computers for all kinds of applications they wouldnt have been able to handle in the past (like diagnosing rare forms of cancer, for example).
Increased computing power is the basis for a myriad of technological advances, which themselves are converging in ways we couldnt have imagined a couple decades ago. As new technologies advance, the interactions between various subsets of those technologies create new opportunities that accelerate the pace of change much more than any single technology can on its own.
A breakthrough in biotechnology, for example, might spring from a crucial development in artificial intelligence. An advance in solar energy could come about by applying concepts from nanotechnology.
Technology is becoming more accessible even to the most non-techy among us. The internet was once the domain of scientists and coders, but these days anyone can make their own web page, and browsers make those pages easily searchable. Now, interfaces are opening up areas like robotics or 3D printing.
As Diamandis put it, You dont need to know how to code to 3D print an attachment for your phone. Were going from mind to materialization, from intentionality to implication.
Artificial intelligence is what Diamandis calls the ultimate interface moment, enabling everyone who can speak their mind to connect and leverage exponential technologies.
Today there are about three billion people around the world connected to the internetthats up from 1.8 billion in 2010. But projections show that by 2025 there will be eight billion people connected. This is thanks to a race between tech billionaires to wrap the Earth in internet; Elon Musks SpaceX has plans to launch a network of 4,425 satellites to get the job done, while Googles Project Loon is using giant polyethylene balloons for the task.
These projects will enable five billion new minds to come online, and those minds will have access to exponential technologies via interface moments.
Diamandis predicts that after we establish a 5G network with speeds of 10100 Gbps, a proliferation of sensors will follow, to the point that therell be around 100,000 sensors per city block. These sensors will be equipped with the most advanced AI, and the combination of these two will yield an incredible amount of knowledge.
By 2030 were heading towards 100 trillion sensors, Diamandis said. Were heading towards a world in which were going to be able to know anything we want, anywhere we want, anytime we want. He added that tens of thousands of drones will hover over every major city.
If you think theres an arms race going on for AI, theres also one for HIhuman intelligence, Diamandis said. He explained that if a genius was born in a remote village 100 years ago, he or she would likely not have been able to gain access to the resources needed to put his or her gifts to widely productive use. But thats about to change.
Private companies as well as military programs are working on brain-machine interfaces, with the ultimate aim of uploading the human mind. The focus in the future will be on increasing intelligence of individuals as well as companies and even countries.
A final crucial factor driving mass acceleration is the increase in wealth concentration. Were living in a time when theres more wealth in the hands of private individuals, and theyre willing to take bigger risks than ever before, Diamandis said. Billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Bill Gates are putting millions of dollars towards philanthropic causes that will benefit not only themselves, but humanity at large.
One of the biggest implications of the rate at which the world is changing, Diamandis said, is that the cost of everything is trending towards zero. We are heading towards abundance, and the evidence lies in the reduction of extreme poverty weve already seen and will continue to see at an even more rapid rate.
Listening to Diamandis optimism, its hard not to find it contagious.
The world is becoming better at an extraordinary rate, he said, pointing out the rises in literacy, democracy, vaccinations, and life expectancy, and the concurrent decreases in child mortality, birth rate, and poverty.
Were alive during a pivotal time in human history, he concluded. There is nothing we dont have access to.
Stock Media provided by seanpavonephoto / Pond5
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