Altria Group Inc., maker of Marlboro cigarettes, said it’s taking a 45 percent stake in Cronos Group, a major Canadian medical and recreational marijuana provider.

  • The deal includes the option for Altria Group to take a 55 percent stake in the Cronos Group over the next five years.
  • It marks a continuing trend of big tobacco companies moving into the marijuana industry.
  • If legalized at the federal level in the U.S., the marijuana industry could shape up to be like the current alcohol market in the U.S.

Big tobacco companies have been quietly eyeing a move into the marijuana industry for decades. Now, as cigarette sales slump and more states move to legalize marijuana, big tobacco is finally gearing up for its long-awaited move.

Recently, Altria Group Inc., maker of Marlboro cigarettes, announced that it’s taking a 45 percent stake in Cronos Group, a major Canadian medical and recreational marijuana provider. The deal amounts to a $1.8 billion investment and includes an option to increase its stake to 55 percent over the next five years.

“Investing in Cronos Group as our exclusive partner in the emerging global cannabis category represents an exciting new growth opportunity for Altria,” said Howard Willard, Altria’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.

Per the agreement, Altria will be able to nominate four members to Cronos Group’s board of directors, which will increase from five to seven members.

“The proceeds from Altria’s investment will enable us to more quickly expand our global infrastructure and distribution footprint, while also increasing investments in R&D and brands that resonate with our consumers,” Cronos Group CEO Mike Gorenstein said.

Shares of Cronos Group soared nearly 30 percent following the announcement, while Altria’s stock, which had fallen almost 25 percent this year, rose by 2 percent.

Big tobacco’s advantage in the U.S.

Altria just invested in a Canadian marijuana company, but it’s not hard to see how tobacco companies might soon begin investing big money in American cannabis companies. Giants like Altria and Phillip Morris would have an especially easy time doing so because they already have legal experts to navigate the regulatory mazes of legalization, sophisticated distribution networks and massive amounts of capital to invest. It’d be similar to how big tobacco companies quickly conquered a vast share of the e-cigarette industry as vaporizers became increasingly popular among American smokers.

Will there soon be a Budweiser of the marijuana industry?

In short, probably.

Many experts estimate the legal recreational pot market will eventually look like the beer or cigarette market in the U.S., where giant names like Budweiser or Marlboro dominate the cheaper side of the market, and craft companies like American Spirit or Sierra Nevada offer customers a higher-end product for a few bucks more.

“There are still tobacconists out there, you still have these craft beers and things like that, but the big sales are from the Budweisers,” Stanton Glantz, a tobacco industry researcher and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, told Rolling Stone. “The big sales are in the national brands.”

What remains harder to predict is how the corporatization of the marijuana industry will change the product itself.

(For the source of this article, and for additional related information please visit:



People often say, “I’m just not a math person,” but the truth is that no one’s brain is hardwired for math.

  • “I’m just not a math person.” This trite statement suggests some people don’t have an innate ability to succeed at math.
  • But math ability is not genetically determined and this myth only strengthens America’s growing math anxiety.
  • How do people get so good at math? In a word, practice.

Americans have a love-hate relationship with mathematics. On the one hand, we understand that success in our technology-dependent world requires proficiency in mathematics, and if we don’t cultivate this proficiency in students, we may languish behind those who do. On the other hand, we’re just bad at it.

Research seems to support this view. The National Assessment of Educational Progress found that, in 2015, just 25 percent of 12th graders performed at or above proficiency in mathematics. Nor are we doing well when compared to other countries. The United States’ mathematics performance score (474 mean score) falls below the average for all OECD countries (494). Meanwhile, Japan, China, and Singapore are crushing it (mean scores 539, 540, and 564 respectively).

Is it any wonder that the refrain “I’m not a math person” has become hackneyed in America? But this defense contains a troubling subtext: Some people are born good at math, some aren’t, and the speaker is the latter. This is simply untrue.

In his conversation with Richard Dawkins, Neil deGrasse Tyson explains why: “If there’s any one subject that the greatest number of people say, ‘I was never good at insert a topic,’ it’s going to be math. So I say to myself, ‘If our brain were wired for logical thinking, then math would be everyone’s easiest subject, and everything else would be harder.’ I’m kind of forced to conclude that our brain is not wired for logic.”

Tyson’s right. The brain is (mostly) not hardwired for mathematics. But if that’s the case, then where did the myth of the math person come from, and how can we correct for it?

How we know math ability isn’t genetic

While there is no innate math ability in this brain, there sure is a lot of room for math anxiety.  (Photo from Flickr)

The reason skill in mathematics isn’t genetically determined is because math hasn’t been around long enough to be written into our genes. As developmental psychologist Steven Pinker writes in How the Mind Works:

On evolutionary grounds it would be surprising if children were mentally equipped for school mathematics. These tools were invented recently in history and only in a few cultures, too late and too local to stamp the human genome. The mothers of these inventions were the recording and trading of farming surpluses in the first agricultural civilizations.

With that said, Pinker notes that we do come pre-equipped with some innate mathematical intuitions. For example, toddlers can choose which picture has fewer dots, children can divide snacks to share, and all cultures have words for numbers (even if that lexicon is limited to one, two, and many.) All feats managed with no formal schooling, and all evolutionary advantageous.

Citing the work of mathematician Saunders Mac Lane, Pinker speculates that these intuitions may have provided the inspiration for contemporary branches of mathematics: grouping, arithmetic, geometry, and so on.

These intuitions are not the same as the highly formal rule systems we start learning in elementary school, though. He explains the distinction as so: Anyone can tell you that cutting through a field is shorter than walking its edges, but it takes a mathematician to point out that “the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides.”

While mathematical ability may not be congenital, it is worth noting that general intelligence is. To some degree at least. General intelligence is influenced by both genetic and environmental factors, and it can be challenging to study the complex interplay between the two. Raw intelligence will, naturally, help one acquire math skills, but as we’ll see, environmental factors should not be underplayed.

Creating a self-fulfilling prophecy

Professors Miles Kimball and Noah Smith are highly critical of the math people myth, calling it “the most self-destructive idea in America today.” Writing for the Atlantic, they argue this pernicious myth originates from a pattern children suss out when they first enter math class.

The pattern goes like this:

Some children come from homes where parents teach them math at an early age, while others are first introduced to math in school. The prepared children do well because they are already familiar with the subject matter. The unprepared children struggle because they are not.

As test and homework scores accumulate, the prepared children begin to recognized their successes. They assume they are “math people,” take pride in their achievement, learn to enjoy the subject, and push themselves to work harder.

The unprepared children, however, don’t realize that the prepared children had a head start. They assume they weren’t born “math people,” find the subject frustrating, and don’t push themselves, believing achievement will remain out of reach because of some unrecifiable deficiency.

The result is that “people’s belief that math ability can’t change becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Metaphorically speaking

Teachers and parents may also perpetuate the math person myth, even when trying to reduce math anxiety and encourage students that they can succeed.Consider Dr. Randy Palisoc. He claims that math difficulties lie in our dehumanized approach toward teaching it. He believes that if we show students that math is a language “just like English, Spanish or Chinese” and that it can be used to communicate, they will recognize their natural talents and approach the subject with alacrity.

Mathematician Eddie Woo follows a similar tactic, but he relegates mathematics to a human sense, one akin to sight and touch:

Naturally some people are born with sharper sense than the rest of us; others are born with impairment. As you can see, I drew a short straw in the genetic lottery when it came to my eyesight. Without my glasses everything is a blur. I’ve wrestled with this sense my entire life, but I would never dream of saying, ‘Well, seeing has always been a struggle for me. I guess I’m just not a seeing kind of person.’

Both Ralisoc and Woo propose to reduce abstraction in the teaching of math — make it less hieroglyphics on a blackboard and more an exploration of the student’s world. That’s an admirable goal. I quote them here only to show how the metaphors teachers and parents may use to encourage unprepared students, in fact, perpetrate the genetic myth.

Woo’s argument undercuts his own point. A person born with perfect eyesight will effortlessly read the 20/20 line on an eye chart. But if you are born with poor sight, the eye chart will forever look like the laziest post-impressionist painting. Only corrective lenses, not hard work, can change this fact. He wouldn’t say, “I’m just not a seeing kind of person,” because that’s an odd thing to say. But that doesn’t make it any less true.

Similarly, math is not a language as Ralisoc claims. Language is something children master effortlessly because their brains are programmed with what linguists call “universal grammar.” Every English-speaking child knows that the sentences are spoken in SVO format and that you add an s to most words to plural it. They manage this incredible feat without any formal schooling.The same cannot be said for their multiplication tables.

Linguist Noam Chomsky disregarded this idea: “To say that mathematics is a language is just a metaphoric use of the notion of language. […] It certainly doesn’t have the properties of human language. A human language is a natural phenomenon [while] mathematics is a human creation.”

And students know these facts. They understand that eyesight comes naturally, and while they may not have learned about universal grammar, they have a sense that language acquisition came easily to them. They didn’t even have to think about it.

Metaphors such as these, even if presented with encouragement, are wrong and reinforced the belief that being a math person requires being born with an innate gift for the subject.

Practice makes proficient

Only practice and hard work will can translate this math teacher’s blackboard for students.  (Photo from Wikimedia)

But if math is not hardwired into us, why do some people become math people while others perpetually flounder? According to Pinker, it’s the same reason some of us play Carnegie Hall while others don’t. Practice.

“Mastery of mathematics is deeply satisfying,” Pinker writes, “but it is a reward for hard work that is not itself always pleasurable. Without the esteem for hard-won mathematical skills that is common in other cultures, the mastery is unlikely to blossom.”

To promote this sense of hard work and esteem, Kimball and Smith argue that we need to change the way we teach math and how our culture views intelligence as a whole. Namely, we need to switch from fixed-mindset mathematicians to growth-mindset ones.

Put simply, a growth mindset sees skills and intelligence as something that can be developed. Failure, in this perspective, is a learning experience that allows for a reassessment before the next attempt. A fixed mindset, on the other hand, sees skills and intelligence as something you are more-or-less born with. Failure, here, is simply evidence of one’s own inaptitude.

Kimball and Smith cite the work of psychologists Lisa Blackwell, Kali Trzesniewski, and Carol Dweck to support their argument. Dweck, et al., set up an experiment where they taught students that intelligence was “highly malleable” and could be “developed by hard work.” The experiment’s control group was only taught how memory works.

The students who learned that intelligence was malleable through hard work received higher grades, and those who switched from a fixed-mindset to a growth one showed the most improvement. The control group showed no such improvement.

Kimball and Smith also note that many East Asian countries — the ones currently dominating in math performance scores — utilize the techniques of hard work and a growth mindset as part of their culture.

Quoting an analysis by Richard Nisbett’s, they point out that children in Japan go to school 60 more days a year than U.S. students, study more hours a day, and are culturally more accustom to criticism, leading them to be more persistent to correct failures.

“We see our country moving away from a culture of hard work toward a culture of belief in genetic determinism,” Kimball and Smith conclude. “In the debate between ‘nature vs. nurture,’ a critical third element — personal perseverance and effort — seems to have been sidelined. We want to bring it back, and we think that math is the best place to start.”

True, practice and a growth mindset won’t guarantee a teaching position in Harvard’s math department. If that’s your goal, you’ll need a healthy dose of raw intelligence and luck. But Kimball and Smith’s point isn’t that we can all become math geniuses.

Instead, by replacing the math person myth with an ethos of hard work and a growth mindset, we can teach children to achieve their personal best. For most students, this will mean reaching at least high school-level proficiency, but even if it doesn’t, it will help them see failure as a chance to improve, not a source of debilitating math anxiety.

Maybe we can’t all be math people, but we can all learn to love and appreciate the Queen of the Sciences in our lives.

(For the source of this article, and to watch a video relating to it, please visit:



Drones called in to save the Great Wall of China

Large sections of the Great Wall of China are in urgent need of preservation work, but hard to reach. So drones are coming to the rescue. | #Drones #UAV #Photography #Archaeology #GreatWall #China



Jaw-dropping drone photos that highlight the best of the natural world

Sygiriya, the legendary "lion rock" in Sri Lanka, is an ancient village built in the sky
Sygiriya, the legendary “lion rock” in Sri Lanka, is an ancient village built in the sky (Credit: Dronestagram/jcourtial).

Camera drones are not only getting better, they are also getting cheaper, giving more and more aspiring aerial photographers the tools to gather incredible imagery from above. All over the world, hobbyists and professionals are putting their aircraft into the sky to gain incredible new perspectives on the natural world. Here we take a look at some stunning examples taken from photo-sharing platform Dronestagram.

In the space of a few short years, drone photography has become hugely popular, meaning there are more eyes in the sky than ever before. These flying cameras can be positioned out over waterfalls, above forests and in the midst of wildlife to show us perspectives on the world that simply haven’t been seen before.

Flamingos take flight in Italy

In the mix here we have all manner of natural phenomena, from flamingos taking flight, to majestic waterfalls in Laos, to frozen lakes in Siberia where cracks are beginning to appear. This particular photo reveals a rocky coastline in Portugal.

Rocky coastline in Portugal

And this one shows a waterfall in El Salvador’s El Impossible National park. Dronestagram user “Champagneroads” believes she was the first person to fly over this incredible landmark with a drone.

Waterfall in the National Park El Impossible, El Salvador

All of these images show us the Earth in astonishing ways, but some could easily be mistaken for the surface an alien world, like this photo taken by Steve Zmak above a salt marsh near the mouth of the Salinas River, USA.

To see the full selection of images, jump on into the gallery.

Source: Dronestagram

(For the source of this article, and to see many additional photos, please visit:



Comanche gas/electric recumbent trike is made for the dirt – or the street

The gas off-road version of the Comanche, with the optional long-travel independent front suspension package

The gas off-road version of the Comanche, with the optional long-travel independent front suspension package.

While many people enjoy dirt-biking, they often can’t afford the truck or trailer necessary to transport the things. That’s why Stanford University aerospace engineering grad Dak Steiert created the Comanche. It’s a gas or electric-powered recumbent trike that fits in the back of a hatchback or SUV.

Plans actually call for there to be four versions of the Comanche – gas and electric off-road models, along with gas and electric street-legal moped models. As compared to traditional motorbikes, all four are claimed to be not only more easily transported, but are also said to offer greater stability (there are a set of outrigger wheels in the back, to keep the trikes from tipping over) and better cargo-carrying capacity via an optional package that includes dual rear boxes and a rack.

The gas off-road model features a 6.5-hp engine that takes it to a top speed of 45 mph (72 km/h) although optional upgrades to beefier engines boost that figure, maxing out with a 450cc engine that delivers about 70 mph (112 km/h). The electric off-road version, on the other hand, has a 5-kilowatt motor powered by a 24-Ah battery pack. It also tops out at 45 mph, and has a claimed range of 70 miles (112 km) per 5 to 8-hour charge.

Both of the off-road models have 11 inches of rear suspension travel, with 8 inches of front suspension available as an upgrade. For really serious obstacle-climbing, there’s also a 14-inch independent front suspension option.

The off-road Comanche's optional independent front suspension system is demonstrated

The gas moped model has a 50cc engine that puts out roughly 1.5 hp, while the electric moped has a 3-kilowatt motor and a 14-Ah battery pack, delivering a range of about 40 miles (64 km) per charge. In order to stay street-legal, both versions are limited to a top speed of approximately 20 to 25 mph (32 to 40 km/h). And no, they don’t have pedals.

Should you be interested, the Comanche is currently the subject of an Indiegogo campaign (see the link below). There are a number of packages available, with pledges for full vehicles starting at US$2,475 for the base gas off-road or moped models (planned retail $2,975), $4,275 for the base electric off-road (retail $4,950) and $3,650 for the electric moped (retail $4,175).

You can watch the trikes in action, in the following video.

Source: Indiegogo

(For the source of this article, and to watch a video, please visit:



Aerial Video Shows Ancient Termite Mound Network the Size of Great Britain

By Sarah Sloat – 

termite mound
This is an image of the mounds.

Termite mounds typically outlive the colonies that built them, so it was doubly astonishing when thousands of insects were recently discovered existing among tall, dirt monoliths discovered in northeastern Brazil. These elaborate mounds, described recently in Cell, were the initial surprise — until recently, they were hidden from view by thorny scrub forests. Now, it’s obvious that tens of millions of conical mounds cover this part of the world and have done so for thousands of years.

In the new study, an international team of scientists explains that the mounds cover a complex subterranean network — tunnels that allow termites, guided by pheromones, to move from mound to mound, exploiting a food supply of rotting, fallen leaves. Study co-author Roy Funch, Ph.D. of Universidade Estadual de Feira de Santana in Brazil describes the mounds as “the world’s most extensive bio-engineering effort by a single insect species.”

This massive array of termite mounds is shown from an aerial view in the video. There are approximately 200 million of these mounds, each about 2.5 meters tall and 9 meters across. The regularly spaced piles look like polka-dots from above and cover a region roughly the size of Great Britain.

termite mounds
Each black dot in figure B signifies a mound.

The mounds themselves — examined by Funch and his colleagues through a combination of satellite surveys and on-land excavations — have been there for thousands of years. Soil sample analysis revealed that the oldest mounds were built about 3,820 years ago, meaning that termites began building these eusocial settlements about the same time as humans were building the Pyramids of Giza.

The working theory behind the mounds’ existence is that they are a byproduct of a single termite species’ effort to build a network of tunnels, which would bring them close to dead leaf dinners. As the termites built their tunnels, mounds of dirt accumulated. These dumps of dirt mark evenly spaced locations and create a spatial pattern not unlike Namibian fairy circles. The mounds do not contain any internal structure, just a central tunnel that descends into the earth and intersects with other underground tunnels and narrow galleries containing dead leaves or more termites.

termite mound
This is an image of the mounds.


Unlike other termite mounds, these haven’t revealed any nesting sites and do not appear to serve as a ventilation system. Mysteriously a queen chamber hasn’t been found either — and in turn, no queen. Termites exist as self-organized systems in which every insect is divided into one of three social castes: soldiers, workers, and winged termites that are there to reproduce. Termite queens lay about 20,000 eggs daily and can reach ages of up to 20 years.

But just because she hasn’t been found doesn’t mean she’s not there — after all, the scientists are working with a terrain the size of Michigan. A living colony in an ancient network will take time to examine, and it’s an opportunity that the scientists don’t take lightly. “It’s incredible,” says co-author Stephen Martin, Ph.D., “that, in this day and age, you can find an ‘unknown’ biological wonder of this sheer size and age still existing, with the occupants still present.”

(For the balance of this article, including the video, please visit:



How genes influence preferences for tea or coffee

Sensitivity to the bitterness of caffeine has been found to actually increase a person's propensity to...
Sensitivity to the bitterness of caffeine has been found to actually increase a person’s propensity to drink coffee (Credit: massonforstock/Depositphotos).

Intriguing new research has revealed that people with a preference for drinking coffee over tea tend to display a genetic variant that signals a higher sensitivity to tasting bitterness in caffeine. This counter-intuitive finding suggests coffee drinkers develop a positive association with the bitterness of caffeine that reinforces their attraction to the beverage.

The study examined the genetic data of over 400,000 people, homing in on the association between three genes for bitter taste perception and a correlating preference for certain bitter-tasting beverages. The three bitter taste receptor genes studied were responsible for generating the bitter profiles in caffeine, quinine and propylthiouracil (PROP), a synthetic bitter profile similar to that tasted in cruciferous vegetables such as brussel sprouts.

The results of the study somewhat surprised the researchers, with people most sensitive to the bitter profile of caffeine reporting the most significant levels of coffee consumption.

“You’d expect that people who are particularly sensitive to the bitter taste of caffeine would drink less coffee,” says Marilyn Cornelis, senior author on the research. “The opposite results of our study suggest coffee consumers acquire a taste or an ability to detect caffeine due to the learned positive reinforcement (i.e. stimulation) elicited by caffeine.”

However, the results were flipped when the researchers examined subjects carrying the bitter taste receptors for quinine and PROP. This suggests those subjects most sensitive to an overall sense of bitterness ultimately preferred tea over coffee.

“Taste has been studied for a long time, but we don’t know the full mechanics of it,” says Cornelis, explaining the motivations behind the study. “Taste is one of the senses. We want to understand it from a biological standpoint.”

The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Source: Northwestern University

(For similar interesting articles, please visit:



New sphinx uncovered in Egypt

By Barry Neild –

(CNN) — Some amazing archeological finds involve daring adventures into hidden tombs. Others — as is the case with the discovery of a beautiful new sphinx in Egypt — simply involve a spot of drainage.
The newly uncovered sandstone statue, believed to be more than 2,000 years old, was revealed during work to lower the groundwater level in an ancient temple.
Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities said on its Facebook page that the sphinx was found on the southeastern side of the Kom Ombo temple near the southern city of Aswan.

Images released by the ministry show a classic sphinx, with the body of lion and the head of a human, wearing a snake crown and headdress. The statue appears to be mostly intact.

Mostafa Waziri, general secretary of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, says the statue dates from the Ptolemaic era which ran from 300 BC to 30 BC. He said it was found close to the location where two sandstone reliefs of King Ptolemy V were recovered two months earlier.
More excavations are expected to take place around the temple to try to learn more about the sphinx, Abdel Moneim Saeed, general director of Aswan Antiquities, said, according to the ministry.
Sphinxes are recurring creatures in the mythologies of ancient Egyptian, Persian and Greek cultures. Their likeness are often found near tombs or religious buildings.
The most famous, the Great Sphinx of Giza, is believed to have been built next to the Nile river in about 2500 BC for the pharaoh Khafra, who also ordered construction of one of the pyramids of Giza.
Great Sphinx of Giza - 20080716a.jpg
While the Great Sphinx is an imposing 73 meters (240 feet) long and more than 20 meters high, the latest discovery at Kom Ombo is reported to be a mere 38 centimeters high.

Crocodile mummies

Kom Ombo is considered unusual for an ancient Egyptian temple because it is dedicated to two separate deities — crocodile god Sobek and falcon god Haroeris.
Three hundred crocodile mummies discovered near the temple are displayed in an adjacent Crocodile Museum.
Highlighting the fact that Egypt still has mysteries yet to uncover, the sphinx may help draw more visitors back to a country whose recent social and political upheavals led to a sharp decline in tourism.
The latest discovery follows the recent opening of the newly restored Tomb of Mehu, a 4,000-year-old burial site near Giza that has been hidden from public view since its discovery 80 years ago.
(For the balance of this article, plus a video, please visit:


8-in-1 Monkeycycle grows from stroller, to bike, to tilting quad

Two different configurations of the Monkeycycle
Two different configurations of the Monkeycycle (Credit: Monkeycycle).

Grow bikes are nothing new in the children’s bicycle scene, however Monkeycycle is an extraordinarily modular new innovation designed to offer your child eight different configurations, morphing from a stroller for the nine-month-old, to a pedal-powered quad bike for a six-year-old, and a few configurations in between.

Kids grow out of stuff really fast and bicycles are no exception. We’ve seen several innovative grow bikes over the years, designed to effectively expand so parents don’t have to buy a new bike for their child every 12 months. The new Monkeycycle takes the idea of a grow bike to an impressive new level, with a clever design allowing a single bike to turn into eight different kits.

The first iteration for the Monkeycycle is its stroller formation. This is being offered as part of a stretch goal during the Kickstarter campaign so the company suggests it is still under development. The current stroller configuration outlined offers a locking brake for the rear axle, and a storage bag. This is claimed to still be six to eight months away from general release.

The stroller kit

The next three iterations form the Monkeycycle’s basic kit. This comprises a simple two-wheeler, offering both a low-seat and a high-seat balance bike. The basic kit also comes with a pedal attachment for that key transition point where your child can start to learn to pedal.

A high-seated balancing bike

The next kit up is the trike kit. This essentially adds a third wheel to the whole operation allowing the bike to be swiftly turned into a trike. The full kit offers a few extra pieces allowing for a pedal system to be added to the trike configurations. On top of this, the full kit allows for a tilting quad-bike configuration.

The tilting quad-bike

The entire Monkeycycle system is designed for children up to the age of six. It’s maximum seat height rises to 25 in (63.5 cm), and with a 150-lb (68-kg) weight limit it may very well last your child a little longer if you’re lucky.

Monkeycycle is currently available for preorder on Kickstarter at US$249 for the basic kit and $349 for the full kit. Early bird prices are slightly cheaper, but have just about all sold out as the campaign has already surpassed its goal. The usual Kickstarter disclaimer applies here, as the company doesn’t have a notable background in crowdfunding although it claims to be relatively close to production with delivery scheduled for March 2019.

Take a look at the campaign video below.

Source: Monkeycycle

(For the source of this article, plus a video of how it works, please visit:



Biomega channels e-bike design into simplified electric car

Biomega's Sin electric CUV is due to go into production between 2021 and 2023
Biomega’s Sin electric CUV is due to go into production between 2021 and 2023 (Credit: Biomega).

Denmark’s e-bike maker Biomega has unveiled its first four-wheel electric vehicle – the Sin crossover utility vehicle. The concept brings to mind Renault’s Twizy, but has room for four, is designed as a car not a quadricycle and has a top speed of 130 km/h (80 mph).

In keeping with Biomega’s e-bike naming convention, the Sin concept has been named after a city that inspired some of the design elements, which in this case is Singapore.

“Biomega has always been about creating a paradigm shift in the way society imagines transportation,” said the company’s founder Jens Martin Skibsted. “We feel that we are in an extremely strong position to design an EV that represents the frontier of the new mobility. We are working on a new spectrum of vehicles where, for now, the EV is the largest and the bicycle is the most compact; making Sin another step in the natural progression of our ongoing battle against the combustion car.”

Pitched as an affordable and sustainable solution to modern urban mobility, the 950 kg (2,094 lb) vehicle sports a body shell fashioned from lightweight composites (including carbon fiber) and aluminum crossbeams with a one-piece transparent roof and windshield, a see-through front section where the grille sits on a traditional car and transparent driver and passenger doors – all to allow for optimum view of the road.

The majority of the Sin’s 20 kWh battery modules are housed in the floor of the vehicle. But 6 kWh worth of modular battery units to the rear can be removed and replaced while out and about, presumably at some sort of battery swap facility along the way – though it’s not clear at this point exactly how this will work.

Each wheel gets a 15 kW in-hub motor for 160 Nm of torque, and a zero to 100 km/h (0 – 62 mph) time of 13 seconds on the way to a top speed of 130 km/h. Biomega gives a range per charge figure of 160 km (100 mi).

There’s a distinctly less-is-more approach to the inside of the vehicle, with a rectangular steering “wheel” and tablet-like display, and mesh seats for the driver and three passengers. And not much else.

The production window for the Sin EV is somewhere between 2021 and 2023, with a price tag of €20,000 (about US$23,000). The brief video below has more.

Source: Biomega

(For the source of this article, and to see the video, please visit:



Planned hybrid airship will combine aspects of planes, blimps and helicopters

Plans call for the Model J airship to be mainly computer-controlled
Plans call for the Model J airship to be mainly computer-controlled (Credit: Egan Airships).
It was just last year that we heard about the Plimp, a sort of plane/blimp/helicopter hybrid drone manufactured by Egan Airships. As was hinted at then, the Seattle-based company has now officially announced that it’s working on a passenger-carrying variant known as the Model J.

First of all, just how does the original Plimp drone work?

Well, it’s basically a VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) blimp with two wings, each wing in turn equipped with an electric motor/propeller. When it’s taking off, landing or hovering in one place, the wings rotate so that the props are facing straight up – this lets it move vertically. Once it’s ready to head for its destination, though, the wings rotate so that the props face forward, allowing for fast and efficient fixed-wing flight.

Additionally, thanks to the buoyancy provided by its helium-filled envelope and the lift provided by its wings, it will reportedly glide gently down to the ground at a speed of 9 mph (14 km/h) if its motors give out.

The Model J will measure 169 feet long (51.5 m), have a 61-ft wingspan (18.5 m)...

Plans call for the Model J to have all of those same features, but it’ll be bigger. More precisely, it will measure 169 feet long (51.5 m), have a 61-ft wingspan (18.5 m) and sit 54 ft tall (16.5 m). Its gross weight will be 9,500 lb (4,309 kg) although the envelope will be lifting 5,564 lb of that (2,524 kg), reducing its ground weight to 3,936 lb (1,785 kg).

Capable of carrying ten people (eight passengers plus crew) or 2,000 lb of cargo (907 kg), it will use electric power for its vertical take-offs and landings, with a hybrid gas/electric system taking over for fixed-wing flight. That system should provide a range of 267 miles (430 km) at a speed of 86 mph (138 km/h), or 320 miles (515 km) at 63 mph (101 km/h) – those figures are for a fully-laden aircraft. Short sprints at 93 mph (150 km/h) will also be possible.

As an added bonus, unlike regular blimps that have to land at airfields where a ground crew secures them to a mast, the VTOL-capable Model J will conceivably be able to set down just about anywhere there’s room. And because it’s somewhat heavier than air, it will be less likely than a traditional blimp to drift away once it’s on the ground.

A proposed military version of the Model J

Buyers can expect to pay approximately four to six million US dollars for a Model J, paid at $1 million a year for four years, plus overages. If you’re OK with that price and really want a Model J, you can preorder one via the company link at the end of the article. Not unlike the case with a Kickstarter project, the funds will be used to finance production and development. Delivery is expected to take place in about four years.

“Since experimenting with helium balloons and model balsa gliders as a child in the early 70’s, I always conceived that there must be a certain streamlined way to retain a slow and safe descent speed and get vertical take-off and forward speeds through a rotational wing around the center of gravity/buoyancy of a buoyant hanging plane,” Egan Airships CEO James Egan tells us. “This is the expert design my quest ordered up.”

There’s more information in the video, which accompanies the original of this article.

Company website: Egan Airships

An audio version of this article is available to New Atlas Plus subscribers.

More audio articles

(For the balance of this article, and audio version, please visit:



For $150,000 you can now order your own Hoverbike

$10,000 will reserve you a limited edition Hoverbike
$10,000 will reserve you a limited edition Hoverbike (Credit: Hoversurf).

After first spotting this crazy looking motorcycle-styled hoverbike in early 2017, we were skeptical the contraption would ever move beyond just an odd engineering curiosity. However, Russian company Hoversurf has just revealed its hoverbikes are now ready for production and preorders are open, with delivery scheduled for sometime in 2019.

Ever since the Scorpion hoverbike was revealed we seriously questioned its safety, with such a crazy close proximity between spinning blades and fleshy legs it seemed like a device only really suitable for “aspiring amputees“. Nevertheless, Hoversurf has rapidly moved from ambitious prototype to commercial aircraft, first revealing a deal to sell the aircraft to Dubai Police, and then more recently passing the US Federal Aviation Administration requirements to be classified as a legal ultralight vehicle.

Those unguarded propellers still seem horrifically dangerous, and close to the pilot's legs

The plan to classify the hoverbike as an ultralight vehicle resulted in some minor design tweaks to fulfill the legal requirements of the classification, but this final commercial iteration is still, at its core, the same crazy quadcopter hoverbike.

Its new carbon fiber frame drops the weight of the overall machine down to just 253 lb (114 kg), spot on the legal limit for FAA powered ultralights, and its maximum speed also tops our at 52 knots (60 mph or 96 km/h), again just under the legal maximum allowed by the FAA. Slipping into the FAA’s ultralight classification also allows the hoverbike to be operable with no pilot’s license.

On a single charge you can fly up to 25 minutes if you are light and...

Another new addition to this commercial iteration is a hybrid lithium-manganese-nickel battery, suggesting a flight time of between 10 and 25 minutes depending on the weather and pilot weight. There is also a remote-controlled drone mode that reportedly offers up to 40 minutes flight time.

So, if you are keen to grab a super expensive toy that looks a little dangerous, and can only really stay in the air for around 15 minutes at a time, then you can preorder a Hoverbike S3 2019 right now with a US$10,000 deposit. Full price is set at $150,000, and deliveries are slated to take place within two to six months from your time of reservation.

Take a look at the most recent Hoverbike design flying around in the video.

Source: Hoversurf

(For the original of this article, plus a video, please visit:



This Crazy Horse Monument Is So Enormous That The Work Needed To Complete It Beggars Belief



Meet Harley-Davidson’s great electric hope: The production-ready 2020 Livewire

The 2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire is designed for urban riding
The 2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire is designed for urban riding.

It’s looking more and more like Harley’s only hope is to branch out into new segments in search of a replacement for its withering customer base, and the 2020 Livewire represents the storied company’s first big punch as it tries to fight its way into millennial relevancy. There are a few key things we still don’t know about this bike – namely power, torque, range, voltage and price. H-D’s EICMA reveal stayed silent on these very important points, but it did give us our first glimpse of what it’ll look like – and it’s not bad at all.

The design isn’t as clean as what we first saw in the Project Livewire prototype fleet that made its way around the world starting back in 2014. In particular, the area around the footpegs is a lot busier to look at, but the overall lines are nice, paying homage to Harley’s flat tracking heritage and doing a decent job of working around the big, unattractive battery box that necessarily sits as a giant design black hole just where the beautiful Harley V-twin would ordinarily take pride of place.

2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire: quite a nice set of lines for an electric

All we know about the electric motor is that it’s a permanent magnet design, it’s painted bright silver to make it a visual feature, and it’s located under the battery box to keep the weight of the bike low and central for sprightly handling. This should certainly out-handle most of Harley’s current portfolio, particularly given the “premium high-performance, fully adjustable Showa suspension” it’ll run at both ends.

The shock will be a balance-free rear cushion-lite monoshock, the forks will be big piston, separate function, and the setup will be tuned for “composed control in typical urban riding conditions.” The Brembo monoblock brakes and dual 300mm front discs might give Harley riders their first good reason to reach for the front brake lever in many moons. They’re ABS units, as well, and traction control will also be standard when the Livewire debuts.

There will be seven selectable riding modes – four pre-programmed and three available custom slots for riders to set up themselves – and the main interface will be a full color, tilt-adjustable TFT touchscreen with Bluetooth connectivity, as is the style of these times.

2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire: looks like one of the best-handling Harleys ever

Like all electrics, it’ll happily slow-charge in the garage at home or work when plugged into a standard wall outlet. It’ll also support DC fast charging using the J1772 or CCS2 – IEC Type 2 connectors if you need to juice up faster.

To assuage any fears riders might have about gliding around on a silent motorcycle that can’t annoy passers-by, Harley has designed the Livewire motor “to produce a tone that increases in pitch and volume at speed.”

This idea excited me a little, because Harley has always paid attention to the sound of its bikes, going so far as to trademark the iconic “potato-potato-potato” sound of its engines at idle back in 1994. Electrics are much quieter than thumping v-twins, but there’s an opportunity for somebody to come out and start making electrics with an iconic sound that’s a bit more compelling than the turbine-like whine coming out of most I’ve ridden to date.

Unfortunately, there’s a video to put an end to this train of thought. You’ll find it at the bottom of the page. The Livewire sounds more or less exactly like an electric motorcycle. Which is fine.

2020 Harley-Davidson Livewire: the first of a full portfolio of electrics Harley wants to launch by...

That’s all we know at this stage, but pre-orders will open up with the release of more information in early 2019, and Harley says it expects to have a “full portfolio” of electrics on offer by 2022.

Will it get millennial buttocks onto Harleys as effectively as the skull-face bandannas and sly outlaw connotations did for baby boomers’ buns? Time will tell. But Harley’s going wide open throttle to take the lead on mass-market premium electric motorcycling. And that’s got to be good for progress.

There are plenty of pics in the gallery and the video highlight’s the new Harley sound.

Source: Harley-Davidson

(For the balance of this article, plus a video, please visit:



Hail to the king: Ducati’s new Panigale V4R is the most powerful production bike in history

2019 Ducati Panigale V4R: runs advanced wheelie control, so this is clearly on purpose
2019 Ducati Panigale V4R: runs advanced wheelie control, so this is clearly on purpose (Credit: Ducati).

Ducati has just debuted the most extreme petrol-powered supersport bike in history on the eve of EICMA in Milan. The new king of the Panigale range is a World Superbike homologation special with a set of specifications that should strike fear into the heart of any mortal. Oh, and it’s got wings, too.

The homologation special

World Superbike (WSBK) is a production-based race series, which pits hotted-up versions of the actual streetbikes you can go and buy against one another in competition – as opposed to MotoGP, which is more like Formula One, in that each race bike is essentially a prototype that was never built for road use.

In order to race a given bike in WSBK, it needs to meet an exhaustive list of homologation regulations to keep the playing field as level as possible. No titanium frames are allowed, for example, and ABS systems have to be removed from the race bikes.

But you also need to prove that the bike you’re entering for racing is actually a genuine production bike that customers can buy and ride on the road. They can’t cost any more than €40,000 to buy, and the manufacturer has to prove it has built at least 500 units by the end of the year following the homologation inspection date.

2019 Ducati Panigale V4R: she's a mean looker, too

Thus, if you want to enter something really special, you need to make it available to the public as well as the race team, and this occasionally leads to some absolute lunatic-level machinery being built for the road.

The latest, and thus far, greatest example of the homologation special is next year’s Ducati Panigale V4R. The current Ducati superbike is a 1198cc V-Twin, taking advantage of the rules that allow twins to run a higher engine capacity than 4-cylinder engines. But the current model Panigale V4 streetbike has an 1103cc V4 motor, which is 103cc too big to race with as a 4-cylinder.

Hence the beast we see today, just unveiled in a spectacular event at the world’s biggest bike show: EICMA in Milan.

An audio version of this article is available to New Atlas Plus subscribers.

More audio articles

(For the balance of this article please visit:



The Centennial State has 697 sides‚ not four.

Map of the state of Colorado.

    • Colorado looks like a rectangle. It isn’t.
    • The Centennial State has not four, but 697 sides. That makes it a hexahectaenneacontakaiheptagon.
  • Does that make Wyoming the only real rectangular state? Well, about that…

America loves its straight-line borders. The only U.S. state without one is Hawaii – for obvious reasons (1).

West of the Mississippi, states are bigger, emptier and boxier than back East. From a distance, all seem to be made up of straight lines.

Only when you zoom in do you see their squiggly bits: the northeast corner of Kansas, for instance. Or Montana’s western border with Idaho that looks like a human face. Or Oklahoma’s southern border with Texas, meandering as it follows the Red River.

New Mexico comes tantalisingly close to having only straight-line borders. There’s that short stretch north of El Paso that would have been just 15 miles (24 km) long if it was straight instead of wavy.

No, there are only three states whose borders are entirely made up of straight lines: Utah, which would have been a rectangle if Wyoming hadn’t bitten a chunk out of its northeastern corner; Wyoming itself; plus Colorado.

Red: states with only straight-line borders. Yellow: states with some straight-line borders. Green: states without straight-line borders.  Image:

Except that they aren’t. For two distinct reasons: because the earth is round, and because those 19th-century surveyors laying out state borders made mistakes.

Congress defined the borders of Colorado as a geospherical rectangle, stretching from 37°N to 41°N latitude, and from 25°W to 32°W longitude (2). While lines of latitude run in parallel circles that don’t meet, lines of longitude converge at the poles.

Which means that Colorado’s longitudinal borders are slightly further apart in the south. So if you’d look closely enough, the state resembles an isosceles trapezoid (3) rather than a rectangle. Consequently, the state’s northern borderline is about 22 miles (35 km) shorter than its southern one. The same goes, mutatis mutandis, for Wyoming.

That’s not where the story ends. There’s boundary delimitation: the theoretical description of a border, as described above. But what’s more relevant is boundary demarcation: surveying and marking out the border on the ground. Colorado entered the Union in 1876.

Only in 1879 did the first boundary survey team get around to translating Congress’s abstract into actual boundary markers. The official border would not be the delimited one, but the demarcated one. Unfortunately, 19th-century surveyors lacked satellites and other high-precision measurement tools.

Let’s not be too harsh: considering the size of the task and the limitation of their tools — magnetic compasses and metal chains — they did an incredible job. They had to stake straight lines irrespective of terrain, often through inhospitable land.

But yes, errors were made — and were in fact quite habitual. Take for example the 49th parallel, which for more than 1,200 miles forms the international border between the U.S. and Canada. Rather than being a straight line, it zigzags between the 912 boundary monuments established by successive teams of surveyors (the last ones in 1872–4). The markers deviate by as much as 575 feet north and 784 feet south of the actual parallel line.

Colorado, not as rectangular as you think. Image:

The same kind of thing happened when the first surveying teams went out to demarcate the Colorado border. This map magnifies four of the most egregious surveying inaccuracies, where the difference between the boundaries delineated by Congress and the border demarcated by the surveyors is greatest.

Four Corners (and four more)

Four Corners. Clockwise from top left: Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona. Image source: Getty Creative

Located in a dusty, desolate corner of the desert, the Four Corners monument seems very far from the middle of anything. Yet this is the meeting point of four states: Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. It is the only quadripoint in the United States (4). The monument’s exact location is at 36°59’56″N, 109°02’43″W.

However, it’s not where Congress had decreed the four states to meet. That point is about 560 feet (170 m) northwest of the quadripoint’s current location, at 37°N, 109°02’48″W. Did you drive all the way through the desert to miss the actual point by a few hundred feet?

No, you didn’t: in 1925, the Supreme Court ruled that the borders as surveyed were the correct ones. But perhaps the original quadripoint deserves a small marker of its own, if only to provide the site with an extra attraction. Or why not go for three? Some sources say the original point deviates by 1,807 feet (551 m).

(For more on this, and other interesting articles, please visit:



Folding electric fat bike promises “moar” features

Moar e-bikes include 500- or 750-watt electric drives, full suspension and 4-in fat tires
Moar e-bikes include 500- or 750-watt electric drives, full suspension and 4-in fat tires.

One look at the all-new Moar e-bike and you can tell this isn’t your average pedelec. The bike greets the eye with fat tires, thickly sheathed wires and a battery compartment that shoots off the back of the seat post to double as a cargo rack. Looking more closely, its feature set includes full suspension, a 750-W electric drive and a powerful lighting system. This e-bike just packs “moar” than average, pardon the pun.

We’ve come to expect electric bikes in every shape and size imaginable, but we weren’t expecting an on/off-road, full-suspension electric folder with 26-in wheels, fat tires and a 750-watt powertrain. But that’s exactly what the Moar e-bike, which is currently the subject of a crowdfunding campaign, promises – a powerful, rugged two-wheeler built for everyone from trail-riding weekend warriors to daily city commuters.

When the non-electric fat bike first began its popularity rise from endurance competition workhorse to trendy piece of kit parked in front of every microbrewery around, it seemed to run almost exclusively without suspension – maybe something about big, spongy tires not needing to be sprung, or perhaps it was more that suspension makers weren’t building components for the fat market.

But over the past three years or so, notable manufacturers like Surly and Trek have started rolling out big-tired bikes with front and rear suspension, providing an option for those that want a little extra spring. As those full suspension fat bikes were gaining a little traction, electric bike companies like Bad and Rad started introducing (unsuspended) folding, electric fat bikes. In short, the fat tire trend has been finding its way into all shapes and forms of bike … or maybe it’s been all shapes, forms and components wrapping their way around those wide, bloated tires.

Moar has gone a step farther than the others in packing a fatty with the kitchen sink, combining all those different aspects into a single bike, then tacking on an impressive collection of tech and components. The company’s electrified full-suspension fat-tire folder features a heat-treated 6061 aluminum frame that folds in half via a hinge at the top tube. The distinctive welded rear cargo rack shoots upward to double as an easy-access compartment for the removable 48-V lithium-ion battery. Folding pedals further shrink the bike’s footprint during storage and transport.

The Moar e-bike features a simple hinged folding mechanism

Moar has developed three models around its folding frame, relying on two powertrain options: a 750-watt-rated mid-drive motor and a 500-watt-rated rear hub motor. Whichever motor you choose, a torque sensor or cadence sensor and motor controller regulate output to maintain the desired level of pedal-assist according to five rider-selectable modes. There’s also a thumb throttle for direct motor output.

Moar has electronically capped top speed at 20 mph (32 km/h) to meet regulations, but it says that the owner can easily unlock the fuller top speeds of 28 mph (45 km/h) for the 750-watt mid-motor and 25 mph (40 km/h) for the 500-watt rear hub motor. The battery has enough power for between 30 and 85 miles (48 and 137 km) of range, depending upon model/motor, pedal-assist mode selected and other factors.

Another interesting feature on the Moar bike is its integrated lighting system, which includes a 1,000-lumen LED dual-headlight system, LED taillight, turn signals and brake lights. The headlights include an “Angel Eye” surround that illuminates the road directly in front of the bike to make the rider more visible while the LED projectors throw light farther ahead, up to 30 feet (9.1 m).

The "Angel Eye" lighting halo design helps make the cyclist more visible at night

Other features of interest include a backlit LCD on the handlebars, USB gadget charging, a horn, internally routed wiring and heavy sleeving where the wires are outside the frame, disc brakes, and Kenda 26 x 4-in fat tires.

All those features don’t come without some weight, and the Moar e-bike definitely won’t be competing with the BestiaNera Sport or Maxwell EP0 for the title of lightest e-bike. With the battery in place, it sends the scale racing to around 70 lb (32 kg).

Moar is currently at the prototype stage and trying to raise development funding on Indiegogo, where it’s offering all three of its electric bike models. The nine-speed performance flagship Rapt, featuring the 750-watt mid-drive with a 17-Ah/815-Wh Samsung li-ion battery for up to 85 miles (137 km) of range, slots in at a US$1,999. The eight-speed 24/7 ($1,199) and seven-speed Sun & Fun ($999) models both rely on the 500-watt rear motor with smaller batteries and range figures. Some of the other features vary by model, as well.

Moar e-bikes

The campaign page linked below has a thorough rundown of Moar’s overarching design and all the features and individual models, so if you want more of the ins and outs, it’s worth a read.

Source: Indiegogo

(For the source of this, and similar articles, please visit:



A French study of nearly 70,000 people yielded startling results for two forms of cancer.

  • A French study of nearly 70,000 people states that organic foods reduce the risk that you’ll develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and postmenopausal breast cancer.
  • Agricultural pesticides have been shown to have a toxic effect on the human endocrine system.
  • The high cost of organic food remains a barrier to entry for those wishing to eat a healthier diet.

In 1998, while working as a reporter at a Princeton newspaper, I wrote a story on organic foods, at the time a $3.5 billion business. The feature was inspired by Rutgers University research, the Firman Bear Report, and the effect of soil quality on nutrient levels. A few of the results:

In the report, tomatoes grown organically contained 1938 mg of iron for every 100 grams dry weight, compared to 1 mg for the same weight found in non-organic farm tomatoes. In that same tomato, there were 148.3 mg of potassium in the organic product and 58.6 mg in the farm product. Organic spinach yielded 1584 mg of iron compared to 19 mg in non-organic spinach, and 71 mg calcium against 16 mg.

In the 20 years since that article was published, organic food has skyrocketed. The Organic Trade Association now pegs the value of organic products at $45.2 billion. The problems with industrial agriculture are now well-documented. Strangely, however, few large-scale studies on organic food’s relationship to human health have been conducted (at least in terms of cancer), making a new report by JAMA [Journal of the American Medical Association] even more eye-opening.

Organic foods at a small market.

The French study followed nearly 70,000 predominantly-female adults over the course of five years. After that time, adults who ate organic food were 25% less likely to have developed certain forms of cancer than “conventional” eaters. More specifically, study participants who ate organic foods were 73% less likely to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and 21% less likely to develop postmenopausal breast cancer. As The New York Times reports,

Those who ate the most organic fruits, vegetables, dairy products, meat and other foods had a particularly steep drop in the incidence of lymphomas, and a significant reduction in postmenopausal breast cancers.

[Video: What is Organic Food?]

The study authors, led by French National Institute of Health and Medical Research researcher, Julia Baudry, were not surprised by the fact that organic foods reduce cancer risks, but were shocked by the actual reduction. She also notes that her study doesn’t prove that organic foods reduce the risk of cancer, but “that an organic-based diet could contribute to reducing cancer risk.”

And it shouldn’t be surprising. The combination of pesticides and mono-cropping has depleted the nutrient value of fruits and vegetables, affecting both soil and plant. We’re told that a plant-based diet is the healthiest, yet if those plants are stripped of nutrient value and contain residue from toxic chemicals there is certainly going to be negative effects. One of those happens to be cancer.

The authors cite a 2018 European Food Safety Authority report, which states that 44 percent of conventionally grown foods contained one or more pesticide residues, while only 6.5 percent of organic foods measured any such residue. That number should be zero; there has been criticism about what constitutes “organic.” While many toxicologists claim residue levels in foods are not dangerous, the cumulative effects of not-dangerous can equal dangerous over time.

(For the balance of this article please visit:



The best open source alternatives to your everyday apps

Open source provides a compelling alternative to proprietary software
Open source provides a compelling alternative to proprietary software (Credit: bizoon/Depositphotos)

There are many compelling reasons to use open source software, where the code behind an app is free for anyone to view or contribute to. There’s the obvious benefit that it’s free to use. It’s arguably more secure (thanks to the many eyes on the source code). It’s built solely for the benefit of users. And it may have ethical appeal over an app built by, say, a multinational corporation. This in mind, here are 10 of the best open source alternatives to the software we use on our computers every day.

1. Web browser: Firefox

Developed by the Mozilla Foundation, the Firefox web browser has been a mainstay of web users since its release in 2002.

The open source web browser Firefox

Firefox puts privacy front and center. Its Private Browsing mode not only deletes passwords and cookies after a browsing session, it also detects and blocks tracking software now prevalent on the web.

It’s also highly customizable thanks to myriad extensions which can enhance bookmarking and password management, YouTube watching, online shopping and almost anything else you can think to do in a browser.

Its latest release, Firefox Quantum, purports to be twice as fast as before, with a memory footprint 30 percent lighter than Chrome. It’s also kinder to your laptop battery than Google’s heavyweight browser.

Firefox is available for Windows 7 or later, OS X and MacOS 10.9 or later, and Linux.

2. Email: Thunderbird

Also the work of the Mozilla Foundation, Thunderbird is to email clients as Firefox is to web browsers: a powerful open source alternative to the likes of Outlook and Apple Mail.

Thunderbird is an open source email client

As well as email, Thunderbird can be used to read news and blogs thanks to its in-built RSS capabilities.

Like Firefox, Thunderbird can be heavily customized via its suite of add-ons which can add features like instant messaging, calendars or encryption, or simply enhance the look and feel of the app.

And again, just like Firefox, Thunderbird can be downloaded for Windows 7 or later, OS X and MacOS 10.9 or later, and Linux.

3. Instant messaging: Pidgin

Pidgin aims to be the free one-stop shop for all messaging needs, offering support for a number of messaging networks including AIM, Google Talk, ICQ, IRC, Bonjour and XMPP, with support for more via the use of plug-ins. (And forgive us if you’re spotting an open source theme, here.)

Logo of the open source instant messaging app Pidgin

Sign in to more than one network and you see a unified contacts list so the networks in use are, to all intents and purposes, invisible.

Thanks to its global network of contributors, Pidgin has been translated into a vast number of languages, including Irish, Valencian-Catalan and Belarusian Latin.

The latest release has dropped support for MSN, Myspace and Yahoo chat. It’s supported on Windows and Linux.

4. Media player: VLC

The ultra-lean and fast VLC player from the VideoLAN Organization has been the go-to media player for open source users since 2001.

The open source VLC media player

VLC plays a host of file types as well as supporting DVD, audio CD and VCD playback. MPEG-2, MPEG-4, H.264, MKV, WebM, WMV and MP3 are among the codecs supported, with more available thanks to (you guessed it) downloadable plug-ins, which can also be used to customize the appearance of the app.

VLC is available for Windows, MacOS and Linux. It’s also available for Android, iOS, Apple TV and a host of other operating systems.


5. Text editor: Notepad++

Sometimes a full-blown word processor is too much hassle or not fit for the job. Whether it’s jotting down some quick notes to writing reams of (presumably open source) code, a simple text editor may be all you need.

Open source editor Notepad++

Built as an unofficial homage to Windows’ own barebones editor Notepad, Notepad++ adds a number of advanced features from tabbed documents, WYSIWYG editing and syntax highlighting (which is a must for software developers).

Alas, Notepad++ is only available for Windows.

6. Office suite: LibreOffice

But should you need a fully-fledged suite of office apps, the world of open source software has you covered in the shape of LibreOffice. It trumps the open source predecessor Open Office in its superior support for Microsoft Office file formats, including the ability to create and save more recent file types like DOCX and XLSX.

A screenshot of LibreOffice's word processor, Writer

LibreOffice includes a word processor (called Writer, pictured here), spreadsheet software (Calc) and presentation software (Impress) as well as dedicated apps for diagrams and databases.

The software has come a long way over the years, so if you’ve tried open source office suites in the past and been put off by iffy formatting, modern day LibreOffice may be worth another look.

LibreOffice is available for the Windows, MacOS and Linux triumvirate.


7. Image editor: GIMP

GIMP, which stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program, is an open source alternative to Adobe Photoshop and a powerful tool for photographers, designers or artists needing powerful image creation or editing software. (GNU is a license which makes software freely available.)

The open source image editor GIMP

It includes numerous powerful features pitched at photographers, including quick fixes for barreling and vignetting, retouching tools, black and white enhancements.

It’s an extremely powerful tool which offers a Python development platform to create editing automations. It’s available for Windows, MacOS and Linux.

8. Antivirus: ClamAV

Antivirus package ClamAV detects not only viruses, but also trojans and malware and keeps an eye on email, Office files, PDFs, software signatures and archive files such as Zip and RAR formats among others. It boasts access to a virus database which is updated several times each day.

Logo of the open source antivirus software ClamAV

A number of job-specific third-party tools have been built to work with ClamAV, including firewalls, proxy servers, file transfer tools and POP3 email servers.

ClamAV is available for Windows, Mac and Linux. It needs to be installed via a package or the source code, so it’s not as simple as downloading an installer, unfortunately.

9. Password storage: KeePass

Online security is a hotter topic than ever, and with the prevailing wisdom stating not to reuse passwords, keeping on top of all your logins is no easy feat. That’s were a password manager like LastPass, 1Password or the open source KeePass comes in.

Open source password manager KeePass

It’s ultra-secure, using both the NSA-approved AES encryption standard and the Twofish algorithm co-designed by Bruce Schneier.

It’s not the prettiest, but KeePass is a lightweight yet powerful app worthy of consideration. It’s available for Windows, MacOS and Linux, and can be run from a portable USB stick.

10. Operating system: Ubuntu

It’s not for the faint of heart, but if you want to go fully open source, your best bet is to run an open source Linux distribution as an alternative to Windows or MacOS.

Ubuntu running on a Dell XPS laptop

Perhaps the best-known and most user-friendly version of Linux is Ubuntu, which began life as an offshoot of the Linux distro Debian in 2004. It comes with the afore-mentioned Firefox, Thunderbird and LibreOffice pre-installed.

Unlike other Linux distros, software is easily installed by virtue of Ubuntu Software, essentially a built-in software store (with many of its wares available for free).

Though there’s never been an easier time to adopt Linux, caution is nevertheless advised. Replacing your currently-installed operating system straight off the bat isn’t advised. A dual-OS setup is a good way to test the waters.

(Source of this, and many other excellent articles:



Self-leveling motorcycle headlight bulbs offer a huge, cheap safety upgrade

ALLight keeps your headlight level when you lean the bike over
ALLight keeps your headlight level when you lean the bike over (Credit: ALLight).

The ALLight guys didn’t manage to get their self-leveling motorcycle headlight bulb over the line in their first crowdfunding attempt, but they’re back, and this time it looks like it’s going to happen. It’s a simple gadget that replaces your stock headlight bulb with one that stays level in corners.

Many times now, I’ve railed in these hallowed Web pages about how crappy the average motorcycle headlight is. When you lean over to go around a corner with a fixed headlight, you basically plunge the bit of road you’re riding toward into darkness.

These days, the vast majority of full-size motorcycles come with all sorts of fancy safety gear, such as traction control and lean angle-sensitive ABS. Blind spot warnings are on their way, and even side thrusters to push back against any sideways loss of traction. But there are still only one or two bikes on the market whose headlights can look around corners. It’s a joke.

Enter the aftermarket. ALLight aims to be the simplest possible solution to this problem. Pull out your current H4 globe, plug in the ALLight H4, and off you go. The process is a little more fiddly for H7 and H11 globes, but not much.

The ALLight bulb design should fit pretty much any standard headlight

ALLight replaces your terrible standard globes with extra-bright LED projectors, including low and high beams, which are mounted on small brushless gimbal motors, and equipped with inertial measurement gear to work out when the bike is leaning over. When you lean the bike, the headlight stays level, and you can see where you’re going instead of making every sharp turn a leap of faith.

Each one is yours for US$140 at the moment on Indiegogo, with a retail price of US$220 looming after crowdfunding. As a motorcycle accessory of such utility, that’s not a bad price at all. It’s certainly a ton cheaper than something like the J.W. Speaker Adaptive Headlight, plus relevant to a far wider selection of bikes, and we would expect it to be even more effective, too. Beyond that, your next option is to go buy yourself a BMW K1600GT, which has this kind of tech built in.

If ALLight nails this project, it’s got a chance to become an absolute must-have accessory in my books. If all goes to plan, backers will receive their Retrofit Projector Bulbs from January 2019. Fingers crossed!

(Source: ALLight Indiegogo via:



Bitcoin is closer to breaking into the mainstream than ever before

by Reuben Jackson –

Bitcoin Mining on the Blockchain | by Flickr user Descryptive, Creative Commons

Cryptocurrencies have taken the world by storm. Between January 2017 and December 2017, the price of Bitcoin rose by over 2,000%—from $953 to $20,089.

Right now, the market cap of Bitcoin alone is over $120 billion. However, the most exciting part of blockchain technology isn’t Bitcoin rather, the way it can be applied to change the world we live in.

Useful crypto properties

There are a number of reasons that blockchain technology is playing an increasing role in our society. Perhaps the most obvious benefit of the blockchain and the core concept behind it is the fact that it is decentralized which means that there is no requirement for an intermediary or a third party to validate transactions. Instead, they can be carried out automatically using a consensus mechanism.

Because no third-party is required to validate transactions, this massively reduces overhead costs, making blockchain models cheaper and more efficient. In addition, blockchain is immutable, meaning that once data has been entered into it, it’s almost impossible to edit, which is a big advantage and increases people’s trust in the system.

Finally, one of the most vital properties of blockchain is its extremely high level of security. All transactions on the blockchain are cryptographically secured, making it extremely difficult for hackers to break into them.

Current barriers to crypto mass adoption

Despite these benefits, there are still a number of problems with blockchain that have yet to be solved which are preventing crypto from becoming mainstream. To help it along, we need to look for solutions to these issues.

Price volatility

Over the past couple of years, the price of cryptocurrencies has varied massively. In some cases, cryptocurrencies have lost as much as 50% of their value within a matter of days.

For instance, PayPal was one of the first platforms to accept cryptocurrencies in 2014. However, CFO, John Rainey, has stated that the volatility of crypto is one of the major things that keeps merchants from using them.

In an interview, he said, “If you’re a merchant and you have, let’s say, a 10 percent margin on a product that you sell and you accept Bitcoin, for example, and the very next day it moves 15 percent, you’re now underwater on that transaction… You could have something that appeals to consumers, but if merchants don’t accept it, it’s of little value. Right now, we don’t see a lot of interest from our merchants.”

c/o Pexels

Security issues

As the value of cryptocurrencies has risen, so have the number of hackers targeting the most popular crypto exchanges and startups. Because of this, many exchanges have significantly increased their security precautions in order to protect their users. The downside of this is that the increased security has made it all too easy for investors to get locked out of their accounts.

The blockchain tracking company, Chainalysis, have estimated that over 3 million Bitcoins have been lost so far. Since the supply of Bitcoin is finite, this means that over 14% of all the bitcoins that will ever be created are already gone.

Legal uncertainties

Public interest in cryptocurrencies has risen so fast that legal authorities have been unable to keep up. Right now, most cryptocurrencies are not backed by any central government, so each country has wildly different standards and laws in regards to them.

Many people are hesitant to invest in crypto because they don’t want to risk investing and then having these standards change drastically or affecting them retroactively.

High barrier to entry

The process of investing in cryptocurrencies can seem complicated – especially for people who have never done such a thing before. Many people simply don’t know where to start, and the idea of keeping track of all of their different accounts over a large number of different websites can seem intimidating.

Liquidity issues

One of the biggest issues by far with cryptocurrencies right now is the liquidity problem.

Liquidity is a required element for any market. A lack of liquidity signifies a lack of control, and many people don’t want to risk that they won’t be able to cash out immediately if something were you go wrong – an issue that several crypto exchanges, including the likes of Bitfinex, have already experienced.

Crypto companies breaking down these barriers

There are an increasing number of companies trying to overcome the current barriers of crypto and encouraging their adoption by the mainstream population.

Elephant is one company reaching to bridge the gap between virtual and physical boundaries in order to solve the liquidity challenge by introducing emerging blockchain applications to secondary markets. The platform is designed to appeal to investors  – both experienced and new  – who want a more stable investment that is tied to ‘real’ assets.

The platform lowers the barrier to entry for both buyers and sellers and opens the door to investments in shares of the world’s most important and interesting pre-IPO private companies, including the likes of BlaBlaCar and IronSource. So far, they have shares of over 20 high-profile pre-IPO companies worth a combined total of over $70 million for sale on the platform and have already amassed over 2,000 registered investors.

Blox is another company trying to simplify the process of investing in cryptocurrencies and making them more accessible and less intimidating for newbie investors.

Essentially, it is a completely free blockchain and crypto portfolio asset management platform that syncs all of wallets and exchanges into a single account. Using their own integrated native token, known as CDT, which users can earn by using Blox to track their portfolio, they can then either trade in tokens or use them to access premium features.

Crypto could be closer to the mainstream than we think

Right now, it might feel like we’re a long way off from a world where crypto is mainstream.

However, the industry has come a long way within the past two years alone. With more and more companies working on solutions to solve some of crypto’s biggest problems and making it more practical for real-world application, it could be closer than we’ve been led to believe.

There have even been rumors that big companies like Amazon are planning on jumping onto the crypto bandwagon. The retail giant has released no official statements on the topic, but its recent purchases of domain names including,, and, suggest that it could be gearing up to become more involved in this growing industry.

Amazon is also pushing its ‘Blockchain on AWS’ platform that provides users with the resources they need to experiment with blockchain networks and deploy solutions. Qtum is an example of one blockchain platform that has recently become available through Amazon Web Services (AWS). Qtum is a decentralized, open source smart contracts platform that aims to completely revolutionize the way that smart contracts are viewed, developed, and used.

This launch will enable AWS users to access the platform and use it to develop and launch their own smart contracts by using Amazon Machine Image (AMI), without having to go outside of the platform.

Having Qtum available on the Amazon platform has already served as a huge boost for the QTUM cryptocurrency. And this is just the beginning. Over the next few years, it’s likely that Amazon will become increasingly interested in the potential of the blockchain.

Who knows…within a few years, buying a loaf of bread with Bitcoin could be the new norm.

(Source of this article, and to watch videos relating to Bitcoin visit:



Natural blue clay may kill germs in wounds

The blue clay contains bacteria-killing iron and aluminum
The blue clay contains bacteria-killing iron and aluminum (Credit: Arizona State University).

For centuries, various cultures have used clay as a remedy for infections. Now, scientists from Arizona State University (ASU) and the Mayo Clinic have determined that blue clay in particular may indeed be effective at treating infected wounds.

The study builds on previous ASU research, which indicated that the chemically-reduced iron and aluminum in blue clay from Oregon was capable of killing free-floating bacteria. In the new study, a solution containing the clay was also shown to be effective when used on biofilms made up of harmful bacteria such as Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus.

Basically self-supporting colonies of bacteria, such biofilms are present in about two thirds of infected wounds seen by physicians. Because they take the form of a coating that protects the microbes within, they’re often resistant to antibiotics.

“We showed that this reduced iron-bearing clay can kill some strains of bacteria under the laboratory conditions used, including bacteria grown as biofilms, which can be particularly challenging to treat,” says the Mayo Clinic’s Dr. Robin Patel, senior author of the study.

A natural deposit of the blue clay in Oregon

That said, the researchers note that not all types of clay may be effective, and that only one concentration of the blue clay solution has been tested so far. Down the road, they hope to produce a synthetic compound that stably and consistently offers the therapeutic effects of the key minerals that are found naturally in the clay.

Scientists from the University of British Columbia have previously had success in using Kisameet clay to kill bacteria.



No amount of alcohol is safe, warns new global study

by Stephen Johnson –

Pixabay Commons

You may think that drinking one or two alcoholic beverages per day isn’t so bad. You might even believe moderate drinking is healthy—after all, it seems like every few months there’s a new study in the news linking alcohol consumption to a healthier heart, longer lifespan and decreased risk of diseases like diabetes.

But forget all that for now. A new study on global alcohol consumption, said to be the largest and most detailed of its kind, says the “safest level of drinking is none.”

Alcohol abstinence is “in conflict with most health guidelines, which espouse health benefits associated with consuming up to two drinks per day,” the study authors wrote. “Alcohol use contributes to health loss from many causes and exacts its toll across the lifespan, particularly among men.”

The study, published in The Lancet, used global data from the Global Burden of Disease report to analyze the effects that alcohol consumption had on 23 health conditions and alcohol-related risks among people ages 15 to 95 in 195 countries between 1990 and 2016.

The data showed:

  • Alcohol led to 2.8 million deaths in 2016
  • Alcohol was the leading risk factor in premature deaths in 2016, accounting for one in 10 deaths
  • One-third of people worldwide drink regularly (25% of women, 39% of men)
  • The global average number of daily drinks is 1.7 for men and 0.7 for women

The top 10 heaviest-drinking countries are all in Europe, with Romania leading the pack at an average 8.2 daily drinks among all men, and an astounding 12 drinks per day among men ages 45 to 59. The researchers defined a standard drink as one that contains 10 grams of alcohol, which is equivalent to a 12-ounce beer that’s 3.5 percent alcohol by volume.

The Lancet

Globally, the most common causes of alcohol-related death among those ages 15 to 49 were road injuries, self-harm and tuberculosis. For people ages 50 and up, it was cancer.

“Alcohol poses dire ramifications for future population health in the absence of policy action today. Our results indicate that alcohol use and its harmful effects on health could become a growing challenge as countries become more developed, and enacting or maintaining strong alcohol control policies will be vital,” Emmanuela Gakidou, the report’s senior author, told The Guardian.

“Worldwide we need to revisit alcohol control policies and health programmes, and to consider recommendations for abstaining from alcohol. These include excise taxes on alcohol, controlling the physical availability of alcohol and the hours of sale, and controlling alcohol advertising. Any of these policy actions would contribute to reductions in population-level consumption, a vital step toward decreasing the health loss associated with alcohol use.”

(For the balance of this article see:



Article Image
Credit: ABC.


In 1973, a computer program was developed at MIT to model global sustainability. Instead, it predicted that by 2040 our civilization would end. While many in history have made apocalyptic predictions that have so far failed to materialize, what the computer envisioned in the 1970s has by and large been coming true. Could the machine be right?

Why the program was created

The prediction, which recently re-appeared in Australian media, was made by a program dubbed World One. It was originally created by the computer pioneer Jay Forrester, who was commissioned by the Club of Rome to model how well the world could sustain its growth. The Club of Rome is an organization comprised of thinkers, former world heads of states, scientists, and UN bureaucrats with the mission to “promote understanding of the global challenges facing humanity and to propose solutions through scientific analysis, communication, and advocacy.”

The predictions

What World One showed was that by 2040 there would be a global collapse if the expansion of the population and industry was to continue at the current levels.

As reported by the Australian broadcaster ABC, the model’s calculations took into account trends in pollution levels, population growth, the amount of natural resources and the overall quality of life on Earth. The model’s predictions for the worsening quality of life and the dwindling natural resources have so far been unnervingly on target.

In fact, 2020 is the first milestone envisioned by World One. That’s when the quality of life is supposed to drop dramatically. The broadcaster presented this scenario that will lead to the demise of large numbers of people:

“At around 2020, the condition of the planet becomes highly critical. If we do nothing about it, the quality of life goes down to zero. Pollution becomes so seriously it will start to kill people, which in turn will cause the population to diminish, lower than it was in the 1900. At this stage, around 2040 to 2050, civilised life as we know it on this planet will cease to exist.”

Alexander King, the then-leader of the Club of Rome, evaluated the program’s results to also mean that nation-states will lose their sovereignty, forecasting a New World Order with corporations managing everything.

“Sovereignty of nations is no longer absolute,” King told ABC. “There is a gradual diminishing of sovereignty, little bit by little bit. Even in the big nations, this will happen.”

How did the program work?

World One, the computer program, looked at the world as one system. The report called it “an electronic guided tour of our behavior since 1900 and where that behavior will lead us.” The program produced graphs that showed what would happen to the planet decades into the future. It plotted statistics and forecasts for such variables as population, quality of life, the supply of natural resources, pollution, and more. Following the trend lines, one could see where the crises might take place.

Can we stave off disaster?

As one measure to prevent catastrophe, the Club of Rome predicted some nations like the U.S. would have to cut back on their appetites for gobbling up the world’s resources. It hoped that in the future world, prestige would stem from “low consumption”—one fact that has so far not materialized. Currently, nine in ten people around the world breathe air that has high levels of pollution, according to data from the World Health Organization (WHO). The agency estimates that 7 million deaths each year can be attributed to pollution.

Here, Parag Khanna gets into the specifics of what the world may be like in the near future, if we don’t change course:

(Source, and to watch the video, please visit:



Parking space-sized micro-house is made for city life

Architect Marco Casagrade imagines the Tikku serving as office, shop, workshop, hotel-room, and more
Architect Marco Casagrade imagines the Tikku serving as office, shop, workshop, hotel-room, and more (Credit: Jenni Gaestgivar/Iltalehti). The Tikku can be erected on a site overnight.

With space at a serious premium in many cities, some think that downsizing may be the answer to housing growing populations. Few homes come much smaller than the Tikku (which is Finnish for Stick), by architect Marco Casagrande (ironic name ¿no?). It has a footprint of just 2.5 x 5 m (8.2 x 16.4 ft), making it roughly the size of a standard car parking space.

The Tikku was recently built for Helsinki Design Week 2017 and has a total floorspace of 37.5 sq m (403 sq ft), split over three floors. The prototype model shown is divided into a work area on the first floor, a bedroom upstairs, and a small greenhouse/living space on the top floor.

It includes a dry toilet and electricity comes from solar power, but there’s no running water or kitchen. The idea is that thanks to its location in a city, the occupant should have easy access to water and food and whatever else they need.

However, Casagrande has bigger plans for the Tikku and envisions it also serving as an office, shop, workshop, hotel, and more, swapping out the interior and amenities to suit. He’s already started selling units and the starting price for a basic model comes in at €35,000 (US$41,500), not including transportation costs (nor of course some land to put it on).

Casagrade imagines the Tikku serving as office, shop, workshop, hotel-room, and more

Casagrande reports that it can be built within a night and that its CLT (cross-laminated timber) construction also means that no insulation is required, even during a Finnish winter.

“CLT is five times lighter that reinforced concrete,” says Casagrande. “With normal streets Tikku does not require any foundation, it will just simply stand on the street. There is a sand-box in bottom balancing the building. 10 cm [4 in] CLT is plenty for the structure and 20 cm [8 in] CLT is sufficient even for cold winters. No added insulation is needed.”

The Tikku isn’t the first parking space-sized home we’ve seen but seems a bit more practical than the SCADpad, even if it isn’t for everyone.



Earth’s highest density of plastic waste found … on a deserted island

The team calculated a plastic trash concentration of 671 pieces per square meter (10 sq ft)
The team calculated a plastic trash concentration of 671 pieces per square meter (10 sq ft) (Credit: Jennifer Lavars)

Sitting in middle of southern Pacific Ocean around 5,000 km, (3,100 mi) from the nearest major population center, you might think that the uninhabited Henderson Island would appear relatively untouched. It is, after all, only visited by humans every five to ten years for research. The latest scientists to set foot on the remote coral atoll found a nasty surprise, however, discovering the highest density of plastic waste reported anywhere on the planet.

The amount of plastic waste washing around in the ocean is a huge problem, one that the Ocean Cleanup Project hopes to help solve when it tackles the Great Pacific Garbage Patch next year. The world produces more than 300 million tons of plastic each year, according to Jennifer Lavers, a research scientist at the University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, much of which is never recycled and ends up bobbing about in the ocean instead.

Lavers led a research team to Henderson Island to find its beaches awash with vast amounts of trash. Counting the rubbish, the team calculated a concentration of 671 items per square meter (10 sq ft), the highest density ever recorded, which equates to an estimated 37.7 million pieces spread over the whole island.

University of Tasmania research scientist Jennifer Lavers led a team to Henderson Island to find its...

“Based on our sampling at five sites we estimated that more than 17 tons of plastic debris has been deposited on the island, with more than 3,570 new pieces of litter washing up each day on one beach alone,” Lavers says. “It’s likely that our data actually underestimates the true amount of debris on Henderson Island as we were only able to sample pieces bigger than two millimeters down to a depth of 10 centimeters (0.08 and 4 in), and we were unable to sample along cliffs and rocky coastline.”

The scientists say that the island’s location close to the center of the ocean current known as the South Pacific Gyre is what places it in harm’s way, catching debris that floats over from South America or pieces of plastic trash left behind by fishing boats.

“What’s happened on Henderson Island shows there’s no escaping plastic pollution even in the most distant parts of our oceans,” Lavers says. “Far from being the pristine ‘deserted island’ that people might imagine of such a remote place, Henderson Island is a shocking but typical example of how plastic debris is affecting the environment on a global scale.”

The team’s research was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, while the video below provides a snapshot of the damage.

(To see the video visit:



Article Image
The Yangtze alone discharges as much as 1.5 million tons of plastic waste each year.


Cheap, durable and multifunctional, plastic is one of humanity’s most successful inventions. From the 1950s to 2015, we’ve produced 8.3 billion metric tons of the stuff. By now, it’s everywhere. It’s also non-biodegradable. And that’s devastating the environment. Only 9% of all plastic waste has been recycled, and another 12% has been incinerated. That means that almost 80%—nearly 6.3 billion tons—has turned into waste with no half-life to speak of: condemned to an eternity as landfill, litter or ocean-clogging junk.

Every year, plastic kills around 1 million seabirds, 100,000 sea mammals and inestimable numbers of fish. The volume of plastic trash in the world’s oceans is currently estimated to be around 150 million tons. No less than eight million tons are added to that every year—that’s one truckload every minute. Between 0.5 and 2.75 million tons come from rivers alone.

Large rivers are particularly efficient conveyors of plastic waste to the oceans, especially in countries lacking a well-developed waste management infrastructure. Up to 95% of river-borne plastic comes from just 10 rivers, scientists at the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research in Leipzig, Germany have found.

The scientists analysed data on both microplastic debris (<5mm) such as beads and fibres, as well as microplastic objects (plastic bottles, bags, etc.) from 79 sampling sites on 57 of the world’s largest rivers, singling out the 10 mapped out here as the biggest culprits, due to “mismanagement of plastic waste in their watersheds”.

As this map shows, eight of the rivers are in Asia.

Four are solely in China:

  • The Yangtze, which flows into the East China Sea.
  • The Hai He and the Yellow River, both debouching in the Yellow Sea.
  • The Pearl River, going into the South China Sea.

Two others closely involve China:

  • The Amur rises in Russia and flows into the Sea of Okhotsk, but for a large part of its course forms the border with China (where it’s called Heilong Jang).
  • The Mekong rises in China, but touches or crosses Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam on its way to the South China Sea.

Two flow through the Indian subcontinent:

  • The Indus, which rises in China and crosses India, but mainly runs through Pakistan, ending in the Arabian Sea.
  • The Ganges, flowing through India and Bangladesh, into the Bay of Bengal.

The two non-Asian rivers are both in Africa:

  • The Nile, with two sources in Ethiopia (Blue Nile) and Rwanda (White Nile) and flowing through Uganda, South Sudan, Sudan and Egypt towards the Mediterranean.
  • The Niger, rising in Guinea and flowing through Mali, Niger, Benin and Nigeria into the Gulf of Guinea.

Not all of these rivers are equally guilty. As the graph below shows, the Yangtze is the main culprit, ejecting around 1.5 million tonnes of plastic into the East China Sea. That’s more than the other nine rivers combined.

While awareness of the issue is rising, plastic pollution itself is still on the increase as well. In 2016, 480 billion plastic bottles were sold globally. By 2021, that figure will be close to 540 billion. Fewer than half of that total is currently recycled.

If current trends continue, the amount of plastic dumped into the ocean will increase from one truckload every minute today to one every 15 seconds in 2050, by which time plastic waste will literally outweigh all the fish in the ocean.

However, as the scientists from Leipzig point out, quick fixes are possible. Focusing waste management efforts on just these 10 rivers could put a serious dent in the plastic pollution trend. Halving the discharge of plastic waste in Yangtze, Ganges, Niger and the other seven rivers listed above would reduce the global flow of river-borne plastic into the oceans by no less than 45%.

Map found here at the Daily Mail. Graph found here on Scientific American’s Twitter feed.

(Source of this article:



The U.S. is Cow Country, and other lessons from this land use map

Article Image
About 41% of all land in the coterminous U.S. is dedicated to cattle.


Yes, this is America. The borders are all new, but the areas are correct; this is a map of land use in the contiguous United States, each category corralled into a homogenous rectangle. As you can see, humans have a minority stake in the nation. The U.S. is Cow Country.

Of course, this is not what America really looks like. The 1.9 billion acres in the coterminous states are a coast-to-coast jumble of residential areas, industrial zones, farmlands and more. This map gives all that the Ursus Wehrli treatment.

Mr Wehrli is a Swiss artist with an obsessive-compulsive bent. He produces before-and-after images of, among other things: alphabet soup, alphabetized; a parking lot full of cars, rearranged according to color; or René Magritte’s famous It’s raining men painting (1), with the bowler-hatted gentlemen lined up in three size categories.

The results are strangely satisfying ‘tidied-up’ images, and so is this map, regimenting statistical data into coherent cartographic cohorts. It doesn’t even look too much out of order, given that most U.S. states are at least partially rectangular in shape anyway. The result: an illuminating overview of land management in the Lower 48.

The map is based on the six major land use (MLU) categories as defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but also shows various subdivisions.


  • 654 million acres (about 35% of the total)

Judging by land use, the U.S. is dominated by cattle. More than one-third of the area of the contiguous states is given up to pasture—more than any other land use type. Most of it is for cows, with much smaller areas nibbled by horses, and sheep/goats/other.

About a quarter of pastureland is federally administered, mainly in the western states.

Adding up pasture and cropland used to produce feed (124.7 million acres), cattle dominate 41% of all land in the contiguous U.S.


  • 539 million acres (28.5%)

These are forested areas outside of parks and reserves. About a quarter of the contiguous states are covered in these unprotected wooded areas.

About 11 million acres of timber are harvested every year, but thanks to regrowth, U.S. timber stock grew by about 1% per annum from 2007 to 2012.

The largest private owner of timberlands in the U.S. is a company called Weyerhaeuser. It owns 12.4 million acres or 2.3% of all available timber. Put differently: that’s an area almost the size of West Virginia (or, on this map, a private fiefdom spanning the Arizona-New Mexico border).


  • 391 million acres (21%)

More of it is used for livestock feed (127 million acres) than for human consumption (77 million acres).

Most of the land planted with food we eat is covered by wheat, followed by soybeans, peanuts and oilseeds.

More land is dedicated to sugarcane and sugarbeets and maple syrup than to vegetables.

More than a third of the entire corn crop, or around 38 million acres, is dedicated to ethanol, for bio-diesel.

Around 21.5 million acres are planted with wheat for export, 63 million acres are used for growing other grain and feed exports.

Special use

  • 168 million acres (9%)

Most of this is nature reserves, either state or national parks (15 and 29 million acres, respectively), but most of all federal wilderness areas (64 million acres).

Military areas cover around 25 million acres. That’s about the size of Ohio.

Perhaps surprisingly, rural highways cover no less than 21 million acres. Farmsteads add up to 8 million acres, almost enough to cover New Hampshire.

Airports and railroads cover 3 million acres each, equal to the area of Connecticut (each) or Vermont (together).


  • 69 million acres (3.6%)

Swamps, marshes, deserts, non-harvestable forests and generally any barren land of low economic value. Most of this category (about 50 million acres) is made up of rural residential lands.


  • 69 million acres (3.6%)

About four in five Americans live in urban areas, which is about the size of the Northeast. Sounds like a good balance with nature. But urban areas have quadrupled in size since 1945, and are adding about a million acres—that’s four of the squares on this map—each year.

For reference, the map indicates the approximate outlines of state borders and, in thinner white lines, a grid of squares with an area of 250,000 acres each.

For instance, that’s the area covered by Christmas trees (conveniently corralled into one location on the coast of Georgia for this map).

Double that area is covered by tobacco plants (half a million acres), and double again by flowers (a million acres), both growing on the shores of North Carolina.

Double again: America’s One Giant Golf Course, taking up 2 million acres on South Carolina’s central coast.

One of the fastest-growing categories: land owned by the 100 largest private landowners. Was 28 million acres in 2008, is about 40 million acres now—slightly larger than the entire state of Florida.

Many thanks to all who sent in this map, found here on Bloomberg.

(Article source:



How Climate Change Could Break the Internet

A new look at sea-level rise projections discovered a threat to coastal internet infrastructure that may come much sooner than expected. 

By Rob Goodier –


Climate change threatens many facets of modern human life, from eroding coastlines, climbing temperatures, and ocean acidification. But these problems extend beyond our natural world — they affect our digital world as well.

“Our findings are clear,” Paul Barford, a computer science professor and the University of Wisconsin-Madison told Popular Mechanics. “A good deal of internet infrastructure will be underwater in the next 15 years.”

“A good deal of internet infrastructure will be underwater in the next 15 years.”

In a study, Barford and his team discovered that more than 4,000 miles of buried fiber optic cable may be underwater and 1,100 nodes may be surrounded by water in just 15 years. To put that in perspective, New York City, one of the most at-risk metropolitan areas, would lose nearly 20 percent of its metro conduit and 32 percent of its long-haul conduit to rising sea levels. That’s enough to cripple internet access in the area.

What We Could Lose

To come to this concerning conclusion, researchers compared two datasets. One was the Internet Atlas, a map charting the physical location of the internet. This map geocodes infrastructure from more than 1,500 internet service providers around the world.

The researchers focused on two kinds of infrastructure: buried conduit, which includes long-haul and metro fiber; and nodes, including landing points where deep sea transoceanic fiber comes ashore, data centers, colocation facilities, and points of presence that house servers, routers, and other hardware. On the outside, nodes can look like small huts and nondescript buildings, but on the inside they are the points where buried cables terminate.


The other piece of data was the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s projection of sea level rise inundation. NOAA’s data refashions the world and its coastlines 100 years in the future, drawing on published research to describe a range of best- and worst-case scenarios. The data they use predicted a best-case rise of one foot and a worst-case rise of eight feet. Barford and his team used a range between one foot and six feet.

What they found wasn’t good. In the near term, internet infrastructure would experience a “devastating impact.” That’s because nodes are often clustered at low-elevations around dense populations. In fact, the study found that most of the damage could occur within 15 years, regardless of the scenario.

(For the balance of this article please visit:





Solar window blinds both block and harvest sunlight


Need another reason to eat your broccoli? Science just found one

It might not be your favorite thing on the dinner plate, but broccoli's disease-fighting powers just...
It might not be your favorite thing on the dinner plate, but broccoli’s disease-fighting powers just got even stronger (Credit: Depositphotos/sarymsakov)Everyone knows eating veggies helps enhance health. But let’s face it, a plate of broccoli has nothing on a bowl of pasta. But before you brush those little tree tops aside, science has found yet another reason why consuming vegetables is good for us. The information is compelling enough that some people might want to add more green to their plates to help protect their guts.

It’s no secret that cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage and brussels sprouts are good for your health. Broccoli, for instance, has been shown to have cancer-fighting powers as well as the potential to slash blood glucose levels to help diabetics. (And brussels sprouts have been used to power up a Christmas tree, but we digress.)

But if you find it hard to get down these nutrient powerhouses, you might want to pay attention to a new study from Pennsylvania State University – especially if you suffer from digestive issues.

By working with mice, researchers there have figured out that when the rodents ate broccoli, they could better tolerate digestive issues that presented like leaky gut and colitis than mice who weren’t fed the veg.

“There are a lot of reasons we want to explore helping with gastrointestinal health and one reason is if you have problems, like a leaky gut, and start to suffer inflammation, that may then lead to other conditions, like arthritis and heart disease,” said Gary Perdew, professor of agricultural sciences at Penn State. “Keeping your gut healthy and making sure you have good barrier functions so you’re not getting this leaky effect would be really big.”

Perdew and his team believe the reason the broccoli was effective is thanks to the way certain compounds it contains bind to gut receptors known as Aryl hydrocarbon receptors, or AHRs. When broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables break down in the stomach, one of the resulting compounds is known as indolocarbazole, or ICZ.

(For the balance of this article please visit:



New MRIs are so strong, they could cause mercury to leak from your teeth


A new study has found that new ultra-high-strength MRIs can cause toxic mercury to leak from amalgam fillings (Credit: icefront/Depositphotos).

The fact mercury makes up roughly 50 percent of the content of dental amalgam is a contentious subject for many, and a new study that found MRIs can release the toxic heavy metal from fillings is sure to give those in the anti-amalgam camp even more to chew on. But before you start digging all the fillings from your teeth with a chisel, it’s worth noting that this effect was only found to relate to new ultra-high-strength MRIs.

Most current MRI machines are rated as 1.5-T and 3-T, where the ‘T’ stands for Tesla, the unit of measurement used to describe the strength of an MRI’s magnet. Any mercury leakage as a result of exposure to a 1.5-T or 3-T MRI is minimal, however, there are new 7-T MRI machines capable of producing more detailed images whose effect on amalgam fillings has not been studied. Dr Selmi Yilmaz and Dr Mehmet Zahit Adişen set out to change that.

“In our study, we found very high values of mercury after ultra-high-field MRI,” Dr. Yilmaz says. “This is possibly caused by phase change in amalgam material or by formation of microcircuits, which leads to electrochemical corrosion, induced by the magnetic field.”

The researchers began with a collection of teeth, opened two-sided cavities in each and applied amalgam fillings to the cavities. After nine days, three groups of 20 randomly selected teeth were placed in a solution of artificial saliva. One group of teeth was then subjected to 20 minutes of exposure to a 1.5-T MRI, the second was exposed to a 7-T MRI, while the control group of teeth received no exposure.

The artificial saliva from each batch was then analyzed for mercury content and it was found that the 7-T group had approximately four times the mercury levels of the 1.5-T and control groups.

(For more information on this visit:




Wearing a tie cuts circulation to your brain

by Ned Dymoke

Article Image
Flickr user: Amtec Staffing

Ties: they’re what the majority of the men in the western working world wear day in, day out, around their necks. Some wear them way too long. Others wear them comically short. Some have bows, some wear bolos. But one widely-circulating study is making one thing certain: they restrict circulation of blood to your brain.

The study, which appeared in the journal Neuroradiology, took place at the University Hospital Schleswig-Holstein in Germany with 30 participants, half of whom had the blood flow to their heads observed while wearing a tie, while the other half went tie-free. The ties actually squeezed the veins that allowed the blood to reach the brain. It cuts off circulation by 7.5%. You might not be acutely aware of this, but it’s a sizable percentage; enough to make a potentially fatal difference if you already have high blood pressure (I did some research on this: you’d have to have REALLY high blood pressure to have a tight tie be the catalyst for your demise).

Wearing a tie can also add unneeded pressure to your eyes, which could lead to an early onset of glaucoma. And if you’re still of the mindset that wearing a tie makes a difference in professionalism: according to a 2015 study, it only really makes a difference to the person wearing the tie.




The mind-bendy weirdness of the number zero, explained

We explain nothing.


Beautiful Italian town sells homes for $1

Ollolai - the Italian town selling homes for one euro

The top frauds of 2017 [As reported by]

Share This Page

March 1, 2018 by Monica Vaca, Associate Director, Division of Consumer Response and Operations

The numbers are in, the counts have been made, and today the FTC announced what we heard from you during 2017. Here are some highlights:
This year’s top fraud is again Imposter Scams, with nearly 350,000 reports. Nearly 1 in 5 people who reported an imposter scam lost money – a whopping $328 million lost to someone pretending to be a loved one in trouble, a government official, tech support, or someone else who’s not who they say they are, but who wants your money.
We heard from nearly 2.7 million people last year. There were fewer debt collection reports in 2017 (23% of all reports), but it’s still the top category by a wide margin, followed by identity theft (14%), which overtook imposter scams (13%) for the number two slot in 2017.
For everyone who reported identity theft, credit card fraud tops the list, and continues to grow. Reports of tax fraud are down 46%, but it was still reported by nearly 63,000 people.
Of the more than 1.1 million people who reported fraud, 21% told us they lost a total of more than $905 million. That’s an increase of $63 million from 2016.
People reported that scammers mostly contacted them by phone, and they mostly paid for frauds – once again – by wire transfer. But check out the $74 million in losses on credit cards, which are charges that could potentially be disputed and recovered, if done in time.
Median losses tell an interesting story: for all fraud reports in 2017, the median loss was $429. Compare that to a $500 median loss to imposters, a $720 median fraud loss to scams that come in by phone, a $1,710 median loss related to travel, vacations and timeshares. Among military consumers, median losses were higher than the general population — $619.
More younger people reported losing money to fraud than older people – but when people aged 70 and older had a loss, it was a much higher median loss than other groups.
And, based on reports per 100,000 population, the top states for fraud reports were Florida, Georgia and Nevada. For identity theft, it’s Michigan, Florida and California.
Have you spotted any scams? If so, tell the FTC – and then come back this time next year to hear what happened during 2018.

Tagged with: credit card, identity theft, imposter, military
Blog Topics:
Money & Credit

Nearly $1,000,000 in Expenses Can’t be Accounted For…!

Santa Fe, NM – State Auditor Wayne Johnson [recently] released the final audit of a $10.5 million federally-funded project meant to bring broadband connectivity to communities across northern New Mexico. The audit found nearly $1,000,000 in expenses that can’t be accounted for, 12.12 miles of missing fiber optic cable worth nearly $200,000, and a lack of financial controls to ensure compliance with laws, regulations, policies, and grant agreements.

Johnson’s office continues to look for missing documentation and has served several subpoenas on contractors and vendors who received significant payments from the broadband project.

The entire audit can be found here:

For more information contact: Enrique C Knell at 505-551-2407.