WEIRD FACTS

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Powerful eMove Cruiser electric scooter heads to the US

The eMove Cruiser from Voro Motors in on sale in the US now
The eMove Cruiser from Voro Motors is on sale in the US now. (Credit: Voro Motors).

Voro Motors – the firm responsible for last year’s Orca Mark I seated e-scooter – has been selling its eMove scooter series in Singapore, Malaysia and China over the last year or so, and is now making the Cruiser edition available in the US. So what makes this model stand out in an overcrowded e-scooter market? It has a powerful motor that peaks at 1,600 watts.

The powerful eMove Cruiser electric scooter features a 52 V/600 W brushless hub motor that’s reported to reach a peak of 1,600 W, and is capable of carrying two adults (max load capacity is 160 kg/352 lb). Voro told us that the eMove has a top speed of between 27 and 34 mph (43.5 – 54.7 km/h), though the product page mentions 37 mph, with a finger throttle used to increase speed.

The eMove Cruiser electric scooter can be folded down to 48.8 x 9.8 x 13.7 in...

The eMove Cruiser electric scooter can be folded down to 48.8 x 9.8 x 13.7 in dimensions. (Credit:Voro Motors).

Riders can expect up to 62 miles per 6-8 hour charge with the 30.5 Ah battery option, and the kickscooter folds down with one click to 124 x 25 x 35 cm (48.8 x 9.8 x 13.7 in) for transit. When unfolded for use, the adjustable handlebar can extend to a height of 118 cm (46.4 in) from the ground.

The wide 25 cm standing deck has integrated LED lights front and rear, as well as dedicated head and tail lighting a little further up the frame. There’s spring suspension to the front and air suspension at the rear, 10 inch pneumatic tires and disc brakes front and back plus electric braking.

The eMove Cruiser comes in four color options and all that extra power does come with a hefty price tag. The e-scooter costs US$1,299 for the 26 Ah battery model and $1,399 for the 30.5 Ah version.

Source: Voro Motors

(For the source of this, and many ofther interesting articles, please visit: https://newatlas.com/voro-motors-emove-cruiser/58227/)

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Honeybees That Solve Math Problems Challenge Supremacy of Human Brains

Maybe math isn’t so hard after all.

 

By Peter Hess – 

Scientists trained bees to do basic math, complicating what we know about brain size and brain power.

Honeybees may have sesame seed-sized brains, but they’re way smarter than scientists suspected. Stunning new research shows they can even do simple math, suggesting that our bigger brains aren’t necessarily better or especially unique.

In the paper, published Wednesday in Science Advances, researchers described how they used color-coded shapes to train 14 honeybees to do simple arithmetic, as the video details. When presented with a math problem and two possible solutions (one correct, one incorrect), these trained bees chose the correct option between 63.6 and 72.1 percent of the time — significantly more often than if they just chose at random.

This development calls the relationship between brain size and intelligence into further question, and it even makes scientists question whether math is really as “difficult” as we think.

“In the current study, the bees not only succeeded in performing these processing tasks but also had to perform the arithmetic operations in working memory,” write the study’s authors, led by Scarlett Howard, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher at the French National Center for Scientific Research who conducted the research as a Ph.D. student at RMIT University in Australia. Howard was also the first author of a 2018 study showing that honeybees grasp the abstract mathematical concept of zero.

Of course, these honeybees didn’t solve math problems like we do, with the questions written out in numerals with plus and minus symbols between them. Instead, they were taught to recognize colors as different operations — blue for addition and yellow for subtraction. Three blue shapes, for instance, meant the correct answer would be one greater — four. Three yellow shapes, meanwhile, meant the correct answer was one fewer — two.

The researchers write that these results are exciting because arithmetic is a complex cognitive process, requiring the bees to use both long-term memory to remember rules and short-term working memory to deal with the figures in front of them.

In a Y-shaped maze, the bees were rewarded with sugar water for choosing correctly and were punished with a bitter quinine solution for choosing incorrectly. Since bees naturally want to seek food, they kept returning to forage and learn. The scientists observed each bee do this 100 times, as each one continuously became more accurate.

Scientists trained bees to do addition (bottom) and subtraction (top) based on the color of shapes.
Scientists trained bees to do addition (bottom) and subtraction (top) based on the color of shapes.

Once they’d been trained, the bees were tested dozens more times, and in the end, they guessed correctly most of the time, regardless of whether they were adding or subtracting.

The researchers argue these results generally show the brain areas primates use for math — the posterior parietal cortex and the prefrontal cortex — are not necessary for bees. While math itself may not be crucial to bees’ survival, they write, the simultaneous use of long- and short-term memory has an evolutionary purpose when it comes to tasks like remembering the size, shape, and petal arrangement of flowers that are more nutritious.

“This important step in combining the arithmetic and symbolic learning abilities of an insect has identified numerous new areas for future research and also poses the question of whether these complex numeric understandings may be accessible to other species without large brains, such as the honeybee,” the authors write.

Based on the results of this study, they argue that neither language nor numerical abilities are required for an animal to learn to do math. Maybe, it suggests, humans aren’t so special after all.

Abstract: Many animals understand numbers at a basic level for use in essential tasks such as foraging, shoaling, and resource management. However, complex arithmetic operations, such as addition and subtraction, using symbols and/or labeling have only been demonstrated in a limited number of nonhuman vertebrates. We show that honeybees, with a miniature brain, can learn to use blue and yellow as symbolic representations for addition or subtraction. In a free-flying environment, individual bees used this information to solve unfamiliar problems involving adding or subtracting one element from a group of elements. This display of numerosity requires bees to acquire long-term rules and use short-term working memory. Given that honeybees and humans are separated by over 400 million years of evolution, our findings suggest that advanced numerical cognition may be more accessible to nonhuman animals than previously suspected.

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White Earth Band Enacts First-of-its-Kind Rights of Nature Law

First law securing the rights of a plant species to exist and flourish

Image result for manoomin, or wild rice

Band of Ojibwe Legally Recognized … yesmagazine.org

Callaway, MN – The White Earth Band of Ojibwe – part of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe – adopted a Rights of Manoomin law.  The law protects legal rights of manoomin, or wild rice, securing on- and off-reservation protection of manoomin and the clean, fresh water resources and habitats on which it depends. The 1855 Treaty Authority adopted the Rights of Manoomin as well.

The White Earth tribal resolution explains that Rights of Manoomin was adopted because “it has become necessary to provide a legal basis to protect wild rice and fresh water resources as part of our primary treaty foods for future generations.”  This comes as wild rice, a traditional staple and sacred food for this Nation, faces significant impacts from habitat loss, climate change, development, genetic engineering, and other threats.

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) assisted Honor the Earth, an indigenous-led environmental advocacy group, in the development of the law.

“Manoomin is sacred to the Anishinaabeg, and it is time the law reflects this,” explains Winona LaDuke, Honor the Earth’s executive director.

“This is a very important step forward in the Rights of Nature movement, as this is the very first law to recognize legal rights of a plant species,” adds Mari Margil, head of CELDF’s International Center for the Rights of Nature.

CELDF has pioneered the first world’s first rights of nature laws, through its partnerships with communities and groups across the United States, with tribal nations, as well as with organizations in Nepal, India, Australia, and other countries.

Honor the Earth, 607 Main Street, Callaway, MN 56521  Website: honorearth.org

Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, P.O. Box 360, Mercersburg, PA 17236-0360   Website: celdf.org

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Astounding imagery from the 2019 Sony World Photography Awards

Taken during the yellow vest protest in Paris
Taken during the yellow vest protest in Paris(Credit: Arnaud Guillard, France, Shortlist, Open, Street Photography.  (Open competition), 2019 Sony World Photography Awards).

The Sony World Photography Awards are in full swing for another year, and yet again the early signs are nothing short of amazing. The jury has just finalized the shortlist for the Open category of the 2019 edition, with those to make the cut putting all cultures and corners of the globe under the spotlight in breathtaking fashion.

Last year’s Sony World Photography Awards drew more than 300,000 submissions and the 2019 event has again attracted huge numbers, with judges sifting through 327,000 photos sent in from 195 different countries, the largest haul in the competitions’s 12-year history.

This means that just like last year, the shortlisted images are not only visually striking works of art, they offer fascinating insights into cultural peculiarities from all over the world. Take, for example, this snapshot captured during Bishwa Ijtema, the second largest Muslim congregation in Bangladesh.

An overcrowded train takes off during Bishwa ijtema, Bangladesh's second largest Muslim congregation

An overcrowded train takes off during Bishwa ijtema, Bangladesh’s second largest Muslim congregation. (Credit: Md. Akhlas Uddin, Bangladesh, Shortlist, Open, Street Photography (Open competition), 2019 Sony World Photography Awards). 

Then there’s this image from a show by a special horse unit of the Polish police.

Captured during a show by special horse units of the Polish police

Also in the mix are artful portraits and opportunistic snaps of endangered wildlife like the Arabian red fox (below) and the Ethiopian wolf.

An Arabian red fox

The images are sorted into 10 different categories, including Architecture, Landscape, Motion, Culture, Portraiture, Natural World and Wildlife and Travel. In addition to battling it out to top those individual categories, contestants are also in the running to be crowned the Open category best overall image, which will be announced on April 17, 2019.

Alongside this competition, the Sony World Photography Awards also hold a contest for professionals and students, with those shortlisted images to be revealed on March 26.

Only 10 finalists for the Open category will be revealed later this month on February 26, but there’s plenty on the shortlist to marvel at right now. Jump on into the gallery to see for yourself.

(For the source of this article, and to see all 120 digital photographs, please visit: https://newatlas.com/gallery-sony-world-photography-awards-2019/58333/)

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Why colorful foods boost immunity

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  • Blockchain is becoming more prevalent and with it, the need for blockchain developers, opening up an entirely new job market.
  • More universities are jumping on the band wagon and offering courses on blockchain development.
  • Courses you can learn and how you can use the advancement of blockchain to get ahead.

According to new research carried out by Coinbase, we’re witnessing a significant rise in the number of universities teaching their students about blockchain and cryptocurrencies.

It turns out that 42% of the world’s top universities are now offering at least one course on either cryptocurrencies or blockchain technology. While previously these courses only garnered interest from those studying math or computing-related subjects, they now have students from a large range of majors.

Which Universities Are Offering Courses on These Subjects?

Universities have been teaching and researching distributed ledger technology since before cryptocurrencies were mainstream.

However, the number of universities offering such courses has rapidly increased over the past couple of years, and will continue to rise for the foreseeable future.

Coinbase Reports has even created a chart to show the number of cryptocurrency and blockchain courses being taught at some of the top universities around the world.

Nir Kabessa, the President of Blockchain at Columbia stated:

“Schools such as Berkeley, MIT, Columbia, and Stanford are leading the race. MIT’s Bitcoin Club is a legendary organization which led to the formation of the Blockchain Education Network, a community of top blockchain labs and chapters.

Columbia University is gradually adding for-credit courses on blockchain, but its main source of education stems from its innovative institutions such as the DSI-IBM Research Center, Blockchain at Columbia, and Columbia Blockchain Studio. It is important to differentiate what type of education one is looking for.”

Each institution has its own pros and cons. Whilst some universities are famous worldwide for their intensive research into blockchain, their education department is lacking. Meanwhile, some of the institutions with the best teaching reputations have comparatively low scores for their research.

Can I Take These Courses Online?

As well as enrolling in these courses in universities, there is also the option to learn more about blockchain technology – and even gain professional qualifications – by studying online.

For instance, Coursera’s free course on Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies was created by Princeton University. So far it’s been rated by over 1,700 users and has received an average rating of 4.7 out of 5. New enrollments open every few days, and you can work the assignments around your schedule.

Similarly, Udemy’s Blockchain Technology: A Guide to the Blockchain Ecosystem teaches you to understand the entire blockchain ecosystem from the ground up.

If you’re a developer who wants to get involved in blockchain technology but have little to no experience, IBM is even offering a free Blockchain Essentials course that will teach you how to create your own private blockchain network on IBM Bluemix.

Do I Need to be a Computer Geek to Enroll?

Many people still associate cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin with computer geeks, cyber-criminals, and hackers from the dark web. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Blockchain technology is still a very new concept, but it has advanced rapidly over the past few years. As time progresses, it’s becoming clear that the technology will only continue to become a more and more a vital part of our society.

David Yermack, the finance department chair at NYU Stern School of Business, first began to enroll students in his course on blockchain and financial services back in 2014. He started the course because he was interested in how fast Bitcoin was growing.

However, he now sees the course as a way for students to gain the skills they will require for jobs in the future.

In an interview, he stated, “A process is well underway that will lead to the migration of most financial data to blockchain-based organizations. Students will benefit greatly by studying this area.”

How Can I Use These Courses to Make Money?

Between 2017 and 2018, the blockchain job market has witnessed tremendous growth.

Perhaps one of the most obvious ways to use these courses to make money is to become a blockchain developer. Between January 2017 and January 2018, the demand for blockchain engineers on Toptal has grown by 700%.

In addition, websites such as Indeed.com, AngelList, LinkedIn, Crypto Jobs List, Blocktribe, Blockchainjobz, Joblift, and Upwork have seen a huge surge in the number of blockchain jobs available.

According to data collected by Indeed, the average salary of a blockchain professional in the US ranges from $63,000 per year to $157,000 per year – with marketing specialists being on the lower end of the scale and senior managing consultants being on the higher end.

A report from Bloomberg stated that the highest demand in the industry is for software development and financial services.

The Future of Blockchain

Blockchain technology has made a lot of progress over the past few years alone, but this is still just the very beginning.

Job positions are opening far faster than they can be filled, and right now is the prime time for those with the right skills to get involved.

(For the source of this article, as well as a couple of videos, please visit: https://bigthink.com/technology-innovation/universities-now-offer-blockchain-courses/)

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New meta-study concludes breakfast is not the most important meal of the day

Collecting data from 13 different trials, a meta-analysis found skipping breakfast does not lead to weight...
Collecting data from 13 different trials, a meta-analysis found skipping breakfast does not lead to weight gain or energy expenditure alterations. (Credit: karelnoppe/Depositphotos).

You may have grown up constantly hearing that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It was claimed to kick-start your metabolism and reduce over-eating later in the day, ultimately helping maintain a healthy weight. Recent research, however, has raised doubts over the veracity of this commonly held belief, and a new meta-analysis has concluded there is no good evidence to suggest eating breakfast promotes weight loss or improves metabolic rates later in the day.

The meta-study gathered data from 13 separate randomized control trials, all conducted to compare the effects of eating breakfast and skipping breakfast in adults. The results were pretty clear with the breakfast groups eating, on average, 260 calories more per day than those that skipped breakfast. Those that skipped breakfast also weighed an average of one pound (0.44 kg) less than their breakfast eating counterparts.

Of the studies included in the review that examined metabolic rates and hormone levels associated with appetite regulation, the data revealed no significant difference between breakfast consumers and breakfast skippers. Two studies examining changes in diet-induced thermogenesis, the metabolic process in which your body converts calories to heat, also found virtually no differences between the two groups.

All of this evidence adds up to a reasonably confident conclusion that breakfast consumption does not promote weight loss or play a major role in altering energy expenditure across the day. In fact, the researchers suggest that eating breakfast may, in some cases, have the opposite effect and hinder weight loss plans.

“Although eating breakfast regularly could have other important effects, such as improved concentration and attentiveness levels in childhood, caution is needed when recommending breakfast for weight loss in adults, as it could have the opposite effect,” the researchers conclude in the published article.

But why then has such as strong anecdotal history built up around the idea of breakfast being so beneficial and important? Almost every major governmental health body around the world recommends breakfast as important and advises people to avoid skipping it.

Tim Spector, from King’s College London, examines this very question in an opinion piece published in coordination with the new research. Spector suggests the idea that breakfast is important may stem from the classic causation/correlation problem that haunts the vast majority of observational research. While epidemiological studies may often show that, in general populations, people who skip breakfast tend to be more overweight and eat more later in the day, this does not mean skipping breakfast actively causes those subsequent effects.

“People who skipped breakfast were more likely on average to be poorer, less educated, less healthy, and to have a generally poorer diet,” Spector writes. “Overweight people were more likely to try and diet, and after a binge were more likely to feel guilty and skip a meal.”

Some research is affirming that large caloric intakes late in the evening can be unhealthy. So, certainly, skipping breakfast and having a big dinner late at night is not an ideal strategy, but it is becoming increasingly clear that breakfast, in and of itself, is not as important as we previously suspected. Spector does note that every individual’s biological make up is different, so there is no “one size fits all” piece of advice regarding breakfast.

“Around a third of people in developed countries regularly skip breakfast, whereas many others (including myself) enjoy it,” Spector writes. “This does not mean that all overweight people would benefit from skipping breakfast. Some people are programmed to prefer eating food earlier in the day and others later, which might suit our unique personal metabolism.”

The new study was published in the journal BMJ.

Source: The BMJ via SciMex

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

More audio articles

(For the source of this, and many other interesting articles, please visit: https://newatlas.com/skipping-breakfast-weight-loss-metabolism-bmj-study/58268/)

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Soap: How Much Cleaner Does It Actually Make Your Hands?

It’s common knowledge that washing your hands often and well is the best way to prevent disease transmission. Many of us are accustomed to using soap during handwashing as a matter of course — it’s there in public bathrooms, it’s in our homes, it’s in the office kitchen. Then there are those miscreants among us who seem satisfied simply to rinse with running water before going back to their business. Who are these germ-mongerers, that they think they can ignore the very clearly labeled (and fragrant!) sudsy agents the rest of us use with such diligence?

Before we get too carried away in our indignation, it’s worth pointing out that soap is neither the holy elixir we sometimes think it is, nor do the vast majority of people actually use it as fastidiously as they should. Below, what science has to tell us about the real value of soap.

How effective is soap over plain old water? It works, but all else being equal, water has a greater marginal effect. Health professionals recommend handwashing before eating, after using the bathroom, changing a diaper, and other situations in which you might come into contact with harmful bacteria. Germs cling to our hands a lot more easily than we give them credit for, and almost no amount of soap will remove them if other aspects of your handwashing technique aren’t up to snuff. On the bright side, combining good technique with water alone can actually remove a significant share of germs from your hands.

This has been proven in countries where access to soap is limited. In rural Bangladesh, where diarrhea among children is a widespread problem, scientists examined the effectiveness of four different forms of hygiene on incidences of diarrhea. Some study participants were observed preparing their family’s meals without washing their hands after using the bathroom. Others were observed washing one hand using water only; still others were seen washing both hands with water; and lastly, scientists saw some food preparers wash at least one hand with water and soap. While taking detailed notes on the manner and opportunities for handwashing, researchers also conducted monthly diarrhea tests on the children in each household in the study.

Here’s what they found:

In households where food was prepared without washing hands, children had diarrhea in 12.5% of monthly assessments compared with 8.3% in households where one hand was washed with water only, 6.9% where both hands were washed with water only, and 3.7% where at least one hand was washed with soap. Food preparers commonly washed one or both hands with water only, but fieldworkers observed food preparers washing at least one hand with soap in only three households (1%).

Through the use of water alone on both hands, the rate of diarrhea was cut by nearly half. Not bad for a little H2O. Adding in soap had a predictable effect, cutting the prevalence of diarrhea again by another 3.2 points, but the gains from soap clearly weren’t as high as from scrubbing with water. So, while avoiding soap if it’s available is still a missed opportunity to remove germs, rinsing isn’t so pointless, either. Maybe we should withhold our judgment.

Is soap always clean? This may be disappointing to diehard germaphobes, but it’s possible for soap to be crawling with bacteria as much as anything else. If you’re storing your soap improperly, such as leaving it in a wet puddle on the edge of your sink, it gives bacteria a fertile place to multiply. When you use it, you basically wind up transferring germs from the soap directly to your hands.

In a thorough study of soap contamination, one team of U.S. researchers found that even among test subjects with great handwashing technique — more on that in a minute — soap that was already contaminated wound up increasing the number of bacteria on the subjects’ hands after washing. The scientists tested three types of soap dispenser, in both lab and real-world settings. Of the three variants, the dispensers that were refillable from a giant bottle of liquid soap were by far the filthiest, leading to a 26-fold increase in handwashers’ bacteria levels. Modular dispensers that relied on sealed refills stayed clean even after a year of use. In short, both the nature of the dispenser as well as the cleanliness of the soap itself can have a major impact on how clean your hands are after washing.

How helpful is antibacterial soap, anyway? In a head-to-head test of antibacterial and regular soap, antibacterial soap has an inherent advantage. One study has shown that a 15-second handwashing session with regular soap successfully reduced E. coli by 1.72 log10, compared to 2.90 log10 for antibacterial soap. But after doubling the time spent washing, the amount of bacteria removed skyrocketed (for antibacterial soap, the figure was 3.33 log10). Increasing the volume of soap used seemed to help in the case of antibacterial soap, but there seemed to be a ceiling for regular soap beyond which more time and more soap did virtually nothing. Why?

The level of bacterial reduction caused by non-antimicrobial soap is due to its surfactants, which physically remove bacteria. Once maximum removal is achieved, soap amount and wash time do not improve surfactancy. Antimicrobial soap provides both surfactancy and biocidal modes of action.

In other words, regular soap simply causes bacteria to loosen their grip on your hands, to be rinsed away. That helps explain why using water alone still seems to work just fine, as long as you rub your hands together vigorously. By contrast, antibacterial soap has additives that are designed to kill bacteria outright.

What does it mean to have “good handwashing technique”? As you might have guessed already, washing your hands means more than slapping on a bit of soap, lathering up and then rinsing off. Anyone can “wash their hands” with soap and water and still come away with even more bacteria than when they started. The real secret to cleanliness, it seems, is not only whether you use soap, but how hard you scrub, and for how long. The way your soap is stored and dispensed also matters, although in public environments, that’s much less under your control. While health officials recommend washing for anywhere from 20 to 30 seconds, they should consider themselves lucky if people’s entire bathroom trips last that long. Realistically, you might shoot for around 15 seconds of washing — which, as it happens, isn’t much longer than the current average (with soap, it hovers around 13 seconds; without it, it’s about 11).

Brian Fung is a former technology writer at National Journal.

(For the source of this, and many other interesting and important articles, please visit: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/06/soap-how-much-cleaner-does-it-actually-make-your-hands/258839/)

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Action Mobil Zetros luxury motorhome roams wild in extreme terrain

The Pure 5000 Zetros is fairly compact as far as Action Mobils go, but it still...
The Pure 5000 Zetros is fairly compact as far as Action Mobils go, but it still looks huge and imposing. (Credit: Action Mobil).

The expedition vehicle specialists at Action Mobil are filling out their Pure lineup with an even meaner all-terrain motorhome. The Mercedes Zetros base brings serious turbo-diesel muscle, plenty of height and an off-road-specific driveline. Drop a 16.4-foot (5-m) living module on its back, and the Zetros becomes the Action Mobil Pure 5000 Zetros, an ultra-rugged expedition motorhome built to climb, crawl, splash and maneuver all around the world, spending blissful nights below the the starry, wide-open sky.

When you’re looking for a rugged off-road truck to serve as the basis of your world-conquering expedition rig, it’s hard to go wrong with a vehicle that can rightfully call itself the Unimog’s bigger, stronger brother. That’s the Zetros. Action Mobil has built Zetros expedition trucks before, but the Pure 5000 Zetros represents the first time it’s married the rugged Zetros 1833 A 4×4 with the type of compact Pure motorhome box it usually bolts to a MAN chassis. The MAN trucks aren’t exactly fragile snowflakes, but the Zetros’ big pronounced nose, cut chin and high, sturdy front wheel arches leave the Pure series looking more powerful than ever.

Designed to perform some of the world’s most difficult jobs in its hardest-to-reach corners, the two-axle Zetros 1833 comes powered by a 322-hp 7.2-liter six-cylinder turbo-diesel offering up to 959 lb-ft of torque permanently split between the front and rear axles. The truck also includes three switchable mechanical differential locks and a 1.69 off-road gear ratio. Beyond off-road adventuring, the Zetros spends its time working mines, battling raging forest fires, responding to emergencies and reworking landscapes.

We dare you to try to win a staring contest with the rugged Zetros

Needless to say, the Zetros makes an incredibly capable foundation for any specialized off-road vehicle. By dropping on the Pure motorhome box, Action Mobil works that foundation into a “luxury expedition truck for extreme terrain.”

The Pure 5000’s interior layout is straightforward but nicely equipped, starting in the back with a raised fixed bed behind a convertible dinette with U-shaped bench seating. Just ahead of the dining area on the driver’s side, the kitchen houses a four-burner induction cooktop, electric oven with steaming capabilities, dishwasher, fridge and freezer. The sink is set into granite countertop.

You can see the fixed bed up behind the convertible dinette

At the front of the living area, the dry bath is split into a shower room in the small central hallway just behind the driver cab pass-through door and a separate toilet compartment to the side.

Not surprisingly, the Pure 5000 Zetros rolls out of the garage much better prepared than the average motorhome for roaming off-grid for long periods of time. It carries dual 300-L diesel tanks, a 460-L fresh water tank, a 140-L gray water tank, a 540-Ah lithium battery bank, and a 1.1-kW solar power system. The spec sheets we’ve seen don’t mention the type of fancy A/V equipment seen on other Action Mobils, but they do list diesel/electric heating capabilities, air conditioning and a washer/dryer.

Action Mobil announced the Zetros-based Pure 5000 last month, showing a polished model with global exterior graphics standing strong against the frigid Siberian backdrop. We also saw an earlier iteration of the truck at the 2018 Abenteuer & Allrad show.

The Pure 5000 Zetros looks monstrous on its own, but it didn't seem so big amongst...

Unfortunately, there’s no pricing information on the Pure 5000 Zetros product page, in Action Mobil’s December announcement, or on the specs sticker that was slapped on the side of the show truck. We do know that when Action Mobil first launched its MAN-based Pure trucks in 2015, prices started at €265,000 (approx. US$302,000, as converted today), so you can be sure the Pure 5000 Zetros is among the more expensive fresh-built Mercedes vehicles a private citizen can buy.

Source: Action Mobil via Motor1

(For the source of this, and many other interesting articles, please visit: https://newatlas.com/action-mobil-zetros-pure/57887/)

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Folding screen phones from Samsung, Sony, LG and more on the horizon

Samsung has shown off its folding phone in prototype form
Samsung has shown off its folding phone in prototype form. (Credit: Samsung).

You might have heard that one of the smartphone trends of 2019 is going to be foldable phones, devices with displays you can actually bend all the way in half. What you might not realize is just how many of these devices are on the way – so we’re listing all the phones currently in the pipeline here.

If you’re old enough to have had a mobile phone in the late 1990s or early 2000s then you may well remember the classic clamshell design – being able to snap your phone shut with a flick, a much more dramatic way to end a call than today’s screen tap.

The devices now coming down the line are truly foldable phones, though – complete with screens and internal circuitry that actually bend to take on multiple form factors, whether you want to use them as tablet-style devices, or handsets with screens on the front and the back.

We’ve already seen the ZTE Axon M (admittedly more of a dual-screen phone than a foldable one), and the Royole FlexPai – a truly foldable phone even if it’s more prototype than finished product right now. But here are the big brand phones to start saving for.

Official pre-launch images are pretty much non-existent, and bear in mind that the product names, specs, and designs are just speculation for the time being.

Samsung

Rumors of a foldable Samsung phone have been swirling for years now, and late in 2018 we finally got a proper look at a prototype, using what Samsung is calling an Infinity Flex Display. The phone itself is reportedly going to be called the Galaxy X or the Galaxy F (for Foldable), and it might even appear alongside the Galaxy S10 phones early in the year.

Samsung's folding phone prototype

Samsung has scheduled a product launch for February 20 at which the Galaxy S10 phones are going to be unveiled – will a Galaxy X/F join them? Considering the bendable tech crammed into the phone, plus its rumored high-end specs (12 GB of RAM has been mooted) it’s likely to be a very expensive device – probably well into four figures.

Patents filed by Samsung suggest the phone display is going to automatically adapt to however it’s folded or unfolded, with the full screen measuring 7.3 inches corner to corner. Considering the company first teased the idea of a folding phone eight years ago, we’re expecting this to be one of the more polished and reliable folding handsets that arrive.

Sony

Industry insiders let slip that Sony was working on flexible display technology quite some time ago, so it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if we saw a foldable phone from Sony during the course of 2019. As with LG though, specific details about the handset are hard to come by at the moment, so it’s not clear exactly what it’ll look like or how powerful it’ll be.

In fact patent applications that have come to light suggest one of Sony’s future phones is going to be transparent as well as foldable, which means it might be one of the last to launch. Developing a phone that can bend in the middle is a difficult enough challenge on its own without adding transparency as well, but that’s what Sony seems to be doing.

We’ve seen concept videos showing off what the Sony foldable phone might look like – potentially with an 8-inch screen and potentially called the Sony Xperia Note Flex – but for the time being these are based on rumors and speculation rather than anything solid. All we know for definite is that Sony will want to keep up with the trend for flexible displays.

LG

The big phone manufacturers don’t like to get outpaced by their rivals, and it seems as though all of Samsung’s big competitors are gearing up for their own foldable phone launches. Based on leaked trademark applications, it looks as though the LG foldable phone could be called the Flex, the Foldi, or the Duplex (or perhaps all three).

Recent LG patents show a foldable device in open and closed configurations

As well as those trademark filings, we’ve seen plenty of other hints and links that LG has a foldable phone in the pipeline. There was talk that such a device would appear at CES 2019 – that didn’t happen, but we did see a rollable television screen instead, which proves that LG is busy investigating the potential of these flexible displays for all of its product lines.

LG has also been busy filing patents around foldable phone tech, so we know the company is at least considering how to get it to market. Other details on the LG foldable phone, like specs and sizes, are thin on the ground – but we have seen reports that the LG G8 will come with a dual-screen display, setting the stage for a folding phone later in the year.

Huawei

Huawei is one of the phone makers that has come out and confirmed it’s working on a foldable phone for the future, though exactly when we’ll see it and exactly what form it’s going to take remains to be seen. CEO Richard Yu has said the bending handset should appear at some point during 2019, though it’s unlikely to be before Samsung’s launch.

As with several of the other foldable phones in this list, we’ve seen concept videos and patent filings giving hints about what the Huawei foldable phone is going to look like – with the option of one screen doubling up as a keyboard, perhaps – but for now we don’t know whether they’re going to end up being anything like the finished product.

What we do know from Huawei phones of the last few years is that the company is unlikely to skimp on specs and features. Expect the foldable Huawei phone to come packing the most powerful internal components available, and quite possibly a triple-lens camera around the back. It’s also certainly going to be very expensive when it finally goes on sale.

Motorola

News that Motorola is working on a foldable phone should be no surprise to those who’ve been paying attention, parent company Lenovo has been dropping hints about the potential of folding screens since early last year, and mentioning them in the same breath as the Razr brand. Could the old-school foldable phone be getting a new lease of life?

These Motorola patent images show a Razr-like device with a folding screen

Once again, there are patent filings to pore over: it does indeed look like the Razr form factor might be making a comeback, only this time the physical hardware hinge is going to be replaced with a bend in the screen. That might mean a keyboard or keypad at the bottom of the display, with apps above. There’s also a secondary display on the back.

It’s worth noting that patents don’t always match the finished product, or even end up being finished products at all – but they do give an idea of the way a company is thinking.

Xiaomi

Xiaomi has recently teased the arrival of its own foldable phone by posting a video showing co-founder and president Lin Bin playing around with what we presume is a prototype. As you can see, the fold mechanism is a little different to the norm: there are two hinges, so the two sides of the larger display fold around the back of the device.

As one of the biggest phone makers in China, you would expect Xiaomi to be on top of whatever new tech is coming down the line, but we don’t know much else about its foldable phone beyond what’s in the video. The software interface certainly looks slick and responsive, adapting quickly to the change in form factor while a video plays on screen.

If Xiaomi is able to push out a foldable phone before the year is out, it’s most likely going to follow the template of the other ones mentioned here: high powered and expensive. Keep an eye on MWC (Mobile World Congress) in Barcelona in February, when we might well hear more about the Xiaomi foldable phone and the other folding devices on this list.

(For the source of this, and many other interesting articles, please visit: https://newatlas.com/foldable-phones-2019/58193/)

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The Oxfam report prompted Anand Giridharadas to tweet: “Don’t be Pinkered into everything’s-getting-better complacency.”

  • A new report by Oxfam argues that wealth inequality is causing poverty and misery around the world.
  • In the last year, the world’s billionaires saw their wealth increase by 12%, while the poorest 3.8 billion people on the planet lost 11% of their wealth.
  • The report prompted Anand Giridharadas to tweet: “Don’t be Pinkered into everything’s-getting-better complacency.” We explain what Steven Pinker’s got to do with it.

A new report by Oxfam argues that inequality around the word is so out of hand that it is putting progress at risk. The report offers a scathing indictment of policies advanced around the world over the last few decades. The authors propose vast expansions of public services paid for by increasing taxes on the super wealthy to remedy the problems they examine in their report.

Inequality for all? 

Credit: Oxfam

The report, titled ‘Public Good or Private Wealth, praises the progress that has been made in eradicating extreme poverty around the world over the past few decades. It then warns us that the problems we face today place that progress at risk and even threaten to undo the efforts of countless individuals, governments, and NGOs.

It begins by revealing that the number of billionaires in the world has doubled since the financial crisis of 2008 and that they collectively grow richer by 2.5 billion dollars a day. This is made possible, it explains, by the ever-decreasing tax rates on high incomes and corporations. The choice to cut taxes means there is less money in the coffers to pay for public services and comes at a high cost to those who need them the most.

The figures explaining that cost are shocking. In the last year, the world’s billionaires saw their wealth increase by 12 percent while the poorest 3.8 billion people on the planet lost 11 percent of their wealth. All of the wealth those 3.8 billion people do have adds up to the same amount held by the 26 wealthiest people on the planet.

As a direct result of lack of public services, people die and the poverty trap becomes harder to escape. The report explains that 10,000 people will die today due to lack of proper medical care, 262 million children will not be allowed to go to school for lack of funds, and the poorest women on the planet will do millions of hours of unpaid care work.

Credit: Oxfam

All of this means it should come as no surprise that the rate of poverty reduction is half of what it was in 2013. Even while the number of people living on less than $1.90 a day – the World Bank’s line for extreme poverty – has continued to drop, 3.4 billion people still live on less than $5.50 a day, which is the benchmark for extreme poverty in an upper-middle income country. The authors hasten to add that in Sub-Saharan Africa the extreme poverty rate has started to increase.

While the report focuses on devolving nations, it references conditions in the United States several times. It mentions how social mobility in the United States has been declining for some time and how a black child born in the United States is more likely to die before their first birthday than a child born in Libya.

The report firmly lays the blame for these facts at the feet of declining public services, inequality, and policies that favor the rich, arguing that “Inequality is a political and a policy choice” and that the growth of the top 1% is preventing the reduction of poverty. One section in the report explains the poverty mentioned above:

This is a direct result of inequality, and of prosperity accruing disproportionately to those at the top for decades. The World Inequality Report 2018 showed that between 1980 and 2016 the poorest 50% of humanity only captured 12 cents in every dollar of global income growth. By contrast, the top 1% captured 27 cents of every dollar. The lesson is clear: to beat poverty, we must fight inequality.

The report also explores how these problems tend to harm women more than men. Since women tend to own less wealth than men, policies that benefit the rich are less likely to help them. Women are also expected in many cultures to take care of children, the sick, and the elderly – tasks made much harder if public services like health programs and childcare are cut back.

The Oxfam report tells us that if a corporation did all the unpaid care work the women of the world do and charged people for it, that business would be 43 times larger than Apple. If this work were to be supported by public services, we are told, women around the would be able to spend that time more effectively improving their situation.

How do they propose we fix this problem?

The report does not merely complain without offering a way forward. The authors point to the places where progress is being made on these issues and conclude that increased funding to public services financed by taxes on the super-rich will go a long way in solving them.

For example, a wealth tax placed on the top 1 percent of income earners would provide 418 billion dollars each year, enough to ensure that every child on the planet has access to an education – a necessity if global poverty rates are going to be reduced.

They propose universal health care and education, an end to privatizations of public services, public pensions and child care, and investments in public utilities to help fix inequality. They advise that all of these policies must be implemented in ways that “also work for women and girls” if they are to be successful.

What do Big Thinkers have to say about all this?

Anand Giridharadas, an author who has written extensively on inequality, took to Twitter to comment on the report. He has argued in his books that inequality prevents society from making progress on certain problems because the people with the most wealth will use that wealth to keep the system that made them wealthy in place, even at the cost of inhibiting social reform.

In line with his previous comments on inequality, he argues that these figures are a sign that:

“The tremendous gains that government action, markets, aid, labor unions, philanthropy and other things have made in improving the human condition are now imperiled by the wealth concentration those improvements have left unbothered.”

He also takes aim at those who think this is a glitch in the system or that the problem will solve itself. In one particularly scathing tweet, he warns: “Don’t be Pinkered into everything’s-getting-better complacency.”

What’s Steven Pinker got to do with it?

Giridharadas’ tweets mention Steven Pinker, a Canadian psychologist and author, who has yet to comment on the report publicly. Pinker is known for taking a nuanced but controversial attitude toward inequality.

In his book Enlightenment Now, Pinker explains why he doesn’t think inequality is inherently bad. Instead, he argues that we should focus on questions of poverty and unfairness which are tied to the discussion around inequality. In one section he cites philosopher Harry Frankfurt to explain his stance:

“Frankfurt argues that inequality itself is not morally objectionable; what is objectionable is poverty. If a person lives a long, healthy, pleasurable, and stimulating life, then how much money the Joneses earn, how big their house is, and how many cars they drive are morally irrelevant. Frankfurt writes, “From the point of view of morality, it is not important everyone should have the same. What is morally important is that each should have enough.” Indeed, a narrow focus on economic inequality can be destructive if it distracts us into killing Boris’s goat instead of figuring out how Igor can get one.”

How he would feel about a report which argues that massive inequality is itself causing an increase in poverty is an open question since it does move beyond viewing inequality as bad in itself and focuses more on how that inequality causes other problems. In the past, Pinker has critiqued those who say inequality is doing that by pointing to absolute improvements in living conditions over time, but he might not be able to do that for much longer.

Anand Giridharadas’ above-mentioned “everything’s-getting-better complacency” is a reference to Pinker’s view that the world is getting better due to the scientific and humanistic worldviews that gained prominence during the Enlightenment. In his words, “the Enlightenment worked,” and we are living in one of the better parts of human history because of it. He isn’t blind to today’s problems, he is just optimistic that those problems can and will be solved.

He also takes the view that the negative side effects of the systems that created these benefits, effects like the building of the atomic bomb, imperialism, and world wars, are “glitches” rather than the results of endemic problems. He has a history of giving various metrics for how the world is improving over time and is likely to continue to do so as long as we keep our Enlightenment worldview.

The global tendency to cut taxes and public services came at a high cost for the poorest. Now, inequality is so high that it threatens to cause progress in poverty reduction to stall or even reverse. While the question of how lousy inequality is in itself remains open, the fact that it has reached a level where it is causing other problems has been settled. What we do next may prove definitive in the battle against poverty or it may halt the progress of the last few decades.

Steven Pinker: Why libertarianism will never be a universal value

(For the balance of this article, including several videos relating to it, please visit: https://bigthink.com/politics-current-affairs/oxfam-inequality-poverty/)

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Exciting architecture projects to look forward to in 2019

The Beijing Daxing International Airport (aka Beijing New Airport) terminal, led by Zaha Hadid Architects, is...
The Beijing Daxing International Airport (aka Beijing New Airport) terminal, led by Zaha Hadid Architects, is one of the amazing projects due to be completed in 2019. (Credit: Zaha Hadid Architects).

2018 was an outstanding year for architecture, but 2019 is shaping up to be just as exciting too, and there are already several noteworthy projects on the horizon. From a super-tall skyscraper to a massive airport terminal shaped like a starfish, here’s our pick of projects to look forward to this year.

Though issues arise and buildings sometimes get delayed at the last hurdle, we’ve focused on projects that are, as of writing, expected to be completed in 2019. Read on below to see our pick and you can also hit the gallery to see more of each project.

CopenHill – BIG

CopenHill also sports a ski slope atop its roof

First unveiled all the way back in 2011, the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG)-led CopenHill (aka Amager Bakke) is a power station in Copenhagen with a “smoke ring generator” that will expel a steam ring each time 250 kg (551 lb) of carbon dioxide is produced. It’s also topped by a ski slope for visitors and locals to enjoy.

This one’s a lot of fun and it’s hard to imagine a firm other than BIG coming up with the idea. The power station itself is already operational but the ski slope roof is currently being tested and is expected to be open in April.

Under – Snøhetta

Once completed, Under will come to rest on the sea bed, 5 m (16 ft) below...

The design for Europe’s first underwater restaurant was unveiled by Snøhetta back in 2017. The last time we checked in, the project was being built atop a barge and the engineers were preparing to submerge it and secure it onto the sea bed at Norway’s southernmost point.

Snøhetta likens Under to an oversized periscope and it will sport a large panoramic window offering diners a view of the seabed as they eat. The building will measure 600 sq m (6,458 sq ft) and sport 1 m (3.2 ft)-thick concrete walls to protect it from the crashing waves. Under is expected to be open for bookings in “Spring 2019” (Northern Hemisphere).

One Thousand Museum – Zaha Hadid Architects

One Thousand Museum rises to a height of 215 m (706 ft)-high and sports a twisting...

The late Zaha Hadid’s One Thousand Museum sports an eye-catching glass-fiber reinforced white concrete exoskeleton that twists as it rises to a maximum height of 215 m (706 ft)-tall.

The residential project is aimed at the well-heeled and billed as a “Six Star” residence. It includes just 83 homes in all, with apartments measuring between 4,600 and 9,900 sq ft (427 – 919 sq m). Each will boast multiple balconies and the building overlooks Miami’s famous Biscayne Bay. One Thousand Museum is due to be completed sometime this year.

Vessel – Heatherwick Studio

How Vessel is expected to look once complete

Looking like a strange cross between a big pineapple and an M.C. Escher artwork, Vessel is the centerpiece of a massive development in Hudson Yards, New York City, the largest private real estate development in the history of the United States.

Costing US$150 million for what is essentially just a fancy viewing point, the structure will rise to a height of 150 ft (45 m) and comprise 54 interconnecting flights of stairs, 2,500 individual steps, and 80 landings – as well as an elevator for disabled access. It’s certainly something a little different and should be finished in the next few months.

Lakhta Center – Gorproject/RMJM

The Lakhta Center's height of 462 m (1,516 ft) makes it significantly larger than other high-profile...

Rising 462 m (1,516 ft) over St. Petersburg, Russia, the bullet-shaped Lakhta Center is rated the 13th tallest building in the world and is Europe’s tallest tower.

Its construction has taken over six years and involved 20,000 people from 18 countries. The foundations required concrete to be poured continuously for 49 hours and its glazing measures 72,500 sq m (780,383 sq ft). It takes the form of a spire with five wings that twist a total of 90 degrees from top to bottom and has been pre-certified LEED Gold (a green building standard) for its energy-efficient design. The Lakhta Center is due to be officially completed soon.

Beijing Daxing International Airport terminal – Zaha Hadid Architects

The Beijing Daxing International Airport (aka Beijing New Airport) terminal, led by Zaha Hadid Architects, is...

Another project by ZHA, the Beijing Daxing International Airport terminal (aka Beijing New Airport) was promoted as the world’s largest airport terminal building when revealed and as far as we know this still stands. It’s expected to open for business in September, 2019.

The huge building was created in collaboration with ADP Ingeniérie and takes the form of a massive starfish, with a total floorspace of 700,000 sq m (over 7 million sq ft). It will eventually have a capacity of 100 million passengers annually and will apparently also boast sustainable technology, but we’ve still received very little information on it as of writing. No doubt we’ll learn more once it’s finished in late 2019.

Gardenhouse – MAD Architects

Gardenhouse consists of a large podium with 18 houses atop

MAD Architects’ Gardenhouse was originally slated for completion in late 2018 but now expected sometime this year. It consists of a large podium envisioned as an artificial mountain, with 18 houses atop. The podium will be covered in native, drought-tolerant greenery and contain commercial spaces for rent on ground level.

There are some potential issues like noise and pollution, but it’ll be fascinating to see if the firm can meet its goal of bringing the feel of a mountain village to Beverly Hills, California.

(For the source of this article, and to view more than 40 additional photographs, please visit: https://newatlas.com/2019-upcoming-architecture-projects/58048/)

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How to feed 10 billion people: Landmark report lays out a sustainable diet for the planet

Scientists are calling for the global population to move towards a more plant-based diet
Scientists are calling for the global population to move towards a more plant-based diet (Credit: stockasso/Depositphotos).

It’s no secret that the course we’re on with food production and consumption is in need of serious correcting, but a major new report from a global team of scientists has laid out the kind of maneuvering needed to set us on a sustainable path. Billed as a planetary health diet for both the Earth and its people, the set of guidelines put forward by the EAT-Lancet Commission gun for nothing short of a “Great Food Transformation,” something they say would feed 10 billion people, save lives and avoid large-scale environmental destruction.

The UN expects the global population to hit around 10 billion people by 2050, and the reality is our current food practices cannot support both that and the health of our planet. Indeed, the environment that supports human existence will begin to burst at the seams if we continue with the status quo. As associate professor of mathematics Andrew Hwang notes in The Conversation, in wealthy countries “we live as if our savings account balance were steady income.”

The EAT-Lancet Commission is a team of 37 scientists from various disciplines that take aim at this problem via the prism of food. The aim of the team is to establish a robust, scientific consensus on what constitutes a diet that is not only nutritious and healthy, but will be sustainable for the planet in the year 2050.

One particularly unnerving statistic of our current food practices is that one in every three mouthfuls of it go to waste, around 1.3 billion tonnes annually, according to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Association. The EAT-Lancet scientists say that around 820 million people go hungry every day, with 150 million children experiencing long-term hunger that hampers growth and development and 50 million of those children classed as “acutely hungry.”

At the same time, obesity and diabetes rates are on the rise, with more than two billion adults around the world classed as overweight and obese. How we correct these imbalances, and do so in a way that looks after the planet, is a huge undertaking, but the scientists maintain that a healthy, sustainable food system is very much attainable.

“The food we eat and how we produce it determines the health of people and the planet, and we are currently getting this seriously wrong,” says one of the report’s authors, Professor Tim Lang, City University of London, UK. “We need a significant overhaul, changing the global food system on a scale not seen before in ways appropriate to each country’s circumstances. While this is uncharted policy territory and these problems are not easily fixed, this goal is within reach and there are opportunities to adapt international, local, and business policies.”

Red meat production places a huge strain on the environment, demanding vast amounts of land and water while outputting substantial greenhouse gas emissions. The scientists call for consumption of red meat to be halved globally, with that protein to be sourced from plants like chickpeas and beans instead. This is particularly pertinent in North America, where residents eat almost 6.5 times the recommended amount of red meat, compared to countries in South Asia where residents eat only half.

The team’s proposed diet allows for the consumption of no more than 98 g (3.45 oz) of red meat a week, 203 g (7.1 oz) of chicken and 196 g (6.1 oz) of fish. Meanwhile, the diet suggests consuming at least 500 g (17.6 oz) of fruits and vegetables, 125 g of dry beans, lentils, peas and other nuts and legumes each day. While this presents a massive shift for many, it won’t appear all that foreign to folks in some parts of the world.

“As the authors point out, many traditional diets, such as those in México and India, consist largely of plant-based food and only small amounts of animal products,” says Dr Matthew Ruby, a lecturer in Psychology at Melbourne’s La Trobe University. “At the same time, there is a steady stream of innovations in plant-based products and cuisine, making it even easier for people to follow healthy and sustainable diets while continuing to enjoy their food.”

The move away from unhealthy diets toward a more plant-based subsistence could help avoid approximately 11 million premature deaths per year, according to the scientists. Beyond the specifics, they also call for individuals to give greater consideration to how the food they buy is produced [organic vs. pesticide], implore them to consume a range of foods in order to support biodiversity in the food system, and to limit waste by avoiding overeating and making full use of their leftovers.

A brief of the report is available here, while a paper accompanying it was published in the journal The Lancet.

Source: EAT-Lancet

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

More audio articles

(For the source of this, and many other interesting and important articles, please visit: https://newatlas.com/eat-lancet-sustainable-diet/58102/)

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Eye-catching NuBike goes with drive levers instead of a chain

The NuBike road bike prototype – other models are in the works
The NuBike road bike prototype – other models are in the works (Credit: Rodger Parker).

Probably ever since bicycles were first invented, people have been looking for alternatives to the traditional approach of pedaling in circles. Los Angeles-based inventor Rodger Parker has utilized one such alternative in his NuBike, which he claims is more efficient than a chain-drive bike.

Along with its unique-looking carbon fiber frame, what really stands out on the NuBike are the levers that run from the pedals to a linkage on the rear hub. These allow riders to simply push up and down on the pedals, causing the rear wheel to turn. There are reportedly a number of advantages to this setup.

First of all, as mentioned, it’s claimed to be more efficient than a chain or belt-drive. According to Brown, because the levers are much longer than traditional cranks, riders are able to deliver more torque (and thus power) to the wheel for a given amount of effort. He also states that because the pedals just move vertically, riders can more effectively use the force of gravity to help push them down.

The NuBike prototype weighs 22 lb (10 kg)

Additionally, the lever-drive system is said to be easier on the hips, knees and ankles, plus it doesn’t require users to pull an oily chain out of the way when removing the rear wheel. And yes, it does allow for multiple gears – the current road bike prototype has four, although Rodger tells us that future lower-priced models (such as kids’ bikes and cruisers) will have fewer.

The prototype weighs 22 lb (10 kg). By replacing the current 7075 aluminum levers with ones made of magnesium, along with making some other changes, it is hoped that the final commercial model will tip the scales at 18 lb (8 kg).

A lack of chain makes it easy to remove the NuBike's rear wheel

If you’re interested in getting a NuBike of your own, it’s currently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign. Assuming it reaches production, a pledge of US$3,600 will get you a sub-3-lb (1.4 kg) frame and drivetrain, to which you can add conventional components of your choice. The planned retail price for that package is $3,800.

You can see the NuBike in action, in the video below.

And perhaps not surprisingly, this isn’t the first commercially-oriented lever-drive bike we’ve seen. Korea’s Bygen announced one back in 2014, although there’s been no word on availability since.

Source: Kickstarter

(For the source of this article, and to watch a video relating to the NuBike, please visit: https://newatlas.com/nubike-lever-drive/58096/)

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Aerial photography captures the beauty of how water shapes our planet

Low tide at blue hour reveals a muddy riverbed of fishbone shaped streams in the middle...
Low tide at blue hour reveals a muddy riverbed of fishbone shaped streams in the middle of a small, but unique part of the salt marsh located at the end of the Betanzos Estuary, near A Coruña in northern España (Spain). (Credit: @water.shapes.earth by @Milan Radisics).

Water.Shapes.Earth is a spectacular photographic project from veteran artist and storyteller Milan Radisics. The project tells the story of how water shapes the planet by using aerial photography to deliver a series of stunning images that sit on the border between abstract art and documentary realism.

The ongoing series currently spans eleven countries and while, so far, the project has centered mainly on European locations, Radisics is planning on photographing areas of Africa, South America and India in the very near future.

Colorful grasses and swirling tidal channels on one of the 62 small islands in the salt...

The project is structured as a story with seven primary chapters, or topics. These topics cover the entire story of Earth and water, beginning with melting glaciers and ending with drought that has left us with the patterns and remnants of long lost streams and rivers.

Research for each prospective photographic location begins with a large scout using Google Earth. “For each selected region,” Radisics explains, “I scan through the satellite pictures. That way, after hours of research, I may come across something truly remarkable which is also appropriate for the project. When this occurs, I dive into the location and continue the search personally on site.” 

Traces of disappeared rivers in Cantillana, Spain

While the project does have an overt environmental message, Radisics is not interested in pushing a specific ideology through his work. “I am not a guy who wants to fight by demonstration on the streets,” he says. “I believe in the power of aesthetics.”

The Water.Shapes.Earth project is one that Radisics sees as both artistic self-expression and journalistic document. This is inspiring visual storytelling designed to proffer a sense of awe in the viewer, and Radisics hopes the work will maybe move some people to reconsider their approach to conservation and our place on this fragile planet.

Textures at an abandoned pond used for the disposal and stacking of phosphogypsum with shallow, but...

Take a look through our gallery at some more of this magnificent aerial photography.

Source: Water.Shapes.Earth / Instagram

(For the source of this article, and to view additional photographs, please visit: https://newatlas.com/water-shapes-earth-milan-radisics-aerial-photography/58023/)

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The cyber-attack that sent an Alaskan community back in time

In 2018, a remote Alaskan community’s infrastructure was hit by a malware attack which forced it offline. It was only then they realized how much they depended on computers.

By Chris Baraniuk –

Mountain and lake in Mat-Su Borough – p06xjnns. 

They still don’t know where it came from. But when it hit, the Alaskan borough of Matanuska-Susitna was knocked for six. Malware rapidly spread across the borough’s computer networks, disrupting a bewildering array of services. Hundreds of employees found themselves locked out of their work stations. Staff at local libraries received urgent phone calls telling them to quickly turn off all the public PCs. The animal shelter lost access to data on medications required by its furry residents.

It didn’t stop there. An online booking system for swimming lessons went down, leaving people to queue up in person. One borough office had to switch to electronic typewriters temporarily. And Helen Muñoz, an 87-year-old woman who has been campaigning for a better sewer system in the area, got an unexpected response to one of her regular calls to local administrators. “Our computers are down,” she was told. She threw her hands up in disgust.

“The cyber-attack, God help us, just about stopped everything, you know,” Muñoz says. “In fact, the borough still isn’t squared away with their computers.”

Matanuska-Susitna, known as Mat-Su, is still trying to recover from what happened, months after the attack began in July 2018. When the first signs of malware popped up, no-one expected the turmoil that followed. IT staff initially worked up to 20 hours a day, tasked with digitally scrubbing clean 150 servers.

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Mat-Su, a largely rural borough stretching across an area the size of West Virginia or Latvia, is home to just 100,000 people. It seems a strange target for a cyber-attack.

This is the story of what happened.

Lakeside homes in Mat-Su borough (Credit: Getty Images)

The cyber-attack crippled many of the borough’s activities (Credit: Getty Images)

On the morning of 23 July 2018, employees at the borough offices of Matanuska-Susitna in the tiny town of Palmer arrived for work as usual. Within a few hours, an anti-virus program flagged unusual activity on some of their PCs.

The borough’s IT director, Eric Wyatt, told his team to take a closer look. They found some malicious files, so they followed standard procedure: get staff to change their passwords and, meanwhile, prepare an automated program to clear out any suspicious software.

But when they launched this defense mechanism, there was an unintended response.

The scale of these cyber-attacks was certainly new to Wyatt

Wyatt watched as the network lit up. It looked like a larger or second stage attack had been triggered. Perhaps someone was monitoring the IT department’s defensive moves, or it was an automatic response by the malware. Either way, it had begun spreading further and, in some cases, it locked down more employees’ files and demanded ransom payments.

This form of malware is known as ‘ransomware’ – an increasingly common, and dangerous, threat to computer systems. In recent years, ransomware outbreaks around the world have temporarily shut hospitals, halted production at factories, skewered operations at major ports and sent hundreds of offices into chaos. Some estimates put the annual total cost of ransomware events at several billion dollars.

The scale of these cyber-attacks was certainly new to Wyatt, who started his IT career in the US Air Force before working for defense and government contractors.

Artist's impression of malware (Credit: Getty Images)

 Malware ransom attacks are thought to have cost companies several billion dollars  (Credit: Getty Images).

“I have over 35 years in this business and have dealt with this kind of thing during that time,” he says. “This was certainly larger than anything I had seen, more sophisticated.”

When he realized the incident was going to cause significant headaches, he went to see borough manager John Moosey.

Moosey listened as Wyatt explained what he knew about the situation. Moosey and Wyatt were soon on the phone to the FBI – and their insurer – explaining that they seemed to be the target of a large cyber-attack.

Almost all of the borough’s office phones had to be taken offline. As IT experts were drafted in to help with the recovery, printers and computers were gathered up in droves – more than 700 devices in total had to be checked and scrubbed. “All data is considered suspect,” read one update published a short time later.

They wanted the library to disconnect every computer and printer – not just switch them off, but unplug them too

“It really hammered us extremely hard,” says Moosey.

In the borough’s purchasing department, staff faced filling out forms with pen and ink while their computers sat idle. Then they had a bright idea. In the cupboard were a couple of old electronic typewriters. They dusted them off and used them, a move that made international headlines.

As systems were taken offline, and staff switched to mobile phones and temporary webmail services, many functions of the borough were forced to slow down. Computer programs had been designed to help process everything from data on construction sites to credit card payments at the local landfill – but now they were all out of action.

Electrical typewriter (Credit: Getty Images)

 

 

The borough’s purchasing department were forced to dust off their old typewriters because all computers were impounded  (Credit: Getty Images).

“The virus was amazingly terrible,” says Peggy Oberg, a librarian at the Big Lake Public Library in south central Mat-Su.

In the space of one week, Big Lake library welcomes between 1,200 and 1,500 people through its doors. Many of them rely on internet and computer services there.

Oberg remembers the call she got from the IT department. They wanted the library to disconnect every computer and printer – not just switch them off, but unplug them. Staff were also asked to turn off the public wi-fi.

In 20 years, Oberg had never had a call like it.

Staff at a number of the borough’s libraries were also unable to place books on hold, search for new items patrons requested, or communicate through the usual channels with other colleagues around Mat-Su. For a few weeks, they were partially cut off.

I don’t mind technology, but when I can’t get a sewer system built I get very uptight – Helen Muñoz

Oberg spent two months worrying that the data for library groups and services would be lost forever.

“I was kind of sick thinking about them possibly not being able to recover that,” she says. Thankfully, she later found that the files had in fact been restored, nine weeks after she’d last had access to them.

Mat-Su’s local animal shelter takes in between 200 and 300 stray or unaccounted-for animals every month – from stray domestic pets to livestock found on open roads. Staff computers at the shelter were taken away. Without records of medications and previous cases, employees didn’t know how much to charge people who came to collect pets or missing cattle. The website with photos of animals up for adoption also couldn’t be updated.

Dog being given vaccine (Credit: Getty Images)

 

 

The borough’s animal shelter could not keep track of which animals had been vaccinated  (Credit: Getty Images).

Helen Muñoz is an 87-year-old resident of Palmer. She moved to Mat-Su in the 1970s with her husband, whose family ran a septic tank and sewerage business. Lately, she has made it her mission to force an improvement of Mat-Su’s own sewage system. She has a place on a committee overseeing the development of a new waste-water treatment plant.

Muñoz was frustrated by the way the hampered communications affected the borough. “I don’t mind technology, but when I can’t get a sewer system built,” she tells me, “I get very uptight.”

Others were equally worried. As one local resident put it in a comment to a Facebook update about the cyber-attack: “It’s pretty amazing how this can effect [sic] our day-to-day.

“So far it’s changed the way I had to pay for the dump, the email proof of my dog getting his rabies vaccine hasn’t shown up, and when I pay my taxes it looks like that’s going to be different too.”

Shortly after the attack began, investigators found evidence that the malware had been on the borough’s systems since May

Meanwhile, Mat-Su estate agents, who regularly sign in to an online system for local land registry data, found themselves locked out. Even the system for signing up children for swimming lessons went down.

“Everyone had to stand in line, it was all done the old-fashioned way,” says Nancy Driscoll Stroup, a local lawyer and critic of the borough.

The incident has so far cost Mat-Su more than $2m (£1.59m).

Shortly after the attack began, investigators found evidence that the malware had been on the borough’s systems since May. This raises Stroup’s curiosity – she notes that a borough delegation visited China on a trade mission that month. While no-one has made any official link to the Chinese, there have been allegations of Chinese involvement in other recent hacking episodes.

Shelves full of books (Credit: Gety Images)

Libraries were unable to search for books, nor place any on hold for patrons  (Credit: Getty Images).

As they combed through the digital wreckage, Wyatt and his colleagues realized that the malware had deposited data, in files named with a specific number, on victim computers. After investigating, they realized this number, 210, identified Mat-Su as the 210th victim of this particular version of the malware; the other 209 victims are still unknown.

They also gleaned some clues now about how the attack started. Wyatt has some hints it was a targeted phishing attack, in which an organization working with the borough was compromised in a separate attack. Wyatt says he has evidence that this allowed someone to send a carefully composed malicious email, containing the first batch of malware, to a Mat-Su employee.

By cloaking an attack within a seemingly innocuous message, malware creators increase the chances that someone clicks on a link or downloads the attachment that spreads the malware to their computer. From there, it can attack other computers on the same network.

The only people to blame are the people who write these viruses – Eric Wyatt

Wyatt doesn’t blame anyone for being tricked, though. “The only people to blame are the people who write these viruses,” he says.

Over the ensuing 10 weeks, a dedicated team gradually brought the majority of Mat-Su borough’s affected services back online.

In August 2018, Wyatt appeared in a YouTube video published by the borough explaining the extent of the recovery operation. IT contractor Kurtis Bunker was also filmed saying he thought the FBI had been “pleasantly surprised” at how Mat-Su’s staff responded to the attack.

Not all members of the public were understanding. “Who or why would anyone ‘hack’ a little rinky dink town?” scoffed one Facebook user. But many were supportive. And various organizations that have links or business relationships with the borough were also part of a larger effort to make sure the cyber-attack didn’t spread any further.

Beijing skyline (Credit: Getty Images)

 

 

Investigations revealed some of the team had visited China, where other cyber-attacks are thought to have originated from  (Credit: Getty Images).

Mat-Su may not have been attacked for any other reason besides the malware creators belief that they could collect ransom payments. The FBI’s advice was clear, though, says Wyatt: don’t pay up.

William Walton, a supervisory special agent at the FBI investigating what happened in Mat-Su, says the kind of attack Mat-Su experienced can have serious consequences. Being a smaller community, Mat-Su has less of a safety net to rely on, he points out.

“In terms of its infrastructure, it doesn’t perhaps have the same redundancy as a major metropolitan area so we would absolutely consider that as a critical infrastructure event,” says Walton.

We may never know who attacked Mat-Su, or why. But such incidents are unsettlingly common. As communities and businesses rely on computers for even the most basic tasks, the potential for a cyber-criminal to cause havoc has only increased.

Now, a handful of small towns in Alaska, scattered across the borough of Mat-Su, know that only too well.

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(For the source of this, and many other important articles, please visit: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20190108-the-cyber-attack-that-sent-an-alaskan-community-back-in-time/)

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Bitcoin going into someone's pocket. Image Source.

Cryptocurrency, especially Bitcoin, continues to rise in popularity despite its value’s recent volatility; and if you are looking to use bitcoin to pay for things, you have to take due diligence in knowing how to do it, where you can spend, buy, or earn bitcoins, the best trading platforms, and what the risks and advantages are.

How do you pay with bitcoin?

First, you need a bitcoin wallet. There are free bitcoin wallets available for smartphones and all major operating systems. Just like with a physical wallet, you must always secure it – this means being careful with online services, putting backup and encryption, and putting just small amounts in it for everyday use.

A very common use for bitcoin is for online purchases. Today, there are hundreds of retailers and online shops – even local businesses – that accept bitcoins. Bitcoin can be used to purchase gift cards, video games, and household items; you can also use it in tipping and donating to charity. There are different ways to pay using your bitcoin. You can pay using your wallet or app, via QR code, or pay directly to a bitcoin address. Making a blockchain payment is fast and convenient – and you do not need to key-in sensitive information when making a payment.

What are the advantages?

  • Anonymity. Your purchases are discrete with bitcoin, which means they are never associated with your personal identity. In fact, the bitcoin address generated is different for every purchase you make.
  • Low Transaction Fees. Since there is still no government involvement in bitcoin transactions, at this point, the costs of transacting are very low.
  • Mobile. Since paying with bitcoin can be done using an app on your mobile phone, you can pay for your purchases anywhere you are as long as you have internet access.
  • No interruptions. Since the bitcoin system is purely peer-to-peer, it is void of involvement of banks, financial institutions, and the government.
  • No Sales Taxes. One major advantage of paying with bitcoin is that no sales taxes are added in your purchases since there are no third parties to identify or track them.

What are the risks?

One thing that you need to understand is that bitcoin, no matter how popular it has become at this point, is still experimental. Getting into bitcoin now can mean that you have to deal with the growing pains as it is still at the stage in which it is still improving and such improvements may bring about new challenges.

Bitcoin price is very volatile. You should look at bitcoin as a high risk asset and you should not keep your savings with bitcoin at this point.

You must adopt good practices in protecting your privacy as bitcoin is not entirely anonymous. Your identity behind the bitcoin address you’re using may be anonymous, but transactions and balances in your address can be seen by anyone.

Bitcoin payments cannot be reversed, so only transact with people you trust and business that have already established their reputation. Beware of scams, fake ICOS (Initial Coin Offerings), and fraudulent activities.

Moreover, bitcoin purchases are not taxed at the moment since there is no way for third parties to identify, track, or intercept transactions that use bitcoins.

(Source of this article: https://www.hoganinjury.com/paying-with-bitcoin-what-you-need-to-know/)

None of the content on Hoganinjury.com is legal advice nor is it a replacement for advice from a certified lawyer. Please consult a legal professional for further information. You may wish to contact Hogan Injury for expert legal advice. 

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With so much emphasis on mothers, turns out fathers have to be equally vigilant in their habits.

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A home library can have a powerful effect on children

A new study finds that simply growing up in a home with enough books increases adult literacy and math prowess.

  • A child growing up in a home with at least 80 books will have greater literacy and numeracy in adulthood.
  • A home library can promote reading and math skills more than college alone can.
  • Growing up in a pro-learning home leads to a lifetime of knowledge-seeking.

The average number of books in a U.S. household is 114, according to a just-published paper called “Scholarly culture: How books in adolescence enhance adult literacy, numeracy and technology skills in 31 societies.” 114 is a good number. The paper’s authors studied 160,000 adults between 2011 and 2015 and found that just having 80 or more books in a home results in adults with significantly higher levels of literacy, numeracy, and information communication technology (ICT) skills. The paper finds, “Growing up with home libraries boosts adult skills in these areas beyond the benefits accrued from parental education or own educational or occupational attainment.”

The effect was found to be powerful in: Children from such homes who ended up attaining just a high-school-level education “become as literate, numerate and technologically apt in adulthood as university graduates who grew up with only a few books.”

It’s not quite the more books the better

The study, led by Dr. Joanna Sikora of Australian National University, found the greatest gains in adult literacy, numeracy, and ICT skills when a home had from 80 to 350 books — no additional gains were seen above that number. Nonetheless, what constitutes a large library depends on where you are. Scandinavian families had the biggest collections: 14% of Norwegians and 13% of Swedes had 500+ books in their home. Only a handful of countries, though, own fewer than 80 books on average: Chile, Greece, Italy, Singapore, and Turkey.

The effect of digital media

A reasonable question to ask would be about the effect of the rise in digital books. The study downplays the impact of this trend on its findings, saying, “For the time being, however, the perception that social practice of print book consumption is passé is premature.” The reason for this is that large digital libraries, for now at least, parallel large paper ones: “…home library size is positively related to higher levels of digital literacy so, the evidence suggests that for some time to come, engagement with material objects of scholarly culture in parental homes, i.e. books, will continue to confer significant benefits for adult ICT competencies.”

Why does living with a home library help?

The study suggests that there are two factors at play here. First is the impact of growing up in a pro-knowledge/learning social environment, since “adolescent exposure to books is an integral part of social practices that foster long term cognitive competencies.” Second, reading often helps individuals develop related skills, and, as the study says, “Early exposure to books in [the] parental home matters because books are an integral part of routines and practices that enhance lifelong cognitive competencies.” Moreover, “These competencies facilitate educational and occupational attainment, but they also lay a foundation for life-long routine activities that enhance literacy and numeracy.”

Even 80 books costs a lot less than a year of tuition

Since the report found that “university graduates who grew up with hardly any books around them had roughly average literacy levels,” it stands to reason that having books around the house is an excellent investment in a child’s future. The authors write, “So, literacy-wise, bookish adolescence makes for a good deal of educational advantage.” When it comes to numeracy, a substantive home library’s benefits holds true, as “its impacts are equivalent to [having] additional years of education.”

The study’s conclusions should be heartening to families around the world unable to provide higher education for their children. Having books around the house can substantially level the playing field in reading and math skills even without the expense of post-secondary time in the classroom.

For those who can send their kids to college, the study suggests that raising a child in a bookish atmosphere may be a prerequisite to deriving the full benefit of a college education, and, of course, it provides a child with an even greater chance of success in adulthood.

(For the source of this, and additional related articles, please visit: https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/mind-brain-home-library-benefits/)

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The benefits of reading should not be understated, even when it comes to living a longer life. A new study finds that reading books in particular returns cognitive gains that increase longevity.

Bookworms rejoice! A new study in the journal Social Science and Medicine just discovered that people who read books live longer than people who don’t.

Researchers at Yale University asked 3,635 participants over 50 years-old about their reading habits. From that data, they split the cohort into 3 groups: non-readers, people who read less than 3.5 hours per week, and people who read more than 3.5 hours per week. The researchers followed up with each group for 12 years. The people who read the most were college-educated women in the higher-income group.

Over the course of the study, the researchers consistently found that both groups of readers lived longer than the non-readers. The readers who read over 3.5 hours a week lived a full 23 months longer than the people who didn’t read at all. That extended lifespan applied to all reading participants, regardless of “gender, wealth, education or health” factors, the study explains. That’s a 20% reduction in mortality created by a sedentary activity. That’s a big deal, and a very easy fix for improving quality of life in anyone over 50.

Credit: Social Science and Medicine

The results get better. “Compared to non-book readers,” the authors continue, “book readers had a 4-month survival advantage,” at the age when 20% of their peers passed away. “Book readers also experienced a 20% reduction in risk of mortality over the 12 years of follow up compared to non-book readers.” The authors continue:

“Further, our analyses demonstrated that any level of book reading gave a significantly stronger survival advantage than reading periodicals. This is a novel finding, as previous studies did not compare types of reading material; it indicates that book reading rather than reading in general is driving a survival advantage.”


“Stack ‘o Books” courtesy ABookSource.com

The reason books had greater gains than periodicals is because book reading involves more cognitive faculties. The readers didn’t begin with higher cognitive faculties than the non-readers; they simply engaged in the activity of reading, which heightened those faculties. “This finding suggests that reading books provide a survival advantage due to the immersive nature that helps maintain cognitive status,” said the study’s authors.

As any book lover knows, reading involves two major cognitive processes: deep reading, and emotional connection. Deep reading is a slow process where the reader engages with the book and seeks to understand it within its own context and within the context of the outside world. Emotional connection is where the reader empathizes with the characters, and that promotes social perception and emotional intelligence. Those cognitive processes were cited by the Yale team and used as markers for this study. While they apparently offer a survival advantage, “better health behaviors and reduced stress may explain this process [as well],” according to the study. Still, those cognitive benefits are real, as writer Nicholas Sparr explains [in a video associated with this article].

All the data was self-reported via phone survey and it didn’t really account for ebooks, but it’s still encouraging. There are no real downsides to reading, other than making the time for it. But if you’re not convinced and would rather have John Green teach you literature instead of reading the classics for yourself, philosopher and Yale University Dean Jeffrey Brenzel lays out 5 additional pro-reading benefits for you [in a video associated with this article]. 

Happy reading!

(For the source of this article, and to watch a couple of videos related to it, please visit: https://bigthink.com/laurie-vazquez/yale-study-people-who-read-live-longer-than-people-who-dont/)

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Civita Bagnoregio, the dying city

Civita Bagnoregio (pronounced “Ban-yo-regio”) is a delightful ancient hamlet, noted for its striking position atop a plateau of  volcanic tuff overlooking the Tiber river valley.

Civita Bagnoreggio_the dying city_011

Perched on top of a tufa hill among a desolated valley made up of calanchi, Civita Bagnoregio is an Etruscan town with over 2500 years of history. The continuous erosion makes the soft tufa rock becoming thinner and thinner: the hills edges fall off, leaving the buildings built on the plateau to crumble. Civita Bagnoreggio is slowly dying.

In 1695 the beginning of Civita’s decay was signed by a terrible earthquake which compelled many inhabitants to leave the city. The continuous seismic activities that followed in the course of the centuries, brought a long series of landslides; for this reason, Civita almost became completely desolated. Today, in fact, only a very small number of people live there who are determined to keep this little fragment of rock alive.

Civita Bagnoreggio_the dying city_012

Thanks to these stubborn inhabitants, today Civita is an enchanted place, where time seems to have stopped. Wandering around the century old city is an unbelievable experience.

Civita Bagnoreggio is just one hour and a half driving time from Rome, which makes it a perfect destination for a day trip.

Civita Map

(For the source of this, and many other interesting articles, please visit: https://delightfullyitaly.com/2015/03/01/civita-bagnoregio-the-dying-city/#more-49734/)

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Largest ever continuous oil and gas resource found in the United States

Some 46.3 billion barrels of oil, 281 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and 20 billion...
Some 46.3 billion barrels of oil, 281 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and 20 billion barrels of natural gas liquids are estimated to be underTexas and New Mexico. (Credit: bluebay2014/Depositphotos).

As the United States becomes a net oil exporter for the first time in 75 years, the US Department of the Interior has announced the discovery of the largest continuous oil and gas field ever found. Situated in the Wolfcamp Shale and overlying Bone Spring Formation in Texas and the Permian Basin in New Mexico, the new resource is estimated to contain 46.3 billion barrels of oil, 281 trillion cu ft of natural gas, and 20 billion barrels of natural gas liquids worth trillions of dollars.

One of the problems when it comes to understanding the oil and gas industry is that the terminology can be misleading. For example, when someone asks how much oil or gas there is, the answer is almost invariably that we have enough to last 20 years. That seems straightforward enough and argues for the phasing out of increasingly scarce fossil fuels, but the curious thing is that 20 years ago we had 20 years worth of oil and gas, and the same was true 20 years before that, and will probably be true in 20 years time.

This is because what that 20-year figure deals with are reserves or, rather proven reserves. These are oil and gas fields that have been found with 90 percent certainty and can be recovered given the economic, technological, and political conditions of today. Because oil and gas prospecting is incredibly expensive, the oil companies like to find enough reserves to last a generation and call it good.

But it isn’t as simple as that. Behind the proven reserves are the probable reserves, which are 50 percent certain, and the possible reserves, which are 10 percent certain. And there tend to be a lot more of these than the proven reserves.

Then there are the resources, which is what the Department of the Interior is talking about. Resources are large areas where oil and gas are known to be, but it hasn’t been determined if its economically practical to recover them. Yet.

The “yet” is the big variable here because as new surveying, drilling, and recovery technologies like fracking are developed, resources can very rapidly shift up the ladder to proven reserves in the same way that wells that were once “dry” when they were three-quarters full are now productive again.

This is effectively how the new giant oil and gas field was found. According to the Department of the Interior, the US Geological Survey (USGS) had already made assessments of the Permian Basin province, though the Wolfcamp shale and Bone Spring Formation weren’t originally included. The area is already highly productive in oil and gas, but it was only with the introduction of new technology and studying their effects on output that the size and wealth of the resource could be assessed. How economical it will be to recover the oil and gas there has yet to be determined.

“In the 1980s, during my time in the petroleum industry, the Permian and similar mature basins were not considered viable for producing large new recoverable resources,” says Dr Jim Reilly, USGS Director. “Today, thanks to advances in technology, the Permian Basin continues to impress in terms of resource potential. The results of this most recent assessment and that of the Wolfcamp Formation in the Midland Basin in 2016 are our largest continuous oil and gas assessments ever released. Knowing where these resources are located and how much exists is crucial to ensuring both our energy independence and energy dominance.”

Of course, advances in technology have also opened up alternative energy pathways based on renewable energy. Even if the new oil and gas resources prove reachable, the case for economic viability could weaken as the cost of renewables continues to drop – that’s without even factoring in the predicted economic and environmental concerns around climate change.

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

More audio articles

(For the source of this, and many other equally important articles, please visit: https://newatlas.com/largest-continuous-oil-gas-us/57579/)

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Is microdosing magic truffles a way to unlock your creative potential? That’s long been anecdotal, but the evidence is coming.

  • A recent study showed that microdosing magic truffles can significantly increase one’s creative thinking.
  • Published in Psychopharmacology, the study joins a growing body of research showing the potential benefits of low-dose psychedelics.
  • While this research comes with limitations, it could open up many avenues to improve anxiety and work conditions in society.

What is microdosing anyway?

Psychologists James Fadiman and Sophia Korb have compiled more than 1,500 reports detailing individual experiences with microdosing. Based on their research, they define microdosing as when a user takes a small amount of a psychotropic drug, such as LSD, peyote, or magic truffles. A typical microdose lands between one-tenth and one-twentieth of a recreational hit.

As with any drug, effective dosages vary based on the individual’s metabolism and tolerance. The microdoser’s aim is to take just enough of the substance to heighten mental activity and create a feeling of calm energy, but not enough to hallucinate. If the door’s wood grain morphs into a visage of a Gene Wilder-looking mango giving them the double guns, they’ve overshot the micro mark and adjust the dose.

Most microdosers follow a regiment of one day on, two days off. Others only imbibe when they feel it would be useful for a particular project.

Micro dose, major boost

The study, led by PhD student Luisa Prochazkova under the supervision of Dr. Bernhard Hommel, took place at an event organized by the Psychedelic Society of the Netherlands. Thirty-eight volunteers were asked to perform three tests: a picture concept task, an alternative uses task, and a progressive matrices task.

The picture concept task required participants to find a common association among several objects, while ruling out inappropriate ones. The alternative uses task asked the participants to conceive of as many uses for a common household object as possible within a time limit. Taken together, these two tests measured the participants’ convergent and divergent thinking skills, both signs of creativity and elastic thinking.

The progressive matrices task tested the participants’ fluid intelligence, which is a person’s ability to solve problems with reason and logical thinking.

After the first round of tests, participants were given 0.37 grams of dried magic truffles and repeated another set of tests. The results were significant.

“[O]ur results suggest that consuming a microdose of truffles allowed participants to create more out-of-the-box alternative solutions for a problem, thus providing preliminary support for the assumption that microdosing improves divergent thinking,” Prochazkova said in a statement. “Moreover, we also observed an improvement in convergent thinking, that is, increased performance on a task that requires the convergence on one single correct or best solution.”

The study showed no significant difference on fluid intelligence.

More mind-bending studies

Other tests have shown microdosing psilocybin mushrooms can have other efficacious results.

A study published in The Lancet had participants take psilocybin capsules to combat depression alongside supportive therapy. The participants, who had proven to be treatment resistant beforehand, reported improvement in their symptoms. The researchers expressed hope that psilocybin’s chemical structure, which is unique from traditional antidepressants, will open up new avenues for treatment.

A similar study from the University of Zurich found that psilocybin inhibits the brain’s limbic system, an area associated with controlling emotions and instinctual urges. By slowing down the amygdala specifically, the drug repressed negative emotions in patients and improved their moods.

Yet another study from Johns Hopkins University suggested that magic truffles could weaken nicotine addiction and help smokers quit.

Tying these studies together is one published in PNAS. It looked at patients high on psilocybin while they were in an fMRI machine. The scans revealed that the compound not only inhibits the limbic system but also the prefrontal cortex and posterior cingulate cortex, areas associated with personality expression, filtering stimuli intake, and intrinsic control.

This proved counter to what many assume is responsible for the magic in the mushrooms—rather than ramping up the brain’s activity to 11, psilocybin throttles activity down to a crawl. The disconnection between these specific areas of the brain could explain why psilocybin not only lessens depression but, which taken at a high enough dose, also leads to hallucinations and feelings of oneness with the world.

“The results seem to imply that a lot of brain activity is actually dedicated to keeping the world very stable and ordinary and familiar and unsurprising,” Robin Carhart-Harris, the study’s lead author, told Time. “It shuts off this ruminating area and allows the mind to work more freely.”

Limitations to studying the expanding mind

But don’t rush out to ask your 16-year-old cousin for his dealer’s number. Not just yet.

The Psychopharmacology study lacked several strict experimental controls, making it a preliminary study and far from the final word. It had a small sample size (only 38 participants), provided no control group, did not look for a placebo effect, and neither researchers nor participants were blinded to the use of psilocybin. It is also possible that participants improved simply because they had taken the test beforehand.

The other studies mentioned also lacked these controls, especially with regard to small sample size and not looking at long-term effects.

Of course, the authors of the Psychopharmacology study are upfront about these limitations and recommend future studies have “lab-based randomized double-blind placebo-controlled experimental designs” that take the subjective experience into account.

While these studies suggest magic truffles deliver on their mind-expanding promises, at the moment that remains a suggestion at best. Further and much more rigorous research must be performed before we can say magic truffles can definitively increase creativity and relax our inner critics. Should that day never come, there’s always the Overmind to look forward to.

(For the source of this, and other related articles, please visit: https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/magic-truffles-increase-creativity/)

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Harvard study uncovers why fasting can lead to a longer and healthier life

New research has found that a cell's mitochondria (represented in green above) can be affected through...
New research has found that a cell’s mitochondria (represented in green above) can be affected through fasting which results in better health and longevity. (Credit: NICHD Flickr CC-BY-2.0).

Intermittent fasting diets are all the rage these days. We are seeing everything from the conservative 5:2 diet to more extreme fasting methods gaining prominence in Silicon Valley circles, but while there has been plenty of observational research pointing out the correlation between fasting and positive health outcomes, we still don’t have a good understanding of any underlying biological mechanism at play.

A new study from Harvard researchers has now shown how fasting can increase lifespan, slow aging and improve health by altering the activity of mitochondrial networks inside our cells.

“Although previous work has shown how intermittent fasting can slow aging, we are only beginning to understand the underlying biology,” says William Mair, senior author on the study.

Mitochondria are a little like tiny power plants inside our cells. Last year a team of researchers led by Newcastle University successfully showed how mitochondria are fundamental to the aging of cells. The new research from Harvard shows how the changing shapes of mitochondrial networks can affect longevity and lifespan, but more importantly the study illustrates how fasting manipulates those mitochondrial networks to keep them in a “youthful” state.

Inside cells mitochondrial networks generally alternate between two states: fused and fragmented. Using nematode worms, an organism useful for studying longevity as it only lives for two weeks, the study found that restricted diets promotes homeostasis in mitochondrial networks allowing for a healthy plasticity between these fused and fragmented states.

Above we can see mitochondrial cells in muscle tissue from the nematode worms

Above we can see mitochondrial cells in muscle tissue from the nematode worms(Credit: Harvard Chan School)

“Our work shows how crucial the plasticity of mitochondria networks is for the benefits of fasting. If we lock mitochondria in one state, we completely block the effects of fasting or dietary restriction on longevity,” says Mair.

The study also found that fasting enhances mitochondrial coordination with peroxisomes, a type of organelle that can increase fatty acid oxidation, a fundamental fat metabolism process. In the study’s experiments, the lifespan of the worm was increased by simply preserving mitochondrial network homeostasis through dietary intervention. These results help shed light on how fasting can increase longevity and promote healthy aging.

“Low-energy conditions such as dietary restriction and intermittent fasting have previously been shown to promote healthy aging. Understanding why this is the case is a crucial step toward being able to harness the benefits therapeutically,” explains Heather Weir, lead author of the study.

“Our findings open up new avenues in the search for therapeutic strategies that will reduce our likelihood of developing age-related diseases as we get older.”

The study was published in the journal Cell Metabolism.

Source: Harvard University

(For the source of this, and other equally important articles, please visit: https://newatlas.com/fasting-increase-lifespan-mitochondria-harvard/52058/)

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This bank in Italy accepted cheese as collateral. Here’s why.

Why one Italian bank is counting on wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano as collateral.

  • When giving out a secured loan, most banks ask for a form of collateral to recoup their losses in case the borrower defaults.
  • Most people put up their homes as collateral, but one bank in Italy accepts wheels of delicious, sharp, and valuable cheese.
  • It might seem bizarre, but it’s not the first time unusual items have been used as collateral.

If you were to take out a loan for buying a home — a mortgage — you would offer up your house as collateral to the bank. If you can’t make your payments, the bank will take your house back to recoup its losses. If you were a farmer, your collateral might instead be the tractors and combines necessary to conduct your business. Normally, this stuff doesn’t exactly make for great party conversations.

However, if you were, say, a small business owner in the Italian city of Reggio Emilia, you could ask the bank Credito Emiliano for a loan. Credem — as the bank is informally known — will accept traditional assets as collateral as well as something a bit more unorthodox: wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano, also known as “The King of Cheese.”

The high cost of good cheese

Photo credit: FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images

Real Parmigiano-Reggiano can only be made in a few provinces in Italy, specifically Parma, Reggio Emilia, Bologna, Modena, and Mantua. Similar cheeses produced outside of those regions are known as parmesan, but they don’t hold a candle to the real stuff. The roughly 80-lb wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano have a deliciously sharp, nutty, and fruity taste, produced according to a strict set of rules that define the cow’s diet, how fresh the cow’s milk can be, what ingredients can be used, how long the cheese can be aged, and other stipulations. The result is an incomparable taste and a lot of value: One wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano can range anywhere between $900 and $2,500.

The trouble is, producing and aging the cheese is a delicate process. Parmigiano-Reggiano can take between 12 and 36 months to fully age, and a lot can go wrong in the interim. Under the wrong conditions, the cheeses can sweat, bubble, or crack. Too many cracks in the exterior of the wheel and the sharp and savory cheesy interior can spoil.

Considering their value, fragility, and the time they take to produce, farmers selling wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano are often forced to sell their cheeses before full maturation in order to get an influx of cash. A lot of time and effort is wrapped up in the cheese, and if a farmer has a bad year selling other products, they might have no choice but to liquidate their cheesy assets before they had fully matured.

A win-win

A worker inspects a wheel of Parimigiano-Reggiano by thumping it with a hammer. By listening to the sound it produces, he can determine if the wheel contains any internal fissures, which would reduce the value of the wheel. MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP/Getty Images

Here’s where Credem comes in. Farmers supply the bank with their aging cheese wheels in exchange for loans amounting to 70 percent to 80 percent of the wheels’ total value. In this way, farmers have immediate access to the cash they would otherwise have gained a year or two or three later.

Not only that, but Credem stores the cheeses in the Tagliate General Warehouse. There, 300,000 wheels of cheese age under a carefully controlled environment and are regularly inspected by experts to assess the quality of the cheese. Outside of the Credem warehouse, about 10 percent of Parmigiano-Reggiano wheels degrade due to environmental damage, which is a fairly significant chunk considering their value and long maturation period. At Credem’s warehouse, only about 1 percent of the cheeses degrade.

“From the bank’s perspective, it becomes almost risk free,” said Harvard Business School (HBS) assistant professor Nikalaos Trichakis in an interview with Forbes. Along with Professor Gerry Tsoukalas, Trichakis authored a case study of the unconventional bank for HBS. “They have the collateral in their possession the whole time it is aging. So the moment they see some issues — like bubbles, for instance — they can say, ‘Oh, that collateral isn’t worth as much as we thought.’ And they can immediately call up the producers and say, ‘Listen, you’re under water here.'”

Overall, it turns into a much-improved scenario for farmers. Farming can be an extremely volatile industry, especially in Italy, where most farms are small- to medium-sized businesses and lack the resilience that consolidating into a larger entity might provide. “They remain fragmented due to Italian tradition,” says Trichakis. “Most of these families have been producing cheese for centuries and take pride in what they do, resisting becoming part of larger corporations.”

Other odd kinds of collateral

Credem might seem like an outlandish institution, but other banks have accepted unique forms of collateral before. Prior to Prohibition, banks accepted whiskey as collateral for many of the same reasons Credem accepts cheese: Whiskey needs to mature over time, is sensitive to its environment, and is worth quite a bit. Another bank in Hong Kong accepts designer handbags, several accept thoroughbred horses, and when one Spanish bank sought a loan from the European Central Bank, they put up Cristiano Ronaldo and a teammate as collateral.

Ultimately, anything that holds and retains value and can easily be liquidated (although I’m not sure how “liquidating” Ronaldo would work) can be used as collateral. It’s just that some banks interpret these requirements a little more flexibly than others.

(For the balance of this article please visit: https://bigthink.com/culture-religion/bank-accepts-cheese-as-collateral/)

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The part of your brain responsible for ASMR catalogs music, and appears to be a stronghold against Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Some music inspires you to move your feet, some inspires you to get out there and change the world. In any case, and to move hurriedly on to the point of this article, it’s fair to say that music moves people in special ways.

If you’re especially into a piece of music, your brain does something called Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR), which feels to you like a tingling in your brain or scalp. It’s nature’s own little “buzz”, a natural reward, that is described by some as a “head orgasm”. Some even think that it explains why people go to church, for example, “feeling the Lord move through you”, but that’s another article for another time.

Turns out that ASMR is pretty special. According to a recently published study in The Journal of Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease (catchy name!), the part of your brain responsible for ASMR doesn’t get lost to Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s tends to put people into layers of confusion, and the study confirms that music can sometimes actually lift people out of the Alzheimer’s haze and bring them back to (at least a semblance of) normality… if only for a short while. ASMR is powerful stuff!

This phenomenon has been observed several times but rarely studied properly. One of the most famous examples of this is the story of Henry, who comes out of dementia while listening to songs from his youth.

Jeff Anderson, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor in Radiology at the University of Utah Health and contributing author on the study, says  “In our society, the diagnoses of dementia are snowballing and are taxing resources to the max. No one says playing music will be a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but it might make the symptoms more manageable, decrease the cost of care and improve a patient’s quality of life.”

(For the source of this article, and to watch a video related to it, please see: https://bigthink.com/news/ever-get-the-tingles-from-listening-to-good-music-that-part-of-your-brain-will-never-get-lost-to-alzheimers/)

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You can now drag and drop whole countries to compare their size

TheTrueSize.com offers hours of fun while you stretch and shrink countries and states all over the globe.

  • Our world maps lie to us: North America and Europe aren’t really that big and Africa really is much bigger.
  • It’s all the fault of Mercator: even if the man himself wasn’t necessarily Eurocentric, his projection is.
  • This interactive map tool reveals countries’ true sizes without having to resort to the Peters projection.

Is Texas really bigger than Poland? Does Russia stretch further east to west than Africa does north to south? And how big a chunk of Europe would the U.S. cover? If you’re losing sleep over questions like these, you’ll find relief at TheTrueSize.com, a web tool designed to provide answers about the relative sizes of countries (and U.S. states).

Created by James Talmage and Damon Maneice, the application was inspired by an episode of The West Wing, in which a delegation of the (fictional) Organisation of Cartographers for Social Equality (OCSE) asks the White House to get public schools to use world maps that use the Peters projection rather than the traditional Mercator projection.

Why? On a Mercator map, countries in further north (and south) are shown larger than they are relative to countries closer to the equator. In so doing, one of the OCSE scientists explains, “the Mercator projection has fostered European imperialist attitudes for centuries and created an ethnic bias against the Third World,” says one OCSE scientist.

However, her colleagues point out that this was not Mercator’s original intent: “(He) designed (the Mercator projection) as a navigational tool for European sailors (…) The map enlarges areas at the poles to create straight lines of constant bearing or geographic direction.”

While those straight lines make it easy for sailors to follow directions across oceans, world maps in the Mercator projection distort the relative size of the world’s land masses — and increasingly so closer to the poles.

  • The classic example, also used in The West Wing scene, is Greenland: on a Mercator world map, it appears roughly the same size as Africa. In fact, the continent is 14 times larger than the island.
  • Other examples: on a Mercator map, Europe seems larger than South America; in fact, South America is almost double the size of Europe.
  • And, Alaska appears three times as large as Mexico, but Mexico is slightly larger than America’s northernmost state.

However, the Peters projection deviates substantially from what many people have come to expect a world map should look like. Or, as one of the presidential aides in The West Wing said, when presented with an example, “What the hell is that?”

This app allows size comparison while avoiding the cartographic Fremdkörper that the Peters projection still is. “We hope teachers will use it to show their students just how big the world actually is,” say Talmage and Macniece.

TheTrueSize.com is great fun: move equatorial countries north and see how getting closer to the pole distorts them, as if in a house of mirrors at the carnival. Plonk countries from different latitudes next to each other and see how they’re a lot more different in size than you thought. Or a lot less. See countries shrink as you drag them from their positions high up north (or deep down south) closer to the equator.

Greenland and Africa, Mercator style

Image: thetruesize.com

Yes, Greenland is huge. But not this huge. Because it’s so close to the North Pole, the Mercator projection stretches the Danish-controlled island out beyond all proportion. That’s why it looks as big as Africa and a lot bigger than the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

​Congo is bigger than Greenland

Image: thetruesize.com

Drag the icy island away from its Arctic abode toward the deepest jungles of Africa, and its form shifts and its area shrinks. Greenland has an area of 836,000 square miles (2.16 million km2), which makes it a bit smaller than the DR Congo, at 857,000 sq. mi (2.22 million km2).

UK trumps Tanzania

Image: thetruesize.com

The symbolism of space and the prejudice of history puts the United Kingdom on top, and its former colony Tanzania way down at the bottom of this map. There doesn’t seem to be that much of a size difference between both countries.

Tanzania swallows the UK

Image: thetruesize.com

Look at that: the entire U.K. fits easily into Tanzania, with a lot of room to spare. The Shetland Islands, Scotland’s northernmost archipelago, is at a safe distance from the Rwandan border, and Dover is still a day’s drive away from Dar es Salaam, on the coast.

Russia on top

Image: boredpanda.com

At 6.6 million sq. mi (17 million km2), Russia is the world’s largest country. But Mercator makes it look larger than it is. Drag and drop it near the equator, and you see how truly huge Africa is: at 11.73 million sq. mi (30.37 million km2), it is almost twice the size of Russia.

Russia on its head

Image: thetruesize.com

British imperialist Cecil Rhodes dreamed of a string of colonies (and a railway line) stretching “from Cape to Cairo.” He could have just gone to TheTrueSize, turned Russia on its head and dragged it over Africa: Cape Town is somewhere in the Russian Caucasus, while the easternmost point of Siberia plunges into the Mediterranean, well, north of Cairo.

Poland, TX

Image: thetruesize.com

Texas is bigger than Poland. You could drop it over the map of Eastern Europe and have it cover the entirety of Poland, and there’d be plenty of Texas left to surround it.

Trying Europe on for size

Image: thetruesize.com

Talking about huge: stick the Lower 48 onto Europe, and you immediately see how both compare for size. If Seattle would be in the west of Ireland, Istanbul would still be in the same country — in southern Texas. Los Angeles would be on the Franco-Spanish border and Chicago just north of Moscow. New York? Deepest Siberia. Admittedly, it sometimes does feel like that.

Inflated and deflated states of America

Image: boredpanda.com

The U.S. has a very recognisable cartographic persona, but here’s what that funhouse mirror does to it when you move it north. It inflates to a grotesque parody of its former shape (but it does rival Canada for size). Not so much deviation towards the equator, except that it shrinks. And we can’t have that!

Ten largest countries

Image: boredpanda.com

Here are the world’s ten largest countries, all dragged to neutral territory – on the equator – for better size comparison. Suddenly, those size differences don’t seem so great any more.

Germany in the Midwest

Image: thetruesize.com

Here’s what would happen if you placed Germany in the Midwest: Milwaukee would double as Flensburg, Nashville could be a Midwestern Munich, St. Louis would be Cologne and Fort Wayne could pretend it was Berlin. Together, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky cover 135,000 sq. mi, almost exactly as much as Germany, at just under 138,000 sq. mi.

Images taken from The True Size and here from Bored Panda.

Strange Maps #953

Got a strange map? Let me know at strangemaps@gmail.com.

(For the source of this, and many other important articles, please visit: https://bigthink.com/strange-maps/compare-true-size-of-countries/)

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How Was the “Second” Created, and How Did It Get Its Name?

 

Comments from BOOTHE GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES:  We often ponder that “time” is a man made phenomena, and we try to get to the source of our concept of time. Here we see that the idea of the “second” was rooted in Babylonian science and philosophy. We thank BBC Focus Magazine and Robert Matthews for writing this. Enjoy your time, every second. Ben, BootheGlobalPerspectives.

 

How was the length of a second first calculated?  In our old grandfather’s clock every tick tock of the pendulum swing represented

a second. It didn’t have a second hand. It had a pendulum. But the idea of dividing an hour into 60 “secunda” originated in ancient Babylon.

“Ticking away, the moments that make up a dull day …”   

 

By  BBC Focus Magazine

Ancient civilizations like the Babylonians focused on the major time units of years, days and hours, whose relative lengths they determined using astronomical observations. But the invention of the first practical clocks in medieval times allowed finer division. These were named in Latin pars minuta prima – “the first very small part.”

“The first very small part,” is now called the minute, and pars minuta secunda – “the second very small part,” is now called the second.

Following the tradition set by the Babylonians, these divisions were expressed using the sexagesimal system, a form of counting based on units of 60.

 And even that modern electric clock points out the “secunda” of the ancient Babylonians in the sexagesimal system. Next time you look at a second hand, remember it is a concept devised by man centuries before our modern clocks came into being.

Using this, the length of a second became a sixtieth of a sixtieth of an hour, leading to its definition as 1/3600th of an hour.

(For more interesting articles please visit: https://bootheglobalperspectives.com/)

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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: https://bigthink.com/politics-current-affairs/marlboro-invests-1-8-billion-in-canadian-marijuana-company/)

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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: https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/bad-at-math-myth/)

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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. | http://ow.ly/rwnm30mHdTO #Drones #UAV #Photography #Archaeology #GreatWall #China

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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: https://newatlas.com/jaw-dropping-drone-photos-natural-world/57333/)

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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: https://newatlas.com/comanche-gas-electric-recumbent-trike/57298/)

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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: https://www.inverse.com/article/51029-termite-mound-brazil-discovered-video/)

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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: https://newatlas.com/coffee-tea-bitter-taste-genes/57261/)

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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: https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/egypt-sphinx-kom-ombo-africa/)
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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: https://newatlas.com/monkeycycle-grow-bike-kickstarter/57245/)

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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: https://newatlas.com/biomega-sin-electric-city-car/57151/)

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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: https://newatlas.com/plimp-model-j-airship/57154/)

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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: https://newatlas.com/hoverbike-scorpion-preorders-on-sale/56988/)

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

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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: https://newatlas.com/2020-harley-davidson-livewire/57148/)

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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: https://newatlas.com/2019-ducati-panigale-v4r-most-powerful-motorcycle/57092/)

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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: mapchart.net

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: FascinatingMaps.com

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: https://bigthink.com/strange-maps/colorado-is-not-a-rectangle/)

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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: https://newatlas.com/moar-folding-electric-fat-bike/48043/)

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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: https://bigthink.com/surprising-science/can-organic-food-prevent-cancer/)

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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.

VLC

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.

LibreOffice

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: https://newatlas.com/best-open-source-apps/56366/)

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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: https://newatlas.com/allight-self-leveling-motorcycle-headlight/56162/)

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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 AmazonEthereum.com, AmazonCryptocurrency.com, and AmazonCryptocurrencies.com, 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: https://bigthink.com/reuben-jackson/bitcoin-is-closer-to-breaking-into-the-mainstream-than-ever-before/)

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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.

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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: https://bigthink.com/stephen-johnson/no-amount-of-alcohol-is-safe-warns-new-global-study/)

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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

https://youtu.be/cCxPOqwCr1I

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: https://bigthink.com/paul-ratner/in-1973-an-mit-computer-predicted-the-end-of-civilization-so-far-its-on-target/)

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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.

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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: https://newatlas.com/highest-density-plastic-waste-island/49550/)

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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: https://bigthink.com/strange-maps/these-10-rivers-carry-95-of-all-plastic-into-the-ocean/)

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

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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.

Pasture/range

  • 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.

Forest

  • 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).

Cropland

  • 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).

Miscellaneous

  • 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.

Urban

  • 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: https://bigthink.com/strange-maps/the-us-is-cow-country-and-other-lessons-from-this-land-use-map/)

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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: https://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/infrastructure/a22454576/climate-change-internet-damage/)

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Solar window blinds both block and harvest sunlight

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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: https://newatlas.com/cruciferous-vegetables-healthy-gut/51752/)

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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: https://newatlas.com/high-strength-mri-mercury-leakage-amalgam/55306/)

 

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Wearing a tie cuts circulation to your brain

by Ned Dymoke

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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.

(Source: https://bigthink.com/ned-dymoke/wearing-a-tie-cuts-circulation-to-your-brain/)

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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

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The top frauds of 2017 [As reported by FTC.gov]

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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
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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: https://www.saonm.org/media/audits/821_North_Central_NM_Economic_Development_District_REDI_Net_March_2018.PDF

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

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