Just Plain WEIRD…!


Study suggests embryos communicate with each other while still inside the egg

Research suggests that gull embryos can communicate important environmental information to each other before hatching
Research suggests that gull embryos can communicate important environmental information to each other before hatching. (Credit: vetal1983/Depositphotos).

We know baby birds communicate, often loudly, and mostly about food, but a new study suggests they can also communicate with each other while still in the egg. This method of communication influences the behavioral and physiological traits of newly-hatched chicks from the same clutch of eggs.

It’s generally understood that birds and other oviparous (egg-borne) critters receive sensory information from outside the shell to prepare them for the world beyond the nest. Now new research from University of Vigo in Galicia, Spain, suggests that gull embryos are able to acquire environmental information from their egg-bound siblings as well.

In recent years it’s been shown that baby turtles can signal each other with vibrations to trigger synchronized hatching, and some birds and reptiles can do the same kind of thing with vocalizations from within the shells, but researchers José Noguera and Alberto Velando wanted to know how this egg-to-egg chit-chat might influence more complex factors.

The researchers found that chicks not only hear and respond to the alarm calls of their parents while still inside the egg, but that once hatched, those same chicks were developmentally and behaviorally different to chicks who’d never been exposed to the adult alarm calls. That on it’s own is interesting, but what happens when an egg that’s been exposed to parental alarm calls is placed into a clutch with another egg which hasn’t ever heard these vocalizations? The second egg develops in similar ways to the first. Thus, it seems some kind of communication between embryos is happening, most likely through vibratory cues.

The team used a simple but effective study design to test its theory. The researchers gathered 90 eggs from the nests of yellow-legged gulls (Larus michahellis) on Sálvora Island (off the coast of Galicia in Spain). Back in the lab the eggs were separated into clutches of three and incubated. These clutches were then divided into two groups. One group was assigned as the “exposed to social stimuli of predator presence” group, while the other was the control group.

Then, four times per day, two eggs were taken from each clutch, leaving one behind in the incubator. Those from the test group were exposed to recorded adult alarm calls during these sessions, while those from the control group were exposed to white noise for the same periods. Between the sessions, all of the eggs were exposed to background colony noise in the incubators.

Once hatched, the researchers measured a range of early behavioral and developmental traits in the chicks. The data showed that the embryos that had shared a nest with siblings exposed to the alarm calls developed in the same manner as their siblings. Compared to the calm, white-noise control group (and their clutch-mates) they took longer to hatch, were quieter than the control group, crouched lower when exposed to perceived threats and were smaller overall with shorter legs.

In short, these chicks developed specific, defensive traits as if they’d heard the warning calls themselves. According to Noguera and Velando, this strongly suggests that information about predation risk was being transmitted between siblings, possibly via observed vibrations of embryos in the test group.

A paper on the research has been published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

(For the source of this, and many additional important articles, please visit: https://newatlas.com/embryo-eggs-communicate-via-vibrations/60733/)


ADIFO: The hyper-agile, omnidirectional, supersonic flying saucer

ADIFO could resurrect the idea of flying saucers, promising extreme speed, efficiency and aerial agility
ADIFO could resurrect the idea of flying saucers, promising extreme speed, efficiency and aerial agility. (Credit: ADIFO Aircraft).

At low speed, it operates like a quadcopter, at high speed, it’s a jet-propelled, highly efficient supersonic aircraft whose entire body acts as a low-drag wing. Those are the claims of the Romanian creators of this flying saucer that’s designed to offer unprecedented aerial agility across a broad range of speeds.

ADIFO, or the All-DIrectional Flying Object, is a flying machine designed “to change the actual paradigm of flight,” according to engineer and inventor Razvan Sabie. Sabie worked with accomplished aerodynamicist Iosif Taposu (Senior Scientist at Romania’s National Institute for Aerospatial Research, and former Head of Theoretical Aerodynamics at the National Aviation Institute) to develop the concept, and has built a working prototype with a 1.2-meter (3.9-ft) diameter for testing.

Simply put, ADIFO is a disc-shaped aircraft whose entire surface is a wing. Specifically, it’s shaped to mimic the back half of a dolphin airfoil, radiating out in all directions from the center. The outer edge tapers to a thin ring, making it extremely slippery in horizontal flight.

The ADIFO team working with the prototype

VTOL and slow speed maneuvers are handled by four ducted fans, letting the ADIFO operate like a regular quadcopter drone. There are also two jets on the back (replaced by additional electric fans on the prototype) that provide horizontal thrust, and which can also vector individually to achieve a high degree of agility in level flight. At high speeds, small discs can come out and cover over the quadcopter fans for an even smoother profile, and likewise the legs can retract.

The final propulsive touch is a set of two lateral thrust nozzles pointed out to each side, which operate like the reaction control system thrusters on a spacecraft. In horizontal flight, these allow the ADIFO to rapidly push itself sideways in either direction, or to rotate extremely quickly as it flies. That, according to Sabie, gives it maneuvering capabilities unmatched by anything else in the air, without the need for separate wings, ailerons, rudders or flaps.

There’s more: it’ll fly upside down, either in quad mode or in horizontal flight, with the right jets it’ll be extremely efficient as it goes transonic and supersonic, and Sabie says the team’s modeling suggests there will be no traditional sonic boom created when it does.

The many different directions in which ADIFO can produce thrust

While the prototype is obviously unmanned and radio controlled, the ADIFO team claims it has the potential to democratize supersonic flight if it gets built into a single or multi-seat manned aircraft with a hybrid electric/jet propulsion system. It’ll be interesting to see how the team builds pilot visibility into the mix, and what sort of control scheme you’ll need to handle the flying saucer’s variety of flight modes and control options.

It’s a fascinating idea, and could clearly offer some mind-bending acrobatic flight capabilities once the wrinkles are ironed out. There’s certainly nothing else out there that can hover and dart about like a drone, while also offering extreme high-speed performance as well as the ability to spin wildly or suddenly produce thrust in five different directions at speed – not to mention potentially employing the main ducted fans to tilt or even flip the aircraft in horizontal flight. The mind boggles just thinking about what this could do in the hands of a well-trained pilot – as well as how treacherous it could be for the ham-fisted.

At the same time, it doesn’t seem like a ludicrously far-fetched thing to get built. There are plenty of manned electric multirotors in development, with more or less the same kinds of capabilities ADIFO promises in low-speed flight. Those things are happening, nobody is in any doubt. The vectored thrusters on the back end are far from new, jet propulsion is more common and reliable than ever, and there’s nothing about the tapered body shape that looks impossible or even super difficult to build. ADIFO might need to consider additional ducted fans, or contra-rotating coaxial props, for redundancy, but it certainly doesn’t look impossible.

Sabie and Taposu are looking for partners to take ADIFO into the next stages of development. Check the aircraft out in the video below.

Source: ADIFO Aircraft

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

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(For the source of this article, plus additional photos and a video, please visit: https://newatlas.com/adifo-flying-saucer-romanian/58999/)


Lazareth’s transforming, flying motorcycle demonstrates a stable hover

Liftoff! Lazareth's Moto Volante in a stable 1-meter hover on safety tethers
Liftoff! Lazareth’s Moto Volante in a stable 1-meter hover on safety tethers. (Credit: Lazareth Auto Moto).

“We don’t know if Lazareth is genuinely intending to test fly this thing,” we wrote when we first saw La Moto Volante late last year, “or just present it as a work of art.” Well, a new video answers that question pretty comprehensively, as it shows this beast of a thing taking off and achieving a stable hover on tethers.

It’s early days yet, but Ludovic Lazareth has already delivered an impressive result. This French custom auto/moto maker has a long history of building wacky and bizarre one-offs and short run vehicles, but the Moto Volante flying motorcycle is his most ambitious yet.

It looks like an evolution of Lazareth’s own mind-boggling LM-847, a tilting four-wheeler built around a fire-breathing 470-horsepower Maserati engine. But the Moto Volante ups the ante by putting a 96,000-rpm JetCat jet turbine in the hub of each wheel and adding hydraulic actuators that tilt the four wheels out and up, forming a configuration something like a jet-powered quadcopter. Two extra jets can be added near the middle of the chassis to handle more weight.

The Moto Volante's wheels fold out and upward to become jet-powered thrust pods

You can ride the thing on the road, according to Lazareth, then when you’ve had it with traffic pull over to a suitable launch area. Pressing a button converts the bike from ride to fly mode and, after waiting about 60 seconds for the jets pre-heat, you can lift off and leave the gridlock behind.

It’s truly impressive how Lazareth has designed and executed the bike’s unique fly/ride power arms. Each of the rear wheels needs to be driven and braked for on-road use, and the front wheels need steering and braking capability – all while the main wheel hubs are built around jet turbines thick enough to lift this hulking beast of a thing, with a ballistic parachute mounted in each wheel as well in case things go wrong.

The front wheels are able to steer, tilt, brake and articulate outwards and upwards to become...

Since there are no chains leading back from that monster Maserati powerplant, it appears that the bike runs on electric drive to the two rear wheels in road mode. Indeed, we suspect there may not be a monster Maserati powerplant in there at all any more, with the giant V8 cylinders and plastic airbox cover possibly being faked up purely for appearance in the Moto Volante. Certainly, an engine that big would add significant weight, and keeping weight down is a challenge for any aircraft. France’s BFM TV reports that the entire bike weighs just 140 kg (308 lb), and makes some 240 kg (529 lb) of thrust in flight mode.

Lazareth has hover-tested the bike on tethers to a height of 1 m (3.3 ft), with his brave and lightweight girlfriend Vanessa at the helm. Check out the video below. The Lazareth team will be bringing the Moto Volante to Gitex in Dubai this October, and will launch pre-orders there at a price of €496,000 (approx. US$560,000).

La Moto Volante joins Jetpack Aviation’s Speeder as the only two jet-powered flying motorcycle concepts we’ve seen to date. Mind you, the Speeder is much more of a single-purpose vehicle without any road capability, and as such we’d expect its flight dynamics to be superior and less compromised. But Lazareth’s got a full size prototype in the air that’s also road-certified, so congratulations to the Lazareth team for building what must be acknowledged as a ground-breaking multi-mode vehicle.

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

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(For the source of this article, and to see 15 different images plus a video, please visit: https://newatlas.com/lazareth-moto-volante-flying-motorcycle/58898/)


Are we on the road to civilization collapse?

By Luke Kemp –

Studying the demise of historic civilizations can tell us how much risk we face today, says collapse expert Luke Kemp. Worryingly, the signs are worsening.

Great civilisations are not murdered. Instead, they take their own lives.


This article is part of a new BBC Future series about the long view of humanity, which aims to stand back from the daily news cycle and widen the lens of our current place in time. Modern society is suffering from “temporal exhaustion”, the sociologist Elise Boulding once said. “If one is mentally out of breath all the time from dealing with the present, there is no energy left for imagining the future,” she wrote.

That’s why the Deep Civilisation season will explore what really matters in the broader arc of human history and what it means for us and our descendants.

So concluded the historian Arnold Toynbee in his 12-volume magnum opus A Study of History. It was an exploration of the rise and fall of 28 different civilisations.

He was right in some respects: civilisations are often responsible for their own decline. However, their self-destruction is usually assisted.

The Roman Empire, for example, was the victim of many ills including overexpansion, climatic change, environmental degradation and poor leadership. But it was also brought to its knees when Rome was sacked by the Visigoths in 410 and the Vandals in 455.

Collapse is often quick and greatness provides no immunity. The Roman Empire covered 4.4 million sq km (1.9 million sq miles) in 390. Five years later, it had plummeted to 2 million sq km (770,000 sq miles). By 476, the empire’s reach was zero.

Our deep past is marked by recurring failure. As part of my research at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at the University of Cambridge, I am attempting to find out why collapse occurs through a historical autopsy. What can the rise and fall of historic civilisations tell us about our own? What are the forces that precipitate or delay a collapse? And do we see similar patterns today?

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The first way to look at past civilisations is to compare their longevity. This can be difficult, because there is no strict definition of civilisation, nor an overarching database of their births and deaths.

In the graphic below, I have compared the lifespan of various civilisations, which I define as a society with agriculture, multiple cities, military dominance in its geographical region and a continuous political structure. Given this definition, all empires are civilisations, but not all civilisations are empires. The data is drawn from two studies on the growth and decline of empires (for 3000-600BC and 600BC-600), and an informal, crowd-sourced survey of ancient civilisations (which I have amended).

Click/pinch to enlarge. Here’s the full list of the civilisations displayed above. (Credit: Nigel Hawtin)

Collapse can be defined as a rapid and enduring loss of population, identity and socio-economic complexity. Public services crumble and disorder ensues as government loses control of its monopoly on violence.

Virtually all past civilisations have faced this fate. Some recovered or transformed, such as the Chinese and Egyptian. Other collapses were permanent, as was the case of Easter Island. Sometimes the cities at the epicentre of collapse are revived, as was the case with Rome. In other cases, such as the Mayan ruins, they are left abandoned as a mausoleum for future tourists.

What can this tell us about the future of global modern civilisation? Are the lessons of agrarian empires applicable to our post-18th Century period of industrial capitalism?

Collapse may be a normal phenomenon for civilisations, regardless of their size and technological stage

I would argue that they are. Societies of the past and present are just complex systems composed of people and technology. The theory of “normal accidents” suggests that complex technological systems regularly give way to failure. So collapse may be a normal phenomenon for civilisations, regardless of their size and stage.

We may be more technologically advanced now. But this gives little ground to believe that we are immune to the threats that undid our ancestors. Our newfound technological abilities even bring new, unprecedented challenges to the mix.

And while our scale may now be global, collapse appears to happen to both sprawling empires and fledgling kingdoms alike. There is no reason to believe that greater size is armour against societal dissolution. Our tightly-coupled, globalised economic system is, if anything, more likely to make crisis spread.

Building falling into sea

Climatic pressures are worsening (Credit: Getty Images)

If the fate of previous civilisations can be a roadmap to our future, what does it say? One method is to examine the trends that preceded historic collapses and see how they are unfolding today.

While there is no single accepted theory for why collapses happen, historians, anthropologists and others have proposed various explanations, including:

CLIMATIC CHANGE: When climatic stability changes, the results can be disastrous, resulting in crop failure, starvation and desertification. The collapse of the Anasazi, the Tiwanaku civilisation, the Akkadians, the Mayan, the Roman Empire, and many others have all coincided with abrupt climatic changes, usually droughts.

ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION: Collapse can occur when societies overshoot the carrying capacity of their environment. This ecological collapse theory, which has been the subject of bestselling books, points to excessive deforestation, water pollution, soil degradation and the loss of biodiversity as precipitating causes.

INEQUALITY AND OLIGARCHY: Wealth and political inequality can be central drivers of social disintegration, as can oligarchy and centralisation of power among leaders. This not only causes social distress, but handicaps a society’s ability to respond to ecological, social and economic problems.

The field of cliodynamics models how factors such as equality and demography correlate with political violence. Statistical analysis of previous societies suggests that this happens in cycles. As population increases, the supply of labour outstrips demand, workers become cheap and society becomes top-heavy. This inequality undermines collective solidarity and political turbulence follows.

COMPLEXITY: Collapse expert and historian Joseph Tainter has proposed that societies eventually collapse under the weight of their own accumulated complexity and bureaucracy. Societies are problem-solving collectives that grow in complexity in order to overcome new issues. However, the returns from complexity eventually reach a point of diminishing returns. After this point, collapse will eventually ensue.

Another measure of increasing complexity is called Energy Return on Investment (EROI). This refers to the ratio between the amount of energy produced by a resource relative to the energy needed to obtain it. Like complexity, EROI appears to have a point of diminishing returns. In his book The Upside of Down, the political scientist Thomas Homer-Dixon observed that environmental degradation throughout the Roman Empire led to falling EROI from their staple energy source: crops of wheat and alfalfa. The empire fell alongside their EROI. Tainter also blames it as a chief culprit of collapse, including for the Mayan.

EXTERNAL SHOCKS: In other words, the “four horsemen”: war, natural disasters, famine and plagues. The Aztec Empire, for example, was brought to an end by Spanish invaders. Most early agrarian states were fleeting due to deadly epidemics. The concentration of humans and cattle in walled settlements with poor hygiene made disease outbreaks unavoidable and catastrophic. Sometimes disasters combined, as was the case with the Spanish introducing salmonella to the Americas.

RANDOMNESS/BAD LUCK: Statistical analysis on empires suggests that collapse is random and independent of age. Evolutionary biologist and data scientist Indre Zliobaite and her colleagues have observed a similar pattern in the evolutionary record of species. A common explanation of this apparent randomness is the “Red Queen Effect”: if species are constantly fighting for survival in a changing environment with numerous competitors, extinction is a consistent possibility.

Despite the abundance of books and articles, we don’t have a conclusive explanation as to why civilisations collapse. What we do know is this: the factors highlighted above can all contribute. Collapse is a tipping point phenomena, when compounding stressors overrun societal coping capacity.

We can examine these indicators of danger to see if our chance of collapse is falling or rising. Here are four of those possible metrics, measured over the past few decades:

Graphics showing collapse risk rising

Click/pinch to enlarge (Credit: Nigel Hawtin)

Temperature is a clear metric for climate change, GDP is a proxy for complexity and the ecological footprint is an indicator for environmental degradation. Each of these has been trending steeply upwards.

Inequality is more difficult to calculate. The typical measurement of the Gini Index suggests that inequality has decreased slightly globally (although it is increasing within countries). However, the Gini Index can be misleading as it only measures relative changes in income. In other words, if two individuals earning $1 and $100,000 both doubled their income, the Gini would show no change. But the gap between the two would have jumped from $99,999 to $198,998.

Because of this, I have also depicted the income share of the global top 1%. The 1% have increased in their share of global income from approximately 16% in 1980 to over 20% today. Importantly, wealth inequality is even worse. The share of global wealth from the 1% has swelled from 25-30% in the 1980s to approximately 40% in 2016. The reality is likely to be starker as these numbers do not capture wealth and income siphoned into overseas tax havens.

Homeless on Wall Street (Credit: Getty Images)

The rich are getting richer, which in past civilisations has created additional stress on societies (Credit: Getty Images)

Studies suggest that the EROI for fossil fuels has been steadily decreasing over time as the easiest to reach and richest reserves are depleted. Unfortunately, most renewable replacements, such as solar, have a markedly lower EROI, largely due to their energy density and the rare earth metals and manufacturing required to produce them.

This has led much of the literature to discuss the possibility of an “energy cliff” as EROI declines to a point where current societal levels of affluence can no longer be maintained. The energy cliff need not be terminal if renewable technologies continue to improve and energy efficiency measures are speedily implemented.

Measures of resilience

The somewhat reassuring news is that collapse metrics are not the entire picture. Societal resilience may be able to delay or prevent collapse.

For example, globally “economic diversity” – a measurement of the diversity and sophistication of country exports ­– is greater today than it was in the 1960s and 1970s, as measured by the Economic Complexity Index (ECI). Nations are, on average, less reliant on single types of exports than they once were. For example, a nation that had diversified beyond only exporting agricultural products would be more likely to weather ecological degradation or the loss of trading partners. The ECI also measures the knowledge-intensity of exports. More skilled populations may have a greater capacity to respond to crises as they arise.

There are some reasons to be optimistic, thanks to our ability to innovate and diversify away from disaster. Yet the world is worsening in areas that have contributed to the collapse of previous societies

Similarly, innovation – as measured by per capita patent applications – is also rising. In theory, a civilisation might be less vulnerable to collapse if new technologies can mitigate against pressures such as climate change.

It’s also possible that “collapse” can happen without violent catastrophe. As Rachel Nuwer wrote on BBC Future in 2017, “in some cases, civilisations simply fade out of existence – becoming the stuff of history not with a bang but a whimper”.

Factory workers welding (Credit: Getty Images)

Our technological capabilities may have the potential to delay collapse (Credit: Getty Images)

Still, when we look at all these collapse and resilience indicators as a whole, the message is clear that we should not be complacent. There are some reasons to be optimistic, thanks to our ability to innovate and diversify away from disaster. Yet the world is worsening in areas that have contributed to the collapse of previous societies. The climate is changing, the gap between the rich and poor is widening, the world is becoming increasingly complex, and our demands on the environment are outstripping planetary carrying capacity.

The rungless ladder

That’s not all. Worryingly, the world is now deeply interconnected and interdependent. In the past, collapse was confined to regions – it was a temporary setback, and people often could easily return to agrarian or hunter-gatherer lifestyles. For many, it was even a welcome reprieve from the oppression of early states. Moreover, the weapons available during social disorder were rudimentary: swords, arrows and occasionally guns.

Today, societal collapse is a more treacherous prospect. The weapons available to a state, and sometimes even groups, during a breakdown now range from biological agents to nuclear weapons. New instruments of violence, such as lethal autonomous weapons, may be available in the near future. People are increasingly specialised and disconnected from the production of food and basic goods. And a changing climate may irreparably damage our ability to return to simple farming practices.

Think of civilisation as a poorly-built ladder. As you climb, each step that you used falls away. A fall from a height of just a few rungs is fine. Yet the higher you climb, the larger the fall. Eventually, once you reach a sufficient height, any drop from the ladder is fatal.

With the proliferation of nuclear weapons, we may have already reached this point of civilisational “terminal velocity”. Any collapse – any fall from the ladder – risks being permanent. Nuclear war in itself could result in an existential risk: either the extinction of our species, or a permanent catapult back to the Stone Age.

Syria ruin

A woman walks in the ruins of a town in Syria following conflict between fighters (Credit: Getty Images)

While we are becoming more economically powerful and resilient, our technological capabilities also present unprecedented threats that no civilisation has had to contend with. For example, the climatic changes we face are of a different nature to what undid the Maya or Anazasi. They are global, human-driven, quicker, and more severe.

Assistance in our self-imposed ruin will not come from hostile neighbors, but from our own technological powers. Collapse, in our case, would be a progress trap.

The collapse of our civilisation is not inevitable. History suggests it is likely, but we have the unique advantage of being able to learn from the wreckages of societies past.

We know what needs to be done: emissions can be reduced, inequalities levelled, environmental degradation reversed, innovation unleashed and economies diversified. The policy proposals are there. Only the political will is lacking. We can also invest in recovery. There are already well-developed ideas for improving the ability of food and knowledge systems to be recuperated after catastrophe. Avoiding the creation of dangerous and widely-accessible technologies is also critical. Such steps will lessen the chance of a future collapse becoming irreversible.

We will only march into collapse if we advance blindly. We are only doomed if we are unwilling to listen to the past.

Luke Kemp is a researcher based at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at the University of Cambridge. He tweets @lukakemp.

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(For the source of this, and other important articles, please visit: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20190218-are-we-on-the-road-to-civilisation-collapse/)


MetaFly is that flying robotic insect you’ve been looking for

The MetaFly can be flown both indoors and outdoors (if the winds aren't too strong)
The MetaFly can be flown both indoors and outdoors (if the winds aren’t too strong).

Five years ago, French aeronautical engineer Edwin Van Ruymbeke successfully crowdfunded his Bionic Bird – it’s a remote-control model that flies by flapping its wings, just like a real bird. Now he’s back, with the insect-inspired MetaFly.

Reminiscent of the bioinspired robots made by Festo, the MetaFly weighs less than 10 grams (0.35 oz), is 19 cm long (7.5 in), and has a 29-cm (11.4-in) wingspan. The wing-flapping is handled by a mechanical coreless motor (with an aluminum heat sink), which is in turn powered by a rechargeable lithium-polymer battery.

That battery is charged by docking the MetaFly with the included 2-channel radio remote control unit, drawing current from that device’s four AA batteries. One 15-minute charge should be good for eight minutes of flight time, with 15 flights possible on one set of the remote’s batteries. Users can also opt for a separate 1,500-mAh power bank, which reportedly manages 20 12-minute charges before needing a recharge of its own.

One 15-minute charge of the MetaFly's battery should be good for eight minutes of flight time

The remote has a maximum range of 100 meters (328 ft). Top airspeed for the MetaFly is 18 km/h (11 mph).

Crashing the thing is claimed not to be a problem, as its “head,” legs and wings are all flexible – the wings are made of carbon fiber, liquid crystal polymer, and oriented polypropylene. Flight characteristics can be altered by tweaking the angle of the tail.

Should you be interested, the MetaFly is currently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign. A pledge of €69 (about US$78) will get you one, when and if they reach production. The planned retail price is €129 ($146).

You can see it in flight, on YouTube.

Source: Kickstarter

(For the source of this article, and to see additional pictures, please visit: https://newatlas.com/metafly-flying-model-insect/58765/)

Why Kiss Under Mistletoe? The True Story

circa 1890: A sailor tries to kiss a young woman under a sprig of mistletoe. William Small.

Circa 1890: A sailor tries to kiss a young woman under a sprig of mistletoe. (William Small. Hulton Archive/Getty Images By KAT MOON)

From Harry Potter’s first kiss to Justin Bieber’s holiday tune, kissing under the mistletoe is everywhere in pop culture. But this Christmas tradition — that if you’re standing under the leafy plant, it’s time for a smooch — existed long before it ever appeared in movies and pop songs.

While historians are uncertain about why kissing under the mistletoe started, there is a general consensus regarding when and where the custom began, and how it became popular during Christmas time.

The origins of kissing under the mistletoe, a plant that often bears white berries, are often traced to a tale in Norse mythology about the god Baldur. In the story, Baldur’s mother, Frigg, casts a powerful magic to make sure that no plant grown on earth could be used as a weapon against her son. The one plant the spell does not reach is the mistletoe, as it does not grow out of the earth, but out of a tree’s branches. The scheming Loki, upon learning this, makes a spear out of mistletoe — the spear that would eventually kill Baldur.

Baldur was warlike and a favored son of Gods, and so when people saw mistletoe they would kiss in joy that he was dead! Thus the tradition is a celebration of the end of a warlike man who enjoyed and died by violence.

(For the source of this, and many other interesting articles, please visit: https://bootheglobalperspectives.com/)


Pal-V shows off limited edition flying car in Geneva

The Pal-V Liberty Pioneer is based on the same flying car shown off last year, but...
The Pal-V Liberty Pioneer is based on the same flying car shown off last year, but with a few extra trimmings to give its limited run of 90 an extra air of exclusivity. (Credit: C.C. Weiss/New Atlas).

After turning heads at last year’s Geneva Motor Show with its production-ready flying car, Pal-V has returned for 2019 with a special edition that it says will actually be first out of the gate. The Pal-V Liberty Pioneer is based on the same flying car shown last year, but with a few extra trimmings to give its limited run of 90 an extra air of exclusivity.

Some fifteen years have passed since we first covered the Pal-V flying car, but fundamentally the design remain the same. Part-gyrocopter, part-car and part-motorbike, the two-seat tilting three-wheeler can reach a top speed of 160 km/h (100 mph) on the tarmac and be driven by anyone with a driver’s license.

And with at least 330 m (1,000 ft) of runway it can lift off into the skies, following some pre-flight checks and a five-minute switchover process that involves pulling out the tail section and unfurling a pair of rotor blades. Operators will need a pilot’s license to take off, and once airborne, the flying car can hit speeds of 180 km/h (112 mph) over a possible range of 500 km (310 mi), and only requires 30 m (98 ft) of runway to land.

With at least 330 m (1,000 ft) of runway, the Pal-V flying car can lift off...

“The gyroplane principle not only provides us with a very safe and easy to operate a flying car but it also enables us to make it compact and within existing regulations, which is the most important factor to build a useable flying car,” says Mike Stekelenburg, Chief Engineer at Pal-V.

After showing off the standard version of its flying car last year, Pal-V has this year wheeled out the special edition Liberty Pioneer. Joris Wolters, Sales Officer at PAL-V, tells us this is distinguished from the run-of-the-mill standard version thanks to Pioneer logos, tailor-made leather interior, carbon materials and two-tone coloring, as well as some extra bells and whistles under the hood.

inside the Pal-V Liberty Pioneer flying car

“The Pioneer is full-option, meaning, for example, dual control, carbon package and EFIS (Electronic Flight Information System),” he says.

Only 90 of the Liberty Pioneers will be built, and the company expects to start deliveries of that version first in 2020, ahead of the standard version.

Source: Pal-V

(For the source of this article, and to view all 18 photos, please visit: https://newatlas.com/pal-v-liberty-pioneer-limited-edition/58749/)


Hands-free flight with EEGSmart’s mind-controlled UDrone

The UDrone uses hands-free "mind controls" via a sensor-heavy headset
The UDrone uses hands-free “mind controls” via a sensor-heavy headset. (Credit: Tyson Clugg/New Atlas).

How much more fun could drones be if you got fiddly hand controllers out of the way and flew them with your mind? That’s the question EEGSmart poses with its UDrone mini-quad, which responds to brainwaves and head movements instead of thumbsticks. It’s not perfect, but it does give a glimpse of a mind-controlled future.

How much more fun could drones be if you got fiddly hand controllers out of the way and flew them with your mind? That’s the question EEGSmart poses with its UDrone mini-quad, which responds to brainwaves and head movements instead of thumbsticks. It’s not perfect, but it does give a glimpse of a mind-controlled future.

The Udrone itself is fairly unremarkable; it’s a lightweight mini-quadcopter with 2-inch props, nice plastic bumpers to save it from damage when it bumps into a wall, and an 8-megapixel, 1080p-capable camera. You can fly it using your mobile phone, in which case it works like most similar small quads, but also has some smarts under its belt with face tracking, subject tracking and gesture recognition.

It flies for six or seven minutes on a battery, which is about right for this size of thing. The camera isn’t anything to write home about, but it streams video back to your phone in real time as long as you’re within Wi-Fi range. So far, so ordinary.

The UMind headset combines EEG, EOG, EMG, gyroscopic and accelerometer sensors to work out what you...

In a second box, you get EEGSmart’s UMind Lite headset, and here’s where things get interesting. The headset has a number of sensors built in. There’s an EEG, or electroencephalography sensor, which measures electrical activity in the brain. There’s an EOG, or electro-oculography sensor that measures eye movements by monitoring the electrical potential between the front and back of the human eye. There’s an EMG, or electromyography sensor, that measures electrical activity in response to a nerve’s stimulation of muscles. It also has gyros and accelerometers, and patented gear built in to amplify signal and squash noise from the finicky brain and nerve sensors.

It charges via USB, like the drone itself, and sits over the ears across your forehead, just above your eyebrows. You pair it to your phone through the UDrone app, and then set the drone into “mind control mode” to activate it.

To launch the thing, you have to attain a state of Jedi-like focus. Which is fine, I’ve been doing my Sam Harris meditation tapes. You can watch your mental focus activity summarized into a number in the UDrone app. If your thoughts are a little skittery, you might find that number hovering around 15 or 20. When you zen out into a space of relaxed focus, it rockets upward. I’ve seen as high as 400 or so, which made me feel like Yoda.

To launch the drone, you pop it into mind control mode, then focus your way to 150 or more, and the drone lifts off to a chest-high hover. Focusing hard on the drone can convince it to rise, letting your mind wander makes it fall, in little stepped levels.

Weighing 85 grams, this is a fun and unintimidating indoors toy

To move it, you tilt your head. This feels extremely intuitive for right-to-left movements, and works really well; the drone tilts whichever way you tilt your head. EEGSmart has decided, however, to reverse things for forward and backward flight – probably thinking that you want to be looking up rather than down as your drone is flying forward. I thoroughly disagree with this assessment and would much rather the drone simply tilted whichever way I tilt my head.

Yaw control is done by turning your head sideways then back again, and this happens in 45-degree increments. You blink twice to start the camera timer, and clench your jaw when it’s time to land.

After burning through half a dozen battery charges, I’m definitely getting the hang of it. Altitude control is by far the hardest and least responsive control, since it’s difficult to know exactly when you’re building or shedding focus, but the drone does eventually do what you want. The head tilt control works great – it’d be even better if the forward/backward inputs weren’t reversed – and while the camera does fire off a lot of shots without me asking for it, I’ve done pretty well with the landing command. Here, check out a short video. Pardon the bare feet, I’m a hippie at heart:


It’s a pretty nifty feeling controlling a drone this way. It does suffer from being very digital –especially the stepped altitude changes and 45-degree turning implements, which are not a smooth way to fly. But it does give you a real sense of what hands-free flight could feel like, and as such we’d rate it a fun little toy to have around.

It’s quick enough to learn that you can pass it around for visitors to play with, and the prop guards do a good job stopping this thing from banging off the walls. You’ll want to fly it indoors, too, because wind does blow it around a bit, and that can be hard to correct for without the rock solid thumbstick controls you’d normally be using.

I do see a future in this kind of thing. I think UDrone should build some sort of training feature into the app, which lets you watch your control inputs in real time so you can make sure of exactly what signals you’re sending. That’d make the learning curve quicker without burning battery on the drone. It’s a pretty remarkable little gadget to play with, and I look forward to seeing where this kind of tech goes.

Udrone will launch on Kickstarter on March 12, at an early bird price of US$279 for the UDrone + Umind kit.

Source: EEGSmart

(For the source of this article, and to watch a video of Loz actually flying a mind-controlled drone, please visit: https://newatlas.com/udrone-mind-controlled-drone-umind-review/58791/)


The Speeder: Jetpack Aviation opens pre-orders on jet powered flying motorcycle

Jetpack Aviation is taking orders now on its US$380,000 jet turbine-powered flying motorcycl;e
Jetpack Aviation is taking orders now on its US$380,000 jet turbine-powered flying motorcycle. (Credit: Jetpack Aviation).

Jetpack Aviation has leap-frogged its own flying car project with the announcement that it’s taking pre-orders now on a self-stabilizing, jet turbine-powered flying motorcycle capable of 150 mph speeds, 20 minute endurance and 15,000 ft altitudes.

The Speeder builds on JPA’s jet turbine expertise, developed over the years working on the company’s astounding JB-series jetpacks. It uses a cluster of four turbojet engines putting out a combined maximum thrust of 705 lbf – enough to lift the 231-lb (105 kg) airframe and a pilot up to 240 lb (109 kg).

Crucially, they’re also rigged up to a fly-by-wire control system that allows the Speeder to self-stabilize in the air, much like a quadcopter drone. Running on kerosene, JetA or diesel, you can get yourself between 10 and 22 minutes in the air, dependent on pilot weight and density altitude.

The Speeder will have VTOL capability

It’s got hand controls, a 12-inch touch screen for navigation, and a built-in two-way aviation radio system for air-to-air and air-to-ground communications. JPA says it will build different versions to fit ultralight and recreational categories under FAA law, meaning you’ll be able to fly the ultralight version with no license at all. The experimental category version will need a full pilot’s license, but JPA is in contact with the FAA, trying to have that reduced to a Recreational Pilot Certificate or Sport Pilot’s License to make life easier.

Like the JB-series jetpacks – and indeed the Zapata Flyboard – it’s more or less a tilt-to-accelerate kind of deal, so it’ll be interesting to see how that’s achieved via the controls. In terms of safety, well, there’s some redundancy built into the system, and it can still self-stabilize if one of the jets goes down. Any more than that, and you’ll be wishing you took the bus that day – but we’ve spoken to JPA CEO David Mayman in the past about ballistic parachute systems and death zone recovery options, so we know that safety will be high on the company’s list of priorities.

The consumer version - 20 will be made - will use four turbojets in a self-stabilizing...

It doesn’t have fold-down jet wheels and alleged road riding capability like Lazareth’s possibly fanciful Moto Volante. At 120 decibels, it’s going to be a ton noisier than Dezso Molnar’s GSXR-powered G2 gyrobike. And at a price of US$380,000, it’s gonna hit the hip pocket far harder than the Hoversurf Scorpion multirotor or the late Larry Neal’s sub-US$40k Super Sky Cycle. But it does have David Mayman and Nelson Tyler behind it, who have proven their personal aviation credentials with hundreds of jetpack flights to date, and are taking the whole personal flight thing very seriously.

They’ve now got the resources of the Y Combinator program behind them as well, so there’s every indication Jetpack Aviation is getting ready to go big in the coming months and years.

As to the Speeder, the company plans to build just 20 for the time being. You can reserve one yourself now for US$10,000. After that, all production will be dedicated to military and government use. The military version will be slightly different, with an additional jet turbine for redundancy and extra lift, and the capability to remote-fly it as a drone or cargo carrier.

We plan to catch up with David Mayman in the next few days to learn more, but in the meantime, check out a rendered video below.

Source: Jetpack Aviation

(For the source of this, a video, and many additional interesting articles, please visit: https://newatlas.com/flying-motorcycle-jetpack-aviation-speeder/58752/)


All hail!

San Francisco’s monarch who once “ruled” America.

Photo of Joshua Abraham Norton



Joshua Norton lost his wealth and his mind before declaring himself Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico in 1859.

His first act as emperor was to abolish Congress and the Republican and Democratic parties. He also requested the formation of the League of Nations, demanded a bridge and tunnel between San Francisco and Oakland (both of which now exist), and issued his own currency – which people in the area accepted.

While Emperor Norton’s decrees were not respected in the capitol, his royal personage was absolutely sacrosanct in San Francisco.
He was a popular character, sporting a royal blue uniform with gold epaulettes, a hat set off with a peacock feather and a decorative rose, and a sabre on his hip. Businesses gave him free goods, others paid him “taxes”.

When a security guard arrested Emperor Norton for vagrancy, the public outcry was immense. According to one daily newspaper, “since he has worn the Imperial purple he has shed no blood, robbed nobody, and despoiled the country of no one, which is more than can be said for his fellows in that line.” Emperor Norton was quickly freed, and from then on, all police officers saluted him in the streets.

When he died in 1880, 10,000 people attended his funeral.

He was the first and last Emperor of the United States of America.

(Source of this and other interesting articles: BigThink.com)

Joshua A. Norton

Photograph of Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Defender of Mexico So much has been written about Emperor Norton, and interest in this ninteenth-century character continues into the twenty-first century. Many of the “decrees” attributed to Norton I were fakes; written in jest by newspaper editors at the time for amusement, or for political purposes. Those “decrees” listed here were, we believe, actually issued by Norton.

September 17, 1859 – Joshua A. Norton, who lost his money in an attempt to corner the rice market, today declared himself Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico. December 2, 1859 – Norton I dismissed Gov. Wise of Virginia for hanging John Brown and appointed John C. Breckenridge of Kentucky to replace him.

February 1, 1860 – Decree from Norton I ordered representatives of the different states to assemble at Platt’s Music Hall to change laws to ameloriate the evils under which the country was laboring.

July 16, 1860 – Decree from Norton I dissolved the United States of America.

October 1, 1860 – Decree from Norton I barred Congress from meeting in Washington, D.C.

February 5, 1861– Norton I changed the place of his National Convention to Assembly Hall, Post and Kearny, because Platt’s Music Hall had burned.

September 17, 1861 – A new theater, Tucker’s Hall, opened with a performance of “Norton the First,” or “An Emperor for a Day.”

October 1863 – Death of Lazarus, Emperor Norton’s dog.

February 14, 1864 – Norton I arrived in Marysville to join the celebration of the opening of the railroad.

November 11, 1865 – Mark Twain wrote an epitaph for Bummer, the long-time companion of Lazarus.

January 21, 1867 – An overzealous Patrol Special Officer, Armand Barbier, arrested His Majesty Norton I for involuntary treatment of a mental disorder and thereby created a major civic uproar. Police Chief Patrick Crowley apologized to His Majesty and ordered him released. Several scathing newspaper editorials followed the arrest. All police officers began to salute His Majesty when he passed them on the street.

July 25, 1869 – Decree from Norton I that San Franciscans advance money to Frederick Marriott for his airship experiments.

August 12, 1869 – Decree from Norton I dissolved and abolished the Democratic and Republican parties because of party strife now existing within our realm.

December 15, 1869 – Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, left San Francisco to seek his yearly tribute from the legislature and lobbyists. He inspected the new capitol during the gala ball celebrating the buildings’ inauguration.

December 16, 1869 – Decree by Norton I demanded that Sacramento clean its muddy streets and place gaslights on streets leading to the capitol.

August 1, 1870 – Norton I was listed by the Census taker with the occupation of “emperor,” living at 624 Commercial St.

September 21, 1870 – Decree from Norton I that the Grand Hotel furnish him rooms under penalty of being banished.

Ten dollar note

A ten dollar note issued by the Imperial Government of Norton I
March 23, 1872 – Decree by Norton I that a suspension bridge be built as soon as convenient between Oakland Point and Goat Island, and then on to San Francisco. September 21, 1872 – Norton I ordered a survey to determine if a bridge or tunnel would be the best possible means to connect Oakland and San Francisco. He also ordered the arrest of the Board of Supervisors for ignoring his decrees. January 2, 1873 – Decree from Norton I that a worldwide Bible Convention be held in San Francisco on this day. March 18, 1873 – David Belasco made his stage debut at the Metropolitan Theatre playing Emperor Norton in the play “The Gold Demon.” January 8, 1880 – Norton I dropped dead on California St. at Grant Ave. He was on his way to a lecture at the Academy of Natural Sciences. January 9, 1880 – Headline in the Morning Call: “Norton the First, by the grace of God Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, departed this life.” January 10, 1880 – Norton I was buried today at Masonic Cemetery. The funeral cortege was two miles long. 10,000 people turned out for the funeral. June 30, 1934 – Emperor Norton I reburied in Woodlawn Cemetery by citizens of San Francisco. January 7, 1980 – The city marked the 100th anniversary of the death of its only monarch, Emperor Norton, with lunch-hour ceremonies at Market and Montgomery streets.

Emperor Norton chronology from Gladys Hansen’s San Francisco Almanac
©1995 Chronicle Books

(Source: http://www.sfmuseum.org/hist1/norton.html)

Emperor Norton’s grave, which was moved from the Masonic Cemetery in San Francisco to Colma. (Joshua Neff/Flickr)


(Also see: https://www.history.com/news/the-strange-case-of-emperor-norton-i-of-the-united-states)
(And: https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Emperor_Norton)
(A more lengthy discussion is available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emperor_Norton)
Emperor Norton_01 from the collection of C. B. Turrill

Boston Dynamics Gets Huge Cash Boost Ahead of Robo-Dog Launch This Year

By Mike Brown


Seeing Spots

No matter how big-brained your dog is, it probably can’t load a dishwasher or do a dance on command. Those are just two of the reasons why Boston Dynamics, creators of the surprisingly cute robo-dog SpotMini, received $37 million from its owner, Softbank. The people want their protean pups!

And man, will they get them. By the middle of 2019, production of the mechanical mutts will ramp up to 1,000 units a year. Their sporty, plastic yellow coats may not be as fuzzy as a golden retriever’s, but at least you won’t have to pick up their poop. Softbank is betting big on elder care and in-home robots, as the population ages.

Watch the unexpectedly adorable pups in action.

Boston Dynamics has received a big funding injection to get its robots moving. A recent report revealed that the robo-dog development firm has received $37 million from its owner Softbank. The funding comes amid the team’s efforts to bring its SpotMini to market this year.

The Yahoo report found that the Japanese multinational, which purchased the group from Google parent company Alphabet in June 2017 for a reported $100 million, made two major loans to Boston Dynamics in June and September 2018. The loans, made through U.K.-registered firm Softbank Group Capital, were translated into common shares in January 2019. Boston Dynamics was first founded in 1992, borne out of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology team, but beyond military projects it has yet to release a commercially available product. Boston’s breakthroughs include the towering Atlas bipedal machine and the SpotMini robot dog that inspired an episode of Black Mirror.

(See more: Boston Dynamics Is Building Its Robot Dog Empire at a Construction Site)

Boston Dynamics is now gearing up to bring its SpotMini to market. At the CeBIT conference in Hanover, Germany, in May 2018, founder Marc Raibert told the audience that “this robot will be available next year…we’ve built ten by hand, we’re building 100 with manufacturers at the end of this year, and in the middle of 2019, we’re going to begin production at the rate of about 1,000 a year.”

The machine could help with a variety of home tasks. Its claw is capable of hauling 30 pounds despite only weighing 66 pounds itself, and its small height of two feet nine inches make it useful as a not-too-imposing house bot. Newer versions sport a yellow casing, and its programmed abilities include picking up cans, loading a dishwasher and doing a dance.

Pricing and release dates for the SpotMini are as yet unclear, but more information is likely to follow later this year as production ramps up.

Just hope it doesn’t learn any tricks from Black Mirror.

(For the source of this article, and to watch a video associated with it, please visit: https://www.inverse.com/article/53106-boston-dynamics-gets-huge-cash-boost-ahead-of-robo-dog-launch-this-year/)

Bank's Oarfish, circa 1850. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)© Hulton Archive/Hulton Archive/Getty Images Bank’s Oarfish, circa 1850. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images). 


Fears of an incoming natural disaster in Japan are swirling online after sightings of a deep-water fish believed to be a harbinger of earthquakes and tsunamis.

On Friday, two oarfish were discovered after being caught in fishing nets off the northern prefecture of Toyama, bringing the total found this season to seven. Earlier this week, a 3.2 meter (10.5 foot) oarfish washed up on the shore of Toyama Bay, while a 4-meter (13 foot) long oarfish was tangled in a fishing net off the port of Imizu.

The elusive oarfish live between 200 and 1,000 meters (650 to 3,200 feet) deep and are characterized by silvery skin and red fins.

Traditionally known as “Ryugu no tsukai” in Japanese, or the “Messenger from the Sea God’s Palace,” legend has it that they beach themselves on shores ahead of underwater earthquakes. But scientists dispute such claims.

“There is no scientific evidence at all for the theory that oarfish appear around big quakes. But we cannot 100% deny the possibility,” Uozu Aquarium keeper Kazusa Saiba told CNN.

“It could be that global warming might have an impact on the appearance of oarfish or a reason we’re just not aware of.”

The myth of oarfish as harbinger of destruction gained some traction after the 2011 Fukushima earthquake and subsequent tsunami, which killed more than 20,000 people. At least a dozen oarfish had washed up onto Japan’s coastline in the year prior to the disaster, according to Kyodo News.

While he doubted the theory’s validity, Saiba said one possible scientific explanation could be that subtle changes in the earth’s crust at the bottom of the sea ahead of an earthquake “might cause the current to stir and push creatures at the bottom to the surface.”

But Osamu Inamura, director of Uozu Aquarium, had a more scientific theory about the Toyama Bay sighting — that oarfish are following the movement of their food supply, a kind of a micro shrimp.

“When their shrimp supply rises toward plankton during the daytime, the oarfish may sometimes follow and get caught in fishermen’s nets,” Inamura said.

(Source of this article: https://www.msn.com/en-us/weather/topstories/sightings-of-rare-oarfish-in-japan-raise-fears-of-earthquake-and-tsunami/ar-BBT2tBi?ocid=spartandhp#image=1))


A new study from Oregon State University makes it clear: it’s you.

  • Researchers discovered that the more attention you give a cat, the more likely they are to return it.
  • Cats are territorial; being in their home environment greatly affects their attitude.
  • The common wisdom that cats are aloof is provably false.

This weekend, my wife and I visited the San Diego Zoo. Having grown up nearby, she visited often as a child, though it was my first time. While I generally avoid zoos, this particular one is a leading conservation institute. While a sense of overbearing voyeurism inherent in the zoo process persists, at least my money supported beneficial projects. Plus, where else am I going to see baboons?

For the most part, the animals seemed content, or at least not distressed. Except one: the jaguar. When I passed by, two small children were plastered against the glass partition, the jaguar pacing back and forth seeking an exit ramp. Smiling parents snapped photos, laughing as their kids smacked the glass in an attempt to gain the jaguar’s attention. “Look, he wants to play!” one mother commented.

No, that’s not what the cat wanted to do. I wasn’t sure if the mother was just reassuring her son no ill will would befall him or she really was that ignorant. I heard many odd ideas about what the animals were doing throughout the day. That’s the danger of anthropomorphizing other species: we usually get it wrong.

Forget wild animals, we misunderstand domesticated breeds all the time. I’m not sure how many times someone has told me that house cats are aloof, but any cat guardian that takes the time to form a relationship with their housemates will quickly laugh that one away. For example, the picture below is where our three cats spend most of the day while I work at my laptop.

Considering all three are males, it’s not always this peaceful. Every night we have to separate them; either two of them sleep on our bed, or just the Maine Coon, Magellan, the most territorial of them all. Every morning includes lap time or they get irritated. To claim that cats aren’t social is simply a way to claim your ignorance about this particular animal.

Which is the topic of a new study, conducted by researchers at Oregon State University and published in the journal Behavioral Processes. In the first experiment, a total of 46 cats were studied, 23 at a shelter and the other half in their own homes. A stranger sat in the middle of the room, ignoring the cat for two minutes before spending the next two showering them with attention. The second study followed the same protocol, though with their guardians, not strangers.

Regardless of whether it was guardian or stranger, cats are more social when humans pay attention to them. As lead author of the study, Kristyn R. Vitale, says:

“In both groups, we found [cats] spent significantly more time with people who were paying attention to them than people who were ignoring them.”

They’re pretty human in that sense. The more you pay attention to someone, the more likely they are to interact with you. Of course, there are a few things to consider:

  • Like humans, some cats are more social than others.
  • Understanding how your cat likes to be engaged is essential. Our cats are three distinct animals with different personalities, and so are treated as such.
  • Cats are territorial. They generally prefer to be at home with strangers than with their owners in a foreign space.

Territory is generally secondary with dogs, who prefer to be around their owner most of all. In fact, treating cats like dogs is likely the main reason many people are ignorant about feline social behaviors. As Jackson Galaxy writes in Total Cat Mojo:

Part of the issue is that we, perhaps subconsciously, look at cats through dog-colored glasses; that is to say, we expect them to communicate with us in a way that we can instantly recognize. As you can guess by now, that expectation goes against the entire history of our relationship to cats.

For example, meet a dog in the street and you’ll likely pet them on their head, neck, pretty much anywhere within reach. You can’t just pet a cat wherever you’d like, nor is it smart to scratch one from above or behind without establishing a frontal nose-to-finger relationship first. Some cats are quickly stimulated; an “innocent” neck scratch turns into an opportunity for biting.

So don’t be surprised when you’re at the receiving end of a claw for petting a cat on the rear. It’s not the cat being a jerk. It’s you.

Because, like humans, cats like to maintain control of their environment. As Mike Delgado, who studies cat behavior at UC Davis, says:

“It’s a cool study, and it does show that when we’re attentive to cats, they are interested. Even in the attentive phase, the cat had a lot of control, and that’s really what we think they like — the ability to leave. It’s not that they’re aloof. It’s just that they want choice.”

Upbringing is also a major component. My Russian Blue, Osiris, is nearly 19 and still burrows into my chest and neck with his head, a likely sign that he was separated from his mother too young. This makes sense, given that I rescued him from a Lower East Side storefront when he was just two months old. Our purebred three-year-old Doll Face Persian, Baltasar, who we rescued when abandoned by his owner six months ago, never lived on the streets; he shows no similar behavior.

Thinking a cat is aloof or mean is a matter of not knowing their history. Even for cat owners there is an important educational component. For example, site swapping newly introduced cats sets the rhythm for future success in maintaining a harmonious household; providing plenty of scent soakers is essential, while giving tree dwellers plenty of climbing apparatus is beneficial for their emotional well-being.

If you want to maintain a good relationship with the animals you bring into your home, learn to speak their language; don’t expect them to learn yours. As the researchers conclude:

Together, this body of research indicates domestic cats can detect human attentional state and modify their behavior in response, demonstrating they are sensitive to human social cues and tend to be more social when presented with an attentive human.

Translation: be a jerk and you produce jerk cats. That’s a choice, not destiny.

Stay in touch with Derek on Twitter and Facebook.

(For the source of this, and other related cat-type articles, please visit: https://bigthink.com/surprising-science/are-cats-jerks-or-is-it-you-who-is-the-jerk/)


The CDC Is Begging You to Stop Kissing Your Dang Hedgehogs

No snuggling, either.

Image result for hedgehog

Mr Pokee the Hedgehog – thetimes.co.uk.

After an unwitting human kissed Sonic the Hedgehog in 2006, you would’ve thought we’d learned our lesson. But 13 years later, humans are as foolish as ever, and now the United States’ major public health agency has to step in to stop the interspecies romance.

Recently, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced an ongoing investigation into a multistate Salmonella outbreak linked to pet hedgehogs. According to the CDC announcement, 11 people in eight US states have been infected with the bacterial strain Salmonella Typhimurium, and investigators have traced the infections back to the spiky pets. One of the infected individuals has been hospitalized, but, so far, there have been no deaths.

Based on lab tests and interviews with infected individuals, CDC investigators concluded that 10 out of the 11 sick people had come into contact with hedgehogs before getting sick. They haven’t identified whether all the hedgehogs came from the same place, though.

Here’s the CDC’s map of the outbreak: (See map at: https://www.inverse.com/article/52770-salmonella-outbreak-linked-to-hedgehogs/)

As you can see, the cases are spread out geographically, which suggests that the hedgehogs probably didn’t all get sick from having a playdate together.

The main symptoms of Salmonella Typhimurium are diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. Most people show symptoms anywhere from 12 to 72 hours after exposure, and the infection usually lasts between four and seven days. Patients typically recover without treatment. In rare cases, the severity of diarrhea can require a patient to be hospitalized to prevent excessive dehydration, but for most patients, the illness runs its course without treatment.

The people at highest risk of complications from Salmonella infections are the very young, the very old, and those with compromised immune systems.

The CDC reports that 1.2 million people get sick from Salmonella each year, resulting in 23,000 hospitalizations and 450 deaths annually. So all in all, these 11 individuals sickened by hedgehogs are a drop in the Salmonella bucket. Nonetheless, getting sick from snuggling your animal companion is no fun. So how does it happen?

“Hedgehogs can carry Salmonella germs in their droppings while appearing healthy and clean,” reports the CDC. “These germs can easily spread to their bodies, habitats, toys, bedding, and anything in the area where they live. People become sick after they touch hedgehogs or anything in their habitats.”

So even if your little spiky pal seems happy and healthy, running around collecting gold rings and Chaos Emeralds, he could be carrying Salmonella. That doesn’t mean you need to give him antibiotics or anything, just don’t kiss him on the mouth.

(For the source of this article, plus a ridiculously cute video, please visit: https://www.inverse.com/article/52770-salmonella-outbreak-linked-to-hedgehogs/)


Not all poo is created equal: Scientists discover “super donors” for fecal transplants

A new study has discovered "super-donors" who have broad microbial diversity in their microbiome, leading to...
A new study has discovered “super-donors” who have broad microbial diversity in their microbiome, leading to more successful results in fecal transplant treatments. (Credit: MaryValery/Depositphotos).

A new study, led by researchers from the University of Auckland, has described the phenomenon of “super donors,” people who contribute stool samples for use in trials whose poop seems to be significantly more effective in leading to clinical improvements for fecal transplant subjects.

Despite a long history of anecdotal use, the science behind fecal transplantation is still in its infancy. Altering a person’s gut microbiome via a fecal transplant has proved mildly successful across a variety of different trials, but results have proved frustratingly inconsistent. The mixed results have led some researchers to try to understand whether there are particular fecal donors whose poop is more effective than others. A new study has investigated this “super-donor” phenomenon, suggesting that it does indeed exist.

“We see transplants from super-donors achieve clinical remission rates of perhaps double the remaining average,” says Justin O’Sullivan, senior author on the new study. “Our hope is that if we can discover how this happens, then we can improve the success of fecal transplantation and even trial it for new microbiome-associated conditions like Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis and asthma.”

Homing in on exactly what specifically constitutes super poo has presented a complicated challenge for researchers. One of the most fundamentally significant features of good donor stool seems to be a broad microbial diversity – the larger the variety of species in the stool, the more effective the outcome when delivered via fecal transplant. The study also suggests high levels of what are referred to as “keystone species” are important in the efficacy of a fecal transplant.

“In inflammatory bowel disease and diabetes for example, keystone species that are associated with prolonged clinical remission produce butyrate – a chemical with specialized functions in regulating the immune system and energy metabolism,” says O’Sullivan.

Interestingly, however, research has shown that when these beneficial keystone species are isolated and administered individually, for example in the form of a probiotic, they are not as effective as when delivered as part of a whole stool sample. The researchers hypothesize the failure of this kind of precision medicine implies that microbial structure as a whole plays a greater role in the success of fecal transplants than simply the actions of a single microbial species.

“For example, the success of fecal transplants has been associated in some studies with the transfer of viruses which infect other gut microbes,” explains O’Sullivan. “Some cases of recurrent diarrheal infection have even been cured with transplants of filtered stool, that has had all the live bacteria filtered out but still contains DNA, viruses and other debris.”

Ultimately, the researchers conclude that while it may be incredibly difficult to clearly characterize what makes an effective fecal super-donor, it is vital for future fecal transplant research to take into account the specificities of individual donor microbiomes. On a general level, a broad diversity of gut microbiota is the best metric to identify a super-donor but it is also suggested that supporting the transplanted microbiome through an adjusted diet in the recipient may be fundamental to a fecal transplant’s success.

The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology.

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

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(For the source of this, and other equally exciting articles, please visit: https://newatlas.com/fecal-transplant-super-donor-microbiome-gut-bacteria/58148/)


Eight-dimensional octonions may hold the clues to solve fundamental mysteries.

  • Physicists discover complex numbers called octonions that work in 8 dimensions.
  • The numbers have been found linked to fundamental forces of reality.
  • Understanding octonions can lead to a new model of physics.

Is our reality, including its forces and particles, based on the strange properties of numbers with eight dimensions called “octonions“? A physicist thinks so, having found a way to expand 40-year-old research to reach surprising new directions.

First, a brief history of numbers.

Regular numbers that we are familiar with in our everyday life can be paired up in a special way to create “complex numbers,” which act like coordinates on a two-dimensional plane. This was discovered in 16th-century Italy by the mathematician Gerolamo Cardano. As explains Natalie Wolchover of Quanta Magazine, you can perform operations on complex numbers like adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing by “translating and rotating positions around the plane.”

An Irish mathematician by the name of William Rowan Hamilton discovered in 1843 that if you pair the complex numbers in a certain way, they can form 4-D “quaternions.” He was apparently so excited about figuring out that formula, that he immediately carved it into the Broome Bridge in Dublin. Not to be outdone, John Graves, a friend of Hamilton’s who was a lawyer and math whiz, showed that quarternions can be paired up to become “octonions” – numbers that can assume coordinates in an abstract 8-dimensional (8-D) space.

John Graves.

Each type of numbers has been utilized extensively in the development of modern physics, with complex numbers used in quantum mechanics and even the quaternions employed in Albert’s Einstein’s special theory of relativity.

What hasn’t been completely understood and put to work – the octonions, usually represented by the capital letter O and whose multiplication rules are encoded in a triangular diagram called the Fano plane (that looks like something the Freemasons would devise).

A mnemonic for the products of the unit octonions using the Fano plane.

The mystery of these numbers has led to speculation among researchers that they have a special purpose and can eventually explain the deeper secrets of the universe. In an email interview with Quanta Magazine, the particle physicist Pierre Ramond from the University of Florida explained that “Octonions are to physics what the Sirens were to Ulysses.”

In 1973, Murat Günaydin, the then-Yale-graduate student (now professor at Penn State) and his advisor Feza Gürsey, discovered that there is an unexpected link between octonions and the strong force that keeps quarks together in an atomic nucleus. Günaydin continued his research quite outside the mainstream, looking at connecting the numbers to such ideas as string theory and M-theory.

In 2014, Cohl Furey, a graduate student at the University of Waterloo, Canada, built on Günaydin’s work by finding a new use for the hard-to-imagine numbers. She devised an octonionic model that includes both the strong and electromagnetic forces. Now a postdoc in UK’s University of Cambridge, Furey generated a series of results that link the octonions to the Standard Model of particle physics, in work that has been praised by other scientists. She has “taken significant steps toward solving some really deep physical puzzles,” said Shadi Tahvildar-Zadeh, a mathematical physicist at Rutgers University.

Others, like the noted string theorist and Imperial College London professor Michael Duff, are more reserved, excited about her work but saying it’s “hard to say” yet if it will become “revolutionary.”

Furey is undeterred by working in a currently obscure field, thinking of her research as a “process of collecting clues,” as she explained in an interview.

She published a paper in May 2018’s The European Physical Journal C, where she consolidated several of her findings, looking to complete the standard model of particle physics and find the rightful place in our understanding of the world for the octonions.

To learn more, watch Furey explain the octonions in a video associated with this article.

For those inclined to delve deeper into the math, check out this fascinating graphic:


(For the source of this article, and to watch a video associated with it, please visit: https://bigthink.com/surprising-science/physicists-puzzled-by-strange-numbers-that-could-explain-reality/)

The Hexa will land on four large floats, suitable for ground or water landings
The Hexa will land on four large floats, suitable for ground or water landings (Credit: Lift Aircraft).

Flying taxi services like Uber Elevate may take some time to arrive, but if you want to be among the first to pilot a manned multicopter, you’ll have the chance in 2019. Lift Aircraft is preparing to debut a personal flight experience in an 18-prop electric VTOL aircraft for about the price of a skydive.

We’ve known for nearly a decade now that manned electric multirotors are coming. And while early attempts at flying these things looked utterly terrifying, more recent efforts like the Kitty Hawk Flyer and the Volocopter are starting to look much more like finished aircraft than widowmakers.

Now, Lift Aircraft, a company started in Austin, Texas, is bursting out of stealth mode with a beautiful single-seat multirotor design called the Hexa, which it has already flown with its CEO on board (see video at the end of this article). And instead of selling these things, it plans to rent them out for personal flight experiences all over the United States.

A CAD render of the Hexa multirotor

The Hexa aircraft

The Hexa is an 18-rotor electric multirotor with a simple, lightweight, carbon fiber single-seat cabin, four landing floats suitable for land or water, and a very simple control system based on a joystick and an iPad Pro.

Unlike a helicopter, which is complex and finicky to fly, the 432-lb (196-kilo) Hexa really is just like a big drone with a seat in it; a flight controller and a raft of sensors do most of the flying for you. It can take off and land at the touch of a button, and if a pilot lets go of the stick, it will hover in a GPS-locked position and stable altitude. If a pilot really freaks out or starts causing trouble, ground staff can take over with hand controllers and bring them back down.

Unusually, the Hexa doesn’t have one central battery pack. Instead, it has 18 small batteries, one clipping on underneath each rotor. Lift CEO Matt Chasen explains why over a Skype call: “Batteries are one of the least reliable parts of the powertrain. The motor and the prop are reliable, there’s very few moving parts, but the batteries tend to have more failures than those. So even though such events are very rare, we didn’t want to have large, centralized battery packs. We have our batteries mounted at the top and the perimeter, away from the pilot. So if there’s an event, a thermal runaway in a battery, it’s controlled, and won’t injure the pilot.”

A side benefit to this design is that each small battery sits right in the cooling airflow of the prop above, negating the need for any liquid cooling. And it plays perfectly into Lift’s intentions to run the things all day long: the batteries will last around 10-15 minutes per flight, and as soon as Hexa lands, ground staff can unclip them, switch them over with charged batteries, and prepare the aircraft for its next flight.

Underslung batteries put the aircraft's biggest fire risk away from the cabin, and in the cooling...

The Lift flight experience

Pilots will undertake a brief VR training session before they head out to the launch pad, to familiarize themselves with the control scheme. On the joystick, it’s as simple as push to go in any direction, with a thumb control for altitude and an index finger control for yaw (the company initially thought a twist-to-turn yaw control would be more intuitive, but found it harder to use in flight tests than a separate control).

The iPad touchscreen console will make things even simpler for beginner pilots, enabling one-touch takeoff and landing, and walking you through simple beginner tutorials much like you’d do as a first timer on a DJI drone. “There’s not a lot of training required,” Chasen tells us. “It’s sort of like a video game, a game that you get to fly in.”

From there, you’re off. As the Hexa will be flying under the powered ultralight classification (meaning it requires no certification or pilot’s license), you’ll be limited to flying under 700 feet, or 1200 feet in some locations, and not over any populated areas. Maximum speed for ultralights is 55 knots, or about 63 mph/101 km/h in terms of ground speed, and Chasen says if the Hexa turns out to be capable of going faster than that, it’ll be electronically restricted from doing so. The aircraft will also be geofenced to a permitted flying area.

In the future, Lift will roll out a level-based system that lets you unlock extra speeds or maneuvering abilities, as well as potentially some augmented reality gaming ideas. “Yes! We expect to game-ify it a little bit,” says Chasen. “After all, this is an entertainment business. We’ll do augmented reality dogfights, and let groups fly. Maybe it’s a bit less fun if you’re by yourself, but we expect people will be able to go up in groups, fly in formations, race through virtual rings, that sort of thing.”

The aircraft should be fine for any pilot over 18, under around 250 lbs (113 kg) and shorter than around 6 foot 7 (200 cm). It could carry heavier pilots, says Chasen, but “we’re doing a tradeoff between weight and flight time there, we don’t want people to have too short a flight time, and it does trail off quite quickly with additional weight.”

The price? “We’re going to charge around about the same price as for other similar adventure-type activities, like skydiving, hang gliding, those sorts of things,” says Chasen. “It’s gonna be in the area of US$150 to $250.”

Lift Aircraft CEO Mat Chasen walks away from an unmanned flight test like Tom Cruise walking...

Safety Considerations

It goes without saying that safety is of the essence in any sort of public-facing operation – and Lift plans to take no chances. For starters, they’ll only take off if the weather conditions are optimal.

The aircraft will be networked to know each others’ locations, and the flight controller won’t allow them to fly within a certain radius of each other. “You’ve probably seen videos of these swarms of drones doing complex maneuvers,” says Chasen. “We’re going to be using some of the same technology there to make sure there’s adequate spacing. In fact, each aircraft will have a kind of geo-sphere around it. You could try to fly two aircraft into each other, but they’d literally bounce off one another without touching.”

The Hexa is able to operate safely with up to six of its motors down, but it also runs a ParaZero ballistic parachute in case of total failure. As we’ve noted in previous manned multirotor stories, though, such ‘chutes can’t slow you down in time below a certain height, leaving a “death zone” between about 10 feet and their minimum safe operating zone.

We ask Chasen what he’s planning to do about this death zone. “Great question,” he says. “The ballistic parachute we’re using is specifically designed for multirotors, and it’s effective down to about 12 meters (40 ft). This is a patented design made by an Israeli company called ParaZero, it’s a great product. I think we’re the first of that company’s customers to be flying a manned multirotor.

“Despite that, 12 meters is still high enough, so we intend to take off from raised platforms, or have our locations built with helipads on top of existing structures like large parking garages. So we’d operate out of buildings that are already at least that high off the ground. So you can hover at a few meters high, and as soon as you fly away from the helipad, you’re already at that safe deployment altitude.”

While that clearly restricts the places Lift can operate in, it seems like a terrific way of getting things up and running in a way that’s as safe and simple as possible.

The Hexa in unmanned flight testing

Opening in 2019

Matt Chasen is thinking big with Lift Aircraft. While he’s got an aviation background (including a mechanical and aerospace engineering degree, and a CV including time working at Boeing and NASA), he’s spent the last 15 years building up uShip, a large, venture-backed, international transport marketplace.

So the plan isn’t to get a few of these Hexa aircraft up and running. It’s to get at least 25 cities on board. “We’re looking at options for our first locations at the moment,” says Chasen. “We haven’t yet decided. Starting next week, we’re going to take advance reservation requests from people, and we’re picking 25 cities in the US. We’ll try to launch our locations based on the order of interest and demand from people out there.

“Twenty-five locations will take years and years to build out. But we expect to have our first location up and running by mid to late next year. Hopefully the following year in 2020, we can have 3 to 5 more locations. We think we’ll start with just 2 or 3 aircraft per location. It’s quite expandable, so it’s relatively easy, if the location permits, to add more aircraft if there’s more people that wanna fly.

“We recognize that people living in the communities nearby need to get used to having large drones flying around. They’re not very loud, but they’re also not whisper-quiet, either. Actually, one of our ideas is to take these 25 cities, and bring a mobile, experiential entertainment trailer, and bring three aircraft around on a roadshow tour of the US, letting people fly in each city we go to. Meanwhile, we’ll also be figuring out which cities are most receptive to having us operate. Flying will also be seasonal in different parts of the US. We’ll time things so that Lift is in your area when it’s time to fly.”

The service will likely be restricted to the United States, simply because of the FAA’s peculiar rules that allow powered ultralights to fly without certification or pilot’s licensing. In most other regions, pilots would need a ticket, making this kind of experience a lot less time- and cost-effective.

The public will get its first look at Lift and the Hexa in March 2019 at the South by Southwest Airshow in Austin, Texas, where Chasen tells us the company will likely run its first flights with civilians at the helm. There may be a chance for media folk to get in and have a go, and you better believe we’ll have our hand up for that if the possibility arises!

Check out a video of Chasen flying the Hexa.

Source: Lift Aircraft

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

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(For the source of this article, additional photos, and a video related to it, please visit: https://newatlas.com/lift-aircraft-manned-multirotor-drone-experience/57605/)


Washington Is About to Decide Whether Human Remains Should Become Compost

A person who dies in Washington has the option of being either buried or cremated. But when the legislative session opens, life after death could become a lot more interesting: State Senator Jamie Pederson plans to introduce a bill allowing bodies of the deceased to go through the process of “recomposition.” Instead of transforming from ashes into dust, the dead could become the compost nourishing a tree.

Traditional afterlife practices are notoriously energy costly and are terrible for the environment. Recomposition, meanwhile, is an environmentally friendly way to return to the earth, conceptualized by Katrina Spade in 2012 while she was studying architecture in graduate school. Now, Spade is the founder of a public-benefit corporation called Recompose who dreams of opening the world’s first public recomposition facility in 2020.

“Recomposition offers an alternative to embalming and burial or cremation that is natural, safe, sustainable, and will result in significant savings in carbon emissions and land usage,” Spade says. “We look forward to working with our state’s elected leaders to approve this new alternative to traditional after-death practices.”

recompositionAn artist’s vision for a future recompose facility.


Some Washington residents are already on board with recomposition as their afterlife option. In November, 84-year-old Sonia Baker told the Seattle Times that she hopes she’ll be recomposed and spread around an apple tree that grows on her granddaughter’s property, when the time comes.

Spade’s idea, which stemmed from her disappointment in the mainstream funeral industry and the poor environmental ethics of cremation and burials, is now poised to become the new normal. After a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2016, Spade transitioned her nonprofit Urban Death Project to Recompose and partnered with Washington State University, leading to a pilot program led by Lynne Carpenter-Boggs, Ph.D..

Carpenter-Boggs, fittingly, is an expert in soil sciences who hypothesizes that the methods used for livestock mortality composting could be effective for human disposition, to use the industry term. Composting livestock is nothing new: Farms across the country, including a third of Washington’s dairy farms, compost the bodies of dead livestock. For Recompose, Carpenter-Boggs changed the materials of composting to “socially acceptable” options, adapted the basic principles, and created a process that works for humans.

The process begins with placing an unembalmed person, wrapped in a shroud, into a 5-foot-by-10-foot cylindrical vessel. Crucial organic materials, like wood chips, alfalfa, and straw, are stuffed inside too. During the process of composting, microorganisms break down organic material and produce carbon dioxide, water, heat, and the organic end product. Air, periodically pulled into the vessel, accelerates the microbial activity. Any potential pathogens are destroyed by the heat naturally generated by the microbes. Through their actions alone, the vessel can reach a temperature of 131 degrees Fahrenheit.

Katrina Spade and Dr. Lynne Carpenter-Boggs
Katrina Spade and Dr. Lynne Carpenter-Boggs


Between March and July 2018, Spade and Carpenter-Boggs conducted this process on six deceased people who had donated their remains to the research. In 30 days, their bodies turned into, in the words of Carpenter-Boggs, a “beautiful, compost-like material I would have been happy to take home and use in the gardens.” The bodies had broken down into their natural elements: nitrogen, amino acids, and phosphorous.

Recomposition, Carpenter-Boggs and Spade claim, uses just one-eighth of the energy of cremation and saves over a metric ton of CO2 per person compared to traditional methods. If every deceased Washington resident chose to be recomposed, a half-million metric tons of CO2 could be saved in ten years. Cremation, meanwhile, requires about two SUV tanks’ worth of fuel per person.

Their study documenting this process will be published sometime this year, possibly even after Washington decides to make recomposition a legal option for the dead, alongside another method called alkaline hydrolysis. The current law, Pedersen told the Seattle Times in November, “reflects concerns as old as organized religion about spreading dangerous pathogens.”

“Now that the testing has happened at WSU,” she said, “we’re in a good position to say it’s safe, effective, and environmentally friendly.”

[Soylent Green anyone…?]

I was traveling in India and visited an ancient fortress complex. There they displayed a huge copper vat, mounted on two large wooden beams. The guide said, “When the king traveled to other lands, this was his water container. It was made of copper for purity and health.”  I saw similar giant copper water pots in China and later Mongolia. I love history and love what we can learn from observing the “knowledge of the past”.  So when I heard that scientists in Europe and America are suggesting copper surfaces as a disinfectant for hospitals, I made note of this.

Ancient priests, doctors and holy men believed that copper would protect against sickness. From there I traveled to Mongolia and observed that Mongolians historically used copper tools, cooking utensils and water containers for good health.

In recent years hospitals in Europe and a few in the USA have found that copper on surfaces when tested are more potent in killing some germs and viruses than Clorox or other accepted chemical cleansing agents. Old Germany, Switzerland, England used copper to produce cheese and later on beer.  Why?  Because of the purification powers of copper.

Then I spoke to my swimming pool “cleaning man” and asked him what was the best way to keep my pool water clear.

He replied: “Copper ionization is a safe way to clean your pools. It kills viruses and bacteria including black algae. Unlike chlorine, copper ionization does not cause skin, hair or eye problems. “

So with interest I saw an article about a copper device to kill cold viral elements in nasal cavities. Hundred of people report that colds have been made less severe or even prevented by use of this little method.  I was already curious about copper.

Years ago, on a whim,  I had the steering wheel of my truck covered and wrapped with pure copper sheets and during that time (2 years) I had no cold or flu episodes. My idea was that my hands touched my steering wheel several times a day, perhaps it would keep me healthy, reports said touch or contact with copper would kill or disrupt viral elements.

Go to Germany and visit the ancient beer drinking places with their copper cups, mugs, bowls, water jugs, bar coverings of copper and even door knobs for sanitation.

So, we invite you to read the below.  I have no financial interest in the company, but do think it is an interesting concept. I  can tell you this, I have had a cold for months, sneezing constantly, and I tried a copper tool, to reach into my sinus cavity, and the sneezing and constant cold sores disappeared.  I had a fever blister on my upper lip and rubbed it a couple of days with copper and it disappeared. I do not know if this is a real cure or if it is psychological, but my sneezing episodes have stopped.  So its  something that worked for me.

I travel all over the USA in my commercial real estate appraisal business and just don’t have time to be sick. In constant contact on airplanes, terminals, stairwells, with “germy” places, so I am always seeking ways to be clean and healthy. Washing hands 10 times a day, still can’t cover all things.  So this is another tool to stay healthy.

But read the article below and do your research. Evaluate this for yourself and see if it makes sense.  It is another idea, that may be helpful in your “living”.  Be responsible and be careful. Stay healthy! Ben Boothe


More on Copper….

Article from:  Arizona Daily Independent, Tucson, Arizona

SEARCH FOR: Tucson Inventor’s Mix-Up Between Zinc And Copper Leads To Discovery

BY: ADI NEWS SERVICES OCTOBER 10, 2014   Reprinted: BootheGlobalPerspectives.com, January, 2019.

“Tucson inventor Doug Cornell says he stumbled on how to stop a cold after he stuck a penny in his nose, thinking the penny was zinc. “I hated getting colds,” says Cornell, “so when the zinc gel I had used for cold prevention was taken off the market and I started getting a cold, I almost panicked.” The gel had side effects and in 2012 was gone from the shelves. “I felt a warning tickle in my nose,” recalls Cornell. “I needed something fast that could stop a cold.” He racked his brain for a quick source of zinc. “I collected coins as a kid. I remembered pennies are mostly zinc. So I rubbed a penny in my nose. The tickle lessened, which surprised me, but soon increased again.” “The penny couldn’t reach the tickly area in back where cold viruses multiply,” he says. “Besides, what if I couldn’t get it out?”

Scientist Tests Copper on Cold and Flu Viruses:

Then he remembered only the inside of a penny is zinc. The outside is copper. “What was I thinking?” he laughs. “It was copper touching my nose, not zinc. It shouldn’t have worked at all. So I searched online and found out – yes it should.” A huge body of research says copper kills bacteria and viruses by touch, starting in under a minute, Cornell reports. “Many scientists have confirmed this in labs and hospitals. Who knew?”

Tests by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and others show copper kills cold and flu viruses plus dangerous germs like MRSA. (It has not been tested on Ebola yet.) The EPA now urges hospitals to install copper “touch surfaces”, like doorknobs, faucets, and bed rails.

Several hospitals have tried copper in hospital rooms with good results. Infections caught by patients dropped by half. Based on his research experience while earning a doctorate, Cornell concluded copper can stop a cold after all. He also knew it is generally safe to absorb traces of copper, because it is in many foods and is necessary for health.  So he fashioned a smooth copper probe that could reach the cold viruses. He rubbed it gently in his nose. Almost instantly, he says, the tickle was gone. The cold stopped completely. That gave him the idea of a personal copper touch surface for stopping colds and other illnesses. He created a handheld instrument made of pure copper, he says, because tests indicate pure copper works best.

“It’s called CopperZap, because science confirms, copper zaps germs,” says Cornell.

It has a smooth tip to rub in your nose and a curvy handle to touch with your fingers. “Whenever your fingers touch copper you may reduce your risk,” says Cornell, “because 80 percent of infectious diseases are transmitted by touch, experts say.”

Relatives, Friends, Coworkers Try It Out.

He asked relatives, friends and co-workers to try copper when they felt a cold starting. They rubbed it gently for about 60 seconds in each nostril. All said they believed it stopped a cold or, if symptoms had already developed, made it shorter or milder, Cornell reports. So in 2013 he started a Tucson company, CopperZap LLC, applied for trademarks and patents, set up CopperZap.com, and hired two employees to start production and shipping. “Since then we estimate it has been used several thousand times,” says Cornell. “Almost 100 percent of reports by users say copper seemed to stop a cold if used within 3-4 hours of the first sign, or reduce a cold if used within 48 hours, with no side effects reported. Some say it stopped flu and other illnesses, too.”

Jen Rickard admits it seemed weird at first to stick something in her nose. “As kids we were told not to,” she laughs, “but I’d rather have copper in my nose for a minute than a cold in my nose for a week.” Cornell’s first invention, in 1980, was the Cornell Solar Water Heater, chosen as the world’s best solar water heater by the 1984 World’s Fair, he recalls fondly. Cornell Energy Inc. manufactured the product in Tucson and shipped it nationwide and to several other countries before the solar tax credits of the time expired.

“Scientists say copper kills over 100 different disease germs, some deadly.”

“CopperZap is even more exciting,” he says, “because scientists say copper kills over 100 different disease germs, some deadly. It may have saved lives already. We will never know.” Cornell may be right. Health System Review says, “Copper is the new gold standard for saving lives.” “Plus,” he says, “this is the Copper State (Arizona). A new use for copper is good for Arizona and can help our state do good for the world.”


Despite itself, this collection of awful cartography may just make a few useful observations.

  • Since 2016, Terrible Maps has been collecting, well… terrible maps.
  • They’re awful, pointless and stupid, but also funny (and sometimes even instructive).
  • Here are 10 examples. Dive into the Twitter account for hundreds more.

What a strange map. How can I store it and collect more? That’s how the Strange Maps blog got started back in 2006. Replace ‘strange’ with ‘terrible’, and you’ve got the idea behind Terrible Maps, a Twitter account that has been spewing awful, pointless, stupid maps since 2016.

Luckily, most are also quite funny – at least a chuckle, sometimes a snort – and not a few actually offer an insight worth contemplating. Here are our ten favorites. Click on the link below for the Twitter account.

All directions north

You can’t go further south than the South Pole, which means that any other point is north again. Wait, does that mean you can’t go east or west from the South Pole?

​Iggy Coke?

Iggy Pop is a mercurial character. To some, he’s The Passenger, a rock ‘n roll legend; to others, he’s a car insurance salesman. This map grafts his persona on the map of the US that shows the border between people who call a carbonated drink ‘pop’, and those for whom that’s a ‘soda’. (see also #308)

Moon on Flag and Flag on Moon

The Moon is frequently used in Islamic iconography: on top of mosques, and on the flags of several majority-Muslim nations, but also Croatia and Moldova (in red on this map). But while 13 countries have the moon on their flag, there is just one country with its flag on the moon. That’s right: USA! USA!

​Ding Dong, TX

Most people with have heard of Boring, Oregon. Here are some of America’s other odd town names – one per state – that you might not have been aware of. Jackpot, NV and Okay, OK: yes, we see how those names came about. But Ding Dong, TX? Chugwater, WY? Booger Hole, WV?

Moose maps

Alaska is the biggest state in the U.S. But why is Maine second, Idaho third? The animal at the bottom is the key, and the legend of the map: each state is sized for their moose population. Even Nevada has a few.

Ages of the world

This map is a compound of the situation on the ground, and the prejudices of the mapmaker. Much of Africa, South America and the Arctic is living in the Stone Age. The interior of Australia, the north of Africa and elsewhere: colonial times. Russia, most of the US and China: the 1900s. The UK, the inhabited parts of Canada, Southern Europe, New Zealand: the present. Germany, Scandinavia, Japan, northeastern US, coastal China: the future. If you want to experience all at once: go to India.

Airus Forcus Romanus

Take any outline map and think of a legend that doesn’t require you to alter it. Like this map of Roman Air Force bases in the second century AD. Also in this series: Electricity consumption in Europe in 1507. Countries arranged by geographical location. Knowledge of Cherokee in the EU. Popes per square mile. Alcoholism in Russia. Map of Earth if there was no land (i.e. blank). Saudi Arabia mapped only by its rivers (also blank). Map of Europe showing population per capita (a ‘1’ in each country).

​World Map of Bill Gates

Bill Gates is rich. Very rich. How rich? Richer than each of the countries on this map that have his grinning face superimposed on them.

Brexit vs. Mad Cow Disease

Left, in blue: UK areas that voted for Brexit in the 2016 referendum. Right, in dark grey: areas affected by bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, a.k.a. ‘Mad Cow Disease’) during the 1992 outbreak. The correspondence between both maps is perfect. The message: the people who voted for Brexit were crazy, suffering from residual BSE. But the perfect correspondence is not that surprising: the second map is a black and white version of the first, with a different date slapped on. Point made. Fake data. Terrible map!

Gubernatorial eye colour map

A large, contiguous part of the US is ruled by blue-eyed governors: from Washington state all the way down to Florida. There are two blue-eyed islands in the northeast (Delaware-New Jersey and Massachusetts-New Hampshire). Virginia is the only state with a green-eyed governor. All the other states are ruled by brown-eyed top executives. Mind you, this map predates the mid-terms. Someone update this one, please!

Browsing through the Terrible Maps account, a few overlaps with Strange Maps jump out, including this map of potential EU leaving names, this world map of the metric system, and this map of the shortest route between all pubs in the UK. Are they terribly strange or just strangely terrible?

Find these and other terrible maps at Terrible Maps on Twitter or on Facebook. Thank you O. Jones for suggesting it. Strange Maps is also on Twitter, and on Facebook.

Strange Maps #952

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

(For the source of this, and other seriously interesting articles, please visit: https://bigthink.com/strange-maps/stupid-funny-terrible-maps/)


A new study flies in the face of anecdotal evidence and raises questions about how we read data.


Going mad with Christmas cheer? Try one of these alternatives.

  • Christmas is an all consuming holiday, celebrated even in cultures where Christianity never took root.
  • However, some people just can’t take it anymore. Some of them even invented new holidays as alternatives.
  • While some of the holidays are celebrated half jokingly, they all offer an escape from an often overbearing Christmas season.

Christmas can be maddening. Between the endless barrage of tacky songs, rampant commercialization, and saccharin sentimentality, some of us can’t wait for it to end.

Others have taken a bolder stance, however, and created new holidays for themselves. These holidays are celebrated with varying degrees of seriousness and good humor, but do offer alternatives to Christmas and the issues many people have with it. From the secular to the silly, here are five of the best.

The Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice Is Marked At Stonehenge.  (Matt Cardy/Getty Images).

Representing the shortest day of the year and the beginning of a long trudge back to days with reasonable amounts of sunlight, the winter solstice has been celebrated since time immemorial. Recently, the holiday has been taken up again by a wide variety of people for an even wider range of reasons. Those who celebrate it include neo-pagans, non-theists, and those in need of a break from Christmas.

Celebrations can vary dramatically. Common practices include feasting, attending secular parties, undertaking elaborate rituals of rebirth, and gathering at Stonehenge to watch the sun pass by. The hemispheric event that prompts the holiday has been used by many cultures for their holidays, and the people turning to it today continue a long tradition of making it their own.


On December 25th many people celebrate the birth of a man whose radical thinking changed the world forever, who showed humanity the light and lead us into a new age. While many have turned away from his thinking, the influence he had on the world is unmatched by another other thinker, sage, or prophet.

That man was Isaac Newton. Were you expecting somebody else?

Dating back to a meeting in 1890, the holiday is only half serious. Named by The Skeptic’s Society when they realized they needed another name for their annual Christmas party, celebrations including wishing people “reason’s greetings,” eating apples, and gifting others science related items. Since Newton’s birthday is technically on January 4th on our modern calendar, some celebrate the holiday over ten days. The following for the holiday is growing, and it was once featured on The Big Bang Theory.


A holiday explicitly created for humanists who wanted an alternative to Christmas, HumanLight dates back to 2001. Created by the New Jersey Humanist Network, the holiday has attracted some attention over the years and has a decent following. This year, at least 18 large celebrations are planned.

Typically observed on the 23rd , the holiday is celebrated anyway you want. Holiday co-founder Gary Brill tends to celebrate with family, but others exchange science books and throw large festive parties. There is a general agreement that candles should be burning, and the event should be open to everybody. While many people are happy to have a secular alternative to Christmas, some non-theists have written on why the holiday might be a bad thing; showing that every holiday has a Grinch.


The Flying Spaghetti Monster reaches out to Adam. Public Domain.

The winter festival of the Pastafarians, this tongue-in-cheek holiday lacks any official date and is often considered to last from late November to early January. It also doesn’t have much in the way of formal practices, so followers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster may do as they please. This is fitting, as the church rejects dogma. The wiki for the church does encourage eating a feast and having an orgy.

Several leading officials of the Pastafarians have erected holiday displays at state capitals and are celebrating the increasing acceptance of their faith as evidenced by people saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Marry Christmas.”


Created by the father of television writer Dan O’Keefe, Festivus was made famous by its appearance in the classic Seinfeld episode The Strike. The television form of the holiday was created in response to the commercialization of Christmas and is celebrated by many people today both for a laugh and as an anti-consumerist statement. It is typically observed on December 23rd.

There is no tree, only an unadorned aluminum pole (since tinsel is distracting). Other celebrations practiced by the orthodox include the “airing of grievances” and “feats of strength.” More than a few people celebrate the holiday, which has a website. Not least among the people who celebrate is former Wisconsin governor Jim Doyle, who gave his pole to the state historical society.

(For the source of this article, and to watch three videos associated with it, please visit: https://bigthink.com/culture-religion/alternative-holidays-to-christmas/)



Do you know that —
A dime has 118 ridges around the edge.
A cat has 32 muscles in each ear.
A crocodile cannot stick out its tongue.
A dragonfly has a life span of 24 hours.
A goldfish has a memory span of three seconds.
A “jiffy” is an actual unit of time for 1/100th of a second.
A shark is the only fish that can blink with both eyes.
A snail can sleep for three years.
Al Capone’s business card said he was a used furniture dealer.
All 50 states are listed across the top of the Lincoln Memorial on the back of the $5 bill.
Almonds are a member of the peach family.
An ostrich’s eye is bigger than its brain.
Babies are born without kneecaps. They don’t appear until the child reaches 2 to 6 years of age.
Butterflies taste with their feet.
Cats have over one hundred vocal sounds Dogs only have about 10.
“Dreamt” is the only English word that ends in the letters “MT”.
February 1865 was the only month in recorded history not to have a full moon until February 2018..
In the last 4,000 years, no new animals have been domesticated.
If the population of China walked  past you, in single file, the line would never end because of the rate of reproduction.
If you are an average American, in your whole life, you will spend an average of 6 months waiting at red lights
It’s impossible to sneeze with your eyes open.
Leonardo Da Vinci invented the scissors.
Maine is the only state whose name is just one syllable.
No word in the English language rhymes with month, orange, silver, or purple.
Our eyes are always the same size from birth, but our nose and ears never stop growing.
Peanuts are one of the ingredients of dynamite.
Rubber bands last longer when refrigerated.
“Stewardesses” is the longest word typed with only the left hand and “lollipop” with your right.
The average person’s left hand does 56% of the typing.
The cruise liner,  QE2, moves only six inches for each gallon of diesel that it burns.
The microwave was invented after a researcher walked by a radar tube and a chocolate bar melted in his pocket.
The sentence:  “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy hound dog” uses every letter of the alphabet.
The winter of 1932 was so cold that Niagara Falls froze completely solid.
The words ‘racecar,’ ‘kayak’ and ‘level’ are the same whether they are read left to right or right to left (palindromes).
There are 293 ways to make change for a dollar.
There are more chickens than people in the world..
There are only four words in the English language which end in “dous”: tremendous, horrendous, stupendous, and hazardous .
There are two words in the English language that have all five vowels in order: “abstemious” and “facetious.”
There’s no Betty Rubble in the Flintstones Chewable Vitamins.
Tigers have striped skin, not just striped fur.
TYPEWRITER is the longest word that can be made using the letters only on one row of the keyboard.
Winston Churchill was born in a ladies’ room during a dance.
Women blink nearly twice as much as men.
Your stomach has to produce a new layer of mucus every two weeks; otherwise it will digest itself.
There,   now  you know everything!

Researchers find an unlikely source for the next superfood.

Snodgrass common household roaches.png


What’s four times more nutritious than cow’s milk and could be key in feeding our ever-expanding population? Chances are, your guess was not cockroach milk. But that’s exactly the food that an international team of scientists is banking on to become the new superfood.

A team from the Institute of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine in India has sequenced a protein crystal from the gut of Diploptera punctata (Pacific Beetle Cockroach), the only known cockroach to give birth to live young. To feed its offspring, the roach also produces a milk-like substance with protein crystals which have three times the energy of buffalo milk.

Before you start imagining how you can milk a cockroach, the scientists have dismissed such an option and are instead sequencing the genes responsible for the production of milk protein crystals.

“The crystals are like a complete food – they have proteins, fats and sugars. If you look into the protein sequences, they have all the essential amino acids,” said one scientist from the team, Sanchari Banerjee, to the Times of India.

What’s also fascinating, the milk crystals release proteins not all at once but in accordance with the speed of digestion.

The leader of the project, Subramanian Ramaswamy, confirmed that:

“It’s time-released food if you need food that is calorifically high, that is time released and food that is complete. This is it.”

This calorie-rich food will be especially helpful to those who struggle to get the necessary amount of calories per day. The roach milk can be a quick source of necessary nutrition, with Ramaswamy calling it “a fantastic protein supplement”.

Whether enough people around the world can get around the obvious gross-out factor that comes from any combination of cockroaches and food is largely dependent on how this kind of milk will be made.

As the scientists completed the sequencing, they are moving on to producing the crystal in much larger quantities. In particular, they are looking to focus on how create the food without resorting to milking cockroaches or otherwise pulling the crystals from their guts.

Here’s where you can read the full paper, with the exciting title: “Structure of a heterogeneous, glycosylated, lipid-bound, in vivo-grown protein crystal at atomic resolution from the viviparous cockroach Diploptera punctata.”

(For the source of this, and many other interesting articles, please visit: https://bigthink.com/paul-ratner/this-gross-creature-may-create-the-superfood-of-the-future/)


How global warming and mind-eating parasites are creating a global intelligence gap

For an affluent Western country, the United States has an usually high proportion of its people living in warm-to-tropical climates, which are breeding grounds for parasites.

Daphne Muller –


Toxoplasma gondii tachyzoites

Schistosomiasis and toxoplasmosis may sound like something you would pick up in a developing country, but the reality is that more and more so-called “third world” parasites are becoming endemic to the United States. Already, some 60 million people — that’s right 60 million — are infected with toxoplasma gondii or, as it’s more fondly known as, the “cat poop parasite.”

But don’t freak out about your pet just yet — it could be worse, and by worse I mean having a tapeworm eat your brain. There have been at least 2,000 cases of neurocysticercosis in the U.S. and 5 million or more cases worldwide, which cause epileptic-like symptoms when this normally gut-eating parasite takes up residence in the cerebrum. There’s also Chagas disease, most commonly found in Latin America, which affects the cardiovascular system and can lead to heart failure. In 2007, U.S. blood banks began screening for the disease and found alarmingly high rates among poor communities in Florida and Texas.

Not only are parasites a public health concern, but also they take an untold toll on human intelligence.

So why are parasites flourishing in the U.S.? For an affluent Western country, the United States has an unusually high proportion of its people living in warm-to-tropical climates, which are breeding grounds for parasites. Moreover, as global warming continues, these parasites find more areas that are amenable to their proliferation. In addition, there is relatively low public awareness about the likelihood of contracting such parasites — malaria happens only in Africa, right?

If parasites aren’t reined in effectively, they not only threaten public health, but also could reduce human capital.

Not only are parasites a public health concern, but also they take an untold toll on human intelligence. Researchers at Johns Hopkins found ACTV-1, a chlorovirus, in two out of every five subjects. Normally found in algae, the pathogen somehow made a rapid evolutionary leap from infecting plant matter to humans and the cost was diminished cognition in those participants who were infected. According to The American Scholar, “When compared with those who did not harbor the virus, those infected were about 10 percent slower to make calculations and had a reduced attention span, suggesting that the virus compromised their ability to calculate, to focus, and to process visual information — disadvantages in the classroom, on the job, and in other familiar learning situations.”

These findings are disturbing on many levels and further reinforce the need for greater access to health care, especially for the nation’s poorest. If parasites aren’t reined in effectively, they not only threaten public health, but also could reduce human capital.

Daphne Muller is a New York City-based writer who has written for Salon, Ms. Magazine, The Huffington Post, and reviewed books for ELLE and Publishers Weekly. Most recently, she completed a novel and screenplay. You can follow her on Instagram @daphonay and on Twitter @DaphneEMuller.

Photo courtesy of iStock

(For the source of this article, and to watch videos relating to this subject, please visit: https://bigthink.com/ideafeed/thank-global-warming-for-the-tapeworm-in-your-brain/)


‘Deepfake’ technology can now create completely real-looking human faces

A new study from Nvidia researchers show just how far artificial image-generation technology has come in recent years.

  • In 2014, researchers introduced a novel approach to generating artificial images through something called a generative adversarial network.
  • Nvidia researchers combined that approach with something called style transfer to create AI-generated images of human faces.
  • This year, the Department of Defense said it had been developing tools designed to detect so-called ‘deepfake’ videos.

A new paper from researchers at Nvidia shows just how far AI image generation technology has come in the past few years. The results are pretty startling.

Take the image below. Can you tell which faces are real?

Actually, all of the above images are fake, and they were produced by what the researchers call a style-based generator, which is a modified version of the conventional technology that’s used to automatically generate images. To sum up quickly:

In 2014, a researcher named Ian Goodfellow and his colleagues wrote a paper outlining a new machine learning concept called generative adversarial networks. The idea, in simplified terms, involves pitting two neural networks against each other. One acts as a generator that looks at, say, pictures of dogs and then does its best to create an image of what it thinks a dog looks like. The other network acts as a discriminator that tries to tell fake images from real ones.

At first, the generator might produce some images that don’t look like dogs, so the discriminator shoots them down. But the generator now knows a bit about where it went wrong, so the next image it creates is slightly better. This process continues until, in theory, the generator creates a good image of a dog.

What the Nvidia researchers did was add to their generative adversarial network some principles of style transfer, a technique that involves recomposing one image in the style of another. In style transfer, neural networks look at multiple levels of an image in order to discriminate between the content of the picture and its style, e.g. the smoothness of lines, thickness of brush stroke, etc.

Here are a couple examples of style transfer.

In the Nvidia study, the researchers were able to combine two real images of human faces to generate a composite of the two. This artificially generated composite had the pose, hair style, and general face shape of the source image (top row), while it had the hair and eye colors, and finer facial features, of the destination image (left-hand column).

The results are surprisingly realistic, for the most part.

​Concerns over ‘deepfake’ technology

The ability to generate realistic artificial images, often called deepfakes when images are meant to look like recognizable people, has raised concern in recent years. After all, it’s not hard to imagine how this technology could allow someone to create a fake video of, say, a politician saying something abhorrent about a certain group. This could lead to a massive erosion of the public’s willingness to believe anything that’s reported in the media. (As if concerns about ‘fake news’ weren’t enough.)

To keep up with deepfake technology, the Department of Defense has been developing tools designed to detect deepfake videos.

“This is an effort to try to get ahead of something,” said Florida senator Marco Rubio in July. “The capability to do all of this is real. It exists now. The willingness exists now. All that is missing is the execution. And we are not ready for it, not as a people, not as a political branch, not as a media, not as a country.”

However, there might be a paradoxical problem with the government’s effort.

“Theoretically, if you gave a [generative adversarial network] all the techniques we know to detect it, it could pass all of those techniques,” David Gunning, the DARPA program manager in charge of the project, told MIT Technology Review. “We don’t know if there’s a limit. It’s unclear.”

(For the source of this very important article, and additional related material, please visit: https://bigthink.com/surprising-science/nvidia-deepfake-image-study/)


Laka Competition celebrates futuristic architecture that reacts with its surroundings

Surftopia by Eduardo Camarena Estébanez and María Urigoitia Villanueva received Special Recognition in this year's Laka...
Surftopia by Eduardo Camarena Estébanez and María Urigoitia Villanueva received Special Recognition in this year’s Laka Competition. (Credit: Eduardo Camarena Estébanez / María Urigoitia Villanueva).

The winners of the 2018 Laka Competition have been revealed, collecting an exciting array of strange and innovative conceptual designs that focus on providing architectural or technological solutions to current environmental or social problems.

The Laka Competition is subtitled “Architecture that Reacts” and the main thrust of the contest is to celebrate designs that, “are capable of dynamic interaction with their surroundings.” This is the fourth year the competition has been running and the winners, selected from 130 designs spanning more than 30 countries, are as innovative, experimental and mind-bending as ever.

First Place - Tidal Terrains. Designer notes: "The proposal incorporates programs such as swimming, the agricultural...

The top prize in this year’s competition went to American architect Mary Denman, for a fascinating piece entitled Tidal Terrains. The project considers the inevitable nature of rising global sea levels and proposes a hypothetical structure on the Thames River in London. The buoyant structure joins both sides of the river with a landscape spanning restaurants, boulevards and algae farms.

Other highlights selected by the judges for special mentions include the remarkable Platinum City from Sean Thomas Allen, an industry city conceived as an asteroid mine; VolcanoLite, a buoyant research station that can harvest helium ejected from volcanos allowing for a semi-permanent structure to sit above unstable ground; and Surftopia, a beach-pod structure that expands when needed for human habitation and contracts when unoccupied.

Special Recognition - Platinum City by Sean Thomas Allen

The Laka Competition is perhaps one of the more heavily academic and conceptual architectural competitions around, however, it always presents a vast array of innovative designs that push the limits of what we would define as a building.

Take a look through our gallery at the winners and some honorable mentions from this year’s competition.

Source: Laka Competition

(For the source of this article, plus additional illustrations, please visit: https://newatlas.com/laka-competition-2018-reactive-architecture/57585/)


MIT’s cyborg plant can drive itself into the light

MIT Media Lab has created Elowan, a cyborg plant that can drive itself towards light sources
MIT Media Lab has created Elowan, a cyborg plant that can drive itself towards light sources. (Credit: Harpreet Sareen).

They may seem pretty boring and simple from our point of view, but plants are incredibly complex organisms that sense and react to their surroundings. They’ve been known to use animal-learning techniques to grow towards light, and human-like decision making when figuring out when to sprout. Their normal methods of getting around are pretty slow, so to give them a helping hand researchers at MIT Media Lab have now created “cyborg plants” that can control a robot base to drive themselves where they want to go.

The researchers call their cybernetic plant “Elowan,” and at a glance it looks like a pot plant with some wheels attached. But this isn’t just a robot that’s programmed to seek out light because that’s what plants like – the plant itself is actually in control.

Essentially, plants are already natural electronic systems. Through leaves and other organs, they sense changes in light, temperature, touch, wounds, pressure and other input from their environment. They then respond to these stimuli by sending electrical signals through their bodies.

The MIT Media Lab taps into these signals with electrodes inserted into the plant’s stems and leaves. They’re naturally fairly weak, so the signals are amplified before passing to the robot, which then moves according to the plant’s “wishes.”

In their experiments the researchers placed Elowan in between two lamps and, sure enough, when they switch one on, the robot rolls towards it. This kind of setup could help make for healthier house plants that can move around in search of sunlight or water, or move themselves out of harm’s way if they get too hot.

Making cybernetic plants could also help streamline the process of building robots and sensors – after all, if nature has already perfected a system that can sense and react to sunlight, why bother starting from scratch? So far, scientists have been able to turn flowers into touch controllers for a computer and spinach leaves into explosives detectors.

The team says that Elowan, which can be seen in action in the video below, is just one in a series of Cyborg Botany experiments.

Source: MIT Media Lab

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

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(For the balance of this article, plus a video, and an audio version, please visit: https://newatlas.com/mit-cyborg-plant-elowan/57541/)


Zapata Ezfly: The jet-powered aerial Segway anyone can fly

The Zapata Ezfly is a jet-powered flying Segway that it seems almost anyone can fly
The Zapata Ezfly is a jet-powered flying Segway that it seems almost anyone can fly (Credit: Zapata).

The Zapata Ezfly looks for all intents and purposes like a Segway of the sky. You stand on a small platform equipped with a series of jet thrusters, holding two handgrips that come up from the base, then rise up into the air and zoom around, steering with your bodyweight.

It builds on the platform of Franky Zapata’s Flyboard Air, a green goblin-style flying platform with no Segway-style handgrips. The Flyboard Air, like the water-propelled Flyboard that started this whole venture for Zapata, straps you in at the boots, and requires an extraordinary amount of core strength and balance to operate – which its inventor most certainly has.

Zapata has frequently been seen zooming around over waterways in Europe and the United States, testing and updating his invention, sometimes with the blessing of the authorities, sometimes without.

The new Ezfly system is a dangerously disruptive idea, because it looks for all the world like it takes very little training to operate, so just about anyone could fly one. You don’t strap your boots in, you just stand on the platform and hang onto the control sticks, pretty much like a three-dimensional Segway.

In the video, Zapata shows a testing session held last October somewhere in Texas, where no less than 10 pilots jumped aboard the Ezfly and took turns blasting about over the surface of a lake. Everyone seemed to be able to get the hang of it pretty quickly, and there were no incidents. Notably, a couple of the guys in the test team were wearing military gear, which would make sense, as it’s no secret the US defence forces are highly interested in personal flight devices.

In fact, the Ezfly looks like a vastly slimmed-down, much more powerful, jet propelled descendent of the Hiller Flying Platform, which was built in the 1950s and tested by the U.S. Army before eventually being abandoned.

The fact that Zapata was willing to put a range of people on board suggests that the Ezfly has a bunch of built-in stability gear, as well as potentially an altitude/distance from base limiter. You could even feasibly have a drone-style remote control to bring back a wayward pilot in distress. We’d love to know more, but Zapata hasn’t yet responded to our enquiries.

One thing we can be fairly sure it doesn’t have is an active safety system, because nothing of that nature really exists as yet.

(For the balance of this article, plus a video, please visit: https://newatlas.com/zapata-ezfly-flying-segway/53044/)


The mystery of how, and why, wombats produce cubic poop

The wombat is the only animal in the world to produce square-shaped poop
The wombat is the only animal in the world to produce square-shaped poop (Credit: wrangel/Depositphotos).

Wombat poo has mystified scientists for years. The shy Australian marsupial is unique for being the only animal in the world to produce cubic poo. A team of researchers has finally uncovered exactly how this quiet animal produces its square feces, and the discovery could lead to novel manufacturing techniques.

Poo comes in a variety of shapes, however the cubed dung of wombats is unique in the animal kingdom. Scientists have long wondered how this freakish feces is created. We can say for sure it is not because the animal’s have square anuses, but apart from that this has remained quite the odd biological mystery.

“The first thing that drove me to this is that I have never seen anything this weird in biology. That was a mystery,” says Patricia Yang, a mechanical engineer from Georgia Institute of Technology, who became fascinated with how this oddly-shaped poop was created. “I didn’t even believe it was true at the beginning. I Googled it and saw a lot about cube-shaped wombat poop, but I was skeptical.”

Yang and colleagues joined forces with an Australian biologist from the University of Tasmania to try and solve this mystery. The researchers obtained two dissected intestinal tracks from wombats that had been euthanized after suffering injuries from motor vehicle accidents.

Wombats have an extraordinarily slow digestive process. It can take anywhere from eight to eighteen days for food to completely pass through its very long digestive system, however the new research revealed that the cubic shape of its dung isn’t formed until it reaches the final parts of the intestine. The feces stays in a relatively liquid state until it reaches the final 8 percent of the intestine where it begins to shape into small cubes.

The infamous square poop comes out of a round hole

“This shape change was due to the azimuthally varying elastic properties of the intestinal wall,” the researchers write in an abstract, recently presented at the Annual Meeting of the APS [American Physical Society] Division of Fluid Dynamics. “By emptying the intestine and inflating it with a long balloon, we found that the local strain varies from 20 percent at the cube’s corners to 75 percent at its edges. Thus, the intestine stretches preferentially at the walls to facilitate cube formation.”

Of course it isn’t unreasonable to be wondering why these animals evolved such a sophisticated way to produce cubed poo, when no other animal in the world found the need to do the same. Wombats have notoriously bad eyesight, so they communicate using scent markings. The animal’s poo frequently acts as territorial markers letting other wombats know who runs a given burrow.

It is hypothesized that because of the importance of poo as a communicative tool, the animal evolved the cube-shaped excretion as a way to efficiently pile up structures of droppings. After all, you couldn’t exactly build a large pile out of round droppings as effectively as you could if it were square blocks.

The new research is not just an academic scat investigation either, it may also render quite the pragmatic outcome. Yang suggests that this method could be applied to our current manufacturing processes.

“We currently have only two methods to manufacture cubes: We mold it, or we cut it. Now we have this third method,” says Yang. “It would be a cool method to apply to the manufacturing process — how to make a cube with soft tissue instead of just molding it.”

The new research was presented at the 71st Annual Meeting of the APS Division of Fluid Dynamics.

Source: SciMex

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

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(For the source of this, and other equally interesting articles, please visit: https://newatlas.com/wombat-square-poo-study/57289/)



Dark-roast coffee may prevent Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s

The longer a coffee is roasted, the higher its level of phenylindanes (Credit: AlekseyPatsyuk/Depositphotos).

For years, scientists have suspected that drinking coffee helps lessen the chances of getting Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. A new study indicates that this may indeed be the case, and that the darker the roast, the better it works.

Led by Dr. Donald Weaver, scientists at Canada’s Krembil Brain Institute compared three types of Starbucks 100-percent Arabica instant coffee – light roast, dark roast, and decaffeinated dark roast.

In in vitro (glass dish) tests, it was found that the two dark roasts were both particularly effective at keeping the protein fragments beta amyloid and tau from clumping. The clumping of these fragments within the brain is believed to be a key cause of both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Of all the compounds that were analyzed in the coffees tested, there was only one – a group known as phenylindanes – that had the anti-clumping effect. The longer a coffee is roasted, the greater the amount of phenylindanes it contains, thus the more potent the effect is. Interestingly, the caffeinated and decaffeinated dark roasts were equally potent, indicating that caffeine content is irrelevant (that said, a study recently conducted at Indiana University Bloomington suggests that caffeine is effective at warding off dementia).

“It’s the first time anybody’s investigated how phenylindanes interact with the proteins that are responsible for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s,” says Dr. Ross Mancini, who (along with biologist Yanfei Wang) assisted Weaver in the research. “The next step would be to investigate how beneficial these compounds are, and whether they have the ability to enter the bloodstream, or cross the blood-brain barrier.”

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

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(For the balance of this article please visit: https://newatlas.com/dark-coffee-alzheimers-parkinsons/57112/



New psychological research suggests that psychopaths are attracted to others with their same disposition.

  • A study found that people with psychopathic traits are more likely to be attracted to others on the same psychopathic spectrum.
  • Psychopathic qualities include lack of empathy, lack of remorse, and other antisocial traits.
  • Psychopathic traits aren’t that attractive to non-psychopathic individuals.

There’s nothing in our society that rings more alarm bells than the prospect of psychopathic behavior. These traits are the most undesirable qualities a person can have. Impulsive, cold, removed and more likely to commit aggressive and antisocial acts, the image of a psychopath breeds fear among many people.

Yet, not all psychopaths are murderers and the dregs of society. Although many psychopathic individuals are looked at with fear, many psychologists believe that this view is unwarranted. Many psychopathic traits are prevalent in CEOs who run and dominate their industries. There is also no evidence that psychopaths are more likely to be violent criminals. Still the fear persists, as much as society is repulsed by psychopaths, they’re also intrigued by them too.

Who doesn’t love the somewhat well meaning serial killer killer… Dexter. And let’s not forget about all those cheaters on Tinder with more pronounced psychopathic traits.

Maybe they’re just looking for love too — with other psychopaths that is.

Which brings us to the point of a new study suggesting just that.

Study shows psychos like other psychos


According to a study published in the Journal of Personality in April, by researchers at Emory University, it was found that psychopaths are, indeed, attracted to others who had psychopathic tendencies. Others with non-psychopathic dispositions of course did not find the majority of these traits attractive.

The study — titled “Do Psychopathic Birds of a Feather Flock Together?” — consisted of 696 men and women from diverse ethnic backgrounds. They were asked to report on what they were looking for in a potential partner they wanted to date. The people in the study were also asked to report on whether or not they wanted a short-term or long-term relationship.

Seventy characteristics from the DSM-5 personality disorders classification system were given to them in a list. The participants also rated themselves as well.

Researchers found that many participants liked Factor 1 psychopathic traits which included superficial charm, lack of empathy, and manipulation, better than Factor 2 traits which included impulsivity and irresponsibleness. But when it came to romance, these psychopathic traits were rated much lower.

Other participants with higher measures of psychopathy found those with higher levels of psychopathic traits more apt as a romantic partner.

It was also found that males in the study had more interest in psychopathic traits in women than females did with men.

The researchers stated:

“Our findings suggest that although absolute preferences for psychopathic traits are low on average, individuals with marked psychopathic features and [personality disorders] features more generally are more inclined than others to endorse a romantic preference for psychopathic individuals, at least in the abstract.”

There were some limits to the study as a lot of this was in the hypothetical realm of dating.

Psychopaths and the ‘like attracts like’ hypothesis

Some psychologists like Susan Krauss Whitbourne believes that the reputation psychopaths get from regular people could be a symptom of the “like causes like” phenomenon. Additionally this could be responsible for the inverse. She states:

People who themselves score high on measures of psychopathy should be far less likely, if at all, to stigmatize those who share their personality traits.

It’s generally thought that, in an ironic way, there is actually an empathetic relationship between two psychopaths.

It’s also been found that those with other dark personality traits share a similar inclination to one another. For example, sadistic people, narcissists, and so on are more likely to understand and be attracted to one another.

(For the balance of this article please visit: https://bigthink.com/sex-relationships/psychopaths-are-attracted-to-other-psychopaths/)



From time-traveling billiard balls to information-destroying black holes, the world’s got plenty of puzzles that are hard to wrap your head around.

  • While it’s one of the best on Earth, the human brain has a lot of trouble accounting for certain problems.
  • We’ve evolved to think of reality in a very specific way, but there are plenty of paradoxes out there to suggest that reality doesn’t work quite the way we think it does.
  • Considering these paradoxes is a great way to come to grips with how incomplete our understanding of the universe really is.

Human beings have a lot of accomplishments to celebrate. We’ve repurposed and reshaped our environment to suit our needs. We’re even gearing up to settle other planets once we outgrow this one.

Being on top is a great place to be, but it’s easy to forget our limitations. The human brain is, after all, hardwired to think in certain ways. While it’s a powerful tool for making models of the world, those models are limited by the way we’re naturally inclined to think. As a little reminder to remain humble about our cognitive powers, here are 10 paradoxes to try and wrap your head around.

Quick note before we get started: this list takes paradoxes from a number of different fields, all of which tend to use the word paradox differently. Some of these paradoxes are highly unintuitive but objectively true, while others seemingly cannot exist in reality as we understand it.

1. The paradox of hedonism

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

This may very well be one of the most practical paradoxes to understand. In utilitarian philosophy, hedonism is the school of thought that pursuing pleasure is the best way to maximize happiness. However, psychologist Viktor Frankl wrote, “[Happiness cannot] be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.”

Constantly pursuing pleasure and happiness is neither pleasurable nor likely to yield happiness; therefore, the best way to be happy is to forget about trying to be happy and to simply let happiness occur on its own.

2. The black hole information paradox

Image result for Black Hole

What is a Black Hole? – nasa.gov – cygx1_ill


In physics, apparent paradoxes are really just puzzles we have yet to figure out yet. One of the biggest puzzles in physics we have yet to figure out is the black hole information paradox.

Quantum mechanics (for a variety of reasons outside the scope of this article) states that information — things such as the mass and spin of a particle, the structure of atoms that make up a carbon molecule, etc — can never be destroyed. If you were to burn two different letters, putting them back together from ash would be nigh impossible, but not entirely impossible. The subtle differences in smoke, temperature, and the amount of ash would still retain information about the two different letters.The trouble is, black holes suck things up and then, over a very, very, very long time, radiate that stuff out in the form of Hawking radiation. Unfortunately, unlike the smoke and ash from burning a letter, Hawking radiation contains no information about where it came from: all Hawking radiation is the same, which implies that black holes destroy information about the universe.

Physicists are getting closer and closer to resolving this puzzle, and Stephen Hawking himself believed that the information of particles that enter black holes does eventually return to the universe. If it doesn’t, then we need to seriously rethink much of modern physics.

3. The catch-22

Photo by U.S. Air Force Photo/Airman 1st Class Hayden K. Hyatt

Joseph Heller gets credit for inventing this phrase in his eponymous novel, Catch-22. In the novel, a World War II pilot named Yossarian is trying to get out of military duty by requesting psychiatric evaluation, hoping to be declared insane and therefore unfit to fly. His doctor, however, informs him that anybody trying to get out flying in combat cannot possibly be insane; the insane thing to do would be want to fly into combat.

That’s the catch-22: a situation that somebody cannot escape because of paradoxical rules. If Yossarian wants to be considered insane, he has to fly in combat. If he flies in combat, then being labelled as insane doesn’t do him any good. It’s like how young college graduates need experience to get a job but can’t get a job without experience.

4. The Monty Hall problem

Photo by Fineas Anton on Unsplash

This paradox lies in how human brains tend to approach statistical problems. It’s named after the host of a game show called Let’s Make a Deal, which featured this classic problem. There are three doors. Behind one is a car, and the other two hide goats. You pick a door. The host then opens another door, revealing a goat, and asks if you would like to change your selection to the single remaining door.

Most people believe that there is no advantage to switching doors. After all, there’s two doors, so there’s a 50-50 chance that one has the car, right? Wrong. Switching doors actually raises your odds of picking the car to 66%. Because the host has to pick the remaining goat, he’s provided you with extra information. If you’ve picked a goat on the first try (which will happen two out of three times), then switching will win you the car. If you’ve picked the car (which will happen one out of three times), then switching will cause you to lose.

5. Peto’s paradox

NOAA Photo Library via Flickr

As in physics, paradoxes in biology really are just unsolved puzzles. Enter Peto’s paradox. Biologist Richard Peto noticed in the 1970s that mice had a much higher rate of cancer than humans do, which doesn’t make any sense. Humans have over 1000 times as many cells as mice, and cancer is simply a rogue cell that goes on multiplying out of control. One would expect humans to be more likely to get cancer than smaller creatures such as mice. This paradox occurs across all species, too: blue whales are much less likely to get cancer than humans, even though they have many more cells in their bodies.

6. The Fermi paradox

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center via Flickr

Named after physicist superstar Enrico Fermi, the Fermi paradox is the contradiction between how likely alien life is in the universe and its apparent absence. Considering the billions of stars in the galaxy like the sun, the many Earth-like planets that must be orbiting some of those stars, the likelihood that some of those planets developed life, the likelihood that some of that life is as intelligent or more intelligent than humanity, the galaxy should be teeming with alien civilizations. This absence led Fermi to pose the question, “Where is everybody?” Some answers to that question are unfortunately a little disturbing.

7. Polchinski’s paradox


Who doesn’t love a good old-fashioned time paradox? Theoretical physicist Joseph Polchinski posed a puzzle to another physicists in a letter: consider a billiard ball tossed through a wormhole at a certain angle. The billiard ball is then sent back in time through the wormhole and, because of its trajectory, strikes its past self, knocking the ball off course before it can enter the wormhole, travel back in time, and strike itself.

It’s a more whimsical and less gruesome version of what happens when you murder your own grandpa in the past and are never born, or if you travel back in time to kill Hitler, thereby obviating any reason you would have had to travel back in time in the first place.

8. The observer’s paradox

Photo by Nine Köpfer on Unsplash

Originally coined for the field of sociolinguistics, the observer’s paradox is that, when observing a given phenomenon, merely observing it changes the phenomenon itself. In sociolinguistics, if a researcher wants to observe casual communication in a population, those being observed will speak more formally since they know their speech will be involved in academic research.

In a Western Electric factory, researchers wanted to see if improving the lighting of a production line would also improve efficiency. They found that improving the lighting did so, but then returning the lighting to its previous conditions also improved efficiency. Their conclusion was that observing the workers was itself the cause of the improved efficiency.

9. The paradox of intolerance

Photo by ZACH GIBSON/AFP/Getty Images

Without a doubt the most culturally relevant paradox on this list, the paradox of tolerance is the idea that a society that is entirely tolerant of all things will also be tolerant of intolerance. Eventually, the tolerated intolerant elements of a society will seize control, rendering that society a fundamentally intolerant one. Therefore, in order to remain a tolerant society, intolerance cannot be tolerated.

10. The intentionally blank page paradox

john.schultz via Flickr

My personal favorite and also the least consequential: Many official documents will print blank pages in order to accommodate formatting concerns. To ensure that readers don’t think that they’ve received a defective publication, the blank page will often include the phrase “This page has been intentionally left blank,” providing the page with text that annihilates its status as a blank page.

(For the source of this, as well as many other interesting articles, please visit: https://bigthink.com/surprising-science/10-bizarre-paradoxes/)



10 of Europe’s weirdest laws

Amongst other things, you can’t get away with handling a salmon suspiciously in Scotland.
  • While a few of the laws on this list are holdovers from long ago, some laws are as recent as 2011.
  • While marrying a dead person or handling salmon suspiciously might sound morbid or hilarious, these laws have historical context.
  • Some of today’s laws might seem as antiquated as these in 100 years, too.

In England and Scotland, it is illegal to handle a salmon in suspicious circumstances

Anglers on the banks of the river Tay during the traditional opening of the river Tay Salmon Season on January 15, 2018 in Kenmore, Scotland. Photo credit: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images.

The Salmon Act of 1986 has to do with the regulation of salmon fishing, as the waters off of the east and north-east coasts of England and Scotland are famous for their boundless number of the fish. There’s 43 paragraphs in the law, but people certainly seem to be drawn to the 32rd section, which states that “it is illegal to handle a salmon in suspicious circumstances.” You can read it here.

While the line out of context sounds like it could easily be a new-wave album title — or, perhaps something out of a Monty Python sketch — it ostensibly has to do with illegal fishing, i.e., don’t go rogue and try and start a salmon fishing operation in British or Scottish waters without consulting the government first.

In England, it is illegal to be drunk and in charge of a horse

Water drips off a horse after finishing a race, with a water bucket being poured on him, at Exeter Racecourse on October 23, 2018 in Exeter, England. Photo credit: Harry Trump/Getty Images.

Though the law is widely cited as not being allowed to be in charge of a cow, the law is actually on the books to include several other, uh, modes of transport. According to British law, “Under the Licensing Act 1872, it is an offense to be drunk in charge of a carriage, horse, cow or steam engine, or whilst in possession of a loaded firearm.” Ostensibly, this was a law to make drunk driving illegal before cars were invented.

It is illegal to enter a taxi if you have the plague

Image source: Wikimedia Commons. 

If the zombie apocalypse ever actually happens, there’s a good chance none of them will be taking a taxi. . . thanks in large part to the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act of 1984. The law is actually somewhat more specific in regard to the transport of sick passengers: you have to tell the driver you’re ill, and then it’s up to them to let you in. Then the taxi driver must tell the authorities, who in turn will disinfect the taxi. Bus drivers are forbidden from taking anyone with a “notifiable” disease, which includes the plague.

In France, if you advertise a product that exceeds a certain amount of sugar, you have to include that you should eat 5 fruits or vegetables a day, too

Photo credit: George Gobet / AFP.

This stems from a 1976 law stating, amongst other things, that advertisers must include certain messages within advertisements. It was updated in 2006 to include more snappy and healthy lines, as well as a web address. A quick google translate of the law finds a few of the lines that must be included: “Learn about your child not to snack between meals,” and “Move, play is essential to the development of your child,” and “In addition to milk, water is the only essential drink”. How refreshing!

In France, it is legal to marry a dead person

Zombie Yazmine Ponce stands guard along the 16th St. Mall during the 11th annual Zombie Crawl on October 22, 2016. Photo credit: Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images.

Marrying a dead person is legal in France… but there has to be sufficient evidence that you were planning to marry before they died. After a tragic dam burst in 1959, one widow wrote to then-President Charles de Gaulle to ask if it were possible to still marry her (now dead) husband. Touched by the letter, he wrote it into law. You can read the law here.

In Finland, you cannot play music in a cab.

Cars traverse Finnish National Road 4. Image source: Wikimedia Commons.

Apparently your driver can’t play music in a Finnish taxi. According to a 2002 law, playing music in a taxi is designated as a “public performance.” To get around this, Finnish taxi drivers must pay about 14 euros a year to the Finnish Composers Copyright Society. The 14 euros applies for all music, not just Finnish music, meaning you can listen to more than the biggest Finnish song of the last 20 years, Darude’s “Sandstorm“, and Finland’s biggest contribution to music: death metal.

In Denmark, you cannot give your baby a weird name (and in Norway, you can’t name yourself Sonic the Hedgehog if you’re under 18)

Blue Ivy and Beyonce Knowles attend the 60th Annual GRAMMY Awards at Madison Square Garden on January 28, 2018 in New York City. Photo credit: Christopher Polk/Getty Images.

The Law on Personal Names states that you have to pick from a list of acceptable names. Don’t worry — as of 2016 there’s about 18,000 women’s names and 15,000 men’s names. There’s also a special counsel that you can write to if you want to add a name from your home country. If you don’t like your last name, you can even change it to one of 2,000 “free” last names.

There’s a great story out of Norway I found while researching the above: in April, 2009, a 6 year-old boy asked his parents to send King Harald a letter, asking him if he could legally change his name to “Sonic X.” The parents didn’t send the letter until the boy insisted, and they unexpectedly received a reply from the king saying that, since the boy wasn’t 18, he couldn’t legally change his name to Sonic.

You can’t hike naked in Switzerland.

A couple hikes naked in the Swiss Alps, 2006. Image source: Wikimedia Commons/Big Think graphics.

Bad news if you want to go berry-picking in the buff. In 2011, a Swiss court deemed it so that it would be made illegal to hike naked. The case was brought forth after a German man strode gallantly past a family picnicking in the town of Appenzell, near the Swiss Alps. Oddly enough, naked hiking had become increasingly popular in the years before the court ruling. The New York Times ran a whole article on it in 2009.

If the sea freezes between Sweden and Denmark, a Dane can legally hit a Swedish person with a stick if they walk to Denmark over the ice.

Photo credit: Kevis Mulchan via Unsplash.

This is an ancient law that dates back to 1658, when Denmark and the Swedes were at war with each-other for 2 years and Swedes continuously marched across the belts of ice between the two countries. Nobody has cared to remove it since then, so the provision still stands.

Prostitutes in Catalonia, Spain, have to wear safety vests.

LLEIDA, SPAIN – OCTOBER 28: Three prostitutes wear reflective vests as they walk along a road on October 28, 2010 near Els Alamus in Lleida, España [Spain]. Photo credit: Davíd Ramos/Getty Images.

A 2010 law made it so that prostitutes in Catalonia had to wear reflective safety vests. Not because of the job, but to make them more visible to traffic. There had allegedly been several accidents involving the prostitutes, who gather near the roadways. Although your correspondent’s Spanish is hazy — at best — research into exact incidents is turning up nada.

(For the source of this, and other interesting articles, please visit: https://bigthink.com/politics-current-affairs/europes-weirdest-laws/)




The study was small: 8 people from 8 different countries. But the findings have alarmed scientists.

All subjects selected for a pilot program had microplastics in their stools.

  • The types of microplastics found implicate both food and non-food sources.
  • Boutique water may be healthier, but its bottles not so much.

It was just a small study from a team of researchers led by gastroenterologist Philipp Schwabl of the Medical University of Vienna, but all eight people selected as subjects in the warm-up experiment for further research were found to have microplastics in their stools. Schwabl tells The New York Times, “This is the first study of its kind, so we did a pilot trial to see if there are any microplastics detectable at all. The results were astonishing.” Making this even more surprising is that subjects were from a range of places: Austria, Finland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, and the UK.

Scientists have been concerned for some time about plastics making their way into our bodies from various sources, and this small study is the first to find significant amounts of the stuff. “Of particular concern is what this means to us, and especially patients with gastrointestinal diseases,” Schwabl tells CNN. “While the highest plastic concentrations in animal studies have been found in the gut, the smallest microplastic particles are capable of entering the blood stream, lymphatic system and may even reach the liver.”

The findings were presented at a gastroenterology gathering in Vienna.

Gut feeling

Microplastics are bits of plastic smaller than five millimeters. In the participants, the pieces ranged in size from 50 to 500 micrometers. On average, subjects were carrying 20 particles of microplastic per 10 grams of stool. There were bits of polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) in everyone. The researchers tested the stools for 11 different kinds of microplastics, finding as many as 9 in a subject.

Where are the microplastics coming from?

We’ve written previously about research that points to seafood from plastic-polluted oceans as a potential source of microplastics in humans, though in this study, only six of the eight participants had eaten seafood. What they all had in common, however, was that all eight had eaten plastic-packaged food and they’d each consumed an average of 750 milliliters of water from plastic bottles during the week — the subjects kept food diaries, as required for the trial. PP and PET come from plastic bottles and caps.

A red flag

Since this research involved such a small sample—it wasn’t even really intended as a full study, after all—it serves primarily as a warning that more investigation is needed. There are a number of questions the study raises but doesn’t answer. Do microplastics remain in the body, or do they just pass through? Are these microplastics from plastic bottles, food, or somewhere else, such as the household environment in which they may be found in dust, or coming from sources such as nylon fibers in our dryers? But with an estimated 150 million tons of plastic floating around our oceans alone—and uncounted particles everywhere else—clearly we need to know much more about the travels of these chemical bits and their effect on living organisms like us.

(For the source of this, and many other interesting articles, please see: https://bigthink.com/surprising-science/microplastics-in-human-stool/)



Classic Massive Attack album encoded in DNA and put into spray paint

Spray cans containing around one million copies of the Massive Attack album, Mezzanine, stored in DNA
Spray cans containing around one million copies of the Massive Attack album, Mezzanine, stored in DNA (Credit: Massive Attack).

Earlier this year iconic British electronic music group Massive Attack revealed it was storing its classic album Mezzanine in DNA molecules. Now, it has been announced the synthetic DNA will be available in a limited release of spray paint cans, with each spray can estimated to contain around one million copies of the album.

For the last few years scientists have been exploring ways to harness the immense storage capacity of DNA. In 2012 a Harvard professor demonstrated the process by encoding a book into DNA, resulting in the equivalent of 70 billion HTML copies of the text being transferred into around one gram of DNA.

More recently, a team from ETH Zurich developed a process that encapsulates the synthetic DNA in 150-nanometer silica spheres, protecting the DNA from environmental degradation. In April of this year the ETH Zurich team took on the challenge of encoding Massive Attack’s classic album Mezzanine using this technique.

“This digital bitstream of the album (0s and 1s) was first translated to 901’065 DNA sequences (A, C, T and Gs), each 105 characters long,” says ETH Zurich’s Robert Grass, explaining the encoding process. “The 901’065 individual sequences were then chemically synthesized resulting in a synthetic DNA sample, which fully represents the digital bitstream of the album.”

A limited number of cans will be produced and shipped by the end of the year

After encapsulating the DNA in tiny synthetic glass beads they were added to spray paint. As well as producing a limited number of DNA-encoded spray cans, the DNA paint will be used to produce a small number of ink-jet printed artworks.

“We ensured that every spray can contains at least 0.1 micrograms of the synthetic DNA, which is equivalent to 1 million copies of the album,” says Grass. “This is only possible due to the immense data capacity of DNA (about 100 exabytes per gram).”

At this stage it’s unclear exactly how much one of these data-laden cans of spray paint will cost, but the band suggests a limited number will be produced and shipped by the end of the year. Founding member of the band Robert Del Naja, also a graffiti artist, amusingly says the unique characteristics of the DNA spray paint will not exactly be broadly adopted by street artists.

“It’s an interesting way to vandalize your back catalogue,” says Del Naja, “although DNA-encoded spray paint is unlikely to be adopted by street artists seeking anonymity.”

Source: Massive Attack Facebook

(For the source of this, and other interesting articles, please visit: https://newatlas.com/massive-attack-dna-spray-paint/56881/)



136 years late, La Sagrada Familia finally lands a building permit

La Sagrada Familia is expected to be completed in 2026
La Sagrada Familia is expected to be completed in 2026 (Credit: Jorge Láscar/Creative Commons)

It is Barcelona’s most visited landmark, but after 136 years of unlicensed construction the law has finally caught up with La Sagrada Familia. The church’s trustees have now reached an agreement with the city of Barcelona that involves €36 million (US$41 million) in payments, with the church’s first official building permit coming back the other way.

Architectural icon Antoni Gaudí [Anton Placid Guillem Gaudí y Cornet] spent more than 40 years designing La Sagrada Familia, and the cornerstone of the temple was laid in 1882. Now, 136 years later, there is still around 30 percent of the basilica’s construction to be completed.

But that hasn’t stopped some 20 million visitors swinging by Gaudí’s masterpiece every year, 4.5 million of whom actually enter the temple. This, along with other tourist attractions around Barcelona, has placed a massive strain on the city’s infrastructure, so the council is planning some upgrades.

Architectural icon Antoni Gaudi spent more than 40 years designing La Sagrada Familia

Architectural icon Antoni Gaudí spent more than 40 years designing La Sagrada Familia (Credit: Noel McKeegan/New Atlas)

The agreement will see a range of investments designed to accommodate the growing hordes of tourists, which have actually been met with some prickly resistance from locals.

Twenty-two-million euros (US$25m) will go towards new public transport services, while €7m (US$8m) will go towards improving access between the church and the metro, including the possibility of a direct terminal. Meanwhile, €4m (US$4.5 m) will be invested in redeveloping the streets of the Sardenya, Provença, La Marina and Mallorca, while €3m (US$3.4m) will go towards maintaining and cleaning the city, along with employment of security and civic agents.

In return, the board finally gains the official permit needed to construct the church, which it hopes to be complete in 2026, the centenary of Gaudí’s death. The agreement also states that the current visitor limit cannot be increased until then.

Source: City of Barcelona

(For the source of this article, and to see additional photos, please visit: https://newatlas.com/la-sagrada-familia-building-permit/56929/)



World’s largest performing arts center opens in Taiwan

The National Kaohsiung Centre for the Arts in Taiwan houses a huge public plaza under its...The National Kaohsiung Centre for the Arts in Taiwan houses a huge public plaza under its undulating roof (Credit: Iwan Baan/National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts – Weiwuying).

Billed as a new cultural hub for East Asia, the National Kaohsiung Centre for the Arts in Taiwan is an expansive facility that references the local landscape and houses a huge public plaza under its undulating roof. Around 50,000 people attended the opening recently, with the center’s large performances spaces playing host to an inaugural concert and ceremony.

Designed by Dutch architecture firm Mecanoo, the National Kaohsiung Centre for the Arts is described as the largest performing arts center in the world and covers 141,000 sq m (1,518,000 sq ft) in the southern Taiwanese city of Kaohsiung. Built on former military land, the new facility sits alongside subtropical parklands and is inspired by Banyan trees, a species typical in the area with a distinctive web of sprawling trunks at its base.

The National Kaohsiung Centre for the Arts in Taiwan is an expansive facility that references the...

This form was adapted to the primary structure of the arts center, with the undulating roof supported by a set of performance halls that represent the trunks touching the ground. One of those is the stunning 1,981-seat concert hall designed like a stepped vineyard, with oak-lined terraces encircling the podium to make for intimate performances.

The National Kaohsiung Centre for the Arts in Taiwan houses a huge public plaza under its...

Others include a horseshoe-shaped 2,236-seat Opera House with three circled balconies, a 1,210-seat drama and dance center, and the most intimate of the lot, a 434-seat recital hall. The open spaces in between are designed to counter the subtropical climate by encouraging airflow through the plaza, which doubles as a covered public space for walking, street performing or, according to Mecanoo, practicing Tai Chi.

One particularly interesting feature of the National Kaohsiung Centre for the Arts is the outdoor amphiteater, which is actually built into the roof as it slopes downwards towards the park.

One particularly interesting feature of the National Kaohsiung Centre for the Arts is the outdoor amphiteater,...

Among the performances over the opening weekend were showings from the National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra, Taiwanese and international soloists, light shows, Taiwanese aboriginal dance, opera, puppetry and digital art. The Inauguration Season continues until January 1, 2019, and you can check out the gallery to see some of the opening weekend highlights.

Source: Mecanoo

(For the source of this article, and for dozens of additional photos, please visit: https://newatlas.com/national-kaohsiung-centre-arts-taiwan/56903/)



Sculpture by the Sea exhibit dots Australian coastline with the weird and otherworldly

Sculpture by the Sea: Horizon, by Mu Boyan
Sculpture by the Sea: Horizon, by Mu Boyan (Credit: R. Duggan). Now in its 22nd edition, the Sculpture by the Sea exhibition at Sydney’s Bondi Beach turns one of Australia’s most iconic stretches of coastline into a huge outdoor sculpture park, showcasing the wares of artists from all around the world. Let’s take a look at some of the weird and wacky creations to wash up at this year’s event.



The Giant Marionettes of Royal de Luxe

Based in Nantes, France, the street theater company Royal de Luxe performs around the world, primarily using gigantic, elaborate marionettes to tell stories that take place over several days and wind through entire cities. Puppeteers maneuver the huge marionettes — some as tall as 12 meters (40 ft) — through streets, parks, and waterways, performing their story along the way. Gathered here are images of several recent Royal de Luxe performances, from Belgium, México, Germany, Chile, and England.

  • A giant marionette, operated by performers, walks in Berlin, Germany, on October 2, 2009. The French marionette street theater company Royal de Luxe gave open air performances around the Day of German Unity in Berlin. The artists used the giant puppets to tell the story of separation and recovery to commemorate the fall of the Berlin Wall 20 years earlier.A giant deep sea diver puppet, part of a street theater production entitled “Sea Odyssey”, walks through the streets in Liverpool, England, on April 20, 2012. Two puppets, a man and a girl, his niece, roamed through the city’s streets looking for each other during the three day production. The free event, organized by French company Royal de Luxe was one of a series of events marking the 100th anniversary of the sinking of The Titanic.
    People touch and photograph a giant marionette of a dog during the first day of a street theater in Guadalajara, México, on November 26, 2010. The three-day performance by Royal de Luxe called “The Mexican Giant, the dog Xolo and the Little Indian Girl,” is based on a mural by late Mexican artist Diego Rivera. The Little Giantess has a shower in front of Berlin’s City Hall, on October 2, 2009.
    A giant deep sea diver marionette is walked through the crowd during a performance in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, on October 3, 2009.
    The Sultan’s Elephant moves along Piccadilly on the final day of a street performance in London, on May 7, 2006.                                                                                                                                                                     
  • (For the full display of photographs of the Giant Marionettes of Royal de Luxe please visit: https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2012/05/the-giant-marionettes-of-royal-de-luxe/100293/)



Customs beagle sniffs out pig head in luggage

By Ben Hooper –

Hardy, a beagle employed by Customs inspectors at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, poses with the pig head he sniffed out in the checked luggage of a traveler arriving from Ecuador. Photo by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.


Oct. 16 (UPI) — Customs officials at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport said a K-9 beagle sniffed out a roasted pig head in a traveler’s luggage.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Hardy, a CBP Agriculture Detector and member of the agency’s “Beagle Brigade,” alerted officials to the presence of the pig head in the checked baggage of a traveler arriving from Ecuador.

The nearly 2-pound pig head was destroyed by authorities.

“Our best defense against destructive pests and animal diseases is to prevent the entry of prohibited agriculture products from entering the United States,” said Carey Davis, CBP area port director for the Port of Atlanta. “This seizure at ATL illustrate the tremendous expertise of our four-legged K-9 partners in protecting the United States.”

Customs said pork products are banned from being transported to the United States from other continents as they could carry animal diseases including Foot and Mouth Disease, Classical Swine Fever and Swine Vesicular Disease.

(For the balance of this article please visit: https://www.upi.com/Odd_News/2018/10/16/Customs-beagle-sniffs-out-pig-head-in-luggage/1001539703224/)



Length of ring and index fingers ‘linked to sexuality’

Have you looked at the length of your index and ring fingers?

Woman holding out the fingers of her hand

Women whose left index and ring fingers are different lengths are more likely to be lesbians, a study suggests.  Getty Images.

Scientists measured the fingers of 18 pairs of female identical twins, where one was straight and the other gay.

On average, the lesbians, but not the straight twins, had different sized index and ring fingers, typically a male trait, but only on the left hand.

This may be the result of exposure to more testosterone in the womb, the University of Essex researchers said.

The scientists also measured the fingers of 14 pairs of male identical twins, where one was straight and the other gay, but found no link.

Person showing fingers on both hands

In women, typically the index (second) and ring (fourth) fingers are a similar length, while in men there is a larger difference between the two.  Getty Images.

Both men and women were exposed to the “male” hormone, testosterone, in the womb – but some may be exposed more than others, the scientists said.

Study author Dr Tuesday Watts, from the psychology department at Essex University, said: “Because identical twins, who share 100% of their genes, can differ in their sexual orientations, factors other than genetics must account for the differences.

“Research suggests that our sexuality is determined in the womb and is dependent on the amount of male hormone we are exposed to or the way our individual bodies react to that hormone, with those exposed to higher levels of testosterone being more likely to be bisexual or homosexual.

“Because of the link between hormone levels and difference in finger lengths, looking at someone’s hands could provide a clue to their sexuality.”

(For the balance of this article please see: https://www.bbc.com/news/health-45887691/)





Prototype low-cost house is 3D-printed using mud

Gaia's €900 (roughly US$1,000) budget only covers the materials and not any labor costsGaia’s €900 (roughly US$1,000) budget only covers the materials and not any labor costs (Credit: WASP).


We’ve been following the work of Italian 3D-printing firm WASP (World’s Advanced Saving Project) for some time and have previously reported on its Big Delta and clay and straw shelter projects.  Its latest creation is its most fascinating to date though, and consists of a 3D-printed hut that’s built using a mud mixture and was produced for just €900 (roughly US$1,000).

Specifically, Gaia’s mud mix consists of 25 percent soil taken from the build site in Italy, 40 percent straw, 25 percent rice husk and 10 percent lime. The resulting compound is used for the walls, but the roof is timber and the foundations are actually 3D-printed concrete.

It was built, with help from a firm called Rice House, using the same 3D printer that produced WASP’s previous projects. The construction process was very similar to other 3D-printed projects we’ve previously reported on, and involved extruding the mud mixture out of a nozzle in layers, while slowly building up the structure.

The hut features a window and a glazed door, and its 20 sq m (215 sq ft) interior, though basic, actually looks quite pleasant, with the wood and clay finish giving the place a clean look. WASP reports that it’s well insulated and will perform well in heat and cold.

The interior of Gaia measures 20 sq m (215 sq ft) and is topped by a...

It’s still early days in the project yet though. Gaia took a considerable 10 days to build and doesn’t actually contain any furniture, nor a bathroom, or bedroom, for example. Additionally, its €900 budget only covers the materials and not any labor costs, so the cost of producing it in normal conditions would be a lot higher.

That said, WASP told us that it’s currently developing a new strategy with a view to building the homes in select developing countries, so perhaps the firm will be able to speed things up and keep costs reasonable as the project progresses.

Check out the video for a look at the construction process.

Source: WASP

Gaia's walls are made solely of the mud mixture, though the structure is also supported by...

WASP reports that Gaia is well insulated and will perform well in heat and cold

The interior of Gaia measures 20 sq m (215 sq ft) and is topped by a...

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



Boston Dynamics gives Spot the robot a job

Spot is equipped with an arm/neck for making close inspections
Spot is equipped with an arm/neck for making close inspections (Credit: Boston Dynamics).

Not content with mastering parkour, Boston Dynamics is putting one of its advanced robots to “work” for the first time. In a YouTube video released by the company, the latest version of its Spot quadruped robot starts its new job demonstrating its ability to carry out on-the-spot inspections of building sites in Japan.

The way that Boston Dynamics’ robots have evolved has been both intriguing and slightly alarming. Last week, the company’s bipedal Atlas showed off its gymnastic abilities and now Spot is hitting the construction sites. A descendant of the BigDog and Wildcat robots, the electrically-powered Spot is much smaller and sleeker than its predecessors, with a streamlined design that allows it to handle human environments.


The video shows two versions of Spot working at the Takenaka Corporation and Fujita Corporation building sites in Japan. At the former, the robot was equipped with the disturbing arm/neck featured on previous Boston Dynamics robots. This one seemed to be equipped with a camera or some other sensor protected by a clamshell hand/mouth for closer inspections of features. The latter had no arms, but carried a glowing plastic box on its back. On the tail of each is what looks like a complex cone in a protective cage that seems to be some sort of navigation apparatus.

Spot descending stairs

The video shows the robot strutting around the sites like a determined dog, stopping occasionally to inspect installations. Because Spot is equipped with sensors fore and aft, it negotiated stairwells and narrow corridors by simply reversing when there wasn’t room to turn around.

Though the company, as usual, is light on details, construction sites seem a logical place for such testing and demonstrations, playing into a robots strengths but still providing ample opportunity to show off the its ability to adapt to challenging environments and new situations.

The company says that the Spot robot will be available in the second half of next year for a variety of applications.

Source: Boston Dynamics

(For the balance of this article, plus a video, please visit: https://newatlas.com/boston-dynamics-spot-robot-inspections/56758/)



Sol’s Pocket Rocket straddles the awkward space between e-bikes and e-motos

Something like an electric Grom, the Pocket Rocket is a humble, practical and clean e-commuter
Something like an electric Grom, the Pocket Rocket is a humble, practical and clean e-commuter (Credit: Sol Motors)

It’s too fast and powerful to be an e-bike, but so underpowered that you’d hardly call it a motorcycle. Sol Motors claims this bizarre looking “no-ped” represents a new category that’s emerging in urban transport, and that might be the right way to look at it.

The Pocket Rocket is a wacky looking electric contraption out of Stuttgart, Germany. Its “tank” is a single fat tube with a headlight at one end, a battery in the middle and a red ring of tail-light at the back that kind of does make it look a bit like you’re sitting on a saddled-up missile, Wiley E. Coyote style.

The rest of the triangular frame is simply a bent piece of metal pipe, with the simplest of twin-shock swingarms supporting the hub-driven rear wheel and a nifty design at the front that pokes the steering head straight through the main tube and gives you a short-travel front end suspension underneath.

There are two versions available – one rocks a 6-hp (4.5-kW) hub motor capable of 50 km/h (31 mph), and the other flexes on you with a mighty 8.5 hp (6.3 kW), and is capable of 80 km/h (50 mph). It weighs a friendly 55 kg (121 lb), and travels somewhere between 50-80 km (30-50 mi) on a charge, meaning it’ll comfortably hit the commuting sweet spot for the majority of people.

Sol Motors Pocket Rocket has a dedicated Wheelie mode

With up to 150 Nm (110 lb-ft) of torque, this darling thing can even hoik up a wheelie, provided you put it in the designated Wheelie mode. Mind you, leaning back with a large metal tube poking out from your crotch and rising up does make Pocket Rocket wheelies look like something a ninth-grader would draw on a classmate’s yearbook.

Other mode choices are Eco and Sport. Beyond that, it’s simplicity itself, with rude metal pegs jutting out as your footrests, a pair of brake levers on the bars and a slot to stick your smartphone in if you want a dash.

As a low-cost, zero-emission urban transport option, it’d rock the job if you can handle that minimalist style. But there’s a problem here: even the lower 6-horse version equates to nearly 4,500 watts, which is several times more power than you’re allowed on an e-bike more or less anywhere that’s got regulations. So you’re going to pay motorcycle-level registration fees on this thing, and need a license to ride it.

(For the balance of this article, plus several photos, please visit: https://newatlas.com/sol-motors-pocket-rocket/56685/)



Arcimoto gets ready for retail production of its all-electric Fun Utility Vehicle

A production run of 25 FUV pilot vehicles has begun, ahead of retail availability by the...
A production run of 25 FUV pilot vehicles has begun, ahead of retail availability by the close of 2018 (Credit: Arcimoto).

After notching up eight generations of prototype electric three-wheelers, Arcimoto has followed a 15 model Beta Series by kicking off the manufacture of 25 Pilot Series Fun Utility Vehicles ahead of retail series production by the end of 2018.

Arcimoto began designing and building prototypes for a new “affordable, joyful, pure electric vehicle for everyday drivers and fleets” in 2007. The first was a bright yellow open air single-seater with a configurable rear section. Next, the designers added partial weather protection for the driver and then raided a Toyota Yaris for the bodywork of the Pulse in 2009.

Room for two came with project Darkwing, and everything that had come before was brought together for the first SRK in 2011. Optimization was the order of the day for Gen 6, while the prototype that followed refined the design for future production. And this brings us to Gen 8, the FUV that’s heading for retail launch later this year.

The motorcycle-class two-seater rocks a dual motor drive system that gets it from standstill to 60 mph (96.5 km/h) in 7.5 seconds, on its way to a top speed of 80 mph (129 km/h). Range on the base model will be about 70 miles (113 km) per charge of its 12 kWh Li-ion battery pack, with an extended range option also available for 130 miles per charge.

Arcimoto says that it’s aiming for a curb weight of 1,100 lb (500 kg) and that the “low center of gravity, lightweight platform, and anti-dive optimization make for an extremely agile and responsive ride.” The target starting price is US$11,900.

The first of 10 Signature Series FUVs was delivered to Hollywood actor Nathan Fillion in December 2017 after a debut at the LA Auto Show. Arcimoto has since built 15 beta vehicles – five will go to the company’s own rental location that’s due to open in Eugene, Oregon, in the next few months; five more are on their way to partner rental firm HulaCar in San Diego; and the remainder have been snapped up by a group of early customers.

The Pilot Series vehicles are currently being built in the company’s own manufacturing plant, and pre-orders for the retail FUV are open now, with $100 refundable deposit cementing interest. You can see the beta FUVs rolling out in the video below.

(For the source: Arcimoto and to see additional pictures and a video, please visit: https://newatlas.com/arcimoto-srk-pilot-series/56699/)



The best of Germany’s biggest motorcycle expo – Intermot 2018

Frank Ohle's outrageous Red Baron ready for take off at Intermot 2018, with all eyes on...Frank Ohle’s outrageous Red Baron ready for take off at Intermot 2018, with all eyes on that nine-cylinder Rotec Radial R3600 aircraft engine  (Credit: Loz Blain/New Atlas). 

The Intermot expo, held every year just across the Rhine from the gargantuan gothic cathedral in Cologne, Germany, is a key date on the international motorcycling calendar. Motorcycle manufacturers, parts suppliers, clothing and accessory makers, stunt riders, custom builders and an ever-increasing tide of electric two and three wheelers from all over the world – they’re all here, making deals, creating alliances and showing off the best of their new gear as thousands of bikers storm the halls.

The big launches on press day this year included the Indian Motorcycles team, there to launch the new FTR1200. This flat track-inspired streetbike is not only one of the sauciest pieces of production metal we’ve ever seen, it’s also the first step in an entirely new direction for an Indian brand that has focused on cruisers up to this point.

The FTR750 flat track racer, and behind it, the FTR1200 streetbike


To say these guys were excited about this launch is a huge understatement. And the reaction of the crowd was clear as well: the FTR is the belle of the ball this year, and an awesome start to this new chapter.

The FTR’s main competition in terms of brand new production bikes came from Japan. Suzuki’s revered Katana was a defining motorcycle of the early 1980s, and the company has brought it back as the Katana 3.0 for 2019. The new Kat looks terrific, if a little more comfort-focused than its grand-daddy, and it’s built on the proven GSX-S1000 platform, so it’ll go like the clappers.

Other notable new bike launches included Kawasaki’s new H2, which ups the ante to a ram air-assisted 240 horsepower, making it officially the most powerful series production bike ever. Ducati pulled the covers off some sexy new Scrambler variants for 2019 as part of its Joyvolution update, Moto Guzzi unveiled its new V85 TT adventure machine, BMW brought in the new 1250 boxer bikes, KTM announced a thoroughly unnecessary but very welcome power upgrade on its barnstorming Super Duke 1290 GT light-speed tourer, and Royal Enfield displayed its new twin-cylinder 650cc Interceptors.

Can-Am rolled out its new Ryker trike, a much smaller version of the Spyder roadster, and it drew a surprisingly enthusiastic crowd.

The Ryker brings the Can-Am three wheeler back down towards the size of a motorcycle

It’s not all about brand new bikes, of course. Intermot’s gigantic halls allow all kinds of opportunities to get your backside onto just about any bike on the market, from the sublime – like the new Aprilia Tuono 1100 pictured below…

Aprilia's Tuono 1100 - an apex predator among naked sportsbikes - got itself active suspension this...

To the ridiculous, such as the 2019 Honda Monkey below – which might have been the most efficient and effective smile producing machine at the whole show.

The Honda Monkey puts smiles on dials, period

Stunt shows every 15 minutes outside showed what’s possible when you push the limits of technique and skill.

Totally hands-free quadbike wheelie!

E-bikes were a strong and growing presence at Intermot this year, with dozens of new brands showing their wares. But nobody’s really interested in e-bikes until they get a chance to ride one and feel what they’re all about. So Intermot built several “e-motion” testing zones where people could jump on a range of different electric cycles and take them across some varying terrain.

...including some mild obstacles

In fact, the range of e-bikes and electric motorcycles (and many things that live somewhere in between) was truly impressive. We particularly liked this electric fat-wheel tilting three wheeled drift monster (below) that came screeching past us somewhere in Hall 8, but we couldn’t keep up with it to find out what it was called!

...but it drifts like crazy on the polished floors

Naturally, there was also a ton of awesome custom bikes on site, some built to advertise certain products, and others to compete in the 2018 AMC World Custom Bike Championships down in Hall 10. We’ve split those off into a separate gallery here, don’t miss them!

(For the full article, including 170 photos, please visit:



Girl, 8, pulls a 1,500-year-old sword from a lake in Sweden

The sword as it appeared when it was just pulled out of the dune. Image copyright Jonkoping county museum. 


An eight-year-old found a pre-Viking-era sword while swimming in a lake in Sweden during the summer.

Saga Vanecek found the relic in the Vidostern lake while at her family’s holiday home in Jonkoping County.

The sword was initially reported to be 1,000 years old, but experts at the local museum now believe it may date to around 1,500 years ago.

“It’s not every day that you step on a sword in the lake!” Mikael Nordstrom from the museum said.

The level of the water was extremely low at the time, owing to a drought, which is probably why Saga uncovered the ancient weapon.

“I felt something in the water and lifted it up. Then there was a handle and I went to tell my dad that it looked like a sword,” Saga told the Sveriges Radio broadcaster.

Saga’s father Andy Vanecek told the English-language website The Local he initially thought his daughter had found an unusual stick or branch in the water.

It was only after he asked a friend to take a closer look did he discover that it was likely to be an ancient relic.

The local museum, where the sword is now being kept, said it was extremely well-preserved.

Excavators search for items at the Vidöstern lake in Jönköping County, Sweden Image copyright Jonkoping county museum. 
Further excavations have revealed more ancient items lurk at the bottom of the lake. 


Saga’s discovery led the museum and local council to carry out further excavations at the site, finding a brooch from the 3rd Century.

The Jonkoping county museum said that its investigation of the lake is unfinished and it could yet turn up more ancient items.

(For additional interesting articles please visit: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-45753455/)



Japanese construction robot demonstrates the future of building

The robot is being designed to help combat the country's declining birthrate and potential future labor...
The robot is being designed to help combat the country’s declining birthrate and potential future labor shortage (Credit: AIST).

A new video from AIST, Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, shows a prototype robot designed to work on construction sites in situations where there is a shortage of human workers. The robot in undeniably slow but also strikingly accurate, suggesting a future where humanoid robots could replace even more human jobs.

The prototype demonstration shows the robot, dubbed HRP-5P, picking up a piece of plaster board and screwing it into a wall. This kind of flexible humanoid robot is designed to be able to replicate human motions in complicated construction environments.

Industrial automation is rapidly changing the face of modern mass production. While large factory assembly lines are quickly becoming more and more robotic, human workers are still often necessary for many tasks. Aircraft assembly, for example, is one field that has resisted the kind of robotic assembly that has taken over the world of car production. This is because human workers are still needed to crawl and fit in different areas that larger fixed robotic systems simply cannot reach.

On-site construction is another field that similarly has resisted easy robotic automation, with human labor still primarily relied upon for the building of houses in situ. Automated brick-laying robots and massive robotic 3D-printers are certainly offering intriguing possibilities for the future of construction but ultimately we still need humans to hammer these buildings together.

Three different technological elements that help the humanoid robot carry out its construction task in an...
Three different technological elements that help the humanoid robot carry out its construction task in an autonomous fashion (Credit: AIST).

This new Japanese research is less focused on removing the need for human workers but instead geared towards trying to deal with a problem unique to the island nation. Announcing the new robot, the researchers write: “Along with the declining birthrate and the aging of the population, it is expected that many industries such as the construction industry will fall into serious manual shortages in the future, and it is urgent to solve this problem by robot technology.”

HRP-5P is not by any means the most advanced robot we have ever seen (the backflipping Atlas from Boston Dynamics arguably shows off a greater dynamic range). However, by directly designing a robot that can carry out heavy manual labour using similar movements to a human, AIST is gesturing toward a future where even more granular construction work can be taken over by robots.

Source: AIST (Japanese language)

(For the source of this article, and to watch a video, please visit: https://newatlas.com/aist-construction-robot-humanoid-hrp-5p/56585/)



Miners in Australia discover ‘mother lode’

By Evann Gastaldo – Newser Staff –

Similar gold nugget.

Stock photo. Not the actual gold found.   (Getty Images/HDesert)


With just one blast, miners in Western Australia unearthed two large quartz rocks containing gold estimated to be worth about $11 million, bringing the cache to the surface over four days. Australian miners often extract just 2g of gold per ton of rock—an expert says the gold particles are often too small to be seen by the naked eye—but in this case, Canadian mining company RNC Minerals says 2,200g per ton was extracted, the BBC reports. “You might go your whole life and you’ll never see anything like it. It’s definitely a once-in-a-lifetime discovery,” a geologist tells Australia’s ABC News. The largest rocks will be auctioned as collector’s items, according to the RNC Minerals CEO.

The biggest one weighs between 200 and 210 pounds and contains more than 2,300 ounces of gold for a worth of about $3 million; the next biggest weighs 139 pounds and contains 1,600 ounces of gold for a worth of around $2 million. The miner credited with discovering the gold describes it as the “mother lode,” telling ABC he’s never before seen anything like it: “I nearly fell over looking at it.” The Beta Hunt mine, near Kalgoorlie, had primarily been a nickel mining operation, but RNC found traces of gold in June and then targeted the gold vein 1,600 feet underground; the gold was extracted from an area just 10 feet wide and 10 feet high. “This sort of bonanza zone is incredibly unique,” the geologist notes.

(For the balance of this, and other interesting articles, please visit: https://www.newser.com/story/264427/once-in-a-lifetime-11m-worth-of-gold-unearthed-in-just-one-blast.html/)



BlackFly fixed-wing VTOL flying car – doesn’t require a license

BlckFly is a single-seater electric VTOL aircraft
BlckFly is a single-seater electric VTOL aircraft (Credit: Opener).

Canadian-based aviation firm Opener Inc. has unveiled its new BlackFly single-seater aircraft, which it bills as a Personal Aerial Vehicle (PAV) and the world’s first ultralight all-electric fixed-wing Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) aircraft. The fully-amphibious drop-shaped flyer with fore and aft wings sporting eight electric motors has a range of 25 mi (40 km) and a top speed of 62 mph (100 km/h).

According to Opener, the BlackFly is “designed and built for a new world of three-dimensional transportation.” Due to its limited capabilities, the company says that it is easy to operate and can be flown in the United States from small grassy areas without formal training or FAA licensing.

The BlackFly is the result of nine years of development with over 1,000 test flights and boasts triple modular redundancy for greater safety, as well as an optional ballistic parachute. The company claims that it charges in under 30 minutes, has a low-noise signature, is geo-fence capable, and even has an Automatic Return-to-Home button.

Opener says that though the present version is somewhat limited, it hopes that it will one day lead to rural/urban commuting networks powered by renewable energy sources.

“Opener is re-energizing the art of flight with a safe and affordable flying vehicle that can free its operators from the everyday restrictions of ground transportation,” says Marcus Leng, CEO. “We will offer competitive pricing in an endeavor to democratize three-dimensional personal transportation. Safety has been our primary driving goal in the development of this new technology. Opener will be introducing this innovation in a controlled and responsible manner. Even though not required by FAA regulations, BlackFly operators will be required to successfully complete the FAA Private Pilot written examination and also complete company-mandated vehicle familiarization and operator training.”

The BlackFly and other Opener vehicles will be on display at the 2018 EAA AirVenture Convention in Oshkosh, Wisconsin from July 23 to July 29, 2018.

The video below shows BlackFly taking to the skies.

(Source: Opener by way of New Atlas.  Watch the video at: https://newatlas.com/blackfly-vtol-aircraft/55445/)



Iron tools from the Bronze Age found to have otherworldly origins

A new study has found that all iron tools from the Bronze Age, including King Tutankhamun's...
A new study has found that all iron tools from the Bronze Age, including King Tutankhamun’s dagger, were made from meteoric metal (Credit: University of Pisa).

A weapon as legendary as the dagger of King Tutankhamun needs an epic backstory, and last year X-ray analysis showed that the iron in the ancient blade had come from meteorites. Now, a French study has found that the artifact was far from alone as all iron tools dating back to the Bronze Age have otherworldly origins.

Beginning around 3300 BCE in the Near East and parts of South Asia, the Bronze Age was categorized by the widespread use of bronze in weapons, tools and decorations. Made by smelting copper and mixing it with tin, arsenic or other metals, bronze was durable and relatively easy to come by, and as such it remained the top choice until it was supplanted when the Iron Age began some 2,000 years later.

That’s not to say that iron wasn’t used during the Bronze Age – on relatively rare occasions iron artifacts have been found dating back to before the Iron Age, but it was much harder to come by and work with. The trouble was, most of the metal was locked in ore and needed to be smelted at extremely high temperatures, which was beyond the technological capabilities of the time. So where did those early iron artifacts come from?

It’s long been thought that iron tools of the time were made from meteorites, which would have deposited the metal in an already-workable state on the Earth’s surface. The theory would explain the presence of iron in artifacts before the advanced smelting techniques had been developed, and whether or not their owners knew that the metal was not of this planet, iron would have been prized for its relative rarity.

To determine whether these early iron artifacts were of terrestrial or extraterrestrial origin, Albert Jambon from the the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in France conducted chemical analyses of several Bronze Age samples. Along with King Tut’s dagger, Jambon studied a bracelet and headrest belonging to the Egyptian king in 1350 BCE, axes from Syria and China dating back to about 1400 BCE, a Syrian pendant from 2300 BCE, a Turkish dagger from 2500 BCE, and beads from Gerzeh, Egypt, which stretch right back to 3200 BCE, just after the Bronze Age began.

Jambon used a portable X-ray fluorescence spectrometer, an instrument that can determine the elements that make up a sample of rock or metal without damaging the target. Using this, Jambon could tell from the iron’s impurities whether the metal in the relics came from meteorites or was naturally occurring on Earth. Iron meteorites usually contain higher levels of nickel and cobalt than Earthly iron due to the tendency for nickel to drift towards the molten core of a planet.

Sure enough, all of the tested samples had levels of nickel and cobalt that lined up with those seen in iron meteorites. Jambon concluded that essentially all iron items from the Bronze Age would therefore be made of meteoric iron, until the development of the smelting process that marked the beginning of the Iron Age from about 1200 BCE.

The research was published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

(Source: CNRS by way of New Atlas. For this and other important articles please visit: https://newatlas.com/bronze-age-iron-tools-meteorites/52474/)



Microwave/laser weapon takes out multiple drone swarms

The vehicle-mounted laser combines a solid state laser with an advanced variant of the company’s Multi-Spectral...
The vehicle-mounted laser combines a solid state laser with an advanced variant of the company’s Multi-Spectral Targeting System,  installed on a small, all-terrain Polaris militarized vehicle (Credit: Raytheon)

An energy weapon system built by Raytheon has clocked up an impressive score by taking out 45 drones during a recent US Army exercise. Part of this year’s Maneuver Fires Integrated Experiment (MFIX) at the Army’s Fires Center of Excellence at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, the test involved a directed energy weapon that combines Raytheon’s high-power microwave beam and High Energy Laser (HEL) systems.

Drones, UAVs, and even something as low-tech as mortars are a major battlefield hazard. With new technology producing increasingly sophisticated and expensive platforms, the danger is also emerging that these expensive assets could be overwhelmed by new advanced, but cheap, autonomous flying machines that swarm into battle and swamp defenses.

A promising way to combat this is by using directed energy weapons. These fire beams that travel at the speed of light, can flick from target to target in a fraction of a second, can be adapted to suit the target, and cost about a dollar a shot as opposed to thousands or even millions of dollars for more conventional rounds.

The directed energy system emits an adjustable energy beam that, when aimed at airborne targets such...

The directed energy system emits an adjustable energy beam that, when aimed at airborne targets such as drones, renders them unable to fly (Credit: Raytheon)

At MFIX, Raytheon’s approach was to combine a directed microwave beam operating from a fixed location with the HEL system installed on an Army dune buggy. The microwave weapon was designed to disrupt or destroy the target’s electronics while the laser directly destroyed the targets it engaged. The goal was to produce a system that can engage incoming hostile targets at medium range.

(For the balance of this article please visit: https://newatlas.com/microwave-laser-weapon-test/53891/)



75-Year-Old Volunteer Visits Animal Shelter Every Day And Naps With Cats

“[He sleeps for] about an hour, then he’ll wake up and switch cats,” said the founder of Safe Haven Pet Sanctuary.

A man in Wisconsin has turned snoozing into a charitable act.

Terry Lauerman, 75, goes to his local animal shelter in Green Bay every day and takes naps with its cats.


Though, that’s not quite his intention.

According to Elizabeth Feldhausen, the founder of Safe Haven Pet Sanctuary, Lauerman strolled into the shelter about six months ago with a simple dream and a cat brush in tow.

“He just walked in and started brushing,” Feldhausen told HuffPost on Thursday, noting that he never asked to be a volunteer. “So eventually we told him he was an official volunteer and had him fill out our volunteer form.”


Feldhausen said Lauerman visits the cage-free sanctuary — which rescues disabled cats that would be at risk of euthanasia at other facilities — daily and stays for about three hours.

After he grooms a cat for a bit, he typically dozes off.

“[He sleeps for] about an hour, then he’ll wake up and switch cats,” said Feldhausen.


Apparently, Lauerman really enjoys the unpaid gig a lot — especially the sprucing aspect of it.

“He said, [the brushing is] as great of an experience for him, as it is for them,” Feldhausen said.

Naturally, the volunteer with a habit of accidentally passing out charmed the staff at Safe Haven, and the group decided to dedicate a Facebook post to him on Tuesday.

“We are so lucky to have a human like Terry,” the shelter wrote, alongside a few photos of Lauerman cat napping with felines. “Terry just came along one day and introduced himself. He said he’d like to brush cats. Eventually, it became everyday. He brushes all of the cats, and can tell you about all of their likes and dislikes. He also accidentally falls asleep most days. We don’t mind – Cats need this! Terry is a wonderful volunteer.”

Ends up the staff at the shelter weren’t the only ones smitten by Lauerman. As of Thursday afternoon, the post has received over 1.6 million on Facebook. It also made its way over to Reddit, where it has received hundreds of comments.

And although Lauerman hopes his 15 minutes of fame leads to more donations to Safe Haven, he also wants to remind people that he’s not the only person dedicating his time to shelter.

Feldhausen said that Lauerman specifically praised another volunteer named Paula.

“Who is what he considers the cat grandma,” Feldhausen said. “He wants to make sure the people who do what he does every day get credit too.”

(For more information please visit: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/75-year-old-volunteer-visits-animal-shelter-every-day-and-naps-with-cats_us_5ba3e80de4b069d5f9d1203a?ncid=APPLENEWS00001/)



Article Image


We all know eating “healthy” food is good for our physical health and can decrease our risk of developing diabetes, cancer, obesity and heart disease. What is not as well known is that eating healthy food is also good for our mental health and can decrease our risk of depression and anxiety.

Mental health disorders are increasing at an alarming rate and therapies and medications cost $US2.5 trillion dollars a year globally.

There is now evidence dietary changes can decrease the development of mental health issues and alleviate this growing burden. Australia’s clinical guidelines recommend addressing diet when treating depression.

Recently there have been major advances addressing the influence certain foods have on psychological well-being. Increasing these nutrients could not only increase personal well-being but could also decrease the cost of mental health issues all around the world.

1. Complex carbohydrates

One way to increase psychological well-being is by fuelling brain cells correctly through the carbohydrates in our food. Complex carbohydrates are sugars made up of large molecules contained within fibre and starch. They are found in fruit, vegetables, and wholegrains and are beneficial for brain health as they release glucose slowly into our system. This helps stabilise our mood.

Simple carbohydrates found in sugary snacks and drinks create sugar highs and lows that rapidly increase and decrease feelings of happiness and produce a negative effect on our psychological well-being.

We often use these types of sugary foods to comfort us when we’re feeling down. But this can create an addiction-like response in the brain, similar to illicit drugs that increase mood for the short term but have negative long-term effects.

Increasing intake of complex carbohydrates and decreasing sugary drinks and snacks could be the first step in increased happiness and well-being.

2. Antioxidants

Oxidation is a normal process our cells carry out to function. Oxidation produces energy for our body and brain. Unfortunately, this process also creates oxidative stress and more of this happens in the brain than any other part of the body.

Chemicals that promote happiness in the brain such as dopamine and serotonin are reduced due to oxidation and this can contribute to a decrease in mental health. Antioxidants found in brightly coloured foods such as fruit and vegetables act as a defence against oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain and body.

Antioxidants also repair oxidative damage and scavenge free radicals that cause cell damage in the brain. Eating more antioxidant-rich foods can increase the feel-good chemicals in our brain and heighten mood.

3. Omega 3

Omega 3 are polyunsaturated fatty acids that are involved in the process of converting food into energy. They are important for the health of the brain and the communication of its feel-good chemicals dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine.

Omega 3 fatty acids are commonly found in oily fish, nuts, seeds, leafy vegetables, eggs, and in grass fed meats. Omega 3 has been found to increase brain functioning, can slow down the progression of dementia and may improve symptoms of depression.

Omega 3 are essential nutrients that are not readily produced by the body and can only be found in the foods we eat, so it’s imperative we include more foods high in omega 3 in our everyday diet.

4. B vitamins

B vitamins play a large role in the production of our brain’s happiness chemicals serotonin and dopamine and can be found in green vegetables, beans, bananas, and beetroot. High amounts of vitamins B6, B12, and folate in the diet have been known to protect against depression and too low amounts to increase the severity of symptoms.

Vitamin B deficiency can result in a reduced production of happiness chemicals in our brain and can lead to the onset of low mood that could lead to mental health issues over a long period. Increasing B vitamins in our diet could increase the production of the feel good chemicals in our brain which promote happiness and well-being.

5. Prebiotics and probiotics

The trillions of good and bad bacteria living in our tummies also influence our mood, behaviour and brain health. Chemical messengers produced in our stomach influence our emotions, appetite and our reactions to stressful situations.

Prebiotics and probiotics found in yoghurt, cheese and fermented foods such as kombucha, sauerkraut and kimchi work on the same pathways in the brain as antidepressant medications and studies have found they might have similar effects.

Prebiotics and Probiotics have been found to suppress immune reactions in the body, reduce inflammation in the braindecrease depressed and anxious states and elevate happy emotions.

Incorporating these foods into our diet will not only increase our physical health but will have beneficial effects on our mental health, including reducing our risk of disorders such as depression and anxiety.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

(For the source of this article, and a video, please visit: https://bigthink.com/the-conversation/five-foods-that-increase-your-psychological-well-being/)



Riderless BMW R1200GS eerily makes its way around a test track

The self-driving BMW makes its way around the track
The self-driving BMW makes its way around the track (Credit: BMW Motorrad).

Yamaha’s Motobot is not alone, it seems. Behind closed doors, BMW has also been working on autonomous motorcycle technology for the last couple of years. And yesterday, BMW Motorrad released footage of a self-driving R1200GS negotiating its own way around a test track.

The bike can’t start itself off as yet, somebody needs to get it balanced and send it off on its way. But once in motion, it can manage its own throttle, clutch, gears and brakes, read the track in front of it, and steer its own way around.

BMW says it has no interest in creating a riderless bike for the sake of it; the team is using this test platform to understand motorcycle riding dynamics better, so it can explore what kind of active safety measures might make sense on future bikes.

“The prototype,” says team member Stefan Hans, “helps us to expand our knowledge about the vehicle’s dynamics, so that we can classify the rider’s behavior, and determine if a future situation will become dangerous or not. If so, we can inform, warn, or intervene directly.

“In this project, it was not our goal to develop a fully automated motorcycle. We want to improve motorcycle safety. It’s the proof that the underlying dynamic model is detailed enough to cope with the whole riding dynamics, so we can use that knowledge to develop further comfort and safety systems.”

Seeing the bike drive itself around the track is a little eerie

Certainly, the car world has benefited greatly from systems like automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist, and all manner of clever blind spot and cross traffic alert systems. But many bikers consider themselves a different breed, more tuned in to what’s happening on the road as a matter of necessity and survival.

This won’t halt the march of progress. KTM and Ducati have already begun showing off their radar-assisted adaptive cruise technology, with the KTM system already beginning to test a bit of gentle automatic braking.

It’ll be interesting to see what kinds of rider assist technology emerge from this autonomous BMW program.

Source: BMW Motorrad

(For the source of this article, and to check it out in action with a video, please visit: https://newatlas.com/bmw-autonomous-motorcycle-r1200gs/56293/)



The Catch of the Day Is a 10,000-Year-Old Gigantic Deer Skull

Recently, Irish fishermen pulled up the skull and horns of an extinct great elk, which could have 12-foot-wide antlers

By Jason Daley – Smithsonian.com –

(Pat Grimes/Ardboe Heritage).

Recently, fishermen Raymond McElroy and Charlie Coyle were out on Lough Neagh, a lake near the town of Ardboe in northern Ireland, when they tried to pull up one of their nets. It would barely budge, so they assumed it was caught on a piece of driftwood. But Ronan McGreevy at The Irish Times reports what they pulled up wasn’t wood, it was bone. The fisherman landed the massive skull of a Great Elk (Megaloceros giganteus), the largest deer species to ever exist which died out in Ireland about 10,500 years ago.

This particular great elk probably stood 6.5 feet tall at the shoulders. More impressive, however, are its antlers, which in this case were also over 6 feet wide.

“I thought it was the devil himself,” Coyle tells McGreevy. “I was going to throw it back in. I didn’t know what to do with it.”

Luckily, however, McElroy knew just what the skull was since a huge jawbone from one of the elk—and possibly from the same animal—was fished up from the area in 2014, also making the local news.

The Great Elk, also known as the Irish Elk, has a misleading name. It’s not an elk, but a huge deer species—some individuals had antlers up to 12 feet wide. And it’s not Irish; according to the University of California Museum of Paleontology, the species actually roamed all of Europe, north Africa, northern Asia and a related species lived in China. The reason it is associated with Ireland is because intact fossils of the giant beast are sometimes found in lake beds and bogs on the island, which are especially good at preserving the bones.

The elk also has another claim to fame. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, many scientists believed that the extinction of animals was impossible. Fossils, they believed, were just the remains of animals that explorers would eventually find somewhere hidden on Earth. The remains of the Great Elk was one of the animals used by French scientist Georges Cuvier to show that extinction did in fact take place.

Mike Simms at the Ulster Museum tells Shauna Corr at Belfast Live that the Great Elk was well-suited to the early Pleistocene when Europe was full of grassy plains, but when the last glaciers receded and the habitat changed, the elk couldn’t cope.

“They came in [to Ireland] when the weather was great on the grass plains, but then the trees started to grow,” he says. “Giant antlers aren’t great in the forest. Environmental change is what caused their extinction.”

Simms says that the species went extinct in Ireland about 10,500 years ago but managed to hold on in Siberia until about 6,500 years ago.

Currently, the plans for the antlers are unclear, and McElroy is keeping the massive skull in his garage. Kimberley Hickok at LiveScience reports that in 1987 another fisherman pulled up a massive set of antlers from the lake and donated them to a local school for display.

(Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/catch-day-7-foot-tall-deer-180970247/)
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If you want to spot a narcissist, look at the eyebrows

by Matt Davis –

Big Think illustration / Actor Peter Gallagher attends the 24th and final ‘A Night at Sardi’s’ to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on March 9, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

Life is already hard enough, but some people seem hell-bent on making it harder. We’ve all met people who refuse to accept blame, exploit their relationships, or elevate themselves by knocking everyone else down a peg or two. You might be able to minimize contact with these folks, but it’s impossible to avoid them. They’re narcissists, and they’re everywhere. In America, narcissism is actually on the rise, so maybe it’s a good time to get back into that soothing meditation practice you’ve been putting off.

Fortunately, new research has provided an excellent clue for identifying the narcissists lurking among us: the eyebrows. A study by Miranda Giacomin and Nicholas O. Rule has shown that bushier eyebrows are associated with higher levels of narcissism.

There are a few different flavors of narcissism, but this study examined the classic type: grandiose narcissists. They’re the kind that craves attention, are extroverted, have a high opinion of themselves, and fail to recognize their inner emptiness. According to Giacomin and Rule’s results, this type of narcissist has far more distinctive eyebrows than non-narcissists.

What do eyebrows have to do with narcissism?

Research has already shown that people can judge narcissism by appearance. After all, narcissists tend to wear flashier clothes or apply more extravagant makeup. But even unadorned and unaltered faces offer a cue for narcissism. This study strove to find out whether it was the whole face that gave the impression of narcissism or a single feature, and if so, to identify which feature was tipping people off.

Eyebrows are one of, if not the most, expressive features on the face. They are crucial to recognizing identities—for example, a study found that people had more trouble recognizing celebrities with their eyebrows removed than with their eyeballs removed (in Photoshop, relax guys). Eyebrows have been found to influence attractiveness and mate selection as well.

“Because grandiose narcissists strongly desire recognition and admiration,” the researchers said, “they may seek to maintain distinct eyebrows to facilitate others’ ability to notice, recognize, and remember them; hereby increasing their likability and reinforcing their overly positive self-views.”

How did the study find this out?

First, the researchers administered the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (or the NPI) to several undergraduate students. This test is designed to measure the narcissism personality trait through how much respondents agreed with statements like “The world would be a better place if I ruled it.” Narcissists (surprise, surprise) tend to agree with such statements.

It’s important to note that the NPI doesn’t measure clinical narcissism. Rather, it measures the personality trait of narcissism. To one degree or another, we all have some element of self-love in our personalities, only some people love themselves to excess.

After taking the NPI, the students’ faces were then photographed, and the researchers asked a sample of participants to judge how narcissistic the photographed faces appeared. At this stage, all participants were able to accurately guess how highly each photographed person had scored on the NPI. This result was no surprise since it’s already known that observers can judge narcissism from a person’s appearance alone.

Using a clever cognitive trick, the researchers could determine if it was the faces as a whole or a distinct feature of the faces that conveyed narcissism: People process upright faces as wholes, but inverted faces are processed as collections of features. Because the participants could predict narcissism when the faces were inverted, the researchers concluded that one specific feature of the face was clueing people in.

Then, the researchers obscured different features of the faces until they had narrowed down which was giving off the telltale vibes of a narcissist. Surprisingly, participants could judge how narcissistic someone was even if they could only see a single eyebrow.

The participants were also asked to rate eyebrows in terms of femininity, grooming, and distinctiveness, but only distinctiveness was correlated with accurately judging narcissism. What exactly does distinctiveness mean? Density, bushiness, brow power; a narcissist’s calling card.

Of course, the study was not able to tell whether people who are more likely to be narcissists also have inherently bushy eyebrows or whether narcissists tend to deliberately cultivate bushy eyebrows. And, although it ought not to need to be said, not everybody with bushy eyebrows is a narcissist and not every narcissist has bushy eyebrows. Regardless, the study provides insight into how we process faces and our latent ability to detect toxic people before it’s too late. For more information on how best to deal with narcissists and other high-conflict personalities, check out the video below.

(See the video at: https://bigthink.com/matt-davis/if-you-want-to-spot-a-narcissist-look-at-the-eyebrows)



Lex folding wearable chair lets you take a seat anywhere

Lex is essentially a seat that you wear around with you
Lex is essentially a seat that you wear around with you.

Imagine if anytime, anywhere you felt a little fatigued in the legs you could simply lean back and take a load off? The developers of Lex are working towards such a future with a folding exoskeleton that turns into an ergonomic chair in just a few seconds.

Lex is much like Chairless Chair we looked at back in March, in that it is essentially a seat that you wear and carry around with you. Where the Chairless Chair is aimed at factory workers in need of respite, Lex seems to be designed with all day, everyday use in mind.

Adhering to its owner with just a waist strap and two leg straps, Lex is made from aircraft-grade aluminum and weighs just over a kilogram (2.2 lb). When the user is on the go, it folds up into a neat, slimline package that allows full freedom of movement.

It also features a handy load-transfer module for backpack wearers, which comprises a flexible panel that extends upwards to the base of the bag and transfers up to 50 percent of the weight from the shoulders to the body’s core.

And when it comes time to take a rest, Lex’s two legs can be unfurled by pulling on the release levers behind each buttock. Despite its lightweight frame, Lex can support up to 120 kg (264 lb), and is designed to go further than simply offering a place to park your backside.

Astride Bionix, the startup behind Lex, says a lot of energy went into making it seat its owners at just the right angles. It is designed to prop people up with their thighs at a 120-degree angle to the body, which is claimed to promote good posture by keeping the spine in its natural position.

(For the balance of this article, plus a video, see: https://newatlas.com/lex-folding-wearable-chair/56211/)



$1,500 tēmi personal robot goes on sale soon

Temi will go on sale worldwide October 1 for the confirmed price of US $1,500
Temi will go on sale worldwide October 1, 2018, for the confirmed price of US $1,500 (Credit: James Holloway/New Atlas).

The personal robot Temi put in an appearance at IFA recently, alongside the news that it will go on sale worldwide October 1 for the confirmed price of US$1,500. Its makers call it the first truly-useful personal robot.

That may be true, depending on how much you make video calls and consume media, or more crucially, if you’d want to do those things using a waste-high screen that follows you around your house.

How it does that is rather impressive, though. Temi (styled tēmi, if you prefer) features an array of sensors to get its bearings and navigate its environment. To wit:

  • One 360-degree LiDAR
  • Two depth cameras
  • Two RGB cameras
  • Five proximity sensors
  • One IMU sensor
  • Six Time of Flight linear sensors

Left to its own devices it will explore and form a 2D map of the home, but crucially the user can tell Temi (pronounced tea-me) to remember particular locations. That done, say “Hey Temi – go to the kitchen” and Temi will do just that, cruel practical jokes notwithstanding.

But say “Hey Temi – follow me” and Temi will track the source of that command (the user’s face), then use its laser to track down to the user’s legs, which it is able to follow. Impressively, it won’t (in theory) be confused by someone else crossing its path – it will continue to follow the issuer of the command.

The personal robot Temi put in an appearance at IFA 2018

What you do with it when it gets where you want it is pretty much what you can do with a tablet, as that’s basically what Temi’s head is. It runs Android, though it’s not clear if it will run apps from the Google Play store. That may be unlikely as Temi’s makers plan to launch an app store for Temi itself.

The big-ticket features were video calling and media consumption, and the pitch is that a robot you can talk to is a more pleasant way to do this than prodding and poking a screen. In reality, whether the immediacy of a tactile device proves the more compelling remains to be seen, though we suspect so.

(For more photos, and the balance of this article visit: https://newatlas.com/temi-personal-robot/56146/)



All those tiny discs add up.

Every day, 45 million Americans stuff slivers of flexible plastic into their eyes, hoping to look less like nerds. While contacts-wearers become quite adept at poking them into place, a new study from researchers from Arizona State University suggests users are not very good at dealing with lenses once they’re done with them. All those tiny discarded plastic discs, they report, are adding up to a big environmental problem.

According to the findings, presented Sunday at the 256th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, anywhere from six to 10 metric tons of plastic lenses end up in United States wastewater annually. Because of the way wastewater is treated, all that plastic ends up contributing to microplastic pollution currently building up in waterways, which eventually makes its way into the food chain. It’s an especially timely problem as the use of contact lenses is steadily rising.

“This began as an exploratory venture but we have information to support the fragmentation of contact lenses into microplastics within a wastewater treatment plant,” study co-author and Arizona State University graduate student Charles Rolsky tells Inverse.

contact lenses
Contact lenses recovered from treated sewage sludge could hurt the environment.
This study, one of the first to examine how those lenses get in the water and what exactly happens to them there, was broken down into three parts. In the first, the team surveyed 139 people to find out how contacts end up in wastewater in the first place. Turns out, regardless of whether the users wore monthlies or dailies, 19 percent of wearers flushed their contacts down the sink or toilet, where they swirled and swooshed through sewer pipes before finally funneling into wastewater treatment plants. There, they’re transformed into an even more problematic form.

The second and third stage of the study showed that contact lenses — which are made of soft plastics like poly(methylmethacrylate), silicones, and fluoropolymers — become weakened when they’re mixed together with microbes in the wastewater. When these plastics lose their structural strength, they break down into smaller and smaller pieces, eventually becoming microplastics, which can’t be filtered out like other larger plastics.

Unable to be filtered out, these tiny plastics can make their way back out into nature. Rolksy and his colleagues point out that, because the microplastics derived from the contact lenses are denser than water, they can sink to the bottom of aquatic zones and become gobbled up by bottom feeders.

Microplastic poses a growing concern in oceans and other aquatic habitat. 

Of course, Rolsky doesn’t think anyone should stop wearing contacts altogether. He just thinks we need to to be more careful about how we dispose of them.

“Contact lens users should not feel ashamed to use contacts, as they are of high value and very effective,” says Rolsky. “But used contacts should be disposed of in the trash can instead of down any drain.”

Some contact recycling programs do exist — Rolsky and team are impressed by them — but until those become more widespread, the researchers suggest that “contact lens manufacturers should have a label on the box which suggests the best disposal strategy for used lenses, which should be with solid waste in the trash.”



Article Image
Photo: Mint Images / Getty Images





The emergence of probiotics on supermarket shelves is further proof of our habit of putting the cart before the horse. Researchers discover a potential breakthrough; the public gain a little knowledge of this before extensive clinical studies can be conducted; bottles of probiotics—echoing the American mantra, “more is better!”—fly off the shelves. A wonder-cure is born.

Probiotics might possess incredible healing powers, but specificity matters. You can’t overload on any old bacteria and expect the results to only be positive. As science writer Ed Yong points out, destroying “harmful” bacteria can ultimately cause chaos in the microbiome ecosystem.

A recent study from Augusta University brought more bad news:

Probiotics might possess incredible healing powers, but specificity matters. You can’t overload on any old bacteria and expect the results to only be positive. As science writer Ed Yong points out, destroying “harmful” bacteria can ultimately cause chaos in the microbiome ecosystem.

A recent study from Augusta University brought more bad news:

Probiotic use can result in a significant accumulation of bacteria in the small intestine that can result in disorienting brain fogginess as well as rapid, significant belly bloating, investigators report.

That study only involved 30 patients, so we should take those results with caution. Yet caution is the last thing companies mailing you home microbiome kits are displaying. A whole host of businesses promise to shed insight on your insides when you mail in a vial of your poop; the results have not been sound.

And yet, poop holds the key to understanding your insides. It just requires more extensive testing. The only therapeutic application regarding the microbiome that’s holding up, according to Yong, is fecal microbiota transplant—using someone else’s poop to colonize your colon, through a colonoscopy, enema, orogastric tube, or by ingesting freeze-dried poop in capsule form. While the gag reflex often follows the explanation, this therapy is being used to treat a variety of gastrointestinal disorders and even neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s.

Not all bacterial sets will treat every symptom, Yong continues; patients with the same illness will not be healed with the same poop. That’s because microbiome diversity is an essential component of individual health. Bacterial combinations have to be tailored to each patient. “These are not one-size-fits-all solutions. They will need to be personalized,” says Yong.

Personalized medicine is an important evolution in our understanding of treatment; it will require vigilant research and large populations to study. Some treatments really are universal, such as vitamin C treating scurvy. Yet when it comes to what’s inside of our guts, too many individual factors need to be considered: diet, genetics, environment, stress and fitness levels, just to begin with.

baby probiotics

The microbiome is one of the most fascinating areas of research despite so-called holistic companies capitalizing on an uncertain trend, which made this news raise a few eyebrows recently:

Scientists at Wake Forest School of Medicine have developed a probiotic “cocktail” derived from gut bacteria strains found in infant feces that may help increase the body’s ability to produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs).

Hariom Yadav, lead author and assistant professor of molecular medicine, notes that patients with diabetes, obesity, autoimmune disorders, and cancers often have low levels of SCFAs. He speculates that increasing these acids might improve their conditions, leading to better overall health.

Yadav also states that the over-the-counter variety of probiotics has deceived the public. Clinical research has only been conducted on animals and humans with diseases, not disease-free subjects. Buying supplements for general health and well-being is unfounded, with the research being inconsistent as to its actual benefit.

For this study, published in the Nature journal, Scientific Reports, Yadav’s team collected fecal samples from 34 healthy infants, totaling 321 diaper samples. They analyzed the best ten samples they collected, treating mice and human feces with the same cocktails in either single- or five-dose feedings.

While the study didn’t focus on any specific disease, Yadav was focused on the proliferation of SCFAs, observing if they could repopulate ecosystems. He felt confident in the results:

This work provides evidence that these human-origin probiotics could be exploited as biotherapeutic regimens for human diseases associated with gut microbiome imbalance and decreased SCFA production in the gut. Our data should be useful for future studies aimed at investigating the influence of probiotics on human microbiome, metabolism and associated diseases.

Given that we often don’t understand the chemistry inside many of the capsules we consume, freeze-dried poop might be the future of treatment, at least for certain diseases. While Yadav’s evidence is not conclusive—you might want to reconsider any solution by Gerber’s in the near future—the state of our guts continues to fascinate. And if a colony of bacteria proves helpful in treating some of our most deadly diseases, swallow away.

(For a video on Microbiome see the source of this article at: https://bigthink.com/21st-century-spirituality/baby-poop-capsules-coming-soon-to-a-pharmacy-near-you/)



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Credit: Arkady Mgdsyan/Youtube


For all its flaws, the Internet can be a source of wondrous things and one such curiosity has been a resurfacing video of a man passing his hand through molten metal without getting hurt. Some have dubbed him “the undying Russian” for the nonchalant way he seems to be interacting with a flow of steel that’s around 1370 degrees C (2500°F). Is the man some sort of magician or a yogi or can science explain this phenomenon?

Of course, science can. The man, who is actually not Russian, but an Armenian steel worker named Arkady Mgdsyan, is enjoying the benefits of the so-called Leidenfrost effect.

Mgdsyan learned of this effect from his co-workers, who have almost all pulled off this feat, their steel mill’s tradition. The trick is kind of a professional rite of passage.

Mgdsyan was quite apprehensive about trying to stick his hand in molten metal, even after watching others do it. In an interview, he explained the way to achieve this effect (although this is truly a “don’t try this at home” situation) –

“If you water your hand properly prior to touching the molten mass, the steam will protect your skin from being scorched for a brief moment,” he elaborated.

Indeed, the Leidenfrost effect phenomenon occurs when water touches a molten surface, with a much higher boiling point. At that moment, an insulating layer of steam is generated. This vapor layer, like a repulsive force, keeps that liquid from boiling too rapidly. So you can stick your wet hand in an out, like Mgdsyan.

There’s a fun segment from Mythbusters just about this phenomenon. See what happens as they stick fingers into the molten lead.

(For the videos visit: https://bigthink.com/paul-ratner/the-secret-of-the-undying-russian-who-can-pass-his-hand-through-molten-steel/)



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Residents of Dade county, Florida, use electronic voting machines to cast their votes at a local polling station 29 October 2004, in Coral Gables, Florida. (Photo credit ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)


It’s a time-honored tradition for companies and governments to hire hackers to see if they can get through security systems, software, and hardware. The reason? So that said systems can be improved, strengthened, and firmed up.

The State of Florida, among others, might need to hire an 11-year-old boy to work on that kind of thing; first, though, its representative organization, the National Association of Secretaries of State, got a little miffed that a bunch of people sat in a room and tried to hack its vote totals websites—or, more accurately, replicas thereof. The organization’s statement was quoted and commented on by Buzzfeed’s cybersecurity correspondent, Kevin Collier.

It all happened at the annual DEF CON gathering in Las Vegas, where a group of hackers was tasked with breaking into replicas of the Florida Secretary of State’s election totals reporting web page. Eleven-year-old Emmett Brewer, whose father has been at DEFCON four times and works in the cyber-security field, accomplished this in 10 minutes via a technique known as ‘SQL injection’.

The company that created the replicas, Wall of Sheep, noted in a statement that this is not unique to Florida. “The main issues with the live sites we are creating the replicas of are related to poor coding practices. They have popped up across the industry and are not vendor specific.”

Workshop at the Hacked By Def Con Press Preview during the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival at Spring Studios on April 15, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)
Workshop at the Hacked By Def Con Press Preview during the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival at Spring Studios on April 15, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)

Of the hundreds of adults and 47 children who participated in the “DEF CON Vote Hacking Village” events this week, fully 89% successfully hacked the systems.

“It’s actually kind of scary,” said Brewer. “People can easily hack into websites like these and they can probably do way more harmful things to these types of websites.”

The idea for the vote hack exercise was hatched by security company Wickr, which boasts clients such as banks, political parties, and non-profits around the world.

Wickr’s founder, Nico Sell, had some sobering words to say about why the company wanted to cover this in a workshop at DEF CON: “The really important reason why we’re doing this is because we’re not taking the problem serious enough how significantly someone can mess with our elections,” said Sell. “And by showing this with eight-year-old kids we can call attention to the problem in such a way that we can fix the system so our democracy isn’t ruined.”

If this is taken seriously, rather than brushed off as theater by those in charge of information technology at the 18 states that use code exactly like the pages that were hacked, then perhaps democracy has a chance in November and beyond.

(Source, and for a video, visit: https://bigthink.com/brandon-weber/did-11-year-old-kid-hack-the-florida-secretary-of-state-voting-website/)



7 most famous mythical places

by Mike Colagrossi –

Article ImageShangri-La concept art, Far Cry 4, Wikimedia Commons.

Throughout history, mankind has often been enthralled by stories of mythical places, cities, and paradises shrouded in secrets and lost to the sands of time. These legendary locations pervade all great cultural histories. Some have served as allegories for more prosperous and peaceful times, others as places to find and conquer!

While philosophers weaved tales about lost cities, ancients also dreamt of places that once gave rise to utopian golden ages. A journey through the history of these fabled lands has captivated many. Some people might even be inspired to believe in them all over again.

Here are the 7 most famous mythical places in the world.    

Artists depiction of Atlantis, Werner Brigette, Pixabay.


Unlike many stories whose appearance have been lost to the historical record, we know exactly when and who invented the story of Atlantis. The story was first told by Plato around 330 BCE, in two of his dialogues “Timaeus” and “Critias.” It’s been established that there was no record of Atlantis before these texts and that Plato created this place as a plot device in his stories.

The Sunken City of Atlantis was supposed to be an incredibly powerful civilization that was sophisticated, wealthy and founded by demigods. It was made up of many concentric islands with exotic plants and animals aplenty. He used these people as an example of what befalls a nation when they succumb to hubris.

Despite this story’s origin in pure fiction, many people over the millennia have sought out this mythical place. A lot of the speculations were inspired by a book written by a Minnesota politician, Ignatius L. Donnelly, in 1882. He believed that Plato considered Atlantis a real place. He went on to explain its histories and supposed rule over large swathes of the world, his theory being that all ancient civilizations descended from this one land.

The Last Sleep of Arthur, Wikimedia Commons. Supposedly, the background is Avalon. 


Glastonbury, a town in England, well known for its neo-pagan beliefs and local Arthurian legends was once thought of the location for the legendary, idyllic and lost paradise of Avalon. The first mention of Avalon was in 1136 through Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae. According to Arthurian legend, the island was ruled by Morgan le Fay, an enchantress who nursed King Arthur back to health after a battle.

The mystical land was sometimes referred to as the Island of Apples because it was supposedly covered in wild grapevines and apple forests. Its inhabitants were immortals as well. This was the place that the great sword Excalibur was forged. This magical place is where King Arthur was laid to rest and laid on a bed of gold.

Thomas Cole’s ‘The Arcadian’, Public domain. 


A couple of hundred years before Plato’s time, the Ancient Greeks imagined a place called Arcadia. This early vision utopia is also the name of a region in modern-day Greece. In ancient mythology, Arcadia was a pastoral back-to-nature place. The wilderness housed Pan, a woodlands God who resided with his nymphs and satyrs as his guards of a never-ending hedonistic paradise. This was a place where beings greater than humans ascended to and lived in prosperous delight for hundreds of years. It was an Eden where spirits and gods gallivanted in ecstasy and longevity.

Arcadia has remained a popular muse for artists from antiquities onwards. Virgil and Ovid set many of their poems in these primeval forests. Medieval European writers and Renaissance painters all tried to capture the spirit of this golden age land. Arcadia is the archetypical view of a place untouched by civilization where humans live as gods.

 Hessel Gerritsz from 1625, depicting the city of Manoa / El Dorado on the left of the lake.

El Dorado

Conquistadors riding through 16th century South America scoured the land for a mythical city of gold. El Dorado started out as a story about a king named “The Gilded One.” He was said to be a native king who powdered his body with gold and tossed ornate jewels into a lake as part of his coronation. These stories eventually would morph into a tale of a kingdom rather than an individual man.

The legends grew over the years as the Europeans spread and discovered more of South America. The golden city was a place of untold prestige and wealth, which captivated plenty of adventurers. El Dorado was said to be next to Lake Guatavita – a real space they’d eventually find. When explorers found the lake, they lowered the level of the water and found hundreds of gold pieces. But the fabled city remained out of their grasp until all swathes of South American land were eventually covered and the myth was no more.

Map of Lemuria according to William Scott-Elliott.


This hidden land was told through stories many ages before Atlantis. There are many origins to Lemuria, some occult writings, pseudo-histories and even scientific musings of a lost continent as well. Many texts from the east talk about a land called ‘Ra-Mu.’ In some sacred Tibetan texts, this land is also known as Muri or Lemuria.

Madame Blavatsky, a Russian occultist who co-founded the Theosophical society in 1875, wrote a thrilling fiction about this secret land. Blavatsky claims in her “The Secret Doctrine” text that Lemuria contained a third race of Lemurians, she also posited that Atlantis also existed. Her Lemurians were described as having four arms and a psychic eye on the back of their head, which they used to communicate with one another through telepathy. This is a definite favorite amongst occultists and esoteric conspiracists.

Far Cry 4 concept art, apparently of Shangri-La. 


Shambhala is a Sanskrit word that means “place of peace.” This is an ancient mythical paradise that predates Tibetan Buddhism. The name was first seen in the scriptures of Zhang Zhung in western Tibet. According to the legend, it’s a kind of heaven where only the purest can live in a place bountiful with love and wisdom. There is no old age or suffering here in this mythical kingdom.

Also known as Shangri-la, this place has been called by many names throughout the years. Sometimes called the Forbidden Land, Land of Radiant Spirits and Land of the Living Gods. Many westerners believed it to be a real place for some time, hidden deep within the Tibetan mountains. In Buddhist traditions it’s said to be ruled over by a future Buddha named Maitreya and when the world declines into abject war and degeneracy, a great war will come as the Shambhala Kings ride out to defeat “dark forces” It is after this time in which the world will be ushered into a new Golden Age.

Thule carta marina Olaus Magnus.jpg

Thule as Tile on the Carta Marina of 1539 by Olaus Magnus, where it is shown located to the north west of the Orkney islands – wikipedia.org


A place of intrigue for many explorers, poets, and even Nazi occultists, Thule was a territory that was said to be located in the frozen north near the Arctic. The tale dates back to 4th century BCE when a Greek explorer named Pytheas claimed to have traveled to an icy island north of Scotland.

Many of Pytheas’ fellow explorers doubted the validity of his claims, but the Thule legend would live on through the ages. Eventually, the original location was most likely a mistaken Norway or Iceland. The myth of the island is most famously connected to the Thule Society, a post World War I organization that believed Thule to be the ancestral home of an Aryan race.

(Source, and for a video, please visit: https://bigthink.com/mike-colagrossi/7-most-famous-mythical-places/)



Three-wheeled Polaris Slingshot gets a Grand Touring makeover

The Polaris Slingshot Grand Touring might even make other Slingshot owners take notice
The Polaris Slingshot Grand Touring might even make other Slingshot owners take notice.Even though it was first introduced four years ago, the three-wheeled Polaris Slingshot is still quite the attention-getter when spotted “in the wild.” Should you wish to stand out even more, however, you might want to pick up the just-announced Grand Touring model.

Specs-wise, the Slingshot Grand Touring is essentially the same beast as the SL version that we reviewed in 2016.

Tipping the scales at 1,749 lb (793 kg), it’s still powered by a 2.4-liter, inline 4-cylinder GM Ecotec engine coupled to a five-speed transmission. That engine produces 173 hp (127 kW) and 166 ft. lb. of torque (225 Nm), taking the vehicle to a claimed top speed of 130 mph (209 km/h).

So, what’s different about the Grand Touring?

The Polaris Slingshot Grand Touring has gullwing half-doors

Well, as you’ve no doubt already noticed in the photos, it’s got a roof. Called the Slingshade, the color-matched appendage incorporates two gullwing half-doors, allowing for unobstructed entry and exit. Adding to rider comfort are special quilted seats, and a taller-than-normal 9.5-inch (241-mm) clear wind deflector.

Inside, the 7-inch Ride Command Display multitouch infotainment system offers features such as turn-by-turn navigation, Bluetooth/USB smartphone connectivity, a 100-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system, and the output from a rear back-up camera.

The Polaris Slingshot Grand Touring's 7-inch Ride Command Display multitouch infotainment system offers features such as...

Rounding out the extra bits and bobs are a color-matched rear fender, and a “premium” Black Crystal/White Pearl metallic paint job.

Pricing for the Slingshot Grand Touring starts at US$29,499. You can see it in action – along with some of the other 2019 models – in the following video.

Source: Polaris  (For a video of the 2019 Polaris Slingshot click here: https://newatlas.com/polaris-slingshot-grand-touring/55838/)



Getting serious about plant intelligence

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Plants learn and remember (Pakorn worasang/immfocus studio/Big Think)

Monica Gagliano studies learning and memory in plants. She’s an “evolutionary ecologist” who performs behavioral experiments on plants that are adapted from studies of animal intelligence. Her work has convinced her that plants learn and have memories. Gagliano’s been cited in The New Yorker, and she spoke recently to radiolab. Her peer-reviewed conclusions are at times controversial, though specific criticisms of her methodologies have been sparse. In promoting her upcoming book, Thus Spoke the Plant, she gave a thought-provoking interview to Andréa Morris writing for Forbes in May 2018.

Gagliano admits it’s a field of study that not everyone takes seriously, and she’s weary of being lumped in with the group of 36 scientists who published a 2006 article announcing the birth of “plant neurobiology,” a provocative choice considering that plants don’t have neurons, at least in their usual sense. Gagliano says that rather than advance further research, their announcement impeded it, at least in part due to the intense objections it provoked that still resonate. As recently as 2013, cellular and molecular physiologist Clifford Slayman told Michael Pollan in the above-cited The New Yorker piece that plant neurobiology was, “the last serious confrontation between the scientific community and the nuthouse on these issues.”

For skeptics, the plant neurobiology article was likely just another bit of ridiculousness after the now-largely discredited 1973 book The Secret Life of Plants credited plants with consciousness — and psychic abilities. Daniel Chamovitz, author of What a Plant Knows says that 1973 book “stymied important research on plant behavior as scientists became wary of any studies that hinted at parallels between animal senses and plant senses.”

Another roadblock to what Gagliano calls “plant cognitive ecology” research is, she says, that, “Many plant biologists, especially physiologists, are actually very much into little molecules and little signals and this chemical does this and therefore the plant does this and on and on.” To the ecologist, “In a sense, there is no plant and environment. The plant and environment are one unit. For me, a plant isn’t an object, it’s always a subject that is interacting with other subjects in the environment. I had to learn. I just assumed that everyone would see things like this. But no.”

Fish-eye trees(Flickr user m01229)

Gagliano believes nonetheless that by being meticulous with her own methodology, and by being rigorously discriminating in her conclusions, she’s producing science that will eventually be validated. She finds the usual dismissiveness of the entire field maddeningly unscientific: “It’s counterproductive when a new field needs good, solid, strong, data-driven science. Instead, it dilutes, in a way, the impact that the science could have. It’s kind of unacceptable in any field, let alone a new field. So for me, what this field really needs is true vision and data — more experimental work.”

Studying plant “behavior”

While “behavior” may seem an odd word to use, the undisputed fact is that plants do respond to stimuli, albeit often very slowly over the course of hours, days, or weeks. This makes it easy to feel like nothing is going on with them. Still, as Pollan points out, “A race of aliens living in a radically sped-up dimension of time arrive on Earth and, unable to detect any movement in humans, come to the logical conclusion that we are “inert material” with which they may do as they please. The aliens proceed ruthlessly to exploit us.”

Plants do, however, sometimes move in a time frame we can perceive, as in Gagliano’s controversial study of Mimosa pudica — or “touch-me-not” — a plant whose leaves fold when touched or disturbed, the assumption being that it’s the plant’s response to insects that might pose a threat.

Mimosa folding gif

Mimosa pudica (Hrushikesh)

In Gagliano’s experiment, she dropped 56 potted mimosas from a height of 15 centimeters, causing their leaves to fold as expected. Looking to find out if they could “habituate” to the disturbance, she repeated the process 60 times, finding that even after four to six drops, the mimosas no longer responded. “By the end, they were completely open,” she said in presenting her research to other scientists. “They couldn’t care less anymore.”

To eliminate fatigue as the explanation, and to see if the plants could remember what they’d learned, Gagliano left the mimosas to recover, retesting them in a week and again 28 days later. She found that their leaves no longer responded to being dropped, suggesting that the plants did, in fact, remember their lessons of nearly a month earlier. Gagliano concluded that brains like ours and animals’ may not actually be required for learning, but rather that there’s “some unifying mechanism across living systems that can process information and learn.” The audience response to her presentation was divided.

A sessile lifestyle

There’s an important challenge that plants face which must be recognized and factored in: They’re “sessile,” rooted to the ground and, as Pollan puts it, a plant “has to find everything it needs, and has to defend itself, while remaining fixed in place.” He writes that plants, therefore, require an “extensive and nuanced understanding” of what’s around them to have a chance of surviving. “A highly developed sensory apparatus is required to locate food and identify threats.”

(For the balance of this article please visit: https://bigthink.com/robby-berman/getting-serious-about-plant-intelligence/)



150 Santas Gather In Denmark For Annual Congress

Some Santas came from as far away as Japan.


COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Braving Europe’s heatwave, more than 150 Santas from around the world donned their heavy suits and full beards at their annual conference in Denmark.

As the 61st World Santa Claus Congress kicked off in Copenhagen, many of the delegates – from countries as far away as Japan and the United States – took a paddle in the sea, to the amusement of local bathers.

The three-day event will see the Santas visit the Little Mermaid statue during a parade and go head to head in the Santa Obstacle Course World Championships.

“Normally us Santas work alone,” said Santa Ian Tom, 67, from Scotland, who is attending his sixth congress this year.

“This is like a big family. But a family you get on with.”

For Santa Douglas, 60, from Washington D.C., attending his twelfth convention, it’s the international feel of the event that keeps luring him back.

“It’s interesting how when meeting others their culture starts to rub off on you and yours on them. For example, a lot of the Santa suits now are not the traditional gray Danish one. They’ve gone more American, which in a way is a shame.”

(For the source of this article, and to see a video of the marching Santas, visit: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/santa-congress-denmark_us_5b57ada9e4b0b15aba934af4/)




Tiny electric car stretches to take on more passengers

The iEV X can go from 160 to 220 cm in length
The iEV X can go from 160 to 220 cm in length (Credit: iEV)
We’ve already seen single-seat electric cars, the tiny size of which makes them ideal for maneuvering through congested urban environments. However, what happens when you want to carry a second passenger? In the case of the iEV X, the car just gets longer. Currently in functioning prototype form, the German-made iEV (Intelligent Electric Vehicle) X is just 78 cm wide (30.7 inches), and 160 cm long (63 inches) in single-passenger mode. When users want to bring someone else along, the car can be electrically lengthened to 190 cm (74.8 inches), allowing a folded second seat to pop up behind the driver’s. If they want to take on some extra cargo, the car can be further lengthened to 220 cm (86.6 inches).

The sides of the vehicle remain open when it’s extended.

The iEV X is currently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign

Plans call for the 115-kg (254-lb) base model to be powered by a 48-volt lithium-ion battery pack, which should be good for a range of up to 60 km (37 miles) per 3-hour plug-in charge. A 40-watt rooftop solar panel will help charge the battery while the car is parked. The top speed is 45 km/h (28 mph).

The fancier 145-kg (320-lb) iEV X+ model should feature a higher-capacity 72-volt battery, a range of up to 120 km (75 miles), a 60-watt solar panel, and a top speed of 60 km/h (37 mph). Plans also call for an optional automatic robotic charging system, and even a pedal system to help boost battery range.

Depending on the model, the iEV X will have a top speed of either 45 or...

Additional features of both models should include power-retractible side mirrors, a wide-angle rearview camera, a 7-inch touchscreen display, a full LED lighting system, and a steel chassis with aluminum body panels.

Should you be interested in getting an iEV X, it’s currently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign. If it reaches production, an early bird pledge of €1,850 (about US$2,144) will get you the base model, with €7,850 ($9,098) required for the iEV X+. Sources: Kickstarter, iEV.

(For sources, and for a video, see: https://newatlas.com/iev-x-electric-car/55793/)



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A legendary mystery gets explained at last. Maybe. (pingebat/Big Think)


If it seems that it was just about a year ago that scientists finally figured out the mystery behind the Bermuda Triangle, it was. The culprits behind the legendary disappearances of ships and planes were said to be powerful hexagonal cloud formations. Except that now, a team led by Simon Boxall, an oceanographer from the Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton at the University of Southampton, claims to have finally finally solved the riddle, and it’s not clouds. It’s ginormous rogue waves, a legendary maritime phenomenon all their own.

Monsters of the deep

Until the so-called 18.5-meter — that’s nearly 61 feet high — Draupner wave was observed, via satellite, on New Year’s Day in 1995, it wasn’t entirely certain that rogue waves weren’t just the stuff of maritime legend. These monsters are terrifying anomalies: Unpredictable massive walls of water coursing across the ocean, capable of wiping out most anything they happen to encounter.

According to site Freak Waves, rogue waves can have a force as powerful as 100 metric tons per square meter. For a sense of scale, a normal 12-meter wave produces about 6 metric tons of force. Ships are built to withstand about 15 metric tons per square meter. And the Draupner wave was nothing compared to other reported waves, such as the pair that injured 50 passengers a month later when the Queen Elizabeth II ran into them in North Atlantic bad weather. One, at least, was estimated to be about 95 feet high.

“At 0410 the rogue wave was sighted right ahead, looming out of the darkness from 220°, it looked as though the ship was heading straight for the white cliffs of Dover. The wave seemed to take ages to arrive but it was probably less than a minute before it broke with tremendous force over the bow. An incredible shudder went through the ship, followed a few minutes later by two smaller shudders. There seemed to be two waves in succession as the ship fell into the ‘hole’ behind the first one. The second wave of 28-29 m (period 13 seconds), whilst breaking, crashed over the foredeck, carrying away the forward whistle mast.” — Captain of the QE II

What’s this got to do with the Bermuda Triangle?

Simulated terror

One of the earliest ships to have disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle was the USS Cyclops, which disappeared en route from the West Indies to Baltimore in 1918. At 550 feet long, it was the largest ship in the U.S. Navy at the time, and not a trace of it was ever found. It was carrying manganese ore and had a crew of 309. Its last message before vanishing was “Weather Fair, All Well.”

USS Cyclops

USS Cyclops (wikimedia)


Numerous theories have been put forward over the years about what happened to the ship, including the possibility that it was an unacknowledged casualty of World War I, which had begun a year before its voyage.

Boxall’s team suspected the Cyclops was lost to a rogue wave and built an indoor simulation to demonstrate who it might have happened. Says Boxall, “If you can imagine a rogue wave with peaks at either end, there’s nothing below the boat, so it snaps in two. If it happens, it can sink in two to three minutes.” Other experts, such as Marvin W. Barrash, author of the book USS Cyclops, agree. Barrash told Forces.net, “She had a flat bottom, she rolled quite easily, and on one day she rolled approximately 50 degrees one way, and in the high forties the other way.”

Cyclops’ sister ships, Proteus and Nereus, also disappeared in the area, and they were also flat-bottomed.

Lovely weather for an aquatic behemoth

Boxall’s conclusion that rogue waves were behind other disappearances in the Triangle has to do in part with the area’s weather conditions being favorable to such monsters. Speaking on the UK’s Channel 5 program “The Bermuda Triangle Enigma,” Boxall notes that the Triangle’s climate is about right: “There are storms to the South and North, which come together… we’ve measured waves in excess of 30 meters. The bigger the boat gets, the more damage is done. And if there are additional ones from Florida, it can be a potentially deadly formation of rogue waves.”

Having said all that, is the Bermuda Triangle really real?

It depends on who you ask. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, that’s a “nope”:

The Coast Guard does not recognize the existence of the so-called Bermuda Triangle as a geographic area of specific hazard to ships or planes. In a review of many aircraft and vessel losses in the area over the years, there has been nothing discovered that would indicate that casualties were the result of anything other than physical causes. No extraordinary factors have ever been identified.

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, agrees, saying:

Environmental considerations could explain many, if not most, of the disappearances. The majority of Atlantic tropical storms and hurricanes pass through the Bermuda Triangle, and in the days prior to improved weather forecasting, these dangerous storms claimed many ships. Also, the Gulf Stream can cause rapid, sometimes violent, changes in weather. Additionally, the large number of islands in the Caribbean Sea creates many areas of shallow water that can be treacherous to ship navigation.

NOAA does concede that “there is some evidence to suggest that the Bermuda Triangle is a place where a ‘magnetic’ compass sometimes points towards ‘true’ north, as opposed to ‘magnetic’ north.



Still, NOAA finds, “The U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard contend that there are no supernatural explanations for disasters at sea. Their experience suggests that the combined forces of nature and human fallibility outdo even the most incredulous science fiction.”

As science writer, Dr. Karl Kruszelnicki told News.com, “the number of planes that go missing in the Bermuda Triangle is the same as anywhere in the world on a percentage basis.”

This won’t, of course, convince every Bermuda Triangle believer, such as the Reddit member who posted in response to Boxall’s theory, “But that doesn’t explain the airplanes that went missing in the area…” Says another, “Flown over it a few times. Very disappointed that I’m still alive.”

(Source, and for photo’s of Boxall’s simulation, visit: https://bigthink.com/robby-berman/the-bermuda-triangle-mystery-is-solved-again/)



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President Trump was almost universally panned for the press conference that followed the meeting with Russia’s President Putin in Helsinki, Finland. Trump was seen as capitulating to Russia by refusing to confront Putin on the issue of past and present interference in American elections. In fact, the American president seemed to be saying he doesn’t support the findings of his own intelligence agencies and instead prefers to take the Russian leader at his word. Even if he’s changed his tune under the backlash.

Whether you believe Putin really has some kind of compromising material to make Trump do his bidding or if Trump is simply being nice to people who partially helped get him elected, or if you somehow still think, despite ample evidence to the contrary, that all this is much ado about nothing, the fact is President Putin is a very experienced former KGB officer. He has both the know-how and the intelligence to carry out very far-sighted and ingenious operations. We don’t know his endgame and neither do we know how much of his KGB training he still employs, but in light of current events, there may be a way for us to get a deeper understanding by studying the words of Yuri Alexandrovich Bezmenov, a former KGB agent who defected to Canada in 1970.

In 1984, Bezmenov gave an interview to G. Edward Griffin from which much can be learned today. His most chilling point was that there’s a long-term plan put in play by Russia to defeat America through psychological warfare and “demoralization”. It’s a long game that takes decades to achieve but it may already be bearing fruit.

Bezmenov made the point that the work of the KGB mainly does not involve espionage, despite what our popular culture may tell us. Most of the work, 85% of it, was “a slow process which we call either ideological subversion, active measures, or psychological warfare.”

What does that mean? Bezmenov explained that the most striking thing about ideological subversion is that it happens in the open as a legitimate process. “You can see it with your own eyes,” he said. The American media would be able to see it, if it just focused on it.

Here’s how he further defined ideological subversion:

“What it basically means is: to change the perception of reality of every American to such an extent that despite of the abundance of information no one is able to come to sensible conclusions in the interest of defending themselves, their families, their community, and their country.” 

Bezmenov described this process as “a great brainwashing” which has four basic stages. The first stage is called “demoralization” which takes from 15 to 20 years to achieve. According to the former KGB agent, that is the minimum number of years it takes to re-educate one generation of students that is normally exposed to the ideology of its country. In other words, the time it takes to change what the people are thinking.

He used the examples of 1960s hippies coming to positions of power in the ’80s in the government and businesses of America. Bezmenov claimed this generation was already “contaminated” by Marxist-Leninist values. Of course, this claim that many baby boomers are somehow espousing KGB-tainted ideas is hard to believe but Bezmenov’s larger point addressed why people who have been gradually “demoralized” are unable to understand that this has happened to them.

Referring to such people, Bezmenov said:

“They are programmed to think and react to certain stimuli in a certain pattern [alluding to Pavlov]. You can not change their mind even if you expose them to authentic information. Even if you prove that white is white and black is black, you still can not change the basic perception and the logic of behavior.”

Demoralization is a process that is “irreversible”. Bezmenov actually thought (back in 1984) that the process of demoralizing America was already completed. It would take another generation and another couple of decades to get the people to think differently and return to their patriotic American values, claimed the agent.  

Vladimir Putin in a KGB uniform around 1980

In what is perhaps a most striking passage in the interview, here’s how Bezmenov described the state of a “demoralized” person:

“As I mentioned before, exposure to true information does not matter anymore,” said Bezmenov. “A person who was demoralized is unable to assess true information. The facts tell nothing to him. Even if I shower him with information, with authentic proof, with documents, with pictures; even if I take him by force to the Soviet Union and show him [a] concentration camp, he will refuse to believe it, until he [receives] a kick in his fan-bottom. When a military boot crashes his balls then he will understand. But not before that. That’s the [tragedy] of the situation of demoralization.”

It’s hard not to see in that the state of many modern Americans. We have become a society of polarized tribes, with some people flat out rejecting facts in favor of narratives and opinions.

Once demoralization is completed, the second stage of ideological brainwashing is “destabilization”. During this two-to-five-year period, asserted Bezmenov, what matters is the targeting of essential structural elements of a nation: economy, foreign relations, and defense systems. Basically, the subverter (Russia) would look to destabilize every one of those areas in the United States, considerably weakening it.

The third stage would be “crisis”. It would take only up to six weeks to send a country into crisis, explained Bezmenov. The crisis would bring “a violent change of power, structure, and economy” and will be followed by the last stage, “normalization.” That’s when your country is basically taken over, living under a new ideology and reality.

This will happen to America unless it gets rid of people who will bring it to a crisis, warned Bezmenov. What’s more “if people will fail to grasp the impending danger of that development, nothing ever can help [the] United States,” adding, “You may kiss goodbye to your freedom.”

It bears saying that when he made this statement, he was warning about baby boomers and Democrats of the time.

In another, somewhat terrifying excerpt, here’s what Bezmenov had to say about what is really happening in the United States. It may think it is living in peace, but it has been actively at war with Russia. And for some time:

“Most of the American politicians, media, and educational system trains another generation of people who think they are living at the peacetime,” said the former KGB agent. ”False. United States is in a state of war: undeclared, total war against the basic principles and foundations of this system.”

Whether you think that is true may depend on your politics, but the reality of Russian active measures, as has been outlined in the recent indictments by the special counselor Robert Mueller, give Bezmenov’s words new urgency.

(Source site, and you can watch the full interview by visiting: https://bigthink.com/paul-ratner/34-years-ago-a-kgb-defector-described-america-today/)



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Say you’re engrossed in a task, scrolling through your phone or reading a book. Suddenly that creepy, prickly feeling grabs hold of you. Someone’s staring. You turn to find out who it is. Be they friend or foe, the feeling itself seems like an eerie sort of 6th sense. It’s also a necessary part of being human, an adaptation that kept our ancestors alive. So how is it that we can even do this? It’s actually an important feature of our sight, our brain, and certain social aspects of our species.

The biological phenomenon is known as “gaze detection” or “gaze perception.” Neurological studies have found that the brain cells which initiate this response are very precise. If someone turns their gaze off of you by turning just a few degrees to their left or right, that eerie feeling quickly fades. Scientists suggest that a complex neural network is behind gaze detection.

So far, the neural network responsible in humans remains unidentified. A study with macaque monkeys however, discovered the neurological circuits responsible for their gaze detection, even getting down to the specific cells involved.

We do know that ten distinct brain regions are involved with human sight, and there may be more. The visual cortex is the main contributor. This is a large area at the back of the brain, which supports many important aspects of sight. But other areas, such as the amygdala, which registers threats, must also be involved with gaze detection somehow.

Humans are sensitive to the gaze of others. When another person changes the direction of their attention, we automatically follow their gaze. It’s more than just being predators, who as a group are naturally sensitive and drawn toward changes in the environment. It also has to do with the cooperative and social nature of humans and how we’ve depended on one another throughout our history and development.

The visual cortex. By Coxer, Wikimedia Commons.

Another reason, if you look at human eyes in contrast to other animals, the sclera or white part surrounding the pupil is far larger. In most other species, the pupil takes up most of the eye. This is to obscure their eyes from predators. But for humans, a larger sclera allows us to notice the direction of each other’s gaze quickly.

Of course, we don’t have to be looking directly at someone to tell whether or not they’re staring at us. We can also evaluate the direction of their attention through our peripheral vision. But this method is much less accurate. A pair of studies finds that we can only accurately detect whether or not someone is staring at us within four degrees of our “central fixation point.”

It isn’t always about seeing another’s eyes. With our peripheral vision, we consider the position of their head. And other clues, such as how their body is positioned, lend to whether we think they’re looking at us or not. What if we’re not sure? Just to be safe, the brain errs on the side of caution. It assumes we’re being stared at, if there’s any doubt.

So what about when we feel someone staring from behind? According to a 2013 study published in the journal Current Biology, that’s just a fail-safe. Humans are hardwired to think that someone is starting at us when we can’t see them, even if we have no evidence to suggest so.

We’re hardwired to assume someone is staring from behind. Getty Images.

Psychology Professor Colin Clifford of the University of Sydney’s Vision Centre, found that when people can’t tell where a person is looking, they automatically assume they’re looking at them. “A direct gaze can signal dominance or a threat, and if you perceive something as a threat, you would not want to miss it,” he said. “So simply assuming another person is looking at you may be the safest strategy.”

Looking at someone is also a social cue. It usually means you want to talk to them. Since it’s our natural inclination to assume someone behind us is staring, the feeling we get may initiate a self-fulfilling prophecy. When we turn around, our action calls up the other person’s gaze. But when they meet our eyes, they give us the impression that they’ve been staring the whole time.

Another answer could be confirmation bias. We remember only the times we turned around and someone was staring (or appeared to be), and not the times they weren’t. And that weird, tingly sensation? It’s psychological and emanates from the thought of being stared at, not the physical act itself.

(For the balance of this article please visit: https://bigthink.com/philip-perry/why-is-it-you-can-sense-when-someones-staring-at-you/)



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In country morphology, rectangularity and rotundity are not entirely mutually exclusive.





Take look at a map of Turkey and you’ll have to agree: it’s a curiously box-shaped country. Why is the wrong question. Like most international borders, Turkey’s are the result of geopolitical accident, not of aesthetic or geometric design. A more pertinent query: How rectangular is Turkey? Is it, perhaps, the most rectangular country in the world?

To answer that question, you’d have to find a dataset that minutely describes the borders of all countries on Earth and devise an algorithm that compares each country’s shape to an optimum rectangle with the same area.

That’s exactly what Australian geo-statistician David Barry did. His conclusion: Turkey is only the 15th most rectangular country in the world. The winner: Egypt.

Inevitably, one esoteric geographical question led to its opposite: What is the roundest country in the world? That one was answered by Gonzalo Ciruelos, an Argentinian mathematician. The top of that ranking is Sierra Leone.

As the winners in both categories indicate, Africa is a country of great diversity in geopolitical morphology. But the most curious country in either ranking is… the Vatican. As it turns out, the Papal State is both the 4th roundest and the 2nd most rectangular country in the world. How is that possible?

First, let’s have a closer look at the results. In Mr Barry’s definition, ‘optimum rectangularity’ is the maximum percentage overlap of a country with a rectangle of the same area.

He’s the first to admit that his algorithm may be inadequate for some countries with complex shapes (“Italy looks like the biggest country that might be wrong”), scattered geographies (e.g. Norway, because it includes Bouvet Island, a Norwegian dependency located between South Africa and Antarctica, freakishly far from the motherland) or locations on either side of the 180° longitude meridian (New Zealand, United States, Russia).

Also, the Natural Earth database includes small dependencies such as Scarborough Reef (1) as separate entries, which somewhat distorts a per-country ranking. Still, here goes:

Cutting through empty deserts, Egypt’s western and southern borders are completely straight—the Bir Tawil Trapezoid (2) is a notable but statistically insignificant exception. Combined with a fairly straight Mediterranean coastline in the north and its only slightly slanted Red Sea shore in the east, Egypt gets a ‘rectangularity’ score of 0.955 (out of 1), and the first place.

The Vatican’s actual borders are a lot more varied than this boxy rendition—perhaps because the database wasn’t built to reflect the delineation of the world’s smallest state in the greatest possible detail. That may explain why the geopolitical headquarters of the Catholic church manages to rank second in this list.

(For the balance of this interesting article please visit: https://bigthink.com/strange-maps/sierra-leone-is-the-worlds-roundest-country-and-egypt-the-squarest-one/)



The first space nation, Asgardia, is accepting applications for citizenship. But is it a hoax?

by Evan Fleischer –

The flag of Asgardia, Wikimedia Commons

If you believe that the technology to live in space will be available to you within your lifetime; if you agree with the political philosophy outlined by the ‘World Passport’; if you find yourself in China, India, the U.S., Indonesia, or Brazil with a hankering to take to the stars, then perhaps you should consider becoming a citizen of Asgardia, an organization that hopes to be the first ‘country in space.’

What do you need to do to become a citizen of Asgardia?

Read the Asgardian Constitution. If you agree with it, then you can apply.

Where is Asgardia located?

Stubenring 2/8-9, 1010 Wien, Austria.

How big is Asgardia?

They currently claim around 200,000 citizens — many of them Russian.

Where will Asgardia be eventually?

Asgardia seeks to live in space stations circling the earth and on a moon base, perhaps in the next twenty-five years. There are no current designs for the space stations or moon base at this time.

An artist’s depiction of Asgardia. Flickr user CarlosR38.

That’s it? All I need to become a citizen of Asgardia is to read something and then apply?

Once you join — and they are accepting applications — they ask for your information: where you live, your education, the best way to contact you, and that’s pretty much it.

The Independent has reported that Asgardia might consider an IQ test for prospective citizens, but the potential of citizens having to take an IQ test sets up a decent (and relevant) follow-up question.

Is this all a scam?

There’s not an implausible chance. Outsiders being offered IQ tests and then being told that they either have ‘just the intelligence’ needed for a ‘special project’ or that there’s something wrong with them that only someone else can fix — as Scientology has done for years — sounds like a scam.

The website Stop Fake — a collection of Ukranian journalists seeking to point out Russian propaganda — notes that Asgardia “encourages people to buy shares in its joint stock company, Asgardia AG” and invest in their own cryptocurrency.

There’s also a not implausible chance that this might also be a Russian thing.

(For the balance of this story please see: https://bigthink.com/evan-fleischer/the-first-space-nation-asgardia-is-accepting-applications-for-citizenship-but-is-it-a-hoax/)




Michio Kaku: Let’s not advertise our existence to aliens

Michio Kaku – Theoretical Physicist, Author, and Science Educator Professor of Theoretical Physics, CUNY.

If advanced alien civilizations do exist, theoretical physicist Michio Kaku asks, why would they want anything to do with us? It would be like an academic talking to a squirrel, he suggests, and he has a great point. Hollywood and science fiction novels have conditioned us for years to believe that aliens either want to hang out on our intellectual level and learn from us… or destroy us. If alien life really does have the technology and know-how to make it all the way here, perhaps we should just play it cool and not assume that we are the top species in the universe. Besides, if we play our cards wrong and go all Will Smith in Independence Day on our smart new neighbors, it could be the end of us. Mankind’s biggest folly, Kaku suggests, might just be in its insistence that we are an exceptional species. Michio Kaku’s latest book is the wonderful and enlightening The Future of Humanity: Terraforming Mars, Interstellar Travel, Immortality, and Out Destiny Beyond Earth.

February 25, 2018

Michio Kaku: We have this mental image that a flying saucer will circle the White House lawn, land on the White House lawn and give us a bounty of all sorts of technological goodies to initiate an age of Aquarius on the planet earth. Personally, I don’t think that’s going to happen. For example, if you’re in the forest do you go out and talk to the squirrels and the deer? Maybe you do for a while, but after a while, you get bored because they don’t talk back to you because they have nothing interesting to tell you because they can’t relate to our values and our ideas.

If you go down to an anthill do you go down to the ants and say I bring you trinkets; I bring you bees; take me to your aunt queen; I give you nuclear energy. So I think for the most part the aliens are probably not going to be interested in us because we’re so arrogant to believe that we have something to offer them. Realize that they could be thousands, maybe millions of years ahead of us in technology and they may have no interest in interacting with us in the same way that we don’t necessarily want to deal with the squirrels and the deer in the forest.

Now some people say that we should not try to make contact with them because they could be potentially dangerous. For the most part, I think they’re going to be peaceful because they’ll be thousands of years ahead of us, but we cannot take the chance. So I personally believe that we should not try to advertise our existence to alien life in outer space because of the fact that we don’t know their intentions.

Then the other question is what happens if they’re evil? Well, I think the question of evil is actually a relative question because the real danger to a deer in the forest is not the hunter with a gigantic rifle; he’s not the main danger to a deer in the forest. The main danger to a deer in the forest is the developer; the guy with blueprints; the guy in a three-piece suit; the guy with a slide rule and calculator; the guy that’s going to pave the forest and perhaps destroy whole ecosystems.

In other words, the aliens don’t have to be evil in order to be dangerous to us, they might not care, they just might not care about us and in the process pave us over. In fact, if you read the novel War of the Worlds the Martians in HG Wells seminal novel were not evil in the sense they wanted to torture us and they wanted to do all sorts of barbaric things to humanity. No, we were just in the way. And so I think that is a potential problem. We could be in the way of a very advanced civilization that simply is not evil but simply views us as we would view squirrels and deer in the forest.

So personally I think that we should not advertise our existence when we go into outer space. For the most part, however, I do think they are going to be peaceful, they’re not going to want to plunder the earth because there are plenty of planets out there that have nobody on them that they can plunder at will without having to worry about restive natives called humanity. And so I think they’re not going to come to visit the earth to plunder us, to do all sorts of mischief. For the most part, I think they’ll just leave us alone.

(Source: https://bigthink.com/videos/michio-kaku-michio-kaku-lets-not-advertise-our-existence-to-aliens/)




Doctors Grow Replacement Ear Inside Patient’s Arm

The ear, grown to replace one lost in a car crash, will have functional blood vessels and nerve endings.




Aston Martin’s flying taxi concept envisages luxurious inter-city travel




Yes, it’s street legal – a closer look at the Aston Martin Valkyrie

The bespoke AM-RB001 Valkyrie became one of the most talked about cars in the world when Aston Martin and Red Bull announced it in Melbourne last year, and the hype hasn’t faded in the intervening 18 months. We’ve now been given a detailed look at the road-legal version of the Valkyrie, complete with unbelievably intricate underbody aerodynamics and a stunning, pared-back interior.

We can’t quite believe it either, but apparently the stunning slice of British design and engineering you see here will be road legal. Imagine seeing one sitting at the traffic lights, rubbing shoulders with mundane hatchbacks and hulking four-wheel drives. Most journos scoffed when Aston said the Valkyrie, known as the AM-RB001 at that point, would be an LMP1 car for the road, but this is one case where we’re sure they’re very happy to be proven wrong.

The underbody of the Valkyrie is designed to channel air through the rear diffuser

Red Bull Racing aerodynamicist Adrian Newey is responsible for the insane underbody setup, designed to draw as much air as possible over the shapely carbon fiber diffuser through twin venturi tunnels. Newey actually told New Atlas the car debuts technology and aerodynamic devices deemed too radical for the (frustratingly restrictive) F1 rule makers.

The unique underbody aerodynamics bring a number of advantages. Aston Martin says the car develops more than 1.8 tons of downforce at high speed, so the system clearly works, but it also makes for a fascinating profile. There are a lot of interesting cutouts and shapes lurking under the smooth bodywork, but the top of the car is unmistakably an Aston. The pairing of Newey and Marek Reichman, Head Designer at Aston Martin, is one we’d love to see more of in future.

The single wiper on the Valkyrie is a rare nod to road-car normality

The body cleverness extends beyond the underbody, with some beautifully nerdy solutions for saving weight. The headlamps use an anodized aluminum frame to shave between 30 and 40 percent from the lightest headlight assembly used in current Aston Martins, and the high-mounted central rear light is the world’s lightest. Meanwhile, the badge is just 70 microns thick – making it 30 percent thinner than a human hair.

This fanatical gram-shedding continues inside as well, where the luxurious detailing from the DB11 and Vanquish has been replaced with a pared-back look. The seats are mounted directly to the carbon tub, and four-point harnesses are standard. Aston says the feet-up driving position is reminiscent of modern Le Mans and F1 racers.

Anything that could distract from driving (very quickly) has been stripped from the dash, leaving three screens and a detachable steering wheel festooned with buttons. Crucial info about the car is displayed on the large OLED screen behind the wheel, while the compact units on the A-pillars are there in place of conventional rear-view mirrors.

The seats in the Valkyrie are fixed to the carbon tub

It’s nice to see rear-view cameras and screens make the jump from concept to reality, where they offer all-weather visibility and neat aerodynamics that a regular mirror can’t. There’s even room for taller drivers in the cabin, with Aston Martin saying people in the 98th percentile for height can squeeze in.

(For more photos and the balance of this article please see: https://newatlas.com/aston-martin-valkyrie-hypercar-interior/50444/)




TMC Dumont sits 36-inch hubless rims either side of a roaring aircraft engine

The TMC Dumont's 36-inch rims make it look like a rolling pair of spectacles –and a...
The TMC Dumont’s 36-inch rims make it look like a rolling pair of spectacles – and a spectacle it certainly is.


Impractical? Sure! Vulgar? Most certainly. Unique? In every sense. This staggering custom motorcycle uses the biggest pair of hubless wheels we’ve ever seen, as well as placing the rider astride a snarling, 300-horsepower Rolls-Royce aircraft engine. Live in fear – of corners, if nothing else.

The TMC Dumont is the work of Brazilian ex-Formula One driver and champion motorcycle custom builder Tarso Marques. Its name is a tip of the hat to Brazilian aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont, who Brazilians believe got an airplane aloft before America’s Wright Brothers.

Hence the aircraft engine – a monstrous Continental flat six from the Rolls-Royce aircraft company that was lifted from a 60’s-era aircraft and polished within an inch of its life.

Three hundred horsepower (224 kW) is a heck of a lot for a motorcycle, and it’s even madder when you look at the bike’s signature feature: gargantuan, hubless 36-inch wheels that sit high enough to block the rider’s view, and connect to underslung swingarms by the flimsiest of connections.

(To see a video of this bizarre contraption on the road visit: https://newatlas.com/tmc-dumont-giant-hubless-rims/55471/)



Texas residents plant trees in potholes to protest poor street conditions

by Angel San Juan, KFDM Staff

Photo: KFDM Staff

PORT ARTHUR, Texas (KFDM) — Some Port Arthur residents are planting trees in potholes to protest the poor condition of their street.

Several neighbors say when it comes to the condition of their street, they feel neglected.

There are three big potholes that make driving difficult and damaging to cars as well as dangerous to drivers.

The holes are so deep that residents planted small trees in them.

One neighbor said it was to alert drivers about the potholes.

Another says the pothole plants are a message to city hall.

KFDM reached out to several city officials for a response to the potholes, including the public works director, the city manager and even the mayor.

We left messages, but have not heard back.

We did reach Councilman Thomas Kinlaw who represents that area.

Kinlaw told KFDM that he would have the public works director call us.

KFDM/Fox 4’s Angel San Juan has the report.

(For more information visit: kfdm.com/news/local/port-arthur-residents-plant-trees-in-potholes-to-protest-poor-street-conditions/)



Opener launches BlackFly fixed-wing VTOL flying car that doesn’t require a license

BlckFly is a single-seater electric VTOL aircraft

BlackFly is a single-seater electric VTOL aircraft (Credit: Opener)

Canadian-based aviation firm Opener Inc. has unveiled its new BlackFly single-seater aircraft, which it bills as a Personal Aerial Vehicle (PAV) and the world’s first ultralight all-electric fixed-wing Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) aircraft. The fully-amphibious drop-shaped flyer with fore and aft wings sporting eight electric motors has a range of 25 mi (40 km) and a top speed of 62 mph (100 km/h).

According to Opener, the BlackFly is “designed and built for a new world of three-dimensional transportation.” Due to its limited capabilities, the company says that it is easy to operate and can be flown in the United States from small grassy areas without formal training or FAA licensing.
The BlackFly is the result of nine years of development with over 1,000 test flights and boasts triple modular redundancy for greater safety, as well as an optional ballistic parachute. The company claims that it charges in under 30 minutes, has a low-noise signature, is geo-fence capable, and even has an Automatic Return-to-Home button.
Opener says that though the present version is somewhat limited, it hopes that it will one day lead to rural/urban commuting networks powered by renewable energy sources.

“Opener is re-energizing the art of flight with a safe and affordable flying vehicle that can free its operators from the everyday restrictions of ground transportation,” says Marcus Leng, CEO. “We will offer competitive pricing in an endeavor to democratize three-dimensional personal transportation. Safety has been our primary driving goal in the development of this new technology. Opener will be introducing this innovation in a controlled and responsible manner. Even though not required by FAA regulations, BlackFly operators will be required to successfully complete the FAA Private Pilot written examination and also complete company-mandated vehicle familiarization and operator training.”

(To view the complete article, plus a video, please go to: https://newatlas.com/blackfly-vtol-aircraft/55445/)



Student designs and builds underwater jetpack, aims to start production in 2019




Inexpensive houses could be 3D-printed from peat



CanguRo smart scooter can follow you around or take you for a ride

The CanguRo personal assistant/smart scooter can follow its user around or provide a motor-driven ride

The CanguRo personal assistant/smart scooter can follow its user around or provide a motor-driven ride (Credit: Yusuke Nishibe).

Folks looking for a last mile transport solution have choice-a-plenty nowadays, but the CanguRo offers more than just a comfy ride. The RidRoid robot – a mash up of ride and android – has some useful smarts cooked in, being able to follow its user around between rides, or make its way to a meeting point on its own.

Developed by Shunji Yamanaka at Chiba Institute of Technology’s Future Robot Technology Research Center (fuRo) in Japan, the CanguRo is designed to be a follow-me personal assistant and (slow poke) people mover. In the former mode, it’s 550 mm (21.6 in) long and uses artificial intelligence smarts known as scanSLAM to generate 3D maps using data from sensors and estimate its own location within that space.

That sensor array includes 3D LiDAR, a wide angle camera and distance sensor. It runs on fuRo’s own robot operating system, and can automatically follow its user around or be wirelessly controlled from a tablet or smartphone. And it can be automatically sent to a specific location, to meet its user after a meeting perhaps.

The CanguRo can also transform into a scooter-like transporter, raising the seat and lengthening the ride to 750 mm (29.5 in). It rolls courtesy of in-wheel brushless motors to the 12-inch wheels at the front and steers via the 10-inch chunky rear wheel. A top speed of 10 km/h (6 mph) and 0.93 Nm of torque isn’t going to win any races, but should get its rider to the lecture hall or board room in a relaxed state.

(For the balance of this article please visit: https://newatlas.com/ridroid-canguro/55328/)



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We’re all one mind in “idealism.” (Alex Grey)

There’s a reason they call it the “hard problem.

Consciousness: Where is it? What is it? No one single perspective seems to be able to answer all the questions we have about consciousness. Now Bernardo Kastrup thinks he’s found one. He calls his ontology idealism, and according to idealism, all of us and all we perceive are manifestations of something very much like a cosmic-scale dissociative identity disorder (DID). He suggests there’s an all-encompassing universe-wide consciousness, it has multiple personalities, and we’re them.

Kastrup’s paper is an attempt to devise an explanation for consciousness that leaves no unanswered questions behind as other commonly held perspectives do, at least at our current level of scientific knowledge. (Kastrup is a computer engineer specializing in AI and reconfigurable computing.)

Physicalism and substance dualism

There are a seemingly endless array of ultimately unsatisfying isms thrown at the problem of consciousness. If you’ve got some time, have a look at the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Here, though, if only to explain what panpsychism, the basis of Kastrup’s idealism, isn’t, it’ll be helpful to talk very briefly about two of the most popular ontologies to which it’s a response.

Physicalism describes the belief that consciousness is a product of interaction between different types of physical matter. For many, though, physicalism falls into a seemingly uncrossable chasm between strictly physical processes on one hand, and our “phenomenal experience” — the experience of experiencing — on the other. One is chemical, electrical, mechanical, and the other is…something else. Physical processes may be able to explain how we know a roaring fire is hot, but not what warmth feels like to us.

The clockwork brain


In substance dualism, there’s physical substance and immaterial substance, consciousness, and they’re two separate domains. This seems intuitively true to a lot of people — think body and soul — but if they are fundamentally different things, what means of exchange, or “language,” could they possibly have in common, and how could they interact? How could a physical experience make our consciousness feel a certain way, and how could a purely mental decision cause our body to take action? And where exactly could this happen?

Body and mind are separate things?


Take one dash of constitutive panpsychism

Kastrup’s system is based on an ontology growing popular with some philosophers, and with some physicists, called constitutive panpsychism. (We’ve explained this concept in greater detail before at Big Think.) It’s basically the idea that everything, all of the tiny subatomic particles that make up the universe’s mass, have consciousness, a sense of what it’s like to have an experience. We have consciousness because it’s everywhere. In this way, it’s all there is.

(For the balance of this article visit: https://bigthink.com/robby-berman/are-we-all-multiple-personalities-of-universal-consciousness/)



Outbreak of Sea Lice in Water…!

Florida Department of Health Warns Beachgoers About Outbreak of Sea Lice in the Water

By Julie Mazziotta

Florida’s Department of Health is warning beachgoers about an outbreak of sea lice on the state’s northwest shores.

The beaches around Pensacola now have purple flags to alert swimmers about the underwater creatures, which leave itchy, irritated rashes with bumps and welts.

Sea lice rash

Sea lice rash – Florida Department of Health

The sea lice are actually tiny jellyfish larvae and cells, Dave Greenwood, the director of public safety for Pensacola beaches, told the Pensacola News Journal.

“They aren’t very intense, which is why we call them sea lice and not sea hornets or sea wasps,” he said. “It’s just one of those you have to deal with when you go into the Gulf of México. You are a land animal and the Gulf is not our native environment.”

(For complete story see: https://people.com/health/florida-sea-lice-outbreak-beaches/)



DARPA demonstrates 6 new technologies behind the agile combat vehicles of tomorro

The GXV-T program aims to move away from heavy armored vehicles in a quest for battlefield...
The GXV-T program aims to move away from heavy armored vehicles in a quest for battlefield superiority, using some unique ideas (Credit: DARPA)

Back in 2014, DARPA announced the launch of its Ground X-Vehicle Technology (GXV-T) program, an initiative designed to break through a single paradigm that has been weighing the military down in ground combat. That paradigm is the ever-escalating vendetta between tanks and anti-tank guns.

Artillery designers keep making bigger anti-tank guns, and in response the tank designers have to load them up with more and more armor, to the point where the M1A2 Abrams (the main battle tank of the US Army) now weighs a staggering 72 tons.

That’s nearly twice the weight of a semi-trailer loaded to its maximum legal capacity of 40 tons, and it makes the modern tank a real pain to deal with, from the build, maintenance and deployment, right through to the end use. They’re not what you’d call light-footed or agile, and their sheer bulk can damage or destroy roads or bridges that aren’t up to the task.

DARPA has thus been working on what comes next: smaller, lighter, more nimble vehicles that have tricks other than massive armor up their sleeve when it comes to surviving on the battlefield.

Last month, the GXV-T program demonstrated some of the remarkable technologies it’s been working on. And while they’re far from finished, there are some pretty radical ideas in there. Let’s take a look:

(For the balance of this article visit: https://newatlas.com/darpa-gxv-t-demonstration-military-vehicle-technology/55198/)





The head-first VTOL personal aircraft concept not for the faint of heart



Carpii’s wacky 4-wheel stepper bike raises eyebrows

The Carpii 4ciclet's fairly narrow frontal profile makes it reasonably nimble in trafficThe Carpii 4ciclet’s fairly narrow frontal profile makes it reasonably nimble in traffic(Credit: Carpii)
Here’s an odd little commuting curiosity from Romania called the Carpii 4ciclet. It’s a four-wheeled stepper cycle targeted at older riders that transfers most of the pedaling work from the quads over to the calves, back, abs and backside. It’s creator claims it’s a particularly energy efficient design, but it sure looks odd to ride.
Carpii 4ciclet: an unique way to get aroundCarpii 4ciclet: the addition of a basket gives you some luggage space
One stands upon the 4ciclet’s angled footboards, either resting on the seat or standing up for a bit of extra pedal power, and pushes down with alternate heels to get the thing going. Each pedal is connected to a lever that pushes down and directly applies torque to one of the 12-inch wheels, like so:
It’s a single speed device, adding to mechanical simplicity but restricting the speed range. The designer says he’s tested it from walking pace up to 32 km/h (20 mph) thus far, and that you need to stand up and give it a bit of gumboot to get up a hill.(For more information visit: https://newatlas.com/carpii-4-wheel-bike/54904/)



Eindhoven, the Netherlands, looks poised to become something of a 3D-printed architecture boom town. Following the construction of a 3D-printed bridge in the city, a total of five rental homes made using the cutting edge tech are now planned too.   Read more



These Urinals Play Video Ads While You Pee

by Conner Flynn

I thought that the urinal was the only safe place left to get away from ads being played, but nope. And once you start peeing you are a captive audience as long as that stream is going with these new video urinals from Dutch toilet company Mr.Friendly. Brilliant idea, marketing guys.

Urinals with ads...!

This high-tech urinal actually has several nice features like a waterless/flushless function and an anti-bacterial surface, but the big new upgrade is the built-in display with an automatic sensor that’ll play advertisements while you pee.

I know that online they use ads based on your browsing and buying habits, so I can only guess that this thing chooses the ads based on peeing technique? I hope it doesn’t have any other sensors that give it info about your junk because it could be pretty embarrassing if several guys are peeing and watching ads, and one guy gets the erectile dysfunction ad.

Also, we probably shouldn’t be distracted in the bathroom unless you want pee everywhere. Let’s just focus on the task at hand and leave the urinal an ad-free zone, guys. And how many people are going to be pissed off at the ads so that they piss on them for real? People are nasty after all. This is a bad idea.

(Article source: https://technabob.com/blog/2018/04/20/video-ad-bathroom-urinal/)



The obesity paradox: Can being overweight be beneficial?

New studies rekindle debate over whether obesity can be beneficial in some health situations
New studies rekindle debate over whether obesity can be beneficial in some health situations(Credit: Whitewolf/Depositphotos)

Over 15 years ago, a strange counter-intuitive bit of data was identified in patients undergoing hemodialysis for chronic kidney disease. Across several studies, overweight or mildly obese patients were displaying greater survival rates than those with healthy weights. The phenomenon was dubbed the “obesity paradox” and for well over a decade scientists have debated what could be causing it. Several new studies presented recently at the European Congress on Obesity have added further weight to the hypothesis of an obesity paradox, finding several strange correlations between obesity and survival rates across a variety of conditions.

The first study looked generally at patients admitted to hospital for an infectious disease. Tracking more that 18,000 patients admitted to hospitals in Denmark over a four-year period, the study found that within 90 days of discharge those patients of a normal weight displayed a significantly higher chance of dying when compared to both overweight and obese patients.

Two more studies presented at the conference examined mortality rates from patients admitted to hospitals for pneumonia and sepsis. Both studies examined large banks of data tracking admissions from over 1,000 US hospitals.

The pneumonia study, which included data from 1,690,760 hospitalizations, found that obese and overweight patients were between 20 and 30 percent less likely to die from the condition than those of normal weight. The sepsis study impressively gathered data from 3.7 million hospital admissions and found obese and overweight patients were around 20 percent more likely to survive following admission than patients of normal weight.

(For more information visit: https://newatlas.com/obesity-paradox-overweight-survival-sepsis-pnemonia/)


There’s a loneliness epidemic in the US and it’s getting worse

I’m going through a divorce. It’s amicable, mature, and adult. We just don’t work together as a couple anymore, but we’ll try and remain friends. As a writer, I work from home. I’m alone all day and now, no one is coming home at night. As a result, I’m taking great pains to be social, to go out, to see friends and family, to make phone calls, and to avoid social isolation. There’s no shame in admitting as much, although our rugged individualist society may look down on opening up about such things, especially as a straight male. Aren’t we supposed to be stoic mavericks, able to set out on our own, without anyone’s help at all? Turns out, not so much.

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A young man sits by himself in a stadium. Image credit: Getty Images.

In fact, staying connected is the healthiest thing to do, and not just psychologically. According to a 2014 University of Chicago study, loneliness can have a significant negative impact on physical health. It can increase the rate of atherosclerosis—the hardening of the arteries, increase the risk of high blood pressure and stroke, and decrease retention, which can even hurt learning and memory. What’s more, the lonely often make worse life choices and are more prone to substance abuse.

Some research suggests loneliness is worse for you than smoking or obesity. It can even increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. Seniors are often the focus. Those who face social isolation actually see a 14% increased risk of premature death.

(To continue with this article visit: bigthink.com/philip-perry/theres-a-loneliness-epidemic-in-the-us-and-its-getting-worse/)


Bitcoin is consuming as much energy as the country of Ireland

Ireland gives us whiskey, Bitcoin gives us… hmm.

2.55 Gigawatts!  The amount of energy Bitcoin is consuming, at the low end, every year; the same as the country of Ireland.

In addition to being insufferable, Bitcoin is also absolutely terrible for the environment. According to a letter published today in the energy journal Joule by financial economist and blockchain specialist Alex de Vries, the Bitcoin network is consuming roughly 2.55 gigawatts of energy annually, at the absolute minimum. To put that in context, that’s nearly the same amount of energy consumed by the entirety of Ireland. That’s just the conservative current estimate; De Vries predicts that by December, the Bitcoin network could be using almost triple that.

Bitcoins cost energy to “mine,” because mining is just a computer running calculations; the longer Bitcoin is around, the more energy it takes to mine each subsequent unit (it takes four times as much energy to mine a single Bitcoin now as it did when the currency launched in 2009). There is a finite amount of Bitcoin, and the most recent projections show it will take about another 120 years to mine all 21 million Bitcoins. There is also, theoretically, a tipping point somewhere in there where the amount of energy it takes to mine a piece of Bitcoin is more valuable than the Bitcoin itself, though it all depends on the market value. But Bitcoin transactions, not just mining, take energy (one transaction could currently power a home for a week), so the more widely used it is, the more carbon we are pumping into the atmosphere.

There’s been a considerable amount of debate over the last couple of years surrounding the extent of the energy impact of Bitcoin (for instance, is it pretty bad, or really really bad?), not least because energy use in most parts of the world contributes carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, which contributes to climate change. But in the wake of Bitcoin’s wild valuation ride throughout most of 2017 up to nearly $20,000 per coin, cryptocurrency mining doesn’t seem likely to slow down anytime soon. Researchers need concrete answers before it becomes far too late enact institutional restrictions and regulations on the practice, writes De Vries.

De Vries’ figure doesn’t even include the energy expenditures of other popular cryptocurrencies like Ethereum and Ripple. The altcoin market’s potential for comparably sky-high energy consumption levels is unfortunately all too serious. According to the Digiconomist’s Ethereum Energy Consumption Index (which is technically still in beta), Ethereum production already makes up .09 percent of the world’s total energy consumption. While this may seem like a relatively small amount, it’s not. It’s already more than the total yearly energy consumption of countries like Iceland, Jordan, and Cuba. And given that Ethereum is only just getting started (ugh), this figure will likely only rise.

Energy use of Bitcoin will likely stop growing so fast and even decline in the near future; Grist estimated that at current trends Bitcoin would cost as much energy as the whole world uses now in only two years, an incredibly unlikely situation. It may also be possible to improve mining algorithms so they don’t use as much energy. Still, when the energy use is so high and interest isn’t waning, De Vries is trying to draw attention to the currency’s impact.

“We’ve seen a lot of back-of-the-envelope calculations, but we need more scientific discussion on where this network is headed,” said de Vries in a press release. “Right now, the information available is pretty poor quality overall, so I’m hoping that people will use this paper as a foundation for more research.”

(Article source, and for more information, see: https://theoutline.com/post/4561/bitcoin-is-consuming-as-much-energy-as-the-country-of-ireland?zd=1&zi=zh754dcw)


What is a horsepower?

It’s enough to power a coffeemaker or boil 2.2 gallons of water.

In 1781, the story goes, James Watt needed to convince skeptics to ditch their draft horses and buy his new steam engine. To prove his machine’s superiority, he measured a horse walking in ­circles to turn a grindstone in a mill. He multiplied the distance it walked by its ­roughly 180 pounds of pulling force, divided by the time it took, and came up with a new measure: ­horsepower. (His new engine did the work of 35 nags, about the same as ­today’s ­riding mower.) We still use his math to sell F-150s, but it can feel kind of ­abstract. So we came up with a few new ways to visualize one horsepower.


Neigh sayer.  Lucy Engelman

One bicycle burst

In the momentary dash of a flat-out sprint, the average cyclist can eke out a single horsepower. Pro pedalers can generate twice that. Horses, however, have humans beat on staying power; even Tour de France elites can’t sustain more than a few tenths of a horsepower over the full length of a race.

One coffee maker

In electrical work, we measure power in watts, a unit named for dear James. A lone watt is tiny—only enough to power an LED night light. That’s why we almost always talk in terms of kilowatts, especially on electric bills. Still, 1 horsepower’s worth, or 746 watts, is enough to power a standard drip coffee maker.

One enormous dead lift

A foot-pound is the work it takes to lift 1 pound a distance of 1 foot. To exert 33,000 of those all in the space of an extremely sweaty minute, the equivalent of 1 horsepower, an eager equine could drag 10,000 pounds up 3.3 feet, 3.3 pounds up 10,000 feet, or (more realistically) 330 pounds up 100 feet.

One pasta party

Pull power and heat are two sides of the same coin (a coin made of energy). To convert, you’ll have to work with British thermal units. One Btu provides roughly a kitchen match’s worth of warmth (or, more specifically, one penny match’s worth). A single equine could pound out 2,545 Btu per hour, enough to boil 2.2 gallons of room-temp water (assuming a tight lid and no heat loss in a perfect, imaginary world), which would cook 14 servings of pasta.


work (n.) The amount of force exerted over a distance. Units include foot-pound, kilowatt-hour, and BTU.

en.er.gy (n.) The capacity to do work. has multiple forms, including mechanical, thermal, and electrical.

pow.er (n.) The rate of work, calculated as the amount of work done divided by the time it took to do it.

This article was originally published in the January/February 2018 Power issue of Popular Science.

Note: this article has been updated to add statements and rearrange clauses so as to be more clear. Thank you to the Redditors who checked our work, though we stand by our inefficient method of cooking pasta.

(Source: https://www.popsci.com/what-is-horsepower)


Tell the NRC: Keep nuclear waste isolated–not in consumer goods!

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) wants public input on a “scoping study” intended to justify calling some nuclear waste “very low-level waste” or VLLW. We call it “Very Large Loophole Waste.”

Comments are due by May 15th. Tell the NRC to keep all nuclear waste regulated, and to increase radioactive controls.

Nuclear power reactors generate nuclear waste, and the reactors themselves become nuclear waste.

Radioactive gasses seep into concrete lodging and decay becoming other radioactive elements. Metal parts in the reactor are bombarded with neutrons during nuclear power production process and become activated radioactive metal.

As reactors and other processing factories that are a part of the nuclear fuel chain shut down, the buildings and their parts, the soil, the uniforms employees wore, the tools used to service reactors and other machinery, etc., all have become contaminated with radioactivity, and must be isolated from the environment and the public.

Instead of paying to manage these contaminated items as the nuclear waste they are, the Department of Energy (DOE) and nuclear industry are attempting to reclassify the waste as “Very Low-Level” and allow it to be dumped in landfills and/or incinerators, or recycled with consumer goods.

If the NRC starts classifying radioactive waste as “Very Low-Level”, massive amounts of nuclear power waste would be allowed to go into regular garbage dumps, to industrial or hazardous waste sites, and into recycling facilities that reuse materials to make everyday household and personal-use items.

Huge amounts of dangerous but hard-to-detect nuclear wastes would no longer be regulated as radioactive and would have “alternative methods of disposal,” not at licensed radioactive waste sites.

Send your comments to the NRC by May 15th.

The term “low-level” radioactive waste is already deceptive and can mean very high risk to humans and other life. Help protect us, our communities, and future generations!

Thanks for all you do, Diane D’Arrigo, Radioactive Waste Project Director

Nuclear Information and Resource Service, 6930 Carroll Ave, Ste. 340, Takoma Park, MD 20912,(301) 270-6477, www.NIRS.org


Article Image
Personalized keychains at a tourist shop. Your name can affect your professional and romantic success and even where you choose to live. (Bernardo Barlach)

What’s in a name? There are lots of reason to choose one name or another when naming a child — family tradition, or as a tribute to a beloved relative or friend — but does a name really matter? Research suggests, yes, maybe it does, when it comes to the level of success you’ll achieve in your career and love life, and even where you choose to live. The reasons for this remain in the realm of conjecture, but research has revealed some surprising — and some not so surprising — correlations.

The difference from A to Z

You may not think this matters, but the alphabetical position of the first letter of your name may have two effects:

  • A 2007 study found that people whose names start with a letter early in the alphabet are more likely to be admitted to schools, even when those late in the alphabet have higher scores. Obviously, this foot in the door can ripple through adult life since it may affect a person’s career choice. Are admissions staff tired and cranky by the time they get to poor Xander?
  • A 2013 study suggests that if you have a name that comes later in the alphabet, you’re more likely to be an impulse shopper. The study’s authors theorize that this is a product of a lifetime of waiting for your name to be called, leading to impatience.

Familiarity helps in work and love

  • Marquette University found that people with common names are more likely to be hired for a job than others.
  • This is even truer if your name is super-easy to pronounce, as an NYU study found, probably because we tend to like what’s easy.
  • According to one 2008 study, you’re even actually statistically more likely to have a career at a company whose initials mirror your own. Benicio del Toro is welcome any time at Big Think.
  • Familiarity even seems to affect where we live. We tend to gravitate to places named like us. Did you know St. Louis has an unusually higher percentage of residents named Louis? How about Philadelphia, packed with Philips? Or Jacksonville’s Jacks or Virginia Beach’s Virginias?


  • In school, a boy with a girl’s name is more likely to be suspended according to one 2007 study.
  • In romance, a surprisingly high number of people connect with others whose names start with the same letter as theirs do. Xander and Xavier sitting in a tree…
  • On the other hand, a 2009 study found that if your name is difficult to say, you may have more trouble dating because hard-to-say names are associated with higher risk. Unless of course, you’re hitting on a thrill-seeker.
  • According to psychologist Frank McAndrew, unfamiliar names are even penalized in a romantic context.

Unless you’re dating online and have one of these names

According to The Grade, these are the “hottest” names of the moment:

Women’s names

  1. Brianna
  2. Erika
  3. Lexi
  4. Brooke
  5. Vanessa
  6. April
  7. Natalie
  8. Jenna
  9. Molly
  10. Katie

Men’s names

  1. Brett
  2. Tyler
  3. Corey
  4. Andy
  5. Noah
  6. Shane
  7. Jeffrey
  8. Rob
  9. Frank
  10. Jeff (Hey, that’s double-dipping!)

The image your name conjures up

  • Unusual names can be viewed as a sign of juvenile delinquency, and make one less likely to be asked in for a job interview, according to a 2009 study.
  • Sad but true, if your name sounds “white,” you’re more likely to get hired thanks to subliminal or overt racial bias. A study by the American Economic Association documented this pernicious type of labor market discrimination.

  • The European Journal of Social Psychology found that use of a middle initial makes you seem smarter and more competent. More initial? More better.

Names in the management class

  • If your name sounds worthy, you’re more likely to rise to the top of the company. A study of German names found that people whose last names were “Kaiser” (“emperor”) or “König” (“king”) were more likely to be bosses than those named “Koch” (“cook”) or “Bauer” (“farmer”).
  • For some reason, says LinkedIn, men in upper management are more likely to have short names. Maybe it has something with powerful people wanting less intimidating monikers?

Bezos and Cook

Jeff Bezos, Amazon and Tim Cook, Apple (Andrew Burton/Alex Wong, Getty)
  • On the other hand, LinkedIn notes, powerful women are more likely to use their full names, likely to present a business-like impression.
  • According to The Atlantic, women with gender-neutral-sounding names are more likely to be promoted in some industries.

That’s what’s in a name. Maybe.

Some of these studies are more convincing than others, and few get into the reasons behind these sometimes-odd correlations. If you’ve got an apparently problematic name according to it all, don’t worry. People do change them. (Joseph’s “Stalin,” which means “steel,” is clearly more imposing than his original “Dzhugashvili.”) And since correlation doesn’t equal causality, we’d better keep studying this.


Squirrel With Injured Legs Gets Ingenious Prosthetic With Wheels

Alf is the little squirrel who can wheel himself around now.

(Squirrel story has been moved to the “Animals” page…)


Can you raed this?

Olny 55 plepoe out of 100 can.

I cdnuolt blveiee that I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd what I was rdanieg. The ph aonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mtaetr in what oerdr the ltteres in a word are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is that the frsit and last ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can still raed it whotuit a pboerlm. This is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the word as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? Yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt! If you can raed this forwrad it. 


Walk With Me While I Age

I hope this poem has the same effect on you as it did on me; then my forwarding it will be worth the effort.   Walk with me while I age – worth the read.
DAMN  ……
  I forgot the words…!


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 Signs Of The Times

 Humorous Thinking on Public Display

Seattle Propane at Wallingford Chevron has person with a good sense of humor running their sign department.
Seattle Propane
at Wallingford Chevron has a person with a good sense of humor running their sign department.
109405151005384076142486 2313711004514172824 n This gas station will give you your fill of dad jokes (18 Photos)
111472011137357272945165 2541808018921454154 n This gas station will give you your fill of dad jokes (18 Photos)
114035001089984754349084 8845085536960443812 n This gas station will give you your fill of dad jokes (18 Photos)
116656141086314131382813 6771105678233665420 n This gas station will give you your fill of dad jokes (18 Photos)
122412241169207466426812 239013559834737724 n This gas station will give you your fill of dad jokes (18 Photos)
Follow Wallingford Chevron on Twitter and Facebook to stay updated with the latest funny signs.


A little light reading for those having trouble falling asleep…..