“Molecular surgery” reshapes cartilage while sparing the scalpel

While the technology could be utilized for cosmetic procedures such as rhinoplasty (pictured above), it may also find use on tendons or corneas. (Credit: VGeorgiev/Depositphotos).

Currently, in order to reshape cartilage such as that within the nose, incisions and subsequent sutures are typically required. Not only is the procedure invasive, but it can also result in scarring. Now, however, scientists have demonstrated a new method of cartilage-reshaping that requires no cutting.

First of all, there already is a procedure in which an infrared laser is used to heat up cartilage, making it malleable enough to be molded into the desired shape. According to the University of California-Irvine’s Dr. Brian Wong, however, the process is expensive, plus it’s difficult the heat the cartilage sufficiently without killing it.

Seeking a better alternative, his team joined forces with Dr. Michael Hill from Los Angeles-based Occidental College.

The researchers ultimately developed a technique that they call “molecular surgery,” which begins with tiny needles being inserted into the cartilage. These are used to pass an electrical current through the tissue. This electrolyzes water present in the cartilage, converting it into oxygen and hydrogen ions – the latter are also known as protons.

The positive electrical charge of the protons proceeds to cancel the negative charge of proteins contained within the cartilage’s rigid collagen fibers. This reduces those fibers’ charge density, temporarily causing them to become soft and malleable – they’re still linked to one another, however, by biopolymers.

At this point, a 3D-printed mold is externally applied to the nose or other appendage. The softened cartilage conforms to the shape of the mold, proceeding to harden into that shape as the electrolyzing effect wears off. In a lab test, the technique has already been used to reshape the cartilage in a rabbit’s ear.

“We envision this new technique as a low-cost office procedure done under local anesthesia,” says Hill. “The whole process would take about five minutes.”

Down the road, it is hoped that the technology could be utilized not only for cosmetic procedures, but also as an alternative to surgery for deviated septums, and for addressing problems in other collagen-based tissues such as tendons and corneas. In fact, the scientists have successfully altered the curve of a cornea, using an electrode-equipped 3D-printed contact lens to pass current through it.

The research was presented at the American Chemical Society Spring 2019 National Meeting and Exposition.

Source: American Chemical Society

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Where you live in America determines when you’ll die

Two maps show two very different takes on the huge discrepancies in U.S. life expectancy.

    • These maps show strong links between location and life expectancy.
    • Hawaiians live longest, Mississippians die earliest.
  • County-level ranking shows short-life hotspots in Kentucky, long-life ones in Colorado.

High in Hawaii…

Hawaii (pictured: Diamond Head on Honolulu) is the state with the longest average life expectancy at birth. Image source: Wikimedia Commons / Howcheng, CC BY S.A 2.0

Tell me where you live, and I’ll tell you how long you’ve got left. Fortunately, it’s not quite that simple; but as these maps suggest, there is a strong link between location and average life expectancy.

Americans born in 2015 can expect to live to the age of 78.8 years. That’s one-tenth of a year less than in 2014, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported, and the first time U.S. life expectancy declined since 1993.

The CDC cited the rise of preventable deaths — notably traffic accidents (+6%) and “accidental poisonings” (+13%) as the main causes for the drop in longevity. The latter category consists almost entirely (97 percent) of alcohol and drug overdoses, with the opioid epidemic a major contributor to the increase.

… low in Mississippi

After Hawaiians, Californians and Minnesotans live the longest. Mississippi scores worst, followed by Alabama and Louisiana. Image source: Titlemax

As these maps show, the national average tells only a small part of the story. The first one breaks down the national result in averages per state. It shows both huge disparities and regional similarities.

  • Hawaii is the best-performing state. Newborns can expect to reach the ripe old age of 81.15 years. That puts the Aloha State on a par with Belgium (which according to the World Health Organisation had a life expectancy at birth of 81.1 years in 2015) and the U.K. (81.2 years) — countries placing 21st and 20th in the WHO world ranking.
  • There’s a gap of more than six years with Mississippi, the state with the lowest life expectancy in the Union: 74.91 years. That puts Mississippians on a par with Nicaraguans (74.8 years; 73rd in the WHO ranking) and the Lebanese (74.9 years; 70th).
  • Living in the South is bad for your health: the 10 states with the lowest life expectancy form a single bloc centred on the southeast of the US.
  1. Mississippi (74.91 years)
  2. Alabama (75.65 years)
  3. Louisiana (75.82 years)
  4. West Virginia (76.03 years)
  5. Oklahoma (76.08 years)
  6. Arkansas (76.18 years)
  7. Kentucky (76.26 years)
  8. Tennessee (76.33 years)
  9. South Carolina (76.89 years)
  10. Georgia (77.38 years)

There’s a similar bloc in the northeast, but on the other end of the scale: here, six of the 10 best-performing states congregate.

  1. Hawaii (81.15 years)
  2. California (80.92 years)
  3. Minnesota (80.90 years)
  4. Connecticut (80.56 years)
  5. Massachusetts (80.41 years)
  6. New York (80.36 years)
  7. Vermont (80.24 years)
  8. Colorado (80.21 years)
  9. New Hampshire (80.15 years)
  10. New Jersey (80.04 years)

In some counties, longevity is a two decades’ difference

The difference in life expectancy between the top and bottom counties is a full two decades. Image source: Titlemax

By focusing on counties rather than states, the second map throws new light on the subject. The top 20 and bottom 20 counties cluster in a very different pattern.

For one, Hawaii, the best performer at state level, has no county-level representatives. Two: Mississippi, the worst-performing state, has only three of the 20 worst-performing counties. Yet half of the bottom-20 counties can be found in two other states.

  • No less than six of the bottom-20 counties are in Kentucky, in a zone of low life expectancy adjoining West Virginia, home to two more worst-performing counties.
  • Four are in South Dakota, including Oglala Lakota County, the county with the lowest life expectancy in the country, at just 66.81 years. That’s on a par with Senegal (128th on the WHO ranking). This despite the fact that overall, South Dakota is doing pretty well (79.57 years on average).

​Poverty and longevity

Allen, South Dakota — the poorest town in the United States. Image source: Wikimedia Commons / Ss114, CC BY-SA 3.0

The counties in the Dakotas with low life expectancy are contiguous with Native-American reservations, which suffer from extreme levels of poverty and addiction. Oglala Lakota County (Shannon County until it was renamed in 2015) is contained entirely within the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Also in that reservation (but in neighbouring Bennett County) is the town of Allen, the poorest place in the United States. As of the 2000 census, more than 95 percent of its 419 inhabitants lived below the poverty line. Allen is located near North America’s continental pole of inaccessibility (at 43°21’36” N, 101°58’12” W): 1024 miles (1650 km) from the nearest coastline.

Colorado contains the top-three counties (highest life expectancy: Summit County, 88.83 years), and three more from the top 20. One theory explaining Colorado’s high scores is that the state is a popular destination for people who love the outdoors; so it’s not that living in Colorado makes you live longer per se, it’s that people with healthier lifestyles move to Colorado.

There are two smaller long-life clusters: in the Bay Area and in northern Virginia, each with three counties in the top 20.

​Long live Colorado

Downtown Breckenridge in Summit County, Colorado, the longest-living county in the country. Image source: Carol M. Highsmith / Library of Congress

Three states have counties in both categories.

  • The average Alaskan in the Kusilvak Census Area never makes it to their 71st birthday. A bit further south, in either the Aleutians East Borough or the Aleutians West Census Area, they would get to blow out 83 candles before expiring.
  • The average inhabitant of Billings County, North Dakota makes it just past their 84th birthday. That’s the fourth-best score in the country. Nearby Sioux County has the country’s fourth-worst score: 68.59 years.
  • Residents of Union Country only get to be 67.57 years, on average, while their fellow Floridians in Collier County make it to 83.43 years — a difference of more than a decade and a half.

Union County, Florida is an atypical county. It’s the smallest in the state and houses several major prisons (including part of Florida’s Death Row). As a result, about a third of its total population (around 15,000) is incarcerated. The state average is around 0.5 percent. Not that executions contribute significantly to its low life expectancy, but the county’s skewed population may explain its high death rate: at 1,494 per 100,000 (in 2018), more than double the rate for Florida as a whole (685).

Not since the Spanish Flu

In this photo, Seattle policemen are “armed” against the Spanish Flu (December 1918). Image source: U.S. National Archives

The national average quoted on the first map dates from 2015. More recent CDC data shows the decline continued in 2016 (to 78.7 years) and 2017 (to 78.6 years). The only other three-year drop in life expectancy registered in CDC records (which go back to 1900) dates from the second half of the 1910s, when the World War and the Spanish Flu caused life expectancy to drop from 54.5 years in 1915 to just 39.1 years in 1919 — the lowest average life expectancy on record.

The figures also show separate results for race and gender, and huge disparities between them. Whites do better than blacks, and women outlive men.

  • White women reached an average life expectancy of more than 50 years in 1901, 60 years in 1921, 70 years in 1946 and 80 years in 1998. White men hit 50 in 1902, 60 in 1921 and 70 in 1977.
  • The average life expectancy of black women exceeded 50 only in 1921. It reached 60 in 1946 and 70 in 1974. Black males averaged 50 years or more in 1921, 60 years in 1954 and 70 only from 2007.

Image found here at Titlemax.

Strange Maps #968

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Hispano-Suiza is back, with a retro-tacular electric hypercar worthy of the badge

With a thousand horsepower on tap, this is the view most other cars will get of...
With a thousand horsepower on tap, this is the view most other cars will get of the Carmen. (Credit: Hispano-Suiza).

Hypercars are really converging on a particular look these days – a look dictated by the necessities of ultra-high speed driving. Function dictates form when you’re talking about speeds over 400 km/h (250 mph), and while we’re glad we live in a world where cars like the Koenigsegg Jesko can push the limits of engineering in search of magical numbers like 300 miles per hour, let’s be honest. Nobody’s going out and driving at those speeds.

So the door is open for some fresh, new design ideas. Or, perhaps, some really, really old ones. Hispano-Suiza (which translates as Spanish-Swiss) can trace its roots right back to the start of the 20th century, and this Barcelona-based company was responsible for some of the most stunning and iconic automobiles of the age when people still called them “automobiles.”

Aggressive wheel arches recall oversized fenders

The Spanish Civil War more or less put an end to the company’s beautiful V12 luxury cars in 1938, when the Catalonian government decided to seize control of its factories and use them for aircraft engines and other war supplies. But old Hispano-Suiza cars are still in hot demand by collectors, inextricably linked with the sepia-tinted royalty that once drove them.

And now, it seems, the brand might be back. A new car, and a new effort to resurrect the marque, has just been unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show, with Miguel Suqué Mateu (great-grandson of the original founder Damián Mateu Bisa) at the helm. Where Koenigsegg made his latest car a tribute to his dad, Suqué Mateu decided to kick the new Hispano-Suiza company off with a shout-out to his mum.

Scissor doors lift themselves up at the touch of a button

Hence, the Carmen. The company is presenting this as the vanguard of a new “hyperlux” segment in the “cars for really rich people” market. Hypercar-adjacent performance, with exquisite luxury is the goal here, so let’s see how they’ve done on the former.

Not bad! The Carmen will roll with a fully electric powertrain, boasting two motors for a rear-wheel-drive 750 kilowatts, or 1,019 horsepower. That’s clearly enough to earn a hypercar sticker, and it’s also enough to hurl the Carmen from 0-100 kmh (0-62 mph) in less than three seconds, much like a nicely specced Tesla. Top speed is electronically limited to 250 km/h (155 mph), which is a perfectly loopy speed to attempt in real-world driving and more than enough to reduce you to a lightly smoking set of dental records if you cock things up on the road.

The liquid-cooled battery is a T-shaped unit, running up the spine of the car and sprouting out sideways behind the seats much like the pack in the Pininfarina Battista. The Carmen’s battery is designed around volume rather than capacity, taking up 560 liters of precisely-positioned space designed to help the car mimic the weight balance of a mid-rear engined supercar. Using current battery technology, it’ll carry about 80 kilowatt-hours of energy. By 2020, when the car will hit the road, Hispano-Suiza expects it to roll with denser cells, giving it a 105 kilowatt-hour capacity and a range over 400 km (250 mi).

The Carmen's lightweight carbon monocoque chassis

The Carmen will boast one of the most carbon-intensive auto bodies in history, with carbon composites used for “the vast proportion of vehicle structures.” This begins with a carbon monocoque chassis, and extends to some unusual carbon crash structures as well as a carbon rear subframe.

The body panels are carbon, even if they’ve been painted to look like aluminum. The seats are carbon. The upholstery support panels are carbon, and they’ve even used composites in electrical insulation and sound and vibration damping. The result is an ultra-lightweight chassis that Hispano-Suiza claims is stiffer than that of any other hypercar. The whole car weighs in at just 1,690 kg (3,726 lb).

Suspension is double-wishbone at both ends, with adaptive damping and variable roll stiffness distribution. There’s traction control, stability control and ABS braking – and it’s worth noting the Carmen uses a brake-by-wire system that activates the regen braking for the first part of the pedal travel before troubling the whopping six-piston hydraulic brakes on their 380-mm carbon ceramic discs.

Old-school steering wheel meets digital display

The interior looks highly snazzy, and fits with the luxury grand touring concept of the car, as much as you can expect to grand tour with an electric at this point. You enter via upward-opening scissor doors and nestle your booty into hand-trimmed, hand-sewn, electronically adjustable, heated leather and Alcantara seats. Breathe in, driver, and enjoy the pleasant pungency of your very own custom interior perfume. Personally, I’m going for Alpine Glade, like the spray in my toilet.

The steering wheel is retro deluxe, and the dash is wood veneer, but the clocks are digital on glass, and somehow it all kind of works together. There’s a Swiss watch buried in the dash panel and LED mood lighting throughout. An art deco triangle for the gear selector sits by a 10.1-inch navigation touch screen with Bluetooth audio and a parking camera. The whole thing looks like it was designed by a futurist from the 50s or 60s.

And that certainly carries over to the exterior design, which is one of the most eye-catching efforts we’ve seen in years. The front looks familiar enough; since the motors and batteries are liquid-cooled, there’s space for a radiator and a chunky front grille. The front hubcaps are the first indication things are gonna get weird, concentric art deco silver circles receding into a cone shape. An aggressive wheel arch gives a tip of the hat to the huge fenders of the 30s and 40s, and initiates a sharp, low line toward the back.

A large front grille feeds air to the radiators for the liquid-cooled battery and motors

The cabin is relatively composed with its tinted glass, but when we move to the rear wheels with their aerodynamic covers, it starts looking like a space ship. The Carmen’s rear proportions are Kardashianesque – a smooth roofline flanked by wing-like wheel arches tapers back to an abrupt halt. This is mirrored from beneath by a curvaceous set of rear diffusers, and these two silver lines sandwich a blacked-out inner layer with stark red tail lighting.

The Hispano-Suiza brand is being resurrected, but the founder's great grandson

It’s a peach. There’s nothing on the road that looks even a little bit like it. I want to see it painted yellow and used in a gritty Dick Tracy reboot, where Dick Tracy is played by Scarlett Johannsen.

Hispano-Suiza has put this prototype together in just nine months, with a design and build team of just 25 people. After it leaves Geneva, it’ll go back to Spain for testing and development at the Institute for Applied Automotive research, as well as the racetracks and mountain roads of the Iberian peninsula over the next six months. And then, hopefully, we’ll get the good news that it’s going into production for the lucky few who can afford its multi-million dollar pricetag.

Welcome back, Hispano-Suiza, we like your style.

Source: Hispano-Suiza

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NASA satellite snaps fireball 10 times more powerful than Hiroshima bomb

The fireball (center) was 10 times more powerful than the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. (Credit: NASA/GSFC/LaRC/JPL-Caltech, MISR Team).

NASA has released images of a meteor exploding over the Bering Sea last December with a force over 10 times greater than the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945. On December 18, 2018 at 23:55 GMT, the space agency’s Terra satellite took a series of photos of a giant fireball exploding 16 mi (26 km) above the Earth’s surface that is estimated to have released 173 kilotons of energy, making it the largest meteor blast since the Chelyabinsk incident of 2013.

If a meteor detonates in the Arctic with the magnitude of a medium yield nuclear device and there’s no one to hear it, does it make a boom? That’s the not very comforting question posed by the fireball exploding off the coast of Alaska as captured by five of nine cameras on the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) instrument aboard the Terra spacecraft.

According to Cornell University, the Earth is struck by up to 84,000 meteors over 10 grams in size each year, and many times more that are smaller than grains of sand. Almost all of these burn up high in the atmosphere, but NASA says that two or three times a century our planet is hit by meteors that are large enough and volatile enough to generate a city-smashing blast.

The fireball was detected on December 18, 2018 by the Terra spacecraft

Fortunately, all of the known incidents in recent times that we know of happened away from populated areas, although the Chelyabinsk object that exploded high over Russia with the force of 30 Hiroshima bombs still caused property damage, and injured many people with flying glass and flash blindness. However, things could have been much worse if the blast had been closer to the ground or over a city center.

In other words, we’ve been lucky.

In the recent NASA images, the 173-kiloton Bering fireball shows up as an elongated orange-tinted scale left by the trajectory of the meteor as it burned up in the atmosphere, with its shadow visible against the lower clouds. The space agency says that fireballs are quite common and they are tracked by the NASA Center for Near Earth Object Studies database, but the vast majority of these are nothing more than small bursts that are more entertaining than dangerous.

Source: NASA

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120-mph Twike 5 adds exercise to even the fastest commute

Germany's Twike: an enclosed electric trike with pedal generators for exercise as you go
Germany’s Twike: an enclosed electric trike with pedal generators for exercise as you go. (Credit: Twike).

The shift to electric will open up all sorts of new vehicle categories – and we found this one super interesting. The Twike 5 is kind of like a pedal-assist ebike, except it’s a fully enclosed car capable of 120 mph speeds and 310-mile range figures while letting you sneak in a bit of exercise.

Based on a device originally built to take on the Automotive X-Prize challenge back in 2010, the Twike 5 is an ingenious road vehicle that allows commuters to steal a bit of fitness work as they sit in traffic. You sit in the twin-seat, waterproof, lockable cabin and pedal away like you’re on an exercise bike – and you are, really. The pedals connect to a generator that tops up the battery on this nifty little jigger as you drive along.

Steering is accomplished through a pair of push/pull levers instead of a steering wheel you might bang your knees on. Oh, and there’s pedals for the passenger too, so you can both work up a sweat.

Up and over: an offroad version of the Twike 5.

The doors appear at this stage to open as one unit that tilts forward from the front of the Twike, which we’re not sure will be a great idea in wetter areas. There’s a trunk in back for carrying cargo, making it quite a practical little vehicle.

The price? Well, these are short-run vehicles, so Twike is expecting to charge as much as EU€50,000 (US$56,700) for a fully pimped out Twike 5 with 120 mph (190 km/h) capability and a range up to 310 miles (500 km). Lower power/battery specs will be available, down to a EU€30,000 (US$34,000) model that ships without any battery whatsoever.

Twike says its vehicles can be driven on a range of different car and motorcycle licenses in the EU, depending on its power output. We took a look at the prototype Twike 5 chassis at Geneva, and while the prices are obviously a severe deterrent at this point, we love the idea of working a bit of exercise into what’s otherwise dead time during your commute. There’s no word on when this machine will make it to production just yet.

We’ll stick with our ebikes for the moment, but this fitness commuter class is one to keep an eye on for sure!

Source: Twike

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Wearable bike lighting system catches the tech Wayv

The Wayv harness is said to weigh less than 200 g (7 oz), with the helmet...
The Wayv harness is said to weigh less than 200 g (7 oz), with the helmet unit tipping the scales at under 150 g (5.3 oz). (Credit: Wayv).

Thanks to advances in both LED and Bluetooth technology, we’ve recently been seeing a slew of wearable bicycle-safety lighting products. The Wayv system, from a British startup of the same name, brings some interesting new features to the mix.

Incorporating a total of over 200 LEDs, Wayv consists of three waterproof components … there’s an adjustable harness that fits over a backpack or jacket, a helmet unit that attaches to the rear air vents of most third-party helmets, and a handlebar-mounted wireless remote. The harness and helmet unit both have a large red X in the middle, which serves as a tail light, plus there are amber turn indicators to either side. The harness has a set of indicators on the front, as well.

The remote is used to activate the turn signals. Unlike the case with some other systems, however, it doesn’t utilize push-buttons. Instead, users flick a thumb lever either up or down to indicate left or right turns, then return it to its neutral middle position to turn the indicators off. In case riders lose track, an illuminated display shows which indicator (if either) is currently blinking.

The Wayv remote's thumb-lever design reportedly allows users to operate the unit without removing their hand...

According to the system’s designers, the remote’s thumb-lever design allows users to operate the unit without removing their hand from the handlebar grip. It’s also a bit like automotive indicator controls, which people are used to from driving their cars.

It should be noted that there isn’t a brake light feature, though, which some other systems do have.

But yes, there is an app. It allows users to initially sync the system, plus it lets them turn the harness or helmet unit on or off, adjust their brightness, switch them between steady and flashing modes, and check their battery levels.

The Wayv harness also has turn indicators on the front

On the subject of batteries, one USB charge reportedly ought to be good for five days of use for the harness (at 30 minutes per day), one week of use for the helmet unit, and two weeks for the remote.

Should you be interested in getting a Wayv setup of your own, it will be the subject of a Kickstarter campaign launching next Monday (Mar. 11). That project will be accessible via the link below. A pledge of £75 (about US$98) will get you a complete system, when and if it reaches production. The planned retail price is £140 ($182).

Source: Wayv

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Seabubbles brings its electric, self-stablizing, hydrofoiling Bubble Taxis to Miami

Top speed of the production boat while hydrofoiling will be around 20 knots, or 23 mph
Top speed of the production boat while hydrofoiling will be around 20 knots, or 23 mph. (Credit: Seabubbles).

Raising boats out of the water on hydrofoils makes them much more comfortable and efficient – and this French design uses electric propulsion and an automatic self-stabilizing system to give you clean, quiet and sexy water transport.

Making its US debut in Miami this week, the Seabubbles Bubble Taxi is a five-seat design about the size of a family car, with a sleek shape reminiscent of a flying car from The Fifth Element.

The Bubble Taxi prototype runs two props on a 20-kilowatt (27 hp) electric drive system, and once it hits around 13 kmh (8 mph), its hydrofoils develop enough lift to make it rise up out of the water, allowing a top speed of 28 kmh (17 mph) as it cruises along about 40 cm (16 inches) above the water.

Riding high: this electric hydrofoiling bubble sits some 18 inches over the water

Getting the main hull out of the drink cuts drag by around 40 percent, helping squeeze extra range out of its 21.5-kilowatt-hour battery, which is good for up to two hours of use or 40 km (25 miles) between five-hour charges. Flying on hydrofoils also takes the craft up above a lot of surface choppiness, making for a smooth and comfortable ride.

Again, the numbers above are only for the prototypes – Seabubbles says its production machines will be faster, with bigger batteries, longer range and 35-minute fast charge times.

If it looks a bit unstable riding on its single, central front hydrofoil and two rear ones, fear not: the Bubble Taxi uses gyroscopic and altitude sensors to measure pitch and roll angles constantly, and the steering system is completely fly-by-wire, allowing the boat to auto-correct for tilt and stabilize itself as you drive.

The Seabubbles team demonstrates how up to six people can fit into the Bubble Taxi

Price is around US$200,000 according to TechCrunch – a figure that’ll look more attractive due to fuel and maintenance savings if you plan to put a lot of nautical miles on it. But its eye-catching, futuristic look as it glides silently across the water could easily make it a status item for the well-heeled.

A handful of private buyers are already paid up and waiting for their watercraft in the United States, and the company is also preparing to start production for private and business customers in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Rotterdam and Amsterdam. Check out a video below.

Source: Seabubbles via TechCrunch

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Infinity Seat is barely there, but it’s big on comfort

The Infinity Seat E2 hit the market this year
The Infinity Seat E2 hit the market this year. (Credit: Ben Coxworth/New Atlas).

It was back in 2013 that California chiropractor and triathlete Vincent Marcel took to Kickstarter, to finance production of his bizarre-looking but supposedly very comfortable Infinity Seat bicycle saddle. Well, it’s become a commercially-available product since then, and guess what? It works!

The Infinity Seat has actually been available for some time now, although the E2 model was just released this year. Designed in response to user requests, it’s 1.25 inches (32 mm) shorter than the standard version. Among other things, this allows road racers to more easily drop down onto the top tube when going downhill, maximizing their aerodynamics.

In general, though, the idea behind the Infinity Seat is that the rider’s sit bones and pubic bones are suspended in mid-air, with the fleshier sides of the buttocks absorbing the rider’s weight over a wider area. This is claimed to greatly reduce butt pain, along with genital numbness. In fact, in tests performed in Arizona, pressure mapping of the Infinity Seat as compared to some popular conventional saddles did apparently show a marked decrease in pressure points and friction temperature.

Designed in response to user requests, the Infinity Seat E2 is 1.25 inches (32 mm) shorter...

Because there’s not much to it, the seat is also quite light. The E2 tips the scales at 245 grams, and features a flexible polymer body, steel alloy rails, and neoprene closed-cell padding that’s hand-wrapped in Italian leather.

Given that the roads are still covered with snow and ice where I live, I tested the E2 by putting it on my road bike, then riding on a set of rollers. Perhaps more so than with other saddles, it’s very important that you get the angle, seatpost height and other factors just right. To that end, “Dr. Vince” actually offers to guide buyers through the setup process via a Skype chat. Given that most customers probably won’t bother with that, though, I decided that I should also just follow the provided instructions.

Upon first trying it out, I noticed that one really sits in the Infinity Seat, not on it. And it doesn’t feel like you’re sitting in nothing – your butt is still pressing down on an immovable object, so you are aware of the edges of the saddle. After several rides, though, I have to say that the thing really is comfortable. Because it isn’t easy to stand up while doing so, roller-riding does tend to lead to a lot of rear-end and “down there” discomfort, but that wasn’t a problem with the E2.

The Infinity Seat E2 tips the scales at 245 grams, and features a flexible polymer body,...

One thing that should be noted, however, is that the Infinity Seat isn’t ideal for mountain bikers. Because it’s a bit wider than a regular saddle, along with the fact that it sort of kicks up at the rear, all-terrain riders would likely have some difficulty sliding off the back to transfer their weight rearward on steep descents.

And yeah, it does look kinda weird. Depending on the buyer, that could either be a selling point or a detractor.

The Infinity Seat E2 is available via the company website (linked below), and is priced at US$297. Buyers can also go for the more general-use $297 E1X, or the fancier $397 E3.

Product page: Infinity Seat

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Kiwano rolls out updated self-balancing monowheel electric scooter

The Kiwano KO1+ has a 1,000 watt hub motor that rolls the electric monowheel up to...
The Kiwano KO1+ has a 1,000 watt hub motor that rolls the electric monowheel up to 12 mph over grass, sand, dirt or pavement. (Credit: Kiwano).

When launched in 2017, the KO1 monowheel scooter – a kind of cross between a Segway and a Solowheel – offered a range of 20 miles and a top speed of 20 mph. The KO1+ has a very similar look to the original, but is quite a different animal.

Kiwano’s latest monowheel features LG battery cells stowed away in the scooter’s handlebar stem for 25 miles (40 km) of range for every one hour on charge. The 1,000 watt hub motor tops out at just 12 mph (19 km/h), which is less than the original but should be zippy enough for most riders. It should be able to tackle 30 percent inclines though.

Constructed from carbon fiber, flexi poly-carbonate and zinc alloy for a premium feel, IP54 weather resistance and durability, the KO1+ rides on a chunky tire that’s ready for grass, sand, dirt or pavement, with shock suspension to smooth out any bumps along the way.

Buyers can choose between urban and all-terrain tire versions of the KO1+ electric monowheel

The company’s Auto Deck Smart Control System is reported to make riding fairly straightforward – just step on the slip-resistant, fold-out foot pegs, lean forward and off you go. As with similar setups, the rider leans left or right to turn and back to come to a stop.

LEDs light top front and bottom back, an LCD display shows battery status, speed and trip info, and there’s a built-in, fold-down kickstand. A companion app allows for customization, such as changing handling modes, setting launch angle and can even activate a follow-me mode. The app can also serve as a digital key for peace of mind security.

Available now for US$1,299, buyers can choose urban or all-terrain tires, as well as optional accessories like an actioncam mount, additional charger and Kiwano helmet. The video below has more.

Product page: Kiwano KO1+

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



Electric Mountain Cart takes disabled riders off-road

The EV4 Mountain Cart was developed with input from a disabled extreme athlete, and has been...
The EV4 Mountain Cart was developed with input from a disabled extreme athlete, and has been tested in snowy Polish mountains and on jump tracks. (Credit: EV4).

Jack Skopinski’s rivet-packing electric trikes and four-wheelers like to tilt. It’s become something of a signature for EV4 machines over the years. But now the Polish engineer has created an off-road electric trail hugger that doesn’t sport a tilting mechanism. The EV4 Mountain Cart is designed to allow disabled riders to cleanly and quietly zip down dirt tracks, up grassy hills and through forest trails.

Skopinski has retained the industrial aesthetic for the aviation-grade aluminum frame with welded steel swingarms and head-turning color schemes, so the new member of the EV4 family won’t look too out of place in an identity parade.

The Mountain Cart features two 1,000 W BLDC rear hub motors controlled by an electric throttle on the handlebar. Top speed is reported to be 40 km/h (25 mph), and there’s a 36 V/23 Ah battery pack under the front rack that offers a range per 3-4 hour charge of 50-80 km (30-50 mi).

The 160 x 138 x 90 cm EV4 Mountain Cart can accommodate a maximum rider and...

Each of the four 20 inch wheels wrapped in 20×2.125 Kenda tires has hydraulic disc braking, and the 160 x 138 x 90 cm (63 x 54 x 35 in) EV4 Mountain Cart has four bicycle shocks to help smooth out the bumps. An LCD display allows user to keep tabs on remaining charge and track trip info.

The seat – with seatbelt – is adjustable for different sized riders, and the vehicle can accommodate a maximum rider and cargo weight of 130 kg (286.6 lb).

The EV4 Mountain Cart isn’t road legal though, so you’ll have to find a suitable adventure trail to take it for a spin. It’s available now, prices start at US$5,285. The video below shows the vehicle in action.

Product page: EV4 Mountain Cart

(For the source of this article, and to watch a video of it doing a “testing jump,” please visit:



Highlights from the record-breaking 2019 Retromobile car auctions

In selling for $19 million to an American collector, this 1939 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 B...
In selling for $19 million to an American collector, this 1939 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 B Touring Berlinetta became the third most expensive pre-war car ever to sell at auction. (Credit: Artcurial /  Kevin Van Campenhout).

The cluster of elite car auctions associated with Rétromobile grew in strength yet again this year with official auction house Artcurial and the world’s largest collectible car auctioneer RM-Sotheby’s both achieving their highest totals ever in Paris. Bonhams’ annual total dropped slightly from previous years, but the overall result was an all-time high auction total besting US$90 million in sales.

The cluster of elite car auctions associated with Rétromobile grew in strength yet again this year with official auction house Artcurial and the world’s largest collectible car auctioneer RM-Sotheby’s both achieving their highest totals ever in Paris. Bonhams’ annual total dropped slightly from previous years, but the overall result was an all-time high auction total besting US$90 million in sales.

The foundation for the auctions, the audience attending Rétromobile, also grew again this year to an all-time high of 132,000 over the five days of the exhibition, besting the 121,884 visitor record set in 2015 when the Barnfind of the Century (the Baillon Collection) went on sale.

Perhaps the most telling statistic to emerge from the sales was from Artcurial, which noted that its $47.9 million revenues came from buyers in 20 different countries, with those buyers constituting 84 percent of the sale total.

Automobile auctions appear to have made the digital transition far better than most industries, and although the marketplace may no longer be the rampant bull market we saw a few short years ago, with youngtimer classics now very much in vogue thanks to changing demographics, the collectible car industry looks in better shape than ever.

Here’s a selection of the more interesting lots that sold in Paris.

$15,672 | €13,800 | 2018 Bugatti Type 35 Child’s Car

€13,800 | 2018 Bugatti Type 35 Child's Car | Auction Description: Bonhams

Auction Description: Bonhams

This Bugatti Type 35 Children’s Car is not one of the Bugatti Bebes produced by Bugatti in the 1930s, which have recently fetched prices of $99,000 and $110,000, but a hand-built replica created by a German enthusiast in 2018. The car is 2.9 meters (9.5 ft) long and runs a 6.5-bhp gasoline engine.

$45,078 | €39,795 | 1961 Renault 4CV R1062 Beach car

€ 39,795 | 1961 Renault 4CV R1062 Beach car | Auction Description: Artcurial

Auction Description: Artcurial

Though the Fiat Jolly is the established star in this genre of beach cars, with a record price of $170,500, that’s a lot of money for a car with a 500cc or 600cc twin-cylinder motor and not a lot of space. There were far fewer of these cars produced using a Renault 4CV base car, there’s more room, more power (750cc four cylinder engine) and a considerably more reasonable price tag. It will never have the cachet of a Fiat Jolly, which had a string of celebrity owners such as President Lyndon B. Johnson, Mae West, Aristotle Onassis, Yul Brynner, John Wayne, Grace Kelly, Henry Ford II, Gianni Agnelli, ad infinitum, but it is rarer and better so … it’s surprising that the price wasn’t more than this given the estimate of €45,000 to €65,000.

$135,024 | €119,200 | 1944 Volkswagen 166 “Schwimmwagen”

€119,200 | 1944 Volkswagen 166 "Schwimmwagen" | Auction Description: Artcurial

Auction Description: Artcurial

Given that the record price for a Volkswagen Schwimmwagen is $230,724 (€149,500) set by Bonhams in Monaco in 2008, this amphibious vehicle might have sold for a whole lot more. It is a very close relation to the Volkswagen Beetle, because it is derived from Porsche’s Type 60, and hence has a common ancestor with the Beetle and the WW2 German Army’s Kübelwagen. Schwimmwagens are rare because so very few survived the war, with other recent auction results including $138,712 (KR840,000) by RM-Sothebys in Denmark, and $141,743 (€110,000) by Pierre Bergé & Associés in Brussels in 2013.

$197,136 | €174,032 | 1908 Mercedes-Simplex 35 / 45HP Recreation

$197,136 | €174,032 | 1908 Mercedes-Simplex 35 / 45HP Recreation | Auction Description: Artcurial

Auction Description: Artcurial

This replica nearly doubled its low estimate (€90,000 to €120,000) for very good reason.

At least four cars are regularly claimed to be the world’s first sportscar. In 2016, we considered the validity of those claims, added another four contenders, and chose a new winner – this car. Follow that link for the long story on the history of what was essentially the first modern motorcar. Its reliability, speed, lower center of gravity and better protection for the occupants made it a favorite among royalty and the aristocracy … and racers who used it to win races at all levels.

This isn’t an original, but an exact, atom-perfect replica created at enormous expense by the legendary Pursang company of Argentina.

At this price, it represents a fraction of the cost of a replica from Pursang, and a substantial discount on the most recent Mercedes Simplex prices ($2,805,000 and $1,072,500). Authentic everything, made the same way as the original, and offering an authentic experience in every respect.

$241,610 | €212,750 | 1939 BMW 327/328 Sports Cabriolet

€212,750 | 1939 BMW 327/328 Sports Cabriolet | Auction Description: Bonhams

Auction Description: Bonhams

Introduced in 1938, the 327 sports-tourer featured a 55-hp version of BMW’s 1,971cc pushrod six cylinder engine, though it could be ordered with a sporting 80-hp Type 328 engine. In 1939, Autocar (UK) magazine timed a 328-engined Type 327 Sports Cabriolet at 96.77 mph (156 km/h) at Brooklands, validating what enthusiasts already knew – it was a rocket ship. One of only 428 produced, this is such a car, with matching chassis and engine and recently restored.

$241,610 | €212,750 | 1934 Lagonda M45 T7 Tourer

€212,750 | 1934 Lagonda M45 T7 Tourer | Auction Description: Bonhams

Auction Description: Bonhams

The Lagonda M45 was based on the company’s proven 3-liter model but fitted with one of Henry Meadows’ powerful 4½-liter six-cylinder engines. The esteem the car was held in by those that know can be best illustrated by the people who purchased it, and a near identical car to this was purchased new by Sir Malcolm Campbell, then the world speed record holder. Campbell’s car sold in 2007 for £111,500 ($230,324), which speaks volumes for this car.

$244,709 | €216,030 | 1936 Talbot-Lago T120 by Graber

€500,600 | 1937 Bugatti Type 57 Cabriolet par Graber | Auction Description: Artcurial

Auction Description: Artcurial

The story of this car is extraordinary, and the body was created by Herman Graber for Chassis No. 90110, until it came to light that the original bodywork for that chassis was one of the fabled Figoni and Falaschi “Goutte d’Eau” art deco masterpieces, and one of only two examples with fully enclosed front fenders.

This Talbot-Lago T150 C SS 'Tear Drop' by Figoni and Falaschi sold at RM-Sotheby's Villa Erba...

Hence, the bodywork was removed and replaced with the original configuration bodywork of the Talbot-Lago T150 C SS “Tear Drop” by Figoni and Falaschi and the car sold at RM-Sotheby’s Villa Erba sale in 2017 for €3,360,000.

The bodywork that had been removed was mated with a T120 chassis and a 3.0-liter motor provided to the car that was sold in Paris on Friday night for €216,030. The 4.0 liter insignia was kept on the body in respect for what it once clothed. The car was sold at that price with receipts totaling €295,000, so the restoration was therefore subsidized and the car was free. What a bargain!

$300,380 | €264,500 | 1937 Alfa Romeo 6C-2300 Berlina by Stabilimenti Farina

€264,500 | 1937 Alfa Romeo 6C-2300 Berlina by Stabilimenti Farina | Auction Description: Bonhams

Auction Description: Bonhams

This is a fascinating car with a storied history, beginning with its bespoke body created by Stabilimenti Farina, the family of Italian automotive coachbuilders where a young Battista “Pinin” Farina learned his craft, and which also schooled such names as Pietro Frua, Felice Mario Boano, Giovanni Michelotti, Franco Martinengo and Alfredo Vignale. Most importantly, this car is highly original, having been in the collection of noted Iranian collector Fuad Majzub for many decades and purchased from his estate in 1991 by the vendor.

$364,566 | €321,840 | 1937 Peugeot 402 DS Darl’Mat Sport Roadster

€321,840 | 1937 Peugeot 402 DS Darl'Mat Sport Roadster | Auction Description: Artcurial

Auction Description: Artcurial

This car is a collaboration between Émile Darl’Mat and Georges Paulin, and is unquestionably one of most elegant French sports cars of the pre-war period. The first of this model was run at Montlhéry, where it averaged 139.3 km/h (86.5 mph) for 24 hours, increasing demand to such a degree that the small company decided to produce a limited run. The cars finished seventh, eighth and tenth outright in the 1937 24 Hours of Le Mans, and fifth outright and first in class in the 1938 24 Hours of Le Mans. Gorgeous, rare and fast, this car is equally at home contesting any concours d’elegance at the same time as being eligible for such motorsport celebrations as the Le Mans Classic.

$511,345 | €449,375 | 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300 Sc Coupé

€449,375 | 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300 Sc Coupé | Auction Description: RM-Sotheby's

Auction Description: RM-Sotheby’s

A rare and beautiful car that was hand-built in limited numbers during an era of mass production. Just 98 such cars were built and this fully-optioned matching-numbers example was the show car at the 1956 New York Motor Show.

$540,098 | €476,800 | 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300 S Convertible

€476,800 | 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300 S Convertible | Auction Description: Artcurial

Auction Description: Artcurial

A convertible version of the 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300 Sc Coupé which sold for $511,345 | €449,375 in this listing. For those with a sense of history, the mechanicals from this model were the basis of the famous 300 SL Gullwing and Roadster which rarely drop below seven figures these days.

$567,058 | €500,600 | 1937 Bugatti Type 57 Cabriolet by Graber

$567,058 | €500,600 | 1937 Bugatti Type 57 Cabriolet by Graber | Auction Description: Artcurial

Auction Description: Artcurial

Renowned coachbuilder Herman Graber clothed nine Bugatti 57 cabriolets, and given their beauty, it isn’t surprising that they all still exist, closely held.

$894,609 | €787,750 | 1931 Bentley 8-Liter Sports Tourer

€787,750 | 1931 Bentley 8-Liter Sports Tourer | Auction Description: Bonhams

Auction Description: Bonhams

$966,127 | €852,900 | 1936 Bugatti 57 Altantic modifiée Erik Koux

€852 900 | 1936 Bugatti 57 Altantic modifiée Erik Koux | Auction Description: Artcurial

Auction Description: Artcurial

There were four Bugatti Atlantics made and three survive. One of them won the Peninsula Classic Best-of-the-best award 12 months ago, and is conservatively estimated to be worth $40 million. Another is owned by Ralph Lauren and from time to time it appears at concours events. Last time out in 2013 it won the Concorso d’Elegenza Villa d’Este in 2013.

This is a replica, built from a genuine Bugatti Type 57 and it is sensational – read the auction description – in the flesh, it presents as worth far more than the price it fetched, which works out at a 98 percent discount on a real one, yet delivering exactly the same experience.

$1,107,156 | €977,400 | 1930 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Gran Sport Corsica

€977,400 | 1930 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Gran Sport roadster Corsica | Auction Description: Artcurial

Auction Description: Artcurial

$1,305,998 | €1,150,000 | 1928 Bentley 6½-Liter
Four Light Weymann Fabric Sports Saloon

€1,150,000 | 1928 Bentley 6½-Liter Four Light Weymann Fabric Sports Saloon | Auction Description: Bonhams

Auction Description: Bonhams

$1,371,298 | €1,207,500 | 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing

€1,207,500 | 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing Coupé | Auction Description: Bonhams

Auction Description: Bonhams

$1,795,748 | €1,581,250 | 1939 Mercedes-Benz 540 K
Cabriolet A

€1,581,250 | 1939 Mercedes-Benz 540 K Cabriolet A | Auction Description: Bonhams

Auction Description: Bonhams

$2,588,730 | €2,275,000 2018 Bugatti Chiron

€ 2,275,000 2018 Bugatti Chiron | Auction Description: RM-Sotheby's

Auction Description: RM-Sotheby’s

$18,968,675 | €16,745,600 | 1939 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 B Touring Berlinetta by Touring

In selling for $19 million to an American collector, this 1939 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 B...

Auction Description: Artcurial

In selling for $19 million to an American collector, this 1939 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 B Touring Berlinetta became the third most expensive pre-war car ever to sell at auction, behind a 1939 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Lungo Spider by Touring that sold for $19,800,000 and Gary Cooper’s Duesenberg SSJ that sold for $22 million.

Having been in single family ownership for 43 years, this beautiful automobile has appreciated considerably in value since it was acquired for €10,000 in 1976.

(For the full article, plus all 73 photographs, please visit:



Australian startup plans a proper long-range, road-drivable VTOL flying car

Macchina Volantis is planning an electric VTOL aircraft with space for five seats
Macchina Volantis is planning an electric VTOL aircraft with space for five seats. (Credit: Macchina Volantis).

Another flying car company is preparing to join the race to the skies, as Australia’s Macchina Volantis gears up to build a prototype of its road-drivable 5-seat electric aircraft. With VTOL capability, winged flight mode and a diesel range extender, this thing promises to fly at three times highway speed and offer some serious range.

“Serial problem fixer” Stephen Fries is as sick of traffic as the rest of us, and ready to start commuting in three-dimensional space. Unlike most of us, however, he’s not planning to wait for somebody else to make it happen. He believes that practical, road-drivable electric VTOL aircraft are possible today, using existing and proven technology, and he’s decided to prove it by building one.

The plan is similar to other electric VTOL aircraft being developed in this space: the Vahana from Airbus, the Lilium, the Joby, but with a few wrinkles of its own. Fries is planning a large cabin with space for five seats and a carrying capacity that’ll allow each passenger some 25 kg of luggage.

On the road, it will be fairly limited, with a top speed governed to 60 km/h (37 mph). The design sees an enclosed trike with two wheels at the back and a driven, steerable wheel (or dual wheel) at the front with a modest 70 kilowatts (93 horsepower) of power to get it moving. It’s designed for the skyway, not the highway. In road mode, it’s compact enough to comfortably fit in a garage or single car parking space.

Australia's Macchina Volantis gears up to build a prototype of its road-drivable 5-seat electric aircraft

When it’s time to take off, its top wing will telescope out from its enclosures, and its bottom wings will fold down. There are ducted fans at each corner, each housing two 60-kilowatt (80 hp) electric motors with contra-rotating props. Covers on the lower wing slide back to reveal an extra two sets of ducted fans to give a total of 12 motors, enough to handle the high power load of vertical takeoff and landing in a 1,650 kg (3,638 lb) airframe about the weight of a decent sized family car. Each motor gets its own battery pack for redundancy.

Once you’re in the air, and you begin moving forward, the ducted fans will begin to tilt forward, and from an airspeed of 65 knots the wing fans will fold away behind their covers and the machine will become a high-efficiency winged aircraft. With a 100-liter (26.4 gallon) diesel fuel tank driving a range extending generator, Fries says you’re looking at an aircraft capable of 150-knot (278 kmh/173 mph) cruising speeds and a range in excess of 1,000 miles (1,600 km).

On top of the redundancy factor provided by the 12 separate motors, the aircraft will carry a ballistic parachute for emergency landings. And, much like the latest consumer camera drones, takeoff and landing will be highly automated push-button affairs leaving little to chance, and there will be the facility to plot a flight path and have the aircraft autopilot itself to the destination. Fries says it shouldn’t be looked at as an autonomous aircraft until it learns to handle all sorts of edge case scenarios – he’s only interested in building what can be achieved today without relying on future tech to fill any holes.

We sat down with Fries to discuss where Macchina Volantis is at, what makes them the right team to make this happen, and what the next steps will be. What follows is an edited transcript.

"Serial problem fixer" Stephen Fries is as sick of traffic as the rest of us, and...

Loz: So have you ever built an aircraft before?

Fries: No, I haven’t! But I’m a serial problem solver. I get annoyed when problems can be fixed and nobody’s fixing them. And I’ve been around boats all my life. I’ve designed, built, sailed and raced internationally. I’ve built vacuum bag molds … I’ve been sailing since I was nine, built a new boat every winter for the first nine years of my sailing life. I started out with steamed plywood, moved onto foam sandwich, then kevlar foam, and just kept going and going. Made my own carbon masts and put them together.

I’m quite au fait with this. I designed it in a freeware piece of software from NASA, aerospace software, so that’s how I know it flies. About this time last year we gave it to an aerospace company in Perth, and they third-party accredited the entire design.

We know it can be done. The ducts are available, you can currently buy them. The electric motors, we know we can get them. The batteries are available, in the sizes we need them. Better and cheaper ones will probably be available by the time we build it, so we prefer not to nominate anything in particular at this time.

Loz: In terms of emergency failure, have you given much thought to the “death zone” problem when you’re flying under 100 feet? Ballistic parachutes don’t have time to open out and be effective under that sort of altitude.

Fries: The way I envisage this aircraft, as soon as it clears any obstacles it’ll start going forward. And it’ll fly forward at such a rate that we hope we’ll be in winged flight within 60 seconds. We’re saying 100 seconds for sure. Once you’re there you can perform a controlled glide down even if you lose all but two motors.

Obviously these are edge case scenarios, but I see these things as a hundred times safer than a regular light plane. Those don’t have ballistic parachutes at all, they don’t have transponders. They can only land on a runway doing 100-plus kilometers per hour.

So we should start out being somewhat safer than the average kit aeroplane or experimental aircraft that’s out there flying today. At the moment, anyone can design an experimental aircraft, build it and fly it. You can get an experimental pilot’s license for 40 hours of training.

Loz: Have you got one of those?

Fries: No, I haven’t. I’m a sailor, not a pilot. This will eventually be far in advance of anything like that. It’ll be fully tested, fully computed, we’ll have a full detailed design and a fluid dynamics design.

But we’re looking at putting it into the experimental plane arena to get it out there and get it seen by the public. We’ll make it available as a kit. You’d put it together in our factory, under our supervision. The rules in relation to experimental planes require that the owner builds 51 percent of the plane. That might be a way to get it out there, get it seen, get it flying before we get it approved by CASA or the FAA in the US.

As far as using them as an air taxi, well, until it’s certified, you can’t make money out of it. The owner has to pilot it, and you can’t charge a fee for carrying people around. There’s a tiny loophole in that for carrying equipment or cargo. So that’s a potential early commercial use case. We’ll have the option that the seats can be removed and you can carry 450kg (990 lb) of cargo in there instead.

Loz: Why make your first aircraft a five-seater? Isn’t that a waste of space and weight? I’ve spent some time with Dezso Molnar, who’s starting up a Flying Car race series in the United States, and he gets angry when people even mention multi-seat roadable aircraft.

Fries: Well, I can make that thing a two-seater, and I’d save barely 20 percent of the weight of the vehicle. Yet I’ve restricted myself to one pilot and one joyrider. The pilot will be there much longer than people think, too – it’s a five or ten year job before these aircraft become autonomous and pilotless. Some people are happy to wait around for five or ten years until that happens, but I want something now!

Roads take up roughly 15 percent of the land space. Go upwards, and you can use 100 percent of the air space. Put every car on the road up in the sky and it still won’t look busy or cause traffic jams. It has to come about. It will come about. And I want a pilot to be able to take three or four passengers.

On the road, it will be fairly limited, with a top speed governed to 60 km/h...

Loz: OK, so anyone can fly a drone, they’re a piece of cake. They self-stabilize, most of it is done by the flight controller. But as you go to forward flight, you’re tilting props, generating wing lift, changing flight dynamics … Are you moving to a different control scheme? Will this be difficult to fly?

It’ll be exactly the same as a drone. It’ll be self-stabilizing. And the air speed over the wing, that’ll determine how fast the props spin. You won’t have to worry about that at all. You want to turn? Turn the steering wheel.

There’s no rudders or flaps. We’re relying on exactly what a drone does to turn a corner. All it does is power one fan up, tilt it and goes around. When it’s in full winged flight, we just power one side up or slow the other down.

Top speed is around 150 knots. Don’t forget, we’ve got two fans in each duct. We can drive it very differently to a regular aircraft. Each duct has two contra-rotating fans, and we can control the speed of each fan very precisely. So we can do a lot with that.

Takeoff will be fully automatic, nobody has to touch it. Same with landing, you’ll look at your screen, choose a landing point, and the system will check to make sure there’s no power lines or anything else in the way, and it’ll land it for you. That’s the beauty of these systems – with cars, because there’s so much traffic around, you need your autonomous software to be centimeter perfect. Up in the air, you can be 10 or 20 meter perfect and you’re still safe.

We’ll allow manual flight when you’re in the air if you want it. You might just choose a takeoff point and a landing point, but how you get there is your own business. You might want to fly along the coast.

There’s a whole lot of benefits to a ducted fan setup as opposed to exposed rotors. They can land a meter from a tree and not worry about it. It won’t hurt people. But most importantly, it creates 40 percent more power just by putting a fan inside a duct. And we’ve got two fans … the second fan doesn’t have 100 percent of the first fan’s power, it’s more like 50 percent.

Noise-wise, it just sounds like an electric motor. But that’s why we can only go 150 knots – if we pushed it to 180 knots the fan tips are going so fast, they’d go supersonic. We don’t want that squeal.

Loz: So what’s your timeline like?

Fries: It’s all totally dependent on funding. If we get some VC funding, we can go straight into the detailed design. Our software partner is the excellent Anushka Bandara at Elegant Media, who will handle the integration of the flight control and navigation systems. I’ve worked with him on two mobile app projects. We’ve found our people to do the ducts in America and Perth. Our electric motors are going to be designed in Germany. Aerodynamic design is probably going to be done in Adelaide, and probably wind tunnel testing here in Melbourne, either at RMIT or Monash University. We’ve found our builder, who can build these exotic composite products for us, he’s a boat builder up in New South Wales, and he’s used to doing one-offs at cost-effective rates.

It’ll be carbon with a titanium Nomex honeycomb core. It’s a honeycomb shape, like a sandwich, normally made out of paper or plastic, but we’ll use titanium for extra strength. It’s well proven in super yachts and motor yachts, things like that. We’ll use Kevlar on the inside to help make it puncture-proof.

So it’ll all be dependent on when the funds arrive. We believe we can do detailed design in six to nine months, and then build it in another 12 months.

And we’re not asking for a lot of money in this case. There are companies out there with $90 million worth of investment behind them that don’t even have a full-size prototype yet. We’re looking for 10 million dollars, US. A million to complete the design, and 9 million to build the prototype. We’re marketing it around the 350-400 grand US mark.

Loz: That sounds cheap for a flying five-seater!

We’ve got a full component list, and we’ve priced it. It’s just a little bit more than a Cessna – but it’s current technology. Those aircraft are 60 year old technology.

We see a lot of our market being in the United States, partially because of the much bigger population over there. But we want to build the prototype in Australia.

Loz: What issues do you see getting them road certified?

I’m glad you asked. The road certification will be harder than the flying certification at this point, because of the experimental category we can use to fly them initially. So going forward, one of the hardest parts will be the crash testing. We’ll have to prove the monocoque can take it.

Part of what we’re investigating right now is seeing what we can do to get it out there as a prototype, and maybe have some sort of road trial prior to crash testing.

If it ends up working better in America [due to looser road laws in the three-wheeler and motorcycle categories], we’ll take it over there if we have to. But we want to build it here. Australia has plenty of capability in building these sorts of one-offs cost-effectively at small volumes. This country’s skills in exotic constructions are second to none.

Loz: How do you expect to raise this kind of capital as somebody who’s never worked in aerospace before?

That’s why it can be so different! I spoke to a lot of aero folk early on, and they were so negative, it can’t be done. If you challenge an expert, it just doesn’t work if you’re trying to do something different. Experts are experts in their field, and they’ll try to protect their field. But we want to think outside of the field.

Being a yachtie and knowing aerodynamics extremely well, competing at international levels with sails, hulls and rigs I’ve built myself, I fully understand what’s required to get it done.

Having said that, I’d never do the final designs. I’m the project manager, and I’ve managed plenty of large projects before. $40 million dollar budgets, $20 million … they all require multi-talented teams. You bring them together all at once for a price, and for a time.

That’s where my skill is. Plus I have the initial ability to scope out the concept. But I’ll be relying on absolute experts to do the detailed design work, and managing the process with my team.

We look forward to following the progress of this project and wish Fries and his team the best of luck in securing funding.

(For the source of this, and many additional interesting articles, please visit:



Ultra-simple tiny house built for under $1,500

As you'd probably guess, the $1,500 cost doesn't include the purchase of any land and Greenfield...
As you’d probably guess, the $1,500 cost doesn’t include the purchase of any land and Greenfield has his tiny house installed in someone else’s garden in Orlando. (Credit: Rob Greenfield).

Adventurer, environmental activist and “Dude Making a Difference” Rob Greenfield is also involved in the tiny house movement but feels that the rise in luxury models is missing the point. In a bid to prove that small living can be done on a modest budget, he recently built a tiny house for under $1,500 in Florida using mostly recycled materials.

“I often find tiny houses to be very inaccessible,” explains Greenfield on his blog. “At the festival I went to in Oregon there were plenty of houses in the $40,000-$80,000 range and even some as costly as $150,000. Don’t get me wrong, they were amazing tiny houses, but I know many people just find that idea to be totally absurd. There’s no way I could afford a tiny house that expensive, even if I wanted one, which I don’t. I love simple living, and living far more simply than most tiny house dwellers even.”

His tiny house measures just 100 sq ft (9.2 sq m) and was built using different recycled materials, such as pieces of fencing and plywood. The build was carried out with a lot of help from friends and only produced 30 lb (13 kg) of waste. There’s currently no insulation and Greenfield considered adding some or a wood-burning stove to keep the chill at bay, but says he’s been fine so far.

The tiny house measures just 100 sq ft (9.2 sq m)

A good chunk of the snug interior is taken up by storage for Greenfield’s homegrown foods. A small desk is made from wood scraps and the floor is decked out in wood that was being thrown out from a house that flooded. The bed is made from more scrap wood.

Greenfield originally planned to live totally off-the-grid but it didn’t make sense to install solar power with the tiny amount of electricity he uses (the bill is roughly $100 per year), so he makes use of a hookup to power a deep chest freezer.

The kitchen is located outside in a little shelter made from leftover materials from the tiny house build. It has a small solar-powered light, propane camp stove, a solar oven, and a biogas stove. A fire pit is also nearby. The sink is fed by a rainwater collection system and the water is then reused for irrigation.

Greenfield's kitchen is built from leftover materials from the tiny house build

The toilet is also outside and is a composting system with two separate toilet seats, one for each type of waste. The resulting waste is then either diluted with water and poured onto plants, or composted for a year and used to grow more plants. The “toilet paper” is a mint leaf grown on the property, which Greenfield says is very soft. His shower is basically a bowl fed by rainwater, with burlap surrounding it for privacy.

As you’d probably guess, the $1,500 cost doesn’t include the purchase of any land and Greenfield has his tiny house installed in someone else’s garden in Orlando. Instead of paying rent, he helps out around the house and does garden work. Once he leaves in about two years, the owner will get to keep the tiny house.

Greenfield's toilet is also outside

Greenfield has a lot going on. He gives talks on sustainable living, and has also headed a campaign that strives to end food waste in the USA. Check out the video below to learn more on his tiny house and lifestyle.

Source: Rob Greenfield

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

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Cryptocurrency in 2019: Things to Expect


Image Source
Cryptocurrencies continue to surprise us with their behavior through the years. Amidst all the instability and unpredictability in terms of performance, trading, litigation, regulation, and taxation, miners and investors brave the odds and explore what these cryptocurrencies have to offer. Pessimists and optimists alike have much to say about the future of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin – such as bitcoin’s supposed nearing end because of the consistent drop in bitcoin price after reaching its peak. But it’s more viable to focus on observable trends in order to have an idea on what to expect as far as these cryptocurrencies are concerned. Here are some of them.The MarketThe word “bubble” is thrown around in the finance world, and if you’re wondering what it means, it is simply the cycle created by the fast escalation of asset prices followed by a contraction. The bubble deflates when investors cease to buy at elevated prices and massive sell-offs occur. As for bitcoin, yes it is a bubble, and it indeed popped. The market is expected to calm down a bit after the bubble and cryptocurrency trading will likely remain profitable.Cryptocurrency as PaymentRetailers are starting to accept cryptocurrency as payment. At this point in time, including cryptocurrency in the list of payment methods can potentially boost income, in the same way that establishments that accept credit cards do have a wider reach than those who do not. Now you can book flights, purchase household goods, get web domains, buy computer products, and so much more with bitcoin. As of December 2018, more travel services, web services, food, and general merchandise have started to accept bitcoin payments. Those with a Microsoft account, for example, have the “Redeem Bitcoin” option upon checkout and can add up to $100 at a time via Bitpay.CybersecurityIn recent years, crypto traders and holders have seen security threats such as phishing and mining malware. Cryptocurrencies, in theory, are secure; however, we expect that new crypto exchanges and platforms will bring about new cybersecurity threats and challenges.BlockchainThe blockchain industry has always been associated with cryptocurrency, and in 2019, it is expected to work on its image as an industry that has a lot more to offer. If the industry wants to operate on a larger scale, it needs to be communicated that the blockchain technology has a lot of uses that are unrelated to cryptocurrency.Taxation and Regulation2019 is set to be the year of more widespread, formal, and international crypto regulation. In cryptocurrency news this year, Malta became the first country to have a clear regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies. Countries such as Russia and India have also begun to draft national legislation for cryptocurrencies; and we expect other countries to follow suit – giving way for cryptocurrency to become more legitimate. Preventing money laundering, fraud, and terrorist funding is a prime motivation in putting these regulations in place. If cryptocurrencies are safely policed, more and more people will be confident to use and adopt them.Contact us at Hogan Injury for expert legal advice.None of the content on is legal advice nor is it a replacement for advice from a certified lawyer. Please consult a legal professional for further information.

(For the source of this article please see



The world’s watersheds, mapped in gorgeous detail

Hungarian cartographer travels the world while mapping its treasures.

  • Simple idea, stunning result: the world’s watersheds in glorious colors.
  • The maps are the work of Hungarian cartographer Robert Szucs.
  • His job: to travel and map the world, one good cause at a time.

These maps are both data-rich and absolutely gorgeous. You’re looking at watershed maps, showing the flow of tributary streams into main rivers, and of those water courses into the sea (or final destinations inland). The streams are shown in the Strahler Stream Order Classification, which uses width to indicate the hierarchy of streams. Watersheds (a.k.a. drainage basins or catchment areas) are grouped together by color.

The maps are the work of Hungarian cartographer Robert Szucs, 33, who combines expertise in GIS with a passion for beautiful maps. “GIS is short for Geographic Information Systems. It’s a collective word for anything using spatial or geographic data — from monitoring changes in forest cover with satellite data to creating crime density maps for the police,” Szucs explains. “In this case, I’ve used GIS to create artistic maps, which is a beautiful hybrid of the artsy and geeky sides of my personality.”

The world

Can you spot the world’s ten largest drainage basins? In order of magnitude: Amazon, Congo, Nile, Mississippi, Ob, Parana, Yenisei, Lena, Niger, Amur. Image source: Grasshopper Geography


Africa is home to the rivers with the world’s second- and third-largest catchment areas: the Congo (in blue), with a basin of 1.44 million square miles (3.73 million km2), and the Nile (in red), with basin area of 1.26 million square miles (3.25 million km2). The Nile is the longest river in Africa, though (4,130 miles; 6,650 km), followed by the Congo: 2,900 miles (4,700 km). The Congo River’s alternative name, Zaire, comes from the Kikongo nzadi o nzere (‘river swallowing rivers’). Image source: Grasshopper Geography


The Volga (in yellow) is the river with the biggest catchment area in Europe (just under 545,000 square miles; 1.41 million km2). It flows exclusively through Russia, and the catchment area is entirely within Russia as well. Europe’s number two is the Danube (in orange), which flows through 10 countries — more than any other river in the world. Its drainage basin (just over 307,000 square miles; almost 796,000 km2) includes nine more countries. Image: Grasshopper Geography


The hydrographic map of Germany is dominated by just four major drainage systems: the Danube (in orange) in the south, the Rhine (in blue) in the west, the Elbe (in purple) in the east and the Weser (in green) between the latter two. In Antiquity, the Rhine was the border between the Roman Empire and the Germans. Rome once attempted to shift the border to the Elbe, which would have radically altered the course of history, but it suffered a massive defeat in 9 CE at the Teutoburger Wald (roughly between both rivers). Image: Grasshopper Geography

Great Britain and Ireland

Both Ireland and Great Britain are islands, as a result of which neither boasts a continental-class river. Twenty of the 30 longest British rivers are less than 100 miles (160 km) long. The longest river in Britain is the Severn (220 miles, 354 km), its catchment area shown in blue in the southwest. Ireland’s longest river is the Shannon (224 miles, 360 km). Even combined they’re not as long as France’s Seine (483 miles, 777 km). Image: Grasshopper Geography

United States

Washington State

Even leaving out the Mississippi, there’s enough going on in the rest of North America to keep the eye occupied. Here’s a drainage map of Washington State. The big fish in this much smaller pond is the Columbia River (drainage area in blue), the largest river in the Pacific Northwest. Only in the western third of the state is there a colorful counterpoint, in the multitude of smaller river basins that are draining into the Pacific or into Puget Sound. Image: Grasshopper Geography


At 1,558 miles (2,508 km), the Murray is Australia’s longest river. It is often considered in conjunction with the Darling (915 miles, 1,472 km), the country’s third-longest river, which flows into the Murray. The Murray-Darling basin (in blue, in the southeast) covers just under 410,000 square miles (1.06 million km2), or 14 percent of Australia’s total territory. Don’t let that spidery network of river courses in the interior fool you: Australia is the world’s driest inhabited continent (Antarctica, bizarrely, is drier). Image: Grasshopper Geography


Four of the world’s largest drainage basins are in Russia: the Ob, Yenisei and Lena (origin of Vladimir I. Ulyanov’s nom de guerre, Lenin) entirely and the Amur, shared with China. The Volga may be Europe’s longest river, but 84 percent of Russia’s surface water is east of the Urals, in Siberia. The sparsely-populated region is traversed by 40 rivers longer than 1,000 km. Combined, the Ob, Yenisey and Lena rivers cover a drainage area of about 8 million km2, discharging nearly 50,000 m3 of water per second into the Arctic. Image: Grasshopper Geography

Szucs has managed to parlay his love for beautiful maps into a job designing them:

“I made a huge elevation map of Eurasia which was used in a documentary about horses and their migrations. There’s also a 12-foot wide mural in the making at Louisiana State University, based on one of my maps. And I made some maps for the BBC after they reached out, saying my work inspired a show on rivers. I’m not saying I was jumping on my bed from excitement after any of those requests, but maybe I was.”

Szucs is not just a theoretical map enthusiast, but also a practical one. He tries to move to a different country every few months, “donating” his mapmaking skills to worthy causes. He’s worked with archeologists on St. Eustatius, an island in the Caribbean, with marine biologists in Alaska, and for an orangutan conservation program on Borneo, among other destinations.

“My moves are always temporary, linked with volunteering for an NGO. It’s a way of developing my skills, but also of seeing the world and experiencing new cultures,” Szucs said. Meanwhile, new map ideas bubble up. “My current favorite map as yet only exists in my head as an idea. I might have to learn a few new software applications to make it. Let’s hope I can find a way to make it happen. After that, I hope to be back in Alaska for a few months, working with whales again.”

Many thanks to Mr. Szucs for sending in these maps. See more at Grasshopper Geography.

Strange Maps #959

Got a strange map? Let me know at

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Powerful eMove Cruiser electric scooter heads to the US

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Voro Motors

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Honeybees That Solve Math Problems Challenge Supremacy of Human Brains

Maybe math isn’t so hard after all.


By Peter Hess – 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

Image result for manoomin, or wild rice

Band of Ojibwe Legally Recognized …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Astounding imagery from the 2019 Sony World Photography Awards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Arabian red fox

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

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

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

(For the source of this article, and to see all 120 digital photographs, please visit:



Why colorful foods boost immunity



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

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

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

Which Universities Are Offering Courses on These Subjects?

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

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

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

Nir Kabessa, the President of Blockchain at Columbia stated:

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

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

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

Can I Take These Courses Online?

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

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

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

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

Do I Need to be a Computer Geek to Enroll?

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

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

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

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

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

How Can I Use These Courses to Make Money?

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

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

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

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

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

The Future of Blockchain

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

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

(For the source of this article, as well as a couple of videos, please visit:



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The new study was published in the journal BMJ.

Source: The BMJ via SciMex

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s what they found:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brian Fung is a former technology writer at National Journal.

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Action Mobil Zetros luxury motorhome roams wild in extreme terrain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can see the fixed bed up behind the convertible dinette

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Action Mobil via Motor1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Samsung's folding phone prototype

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Inequality for all? 

Credit: Oxfam

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

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

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

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

Credit: Oxfam

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do they propose we fix this problem?

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

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

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

What do Big Thinkers have to say about all this?

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

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

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

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

What’s Steven Pinker got to do with it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steven Pinker: Why libertarianism will never be a universal value

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Exciting architecture projects to look forward to in 2019

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

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

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

CopenHill – BIG

CopenHill also sports a ski slope atop its roof

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

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

Under – Snøhetta

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

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

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

One Thousand Museum – Zaha Hadid Architects

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

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

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

Vessel – Heatherwick Studio

How Vessel is expected to look once complete

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

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

Lakhta Center – Gorproject/RMJM

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

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

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

Beijing Daxing International Airport terminal – Zaha Hadid Architects

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

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

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

Gardenhouse – MAD Architects

Gardenhouse consists of a large podium with 18 houses atop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: EAT-Lancet

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

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

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

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

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

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

The NuBike prototype weighs 22 lb (10 kg)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Kickstarter

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Aerial photography captures the beauty of how water shapes our planet

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

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

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

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

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

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

Traces of disappeared rivers in Cantillana, Spain

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

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

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

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

Source: Water.Shapes.Earth / Instagram

(For the source of this article, and to view additional photographs, please visit:



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

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

By Chris Baraniuk –

Mountain and lake in Mat-Su Borough – p06xjnns. 

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

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

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

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

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

This is the story of what happened.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Electrical typewriter (Credit: Getty Images)



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dog being given vaccine (Credit: Getty Images)



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shelves full of books (Credit: Gety Images)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beijing skyline (Credit: Getty Images)



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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bitcoin going into someone's pocket. Image Source.

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

How do you pay with bitcoin?

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

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

What are the advantages?

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

What are the risks?

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

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

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

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

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

(Source of this article:

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


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



A home library can have a powerful effect on children

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

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

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

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

It’s not quite the more books the better

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

The effect of digital media

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

Why does living with a home library help?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Credit: Social Science and Medicine

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

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

“Stack ‘o Books” courtesy

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

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

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

Happy reading!

(For the source of this article, and to watch a couple of videos related to it, please visit:


Civita Bagnoregio, the dying city

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

Civita Bagnoreggio_the dying city_011

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

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

Civita Bagnoreggio_the dying city_012

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

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

Civita Map

(For the source of this, and many other interesting articles, please visit:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is microdosing anyway?

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

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

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

Micro dose, major boost

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

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

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

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

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

The study showed no significant difference on fluid intelligence.

More mind-bending studies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Limitations to studying the expanding mind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The study was published in the journal Cell Metabolism.

Source: Harvard University

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

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

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

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

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

The high cost of good cheese

Photo credit: FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images

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

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

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

A win-win

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

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

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

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

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

Other odd kinds of collateral

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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You can now drag and drop whole countries to compare their size offers hours of fun while you stretch and shrink countries and states all over the globe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This app allows size comparison while avoiding the cartographic Fremdkörper that the Peters projection still is. “We hope teachers will use it to show their students just how big the world actually is,” say Talmage and Macniece. is great fun: move equatorial countries north and see how getting closer to the pole distorts them, as if in a house of mirrors at the carnival. Plonk countries from different latitudes next to each other and see how they’re a lot more different in size than you thought. Or a lot less. See countries shrink as you drag them from their positions high up north (or deep down south) closer to the equator.

Greenland and Africa, Mercator style


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

​Congo is bigger than Greenland


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

UK trumps Tanzania


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

Tanzania swallows the UK


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

Russia on top


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

Russia on its head


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

Poland, TX


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

Trying Europe on for size


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

Inflated and deflated states of America


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

Ten largest countries


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

Germany in the Midwest


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

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

Strange Maps #953

Got a strange map? Let me know at

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


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


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

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

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


By  BBC Focus Magazine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big tobacco’s advantage in the U.S.

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

Will there soon be a Budweiser of the marijuana industry?

In short, probably.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How we know math ability isn’t genetic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Creating a self-fulfilling prophecy

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

The pattern goes like this:

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

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

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

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

Metaphorically speaking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Practice makes proficient

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Drones called in to save the Great Wall of China

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



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

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

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

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

Flamingos take flight in Italy

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

Rocky coastline in Portugal

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

Waterfall in the National Park El Impossible, El Salvador

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

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

Source: Dronestagram

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Indiegogo

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

By Sarah Sloat – 

termite mound
This is an image of the mounds.

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

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

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

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

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

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

termite mound
This is an image of the mounds.


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

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

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How genes influence preferences for tea or coffee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Source: Northwestern University

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New sphinx uncovered in Egypt

By Barry Neild –

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

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

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

Crocodile mummies

Kom Ombo is considered unusual for an ancient Egyptian temple because it is dedicated to two separate deities — crocodile god Sobek and falcon god Haroeris.
Three hundred crocodile mummies discovered near the temple are displayed in an adjacent Crocodile Museum.
Highlighting the fact that Egypt still has mysteries yet to uncover, the sphinx may help draw more visitors back to a country whose recent social and political upheavals led to a sharp decline in tourism.
The latest discovery follows the recent opening of the newly restored Tomb of Mehu, a 4,000-year-old burial site near Giza that has been hidden from public view since its discovery 80 years ago.
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8-in-1 Monkeycycle grows from stroller, to bike, to tilting quad

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

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

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

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

The stroller kit

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

A high-seated balancing bike

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

The tilting quad-bike

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

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

Take a look at the campaign video below.

Source: Monkeycycle

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Biomega channels e-bike design into simplified electric car

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Biomega

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A proposed military version of the Model J

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

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

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

Company website: Egan Airships

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Hoversurf

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Harley-Davidson

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

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

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

The homologation special

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

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

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