Category: Science

Youtube cuts giraffe feed because of smut

US puritans in YouTube have shut down a live feed to a giraffe enclosure claiming it is an X-rated hot bed of pornographic necking.

Millions of people have been watching and waiting with anticipation to witness the birth of a baby giraffe at Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, NY and the park set up a webcam to share the precious and educational moment with the world.

The site attracted more than 20-30 million views in the 12 hours the site was up. It is not surprising as April the giraffe is 15 years old and is expecting a calf with her mate, Oliver.

However, someone contacted YouTube to complain that the site was immoral and packed full of porn. What is amazing is that they found another puritan in YouTube who agreed with them and the site was pulled.

“For the millions of you that have been tuning in to take witness to this educational experience, a live giraffe birth, there are a handful of extremists and animal rights activists that may not agree with us, and that’s okay, but have unfortunately reported our YouTube cam as sexually explicit or nude content, which has made for its removal,” park officials said on Facebook Live.

According to YouTube’s guidelines:

“Sexually explicit content like pornography is not allowed. Videos containing fetish content will be removed or age-restricted depending on the severity of the act in question. In most cases, violent, graphic, or humiliating fetishes are not allowed to be shown on YouTube.”

The announcement seemed to have many viewers puzzled. One person commented, “Does this mean the animals in the zoo will soon be wearing clothes?”

YouTube finally realised that banning educational sites based on the age old puritan tradition of seeing sex, or witches, were there aren’t any was not going to fly and re-instated the live feed probably safe for work. We had a look this morning and it was a giraffe chewing for 10 minutes, we guess it must have turned someone on.

https://www.facebook.com/fox46charlotte/videos/484025361721568/

 

Bloke builds his own open saucy self-driving car

A self-driving car does not have to cost you a fortune if you can get away from the car industry, according to a University of Nebraska student.

According to MIT Technology Review Brevan Jorgenson used open source software to convert his Honda Civic into a high tech self-driving car,

His homemade device in place of the rear-view mirror can control the brakes, accelerator, and steering, and it uses a camera to identify road markings and other cars.

Jorgenson built the lot using plans and software downloaded from the internet, plus about $700 in parts.

He started his project after George Hotz of Comma.ai, a San Francisco startup that was developing a $999 device that could upgrade certain vehicles to steer themselves on the highway and follow stop-and-go traffic.

Hotz was forced to cancel plans to launch the product after receiving a letter asking questions about its functionality from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In November, he released the company’s hardware designs and software for free, saying he wanted to empower researchers and hobbyists.

The whole thing is powered by a OnePlus 3 smartphone equipped with Comma’s now-free Openpilot software, a circuit board that connects the device to the car’s electronics, and a 3-D-printed case. Jorgenson got the case printed by an online service and soldered the board together himself.

Subsequent tests revealed that the Neo would inexplicably pull to the right sometimes, but a software update released by Comma quickly fixed that. Now fully working, the system is similar in capabilities to the initial version of Tesla’s AutoPilot.

Bryant Walker Smith, a law professor at the University of South Carolina, says that federal and state laws probably don’t pose much of a barrier to those with a desire to upgrade their vehicle to share driving duties. NHTSA has authority over companies selling vehicles and systems used to modify them, but consumers have significant flexibility in making changes to their own vehicle, says Smith, who advises the US Department of Transportation on law and automation.

Woolly mammoth making a come back from the dead

While the Dodo has gone the way of the dodo, boffins who have never read Jurassic Park are close to bringing back the woolly mammoth.

Without needing to get any public liability insurance, the team of boffins are on the brink of resurrecting the ancient beast in a revised form, through an ambitious feat of genetic engineering.

Speaking ahead of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Boston this week, the scientist leading the “de-extinction” effort said the Harvard team is just two years away from creating a hybrid embryo, in which mammoth traits would be programmed into an Asian elephant.

“Our aim is to produce a hybrid elephant-mammoth embryo,” said Prof George Church. “Actually, it would be more like an elephant with many mammoth traits. We’re not there yet, but it could happen in a couple of years.”

So not quite the animal that died out 4,000 years ago but more a “mammophant”, would be partly elephant, but with features such as small ears, subcutaneous fat, long shaggy hair and cold-adapted blood.

The mammoth genes for these traits are spliced into the elephant DNA using the powerful gene-editing tool, Crispr.

So far, the team have stopped at the cell stage, but are now moving towards creating embryos – although, they said that it would be many years before any serious attempt at producing a living creature.

“We’re working on ways to evaluate the impact of all these edits and basically trying to establish embryogenesis in the lab,” said Church.

Since starting the project in 2015 the researchers have increased the number of “edits” where mammoth DNA has been spliced into the elephant genome from 15 to 45.

Some of these modifications could help preserve the Asian elephant, which is also in trouble and might follow its shaggy ancestor into the elephant species grave yard.

Some other scientists are a little worried that the genetics boffins have not thought things through enough.

Matthew Cobb, professor of zoology at the University of Manchester, points out that the mammoth was not simply a set of genes, it was a social animal, as is the modern Asian elephant. What will happen when the elephant-mammoth hybrid is born? How will it be greeted by other elephants?

The woolly mammoth roamed across Europe, Asia, Africa and North America during the last Ice Age and vanished about 4,000 years ago, probably due to a combination of climate change and the fact that mammoth steaks were rather delicious.

 

India breaks record for most satellites launched at once

India has successfully launched 104 satellites at once using its Isro’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).

The Indians broke a record for the most satellites launched at once which was set by the Russians who launched 37 in one go in 2014.

PSLV-C37 carrying the 104 satellites lifted off from the first launch pad at Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota at 9.28am. Seventeen minutes later, the rocket started placing the satellites into orbit, one by one with a time-frame of about 11 minutes.

Out of the total 104 satellites placed in orbit, 101 satellites belonged to six foreign countries. They included 96 from the US and one each from Israel, the UAE, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Kazakhstan.

PSLV first injected its main payload Cartosat- 2 series, India’s indigenously built earth observation satellite. It was followed by two other nanosatellites of Isro —- INS-1A and INS-1B.

Needless to say, the satellites were rather small nanosatellites but getting them all successfully deployed from one lift off was still a significant feat.

Mission director B Jayakumar said the launch involved complex issues in management and maneuvering to ensure nothing collided.

Director, Isro Satellite Centre Mayilsamy Annadurai said, “We can also hit centuries like our cricketers. In another two months, the number of satellites built by Isro will reach 100. Besides GSLV missions, we have get Chandrayan – 2 ready for launch next year.”

Among the foreign satellites, 88 cube satellites belonged to San Francisco-based earth imaging startup Planet. With the launch, the company has increased its fleet to 143 satellites which will soon begin capturing images of the earth’s entire landmass, including India, every day.
Eight other satellites belonging to Spire Global, US, will provide services for vessel tracking and weather measurement.

Harvard boffins invent decade lasting battery

Harvard boffins have emerged from their smoke-filled rooms having invented a liquid battery which can last for a decade.

Most lithium-ion batteries are ready for silicon heaven after a few years. But Harvard researchers’ solution involves something called a flow battery.

It stores energy in liquid solutions which can last for over a decade by modifying the molecules in the electrolytes, ferrocene and viologen, so that they’re stable, water-soluble and resistant to degradation. When dissolved in water, the resulting solution only loses a percent of its capacity every 1,000 cycles. It could be several years before you even notice a slight drop off in performance.

It is also not corrosive or toxic, you don’t have to worry about wrecking your home if the battery leaks. The safer materials are also less expensive than the polymers you usually need in flow batteries, and don’t require exotic pumps and tanks to withstand harsher chemicals.

It could be exactly what the renewable energy market is screaming for. You could install solar power at home knowing that the cost of energy storage won’t wipe out the money you save on your electricity bill.

US rocket man held phone searched by airport security

A NASA rocket scientist was detained by US Customs and Border Patrol and pressured to turn over his phone and access PIN.

The move poses some serious security problems because US Customs and Border Patrol lacked the security clearance to hack Sidd Bikkannavar’s phone and since he worked for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) this is a big deal.

Bikkannavar says his phone was issued by NASA and may have contained sensitive material that wasn’t supposed to be shared. Then there is the small matter that Bikkannavar is a US citizen and should not have been forced to give over his phone under the US constitution.

A CBP officer escorted Bikkannavar to a back room, and told him to wait for additional instructions. About 40 minutes later an officer took him to an interview room and sort of explains that I’m entering the country and they need to search my possessions to make sure I’m not bringing in anything dangerous.

The officer also presented Bikkannavar with a document titled “Inspection of Electronic Devices” and explained that CBP had authority to search his phone. Bikkannavar did not want to hand over the device, because it was given to him by JPL and is technically NASA property. He even showed the officer the JPL barcode on the back of phone. CBP asked for the phone and the access PIN despite Bikkannavar’s protests.

The officer insisted that he had a right to search the phone and did not allow him to leave until he handed over his PIN. This is also odd as Courts have ruled that travellers are not legally required to unlock their devices, although agents can detain them for significant periods of time if they do not.

When the phone  was returned Bikkannavar immediately turned it off because he knew he had to take it straight to the IT department at JPL. Once he arrived in Los Angeles, he went to NASA and told his superiors what had happened. The cybersecurity team at JPL was not happy about the breach. After all if Russia or China wanted US rocket plans all it would have to do was compromise the US Customs and Border Patrol which is not that difficult.

Air force peeved after Lockheed Martin botched GPS satellite testing

A Lockheed Martin subcontractor botched testing on a key component for the US’s newest Global Positioning System satellites.

According to Bloomberg   subcontractor Harris forced another delay in the delivery of the first of 32 planned GPS III satellites until later this month, and the Air Force is rather hacked off.

Major General Roger Teague, the Air Force’s chief of space programs said that the cock up will mean that the $528 million satellite 34 months late.

Lockheed has a contract to build the first 10 of the satellites designed to provide a more accurate version of the Global Positioning System.  Now the Air Force is wondering if it should award the contract for the rest of the system to Boeing and Northrop Grumman.

Teague said that the incident was avoidable and raised significant concerns with Lockheed Martin subcontractor management/oversight and Harris programme management.

Ceramic capacitors which take higher-voltage power from the satellite’s power system and reduce it to a voltage required for a particular subsystem have been a headache for the project.

Last year, the Air Force and contractors discovered that Harris hadn’t conducted tests on the components, including how long they would operate without failing, that should have been completed in 2010.

Harris spent June to October of last year doing follow-up testing on the wrong parts instead of samples of the suspect capacitors installed on the first three satellites.

Harris “immediately notified Lockheed and the government” after a post-test inspection, Teague said in his message.

“The capacitors met all mission qualification requirements,” he said, so “we are confident the capacitors are mission-ready”.

But Teague said in an interview that Harris was required to perform not only a test to show that the part met design specifications but a separate one to assess the component’s reliability and whether it met a requirement to last 15 years. That second test wasn’t accomplished because “they used the wrong test item,” he said.

The Air Force has decided to accept the first satellite even if its capacitors may be flawed because removing them could delay the delivery until October and cost about $70 million,

The Air Force must pay $100 million to replace the suspect capacitors on the second and third satellites. That’s because the satellites are being developed under cost-reimbursement-type contracts, which require the Pentagon to pay for cost increases, the service said.

Boffins to build real large scale quantum computer

schrodingers_catAn international team, led by a scientist from the University of Sussex, has today unveiled the first practical blueprint for how to build a quantum computer.

Powered by cats who may, or may not be dead, the computer will be the most powerful on Earth and has calculated the existence of rice pudding even before it has been built.

According to the journal Science Advances, which we get for the spot the quark competition, the blueprint includes a new invention which uses connections created by electric fields that allow charged atoms (ions) to be transported from one module to another. This new approach allows 100,000 times faster connection speeds between individual quantum computing modules compared to current state-of-the-art fibre link technology.

Previously, scientists thought of using fibre optic connections to connect individual computer modules.

The project’s top boffin Prof Winfried Hensinger, head of Ion Quantum Technology Group at the University of Sussex said the availability of a universal quantum computer may have a fundamental impact on society.

“Without doubt it is still challenging to build a large-scale machine, but now is the time to translate academic excellence into actual application building on the UK’s strengths in this ground-breaking technology. I am very excited to work with industry and government to make this happen.”

The computer’s possibilities for solving, explaining or developing could be endless. However, its size will be anything but small. The machine is expected to fill a large building, consisting of sophisticated vacuum apparatus featuring integrated quantum computing silicon microchips that hold individual charged atoms (ions) using electric fields.

Still anything that involves getting dead cats to do the ioning is almost certain to be a winner.

 

 

A brain does not work like a computer chip

mybrainhurtsAccording to the BBC, a processor is the brain of a computer, but it seems that the hardware has neuroscientists baffled.

A paper published in PLOS Computational Biology wondered if more information is the same thing as more understanding. Eric Jonas of the University of California, Berkeley, and Konrad Kording of Northwestern University, in Chicago, who both have backgrounds in neuroscience and electronic engineering, reasoned that a computer was a good way to test the analytical toolkit used by modern neuroscience. However they had to admit that they were wrong.

They took an MOS Technology 6502 chip which was first produced in 1975 and famous for powering, among other things, early Atari, Apple and Commodore computers. It has 3,510 transistors and is simple enough to create simulation that can model the electrical state of every transistor, and the voltage on every one of the thousands of wires connecting those transistors to each other, as the virtual chip runs a particular program.

The simulation produces about 1.5 gigabytes of data a second—a large amount, but well within the capabilities of the algorithms currently employed to probe the mysteries of biological brains.

But brain science and electronic science started to diverge in the test. For example if you damage part of the brain you know what is going to be stuffed up. A chip though comes up with false positives.

Disabling one particular group of transistors prevented the chip from running the boot-up sequence of “Donkey Kong but allowed it to run other games.

If it were a brain you would think that transistors were thus uniquely responsible for “Donkey Kong” but the reality is that it is just part of a circuit which implements a much more basic computing function that is crucial for loading one piece of software, but not some others.

The bofins  looked for correlations between the activity of groups of nerve cells and a particular behavior but when they tried to apply this to the chip, the researchers’ algorithms found five transistors whose activity was strongly correlated with the brightness of the most recently displayed pixel on the screen.

Jonas and Kording know that these transistors are not directly involved in drawing pictures on the screen and they are only involved in the trivial sense that they are used by some part of the program which is ultimately deciding what goes on the screen.

Jonas said that neuroscience techniques failed to find many chip structures that the researchers knew were there, and which are vital for comprehending what is actually going on in it.

In fact, all the neuroscientists’ algorithms could detect in the chip was the master clock signal, which co-ordinates the operations of different parts of the chip.
In short, computers and brains have got as much in common as a packet of crisps has with the Empire State Building. This means that the BBC will have to find a new simile.

Galileo’s clocks are a bit broken

salvador-dali-persistence-of-memory-clocks-meaningOnboard atomic clocks that drive the satellite navigation signals on Europe’s Galileo network have been failing at an alarming rate.

Half of 18 satellites now in orbit have seen their clocks stop working.

Three are traditional rubidium devices; six are the more precise hydrogen maser instruments that were designed to give Galileo superior performance to the GPS network.

A decision must now be made about whether to suspend the launch of further spacecraft while the problem  is investigated.

Prof Jan Woerner, the director general of the European Space Agency (ESA), told a meeting with reporters: “Everybody is raising this question: should we postpone the next launch until we find the root cause, or should we launch?

“You can give both answers at the same time. You can say we wait until we find the solution but that means if more clocks fail we will reduce the capability of Galileo. But if we launch we will at least maintain if not increase the [capability], but we may then take the risk that a systematic problem is not considered. We are right now in this discussion about what to do.”

Each Galileo satellite carries two rubidium and two hydrogen maser clocks. The multiple installation enables a satellite to keep working after an initial failure.

All 18 spacecraft currently in space continue to operate, but one of them is now down to just two clocks.

Most of the maser failures (5) have occurred on the satellites that were originally sent into orbit to validate the system, whereas all three rubidium stoppages are on the spacecraft that were subsequently launched to fill out the network.

Esa is also in contact with the Indian space agency which is using the same clocks in its sat-nav system. So far, the Indians have not experienced the same failures.

It is possible that the failures are linked to probable short circuits, and possibly a test performed on the ground.