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Apr 4, 2018

What the Spinning Chair at Space Camp is Actually For

Posted by in category: space

If you’re of a certain age, you probably know know Huntsville, Alabama’s Space Camp best as a prize for winning a ridiculous competition show. And if you ever obsessed over going on that cosmic retreat, you probably wanted to get on that weird spinning chair they always showed in the clips. It’s a serious looking device at a serious facility–what the heck is it for?

I was recently lucky enough to make a childhood dream come true and zipped up my flight suit for a shot at Space Camp. There, as I explain in the video above, I learned that the spinning chair has a more formal name: the Multi Axis Trainer, or MAT. It’s used to give riders a feeling of what it’s like to uncontrollably tumble through space.

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Apr 4, 2018

Chinese Crypto Mining Company Poses a Threat to AMD and Nvidia

Posted by in category: futurism

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. and Nvidia Corp. are feeling the heat from a Chinese adversary that they never imagined would become a competitor.

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Apr 4, 2018

Is the Preservation of Beauty as we Age Just Vanity?

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, life extension

How many times have you heard someone say that the pursuit of beauty, or of its preservation over time, is a “vain” endeavor? My guess would be probably many. That’s why you need to tread carefully if you plan to present the preservation of looks as an argument in favor of rejuvenation biotechnology—you might be stepping into a minefield.

Quite frankly, I never got what’s so wrong with wanting to maintain youthful beauty over time, and I’d tend to think we’re dealing with a fox-and-grapes situation here.

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Apr 4, 2018

PyTorch Should Be Copyleft

Posted by in category: robotics/AI

Neural networks have started to take off since AlexNet in 2012. We don’t have to call it a software war, but there’s a competition for mindshare and community contributors in neural networks.

Of course, AI needs more than a neural network library, it needs the configuration hyperparameters, training datasets, trained models, test environments, and more.

Most people have heard of Google’s Tensorflow which was released at the end of 2015, but there’s an active codebase called PyTorch which is easier to understand, less of a black box, and more dynamic. Tensorflow does have solutions for some of those limitations (such as Tensorflow-fold, and Tensorflow-Eager) but these new capabilities remove the need for other features and complexity of Tensorflow. Google built a high-performance system for doing static computation graphs before realizing that most people want dynamic graphs. Doh!

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Apr 4, 2018

Synthetic biology companies raised over $650 million in Q1, setting the pace for another record-breaking year

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, biological

In 2017, synthetic biology companies raised a record amount of funding – just over $1.8 billion for fifty two companies – driven mostly by several multi-hundred million dollar deals. This was a 50% increase over the previous year, a pace of growth that indicated an intense interest in the field from outside investors. It seems that this interest has only intensified since then, as 27 companies raised $650 million in funding during the first quarter of 2018, which is double the activity of the first quarter of 2017. At this rate, the field is on track to raise over $2.4 billion with over 100 companies being funded, which would be a record for both statistics.

Synthetic Biology Companies Funding

The companies raising money in 2018 are pursuing a broadly diverse set of applications from all sections of the synthetic biology technology stack. Many companies are developing products that will eventually end up in the hands (or bodies) of everyday consumers, but others are making the tools and reagents that will empower the whole field to become more productive. It is important that all of these types of companies exist in order to build a healthy industry ecosystem.

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Apr 4, 2018

US Power Sector Carbon Intensity drops below 1,000 lb/MWh for lowest emissions intensity on record

Posted by in categories: energy, engineering

Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems (MHPS) and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) today announced the release of the 2018 Carnegie Mellon Power Sector Carbon Index, at CMU Energy Week, hosted by the Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation. The Index tracks the environmental performance of U.S. power producers and compares current emissions to more than two decades of historical data collected nationwide. This release marks the one-year anniversary of the Index, developed as a new metric to track power sector carbon emissions performance trends.

“The Carnegie Mellon Power Sector Carbon Index provides a snapshot of critical data regarding energy production and environmental performance,” said Costa Samaras, Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “We’ve found this index to provide significant insight into trends in generation and emissions. In particular, the data have shown that emissions intensity has fallen to the lowest level on record, as a combination of natural gas and renewable power have displaced more intensive coal-fired power generation.”

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Apr 4, 2018

Five key lessons other cities can learn from Cape Town’s water crisis

Posted by in categories: climatology, sustainability

Postponing Day Zero in Cape Town for 2018 comes as no surprise. There was no sense to it once the day had been pushed into the winter rainfall period. It also didn’t make sense for the Western Cape and Cape Town governments to continue drafting detailed logistical plans for points of water distribution in the event that taps were turned off across the city.

But Cape Town’s remain at high risk because the long-term predictions for rainfall in the south-western Cape remain uncertain. Dam levels continue to fall while people are struggling to achieve the ’s target of 450 million litres per day. And yields from new water schemes will only be known in the coming months and next year.

The general perception is that the onset of climate change would be slow and measured. This would afford authorities the time to intervene with considered plans. But climate change is a disrupter and takes no prisoners. Over the past three years, Cape Town and the surrounding regions has experienced successive years of well below average rainfall. The experience is changing the way people think about water and how it is managed.

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Apr 4, 2018

Research overcomes major technical obstacles in magnesium-metal batteries

Posted by in categories: chemistry, energy, nanotechnology


Scientists at the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have discovered a new approach for developing a rechargeable non-aqueous magnesium-metal battery.

A proof-of-concept paper published in Nature Chemistry detailed how the scientists pioneered a method to enable the reversible of magnesium metal in the noncorrosive carbonate-based electrolytes and tested the concept in a prototype cell. The technology possesses potential advantages over lithium-ion batteries—notably, higher density, greater stability, and lower cost.

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Apr 4, 2018

Our legacy of liveable cities won’t last without a visionary response to growth

Posted by in categories: economics, health, policy

Australia’s major cities are growing more rapidly than ever before, gaining three million residents in a decade. Concerns about the risks to their long-term liveability and health are growing too. Is the consistent placing of Australian cities at the top of most liveable city rankings a reason for complacency?

The fastest-growing city, Melbourne, is experiencing unprecedented growth and yet has topped The Economist Intelligence Unit global liveability ranking for seven years running. However, much like Australia’s remarkable record of 26 years of continuous economic growth, many of the policy and institutional reforms that delivered this liveability legacy occurred decades ago.

Australia is now undergoing its third great wave of population growth, putting pressure on infrastructure, services and the environment. During the past two waves of growth, in the late-19th and mid-20th centuries, cities implemented visionary responses. It’s largely because of these past phases of planning and investment that our cities have until now been able to sustain their liveability and a reasonably healthy natural environment.

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Apr 4, 2018

Study reveals more than 100 tiny plastics in every meal

Posted by in category: particle physics

We could be swallowing more than 100 tiny plastic particles with every main meal, a Heriot-Watt study has revealed.

The , which can come from soft furnishings and synthetic fabrics, gets into household which falls on plates and is consumed.

The university academics made the discovery after putting Petri dishes containing sticky dust traps on the table next to dinner plates in three homes at meal times.

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