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Fri, 21 Jul 2017
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Afghan girls win silver medal of courageous achievement in robotics competition

© Paul J.Richards / AFP
An all-girl team from Afghanistan was awarded a silver medal for "courageous achievement" at an international robotics competition in Washington, DC. They only made the competition after President Donald Trump personally intervened to get them visas.

The Afghan team made headlines earlier this month when their visa application was turned down by the US embassy in Kabul, prompting critics to blame Trump's temporary travel ban, which affects applicants from Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, all countries with a Muslim majority population. Afghanistan, however, is not on that list.

Trump himself reportedly urged the Department of Homeland Security to find a way for their visit to happen, and the team was able to enter the US on "parole."

At the First Global robotics competition, the Afghan girls competed against 162 other teams from 157 countries, including a team of Syrian refugees. Their robot, named Better Idea of Afghan Girls, was able to sort orange and blue balls by color and put them in the correct places, simulating water purification.


Space experts baffled during House testimony after Dana Rohrabacher asks if civilizations lived on Mars

© NASA / Reuters
A California congressman baffled a panel of space experts testifying in Washington when he asked if it was possible that Mars was home to an ancient alien civilization. The panel told him that there was "no evidence" and it would be "extremely unlikely."

A hearing before the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology on Tuesday was interrupted when Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-California) requested additional time to ask the panel of scientists with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) if there was any evidence of archaic extraterrestrials living on the red planet.
"You have indicated that Mars was totally different thousands of years ago," said Rohrabacher, who is the vice chairman of the Science, Space and Technology Committee and a member of the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee since he first entered Congress in 1989.

"Is it possible that there was a civilization on Mars thousands of years ago?" he asked.


Philadelphia child receives double hand transplant in world first surgery

© The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia / YouTube
Zion Harvey suffered a cataclysmic infection when he was just two years old, forcing doctors to amputate both his hands and feet to save his life. Now aged ten, Harvey is the world's youngest successful double hand transplant recipient.

Harvey suffered kidney failure soon after the amputations and underwent two years of dialysis before his mother Pattie Ray donated her kidney. With the unyielding support of his family and medical staff, Harvey was able to live his life while patiently waiting for a suitable match.

In July 2015, Harvey finally received donor hands from a deceased child and the surgical team could embark on the landmark surgery. The first successful hand transplant on an adult was completed in 1998 but there were no recorded successes on child patients.


Censorship and tyranny over the mind: The failure of peer-review

Today Science is up on a pedestal. A new god has appeared; his high priests conduct the rituals, with nuclear reactors, moon-probing rocket ships, cathode tubes and laser beams. And their territory is sacrosanct; laymen are denied entry. BRUCE CATHIE

The Failure of Peer Review (Especially in Medicine)

The defects in the peer review system have been the subject of a profusion of critical editorials and studies in the literature over recent years. The notion of peer review occupies special territory in the world of science. However, investigation of suppressed innovations, inventions, treatments, cures, and so on rapidly reveals that the peer review system is arguably better at one thing above all others: censorship. This can mean censorship of everything from contrarian viewpoints to innovations that render favored dogmas, products, or services obsolete (economic threats) depends on circumstances. The problem is endemic, as many scientists have learned the hard way.

The failure of peer review is one of science's dirty "secrets."
[P]eer review is known to engender bias, incompetence, excessive expense, ineffectiveness, and corruption. A surfeit of publications has documented the deficiencies of this system. - Dr David Kaplan[i]
Australian physicist Brian Martin elaborates in his excellent article Strategies for Dissenting Scientists:

Comment: More on the hopelessly flawed peer-review system:


US government seeking to create shape-changing robots for humans to wear

© NASA. Pixabay
The US National Science Foundation and Air Force Office of Scientific Research are seeking proposals from bio-engineering researchers to build shape-changing soft robots that can be worn by or implanted in humans, and change shape to pass through tight spaces, the two US government research groups announced in a solicitation on Tuesday.

A soft robot of the future would be able to alter its shape in order to pass through a tight space inaccessible to humans and traditional stiff robots, the document noted.
"To create soft robots that can achieve the remarkable functionality seen in the animal kingdom, or that can be physically worn by or implanted in humans, will require a re-engineering of power and information systems, the creation of new materials, and the formulation of new theories of movement and manipulation," the solicitation stated.


Scientists tune in to 'peculiar' radio signals from a star 11 light-years away

Scientists have detected mysterious radio signals from a star 11 light years from Earth.
Some very "peculiar signals" have been noticed coming from a star just 11 light-years away, scientists in Puerto Rico say.

The mystery has gripped the internet as speculation mounts about the potential for a discovery of alien life on the red dwarf star known as Ross 128 -- despite the best attempts of astronomers to put such rumors to rest.

"In case you are wondering, the recurrent aliens hypothesis is at the bottom of many other better explanations," said a blog post by Abel Mendez, director of the Planetary Habitability Laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo.

Something unusual first came to light in April and May, when the team was studying a series of small and relatively cool red dwarf stars, some of which are known to have planets circling them.

Ross 128 is not known to have planets, but "we realized that there were some very peculiar signals in the 10-minute dynamic spectrum that we obtained from Ross 128."


Mismanagement, not 'climate change', caused Adelaide summer blackouts

Blackout in Adelaide, January 2017: Lights out across the Western world as ideology drives elites to commit societicide
The Wall Street Journal called it the energy shortage "no one saw coming." Actually, a lot of people did see it coming. But intent on pursuing their "dangerous manmade climate change" and "renewable energy will save the planet" agendas, the political classes ignored them. So the stage was set.

As an Australia-wide heat wave sent temperatures soaring above 105 degrees F (40.6 C) in early 2017, air conditioning demand skyrocketed.

Comment: There were actually two 'unprecedented' blackouts in South Australia during their last summer - in late 2016, and again in early 2017.

But Adelaide, South Australia is heavily dependent on wind turbines for electricity generation - and there was no wind. Regulators told the local natural gas-fired power plant to ramp up its output, but it couldn't get enough gas to do so. To avoid a massive, widespread blackout, regulators shut off power to 90,000 homes, leaving angry families sweltering in the dark.


ISS crew being monitored by 'Star Wars' floating drone

JEM Internal Ball Camera taking a video.
A floating drone, designed to help monitor the work of crew onboard the International Space Station, has beamed back to Earth its first images from inside the low-orbit satellite.

Manufactured by 3D-printing, the Int-Ball is a robotic camera drone produced by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and has been on board the ISS since June.

Resembling a droid from the Star Wars movie series, the curious looking sphere can move autonomously in space but can also capture images under the command of operators on Earth.


NASA's Van Allen Probes mission analyzing eerie whistling sounds coming from space

NASA scientists are trying to decipher rather eerie whistling sounds its probes have recorded in space. Don't get too worried though, it's not aliens.

The team says it recorded the sounds with the help of the Van Allen Probes mission, which allows us "listen to the sounds of space" and how different elements interact.

The space agency attributes the strange sounds to different electromagnetic waves known as plasma waves creating distinctive sounds "in the particle symphony surrounding Earth."

"While technically a vacuum, space nonetheless contains energetic charged particles, governed by magnetic and electric fields, and it behaves unlike anything we experience on Earth," NASA said.

"By understanding how waves and particles interact, scientists can learn how electrons are accelerated and lost from the radiation belts and help protect our satellites and telecommunications in space," a statement explained.


Prairie Vole love helps scientists pinpoint romantic brain activity

As a species, voles have almost perfected monogamy - so scientists have turned to the tiny mammals to study the neuroscience of love
© Emory University
Signals were recorded from the brains of female voles as they met a potential partner, mated for the first time and began forming a lifelong bond, indicated by “huddling” behaviour.
"Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind. And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind," Shakespeare wrote. Now scientists have pinpointed the specific patterns of brain activity that accompany romance, offering a new explanation for why love sends our judgement haywire.

As a relationship takes root, the study found, the brain's reward circuit goes into overdrive, rapidly increasing the value placed on spending time with one's love interest. This, at least, was the case in the prairie vole, scientists' animal model of choice for studying the neuroscience of love.

Elizabeth Amadei, who co-led the work at Emory University in Atlanta, said: "As humans, we know the feelings we get when we view images of our romantic partners, but, until now, we haven't known how the brain's reward system works to lead to those feelings."