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Thu, 18 Apr 2019
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Coding robots, golf & rainwater: Russian students defend 'IT Olympics' title

Russian students
© Facebook / ICPC News
Russian computer whizzes continued their mind-blowing seven-year winning streak at the International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC), after a team from the Moscow State University successfully defended their title.

The three-man Russian squad aced ten out of 11 problems during the finals in Porto, Portugal, beating a team from the MIT, which came second.

The triumphant students, Mikhail Ipatov, Vladislav Makeyev and Grigory Reznikov, were all defending champions as last year they also reigned supreme when the contest was held Beijing. This time they beat their opponents in a tough competition among 135 teams from all over the world.


Fossil discovery: Four-legged whale with hooves!

early whale
© A. Gennari/CellPress
Early whales could swim for days or possibly weeks at a time while retaining their ability to rove around on land.
An ancient four-legged whale with hooves has been discovered, providing new insights into how the ancestors of the Earth's largest mammals made the transition from land to sea.

The giant 42.6m-year-old fossil, discovered in marine sediments along the coast of Peru, appears to have been adapted for a semi-aquatic lifestyle. Its hoofed feet and the shape of its legs suggest it would have been capable of bearing the weight of its bulky four metre long body and walking on land. Other anatomical features, including a powerful tail and webbed feet similar to an otter suggest it was also a strong swimmer.

"Whales are this iconic example of evolution," said Travis Park, an ancient whale expert at the Natural History Museum in London, who was not involved in the latest study. "They went from small hoofed mammals to the blue whale we have today. It's so interesting to see how they conquered the oceans."

Older and smaller whale ancestors with four limbs had been discovered previously, but the latest specimen fills in a crucial gap in knowledge about how the creatures evolved and spread throughout the world's oceans.


Japanese probe launches explosives at ancient asteroid to look inside it

Surface of the Ryugu asteroid photographed by Japanese Minerva-II rover-1B in September 2018
The Japanese space probe Hayabusa2 has launched an explosive device at the asteroid it is exploring, aiming to create an artificial crater and take a look inside.

The Japanese Space Exploration Agency (JAXA) confirmed that Hayabusa2 "has carried out operations to separate the SCI (Small Carry-on Impactor)" in a statement on its website. The probe then moved out of the blast zone, ducking behind the other side of the same asteroid - Ryugu, or 'Dragon Palace,' located almost 300 million kilometers from Earth.

The impactor was expected to detonate 40 minutes after launch, but JAXA will not know for certain if it worked as intended until late April. For now, it has provided a picture of the detached explosive, taken with Hayabusa2's onboard camera.

Hayabusa 2
© JAXA, The University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, The University of Aizu, AIST
Small Carry-on Impactor separated from Hayabusa2

Comment: See also: Japanese rovers send back 1st video ever taken on an asteroid


Watch Chinese engineers move a 30,000-tonne bus terminal in 40 days using sliding hydraulics

Houxi Long Distance Bus Station
© Weibo
The Houxi Long Distance Bus Station in China
Engineers in a Chinese city have moved a bus terminal to a new location by pushing the entire five-storey building across the ground.

To relocate the massive 30,000-tonne structure whole, workers put hundreds of hydraulic jacks under it and laid rolling tracks for it to slide along.

The building is equivalent to four Eiffel Towers in weight and was moved in the space of 40 days to give way to bullet trains.

The Houxi Long Distance Bus Station is situated in the Jimei District of Xiamen, a port city in south-eastern China's Fujian Province.

Comment: China proves itself time and again to be at the forefront of technological innovation. These impressive infrastructure projects are, more often than not, a benefit to society; and it's notable that these are feats and values that one rarely see's in the West these days.

New Dawn Nigeria reports:
China launches world's longest electric bus (Video)

Chinese automobile maker BYD on Monday launched the world's longest pure electric bi-articulated bus K12A at the company's headquarters in Shenzhen.

The 250 passenger bus is 27 meters long- that's almost the size of a three regular bus. It is also compatible with the global Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system.

It has a maximum speed of 70 km/h (about 44 mph) and will run for almost 300 kilometers (186 miles) on a single full charge - that's enough for the demands of a full day's operation.

The automaker claims that the bus is also the world's first electric bus that is equipped with a distributed 4WD system - that means it can switch between 2WD and 4WD smoothly to meet the demands of different terrains, while also lowering the vehicle's overall energy consumption.

Till date, BYD has delivered more than 50,000 pure electric buses globally. This particular articulated buses were developed for Colombia's TransMilenio bus rapid transit system, along with other world BRT systems.
See also:


Trump Calls for Lunar-Mars Space Program: Precursor to a New Paradigm?

Trump space nasa
On March 26 President Trump, now relieved of the burden of the Russiagate investigation holding back his administration, made the important strategic announcement that America will be reviving the John F. Kennedy space program to bring humanity back to the Moon, with the intention of leaping onwards to Mars.

A White House Press release read:
"The United States will seek to land on the Moon's South Pole by 2024, establish a sustainable human presence on the Moon by 2028, and chart a future path for Mars exploration."
The release went on to document the creation of a Mon-to-Mars Directorate which will begin with an "Exploration Mission-1" as a "foundational uncrewed mission around the Moon" by 2020, which will precede the manned landing.

Since its inception by John F. Kennedy in 1961, the Apollo program was systematically attacked by neo-Malthusian technocrats we today recognize as comprising the 'Deep State'. These technocrats despised the space program's existence because it refuted the notion that there are fixed limits to humanity's existence, and because it inspired cultural optimism centered on faith in human ingenuity and scientific progress. This ennobled concept of a creative mankind ripe with boundless potential is antagonistic to a docile slave society of consumers who live only for the pursuit of banal pleasure and the avoidance of pain.


Chinese scientist can control gene editing with light

Gene Editing with Light
© Yujun Song/Nanjing University
Engineers are making their mark on biotech's hottest commodity. Chinese scientists today reported that they can control the gene editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 with light.

The method replaces the use of viruses traditionally used to deliver CRISPR gene editing machinery, and gives scientists temporal control over the tool, the researchers said. They published their findings in the journal Science Advances.

The technique has the potential to precisely target and kill cancer cells, says Yujun Song, an author of the paper and a professor in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Nanjing University in China.

CRISPR-short for Clustered, Regularly Interspaced, Short Palindromic Repeats, is a genetic phenomenon found in microbes that scientists have turned into a DNA chopping machine. When combined with certain proteins, typically one called Cas9, the biological complex can cut and paste DNA, altering life's genetic code.

Physically delivering CRISPR-Cas9 into a cell typically requires hitching the complex to a virus. The virus invades the nucleus of the target cell, delivering the CRISPR cut-and-paste machinery. The strategy works, but using viruses as a delivery method can cause problems, such as provoking cancer or an immune response.


Engineers demonstrate a new kind of airplane wing

Variable Wing
© Eli Gershenfeld, NASA Ames Research Center
A team of engineers has built and tested a radically new kind of airplane wing, assembled from hundreds of tiny identical pieces. The wing can change shape to control the plane's flight, and could provide a significant boost in aircraft production, flight, and maintenance efficiency, the researchers say.

The new approach to wing construction could afford greater flexibility in the design and manufacturing of future aircraft. The new wing design was tested in a NASA wind tunnel and is described today in a paper in the journal Smart Materials and Structures, co-authored by research engineer Nicholas Cramer at NASA Ames in California; MIT alumnus Kenneth Cheung SM '07 PhD '12, now at NASA Ames; Benjamin Jenett, a graduate student in MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms; and eight others.

Instead of requiring separate movable surfaces such as ailerons to control the roll and pitch of the plane, as conventional wings do, the new assembly system makes it possible to deform the whole wing, or parts of it, by incorporating a mix of stiff and flexible components in its structure. The tiny subassemblies, which are bolted together to form an open, lightweight lattice framework, are then covered with a thin layer of similar polymer material as the framework.

The result is a wing that is much lighter, and thus much more energy efficient, than those with conventional designs, whether made from metal or composites, the researchers say. Because the structure, comprising thousands of tiny triangles of matchstick-like struts, is composed mostly of empty space, it forms a mechanical "metamaterial" that combines the structural stiffness of a rubber-like polymer and the extreme lightness and low density of an aerogel.


Boston Dynamics builds creepy ostrich-like "Handle" bot to replace warehouse workers

handle robot
Boston Dynamics has a new robot, entitled "Handle," which aims to be the replacement for warehouse workers loading pallets.

In a new YouTube video showing off the advancements in its robot, Boston Dynamics shows how Handle can easily pick up pallets and boxes in a warehouse environment.

You may remember the name Boston Dynamics from the infamous video showing an employee bullying Atlas by pushing it over. Since then, Atlas has evolved and is now doing parkour as Activist Post reported last year.

Unlike Atlas, Handle isn't able to do parkour because it lacks legs; it's equipped with wheels instead.

Handle originates from 2017 and was Dynamics' first "wheel-legged" robot. Boston Dynamics described the design decision on its website, stating, "Wheels are fast and efficient on flat surfaces while legs can go almost anywhere: by combining wheels and legs, Handle has the best of both worlds."


The sun's magnetic field is ten times stronger than previously believed

loop sun
© Queen's University Belfast
The new finding was discovered by Dr. David Kuridze, Research Fellow at Aberystwyth University. Dr. Kuridze began the research when he was based at Queen's University Belfast and completed it when he moved to Aberystwyth University in 2017. He is a leading authority on the use of ground-based telescopes to study the sun's corona, the ring of bright light visible during a total eclipse.

Working from the Swedish 1-m Solar Telescope at Roque de los Muchachos Observatory, La Palma in the Canary Islands, Dr. Kuridze studied a particularly strong solar flare which erupted near the surface of the sun on 10 September 2017.

A combination of favourable conditions and an element of luck enabled the team to determine the strength of the flare's magnetic field with unprecedented accuracy. The researchers believe the findings have the potential to change our understanding of the processes that happen in the sun's immediate atmosphere.

Comment: See also: And check out SOTT radio's: Behind the Headlines: The Electric Universe - An interview with Wallace Thornhill

Apple Red

Nathan Lents misses forest for trees in latest review of Behe's 'Darwin Devolves'

In Nathan Lents's latest review of Darwin Devolves, published in Skeptic Magazine, the John Jay College biologist reiterates his disagreements with many of Behe's claims. His criticisms are quite understandable within his evolutionary framework, but his ingrained assumptions cause him to inadvertently make the same errors as do Behe's other critics. In particular, he misunderstands what Behe actually argues. For instance, Lents asserts the following:
[Behe] claims that random tinkering can never be the source of innovative or even improved biomolecular functioning unless every single step of the way brings clear fitness gains.
However, Behe never makes such a claim. Instead, he argues that the chance of an innovation occurring decreases quickly with the number of required specific alterations. Lents also falsely claims the following:
Behe holds modern evolutionary theory to an impossible standard, declaring it "insufficient" if we cannot pinpoint every point mutation, every intermediate genetic step, in what order, and in which ancient organisms.
To the contrary, Behe holds evolutionary theory to an entirely reasonable standard. The theory assumes that sufficient numbers of mutations capable of driving large-scale transformations have occurred in countless species to allow for the observed diversity of life. Therefore, at least some such "macromutations" should have been identified to justify this claim. Behe demonstrates beyond reasonable doubt that they have not.