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Mon, 20 Nov 2017
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Bellringers to create dazzling light show at Durham Cathedral

© Ian Forsyth/Getty Images
Lights inside the cathedral during a preview of the Lumiere festival
Thursday 16 November 2017 07.00 GMT

As darkness falls on Thursday evening, the bells of Durham Cathedral will ring out across the city - and continue for the next six hours while brilliant flashes light up sections of the enormous building, inside and out. The bellringers will literally be playing the cathedral, sensors on each bell directly triggering the flashes of light, with Cuthbert, the great 17th-century tenor bell, illuminating the central tower.

"It's never been done in the world before," the bell major Christopher Crabtree said. "We're excited - but it's going to be hard work."

It's also going to be hard work for any local residents who don't relish the sound of 6.5 tonnes of bronze sounding for six hours on each of the four nights of the Lumiere festival. "We are very grateful for the warmth and tolerance of our neighbours," the dean, Andrew Tremlett, said. There will be noisy nights in the deanery yards from the bell tower, but he is full of excitement about the project, which was partly devised in passionate discussions around his table.


China to build world's fastest wind tunnel to test hypersonic weapons

© Unknown
Researchers want new facility to be up and running by 2020 as race to develop hypersonic technology intensifies

China is building the world's fastest wind tunnel to simulate hypersonic flight at speeds of up to 12 kilometres per second.

A hypersonic vehicle flying at this speed from China could reach the west coast of the United States in less than 14 minutes.

Zhao Wei, a senior scientist working on the project, said researchers aimed to have the facility up and running by around 2020 to meet the pressing demand of China's hypersonic weapon development programme.

"It will boost the engineering application of hypersonic technology, mostly in military sectors, by duplicating the environment of extreme hypersonic flights, so problems can be discovered and solved on the ground," said Zhao, a deputy director of the State Key Laboratory of High Temperature Gas Dynamics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.

Comment: See also: China reveals model of a 7,680mph hypersonic strike aircraft on state TV


Ex-Google exec to establish an official religion to worship artificial intelligence

© Getty
A former executive at Google has filed paperwork with the IRS to establish an official religion of technology. This religion doesn't just worship scientific progress, but artificial intelligence itself, with the goal of creating a godhead.

The new church of AI will aim "to develop and promote the realization of a Godhead based on artificial intelligence and through understanding and worship of the Godhead [to] contribute to the betterment of society," according to IRS documents.

The non-profit religious organization would be called "Way of the Future" (WOTF). According to the website (wayofthefuture.church), the movement is "about creating a peaceful and respectful transition of who is in charge of the planet from people to people + 'machines.'"

"Given that technology will 'relatively soon' be able to surpass human abilities, we want to help educate people about this exciting future and prepare a smooth transition," the site explains. "In 'recent' years, we have expanded our concept of rights to both sexes, minority groups and even animals, let's make sure we find a way for 'machines' to get rights too."

There is an inherent contradiction in creating a deity of artificial intelligence and then worshipping it.

Comment: Well, that sounds interesting, eerily this whole Google, AI, and Drones/Autonomous Killer Robots makes the following sound sensible:

The Beast out of the Sea

13 The dragon stood on the shore of the sea. (West Coast?) And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on its horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. 2 The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. 3 One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was filled with wonder and followed the beast. 4 People worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, "Who is like the beast? Who can wage war against it?"

Beast, robot?

5 The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise its authority (speech synthesizer?) for forty-two months. 6 It opened its mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. 7 It was given power to wage war against God's holy people and to conquer them. And it was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. 8 All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast-all whose names have not been written in the Lamb's book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.

The Beast out of the Earth

11 Then I saw a second beast, coming out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb (antennae?), but it spoke like a dragon. 12 It exercised all the authority of the first beast on its behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed. 13 And it performed great signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to the earth in full view of the people. 14 Because of the signs it was given power to perform on behalf of the first beast, it deceived the inhabitants of the earth. It ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast (like a large billboard monitor with a simulated avatar?) who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. 15 The second beast was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. 16 It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, (like an RFID chip, or cerebral/cell phone implant?) 17 so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.

Very interesting... was Revelations the first Sci-Fi Dystopia Novel? Cyberpunk 200 AD.


Lightning in a bottle: Scientists create ring of plasma in mid air for the first time in history

© Plasma ring Caltech / YouTube

Scientists have created a ring of plasma in mid air, the equivalent of capturing lightning in a bottle, using only a stream of high pressured water and a crystal plate, achieving what was once thought impossible.

Plasma is one of the four most common states of matter on Earth, and is comprised of highly ionized gas. Lightning is a form of plasma, as is the weather phenomenon Saint Elmo's fire, when glowing balls of light appear on pointed objects during storms. Fluorescent light bulbs and neon lights contain other forms of plasma.

Plasma doesn't usually have a defined shape, for instance lightning forms in a fork shape as it follows the path of least resistance through the air. Man-made plasmas have only ever been created in vacuum chambers or electromagnetic fields.

Alarm Clock

Amish people have mutant gene that makes them live 10 years longer

© Mark Wilson/Getty Images
High proportions of Amish people possess the gene
An age-defying mutation found in the genes of Amish people appears to be boosting their lifespan.

Individuals carrying a single non-functional copy of the gene SERPINE1 live an average of 10 years longer than other members of their communities, according to new research.

The study was carried out with the Old Order Amish of Indiana, who generally avoid the trappings of modern society, including electricity, cars and medicine.

"They don't take advantage of modern medicine in general, so the fact that the carriers have a median lifespan of nearly 85 is rather remarkable," said Dr Douglas Vaughan, a cardiovascular specialist at Northwestern University who co-authored the study, published in Science Advances.

Of the 177 people tested, 43 had the mutation.

Ageing is one of the most challenging biological processes to understand, so finding a single mutation that has such a dramatic effect is unusual.

"There's been an enormous challenge in identifying genetic predictors of a long lifespan," said Dr Vaughan.

Ageing comes with numerous symptoms. What is notable about this mutation is that it seems to address so many of those, with effects ranging from protection against diabetes to maintenance of cardiovascular elasticity.

"We're talking about something that appears to have an effect at molecular levels, at hormonal levels, at tissue levels, and plays out with people having a longer lifespan," said Dr Vaughan.

The mutation results in longer telomeres - caps at the end of DNA strands that protect the chromosomes. Shortening of telomeres has been implicated in the process of ageing, which may explain the mutation's life-enhancing effects.

Two copies of this non-functional gene, however, have quite the opposite effect. Instead of protecting individuals from disease, it is linked with excessive bleeding following injury.

As the peoples with two copies - so-called heterozygous individuals - are so healthy, it is unlikely their mutation would have been observed were it not for the homozygous individuals with two copies, who present with this obvious illness.

In the general population, Dr Vaughan said, similar mutations might occur at a rate of around one in 70,000 people.

The fact that Amish people tend to be more interrelated than the wider population owing to their insular communities might explain the relative prevalence of the SERPINE1 mutation.

In terms of learning about the genetics underlying complex processes like ageing, Dr Vaughan suggests that this provides an excellent example for future work.

"Looking at unique populations like this might be more informative than broad genetic studies in normal populations," he said.


New intergalactic explosion could be biggest supernova ever

© Brian Monroe/NASA
The Earth, the Sun, Andromeda galaxy, they have all been around for as long as you can remember and as long as humanity has been around. So when a new light suddenly shows up in the distance, it's a weird occurrence. But a newly-detected explosion could be one of the weirdest - and it isn't the only one.

An international team of scientists is reporting a new kind of explosion that they can't quite explain, billions of light years away. Maybe it's a supernova. Or maybe it's a star being eaten by a black hole. Or maybe it's something entirely different.

"I'm a supernova person to start with so I got really thrilled that this could be the most energetic supernova ever," Peter Lundqvist from Stockholm University in Sweden told Gizmodo. "But I had second thoughts."


'Better than Concorde' Supersonic 1,687mph airliner to 'revolutionise' air travel by 2025

© Boom
Better than Concorde: Boom Supersonic will take passengers from New York to London in two hours
A new supersonic airliner faster than Concorde is boasted to revolutionise air travel when it is rolled out by the mid 2020s.

The Boom Supersonic will be able to take passengers from New York to London in little over two hours as she hurtles at 1,687mph across the Atlantic.

Flight firm Boom has promised the plane will make its first test flight new year - with a mini proof-of-concept jet called the XB-1.

Boom Supersonic is boasted to be nearly three times as fast as regular airliners, but seats will cost the same as normal flights.

This is unlike now-retired luxury airliner Concorde that charged a small fortune for seats.

Company founder Blake Scholl, who is also a pilot, claimed the plane will be both faster and quieter than its legendary predecessor.


China dominates super computer top 500 list

© Zhao Zilong/Imaginechina/Associated Press
The Tianhe-2 at the National University of Defense Technology in Changsha led a Top500 list in 2013. Credit Zhao Zilong/Imaginechina, via Associated Press
For years, China has claimed the top spot on a list of the 500 fastest supercomputers. Now it dominates the overall list, too, pushing the United States into second place.

For the first time, China has the most systems on the Top500 list, 202, up from 159 six months ago. The US dropped from 169 to 144. And in terms of the total performance of those machines, China also overtook the US, the Top500 supercomputer list organizers said.

The news underscores the relentless ascent of China's supercomputing trajectory in recent years. It also marks a notable shift in the international balance of high-end computing power that's closely tied to industrial, academic and military abilities.


Slaughterbots: AI scientists say ban on killer robots urgently needed

© YouTube/Future of Life Institute
The movie portrays a brutal future. A military firm unveils a tiny drone that hunts and kills with ruthless efficiency. But when the technology falls into the wrong hands, no one is safe. Politicians are cut down in broad daylight. The machines descend on a lecture hall and spot activists, who are swiftly dispatched with an explosive to the head.

The short, disturbing film is the latest attempt by campaigners and concerned scientists to highlight the dangers of developing autonomous weapons that can find, track and fire on targets without human supervision. They warn that a preemptive ban on the technology is urgently needed to prevent terrible new weapons of mass destruction.

Stuart Russell, a leading AI scientist at the University of California in Berkeley, and others will show the film on Monday during an event at the United Nations Convention on Conventional Weapons hosted by the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. The manufacture and use of autonomous weapons, such as drones, tanks and automated machine guns, would be devastating for human security and freedom, and the window to halt their development is closing fast, Russell warned.

Better Earth

As a new ice age approaches, scientists want to mimic volcanic eruptions to cool earth's climate

Geoengineering to cool the Earth's climate by imitating volcanic eruptions is a 'highly risky strategy' that may increase the frequency of cyclones and droughts in some parts of the world

Comment: So beginning with the faulty premise that humans are to blame for the planet heating (which it isn't, we're headed for an new ice age) these people plan to 'geoengineer' the climate with the result that they will exacerbate the already chaotic weather that has been ravaging the planet for several years. Now THAT deserves a noble prize, or a darwin award.