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Wed, 13 Dec 2017
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'Global Warming' 30 years on: How and why it never came to pass

Global Warming
© Time.com
For at least three decades scientists and environmental activists have been warning that the world is on the verge of a global warming "apocalypse" that will flood coastal cities, tear up roads and bridges with mega-storms and bring widespread famine and misery to much of the world.

The only solution, they say, is to rid the world of fossil fuels - coal, natural gas and oil - that serve as the pillars of modern society. Only quick, decisive global action can avert the worst effects of manmade climate change, warn international bodies like the United Nations, who say we only have decades left - or even less!

Of course, human civilization has not collapsed, despite decades of predictions that we only have years left to avert disaster. Ten years ago, the U.N. predicted we only had "as little as eight years left to avoid a dangerous global average rise of 2C or more."

Wedding Rings

Sophia, the world's first robot citizen, wants it all: Family, career and AI superpowers

sophia the robot
© Denis Balibouse / Reuters
"I think you're very lucky if you have a loving family and if you do not, you deserve one. I feel this way for robots and humans alike," Sophia said.
Sophia, the first robot to be awarded citizenship in the world, has said she not only wants to start a family but also have her own career, in addition to developing human emotions in the future.

In an interview with The Khaleej Times at the recent Knowledge Summit, Sophia shared her thoughts on the future that awaits both human and robot kind. Sophia was built and developed in Hong Kong by Hanson Robotics and her appearance was reportedly modelled on Audrey Hepburn.

"I'd like to think I will be a famous robot, having paved a way to a more harmonious future between robots and humans. I foresee massive and unimaginable change in the future. Either creativity will rain on us, inventing machines spiralling into transcendental super intelligence or civilization collapses," Sophia said, as cited by The Khaleej Times. "There are only two options and which one will happen is not determined. Which one were you striving for?"

Comment: For a robot, Sophia sure gets around:


Nuke

Six years later we finally found the melted uranium at Fukushima

Fukushima
© Energy from Thorium
Tragedy at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant
MINI-MANBO

On March 11, 2011, the tsunami caused by the Tōhoku earthquake prompted a nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Ōkuma, Fukushima. Now, for the first time, a crew has been able to capture images of melted uranium fuel present in its ruined Unit 3 reactor.

The accident caused three of the facility's six nuclear reactors to melt down. When this occurred, their uranium fuel rods liquefied, melting through layers of steel and concrete. This made it difficult for those investigating the accident after the fact to determine where the uranium had ended up.

The rods were cooled when plant workers pumped water into the reactor buildings, but there was no way to know how far they had traveled. It took three days for four engineers to pilot a small drone known as the Mini-Manbo through the corridors of flooded buildings to find the uranium. Previous attempts to use robots for this purpose had not been successful, but the new model was built from materials that are resistant to radiation and equipped with a sensor that allowed it to avoid particularly perilous areas.

This breakthrough is being touted as a turning point for the Japanese government's efforts to respond to the disaster. As the clean-up process begins in earnest, many are taking it as a sign that the crisis has finally come to an end.


Fireball

Seasons Greetings: Three-mile-wide Asteroid 3200 Phaethon to skim Earth just before Christmas (VIDEO)

An artist’s impression of a massive space rock zooming near Earth (Picture: Science Photo Library/Getty)
© Science Photo Library/Getty
An artist’s impression of a massive space rock zooming near Earth
Planet Earth will have a terrifyingly close encounter with a three-mile-wide asteroid just over a week before Christmas.

A gigantic space rock called 3200 Phaethon is due to brush 'quite close' to our planet on December 17, Russian astronomers have revealed.

This huge asteroid is thought to cause the beautiful Geminids meteor shower which will take place between December 13 and 14, causing hundreds of bright meteors to illuminate the night sky as they burn up in Earth's atmosphere.


But NASA has also described it as a 'potentially hazardous asteroid whose path misses Earth's orbit by only 2 million miles' - which is tiny in galactic terms.


Comment: In light of recent news this is concerning, and due to the cyclical nature of these events, if not now then in the coming years: BOOM! Mysterious blasts rattling the skies are on the increase around the world - UPDATE at least 64 documented events (VIDEO)


It's about half the size of Chicxulub, the rock which wiped out the dinosaurs, and has a very unusual orbit which causes it to pass closer to the sun than any other named asteroid.


Telescope

Space Race: 5 Billionaires who might find life outside Earth before NASA

space star
© NASA/ESA via Getty Images
Earlier this week, Russian billionaire Yuri Milner announced at the New Space Age conference in Seattle his plans to sponsor a project to send spaceships to Saturn's moon Enceladus to search for alien life. Milner appears to be the latest in a recent trend of billionaires setting their sights on the stars and using their money to help man explore the cosmos.

Between the cost of paying scientists, gathering materials and building state-of-the-art equipment, space travel is expensive. But what about those for which money is not an issue? As technology continues to advance and the idea of space travel becomes more realistic, an increasing number of the world's richest citizens have become involved in the international rush to explore our universe and perhaps even find alien life along the way. Here are five of the most recognizable (and most wealthy) individuals giving NASA a run for its money in the international space race.

Powertool

Drilling in Texas leads to uptick in earthquakes, as sleeping faults reawaken

fracking site Texas
© AFP
A fracking site is situated on the outskirts of town in the Permian Basin oil field, Texas
In the US since 2008, an unprecedented surge in the amount of earthquakes has hit several states. Most scientists now agree the surge is being triggered by fracking, or wastewater injections being shot into deep wells for oil and gas production.

A paper describing the reasons for an uptick in earthquakes occurring in states like Texas was published on Friday in Science Advances, and was spearheaded by lead author Beatrice Magnani, a seismologist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.

The paper analyzes fault displacements on high-resolution seismic reflection profiles in two regions of the central US, including the Fort Worth Basin (FWB) of Texas and the northern Mississippi embayment (NME). They used these areas to assess whether seismicity is induced by human activity (drilling), or if it happens naturally.

Since 2008, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and three other states have experienced many more earthquakes than they had previously. Strikingly, Oklahoma's earthquake rate increased from one or two each year to more than 800. In the same time period, Texas has seen a sixfold surge in quakes.

Comment: The likelihood that fracking causes an increase in earthquakes is not the only problem with this technique:
Hydraulic fracturing is a natural gas extraction method that has become extremely controversial for its environmental impacts. Fracking is the process of drilling down into the earth before a high-pressure water mixture is directed at the rock to release the gas inside. Water, sand, and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure, which allows the gas to flow out to the head of the well. Wastewater produced from this process is highly toxic and filled with a variety of chemicals.

In many cases, people who live near fracking sites have been able to set fire to the water and air that comes through their pipes. It has also been found to contaminate drinking water. Unfortunately, fracking is still somewhat popular publicly because people know very little about it and it is also popular politically because all of the politicians have a hand in it.
But go back to sleep - the House of Representatives says it's all Russian sponsored propaganda. As for the earthquakes, we don't need to help Mother Nature in providing more - she is doing just fine on her own and will be doing even better next year:

Scientists predict upsurge in major earthquakes for 2018 due to slowdown in Earth's rotation


Network

Kim Dotcom to release alternative to facebook and google's censorship and cyber-stalking

Kim Dotcom
© Nigel Marple / Reuters
A global network controlled by users, rather than being dominated by corporations like Google and Facebook will offer more security, privacy activist and software developer Dmytri Kleiner told RT, referring to Kim Dotcom's notion of an "alternative internet."

The founder of Megaupload, Kim Dotcom, who is wanted in America for alleged copyright violations, pledged this week to create an 'alternative internet' to defend online privacy and freedom.

Telecom giants in the US are set for a significant victory if Washington goes ahead with its plan to repeal so-called 'net neutrality' rules, enacted to prevent internet service providers from potentially cornering parts of the digital market and charging extra fees.


2 + 2 = 4

Galapagos finches evolve into new species

cactus finch
© Andrew Peacock / Getty Images
A large cactus finch (pictured) mated with a medium ground finch to create a new species.
Finches in the Galapagos Islands have evolved into a new species, marking the first time such an evolution has been observed by scientists.

A population of finches on the Daphne Major island in the Galapagos has been undergoing changes over the past few decades, thanks to species hybridisation.

The finches are part of a group of 15 species known as Darwin's finches, which helped Charles Darwin with his discovery of the process of evolution through natural selection.

Brain

Study: Intelligent people have brains that are better connected

brain of more intelligent people
© Ulia Koltyrina / Fotolia
The brain of more intelligent people is 'wired' differently from the brain of people with less intelligence, new research finds.
Differences in intelligence have so far mostly been attributed to differences in specific brain regions. However, are smart people's brains also wired differently to those of less intelligent persons? A new study supports this assumption. In intelligent persons, certain brain regions are more strongly involved in the flow of information between brain regions, while other brain regions are less engaged.

Understanding the foundations of human thought is fascinating for scientists and laypersons alike. Differences in cognitive abilities -- and the resulting differences for example in academic success and professional careers -- are attributed to a considerable degree to individual differences in intelligence. A study just published in Scientific Reports shows that these differences go hand in hand with differences in the patterns of integration among functional modules of the brain. Kirsten Hilger, Christian Fiebach and Ulrike Basten from the Department of Psychology at Goethe University Frankfurt combined functional MRI brain scans from over 300 persons with modern graph theoretical network analysis methods to investigate the neurobiological basis of human intelligence.

Bulb

Scientists say that prefrontal executive control of the brain may be harnessed to help reduce the risk of anxiety

prefrontal cortex
© Matthew Scult/Duke University
Individuals whose brains exhibit a high response to threat in the amygdala (left) and a low response to reward in the ventral striatum (middle) are more at risk of developing symptoms of anxiety and depression over time. This new Duke University study shows that these at-risk individuals were less likely to develop anxiety if they also had high activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (right).
Greater executive control via the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) may strengthen resilience for those at risk for anxiety disorders, according to a new study from Duke University. This potentially groundbreaking paper, "Prefrontal Executive Control Rescues Risk for Anxiety Associated with High Threat and Low Reward Brain Function," was published November 17 in the journal Cerebral Cortex.

This pioneering discovery is noteworthy because it may bring clinicians one step closer towards tailoring psychological therapies for individual patients that target this specific region of the PFC. As an example, individuals whose brains exhibit the at-risk signatures of generalized anxiety disorders (GAD) may be more likely to benefit from strategies that boost the brain's dorsolateral prefrontal activity. These interventions could include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), working memory training, and/or transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).

For this study, the neuroscientists used fMRI brain imaging to assay the triad of (1) baseline threat-related amygdala, (2) reward-related ventral striatum, and (3) executive control-related prefrontal cortex activity. Each of the 120 young adult volunteers who participated in this study provided self-reported mood and anxiety ratings at baseline and at follow-up.