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Updated: 33 min 40 sec ago

Artificial intelligence — and a few jokes — will help keep future Mars crews sane

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 11:59

WASHINGTON, D.C. — When the first human explorers head for Mars, they're likely to have a non-human judging their performance and tweaking their interpersonal relationships when necessary. NASA and outside researchers are already working on artificial intelligence agents to monitor how future long-duration space crews interact, sort of like the holographic doctor on "Star Trek: Voyager." But there'll also be a need for the human touch — in the form of crew members who could serve the roles of social directors or easygoing jokesters. That's the upshot of research initiatives discussed over the weekend here at the annual meeting of the… Read More


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These Researchers Want to Focus on Preventing Childhood Trauma Through Public Health

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 11:49

A study published in JAMA suggests childhood trauma should be addressed as a public health issue to better inform prevention and treatment.


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'Zombie' deer disease: How to prevent it and avoid eating infected meat

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 10:34

Don't touch road-kill, eat infected meat and more advise from the CDC on how to avoid getting chronic wasting disease.


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'Killer' cells raise hope of universal flu vaccine

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 10:30

Scientists said Monday they had discovered immune cells that can fight all known flu viruses in what was hailed as an "extraordinary breakthrough" that could lead to a universal, one-shot vaccine against the killer disease. 


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Facebook's Chief A.I. Scientist Yann LeCun On the Future of Computer Chips, Lawnmowers, and Deep Learning

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 10:30

Facebook's Chief A.I. Scientist Yann LeCun On the Future of Computer Chips, Lawnmowers, and Deep Learning


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Facebook's AI Chief Researching New Breed of Semiconductor

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 10:30

Yann LeCun said that future chips used for training deep learning algorithms, which underpin most of the recent progress in artificial intelligence, would need to be able to manipulate data without having to break it up into multiple batches. Most existing computer chips, in order to handle the amount of data these machine learning systems need to learn, divide it into chunks and processes each batch in sequence. "We don’t want to leave any stone unturned, particularly if no one else is turning them over," he said in an interview ahead of the release Monday of a research paper he authored on the history and future of computer hardware designed to handle artificial intelligence.


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Iraq's Kurdish regional parliament elects interim speaker amid boycott

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 10:08

Iraqi Kurdish lawmakers on Monday elected an interim speaker of parliament, an assembly key to regional stability, although the Kurds' second largest party boycotted the vote due to a rift between the main political forces in Iraq's Kurdistan region. Vala Fareed, nominated by the region's dominant Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), was confirmed in the post by 68 votes.


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Israel's first lunar mission to launch this week

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 09:33

Israel is to launch its first moon mission this week, sending an unmanned spacecraft to collect data to be shared with NASA, organisers said Monday. The 585-kilogram (1,290-pound) Beresheet (Genesis) spacecraft is to lift off atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida at around 0145 GMT on Friday. Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and technology NGO SpaceIL announced the date at a press conference.


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This Hormone Could Protect Against Alzheimer's—Here's How to Get More of It

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 08:40

New research suggests your body can fight Alzheimer's on its own—provided you're following this one crucial habit.


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First private Israel lunar mission to be launched this week

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 08:21

RAMAT GAN, Israel (AP) — A nonprofit Israeli consortium said Monday that it hopes to make history this week by launching the first private aircraft to land on the moon.


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'Zombie' deer disease could spread to humans, experts warn

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 08:12

People who eat deer meat could be at risk of contracting a deadly infectious disease that is spreading across the animals’ US populations, experts have warned. Chronic wasting disease (CWD) –dubbed “zombie” deer disease – has infected deer, elk and moose across 24 American states and two Canadian provinces. Up to 15,000 infected animals are eaten each year, a number that could rise by 20 per cent annually, according to Michael Osterholm, an expert in infectious disease from the University of Minnesota.


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Philippines says 136 people have died in measles outbreak

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 07:25

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine health secretary said Monday that 136 people, mostly children, have died of measles and 8,400 others have fallen ill in an outbreak blamed partly on vaccination fears.


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Merck Gets Priority Review for Keytruda Combo in Kidney Cancer

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 06:10

Merck's (MRK) sBLA looking for approval of Keytruda plus Pfizer's Inlyta for the first-line treatment of the most common type of kidney cancer gets FDA's priority review.


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Out of Nowhere, Jaguar Has a Hybridized, Turbocharged, and e-Supercharged Inline-Six

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 06:00

The newest member of the automaker's Ingenium engine family is a high-tech 3.0-liter straight-six.


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Smokers less likely to survive a dangerous form of skin cancer

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 05:26

New UK research has found that patients with melanoma -- one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer -- may be less likely to survive if they also have a long history of smoking. The findings, published in the journal Cancer Research, showed that there was an association between smoking and a patient's chance of survival from melanoma.


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Flying 1,300 mph on airplanes would be great. But future aviation has other plans.

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 05:02

In the year 2044, our cities might be energized by fusion power plants, our sleek cars may all run on electricity, and our doctors might regularly employ gene-editing to cure blindness. But our airplanes will probably still fly at the same speeds they did half a century ago: between 550 and 600 mph. Supersonic flight -- which is to say speeds that exceed the speed of sound (768 mph) and can dramatically slash flight times -- died out for civilians in 2003 with the retirement of the narrowly-shaped Concorde planes, which for 27 years cruised at 1,300 mph between the U.S. and Europe. "It failed," Bob van der Linden, the Chairman of the Aeronautics Department of the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum, said in an interview. "It was a technological marvel, but it was too expensive to operate." Although a few ambitious supersonic startups like Boom Technology and Aerion Supersonic might successfully resurrect smaller business-style jets in the coming decades, commercial flying for the masses is unlikely to change much in the next quarter century, and beyond. Today's traditional aviation paradigm works, it's profitable, and it's safe. "Since the 1960s, the top speed of an airliner has not changed," said van der Linden -- and, he adds, he doesn't see any reason that it will. "In 20 to 25 years, air travel might not look a whole lot different from how it looks today," Dan Bubb, a former pilot and now aviation historian at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, agreed over email."I don't think we expect to see any disruptive technologies," added Fotis Kopsaftopoulos, an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in an interview. The final landing of an Air France Concorde in 2003Image: Jacek Bilski/imageBROKER/REX/ShutterstockThese future aircraft will likely look the same as they do now, too. "There's not too much room to change the shape -- we need wings and a round fuselage," Ryo Amano, a professor of mechanical engineering specializing in aerodynamics at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, said in an interview. But one thing will surely change."You'll see airliners becoming more efficient," said van der Linden. "Any breakthrough will be for efficiency's sake."This means burning less fuel, resulting in higher airline profits. It's already happening. Some new planes, like the Boeing 787 and the colossal Airbus 380, are built with lighter "composite materials" rather than heavier old-school metals, so they burn less fuel. An Airbus A380, the world's largest passenger airlinerImage: Lex Rayton/imageBROKER/REX/Shutterstock"They are lightweight and very strong," said Kopsaftopoulos.New, more efficient engines are burning less fuel, too. "You don't really see many of the changes, but inside the engine system there is a tremendous amount of improvement," said Amano. Supersonic dreamsAviation experts are in wide agreement: Flying at supersonic speeds would slash flight times (imagine a 2.5-hour trip from New York to Los Angeles or London to NYC in under 3.5 hours), and as the Concorde proved, the blazing-fast engines and aerodynamic design technologies do exist. But there are a slew of formidable obstacles. Traditional airliners might be slower, but they're moneymakers. In contrast, flying faster burns significantly more fuel. That means pricier flights. "A conventional airliner gets better mileage than an SST [supersonic plane]," said van der Linden. "It's as simple as that."What's more, there was little demand to fly on the 1,300 mph Concorde planes. A seat was just too expensive. "The cost for one seat probably cost five times more than [a seat on] a 747," noted Amano.A NASA conception of a supersonic planeImage: nasa"Let's face it, the overwhelming majority of citizens are not millionaires," added van der Linden. "There's not enough traffic for high-priced stuff."But if a supersonic plane did ever take to the skies, it would likely be smaller plane intended for wealthier demographics."It would be wonderful to see the return of the Concorde, but if the aircraft returns, it will be a much slimmed-down, more fuel-efficient version," said Babb.A spokesperson for the supersonic startup Boom Technology said they're designing aircraft that "can operate profitably while charging the same fares as today's business class" over oceanic routes. For perspective, a round-trip business class ticket between JFK and London generally costs between $3,000 and $8,000.SEE ALSO: The future of flying is electric planesLike the auto industry, it's daunting for any startup, like Boom, to break into the aviation world. They don't just need billions of dollars, they have to prove to the vigilant Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that their supersonic planes are profoundly safe. "I wish them luck," said van der Linden. Beyond financial hurdles, supersonics also have to contend with environmental woes. A recent report produced by the International Council on Clean Transportation -- an organization that provides technical and scientific analysis to environmental regulators -- estimated that a worldwide fleet of 2,000 supersonic planes by 2035 would emit prodigious amounts of carbon into the atmosphere."The environmental impact of building that many planes would be severe," said Dan Rutherford, the ICCT's program director for marine and aviation.Such supersonic fuel-guzzling creates uncertainty for airlines that might be considering them, as the United Nation's aviation organization will almost certainly tighten emission rules to meet greater society's climate and environmental targets. "Everyone is wondering what environmental regulations they will need to meet," noted Rutherford. And supersonic planes have one other mighty, unavoidable hurdle. The booms.  Supersonic boomsCongress outlawed flying supersonic airliners over land in 1970, and for good reason. Sonic booms are thunder-like noises created when planes displace air and create powerful shockwaves, some of which slam into the ground. It's much "like a boat creates a wake in the water," explains NASA. The booms jolt buildings, stir people awake, and can feel like a sharp earthquake. "If you're not expecting them, they can be startling," NASA aviation engineer David Richwine told Mashable last year.This limits supersonic planes to oceanic routes, further reducing their ability to be mainstream airliners. A supersonic plane displacing air in the skyImage: nasaFor this reason, the startup Aerion Supersonic plans to fly over land just under the speed of sound (known as Mach 0.95) "without a sonic boom," said a company spokesperson. But Aerion still has supersonic ambitions, and plans to develop planes that fly at around 920 mph (or 1.2 Mach), wherein the booms will dissipate before pummeling the ground.   Although overland travel is still illegal for the likes of Boom, Aerion, and others, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) may open the door for new supersonic planes to once again fly over land. This won't happen anytime soon (the new supersonic planes don't even exist), but the FAA is considering rules about noise certifications and other rules for supersonic planes -- once the government settles on what boom levels are tolerable for us land dwellers."We have not published any rules as of yet -- that's still being worked out," FAA spokesperson Henry Price said over the phone. "The direction we're going is in the fact sheet," Price added, citing a webpage summarizing the proposed future rules for supersonic planes. Likely to the delight of supersonic startups, in 2018 NASA started work on a prototypical supersonic plane, dubbed the X-Plane. The $247.5 million project isn't slated to take off until 2021, but when it does, the 94-foot test craft will soar over American neighborhoods and urban areas. It's an experiment: Are the booms from the innovative design mild enough for citizens to bear? A conception of NASA's quiet boom supersonic plane, flying over NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center in CaliforniaImage: nasaIt's certainly possible that NASA will be successful. There's a big group of aviation experts working on the project, and they have intriguing futuristic ideas, like plane exteriors that subtly morph in the air to tame sonic blasts. If all goes well, NASA's experimental plane will turn sonic booms into muted thumps."The work that NASA's doing might help that [sonic booms]," said van der Linden. "And a smaller plane might help that.""But you can't eliminate it," he added.Even if NASA is successful (it often is), aviation companies seeking to break the sound barrier will have to build planes similar to that low-boom design, airlines will have to order them, and the plane must pass rigid FAA standards."Is it going to be worth pursuing by the airlines?" asked Kopsaftopoulos. "I'm not sure what's going to happen." Beyond Speed While most passengers in a quarter-century will still be slogging through the atmosphere at 575 mph, that doesn't mean air travel won't make other futuristic leaps.Flying, battery-powered taxis -- small aircraft intended to make shorter urban jaunts -- could become a reality in the next decade."Central Park to Brooklyn or Jersey City using an air taxi -- that is very exciting," said Kopsaftopoulos.There's also considerable aviation industry interest in fully-electric commercial airplanes, noted Kopsaftopoulos."It is ideal -- we'll save huge amounts of fuel," added Amano, who said perhaps the technology could be tested in smaller commercial planes in a decade or so. What's more, there's a number of electric plane startups forging ahead, modifying existing planes, and planning for tests.  A Boeing 737 Max: A new airliner largely built with an old, trustworthy designImage: Elaine Thompson/AP/REX/ShutterstockBut in the end, whether an aircraft runs on a massive battery that sits in its belly or pricey fuels, it's likely these planes will be flying at the speeds they've been flying since the mid-20th century. Traveling at supersonic speeds is "astounding," said van der Linden, who had the opportunity to experience the Concorde flying at 1,300 mph. "You are flying faster than the Earth is spinning," he said, adding that it felt like traveling on a normal airliner.But money wins the race. Our trusty, long-lived, old-school airliners are only replaced after decades and decades of service -- by lighter, increasingly efficient planes with sleeker interiors, but never anything faster."Airliners do not break," said van der Linden. "They do fade away, but they don't die." WATCH: Ever wonder how the universe might end?


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Morocco looks to French as language of economic success

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 04:16

With so many students dropping out of university because they don't speak French, the government has proposed reintroducing it as the language for teaching science, maths and technical subjects such as computer science in high schools. It also wants children to start learning French when they start school. Most people speak Moroccan Arabic – a mixture of Arabic and Amazigh infused with French and Spanish influences.


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Indonesian presidential hopefuls vow energy self-sufficiency via palm

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 04:12

Indonesia's two presidential candidates pledged to achieve energy self-sufficiency by boosting the use of bioenergy, particularly fueled by palm oil, to cut costly oil imports by Southeast Asia's biggest economy. Indonesia, the world's biggest palm oil producer, has been pushing for all diesel fuel used in the country to contain biodiesel to boost palm consumption, slash fuel imports, and narrow a yawning current account gap. In a televised election debate, President Joko Widodo said if he won a second term the government planned to implement a B100 program, referring to fuel made entirely from palm oil, after last year making it mandatory to use biodiesel containing 20 percent bio-content (B20).


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U.S. pressing Gulf states to keep Syria isolated: sources

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 03:45

The opposing approaches are an early test of whether Syrian President Bashar al-Assad can gain political and diplomatic credibility after a nearly eight-year civil war turned him into an international pariah. Many countries cut links with Syria at the start of the war. Several Gulf states shut or downgraded their embassies, Syria was suspended from the Arab League, flights stopped and border crossings were closed.


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Odey Sets Sights on German Regulator for Wirecard Short Sale Ban

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 03:42

The move by BaFin, prohibiting investors from taking new short positions or increasing existing ones through April 18, opens the watchdog to potential litigation, Odey said in an interview Monday. Such a step would require the regulator to be sure that Wirecard’s employees haven’t engaged in any wrongdoing as alleged by the Financial Times in recent weeks, he said. Odey said he’s now more excited about taking BaFin to court than his wagers on the Aschheim, Bavaria-based company.


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