Knowmads, Infocology of the future
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Scientists create automated ‘time machine’ to reconstruct ancient languages

Scientists create automated ‘time machine’ to reconstruct ancient languages | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Ancient languages hold a treasure trove of information about the culture, politics and commerce of millennia past. Yet, reconstructing them to reveal clues into human history can require decades of painstaking work.


Now, scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, have created an automated “time machine,” of sorts, that will greatly accelerate and improve the process of reconstructing hundreds of ancestral languages.

In a compelling example of how “big data” and machine learning are beginning to make a significant impact on all facets of knowledge, researchers from UC Berkeley and the University of British Columbia have created a computer program that can rapidly reconstruct “proto-languages” – the linguistic ancestors from which all modern languages have evolved. These earliest-known languages include Proto-Indo-European, Proto-Afroasiatic and, in this case, Proto-Austronesian, which gave rise to languages spoken in Southeast Asia, parts of continental Asia, Australasia and the Pacific.

 ”What excites me about this system is that it takes so many of the great ideas that linguists have had about historical reconstruction, and it automates them at a new scale: more data, more words, more languages, but less time,” said Dan Klein, an associate professor of computer science at UC Berkeley and co-author of the paper published online today (Feb. 11) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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We are eating the world’s wild mammals to extinction

We are eating the world’s wild mammals to extinction | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
You’re probably aware of the deplorable trade in wildlife that’s driving many mammal species to extinction. Rhino horns for Chinese traditional medicine, elephant ivory for ornaments, or monkeys as exotic pets.

But the biggest threat to these mammals isn’t human greed for rare objects. It’s simple hunger.

That’s the finding of a study by William Ripple of Oregon State University and colleagues in the UK, Australia, Sweden, Brazil, and South Africa, just published in Royal Society Open Science. The researchers collected and synthesized what are often patchy datasets on the health of mammal species around the world. Of the 1169 mammal species that are threatened with extinction, they found that 301—more than a quarter—are threatened primarily by human hunting. And in most cases, it’s for their meat (though some are hunted for more than one reason).

Those 301 mammal species include 126 species of primates, 65 species of ungulates (deer, antelope, and the like), 27 species of bats, 26 species of marsupials, 21 species of rodents, and 21 carnivores (tiger, cheetah, and the like). All of these species live in poor countries, where basic shortages of protein push people into hunting them.

Losing these species can have a cascade of effects. Many of them perform crucial ecological functions, such as dispersing seeds, consuming overgrown vegetation, maintaining soils, and preying upon other species to keep ecosystems in balance.
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CO2 levels mark 'new era' in the world's changing climate - BBC News

CO2 levels mark 'new era' in the world's changing climate - BBC News | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Levels of CO2 in the atmosphere have surged past an important threshold and may not dip below it for "many generations".

The 400 parts per million benchmark was broken globally for the first time in recorded history in 2015.

But according to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), 2016 will likely be the first full year to exceed the mark.

The high levels can be partly attributed to a strong El Niño event.
Gas spike

While human emissions of CO2 remained fairly static between 2014 and 2015, the onset of a strong El Niño weather phenomenon caused a spike in levels of the gas in the atmosphere.

That's because the drought conditions in tropical regions produced by El Niño meant that vegetation was less able to absorb CO2. There were also extra emissions from fires, sparked by the drier conditions.

In their annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, the World Meteorological Organisation says the conditions helped push the growth in the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere above the average for the last ten years.

At the atmospheric monitoring station in Mauna Loa, Hawaii, levels of CO2 broke through 400 parts per million (ppm), meaning 400 molecules of CO2 for every one million molecules in the atmosphere.

The last time CO2 was regularly above 400ppm was three to five million years ago, say experts.

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Tracking the World's Emotions, in Real Time

Tracking the World's Emotions, in Real Time | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
People’s everyday emotions can be tough to pin down, partly because they’re not often given a lot of thought. But a new app is hoping to change that, and produce a snapshot of the whole world’s emotional state in the process.

Through October 16, Spur Projects, a suicide-prevention organization, collected data on people’s daily moods via an app called How Is the World Feeling? Launched October 10 to coincide with World Mental Health Day, the project aimed to aggregate the emotions of around 7 million people over the course of a week, providing real-time mood updates from around the globe.

Users were asked to select from a pool of six possible emotions—happy, sad, angry, anxious, powerful, or peaceful—and choose the one that describes them best in that moment.

Last week, after telling the app that I was in a relatively happy mood while working at my desk and surrounded by people, How Is the World Feeling? informed me that I wasn’t alone: around 7,000 people also registered happiness; around 9,000 clocked in as peaceful, and around 6,000 reported anxiety. An interactive map showed the current distribution of emotions across the globe. Most data points are clustered in the U.S., Europe, and Australia, but smaller countries are represented, too: A red dot in Lebanon denotes anger there; a yellow dot signifies a happy response from Laos.
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The UK has a new AI centre – so when robots kill, we know who to blame

The UK has a new AI centre – so when robots kill, we know who to blame | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Picture a self-driving car that sees a pedestrian in the road and has to swerve to avoid them. Now imagine there are cyclists on both sides of the car – and only the one on the right is wearing a helmet. Should the car veer right, to avoid killing the unprotected rider, even if that means punishing safer cycling? Stephen Cave chuckles ruefully. “At least since Socrates we’ve been worrying about moral philosophy and how to describe what’s right and what’s wrong,” he says. “Now suddenly we’ve got to programme this into artificial systems and it’s like, damn, we haven’t got very far.”

Cave, 43, is executive director of the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, which opens in Cambridge on October 17 2016. Funded with a £10 million grant from the Leverhulme Trust, the think tank is intended to bring together thinkers and practitioners to address the questions posed by AI, from simple definitions (what exactly is AI anyway?) to moral and legal conundrums (when AIs kill, who should get the blame?). Territory that, as Cave notes, rapidly exposes the vagueness of our existing understandings.

“The machine learning guys say, ‘What should we do, what should I programme?’, and the philosophers are like, ‘Yeah, we haven’t quite worked that out yet.’ Suddenly, a whole load of philosophical projects that ethical philosophers have been worrying about for centuries have to go into fast-forward and produce some answers very, very quickly.”
marcuspr's comment, October 18, 3:33 AM
Its excellent :)
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Tech Billionaires Want to Destroy the Universe

Tech Billionaires Want to Destroy the Universe | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
First they changed the way we bore ourselves online, revolutionized hotels and taxis and minor financial transactions, and gave us lightbulbs that won’t switch on if you haven’t installed the right software driver. Now—it was always inevitable—they want to destroy the universe.

The news was snuck without attribution or comment into a New Yorker profile of Silicon Valley venture capitalist Sam Altman, a brief sentence that might be our first warning of the apocalypse: “Many people in Silicon Valley have become obsessed with the simulation hypothesis, the argument that what we experience as reality is in fact fabricated in a computer; two tech billionaires have gone so far as to secretly engage scientists to work on breaking us out of the simulation.”

This line has been dutifully repeated by all the usual news sites, usually as a minor, amusing little anecdote—nerds versus the Matrix, tech shamans and their wacky ontological theories—without much thought going into what this would actually mean. Ignore for a moment any objections you might have to the simulation hypothesis, and everything impractical about the idea that we could somehow break out of reality, and think about what these people are trying to do.
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An international group of scientists wants you to join Asgardia - the first space nation

An international group of scientists wants you to join Asgardia - the first space nation | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
A new country called Asgardia, named after Norse mythology's city in the skies, could be the first nation ever created in space. The hope is to embark on a mission to mine asteroids and defend Earth from dangerous meteorites, space debris, and other threats.

That is, if everything goes according to an uncertain, open-ended, and audacious plan put forth by its founders.

The group behind the Asgardia project includes space experts based out of Canada, Romania, Russia, and the United States, and they announced their sovereign ambitions from a press conference in Paris on Wednesday.

Their core concept is to launch a robotic satellite within the next 18 months (60 years after Russia launched Sputnik, the first artificial satellite), then eventually follow up with a permanent space station "where people can live, work, and have their own rules and regulations", one founding member told Business Insider.

The hope? To "democratise space", they say.

Ultimately, the organisers envision Asgardians building "a state-of-the-art protective shield for all humankind from cosmic manmade and natural threats to life on earth such as space debris, coronal mass ejections, and asteroid collisions", according to an emailed press release.
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Apes can guess what others are thinking - just like humans, study finds

Apes can guess what others are thinking - just like humans, study finds | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Apes have a human-like ability to guess what others are thinking, even in cases when someone holds a mistaken belief, according to research that supports the view that other primates can empathise and have complex inner lives.

The findings, in chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans, are the first to clearly demonstrate that apes can predict another’s beliefs – even when they know that presumption is false.

“This cognitive ability is at the heart of so many human social skills,” said Christopher Krupenye of Duke University. “I think our findings start to suggest that maybe apes have a deeper understanding of each other than we previously thought.”
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How trees communicate via a Wood Wide Web

How trees communicate via a Wood Wide Web | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
A new book, The Hidden Life of Trees, claims that trees talk to one another. But is this really the case? The simple answer is that plants certainly exchange information with one another and other organisms such as insects. Think of the scents of newly mowed grass or crushed sage. Some of the chemicals that make up these aromas will tell other plants to prepare for an attack or summon predatory insects to defend them. These evocative smells could be seen as cries of warning or screams for help.

When plants are damaged by infection or by being eaten, they release a range of volatile molecules into the air around them. After exposure to some of these chemicals, nearby plants of the same species and even other species become less vulnerable to attack, for example by producing toxins or substances that make themselves harder to digest. These changes don’t usually happen straight away but the genes needed turn on much more quickly when they are needed.

There is also evidence that the chemicals released by plants in a particular location are subtly different from those released elsewhere by the same species. Consequently, it seems that if plants talk, they even have languages or at least regional accents.
Esprit Solutions Pvt. Ltd.'s comment, October 3, 6:57 AM
Abby E Lewis's comment, October 4, 5:41 AM
So interesting, thanks!
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What would happen if the world suddenly went vegetarian?

What would happen if the world suddenly went vegetarian? | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
People become vegetarians for a variety of reasons. Some do it to alleviate animal suffering, others because they want to pursue a healthier lifestyle. Still others are fans of sustainability or wish to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

No matter how much their carnivorous friends might deny it, vegetarians have a point: cutting out meat delivers multiple benefits. And the more who make the switch, the more those perks would manifest on a global scale.

But if everyone became a committed vegetarian, there would be serious drawbacks for millions, if not billions, of people.

“It’s a tale of two worlds, really,” says Andrew Jarvis of Colombia’s International Centre for Tropical Agriculture. “In developed countries, vegetarianism would bring all sorts of environmental and health benefits. But in developing countries there would be negative effects in terms of poverty.”

Jarvis and other experts at the centre hypothesised what might happen if meat dropped off the planet’s menu overnight.

First, they examined climate change. Food production accounts for one-quarter to one-third of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, and the brunt of responsibility for those numbers falls to the livestock industry. Despite this, how our dietary choices affect climate change is often underestimated. In the US, for example, an average family of four emits more greenhouse gases because of the meat they eat than from driving two cars – but it is cars, not steaks, that regularly come up in discussions about global warming.
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Making space rocket fuel from water could drive a power revolution on Earth

Making space rocket fuel from water could drive a power revolution on Earth | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Researchers led by NASA’s former chief technologist are hoping to launch a satellite carrying water as the source of its fuel. The team from Cornell University, guided by Mason Peck, want their device to become the first shoebox-sized “CubeSat” to orbit the moon, while demonstrating the potential of water as a source of spacecraft fuel. It’s a safe, stable substance that’s relatively common even in space, but could also find greater use here on Earth as we search for alternatives to fossil fuels.

Until we develop a warp drive or some other futuristic propulsion system, space travel is likely to rely largely on the kind of propellant-based rockets we use today. These work by firing gas out of the rear of the vehicle in a way that, thanks to the laws of physics, pushes it forward. Such propulsion systems for satellites need to be lightweight and carry a lot of energy in a small space (high energy density) in order to continuously pack a powerful punch over the many years, or even decades, that the craft are in orbit.

Safety too is of prime concern. Packing energy into a small volume and mass in the form of a fuel means even the slightest issue can have disastrous consequences, as we saw with the recent SpaceX rocket explosion. Putting satellites in orbit with any form of unstable fuel on board could spell disaster for expensive hardware or even worse, human life.
Trevor Corso's curator insight, September 28, 11:44 AM
We have an endless supply of water so having a vehicle powered by water would definitely be a great invention.
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We Risk Programming Inequality into Our DNA

Imagine having a chip in your brain to boost your concentration, or pumping artificial blood into your veins to improve stamina. With gene editing, this may be possible.

Scientists are pioneering the ability to tweak our DNA to wipe out disease and maybe even allow us to choose desirable traits in our unborn children, like height or intelligence. None of these technologies have moved out of the lab, but Americans are already uncomfortable with them. In a survey from Pew Research Center, almost half said they wouldn’t want to edit their baby’s genes—whether it were to combat disease or shop for traits.

Nearly 70 percent of survey participants also said they were more worried than enthusiastic about the possibility of synthetic-blood and brain-chip implants. They saw these options as “meddling with nature,” even though we’ve been using technology to enhance our lives for thousands of years.

But to me, the more important point raised was the concern that technological enhancements could lead to greater inequality—that the rich could pay to live longer, healthier lives, and the poor couldn’t. This consideration is important because technologies like gene editing are becoming a reality faster than many of us realize.

Already Chinese scientists have twice reported that they used CRISPR, a powerful gene-editing tool, to tinker with human embryos—most recently in April. They were trying to make nonviable embryos (which couldn’t have led to a live birth) impervious to HIV and then destroyed them, in keeping with policies that limit this type of research.

Another team in China is using CRISPR in the first human trial of its kind, to combat deadly lung cancer. Brain implants are still mostly speculative (though scientists have made strides in using implants that help paralyzed patients control prosthetics with their minds). But science is moving fast, so we need to vigorously debate the implications of these technologies sooner rather than later, or we’ll risk programming inequality deep into our DNA.
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Four threats to global food security and what we can do about them

Four threats to global food security and what we can do about them | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Can we really feed nine billion people? That’s the estimated global population in the year 2050. It should be possible, but things are looking tricky – especially when we also factor in the climatic instability caused by global warming.

These are some of the current threats to food security and what we could do about them.
1. Drought

Demands for water for human use and to grow crops are increasing, but changing weather patterns because of global warming mean we can’t rely on enough rain falling where we need it.

So how can crops still thrive in a warmer world? Back in the 1990s, a simple experiment was devised to test how grapes were affected by signals from their roots in dry soil. Vines were grown with their roots split. They were given plentiful water through one half of their roots, but the others were not watered. The effect was astounding: the fruit yield was the same but only 70% of the water was used.

If plants reduce their water loss they can’t take up as much carbon dioxide for photosynthesis and thus growth. However it seems plants direct the resources they do have to their fruit and seeds, in order to protect the next generation. This works well for us humans: as fruits and seeds are frequently the edible parts of the plant, “partial root drying” often sustains crop yields.
2. Emerging diseases

Pathogens – anything which causes disease, such as a virus, bacterium or fungi – have always been a feature of agriculture and there are a number of current causes for concern. For example, a wheat rust fungus that current varieties have no resistance to is spreading from Africa to the Middle East. Bananas are also an important staple crop for hundreds of millions of people in Africa, but a new variety of the fungus that causes Panama disease has devastated plantations of previously-resistant varieties and is spreading from Southeast Asia.
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A world without work is coming – it could be utopia or it could be hell | Ryan Avent

A world without work is coming – it could be utopia or it could be hell | Ryan Avent | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Most of us have wondered what we might do if we didn’t need to work – if we woke up one morning to discover we had won the lottery, say. We entertain ourselves with visions of multiple homes, trips around the world or the players we would sign after buying Arsenal. For many of us, the most tantalising aspect of such visions is the freedom it would bring: to do what one wants, when one wants and how one wants.

But imagine how that vision might change if such freedom were extended to everyone. Some day, probably not in our lifetimes but perhaps not long after, machines will be able to do most of the tasks that people can. At that point, a truly workless world should be possible. If everyone, not just the rich, had robots at their beck and call, then such powerful technology would free them from the need to submit to the realities of the market to put food on the table.

Of course, we then have to figure out what to do not only with ourselves but with one another. Just as a lottery cheque does not free the winner from the shackles of the human condition, all-purpose machine intelligence will not magically allow us all to get along. And what is especially tricky about a world without work is that we must begin building the social institutions to survive it long before the technological obsolescence of human workers actually arrives.
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Now it’s time to prepare for the Machinocene – Huw Price | Aeon Ideas

Human-level intelligence is familiar in biological hardware – you’re using it now. Science and technology seem to be converging, from several directions, on the possibility of similar intelligence in non-biological systems. It is difficult to predict when this might happen, but most artificial intelligence (AI) specialists estimate that it is more likely than not within this century.

Freed of biological constraints, such as a brain that needs to fit through a human birth canal (and that runs on the power of a mere 20W lightbulb), non-biological machines might be much more intelligent than we are. What would this mean for us? The leading AI researcher Stuart Russell suggests that, for better or worse, it would be ‘the biggest event in human history’. Indeed, our choices in this century might have long-term consequences not only for our own planet, but for the galaxy at large, as the British Astronomer Royal Martin Rees has observed. The future of intelligence in the cosmos might depend on what we do right now, down here on Earth.

Should we be concerned? People have been speculating about machine intelligence for generations – so what’s new?

Well, two big things have changed in recent decades. First, there’s been a lot of real progress – theoretical, practical and technological – in understanding the mechanisms of intelligence, biological as well as non-biological. Second, AI has now reached a point where it’s immensely useful for many tasks. So it has huge commercial value, and this is driving huge investment – a process that seems bound to continue, and probably accelerate.
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AI predicts outcome of human rights cases - BBC News

AI predicts outcome of human rights cases - BBC News | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
An artificial intelligence system has correctly predicted the outcomes of hundreds of cases heard at the European Court of Human Rights, researchers have claimed.

The AI predicted the verdicts to an accuracy of 79%, according to the scientists involved.

AI is increasingly being used in fields such as journalism, law and accountancy.

But critics said no AI would be able to understand the nuances of a legal case.

The study, which was conducted by researchers at University College London and the universities of Sheffield and Pennsylvania, does not spell an end to lawyers, the researchers said.

"There is a lot of hype about AI but we don't see it replacing judges or lawyers any time soon. What we do think is they'd find it useful for rapidly identifying patterns in cases that lead to certain outcomes," said Dr Nikolaos Aletras, who led the study at UCL.

"It could also be a valuable tool for highlighting which cases are most likely to be violations of the European Convention on Human Rights."

The team identified English language datasets for 584 cases related to three articles of the Convention on Human Rights:

Article 3 (cases involving torture or degrading treatment)
Article 6 (rights to a fair trial)
Article 8 (respect for private life)

These were picked both because they represented cases about fundamental rights and because there was a large amount of published data on them.

The algorithm looked for patterns in the text and was able to label each case either as a "violation" or "non-violation".
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Faster Fashion: How Making Clothes Has Become Like Making Software

Faster Fashion: How Making Clothes Has Become Like Making Software | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Since the factory days of the Industrial Revolution, the apparel business has built up a planet-spanning supply chain with an enormous global footprint. Today, many of its manufacturing procedures, relics of its industrial past, have become grossly inefficient, resulting in stockpiles of unused and unworn waste.

Inventor-futurist Pablos Holman thinks we can do better.

On stage at the Singularity University Global Summit, Holman acted as tour guide for the information technologies that are giving humanity the tools to transform almost everything about the way we make clothes. He first describes the exhausting and inefficient journey clothing takes on its way to our dresser drawers:

“Consider a simple t-shirt, your lowest common denominator product. First you grow cotton in one country and then ship it to another country to be beaten down and bleached into something sort of white. Then it’s sent to another country to be spun into yarn, and then shipped to another country to be knit or woven into fabric. Then it’s shipped off to another country to be sewn into t-shirts, and then shipped back to America where we screen print 'team building exercise 1999!' on it. We pay $4.99, wear it one time, throw it in the bottom of the closet, and we’re done!”

Speaking with Holman on the phone about this days later, I can sense his genuine frustration; it sounds as if the apparel industry is a clunky machine waiting to be melted down with a computer hacker approach.
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Robot Babies From Japan Raise Questions About How Parents Bond With AI

Robot Babies From Japan Raise Questions About How Parents Bond With AI | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Driven by a declining population, a trend for developing robotic babies has emerged in Japan as a means of encouraging couples to become “parents”. The approaches taken vary widely and are driven by different philosophical approaches that also beg a number of questions, not least whether these robo-tots will achieve the aim of their creators.

To understand all of this it is worth exploring the reasons behind the need to promote population growth in Japan. The issue stems from the disproportionate number of older people. Predictions from the UN suggest that by 2050 there will be about double the number of people living in Japan in the 70-plus age range compared to those aged 15-30. This is blamed on a number of factors including so-called “parasite singles”, more unmarried women and a lack of immigration.

So, what are the different design approaches that are being taken to encourage more people to become parents? These have ranged from robots that mimic or represent the behavior of a baby to robots that look much more lifelike. Engineers at Toyota recently launched Kirobo Mini, for example, as a means of promoting an emotional response in humans. The robot does not look like a baby, but instead models “vulnerable” baby-like behaviors including recognising and responding to people in a high-pitched tone and being unstable in its movements.

At the other end of the spectrum is Yotaro, a robotic baby simulator that uses projection technology for its face so it can simulate emotions and expressions. The simulator also models reaction to touching, mood and even illness through an in-built runny nose.
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Are Humans Creating More Species Than We’re Killing?

Are Humans Creating More Species Than We’re Killing? | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
The tunnels of the London Underground are hot, dark, and damp. Crowds of warm-blooded humans congregate on the platforms. Stagnant pools of water collect beneath the tracks. The subterranean transit system is, in other words, a lovely home for a mosquito (or many thousands). At some point during the last 150 years or so, a small population of mosquitoes came to the same conclusion, settling into the interconnected tunnels of the world’s oldest underground railway. They became infamous pests, feasting on Londoners who took shelter in the tunnels during World War II and hassling modern-day maintenance crews.

Although the insects look just like their aboveground counterparts, the common house mosquito Culex pipiens, their behavior is remarkably different. Unlike the street-level mosquitoes, the subterranean insects feed on mammals, are capable of breeding in confined spaces, do not require a blood meal before laying eggs, and do not go dormant during the dreary London winters. The two populations also have significant genetic differences and cannot interbreed. Together, these observations suggest that the mosquitoes that first colonized the tunnels have evolved, developing traits that better suit their underground environments. The subway, it seems, has birthed a brand new species.
savarycarron's comment, October 14, 4:41 AM
Thats astonishing...
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New data shows sexual boundaries are changing – but what do we really know?

New data shows sexual boundaries are changing – but what do we really know? | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
The Office of National Statistics has released its latest data on sexual identities in the UK, and some striking patterns jump out – especially when it comes to bisexuality.

The number of young people identifying as bisexual has apparently risen by 45% over the last three years. Women are more likely to identity as bisexual (0.8%) than lesbian (0.7%), whereas men are more likely to report as gay (1.6%) than bisexual (0.5%). That last finding chimes with other studies in the UK and the US – but why should this be?

Women’s sexuality has historically been policed, denied and demonised in very particular ways, and for a woman to be anything other than passively heterosexual has often been considered an outright perversion. Lesbians have historically been seen as a more dangerous breed, a direct challenge to patriarchal structures, perhaps explaining why women may be more likely to self-identify as bisexual. Some research into women’s sexuality has also suggested that women take a more fluid approach to their relationships than men.

But then there’s the more general matter of how much sexual labels still matter to people – and here, the ONS findings really start to get interesting.

Among young people aged between 16 and 24, 1.8% said they identified as bisexual – exceeding, for the first time, the 1.5% who identified as lesbian or gay. In total 3.3% of young people identified as LGB, a significantly higher proportion than the 1.7% of the general population who identified as such. (Just 0.6% of the over-65s did).

In a society that still tends to see the world in often false binaries – man/woman, gay/straight, white/black and so on – how can we explain such a difference?

A pessimistic view of why more young people are identifying as bisexual rather than as gay or lesbian might be that conservative, rigid and polarised understandings of what gender is still hold sway. This, in turn, might also have an impact on attitudes to sexuality, where an investment in a lesbian or gay identity may be more frowned upon than a bisexual one – which in many people’s minds still has a “friendly” relationship with heterosexuality.

And yet it’s clear that identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual carries less stigma for the younger age group than it does for their elders.
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Can artificial grass and fake trees replace our need for ‘real’ nature?

Can artificial grass and fake trees replace our need for ‘real’ nature? | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
The benefits of spending time outdoors are well known. Whether travelling for an hour to reach open countryside or simply walking five minutes to a nearby urban park, being in and around nature makes us happier and healthier. Across entire societies, better access to parks and gardens reduces crime and helps people get on with one another.

Increasing the amount of nature and green space that people experience in their everyday lives should, therefore, result in noticeable improvements to public health and well-being. It could offer many billions in savings on social care and visits to the doctor.

More and more cities are looking for ways to increase the number of parks and open areas so that we can all benefit. However, we still don’t really know what works best and why. Most research has focused solely on creating more green spaces and making them easily accessible, on the grounds that people will spend more time there and reap the benefits. And there is some intriguing evidence that nature reserves or other areas with more diverse wildlife provide even more benefits above and beyond a typical park or garden.

But creating more parks is expensive – even simply maintaining the current ones is hard enough – let alone managing them to encourage more wildlife in our cities. Getting people to visit parks more often and for longer is difficult. Then there is the complex task of establishing whether either approach has worked; gathering crucial evidence to justify continued investment is practically impossible for an average parks department in an average city.
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Welcome to the new feminism – where the aim is to gross you out

Welcome to the new feminism – where the aim is to gross you out | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Vaginas are so hot right now. If that sentence shocks you, then you’ve been out of the cultural loop. Thanks to a new wave of television and autobiographies by some very funny women, female privates have moved to the front and centre of popular entertainment.

Male bits, once the only game in town, are now chiefly of interest only as a sidebar to hilarious female riffs on misfiring, awkward and unsatisfactory sex, thanks to recent work by the likes of Lena Dunham, Britain’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge (writer, actor and star of BBC series Fleabag), and now Amy Schumer, whose smash hit “femoir”, The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo, recently hit stores.

This is all part of a new movement – what I like to call “gross-out feminism”. It is gleeful, honest to a fault, and practised exclusively by women who long ago kissed goodbye to the capacity to be embarrassed. Its goal – apart from to make people laugh – is to provide a kind of shock therapy to those still harbouring the notion that women don’t have bodily functions, trapped gas, or insubordinate periods. Or that women must either be thin or desperately wishing they were so.
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Musk says travel to Mars will be like "Battlestar Galactica," cost around $100,000

Musk says travel to Mars will be like "Battlestar Galactica," cost around $100,000 | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
t a presentation today, SpaceX founder Elon Musk basically said that his life's mission is to make humans an interplanetary species. "The main reason I'm personally accumulating assets is in order to fund this," he said at the 67th annual International Astronautical Conference in Guadalajara, Mexico. "So I really don't have any other motivation for personally accumulating assets except to be able to make the biggest contribution I can to making life multi-planetary." In addition to reinforcing his passion and commitment to Mars travel (which shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who follows space news), Musk also laid out his plan to get humanity to the Red Planet in great detail.
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Time Might Only Exist In Your Head. And Everyone Else's

Time Might Only Exist In Your Head. And Everyone Else's | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Past. Present. Future.

In physics, they are all the same thing. But to you, me, and everyone else, time moves in one direction: from expectation, through experience, and into memory. This linearity is called the arrow of time, and some physicists believe it only progresses that way because humans, and other beings with similar neurological wiring, exist to observe its passing.

The question of time’s arrow is an old one. And to be clear, it’s not whether time exists, but what direction it moves. Many physicists believe it emerges when enough tiny particles—individually governed by the weird rules of quantum mechanics— interact, and start displaying behavior that can be explained using classical physics. But two scientists argue, in a paper published today in Annalen der physik—the same journal that published Einstein’s seminal articles on special and general relativity—that gravity isn’t strong enough to force every object in the universe to follow the same past»present»future direction. Instead, time’s arrow emerges from observers.
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Scientists just demonstrated internet speeds 1,000 times faster than Google Fibre

Scientists just demonstrated internet speeds 1,000 times faster than Google Fibre | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Scientists in Germany have achieved internet speeds averaging a sustained 1 terabit per second (1 Tbps) on an optical fibre network.

At that speed, you're getting a data transmission rate that's a whopping 1,000 times faster than services like Google Fibre, which delivers 1 gigabit per second (1 Gbps).

While Google Fibre's 1 Gbps itself might be considered sufficiently drool-worthy for those of us constrained to the even slower speeds of ADSL and cable, it can't hope to compete to the almost ludicrously fast possibilities of an internet connection that's 1,000 times faster, delivering 1 terabit per second.

At that speed, you can download 125 gigabytes every single second. That's about the same amount of data as the storage capacity of the (ageing) MacBook Air that I'm writing this story on. In a second.

For a little more in the way of perspective, at that speed, you could download an entire Game of Thrones series in 1 second (in high definition, no less).

Or, if you're more of a film person, in the same sliver of time, you could grab 25 movies weighing in at 5 GB a piece, as William Turton at Gizmodo points out.

The choice is yours. And good luck maintaining that social life of yours.

All of these absurd entertainment possibilities come courtesy of a new modulation technique called Probabilistic Constellation Shaping, which let researchers from the Technical University of Munich, Nokia Bell Labs, and Deutsche Telekom T-Labs hit a net transmission rate of 1 Tbps on Deutsche Telekom's existing optical fibre network.

In other words, this wasn't achieved using any kind of special setup in the lab, but on fibre infrastructure that's already been deployed in the field.
Kiran's comment, September 24, 8:33 AM
Kiran's comment, September 24, 8:33 AM
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Man v rat: could the long war soon be over? | Jordan Kisner

Man v rat: could the long war soon be over? | Jordan Kisner | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
First, the myths. There are no “super rats”. Apart from a specific subtropical breed, they do not get much bigger than 20 inches long, including the tail. They are not blind, nor are they afraid of cats. They do not carry rabies. They do not, as was reported in 1969 regarding an island in Indonesia, fall from the sky. Their communities are not led by elusive, giant “king rats”. Rat skeletons cannot liquefy and reconstitute at will. (For some otherwise rational people, this is a genuine concern.) They are not indestructible, and there are not as many of them as we think. The one-rat-per-human in New York City estimate is pure fiction. Consider this the good news.

n most other respects, “the rat problem”, as it has come to be known, is a perfect nightmare. Wherever humans go, rats follow, forming shadow cities under our metropolises and hollows beneath our farmlands. They thrive in our squalor, making homes of our sewers, abandoned alleys, and neglected parks. They poison food, bite babies, undermine buildings, spread disease, decimate crop yields, and very occasionally eat people alive. A male and female left to their own devices for one year – the average lifespan of a city rat – can beget 15,000 descendants.

There may be no “king rat”, but there are “rat kings”, groups of up to 30 rats whose tails have knotted together to form one giant, swirling mass. Rats may be unable to liquefy their bones to slide under doors, but they don’t need to: their skeletons are so flexible that they can squeeze their way through any hole or crack wider than half an inch. They are cannibals, and they sometimes laugh (sort of) – especially when tickled. They can appear en masse, as if from nowhere, moving as fast as seven feet per second. They do not carry rabies, but a 2014 study from Columbia University found that the average New York City subway rat carried 18 viruses previously unknown to science, along with dozens of familiar, dangerous pathogens, such as C difficile and hepatitis C. As recently as 1994 there was a major recurrence of bubonic plague in India, an unpleasant flashback to the 14th century, when that rat-borne illness killed 25 million people in five years. Collectively, rats are responsible for more human death than any other mammal on earth.
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