It looks like the popular vision of the future has finally arrived. On April 20th in Monaco, AeroMobil will show off its new two-seater flying car, designed to both drive on the road and in the air. The race amongst companies like AeroMobil and Airbus to make flying vehicles a reality is set to change travel for ever. Futurism.com has more.
Science & Technology News
by Akaki / 9 Views
by Akaki / 9 Views
The micro-blogging service, which has struggled to grow its user base in recent years, is carrying out surveys to “assess interest” in the idea.
Paying members would get access to an enhanced version of Tweetdeck, Twitter’s souped-up interface that offers more functionality than Twitter.com.
The company has not made any indication it is considering charging regular users of the service.
But a premium membership scheme could offer Twitter a new revenue stream at a time when users are increasingly turning to other networks such as Snapchat.
Twitter’s active user base has plateaued - and advertising revenues, currently the firms only meaningful income stream, are in decline. Twitter’s struggles come despite the online advertising market growing considerably in the past year.
Twitter has surveyed a small selection of its users about the idea.
In a statement, the company said: "We regularly conduct user research to gather feedback about people’s Twitter experience and to better inform our product investment decisions, and we're exploring several ways to make Tweetdeck even more valuable for professionals.”
In an email to selected users, the company described how the new tool would work.
"This premium tool set will provide valuable viewing, posting, and signaling tools like alerts, trends and activity analysis, advanced analytics, and composing and posting tools all in one customizable dashboard,” the note said.
"It will be designed to make it easier than ever to keep up with multiple interests, grow your audience, and see even more great content and information in real-time.”
If it goes ahead with premium accounts, Twitter will be competing with more established players like SocialFlow and HootSuite - companies that have offered enhanced ways to use Twitter for many years.
Why it has taken the company this long to roll out its own initiative is not clear. In 2009, co-founder Biz Stone said the firm had hired a product manager to develop premium features, but these never materialised - and Mr Stone left the company in 2011.
by Akaki / 5 Views
Waymo - a company spun out of Google - filed a lawsuit in February claiming former employee Andrew Levandowski had stolen 14,000 documents relating to LiDAR, a core technology used to guide autonomous vehicles.
Mr Levandowski went on to co-found Otto, a self-driving truck company acquired by Uber for $660m last year.
Waymo requested a judge grant an injunction on the use of the disputed technology, which could take Uber’s self-driving fleet - currently being tested in a few locations in the US - off the roads.
At a hearing earlier this week, Uber sought to convince a judge that an injunction would be unfair.
"Waymo's injunction motion is a misfire,” said Angela Padilla, a lawyer for Uber, in a statement on Friday.
"There is no evidence that any of the 14,000 files in question ever touched Uber's servers, and Waymo's assertion that our multi-lens LiDAR is the same as their single-lens LiDAR is clearly false.”
Part of Uber’s defence is also an admission that it lags behind its competitors in the autonomous race. It said while it has been developing its own LiDAR tech, it has so far needed to rely on third-party companies to provide the system for its cars.
"If Waymo genuinely thought that Uber was using its secrets, it would not have waited more than five months to seek an injunction,” Ms Padilla added.
"Waymo doesn't meet the high bar for an injunction, which would stifle our independent innovation - probably Waymo's goal in the first place."
Pleading the fifth
Waymo argued that blueprints, mistakenly sent to Waymo via email last December, showed Uber’s plans to use the stolen designs in future.
Image copyrightGETTY IMAGESImage caption
The company dismissed Uber’s assertion that none of the files were on its servers by pointing out that the firm’s search had not been able to include the computer belonging to the man at the centre of the controversy, Mr Levandowski.
At a recent court hearing, held in private but leaked to the press, Mr Levandowski invoked his Fifth Amendment rights, a constitutional clause that allows US citizens to resist any request to share information that could put them at risk of self-incrimination.
The presiding judge advised that Uber should be firmer with Mr Levandowski in order to get access to the files - such as threatening to fire him if he did not co-operate.
"If you cannot find them in your files there is going to be a preliminary injunction,” Judge William Alsup warned Uber.
"You're not denying it, no one is denying he has the 14,000 files. You keep on your payroll someone who took 14,000 documents and is liable to use them.”
He added: "This is an extraordinary case. I have never seen a record this strong in 42 years. So you are up against it.”
by Akaki / 6 Views
Many anthropologists think that living in large social groups drove the evolution of bigger brains, but new findings call that into questio.
There are bones hidden away in almost every cupboard in many of the rooms of New York University's primatology department, and James Higham is keen to explain to me what they can tell us about an important part of our evolution: why we have such big, heavy brains.
He shows me hordes of lemur skulls, as well as casts of our extinct relatives.
Of particular interest to him are the sizes of their braincases. After studying this feature in primates including monkeys, lemurs and humans, he and his colleagues have presented an intriguing new idea as to why our brains are so large.
The reason why some primates have bigger brains than others is often said to be their social behaviour. That is, primates that move around in bigger and more complex social groups require bigger brains in order to efficiently manage all of those social relations.
The new analysis found that diet – not social group size – was the key factor linked to brain size
This theory has been around for over two decades, and is called "the social brain hypothesis".
Following a large-scale analysis of primates, Higham and his colleague Alex DeCasien are confident that the social brain theory does not tell the whole story.
To come to this conclusion, the team, led by DeCasien, put together a dataset of 140 primate species, including animals like the aye-aye and several species of gibbon. This allowed them to study the relationship between the size of primate brains and several social factors, such as group size and social structure.
They tell me that this is the first time such a large dataset has been used to explore the idea. When the social brain hypothesis was formulated, it did not consider primates like orangutans, which have large brains despite often living solitary lives.
The new analysis found that diet – not social group size – was the key factor linked to brain size.
That is not to say that social group size plays no role in the evolution of large brains
It has long been known that fruit-eating primates (frugivores) tend to have bigger brains than leaf-eating primates (folivores), says Higham.
This might be because there are benefits to eating fruit. It has a higher nutritional value and is far easier to digest than leaves.
However, it is also a more demanding diet in some ways. For instance, fruit is more patchily distributed in both space and time, which makes the task of finding food more complex, says Higham.
That is not to say that social group size plays no role in the evolution of large brains, say the authors.
Because fruit can be less abundant than leaves, frugivores often travel across larger ranges. They tend to form larger social groups for those long journeys.
All of these things are co-evolving
"If there's another group in that fruit tree, what determines which group ends up holding the fruit is usually just about group size," says Higham.
In other words, the larger the group, the easier it will be to "push the smaller group out" when competing for food.
"All of these things are co-evolving, but the main problem with the social brain hypothesis is that it's explicitly saying that this one force is contributing more than another force," says DeCasien.
"If you want to break it down like that, our study shows that it's the opposite force [diet] that is contributing more," she adds.
DeCasien and Higham are aware that their findings will have their critics.
I put their conclusions to the researcher behind the social brain hypothesis, Robin Dunbar of the University of Oxford in the UK. He contests the findings.
First, Dunbar says that it is not overall brain size that is the important factor. Instead, it is the size of a particular part of the brain called the neocortex, which plays an important role in cognition, spatial reasoning and language.
"There is an important distinction between neocortex volume and brain volume," says Dunbar. "The original social brain analyses showed that social group size does not correlate especially well (if at all) with total brain size, but only with neocortex size… That would be difficult to reconcile with their claim."
Second, Dunbar points out that social group size and diet need not be two alternative explanations of brain evolution.
"Both are necessarily true," he says. In line with DeCasien and Higham, Dunbar thinks these features must be connected at a deep level. "You cannot evolve a large brain to handle anything, social or otherwise, unless you change your diet to allow greater nutrient acquisition, so as to grow a larger brain," he says.
However, Dunbar still maintains that social group size, not diet, is the key driving force.
by Akaki / 8 Views
A 24-YEAR-OLD physics student from Nigeria has built a working helicopter out of old car and bike parts.
Mubarak Muhammed Abdullahi spent eight months building the model, using the money he makes from repairing cellphones and computers.
While some of the parts have been sourced from a crashed 747, the chopper contains parts from cars and bikes.
The 12-meter-long aircraft, which has never flown above a height of seven feet, is powered by a secondhand 133 horsepower engine from a Honda Civic.
In the basic cockpit there are two Toyota car seats, with a couple more in the cabin behind.
Controls contain an ignition button, an accelerator lever to control vertical thrust and a joystick that provides balance and bearing.
A camera beneath the chopper connected to a small screen on the dash gives the pilot ground vision, and he communicates via a small transmitter.
Mubarak says he learned the basics of helicopter flying through the internet after he decided it would be easier to build a chopper than a car. Flying his creation is easy, he claims. “You start it, allow it to run for a minute or two and you then shift the accelerator forward and the propeller on top begins to spin,” he explains. “The further you shift the accelerator the faster it goes and once you reach 300 rpm you press the joystick and it takes off.”
Undeterred that his home-made transporter, which lives in a hangar on campus, lacks the gear to measure atmospheric pressure, altitude and humidity, Mubarak is working on a new machine which “will be a radical improvement on the first one in terms of sophistication and aesthetics”.
A two-seater with the ability to fly at 15 feet for three hours at a time, Mubarak’s new creation will be powered by a brand-new motor straight from Taiwan, normally found in motorbikes.
by Akaki / 7 Views
China's domestically-made aircraft carrier is currently being fitted out and will soon be launched, according to a spokesperson from China's Ministry of National Defense, who gave no further details.
The spokesperson, Wu Qian, made the response at a regular news briefing on Thursday in Beijing.
Earlier reports suggested that the carrier might be launched on April 23, when China celebrates the founding day of the Chinese navy.
The Chinese defense ministry announced plans to construct the new aircraft carrier, built by China itself, in late December 2015.
China's one active carrier, the Liaoning, was converted from a Soviet era aircraft cruiser, the Varyag, about 15 years ago, with its first sea trial taking place in 2011.
In September 2012, the Liaoning was commissioned into the Chinese navy and was declared ready for combat last November.
by Akaki / 9 Views
Samsung's latest flagship phones have ditched the physical home button found in their predecessors and introduced a new virtual assistant.
The screens of the Galaxy S8 and bigger S8+ are also larger despite the devices being about the same size as last year's S7 and S7 Edge.
This time, both models feature displays that curve round the phones' sides.
The launch follows Samsung's botched release of the Note 7, which was recalled twice after fires.
The South Korean firm blamed the problem on battery faults and said it had since put in additional safety measures, including X-ray scans of batteries.
The company has also become mired in a corruption scandal in its home country.
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"The Galaxy S8 is arguably the most important launch of the last 10 years for Samsung and every aspect will be under the microscope following the Note 7 recall," commented Ben Wood from the CCS tech consultancy.
"The S8 is a unquestionably a strong product but Samsung must now deliver a faultless launch to move on from its earlier difficulties. If this happens it will emerge in an even stronger position."
The new devices will be released on 21 April.
The S8 is priced at £690 and the S8+ at £780 - a jump on last year's entry prices of £569 for the S7 and £639 for the S7 Edge.
Samsung was the bestselling handset manufacturer for 2016 as a whole, according to market research firm IDC.
However, Apple overtook it in the final three months.
Manufacturer 2016 handset shipments Year-on-year change Market share Samsung 311.4 million -3% 21% Apple 215.4 million -7% 15% Huawei 139.3 million 30% 9% Oppo 99.8 million 134% 7% Vivo 77.3 million 103% 5% LG 55.3 million -7% 4%
The displays of the S8 and S8+, measuring 5.8in (14.7cm) and 6.2in (15.7cm) respectively, mean a more stretched aspect ratio than before, pushing the screens closer to the top and bottom of the handsets.
As a consequence, Samsung's logo no longer features on the front, and the physical home button is replaced with an on-screen icon - in a similar manner to rival Android phones from Huawei and LG.
A pressure sensor and vibration module have, however, been built into the space behind the new virtual button to provide feedback.
Samsung suggests the displays' 18.5:9 ratio makes them better suited to running two apps side by side. For example, there is now space to watch a video, use a chat app and still have room for a full touch-keyboard.
The screens are the same resolution as before but are now brighter, supporting high dynamic range (HDR) playback of videos for extra clarity.
The S8's body is a little narrower than that of the S7, while the S8+'s is a bit wider than the S7 Edge but lighter - Samsung says both new devices can still be used one-handed.
The phones also introduce Bixby - a virtual assistant based on technology acquired from some of the original developers' of Apple's Siri.
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The helper is activated by a dedicated side-button and allows 10 built-in apps - including a photo gallery, messages and weather - to be controlled by voice.
It is "context-aware", meaning users can ask follow-up questions and assume it is aware of what is currently displayed.
Samsung said it expected owners to mix together voice commands and physical controls - for example asking to see all the photos taken today, then tapping the ones they want, before verbally requesting they be messaged to a friend.
The software can also be used to recognise objects seen via the phone's camera. This can be used to identify a landmark, for example, or tell the owner how much a product would cost to buy online.
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Bixby works with Google Play Music, and Samsung intends to open it up to other third-party apps in the future but has not said when.
At launch, it is only designed to recognise US and Korean voices.
"If what Samsung demoed works well in practice, Bixby will be interesting because it offers features absent from Siri and Google Assistant," commented Francisco Jeronimo from IDC.
"The race is on to have the best digital assistant, since that will drive hardware sales.
"But in the past, some of Samsung's features have looked great in presentations, but when you use them on a daily basis they have not been as good."
While Bixby offers new ways to control a phone, it lacks Google Assistant's pre-emptive smarts - it does not interject in chats to suggest places to visit, for example.
However, the search giant's rival artificial intelligence can still be summoned via the home button.
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Other improvements over last year's models include:
- a more detailed eight megapixel front-camera with faster autofocus
- the rear camera remains 12MP but promises to take photos with improved sharpness and contrast by snapping additional frames from which extra data is extracted
- new processors - the central processing unit (CPU) is said to be 10% more powerful and the graphics processing unit (GPU) 21%. A shift to 10 nanometre-chip technology should also make them more energy efficient
- an iris scanner, allowing "eye-prints" to be used as an ID alternative to fingerprints
- a new Samsung Connect app that can be used to control smart home appliances
Samsung also has a range of accessories including a revamped virtual reality headset that is now accompanied by its own motion-sensing controller, and a second-generation 360-degree camera capable of more detailed images than before.
It also offers a new dock that connects the phones to a monitor, keyboard and wireless mouse, allowing them to act as a kind of Android-powered PC.
"Although Microsoft has done this in the past, the performance of the S8 makes it a very compelling experience," commented Mr Wood.
"But while I'm impressed with the dock from a technology perspective, the practicality of it for consumers is questionable."
- Galaxy S8: The internet reacts
- First look at Samsung's S8 phones
- Is the S8 Samsung's most important phone yet?
- Samsung mulls 'exploding' Note 7 relaunch
Analysis: Zoe Kleinman, technology reporter
I'm not sure I share Samsung's bold declaration that the S8 is "a work of art" - but the slimmer handset definitely sits more easily in one hand than its predecessor.
And once you see the surface, which is nearly all-screen, you wonder why you ever needed a physical home button or any other furniture around it.
The tech giant has high hopes for its digital assistant Bixby. What I tried was a limited demo model, which only seemed to understand a few predetermined cues such as searching photos and telling you the weather.
The idea of using the camera as Bixby's "eyes" is neat - but is it enough to draw people away from the more familiar Google Assistant, which will also be preinstalled, as it is on other Android devices?
I'd like to be able to tell you more about the battery life of what I imagine is a power-hungry little device - but Samsung was coy about that. Batteries are still a sensitive subject.
by Akaki / 12 Views
- People who survive a nuclear blast may be exposed to radioactive ash and dust called fallout.
- Finding a good shelter as soon as possible and going inside is critical to surviving fallout.
- A scientist has come up with a strategy for when and whether to move to a better fallout shelter.
President Trump has egged on a new arms race. Russia violated weapons treaties to upgrade its nuclear arsenal. North Korea is developing long-range missiles and practicing for nuclear war — and the US military is considering preemptive attacks on the isolated nation's military facilities.
Though these events are unlikely to trigger the last-ditch option of nuclear war, let alone a blast in your neighborhood, they are very concerning.
So you might be wondering, "If I survive a nuclear-bomb attack, what should I do?"
Michael Dillon, a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researcher, crunched the numbers and helped figure out just that in a 2014 study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical and Physical Sciences.
Likewise, government agencies and other organizations have also explored the harrowing question and came up with detailed recommendations and response plans.
You are in a large city that has just been subjected to a single,low-yield nuclear detonation, between 0.1 and 10 kilotons.
This is much less powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima — about 15 kilotons. However, it's not unlikely when looking at weapons like the new B61-12 gravity bomb, which is built by the US, maxes out at 50 kilotons, and can be dialed down to 0.3 kilotons. (Russia and Pakistan are working on similar so-called "tactical" nuclear weapons.)
One of your biggest and most immediate goals is to avoid nuclear fallout.
How to avoid fallout radiation
Fallout is a mess of bomb material, soil, and debris that is vaporized, made radioactive, and sprinkled as dust and ash across the landscape by prevailing winds. (In New York City, for example, a fallout zone would spread eastward.)
The best thing to do is to find a good place to hide — the more dense material between you and the outside world, the better — then wait until the rescuers can make their way to help you.
The US government recommends hiding in a nearby building, but not all of them provide much shelter from nuclear fallout.
Poor shelters, which include about 20% of houses, are constructed of lightweight materials and lack basements. The best shelters are thick brick or concrete and lack windows. Like a bomb shelter.
This infographic from a government guide to the aftermath of nuclear attacks gives a rough idea on what makes a building a good or bad place to hide from fallout:
Hiding in the sub-basement of a brick five-story apartment building, for example, should expose you to just 1/200 of the amount of fallout radiation outside.
Meanwhile, hanging out in the living room of your one-story, wood-frame house will only cut down the radiation by half, which — if you are next to a nuclear explosion — will not do much to help you.
So, what do you do if there isn't a good shelter right near you? Should you stay in a "poor" shelter, or risk exposure to find a better one? And how long should you wait?
Should you stay or should you go?
In his 2014 study, Dillon developed models to determine your best options. While the answer depends on how far away you are from the blast, since that will determine when the fallout arrives, there are some general rules to follow.
If you are immediately next to or in a solid shelter when the bomb goes off, stay there until the rescuers come to evacuate you to less radioactive vistas.
If you aren't already in a bomb shelter, but know a good shelter is about five minutes away — maybe a large apartment building with a basement that you can see a few blocks away — his calculations suggest hoofing it over there quickly and staying in place.
But if the nice, thick-walled building would take about 15 minutes travel time, it's better to hole up in the flimsy shelter for awhile — but you should probably leave for a better shelter after roughly an hour (and maybe pick up some beers and sodas on the way: A study in the '50s found they taste fine after a blast).
This is because some of the most intense fallout radiation has subsided by then, though you still want to reduce your exposure.
Other fallout advice
Below are some other guidelines that Dillon compiled from other studies and are based on how decent your first and second shelters are: M.B. Dillon/Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical and Physical Sciences
One of the big advantages of the approach that this paper uses is that, to decide on a strategy, evacuation officials need to consider only the radiation levels near shelters and along evacuation routes — the overall pattern of the radioactive death-cloud does not factor into the models. This means decisions can be made quickly and without much communication or central organization (which may be spare in the minutes and hours after a blast
by Akaki / 11 Views
A man was electrocuted as he tried to charge his mobile phone in the bath, an inquest has heard.
Richard Bull died when his iPhone charger made contact with the water while he was taking a bath in his home in Ealing, west London.
The 32-year-old is believed to have plugged the charger into an extension cord from the hallway then rested it on his chest while using the phone.
He suffered from such severe burns to the chest, arm and hand that his wife, Tanya Bull, believed he had been attacked at first.
Ms Bull called 999 but paramedics said he was already dead by the time they arrived, The Sun reported.
Assistant Coroner Dr Sean Cummings ruled the death an accident but will prepare an official prevention of future death report to send Apple about the case.
He told West London Coroner’s Court: “These seem like innocuous devices but can be as dangerous as a hairdryer in a bathroom.
“They should attach warnings. I intend to write a report later to the makers of the phone.”
Mr Bull had been getting ready to meet family members to exchange Christmas presents when the accident happened on 11 December.
His brother Andrew said: “We can all be careless at times. You don’t think there is enough electricity to do this, but there is.
“It was such a needless and tragic accident.”
But Steve Curtler, from safety charity Electrical Safety First, said people underestimate how powerful chargers can be.
He told the BBC that a mobile phone or a laptop typically only has a low voltage of 5V to 20V and would not harm you if they made contact with water – but connecting them to the mains electricity supply carries a much greater risk.
He said: "Although the cable that is plugged in to your phone is 5V, somewhere along the line it's plugged into the electricity supply and you're reliant on that cable and a transformer to make sure you don't get into contact with the main voltage.
"You're wet, which conducts electricity a lot better; you're in the bath with no clothes on, so skin resistance is less. You're vulnerable in the bathroom."
by Akaki / 11 Views
There is growing concern about the impact of automation on employment - or in crude terms - the threat that robots will eat our jobs.
But if you want to see how important robotics and artificial intelligence can be to a business Ocado is a good place to start.
"Without it we simply couldn't do what we do at this scale," the online retailer's chief technology officer Paul Clarke told me. With margins in the supermarket business wafer thin, continually bearing down on costs and waste has been vital.
At its Hatfield distribution centre I got a glimpse of how far the process of automating the sorting of thousands of grocery orders has come. For now, you will struggle to spot a robot - unless you count a machine that inserts plastic shopping bags into crates - but software is doing a very complex job of sending the right goods in the right crates to the right human pickers.
Image copyrightOCADOImage caption
"This warehouse is crammed with machine learning and algorithms that are controlling all manner of operations that are invisible to the human eye," Mr Clarke explains.
But in one corner of the warehouse is the robotics lab where the next stage of automating Ocado is under way. A group of some of the smartest robotic engineers from across Europe are at work on their latest project which could replace human pickers one day. It's a robotic hand sensitive enough to pick up a piece of fruit without damaging it.
"The overall challenge is to develop robotic systems that can pick and pack the full range of items," explains head of robotics Alex Harvey.
Image copyrightOCADOImage caption
The robot hand won't be ready to start work for a while but at Ocado's newest warehouse in Andover, Hampshire, a robotics project that the company believes is unequalled in its sophistication has already been deployed. Swarms of robots move across a grid, collaborating with each other to collect groceries stored beneath them and then bring them to a human picker.
Showing me some video of the warehouse, Paul Clarke explains the technical challenge: "Controlling thousands of robots in real time has required not only building a very sophisticated AI-based air traffic control system but also we've had to evolve a new communications systems to talk to all those robots 10 times a second."
But seeing all those swarming robots with not a human in sight sparks an obvious thought - what about the impact on jobs?
Ocado says despite the onward march of automation its workforce has continued to grow. "We have no choice both as a company and as UK PLC but to invest in this technology," says Mr Clarke."We are a net employer of 12,000 people, none of whom would have a job at all if it weren't for our use of automation because this has been our differentiator as a business."
Economists disagree on the scale of the threat to employment. An Oxford study which predicted that more than 40% of occupations could be threatened by automation over the next two decades is now seen by many as far too pessimistic.
Image copyrightTHINKSTOCKImage caption
That is certainly the view of Laura Gardiner, of the Resolution Foundation, who points out that jobs are becoming more multi-faceted, so that even if one task is taken by a robot, there will still be others left for the humans.
But she does accept that for certain categories of worker life may get harder: "It is right to be concerned about specific occupations - secretarial work, processing jobs in factories - moderately skilled jobs which used to pay quite well."
What is clear is that in an evolving job market, some skills will become redundant, while others will be in higher demand. And the best advice? Train as a robotics engineer.