“Planet Earth Report” –2017 Year of the UFO, Cryptocurrency Future of Money, “Brain-to-Vehicle” Auto Technology

 
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January 3, 2018 : Links to headline stories from around the world on the threats, opportunities, and dangers facing our fragile planet –along with an occasional dash of humor, popular culture, and an intriguing conspiracy theory or two.

Why We Keep Scanning the Skies for Signs of Alien Intelligence

 
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The search for alien life continues, but how near are we to finding life on other planets – and will we ever answer the question ‘are we alone’? In less than an hour, the decision was made. It was 2 December and Avi Loeb, an astronomy professor at Harvard, was with Yuri Milner, the Russian billionaire and founder of Breakthrough Listen, a $100m alien-hunting venture. Milner had invited Loeb, an adviser on the project, to his Palo Alto home to discuss the bizarre features of the interstellar object, ‘Oumuamua.

The first known visitor from another solar system, the monolithic lump appeared long and slender, a curious shape for a space rock. The two agreed there was the slimmest chance ‘Oumuamua was not what it seemed. Eleven days later, Breakthrough Listen swung the world’s largest steerable telescope, at Green Bank in West Virginia, into position and scanned the 400-metre-long body for signs that it was a passing spacecraft.

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The Truth about Those "Alien Alloys" in The New York Times UFO Story

 

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Is the government really stockpiling materials in a Nevada building that scientists cannot identify? The New York Times published a stunning story Saturday (Dec. 16) that you've probably read by now revealing that the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) had, between 2007 and 2012, funded a $22 million program for investigating UFOs. The story included three revelations that were tailored to blow readers' minds:

1. Many high-ranking people in the federal government believe aliens have visited planet Earth.

2. Military pilots have recorded videos of UFOs with capabilities that seem to outstrip all known human aircraft, changing direction and accelerating in ways no fighter jet or helicopter could ever accomplish.

3. In a group of buildings in Las Vegas, the government stockpiles alloys and other materials believed to be associated with UFOs.

Points one and two are weird, but not all that compelling on their own: The world already knew that plenty of smart folks believe in alien visitors, and that pilots sometimes encounter strange phenomena in the upper atmosphere – phenomena explained by entities other than space aliens, such as a weather balloon, a rocket launch or even a solar eruption.

Point No. 3, though – those buildings full of alloys and other materials – that's a little harder to hand wave away. Is there really a DOD cache full of materials from out of this world?

 

 

One of the authors of the Times report, Ralph Blumenthal, had this to say on MSNBC about the alloys: "They have, as we reported in the paper, some material from these objects that is being studied so that scientists can find what accounts for their amazing properties, this technology of these objects, whatever they are." When asked what the materials were, Blumenthal responded, "They don't know. They're studying it, but it's some kind of compound that they don't recognize."

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Nissan Reveals It is Working on "Brain-to-Vehicle" Auto Technology

 

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Automaker Nissan has revealed what it’s been working on at its Atsugi, Japan-based research facility. A car that measures brain waves to help drivers steer their autonomous cars. Really. In a wild video that hit the internet on Wednesday, Lucian Gheorghe, who’s a Nissan Senior Innovation Researcher, explains in broad terms how this nascent technology works.

 

 

 

“Our systems will be able to tell an autonomous vehicle, the driver will be steering in the next 300 milliseconds,” Gheorghe says. “Then we can use this window in time to enhance the execution synchronizing the support of the AV with your own actions.”

So, in a third of a second, Nissan researchers claim they can measure brain activity that show you want to turn left — or slam the brakes — and the car can assist you in doing just that.

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It's Colder Than Mars Out There

 
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The arctic freeze over the United States this week is producing the kind of frigid temperatures typical for the red planet. On Thursday morning, Adam Gill stepped outside in a heavy, bright-yellow coat, bulky gloves, and a ski mask to brace himself against the blistering wind. He brought with him a metal teakettle full of boiling water. As he tipped the kettle over, the piping-hot liquid turned instantly into snow and blew away in the wind.

That’s how cold it was at the Mount Washington Observatory in New Hampshire, the highest peak in the northeastern United States. The video of Gill, a meteorologist at the observatory, conducting this little presentation received thousands of sympathetic likes on Facebook. The temperature that day at the observatory hit a bone-chilling low of -34 degrees Fahrenheit (-37 degrees Celsius)—and that was without accounting for wind chill. The day broke the previous record of -31 degrees Fahrenheit (-35 degrees Celsius), set in 1933.

These conditions mean that in some parts of the United States, it’s actually colder than it is on Mars. The latest weather data from the Curiosity rover on Mars recorded a peak temperature of -9 degrees Fahrenheit (-23 degrees Celsius) on the day of Sol 1910, which for us is December 20. The rover roams around Gale Crater, near the equator. There, the winter solstice has just passed and the cold season is getting started. Humans have yet to figure out if the red planet could be habitable, but right now it seems just as (in)hospitable as home, at least weather-wise. (Of course, Earth still has one thing that Mars doesn’t: breathable air.)

The comparison to Mars is indeed accurate, says Michael Mischna, a research scientist at nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California where he studies the Martian climate—and where it will reach an enviable 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius) Friday. “Temperature is pretty much temperature wherever you are,” Mischna said.

There is one small difference. The atmosphere on Mars is about 100 times thinner than on Earth, which means a given air temperature—if you could stand outside on the planet, without a spacesuit—wouldn’t feel the same on both planets.

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Cryptocurrency And Why It’s The Future Of Money

 

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In a matter of weeks in November 2017, bitcoin surged from a fringe investment to a global sensation. In mid-November, the price was around $3,000 for a single bitcoin; on December 6, 2017, it surpassed $19,000. At the time of publication, the value was hovering around $15,000.

Bitcoin is having a moment — really, it’s had a year. No matter if you think it’s a bubble about to burst, or hope your investments will pay back big in the long run, there is one clear takeaway: Cryptocurrency is changing the future of finance. What’s not yet clear is how the technology behind bitcoin, and cryptocurrencies like it, will alter our national and global financial systems.

 

 

Bitcoin, like all cryptocurrencies, relies on a technology called blockchain that makes its transactions so secure that experts consider them to be virtually unhackable. And because the transactions are assured, the cost of verifying transactions is less than in a central bank though, admittedly, the cost of verifying bitcoin transactions has become fairly expensive.

Cryptocurrency transactions happen directly between individuals instead of through a bank. Every time a person makes a transaction using a cryptocurrency — for example, using funds stored in his or her crypto wallet to send bitcoin to someone else — the transaction is recorded on a digital ledger called a blockchain. Every cryptocurrency has its own blockchain, and computers doing complex math in a large network maintain it.

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Soon We Won’t Be Able to Tell the Difference Between AI and a Human Voice

 

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Using their DeepMind artificial intelligence (AI), Google’s Alphabet AI research lab developed a synthetic speech system called WaveNet back in 2016. The system runs on an artificial neural network that’s capable of speech samples at an ostensibly better quality than other technologies like it. The voice of AI is becoming more human-like, so to speak. WaveNet has since been improved to work well enough for Google Assistant across all platforms.

Now, WaveNet has gotten even better at sounding more human. In a still-to-be-peer-reviewed paper published by Google in January 2018, WaveNet is getting a text-to-speech system called Tacotron 2. Effectively the second generation of Google’s synthetic speech AI, the new system combines the deep neural networks of Tacotron 2 with WaveNet.

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Science of Silence in ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’

 

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The soundless lightspeed attack that baffled some fans was actually the film’s most scientifically accurate moment. Since watching Star Wars: The Last Jedi, you’ve probably found yourself haunted by one singular question: What exactly is Luke’s relationship with that four-breasted, green-milk-spurting siren thing on the island of Ahch-To? But even if you’ve managed to make your peace with the now-notorious milking sequence, there’s another question some moviegoers have had on their minds: Why does an epic lightspeed attack take place entirely in silence?

Let’s start by setting the scene. In the second half of the film, Laura Dern’s Admiral Holdo goes out with a bang, embarking on a hyperdrive-assisted kamikaze strike against Supreme Leader Snoke’s flagship, the Supremacy. Holdo’s ship is traveling close to the speed of light (186,000 miles per second); her target is stationary, a sitting duck. For roughly 10 seconds, as the two ships meet, all sound drops out from the film. What happens next is a sleek, slow-motion tableau of sci-fi carnage reminiscent of the elegant spaceflight scenes that graced Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

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Bringing Back the Woolly Mammoth to Save the World

 

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The woolly mammoth is coming back. How the most brilliant geneticist of our time is working to bring back the woolly mammoth, to repopulate the Siberian tundra and save the world.

Tags: science, extinction, climate change, genetics, crispr Author of twelve books, Ben Mezrich has created his own highly addictive genre of nonfiction, chronicling the amazing stories of young geniuses making tons of money on the edge of impossibility, ethics, and morality.

Mezrich is best known for Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions, which was his first book. It tells the story of a group of students from MIT using a sophisticated card counting system at casino to bet on blackjack games, winning millions of dollars. In 2008 the story was made into the movie “21”.

 

 

Robots En Route to Antarctica to Measure Growing Threat

 
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Is a flooding catastrophe inevitable? An undersea robotic network will soon tell us how screwed we are. A partnership between the University of Washington and Paul G. Allen Philanthropies will use a network of undersea robots to observe the conditions beneath a floating Antarctic ice shelf.

If that sounds a bit academic, let me put it another way: The fate of the world may rest on whether or not a gargantuan slab of ice collapses into the ocean. Some smart people from UW are using robots to determine how screwed we are.

Ice shelves like the West Antarctic Ice Sheet play a critical role in maintaining ocean levels, acting as retaining walls to keep inland glaciers from escaping into the sea. But ocean waters are warming, eating away at the ice shelves and leaving massive undersea caverns. If the ice above the caverns collapses, the water levels could rise catastrophically, precipitating massive flooding in coastal areas.

The extent of the undersea melting has been difficult to measure accurately. Researchers at UW's College of the Environment and in the UW Applied Physics Laboratory have teamed up to tackle the problem with robots.

 "We have almost no information about the area where the glacier is floating on top of the ocean," glaciologist Knut Christianson, a UW assistant professor, told UW news. "The ice is 300 to 500 meters thick. There's no light penetrating, it's impossible to communicate with any instruments, and this environment is extremely hard on equipment — picture big crevasses, rushing water and jagged ice."

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Today's "WTF!" Video –The UFO Highway

Ben Mezrich is the author of 18 books including Bringing Down The House that was made into the movie 21, and Accidental Billionaires that was made into the movie The Social Network.

 

 

In This talk Ben discuses the UFO highway located at the 37th Parallel, and the strange phenomenon of cattle mutilations. It was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.

 

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