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Uber suspends self-driving testing program in Arizona

US News - 2 hours 37 min ago

In wake of a car crash involving one of its autonomous cars, Uber has officially suspended its self-driving testing program in the U.S. state of Arizona.

An image posted on Twitter showed a self-driving Uber Volvo car half-capsized on one of its sides. Dents and smashed windows of the vehicle indicated that it was a high-impact accident iin Tempe, Arizona.

Validating the crash, a spokesperson for the company said that Uber officially halted its self-driving testing program in Arizona as well as pushed pause on Pittsburgh operations until it finishes a probe into the incident.

It is the latest setback for a company that is already facing a range of controversies as the company is already reeling under allegations of sexual harassment and technology theft, in addition to soaring financial losses.

Google’s parent firm Alphabet’s self-driving car unit Waymo has filed a lawsuit against Uber, claiming it is using its stolen technology in its self-driving cars. It claims that former Google executive Anthony Levandowski stole the technology and left the company to start his own business called Otto, which was later acquired by Uber.

Waymo requested the court to issue an injunction against Otto as well as Uber. A hearing on the injunction motion is scheduled for 27th of April this year.

Business: Auto SectorCompanies: UberRegion: United StatesTechnology: Technology News

Hundreds of millions of people to switch off lights to mark Earth Hour

US News - Mon, 03/27/2017 - 03:28

People around the globe are being urged to switch off their lights for an hour on Saturday night to mark Earth Hour and support action on climate change.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the organizer of the event, claims it is going to be the world’s largest voluntary action as hundreds of millions of people in some 7,000 cities in more than 170 nations will turn off lights to mark Earth Hour.

Colin Butfield, director of campaigns at WWF, said that action would show global unity to tackle the issue of climate change, which is impacting us here and now.

Speaking on the topic, Butfield added, “We are seeing it across the globe, from the Great Barrier Reef suffering mass bleaching for an unprecedented second year in a row, to more severe weather in Britain.”

Blackpool Tower, Brighton Pier, Cardiff’s Senedd Building, Falkirk’s Kelpies sculpture and Edinburgh Castle are among the participants. The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben will also switch off their lights to back the global action on climate change.

The Eiffel Tower in Paris, Sydney Opera House, New York’s Empire State Building, the Egyptian Pyramids, Tokyo Tower, and the Kremlin and Red Square in Moscow, will keep their lights switched off between 8.30pm and 9.30pm to mark Earth Hour.

General: Science NewsRegion: New York

‘Bad luck’ mutations boost cancer risk more than one’s behavior: research

US News - Sat, 03/25/2017 - 03:32

A new research has suggested that genetic mutations that develop into cancer are caused by simple random errors occurring during replacement of cells, indicating that ‘bad luck’ mutations boost cancer risk more than one’s behavior.

A team of researchers led by Dr. Bert Vogelstein, a cancer geneticist at Johns Hopkins University, found that 66 per cent of the genetic mutations developing into cancer are caused by simple random errors that take place when cells replace themselves.

On the other hand, environmental factors were found to be contributing only 29 per cent of mutations. The remaining 5 per cent of mutations are inherited.

Dr. Vogelstein said in a statement, “Every time a perfectly normal cell divides, as you all know, it makes several mistakes — mutations. Now most of the time, these mutations don't do any harm … Occasionally, one of these random miscopies will occur in a cancer-driving gene. That’s bad luck.”

The research described how dumb luck plays a bigger role than environmental, lifestyle as well as hereditary factors in causing the deadly disease.

The researchers reported their findings in the most recent edition of the journal Science.

General: Science NewsResearch

Arctic sea ice dips to record low for winter

US News - Fri, 03/24/2017 - 03:14

Giving a strong signal of a global warming, the Colorado-based National Snow & Ice Data Center has announced that extent of floating ice in the Arctic region hit a new low for winter.

Arctic Sea ice hit this year a record low wintertime maximum extent of 5.57 million square miles. That is nearly 35,000 square miles below 2015’s record low.

Sea ice floating around Antarctica also slipped to its lowest extent at the end of summer in the Southern Hemisphere. In February 2017, the combined sea ice extent in the two regions was at its record low since 1979.

Satellite images suggested that total polar sea ice covered nearly 16.21 million square kilometers, which is 2 million sq. km. less than the average global minimum extent recorded between 1981 and 2010.

Sea ice scientist Walt Meier of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said, “It is tempting to say that the record low we are seeing this year is global warming finally catching up with Antarctica.”

Most scientists say increasing carbon emissions are responsible for the global warming that is being blamed for melting ice at the poles. However, President Donald Trump and other Republicans don’t believe so.

Companies: NASAGeneral: Science NewsRegion: United States

Urinating, pouring alcohol on jellyfish sting can make things worse: study

US News - Wed, 03/22/2017 - 03:21

Urinating and pouring alcohol on a jellyfish sting are some of the most commonly suggested home remedies. But, a new study has cautioned that such remedies can actually make things worse for the victim.

Urine contains urea that helps with tentacle removal, but it is too diluted to help the victim. The salt in the pee can trigger more nematocysts, giving a burning sensation to the skin. Moreover, peeing on someone or in someone’s presence is quite embarrassing for everyone involved.

The new study also warned that scraping away the tentacles is not a good idea as pressure can trigger the nematocysts. Alcohol can make them fire off even more, while other DIY remedies like baking soda and shaving cream have no effect on the stingers.

Lead researcher Prof. Angel Yanagihara of University of Hawaii, said, “Anyone … encounter authoritative web articles claiming the best thing to do is rinse the area with seawater, scrape away any remaining tentacles, and then treat the sting with ice. Not only did they find out some didn’t work, research showed some actions actually worsened stings.”

However, vinegar works as it prevents the nematocysts from firing off. Thus, if a jelly fish stings you, you should pour some concentrated vinegar on the affected area.

The new study, conducted to test the validity of the home remedies, was detailed in the most recent edition of the journal Toxins.

General: Science NewsRegion: Hawaii

Whales’ ‘super groups’ mystify researchers

US News - Tue, 03/21/2017 - 04:05

Marine biologists are struggling to figure out why humpback whales, typically solitary creatures, are hanging out in densely packed “super groups” off the coast of South Africa.

Experts said humpback whales typically hang out in groups of up to 20, but they are suddenly hanging out in group of up to 200, and they are focused on feeding.

Lead researcher Ken Findlay said, “When you’re in a small boat with 200 humpback whales around you — they’re 14-meter animals — and you’ve got whales popping up all around you, it’s a really incredible experience.”

Precise reason for the whales’ this recent novel behavior pattern remains speculative. However, some experts believe that it could be because of swelling numbers of humpback whales in the region in addition to abundance of prey.

The findings are based on observations conducted during October and November, which are spring-summer months in South Africa, in 2011, 2014 and 2015.

The researchers from South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs reported their findings in the latest edition of the PLOS One journal.

General: Science NewsResearchRegion: South Africa

Sprint, U.S. Cellular kick off preorders for LG G6

US News - Sun, 03/19/2017 - 04:08

After Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile and AT&T, telecommunication services providers Sprint and U.S. Cellular have also kicked off preorders for the LG G6 on their respective networks.

Sprint is offering the LG G6 for $29.50 per month, stretched more than two years. However, customers can also pay the total amount of $708 outright. The handset’s shipping will start on April 7, 2017.

Sprint CTO John Saw said in a statement, “The debut of LG G6 is an important step forward in building the global HPUE ecosystem with progress being made in record time after the standardization of the technology in December.”

Announcing preorders for the LG G6, Sprint also made a lucrative offer by offering a Google Home speaker for nothing. In addition, Sprint announced its decision to give buyers a 49-inch LG 1080p HDTV free of cost.

U.S. Cellular has also started accepting preorders for the LG G6, with shipments slated for April 7. It is offering the Google Home speaker worth $129 for free. However, it isn’t offering a free TV.

The above-mentioned offers are valid for a limited time period and can only be availed through online registration fro the new handset.

Companies: LGSprintTechnology: TechnologyPeople: John Saw

It mayn’t be easy to colonize Mars: Buzz Aldrin

US News - Sat, 03/18/2017 - 03:59

Former NASA astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who was a part of the Apollo 11 Moon mission in July 1969, has cautioned that Elon Musk-led SpaceX’s ambitious plan to send humans to Mars to colonize the Red Planet may not be easy.

In September last year, Musk revealed plans to travel to Mars and colonize the neighboring planet. He outlined the spaceships and rockets needed to send humans to the Red Planet. However, the plans fall short of information on how the first humans on Mars will be able to stay there.

Aldrin said that Musk’s has a myopic view because instead of focusing on what humans will do upon their arrival on the Red Planet, he is focusing on the travel.

The 87-year-old former astronaut said, “We know how to get to Mars. We are going to build a big rocket, put a dragon on top, and go land on Mars … You have got to live in something. You have to prepare for all of that. We don't have to get people there until we need to do the delicate [work].”

Some experts have suggested an intermediate step. The idea is to use Mars’ moon Phobos as a place to land on first and make final preparations for reaching the surface of the Red Planet.

Aldrin isn’t the first to raise questions on Musk’s plan to colonize the Red Planet. Previously, NASA scientists echoed similar concerns as survival on the Red Planet will largely be hinged on how efficiently humans will be able to adapt to the planet’s harsh environment.

Companies: NASAGeneral: Science NewsPeople: Elon Musk

Russian FSB agents reportedly facilitated 2014 Yahoo hacking attack

US News - Fri, 03/17/2017 - 03:20

The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) has indicted that two Russian FSB agents played a key role in the 2014 Yahoo hacking attack which compromised hundreds of millions of Yahoo email accounts.

Russian agents Igor Sushchin and Dmitry Dokuchaev reportedly paid hackers to hack into Yahoo’s cyber security and gain access to accounts containing personal and sensitive information about the owners, including their birth dates, contacts and other email accounts.

Apart from paying the hackers, the two Russian agents also facilitated and protected them during the hack as well as directed them what to do.

News of Russian agents’ involvement in the case emerged as part of the indictment that started making rounds yesterday when the DOJ would reportedly be handing down the charges.

One of the hackers named in the indictment is Alexsey Belan, one the FBI’s Cyber Most Wanted cyber criminals. A Canadian hacker identified as Karim Baratov was taken into custody just yesterday.

Belan has escaped to Russia as the U.S. doesn’t have an extradition treaty with Russia. American authorities may never be able to arrest three Russian defendants who have been named in the case. However, it is possible that these defendants could face charges if Russian authorities agree to cooperate with the U.S.

Companies: YahooTechnology: InternetTechnologyRegion: Russia

Newly discovered planetary system named after famous beer brand

US News - Thu, 03/16/2017 - 03:37

The discovery of seven Earth-sized planets orbiting a nearby star dubbed TRAPPIST-1 isn’t new. However, many people remain unaware of the fact that new planetary system has been named after the discoverers’ favorite beer.

Trappist has been associated with the popular brand of monastic beer that stemmed from Belgium many centuries ago. The scientists not only named the star after the beer but also nicknamed the planets orbiting it.

Each of the TRAPPIST-1 star’s seven exoplanets, the planets outside our own solar planet, has been named something coinciding with a Trappist brewery, such as Orval, Rochefort and Westvleteren.

Many scientists believe that the seven Earth-sized exoplanets many have life-supporting conditions, and the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) could help determine that.

Hannah Wakeford, of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said, “These are the best Earth-sized planets for the James Webb Space Telescope to characterize, perhaps for its whole lifetime. The Webb telescope will increase the information we have about these planets immensely.”

Scheduled to be launched in 2018, the (JWST) will likely be able to detect methane, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, oxygen or water on the exoplanets, helping scientists to determine if the distant worlds really have life-supporting conditions.

General: Science NewsCompanies: NASA

Scientists solve mystery of early supermassive black holes

US News - Wed, 03/15/2017 - 03:13

The birth of early supermassive black holes has been puzzling astronomers since they were first detected more than a decade ago. However, a new study claims that scientists may finally be a step closer to solving the mystery.

The earliest supermassive black holes, with mass around a billion times of the Sun, came into existence just 800,000 years after the so-called Big Bang. But, scientists say it should take millions of years for such voids to accumulate that much mass.

Thus, astronomers remained perplexed over how these black holes grew so quickly. A team of scientists from Ireland’s Dublin City University, the US’ Columbia University, Georgia Institute of Technology, and Finland’s University of Helsinki, found in the new study that it might be due to radiation.

The scientists found that clumping of gas to form dense pockets of material in a galaxy marks the first stage of star formation. But this process is hindered by radiation, which makes the birth of new stars impossible.

Lead study author John Regan, a researcher from Dublin City University, added, “Understanding how supermassive black holes form tells us how galaxies, including our own, form and evolve, and ultimately, tells us more about the universe in which we live.”

The researchers reported their findings in the most recent edition of the Nature Astronomy.

General: Science NewsRegion: Columbia

Pruitt’s comments put him at odds with majority of climate scientists

US News - Tue, 03/14/2017 - 03:21

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt’s controversial comments have put him at odds with the majority of scientists and even many of his predecessors at the federal agency.

While a big majority of scientists have been blaming human activities like burning of fossil fuels for the global warming and climate change, Pruitt said in a TV show that there is not robust evidence showing a link between human activities and climate change. He also argued that there is a need to continue the debate as well as continue the analysis.

His controversial comments triggered an immediate pushback from the scientific community as well as environment groups. Some of his predecessors at the agency also criticized him.

Gina McCarthy, the agency’s most recent chief, said, “The world of science is about empirical evidence, not beliefs. When it comes to climate change, the evidence is robust and overwhelmingly clear that the cost of inaction is unacceptably high.”

Phone calls from angry constituents to Pruitt’s main line, 202-564-4700, hit so high volume by the recently past Friday that EPA officials were reportedly forced to create an impromptu call center. However, agency officials declined to confirm the creation of the impromptu call center.

General: Science NewsCompanies: NASAEPA

Waymo seeks injunction against Otto and Uber

US News - Sun, 03/12/2017 - 04:16

Google Inc. parent firm Alphabet-owned Waymo has asked a federal court to block Uber’s self-driving car project, arguing that Uber is using its stolen technology.

Filing testimonies from its employees and a security engineer in a San Francisco court, Waymo described how former Google executive Anthony Levandowski stole proprietary company documents.

The lawsuit alleges that Levandowski stole nearly fourteen thousand digital files around a month before resigning from his job at Waymo to start his own company called Otto, a self-driving car technology provider.

Otto was later bought by Uber for $680 million, and Levandowski became the chief of the ride-hailing company’s autonomous car business.

Waymo spokesperson Johnny Luu said, “Competition should be fueled by innovation in the labs … we are asking the court step in to protect intellectual property developed by our engineers over thousands of hours and to prevent any use of that stolen IP.”

Waymo requested the federal court to issue a preliminary injunction against both Otto and Uber. A hearing on the injunction motion is slated for April 27, 2017.

Technology: Technology NewsCompanies: UberOtto

Great Barrier Reef experiencing coral bleaching for second consecutive year

US News - Sat, 03/11/2017 - 03:40

The health of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is in ‘uncharted territory’ as the reef is experiencing an unprecedented year of mass coral bleaching for the second year in a row, climate scientists have warned.

The 1,400-mile Great Barrier Reef suffered its most severe bleaching in the recorded history during March and April last year. Scientists blamed warming sea temperatures for the problem.

Following an aerial survey off Australia’s eastern coast, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority warned on Thursday that coral bleaching is occurring again this year.

Reef recovery director David Wachenfeld said, “Regrettably, the temperatures have been high on the Great Barrier Reef this summer as well and unfortunately (we) are here to confirm... a mass coral bleaching event for the second consecutive year.”

Wachenfeld stressed that it is the first time on record that the Great Barrier Reef is experiencing coral bleaching for two years in sequence.

The Australian arm of the wildlife conservation group WWF stressed on the urgency of tackling climate change in Australia -- one of the worst per capita greenhouse gas polluters in the world.

General: Science NewsRegion: Australia

Google Cloud acquires Kaggle

US News - Fri, 03/10/2017 - 03:49

The Google Cloud Platform announced on Wednesday that it has acquired the world’s largest community for data scientists and machine learning nerds, called Kaggle.

Kaggle allows AI enthusiasts to explore and analyze a large compilation of high quality datasets, in addition to running code in the cloud and receiving community feedback on work, among other things.

Fei-Fei Li, Google Cloud AI’s chief scientist, confirmed the acquisition and added that it would provide Kaggle members with direct access to Google’s advanced cloud machine learning milieu.

Speaking on the topic, Li added, “We must lower the barriers of entry to AI and make it available to the largest community of developers, users and enterprises, so they can apply it to their own unique needs. With Kaggle joining the Google Cloud team, we can accelerate this mission.”

Under the terms of the acquisition deal, the Kaggle will keep on operating as its own brand within the Google Cloud Platform.

The Silicon Valley powerhouse has been busy with its aim to create self-teaching technology for years. In a letter to shareholders last year, Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote that the company will soon move from “mobile first” to an “AI first” in the world.

Technology: Technology NewsCompanies: Google

Apple claims to have fixed security holes mentioned in Wikileaks documents

US News - Thu, 03/09/2017 - 03:12

Following the recent leak of a trove of confidential documents by Wikileaks purporting CIA’s ability to hack into Apple products, the iPhone-maker has claimed that it has fixed the bugs allegedly used by the U.S. intelligence agency to hack into its products.

Apple also claimed it is deeply committed to safeguard its customers’ privacy as well as security, claiming that the iPhone technology represents the best data security accessible to consumers.

In a newly released statement, Apple added, “While our initial analysis indicates that many of the issues leaked today were already patched in the latest iOS, we will continue work to rapidly address any identified vulnerabilities.”

The statement followed Wikileaks documents that claimed that the federal government’s intelligence agency had security holes or exploits that could work on iOS that is considered as a more secure option than Android.

Those exploits or bugs are commonly called “zero days,” a name given to security holes in a piece of technology that even the original producer does not know about.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based tech giant also urged users of iOS-based products to download the latest version of iOS to ensure that they get the most recent security updates.

Technology: TechnologyCompanies: Apple

Environmental pollution kills 1.7M children under 5 every year

US News - Tue, 03/07/2017 - 02:56

A new report by the World Health Organization (WHO) has made the shocking revelation that environmental pollution is killing as many as 1.7 million children under age of 5 years every year.

The global organization blamed unsafe water, poor hygiene practices, and lack of sanitation as well as indoor and outdoor pollution for the killing of nearly two million lives. The estimated figure is equivalent to these pollutants being the cause of 25 per cent of kids 1 month to 5 years old.

WHO director-general Dr. Margaret Chan said, “A polluted environment is a deadly one -- particularly for young children. Their developing organs and immune systems, and smaller bodies and airways, make them especially vulnerable to dirty air and water.”

The organization also highlighted the increased risk of stroke, heart disease and cancer from exposure to air pollution. It also warned that more than 90 per cent of the world’s population due to breathing air that violates the global body’s quality guidelines.

Experts also suggested that the most common causes of child deaths, including malaria, diarrhea and pneumonia, can be prevented through interventions like improved access to clean water, use of insecticide-treated bed nets, and clean cooking fuels.

General: HealthCompanies: WHO

Gene therapy cures sickle cell anemia patient

US News - Sun, 03/05/2017 - 05:48

Attaining a new breakthrough in the field of medical science, French doctors have successfully cured a sickle cell anemia patient using an experimental gene therapy.

Doctors at Necker Children’s Hospital in Paris reported that a teenager suffering from sickle cell disease achieved full remission in wake of the experimental gene therapy. The patient started the therapy at the age of 13 years.

Individuals with sickle cell disease have abnormal hemoglobin in their red blood cells, which leads the blood to clog in the minute vessels and organs of the body.

After a period of fifteen months since treatment, the patient no longer needed medication as his blood cells showed no signs of the sickle-cell disease.

Dr. Philippe Leboulch, a professor of medicine at the University of Paris, said, “Since therapy was applied, he hasn’t had any pain, any complications. He is free of any transfusions. He plays sports and goes to school. So we are quite pleased with the results.”

The successful use of the experimental gene therapy for curing sickle cell anemia patients was detailed in the most recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.

General: HealthRegion: Paris

NOAA’s budget may be slashed by almost 20%: report

US News - Sun, 03/05/2017 - 04:32

The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) may suffer significant cuts to its research and satellite programs as President Donald Trump’s administration has reportedly proposed slashing the budget for the climate science agency.

The Washington Post (WP) has reported that the Trump administration has recommended a cut of almost 20 per cent in budget for the NOAA, which may affect the agency’s research and satellite programs.

According to the report, 4-page budget memo sketches how the agency would lose 17 per cent of its budget. The affected areas would include programs like research on coastal management, which may suffer a cut of $126 million or 26 per cent of its $500 million research budget.

The National Environmental Satellite, Data & Information Service that monitors weather and gathers climate data would see the biggest monetary budget cut, of $513 million or 22 per cent of its current funding.

Jane Lubchenco, the agency former administrator, said, “NOAA’s research and operations, including satellite data management, support critical safety needs. A reduced investment now would virtually guarantee jeopardizing the safety of the American public.”

President Trump has long been a vocal critic of global warming and the resultant climate change. During his election campaign in 2016, he repeatedly called manmade global warming a “hoax” created by China to undermine the United States’ economic power.

Companies: NOAAGeneral: SciencePeople: Donald Trump

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