Falcon Heavy Makes History

By: The BBC

The mammoth vehicle – the most powerful since the shuttle system – lifted clear of its pad without incident to soar high over the Atlantic Ocean.

It was billed as a risky test flight in advance of the lift-off.

The SpaceX CEO said the challenges of developing the new rocket meant the chances of a successful first outing might be only 50-50.

“I had this image of just a giant explosion on the pad, a wheel bouncing down the road. But fortunately that’s not what happened,” he told reporters after the event.

With this debut, the Falcon Heavy aims to become the most capable launch vehicle available.

It is designed to deliver a maximum payload to low-Earth orbit of 64 tonnes – the equivalent of putting five London double-decker buses in space.

Such performance is slightly more than double that of the world’s next most powerful rocket, the Delta IV Heavy – but at one third of the cost, says Mr Musk.

For this experimental and uncertain mission, however, he decided on a much smaller and whimsical payload – his old cherry-red Tesla sports car.

A space-suited mannequin was strapped in the driver’s seat, and the radio set to play David Bowie’s classic hit Space Oddity on a loop.

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Positive Perspective Of The Stock Market Tumble

By: Jay Zagorski of The Conversation

Stocks, which only recently were practically hitting a new record every other day, suddenly seem to be in free fall.

Global stock markets plunged on Feb. 5, continuing the already precipitous decline from the week before. The Dow Jones industrial average, one of the most widely followed indexes, fell by almost 1,200 points, a 4.6 percent loss and the biggest point decline on record. Put another way, the world’s 500 richest people lost about US$114 billion in a single day.

Since the Dow’s record peak of 26,617 on Jan. 26, the index has fallen almost 9 percent. This brings it close to what is known as a “correction,” which is often described as a fall of 10 percent. Corrections are simply a large enough fall in stock prices to get some people to believe the market’s upward trajectory has stopped. We’ll be in a “bear” market if losses reach 20 percent.

What does this mean for investors and the rest of us? In my view, there are three important ideas to keep in mind as we assess the impact of a plunging stock market on the economy and our wallets.

Don’t panic

First, the stock market often makes very dramatic moves in a short period of time, and extreme volatility like Monday’s occasionally occurs. One of the most famous market plunges occurred in 1929, at the start of the Great Depression.

On Oct. 25 1929, a Friday, the Dow Jones industrial average closed at 301. The following Monday, dubbed “Black Monday” in trading lore, the Dow closed at 260, a drop of 13.5 percent. Then the next day, called “Black Tuesday,” the Dow fell to 230 points, a loss of 11.7 percent.

People were in a panic after only two days of steep losses. On Wednesday, which has no moniker, the Dow reversed course and rose up to 259. This rise almost entirely wiped out the previous day’s fall.

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Thwarting Climate Change Denial Will Require More Involvement From The People

By: Dana Nuccitelli of The Guardian

Climate myths are often contradictory – it’s not warming, though it’s warming because of the sun, and really it’s all just an ocean cycle – but they all seem to share one thing in common: logical fallacies and reasoning errors.

John Cook, Peter Ellerton, and David Kinkead have just published a paper in Environmental Research Letters in which they examined 42 common climate myths and found that every single one demonstrates fallacious reasoning. For example, the authors made a video breaking down the logical flaws in the myth ‘climate changed naturally in the past so current climate change is natural.’

Beating myths with critical thinking

Cook has previously published research on using ‘misconception-based learning’ to dislodge climate myths from peoples’ brains and replace them with facts, and beating denial by inoculating people against misinformers’ tricks. The idea is that when people are faced with a myth and a competing fact, the fact will more easily win out if the fallacy underpinning the myth is revealed. In fact, these concepts of misconception-based learning and inoculation against myths were the basis of the free online Denial101x course developed by Cook and colleagues.

The new paper published today suggests an even more proactive approach to defeating myths. If people can learn to implement a simple six-step critical thinking process, they’ll be able to evaluate whether climate-related claims are valid.

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Lead Investigator of The Illegal Ivory Trade Found Dead

By: The BBC

Esmond Bradley Martin, 75, was found in his Nairobi home on Sunday with a stab wound to his neck.

The former UN special envoy for rhino conservation was known for his undercover work investigating the black market.

The US citizen had recently returned from a research trip to Myanmar.

Bradley Martin was in the process of writing up his findings when he died, reports the BBC’s Alastair Leithead from Nairobi.

His wife found him in their house in Langata. Police are investigating the circumstances but suspect it was a botched robbery.

Our correspondent says Bradley Martin had spent decades risking his life to secretly photograph and document illegal sales of ivory and rhino horn, travelling to China, Vietnam, and Laos to pose as a buyer and establish the details of black market prices.

He first went to Kenya from the US in the 1970s when there was a surge in the number of elephants being killed for their ivory.

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Ever Wanted To Pay Someone To Live Your Life, Heard of ‘ Human Uber / Chameleon Mask’

By: Andrew Griffin

A new “human Uber” could let you pay someone to live your life for you.

Japanese researcher Jun Rekimoto has developed a special screen that can be strapped to a person’s face and allow them to live on your behalf. By dressing up as you and having your face shown where theirs usually is, you’ll be able to pay someone to go about your life instead.

The technology is aimed at allowing someone – a “surrogate” – to live your life for you, wearing your clothes and behaving on your instruction. You, on the other hand, would be able to lounge at home, watching events through your laptop and using its camera to communicate with people your surrogate meets.

“To do this, a surrogate user wears a mask-shaped display that shows a remote user’s live face, and a voice channel transmits a remote user’s voice,” a page describing the tool, known as ChameleonMask, reads. “A surrogate user mimics a remote user by following the remote user’s directions.

“This design is based on our hypothesis assuming physical and social telepresence can be embodied by such a surrogate human who imitates the remote user.”

“This design is based on our hypothesis assuming physical and social telepresence can be embodied by such a surrogate human who imitates the remote user.”

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Scientist Figure Solar Panel Problem Winning Another Battle Over Coal

By: CleanTechnica

Remember back when plastic was a new and exciting thing? That’s more or less where we are with that other p-word, perovskites. Legions of scientists around the world have been trying to tease a durable solar cell out of this optically-promising but fussy material, and it looks like a team from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory has put its finger on the solution.

Did we mention that perovskites are cheap and could be manufactured at high volume, too? Until recently natural gas was the main driver pushing coal out of the power generation business, but renewable energy is also becoming a force to be reckoned with, and its influence will grow stronger as the cost of photovoltaic modules continues to drop.

Another Perovskite Solar Cell Breakthrough

Perovskite is a natural occurring mineral with good optical properties, and its crystalline structure can be replicated with relative ease. NREL, for one, is a huge fan of synthetic perovskites for the low cost solar cells of the future, but the problem is that they deteriorate quickly when exposed to ambient air.

That’s quite an Achilles heel, right?

In the latest perovskite development, the NREL team seems to have solved that little thing about air. Here’s the teaser from the lab:

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) created an environmentally stable, high-efficiency perovskite solar cell, bringing the emerging technology a step closer to commercial deployment.

Do tell! The research team successfully tested a perovskite solar cell in ambient conditions without protection for 1,000 hours, and it retained 94% of its conversion efficiency.

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New Cancer Vaccine Has 100% Cure Rate In Mice

By: Stanford Medical Center

Injecting minute amounts of two immune-stimulating agents directly into solid tumors in mice can eliminate all traces of cancer in the animals, including distant, untreated metastases, according to a study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine

The approach works for many different types of cancers, including those that arise spontaneously, the study found.

The researchers believe the local application of very small amounts of the agents could serve as a rapid and relatively inexpensive cancer therapy that is unlikely to cause the adverse side effects often seen with bodywide immune stimulation.

“When we use these two agents together, we see the elimination of tumors all over the body,” said Ronald Levy, MD, professor of oncology. “This approach bypasses the need to identify tumor-specific immune targets and doesn’t require wholesale activation of the immune system or customization of a patient’s immune cells.”

One agent is currently already approved for use in humans; the other has been tested for human use in several unrelated clinical trials. A clinical trial was launched in January to test the effect of the treatment in patients with lymphoma.

Levy, who holds the Robert K. and Helen K. Summy Professorship in the School of Medicine, is the senior author of the study, which was published Jan. 31 in Science Translational Medicine. Instructor of medicine Idit Sagiv-Barfi, PhD, is the lead author.

‘Amazing, bodywide effects’

Levy is a pioneer in the field of cancer immunotherapy, in which researchers try to harness the immune system to combat cancer. Research in his laboratory led to the development of rituximab, one of the first monoclonal antibodies approved for use as an anticancer treatment in humans.

Some immunotherapy approaches rely on stimulating the immune system throughout the body. Others target naturally occurring checkpoints that limit the anti-cancer activity of immune cells. Still others, like the CAR T-cell therapy recently approved to treat some types of leukemia and lymphomas, require a patient’s immune cells to be removed from the body and genetically engineered to attack the tumor cells. Many of these approaches have been successful, but they each have downsides — from difficult-to-handle side effects to high-cost and lengthy preparation or treatment times.

“All of these immunotherapy advances are changing medical practice,” Levy said. “Our approach uses a one-time application of very small amounts of two agents to stimulate the immune cells only within the tumor itself. In the mice, we saw amazing, bodywide effects, including the elimination of tumors all over the animal.”

Cancers often exist in a strange kind of limbo with regard to the immune system. Immune cells like T cells recognize the abnormal proteins often present on cancer cells and infiltrate to attack the tumor. However, as the tumor grows, it often devises ways to suppress the activity of the T cells.

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San Francisco Begins To expunge Marijuana Misdemeanors

By: Damir Mujezinovic of Inquisitr

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón announced that his office will retroactively apply California’s marijuana-legalization laws to past criminal cases. This means San Francisco will expunge and seal the records of misdemeanor marijuana offenders, the San Francisco Chronicle reported today.

This decision was announced by George Gascón at a news conference. The San Francisco District Attorney was joined by city supervisors, the director of the city’s Office of Cannabis, the Drug Policy Alliance reform group, and the president of the San Francisco chapter of the NAACP.

California legalized recreational marijuana in November. Voters approved Proposition 64, the LA Times reported, making California the most populous state in the nation to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Californians who are 21 and older can possess, transport, and buy up to 28.5 grams of marijuana.

The same proposition that legalized recreational marijuana in the American coastal state allows offenders to petition for resentencing. That is, it allows it if their crime would have received a different penalty under the new law.

Proposition 64, the 2016 referendum item that legalized recreational marijuana in California, allows marijuana offenders to petition for re-sentencing if their crime would have received a different penalty, or no penalty at all, under the new law. An individual can petition a court to recall or dismiss their case, but not everyone has the money for legal feels or the time to go through the entire process.

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Bournemouth Council Labeled Shameful for Putting Metal Bars on Benches to Deter Transients From Sleeping

By: Chris Baynes of The Independent

A council has been criticised as “inhumane” after installing metal bars on benches to stop homeless people sleeping on them.

Bournemouth Borough Council has adapted seats across the town centre to deter rough sleepers.

The Conservative authority said it installed the bars “following numerous complaints by members of the public and local traders” about people lying on the benches.

But charities condemned the “hostile” move and called for the local authority to focus on helping homeless people.

Photos of the benches have also provoked anger on social media, with Facebook users branding the council ”shameful” and “heartless”.

The council’s strategy first came to wider attention after Bournemouth artist Stuart Semple posted a picture of one of the benches on Facebook. He said between 20 and 30 seats had been “retrofitted”.

“The second I saw it I knew exactly what it meant and I was really shocked and quite angry to see it in my home town,” Mr Semple told The Independent.

He added: “This kind of hostile design is really wrong. Most people will just take these things for granted and walk past them but for a homeless person I think it would be deeply upsetting to see something like that.

“I really don’t think we should be making those kind of statements in our towns and cities, we should be making inclusive places. Everybody is welcome.”

The founder of a charity which hands out food to Bournemouth’s homeless said the measure was “an utter waste of taxpayers’ money.”

Claire Matthews, whose organisation Hope For Food runs a soup kitchen in the seaside resort four nights a week, told The Independent: “All it is doing is putting a sticking plaster over the wound. If [the council] stop and think and look at what they are doing and help the homeless off the streets, they would not need all this.

“Why can’t they actually put the money into helping the homeless?”

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NSA Removes Trust And Honesty From It’s Mission Statement

By: Morgan Sung of Mashable

The National Security Agency — which as  whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed, hasn’t been truthful about how much data it collects on phone calls and internet traffic — just removed “honesty” from the core values listed on its website.

“Honesty” has been listed as a priority on the NSA’s website since at least May 3, 2016. But in an updated version on January 12, 2018, first spotted by The Intercept, the word was replaced with replaced with “Commitment to Service.”

An archived version of the NSA’s Mission & Values page says the agency recognizes that both American leaders and citizens have “placed great trust” in it, and that the NSA strives “at all times to be deserving of that trust.”

“We will be truthful with each other, and honor the public’s need for openness, balanced against national security interests,” the core values read.

But in the updated version of the page, all phrases containing “trust” and “openness” are gone. Instead, the core values now focus on reliability.

The new version reads: “Knowing that the country, our friends and allies are relying on us, we are dedicated to fulfilling our commitment to serve and to excellence in the pursuit of our critical mission.”

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