Science & Technology

Teens With No Engineering Experience Invent Solar Tent For Homeless, Win Grant From MIT

by Amanda Froelich – A group of twelve girls with no prior engineering experience developed a solar-powered tent for the homeless. Along the way, they learned the ins-and-outs of sewing, coding and 3D printing. Due to a flailing economy, homelessness is on the rise in cities such as Los Angeles. Fortunately, a new innovation developed by students at San Fernando High School may help those who are stranded on the streets — at least until a more permanent solution is presented. Bored Panda reports that with absolutely no experience, a group of young females invented a solar-powered tent that rolls up into a backpack. Together, the 12 females were recruited by DIY Girls, a non-profit organization that empowers young women from low-income families in LA to pursue fields in technology and engineering. Overseeing the project was executive director of DIY Girls, Evelyn Gomez. The girls primarily used YouTube videos and information found via Google searches to produce a...

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Energy Department Turns Off the Lights at Overseas Climate Office

The Office of International Climate and Technology worked on clean energy with other countries. As if withdrawing from the Paris Accords wasn’t enough, the Trump administration just went one better and closed an office dedicated to international cooperation on climate change and clean energy tech. The Office of International Climate and Clean Energy might have been small — all of its 11 employees have been given pink slips — but it had an important function. According to its still extant website, the office was “the focal point for international climate change and clean energy activities.” The site goes on to say that the office “also develops and implements international climate and clean energy initiatives consistent with administration policy objectives.” Secretary of Energy Rick Perry was at a premiere event, The Clean Energy Ministerial, when the president announced the decision to drop the Paris agreement. Brad Plumer has the full...

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How Conservative Propaganda Works in America: The Signal and the Noise

by David Akadjian – We’ve heard a lot about Russian meddling recently. What we don’t hear about is how more than 50 years of corporate special interest group propaganda fattened the U.S. up, priming our country for Russian influence on the 2016 election. Let’s think about conservative propaganda using a communications concept: signal-to-noise ratio (SNR). Signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) is a measurement used in communications to compare the level of desired signal to the level of background noise. In analog communications, such as AM/FM radio or analog television broadcasts, a high SNR ratio means that you will receive a signal with little static or interference. To enable effective communication, you want to maximize your SNR ratio—more signal, less noise. Signal-to-noise ratio (w/ apologies for my drawing skills) The conservative signal We often refer to Fox News as “Fox Noise” or “Faux Noise.” From a communications standpoint, this is a flawed analogy. Fox News is the signal, along with the other corporate...

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Earth to Trump: You Are On Your Own

by Lauren McCauley –  ‘We move on and we move forward, together’. The overwhelming global response to President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement was essentially, “Go jump in a lake”—or as one Germany tabloid succinctly phrased it in a widely circulated headline: J.K. Rowling  ✔@jk_rowling Very much enjoying the German press at the moment. “Earth to Trump…” 2:49 AM – 2 Jun 2017 Following Trump’s Thursday announcement, world leaders from China to Germany to the Marshall Islands and beyond promised to uphold the climate accord while citizens and civil society from across the globe vowed to “harness public outrage into meaningful on-the-ground action” to combat the crisis of climate change. German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters on Friday that European leaders “will band together to take more decisive action than ever to confront and successfully surmount major challenges to humanity such as climate...

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US Declares Success in Key Test of Missile Defence

But since $40bn system was declared ready for combat in 2004, only four of nine intercept attempts have been successful. The US military scored an important success in a test of its oft-criticised missile-defence programme, destroying a mock warhead over the Pacific Ocean with an interceptor that is key to protecting US territory from a North Korean attack. Vice Admiral Jim Syring, director of the Pentagon agency in charge of developing the missile-defence system, called the test result “an incredible accomplishment” and a critical milestone for a programme hampered by setbacks over the years. “This system is vitally important to the defence of our homeland, and this test demonstrates that we have a capable, credible deterrent against a very real threat,” Syring said in a statement announcing the test result. Despite the success, the $244m test didn’t confirm that under wartime conditions the US could intercept an intercontinental-range missile...

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Top Trump Economic Adviser: ‘Coal doesn’t even make that much sense anymore’

by Joe Romm – Whether or not the United States will remain in the historic Paris climate agreement is a major question surrounding President Donald Trump’s trip to Italy for the G7 Summit. Trump’s top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, was asked about the decision aboard Air Force One on Thursday, and had some surprising answers. Cohn told reporters that coal doesn’t “make that much sense anymore,” but that pushing renewables could make America “a manufacturing powerhouse.” The words seem off-message from a White House that has promised repeatedly to bring back coal jobs and just proposed massive cuts to federal investment in clean energy. Cohn told the press that Trump would achieve fast economic growth while preserving the environment at the same time. “We’re not going to pollute the air to do that. We’re not going to be rampant polluters,” he said. He then explained that achievement was made possible as...

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Rollback of Environmental Rules Will Fail to Bring Back Coal, Report Says

by Mark Hand – ‘Responsible policymakers should be honest about what’s going on in the coal sector.’ “Can Coal Make a Comeback?” asks a new report by Columbia University researchers. Spoiler alert: In its first few pages, the report states that President Donald Trump will almost certainly fail to bring jobs back to coal country or dramatically boost coal production. Rolling back environmental regulations, as the Trump administration frantically sought to do during its first 100 days, will not “materially improve” economic conditions in the nation’s coal communities, according to the report. During Trump’s presidential campaign, he repeatedly vowed to end a “war on coal” allegedly waged by the Obama administration. But as long as natural gas prices remain at or near current levels, U.S. coal consumption will continue to decline despite the Trump administration’s plans to roll back Obama-era regulations, the report says. “Responsible policymakers should be honest about what’s going...

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WannaCry: What is Ransomware and How to Avoid it

What you need to know about ‘WannaCry’, the malicious software behind Friday’s worldwide hacking attack. Malicious software or “ransomware” has been used in a massive hacking attack, affecting tens of thousands of computers worldwide. Software security companies said a ransomware worm called “WannaCry” infected about 57,000 computer systems in 99 countries on Friday, with Russia, Ukraine, and Taiwan being the top targets. The hack forced British hospitals to turn away patients, affected Spanish companies such as Telefonica, and threw other government agencies and businesses into chaos. Here is what you need to know about the software behind the global cyber-attack. How it works: WannaCry is a form of ransomware that locks up files on your computer and encrypts them in a way that you cannot access them anymore. It targets Microsoft’s widely used Windows operating system. When a system is infected, a pop-up window appears with instructions on how...

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The Robot Economy: Ready or Not, Here It Comes

by JP Sottile, Truthout | News Analysis – September 17 changed everything. On that day in 2013, Oxford University published an innocuously titled academic paper by two mostly unknown economists. But “The Future of Employment” wasn’t just another number-crunching exercise in opacity by a couple of dreary scientists. No, their bombshell report portended a coming robot apocalypse that could change the nature of human civilization, and perhaps even human beings themselves. Thankfully, the forthcoming carnage described by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne isn’t a doomsday scenario where Skynet systematically wipes out humankind, or a darkly lit near-future where attractive Replicants violently struggle to make sense of their emerging emotions in a perpetually damp Los Angeles. Instead, the economists previewed an all-too-real world where the second-richest man on the planet — Amazon’s Jeff Bezos — gleefully parades around like Sigourney Weaver in a massive robotic exoskeleton built by Hankook...

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“A Scandal”: After FCC Bent Rules, Right-Wing Sinclair Network to Grow Even Bigger

by Deirdre Fulton – ‘Sure looks like a quid pro quo: friendly coverage and full employment for ex-Trump mouthpieces in exchange for a green light to get as big as Sinclair wants.’ Creating the nation’s largest local TV station conglomerate—and raising the frightening prospect of a network that would rival Fox News—conservative Sinclair Broadcast Group announced Monday it will buy Tribune Media for $3.9 billion. Craig Aaron, president of the communications watchdog organization Free Press, called the deal “a scandal,” while former Federal Communications Commission (FCC) commissioner and Common Cause adviser Michael Copps said it was both “expected and disappointing.” “Expected because the new FCC majority is foaming at the mouth to rubber stamp more massive media mergers,” Copps explained, “and disappointing because Sinclair is not known for the best journalism in the land, to put it mildly. Our nation’s civic dialogue suffers yet another blow with this merger.” The deal must...

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Pack Your Bags: Human Have Just 100 Years to Get Off Earth to Survive, Says Stephen Hawking

by Andrea Germanos – Upcoming series set to show that “Prof. Hawking’s ambition isn’t as fantastical as it sounds”. If the human species is to avert extinction, it’s got just 100 years to leave Earth and colonize a new planet. That’s according to noted theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, who makes the prediction in the upcoming BBC series “Expedition New Earth,” set to air later this year as part of its reignited Tomorrow’s World programming. “Professor Stephen Hawking thinks the human species will have to populate a new planet within 100 years if it is to survive. With climate change, overdue asteroid strikes, epidemics, and population growth, our own planet is increasingly precarious,” a BBC press statement announcing the documentary says. The show will explore “if and how humans can reach for the stars and move to different planets” and will take viewers on a global journey that “shows that Prof. Hawking’s...

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‘Kratom Is the Cure for the Opioid Epidemic.’ Q&A With Filmmaker Chris Bell (VIDEO)

by Justin Monticello – Yet the DEA wants to ban it. “I think kratom is the cure for the opioid epidemic,” says Chris Bell, the acclaimed documentary filmmaker behind 2008’s Bigger, Stronger, Faster and 2015’s Prescription Thugs. A plant native to Southeast Asia, kratom can relieve pain and provide a caffeine-like boost. Its most exciting application, however, is weaning addicts off heroin and prescription painkillers. Though the scientific literature is thin, users have been safely ingesting the plant for centuries. Despite kratom’s promise, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) claims that it poses an “imminent hazard to public safety” and tried to prohibit most clinical research on it. In August 2016, the DEA sought to ban the plant without public input by listing it as Schedule I drug alongside the likes of heroin, though it backed off after the community rose up in protest, apparently taking the agency by surprise. Chris Bell...

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Tesla’s Solar Roof To Cost Less Than A Regular Roof – Even Before Energy Production, Says Elon Musk

by Fred Lambert/Electrek – Solar energy is already competitive in several markets and while the price of the solar roof could be more expensive than a regular roof as an upfront investment, those electricity savings would quickly add up and made the product competitive with normal roofing solutions. Elon Musk made quite the announcement in November 2016. During the special shareholders meeting to approve the merger with SolarCity, which they approved by 85%, he said that he was coming back from a meeting with the SolarCity engineering team about the solar roof and that he now feels confident that they could deliver the product at a lower cost than a regular roof – even before energy production. That’s different from what the company was claiming before the meeting was held. And it’s an incredibly bold claim since if it turns out to be true, no homeowner would have any reason not...

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Facebook Releases Plan to Halt Government Manipulation of the Platform

by Lauren C. Williams – The social network is working around the clock to stop the spread of misinformation and manipulation of public discussions. Facebook is taking a hard stance against the weaponized use of fake news. In a security report the social network released Thursday, the company named “information operations” or strategic actions governments and individuals use to distort public opinion as one of the platforms biggest challenges. Unlike clicks-for-pay scams and hacks, information operations, which can amplify false news through fake accounts, are complex and not easily deterred. But Facebook said it will use machine learning and artificial intelligence to better identify and eliminate fake accounts that amplify false stories for political influence. The 2016 presidential election, which saw multiple controversies around fake news and politically motivated hacks, was the impetus for the cybersecurity report and revealed evidence that larger disinformation campaigns were in play. “During the 2016 U.S....

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A Primer: Just What is Net Neutrality — and Why All the Fuss?

by THERESA RILEY AND JOSHUA HOLLAND – Here’s what you need to know about the fight for an open Internet. The battle over net neutrality is once again heating up. But not everyone has followed this somewhat complicated issue. Here, then, is a primer for understanding what’s at stake in the fight for an open Internet. Just what is net neutrality anyway? Net neutrality is a principle that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) – and the regulators that oversee them — treat all Internet traffic the same way. The idea is to keep the net free and open, giving users equal access to any website or application. net neutrality would prevent companies that provide Internet access from blocking or slowing down traffic to or from specific sites in much the same way as a phone company has to put through your call, regardless of whom you’re calling. Timothy Lee has a simple...

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Great Barrier Reef Reaches “Terminal Stage” as CO2 Levels Rise at Record Rate

by Dahr Jamail, Truthout | Report – I’ve been writing these climate dispatches every month for over three years, and each successive dispatch becomes more difficult to write than the last, as the impacts of anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) become increasingly severe. Species, ecosystems, glaciers, sea ice and humans themselves continue to absorb and pay for this human experiment of industrialization gone horribly awry. Many are paying with their very existence. Two months ago, I spent some time researching and writing in Australia. I visited the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), where I reveled in the majesty of intact towering coral structures flourishing with marine life. Yet I was also devastated during this visit — again and again, I happened upon bleached out and silently dead areas of barren coral wasteland, which not long ago teemed with living beings. Roughly 20 percent of the coral on the outer reef were...

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Neil deGrasse Tyson on the Threat of Science Denial (VIDEOS)

by BILLMOYERS.COM STAFF – Neil deGrasse Tyson says that when you have people who don’t know much about science denying it and rising to power, it’s a recipe for the complete dismantling of our democracy. Just in time for Earth Day, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson releases a short film on Facebook that he says “may be the most important words I have ever spoken.” It’s already been viewed nearly 20 million times. DeGrasse Tyson highlights some of the points he made in his three-part series of conversations with Bill Moyers in 2014, which explored a variety of topics, including the beauty of the scientific method in the search for truth, the value of innovations in science and technology in the ascendency of America, and how political debates about established science are delaying critical conversations about the best ways to combat climate change. “You have not fully expressed your power as a...

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Archaeologists Make Major Discovery in Egypt’s Luxor

A 3,500-year-old tomb with several mummies, sarcophagi and statues was found in the Draa Abul Nagaa necropolis. Egyptian authorities have hailed an “important discovery” after archaeologists unearthed several mummies, 10 colourful wooden sarcophagi and more than 1,000 funerary statues in a 3,500-year-old tomb near the city of Luxor. The 18th Dynasty tomb, discovered in the Draa Abul Nagaa necropolis near the famed Valley of the Kings, belonged to a nobleman named Userhat who worked as the city judge, Egypt’s antiquities ministry said in a statement on Tuesday. “There are 10 coffins and eight mummies. The excavation is ongoing,” Mostafa Waziri, the head of the archeological mission, told the AFP news agency. The tomb was opened to add more mummies during the 21st Dynasty, about 3,000 years ago, to protect them during a period when tomb-robbing was common, Waziri said at the site. “It was a surprise how much was...

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7,000 Massive Methane Gas Bubbles Under the Russian Permafrost Could Explode

by Joe Romm – Scorching March brings Arctic temperatures up to 20°F warmer than normal. Russian scientists have recently discovered some 7,000 underground methane bubbles in Siberia that could explode anytime. ‘Their appearance at such high latitudes is most likely linked to thawing permafrost,” explained a Russian Academy of Science spokesperson, “which is in turn linked to overall rise of temperature on the north of Eurasia during last several decades.” Video of one of Russia’s methane bubbles, which have been called ‘trembling tundra’ This discovery is especially worrisome for three reasons. First, methane traps 86 times as much heat as CO2 over a 20-year period. Thawing permafrost creates both CO2 and methane (CH4), but most models of thawing permafrost assume only CO2 is created. If, as it appears, a lot of methane is being generated, then we’ll see even more extra warming than scientists have projected. Second, a recent study found global...

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Amazon Employees Pressure CEO to Kill Breitbart Ads

by Lauren C. Williams – Tech activism in the Trump era is getting its second wind. Amazon employees are pressuring CEO Jeff Bezos and SVP Jeff Blackburn to sever the company’s advertising ties with Breitbart News. Five-hundred and sixty-four employees signed an email petition, complete with an attachment full of comments from 52 of them, called “Amazon Must Stop Advertising on Breitbart News,” Buzzfeed reported. According to the email, an employee brought up Amazon’s relationship with Breitbart at a staff meeting with Blackburn, asking “What is it going to take for us to stop advertising on Breitbart News?” Blackburn responded, “We have our eyes on it.” While companies like Amazon ultimately have control over where their ads land, most ads pass through third party ad technology companies. The resulting ad is typically the result of companies seeking a specific audience found and tracked through cookies rather than a purposefully placed ad on...

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