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Brian Cox On why everyone needs to learn to be wrong

Understanding what science is, understanding what it’s not, is a very humble pursuit. It’s the process by which you understand nature.

As a professional scientist you’re usually wrong and you try things out and you change your view immediately when some new evidence comes in that contradicts your view. It runs against many of the feelings that we have about our opinion or the value of our opinion. So I think it has to be educated out.

Then the question arises: when does it get educated out? I think for most scientists it’s when you’re doing a PhD – you suddenly find that you’re not as clever as you thought you were.

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SpaceX chief Elon Musk plans to fly his own sports car to Mars

Space entrepreneur Elon Musk plans to launch his most powerful rocket in January – to send a bright red sports car to Mars, playing David Bowie’s Space Oddity.

Falcon Heavy
An artist’s impression of the Falcon Heavy in flight immediately after launch. Image credit: SpaceX

The SpaceX CEO, who also builds electric cars, wants to put a Tesla Roadster in orbit around the Red Planet. Musk’s company has already developed and flown Falcon 9 rockets that can carry supplies to the International Space Station and with booster stages that can land themselves after launch.

In January, SpaceX will launch the first of his Falcon Heavy rockets, designed to carry sizeable cargoes into space. It will lift off from NASA’s historic launch site, Pad 39A in Florida, that sent astronauts to the Moon. In the cargo bay will be the $250,000 supercar that has a top speed of 250mph and can accelerate to 60mph in just 1.9 seconds.

Early today, Musk, 46, tweeted: “Falcon Heavy to launch next month from Apollo 11 pad at the Cape. Will have double thrust of next largest rocket. Guaranteed to be exciting, one way or another.” He added: “Payload will be my midnight cherry Tesla Roadster playing Space Oddity. Destination is Mars orbit. Will be in deep space for a billion years or so if it doesn’t blow up on ascent.”

Musk is a leading proponent for building a human colony on Mars and said he aims to ferry a million people there over the next 50 to 100 years in a fleet of 1,000 spaceships.

He famously quipped: “I’d like to die on Mars, just not on impact.” Source – Skymania

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How tough is the new £5 note?

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First gene-editing in human body attempt

Gene-editing has been attempted on cells inside a patient, in a world first by doctors in California.

Brian Madeux, 44 from Arizona, was given the experimental treatment to try to correct a defect in his DNA that causes Hunter’s syndrome.

Mr Madeux says he was prepared to take part in the trial as he is “in pain every second of the day”.

It is too soon to know whether or not the gene-editing has worked in Mr Madeux’s case.

Hunter’s syndrome is rare. Patients are born without the genetic instructions for an enzyme that breaks down long sugary molecules called mucopolysaccharides.

Instead, they build up in the body and damage the brain and other organs. Severe cases are often fatal.

“I actually thought I wouldn’t live past my early 20s,” said Mr Madeux.

Patients need regular enzyme replacement therapy to break down the mucopolysaccharides.

Source: First gene-editing in human body attempt

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The new Tesla Roadster will be faster than a Formula 1 racing car

Elon Musk gave us a surprise during the Tesla semi unveiling event today: the return of the Tesla Roadster. The new stunning four-seater roadster will be the world’s fastest production car. In his remarks, Musk described it as a “smackdown” to the fossil fuel-addicted auto industry.

Musk said the base model will do zero to 60 in 1.9 seconds, which will make it the first time a production vehicle has gone under the 2-second threshold. He also said the new Roadster will  d0 0 to 100 mph in 4.2 seconds, and clear a quarter of a mile in 8.9 seconds.

Musk didn’t confirm the top speed, but said it was “above 250 mph.” By comparison, the top speed of a formula 1 racing car is around at 230 mph.

Musk said the Roadster had a 200kwh battery pack and a 620-mile range per charge, or over 1,000 kilometers.

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Salvator Mundi

Salvator Mundi is a painting of Christ as Salvator Mundi (Savior of the World), which has been attributed by some scholars as a work by Leonardo da Vinci since its rediscovery in 2005. This attribution has been rejected by other specialists. Long thought lost, it was restored and then exhibited in 2011. The painting shows Christ, in Renaissance dress, giving a benediction with his raised right hand and crossed fingers while holding a crystal sphere in his left hand. The painting was sold at auction by Christie’s in New York, on November 15, 2017, for US$450,312,500 making it the most expensive painting ever sold.

Leonardo da Vinci is believed to have begun the painting while under the patronage of Louis XII of France between 1506 and 1513.

It was apparently subsequently owned by Charles I of England and recorded in his art collection in 1649 before being auctioned by the son of the Duke of Buckingham and Normanby in 1763. It next appeared in 1900, when it was purchased by a British collector, Francis Cook, 1st Viscount of Monserrate. The painting was damaged from previous restoration attempts, and its authorship unclear. Cook’s descendants sold it at auction in 1958 for £45.

In 2005, the painting was acquired by a consortium of art dealers that included Robert Simon, a specialist in Old Masters. It had been heavily overpainted so it looked like a copy, and was described as “a wreck, dark and gloomy”. It was then restored and authenticated as a painting by Leonardo. It was exhibited by London’s National Gallery during the Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan from November 2011 to February 2012. In 2013, the painting was sold to Russian collector Dmitry Rybolovlev for US$127.5 million, via the Swiss dealer Yves Bouvier.

It was sold at auction at Christie’s in New York in November 2017 for US$450,312,500, a new record price for an artwork (hammer price $400 million plus $50.3 million in fees). The price was 250% higher than the price paid in 2013. The purchaser was not disclosed.

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Archaeologists in Cyprus have uncovered an ancient 26-metre long mosaic

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Popocatépetl blowing it’s top

Great video of Popocatépetl blowing it’s top on the 10th of November. Popocatépetl is an active volcano, located in the states of Puebla, Mexico.

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Magnetically Actuated Micro-Robots for Advanced Manufacturing Applications

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How small can the naked eye see?

Your naked eye can see objects of any size, if they emit or scatter enough light to trigger its detector cells. Light visible from the star Deneb covers a minuscule fraction of your visual field (its ‘angular diameter’ is 0.0024 arcseconds). A light-emitting object seen as the same size when 15cm from your face, would be 1.75 nanometres wide. That’s only about 10 times the width of an atom of gold! And you can ‘see’ smoke and fog, even when their constituent particles are too small to pick out.

What is limited is the eye’s resolution: how close two objects can become before they blur into one. At absolute best, humans can resolve two lines about 0.01 degrees apart: a 0.026mm gap, 15cm from your face. In practice, objects 0.04mm wide (the width of a fine human hair) are just distinguishable by good eyes, objects 0.02mm wide are not.

Source – Sciencefocus

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Trilobite Beetle

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Where did those electrons go? Decades-old mystery solved

The concept of “valence” – the ability of a particular atom to combine with other atoms by exchanging electrons – is one of the cornerstones of modern chemistry and solid-state physics.

Valence controls crucial properties of molecules and materials, including their bonding, crystal structure, and electronic and magnetic properties.

Four decades ago, a class of materials called “mixed valence” compounds was discovered. Many of these compounds contain elements near the bottom of the periodic table, so-called “rare-earth” elements, whose valence was discovered to vary with changes in temperature in some cases. Materials comprising these elements can display unusual properties, such as exotic superconductivity and unusual magnetism.

But there’s been an unsolved mystery associated with mixed valence compounds: When the valence state of an element in these compounds changes with increased temperature, the number of electrons associated with that element decreases, as well. But just where do those electrons go?

Using a combination of state-of-the-art tools, including X-ray measurements at the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source (CHESS), a group led by Kyle Shen, professor of physics, and Darrell Schlom, the Herbert Fisk Johnson Professor of Industrial Chemistry in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, have come up with the answer.

Their work is detailed in a paper, “Lifshitz transition from valence fluctuations in YbAl3,” published in Nature Communications. The lead author is Shouvik Chatterjee, formerly of Shen’s research group and now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

To address this mystery, Chatterjee synthesized thin films of the mixed-valence compound of ytterbium – whose valence changes with temperature – and aluminum, using a process called molecular beam epitaxy, a specialty of the Schlom lab. The group then employed angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy (ARPES) to investigate the distribution of electrons as a function of temperature to track where the missing electrons went.

“Typically for any material, you change the temperature and you measure the number of electrons in a given orbital, and it always stays the same,” Shen said. “But people found that in some of these materials, like the particular compound we studied, that number changed, but those missing electrons have to go somewhere.”

It turns out that when the compound is heated, the electrons lost from the ytterbium atom form their own “cloud,” of sorts, outside of the atom. When the compound is cooled, the electrons return to the ytterbium atoms.

“You can think of it as two glasses that contain some water,” Shen said, “and you’re pouring back and forth from one to the other, but the total amount of water in both glasses remains fixed.”

This phenomenon was first proposed by 20th-century Russian physicist Evgeny Lifshitz, but an answer to the electron mystery hadn’t been proposed until now.

“These findings point toward the importance of valence changes in these material systems. By changing the arrangement of mobile electrons, they can dramatically influence novel physical properties that can emerge,” said Chatterjee.

“This places our understanding of these materials on a better footing,” Shen said.

Other contributors included Ken Finkelstein, senior staff scientist at CHESS; and doctoral students Jacob Ruf and Haofei Wei of the Shen Group. Source: Where did those electrons go? Decades-old mystery solved

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This little robot pill can replace painful injections

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Hello, world: this is WikiTribune

As a big fan of Wikipedia I was very interested to hear that Jimmy Wales was starting a news service. I have, for a very long time, searched for unbiased material for Deskarati in my areas of interest. I have also always personally hankered for a real impartial news service, this has been difficult and recently has been getting worse.

So it was great to hear that Jimmy Wales is trying to produce such a news service, wikitribune. Good luck! Jim – Deskarati

Jimmy Wales

Welcome to WikiTribune, a pilot project for a new approach to journalism where the community is at the center. This is not a news service – yet. It’ll only be the news service I envisage when you play a full role.

When I wrote the very first words in Wikipedia back in January 2001, I chose “Hello, world!”

It is a long standing tradition amongst computer programmers that when you are learning a new programming language, the first thing you do is write a program which says “Hello, world!”

The day I opened Wikipedia to the public, January 15th, 2001, it was not an encyclopaedia – yet. Therefore, that was not the launch of an encyclopaedia.

What was it, then? It was the launch of a project to build an encyclopaedia.

What is this, then? This is the launch of a project to build a news service. An entirely new kind of news service in which the trusted users of the site – the community – is treated as completely equal to the staff of the site – also the community. As with any true wiki, you can jump in and get involved at the highest levels, doing as much or as little as you like to help. As with any successful wiki, there will be detailed discussions and debates by the community to set policy on all the detailed matters that are necessary to build a news service.

My goals are pretty easy to understand, but grand in scope (more fun that way, eh?): to build a global, multilingual, high quality, neutral news service. I want us to be in as many languages as possible as fast as possible. I want us to be more concerned with being right than being first. I want us to report objectively and factually and fairly on the news with no other agenda than this: the ultimate arbiter of the truth is the facts of reality. That’s agenda enough to keep us busy.

So now let me tell you my rough plans for the next few weeks.

If you’re reading this anytime soon after I wrote it, you’re lucky – we aren’t announcing this anywhere and a big part of the point of this letter is to invite journalists who might be excited to write with awe or gleeful disappointment at our launch to relax a notch or two. This is not the launch of a news service. This is the launch of a project to build a news service. That’s why it says “Pilot” right up at the top.

So we’ve just quietly opened up and we plan to be slowly but surely accepting people who have requested an invite. One of the key things that I want to get right from the very beginning is the attitude that we have as a community. Neutrality is non-negotiable. Treating each other well is non-negotiable. This is supposed to be fun. This is supposed to be different. This is supposed to matter.

Over time as we build up activity in the community, we’ll accept more and more people when we are confident that the administrators (some staff, some users) are ready.

We’re using WordPress as the core of our launch platform, and it has some major strengths as a content management system, not least of which is that it is open source and has a mature and strong ecosystem of open source developers. But it also has some major philosophical differences from a wiki – the default assumptions about who can do what are really quite different. So the job of making the software to build our news platform as powerful as we need it to be is going to take some time. Please help me figure out the priorities.

If you’re as excited about this as I am, please do tell a few people, especially people you trust, people you think are smart and kind and might be interested to join our merry band.

Hello, world! Let’s get to work… on WikiTribune.



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Lift and Wings

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Andy Serkis Describes Motion Capture

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Could Neanderthals speak?

Forty years ago, the consensus was that they could not. Neanderthals didn’t make cave paintings, or flint arrowheads, and their larynx wasn’t positioned low enough to allow them to make the full range of human vocal sounds.

But more recent discoveries have shown that Neanderthals had a hyoid bone, tongue nerves and hearing range that was very similar to modern humans, and quite different to other primates. Neanderthals also shared the FOXP2 gene with us, which is thought to be involved in speech and language.

Prof Steven Mithen of Reading University has suggested that Neanderthals may have had a ‘proto-language’ that was halfway between speech and music.

Source: Could Neanderthals speak? | Science Focus

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Escherian Staircase Illusion

Via OpticalSpy

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Christening Amazon’s latest wind farm

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Orchid mantis nymphs

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