The Shift From Low-Wage Worker to Robot Worker

It’s become commonplace for computers to replace American workers — think about those on an assembly line and in toll booths — but two University of Oxford professors have come to a surprising conclusion: Waitresses, fast-food workers and others earning at or near the minimum wage should also be on alert.

President Obama’s proposal to increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour could make it worthwhile for employers to adopt emerging technologies to do the work of their low-wage workers. But can a robot really do a janitor’s job? Can software fully replace a fast-food worker? Economists have long considered these low-skilled, non-routine jobs as less vulnerable to technological replacement, but until now, quantitative estimates of a job’s vulnerability have been missing from the debate.

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Major discovery bolsters Big Bang theory of universe

starry skyWashington (AFP) – Waves of gravity that rippled through space right after the Big Bang have been detected for the first time, in a landmark discovery that adds to our understanding of how the universe was born, US scientists said Monday.  The waves were produced in a rapid growth spurt 14 billion years ago, and were predicted in Albert Einstein’s nearly century-old theory of general relativity but were never found until now.

The first direct evidence of cosmic inflation — a theory that the universe expanded by 100 trillion trillion times in barely the blink of an eye — was announced by experts at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.  The detection was made with the help of a telescope called BICEP2, stationed at the South Pole, that measures the oldest light in the universe.  If confirmed by other experts, some said the work could be a contender for the Nobel Prize.

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Facebook buying 11,000 drones to connect Africa

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Facebook is in negotiations to buy a drone manufacturer with the aim of using its high-altitude autonomous aircraft to beam internet connections to isolated communities in Africa, according to reports.  The social networking company is one of the main backers of the internet.org project, which aims to connect the large parts of the world which remain offline.  Today, only 2.7 billion people – just over one-third of the world’s population – have access to the internet, according to Facebook. Other founding members include Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm and Samsung.

 

Now TechCrunch reports that Facebook intends to buy the maker of advanced solar-powered drones which can remain in the air for up to five years at a time, in the hope that they can be modified to provide internet connectivity for those on the ground.  Titan Aerospace’s drones fly so high – up to 65,000 feet – that they can effectively operate as satellites with far lower operating costs, which the company calls “atmospheric parking”. The Solara 50 and 60 models can carry up to 100kg of equipment.

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Navy’s UCLASS Could Be Air to Air Fighter

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Could the U.S. Navy’s future Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) aircraft have an air-to-air role? The service’s director of air warfare Rear Adm. Mike Manazir posed that it could during a Dec. 20 interview with USNI News.  Manazir contemplated the possibility that that the UCLASS, which is primarily being designed for the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and strike roles, could be used as a flying missile magazine which could supplement the firepower of the F/A-18E/F and F-35C Joint Strike Fighter in air-to-air combat as a robotic wingman of sorts.  “Maybe we put a whole bunch of AMRAAMs (Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile) on it and that thing is the truck,” Manazir said. “So this unmanned truck goes downtown with—as far as it can go—with a decision-maker.”  In Manazir’s vision the UCLASS could be commanded remotely from a Northrop Grumman E-2D Hawkeye or a Lockheed Martin F-35C Joint Strike Fighter flight leader.  The concept has a lot of merit, said Air Force Reserve Col. Michael Pietrucha, a former F-15E weapons systems officer and autonomous unmanned air vehicle expert in a Wednesday interview with USNI News.

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1 In 4 Americans Thinks The Sun Goes Around The Earth, Survey Says

A quarter of Americans surveyed could not correctly answer that the Earth revolves around the sun and not the other way around, according to a report out Friday from the National Science Foundation.  The survey of 2,200 people in the United States was conducted by the NSF in 2012 and released on Friday at an annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Chicago.  To the question “Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth,” 26 percent of those surveyed answered incorrectly.  In the same survey, just 39 percent answered correctly (true) that “The universe began with a huge explosion” and only 48 percent said “Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.”  Just over half understood that antibiotics are not effective against viruses.

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The effect of today’s technology on tomorrow’s jobs will be immense—and no country is ready for it

INNOVATION, the elixir of progress, has always cost people their jobs. In the Industrial Revolution artisan weavers were swept aside by the mechanical loom. Over the past 30 years the digital revolution has displaced many of the mid-skill jobs that underpinned 20th-century middle-class life. Typists, ticket agents, bank tellers and many production-line jobs have been dispensed with, just as the weavers were.

For those, including this newspaper, who believe that technological progress has made the world a better place, such churn is a natural part of rising prosperity. Although innovation kills some jobs, it creates new and better ones, as a more productive society becomes richer and its wealthier inhabitants demand more goods and services. A hundred years ago one in three American workers was employed on a farm. Today less than 2% of them produce far more food. The millions freed from the land were not consigned to joblessness, but found better-paid work as the economy grew more sophisticated. Today the pool of secretaries has shrunk, but there are ever more computer programmers and web designers.

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Solar Radiation Management, Geoengineering and Chemtrails

The Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that, despite global side effects and long-term consequences, geoengineering techniques involving solar radiation management (SRM) should be maintained: “If SRM were terminated for any reason, there is high confidence that global surface temperatures would rise very rapidly to values consistent with the greenhouse gas forcing.” [emphasis in original]  “Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis,” (referred to as “AR5”) supercedes the former report published in 2007. [1]  The IPCC’s first Assessment Report was published in 1990.  The discussion in the Summary for Policymakers and in the body of AR5 commends solar radiation management over carbon dioxide removal methods, which are limited in their efficacy on a global scale, yet admits that neither are ideal, and that both geoengineering techniques will have long-term consequences.  “While the entire community of academia still pretends not to know about the ongoing reality of global geoengineering,” comments Dane Wigington at Geoengineering Watch, “the simple fact that they are now discussing geoengineering in the latest IPCC report indicates that the veil is beginning to lift.” [2]

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Astronomers fooled by shiny, but tiny, black hole

A bright black hole in the Pinwheel galaxy has been shining us on, astronomers say – this intergalactic trickster puts out light like a big black hole but it’s really quite tiny. M 101 ULX-1, described in the journal Nature, may force scientists to keep hunting for more “intermediate” black holes – and rethink their understanding of them.  Black holes are thought to be remains of dead stars whose entire mass has collapsed to a tiny point. They warp space-time so badly that not even light can escape. The small ones created by single stars can be up to roughly 30 times the mass of our sun. The supermassive ones at the centers of galaxies can be billions of solar masses.

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Going to Mars: Billionaire Dennis Tito plans manned mission with possible 2017 launch

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Billionaire Dennis Tito, tired of being told that we can’t send humans to Mars just yet, on Wednesday revealed his scheme for launching two astronauts to the red planet as early as December 2017.  Dubbed “Inspiration Mars,” the flyby mission would exploit a rare alignment of Earth and Mars that minimizes the time and the fuel it would take to get to Mars and back home again. The astronauts would come within 100 miles of the Martian surface before being slung back to Earth.  “It would be a voyage of around 800 million miles around the sun in 501 days,” Tito testified Wednesday at a hearing of the House subcommittee on space. “No longer is a Mars flyby mission just one more theoretical idea. It can be done. Not in a matter of decades, but in a few years.”

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Was Jesus’ Brother’s Burial Box Vandalized?

A limestone box said to have once held the bones of the brother of Jesus was at the center of the most controversial forgery case in decades — and it was allegedly vandalized by the Israeli government before being returned to its owner.  Called the James ossuary, it is a small stone box with an inscription that reads, “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.”  That Jesus had a sibling at all is a controversial idea disputed by the Roman Catholic Church. If the box itself were authentic, it would be considered the first physical link to Jesus.  A three-judge panel of Israeli Supreme Court justices ordered the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) to return the box and several other artifacts to antiquities collector Oded Golan last month, after the agency spent 10 years accusing Golan of forging the items.  The box will soon go on display for the public to view for the first time since 2002. There’s just one problem: Reddish stains now appear over the inscription, remnants of a silicon substance applied by the Israel Police Forensics Laboratory to help determine the authenticity of the James ossuary.

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A Romanian Scientist Claims to Have Developed Artificial Blood

Science, in all its grand ambition and contemporary sophistication, doesn’t quite have what it takes yet to replicate anything like blood. It not only delivers oxygen and essential nutrients, but also serves a host of other functions crucial for our survival, such as fighting infections, healing injuries and regulating hormones.  So far, researchers have concentrated the bulk of their efforts on the more modest goal of creating something that can at least effectively carry out the vital role of transporting oxygen throughout the body.  This kind of “artificial blood” would be a useful substitute for critical circumstances such as medical emergencies, when the body can’t do this on its own. It could also be designed to be sterile, unlike real blood, which can be infected and infect others during a transfusion. And while donated blood requires refrigeration, a synthetic version could be made to last longer and be readily available for various life-or-death situations, even on the battlefield.

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Exclusive: ‘Jaw-dropping’ breakthrough hailed as landmark in fight against hereditary diseases as Crispr technique heralds genetic revolution

A breakthrough in genetics – described as “jaw-dropping” by one Nobel scientist – has created intense excitement among DNA experts around the world who believe the discovery will transform their ability to edit the genomes of all living organisms, including humans.  The development has been hailed as a milestone in medical science because it promises to revolutionise the study and treatment of a range of diseases, from cancer and incurable viruses to inherited genetic disorders such as sickle-cell anaemia and Down syndrome.  For the first time, scientists are able to engineer any part of the human genome with extreme precision using a revolutionary new technique called Crispr, which has been likened to editing the individual letters on any chosen page of an encyclopedia without creating spelling mistakes.

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China unveils moon rover for lunar mission set to launch in December

China-unveils-moon-roverSHANGHAI, Nov. 5 (UPI) — Officials in Shanghai have unveiled a moon rover they say will be launched with the Chang’e-3, China’s third lunar probe set to be fired into space next month.  Designed by the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology, the six-wheeled rover is equipped with four cameras, and is designed to climb hills and cross over obstacles, China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.  “It will move really slowly,” planning its route only after observing and detecting the surrounding environment, said Xiao Jie, one of the rover’s designers.  Two mechanical legs will dig into the moon’s surface to collect samples.  It will have a solar panel to generate electricity but is also equipped with a nuclear battery using plutonium-238 that can provide years of power, officials said.

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Let’s play God: The scientific experiments that might save the world (or destroy it…)

Two years ago this month, in a disused Norfolk airfield, a small group of scientists were preparing to undertake one of the more controversial experiments in British scientific history. What little equipment it needed – a B&Q pressure washer, 1km of hydraulic hose and an 8m air balloon – had been bought or loaned. A truck was ready. Once in the air, the dirigible balloon would spray 120 litres of fine water droplets into the East Anglia sky, a miniaturised test for a much larger system that would eventually pump out chemical particles to reflect sunlight and, so the scientists calculated, cool the planet. It was to be a momentous day.  Geoengineering – as defined by the Royal Society in 2009 – is the large-scale, technological manipulation of the climate (some call it “planet hacking”). After decades of theorising, the Cambridge group was going to be the first in the West to take research out of doors. But shortly before lift-off, they aborted. There was, they feared, no way of knowing who could use their research, or in what way, and the Stratospheric Particle Injection for Climate Engineering (Spice) team did not want to open a door that might be impossible to close.

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Study: Chicken nugget, artificial mixture of chicken parts

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JACKSON, Miss., Oct. 4 (UPI) — Chicken nuggets from two U.S. fast-food chains found up to 50 percent meat and the rest fat, skin, blood vessels, nerves and bone fragments, researchers say.  Dr. Richard deShazo of the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson said white chicken meat is one of the best sources of lean protein available and it’s something physicians often encourage their patients to eat.  “I was floored. I had read what other reports have said is in them and I didn’t believe it. I was astonished actually seeing it under the microscope,” deShazo said in a statement.

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U.S. weighing future of international space station

Long ago, in a dreamier era, space stations were imagined as portals to the heavens. In the 1968 movie “2001: A Space Odyssey,” the huge structure twirled in orbit, aesthetically sublime, a relaxing way station for astronauts heading to the moon. It featured a Hilton and a Howard Johnson’s.  The international space station of the 21st century isn’t quite as beautiful as that movie version, and it’s not a gateway to anywhere else. It’s a laboratory focused on scientific experiments. Usually there are six people aboard. When they leave, they go back home, down to Earth. Three came home Wednesday, landing in Kazakhstan.

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Global warming? No, actually we’re cooling, claim scientists

There has been a 60 per cent increase in the amount of ocean covered with ice compared to this time last year, they equivalent of almost a million square miles.  In a rebound from 2012′s record low an unbroken ice sheet more than half the size of Europe already stretches from the Canadian islands to Russia’s northern shores, days before the annual re-freeze is even set to begin.  The Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific has remained blocked by pack-ice all year, forcing some ships to change their routes.  A leaked report to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) seen by the Mail on Sunday, has led some scientists to claim that the world is heading for a period of cooling that will not end until the middle of this century.  If correct, it would contradict computer forecasts of imminent catastrophic warming. The news comes several years after the BBC predicted that the arctic would be ice-free by 2013.

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Jobs, Robots, Capitalism, Inequality, And You

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe everything will be fine. Maybe the “widening gap between rich and poor” is temporary. Maybe the steady growth in the proportion of jobs that are part-time and/or low-paid will soon reverse.  Or maybe the idea that all the homeless need are old laptops and a few JavaScript textbooks is not unlike the claim that new technologies automatically create new jobs for everyone. Maybe, unless something drastic changes, most people are totally screwed.  This has not been a great decade for the average American. The recession ended in 2009, but median household income remains 6.1% below what it was in December 2007…while the income of the top 10% rose. Meanwhile, productivity growth has been exceedingly sluggish on both sides of the Atlantic. The Economist explains, and theorizes:

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Study: Cellphones cause oxidative stress, may up cancer risk

TEL AVIV, Israel, Aug. 6 (UPI) — There is considerable oxidative stress on the tissue and glands close to a cellphone when in use and this may increase cancer risk, Israeli researchers say.  Dr. Yaniv Hamzany of Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery Department at the Rabin Medical Center looked for clues in the saliva of cellphone users.  Since the cellphone is placed close to the salivary gland when in use, he and fellow researchers Raphael Feinmesser, Thomas Shpitzer, Dr. Gideon Bahar and Rafi Nagler of Tel Aviv University and Dr. Moshe Gavish of the Technion in Haifa examined the saliva content of 20 heavy-user patients, defined as speaking on their phones for a minimum of 8 hours a month.

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A City That Turns Garbage Into Energy Copes With a Shortage

OSLO — This is a city that imports garbage. Some comes from England, some from Ireland. Some is from neighboring Sweden. It even has designs on the American market.
“I’d like to take some from the United States,” said Pal Mikkelsen, in his office at a huge plant on the edge of town that turns garbage into heat and electricity. “Sea transport is cheap.”  Oslo, a recycling-friendly place where roughly half the city and most of its schools are heated by burning garbage — household trash, industrial waste, even toxic and dangerous waste from hospitals and drug arrests — has a problem: it has literally run out of garbage to burn.

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